ARTPRIZE 2011

If you are not planning on attending THE Game or the obligatory tailgate and would like a bit more elbow room on Saturday, you could do a lot worse than getting in the car and heading west.

ARTPRIZE turns the city of Grand Rapids (Michigan) into an art gallery for two weeks every fall. Billed as "a radically open competition", it opens today and will run until October 9. As an international art contest solely voted on by the general public, your votes are essential.

Here is how to vote, and a map to help you navigate all the venues.

The 10 finalists will be announced on Thursday, September 29, and the winners on Thursday, October 6.

The helpful folks running the show have put together some visitors' info. Make good use of it, including the free shuttle.

World Fantasy Award Nominees

And the nominees for the World Fantasy Awards include: 2 debut writers (both just happen to be women...) and 2 set in Africa

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes-my personal favorite from this South African writer

Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin-she has written plenty of award winning short fiction,this is her first novel & part of the Inheritance Trilogy (the third book comes out in October)

Silent Land by Graham Joyce- genre mashup mostly of suspense fiction and a bit of fantasy thrown in; compared to writers Haruki Murakami and Ian McEwan

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay- not unlike the fantasy writer George R R Martin did with his Song of Ice and Fire series, Kay tries to do with one book set in a world not unlike 8th Century China; lots of kudos from reviewers

Redemption In Indigo by Karen Lord- another first fiction retells a Senegalese folktale

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor-known for her young adult fiction, this book takes place in a postapocalyptic Saharan Africa where a young girl must use her magic to end the oppression of her people, the Okeke

Lifetime achievement awards go to Peter S. Beagle (of Last Unicorn fame) and Angélica Gorodischer.

The winner will be announced at the World Fantasy Convention held this year on October 30th in San Diego. So get your geek on!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #279

Patricia McArdle's Farishta is the winner of the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, "notable for its informed view of modern Afghanistan and its affecting story of one woman making a difference."

Angela Morgan witnessed the death of her husband during the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983 and suffered a miscarriage as a result. After 2 decades of hiding out in backwaters of the State Department, she must take the one assignment available or face mandatory retirement.

At a remote British army outpost in Mazar-i-Sharif (northern Afghanistan), Angela is unwelcome among the soldiers and unaccepted by the local government and warlords, especially frustrating is the enigmatic Mark Davies, a British major who is by turns her staunchest ally and her fiercest critic. Determined to contribute to the Afghan reconstruction, Angela slips out of camp disguised in a burka to provide aid to the refugees in the war-torn region. She becomes their farishta, or "angel" in the local Dari language, and discovers a new purpose.

"Drawing on the experiences of the author as a retired diplomat in Afghanistan, Farishta is a deeply moving and fast-paced story of a woman struggling to move beyond a past trauma, and finding a new community, a new love, and a new sense of self in the process." Recommended for readers interested in fiction set in contemporary Afghanistan.

For a realistic look at the trials and tribulations of a female diplomat, take a look at Valerie Plame Wilson's ordeal as documented in Fair Game : my life as a spy, my betrayal by the White House (now adapted as a movie).

Best Nature Writing

Orion magazine honors each year the very best in writing about nature and its relationship with art and culture. The Orion Book Award is given to one winner and four finalists – this year we own all five books. The winners are chosen for their fresh and timely presentation of cutting-edge science blended with an intimate and adventurous understanding of the natural world. The winner this year is, Insectopedia, by Hugh Raffles, and the four finalists:
About a Mountain by John D'Agata
Deep Blue Home: An Intinate Ecology of Our Wild Ocean by Julia Whittly
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant
Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology by David Abram

Here you can find an archive of past winners and a list of other notable books that the awards committee especially liked in 2010. We carry Orion magazine on the 2nd floor Downtown. It always offers a thoughtful and provocative critique of our modern relationship to the natural world and a profound commitment to exploring ways to preserve the future of nature which is, after all, our future too.

2011 RITA Awards Winners

The purpose of the RITA® awards is to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding published romance novels and novellas. Up to 1,200 romance novels are entered in the RITA competition each year. The awards are sponsored by The Romance Writers of America (RWA).

The 2011 RITA Winners in the following categories are:

- Regency Historical Romance : The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig

- Historical Romance : His at Night by Sherry Thomas

- Inspirational Romance : In Harm's Way by Irene Hannon

- Young Adult Romance : The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

- Novel with Strong Romantic Elements (think gentle read) : Welcome to Harmony by Jodi Thomas

- Romantic Suspense : Silent Scream by Karen Rose

- Contemporary Single Title Romance : Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis

The Orange Prize for Fiction

Orange Prize

The Orange Prize originates in Great Britain, but is given to the best work of fiction written in English by any author, from any country, who happens to be a woman. The prize, being founded by women, for women authors, administered and judged by women, has caused controversy and ill-will among some in the writing world. However you see it, the list of winning books, as well as the books short-listed for the top spot, make for some most-excellent reading. An author whose work is connected with the prize in any way, is guaranteed an increase in sales of all her work. Here is an archive of all the books which have won or were short-listed since the first Orange was awarded in 1996.

