Author Birthdays: Hersh, Kingsolver, Okorafor-Mbachu

April 8th marks the birthday of authors Seymour Hersh, Barbara Kingsolver, and Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu.

Seymour Hersh is an American award-winning journalist and author. Many of his articles were written for The New Yorker. He won a Pulitzer in journalism for his writing on the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War.

Hersh's books include a biography of JFK, called The Dark Side of Camelot, which portrays the late president as reckless, and was very controversial after its publication. He also wrote Chain Of Command: The Road From 9/11 To Abu Ghraib, which discusses topics like the torture and mistreatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib.

Barbara Kingsolver is a multi-award-winning American author, whose latest novel was the popular The Lacuna, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2010.

Kingsolver's best known work might be The Poisonwood Bible, which is about a missionary family who moves to the Belgian Congo in the mid-20th century. Her most interesting book, in my opinion, might be her non-fiction book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year Of Food Life, which outlines Kingsolver and her family as they attempt to eat solely locally-grown food for one year.

Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu is a Nigerian-American fantasy writer. Her newest book, Who Fears Death, was nominated for the Nebula Award in 2010.

Okorafor-Mbachu has written some young adult novels, which may be of interest to many teens in world literature classes who are looking for something a bit more modern than the classics. Her novel The Shadow Speaker is set in a futuristic West Africa and relays the tale of a girl with magical powers who is seeking vengeance.

March's Classics & FairyTale-Remakes plus a Family-Friendly Book to Film

BeastlyBeastly

Beastly is an edgy romance based on teen author Alex Finn's novel - ultra-modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

Seventeen-year-old Kyle is the spoiled, shallow and incredibly popular prince of his high school kingdom. Kyle foolishly chooses Kendra, a witch masquerading as a high school student, as his latest target for humiliation. Unfazed by his cruel behavior, Kendra decides to teach him a lesson --- she transforms him into someone as unattractive on the outside as he is on the inside. Now he has one year to find someone who can see past the surface and love him, or he will remain "Beastly" forever.

Red Riding Hood is based on the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, made famous by The Brothers Grimm.

In this modern version, Valerie is a beautiful young woman torn between two men. She is in love with a brooding outsider, Peter, but her parents have arranged for her to marry the wealthy Henry. Unwilling to lose each other, Valerie and Peter are planning to run away together when they learn that Valerie's older sister has been killed by the werewolf that prowls the dark forest surrounding their village.

Hungry for revenge, the people call on famed werewolf hunter Father Solomon to help them kill the wolf. But Solomon's arrival brings unintended consequences as he warns that the wolf, who takes human form by day, could be any one of them. As panic grips the town, Valerie discovers that she has a unique connection to the beast --- one that inexorably draws them together, making her both suspect and bait.

We have, yet another Hollywood remake of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. While the plot is well known, let's hope Mia Wasikowska, and Michael Fassbende bring something exciting to this period drama of Jane and her Mr. Rochester.

Now finally something for the whole family.... ( Rating: PG)

Mars Needs Moms! is based on the picture book by Berkeley Breathed.

Take out the trash, eat your broccoli --- who needs moms anyway? Nine-year-old Milo finds out just how much he needs his mom when she's nabbed by Martians who plan to steal her mom-ness for their own young. We go along on Milo's quest to save his mom - a wild adventure that involves stowing away on a spaceship, navigating an elaborate, multi-level planet, and taking on the alien nation and their leader

Author Birthdays: Rossen, Fleischman, Weis

March 16th marks the birthday of authors Robert Rossen, Sid Fleischman, and Margaret Weis.

Robert Rossen was an American screenwriter and director. He wrote both Academy Award-winners The Hustler (starring Paul Newman) and All the King's Men, which was based upon a Robert Penn Warren book.

Rossen also co-wrote The Roaring Twenties, a noir film starring greats likes James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. The story focuses upon bootlegging and gangsters, and was based on the experiences of fellow writer Mark Hellinger.

Sid Fleischman was an American children's author and Newbery Award winner for his book The Whipping Boy. In his autobiography, Fleischman gave a few tips to aspiring writers, which can also be found on his official website.

