Tagged: classics

Fall 2014 Preview Part One: Most Anticipated Books

Watch for Part Two: Literary Events next week!

If you follow literary publications like Publishers Weekly, Quill and Quire, or 49th Shelf you’ve probably noticed a bunch of “Most Anticipated Fall Books” lists lately. I find these lists really overwhelming! There are tons of books and they don’t seem to be listed in any kind of order. Here’s my attempt to impose some order on the situation. Geographically, anyway. This is also a handy preview of what you’ll see reviewed here on Reading in Bed over the next little while.

Disclosure: I received reviews copies of most of the Canadian books. Also, I’m panicking about writing all these reviews.

Edmonton Authors

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Last year, I wondered if it was normal to have SO MANY Edmonton authors launching SO MANY great books all at once, and indeed, it may have been an anomaly. I had a hard time finding books to list here. I assume everyone’s just working on their next novel. Actually, I know Todd Babiak is working on a sequel to Come Barbarians and Jennifer Quist finally named her next novel, but hasn’t revealed the title just yet. No pressure guys (just kidding, lots of pressure!)

  • The only Edmonton book I am certain to review is Blind Spot by Laurence Miall. I’ve already read it and I’m trying to figure out whether I liked it or not! I’m not one to dismiss a novel because of an unlikable character, but man, this guy is unlikeable. Check out Another Book Blog’s review while I sort out my feelings. The book launch is September 5th at The Black Dog, which features prominently in the book!
  • Every Blade of Grass by Thomas Wharton is eco-lit (which I don’t always love) and epistolary (which I usually do love,) but I kind of want to read his first novel, Icefields, first. The librarian who sold it to me at the library book sale was SO EXCITED about it.
  • Lightfinder by Aaron Paquette is a YA novel, but I’m feeling the need to shake things up a bit. Sometimes YA is just the ticket.
  • Edited to add: Northeast by Wendy McGrath, a rare novel because it is written by someone who lives in Edmonton, and is actually set in Edmonton! It’s about a working class family in the 1960s and I have heard McGrath’s writing described as more like a poem than prose; I am really curious about this book and the first in the series, Santa Rosa.

Canadian Authors

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  • I devoured Between by Angie Abdou while I was slogging my way through Outlander. Actually, I devoured a number of books while forcing myself to read Outlander. That could be it’s own post. Anyway, this book forced me to relate to an unlikeable character and it was uncomfortable and shocking and dark, and these are all compliments! Review to come and book launch September 12 in St. Albert and September 13 in Edmonton (7:00 p.m. at Audreys, see you there).
  • I got a review copy of Man by Kim Thuy in ebook format, but I bought the hardcover anyway, because I’m crazy it’s beautiful.  It’s a novella that’s almost written in verse and it’s unlike anything I’ve read. I’m just getting started so check out Hello Hemlock‘s review while I finish up.
  • Did you know SportLit is a thing? The things you learn on Twitter. In Girl Runner, author, blogger, and The M Word contributor Carrie Snyder writes about a woman at the end of her life remembering the days when she could run.
  • I feel like Sweetland by Michael Crummey has been out for a while. because of all the hype, but it was just released so I’ll call it a fall book. I love island settings, so this story of a dying community in Newfoundland should do just fine.
  • Between Clay and Dust by Musharraf Ali Farooqi was published in India a couple years back to great acclaim and is being published in Canada this year by Freehand books. I’ve heard it’s like a classic, like a fable, like a myth – ok, sign me up!
  • Detachment by Maurice Mierau provides a little non-fiction balance to this list. It’s an adoption memoir written from a father’s perspective – a perspective I’ve been missing from the parenting books I’ve reviewed of late.

World Wide

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  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Marukami (Japan) because I’m not immune to hype. Also, look at this review by The Heavy Blanks. Just look at it. It’s perfect.
  • A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (Ireland). The good reviews make me want to read it. The bad reviews make me want to read it. Just give it to me already!
  • The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink (US). A wildcard pick. It’s blurbed by Jonathan Franzen and this bit of the synopsis tells me why: “Life becomes complicated with affairs, birding, and eco-terrorism.” That’s classic Franzen. It’ll either be great or have great snark potential.

Classics
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Yes, I do plan to read a few! I might have to do a Classics Club spin or something. I was thisclose to jumping on the #readWP (that’s War and Peace) bandwagon but the first page was mostly French and I just wasn’t in the mood. What to do?

What are you most excited to read and review this fall?

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Novellas in November Update #3: The Suicide Shop, The Testament of Mary and The Wizard of Oz

November is over so in the interest of time, these are going to really short reviews of really short books! Lost? Check out my previous posts:

The Suicide Shop by Jean Teule

thesuicideshop

My rating: 4/5 stars
Goodreads
Synopsis:

With the twenty-first century just a distant memory and the world in environmental chaos, many people have lost the will to live. And business is brisk at The Suicide Shop. Run by the Tuvache family for generations, the shop offers an amazing variety of ways to end it all, with something to fit every budget. The Tuvaches go mournfully about their business, taking pride in the morbid service they provide. Until the youngest member of the family threatens to destroy their contented misery by confronting them with something they’ve never encountered before: a love of life.

