Saturday, October 30, 2010

In My Mailbox (October 24th-30th 2010)

After a week with a mostly empty mailbox this week certainly was a change, by Tuesday night I had received nine books and bought six!

{For Review}
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King (Simon and Schuster)
The Colorman by Erika Wood (ARC) (Tatra Press)
Brighter Graphite by Michael Horvath (Tatra Press)
All Points North by Shelby R. Lee III (Author)
Lost Lustre by Josh Karlen (Tatra Press)
The End by Kathy Page (McArthur & Company)
The Ice Lovers by Jean McNeil (McArthur & Company)
The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger (McArthur & Company)
Beyond the Sea by Veronique Olmi (McArthur & Company)
The Naked Lady Who Stood on Her Head by Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan (Authors)

The Solitude of Emperors by David Davidar
His Illegal Self by Peter Carey
Under Control by Mark Mcnay
Tom Bedlam by George Hagen
Remainder by Tom McCarthy
The Sorrows of an American by Siri Hustvedt
(All Purchased From Chapters for $26 total)

In between things due for school, getting over two months of sickness and a midterm that is happening on Tuesday (eek) I didn't manage to get much reading done this week. It's okay though, because I'd hate for books to seem like a chore, and I'm still pretty far ahead on my review book schedule so I have a little time to relax I suppose. It's taken me over a week to finish Of Bees and Mist, despite the fact that I'm enjoying it, so next week is bound to be review light. I will be posting a review of The Mermaid's Pendant by LeAnn Neal Reilly and Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson. Hopefully I'll also get a chance to read By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham, it's definitely one of the books I've been most anticipating of 2010.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend and a Happy Halloween if you celebrate it. Sunday also happens to be my 22nd birthday, which is starting to feel awfully far away from being a teenager anymore. I will likely be spending it studying for my midterm, but maybe Mathew and I will go out for dinner.

Anyway, what's been in your mailbox this week?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Great House by Nicole Krauss

"It is impossible to distrust one’s writing without awakening a deeper distrust in oneself."
Although Great House by Nicole Krauss has been marketed as a novel, it is not one in the traditional sense, rather it is four loosely connected stories, connected by a mysterious but bulky desk with nineteen drawers of different sizes and a life as rich and dark as its wood. When the book begins a novelist who has been writing at the desk for twenty five years gives it up to a girl who claims she is the daughter of its original owner- a Chilean poet who disappeared at the hands of the Pinochet's secret police. In the meantime, a man deals with the loss of his wife and tries to connect with his estranged son, while another man learns a secret his wife has kept her entire life. In Jerusalem an antiques dealer finds pieces stolen by the Nazis as he attempts to put back together his father's library for when he was a child. All these characters encounter loneliness and emptiness like a drawers in a desk, secrets they keep inside with a locked key, and as they face their past the themes that bring them together become clear.

I will freely admit that although I have only read half of Krauss previous book, the 2005 much-loved History of Love- I'm really bad at finishing books I actually own rather than have borrowed- I was familiar enough with Krauss' writing from that as well as her debut Man Walks Into A Room that Great House was definitely a book I had high expectations for. Unfortunately although her writing and language choice has definitely become even more remarkable since Man Walks Into A Room was released, the ability to allow the reader into the emotional heart of the characters is what is missing from Great House. Although I will review History of Love in the future, from my experience with it thus far, that is not an issue it shares.

In Great House, I appreciated the fact that although much happens the novel is basically without plot, or much dialogue for that matter, both things I personally avoid in my own writing. Rather Krauss uses the various narrators to reflect on their lives, on the people they have met and the things they done. A lot happens, but most of it is in the past, the history which has already engraved itself into their skins by the time the reader meets them. From that perspective, it is certainly a very dark novel, which I would even go so far as to venture to say has no redemptive moments for most of its characters. Darkness itself is not an issue, but the lack of any form of light means that there is no contrast and as a result by the end even the most heartbreaking moments hardly impacted me. This was further influenced by the fact that I felt hardly any emotional connection to the characters in the novel. Although the characters were extremely eloquent and well written, the details both precise and delicate, the painted a landscape which was beautiful yet flat. In the end, the language in Great House is like stones, each word carefully placed and having a weight, however although it is polished ultimately it is also lifeless.  ***

Number of Pages: 289 pages
Published: October 2010
Source: Public Library 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Author Interview With Ivy Pochoda (+ Giveaway)

Ivy Pochoda is the talented young author behind The Art of Disappearing, a novel which delves into romance, magic, and humanity with absolute beauty. See my review here. After falling in love with The Art of Disappearing I had a few questions for Ivy which she was kind enough to answer.

