Barbara Park, creator of the beloved Junie B. Jones children's books, has died

Barbara Park, who combined her inner six-year-old self with a fantastic sense of humor to create the popular Junie B. Jones chapbooks, has died.

Ms. Park discovered her love of reading in high school and her writing gifts in the 70s when, as a military wife, she put to paper the antics of her young boys. Her first books were stand-alones that spoke to children about tough subjects with her uniquely child-oriented perspective, such as The Kid in the Red Jacket (1987) which covers the stress of moving and being the 'new kid' in school.

In 1992, Park found her popularity soar with the publication of the first of her 28 Junie B. Jones chapter books. First up, Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus. The eponymous five -year-old hates her first bus ride to school so much that she refuses to go home at the end of the day.

Through 16 more entries in the series, Junie B. Jones stayed in kindergarten. Finally, in 2001, Junie B. Jones graduates. In Junie B., First Grader (at Last!), Junie B. faces the twin traumas of losing her best friend to TWINS and of having to get her first pair of glasses.

The last Junie B. Jones title, #28, Junie B., First Grader: Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (and Other Thankful Stuff), was published last year.

Ms. Park had battled ovarian cancer for several years. She was co-founder and CEO of Sisters in Survival, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women navigate the many challenges of a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

Barbara Park, a longtime resident of Scottsdale, AZ, and winner of multiple children's literature awards, was 66 years old.

G.Willow Wilson wins a 2013 World Fantasy Award

G.Willow Wilson wins a 2013 World Fantasy AwardG.Willow Wilson wins a 2013 World Fantasy Award

Seattle author G. Willow Wilson has won the 2013 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel for Alif the Unseen.

Born in New Jersey, Ms. Wilson began her writing career creating comic books and graphic novels. Introduced to the Koran as a student at Boston University, she moved to Egypt, converted to Islam, married, and penned her first publication, a graphic novel titled Cairo: A Graphic Novel, an imaginative literary tale of religion, politics, and social issues.

Alif the Unseen is Ms. Wilson's first novel. In its five-star review, Library Journal wrote, "...“Imaginative storytelling . . . Wilson skillfully weaves a story linking modern-day technologies and computer languages to the folklore and religion of the Middle East."

The World Fantasy Awards have been bestowed since 1975 and are one of the most prestigious acknowledgements of speculative fiction.

For a complete list of this year's WFA winners, check here.

Marcia Wallace, a.k.a. the voice of The Simpsons' Edna Krabappel, has died

Marcia Wallace, actress in stage, screen, and TV, and most recently the voice of 4th grade teacher, Edna Krabappel, on The Simpsons, died October 25th.

Ms. Wallace's acting gifts were apparent in high school, after which she won a full-ride scholarship to the now-defunct Parsons College in Iowa. From there, she moved to New York, performing in night clubs, on Off-Broadway, and appearing dozens of times on The Merv Griffin Show.

In 1972, after Ms. Wallace had moved to California, TV producer, Grant Tinker created a role for her on the sitcom, The Bob Newhart Show. She played the sharp-tongued receptionist, Carol Kester.

In 1990, she began her most notable career as the voice of Edna Krabappel on The Simpsons, which won her an Emmy in 1992. She charmed audiences with that role until her recent bad health caused the producers to decide to 'retire' Ms. Krabappel forever.

In 2008, Ms. Wallace was in the movie, Tru Loved, in which she played a high school drama teacher who helps students start a Gay Straight Alliance Club.

In 2007, The Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, awarded Ms. Wallace their Gilda Radner Courage Award for her tireless efforts educating American men and women on the importance of early detection of breast cancer, which she herself successfully beat for more than twenty years.

Ms. Wallace, who died of complications from pneumonia, was a week shy of her 71st birthday.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #431 - "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind..." ~ William Shakespeare

When the tough reviewers at Kirkus give a debut rom-com a starred review, you take notice. When every other major professional journal follows suit, you just have to dive in. And what a lark! Can't tell you how much I enjoyed Australian Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project * * * * which won the 2012 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript.

A Genetics prof. at a Melbourne university, Don Tillman, socially awkward and emotionally challenged (all signs point to Asperger's, but you did not hear it from me) is looking for the perfect wife. He places his faith in the scientific instrument, a 16-page questionnaire he designs to weed out the unsuitable choices - the smokers, vegetarians, and the tardys. Barmaid Rosie Jarman is all these things but she is also beguiling, fiery, and intelligent. While Don quickly disqualifies her as a candidate for the Wife Project, he is more than willing to risk it all for a wildly impossible project of her own.

"Arrestingly endearing and entirely unconventional, The Rosie Project will resonate with anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of great challenges." One reviewer suggests that it will appeal to fans of the The Big Bang Theory, and fellow Aussie Toni Jordan's Addition (2009), with its math-obsessed, quirky heroine.

In Ramsey Hootman's engaging debut Courting Greta * Samuel, a shy and withdrawn former dot.com exec. is now teaching at Healdsburg High School. Between navigating ancient equipment, lesson plans, student culture and his physical handicap, he falls hard for the school's middle-aged tomboy gym teacher Greta Cassamajor (think Sue Sylvester), and discovers that change can come from unexpected places.

"In this poignant, witty debut, Ramsey Hootman upends traditional romance tropes to weave a charming tale of perseverance, trust, and slightly conditional love." For fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, and Matthew Quirk's Silver Linings Playbook.

