Monday, July 7, 2008

The Writing Class by Jincy Willett (4 / 5 Stars)

The Writing Class by Jincy Willet is many things: intelligently-humorous, whip-smart, well-written, entertaining, engrossing, suspenseful, and scary – just to name a few! When I grow up I want to be Jincy Willett!

This book will be a real treat for all fiction lovers, writers, and wannabe writers. The Writing Class manages to combine mystery/suspense elements with classic fiction elements making the end result a fast-paced thriller for smart readers as well as a semi-tutorial on how to write a decent story.

In the novel, reclusive eccentric Amy Gallup teaches an extension fiction writing class at the local college. At first, Amy is pleasantly surprised by the high potential exhibited by this semester’s group of students. However, her dream class soon turns into a nightmare when one of the students starts playing malevolent pranks on both Amy and on the other students. The pranks eventually escalate to murder and Amy must use everything at her disposal to try and nab the killer amongst the group. The resource with the most potential is the student’s writing and Amy examines each student’s prose for the clues.

Anyone who has participated in a writing workshop (or for that matter, in any small collegiate class) will be able to relate to the class dynamic portrayed in this novel. As is almost always the case in these courses, the class is comprised of the know-it-all, the slacker, the pretty girl, the class clown, etc. The characters are maddening, amusing, and creepy and all of the other adjectives one can remember people in school being. Ms. Willett’s descriptive talents are truly frightening (pun intended)!

Although, Amy Gallup (the workshop teacher), would admonish me for my use of cliché, I can’t help but describe this novel as a “real page turner!”

Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity by Kerry Cohen (3.5 / 5 Stars)

Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity follows Kerry Cohen's harrowing trajectory from young, insecure, and confused girl to healthy, assured, and balanced adult. And what a journey it is. This memoir will leave you breathless due to the shear candor of Kerry’s tale. Kerry bares her soul wide open and it isn’t always pretty. Of course, that’s what makes Loose girl so compelling.

Kerry spent her youth looking for love and acceptance in all the wrong places and in all the wrong ways. She tried to quell her intense need and anxiety by immersing herself in shallow, physical relationships with boys. It took many years of heartbreak, broken relationships (familial, platonic and romantic), physical maladies, and soul searching before Kerry found her way out of this dark abyss. She takes her readers along every leg of this intense journey with grace, candor and perceptive insight into her own past feelings and actions.

Kerry lets the reader take a good hard look at all the pain, insecurity and intense desire for acceptance experienced by teenage girls and shows how very wrong things can go for a young girl who doesn’t have guidance, boundary limits and parental support. This memoir is as much of a cautionary tale for parents as it is anything else.

Loose Girl works as both a captivating story and as an important addition to the zeitgeist of contemporary non-fiction due to the insight it provides into the mind and motivations of a certain sub-set of teenage girls.

Loose Girl is important and relevant in much the same way that Koren Zailckas’s ground-breaking memoir Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood was – namely it can make us more tolerant, understanding and empathetic people because it is hard to be judgmental about controversial behavior once the motivation behind it is understood. Also, readers of these memoirs with similar circumstances might be able to gain enough introspection so as not to repeat the same mistakes- maybe, because as we learn by reading these memoirs, sometimes one just needs to take the journey and hope to come out okay once on the other side.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Celebrity Book Recommendations

What does Sally Field think you should read next? The answer to that is Edna Ferber's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, So Big. Here is a brief description of the book:

Winner of the 1924 Pulitzer Prize, So Big is widely regarded as Edna Ferber's crowning achievement. A rollicking panorama of Chicago's high and low life, this stunning novel follows the travails of gambler's daughter Selina Peake Dejong as she struggles to maintain her dignity, her family, and her sanity in the face of monumental challenges.

The New York Times describes it as "A novel to read and to remember."

Salman Rushdie Appearance

If you live in South Florida, don't miss the chance to see Salman Rushdie speak and have your copy of his new novel , The Enchantress of Florence, signed.

Mr. Rushdie has been described as one of the world's most important living writers. His past novels include: Midnight's Children (winner of the Booker Prize); The Satanic Verses (winner of the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel); Fury (A New York Times Notable Book); and Shalimar the Clown (a Time Book of the Year).

The event is being sponsored by Books & Books and the Florida Center for the Literary Arts. Tickets can be obtained by purchasing The Enchantress of Florence from any Books & Books location or by pre-ordering your book by phone.


(Doors will open at 6:00pm for will-call and purchase. Only those books purchased at Books & Books will be eligible for signing.)

Decir Que?

This week, the back page of the New York Times Book Review is devoted to an article amusingly titled, "Transloosely Literated" written by Henry Alford and prompted me to wonder how much we as readers are truly able to appreciate books originally written in foreign languages. Are we picking up on all the nuances and messages the author intended to convey? How important to the reading experience is understanding the author's intentions? The answers to those complex questions are not going to be answered on this blog, but here are some fun tibits regarding foreign translations of popular novels written by Americans:

  • The Russian title for J. D. Salinger’s classic tale of adolescence translates as “Above the Precipice in the Rye.”
  • A clerk in a Yokohama bookshop once told John Steinbeck's (author of the classic novel, "The Grapes of Wrath") wife that yes, he had a copy of Steinbeck’s “Angry Raisins.”
  • The Brazilian title of Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel “Prep” translates as “Pre-surgery Shaving.”
  • In the Brazilian edition of Jacquelyn Mitchard’s novel “The Deep End of the Ocean,” the passage “Beth truly wanted to be mad. A few bricks shy of a load. A few ants short of a picnic” was translated as “Beth felt like an ant who hadn’t been invited to the picnic.”
(p.s. the books pictured above are comical translations of the following classics: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; The Fall of the House of Usher; Watership Down; A Farewell to Arms; Pride & Prejudice; A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; The Satanic Verses; The Call of the Wild; The Naked and the Dead)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Next Big Thing in Books


It appears that the book world is finally making its foray into the new millenium and it's starting with a new book series titled The 39 Clues. No one can deny that computers and the internet are no longer just the wave of the future - the future is here and all media is now driven by and dependent on the internet and books don't want to be left behind.

