Monday, August 21, 2017

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan Macguire

There was still something unfinished around her eyes; she wasn't done yet. She was a story, not an epilogue.

Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

Sy Montgomery a naturalist who writes for children and adults alike explores the minds of invertebrates in The Soul of an Octopus. 

Montgomery writes that Octopuses are highly intelligent and curious creatures, even if their minds are wired differently.

Montgomery discovers that octopuses, like dogs and other mammals, often have the desire to play.

Octopus display emotion by changing colors and can taste with their tentacles. They can solve problems--undo locks, create shelters, fool predators, and recognize human caretakers.

Their minds are so similar to ours that they even succumb to a similar decline in old age. 

While they live relatively a short period of time--three or more years as compared to a human's life span of seventy or more years--they undergo similar changes during the aging process. 

Before she dies, an octopus Montgomery has gotten to know well lays eggs. Though this is a bittersweet moment--all female octopuses die after laying eggs--the author feels proud of her "friend."

Though she frequently cites philosophers and scientists, Montgomery adds her own heartfelt observations. 

Montgomery has a great deal of empathy for the animals she studies. She also has a great deal of admiration for the interns, volunteers, and scientists that work with marine life.  

The Soul of an Octopus is one of several recent books highlighting animal intelligence:


Boysen, Sally. The Smartest Animals in the World.
Hauser, Marc D. Wild Minds
Virga, Vint. The Soul of All Living Creatures.
Waal, Frans. Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are

Friday, August 11, 2017

Marlena



In Marlena by Julie Buntin, Cat becomes captivated by her magnetic, yet tragically vulnerable next door neighbor, Marlena. After her Dad leaves them, Cat and the rest of the family move to Silver Lake, a small Northern Michigan community, where they hope to start over. 

Cat is soon spending every minute with her new neighbor and friend, Marlena. Older and more sophisticated, Marlena takes Cat down a typical wormhole of drugs and alcohol. 

An older wiser Cat narrates the story while flashbacks tell the story of her fifteenth summer. This dual perspective novel shows how complicated friendships can have lasting repercussions.

www.juliebuntin.com



Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Zookeeper's Wife: a DVD

The Zookeeper's Wife is beautifully shot and acted. Director, Niki Caro, used real animals and real cages rather than CGI. The rapport between Antonina (Jessica Chastain) and the animals is genuine. This in itself must have been incredibly hard to film.

The story arc is beautiful; In the beginning, Antonina wishes to save only one Jewish friend, Magda. The risks are incredible to take in even one. Nazi troops patrols the zoo in the mornings and afternoons.

Antonina and her husband rescue 300 Jews from certain death in tunnels under her zoo. She maintains a friendship with one of Hitler's most trusted men, Lutz Heck, and devises an ingenious plan. 

Chastain portrays the character's duality-- her intensity and equanimity--in such a unique way.  

























Thursday, July 27, 2017

Awesome beginnings

"The snow had been falling for three days above six thousand feet, but it has been gentle and hte lines stayed up. At this point in the season, after a long Montana winter that showed no sings of breaking, Sabrina Baldwin considered this a gift...Then, on the fourth day, the wind rose. And the lights blinked."  

Rise the Dark, Michael Koyta.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

When this novel came out a few years ago I remember it was a juggernaut. Every book review in every professional library journal was effusive. 

Some compared it to Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, where an ordinary person happens to see a crime. In this case, Rachel is a bit of voyeur who witnesses an act of infidelity.

On her commuter train, she sees a couple whose perfect life she romanticizes. She has recently divorced from her own "perfect" husband. The couple whom she names Jess and Jason becomes her ideal until she witnesses something disturbing. 

She comes forward to the police to report what she knows. Sgt. Riley thinks she is a bit of kook. No one takes Rachel  seriously because she is an unreliable witness. Rachel has had an alcohol problem even before Tom left her for another woman. Since then, its only gotten worst. 

