Elizabeth McCracken’s exquisite collection of short stories explores the often-fragile bond between love and loneliness. In each short story, McCracken meshes heartache with strange moments of joy that intermingle to form a delightful read. Whether her characters have random conversations with strange children or encounter a parrot that can speak in a laughably bad French accent, each story reminds you just how wonderful and mysterious life can be and allows us to be thankful that we are alive to experience it.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Friday, May 16th, 2014||No Comments »|
In Diary of a Wildflower, readers follow Lorelei Starr as she grows up in awful poverty in 1920s Appalachia and watches as the women in her family succumb to an early grave. She decides that she wants to fight for her independence and leaves her childhood home of Starr Mountains. Although education is hard to come by, thanks to a friendly teacher, Starr is able to finish high school and goes on to become a maid in a wealthy home in Charlottesville.
Starr becomes dazzled by the flappers and the speakeasies that make up the ‘20s, but before she becomes overwhelmed by the handsome men that reek of “old money,” one visit to her childhood home reminds her that she is strong enough to break the cycle of hopelessness that envelopes the women in her family. This inspires her to fight for her own independence and find a happy ending on her own terms.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Monday, May 12th, 2014||No Comments »|
Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a loving homage to booksellers everywhere and highlights why so many people find joy in reading. The novel follows A.J. Fikry, a bookstore owner who has recently lost his wife and whose storefront is in dire straights. To make matters worse, his rare collection of Poe poems has been stolen as well. In retaliation, Fikry isolates himself from the other people who live on Alice Island. As he sinks deeper into depression, even his beloved books hold no joy for him anymore. This all changes when he receives a mysterious package at his bookstore. Although small, the weight is rather large, which peeks Fikry’s curiosity and is an unexpected gift that allows him to start over.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Monday, April 21st, 2014||No Comments »|
In February 2014, novelist Lucy Christopher, who is the author behind The Killing Woods, sat down with Ben Kenower for an interview. They begin with discussing how Christopher knew that “stories were important to her” ever since she was a child. She points out that although writers form the building blocks of the characters, it’s up to the readers to use their imagination to “complete the circle” as it were. While Christopher always tells her writing students to “show not tell,” she does emphasis that you need the readers to bring the characters to life. This is especially important for YA novels, as it allows teens and tweens to fill in the meaning themselves.
Finally, Christopher says that she enjoys writing YA fiction due to the fact that she remembers being a 14-year-old and really connecting with a book. Therefore, Christopher hopes to re-create that feeling for her younger readers. Also, she adds, “teen readers are fantastic” because they’re honest and passionate as well. Ben Kenower’s interview with Lucy Christopher is an interesting glimpse into the motives and inspiration of a successful YA novelist!
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Thursday, April 17th, 2014||No Comments »|
The trailer for Beth Kephart’s upcoming release Going Over shows that it’s not your average historical fiction novel. Instead of the same old, same old about the Tudors, ancient Egypt, or even the Borgias, Kephart instead turns a keen eye to February 1983 where the Berlin Wall is separating two young lovers.
Ada lives on the west side in a place called Kreuzberg. Immigrants, rebels, and punk rockers populate this section of the city—in other words, what proper society would deem ‘the dregs.’ Meanwhile, Stefan lives in a small apartment in the respectable area of Friedrichshain, which is located in East Berlin. Although they are in love, circumstances being what they are, they’re forced to live apart. However, they come up with a daring high-risk escape plan that will allow them to start over far away from Berlin. The only fly in the ointment is if Stefan will have the courage to leap or if he’ll let himself be barred by the forces keeping him from Ada.
The trailer for Going Over, which is due in April 2014, is short, sweet, and compelling thanks to its unique setting and storyline.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Tuesday, March 25th, 2014||No Comments »|
The power of human connections, including both its beauty and fragility, are explored to the very depths in a new short story collection titled Sympathetic People by Donna Baier Stein. Each of the thirteen stories revolve around male and female characters as they struggle to find happiness and meaning in their lives after experiencing loss and tragedy.
The story “Hindsight” follows a hippie-ish young woman named Jessie as she makes a brash decision that later shatters to pieces when her life goes wildly off-track. There’s also “The Secrets of Snakes,” a story that looks at how early ruptures in a marriage can make a wife desperate to do anything she can to stop it, even when she’s supposed to be keeping an eye on her son’s pet racer.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Friday, March 7th, 2014||No Comments »|