7.23.2012

Monday Mailbox 7/23/12: Shameless Self-Promotion Style

This week I received...no books. 

I'm sorry to have directed you here under false pretenses. But, as friends and readers of my blog, I need you to bear with me for a moment of shameless self-promotion.

I'm involved with a play - a musical - called The Hills Are Alive. It is, as you may expect, an amusing take on the events following The Sound of Music


We are participating in New York City's Fringe Festival this year, and I was asked to do a Q&A for NYTheatre.com. If you can come see the show, that's fantastic. If not, there is one teeny tiny way that you can help us out. When you click on the link to my Q&A (below) you'll see that, under the title (The Hills Are Alive!: Lauren Cartelli) there's a Facebook LIKE button. The Fringe production that gets the most Likes on their Q&As will get a free banner for marketing purposes on the NYTheatre.com website. 

So....we need your likes! You don't even have to read the Q&A (although I think it's splendid, and you should), just follow the link and click on the LIKE button. And, if you're feeling uber-generous, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click through to the other two Q&As for our show (Ashley Ball, and Eric Thomas Johnson) and Like theirs as well! I'll even do you one better and link to all three from this page! No scrolling involved! Just click the link, and then click LIKE. I'm also including a link below for those who would like to look into purchasing tickets for the show (it's Fringe! it's cheap! come see!)

The cast thanks you in advance for your help!
I hope everyone had a wonderful week full of books, and I hope you have an even better week this week, full of good karma (which you get after liking our Q&A pages)!

xoxo




(this link takes you to the H page of the Fringe listings - just click on the date/time you'd like to attend The Hills Are Alive in order to purchase tickets)

7.17.2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books for People Who Like Peter Pan

You know the drill: second star to the right, and straight on til [Tuesday] morning...

Top Ten Tuesdays are, as always, brought to you by the girls at The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is Top Ten Books for People Who Like X Book...in this case, J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan. I apologize in advance, a few of these are series, not just one book so, for those of you who take this kind of thing to heart, there's a lot of reading in your future. 


Peter Pan, the story of the boy who won't grow up, is so much more than that when examined on a literary scale: it's about becoming a part of the story, getting sucked in, in a way. Wendy entertains her brothers with the tales of Peter Pan, only to have them swept into that world. A few of these listed are like that. Others capture the high adventure and mischief that Peter captures in his Neverland. And a few of them take place in the heart of Neverland itself.

1. Peter and the Starcatchers Series, by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson (4 books)
Duh. You can't have a list for Peter Pan without the Peter and the Starcatchers series. Apparently they only sell books 1-3 as a box set, and the fourth one separately. Which is fine, really, because the first three are the better ones. The fourth one was kind of a let down.

2. The Bridge to Neverland, by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
A Starcatchers book that's not really in the world of the Starcatchers, but still as worthy.

3. The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende
Talk about getting sucked into the story. That's just what Bastian does. Fans of the film will recognize the first half the novel. The second half is...weird.

4. The Kingdom Keepers, by Ridley Pearson (5 books)
I couldn't resist another Pearson title. I've only read the first two books in the series (III and IV are seriously beckoning me!) and this is a little less Peter Pan and a little more Disney, but the idea is similar--being wrapped up in a world where the characters who, before, only existed in fantasies, are real. Even the dolls on "It's a Small World." Have fun with that one.

5. Tales from Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin
Part of the Earthsea Cycle, but you don't need to read the others to read this one. Mystery and fantasy and adventure and hijinks. And it's gorgeous.

6. The Princetta, by Anne-Laure Bondoux
Adventure, high seas, gorgeous, inventive, original. Read it. 

7. The Daydreamer, by Ian McEwan
Part-Kafka, part-Lois Lowry, part-Dr. Seuss. McEwan read these stories to his kids and gauged their reactions in the editing process. Sweet and simple stories about a little boy's fantasy world. AND the boy's name is Peter.