Hawkins gives us the situation and then alternates between many characters' point of view--a difficult juggling act. What is amazing is that none of the tension is lost as she moves from character to character. She withholds just enough to keep the pacing taut and suspenseful.

Psychological fiction and unreliable narrators are hot right now; there are many read-alikes to choose from. This one happens to be one of the best. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman

World War II-era fiction is popular right now but what makes this debut different is that it  portrays an ordinary German family. The incidents were inspired by the author's own family. Wiseman's mother's family lived in Germany during the war. 

The story is centered around Christine and her desire to protect her family and her boyfriend who is Jewish.

The Plum Tree is about longing, loyalty, and incredible bravery of the people who fought injustice. 

For a time, resistance was simply leaving hard-boiled eggs in places where the Jewish prisoners could find them. 

Eventually, Christine hides Isaac in the family attic. Once he is discovered, though, both are sent to Dachau.

She receives one of the better jobs and works for one of the better captors. Even so, her stay in Dachau nearly kills her. 

Wiseman explains in an afterward which historical details were altered to fit the story.



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Review of Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola

Reading memoirs is cathartic. They offer tiny glimpses into someone else's life. Sometimes they make a reader breathe a sign of relief.

Hepola, who was a writer before and after becoming sober, also found stories cathartic. She would often read about addicts with relief that she "wasn't that bad."

Eventually, however, it did become "that bad." One particularly bad episode in Paris, when Hepola was starting out as a journalist, left her mortified for years. She woke up in a stranger's room with no idea how she had gotten there.


Hepola, who had her first blackout at twelve, continued to drink in high school. Attending University of Texas at Austin, Hepola was caught in a downward spiral.

She describes the unnerving feeling of whole chunks of her life disappearing as if they were "scooped...by a melon baller." 

Hepola drank to ease her anxieties about her weight and her social status in school:


I needed alcohol to drink away the things that plagued me. Not just my doubts about sex – my self-consciousness, my loneliness, my insecurities, my fears.

Later, she drank because she thought it helped her writing. After college she wrote for the entertainment section of an Austin, Texas newspaper. 

After re-evaluating her life, Sarah embarks upon a painful journey of sobriety.

We've heard this story told many times, in many different forms, but never told so well.


Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget was a New York Times bestseller.  



Similar stories about addiction:
  
Jacobsen, Lea. Bar Flower
Laing, Olivia. The Trip to Echo Spring.
Vargas, Elizabeth. Between Breaths: a Memoir of Panic and Addiction. 

More memoirs:
Parravani, Christa. Her: A Memoir.
Cahalan, Susan. My Brain on Fire.  
Mcbride, Regina. Ghost Songs: A Memoir.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Hugo: A Look Back

Hugo was released six years ago. Since then its lost none of its charm. 

Hugo is a well-shot and well-acted movie that also happens to have a beautiful message.

I first became aware of the book which I always meant to read. The book is a marvelously illustrated and written by Brian Selznick.

Wonderful moments abound in this film, like Hugo hanging on to the arms of enormous clock. The scene looks like something out of the silent film Safety Last. The film honors silent films and silent film makers so this scene is so fitting.

One of the best aspects of the movie, however, is the theme.

Standing near the clear dial of the clock, which is an enormous window, Hugo realizes that the world is like an enormous machine.

If someone has lost their purpose, they are broken, just like the automaton Hugo's father found. Yet, that doesn't mean they can't be "fixed" or redeemed. 

"Are you a fixer?" Isabelle asks Hugo. Humbly, he says, "I think so."

The villain of the story and the movie has a prosthetic leg, which he needs because of a war injury.

The war has left him embittered; plus, he has had a terrible childhood. Consequently, he delights in locking up and terrorizing orphaned children.

Even this character though is "fixed," in the end, as he returns with a working leg, presumably fixed by Hugo and Papa Georges.


Friday, June 30, 2017

The Darkest Part of the Forest

In a town called Fairfolk, which lies close to the woods,  mysterious things always happened.

