Posts tagged with "literary fiction"

Posted by dnapravn. on 09/09/14
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A Man Called Ove is the debut novel of Swedish author Fredrik Backman and is, in my opinion, a real gem. I laughed out loud, cried out loud, and seriously did not want this book to end.
Ove is, in a word, grumpy. He likes things his way and only his way. He drives a Saab and has no patience for anyone that doesn't. He is a rule follower and expects all others to be as well. He spends hours patroling the grounds of his housing community. He is a cat-hater and is not too crazy about kids either. So why does a mangy cat that he refers to as Cat Annoyance keep showing up on his doorstep?
When Ove is forced into early retirement, the recently widowed 59-year-old devises a plan to deal with the emptiness in his life. He doesn't figure on the new neighbors, a stray cat, old friends, and a mail carrier, among others, to mess up that plan.
This is a story about love and loss, life and death, loyalty, doing the right thing, crazy neighbors, and a whole lot more. I loved this novel and its quirky characters. This is, by far, one of my favorite reads of the year.

Posted by Auntie Anne. on 05/27/11
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I looked up the meaning of "goon squad" in the online Urban Dictionary.  There are many definitions, besides the traditional one of hired thugs.  The definition that best describes this book is "a group of slightly sketchy males, who drive fast even in [crumby] cars, wear aviators, blast music and smoke. The difference between these men and bros (besides the smoking) is that inside members of the goon squad have hearts of gold."
A Visit From the Goon Squad is, at first glance, a series of short stories about a group of people involved in the music industry.  The first few chapters are difficult reading because the characters are ones you don't feel compelled to care too much about.  They are train wrecks.  Each chapter takes place in a different setting and time - New York City, San Francisco, a safari in Kenya, Naples, the Arizona desert.  Each chapter also has its own style and voice - one spoken like a Bay Area punk rocker, one revealing forward flashes to future tragedies of members on safari, one a PowerPoint Presentation diary of a 12-year-old, one largely comprised of text messages.
As confusing as it begins, the author's talent as a writer draws you into the characters, revealing to her readers why some characters are such train wrecks, why others rise above their past.  You begin to see how all the characters are inter-connected in some way, and how each has influenced the lives of others.  You feel compelled to read on . . . until you get to the last chapter, where you realize the book has come full circle, but in the present, not the past where it started out.  As one editorial review from Publisher's Weekly so aptly stated, "This powerful novel chronicles how and why we change, even as the song stays the same."
A Visit From the Goon Squad is indeed powerful, written in a creative, unorthodox style.  Worthy of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction?  You decide.

Posted by Ultra Violet on 03/01/12
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A beautiful operatic soprano is set to be the star attraction at a gala event, when terrorists attack the home of a Japanese ambassador and hold the array of wealthy,  priveledged guests as hostages. Patchett writes complex characters and creates interesting relationships between the captives and their captors. Lyric Opera of Chicago just recieived a commision as part of the Renee Flemming Initiative for creating an Opera of Bel Canto. Instead of a well-established composer, Lyric has chosen young, Peruvian-born composer, Jimmy Lopez, to create the score and Sir Andrew Davis will be conducting.  WFMT has the story. December 2015 will be the premier. Certainly looking forward to this one!

Posted by dnapravn. on 06/13/13
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I’ve been a fan of Kent Haruf’s novels since Plainsong came out in 1999. His newest novel, Benediction, is written in his sparse, hauntingly beautiful style and does not disappoint.
Like his other novels, Benediction is set on the high plains of eastern Colorado in the fictional town of Holt. Seventy-seven year old hardware store owner “Dad” Lewis has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. As his wife, Mary, and daughter, Lorraine, work to make his last days as comfortable as possible, we become witness to what Dad treasures most in life. We learn of his secrets as well as meet the members of his community who rally around both Dad and his family.
This is a beautifully written book about a man’s last days. Beyond that though, it is a book about love and regret and the ties that bind us together. If you have never read a Kent Haruf novel, I urge you to give one a try.

