Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fiction: PostaPoc by Liz Worth

I have to admit I began reading PostaPoc (Now Or Never) because of a misconception.

The book is by Liz Worth and the book’s (probably intentionally) jarring design and toneless typography had me thinking it was called PostaPocLiz, which seemed such a sensible name for a post-apocalyptic novel, I couldn’t think why it hadn’t been done before. It was only after I began to read that I realized the book is called PostApoc and  it was the debut novel of an author whose non-fiction work I was already familiar with. By then, though, there was no turning back: I was 10 or 15 pages in and already hooked.

Worth is the author of Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto. That book was good, but PostApoc is quite different. Actually more PostaPocLiz than rock journalism, but there are echoes of that, as well.

PostaPoc is elegant and surprising. The language is beautiful: Worth conjures up strong and lasting images to create her dying world. Here from the beginning of chapter one:
Outside, the dogs have all gone wild. Can you hear them? Can you feel them down there, voices shaking through loose skin?
At night their jowls fill with thunder. The howling is like wind wringing out hollow moans from the peaks of their spines, a chill that crawls through all the cracks in the windows.
Despite this poetry, the world dies without thunder. No zombies or blasted cityscapes, just a cyberpunk rendering of what the end might look like, with everything reduced to basics and everyone just struggling with survival.

Young Ang is part of an underground music scene who obsesses about the end of the world. They obsess so deeply that, when that end comes, Ang can’t help but feel as though she is in part to blame.

And then that survival. And struggles. And our own doubts, as well look back with her and try, against all instinct, to look ahead. The end is surprising. Unexpected, yet perfect. With everything concluded, but nothing wrapped up. PostaPoc is entirely riveting and worthwhile. ◊

Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.

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This Just In… Children of the Knight by Michael J. Bowler

According to legend, King Arthur is supposed to return when Britain needs him most. So why does a man claiming to be the once and future king suddenly appear in Los Angeles?

This charismatic young Arthur creates a new Camelot within the City of Angels to lead a crusade of unwanted kids against an adult society that discards and ignores them. Under his banner of equality, every needy child is welcome, regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, or gang affiliation.

With the help of his amazing First Knight, homeless fourteen-year-old Lance, Arthur transforms this ragtag band of rejected children and teens into a well-trained army -- the Children of the Knight. Through his intervention, they win the hearts and minds of the populace at large, and gain a truer understanding of themselves and their worth to society. But seeking more rights for kids pits Arthur and the children squarely against the rich, the influential, and the self-satisfied politicians who want nothing more than to maintain the status quo.

Can right truly overcome might? Arthur’s hopeful young knights are about to find out, and the City of Angels will never be the same.

You can order Children of the Knight here. Visit author Michael J. Bowler on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Fiction: Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock illustrated by Seth

Humorist and professor of economics, Stephen Leacock was born in 1869 and died in 1944. Today in Canadian literary circles, his name is synonymous with the sort of sharp, smart humor associated with him through an award that bears his name given annually since 1947 to the “best work of humorous literature in English by a Canadian writer.”

Leacock’s best known work was Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, published  first in 1912 and adapted for television in the 1950s. The stories that comprise the collection are set in the fictional hamlet of Mariposa, on the shore of the also fictional Lake Wissanotti. Leacock maintained that Mariposa wasn’t one place but many. “Mariposa is not a real town. On the contrary, it is about 70 or 80 of them. You may find them all the way from Lake Superior to the sea, with the same square streets and the same maple trees and the same churches and hotels.”

McLelland & Stewart has just released this well-loved classic in a fantastic gift edition illustrated by Seth (Palookaville, It’s A Good Life). The finished book is more wonderful than I can impart in this space. Incredibly heavy for its size, and decorated in gold foil, the edition would make a wonderful gift for a fan or even for yourself. The book is stunning enough in presentation that it should have been released for an anniversary. Was it intended for the centennial of Leacock’s birth last year? If so, it’s a shame it didn’t make it: with more than 40 full and double page illustrations throughout, the sumptuously designed book is a worthwhile addition to the Leacock treasury and another vote for the future of the book as beautiful object, meant to be treasured and collected as well as poured over. ◊

Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.


This Just In… The Rainy Day Killer by Michael J McCann

A man in a business suit offers the protection of his umbrella to an unsuspecting woman ... and several days later she turns up dead on a river bank, raped and strangled. The terrifying serial killer known in the press as the Rainy Day Killer is now hunting new victims in the city of Glendale ... whenever it rains.

Homicide Lieutenant Hank Donaghue leads the investigation as the killer begins to communicate directly to him through phone calls and grisly packages containing body parts of his victims. Assisted by FBI profiler Ed Griffin, Donaghue and Detective Karen Stainer pursue an elusive predator who leaves no physical evidence behind.

The timing couldn't be worse, however, as Karen Stainer's attention is divided between the investigation and preparations for her upcoming wedding. Distracted and uncertain about her future, Stainer is furious when she learns that the Rainy Day Killer has followed her to Virginia, where the wedding will take place, and that he intends to make her his next victim!

You can order The Rainy Day Killer here. Visit author Michael J McCann on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Art & Culture: What W.H. Auden Can Do For You by Alexander McCall Smith

For some people The Art of War is a touchstone. A guide to living and to life. For others it is Tao Te Ching or even The Tao of Pooh. In his latest book, number one detective Alexander McCall Smith has an admission to make: his own personal touchstone is Anglo-American poet W.H. Auden.

“I believe  that reading the work of W.H. Auden may make a difference to one’s life,” Smith writes early in What W.H. Auden Can Do For You (Princeton), then spends the balance of the book convincing us. (In case we should need convincing.) But he does it gently, persuasively and even conversationally. “This is what Auden has meant to me,” he seems to be saying. “See what he, also, can mean to you.”

If you are a fan of Auden’s work, this is a must-read. If you have interest in it -- because of Four Weddings and a Funeral or for any other reason -- you would be well-advised to pick up this slender volume.

What W.H. Auden Can Do For You is the latest in a series from Princeton University Press. Others have been C.K. Williams On Whitman, Michael Dirda on Conan Doyle and Phillip Lopate on Sontag. According to the Princeton web site, the series is intended to be comprised of “brief, personal, and creative books in which leading contemporary writers take the measure of other important writers (past or present) who have inspired, influenced, fascinated, or troubled them in significant ways. These books illuminate the complex and sometimes fraught relationships between writers, while also revealing the close ties between creative and critical writing.”