Things get even stranger after someone breaks into a glass coffin that holds a strange, horned boy. For years, townspeople have told stories about this local legend.

Local teens,  Hazel and Ben, have repeated those stories and even created some of their own. Other Fairfolk townspeople may have doubted that he was real--stating he was a statue.

Hazel not only knows the Prince is real but she also wants to be the one that saves him from the curse.

One night Hazel does break the spell that binds him. She can't remember that night, though, because of a bargain she had made with the Folk. 

Wanting music lessons for her brother, she gave the Folk seven years of her life. As a result, Hazel is "losing time." Disappearing in the middle of the night to do errands for them, Hazel has no memories of the events later.

Mysterious, intriguing, and fast-paced, this a wonderful YA read. Even if there are some mature themes, Hazel is a hero most girls can look up to. She save a city, her brother, a prince, and most importantly herself. 

If you like this novel, you may like Holly Black's A Modern Faeries Tale series, which includes Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Humor

"Sometimes it takes time and distance to discover what is funny about ourselves...Humiliation plus time equals humor."

Lisa Yee, author of Millicent Min, Girl Genius, Horn Book Magazine, May/June 2017. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Celine by Peter Heller

In Celine, Heller introduces readers to an aristocratic PI with emphysema. The titular character is also an excellent shot with a mind as quick as trap. 

Even though she's on the Social Register, Celine prefers reuniting birth families pro Bono. She doesn't care for any other kind of detective work, though she once worked for the F.B.I.

One of the most admirable characters in a long time is this one--gutsy and privileged Celine who sincerely cares for the underdog.

Celine is given a strange case--a woman who was abandoned twice by her own father. The woman is in her 40s now and would like to find her father so he can meet his grandchild. 

The man, a National Geographic Explorer photographer, may have faked his own death. He also may be on the run from the CIA for his involvement in political matters in South America.

Celine has her own secrets. The second mystery that unfolds is who Celine really is and what she's hiding from her "Watson," her husband, Peter, and her son, Hank. 

Based on the dedication page, it appears that Celine and Peter are versions of the author's own parents. 

Peter Heller has also written The Dog Stars and The Painter.

http://www.peterheller.net/

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fellside by M.R. Carey

Fellside is another terrifying, yet gripping story by M.R. Carey, the author of The Girl With All The Gifts. 

Jess Moulson goes on a hunger strike shortly before entering a maximum security prison, Fellside. 

Though Jess nearly dies, a young boy gives her a reason to live. Alex, the ghost of the boy whom everyone believes she killed, asks her to do the one thing she cannot refuse.

Fellside is a ghost story that reads like a riveting psychological thriller and suspenseful mystery.

Jess's relationship with Alex is complicated. She wants to protect him from everything but he is also powerful. He saved her when a nurse punctured her artery instead of her vein:

"He'd brought her back from the abyss, from the mouth of the grave. She owed him everything and he owed her nothing except arguably a life for a life and a tooth for a tooth."
  
Alex knows, however, that the fire Jess started while she was high hadn't killed him. 

The fire she set hadn't killed him because he was already dead. So who hurt him and how did he die?  

As a favor to Alex who brought her back from the blackness, Jess agrees to appeal her case and investigate what truly happened to him. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

History of Wolves

For a coming-of-age story that transcends genre, read Emily Fridlund's History of Wolves.
One of the central questions in this tale is culpability.
historyofwolves

"What's the difference between what you want to believe and what you do?...And what's the difference between what you think and what you end up doing," Madeleine wonders.

She's a kid surrounded by adults--her parents, Mr. Grierson, the Gardners who shirk their duties and blame others for mistakes they make.The worst offender is probably Patra who blames illogically blames Madeleine for the death of her four-year-old.

Then there's Mr. Grierson, her teacher, who may be reprehensible but is not guilty of what police and Lily charge him with. Madeleine tracks him to Florida after he gets out of prison. She writes letters to him but he seems to have forgotten her.

