A Dark and Deep Underneath

Infused with songs of the delta blues, told through the eyes of two kittens and a battered dog, and bent with a violent owner and a vengeful moccasin, The Underneath, a youth novel by Kathy Appelt, bears little resemblance to a Norman Rockwell painting. A finalist for this year's National Book Award, The Underneath is a dark novel that intertwines three stories, each about characters battling with the same philosophical dilemma: choose love, or live in fear.

When a pregnant cat is abandoned in a ditch in southern Texas, she finds protection and love with an unlikely suitor: Ranger, a bullet-wounded hound living underneath his abusive owner's dilapidated house. The hound's owner, known as Gar Face, spends his days hunting his own Moby Dick, a 100 foot alligator lurking in a nearby swamp. Finally, there's Grandmother Moccasin, a mystical snake over 1,000 years old, who plots her revenge against those who wronged her long ago. In the swamps of the south, there is death, there is evil, and there is hope.

(Audio) Fabulous Fiction First #135

Spending too much time on the road? Busy with chores? Couldn’t find your reading glasses? Those are just more reasons to get to some of these fabulous fiction firsts. They are on audio! Smart and savvy publishers are releasing the audio format simultaneously with the print edition. Here are two of my current favorites.

I was mesmerized from the first track by professional actor Lincoln Hoppe’s poetic delivery of The Gargoyle*, by first time novelist Andrew Davidson . This “intense tale of unconventional romance” between a severely-burned hedonistic porn star plotting suicide and a beautiful sculptress in the psych ward who remembered their tragic love affair 700 years ago at a German monastery. “There's pure magic here, a classic redemption story… Davidson's Gargoyle is a rare gem: completely engrossing, wholly unforgettable, and utterly transcendent.”

Fans of Victorian domestic drama (think Upstairs Downstairs) and Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series would find much to like in Gerri Brightwell’s FFF The Dark Lantern - “a suspenseful novel of mistaken identities, intriguing women, and dangerous deceptions."

* = Starred Reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #134

It is not everyday that a debut fiction is picked as a finalist of the National Book Awards.

Rachel Kushner's FFF Telex from Cuba* impressed a panel of distinguished judges as "a profound and lush evocation of 1950s’ Cuba".

"Though the chief observers are two keen-eyed American children, Kushner masterfully portrays the complex and varied forces of revolution through the perspectives of dictators, workers, the Havana underworld, the revolutionaries in the hills, and the Americans in denial that their colonial paradise is doomed."

Learn more about this fabulous newcomer to the literary fiction scene from a recent interview.

* = Starred Review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #133

When the corpse of a teenager turns up in an area known as the borderlands between the North and South of Ireland, Inspector Benedict Devlin heads up an investigation whose only clues are a gold ring placed on the girl's finger and an old photograph.

“McGilloway's debut Borderlands* is marked by tangled, derivative plotting, exceptionally mature prose and a hero as charismatically volcanic in his own way as Louisiana's Dave Robicheaux”. ~Kirkus Reviews

“With a mood and investigative style reminiscent of Hakan Nesser’s Inspector Van Veeteren series…, this is an excellent new procedural series, especially notable for its realistic and sensitive portrayal of life in modern Ireland.” ~Booklist

For fans of Tana French, another noteworthy newcomer to the genre.

* = Starred Reviews

November Books to Films

Posterm TwilightPosterm Twilight

Three days and counting... The MUCH MUCH anticipated film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight (2005) about two star-crossed lovers with one being a potential midnight snack for the other, will be @ the movies on November 21, 2008. It's going to be way too much fun to go alone. Send out some evites and check out the Twilight party kit.

John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas : a fable (2006) is set during World War II. Seen through the innocent eyes of Bruno, the eight-year-old son of the commandant at a concentration camp, his forbidden friendship with a Jewish boy on the other side of the camp fence is at once powerful and moving. Find out more about the book and the film.

Revolutionary Road is based on Richard Yates' "deft, ironic, beautiful" novel (1961). Frank and April Wheeler are a young couple trying to find fulfillment in an era of conformity. Trapped in a world of encoded convention, they dream without faith, as lies and self-deceptions build to explosive consequences. This Hollywood adaptation reunites the cast of The Titanic.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #132

Her first novel to be translated into English, Chilean author/journalist Elizabeth Subercaseaux's A Week in October* is "intense and engrossing". Hard to believe since it delves deeply into the troubled psyche of a woman dying of cancer.

Clara Griffin begins a fictionalized journal that her husband will secretly read and agonize over - it is an intimate roman à clef about her coming death, her troubled marriage, her husband's longstanding secret affair, and her own erotic adventures. Whether this is her way of instilling desire, exacting vengeance or simply finding happiness, Clara's notebook digs into the slippery, treacherous nature of love, deception, truth, guilt and loyalty.

This "slim, elegant novel deftly blends nuance and suspense", and introduces literary fiction readers to a noteworthy author to watch.

* = *Starred Review*

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #131

If you liked Company of Liars (see FFF #130 blog), then you would like Jeri Westerson's FFF Veil of Lies : A Medieval Noir*.

Stripped of his rank and honor for plotting against Richard II, disgraced knight Crispin Guest uses his wits to eke out a living in fourteenth-century London, taking on an investigation on behalf of a reclusive merchant that draws him into the middle of a complex conspiracy involving dark secrets, international plots, a missing religious relic, and murder.

Looking for similar reads? Check out the Matthew Shardlake historical mystery series by C. J. Sansom; the Dame Frevisse series by Margaret Frazer; and the Matthew Bartholomew series by Susanna Gregory.

* = Starred Review

Don't Miss These October Books-to-Films

The cinematic Hollywood adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees captures the story of 14 year-old Lily Owens, whose life has been defined by the tragic death of her mother. When she joins Rosaleen, a bold black woman and her "stand-in mother" on a journey to Tiburon, South Carolina, they are taken in by three bee-keeping sisters who show them the true meaning of love and family.

Body of Lies (2007) by David Ignatius has been made into a star-studded espionage/thriller. Emerging from a tour of duty in Iraq with a badly injured leg, CIA soldier Roger Ferris takes on a mission to infiltrate the network of a master terrorist and bases his plan on a British intelligence operation from World War II before finding himself caught in a dangerous web.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #130

In 1348 England, as the plague ravages England, nine desperate strangers attempt to outrun the Black Death, revealing their individual stories as they travel away from the devastation, but one among them is hiding a far more sinister secret.

"British author Karen Maitland makes her U.S. debut with Company of Liars that tips its hat deeply to Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. "Executed with stunning skill and precision, her medieval world is full of the fantasy and mystery you'd expect from the genre — but it also parallels our own culture more than we might expect."

"Decidedly not your English teacher's Chaucer, but creepy, suspenseful, fun", with a "gasp-out-loud finale". English majors and historical mystery fans are not going to want to miss this one! And you would want to watch for FFF #131 !

Happy Birthday Ang Lee!

Ang LeeAng Lee

Born October 23, 1954 in Pingtung, Taiwan, Ang Lee has become one of today's greatest contemporary filmmakers. Stop by the AADL and browse our collection of his movies. For laughs try The Wedding Banquet (1993). For love and relationships choose Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) or Lee's version of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility (1995). For drama try The Ice Storm (1997) or Ride With The Devil (1999). For action try Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) or Hulk (2003). For an Academy Award Winner, try Lee's heartbreaker Brokeback Mountain (2005). Fans of espionage and thrillers should check out Lee's most recent release Lust, Caution (2007). Taking Woodstock, Lee's latest project, is currently in production.

Syndicate content