WCBE

Literature

Literature

"Too Tough to Die." Those words are tattooed on Cass Neary, the antihero of Elizabeth Hand's crime-novel series that began with Generation Loss and continued with Available Dark and the new Hard Light. Where those words are inked — and why Cass chose to put them there — is one of the many jagged, tragic details that make the series so compelling: In the early '80s, at the age of 23, Cass was stabbed and raped. Her tattoo covers the scar she incurred that night — and in a perverse way, it also proudly tags it. (Not that she dwells on it.)

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin packs her bags for an emotional summer at the beach with The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews.

Title: The Weekenders

Author: Mary Kay Andrews

Pages: 409

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

ISBN: 978-1250065940

And read Kristin's full review on NightsAndWeekends.com.

Sherman Alexie's new children's book stars Thunder Boy Smith, a little boy who was named after his dad. "People call him Big Thunder," the boy says of his father. "That nickname is a storm filling up the sky. People call me Little Thunder. That nickname makes me sound like a burp or a fart." Over the course of Thunder Boy Jr., the boy emerges from his dad's shadow to become his own person.

A young schoolteacher named Adina arrives at her apartment in an unnamed Romanian town. She immediately notices an odd detail: A fox-fur hearth rug she has owned for years has had its tail cut off. She next comes home to discover a hind leg severed from the pelt, and once more to find another leg removed. What in the world? In this particular world no detail is without meaning, and all meanings are potentially lethal. It is the late 1980s, in the Panopticon security state of Nicolae Ceausescu, and the mutilated rug convinces Adina that Big Brother is closing in on her.

South Korean author Han Kang was awarded the Man Booker International Prize for fiction for her dark novel The Vegetarian at a London ceremony on Monday.

The novel, Han's first to be translated into English, is about a woman who decides to stop eating meat and wants to become a tree. Her decision has devastating consequences and raises concerns among family members that she is mentally ill.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin spends a holiday weekend on the case with Claire Malloy in Pride v. Prejudice by Joan Hess

Title: Pride v. Prejudice (Claire Malloy Mysteries #20)

Author: Joan Hess

Pages: 306

Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks

ISBN: 978-1250081179

And read Kristin's full review on NightsAndWeekends.com.

'People Want These Stories': Women Win Big At The Nebula Awards

May 16, 2016

The wave of conversation about diversity and representation in fiction is about to crest again: Women swept this year's Nebula Awards, handed out this past weekend in Chicago.

On the second floor of an old Bavarian palace in Munich, Germany, there's a library with high ceilings, a distinctly bookish smell and one of the world's most extensive collections of Latin texts. About 20 researchers from all over the world work in small offices around the room.

They're laboring on a comprehensive Latin dictionary that's been in progress since 1894. The most recently published volume contained all the words beginning with the letter P. That was back in 2010.

The best opening sentence in the history of modern science fiction belongs to William Gibson. And with his new novel, Central Station, Lavie Tidhar now holds the title for best opening paragraph:

In Sarah Parrish's second-grade classroom, the colors are loud, but the kids are quiet.

It's Thursday morning. Her students sit at their desks, reading to themselves. Books about Ramona and Junie B. Jones. Mystery books, fantasy books ...

Marisa Sotelino has just finished Horse Diaries #3: Koda. She grins when asked about it, showing a mouthful of light green braces.

"It's interesting to see other people, or animals' point of view," she explains, "because, well, you can't be a different person."

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin stalks the hottest boy band in the audio edition of Goldy Moldavsky’s young adult adventure Kill the Boy Band.

Title: Kill the Boy Band

Author: Goldy Moldavsky

Runtime: 6 hours, 54 minutes

Publisher: Scholastic Audio

AISN: B01BG14E1W

And read Kristin's full review on NightsAndWeekends.com.

This time 50 years ago, "Monday, Monday" by The Mamas & the Papas was the No. 1 song in the U.S. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann was the New York Times best-selling novel. The Vietnam War was intensifying. The Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum. Kauai King was en route to win the 92nd Kentucky Derby.

Growing up Muslim in Canada had its challenges for Zarqa Nawaz, starting with school lunch. Her mother insisted on sending Nawaz off with home-cooked chicken that smelled of cumin, when all she wanted was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, like all the other kids. Years later, Nawaz has turned a lifetime of culture clashes into a career as a writer and filmmaker. In her work, she uses humor to humanize a religion she loves, but others fear.

'The Queue' Carries On A Dystopian Lineage

May 5, 2016

In an unspecified Middle Eastern city, a doctor is drawn to and troubled by a particular patient file. The file documents the injuries of a man named Yehya, sustained after a skirmish called the Disgraceful Events. Not only are the events shrouded in mystery; Yehya himself does not know who shot him. And the doctor would have already removed the bullet, except for the fact that in that aftermath of the Disgraceful Events, the government has made it illegal to do so without a certain permit. Yehya must get that permit so the doctor can do the surgery.