In What W.H. Auden Can Do For You, historian, mystery writer and philosopher McCall Smith nails it on every count. ◊

Jones Atwater is a regular contributor to January Magazine.

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This Just In… Living and Sustaining a Creative Life edited by Sharon Louden

At a time when art has become more of a commodity and art school graduates are convinced that they can only make a living from their work by attaining gallery representation, it is more important than ever to show the reality of how a professional, contemporary artist sustains a creative practice over time.

The forty essays collected in Living and Sustaining a Creative Life are written in the artists’ own voices and take the form of narratives, statements, and interviews. Each story is different and unique, but the common thread is an ongoing commitment to creativity, inside and outside the studio.

Both day-to-day and big picture details are revealed, showing how it is possible to sustain a creative practice that contributes to the ongoing dialogue in contemporary art. These stories will inform and inspire any student, young artist, and art enthusiast and will help redefine what “success” means to a professional artist.

You can order Living and Sustaining a Creative Life here. Visit the publisher’s web site here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed Dead at 71

Legendary singer/songwriter Lou Reed died today of as yet undisclosed causes. He was 71. His literary agent, Andrew Wylie, told The New York Times that he “believed that his cause of death was related to a liver transplant Mr. Reed had earlier this year.” From the NYT:
Mr. Reed played the sport of alienating listeners, defending the right to contradict himself in hostile interviews, to contradict his transgressive image by idealizing sweet or old-fashioned values in word or sound, or to present intuition as blunt logic.
“I’ve always believed that there’s an amazing number of things you can do through a rock ‘n’ roll song,” he once told the journalist Kristine McKenna, “and that you can do serious writing in a rock song if you can somehow do it without losing the beat. The things I’ve written about wouldn’t be considered a big deal if they appeared in a book or movie.”
While Reed’s musical (and sometimes personal) exploits are the first thing that comes to mind when you hear his name, Reed was also an accomplished author and photographer. His books include Lou Reed’s New York (Steidl, 2008), Emotion in Action (Steidl, 2008), Between Thought and Expression (Hyperion, 1991), Pass Through Fire (Hyperion, 2000) and an illustrated book of poetry (with Lorenzo Mattotti) called The Raven (Fantagraphics, 2011) based on a series of songs Reed released in 2003. There are others, all  encompassing multiple facets of Reed’s very deep and real talent.

Reed is survived by his third wife, singer and performance artist Laurie Anderson.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Want Success As A Writer? Stop Writing

Lionel Shrivner was an overnight sensation when, seven books into a distinguished but largely unnoticeable publishing career, We Need to Talk About Kevin, “hit a social nerve,” became an international bestseller, won the Orange Prize for Fiction and inspired a feature film.

Writing in The New Republic, Shrivner says:
Make no mistake, I’ve led a great life -- yet one that, fiscally anyway, may be decreasingly on offer for young writers. Advances are down. Typically for fiction these days, my latest novel has sold roughly two (for the author, less lucrative) e-books for every hardback. Publishers are more impatient than ever—and they were never patient-- with a first novel that doesn’t make a splash.
Besides, your talents are equally endangered when a book does make a splash. If you really want to write, the last thing you want to be is a success. Now that every village in the United Kingdom has its own literary festival, I could credibly spend my entire year, every year, flitting from Swindon to Peterborough to Aberdeen, jawing interminably about what I’ve already written—at the modest price of scalding self-disgust.
With so many demands on a the time of a writer, when is an author expected to actually sit down and write?
Writing the books themselves gets fit in here and there, like making time for taking out the trash before bed. I have grown perversely nostalgic for my previous commercial failure -- when my focus was pure, and the books were still fun to write, even if nobody read them.
Damned if your books are successful, damned if they aren’t, but Shriver’s concern goes larger, still, to an industry whose fate currently seems to hang in the balance as hordes of new voices try to be heard in an ever larger cloud of cacophony.
Hence I not only worry about publishing’s entire economic infrastructure imploding, as single talented voices are drowned by a populist clamor of amateurs eager to be read on the Internet for the price of a double-click. I also worry about writers of the near future who make it—only to blog, tweet, e-mail, text, and Facebook their precious time away; only to be swept up in the confoundingly elaborate architecture of appearances, celebrity profiles, website questionnaires, and photo spreads built atop the fragile foundation of a lone imagination at a desk.
Despite the demands on her time, Shriver continues to manage an impressive output. There have been four novels since 2003’s breakthrough We Need to Talk About Kevin. Her latest, Big Brother, a suspenseful novel focused on the unlikely topics of love and obesity, was published earlier this year. Publishers Weekly called the book an “intelligent meditation on food, guilt, and the real (and imagined) debts we owe the ones we love.”


Thursday, October 24, 2013

This Just In… Humanastra I: The Hidden World by RJ Grey

After a massive battle in space, three officers of the Human Interstellar Navy find themselves stranded on an undiscovered planet.

While grappling with the challenges of repairing their vessel, the humans entrench themselves in the political climate of an alien race whose culture is powered by supernatural forces. They struggle to understand this new form of energy while contending with the ancient edicts of a theocratic dictatorship, a government led by a self-proclaimed goddess. Through unlikely allies and paranormal twists of fate, the three humans embark on a long and dangerous journey to find their way back to Earth.

Humanastra I: The Hidden World is the first installment in a series of stories by author RJ Grey. With plans for multiple sequels, Humanastra tells a story that blurs the lines between Science Fiction and Fantasy, combining the mystique of alien technology and races with the rich tradition of wizardry and chivalry.

You can order Humanastra I: The Hidden World here. Visit author RJ Grey on Facebook here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Munro Won’t Be First Winning Author Not to Attend Nobel Award Ceremony

Alice Munro, “Canada’s Chekov,” won’t be traveling to Sweden to collect her  Nobel Medal and her cheque for eight million Swedish kronor (About $1.3 million) on December 10. According to the Victoria Times Colonist, the 82-year-old author is too frail to make the trip, but that their, Jenny Munro, daughter will go in her place:
Jim Munro of Munro’s Books said Friday his former wife cannot make the trip because her health is delicate.
“She’s not well enough to go,” he said. “She’s happy. She’s not bed-ridden or anything. Just too fragile to take such a trip.”
Inside the Stockholm Concert Hall.
According to The Guardian, Munro isn’t the first winner who didn’t make the trip for health reasons:

Doris Lessing, who was 87 when she won the prize in 2007, was advised by doctors not to travel, because of back trouble, and the Nobel Foundation came to London to award the prize instead.

