The Story Prize finalists have been announced

The Story Prize, now in its 10th year, announced their three finalists competing for the top prize which recognizes an "...author of an outstanding collection of short fiction..." published in the previous year.

This year's finalists are:

Andrea Barrett, for Archangel -- Ms. Barrett is no stranger to literary awards. She won the 1996 National Book Award for Ship Fever and Other Stories. The four stories in Archangel span two centuries and use science as a backdrop for the protagonists' efforts to make sense of a dangerous world.

Novelist Rebecca Lee (The City Is a Rising Tide (2006) got the nod for her first short story collection, Bobcat: & Other Stories, seven tales that examine the messy interiors of human relationships in all their chaotic permutations.

It is hard to find a critic who did not rave about George Saunders' Tenth of December. This, his his seventh collection of short stories, already has won the Pem/Malamud Award for Excellence. In these ten short pieces, Saunders writes beautifully about heroism, PTSD, and hope in the face of a devastating medical crisis.

There is already a Story Prize winner. For the second time in its history it has award The Story Prize Spotlight Award. This year's recipient is Ben Stroud, for his ten-entry collection of historical fiction short stories, Byzantium, for which he received $1000.

The winner, who will receive a $20,000 purse and an engraved bowl, will be announced Wedneday, March 5th at the New School's Auditorium in New York City.

Teen author Libba Bray skillfully weaves together historical fiction and fantasy in The Diviners

Teen author Libba Bray first gained notoriety for her unusual Gemma Doyle series, which includes New York Times bestseller A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing. These books skillfully and unusually blend historical fiction with fantasy, merging the world of an early twentieth century girls boarding school with an alternative universe only accessible to those with the Sight.

After completing the Gemma Doyle trilogy, Bray wrote Going Bovine, the story of a 16-year-old boy with mad cow disease, which won the Printz award from the American Library Association. In 2012, however, Bray again delved into the fantasy/historical fiction genre and produced The Diviners, the first in a new trilogy. Set in 1920s New York City, The Diviners introduces Evie, a 17-year-old girl from Ohio exiled from the Midwest and sent to live with her uncle, who is the curator of the unusual Museum of American Folklore, Superstition and the Occult. Along with spending her time embracing everything that comes with living in Prohibition-era New York, Evie is drawn into an investigation dealing with a series of occult-related murders. And, although she does her best to keep it a secret from everyone around her, Evie’s supernatural power may be the only thing that will help catch the murderer at last!

Bray’s rare ability to accurately depict historic American settings while injecting them with believable fantastical turns has made fans of the Gemma Doyle trilogy and of Bray’s writing in general ecstatic over the release of The Diviners. Filling a truly unique niche in teen fiction, the book can be enjoyed by adults as well. The second book in The Diviners series, Lair of Dreams, will be published in August 2014, and you can read more about the series as a whole here.

The Historical House Series

If you have a young reader in your life who loves historical fiction, check out The Historical House Series. Written by Adèle Geras, Ann Turnbull and Linda Newbery, this unique series follows the lives and times of young women who live in the same house in London over a period of 200 years. Follow along as the young women meet famous people the likes of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, join in the fight with suffragettes to allow women the right to vote and watch the first moon landing! Each book is written from the perspective of the young girls and captures the enchanting stories of their dreams and determination, all while set in the colorful world of London.
Polly’s March by Linda Newbery
Lizzie’s Wish by Adèle Geras
Mary Ann & Miss Mozart by Ann Turnball
Andie’s Moon by Linda Newbery

Poldark

PoldarkPoldark

If you are missing Downton Abbey, and need something to fill the dark evenings, you might give Poldark a try. Based on the novels of Winston Graham, and released as a 29-episode television series in England 38 years ago, it is still in the top 10 favorite Masterpiece Theater series of all time.

Set in Cornwall, at the end of the 18th century, Captain Ross Poldark returns from the American wars to find his father dead, his estate in ruin and his fiancee (believing him dead) married to his cousin. Over the next 15 years, we follow Ross, his low-born, but very charming and spirited wife, Demelza, and his family, neighbors, friends and enemies, as they battle storms of jealousy, villainy and economic uncertainty. There is also enough of love, success and contentment to keep things on a fairly even keel.

Being Cornwall, the fortunes and vicissitudes of life are influenced by mining and smuggling, and stories of both figure prominently in Poldark's story, and being the late 18th century, the French Revolution has exerted its influence on the class-conscious Brits. There is plenty of adventure, in other words, and the dashing and head-strong Poldark does not disappoint as he dashes about, righting wrongs and sometimes creating and then solving numerous scrapes. The scenes of the Cornish countryside and coast are particularly beautiful.