  1. One of the main characters in The Art of Disappearing, Toby, is a magician without the illusions- what made you decide to include magic in your story? Did you ever dabble in magic tricks as a kid?

    No, I wasn't all that interested in magic as a kid. But thinking back on it, I did go to see Penn & Teller a lot. But their brand of magic is more cerebral. In high school I became interested in a sort of misogeny I detected in magic, as in all those cutting women in half trick and some sick part of me began to wonder whether there might be magicians out there who harbored secret wishes to do these things.

  2. You clearly capture the sensation of the two main locations the book takes place in, Las Vegas and Amsterdam. I have read that you lived in Amsterdam for many years but grew up in Brooklyn, where did you get your realistic description of the desert from? How important do you think setting is in writing?

    I made up most of my descriptions of the desert. I've been to Vegas a number of times and was perversely enchanted by it. I also was enchanted by the desert on the occasions I drove cross country. Setting is seminal to me. If I can't visualize where characters are, I'm lost.

  3. You were an extremely successful squash player. Do you think any of the skills you learned from being a competitive athlete translated into writing a book?

    Sure. Becoming a successful athlete is a long term goal. You say to yourself, this year I'm going to rise this many levels in the rankings, the next year, I climb so many more. It requires patience and the ability to see the larger picture, which is precisely what writing a novel is like.

  4. Is there any advice you have for other young aspiring authors that you learned on your quest to publish The Art of Disappearing?

    Never give up. Don't listen to others who say your work is too weird, to non-commercial. There is an audience out there.

  5. I absolutely loved The Art of Disappearing and I have to ask, what do you have planned next?

    I'm writing a novel set in Brooklyn. The world is short on those! (I kid.) But I love Brooklyn and have my own take on it. It's weird though, since writing this second novel, I've moved to Los Angeles, so I have to conjure places I know by heart from memory.

    St. Martins Publisher was kind enough to donate a copy of The Art of Disappearing to one lucky winner (Canada/US Only). There are three ways you can enter: 
    1) Leave a comment letting me know about a book that you fell in love with
    2) Subscribe to In The Next Room by Google Friend Connect
    3) Spread the word of this giveaway on your own blog and leave a link for me to check

    Please leave a separate comment for each entry as well as your e-mail address so I can contact you if you win. The contest will run until November 12th at midnight MST.


    Congrats Ruthie!

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    The Art of Disappearing by Ivy Pochoda

    After finishing a few disappointing books lately, I was waiting to fall in love and The Art of Disappearing by Ivy Pochoda was the perfect novel to do that. In The Art of Disappearing Mel Snow meets the magician Toby at an out of the way roadside bar, and the two connect immediately and decide to marry in Las Vegas. Mel knows Toby's magic is different, that it isn't about illusion but that he has a gift and that his magic is real. They move to Las Vegas where Mel works as a textile consultant as the fabric sings to her and Toby works on pursuing his dream of having a Vegas show. As Toby's success grows, Mel learns that his magic may be more dangerous than she ever could have anticipated. When things go wrong, the couple flees Vegas for Amsterdam and move in with a bunch of old real magicians who may be able to teach Toby powers beyond his imagination just as Mel begins to doubt whether or not their love is real- or if Toby conjured her too.

    The setting in The Art of Disappearing almost becomes its own character, the desert heat of Vegas and the rainy streets of Amsterdam, Pochoda uses location as a powerful tool in telling her story. However my favourite skill of Pochoda's is her haunting, enchanting, lyrical use of language. The description in the book was velvety beautiful from the very beginning, and her word choice was the perfect way to tell a story that is part magic, part human truth. The Art of Disappearing is what I wanted My Name is Memory to be, it is the perfect blend of the real and the unreal, magic and reality. It is full of unique and powerful characters, and I felt a connection to each of them. I especially loved the way Pochoda described Mel's relationship with her water-loving older brother Max, and the complexity of having to both love somebody and let them go, a theme which dominated the novel. It is a romance without resorting to the cliches of the genre, a love story without being predictable, a look into the human heart with touching and remarkable skill- The Art of Disappearing is a book I did not want to put down and a book I will be picking up again. I am eagerly awaiting whatever Pochoda writes next. *****

    Number of Pages
    : 320 pages

    Published: September 2009 
    This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. 

    Come back tomorrow for an interview with Ivy Pochoda and a giveaway of the book!