8. The Chronicles of Prydain Series, by Lloyd Alexander (5 books)
Welsh fantasy bildungsroman--The Black Cauldron is part of this series. Since it's about Taran growing up, it's kind of anti-Pan, but the structure and mysticism make it a definite part of this list.

9. The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly
This book would also belong on a list for people who like the film Labyrinth. The story is somewhat similar, but the execution is stunningly different. The mythology involved is just...god, I love this book. It's a little gruesome for some...I know some people just can't seem to get through that. But if you love fairy tales of any sort, this should be on your list. Another example of a child being sucked into the stories.

10. The Inkheart Trilogy, by Cornelia Funke (3 books - Inkheart, Inkspell, Inkdeath)
Just as Wendy in effect breathes life into Peter and Neverland with his stories, so, too, do the silvertongues of Funke's world. AND there's high adventure. AND there are fairies. AND you should also watch the film. The end.

7.16.2012

Monday Mailbox 7/16/12


Monday Mailbox is hosted this month by Mrs. Q Book Addict

Get ready, this week's haul is a big one.

First, from the office: 


Psycho

by Robert Bloch 
Published in 1959, this is the book that ended up as the now-famous Hitchcock suspense thriller of 1960. This edition of the book is from the period of the not-so-good remake of 1998, directed by Gus Van Sant.

by Raymond Chandler 
Chandler's 1939 novel, the first in the Philip Marlowe series, made famous my the 1946 film (the second movie to feature Bogart & Bacall together).

And then, from a buying spree on Amazon because, you know, I need more books

by Laura Lippman 
I'm usually pretty good at making sure I get the edition I want when I'm ordering on Amazon but, like I said, this was a little bit of a spree, and I didn't pay attention. I ended up with this edition, the mass market paperback (Avon) from 2004 instead of the William Morrow reprint ed. paperback from 2011 which is prettier. Either way, I wanted this book, so I'm not gonna gripe I'm just...you know...a little miffed at myself. Anyway, in case you haven't heard of this book:
On a July afternoon two little girls, banished from a birthday party, take a wrong turn onto an unfamiliar Baltimore street -- and encounter an abandoned stroller with a baby inside it. Dutiful Alice Manning and unpredictable Ronnie Fuller only want to be helpful, to be good. People like children who are good, Alice thinks. But whatever the girls' real intentions, things go horribly awry and three families are destroyed.
by Pete Hamill 

This book (2003) was recommended to me after I read Pete Hamill's Tabloid City last April
 ...the magical, epic tale of an extraordinary man who arrives in New York in 1740 and remains ... forever. Through the eyes of Cormac O'Connor - granted immortality as long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan - we watch New York grow from a tiny settlement on the tip of an untamed wilderness to the thriving metropolis of today. And through Cormac's remarkable adventures in both love and war, we come to know the city's buried secrets - the way it has been shaped by greed, race, and waves of immigration, by the unleashing of enormous human energies, and, above all, by hope.

Reminds me a lot of that show that emerged for half a season on FOX back in 2008, "New Amsterdam." I was actually sad when that show got canceled. I wanted to know what would happen to him and the lady doctor! Wikipedia (that Elysium of laissez-faire scholarship!) cites a , stating:
After hearing about the upcoming series, author Pete Hamill alleged that the show has similarities to the plot of his 2003 novel, Forever, but producer David Manson claimed he had no knowledge of the book until after filming had wrapped.
I'm glad I wasn't the only one.

by Sherri Browning Erwin & Charlotte Brontë
"The Literary Classic with a Blood-Sucking Twist" indeed. This is one of those books that I buy myself and then say "Now why...WHY did you do that?!?" But I must confess, I get a sort of guilty pleasure out of reading these campy mash-ups that are based on books I actually know very well...I get a kick out of it. 

