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)

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #182

From the creator of CSI television series Anthony E. Zuiker come this sensational debut Level 26 : Dark Origins.

This is no ordinary crime thriller. In fact, it is the first digi-novel. It combines the book format, film, and interactive digital technologies into an intense storytelling experience.

Level 26 refers to law enforcement personnel's category of evil - with 25 being the most sadistic of torture-murderers. Now Steve Dark, the ultimate crime-scene tactician is on the trail of the most brutal of killers - one that they have invented a new level for. Code named "Sqweegel", this clever, twisted serial killer has been taunting the police and eluding capture for decades. His choice of victims appears to be random. Nobody is safe.

Readers will be able to log onto www.level26.com (special code and clues scattered through the text) to access digital movies featuring the characters, crime-scene details and more. It is an experience like no other.

Go ahead, double-check doors and windows and sleep with the lights on. I did. I drew the line on taking sharp objects to bed though.

Teen Stuff: Spotlight on Pete Hautman

Pete Hautman is the National Book Award winning author of a strikingly unusual set of novels found in the AADL's Teen Fiction collection. Take his 1996 sci-fi, Mr. Was, where teenager Jack Lund discovers a secret door that takes him 50 years into the past inside the attic of a crumbling cliff estate that he and his mother share to escape from his abusive father. Or Invisible, the story of two boys who have been best friends forever, bound together by their fascination with fire though separated by their vastly different degrees of popularity at school.

Another great choice is the 2004 National Book Award winner, Godless, about Jason, a sharp 15-year-old who breaks from the tenets of his unshakably Catholic father and starts his own mock religion that worships the Ten-Legged God, a water tower at the center of town. One night's rituals on top of the water tower will test Jason, his religion, and his friendships in this quirky, yet thoughtful perspective on organized religion.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #181


In Chemistry for Beginners*, for Dr. Steven Fisher, the female orgasm is his life’s work. At the brink of the breakthrough of a miracle drug that could cure female sexual dysfunction (think Viagra), one of his test subjects – Annie G is wracking havoc with his data, his scientific mind and his carefully guarded heart.

This engaging and smart, romantic comedy (no longer an oxymoron, thanks to Anthony Strong - a pseudonym for Anthony Capella) is presented in the form of a scientific paper, complete with footnotes (totally believable and absolutely hilarious) and illustrations. The uniquely contemporary male perspective, memorable quotes, satirical jabs at academia, clinical research, and the drug business will surely entertain. The tentative and problematic courtship is tantalizing (think D.H. Lawrence's Lady C.), at times heartbreaking, and oh so itchy sexy.

Easily the best romance of the year, from a newcomer to the genre. Best quote: "Sex is biology, love is chemistry". And some of the best sex scenes since Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.

* = Starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #180

If you liked Lauren Groff's fantastic debut The Monsters of Templeton* (blog) then you would delight in Nancy Mauro's New World Monkeys*.

At once " fun, funny and touching" and "weird, disturbing and intensely engaging", the novel centers on Lily and Duncan, unhappily married Manhattan yuppies, a dilapidated old house, a wild boar, small-town secrets, and a bit of nasty buried in the backyard.

"Debut novelist Mauro perfectly balances humor and soulfulness in this poisonously funny, torchlight eerie, psychologically astute tale of archaic instincts, deviance, and violence." Quirky? Yes. But it will appeal to those who favor happy endings and romantics who insist on believing that love really does conquer all.

* = Starred reviews

Jack London: A Man for All Seasons

In honor of Banned Book Week (September 26−October 3) I present to you, Jack London. I was surprised to learn that The Call of the Wild (1903) was banned in Italy and Yugoslavia in 1929 for being “too radical” – although the banning of the book may have had more to do with the fact that London was a well known socialist, rather than the story itself - which is about a sled dog named Buck during the Klondike Goldrush. However, regardless of his political leanings, it was The Call of the Wild which brought the charismatic author the most success and fame.

So, if you haven’t read The Call of the Wild, To Build a Fire, or White Fang since childhood, maybe it’s time for another look. I also recommend Martin Eden – London's semi-autobiographical novel about a young working class sailor in California struggling to become a respected writer against all odds. Want to learn more about Jack London? Check out some of these biographies available. Also, you may want to take a peek at The Jack London Online Collection – a fantastic resource. Most of his writings are available on the site, as well a photo archive, research aids and much, much more.

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