Posts Tagged ‘bookpage’

6th April
2011
written by Steph
For the April issue of BookPage, I pulled double duty and reviewed two new releases, one a debut novel (written by a septuagenarian!), and the other by one of those authors who perpetually finds herself on a the top of the NYT bestseller list.

First up: The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew. I fully admit that I wasn't convinced that I would like this novel when I agreed to review it, but I'm really glad that I kept an open mind because I ultimately found it to be a really powerful evocation of race relations in the South. I worried it would be too derivative of other similar titles, but there is no denying the strength of the narrative Mayhew has created, and it definitely stands on its own two feet (provided book have feet...). Fans of Southern fiction, or those who have enjoyed books like The Help or The Secret Life of Bees definitely need to check this one out. For more info, read my whole review here. And as an added bonus, I did a Q&A with the author which is pretty fascinating if I do say so myself!

As for the heavy-hitter author, I also covered Luanne Rice's latest novel, The Silver Boat. Featuring three sisters who come together to pack up their family summer house in preparation for its sale, this one is great for people who love family sagas filled with rifts and secrets. Check out my full review here!
17th March
2011
written by Steph

Just because I'm not writing about books here for the moment, that doesn't mean I've completely forsaken them! On Tuesday I got together with some of the wonderful women who work over at BookPage and sat down for a podcast in which we discussed Lionel Shriver's most recent novel, So Much For That. It was a vibrant and spirited discussion, which really helped to remind me why it is I started this blog in the first place: so that I could connect with others who are passionate about reading. As much as reading can be a solitary activity, I think the best books are the ones that get us thinking and talking and ultimately connecting with others. Not all of us responded to Shriver's latest work in the same way (I may have been a contrarian for much of this podcast... as in life), but it was still a really thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion, and yes it was a lot of fun! If you'd like to hear four passionate readers take off their gloves and throw down, you could do no better than listen to our discussion! I won't spill the beans and say whether or not I actually liked this book... you'll just have to listen to find out. [And really, it's the first question we answer, so you don't really have to listen for very long if you don't want to... I encourage you to listen to at least the first 5 minutes of the podcast for not just the answer to this very important question but also to listen to the awesome "Pemba" music at the start! 😉 ] Listen to the BookPage So Much For That Podcast by following this link! (more…)
1st March
2011
written by Steph
I apologize that of late it feels like I write more reviews on others sites than I do here, but you know the drill by now: new month, new BookPage, new reviews by Steph and Tony!

This month I covered Rebecca Hunt's debut novel, Mr. Chartwell. You might not normally expect the words "chronic depression" and "quirky" to go hand-in-hand, but they merrily skip about in this novel. Taking inspiration from the fact that Sir Winston Churchill used to refer to his battle with depression as his "black dog", Hunt takes the metaphor and makes it real in the form of beastly Mr. Chartwell, a hulking black lab. While Winston Churchill obviously plays a role in the book, to me the most intriguing character was entirely of Hunt's own creation, Esther Hammerhans who has troubles of her own. This was a quiet yet spirited novel that I found very thoughtful and probing. If you'd like to read more about it, you can read my full review here.

Tony tackled a much larger book than I this month (ain't that always the case?), and reviewed Jonathan Evison's latest novel, West of Here. The book has already been getting a lot of buzz and BookPage actually chose it as their top pick of the month! If you're into sweeping epics that span multiple periods of time, then this is the book for you. It features a small town in the Pacific Northwest and looks at the building of a damn back in the 1800s and how it is pivotal to sustaining life in that region... only for the damn to become a burden in the modern age. A intelligent look at the way the country and our lives have changed, this is a book you'll not want to miss. You should also not miss Tony's review, which you can check out here!
10th February
2011
written by Steph

The lovely Ms. Harkness

A Discovery of Witches has spent the past few days in the Top 10 Bestsellers on Amazon (and demand is so high that orders are taking a few extra days to process as copies of the book are located) so it hardly needs my help in the publicity department. That said, I know many of you expressed interest in the book when I linked to my review earlier this month, so I have an added treat for those of you who are still on the fence (or who have already devoured the book and are going through withdrawal): I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Deborah Harkness for BookPage and my Q&A with her is now available online and can be read here. Talking to Deborah was such a pleasure — we wound up talking for 75 minutes, and the time just flew; Deborah was so warm and her answers were so thoughtful. I got lots of details on how the series evolved (as well as some hints about its future directions), Deborah's approach to reading and writing, and plenty of other juicy details so have at it and let me know what you think!
2nd February
2011
written by Steph
Tony and I both have new reviews up at BookPage that y'all simply must take a gander at!