Jane Slayre, our plucky demon-slaying heroine, a courageous orphan who spurns the detestable vampyre kin who raised her, sets out on the advice of her ghostly uncle to hone her skills as the fearless slayer she's meant to be. When she takes a job as a governess at a country estate, she falls head-over-heels for her new master, Mr. Rochester, only to discover he's hiding a violent werewolf in the attic--in the form of his first wife. Can a menagerie of bloodthirsty, flesh-eating, savage creatures-of-the-night keep a swashbuckling nineteenth-century lady from the gentleman she intends to marry?

"Our plucky demon-slaying heroine"? Plucky? Interesting word choice. We'll see. For the record, I've just discovered that Erwin also wrote a mashup of Great Expectations called Grave Expectations...honestly, isn't that story weird enough without the extra shtuff? Jane Eyre, too...it's a gothic novel...there's enough weird crap in it...I'mma still read it but...c'mon.

by Muriel Barbery
I haven't purchased a Europa book in a while so, in my spree, I decided one of the books had to be from Europa Editions. I was going to get Elegance of the Hedgehog which, I gather, should be read before Gourmet Rhapsody, but the price was right on this one. In any case, it'll be a while before I get to it, so I have plenty of time to add its predecesor to my collection.

by John Connolly
While the design of this book is not as simply beautiful as the covers for The Book of Lost Things and Nocturnes, the folks at Atria have managed to maintain some semblance of likeness in the paper cut-out style. It's a bit more dramatic than the others, but I hope that bodes well for the story itself. And while I would have preferred the 2010 edition with the mostly yellow cover, I'm glad I was able to snag this edition from 2009 rather than the 2011 edition which has a beautiful but dissimilar design. I can't wait to get to this book. I feel like I've been waiting forever to read it.

by Kurt B. Reighley
Don't you just love the rubber-stamp and lithograph design? I love the cover of this book. Published in 2010, I came across it when looking up something about Antique Archaeology, the business at the center of A&E's "American Pickers." 
Americana. It's more than mere nostalgia; it's a conscious celebration of community and sustainability. It's a movement born in response to the ever-accelerating pace of modern life and Internet technology overload. All over the country, people are returning to an appreciation for the simpler things in life, which are brilliantly surveyed in United States of Americana—the first comprehensive handbook to all things Americana.
I hope everyone else's haul was as interesting and multi-faceted as mine was!


7.15.2012

Review: Pale Male and the Infertile Girl, by Clark Casey

Pale Male and the Infertile Girl
by Clark Casey
No Dead Trees Press (e-book)
Some Dead Trees Press (paperback)
August 2011
Pale Male and the Infertile Girl by Clark Casey (2011, Some Dead Trees Press) is an unusual little novella that examines the opposing parallel constructs of nature vs. human nature. The story revolves around Scott, an average middle-class guy working in the financial district, and his sexually uninhibited live-in girlfriend with whom he lives in the absurdly large penthouse apartment she's inherited on Fifth Avenue.

After they decide that they want to try for kids, it's discovered that they cannot conceive; their misery is compounded by the presence of the now-famous Pale Male, a red-tailed hawk who has, in real life, made New York City his home, nesting and breeding on the ledge above their apartment. Pale Male's rotation of mates is both exemplary and cautionary for the couple who seem to cling to one another despite the circumstances.

Uniquely New York, Pale Male and the Infertile Girl is not vibrant or edgy, despite its weird allusions to sex. These people seem to live in extremes, either insanely depressed or insanely happy, either content or haunted. No one is very likeable, not even the hawk, but that's part of what gives this book its status as a true New Yorker--it's brutally frank, excessively proud and, in its forty-nine pages, seeks neither approval nor criticism, as it has no room for anyone else's BS.