The 39 Clues, is a series that will feature 10 books (the first goes on sale in September) as well as related internet-based games, collectors’ cards and cash prizes. Now it has been announced that DreamWorks has acquired the film rights and the movies will be directed by Steven Spielberg.

Spielberg, Dreamworks, & Scholastic released the following statement:"`The 39 Clues' takes creative leaps to expand the story experience from the pages of the books to multiple stages of discovery and imagination."

The 39 Clues will be about a powerful, mysterious family that lives in upstate New York. The first installment, "The Maze of Bones," was written by Rick Riordan. Jude Watson and Gordon Korman are among those who will write future volumes.
Like Harry Potter, The 39 Clues is geared towards kids and young adults, however, I hope that also like Harry Potter, the books will be appetizing to adults as well. Can't wait!
*The Maze of Bones on Sale September 9, 2008*

Go Indie!

Indie Bound is this great website whose goal is build support for independent community bookstores. Indie Bound's mission is stated as a goal "to band together with like-minded folks across the country to celebrate our independent natures, our free-thinking retailers and our unique communities".
It is a great place to find interesting, new books that you might not find at Barnes and Noble and Borders. Every week, Indie Bound lists the hottest indie bestsellers.
Check out Indie Bound at
These are my favorite independent bookstores in South Florida:
Books and Books (Coral Gables, South Beach, Bal Harbor -
The Bookstore in the Grove (Coconut Grove)
Well Read Used Books (Fort Lauderdale)

Friday, July 4, 2008

When you Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (2.5 out of 5 Stars)

When You Are Engulfed in Flames is another typical effort by David Sedaris. Fans of Mr. Sedaris' previous works know exactly what to expect with a Sedaris essay collection, and although they won't be completely disappointed, they might wonder if they had already read this one before.

As a huge fan of David Sedaris' previous essay collections, it is with a heavy heart that I write my fear that Mr. Sedaris has finally exhausted his repertoire. While still somewhat amusing, the stories feel recycled and tired and seem to comprise of all the antedotes we have read before.

David Sedaris needs a new shtick because after reading When You Are Engulfed in Flames, I felt the same way I do after I watched the third sequal to a once great movie.

Songs for the Missing - A Pre-Publication Review (4 out of 5 Stars)

Songs for the Missing is yet another example of Stewart O'Nan's exemplary powers of description and talent.

Songs for the Missing, O'Nan's 13th work of fiction, depicts a typical midwestern family dealing with the aftermath of the disappearance of the oldest child, Kim.

Songs for the Missing is not a mystery or a crime story, rather it is an in depth character study. Whether Kim is found or not really seems to be besides the point because we all know how these stories typically end in real life. O'Nan adroitly captures the essence of each character in the story and each character seems to really come alive on the page.

Although, I have never been to a rural, midwestern town, Mr. O'Nan's ability to write so descriptively made me feel as if I had been to this town and knew it intimately. I felt as if I had driven down the main highway, had a slurpee at the Conoco Gas Station, and went swimming at the lake.

While reading Songs for the Missing, you will find yourself so immersed in the trials and travails of Kim's family and friends that you feel as if you have lived their experience with them and will feel sad when the novel ends.

*ON SALE OCTOBER 30, 2008*

How to Be Single by Liz Tuccillo (4.5 out of 5 Stars)

Liz Tuccillo deftly captures real women's experiences, thoughts, fears, and feelings in her debut novel How to Be Single.

Women who are 25 and already married or who are 38 and single (like the characters in the novel) will both be able to relate to the women portrayed in this book because deep down all women seem to share the same fears whether due to their real current situations or fear of what the future might hold. Ms. Tuccillo truly has a gift when it comes to being able to tap into the fears and anxieties of today's modern women and convey the same in her writing.

The fact that Liz Tuccillo really did traverse the globe researching how single women live all over the world adds glitz and fun to the novel. We, the reader, are treated to glimpses of how women live in Reykjavik, Beijing, Sydney, Paris, Rome, Rio de Janiero, and New York. The locales are exotic and the tales heart-wrentching and uplifting.

Like Sex and the City (for which Liz Truccillo was Executive Story Editor), How to Be Single is sure to strike a chord with women everywhere.

After reading How to Be Single, you will feel like you know Liz and wish that you really did.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy 4th of July!

The Hamburger: A History
In the spirit of our great nation's birthday, I thought I would post a brief description of a new book out which focuses on the quintessential American backyard cookout favorite - the hamburger.
Here is the book description from Amazon:
This fast-paced and entertaining book unfolds the immense significance of the hamburger as an American icon. Josh Ozersky shows how the history of the burger is entwined with American business and culture and, unexpectedly, how the burger’s story is in many ways the story of the country that invented (and reinvented) it.

The hamburger played an important role in America’s transformation into a mobile, suburban culture, and today, America’s favorite sandwich is nothing short of an irrepressible economic and cultural force. How this all happened, and why, is a remarkable story, told here with insight, humor, and gusto.
I hope that everyone enjoys their burgers tomorrow! Happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I'm Back!

To my faithful readers (hi, Mom),

I apologize for my protracted absence and neglect of Bits of Lit & More. Things got kind of crazy at work and my blogging fell by the wayside. However, I am happy and excited to announce that I am back on track! There will be regular updates and posts on books and book news going forward!

Welcome back and thanks for understanding!

- Brianna