Though Madeleine is expert at hiking and traversing the streams in her woods, she is less expert at deciphering social cues or understanding human relationships. Perhaps that is why she is fascinated by Patra and Leo's strange relationship.

However capable she is at wilderness survival, Madeleine is strangely powerless when faced  with Leo's religious obsession or Lily's duplicity.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Shirley Jackson


“So long as you write it away regularly nothing can really hurt you.”  Shirley Jackson.












I think this is why so many writer do what they do. Writing is a snapshot of a particular time, often painful, but sometimes joyful. It's a memory, a recording, that makes the ordinary details of life extraordinary.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Booth Brothers: Drama, Fame, and the Death of President Lincoln by Rebecca Langston-George

booth_brothers

This is a fascinating read for middle school and up. Langston-George highlights the two Booth brothers and the different paths their lives took. One felt he was a Northerner, Edwin Booth, and the other, John Wilkes Booth, felt he was a Southerner.

Why two brothers would have such different points of view is never really discussed. In part, it may have to do with how they were raised. Their father, Junius Brutus Booth, was a famous actor, known for his Shakespeare, who was also prone to drink.

John may have been resentful of his older brother, Edwin. Junius allowed Edwin to tour the country with him but refused to allow John to do the same.

Langston-George gives a clear, succinct summary of the events that led to the shooting and its aftermath. She related little known information, like the strange event that occurred when Edwin Booth died.

This is a historical tale full of ironies. Pictures of conspirators and pictures of the personal belongings of Booth at the end provide context.

I previewed this digital arc on netgalley.com

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Radium Girls

Kate Moore carefully documents many of the of dial workers' stories who worked in Orange, NJ and Ottawa, IL. In doing so, she preserves an important part of women's history, industrial history, and American history.

Lured by the glamour and high pay, these girls enjoyed their jobs until, one by one, they began getting sick. No laws protected workers from the occupational hazards of radium at this time. 

Moore makes much of the fact that these women were unwitting pioneers who paved the way for safer conditions in all workplaces. 
Undark (Radium Girls) advertisement, 1921
The product these women worked with, a radium paste, was called Undark. In the twenties, when glowing watch dials for the military were in hot demand, not much was known about the dangers of working with radium. 

By the late 1920's, the companies knew radium was harmful but still did nothing to protect its dial workers who lip-pointed. They would put the radium-tainted brush directly into their mouths to give the brush a point. This practice was encourage for quick production of the dials.

Radium's effects were devastating. Some women died quickly but some suffered a slow and painful death.

Some of these women, notably Catherine Donohue, fought courageously to win a lawsuit against the companies that employed them. Though the payouts were small, they changes working conditions for future employees.

The dial worker's cases led to the formation of OSHA. They also continued to help scientists by participating in tests at Argonne Laboratory.

Though other works on this topic focus on the physicians and scientists, Moore's work puts a human face to this tragedy by focusing on the women themselves. 



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Transactional Magic

"I need you to owe me something," Patricia said, "or this won't work. I'm really sorry. I tried to do it every other way, and none of them succeeded. In the end, the most powerful magic is often transactional
in some way."

Patricia to Laurence in All The Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders.



Other adult books that feature magic:

Barker, Emily Croy. The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic
Flyte, Magnus. City of Dark Magic.
Grossman, Lev. The Magicians
McGuire, Seanan. Every Heart a Doorway.
Schwab, Victoria. A Darker Shade of Magic.
Walton, Jo. Among Others.  


Young adult books that feature magic: 
Marillier, Juliet. Wildwood Dancing
Bow, Erin. Plain Kate.
Black, Holly. The Darkest Part of the Forest.
Durst, Sarah Beth. Ice.

Friday, April 14, 2017

What is "new adult" fiction or "twentysomething" fiction?


All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders is difficult to classify and has often been listed as genre-bending. One of the main character, Patricia, is a witch but the other character, Laurence, is a scientist trying to save the world from destruction.