Regular readers at S&TI! know that my relationship with witches in books is generally circumscribed to the Harry Potter series, so you may be surprised to hear that I recently fell in love with an epic novel that features witches, daemons, and yes, those pesky vampires! For the February issue of BookPage, I selected Deborah Harkness' debut fiction novel, A Discovery of Witches, and I am SO glad I did. Featuring a feisty and intelligent heroine (who just happens to be an academic scholar!), this novel combines fantastical elements with everything I love in my books: academia, libraries, books, science, and a wonderful love story to boot. You know that I tend to shy away from books that are longer than 400 pages, but this book came in at almost 700 pages, and I read it in something like three days and was so despondent when it was over. It is so incredibly rich and absorbing, that even if the fantastical isn't normally your thing, you owe it to yourself to read this book. I actually had the chance to talk to Deborah Harkness about the book (and bonus: she is an absolute delight!) and she mentioned that she loves big chunky books, and one of her favorite novels is Possession by A.S. Byatt, which I think is actually quite evident in this novel. All to say that if you're wary, don't be! Harkness presents the supernatural in a way you've never before experienced it, and it is legitimately thrilling. I loved this book so much! To read more about the premise and why this book is so kick-ass, read my full review here. (P.S. I gushed about this book so effusively that it wound up being BookPage's pick of the month!)

Tony wrote a web exclusive on another debut novel that's getting an awful lot of buzz, that being The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore. Bruno is a chimpanzee who examines exactly what it means to be human. I know some people are not keen on animal narrators (I admit, I initially thought the idea was a bit gimicky), but by all accounts this is a really unique and powerful book that raises a lot of interesting questions in a surprisingly serious way. I haven't yet read Bruno, but I kept our ARC of it because I know I will want to experience this brave and challenging novel for myself. To read the thoughts of someone who actually did read the book, you can read Tony's review here! All in all, two phenominal books that are worth splurging on, if I do say so myself! Do either of these titles appeal to you? Any new releases coming out this month that you're particularly looking forward to?
20th January
2011
written by Steph

I recently interviewed Ron Reagan, son of America's 40th president, Ronald Reagan, about his recently released memoir, My Father at 100 over at BookPage. Anyone who knows me knows that politics aren't really my shtick, and certainly not American politics, so I was super nervous going into this interview. I am happy to report that it went swimmingly and that Ron Reagan is a wonderfully nice guy with a great sense of humor and the entire thing wound up being a complete blast! For those of you interested in reading a no-holds bar conversation on Reagan's thoughts on the current state of the nation and what his father was really like, you can read my interview here. It's chock full of lots of juicy tidbits and Reagan doesn't pussyfoot around controversial issues, so it's a pretty fun read if I do say so myself!
3rd January
2011
written by Steph
It seems like most bloggers (including myself) have vowed to try to read books they already own for at least the first three months of the year. So clearly the best thing I can do is highlight two new releases to tempt y'all to fall off the wagon post-haste! In the newest issue of BookPage, Tony and I both have reviews up of two pretty great books that it would be a shame for you to miss out on.

First up: The Sherlockian by Graham Moore. Tony reviewed this one because he is a huge Sherlock Holmes fan (who isn't, really?), and the premise of two stories - one involving Sherlock's creator Arthur Conan Doyle, and one in modern times involving a society of Sherlock devotees - that interweave was certainly intriguing. At a time of the year when reading time is hard to find, Tony managed to make plenty of time to plow through this book, which offers plenty of twists and is a lovely homage to one of literature's most beloved detectives. To read more of his (far more eloquent and penetrating) thoughts on this read, read his full review here.

