Apeirogon by Colum McCann

I have never been a big Colum McCann fan, but this one cements it for me. I read Let the Great World Spin with an open mind, but by the end of it I had been battered so hard with cliches, tropes and an author constantly trying to peel the onions under my eyes to make me cry, that I threw it against a wall (not really, but you know?).

Apeirogon (April 2020): An Israeli man and a Palestinian man search for peace in an ancient Middle Eastern conflict when both of their daughters are killed.

Publisher’s Weekly seems to be jumping on the train with hardly a critical word for Apeirogon in its review: “McCann evokes the experience of its protagonists and their region through 1,001 brief numbered segments that incorporate sequences in the men’s own voices and interconnect topics including bullet manufacturing, Jorge Luis Borges, and birds. Balancing its dazzling intellectual breadth with moments of searing intimacy.”

But Kirkus Reviews has a very different take: “Rarely does McCann incorporate the voices of women. Smadar and Abir are necessarily rendered silent by their deaths, but McCann doesn’t make much space, either, for Rami’s and Bassam’s wives to inhabit. Nor does he assemble women writers, artists, and intellectuals with anything approaching the frequency with which he defers to figures like Darwish and Borges.”

In an age when we are confronting stereotypical depictions of silent, voiceless women in fiction, McCann can’t seem to get out from under the rock. Worse, the smug, supposedly high-minded literary world (who looks down their noses at genre fiction) can’t get enough of him. Maybe this tone deaf novel to the #MeToo movement will turn them against him. Doubtful though, the National Book Award winner is entrenched in the lit world. But he has proven himself again to me as Captain Cliche and Patriarch of Tropes.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

“This path is only for people who have no choice, no other option, only violence and misery behind you,” a priest warns the protagonist who is about to set out on a perilous journey. “Many will be maimed or injured. Many will die. Many, many of you will be kidnapped, tortured, trafficked or ransomed … every single one of you will be robbed.”

Jeanine Cummins’s third novel, American Dirt (January 21, 2020), is an action-packed wild ride. A middle-class wife of a Mexican journalist is suddenly forced to flee with her eight-year-old son and find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, the mother and son ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, the mother soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to? Trump’s America.

Cummins researched the background to American Dirt by spending time in the borderlands and listening to the personal stories of migrants and those who support them. 

She said, “The more I listened, the more compelled I felt to write this novel. It was daunting at first, but it’s thrilling now to see the book provoke such a passionate response in the publishing world.”

I can’t wait for this book. From what I’ve heard, it’s almost like an action film in its presentation. It also has the added bonus of being powered by a political stance, which goes a long way on the NYTimes bestsellers lists.

But this is a true humanitarian story. So many books have outlined how difficult the Jewish, Irish and Italian peoples’ immigrant stories were in their flight from war, corruption, holocaust and famine and their arrival to America. Why would we avoid writing about the same story from the perspective of Latin Americans today? Latin Americans are the backbone in the service and construction industries now, as Jewish, Irish and Italians were in the past. They are the new working class that are starting at the bottom, and who will fight to get their children through college and becomes doctors, lawyers and politicians in the second and third generation.

I just pre-ordered this book. So should you!

Winds of Winter – Summer 2020

Could it be true? We have been waiting for this since 2011 When A Dance with Dragons was released, which ended with Jon Snow’s murder. What a cliffhanger! (until we saw the beginning of Season 6 Game of Thrones).

Still, for those pure book lovers who prefer A Song of Ice and Fire books to the HBO series, this is huge, HUGE news! Here is a quote from author George R. R. Martin.

Recent photo of George R. R. Martin where he confirms he is an actual wizard.

“As for finishing my book… I fear that New Zealand would distract me entirely too much.   Best leave me here in Westeros for the nonce.  But I tell you this — if I don’t have THE WINDS OF WINTER in hand when I arrive in New Zealand for Worldcon, you have here my formal written permission to imprison me in a small cabin on White Island, overlooking that lake of sulfuric acid, until I’m done.”

