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

KINDER THAN SOLITUDE by Yiyun Li

Book Quote:

“Perhaps there is a line in everyone’s life that, once crossed, imparts a certain truth that one has not been able to see before, transforming solitude from a choice into the only possible line of existence.”

Book Review:

Review by Jill I. Shtulman  (MAR 21, 2014)

“Perhaps there is a line in everyone’s life that, once crossed, imparts a certain truth that one has not been able to see before, transforming solitude from a choice into the only possible line of existence.” For four friends, that line was crossed during their late teenage years, when one of them was poisoned, perhaps deliberately, perhaps accidentally, lingering in a physical limbo state until she finally dies years later.  The young man, Boyang, remains in China; the two young women, Ruyu and Moran, move to the United States. Each ends up living in what the author describes as a “life-long quarantine against love and life.”

Kinder than Solitude is not primarily a mystery of a poisoned woman nor is it an “immigrant experience” book, although it is being hailed as both. Rather, it’s a deep and insightful exploration about the human condition – how one’s past can affect one’s future, how innocence can be easily lost, and how challenging it is to get in touch with – let alone salvage – one’s better self. Read the rest of this post »

March 21, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: California, Character Driven, China, Contemporary, Literary, US Midwest, World Lit

ORFEO by Richard Powers

Book Quote:

“Five viral strands propagate, infecting the air with runaway joy. At three and a half minutes, a hand scoops Peter up and lifts him high above the blocked vantage of his days. He rises in the shifting column of light and looks down on the room where he listens. Wordless peace fills him at the sight of his own crumpled, listening body. And pity for anyone who mistakes this blinkered life for the real deal.”

Book Review:

Review by Bill Brody  (MAR 20, 2014)

The protagonist of Orfeo, Peter Els, listens at age thirteen to a recording of Mozart’s Jupiter symphony and is transported. This novel continues the author’s literary exploration of cutting edge science and its impact on its practitioners. Peter Els becomes a composer of serious music, very much of the current moment in the arts. He is a musical idealist, with a belief in the power of music to truly move the listener. As he matures, his work becomes ever more difficult and timely. As a young man he was a prodigy in music with talent in science as well. The creative juices of both flow in his veins. In college he starts out in chemistry, but becomes enmeshed in music through the musical connection with his first love, Clara. In graduate school at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, his work becomes ever more difficult and “modern,” in part through his collaborations with Maddy, who becomes his lover and later his wife for a while, and with Richard Bonner, an experimental theater director who he meets while in graduate school. Richard pushes him to become ever more radical. Read the rest of this post »

March 20, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Literary, Reading Guide, Scifi, US Midwest

THE CAIRO AFFAIR by Olen Steinhauer

Book Quote:

When you live in a house of mirrors, the only way to stay alive is to believe that every reflection is real.

Book Review:

Review by Jana L. Perskie  (MAR 18, 2014)

The Cairo Affair takes place in Egypt and Libya during 2011 with flashbacks to Serbia in 1991. It is set during the period when the regimes of dictators Hosni Mubarek, Egyptian President and military commander from 1981 to 2011, and Muammar Gaddafi, a Libyan revolutionary and the de facto ruler of Libya for 42 years, came to a violent end. The revolutionary events of the “Arab Spring” brought to conclusion various repressive Arab governments. The “Arab Spring” is widely believed to have been instigated by dissatisfaction with the rule of local governments, though some have speculated that wide gaps in income levels may have had a hand as well. Numerous factors led to the protests, including issues such as dictatorship or absolute monarchy, human rights violations, political corruption, (demonstrated by Wikileaks’ diplomatic cables), extreme poverty, and a large percentage of educated, jobless and dissatisfied youth. The storyline of  The Cairo Affair, takes place around the above events…and the events are often current, which makes this novel more interesting. Read the rest of this post »

March 19, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Africa, Egypt, Thriller/Spy/Caper, World Lit