Friday, December 17, 2010

Room by Emma Donoghue

Room is a popular book right now. Based on recent news events, it’s about a young woman who was abducted and imprisoned in a small room for I’ve forgotten exactly how-many-long years. Unlike the real-life cases, “Ma” was not a child when she was kidnapped. The story is charmingly told from the viewpoint of her now five-year-old son, Jack (Happy birthday, Jack), who has never been outside the room where he was born and they are imprisoned.

There are only five or six chapters in this story, and they are long. The first two are mostly world-building, and one thing that makes it interesting to me, as a writer, is that Jack and Ma’s world is the exact opposite of the usual type of world-building that appears in science fiction and fantasy books such as Tolkien’s or Rowling’s. In those books, cities and countries, species and creatures, and magical abilities are created to expand the world beyond our current reality. In
Room, the world is the opposite. It is reduced to the bare necessities that will fit into a space the size of a backyard shed. While it was fascinating to imagine, and even more interesting to see how it was all perfectly natural to Jack, being the only world he knows, by the end of the second chapter, I was ready to move on. I wanted to see something happen.

And happen, it does. Jack is finally alerted to the fact that a whole other world exists beyond the confines of
Room, and it’s naturally scary to him in the same way that we might be a little frightened if, for instance, we were suddenly hit with proof that we’re not the only intelligent species in the universe, or discovered that life is not what we think it is. That’s kind of mind-blowing to us as adults. Imagine what it’s like to a five-year-old. But due to Ma’s persistence and Jack’s bravery, their world does suddenly expand, and then Jack must learn to adjust. 

Room is an entertaining story on a rare subject in novels. I’m not going to grade it on judgments about things Ma should or should not have done as other readers have, because until we’re in that situation, we have no room to judge. Some of Ma’s choices and decisions are what make the story and characters realistic.

Four bookmarks (one deducted for the chapter that made me want something to hurry up and happen). For an explanation of my bookmark system, click HERE.


 
 


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lolita in Japanese

When I read a book, I carry it around with me everywhere so that I can read any time I have a few minutes. Waiting in line at the grocery or the Giant Superstore that I hate with a passion is much less tiresome when I can stand there and read, and has probably saved the life of a cashier or two. Right now, I’m reading Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I had it out at work the other night, hoping for a minute or two, when a young friend (still a teenager) noticed it.

“Do you know what Lolita means in Japanese?” he asked.

Was it something I was unaware of? I’d bite: “What?”

“It means being a pervert for little girls!” he said. 


I shrugged. “Yeah, that’s what it means everywhere. It’s pretty much universal.”

He seemed a little alarmed. “Then why are  you
reading it?”

I was amused. “Because I never have. It’s classic literature, like War and Peace …”

His face registered no recognition.

“… or a Tale of Two Cities …”

“I’ve heard of that one,” he said.

“Oh. Good.” 


 


I shudder to think what they're not teaching kids in school these days.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas

My friend, Elizabeth Loupas', little Beagle, Cressie, was seriously injured this week, playing in her own back yard. When Elizabeth told us about it on Facebook, it reminded me to get over to her blog (I am sooooo bad about making the rounds!) to find out what happened. Poor little Cressie. Elizabeth was never able to figure it out. However, while I was there, I was also reminded to update you on the progress of her forthcoming book, The Second Duchess. It was due to come out in January, but for a mysterious reason, the date was pushed back to March 1. It is already garnering excellent reviews, as I knew all along that it would. Here's one from Publisher's Weekly, which is the Bible of the publishing business: 


The Second Duchess
Elizabeth Loupas, NAL, $15 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-451-23215-1
Robert Browning’s classic poem “My Last Duchess” provides the starting point for Loupas’s winning debut set in Renaissance Italy. Barbara of Austria, the virgin bride of Alfonso d’Este, the fifth and last Borgia duke of Ferrara, has heard rumors that Alfonso murdered his first wife, but by marrying the duke she has escaped the convent as well as her controlling brother, Maximilian II. “Banquets and music, dancing and fashion, loving and loathing–everything is an art in Ferrara,” one of the duke’s sisters tells Barbara, who must carefully maneuver around the gossip about her predecessor, gossip that the duke has forbidden, as she seeks to establish herself at court. Meanwhile, spies lurk around every corner, ready to besmirch her reputation and standing. Readers will warm immediately to the clever, intelligent Barbara, while the demanding, sometimes brutal, Alfonso makes an intriguing man of mystery.