Not quite as elegant or fine a family as the Crawfords, the Poldarks still entertain with many of the same themes: class differences, love – both thwarted and fulfilled, the politics and struggles of the day, good vs evil men and women, and the fortunes and misfortunes of inherited privilege and wealth. Part romance, part adventure and part soap-opera, it is all you have come to expect from British historical drama.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #437 - Ars longa, vita brevis (Art is long, life is short)

At the heart of Thomas Van Essen's debut - The Center of the World *, is perhaps the greatest painting by the renowned British painter J. M. W. Turner, and Henry Leiden, a middle-aged family man with a troubled marriage and a dead-end job, who finds his life transformed by the discovery of the painting in a secret compartment at his summer home in the Adirondacks.

Unlike the marine paintings Turner is known for, The Center of the World is a mesmerizing and erotic painting of Helen of Troy, so scandalous at the time that it was believed to have been burned by John Ruskin. Van Essen reimagines the 19th C. setting where Turner struggled to create this painting at the home of his patron Lord Egremont, and Elizabeth Spencer, Turner's muse and the model for his Helen.

"Filled with sex, beauty, and love (of all kinds), this richly textured novel explores the intersection between art and eroticism." "Van Essen writes gracefully and makes accessible the issue of art as transcendence...an appreciation for how art moves the human heart."

The Girl You Left Behind * by Jojo Moyes is about a 100 year-old painting that serves as catalyst in linking two loves stories, one set in occupied France during World War I, the other in contemporary London.

Liv Halston could not part with the painting her late husband David, a brilliant architect gave her as a wedding gift. Readers would be able to deduce that it is the same painting that Édouard, an artist who studied with Henri Matisse, painted of his wife Sophie Lefèvre, a village innkeeper before he headed off to war in 1916. The mystery is the odyssey of how this painting - The Girl I left Behind ended up in the hands of the Halstons, and who is the rightful owner - whether it is the Lefèvre heirs, the WWI occupying German kommandant who coerced a bargain with Sophie, or Liv who treasures it as the last link to the man she lost too soon?

"Moyes has created a riveting depiction of a wartime occupation that has mostly faded from memory. Liv and Sophie are so real in their faults, passion, and bravery that the reader is swept along right to the end. This one is hard to put down!"

Needing no introduction is Donna Tartt. In this her 3rd novel which took a good part of a decade to write The Goldfinch * * , the name is taken from a small, exquisitely rendered painting.

13 year-old Theo Decker miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by a friend's family and struggles to make sense of his new life. In the years that follow, he becomes entranced by one of the few things that reminds him of his mother: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the art underworld.

"The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America, and a drama of almost unbearable acuity and power. It is a story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the enormous power of art."

* = starred review
* * = 2 starred reviews

New and Award-Winning Historical Fiction for Teens

Reading historical fiction can be a great way to learn more about past eras while still enjoying the fictional embellishments and projections of an author. This can be especially true for teens, as historical fiction presents a unique way to relate to coming-of-age individuals from the past and learn facts about bygone events and characters that can turn out to be helpful in school.

On our new teen shelf currently is The Red Umbrella, added to our collection in October 2013, which details the repercussions of the communist revolution on a teenage girl and her family living in Cuba in 1961. The author, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, makes the character of Lucia relatable and the events that Gonzalez describes are exciting and historically relevant.

Also new on our list of teen historical fiction is My Beautiful Hippie, by Janet Nichols Lynch. The story paints a vivid portrait of the cultural revolution in San Francisco in the late 1960s, and details the struggles of a teenage girl to fulfill the expectations of her traditional middle class family despite being drawn intensely to the alternative culture sweeping through the city.

Ann Rinaldi, who has been writing teen historical fiction for nearly 3 decades, is known for her carefully researched and extremely absorbing portraits of United States history. One of her most famous novels, The Fifth of March, tells the story of the Boston Massacre from the perspective of a servant in the house of John Adams. Rinaldi skillfully details the events of the Salem witch trials in her 1992 book A Break With Charity and describes the horrors of the Battle of Gettysburg in her most recent book, The Last Full Measure. Many of her over thirty historical novels for teens have won awards, including a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age for The Fifth of March and ABA’s Pick of the Lists for her book The Coffin Quilt.

For more historical fiction recommendations for teens, check out the Historical Fiction-Librarians’ Choice for High School list on the public lists section of our website!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #436 - “Love, having no geography, knows no boundaries.” ~Truman Capote

Just released to great anticipation is P.S. Duffy's debut The Cartographer of No Man's Land * *.

When his beloved brother-in-law Ebbin goes missing at the front in 1916, Angus MacGrath, a ship's captain in hardscrabble Snag Harbor, Nova Scotia, puts aside his pacifist upbringing to join the war, in order to find him. Assured a position as a cartographer in London, he is instead sent directly to the front. Meanwhile, at home, his son Simon Peter must navigate escalating hostility in a fishing village torn by grief.