GRRM was formally invited by the country of New Zealand to come and finish his book in relative quiet (umm, there was a volcano eruption recently, so, yeah). Anyhow, no word on when the RELEASE of the book will be. Ugh!

William Gibson – Agency

Agency is a forthcoming science fiction novel by William Gibson, to be released on January 21, 2020.

I don’t know about you but I have been a William Gibson fan ever since my father clued me into him when I was a kid. I cannot WAIT until this one comes out. I tried to get an ARC, but to no avail so we’ll just have to wait until the book comes out to review it. BUT an Amazon reviewer was able to get one and I copied his review below.

Agency is a ‘sequel and a prequel’ to his previous novel The Peripheral (2014), reusing the time travel technology from the novel to explore an alternative 2017 where Hillary Clinton won the 2016 Presidential election The story line further explores the concept of the “Jackpot”, a back-story element of The Peripheral.

One plot will be set in the alternative 2017, with a young woman named Verity testing a new form of avatar software developed by the military, for a start-up in San Francisco . A second plot line involves people in a post-apocalyptic 22nd Century meddling with 2017.

 The year is 2017, and Verity Jane is a talented “app whisperer” who is hired to test a new artificial intelligence called “Eunice.” Verity soon becomes aware that the AI is quite powerful, something that she hesitates to share with her employers. But she can’t hide for long. While Agency opens in 2017, it is a book with both feet placed firmly in the future—a novel of variable timelines, including one set in London where shady characters can reach back into the past to manipulate Verity’s present. The book is a sequel of sorts to Gibson’s 2014 novel The Peripheral—it is set in the same universe and shares some characters—but it can be read on its own. With its pithy short chapters and mind-bending plot, with the recognizably erudite characters and Gibson-esque language and dialogue, and with the inventiveness of a great science fiction, this is a fun first read of the new decade. Agency will entertain you, but it will also leave you with thoughts to chew on. —Chris Schluep, Amazon Book Review

The Yellow Bird Sings

The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner

If you haven’t gotten your fill yet on World War II books, this is expected to be a very good one.

During World War II in Poland, a Jewish mother and her musical prodigy daughter hide in a neighbor’s barn as Nazis round up the Jews in their town. Anxious to keep her young daughter Shira quiet and safe, Roza tells her a story about a girl who lives in an enchanted garden. The girl is not allowed to make any noise so instead, a yellow bird sings: the bird sings whatever the girl composes in her head. While the enchanted tale keeps Shira safe initially, the Germans decide to use the barn where they are hiding, and Roza is forced to make a choice no mother should have to make.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

A prequel? Yes! This new novel takes place in Panem 60 years before the events of The Hunger Games. Collins’s best-selling trilogy ushered in a new phase of Y.A. literature, earning young and adult fans alike; even if a small fraction of those readers pick up this prequel, it will be a hit.

The book is due in stores May 19, but the big question is, will there be a movie? Joe Drake, Chairman of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group (which adapted The Hunger Games) said, “As the proud home of the Hunger Games movies, we can hardly wait for Suzanne’s next book to be published. We’ve been communicating with her during the writing process and we look forward to continuing to work closely with her on the movie.”

Adoring fans are going wild and the memes have been continuous. There seems to have been some undercover writing going on here as most of us had no idea this was in the works. What!? Happy surprise? Well, not for everyone. Some people see this as just another way for a book publisher, author and possibly movie studios to cash in on a known brand.

Still though, Katniss! I admit that YA books are limited in their scope of topics and themes, but I love to hear about kids reading books. When I was younger Harry Potter got me reading at a young age. I was hooked on reading ever since. If this can continue to get kids to open books, I’m all for it.

Suzanne Collins is the author of the groundbreaking Hunger Games trilogy for young adults: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. She is also the author of the picture book Year of the Jungle, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and the New York Times bestselling Underland Chronicles series for middle-grade readers, which started with Gregor the Overlander.