7.10.2012

Top Ten Tuesday: (Freebie) The Next Ten Books on My TBR Pile

As always, Top Ten Tuesdays are brought to you by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is a freebie, but when Melissa over at Confessions of an Avid Reader posted hers (Books I Just Had to Buy...But Are Still Sitting on My Shelf) I was inspired. These are the next ten books on my TBR pile (not including any ARCs), not in any exact order:

1. The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill 
A fairly recent purchase with some birthday money.

2. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John le Carré
Impulse buy this past February at Posman Books in GCT, where the books are too expensive, and I don't care.

3. The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
Same purchase as The Woman in Black

4. The Children's Book, by A. S. Byatt
This has been on my shelves longer than any of the rest of these, since last May. It was a birthday gift last year. But it's been on my mind for two years on top of that. Someday, it's gonna get read.

5. Remember How I Love You, by Jerry & Elaine Orbach
Gift from this past Christmas

6. Tristessa, by Jack Kerouac
Same impulse-buying mania at Posman Books as the le Carré.

7. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star, by Heather Lynn Rigaud
I won this (signed copy) via Addicted to Jane Austen over the Christmas holidays last year. Haven't dug into yet. Hoping to get to it by the end of the summer.

8. Kingdom Keepers III, by Ridley Pearson
Gift from this past Christmas.

9. Jane Austen Made Me Do It, ed. by Laurel Ann Nattress
Another Christmas gift.

10. To Be Queen, by Christy English
Bought this in my final Borders shopping spree last August. Does anyone else miss Borders? I totally miss Borders.

7.09.2012

Monday Mailbox 7/9/12

Monday Mailbox is hosted this month by Mrs. Q Book Addict.

I received one book this week, an ARC from Titan:

by Ariel S. Winter

This is Winter's debut novel, due out from Hard Case Crimes via Titan Books next month. 
Here's the description from Hard Case Crime's website:
...written in the form of three separate crime novels, each set in a different decade and penned in the style of a different giant of the mystery genre.
1931—
The body found in the gutter in France led the police inspector to the dead man’s beautiful daughter—and to her hot-tempered American husband.
1941—
A hardboiled private eye hired to keep a movie studio’s leading lady happy uncovers the truth behind the brutal slaying of a Hollywood starlet.
1951—
A desperate man pursuing his last chance at redemption finds himself with blood on his hands and the police on his trail...
Three complete novels that, taken together, tell a single epic story, about an author whose life is shattered when violence and tragedy consume the people closest to him.

I also managed to churn out three reviews this week:
The Orphanmaster, by Jean Zimmerman
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith (For the record, I've now seen the film, and the film was ten times better than the book, which is not something one can say often).

7.06.2012

Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
by Seth Grahame-Smith
Grand Central Publishing (2010)
352 pgs
When Seth Grahame-Smith adapted Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009), he was pushed to the front of the mash-up revolution. He had taken an original story, peppered it with zombies, and slapped his name on it. And you know what? In that case, he was successful.

What was before a classic novel, became something even more accessible and hip. Grahame-Smith ignited a trend for paranormal mash-ups, inviting success stories like the sequel to his own book (Steve Hockensmith's ...Dreadfully Ever After) and some not-so-success(ful) stories (Little Women and Werewolves, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim). But what inevitably works (and, in some of those examples, "works" is stretching it, but go with me) is that the authors are basically staying within the framework of the original piece and making it more colorful. Like an Austen paint-by-numbers.
Or something.

There's kind of an unspoken rule that the new work retains the feel of the original narrative while incorporating a paranormal or fantastical element. At the end of the day, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is still Pride and Prejudice...with zombies. Unfortunately for Seth Grahame-Smith, that rule carries over to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which is based on historical fact rather than a literary narrative; the new work reads like a biography or a history book...with vampires. The publishing industry calls it "dark historical revisionism." I call it "lame."