* * * * = 4 starred reviews
* = starred review

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.

Alice Munro wins the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature

In early July of this year, 82-year-old Alice Munro told the New York Times, that Dear Life: Stories (2012) was her last book. She was going to retire.

Perhaps Ms. Munro would like to rethink that decision. The Swedish Academy in Stockholm announced today that Munro, one of Canada's literary treasures, won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature. This prestigious award is given for an author's life's work. In Ms. Munro's case, that includes 14 short story collections.

Ms. Munro is no stranger to notable awards. In 1980 she was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction for The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose (1979). Twenty-nine years later, she won the rebranded Man Booker International Prize.

The National Book Critics Circle Award for 1998 went to Ms. Munro for The Love of a Good Woman:Stories, a collection that also garnered her the first of two Giller Prizes. She won the second in 2004 for Runaway: Stories.

Ms. Munro is the first Canadian (and 14th woman) to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in its 113-year history.

One can only hope she changes her mind about that whole retirement thing.

UM Professor, Dr. Susan Murphy, is one of this year's MacArthur Foundation 'Geniuses'

This morning, Dr. Susan Murphy, the H.E. Robbins Professor of Statistics and Professor of Psychiatry at The University of Michigan, was awarded one of two dozen new MacArthur Fellows,

Dr. Murphy's current focus is on adaptive intervention, which involves developing plans to work with patients who have chronic or relapsing illnesses (such as, substance abuse or depression) where effective courses of treatment are constantly adjusted for maximum benefit.

Novelist Karen Russell is another new Fellow. The first story in her debut collection, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (2006) served as the basis for her much acclaimed first novel, Swamplandia (2011), set in the Everglades and narrated by 13-year-old Ava. Swamplandia was one of three finalists for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Alas, no award in that category was given last year, due to the lack of the minimum required number of votes.

These "Genius Awards", as they are affectionately known, come with no strings attached. The Fellows are free to spend the money as they wish. This year, the Geniuses received a raise. The formerly half-million dollar reward has been bumped to $625,000, paid out yearly for five years.

For a complete list of the MacArthur Foundation Fellows for the Class of 2013, check here.

The Anthony Awards 2013 have been announced

The Anthony Awards, which acknowledge the best in crime fiction, were announced at the conclusion of the 44th Boucheron, the conference for mystery writers and readers.

Among the winners were:

Louise Penny for her fourth consecutive Anthony. This year her Anthony was for The Beautiful Mystery, the eighth book in her Inspector Armand Gamache series. Her previous three Anthonys were also for entries in this critically acclaimed series.

Chris Pavone's The Expats received its second Best First Novel award. The first was a 2013 Edgar in the same category.

Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels took the Best Critical/Non-Fiction Work category.

For a complete list of 2013 Anthony Winners, check here.

2013 Primetime Emmy winners announced

The 2013 Primetime Emmy winners were announced in a three-hour, star-studded extravaganza.

The Emmys, hosted by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, are the television equivalent of the silver screen's Oscars. The Emmys are a bit different than the Oscars in that there are several award ceremonies throughout the year. The Primetime and the Daytime Emmys are the most popular.

Some of the big winners are:

Claire Danes, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, for her role as Carrie Mathison, a brilliant volatile CIA agent who battles modern day terrorism in the series, Homeland.

Chelsea, MI resident, Jeff Daniels got the nod for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of acid-tongued news anchor, Will McAvoy in The Newsroom.

Breaking Bad captured Outstanding Drama Series. What's not to love (and fear) about a chemistry teacher whose diagnosis of terminal cancer inspires him to go on a crime spree to build up resources to take care of his family when he's gone?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the new Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, Veep. Her character, Vice President Selina Meyer, has a lot to juggle -- political land mines, a challenging relationship with the President, and a stressful personal life.

One of the big winners of the evening was the HBO movie, Behind the Candelabra, based on the tell-all book by the same name, written by Liberace's longtime lover Scott Thorson. Michael Douglas walked away with the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. Steven Soderbergh picked up the Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special, and the film itself was named Outstanding Miniseries or Movie.

For a complete list of the Primetime Emmy winners, click here.

The 2013 National Book Award fiction longlist titles have been released

The National Book Foundation announced the National Book Award fiction longlist for 2013 this morning.

Included in this year's fiction longlist are:

Debut novelist, Anthony Marra for A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. In Chechnya in 2004, two doctors want to save the life of a little girl whose father has been captured by the Russians. Marra is no stranger to awards. He won last year's Whiting Writers' Award for emerging authors and a 2010 Pushcart Prize for his 2009 short story Chechnya.

Thomas Pynchon, who won a previous National Book Award (Gravity's Rainbow, 1974), is up for Bleeding Edge. Maxine Tarnow is a single mother of two and an unlicensed fraud investigator with her own renegade code-of-ethics. The dot.com bust has just happened, and 9/11 is about to shock the world, when she gets tangled up with a billionaire, her sorta ex-husband, the Russian mob, and some code monkeys. 477 pages of nail-biting thrills.

Also on the longlist is a short story collection, Tenth of December by MacArthur Fellow, George Saunders, as well as The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri who is also on the Man Booker Prize shortlist.

The complete list of titles on the fiction longlist may be found here.

The other longlist nominees in Young People's Literature, poetry, and nonfiction are listed here.

The shortlist of all categories will be announced on October 16th.

The winners will be announced on November 20th.

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