According to Fleischman himself, he tended to "find story ideas in odd folk beliefs." This plays out in works like The 13th Floor: A Ghost Story for the triskaidekaphobiacs and The Ghost in the Noonday Sun. Fleischman passed away last year, the day after his birthday.

Margaret Weis is an American fantasy writer and co-creator (along with fellow author Tracy Hickman) of the game world DragonLance. While she has many, many series, I will only mention one other, which she also co-wrote with Hickman: The Death Gate Cycle, which is set in a sort of post-apocalyptic fantasy world.

Weis also owns Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd., a company that "publishes a wealth of original and licensed game and book products", with a strong focus on fantasy TV series.

A Game of Thrones to Hit The Small Screen

On April 17th, 2011 renowned New York Times Bestselling Fantasy author George R.R. Martin's epic series A Song of Ice and Fire will have its season premiere on HBO. Entitled A Game of Thrones which is also the title of the first book in the acclaimed series the first season of the HBO series is set to cover the first book in Martin's unfinished seven book saga.

George Martin weaves and intertwines the lives of the kings, queens, lords, ladies, and knights who make up the fictional land of Westeros. Martin's masterful writing style leaves the reader emotionally exhausted and is what keeps fans eager for the next book. However, there is a sense of apprehension looming over HBO not being able to adequately recreate the vision of Westeros and depict the tangential lives of the characters who make up Martin's epic A Song of Ice and Fire series.

With that being said the harsh and adult content of this series in which Martin does not stray from the mature subject matter of rape, incest or brutality which makes the A Song of Ice and Fire series geared towards a largely adult readership. With HBO's success in producing mature and adult oriented shows like True Blood based on - Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire series - it goes without question that HBO would be best suited to produce George Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga.

Martin has written and published four of the seven books that are expected in the series. Much to the frustration of his readers, Martin is notoriously known to extensively delay the release of the next installment within this series. With A Game of Thrones being published in 1996 and A Feast for Crows, the fourth book in the series published in 2005, Martin has taken nine years to get up to the fourth book. The latest installment, A Dance with Dragons was recently announced to be released on July 12, 2011. At fifteen years to put out five books, Martin is still better than Robert Jordan and those who are patient are rewarded with quality work where George R.R. Martin has not failed to produce.

Barring an unanticipated major flop with the upcoming first season, HBO should settle in for a long ride with the A Song of Ice and Fire series which will include the visual narration of A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords the second and third book in the series.

'Starcrossed'

Starcrossed is the second novel by historical fantasy author Elizabeth C. Bunce, and the first book in the "Thief Errant" series.

The story stars a learned and streetwise thief, Digger, who, in order to escape the wrath of the kingdom Inquisitor and his policing Greenmen, finds herself and her fate entwined with that of a party of drunken nobles. With the group is Lady Merista, a young girl whom Digger quite suddenly discovers is deeply into something punishable by torture and death -- magic. Digger becomes torn between her developing love for her young friend, the suspicious and dangerous activity of Merista's parents, the blackmailing and vengeful friend of her host, and her mantra: Stay Alive. Don't get caught. Don't get involved.

If you like intrigue, spies, magic, romance, and a sassy heroine, this is a must-read. Bunce not only presents a vivid and fast-paced tale, but also an addictive world, moving characters, and a great tension between people and their rulers. Historically, the story throws us into a sense of the Inquisition and the witch craze in Europe.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #242

Benjamin Hale's "mischievous debut" The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore * is a love story between the world's first speaking chimpanzee and a primatologist. Just bear with me here, alright?

Born and raised in captivity (no less, at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, famous for its primate house), Bruno is unlike any chimpanzee in the world - precocious, self-conscious and very gifted, and he speaks. Primatologist Dr. Lydia Littlemore takes him into her home to oversee his education and nurture his passion for painting but has a rough time with his more primal urges and outbursts which ultimately cost her her job, and send the unlikely pair on the road.

"Like its protagonist, this novel is big, loud, abrasive, witty, perverse, earnest and amazingly accomplished.... it goes beyond satire by showing us not what it means, but what it feels like to be human -- to love and lose, learn, aspire, grasp, and, in the end, to fail."