Posted by Auntie Anne. on 05/18/12
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In this sequel to Wish You Were Here, Emily Maxwell is adjusting to being a widow, living alone, mourning not only her husband's death but the upsetting changes in her quiet Pittsburgh neighborhood. Like any grandmother, she looks forward to the Christmas visit from her children and grandchildren. But when her best friend and sister-in-law, Arlene, ends up in the hospital, Emily has to face another change in her life.  Since Arlene had driven her everywhere, Emily now had to drive herself.  So she buys a new car and reluctantly becomes a much more independent person. These small events in Emily's life have an unexpected effect, making her a much stronger person, one that looks forward to what life has to offer, even at the age of 80.
Stewart O'Nan has a talent for putting life under a microscope, enabling his readers to understand their own lives.  What may seem very ordinary becomes a heartfelt examination of human nature and the milestones of one's life.  O'Nan's sympathetic portrayal of characters such as Emily Maxwell gives them dignity, as he makes readers privy to their thoughts, motivations, and dreams.  If you like literary fiction that is slower paced, written in a lyrical, richly-detailed but spare style, you will enjoy Emily Alone.

Posted by Auntie Anne. on 08/05/12
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"Let me tell you something, son. When you’re young, and you head out to wonderful, everything is fresh and bright as a brand-new penny, but before you get to wonderful you’re going to have to pass through all right. And when you get to all right, stop and take a good, long look, because that may be as far as you’re ever going to go.”  This is the advice given to 5-year-old Sam Haislett, the speaker of which should have heeded his own advice.

Charlie Beale was a handsome, charismatic 39-year-old war veteran in 1948 when he wandered into sleepy Brownsville, Virginia.  He carried with him two suitcases, one full of money, the other full of knives.  Charlie liked what he saw in Brownsville and decided to stay.  He talked the local butcher into giving him a job (hence the suitcase full of knives), and soon he became well-liked by the townspeople, and adored by young Sam, the butcher's son.  The day that beautiful, young Sylvan Glass walked into his life, Charlie Beale was never the same. "She went off in his head and his heart like a firecracker on the 4th of July."

Sylvan Glass was the teenage wife of Boatie Glass, the richest, greediest, and most mean-spirited man around. Sylvan was raised in a backwoods berg to dirt-poor parents who were sadly desperate enough to sell her to Glass.  Although she had no education, Sylvan was wily enough to reinvent herself into a Hollywood starlet wannabe, fashioning her new persona from movie magazines and afternoon matinees.  So when Charlie, along with young Sam always in tow, entered her life, she saw him as a means of playing out her fantasy life.  Unfortunately, Sam was always there as an innocent witness, reading comic books at Sylvan's kitchen table, while she and Charlie were upstairs. It's obvious from the start that this flirtation can come to no good.  And the reader gets a personal accounting from adult Sam Haislett who narrates tragic events of the story.

Heading Out to Wonderful reminded me of a runaway train. It started out nice and calm, even passing some beautiful scenery along the way.  But soon enough you realize that the train is out of control as it picks up speed.  You're hoping that the crash won't be that bad because you have become invested in the book's very well-developed and interesting characters. Then comes the crash, and, wow, you never saw that one coming!

A Booklist reviewer says that Goolrick, in Heading Out to Wonderful, "creates a mesmerizing gothic tale of a good man gone wrong." It is mesmerizing indeed, a book you won't want to put down.  It is implied at the beginning of the book that Charlie Beale had somewhat of a checkered past, and I sure would like to have found out where he got all that money in his suitcase.  The author unfortunately bypasses those key bits of information.  But other than that, I give this book two thumbs up.

