Archive for the 'Adult Fiction' Category

Co-Review: Margo Lanagan’s Red Spikes

h1 Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

Allen & Unwin cover of Red SpikesRandom House cover; jacket illustration by Jeremy CanigliaJules: Here we are again with a co-review, this time of Red Spikes, a collection of ten short stories by Australian author Margo Lanagan. These stories were originally published last year in Australia by Allen & Unwin, one of Australia’s leading independent publishers (their cover is shown on the left here), and Random House/Knopf will be releasing them this October with the cover you see on the right (jacket illustration by Jeremy Caniglia). Eisha and I were thrilled to have an opportunity to read advance proofs of this collection of short stories.

And I have Eisha to thank for turning me on to Lanagan’s writing in the first place. She reviewed White Time here in February of this year, and we have an interview with Lanagan lined up for tomorrow’s “One Shot World Tour: Best Read with Vegemite!” — a focus on Australian writers, which will be happening at a handful of kidlit blogs, all organized by Colleen Mondor (go here to see the full schedule). I really enjoyed this collection of stories and Lanagan’s writing and am grateful to have finally read some of her stuff. I want to recommend this book to everyone I know — as in, shout-it-from-the-rooftops recommend — and I don’t normally read short stories. Get me.

Instead of trying to summarize the collection as a whole or summarizing each story, I’ll send you to this link. And I echo that woman’s sentiments about the story “Winkie” in this anthology. Holy crap. I don’t know which was scarier, though: “Winkie,” a horror fantasy story borne from the nursery rhyme “Wee Willie Winkie,” or “Under Hell, Over Heaven,” which brings the Catholic construct of Limbo to life for the reader. Yes, Lanagan takes you to the very edge of Hell. Did I already say holy crap? Lanagan really takes you to the settings of each of her fantasy/speculative fiction stories, and her writing is — at turns — eloquent and evocative and provocative . . . . and she really knows how to SCARE THE PANTS OFF OF YOU, as my middle-school self would put it. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #15: The Father’s Day and SBBT Edition, Featuring Scott Magoon

h1 Sunday, June 17th, 2007

Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers out there! It’s time for our 7 Kicks, but before we get to that, don’t forget the Summer Blog Blast Tour and its inaugural interview today. That would be an interview with Gene Yang over at Finding Wonderland. Don’t miss it, people. It’s really well-done. And we here at 7-Imp will have our interview with Brent Hartinger tomorrow and an exclusive interview with Sonya Hartnett the next day. For our other interviews this week, visit this link (and here’s the Grand Master Schedule).

Hey, look up there at our 7 Kicks illustration-of-the-week. It’s Hugo and Miles! Have you read Hugo & Miles in: I’ve Painted Everything (An Adventure in Paris)? (Jules reviewed it here, and here is a February review of Kara LaReau’s Ugly Fish, which Scott also illustrated). Author/illustrator Scott Magoon sent us this illustration for this week’s list; Hugo and Miles there are atop the Eiffel Tower, taking in a grand view of Paris. Thanks to Scott!

And, wait, there’s more . . . Look, it’s an illustration from his upcoming Fall picture book (Houghton Mifflin), called The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster: A Tale of Picky Eating by Alice Weaver Flaherty (a neurologist who teaches at Harvard no less, according to this link). Scott says it’ll be out this September, and we went and found the Houghton link to it. Looks like good stuff. We are fans of Scott’s work, and we thank him for not only the Hugo & Miles art work but the sneak peek Lochness illustration, too.

Okay, let’s get to the lists then. Here’s our usual intro for any new people: It’s time for another installment of 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks. For those new to our series, this is where we all stop in every Sunday to report seven (more or less is fine) Good Things that happened to you (or that you read or saw or experienced or . . . well, you get the picture) this week. Absolutely anyone is welcome to contribute, and your lists don’t have to be book-related. Read the rest of this entry �

Wicked Cool Overlooked Books #1 . . . Uh, Sorta

h1 Monday, June 4th, 2007

Hi, everyone. Jules here. Eisha and I were excited to participate in our first Wicked Cool Overlooked Books entry. If you haven’t already noticed, Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray started this series idea (talk about a wicked cool overlooked book the first Monday of every month), and a handful of bloggers participated last month. We weren’t able to play ’til now, because our blogger interviews are every Monday. But we cleared today to participate and got to work on our first entry.

