World Fantasy Awards

Created in the mid-1970s, the World Fantasy Awards, associated with the annual World Fantasy Conventions were established as a fantasy counterpart to the SF-oriented Hugo and Nebula Awards. If you enjoy reading/watching/writing fantasy or science fiction, the annual conventions are definitely for you! Think about attending the 2010 convention. It will be close by in Columbus, Ohio on the weekend of October 28-31. A great way to celebrate Halloween by dressing up as your favorite fantasy character- a Volturi anyone?

Here are the winners for best novel:

The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford: In the wake of a classmate's disappearance, a sixth grader and his older brother observe strange events in 1960s Long Island, including the appearance of a man in a large white car and the deteriorating mental state of the school librarian.

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan: A young woman who has endured unspeakable cruelties is magically granted a safe haven apart from the real world and allowed to raise her two daughters in this alternate reality, until the barrier between her world and the real one begins to break down.

Best Anthology:
Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy, by: Ekaterina Sedia, ed.
A collection of urban fantasy stories featuring cities--whether real or imaginary and throughout history--and how they affect the lives and experiences of their inhabitants.

Best Collection:
The Drowned Life by: Jeffrey Ford: In this mesmerizing blend of the familiar and the fantastic, multiple award-winning New York Times notable author Jeffrey Ford creates true wonders and infuses the mundane with magic.

Teen Stuff: Feed by M.T. Anderson

This weekend at a U of M hockey game I sat behind someone that texted, talked, and googled non-stop on their phone for the entire 2 hour game, not once looking up to follow the live action on the ice. This is not a commentary, merely an observation. But I couldn't stop thinking about M.T. Anderson's novel, Feed, which follows a futuristic group of teenage friends, all of whom have 'The Feed' implanted in their brains from a young age.

The Feed functions like a search engine, complete with instant message capabilities and streaming advertisements catered to (or shaping) their personal interests. The characters live their lives unquestioningly until Violet enters their scene, sans Feed, and illuminates the unsettling cost of information overload. Listening to the book on CD is especially engaging, since part of the narrative is the sound of The Feed, channeled directly to the listener.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #186

Seriously one of the best nordic crime fiction of the year, Anders Roslund's projected new series debut Box 21* is violent, horrific, and strangely gripping.

Over the course of a rainy summer's week in Stockholm, a Lithuanian prostitute viciously beaten close to death, three Stockholm police detectives investigating the case, sundry petty criminals, and a young doctor at the edge of despair cross path when one of them holds the the city hostage at gunpoint. While lives are lost, scores settled, secrets unearthed (Locker no. 21), friendship and honor severely tested, it is shame that drives the well-crafted thriller to its explosive and tragic conclusion.

Students of human nature and readers of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahlöo's Martin Beck series, Henning Mankell, and Karin Fossum - "Norway's Queen of Crime," will find this irresistible and affecting.

* = Starred reviews

The Original of Laura (Dying is Fun)

The Original of LauraThe Original of Laura

Before his death in 1977, Vladimir Nabokov had given express instructions to his wife Vera to burn the 138 handwritten index cards that comprised the rough draft of his work, The Original of Laura (Dying is Fun). Having once saved Lolita from the fire, Mrs. Nabokov could never bring herself to destroy the last remaining work of her husband before her death. So the manuscript was left to her son, Dmitri, the translator of many of his father’s works. Dmitri Nabokov, now seventy-five years old, made the difficult decision to publish this final work, albeit contrary to his father’s wishes.

The story revolves around Phillip and his wife Flora - who was once the inspiration for a novel (Laura) written by a former lover. The story of “Laura” – a nymphet-like creature and ballet dancer - focuses on the relationship between her and a “Hubert Hubert” – her mother’s boyfriend. (Hmm…a distant relative of “Humbert Humbert?”) The character of Phillip appears to mirror some of the feelings of Nabokov himself, a man often preoccupied with death and the afterlife. Sound sketchy? That’s because The Original of Laura seems to be such a fragmented narrative that I have had a little difficulty discerning the clear story from reviews. Should Nabokov's son should be commended for his decision to publish this final work of his father's, or has he done him a disservice? Is Vladimir Nabokov spinning in his grave? After the book's release this month, we readers will be the judge. My hold is placed.

Arab American Book Award

Arab American Book AwardArab American Book Award

On November 7, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn presented the third annual Arab American Book Awards, celebrating "the publication and excellence of books that preserve and advance the understanding, knowledge, and resources of the Arab American community by celebrating the thoughts and lives of Arab Americans." This is the only award of its kind in the nation. The winning books for 2009 include:

In the fiction category, "A Map of Home" by Randa Jarrar -- presents the story of Nidali, a rebellious young woman, and her family's journey from Kuwait to Egypt, and ultimately, to Texas.

In the nonfiction category, "How Does It Feel to be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America" by Moustafa Bayoumi explores the titular question through seven real-life accounts of young Arab American New Yorkers. Honorable mention "Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation" by Saree Makdisi depicts the everyday life of the thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.

Finally, in the young adult category, "Honeybee", a book of poems by Naomi Shihab Nye explores themes of love and cooperation.

Get a new perspective on the world, and on the Arab American experience. Don't miss these award winners!