Harold Pinter, then 75, didn't go in 2005, citing poor health, and Austria's Elfriede Jelinek declined the year before that, saying that she was "not in a mental state to withstand such ceremonies".

Announcing the award, Englund described Munro as the "master of the contemporary short story", with a "power of observation that is almost uncanny" and an "intelligence and power of observation that could be a bit problematic, because she sees through people".

January Magazine announced Munro had won the Nobel Prize for Literature on October 10th. You can see that piece here.


This Just In… Something Yellow by Laura Templeton

It has been 13 years since Holly’s nine-year-old sister, Rachel, disappeared without a trace.

It has been 13 years since Holly left her hometown.

It has been 13 years since Holly’s first love and high school boyfriend, Houston, was the only suspect. Now another nine-year-old girl has disappeared. Holly is back, and so is Houston -- never charged and still proclaiming his innocence. Can she trust him . . . should she trust him?

You can order Something Yellow here. Visit author Laura Templeton on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Oh Beautiful Book

In the digital era, books aren’t so much being threatened as they are being forced to reinvent themselves. This is something we’ve been saying for quite some time. In the Irish Times, Danielle Ryan says it again and says it differently and with emphasis:

Books now need to be well produced, beautiful, covetable and visual, and with an attention to detail; they must be possessions the consumer will want to display proudly. Although we cannot divorce the book entirely from the act of reading, we can acknowledge that it is an object and a product and remains separate from its digital cousins.

Ryan is putting her money where her mouth is and has recently launched Roads Publishing in Dublin with a line of high end, luxurious classics because, “advances in technology mean that readers, quite rightly, will turn their noses up at poorly produced books, with sloppy editing, cheap paper and cliched covers, when they compare the price tag with that of the digital version.”


This Just In… Homo-Intellectus by James Anthony

It’s 2029. Following a mysterious change in orbit, an asteroid heads for an impact in the Sahara desert.

Far from being the catastrophic event that had been predicted, an ancient secret is exposed that will re-write the history of mankind.

Was an undiscovered branch of our family tree the foundation for our present civilization? Who did build the pyramids? What are the markings on the Nazca plain in South America?

The Torah Cult, a secret organization, set up hundreds of years before, will stop at nothing to prevent the release of any information. Professor Simon Cartwright and Professor Mary Freeman are thrown together in a fast-moving adventure, as they travel from Timbuktu to Ayers Rock in Australia via Durham and Bangkok... while they battle to stay alive long enough to reveal the truth.

You can order Homo-Intellectus here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

New Next Week: Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagen

We haven’t yet had a chance to peek at Eminent Hipsters (Viking) by Steely Dan frontman Donald Fagen, but it’s definitely one January Magazine art director, David Middleton, is keen to pour over. And why? He’s a fan of both Steely Dan and clever, nerdish writing. It sounds very much like Eminent Hipsters will improve the reader’s knowledge of the former while delivering loads of the latter.

As Telegraph music editor Bernadette McNulty remarks in her review, Fagan’s “‘art-o-biography,’ much like his music, is nerdishly clever, entertainingly original and even a moving reconfiguration of the memoir format.”

And the book does sound like a nerdfest of the musical order (and we mean that in a good way):
The early scholarly bombardment of the essays feels partly designed to shake off the casual browser, rhapsodising over obscure, cult figures of the 20th century, including jazz singer Connie Boswell, science fiction writer AE van Vogt and radio DJ Jean Shepherd. Fagen’s fanboy discussions are worth sticking with, though, as he teases out fascinating nuances and connections. He perceives in Boswell, born in the same year as Frida Kahlo, and also disabled, a similar impulse in her singing to “pull apart” her source material, “reorganise its parts and reshape it into something richer than the original”.
It’s interesting to note that McNulty is not of an age that she listened to Steely Dan as they were coming up. As a result, she had to acclimate her ear:
The sound baffled me at first – with its closeted atmosphere, noodly jazz structures, and slightly reedy, elliptical lyrics it sounded like the Eagles reimagined by Woody Allen – but there was also enough to intrigue me and, ultimately, enough to keep me going back to songs for which, like jazz or wine, you eventually develop a taste.
The full review is very sharp, and it’s here.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

National Book Awards Finalists: More Popular Choices in 2013

The finalists for the National Book Awards were announced this morning on NBC’s Morning Joe. The method of information delivery chosen was reflected in the lists of books delivered. Books by Jhumpa Lahiri, Thomas Pynchon and Rachel Kushner demonstrated that the trend towards highlighting books likely to be enjoyed by a wider sampling of readers. As NPR pointed our last month:
In recent years, the National Book Awards have been criticized for nominating obscure authors whose books don't sell as well as winners of the Pulitzer Prize or the Man Booker Prize. Thus the changes instituted this year: nonwriters such as librarians, book sellers and critics have been included in the judging panels. And instead of one announcement of five nominees in each category, this week's rollout of longer lists, 10 in each category, followed in about a month by a short list.
The resulting lists (and that Morning Joe announcement) would indicate the NBA people are working hard to raise awareness and readability of their awards. I suppose there’s not much they can do about the fact that when people hear “NBA” books seldom are seldom that first things that jump to mind.

The winners will be announced on November 20th.

Here are the finalists for the 2013 National Book Awards:

  • Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers (Scribner/Simon & Schuster)
  • Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)
  • James McBride, The Good Lord Bird (Riverhead Books/Penguin Group)
  • Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge (The Penguin Press/Penguin Group)
  • George Saunders, Tenth of December (Random House) 
  • Jill Lepore, The Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)
  • Wendy Lower, Hitler's Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 (W.W. Norton & Company)
  • Lawrence Wright, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)
  • Frank Bidart, Metaphysical Dog (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Lucie Brock-Broido, Stay, Illusion (Alfred A. Knopf)
  • Adrian Matejka, The Big Smoke (Penguin Poets/Penguin Group USA)
  • Matt Rasmussen, Black Aperture (Louisiana State University Press)
  • Mary Szybist, Incarnadine: Poems (Graywolf Press)
Young People’s Literature
  • Kathi Appelt, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster)
  • Cynthia Kadohata, The Thing About Luck (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/ Simon & Schuster)
  • Tom McNeal, Far Far Away (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)
  • Meg Rosoff, Picture Me Gone (G.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Group)
  • Gene Luen Yang, Boxers & Saints (First Second/Macmillan)


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Man Booker Prize 2013: Youngest Author & Biggest Book

When the dust settled after the winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize was announced today a couple of records had been broken. At 28, Winner Eleanor Catton was the youngest winner in the history of the prize and at 832 pages, the novel she won for, The Luminaries, is the longest ever Man Booker Winner.