The result of this venture is just downright boring. It reads like a biography with little flourish. It is proposed that Lincoln's thirst for vengeance against vampires is rooted in the death of his mother which, according to his drunken father, was at the hands of a vampire. So he goes in search of vampires to kill, gets saved by one, makes nice, and then kills a bunch of other vampires at his buddy-vamp's behest without question. Honest Abe can be chalked up to being an honest fool who, lacking any self-motivation (he only runs for president because the "good" vampires are using him as a pawn in their war against the "bad" vampires), has so little integrity that I felt offended for the real Abraham Lincoln's memory.

The alternating of third person narrative with the "primary source" of Lincoln's "lost journals" is formulaic and frustrating and, while that might work for a bargain-shelf novel of historical fiction, it does not work for something that's marketed as a horror/thriller/fantasy novel. Even a campy one. And the lack of irony in this book is so remarkably absent that I can't even call it campy. It's just a wreck.

Edit (7/9/12):
For the record, I have now seen the film. A number of changes were made that not only cleaned up the plot for time, but made it more believable as well. My belief was suspended through a good portion of it (that stopped when they screwed up the time frame of Gettysburg...of all things that could have taken me out of it, that was it), and I found the whole thing thoroughly enjoyable. Yes, there are moments of campy ridiculousness--the horse stampede, any part with Harriet Tubman--and the makeup was terrible, but the acting was fine...I mean, Benjamin Walker and Dominic Cooper are pretty, Jimmi Simpson was a nice surprise, but the even better surprise was Alan Tudyk. Will I pay $14 to see it again? Not likely. Will I watch it on Netflix Instant Watch someday? Definitely. Maybe just for that ridiculous horse stampede scene. 

7.03.2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books For People Who Like Jane Austen

As always, Top Ten Tuesday is brought to you by the girls over at The Broke and the Bookish.


This week's topic: Top Ten Books for People Who Like X Author or, in this case, Jane Austen. Now...Im pretty sure I've done this before. Pretty sure. It might have been one of those daily memes I did a while back. I'm not positive. Or it was a Top Ten Tuesday previously and I just don't remember...whatever. Doesn't matter. I'm doing it now. Top Ten Books for People Who Like Jane Austen. I promise, not all of these are follow-ups and adaptations...

1. An Assembly Such as This, Duty and Desire & These Three Remain (Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman Series), by Pamela Aiden
A three-part take on Pride and Prejudice from Darcy's perspective (think Stephenie Meyer's leaked and unfinished Midnight Sun but about 175 times better). I cannot praise this series enough. It's so good. If you love Pride and Prejudice but haven't read this series, you definitely should.

2. Pemberley Ranch, by Jack Caldwell
This one's a bit of a guilty pleasure. Pride and Prejudice set in Texas just after the American Civil War. You can read my review here.

3. Willoughby's Return, by Jane Odiwe
A Sense & Sensibility follow-up whose author very clearly adores Austen. You can read that review here.

4. Defnitely Not Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos
My favorite surprise of last year, this book totally stunned me. It was not what I expected at all. I know it totally looks like it could be a trashy romance novel, but there's a reason there's no shirtless man on the cover. I think any Austen lover would love this like I did.

5. Jane and the Damned, by Janet Mullany
If you want to mix Jane Austen and the supernatural, this is the way to do it. Do not make the mistake of reading Mr. Darcy, Vampyre instead. Just don't do it. Jane and the Damned is the way to go.

6. Possession, by A. S. Byatt
Oh god, this book. Frankly, it's a lot. And if you're not big on poetry, the book can be...taxing. But. There is a movie. It's actually a pretty good movie starring Austen alums Jeremy Northam, Jennifer Ehle, Gwyneth Paltrow and Tom Hollander, with Aaron Eckhart and Toby Stephens. And it's a great adaptation. Watch the movie. If you love it, then the book will be totally worth your time.

7. Villette, by Charlotte Brontë
Now, I just love all of Charlotte Brontë's stuff, and maybe y'all do to, but this is the one novel of hers that I think would appeal most to an Austen lover. Shirley would also probably be a good bet, but Villette is perfect.

8. Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray
This is a bit more Brontë than Austen, but Thackeray had the distinction of adoring both of them, and you can pretty much tell. Don't let the film version scare you away, the book is fantastic.

9. The Princetta, by Anne-Laure Bondoux
A bit more swashbuckling than these other titles, but it's such a beautiful book with a very strong female protagonist. So worth it. My review is here.

10. A Novel Bookstore, by Laurence Cossé
Austen lover or no, this is a book that I think any bibliophile or literature lover should read. Hands down one of the best novels I've ever read.

7.02.2012

Review: The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
Doubleday, 2011
387 pgs
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

This is the beginning of the magic that is Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus (Doubleday, 2011). Called Le Cirque des Rêves (the circus of dreams), the physical circus with its circular tents, black and white palate, and dusk til dawn hours, is literally the stuff of dreams--made of, inspired by, and existing sometimes only in dreams.

The story is fantastical but, in the end, grounded in a kind of macabre reality where the unknown is just that - it resides in our minds untapped and therefore, while we possess it, we cannot have it and we cannot know it. And that's the quality of Morgenstern's writing that's actually quite beautiful and which make the novel worth reading--the illusions, the fantasies, you never knew you wanted them until Morgenstern put them on paper and caused you to know them.

This is a circus without the clowns or the bearded lady, and without a ringmaster (at least, not a ringmaster in name; there's a pun in there--I'll let you read the book and figure it out). Even drained of the usual circus colors, this world is an extremely vibrant and visual one. Morgenstern's descriptions are sometimes lengthy to the point of excess, but the vision is extremely clear--the stuff of dreams that might make for an excellent film adaptation in the right hands.¹

But the circus, while the primary focus of the novel, is not where the story begins. It is an effect, a result, of a wager made some years prior by a pair of proud and rather cowardly magicians who lay bets on whose apprentice will succeed over the other in a magical challenge. The circus is merely created to be the venue for that challenge. We're not really given a clear view of the point of this competition until the very end and, by then, no one cares.

Up until that point, it's kind of a disappointment. Not the novel, mind you, but the challenge itself. You hear the words challenge and competition and maybe you think Goblet of Fire. Not so. Especially when the apprentice-competitors fall inexplicably in love with one another (their magic magnetically attracts them to one another and we're meant to believe that it's this grand romance that no man may put asunder). It'd be like if Harry fell in love with Cedric. It'd be pretty lame.² The competition would be inhibited by the sappy love story as it is here; it ends up being less of a challenge and more of a flirtation as they build their magical creations for one another as opposed to against one another.

The supernatural gifts of those involved help give the characters depth, but the entire thing seems built on a skeletal model of Shakespearean poetry. And as successful as she is with her visual descriptions and the beautifully crafted plot, Morgenstern seems to miss the mark by trying to combine something that has so much potential like the circus itself with The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.³

And I'm not saying that just because it does in fact involve star-crossed lovers, nor because Romeo & Juliet is such a great go-to. The parallels with Shakespeare are blatant and the direct relationship to Romeo & Juliet is clear. I will not wholly spoil it for you but, going the way things have gone, I think you can guess where it all ends up. (Spoilers are in the footnotes).⁴


_________________________________________

¹ Please, for the love of all that is holy, not Tim Burton.

² Then again, there is that bit in Goblet of Fire when Cedric gives Harry the clue about the egg, and then that time that Harry saves Cedric from the landscape in the labyrinth--oops!

³ "I just reread Romeo & Juliet and you know the first thing I realized is that, that’s not even the title. It’s called the Tragedy of Romeo & Juliet. They die. She’s this young girl, she’s younger than me and she dies. Look, I think the reason why people think that it’s such a romantic play is because they don’t know what it’s like to be put in that position. But when your life and other peoples’ lives are put at risk, there isn’t anything romantic about it." - who saw a Roswell quote popping up in this review? Not me. But there it is. And it's pertinent.