And here's another from Joseph - Beth Booksellers. Bookstores get to read advance copies of everything coming out so they'll know what to buy, and what to put on the front and center table of the bookstore.



The Second Duchess, by Elizabeth Loupas (9780451232151, 3/1/2011.)

Barbara of Austria comes to the Duke d’Este as his second wife and is immediately confronted by whispers and insinuations about her predecessor. Did her new husband really murder his first wife? The proud Hapsburg wife attempts to solve the mystery, while the ghost of the previous duchess observes and comments on her efforts. A charming riff on Robert Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess.”
Jennie Turner-Collins
Joseph Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati



And even more good news! The Second Duchess got a book club deal! She has been selected as a featured alternate for the Literary Guild, the Mystery Guild, the Doubleday Book Club, and the Book of the Month Club Online.


There are two more bits of news: Elizabeth (or Elisabetta, as I like to call her) is arranging a combination book-launch party and beagle adoption event at Murder by the Book in Houston. She adopted both of her dogs from Houston Beagle and Hound Rescue, so if you live in that area, you might want to mark your calendar for that. When she gives me a firm date, I'll pass it on to you. 


Secondly, there's a possibility that she'll be in Nashville in August for a writer's conference (Killer Nashville), and with any kind of luck, maybe she'll arrange a book signing there, too. I'm definitely asking for time off work to attend, if she does that. Gina-re, make up the sofa for me! 

One last tidbit here, if you've ever wondered about the publishing process, about how a manuscript becomes a book, just follow along in Elisabetta's blog.

An imperial archduchess, a Medici princess, and the last Borgia duke—intrigue, passion and murder at the glittering Renaissance court of Ferrara. The Second Duchess is now available for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Powell's, Books-a-Million, and of course your favorite indie bookstore. In Memphis, please buy from Burke's Books at 936 South Cooper in Midtown!

Friday, December 03, 2010

WELCOME TO HORN LAKE, MISSISSIPPI

Welcome to Horn Lake, Mississippi where we’re sanctioned to vandalize your car. We’re serious about our parking ordinances in Horn Lake; so serious that we skip the courtesy notice and fair warning, and go straight to defacing your property. After all, you should have known you’re not allowed to park on your own grass. How long have you lived in Horn Lake? A month? A month is plenty long enough to acquaint yourself with our local ordinances. Don’t you go to the town meetings? Haven’t you stopped by City Hall to research all the possible laws you might be breaking just by living in Horn Lake? Well, too bad for you, then. Paper tickets under the windshield wiper? Why, yes, we’ve heard of them, but those are too easy to ignore, too easy to throw away. We really want your attention!

The cop next door to you had us come out and post the entire street corner by his house as a No Parking Zone, so on-street parking is forbidden. Then there’s that fire hydrant you can’t block between the corner and the only four feet of grass that’s yours, so don’t have anyone over to visit unless you can talk a neighbor into letting them park in his or her driveway, because there just isn’t anywhere else. You might try the edge of the park one street over. Just don’t let us catch you there. You also can’t bike, rollerblade, or skateboard there. God knows The South, and Horn Lake, in particular, is famous for the residents being tubs of lard so no exercise in the park! No fun! It’s forbidden. 




We must keep our reputation for being an ignorant bunch of hicks at all cost! Now go move your car before we tow it off. And welcome to Horn Lake, Mississippi.  Notice that this ticket is signed by Dan Smith, who is now head of Animal Control.

Thinking of moving to Horn Lake? Here's another post you might want to read before finalizing that decision! Welcome to Horn Lake, MS Again
.

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