Mental illness has long been a mainstay of literature, from Don Quixote and Jane Eyre to Mrs. Dalloway and Madame Bovary. And why not? It's interesting. Novels like Crime and Punishment and The Catcher in the Rye find cultural insights in the tumult of nonconforming, besieged minds. Others, like Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot and Walker Percy's The Second Coming explore the devastating toll of mental illness on loved ones.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin refills her coffee cup for author Caroline Fardig’s second Java Jive Mystery, Mug Shot.

Title: Mug Shot (Java Jive Mystery #2)

Author: Caroline Fardig

Pages: 246

Publisher: Alibi

AISN: B01208O1D6

And read Kristin's full review on NightsAndWeekends.com.

How do we remember our experiences when grief has consumed them? It seems like a heavy question for a book called The Square Root of Summer to tackle, and while this book does deliver on the title's promise of teenage vacation hijinks, romance, and mathematical equations, it also presents a heartrending quandary: How to move forward with a life that has been defined by loss.

3 Generations Of Trauma Haunt 'Ladivine'

Apr 28, 2016

Fair warning: Guilt, shame, grief, cruelty — the denser flavors of the human dynamic — make for intense reading. Not handled well, such heavyweight emotions easily turn to stone. But the sharp-edged writing in Marie NDiaye's second novel, Ladivine, warrants spending time with her bleak vision of reality. Committed readers may find unexpected rewards in the harrowing twists and turns this gloomy family drama takes.

So now we know who Beyonce's favorite poet is: 27-year-old Somali-Brit Warsan Shire.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin dives into a new mystery series with Skinny Dipping with Murder, author Auralee Wallace’s first Otter Lake Mystery.

Title: Skinny Dipping with Murder (Otter Lake Mysteries, #1)

Author: Auralee Wallace

Pages: 305

Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks

ISBN: 978-1250077776

When it comes to Shakespeare's legacy, it seems safe to conclude that "what's past is prologue."

Today marks 400 years since the day Shakespeare died, and people are celebrating his life and work around the world.

April 23 is also believed to be the Bard's birthday. As you might expect, the biggest events honoring Shakespeare are taking place in the U.K.

"Don't touch that!"

"Don't eat that!"

These phrases are well known to children of a certain age.

Little kids don't quite get why eating ice cream for breakfast five days a week is not a good idea. They may be confused about why, exactly, potatoes are food while rocks are, well, not something to put in your mouth. I mean, take a moment to consider that both come from the ground, both are covered in dirt, and both have a shape that could rightly be described as "potato-y."

James Brown always wanted to take the stage last.

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin travels to fairy tale land with a couple of adventurous siblings in the audio edition of Sarah Mlynowski’s first Whatever After novel, Fairest of All.

Title: Fairest of All (Whatever After, #1)

Author: Sarah Mlynowski

Runtime: 3 hours, 20 minutes

Publisher: Scholastic Audio

AISN: B00HZ7FSV2

Returning to a book you've read multiple times can feel like drinks with an old friend. There's a welcome familiarity — but also sometimes a slight suspicion that time has changed you both, and thus the relationship. But books don't change, people do. And that's what makes the act of rereading so rich and transformative.

Every writer knows the paralyzing terror of the blank page. For poet Tess Taylor, the antidote to fear came through farming.

Taylor is the author of Work & Days, a new volume of poetry inspired by her year spent working on a farm in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. She was there living alone in a cabin as part of a writer's residency, finishing her first book of verse, and "had nothing to do but write," she says. "The idea of facing the blank page for that much time really scared me."

On this week’s Shelf Discovery, Kristin is paired up with an unlikely couple in author Kemper Donovan’s The Decent Proposal.

Title: The Decent Proposal

Author: Kemper Donovan

Pages: 305

Publisher: Harper

ISBN: 978-0062391629

And read Kristin's full review on NightsAndWeekends.com.

'Every Heart' Is A Doorway To Winning Fantasy

Apr 9, 2016

Seanan McGuire's award-winning novels and short stories have been testing the parameters of genre fiction for years now, but always with a deep love of horror and fantasy. That hasn't changed in her new novella, Every Heart a Doorway. Rather, she's doubled down — and in half the number of pages. Tight and tautly told, Every Heart grabs one of speculative fiction's most enduring tropes — the portal fantasy, where a person slips from the real world into a magical realm somewhere beyond — and wrings it for all the poignancy, dark humor, and head-spinning twists it can get.

The very mention of the Silk Roads creates an instant image: camel caravans trudging through the high plains and deserts of central Asia, carrying silks, spices and philosophies to Europe and the larger Mediterranean. And while these ancient routes may remain embedded in our imagination, they have, over the past few centuries, slowly faded in importance. The region today is home to despotic regimes, failing states and endless conflict. But historian Peter Frankopan thinks that the Silk Roads "are rising again."

It's 9:30 on a Thursday night and Chinese and foreign jazz fans descend on the JZ Club in Shanghai's former French Concession. Glasses clink and the splashing sound of cymbals ripple through a cabaret setting bathed in soft red light.

Andrew Field, an American historian, says clubs like JZ represent a return to Shanghai's cosmopolitan past.

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