Caution!!!!!! Exuberantly detailed sex between species might offend some readers. Proceed at your own risk.

Benjamin Hale is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, where he received a Provost's Fellowship to complete this novel, which also went on to win a Michener-Copernicus Award.

Readers who enjoyed Sara Gruen's Ape House and Laurence Gonzales' Lucy (blog) will find this a delight.

* = Starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #238

Deborah Harkness, a professor of history at the University of Southern California, a Fullbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center scholar/author (The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution) surprised everyone in her circle, including herself when she secretly started writing A Discovery of Witches,* a novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

While researching in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young Yale scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery but her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and soon a horde of demons, witches, and vampires descends upon the library and she is the only one who can break its spell. Once "neckbiter"-good-kisser, and renowned geneticist Matthew Clairmont enters the scene, well, you can guess what comes next in this literary and sophisticated "bodice-ripper".

Called by reviewers as "one of the better fantasy debuts" in recent memory, it will appeal to fans of Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series, as well as fantastic romances such as Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. There are also the faint whispers about Harry Potter and the Twilight saga. Well, I'll let you be the judge.

* = Starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts # 237

Readers familiar with "Ava Wrestles the Alligators", the opening story in Karen Russell's St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (2006) will be pleased to find Ava front and center in Swamplandia!* * *, - her "spectacularly crafted" first novel due to hit the market next week.

Swamplandia! is a shabby tourist attraction deep in the Florida Everglades, owned by the Bigtree clan of alligator wrestlers. When Hilola, their star performer, dies, Swamplandia! and all its quirky inhabitants are unmoored.

Some take off for parts unknown, one falls in love with an ancient ghost. To set things right, 13 year-old Ava embarks on an odyssey to the Underworld that is at once spellbinding and terrifying.

"Ravishing, elegiac, funny, and brilliantly inquisitive, Russell's archetypal swamp saga tells a mystical yet rooted tale of three innocents who come of age through trials of water, fire, and air."

"Quirky, outlandish fiction", a phantasmagorical tale of teens left on their own. "To say it's offbeat is to seriously underestimate its weirdness." ~Kirkus Reviews

Selected as one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists, and the New Yorker's 20 under 40, Karen Russell is an irrepressible new voice in contemporary fiction. You don't want to miss this.

* * * = Starred reviews

Author Birthdays: Hoffmann, Wharton

January 24th marks the birthday of authors E. T. A. Hoffmann and Edith Wharton.

E. T. A. Hoffmann was a German writer of fantasy and horror. His most popular and well-known work is probably The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which has been translated, reworked, and made into movies and ballets.

Hoffmann wrote many novellas. Among them are "Mademoiselle de Scudery", which is a tale of crime that takes place in 17th-century Paris, and "The Sandman", which is a horror story about the folklore character of the same name. Both can be found in the Penguin Classics collection of Hoffmann's stories.

Edith Wharton was an American writer and Pulitzer Prize winner (for The Age of Innocence). She wrote novels, short stories, poetry, and even some non-fiction travel and descriptive books, and was the friend of fellow author Henry James. Some of her works have been made into movies.

Many of Wharton's works are set in turn-of-the-century New England. Among these are The House of Mirth, which is the story of a woman who is caught up in shallow New York society life, Ethan Frome, which illustrates the unhappy marriage of a rural Massachusetts couple, and The Custom of the Country, which tells the satiric story of a spoiled New York heiress.

2011 Best in Genre Fiction - American Library Association Reading List Council Awards

ala reading listala reading list

The Reading List annually recognizes the best books in eight genres: adrenaline (including suspense, thriller and adventure), fantasy, historical fiction, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction and women’s fiction. This year’s list includes novels that will please die-hard fans, as well as introduce new readers to the pleasures of genre fiction - and what pleases me most is to see many debut novels among the winners and on the shortlists.

Adrenaline
The Nearest Exit by Olen Steinhauer

Fantasy
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

Historical Fiction
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

Horror
The Dead Path by Stephen M. Irwin

Mystery
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

Romance
A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh

Science Fiction
The Dervish House by IIan McDonald

Women’s Fiction
Solomon’s Oak by Jo-Ann Mapson

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