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Showing posts from March, 2018

The Maze at Windermere by Gregory Blake Smith

I confess that I can be a little trigger happy when it comes to adding books to my hold or request list at the library. I read about a book somewhere (The New Yorker, The New York TimesBook ReviewPublisher's Weekly, Kirkus, BookPage, various reading blogs, etc.) or hear about a book from a friend or fellow librarian. I think: "Gee, that sounds good." And then I check the library's catalog to see whether or not we've ordered the book. If we have, I can put a hold on it, even if it might not be published for weeks or months. This is a great way to make sure that I'll get my hands on a new book once it comes out, but it sometimes means that by the time the book becomes available, I may have forgotten where I heard about it or why I put it on hold to begin with.

Something like that happened when I picked up my reserved copy of Gregory Blake Smith's new novel The Maze at Windermere. The cover was kind of funky, and I was not familiar with the author or with…

Thursday Night Book Club -- March, 2018

Last Thursday evening, the Thursday Night Book Club gathered to discuss the 2018 One Book One Wallingford book, The Reason You're Alive by Matthew Quick. The Reason You're Alive is narrated, and dominated, by David Granger, a 68-year-old Vietnam veteran who wears camouflage and has a home arsenal of guns, as well as one or more he keeps with him ("I was also packing heat again, which felt good, like coming up for air after diving deep down into the ocean"). David curses with abandon and mocks liberals, civilians and others with regularity and ease. He has a difficult relationship with his art dealer son and his Dutch daughter-in-law, and he adores his 7-year-old granddaughter. David also has a brain tumor, which he blames on Agent Orange. He still wrestles with his private demons caused by his behavior during the war, especially in connection with his treatment of a fellow soldier he calls Clayton Fire Bear. Over the course of the novel, we are introduced to David&#…

The 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction Longlist

March is Women's History Month, and Thursday, March 8th was International Women's Day. So it is timely and appropriate that the 2018 longlist for The Women's Prize for Fiction was released on Wednesday, March 7th. The Women's Prize for Fiction is an award that celebrates the best full-length fiction written each year by women. The idea for the Prize stemmed from the release of the 1991 Booker Prize shortlist, which did not include a single novel written by a woman. Although in the early 1990s, 60% of the novels published in the United Kingdom were written by women, by 1992 only 10% of the novelists ever to appear on the Booker Prize shortlist had been female The Women's Prize for Fiction was developed in response to this disparity. It was first awarded in 1996 (then known as the Orange Prize for Fiction) and is the United Kingdom's most prestigious annual book award for fiction written by a woman.

The judging panel for The Women's Prize for Fiction is made…

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

I should probably start by saying that short stories are not my favorite thing. It's not that I don't like them. Often I do. It's more that I prefer the narrative arc of a novel, or even a novella, so that the author has more time to develop characters and plot and to tell the story, whatever that story is, in a deeper and more nuanced way. Having said that, I read short story collections fairly often. Sometimes it will be because the collection was written by an author I admire (Jeffrey Eugenides' Fresh Complaint, for example, or Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff). Sometimes I will read a book of short stories because it has gotten such good reviews that I feel I need to give it a go (such as Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh, or Redeployment by Phil Klay). Most of the time, there will only be a few stories that I really like in an entire book of short stories, no matter who the author is or how good the book's reviews. (Of course there are excep…