All the Birds in the Sky contains magical realism, science fiction, and romance. A post-apocalyptic storm, artificial intelligence, and a ground-breaking project to create a wormhole give this novel an exciting edge.

Some of the themes in All the Birds in the Sky resemble the ones in Iain Pears' Arcadia--the ethical ramifications of creating a device that could repopulate the earth's inhabitants in another world. 

All the Birds in the Sky, though, is more tightly focused than Arcadia. It appeals to readers in their early twenties because it has elements of what Molly Wetta calls "new adult" fiction or "twentysomething" fiction. 

According to Wetta, new adult fiction follow teens "the summer after graduation, on into college, and beyond."

New adult fiction is often wildly inventive, with a focus on technology, relationships, and finding one's place in the world.

Other examples of fiction for new adults that Wetta lists are Rainbow Rowell's FanGirl and Stephanie Danler's Sweetbitter. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom is a strangely dark, yet funny story set in New Penzance island, a fictional island that Wes Anderson based on his trips to Naushon, off of Cape Cod.

Much of the movie operates as a framed narrative. At the film's outset we are given a glance of Suzy (Kara Hayward) looking at the world through a pair of binoculars. This scene implies that the movie will be from her point-of-view or that she is a lonely observer.

Though the narrator, another outsider, seems detached from the action in the opening scenes, he later joins the rest of the cast and interacts with the other characters.

The narrator later proves to be of vital importance. He provides key information about the possible whereabouts of middle schoolers, Suzy and Sam, who have run away. 

This is what I like best about Wes Anderson's films--an outsider whom everyone devalues suddenly rises in importance and surprises everyone.

Of course, Suzy and Sam are also outsiders. Suzy has anger issues and Sam is a bullied orphan.

By the film's end, though, the two misfits and star-crossed lovers have risen in importance. The whole island is looking for them and the search has caused adult to rethink their behavior.

Anderson claims he was influenced by Alan Parker's Melody (aka S.W.A.L.K.) and Ken Loach's Black Jack

Soucres consulted:
The Wes Anderson Collection, by Matt Zoller Seitz, Anderson







Sunday, March 26, 2017

Listed in "Best Reference 2016" of Library Journal, March 1, 2017.

AAPB: American Archive of Public Broadcasting
americanarchive.org

Audiosear.ch
www.audiosear.ch

DocumentCloud
www.documentcloud.org
Primary source documents and annotation tools.

GovTrack
www.GovTrack.us

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

Whenever anyone became too close, Samuel Hawley and his daughter and move to a new place. Wherever he goes, he sets up a shrine for his decease wife in the bathroom.

After years of traveling Hawley finally settle in Olympus, Massachusetts, where Lilly had grown up. He has forsworn life on the run and becomes a commercial fisherman.

Readers hear about Hawley's criminal past in a series of flashbacks. Twelve chapters for the twelve bullets Hawley took while still involved in crime. 

As was bound to happen, Hawley's criminal past intersects with his present when his ex-partner Jove comes to visit.

Hawley's teenaged daughter has already suffered a break-up with her star-crossed love. Like a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, Lilly and Marshall are an ironic pairing. His mother is a staunch environmentalist who opposes Marshall's relationship with Loo.

(continued)





Thursday, March 16, 2017

Riches in Henry James's Novels


"I call people rich when they're able to meet the requirements of their imagination." Ralph Touchett, Portrait of a Lady by Henry James.

I've always thought this one of the best quotes in all of literature. 

Ralph Touchett is rich and he's justifying giving his fortune away to a distant cousin. He wants  to see what she will do with it. It's a social experiment.

Ralph is, of course, dying of tuberculosis. Isabel is a young, vibrant American transplanted to Old World.

Isabel's father is mostly absent from the novel, albeit one line that tells readers is a gambler from New York. James implies that Isabel's impoverished condition is a result of his gambling.

Ralph, detached observer as he is, is also a gambler.  He gambles on Isabel. He wants to see what she will do--will she succeed or fail.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell

These stories are about desperate, blue-collar workers. Written in 2008, these stories still seem completely fresh because it's easy to feel desperate in any age.