Sometimes there is interesting controversy connected with the choice of the winner. Last year, there were ripples created in the book world when Wolf Hall, a strong and favored title for the winner, was beat out by Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna. They are both outstanding books – hard call. This year the winner is twenty-five year old Téa Obreht, and with her first novel, The Tiger’s Wife, she has created more like a tsunami of mixed opinions. While she has some serious fans, and she did win the Orange after all, not everyone is enamored, such as this reviewer, who finds her talent profoundly underdeveloped.

The book I have found compelling from this year’s short-listed authors is Annabel by Kathleen Winter, which tells the story of a hermaphrodite born into the rigid culture of 1960s Labrador, whose father decides he will be a boy, but who, nonetheless, has a girl buried inside him. It explores all the right questions about culture, identity, friendship and love.

Running Inspiration at Western States 100

WS buckleWS buckle

This weekend, several hundred lucky ultrarunners toed the starting line at the Western States 100 mile trail run, one of four Grand Slam 100-mile events, the others being Vermont 100-Mile Endurance Run, Leadville Trail 100-Mile Run, and Wasatch Front 100-Mile Endurance Run.

According to the Western States website, "the run is conducted along the Western States Trail starting at Squaw Valley, California, and ending in Auburn, California, a total of 100 miles. The trail ascends from the Squaw Valley floor (elevation 6,200 feet) to Emigrant Pass (elevation 8,750 feet), a climb of 2,550 vertical feet in the first 4½ miles. From the pass, following the original trails used by the gold and silver miners of the 1850’s, runners travel west, climbing another 15,540 feet and descending 22,970 feet before reaching Auburn. Most of the trail passes through remote and rugged territory, accessible only to hikers, horses and helicopters."

Ellie Greenwood, a dominant ultrarunner competing in her first 100 mile race, overcame early hamstring tightness as well as a twenty-minute deficit with 22 miles to go when she surged into first place at mile 95, en route to a victory that set the second fastest women's Western States time ever. Spaniard Kilian Jornet won for the men, setting the third-fastest men's time in course history. Simply amazing.

Looking for more distance running inspiration? Check out AADL's collection of run training books, as well as the trail running specific books, Runner's World Complete Guide to Trail Running and The Outdoor Athlete.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #272

I am just going to say it. This might not be for everyone.

Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls, the winner of the Sixth Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award is also hard to define.

Alissa Nutting's fanciful debut collection of 18 short stories are anything but ordinary, and they will shock, intrigue, provoke and delight you. In "Dinner" a young woman wills herself to fall in love with a kettle-mate as she is being boiled and served. In "Porn Star", an adult reality show actress delivers herself as the prize on the moon to the winner of an all-you-can-eat contest (specialty spacesuit required). In "Ice Melter" a lonely artist who makes ice sculptures for gay pool parties has an unfortunate accident with one of her works. These and other stories in the collection are not-so subtle explorations of body politics and the need for intimacy and connection.

"Nutting's outrageous and excruciating writing makes my face split with laughter, often in public. She's glorious choas and utterly original - read her with joy" ~ Lydia Millet. I can't say it any better.

The author was born in rural Michigan. She is a graduate of the University of Florida and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is also the managing editor of Fairy Tale Review.

Beach Read 2011

summe readingsumme reading

School is out and the longest day of the year is here. The sun is hot and the water is calling. Time to pack the beach bag. Want some suggestions?

Every year, I look forward to the NPR's recommendations of summer books. I especially like the Indie Booksellers Target Summer's Best Reads for an insider's take on what is good that might not hit the bestseller lists.

This year O's (Oprah) Summer Reading Lists go for wide appeal. You are bound to find something to your liking.

These are what the editor's of the New York Times Book Reviews are reading for pleasure this summer. Check out their recommendations in the great big Summer Reading issue.

New Yorker Magazine wades in with their own Beach Reads for (Almost) Everyone.

I also like this year's Summer Beach Reads from Goodhousekeeping. Great current titles.

Just to prove that writers are avid readers, here is Stephen King's month-by-month summer reading list. Boy, is he organized!

Hey, if you are going to spend a lot of time in the car, try Summer’s Best Audio Books recommended by the Washington Post, and Library Journal's Best Audiobooks. Want more? Here is a list of the Top 100 Audio Book Bestsellers.

One last thing..... don't forget to sign up for the Summer Reading Game. Here's how to get started. You can actually earn points and get stuff for having fun. Really. For grown-ups too.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #270

You Know When the Men are Gone * * brings to mind the final line in John Milton's (1608-74) sonnet On His Blindness : "They also serve who only stand and wait"; and is a powerful, unsentimental portrait of America at war on the domestic front.

This debut collection of 8 interconnected stories by Siobhan Fallon relate the experiences of Fort Hood (Texas) military wives who share a poignant vigil during which they raise children while waiting for their husbands to return.

In the audio, a winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award, narrator Cassandra Campbell packs each story with a unique emotional punch, capturing the loneliness, the waiting, the anxiety, boredom and sometimes resentment among the women.

The author lived at Fort Hood while her husband, an Army major, was deployed to Iraq for two tours of duty. She earned her MFA at the New School in New York City. Fallon lives with her family near the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.

When you leave Fort Hood, the sign above the gate warns, You've Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming . For the lingering effect of war on families, I liked Tim Farrington's Lizzie's War (2005).

And let's not forget the young who too, are asked to endure, I highly recommend Laura Harrington's Alice Bliss (2011), a coming-of-age story with wisdom and heart.

* * = Starred Reviews

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