Posted by LucyS on 07/30/16
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An unspeakable tragedy happens to a family and community. A young boy, Dusty, is accidentally killed in a hunting accident by a neighbor. According to Landreaux Iron’s Native American traditions, if a child of another family dies from your actions, you will make amends by giving them a child of yours. He tells Dusty's parents, “Our son will be your son now . . . it’s the old way”. Except the year is 1999 and it is almost impossible to honor this custom. Yet they try. LaRose Iron, 5 years old, is given to Dusty’s family. Two families anguished by guilt and blame. How can one family give up their child and how can the other family accept?
The story is told in a multi-vocal manner by several characters; there are no quotation marks to indicate speech so the words flow as if they are thoughts. LaRose is an exceptional child, wise beyond his years, a healer, and is the conduit toward restitution and atonement.
I was fascinated by the main concept and how these ordinary people try to live their lives as best as they can. The topics are heavy yet leavened with hopefulness. I got a glimpse into a culture different from mine. I think that author Louise Erdrich, who shares both Native American and German heritage, interlaces the intricacies of relationships and issues fluidly.
The author is the narrator for the audiobook, read with a rich, clear voice.

Posted by Trixie on 03/30/15
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"I start to run, start to turn into air, the blue careening off the sky, careening after me, as I sink into green, shades and shades of it, blending and spinning into yellow, freaking yellow, then head-on colliding in the punk-hair purple of lupine: everywhere. I vacuum it in, all of it, in, in – (SELF-PORTRAIT: Boy Detonates Grenade of Awesome) – getting happy now, the gulpy, out-of-breath kind that makes you feel you have a thousand lives crammed inside your measly one…"
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I absolutely adored this book! It’s beautifully written and had me laughing, crying, and completely giddy. I raced through it like light speeding through the universe.
(SELF-PORTRAIT: Teen Librarian Squealing with Delight)
Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun is about twins Noah and Jude. Like most twins, they are incredibly close; they have an uncanny ability to know what the other is thinking and can finish each other’s sentences. Noah is an eccentric artist. He’s constantly drawing or painting, sometimes just in his head. Jude is a gregarious daredevil. She loves surfing and makes friends easily. The story begins when the twins are thirteen, a time when they’re experiencing change and exploring life. It continues through sixteen when they’ve seemingly switched roles. They’re coming to terms with the heartbreak they’ve felt due to tragedy and loss, tentatively living their lives and trying to rebuild.
The novel shifts between Noah’s and Jude’s perspectives alternating from early to later years. The voices and viewpoints juxtaposed plainly shows that neither character has the whole story. Throughout Noah’s narration, his artist mind is evident: he’s constantly imagining his surroundings in colors and relays how he’d describe the moment on canvas or paper and what he’d name it. Jude’s are filled with quirky wives’ tales and superstition.
Nelson’s writing is lyrical and expressive. The characters and imagery jump off the page. The characters’ confusion, heartache, and elation are felt through description. Nelson weaves a vivid tale of life, loss, and love intertwined with a message about self-identity and being true to yourself.
This is a must-read for romantics, artists, inspiration seekers, and lovers of words!

Posted by SherriT on 10/05/18
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I recently discovered with much excitement that 2018 is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

There is something so comforting about escaping into the heartwarming pages of this story and each time I reread it I am struck by a different character or line. I know I am not alone in imagining myself as Jo and drawing strength from this smart, courageous heroine as a young girl. Now, as a mother, I also find in Marmee inspiration to be the wise, loving parent I hope to be to my children. Readers witness the sisters growing up and figuring out what role each wants to play in the world, and, along the way, join them on countless unforgettable adventures. Whether you are taking up Little Women for the first time or the twelth, it is a wonderful time to celebrate this incredible story.

If you loved Little Women and are looking for something else to inspire you try a book on this list:


Posted by Ultra Violet on 10/22/11
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A New York man is continually visited by future versions of himself each dispensing advice or warnings. Through all of the craziness of being manipulated by himself, the only thing that he can count on is his unrelenting love for one woman. A strange, funny and charming story.

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