RAISING STEAM by Terry Pratchett

Book Quote:

“… the man to whom you refer is a master of every martial art ever conceived. In fact he conceived of most of them himself and is the only known master of the de’ja’ fu*. He can throw a punch into the air and it will follow you home and smack you in the face when you open your own front door. He is known as Lu-Tze, a name that strikes fear in those who don’t know how to pronounce it, let alone spell it.

* A discipline where the hands move in time as well as in space, the exponent twisting space behind his own back whilst doing so.”

Book Review:

Review by Bill Brody  (APR 5, 2014)

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett is a book in his marvellous Discworld series. As in all the books of this series, Sir Pratchett spins an immensely readable yarn centered on the impact of an idea, an invention or the like into Discworld society. The ideas he’s tackled include the introduction of paper money; the post office; telegraph; deity, religion, and the corruptible priesthood; warfare rooted in ages-old history; terrorism; and in Raising Steam, the introduction of the steam locomotive. His characters are satirical and humorous, often takes on historical and literary icons, from Machiavelli’s Prince to LoTze to Don Giovanni. Discworld is unlike our own on the surface, but seen through Pratchett’s satirical lens, the reader finds hilarious commentary on our own world and its foibles. His impressive social intelligence and wicked sense of humor make for an engaging read. Read the rest of this post »

April 5, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Humorous, Speculative (Beyond Reality)

LOVE AND TREASURE by Ayelet Waldman

Book Quote:

“…tipped the contents of  of the pouch into his plan. He caught hold of the gold chain. The gold-filgreed pendant dangled. It bore the image, in vitreous enamel, of a peacock, a perfect gemstone staring from the tip of each painted feather.”

Book Review:

Review by Roger Brunyate (MAR 31, 2014)

Ayelet Waldman’s new book begins in Red Hook, Maine, the setting of her novel Red Hook Road, but the two could hardly be more different. For whereas she had previously confined herself to two families in the same setting over a period of a very few years, she travels in this one to Salzburg, Budapest, and Israel, at various periods over a hundred-year span. By the same token, though, it is a stretch to call Love and Treasure a novel; it is essentially a trilogy of novellas, each with different characters, but linked by a single object and common themes. The object is an enameled Jugendstil pendant in the shape of a peacock. Although only of modest value, it plays an important role in the lives of the people who people who possess it, and provides a focus for the novelist’s enquiry into the lives of Hungarian Jews both before and after the Holocaust. Read the rest of this post »

March 31, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Eastern Europe, Israel, NE & New York, World Lit

THE BLAZING WORLD by Siri Hustvedt

Book Quote:

“After she moved to Brooklyn, my mother collected strays — human strays, not animals. every time I went to visit her, there seemed to be another “assistant,” poet, drifter, or just plain charity case living in one of the rooms, and i worried they might take advantage of her, rob her, or even kill her in her sleep.”

Book Review:

Review by Betsey Van Horn  (MAR 30, 2014)

Harriet “Harry” Burden was an obscurely known artist for much of her life, and also a wife, mother, and scholar. She was criticized for her small architectural works that consisted of too much busyness–cluttered with figures and text that didn’t fit into any schema. Her husband, Felix Lord, was an influential, successful art collector, but who couldn’t help his wife for alleged fear of nepotism. After Felix died, Harriet came back with a vengeance, and under three male artist’s pseudonyms (artists that she sought out), she created a combination art (part performance, if you consider the pseudonyms as part of the process) a trilogy which was successful, and even more lauded posthumously. They were shown individually under the names of “The History of Western Art, ” “The Suffocation Rooms,” and “Beneath.” Later, when unmasked (so to speak), they were identified as Maskings. I am reluctant to reduce and categorize Harriet–although labels such as “feminist” may apply. Read the rest of this post »

March 30, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Character Driven, Contemporary, Literary

THE INTERESTINGS by Meg Wolitzer

Book Quote:

The Interestings,” said Ash. “That works.”

So it was decided. “From this day forward, because we are clearly the most interesting people who ever fucking lived,” said Ethan, “because we are just so fucking compelling, our brains swollen with intellectual thoughts, let us be known as the Interestings. And let everyone who meets us fall down dead in our path from just how fucking interesting we are.” In a ludicrously ceremonial moment they lifted paper cups and joints. ”

Book Review:

Review by Jill I. Shtulman  (MAR 24, 2014)

The greatest gift that any writer can give her readers is providing them with a fictional world they can immerse – and ultimately lose – themselves in.

That’s precisely what Meg Wolitzer achieves in The Interestings, surely the most fully-realized and satisfying book of her career.

This panoramic saga focuses on a group of Baby Boomers from the time they meet at a camp for the creatively gifted as teenagers through middle age. The bond that draws these divergent characters together is powerful and special; they dub themselves “The Interestings.” And the bond, for the most part, is stretched, sustained, and redefined as they age. Read the rest of this post »

March 24, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: 2013 Favorites, Coming-of-Age, Contemporary, New York City, Reading Guide

KABU KABU by Nnedi Okorafor

Book Quote:

“Lance the Brave stood on the edge of the cliff panicking, his long blond hair blowing in the breeze. Behind him, they were coming fast through the lush grassy field. All Lance could do was stare, his cheeks flushed. Once upon him, they would suck the life from his soul, like lions sucking meat from the bones of a fresh kill. He held his long sword high. Its silver handle was encrusted with heavy blue jewels and it felt so right in his hand.”

Book Review:

Review by Friederike Knabe  (MAR 23, 2014)

Nnedi Okorafor’s story collection Kabu Kabu, published in 2013, provides the reader with a fascinating glimpse into the author’s rich imagination, vibrant language and captivating scenarios. Created at different stages in her extensive writing career, Okorafor treats us to a range of intriguing characters and their adventures, skilfully (and successfully) combining elements of speculative fiction and fantasy with African folklore and magical realism, and yes, indeed, political and social present day issues. Many of her stories have been nominated, shortlisted and/or have won literary recognition and awards as have her novels. Read the rest of this post »

March 23, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Africa, Scifi, Short Stories, Speculative (Beyond Reality)

THE CUTTING SEASON by Attica Locke

Book Quote:

“Later, two cops would ask, more than once, how it was she didn’t see her. She could have offered up any number of theories: the dirt and mud on the woman’s back, the distance of twenty or thirty yards between the fence and Caren’s perch behind the driver’s seat, even her own layman’s assessment that the brain can’t possibly process what it has no precedent for. But none of the words came.

I don’t know, she said.

She watched one of the cops write this down.”

Book Review:

Review by Betsey Van Horn  (MAR 22, 2014)

The past and the present are inextricably bound, and history is examined, re-examined, and refined within the context of a changing world of ideas, new evidence, and reform. Attica Locke demonstrated this in her first crime book, Black Water Rising, (nominated for an Orange Prize in 2009). Once again, she braids controversial social and historical issues with an intense and multi-stranded mystery.

Locke artfully informs Cutting Season with the dark corners of our nation’s past and the ongoing prejudices and failures to live up to the enlightened ideals of equality and justice. Her fiction tells the truth through an imaginative storyline, and she enfolds these issues and more in this lush historical novel of murder, racism, and family. The title of the book refers to the season of sugarcane cutting. Read the rest of this post »

March 22, 2014 · Judi Clark · Comments Closed
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Mystery/Suspense, Reading Guide, US South, y Award Winning Author