So, together we composed a co-review of sorts about two wicked cool overlooked books. And, blammo! I inadvertently deleted. the. entire. post. Time seemed to move in slow motion while I watched this rather long-ish post fade from view, due to a misunderstanding I was having about the admin functions of the blog, and slip from our hands altogether. Yes, a thoughtfully-composed post on both of our parts; I had spent most of my Sunday thinking about these books and trying to find the words to articulate why they work and why I find them so beautiful. And Eisha had made such lovely contributions to the post (she was joking about them being overbearing “former-lit-major pontifications,” but they weren’t at all). She was very understanding about my stooooopid mistake, but I still hate that it happened.

Anyway, life goes on. Sweat the big stuff. But here is — for what it’s worth and since I simply do not have the energy this morning to try to recreate all the many, many profound and insightful and amazing things (heh) that we had to say about the books in the post I deleted; it would have changed your life, indeed — the EXTREME Cliffs Notes version of our first Wicked Cool Overlooked Books entry. And forgive the, uh, slight lack-of-detail:

Jon McGregorJon McGregor rocks. He wrote two stunningly beautiful books (both adult fiction). The first, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (2002), was reviewed by Eisha here around this time last year, and it’s pure unadulterated loveliness, as Eisha put it. Go read that review. His second novel — So Many Ways to Begin, a companion novel to the first one — was just published in March and is also beautiful, and I promise we had lots of things to say about McGregor’s techniques as an author and all the stunning prose (and maybe we can start over again and try to co-review it one day soon). For now, you can read this review from The Observer. The End.

We promise we’ll get this right in July! (And thanks again for understanding, Eisha) . . .

Poetry Friday: To Be of Use —
Naomi Shihab Nye, Marge Piercy, & Haven Kimmel

h1 Friday, March 9th, 2007

{Note: Today’s Poetry Friday round-up is being handled here by Kelly at
Big A, little a} . . .

So, one of the books I’m currently reading is The Solace of Leaving Early (Doubleday; 2002). At the risk of sounding like we here at 7-Imp are All Haven Kimmel All the Time (which wouldn’t be a bad way to be), I am reading it because I’ve always wanted to (yes, Eisha handled the questions about her novels when we interviewed her, since I had read the memoirs but am just now getting to the fiction — hey, when I tried last, I had a newborn. And, let me just tell you that writing this good deserves the kind of attention you can’t give when you have a tiny, needy, hungry human demanding your attention) . . . Where was I? O yes, not to mention we just might be getting an advanced copy of Haven’s upcoming novel, which is part of a trilogy which includes Solace. Needless to say probably, Solace is rockin’ my world, people.

And a few things that I have read thus far in this novel have brought to mind two of my favorite poems I’d like to share with you on this Poetry Friday. Here’s how it goes — First, I read the following in this engrossing novel of Haven’s: Read the rest of this entry �

Octavian Nothing: Yeah, it won the NBA, but what you really want to know is… what do Jules and Eisha think?

h1 Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

We promised, and now we deliver: Jules and Eisha will now turn our powerful intellects and rapier wits to discussing the 2006 winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party, by M.T. Anderson.

Usually we’d begin with a summary of the plot for those who haven’t read it yet, then go on to discuss the merits and pitfalls of the work while trying to avoid spoilers. But I’m going to declare right now: if you haven’t read it, but think you will, you probably shouldn’t read this. I think the more you know about this book in advance, the more damage you do to your experience of reading it. I’ll just tell you this: if you’re the least bit curious or interested, READ IT. Whether you end up liking it or not, whether you agree that it works as young adult literature or not, this book is worth at least an attempt at reading it for yourself. Even if it doesn’t move you, it will definitely make you think.

Beware, intrepid reader. There be Spoilers beyond these waters. You have been warned.