In their announcement, the Man Booker people pointed out another couple noteworthy facts: Catton is only the second New Zealander to win the prize, though many would likely say it was overdue: Keri Hulm won for The Bone People back in 1985. Also, with 151 authors competing for the prize this year, it was the largest Man Booker field ever.

Man Booker judge Robert Macfarlane said the book was a “dazzling work, luminous, vast.” He added that it was “a book you sometimes feel lost in, fearing it to be ‘a big baggy monster,’ but it turns out to be as tightly structured as an orrery.”

The Luminaries is set during the 1866 New Zealand gold rush. Twelve me have gathered for a meeting in a hotel when a traveler stumbles into their midst. The story involves a missing rich man, a dead hermit, a huge sum in gold, and a beaten-up whore. There are sex and seances, opium and lawsuits in the mystery too. The multiple voices take turns to tell their own stories and gradually what happened in the small town of Hokitika on New Zealand’s South Island is revealed.

The winner of the Man Booker Prize receives £50,000 (about $80,000) and, like all the shortlisted authors, a cheque for £2,500 and a designer bound copy of their book. ◊


This Just In… The Whispering Wind by Lexa Dudley

The Whispering Wind is the story of two lovers, set on the beautiful island of Sardinia, where Elise goes on holiday to escape a loveless and violent marriage.

There she meets and falls in love with Beppe, a local Sard. Despite religious and cultural complications, they embark on a romantic and passionate affair.

Beppe shows Elise his island and introduces her to the welcoming culture of the Sardinians. Elise soon falls under the spell of both the island and its people.

But after weeks of blissful happiness, Elise has to return unexpectedly to England to face all the problems she had been so desperate to leave behind…

The Whispering Wind is a work of fiction that will appeal to women who are romantics at heart.

You can order The Whispering Wind here. Visit author Lexa Dudley on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Reading Literary Fiction Improves Your Mind

Reading anything is better for you brain than nothing. Reading fiction is better than non-fiction. But a study has shown that reading something highbrow is the very best for you, and actually enhances your Theory of Mind (ToM).

Ph.D. candidate David Comer Kidd and his advisor, professor of psychology Emanuele Castano at The New School for Social Research did five experiments intended to measure the effects of reading literary fiction on study participant’s Theory of Mind: the skill of understanding the mental states of others. For the study, the researchers chose literary fiction represented by excerpts of writing by National Book Award Finalists and winners of the PEN/O. Henry Prize for short fiction. Popular fiction was chosen from among current Amazon bestsellers and an anthology of popular contemporary short fiction. Non-fiction was from Smithsonian Magazine. A press release explained their methodology:
After participants read texts from one of the three genres, Kidd and Castano tested their ToM capabilities using several well-established measures. One of these measures is the "Reading the Mind in the Eyes" test, which asks participants to look at black-and-white photographs of actors' eyes and indicate the emotion expressed by that actor. Another one is the Yoni test, which includes both affective trials and cognitive ones. "We used several measures of ToM to make sure the effects were not specific to one type of measure, thus accumulating converging evidence for our hypothesis, " the researchers said.
Across the five experiments, Kidd and Castano found that participants who were assigned to read literary fiction performed significantly better on the ToM tests than did participants assigned to the other experimental groups, who did not differ from one another.
The results of the study were conclusive in showing that the literary quality was an important factor in fostering Theory of Mind regardless of content or subject matter.
Kidd and Castano suggest that the reason for literary fiction’s impact on ToM is a direct result of the ways in which it involves the reader. Unlike popular fiction, literary fiction requires intellectual engagement and creative thought from its readers. “Features of the modern literary novel set it apart from most bestselling thrillers or romances. Through the use of […] stylistic devices, literary fiction defamiliarizes its readers,” Kidd and Castano write. “Just as in real life, the worlds of literary fiction are replete with complicated individuals whose inner lives are rarely easily discerned but warrant exploration.” 
“We see this research as a step towards better understanding the interplay between a specific cultural artifact, literary fiction, and affective and cognitive processes,” Kidd and Castano say. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Children’s Books: Monster School: City of Monsters, Book 1 by D.C. Green. Melbourne

In Monster School (Ford Street), we meet Thomas, the Prince of Monstro City, heir to the throne since his father and brother were carried off by vampires. His mother has been lying comatose in hospital. And Thomas himself is virtually imprisoned with an ogre bodyguard called Erica, as, ruler of a dying species -- humans -- he is in constant danger of being assassinated by anything from Bloody Mary, who reaches out from the bathroom mirror, to vampire mosquitoes.

But there is something fishy in the state of Monstro City and it isn't necessarily the swamp monsters. Thomas goes undercover -- literally -- at the local monster high school to find out. There, he meets sweet mummy girl Scarab, a wisecracking giant spider called Bruce, maggot-riddled zombie Zorg, cynical goblin girl Greta and Stoker, a mohawked vampire who looks oddly familiar.

I should add that, despite the title, the novel takes off from here. The school is only there early in the book to introduce the characters and give some background to the universe. And the author does find ways to explain the world he has created, partly through the teachers and partly through a volume called The Monster Guide by one DC Greengoblin. Interestingly, the monster characters aren’t merely cutesy fantasy critters. The mummy is a genuine mummy, woken from death only four years ago. The zombie was once a human boy, as was the vampire. We learn that the monsters of various kinds always existed, they simply had to go underground during the human era. After a major flood, they returned.

When Thomas and his new friends find out what has really been going on and why the palace is broke, they go on a quest to save the kingdom. Starting with collecting back taxes from a dragon.

There is plenty of action, adventure and humor in Monster School, with excellent cartoon illustrations and cover by Danny Willis, who has done the art for some of Paul Collins’ books. There is also an oddly serious flavor to the later parts of the book and be warned, it ends on a cliffhanger, with a few pages of the second volume.

