Author Birthdays: Hoffmann, Wharton

January 24th marks the birthday of authors E. T. A. Hoffmann and Edith Wharton.

E. T. A. Hoffmann was a German writer of fantasy and horror. His most popular and well-known work is probably The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which has been translated, reworked, and made into movies and ballets.

Hoffmann wrote many novellas. Among them are "Mademoiselle de Scudery", which is a tale of crime that takes place in 17th-century Paris, and "The Sandman", which is a horror story about the folklore character of the same name. Both can be found in the Penguin Classics collection of Hoffmann's stories.

Edith Wharton was an American writer and Pulitzer Prize winner (for The Age of Innocence). She wrote novels, short stories, poetry, and even some non-fiction travel and descriptive books, and was the friend of fellow author Henry James. Some of her works have been made into movies.

Many of Wharton's works are set in turn-of-the-century New England. Among these are The House of Mirth, which is the story of a woman who is caught up in shallow New York society life, Ethan Frome, which illustrates the unhappy marriage of a rural Massachusetts couple, and The Custom of the Country, which tells the satiric story of a spoiled New York heiress.

2011 Best in Genre Fiction - American Library Association Reading List Council Awards

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The Reading List annually recognizes the best books in eight genres: adrenaline (including suspense, thriller and adventure), fantasy, historical fiction, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction and women’s fiction. This year’s list includes novels that will please die-hard fans, as well as introduce new readers to the pleasures of genre fiction - and what pleases me most is to see many debut novels among the winners and on the shortlists.

Adrenaline
The Nearest Exit by Olen Steinhauer

Fantasy
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

Historical Fiction
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

Horror
The Dead Path by Stephen M. Irwin

Mystery
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

Romance
A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh

Science Fiction
The Dervish House by IIan McDonald

Women’s Fiction
Solomon’s Oak by Jo-Ann Mapson

Halloween Night: The Turn of the Screw

Looking for a good ghost story for Sunday evening? Check out Performance Network's one-night-only concert reading of The Turn of the Screw. The play, written by Jeffrey Hatcher, is based on the classic tale of evil and suspense by Henry James. A preview of Sunday's reading is here.

Teen Stuff: Encyclopedia Horrifica

For the month of October, in addition to pumpkins, apples and cider… We are also bombarded with skeletons, spiders, monsters, ghosts, and ghouls. Encyclopedia Horrifica: The Terrifying TRUTH! About Vampires, Ghosts, Monsters, and More is your guide to the “truth” about such creatures, if you dare to find out.

The book includes "true stories" written in a short and fun way, featuring vampires, werewolves and aliens, to name a few. There are tales of hoaxes, séances, curses, superstitions, jinxes, telepathy, and ghostbusting. Along with the stories is a lot of information on various topics, and plenty of interesting photographs and illustrations to keep you turning the pages. It’s just enough to help get you in a ghoulish and spooktastic mood.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #219

U.S. born, Cornell grad Andrew Xia Fukuda's Crossing* was the 2009 semifinalist in Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Contest.

Inspired by the Manhattan Chinatown young immigrants that he works with, Fukuda allows his young protagonist to tell his story - one of loneliness, frustration and alienation.

Xing (Kris to his classmates) - pronounced Shing, meaning "star" , is a freshman at Slackenkill High School. As one of two Asian students in an all-white school, he has a hard time fitting in. When other fellow students start showing up dead, the police are baffled. It is Kris' ability to blend into the background that allows him to come close to the core of the grisly crimes, leading to a chilling climax that will resonate long after the last page is turned.

"Sad, elegant, and creepy" this deft debut will appeal to psychological thriller fans. The earnest depiction of disaffected youth will appeal to teens.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #216

Urban fantasist Seanan McGuire writing for the first time as Mira Grant introduces a new series with Feed* - a gripping, thrilling, and brutal depiction of a postapocalyptic 2039, the first in the Newsflesh Trilogy.

Twin news bloggers (as in RSS. Get it?) Georgia and Shaun Mason are thrilled when Sen. Peter Ryman, the first presidential candidate to come of age since social media saved the world from a virus that reanimates the dead (that's right, zombies) invites them to cover his campaign. Then Ryman's daughter is killed. As the bloggers wield the power of new media, they tangle with the CDC, a dark conspiracy behind the infected and the virus with one unstoppable command: FEED.

With "genuine drama and pure creepiness, McGuire has crafted a masterpiece of suspense with engaging, appealing characters who conduct a soul-shredding examination of what's true and what's reported."

