A "Magykal" Summer Read

For all those Harry Potter and Fantasy fans out there, there is a new series in youth literature that is a lot of fun. Angie Sage has written a series called Septimus Heap which tracks the story of a young boy who was switched at birth and raised as a soldier, away from his large, quirky wizard family. With a twist in fate the boy becomes involved in an escape with an ExtraOrdinary Wizard and a princess. He eventually discovers his true identity: that he is the seventh son of a seventh son for whom many prophecies have been foretold. While these stories are not quite as engaging as the Harry Potter series, they are still a good, light summer read for young minds (or those young at heart) and you will not be able to put them down. The first book in the series is called Magyk while the second book, Flyte, just came out this year.

Angie Sage is also collaborating with illustrator Jimmy Pickering for a new series this summer, Araminta Spookie, which will be coming out in August. The first book in the series will be My Haunted House. So check out Angie Sage for a "magykal" summer read!

The Hostage Crisis Revisited: The U.S., Iran and Islam

A new, highly praised account of the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-81 views the events against the background of United States relations with countries in the Islamic world and the rise of militant Islam. Mark Bowden's narrative Guests of the Ayatollah revisits the capture of 66 Americans and their 444 day ordeal. In the process the author looks at the motivation of the radical student followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini, portrays key figures on both sides including American staffers, Marine guards, CIA members, Islamic ideologues and others with a page-turning "you are there" approach. This is a well-written account of what the author terms "the first battle in America's war with militant Islam." Another fairly recent book on the topic is The Crisis: The President, the Prophet and the Shah by David Harris. Additional books on crisis are also available.

Orange Award for New Writers

Yiyun-Li's first collection of stories, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is one of the recipients of the Orange Award for New Writers. In the title story, an old man from China tells his new friend, an Iranian woman, of the gulf he's tried to bridge with his daughter from whom he's been estranged for many years. Ironically, even with the language barrier, he's able to communicate more effectively with her than with his own flesh and blood. Other stories also speak to the dislocation of the Chinese both in their own country and in America after the ravages of the Cultural Revolution.

Zaha Hadid at the Guggenheim

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Zaha Hadid is the first woman to be awarded the distinguished Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 2004. The Iraqi-born, London-based architect is internationally known for projects that have literally "shifted the geometry of buildings."

The current exhibition at the Guggenheim is a 30-year retrospective of her work in a wide range of mediums: paintings, sketches, architectural drawings, urban plans, models, relief models, animations, furniture, and design object. It opens today and runs through October 25th, 2006.
The exhibition catalog will be available soon but you can read up on Zaha Hadid in Zaha Hadid : Testing the Boundaries.

Summer's Most Magical Form of Transport: Books

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Looking for some great summer reading recommendations? You cannot go wrong with NPR’s Alan Cheuse. Here are the excerpts of some of the titles on his 2006 Summer Reading list.

Swell Books for Summer Loafing by Susan Stamberg is another source not to be missed. This morning I heard wonderful suggestions from three independent booksellers. My list is growing and I need to get a bigger beach bag!

And then there is the Talk of the Nation Summer Reading List.

Just to make sure you won’t run out of good reads this summer, we will soon be making some summer reading suggestions too in our Books Blog. Watch for them.

New Fiction on the New York Times Best Sellers List (6/4/06)

After last weekend's sunshine it appears we are back to gloomy weather this week. The two new entries are "hard-boiled" American mysteries that also walk on the dark side of human nature.

At #2 is Dead Watch by John Sandford: in this new series Jacob Winter is a political operative instead of a newspaperman but he also ends up pursuing a murderer.

At #3 is The Hard Way by Lee Child: Jack Reacher is back, helping a dealer in mercenaries find his kidnapped wife.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #24 - Geography as Character

Two exemplary recent Australian releases treat geography as character - the highly original and witty debut Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany, and The Secret River by the 2001 Orange Prize winner, Kate Grenville.

Set in 1930s Victoria, Everyman is narrated by Jean Cunningham, the young, curious and courageous sewing teacher on the “Better-Farming Train” which travels throughout the country, bringing advice to agricultural communities. Love comes in the form of Robert, an idealistic soil scientist with the rare ability to identify the origin of soil by taste, and who adheres unyieldingly to his Rules for Scientific Living.

The Secret River on the other hand, is inspired by Grenville’s own family history and the early settlement of New South Wales. William Thornhill and his family must struggle for a delicate coexistence with the native population along the savage Hawkesbury River.

Landscape is far more than mere setting. Whether harsh or lush, beneficent or punishing, it drives the plots and leaves indelible marks in the lives of these characters.

An extraordinary story

Death becomes a pivotal character in the mezmerizing novel, The Book Thief by Australian author, Marcus Zusak. Death, often hard hearted, is drawn to Liesel Meminger, a nine year old girl growing up near Munich during World War II. Abandoned by her mother and still sffering nightmares about the death of her younger brother, Liesel is taken in by foster parents in the rough working class neighborhood of Molching where she steals her first book. Over the ensuing years, Liesel steals more books which become for her an escape and a silent protest to the totalitarian regime in which she lives. She befriends Max, a Jew, whom her parents hide in their basement and who whitewashes the pages of Mein Kampf to make his own book as a gift to Liesel. To hear an interview done by NPR's John Ydstie with Zusak, log on to the NPR site.

Hold the Flag High by Catherine Clinton

William H. Carney is an officer of the first all African-American regiment of the Civil War. Carney’s determination not to allow the flag to touch the ground inspired his men to move forward into battle. Catherine Clinton gives an historical account of the first African American who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Paul Auster wins major literary award in Spain

Paul Auster wins major literary award in Spain

Paul Auster, 59, was awarded Spain's The Prince of Asturias Award for Letters yesterday.

Auster, whose latest novel, Brooklyn Follies (2006), was released earlier this year was praised by prize committee president, Victor Garcia de la Concha, as "...one of the U.S. greatest living writers."

Auster, married to author Siri Hustvedt, will receive the 50,000 Euro ($70,760) purse in an October 2006 ceremony.

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