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One of YA literature’s greatest writers
brings us an unforgettable character

h1 Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

cornelia-kenn.jpgWhew. Where to begin? This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn by Aidan Chambers is his tome — 808 pages that take us into the mind, the heart, the soul of one teenaged Cornelia Kenn. And it completes what he calls his Dance Sequence of novels (“a dance because it was while I was writing Dance on My Grave that I realised there would be six novels,” he writes on his site. “Together they paint a portrait of a certain kind of youthful life, of becoming adult in the last years of the twentieth century and the first of the new millennium. Each is especially concerned with particular kinds of experience.” Read the above Dance Sequence link to read more about this, his six-novel sequence). To say This is All is verbose is to put it mildly; I dare say that I’ve yet to read a more comprehensive — and fascinating — look at a teen’s inner life. This is one addictive read. I found myself exasperated with and frustrated by and seduced by and in love with this character — often all on one page. Read the rest of this entry �

Susanna Clarke and Mr. Gaiman; or, Fairy Tales for Grown-ups

h1 Sunday, November 26th, 2006

I read two fantasy short-story collections recently – Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman, and The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke – and it turned out they both had a lot in common, so I thought I’d tell you about them together.  Both are by highly-regarded fantasy authors (although Gaiman is very well-established in all kinds of media, and Clarke just blazed onto the scene a couple of years ago with her brilliant, amazing Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell), both collections have stories that tie in to previous novels, both were very high on my to-read list for Fall 2006, and both were satisfying in their individual ways.

Fragile ThingsFragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman.  This collection of short stories, poems, and odds-and-ends is a must-read for any Gaiman fan.  Most of the pieces have appeared before in various anthologies, websites and Tori Amos tour booklets, but he’s included a fabulous Introduction that describes the where/when/why/how of each piece’s origin that gives an interesting glimpse into the workaday world of a writer, plus gives a new context to pieces you might have seen before.  I was lucky enough to see Gaiman at the Children’s Literature New England conference in 2005, and I was happy to find a couple of the pieces he read collected here:  “Locks,” a poem about a father telling his daughter (and the other way around) the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears; and “Instructions,” a poem that acts as a guidebook to anyone who wanders into a fairy tale – here’s an excerpt:

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The Welcome Return of Charles Frazier

h1 Sunday, November 12th, 2006

thirteen-moons.gifWhew. It’s been a while since I’ve posted about an adult title, since I’ve been doing my duty and reading picture book after picture book for the Cybils committee on which I serve. But what a rich title to return to after my little hiatus. Charles Frazier is back after a literary absence just short of ten years (his breathtaking and National Book Award-winning Cold Mountain — for which I have a great fondness, since it’s a nearly perfect and lyrically-written odyssey and since I lifted my daughter’s beautiful name from this grand, lovely piece of writing — was published in ’97). I dare say it’s been more than thirteen moons since we’ve heard from him; and thank goodness he’s returned, because he’s one of our finest contemporary American authors with a distinctive voice and capable of such evocative, unforgettable prose (according to this link at Wikipedia, Frazier was offered an eight million dollar advance for Thirteen Moons, all based on the success of Cold Mountain. Could it be true? Who knows, but if it is true . . . wow). Read the rest of this entry �

Alice’s Wonderland of Prose

h1 Tuesday, October 17th, 2006


Alert: This review includes a spoiler for, of all things, A Farewell to Arms. I’m just sayin’ . . . in case you haven’t read it and want to one day.

I confess that sometimes I wonder if our humble little blog here shouldn’t be focused on solely children’s lit (since it’s such a huge part of what Eisha and I do); we would then have a sharper (but not necessarily better) focus. However, if that were the case, I wouldn’t be able to tell you how beautiful a novel like Alice McDermott’s latest is — not to mention that, as YA author L. Lee Lowe put it so nicely in one of the comment sections of our blog, “I need to read widely across all genres, and extensively in adult lit. It’s important to know the best that literature has to offer, and to learn from it. Poetry, too, is particularly important in order to see how language is being stretched to its fullest.” For shizzle, Lee (how’s that for stretching language to its fullest?). And, though McDermott — a National Book Award winner — writes prose and not poetry, this literary stretching Lowe speaks of is what McDermott does so well.

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A Spot of Brilliance . . .

h1 Saturday, October 7th, 2006


If you read Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel from 2003, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, then you already know about Haddon’s dark, wry humor; the sharp way he can turn a phrase and, in just those few words, create deep empathy for a character; his keen, accurate observations on human nature (and all its foibles) and his bitingly honest and perceptive take on family relationships; and his ability to make you laugh out loud at one moment and then tear up the next with a moment of genuine poignancy. In his latest novel, just published,
A Spot of Bother, he’s at it again — this time, putting the “funk” in dysfunctional (as Robin Williams would say) — with his spot-on portrayal of one messed-up family. And, though the subject matter sounds bleak, it’s one addictive and delectable read.

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