* = Starred review

Alright, so you are still not quite sure you trust me. Would you trust NPR? Here is the poll for the 100 All-Time Best Killer/Thriller and do you see what's on the list of the finalists?

Author Birthdays: Radcliffe, Jordan, Tsuda

Apparently, July 9th is a good date for birthing authors.

Among those born on this day are Alexis Piron, Johann Nikolaus Götz, Matthew Lewis, Dame Barbara Cartland, Mervyn Peake, Oliver Sacks, Dean Koontz, and Thomas Ligotti.

Today is also the birthday of noted gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe, who wrote The Mysteries of Udolpho, which influenced not only the noted gothicist Edgar Allan Poe, but also the Marquis de Sade.

In addition, we also can celebrate June Jordan, a Renaissance-woman of Caribbean descent. She was not only a novelist, but also a poet, journalist, teacher, and activist. Included in her works is the book Naming Our Destiny, of which Library Journal said, "Though Jordan's voice is especially musical in her sonnets, the range of all these poems is wide, touching our very souls".

Lastly, I'd like to mention it is also the birthday of Masami Tsuda, a Japanese graphic novelist, whose most noted work is the teen manga Kare Kano.

June's Books to Film

Jonah HexJonah Hex

Jonah Hex is a movie based on the DC Comics Jonah Hex comic books.

"One of the meanest antiheroes in the comic-book world", bounty hunter Jonah Hex (played by Josh Brolin) has spent his entire life roaming from town to town searching for his next paycheck and earning it with a fierceness that's earned him a reputation for being a stern dealer of frontier justice. But behind that hard exterior exists a man who longs for the same comforts as any man - including love. (trailer)

The comic "Jonah Hex" began as a DC character first written by John Albano and Illustrated by Tony DeZuniga in the early 1970s.

Eclipse is based on Book 3 in theTwilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer.

Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger as Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob --- knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf. (official trailer).

Gunslingers and Dark Towers

Think of Clint Eastwood. Now think of King Arthur and his knights. Now think of post-apocalyptic horror stories. Now imagine all of these elements swirled into one epic series. This is The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. King has described this series as his magnum opus and has been releasing installments of it for the past 30 years. The first novel of the series, The Gunslinger, was published in 1982, and the 7th and most recent book of the series (confusingly also named The Dark Tower) was published in 2004. Suddenly, waiting a year for J.K. Rowling to release the next Harry Potter book doesn't seem like it was so bad.

Marvel Comics has created an ongoing series of graphic novels based on Stephen King's original series. The comics series of The Dark Tower acts as a prequel to the main storyline of the novels. The comics tell the story of how the protagonist, Roland Deschain, becomes the man known as the gunslinger. Marvel has released four collections of The Dark Tower graphic novel series to date, which you can pick up right here at AA

Steampunk Discovered (and rediscovered)

If you (like me) are new to Steampunk, here is a good definition : "A subgenre of science fiction, it typically (but not always) employs a Victorian setting where steam power and advanced technologies like computers coexist and often features themes, such as secret societies, found in mystery novels."

Though steampunk has been around since the 1980s, (check out these classics) there is a recent crop of exemplary new titles. A personal favorite is Boneshaker by Cherie Priest - a must-read for alternative history fan. It's the 2009 winner of the PNBA Award; and has been nominated for the 2010 Hugo and the Nebula Awards.

Seattle, 1860, rumors of gold, greedy Russians and inventor Leviticus Blue's Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine set the stage for this "impressive and auspicious genre-hopping adventure". When this machine inadvertently triggers the release of a deadly gas that transforms people into the living dead, a wall is built around the uninhabitable city to contain the epidemic. 16 years later, teenage Zeke Wilkes, Blue's son, impetuously decides that he must go into the walled city to clear his father's name. His distraught mother Briar, follows in an airship to try to rescue him.

Boneshaker is exceptionally well written. The plot credibly builds around zombies, steampunk technology, underground societies, mad scientists in a mix of horror/mystery. The fast-paced action is balanced by captivating characters, a strong female protagonist, and tender mother-child relationship. The young courageous Zeke will appeal to the YA crowd.

I first discovered the versatile YA author and an associate editor for Subterranean Press Cherie Priest in her genre-bending adult debut Fathom : a chill/thrill fantasy tale set in her native Florida. Part fairy tale, part modern gothic horror, it had me sleepless for a week.

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