An entertaining book for good readers in late primary and early secondary school. ◊

Sue Bursztynski lives in Australia, where she works as a teacher-librarian. She has written several books for children and young adults, including Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly and the YA novel Wolfborn. Her blog The Great Raven can be found at http://suebursztynski.blogspot.com.

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This Just In… Steep Drop by Kevin Richard White

A troubled young man in search of a new life has decided to ruin his old one -- by leaving his wife with no explanation, and seemingly at first, no reason.

Through flashbacks and memories, he realizes the severity of his mistake, only to find that his chance at reconciliation is useless when she wants nothing to do with him upon his return.

What comes out of these encounters are moments of pain, loss, anger and reflection. Steep Drop is not only a novel about choice, but about morality: what love can do to our thoughts, how it shapes our rationalizations about ourselves and what we can learn fwhen we are left to our own devices, wondering about the what-ifs.

You can order Steep Drop here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fifty Shades of Grey Film to Recast Male Role

Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam will not play the male lead in the film based on E.L. James’ bestselling novel. From USA Today:
Charlie Hunnam has dropped out of the lead role of Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey, Universal Pictures announced Saturday.
"The filmmakers of Fifty Shades of Grey and Charlie Hunnam have agreed to find another male lead given Hunnam's immersive TV schedule which is not allowing him to adequately prepare for the role of Christian Grey," Universal Picture said in a statement.
James responded to the news of Hunnam's departure on Twitter on Saturday saying, "I wish Charlie all the best. x"
After casting was announced in early September, fans of the book vocalized their displeasure. A petition to replace Hunnam and Dakota Johnson went live almost as soon as the casting was announced. The change.org-based petition had collected 75,000 signatures by September 8th. The petition demands that Hunnam and Johnson be replaced with Matt Bomer (White Collar) and Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls). The news that Hunnam had pulled out caused petition organizers to rejoice:
Despite the current lack of a male lead, fans can anticipate seeing the film at a theatre near them late next summer.

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This Just In… Inventing Reality: New Orleans Visionary Photography, Various Photographers, Author & Curator D. Eric Bookhardt

LUNA Press is proud to present Inventing Reality, an anthology highlighting the work of 27 contemporary New Orleans photographers.

The collection, curated by D. Eric Bookhardt, presents a vision that is both subjective and representative of a broad spectrum of techniques, providing an overview into the creative renaissance that is taking place in the city today. “In photography, this city and the surrounding region have long been a spawning grounds for visionary or magic realist imagery dating to Clarence John Laughlin’s surrealist works of the 1930s,” writes Bookhardt. “Today a coterie of younger emerging artists, often reflecting alternative socio-cultural milieus, have -- in concert with their more established peers -- expanded this visionary vocabulary.”

Bookhardt’s insightful essay details the rich history of photographic arts in New Orleans, and his individual introductions to each photographer’s series provide context for the works of 2013 Guggenheim Fellow Deborah Luster, David Halliday, Josephine Sacabo, and Louviere+Vanessa, among other established and emerging artists.

The array of photographic practices used by the artists ranges from wet-plate collodions, orotones, photogravures, x-rays, and silver gelatins, to modern digital processes. The resulting anthology is a lyrical insight into personal visions, dazzling in their variety of approaches. As Russell Lord notes in the book’s foreword: “It is a story about identity, tension, perception and the psychic mystery of photography in New Orleans.”

You can order Inventing Reality here.  ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Alice Munro Wins Nobel Prize for Literature

Alice Munro has become the second Canadian and the 13th woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The 81-year-old author, affectionately known as “Canada’s Chekov” for her deft hand with both short stories and human relationships, was surprised this morning when her daughter woke her to tell her the news. From CBC:
Reached in British Columbia by CBC News on Thursday morning, Munro said she always viewed her chances of winning the Nobel as “one of those pipe dreams” that “might happen, but it probably wouldn’t.” 
“It’s the middle of the night here and I had forgotten about it all, of course,” she told the CBC’s Heather Hiscox early Thursday.
Munro called the honour “a splendid thing to happen.”
Munro said her husband, Gerald Fremlin, a geographer/cartographer who died in April, would have been very happy, and that her previous husband, James Munro, with whom she has three children, and all her family were thrilled.
The Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to 110 Laureates since 1901. Upon naming her the winner, the Royal Swedish Academy called Munro a “master of the contemporary short story.” In 2009 Munro was awarded the Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work.

The Nobel Prize amount for 2013 is set at 8.0 million Swedish kronor, which is about 1.2 million dollars.


This Just In… Got a Bad Boss? Work that Boss to Get What You Want at Work by Dr. Noelle Nelson

Got A Bad Boss? is for the legions of unhappy employees who have one of those bosses who inflict misery and abuse on too many employees who aren’t in a position to quit.

The book is a practical step-by-step guide to making yourself valuable to a Bad Boss instead of cringing, screaming, or going crazy; to take control of your job and your career even if your Bad Boss is a raving lunatic, narcissist or just plain incompetent.

How can you accomplish this? By discovering your Bad Boss’s secret desire and secret fear -- which then gives you the secret to “working” your boss to get what you want at work.

Not only that, but you’ve got strengths -- work strengths embedded within your Employee Type -- that you can use to make yourself valuable, to leverage your way to success no matter how bad your Bad Boss is.

Got A Bad Boss? gives you the strategies and techniques specific to working each type of Bad Boss, from Finger Pointer Boss to Incompetent Boss to Egomaniacal Boss and more -- using your particular work-strengths -- whether you’re an Ambitious Employee, Hyper Sensitive, Pleaser or Impatient as all heck.

You can order Got a Bad Boss? here. See a trailer for the book here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

New Yesterday: Dying is My Business by Nicholas Kaufmann

Imagine that you can not die. That no matter what you did -- or did not do -- after your final breath, another would come. If this were the case, it might determine the course of your whole life: or what was left of it. And that’s just what Trent has done, working for a gangster doing the sort of jobs that get people killed. Well, most people, anyway. For Trent there is no risk. Every time he dies, he wakes right back up again.