"Duffy's astounding first novel depicts terrifyingly real battle scenes, rich in subtle details, displaying the intimacies shared among soldiers and the memories that haunt them."

" (T)he world of shipping and the uncertainty of the uncharted front line provide poignant metaphors for the characters' navigation of conflict, loss, and change, as well as their journey back to each other— and to themselves.".

A Baltimore native and a science writer for the Mayo Clinic, Duffy spent summers sailing in Nova Scotia.

Coming out shortly is Canadian journalist and novelist Brian W. Payton's The Wind is Not a River * *. The reader is treated to a little-known aspect of World War II, one that the U.S. government at the time, took great pains to keep from the public eye.

Desperate to understand the war that claimed the life of his younger brother Warren, journalist John Easley headed to the Territory of Alaska to investigate the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands. In April 1943, he was shot down in a seaplane just off the remote and barren island of Attu. He and the only other survivor - a young Texan aviator named Karl Bitburg, battled the elements, starvation while trying to evade capture by the 2,000 Japaneses soldiers.

In the mean time, 3000 miles south in Seattle, John's wife Helen, resolved to search for her missing husband and to bring him home, signed on with the USO troupe to entertain the troops in Alaska as a dancer/performer.

"Payton has delivered a richly detailed, vividly resonant chronicle of war's effect on ordinary people's lives."

* * = 2 starred reviews

Amazon Teen Bestseller: The Book Thief

The Kindle edition of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak currently is #5 on Amazon's Best Sellers in Teen & Young Adult Books. First published in 2007, the bestselling book was made into a movie that will be in theaters in November. In the novel, Death tells the story of Liesel, a German girl during World War II whose storytelling and book thefts help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding.

Eleanor Catton wins the 2013 Man Booker Prize for The Luminaries

Yesterday, Eleanor Catton, a New Zealander born in Canada just 28 years ago, became the youngest author to capture the coveted Man Booker Prize, Great Britain's most prestigious literary award.

Her 830-page novel, The Luminaries, is also the longest book to ever win the Booker, which is 42 years old. Set during the New Zealand gold rush in 1866, The Luminaries has been described as a brilliant reinvention of the Victorian "sensation novel." Robert MacFarlane, chairman of this year's committee, waxed eloquent about Ms. Catton's achievement: "...dazzling...luminous...extraordinarily gripping....It is a novel of astonishing control."

Ms. Catton, who studied at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, completed The Luminaries in just two years, completing it when she was 27.

Despite her youth, The Luminaries is not her first novel. That honor goes to The Rehearsal (2010), which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize (renamed the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction] and the Dylan Thomas Prize.

In addition to instant fame and a full calendar of speaking engagements, Ms. Catton received the prize purse worth £50,000 ($79,854.50).

This year's Man Booker Prize recognizes another milestone. Next year the prize will be open to any novel written in English and published in Great Britain, no matter where the author was born.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #430 - “War doesn't negate decency. It demands it, even more than in times of peace." ~ Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

Architect Charles Belfoure - "an up and coming Ken Follett." (Booklist) impresses with his debut - The Paris Architect *.

1942 Paris, gifted architect Lucien Bernard took on a lucrative but dangerous commission to design a secret hiding place for a wealthy Jew. It was to be so invisible that the most determined German officer wouldn't find; a challenge he could not resist to outwit the Nazis who have occupied his beloved city.

When one careless mistake resulted in tragedy, Lucien saw the plight of the Jews through new eyes, and the commission took on new meaning.

"Belfoure's portrayal of Vichy France is both disturbing and captivating, and his beautiful tale demonstrates that while human beings are capable of great atrocities, they have a capacity for tremendous acts of courage as well." "Heart, reluctant heroism, and art blend together in this spine-chilling page-turner."

Loosely based on British author Rhidian Brook's family history, The Aftermath is the emotionally riveting story of two families, one house, and love grown from hate.

Having been appointed Governor of Pinneberg, Bristish Army Col. Lewis Morgan was charged with overseeing the rebuilding of Hamburg devastated by Allied bombing. He was to station his family in a grand house on the River Elbe. Rather than forcing its owner to vacate, Lewis insisted that the two families would share the house.

In this charged atmosphere, exacerbated by domestic stress and war-related bitterness and grief, German architect Stefan Lubert and his teenage daughter, Freda, Lewis, his wife Rachel and their surviving son Edmund were forced to confront their true selves, navigating between desires, loyalties, and the transforming power of forgiveness.

For fans of Sadie Jones' Small Wars and other historical fiction that deals with the complexity of war. The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies; and The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer immediately came to mind.

* = starred review

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