In "Yard Man," Jerry and his wife live in a salvage yard. She had been his high school sweetheart but they have only recently reconnected and married. 

They can live in the house rent free; in exchange, Jerry watches over the other seventeen buildings. He also works part-time as a school janitor. 

Money is tight and the man knows his wife isn't happy with the living arrangements. The junk bothers her because she looks at life simplistically. She can't see the prism of colors that Jerry can see on the skin of the snake.

The wildlife bothers Jerry's wife. Recently a bat and a swarm of bees entered the house. A red, yellow, and gold snake, that also has a prism of blues and greens, has been sliding around the garden. Something white--possibly an ermine--enters the house and spooks her.

The snake, however, is the central metaphor that carries the story. The snake stands for her--how Jerry is enchanted by her and afraid of her--afraid of losing her the way he had before.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

John Hart on the South

"I write of the South, always the South. For me, that means small towns and forgotten corners, the fields and streams and the abandoned places. There’s such history in the south: lost wars and racism, the long divide between haves and the have-nots. Memory runs deep in the South, as does the connection to family, history, and place. For a writer, that’s rich soil."

John Hart's complete interview for Criminal Element,
http://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2016/05/qa-with-john-hart-author-of-redemption-road-comment-sweepstakes

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit


This remarkable book of essays, which critics liken to a set of Russian nested dolls, are interconnected musings on many topics--maternal love, child abandonment, memory loss, illness, fairytales, labyrinths, Buddhism, the Arctic, and of all things, apricots.

Solnit has a poetic turn-of-phrase which makes these essays extremely enjoyable. Scallops and sea urchins dragged from the ocean floor are "bright like internal organs laid bare by surgery or butchery."

In some ways, these essays are show how interconnected everyone's lives--their life stories--are. In the end, though, these essays are also a deeply moving memoir of one particular woman's life--Solnit's.

In her personal essays, Solnit divulges her difficult relationship with her mother. Strained as a child and young adult, the mother daughter bond grows stronger as Solnit cares for her mother's medical needs. 

Solnit reveals her own narrow brush with death--breast cancer--and her courageous attempt to start anew. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Last Summer of Our Youth | Tin House

Early that June, some new neighbors moved in just up the road and built a house around their trailer. We spied on the old couple until their house was done. We watched them start to collect things like tires and rusty chairs in their yard. When the swampy area behind our own house dried out, we took our adventures out back and combed the still-soft ground for arrowheads and any other evidence that the Cherokee had lived on our land. Once, Jamie found a sharp rock that we all agreed was not flat enough to qualify as a real weapon. Michael collected antique rusted bottle caps that had really been tossed aside by folks at one of our parents’ own parties. I kept a tally of the crawdad burrows, which looked like mud chimneys or tiny volcanoes. The muskrat dens were worse because they made the ground collapse, but they were harder to see.


The Last Summer of Our Youth | Tin House

I really like the voice of this flash piece by Erin Harte. So electric! So alive!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Short Story Competitions to enter

American Short(er) Fiction Contest 15 February
Bath Short Story Award 1 May
Birds of a Feather Press Travel Writing Competition 2017 28 February
Bristol Short Story Prize 3 May
CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Writing 15 February
Commonwealth Short Story Prize Oct/Nov
Costa Short Story Award July
Curt Johnson Prose Award Submissions closed
Drue Heinz Literature Prize May-June
Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize 10 April
Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction Date to be announced
Gotham Writers Past-Year Memoir Contest 20 February
Hillerman Prize Deadline TBD
John Steinbeck Short Story Award June – November
Keats-Shelley Prize Date to be announced
Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest 31 March
Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition 16 May
Manchester Fiction Prize February 2017
Montreal International Poetry Prize May
Mslexia Women’s Short Fiction Competition 20 March
Nature and Place Poetry Competition 1 March
Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Contest 15 May
Raymond Carver Short Story Contest 15 May
Reader’s Digest 100-Word-Story Competition 20 February
SA Writer’s College 30 April
SFC Literary Prize 15 May
Short Sharp Stories Annual Competition deadline Nov
Spotlight First Novel Competition 14 February 2017
The Caine Prize for African Writing 31 January
The Henshaw Short Story Competition 31 March
The Sunday Times Short Story Prize Date to be announced
The White Review Short Story Prize 1 March
Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest 1 April
Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize 15 March
Write On-Site 25 February
Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition 5 May
Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition Closed for 2017
Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook Short Story Competition 13 February
Writers’ Forum Fiction Competition Monthly
Zoetrope All-Story’s Annual Fiction Contest 1 July

