Fabulous Fiction Firsts #136

A 2007 Hopwood Awards winner, Nami Mun's debut novel Miles from Nowhere* has garnered enthusiastic praise from many critics.

Set in the 1980s, it is the coming-of-age story of Joon, a Korean-American teenage runaway. Survival means homeless shelters, jail, hunger, drugs, prostitution, and terror on the mean streets of New York, - gritty and unflinching.

“There is nothing simplistic or sensationalized here as Mun, a writer of gravitas, portrays the dispossessed and the cast-out…”. However, it is her portrayal of Joon who remains “inviolable, kind and determined”, with “a fierce survival instincts, adaptability and radiance” that carries the reader towards a hopeful ending.

*= Starred Reviews. The editors of Booklist have picked Miles as one of the First Novel Stars on their annual list.

Toni Morrison's Newest Novel

Toni Morrison, Pulitzer and Nobel-Prize winning author of Beloved, is back with her 9th novel, a haunting story set in America's dark past. A Mercy takes us back to 17th century America, pictured as a kind of wild paradise with a poisonous edge. The story centers around an Anglo-Dutch trader named Jacob; his wife Rebekka, who has fled from a life of poverty in England; their servant Lina, one of the last remnants of a smallpox-ravaged tribe; Florens, a 16-year old African slave; and Sorrow, a racially mixed survivor of a shipwreck. Morrison expertly revisits the themes of her previous books, the main one being the devastating and damning effects of human slavery, both for those who are dominated and for those who do the dominating. A Mercy forces the reader to see more than just the obvious institution of legal slavery through the slave trade; we also see the essential slavery of the native peoples of America, the indentured lower classes, and women. Morrison's latest book is an epic tragedy and a powerful experience.

More than just a millionaire

Slumdog MillionaireSlumdog Millionaire

British director Danny Boyle, best known for the movies Trainspotting, Millions, & 28 Days Later has a new movie at theaters called Slumdog Millionaire. With a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy and adapted from the book, Q & A by Vikas Swarup, Slumdog is a big departure from Boyle's last movie, the sci-fi adventure, Sunshine. Slumdog Millionaire follows Jamal Malik, an orphan living on the streets of Mumbai, who becomes a contestant on the Hindi version of 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire'. He is one question away from winning it all, when police arrest him for suspected cheating. They question how a street beggar could know so much. Jamal then proceeds to tell his amazing life story which in turn reveals how he knows the answers. This movie has been nominated for a best picture award at the Golden Globes and Oscar buzz has been brewing as well!

Christmas Reads

For those of you who enjoy Holiday books, as well as the Holidays, you may want to consider reading The Christmas Train by David Baldacci. The book delves into a story about Tom Langdon, a former war reporter who now writes features for magazines. To his detriment, he is forced to take a train from D.C. to L.A. (where his girlfriend awaits), after a hostile incident at airport security. On the train he meets several different characters...an eccentric old women, a former Catholic priest, a young couple who are planning to marry on the train, and the former love of his life. Unresolved issues between the two ensue, while a series of unexpected events occur to try to derail any plans of a reconciliation. This book is more sentimental and heartwarming unlike the majority of Baldacci's books and may not suit his usual fan base.

Another sentimental Holiday series is the Christmas Hope Series by bestselling author Donna VanLiere. This series starts with The Christmas Shoes, and continues with The Christmas Blessing, The Christmas Hope and The Christmas Promise. Each book in the series shows how one good deed can irrevocably change the lives of others. Check out these heartwarming reads today!

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*

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