Great Fiction from 2019 — The Irresponsible Reader

Once I settled on dividing this chunk of my reading out for its own list, I knew instantly half of the books that’d make it before I even looked at my reading log. After my first cut (which was pretty hard), I had 20+ candidates for the other 5 spots. Whittling those down was difficult, […]

My Favorite Crime/Mystery/Detective/Thriller Fiction of 2019 — The Irresponsible Reader

Hilary Mantel in 2020

Probably the most popular historical novel series, Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy will most likely take center stage in the book world come March when The Mirror & the Light will be published.

Publisher HarperCollins says the novel will offer “a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage”

I am not a big fan of the idea of a series that puts Thomas Cromwell in a positive light, particularly after some of the things he is known to have done, but then again. . . Sometimes the most interesting characters are those who have done terrible things.

I also found the writing style a bit confusing. The use of the word “he” and the inordinate amount of characters that go by the name “Thomas,” left me turning back to pages I already read. Eventually, like the rest of us, I caught on.

Wolf Hall (2009), which outlined Cromwell’s rise to power, and Bring Up the Bodies (2012), which covers the beheading of Anne Boleyn. Both novels won the Booker prize and have sold a combined 1.5m copies, making the third one of the most anticipated novels of the decade.

I admit to some British history fatigue, however. Having been born and lived in other countries beside those in Europe and the US, I often feel the market is over-saturated with Anglophilic novels.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m going to read The Mirror & the Light happily. The political backstabbing between characters is fascinating and the series often underscores the malevolent genius of British politicians. And can certainly inform us today.

Mantel said of the third book, “When I began work on my Thomas Cromwell books back in 2005, I had high hopes, but it took time to feel out the full scope of the material. I didn’t know at first I would write a trilogy, but gradually I realized the richness and fascination of this extraordinary life. Since then I have been on a long journey, with the good companionship of archivists, artists, booksellers, librarians, actors, producers, and—most importantly—millions of readers through the world. I hope they will stay with me as we walk the last miles of Cromwell’s life, ascending to unprecedented riches and honour and abruptly descending to the scaffold at Tower Hill. This book has been the greatest challenge of my writing life, and the most rewarding; I hope and trust my readers will find it has been worth the wait.”

Books I Hope to Find Under My Tree — lenikova | tia nicole

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl I’ll admit it: I’ve already purchased most of the books on my wishlist during the mad rush of Black Friday sales. Still, there are a few I’m crossing my fingers are in some of the boxes […]

Books I Hope to Find Under My Tree — lenikova | tia nicole

I Love Fiction

hello and welcome!

There is nothing I love more than to read books. I have a day job that has nothing to do with books (unfortunately!), but a few of my close friends are editors or agents or work for PR agencies and I have even met a few writers. All of them have told me I should start my own blog. For a couple years I debated it, but for the new year I decided I’d give it a whirl.

Fiction is my bag. Whether it is genre fiction or literary fiction, I love it. Anything from Charlotte Bronte to Anne Rice, Herman Melville to JK Rowling, I am all over the spectrum.

🙂

Good advice. My friends tell me that I always give measured, good advice. That’s what my aim is here. I don’t want to color stories in a negative light, but I don’t want to be effusive either. That’s my style. Straight shooter, but I’ll let you know when something touches me in the soul. That’s what I love most about books anyway.

Thank you!

I’m a pretty private person. But I know people will be asking, so here goes: I grew up in Virginia. Went to college in California & NYU. Travelled the world for two years and now live outside New York City. I don’t like to talk too much about myself unless I’m face-to-face with you, so I’ll just say this: I’m 31, I am of mostly of Southwest Asian heritage, I love animals, I’m worried about having a child (I always get asked about children, ugh), my job is important to me, I only drink wine WHILE cooking so I can think straight while reading myself to sleep.

I wish you good will,

Janey

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