⁴ SPOILERS: Celia's father is known onstage as "Prospero the Enchanter", Marco papers his models of the circus with Shakespearean texts, Celia and Marco have "fathers" who have conflict with one another and instruct their children/pupils to not get involved with the other, Marco is enamored with Isobel (a Rosaline) and tosses her for love of Celia, the two lovers meet (or, you know, make out for the first time) at a ball/dance/shindig, they both consult with Mr. Barris (a Friar Lawrence) who enables their creations, Celia is present with the circus while Marco is essentially in exile in London, Marco is present and maybe even instrumental in the death of Celia's good friend Thiessen (a Tybalt) and the star-crossed lovers "die" together, though they don't quite die as much as...become a lot like Vincent Schiavelli's character in Ghost, roaming the subway and figuring out how to move objects with his invisible self. Okay maybe not exactly like that, but it's pretty close.

Review: The Orphanmaster, by Jean Zimmerman

The Orphanmaster
by Jean Zimmerman
Viking
June 19, 2012
432 pgs
Author and historian Jean Zimmerman (Love, Fiercely: A Gilded Age Romance) makes her fiction debut with The Orphanmaster (June 19, 2012; Viking). Using her research talents, Zimmerman has created a grisly but vibrant portrait of the New Amsterdam colony (today known as Manhattan) just prior to the English takeover. 

Her story is captivating and, for the most part, her characters are likable in their own mysterious ways. She doesn't toy too much with exposition, which is nice, but this results in some cumbersome and repetitive writing in the first half of the story. She will make a point of telling us a fact one way and then, three pages later, telling us that same fact in a different way; it is almost as if she tried each of them but then couldn't decide which was better, and kept them both. But once the pacing picks up in the second half of the story, it's a lot better. The race to the conclusion is wonderfully written. 

Zimmerman's frank handle on the grotesque is rather refreshing, as is the incorporation of a religion/myth system that is by the wayside. The mythology that serves as a background to the novel is beautifully rendered; the mythical creature that purportedly wreaks havoc on the town is one of Algonquian origins and, therefore, not on the normal radar, even for me, someone who loves that stuff. 

The romance at the center of the novel is a bit clunky in its rush, and her mystery is much less well-fleshed out (oh god, that pun is not intended) than the historical aspects; it's not a very good mystery: the crimes are committed by just who you think they are, dont' bother with the breadcrumbs for this one. But it's a good story, rich in historical detail and full of interesting personalities (there's a pirate barkeep). 

As far as early New York historical fiction about missing/dead children go, The Gods of Gotham had better execution (oh god, another one), but The Orphanmaster has a better villain (and a pirate!).

Monday Mailbox 7/1/12: Mail Delay

Monday Mailbox is hosted this month by Mrs. Q Book Addict.

It has been a very long week. Family has been in and out of my apartment, I've got new furniture, new art on the walls, I've met relatives I'd never met before or whom I hadn't seen in about 25 years. 

My mother tried to leave me a copy of a Loretta Young biography. I said no, thank you. Rather vehemently. She did, however, manage to sneak a Halloween I-Spy book onto my shelves, courtesy of my grandmother's apartment. She also left me a golden book, The Little Red Hen. 

I then picked up a copy of The Bridge to Terabithia from my building's junk bench. Like I need more books that will make me cry. And somehow, in all of that, I even managed to get up two reviews this week: The Mercury Fountain and Dumb History

As for this week's giveaway for The Bay of Foxes, the winner was

MONIQUE H.

Please email me at laurs@theliterarygothamite.com with your shipping info.

To ALL who have won books from this blog in the last month, I have not forgotten you, and I'm so sorry about the delay. With all this mess, I still have not made it to a post office. I'm going to try my darndest to get to a post office this week and mail out all of your books. I will email each of you individually when the books have been shipped. 

Thank you for your patience, and thank you everyone for your lovely words, thoughts and prayers. 
My family and I appreciate your kindness.