Friday, August 23, 2013

A Pre-Revolutionary French Feast of Fiction

The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood


In pre-revolutionary France, Jean-Marie d'Aumout's earliest memories are of eating beetles from the dung heap outside his dead parent's home. After being rescued from this, he’s brought to a school for other sons of the impoverished aristocracy. There he begins a new life, one that brings him many adventures, and throughout it all, he culls his palate for exotic foods and fills his journals the remarkable recipes he invents.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Gender Roles in Literature

Do Female Characters Get the Short Shrift?


A friend of mine turned my attention to an article by Sophia McDougall in the New Statesman entitled "I hate strong female characters." In truth, Ms. McDougall doesn't really hate them; she just dislikes the use of the word "strong" to describe them. She's upset that this seems to be the only adjective available, while male characters get whole slews of them. Moreover, she feels that this promotes having two dimensional female background characters when men are front and center, and getting all the juicy qualities. 



Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Slavery Through Women's Eyes

The Wedding Gift by Marlene Suyapa Bodden 


This is the story of two women - Sarah Campbell and Theodora Allen. Sarah was born in 1846, a slave at the Allen Estates. Theodora Allen married Cornelius, the master of the plantation. Sarah is also the bastard daughter of Cornelius, half sister to Theodora's Clarissa. Sarah's mother Emmeline only goes to Cornelius' bed to ensure her children will stay on the plantation. Despite the feeling of betrayal, Theodora comes to care for both Emmeline and Sarah, especially since Sarah is not only Clarissa's maid, she is also her childhood companion, as well as one of the gifts that Cornelius gives Clarissa when she gets married.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Fictional Story of 'The Missingest Man in New York'


The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon


During the early part of the 20th century, dozens of public figures rose to power that were barely more than puppets for the many gangsters that flourished. From this time comes the story of Judge Joseph Force Crater and his mysterious disappearance on August 6, 1930. The investigation and speculation that followed for decades afterwards, garnered him with the title of "the missingest man in New York." This cold case has now been fictionally re-opened from a new angle - that of the women in Crater's life.

The fact that this infamous case may not be familiar to most

Monday, August 5, 2013

A New Fairy Tale & Ballet

Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger


The latest work by author of "The Time Traveler's Wife" Audrey Niffenegger is a modern fairy tale, written to also be the story of a ballet. The plot is deceptively simple. A postman finds a young female raven that has fallen from her nest. He takes her home and eventually they fall in love. From their union the Raven Girl is born. The rest of the tale is her story.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

On Genre Preferences and Reviewing Books

Can a reviewer do justice to a book in a genre they don't usually read?



I recently found out that a good friend of mine is finally getting a book published. Since I've had the pleasure of reading and reviewing books by several friends, my immediate reaction was to ask her if I could get an ARC[1] for the book. But then I remembered - she's into fantasy and science fiction. When I mentioned this to her, she said "no problem - its horses for courses and it doesn't matter how kindly you look upon an author, you're not going to like anything in a genre that's not your thing." (Yes, she does really talk that way - she lives in Yorkshire.)

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Trek of Self-Discovery

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce


Queenie, an old colleague of Harold's, is dying. When Harold gets the news, he finds he can't post the letter he's written to her, so he just keeps on walking. And so he starts his 627 mile walk that takes him 87 days away from his home and wife Maureen in Kingsbridge in Cornwall to Queenie in the hospice in Berwick in Scotland. This is "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" by Rachel Joyce.