Even so, the business of coming back from the dead isn’t entirely painless. Here, in the opening scene of Dying is My Business (St. Martin’s Griffin), we see the process from Trent’s perspective:
It’s not as easy as it looks to come back from the dead.
It’s a shock to the system, even more than dying is. The first new breath burns like fire. The first new heartbeat is like a sharp, urgent pain. Emerging from darkness like that. the sudden light is blinding, confusing. Coming back from the dead feels less like a miracle than like waking up with the world’s most debilitating hangover.
Depending on your perspective, there are worse things about that process than the pain. Trent himself doesn’t even know how it all works, only that it does. Part of the reason might just be that his own memory only goes back about a year. Everything before that is a big question mark. One thing he does know: the process -- whatever it is -- is not without cost. In the first place, he can not sleep. Ever. In the second place, someone always has to die. If not him, then someone else and one thing Trent always sees when he comes back from the dead is someone else’s corpse. It doesn’t always make sense -- to him, at least -- but it is always the case.

When Trent’s boss, Underwood, sends him out on a mission to retrieve an antique box from some squatters in an abandoned warehouse, he thinks it will be a piece of cake. But the “squatters” turn out to be a great deal more than the homeless people they appear to be and Trent finds himself in a mad world of bad magic and evil creatures where he must take part in an almost myth-like battle between good and evil. The only thing that has him even believing his eyes is the oddness in his own history.

As much as I enjoyed Dying is My Business I’ve had an awful time trying to write about it: everything I say makes it sound trite and lame (witness “myth-like battle between good and evil”) and even cliche. The only thing that makes the book move beyond the expected is author Kaufmann’s fine sense of urban fantasy, plus a sharp, dark humor and a pure inventiveness that keeps you wondering just what the hell could happen next.

Dying is My Business is very, very good. And it makes me suspect that there will be more just like it to enjoy some time soon. ◊

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This Just In… The Kennedy Imperative by Leon Berger

The Kennedy Trilogy is a political thriller series based on the three major crises of the Kennedy era -- Berlin 1961, Cuba 1962 and Dallas 1963 -- as witnessed factually in the Oval Office and fictionally by a young CIA agent.

The Kennedy Imperative, Book 1 of The Kennedy Trilogy: Berlin 1961

In this exciting political thriller trilogy, factual events are interwoven in an exciting fictional elements. While the construction of the Berlin Wall challenges John F. Kennedy with the first major crisis of his Presidency, young CIA agent Philip Marsden is sent on his first mission into East Berlin. While the tanks face off at Checkpoint Charlie, he uncovers the difficult truth about his Russian-born mother.

You can order The Kennedy Imperative here. Visit author Leon Berger on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Cookbooks: The Deerholme Mushroom Book from Foraging to Feasting by Bill Jones

There are as many books about mushrooms as there are, well… mushrooms. And like those mushrooms, some are just more collectible and digestible than others.

My own collection of mushroom books -- field guides and cookbooks -- is pretty respectable. I love edible mushrooms and I love learning about them, thus feel I can state with some authority that, when it comes to cooking with mushrooms, The Deerholme Mushroom Book (Touchwood) is better than the best of them: a golden chanterelle in a forest of slippery jacks.

The Deerholme Mushroom Book is nearly the whole package. Author/chef Bill Jones has brought together his experience as an food writer, his expertise as a chef and his passion for wild mushrooms and foraging into one absolutely terrific book. The book bills itself as “every chef’s essential guide to edible mushrooms,” and that encapsulates it pretty well.

No chef who loves mushrooms -- from amateur to professional -- will not find something to make their eyes widen here someplace. When it comes to cooking with both wild and cultivated mushrooms, Jones has covered all the bases from a variety of stocks, through pantry basics (the Porcini Gnocchi slayed me here and the mushroom compound butters may alter my entertaining table forever).

Tapas, Mezes or Pickles, anyone? The Mushroom Hummus was unlike any other and the Mushroom Ketchup might change your mind about that condiment. I was a little disappointed in the section on Pates and Charcuterie only because it didn’t include more vegetarian recipes (though that’s true of the book overall). Even though I’m not a vegetarian, a book so good about cooking lovely, meaty mushrooms could have serviced the vegetarian segment somewhat more effectively. That said, the Beef, Chanterelle and Cheese Curd Terrine is beyond belief and the Mushroom Pate is a very solid vegetarian option.

There are very good and complete sections for all parts of the meal, from breads and flatbreads through appetizers and starters, a chapter on side dishes (though I’d enjoy any of these sides as a main!) rice, grains and beans; soups and chowders, salads, seafood; Sauces; Meat an Poultry; and -- yes -- even Desserts and Beverages. Though, to be very honest, I wasn’t very tempted by the Candied Chanterelle Panna Cotta or (especially!) the Caramelized Mushroom Ginger Upside-Down Cake. (Though the Chocolate Truffles made with actual truffles is something I might try if I ever have an abundance of truffles.)

Conclusion: The Deerholme Mushroom Book is good in an epic way. I’m anticipating that a follow-up title, The Deerholme Foraging Book: Wild Foods from the Pacific Northwest, will be just as terrific.


This Just In… Surface Children by Dean Blake


Australian author Dean Blake’s much-anticipated collection of short stories.

From a satirical tale of a group of teenagers who crave nothing but perfection to a horrific account of a young man who claims to eat people, Surface Children introduces its readers to a generation consumed by vanity, self-indulgence, violence and a twisted understanding of love and heartbreak.

Addictive, funny, brave and sometimes heartbreaking, Surface Children is said to be Dean Blake’s most significant work to date.

You can order Surface Children here. Visit author Dean Blake on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Monday, October 07, 2013

A Birthday of the Senses

Diane Ackerman was born in Waukegan, Illinois on this date in 1948. Though the author has given the world numerous books over the years, she is best known for 1990’s A Natural History of the Senses. When January Magazine interviewed her several years ago, she said the book has continued to have meaning for many. “People still send me their smell memories,” she said. “Which I like. I’ve become the repository of everybody’s smells.” 

Ackerman’s husband, the poet Paul West, suffered a stroke in 2006. Ackerman subsequently wrote about the experience in the very beautiful One Hundred Names for Love: A Memoir (W.W. Norton) which was subsequently nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

For her birthday, Writer’s Almanac celebrates some of the author’s accomplishments:
She has a knack for blending science and literary art; she wrote her first book of poetry entirely about astronomy. It was called The Planets: A Cosmic Pastoral, and it was published in 1976, while she was working on her doctorate at Cornell. Carl Sagan served as a technical advisor for the book, and he was also on her dissertation committee. Her most widely read book is 1990's A Natural History of the Senses, which inspired a five-part Nova miniseries, Mystery of the Senses, which she hosted. She even has a molecule named after her: dianeackerone.
In 1970, she married novelist and poet Paul West. They shared a playful obsession with words that was central to their expressions of love for each other. In 2005, Paul suffered a stroke that resulted in global aphasia — an inability to process language — and reduced his vast vocabulary to a single syllable: mem. Even when he recovered the ability to speak, his brain kept substituting wrong words for the right ones, but she encouraged him not to fight his brain, but to just go with it, to say what it was giving him to say. As a result, the hundred little pet names he used to have for her before the stroke have been replaced with non sequiturs like "my little bucket of hair" and "spy elf of the morning hallelujahs." Ackerman wrote about the stroke and Paul's journey back to language in her most recent memoir, One Hundred Words for Love (2011).