    Waiting on Wednesday: The Weird Sisters

    "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
    Having grown up with a twin sister and two stepsisters, I'm pretty familiar with how complex the relationships between sisters can be. I also love reading, and so add those two together and you have the upcoming release The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, coming February 17, 2011 from Amy Einhorn Books.
    The Andreas sisters were raised on books – their family motto might as well be, ‘There’s no problem a library card can’t solve.’  Their father, a renowned, eccentric professor of Shakespearean studies, named them after three of the Bard’s most famous characters: Rose (Rosalind – As You Like It), Bean (Bianca – The Taming of the Shrew), and Cordy (Cordelia – King Lear), but they have inherited those characters’ failures along with their strengths.

    Now the sisters have returned home to the small college town where they grew up – partly because their mother is ill, but mostly because their lives are falling apart and they don’t know where to go next.  Rose, a staid mathematics professor, has the chance to break away from her quiet life and join her devoted fiance in England, if she could only summon up the courage to do more than she’s thought she could.  Bean left home as soon as she could, running to the glamour of New York City, only to come back ashamed of the person she has become.  And Cordy, who has been wandering the country for years, has been brought back to earth with a resounding thud, realizing it’s finally time for her to grow up.
    The sisters never thought they would find the answers to their problems in each other, but over the course of one long summer, they find that everything they’ve been running from – each other, their histories, and their small hometown – might offer more than they ever expected.
    The Weird Sisters is Brown's first book, but the description already has me hooked and I can't wait to dive in this February. What book are you looking forward to?

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

     "I was horribly bookish, to the point of coming right out and saying it, which I knew was not socially acceptable. I particularly loved the adjective bookish, which I found other people used about as often as ramrod or chum or teetotaler."
    Dash and Lily's Book of Dares is the latest addition to the collection of co-written books by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan which include Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Although I have read Levithan before (Boy Meets Boy) this was my first book by the two of them and they are a fantastic team. In Dash and Lily's Book of Dares both characters are spending Christmas alone after their parents are out of town for various reasons. When Lily leaves a red Moleskin at the Strand secondhand bookstore next to Franny and Zooey with a list of clues, she never thinks that it will be picked up by the articulate and bookish Dash. Over the course of the Christmas break the two trade stories, dreams, and even a few dares which get both of them out of their comfort zones- but when the time comes to meet with Dash and Lily connect in person like they have on the page?

    The characters in Dash and Lily are both quirky, awkward, and instantly likable in a way that reminds me strongly of many of Nick Hornby's books, like About a Boy or High Fidelity, but for young adults. Both Dash and Lily see themselves as freaks or outcasts when the truth is that anybody who reads this book is likely to see a bit of themselves in the characters. As somebody who was an extremely socially awkward teenager who has always been better with written words than conversation, I appreciated both the benefits and the flaws inherent in getting to know somebody through the written media. It's the same problem common to the internet- as Dash puts it, how can the person in your head ever live up to the actual real person? And it's certainly something the characters Dash and Lily have to come to terms with.

    The setting in Dash and Lily is extremely important, and Cohn and Levithan made you feel like you were right in New York City during the hustle and bustle of Christmas season. The book has a slight tint of fantasy- I'm not entirely convinced these things would happen, but it's perfect to get you in the mood for the holidays and time with a loved one. As a Jew, I also found the bits involving klezmer pretty funny. Although there isn't anything revolutionary about Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, it's an extremely enjoyable read with likable characters and a few life lessons too. ****

    Number of Pages: 272 pages
    Published: October 2010
    Source: Publisher

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Stopping for Death Poems Selected by Carol Ann Duffy

    Because I could not stop for Death,
    He kindly stopped for me;
    The carriage held but just ourselves
    And Immortality.
    Stopping for Death is a collection of poems of death and loss selected by Carol Ann Duffy with illustrations by Trisha Rafferty. The title of the poetry collection comes from an Emily Dickinson poem, and it is clear that Duffy channeled Dickinson when she selected the poetry for this collection and unfortunately I don't mean that in a positive sense. With very few exceptions Stopping for Death is a collection of poetry where the poems attempt to achieve self-awareness but often lapse into self-pity instead. Overall the book is also very dreary, and in the cases where the poems are they instead verge on both strange and remote. I think I would have enjoyed a collection revolving around death if it was either emotional or eerie, but instead the poems are mostly boring or just odd. Unfortunately my favourite one is likely the Dickinson poem it is named for.

    The reason Stopping for Death is not a total waste time is one hundred percent due to the beautiful pen and ink illustrations by Trisha Rafferty which both perfectly accompany almost every poem, as well as standing quite well on their own. Her style of drawing is both interesting and perspective, and she is not limited by what is real or true, but rather uses her imagination to bring each poem to life, even when the poems themselves are often lack lustre. For that reason alone, Stopping for Death is certainly worth a look through, but I recommend focusing on the artwork instead of the writing for maximum enjoyment. **

    Number of Pages: 144 pages
    Published: June 1996
    Source: Public Library