Next: The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly, which I was super excited to snag for review. If comparisons to Jane Austen are my number one kryptonite, than comparisons to Tana French come in a close second, so I knew I just had to give this thriller a whirl when such parallels began to be drawn. This is one of those "murder in reverse" type tales, one where we know what crime has been committed and by whom (or so we think), and the bulk of the novel is spent detailing the events that lead up to the crime in question. I'm a big fan of books that are able to maintain suspense after laying down a high card so early on, and this one works really well, especially because Kelly flits back and forth between past and present. This is one of those books that keeps raising the stakes and picking up speed as it goes on, so don't be surprised if you gulp it all down in a single sitting. For more of the nitty grity on plot and whatnot, check out my full review here! Both really good reads and I wouldn't blame you if you broke your TBR resolve to pick up either of them! I'm just thankful we already have our copies! 😉
1st December
2010
written by Steph

What a beautiful thing it is...

If you're at all like me, you've probably never taken Steve Martin as an author very seriously. I mean, am I really meant to believe that a man who willingly stars in Cheaper By The Dozen is capable of writing quality literature? Actually, as it turns out, the answer is a resounding: Hell yes! I know that many bloggers have been charmed by Martin's previous novella, Shopgirl, but I admit I never felt I needed to read it despite their praise. Now, I'm going to do something I pretty much never do and say that I was wrong. Because while I can't say anything about the merits of Shopgirl as I still haven't read it, I can say that An Object of Beauty, Martin's latest literary offering is a damn good read. More than just a pretty cover, this book is a fascinating (if fictional) trek through the rise and fall of Lacey Yeager and the New York art scene, something I didn't think I cared about, but apparently I do. And you will too if you read this book! Because it is really good! It's definitely got an old-fashioned vibe to it, but doesn't feel dated or stodgy, just like one of those books that's a walloping good read in the great American literary tradition. I liked An Object of Beauty so much that it is actually BookPage's top pick for the month of December! For more gushing, you can read my full review online here. I compare it to The Great Gatsby, and not in a hyperbolic way. This is one 2010 book that you do not want to miss out on!
18th November
2010
written by Steph

Is Salman Rushdie one of those authors on your bucket list? You know the ones, authors you've always meant to read, but the sight of their name in print causes your timbers to shiver and your blood to run cold. You see the word "Rushdie" and immediately other words race to mind: "Satanic Verses", "fatwa" and even more chilling "Booker Prize winner". If any of these statements apply to you, then we have good news for you: Luka and the Fire of Life is now in stores and waiting for you to read it! This is Rushdie as written for kids (or young adults), but accessible and enjoyable for adults too! Not ready to test the waters on your own? No worries! Tony read and reviewed Luka for the December issue of BookPage, but you can read his thoughts on the book online right now, right here! This book would probably be a great introduction to all you Rushdie scaredy-cats out there, but it's also satisfying storytelling for those who've already braved the man and lived to tell the tale. I personally have been wanting to add a little more Rushdie to my life, so I'll likely be picking this one up soon myself. Head on over to BookPage and check out Tony's review for all the details and be sure to let us know what you think!
2nd November
2010
written by Steph

This month, we've got a bounty of books for you to discover over at BookPage! In the November issue, Tony reviews the newest Dennis Lehane novel, Moonlight Mile, which is a must-read for any thriller/mystery buffs out there. I can say from personal experience, that Tony devoured this baby in two sittings, greatly neglecting his wife in the process... but isn't that what great books are all about? Making spouses jealous (because they aren't the ones reading said book... )? 😛 Check out his review in full here!

Also, I have a bunch of web-exclusive content that is now up. For fans of creepy Victorian era fiction (and really, who doesn't like that kind of stuff?), you might be interested in checking out my interview with Kathe Koja, where I ask her about her newest book, Under The Poppy. Koja's book is set in Brussels during the 1870s and involves brothels and puppet shows, amongst various other things... As if that wasn't enough of a reason to check out the interview, Koja is a Sarah Waters fan... Read her thoughts on historical fiction, the appeal of YA novels, and more here!

I also did a brief and extremely fun Q&A with author, Tilar J Mazzeo regarding the iconic perfume, Chanel No. 5, which is the focus of her newest work of non-fiction, The Secret of Chanel No. 5. Definitely something to read if you're hoping to add a little decadence to your life. Find out what goes into researching the most popular and intoxicating perfume across the ages, by reading the interview here.

Last but not least, I also reviewed Rose Tremain's most recent novel, Trespass, which you can read here. I'd never read anything by Tremain prior to this, but I loved the fast-paced narrative, lush French countryside setting, and the dark, disturbing secrets that she wove together here. I'll definitely be checking out more Tremain in the future!
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