This Just In… The Mitosis Hegemony by Arthur van Kaseman

The Mitosis Hegemony: TechnoPolitics in the 21st Century is a hi-tech, sci-fi thriller about current trends that will collide soon to forever change the world as we know it. The book has received very positive reviews. Reviewer EM Dash at OnlineBookClub.org calls The Mitosis Hegemony “an incredibly sophisticated and detailed prediction of what may happen to our world in the near future... a modern version of 1984. It really is that good... everyone has to read this!’ 5-Star reviewer rgkmzk says at Amazon.com, “The Mitosis Hegemony by Arthur van Kaseman is “fantastic, well-researched [and] well-written,” comparing Mr. van Kaseman to Sherlock Holmes creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. “...every chapter causes the reader to think and wonder.” Another 5-Star reviewer, Charlene, of the Literary RR blogspot, states, “Within a chapter I was immersed in another world...” The Mitosis Hegemony “entertains while it provokes new insights into where our world is headed...”

“Fiction...? Politics...? Nonfiction...? You decide, but my suggestion is that you keep an eye on Mr. van Kaseman. He may know more than we think.”

You can order The Mitosis Hegemony here. Visit Arthur van Kaseman on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Keneally’s List

Thomas Keneally, the author best know for his Booker Prize-winning novel Schindler’s Ark, was born on this day in 1935. Schindler’s Ark was published in 1982 “when I still had hair,” Keneally said when January Magazine interviewed him in 1999. The book was later adapted for film by Stephen Spielberg and released as Schindler’s List and would become an Academy Award-winning movie.

On the occasion of Keneally’s birthday, Writer’s Almanac says:
Today is the birthday of Australian author Thomas Keneally (books by this author), born in Sydney in 1935. When he finished school, he decided to become a priest and studied for seven years in preparation. He eventually decided that he wasn't cut out for it, and he left the seminary in 1960, before his ordination. He remains interested in spiritual subjects and social questions. He's written 10 books of nonfiction and many novels; he's best known as the author of Schindler's Ark (1982), the book on which the Steven Spielberg film Schindler's List (1993) was based. It's the story of an opportunistic, alcoholic, womanizing German businessman, Oskar Schindler, who bribed and conned Nazi officials into letting him open his own labor camp staffed by Jewish prisoners. In time, Schindler began to use his labor camp to rescue hundreds of Jews from the concentration camps. Keneally told Publishers Weekly, "Stories of fallen people who stand out against the conditions that their betters succumb to are always fascinating. It was one of those times in history when saints are no good to you and only scoundrels who are pragmatic can save souls."
Keneally’s most recent book is 2012’s The Daughters of Mars, a novel about two Australian sisters who struggle to nurse soldiers badly wounded soldiers during World War I. ◊


This Just In… There's SomeTHING in My Basement by Nicole Osborne

Everyone is afraid of something. It’s those fears that hold you back, control your thoughts, and make you worry. But what if you didn’t have that fear? What if you, instead of fear, controlled your thoughts, your actions, your reactions?

There’s SomeTHING in My Basement is about a boy who is afraid. He has no control over his thoughts or actions, and he can’t seem to figure out what to do. In a moment of weakness, he panics! His mind races with crazy scenarios, his body is shaking, his heart pounding, and he runs away… as fast as he can. In the end, he's able to uncover the truth. Imagine his surprise when he finds somethings aren't always what they seem.

You can order There’s SomeTHING in My Basement here. Visit author Nicole Osborne on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


I, Frankenstein Like No Movie You’ve Ever Seen… Unless You Have

You’ve just got to love The Huffington Post’s take on the new Frankenstein movie called (wait for it!) I, Frankenstein.
The newest iteration of Frankenstein's monster, played by a buff Aaron Eckhart, is "like no other" -- unless you're familiar with "Hellboy" and "Prometheus" and "Thor" and "Underworld" and "I Am Legend."
Judge for yourself when you watch the official trailer below. Meanwhile, The Huffington Post’s piece is here.


This Just In… The Light: Tales From a Revolution -- New-Jersey by Lars D. H. Hedbor

As his world erupts in open warfare, Robert Harris’ Quaker faith guides him away from the use of violence for any purpose, even if the war could lead to the loss of his freedom to practice that faith.

Finding a balancing point between this existential threat and the commands of his inner light while struggling against the chance effects of war, Robert must also face the challenge of an implacable foe, determined to destroy him at any cost. He must rely on the quiet guidance of his conscience to keep his family safe, and lead them to freedom

You can order The Light here. Visit author Lars D. H. Hedbor
 on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Thursday, October 03, 2013

Non-Fiction: Working with Bitches by Meredith Fuller

Working with Bitches (DaCapo) is one of those books you’ll either not care much about one way or the other, or that will change your life almost as soon as you know it’s in the world. That is, if you need this book, you’ll know it when you see it.

The subtitle promises that the book will help you “Identify the 8 Types of Office Mean Girls and Rise Above Workplace Nastiness.” Again: this won’t speak to everyone and certainly not at all times, but I know from experience there are times in my life it would have been consoling, if nothing else, just to know this book was around and that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. As Fuller points out in her Prologue:
Bitchy behavior can be so insidious or slippery that it’s often hard to tell if you’re really being targeted or if you are simply too sensitive. You feel an uncomfortable mix of confused, amused, devastated, and angry. You don’t want to believe that someone in the sisterhood could possibly be working against you, whether consciously or unconsciously. You think you should be able to handle it, especially when you pride yourself on bringing out the best in others….but if you can’t fix it, the negative effect gets harder to cope with. You remain haunted by a cruel secret that you’re too humiliated to mention -- another woman is causing you grief, and you haven’t done a thing to deserve it.
Working psychologist Meredith Fuller helps readers recognize the eight types of office mean girls and -- more importantly -- how to deal with them.