Looking For a Bedtime Story?

If you are in search of a good bedtime story with a thoughtful message and dreamy illustrations, be sure to check out Go to Sleep, Gecko! A Balinese Folktale by Margaret Read MacDonald. This twist on a traditional Balinese tale tells of Gecko and how the fireflies outside his window keep him awake with their blinking. When this grumpy gecko goes to complain to the the head of the village, Elephant, he sets off a chain reaction that teaches him a lesson about the natural cycle of life. The humor in this tale (including buffalo poop!) will appeal to the young listener, and the luminescent night scenes help make this an extra special read-aloud.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #185 - Reading the World

reading the worldreading the world

Of the 33 first novels nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (see blog), some have already won major awards, some have been blogged, some became media darlings, some bewitched us, and some chilled and thrilled us.

Here are a few that would challenge us, move us and perhaps even grow us a little:

A Girl Made of Dust is written by a woman who experienced firsthand the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the 1980s. It captures both a country and a childhood plagued by a conflict that even at its darkest and most threatening, carries the promise of healing and retribution.

The White King by György Dragomán (translated from the Hungarian by Paul Olchváry). Eleven-year-old Djata's life in the totalitarian state is changed forever when two men lead his father away one day. However brutal, Djata's world is tempered by the hilarious absurdity of the situations, by his enduring faith in his father's return, and by moments of unexpected beauty, hope, and kindness. Startling and heartbreaking, recommended for fans of Mark Haddon, David Mitchell, and Marjane Satrapi.

How the Soldier Repairs the Gramaphone by Saša Stanišić ( translated from the German by Anthea Bell). Fleeing the violence and destruction of his native Bosnia with his family for safety in Germany, Aleksandar Krsmanoviæ remains haunted by the past and his memories of Asija, the mysterious girl he had tried to save and whose fate he is desperate to discover.

A first-time novelist at 76, Bernard du Boucheron caused a literary sensation in France with The Voyage of the Short Serpent, - a tale (translated from the French by Hester Velmans) of a bishop's attempted reclamation of a medieval Scandinavian colony in Iceland. The bishop sets off in the company of the captain and crew of the Short Serpent.

What to read?


On November 2, the longlist was announced for the 2010 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award - the largest prize worldwide for a single work of fiction published in English.

The prize is open to novels written in any language and by authors of any nationality, provided the work has been published in English or as an English translation. The annual award is €100,000 and is administered by Dublin City Public Libraries. The titles are nominated by 163 libraries in 43 different countries.

The list includes 156 authors from 46 countries, written in 18 languages. 41 are translated from languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, Icelandic, Serbian and Slovenian. 33 are first novels (Look for more FFF to come).

Among the nominated is the winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize - (The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga); the winner of the 2009 Commonwealth Writers Prize - (The Slap by Christos Tsiolka); the winner of the 2009 Orange Prize - (Home by Marilynne Robinson); and the winner of the 2009 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize - (The Armies by Evelio Rosero).

Dublin City Council will announce the shortlist on 14th April 2010. The Lord Mayor will reveal the winning novel on 17th June 2010.

Want to share your shortlist with us?

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #184

Recently picked by Booklist as one of the ten top first novels of the year, Carolina De Robertis's debut novel The Invisible Mountain* is a "deeply intimate exploration of the search for love and authenticity, power and redemption, in the lives of three women, and a penetrating portrait of a small, tenacious nation, Uruguay, shaken in the gales of the twentieth century."

This gripping and lyrical story, at once expansive and lush with detail, begins with Pajarita, a healer with a mysterious second birth, her daughter Eva , a poet who suffered sexual assault as a child, and granddaughter Salome who as a revolutionary endures arrest, torture and imprisonment.

" De Robertis is a skilled storyteller in relating the stories of these stalwart women, but it is her use of language from the precision of poetry to the sensuality of sex that makes this literary debut so exceptional".

Readers of historical fiction from a strong female perspective would also find interesting The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allenda; and the 2004 National Book Award winner The News from Paraguay* by Lily Tuck.

* = Starred Reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #183

If you were moved by her memoir The Glass Castle*, you would find Jeannette Walls's debut novel Half Broke Horses* no less "authentic, irresistible, and triumphant".

While The Glass Castle is the tale of a child of a scholarly, alcoholic father and an eccentric artist mother; her nomadic, hardscrabble upbringing, heartbreaking betrayals before finding the resources and will to leave home; Half Broke Horses is the story of Ms. Walls's grandmother - Lily Casey Smith.

This first-person fictional biography of a "horse-breaking, moonshine-selling, ranch-running, airplane-flying, pistol-packing, school-teaching, indomitable pioneer" begins with a young Lily, tough and wise beyond her years, saving her siblings during one of west Texas' flash floods.

Family photographs, archival materials and research lend an air of oral history to the narrative. Reflecting on the experiences of her grandmother and mother, Walls says, “It’s a bit of an anachronism, but there’s a lot to be said for the tough pioneer spirit and the untamed wilderness. I think it’s important that we don’t forget our roots. And our own half-brokeness."

For novels of other indomitable women, try The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss and The Diary of Mattie Spenser by Sandra Dallas.

* = Starred reviews (See the New York Times review)

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