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

Recently promoted, Louise Rick, takes on a case that takes her back to her roots. She also has a new partner who irks her. The last thing Louise wants is to visit her past, yet she must delve into her former life in Hvalso to solve this case.

From the author known as the "Queen of Crime," this is a stunning novel.

In this multi-layered crime story, there are three primary mysteries. Why would Klaus kill himself, at the prime of his life, leaving Louise bereft? Why would an institution for the mentally disabled issue death certificates to the Anderson twins while they were still alive? Thirdly, and most importantly, who is killing and raping women in the woods near Hvalso? 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Girl With All The Gifts

If you liked the television series Stranger Things, you might like, The Girl With All The Gifts

Melanie lives in a military facility with other children where she is given minimum care. Each day she is taken at gunpoint to a schoolroom and tied to a chair. Unbeknownst to her, Melanie is infected with a zombie-producing virus. She is infected, yet remains half-immune.

She and a few other "hungries" as they are known maintain their ability to think and reason. Consequently, scientists like Dr. Caldwell. want to study and even dissect them. Melanie and the other children are treated as animals, as lab experiments. 

The only kindness Melanie receives is from her teacher, Miss Justineau.

Even if you've read a hundred other zombie books, this one is different. All of the characters, Sargeant Parks, Private Gallagher, Dr. Caldwell, Miss Justineau, want to survive. Melanie wants more than that; she wants a chance to be treated like a human being.  


Other books with similar themes:
Heller, Peter. The Dog Stars.
Gregory, Daryl. Raising Stony Mayhall. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

One of the best beginnings....


"Twelve years after Robin's death, no one knew any more about how he had ended up hanged from a tree in his own yard than they had on the day it happened."

The Little Friend by Donna Tart. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

Brunonia Barry says The Fifth Petal is the most "challenging" story she has discovered. 

In this complex novel, which is part mystery, part thriller, and part love story, she ties seventeenth century Salem with present day Salem.

Mostly, its Callie Cahill's story, a survivor, who witnesses a horrific crime when she is only five years old.

Rose, a historian, took descendants of the original women accused of witchcraft, all young girls, to Proctor's Ledge. She intends to sanctify the ground where their ancestors were hung. One of the young girls, however, is absent.

Tragically, more blood is shed that day. An unknown assailant massacres the women who have gone to honor their ancestors. Rose claimed a banshee killed the girls but many suspect Rose.

Rafferty, the detective, who married Towner from The Lace Reader tries to decipher who the 5th petal is or who the 5th descendant of the accused. The 5th petal is in all likelihood the killer.

In current day Salem many of the families are related to the accused or to the judges. A centuries old rivalry between the Hawthornes and the Whittings could cause a rift between Callie and her growing love for Paul Whitting.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Writing contest

Sadly, this contest is over (deadline Jan 31). There's always next year.