Here, as Fuller sees it, are the eight types of workplace bitches:

The Excluder sees other women as oxygen thieves if there is no personal gain from communicating with them. She can pretend you don't exist and fail to pass on important information.

The Insecure micromanages everyone, trusts no one, and thinks that no one knows better than she does.

The Toxic is a two-faced game-player who should never be trusted. She'll suck up to you and be your best friend one minute, then gossip about you the next.

The Narcissist is a self-serving ego-centric mean girl who expects everyone to admire her. She doesn't care about the good of the company, only about looking good, and expects you to feed her ego.

The Screamer cries for attention, yells to intimidate, screams to insult, and then yells some more for good measure.

The Liar has mastered the art of excuses, quick fibs, and charming manipulations.

The Incompetent lacks knowledge, work ethic, and awareness. She makes you do the work for her or takes credit for your work in order to make herself look good.

The Not-a-Bitch may have an unfortunate or disagreeable manner, but is just trying to do her job.

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This Just In… The Marbella Project by Nigel James

When former SAS soldier Dan Green’s son is brutally murdered by the Russian Mafia in Puerto Banus on the Costa del Sol and the Spanish police seem powerless to act, he decides to take the law into his own hands. He recruits a former comrade and the two of them embark on a revenge mission as Dan vows to bring down the family which controls organized crime along the coast.

The bullets fly and the body count rises in this high octane thriller as Dan and his colleague attack the family and its interests while the family uses all its resources to track them down. The action switches from Spain to Moscow to London and then back again as both sides become increasingly desperate.

Will Dan achieve his objective? Or will his luck run out as the two sides chase each other across Europe?

You can order The Marbella Project here. Visit author Nigel James on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Thriller Author Tom Clancy Dead at 66

Beloved thriller author and Baltimore Orioles co-owner Tom Clancy is dead. Clancy died yesterday in a Baltimore hospital after a brief illness. He was 66.

Clancy was known for technically detailed thrillers dealing with the aftermath of the cold war. Over 100 million copies of Clancy’s novels are in print. According to The New York Times, Clancy was an insurance salesman when he wrote his first novel, The Hunt for Red October, in the mid-1980s. He sold it to the Naval Institute Press for $5000:
That publisher had never released a novel before, but the editors were taken with Mr. Clancy’s manuscript. They were concerned, however, that there were too many technical descriptions, so they asked him to make cuts. Mr. Clancy made revisions and cut at least 100 pages.
The book took off when President Ronald Reagan, who had received a copy, called it “my kind of yarn” and said that he couldn’t put it down.
After the book’s publication in 1985, Mr. Clancy was praised for his mastery of technical details about Soviet submarines and weaponry. Even high-ranking members of the military took notice of the book’s apparent inside knowledge.
In an interview in 1986, Mr. Clancy said, “When I met Navy Secretary John Lehman last year, the first thing he asked me about the book was, ‘Who the hell cleared it?’ “
David Shanks, a Penguin executive who worked with Mr. Clancy for decades, called him “a consummate author, creating the modern-day thriller, and one of the most visionary storytellers of our time.”
What will presumably by the final Jack Ryan book, Command Authority, Clancy’s 17th novel, is due to be published this coming December. Written with Mark Greaney, the story features former CIA agent and president Jack Ryan and his son Jack Ryan Jr.


This Just In… Soul on Nice by Norm Spitzig

Soul on Nice chronicles the latest and greatest adventures of the Old Bunbury Golf Links & Reading Club’s waitress extraordinaire Esther, the highly eccentric but undeniably lovable protagonist of author Norm Spitzig’s previous epic works.

This time out, the tale is truly global in scope, with Esther opening the novel zooming her way to New Zealand. This titanic clash between good and evil is part playful and evocative travelogue, part staunch conservative manifesto, part clever and poignant mystery, part whimsical exposé of the madcap world of private clubs, and all treasure trove of quirky good cheer.

Norm Spitzig, successful entrepreneur, private club governance and operations consultant, and eloquent, visionary, humorous and engaging speaker on a variety of important business and lifestyle topics, resides in the historic town of Mount Dora, Florida with his bride, Cody, and chocolate Labrador, Lucy.

You can order Soul on Nice here. Visit Norm Spitzig on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Best Children’s Books

Maybe the most surprising thing about the New York Public Library’s newly released list of 100 Great Children’s Books of the Last 100 Years is how surprising the list isn’t.

Lifetime readers will find many old friends here. Amelia Bedelia (1963), The Borrowers (1953), The Cat in the Hat (1957), Curious George (1941), Goodnight Moon (1947), The Hobbit (1937), Madeline (1939), Millions of Cats (1928) and other names familiar to generations of children.

Manny modern classics have been included, as well. The Arrival (2007), Because of Winn-Dixie (2000), Big Red Lollipop (2010), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1998), Where Is the Green Sheep? (2004) and many others.

Supervising Librarian, Elizabeth Bird, compiled the list. “We hope these suggestions will introduce new generations of readers to stories which will engage their imaginations as they participate in that age-old practice of passing on stories they enjoy to their friends and families.”

The list was published concurrent with a free exhibition that runs at the New York Public Library until March 23, 2014. The ABC Of It: Why Children’s Books Matter, opened in June at the Library’s landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building and explores the history and importance of children’s literature.

See the complete interactive list here. Read more about the exhibition here.


This Just In… Fatal Light Awareness by John O’Neill

Leonard Edison’s wife has a dark and frightening premonition -- that her husband will die before his next birthday.

Leonard, aware of this forecast, responds with the animal instinct of fight-or-flight: he wings away on an affair with a former student, engages in a series of petty crimes, neglects his dying mother, moves in with his strange, disaffected nephew (who is living off the spoils of a lottery win) and even flirts with the shadowy Toronto Goth world.

While he soars towards a new life that might slow the advance of fate, Leonard finds that fate keeps changing its many bird-like appearances: sometimes, the wings of darkness are hard and audible; sometimes, they are obscured by bright but fatal light.

Fatal Light Awareness casts a dangerous glow on its characters and on the city of Toronto. Shot through with dark humour, O’Neill’s novel is full of pain and portent. An assured and daring debut.” -- Lee Gowan

You can order Fatal Light Awareness here. Visit John O'Neill on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.