This book is like The Addams Family: morbid, cheesy, campy, and ultimately harmless. I was reminded of my years working in a haunted house – the one located under the roller coaster in West Edmonton Mall, which is supposedly haunted by the people who died in the derailing in 1986. We had a Addams Family “electrocution test” machine which supposedly tests your ability to withstand electric shocks conducted through two metal rods that you hold onto, but the rods actually just vibrated. But I digress. This book was weirdly great. It was all those things the Addams Family are – cheesy and campy in the extreme – but somehow it worked. It’s a futuristic fairy tale with a strong moral message at the end, and usually I hate that, but I don’t know, I guess my 90s nostaligia got the better of me. What can I say, I really loved laughing at dumb tourists who paid $2 to hold on to what were essentially a couple of vibrators.

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin

thetestamentofmary

My rating: 5/5 stars
Goodreads

Provocative, haunting, and indelible, Colm Tóibín’s portrait of Mary presents her as a solitary older woman still seeking to understand the events that become the narrative of the New Testament and the foundation of Christianity.

I’m not going to do this book justice in a short review like this, so I will direct you to Another Book Blog and urge you to read it and I will quote this passage, which says absolutely everything:

‘I was there,’ I said. ‘I fled before it was over but if you want witnesses then I am one and I can tell you now, when you say that he redeemed the world, I will say that it was not worth it. It was not worth it.’

Okay, I will also say that this book reminded me of Emma Donaghue’s Room, which might seem odd, but they’re both stories of mother and son (or Mother and Son in this case,) maternal guilt, and the inability of parents to protect their children from the world. Even if he’s locked in a room. Even if he’s the son of god.

The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum

I’m not done this one yet, but must note that I’ve been reading it to my (almost) four year old, and it’s been a delight. As readers, we get so excited about reading to our children, but we don’t realize that the first few years are torture – most baby and toddler books are awful. If it’s not super-schmaltzy Love You Forever, it’s some Disney marketing material barely disguised as a book. This is my first experience reading a real chapter book with my kids, and I get it now. Reading to your kids IS awesome. Especially when you get to read about messed up stuff like killer flying monkeys and opium-induced stupors.  

Bonus: Some Novella Publishers of Note

So, you probably enjoyed this event SO MUCH that you want to read a bunch of novellas, right? Here’s a few publishers that specialize in novellas to get you started:

  • Melville House: The Art of the Novella Melville House Books publishes a collection of novellas by the likes of Austen, Eliot, Proust, Dostoyevsky, and Mr. Melville himself. You can buy the whole collection of 52 novellas for a pretty decent price ($410 US) or you can subscribe and receive a novella every month. You can give this as a gift, too – like the Jelly of the Month Club, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. (Hint, hint to a certain sister of mine who is my secret Santa this year.)
  • New Directions: Pearls Confession: I hate these covers. But it’s a great collection of classic novellas, reissued, and includes works by Fitzgerald, Gogol, and Borges. I am giving this collection the side-eye for not including any female authors, though.
  •  Black Hill Press: The only publisher on this list that deal exclusively in novellas, and American novellas in particular, this indie press doesn’t boast any big names, but wouldn’t it be cool to discover a new author through a novella? I’m expecting a review copy of Another Name for Autumn any day now.

Thank you Another Book Blog for hosting! Go check out his epic vlog wrap up – literally epic, it’s 45 minutes long!

Novellas in November Update #1: Summer, The Pearl, The Night Before Christmas, and Bonjour Tristesse

Mini reviews for mini novels! See the start up post on Another Book Blog, and my introductory post here.

Summer by Edith Wharton
Summer

My rating: 5/5 stars
Goodreads
Synopsis:

A new Englander of humble origins, Charity Royall is swept into a torrid love affair with an artistically inclined young man from New York City, but her dreams of a future with him are thwarted.

I started reading Summer at the end of October so I could squeeze one last regular classic in before Novellas in November kicked off. I knew nothing about it except it was free on my Kobo. I quickly found out it was a novella. Score! Oh and it’s supposedly an erotic novella. Double score. And yeah, it was pretty hot! I mean, check out this filth:

All this bubbling of sap and slipping of sheaths and bursting of calyxes was carried to her on mingled currents of fragrance.

Bubbling sap indeed. And this:

A clumsy band and button fastened her unbleached night-gown about the throat. She undid it, freed her thin shoulders, and saw herself a bride in low-necked satin, walking down an aisle with Lucius Harney. He would kiss her as they left the church….She put down the candle and covered her face with her hands as if to imprison the kiss.

This book is part Tess of the D’Ubervilles, part VC Andrews’ Heaven and all kinds of awesome. Tess because of the pastoral and natural elements, and the fallen woman thing,  and Heaven because our heroine comes from dirt poor, likely inbred mountain folk and you know what they say, you can take the girl off the mountain…

Charity is such an interesting heroine because she’s selfish, flighty, and well, not that bright. Or at least not at all interested in intellectual pursuits. A realistic teenager, in other words. I’m always surprised by a non-bookish hero, and think that it must be difficult for a writer to get into that head space. Wharton nails it. This book was a delight and my I think it just knocked House of Mirth out of my “favourite Wharton” spot.

Here’s a lovely, more detailed review, if I haven’t convinced you to pick this up. Continue reading