Nelson Algren Literary Awards: $3,500 Short Story Prize (Submission Guidelines)

The Nelson Algren Literary Awards is an annual short story contest open to all residents of the United States. It is hosted by the Chicago Tribune.
Stories should be 8,000 words or less.
The grand prize is $3,500. Four finalists receive $1,000. Five runners-up will win $500. The total prizes are worth $10,000. Not bad!
Writers are allowed to submit a maximum of 2 entries. There is no submission fee.
The deadline for submission is January 31st, 2017.
The grand prize winning story will be considered for publication in the Chicago Tribune.
Nelson Algren was a novelist famous for books such as A walk the Wild Side, and The Man with the Golden Arm.  According to Wikipedia, Algren portrayed the world of “drunks, pimps, prostitutes, freaks, drug addicts, prize fighters, corrupt politicians, and hoodlums.”
To learn more, and to submit, read visit their Submittable page.
 


               

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

The Fifth Petal is is a mystery and high-stakes thriller yet the author, Brunonia Barry, ingeniously combines this with the historical details of the 1692 Salem witchcraft trials.

Here's a historical detail that Barry drops that ties the past with a current suspect, Rose:


"With the exception of Sarah Good, who was thirty-nine, the women  executed on July 19, 1692, were much older, ranging in age from fifty-seven to seventy-one. Some were homeless or nuisances to the community: indebt, outspoken, or otherwise troublesome. It made him think of Rose."


Rose is homeless, deranged, and is now accused of a crime that he does not think she committed. No wonder Rafferty draws the parallel.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Into the Wild by Erin Hunter

Into the Wild, is the juvenile novel that kicks off the popular Warrior cats series by Erin Hunter.

This series has inspired a lot of fan content: name generators, youtube videos and fan art. 

Maybe its so popular because it involves a heroic journey. Rusty makes a journey into the unknown, the wild forest beyond his house. He is initially met with derision from the feral cats who live there. Then, Bluestar recognizes his talents and chooses him to join them.

Rusty is accepted as an apprentice but must prove his mettle if he is to become a warrior. Along the way, Rusty, renamed Firepaw, has several crises.

Firepaw wonders if its always right to follow the warrior code. Should he have mercy on a pitiful cat like Yellowfang who has gone rogue? Should he tell Bluestar the dreadful secret he learns from Ravenpaw?

The warrior code is in jeopary in other ways. The four cat clans that have co-existed peacefully for years. Recently, however, the Shadow clan has pushed the Wind clan off their territory. 

In the end, its up to a brave apprentice, Firepaw, and his companions to set things right. 


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader


The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
Brunonia Barry, a screenwriter, tells this supernatural mystery in a series of powerful vignettes that move back and forth in time. Towner Whitney tells her own story even though she is an unreliable narrator with “gaps” in her memory.  Towner comes from an old Salem family known for a predilection toward quirkiness and an uncanny ability to “read” lace. Unfortunately, what Towner sees in the lace on her seventeenth birthday nearly causes her to lose her mind. Exactly what causes Towner’s mental breakdown is just one of the many mysteries in this multi-layered gem. Switching deftly between first and third person, Clark also introduces Detective Rafferty, a burned-out cop from New York City, who simultaneously investigates the strange death of Towner’s eccentric great Aunt and the bizarre disappearance of Angela Rickey. Towner and Rafferty, while tentatively exploring a relationship of their own, must also contend with two warring factions–the witches of Salem and the fervent Calvinists led by Cal Boynton.

Sabotage by Neal Bascomb

In a book that reads like a thriller, Neal Bascomb explains how Norwegian commandos effectively prevented Nazi Germany from getting their hands on an atomic bomb.


A small group of Norwegians, trained in Britian, returned to their homeland to sabotage Vemork, the plant that was supplying Germany with heavy water. Germans needed heavy water, or Deuterium, to construct an atomic bomb.

Intended for young adults, Bascomb makes this part of Norwegian history accessible to all. Though Bascomb conveys a lot of detailed information,  notes and an index give readers who want additional information the ability to learn more.

A friends of mine, who is European, swears the Norwegian commandos stories are widely known in Europe. Even if they are known, Bascomb makes their stories come to life.

If you liked Sabotage, you make like Winter Fortress by Neal Bascomb. Winter Fortress is the same story written more for adults than young adults.