Daily Archives: May 24, 2011

Book Buzz: Debut Authors

As part of the celebration of books and The Armchair BEA, I’m doing a series on the new books due for publication over the next few months. Check out my first post in the series: Highly Anticipated Books.

Today’s Book Buzz is all about debut authors.

I don’t know about you, but I love nothing better than discovering a new author – someone whose work blows me away, who speaks to my heart, or who simply just tells a great story. So as I was searching on Edelweiss, I looked for books by authors who are publishing their first novel. Here are the ones who stood out for me:

Due for release September 2011 through Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, We The Animals by Justin Torres (ISBN 9780547576725) looks to be one of the most anticipated debuts of the year. The novel centers around three brothers and their parents. The publisher describes the book this way:

Life in this family is fierce and absorbing, full of chaos and heartbreak and the euphoria of belonging completely to one another. From the intense familial unity felt by a child to the profound alienation he endures as he begins to see the world, this beautiful novel reinvents the coming-of-age story in a way that is sly and punch-in-the-stomach powerful.Written in magical language with unforgettable images, this is a stunning exploration of the viscerally charged landscape of growing up, how deeply we are formed by our earliest bonds, and how we are ultimately propelled at escape velocity toward our futures.

Author Michael Cunningham says that We The Animals is “a dark jewel of a book. It’s heartbreaking. It’s beautiful. It resembles no other book I’ve read. We should all be grateful for Justin Torres, a brilliant, ferocious new voice.

Justin Torres grew up in upstate New York, where this novel is set. His work has appeared in Granta, Tin House, and Glimmer Train. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is a recipient of the Rolón United States Artist Fellowship in Literature, and is now a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. Torres was featured on National Public Radio’s Book Tour: Stories from Two Bright New Literary Voices and was called one of “Five New Queer Voices to Watch Out For” by Lambda Literary. Torres is definitely an author to watch for – at only 30 years old, he has many productive years ahead of him.

Readers will have to wait until February 2012 to get their hands on The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (ISBN 9780316175678). Reagan Author Books is publishing this literary novel set in Alaska in 1918. Inspired by a Russian fairy tale, The Snow Child centers around Jack and Mabel, a couple who are drifting apart, but in a moment of levity, build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone, but they catch sight of an elusive, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. The child, who calls herself Faina, will change Jack and Mabel’s lives forever.

The Snow Child is a vivid story of isolation and hope on the Alaska frontier, a narrative of struggle with the elements and the elemental conflict between one’s inner demons and dreams, and the miracle of human connection and community in a spectacular, dangerous world. You will not soon forget this story of learning to accept the gifts that fate and love can bring.

Eowyn LeMay Ivey was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters. She received her BA in journalism and minor in creative writing through the honors program at Western Washington University, studied creative nonfiction at the University of Alaska Anchorage graduate program, and worked for nearly 10 years as an award-winning reporter at the Frontiersman newspaper. Read more about Ivey and her work at the author’s beautiful website.

The Sisters by Nancy Jensen (ISBN 9780312542702) is due for release in October 2011 through St. Martin’s Press. Compared to Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, it is being described as “a dazzling debut novel about the family bonds that remain even when they seem irretrievably torn apart.” The novel opens in Kentucky in the 1920s with Bertie Fisher and her older sister Mabel, left alone after the death of their parents. Through a chain of misunderstandings, the two sisters are separated. The novel moves from the Depression through World War II and Vietnam, as Bertie and Mabel raise daughters—and sisters—of their own.

Gorgeously written, with extraordinary insight and emotional truth, Nancy Jensen’s debut novel illuminates the far-reaching power of family and family secrets.

Nancy Jensen is a graduate of the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College. Her short stories and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals, including Northwest Review, Other Voices, Under the Sun, and The Louisville Review. She lives in Kentucky, where she was awarded an Artist Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and an Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council. Visit the author’s website to learn more about Jensen and her work.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (ISBN 9780385534635) will be released by Doubleday in September 2011. This novel looks like a richly detailed, magical book. Publisher’s Weekly calls the book a “tale of greed, fate, and love…a giant, magical story destined for bestsellerdom” and author Brunonia Barry said that The Night Circus held her “willingly captive in a world of almost unbearable beauty.” The publisher describes it as follows:

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway-a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love-a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

Erin Morgenstern is a writer and multimedia artist who describes all her work as being “fairy tales in one way or another.” She lives in Massachusetts with her husband. Read more about Morgenstern by visiting the author’s website.

Watch for my third post of the Book Buzz series: Summer Reads

Armchair BEA Day 2: Best of 2011

Welcome to Day 2 of The Armchair BEA. Today there are giveaways galore being offered on individual blogs – check out this post to get links. I’m giving away books through the official Armchair BEA blog (ongoing), so today I decided to accept the prompt to write about my favorite books so far in 2011.

I should preface this to say that I am having a great year in reading…I’ve read so many good books so far that I had a hard time narrowing down the ones I wanted to talk about today. I thought I’d talk about five of my favorites so far (in ascending order).

#5 Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich – Harper Perennial; Reprint edition, February 2011 (ISBN 978-0061536106) – read my review.

Mesmerizing, disturbing and unputdownable, Shadow Tag is the story of a marriage gone terribly wrong…and it is possibly one of the most memorable reads so far this year.

Erdrich’s writing has a poetic, yet stark quality to it. Her characters come alive on the page. She deftly controls the plot, teasing out tantalizing morsels of information that keep the reader turning the pages. Shadow Tag is not an enjoyable read – it made my mouth grow dry and made my heart ache. There is an element of  inevitability which informs the story. How can things possibly be fixed between these two characters? How can the children ultimately be saved from the wreck of their family?

#4 Galore by Michael Crummey – Other Press, March 2011 (ISBN 978-1590514344) – read my review.

Michael Crummey’s fantastical family saga begins in the latter part of the 18th century in the fictional town of Paradise Deep, Newfoundland when a whale beaches itself and the townspeople are shocked to discover a man in its belly who they christen Judah. Rich and alluring, this book was magical and beautifully told.

Crummey takes his readers along a crooked and convoluted journey over the course of more than 100 years, introducing a multitude of unique and quirky characters. A helpful family tree is provided at the beginning of the novel which keeps all the connections straight – but, it is the folklore and rumor, and the personalities of the characters which drive the narrative. There is a feeling of other-worldliness to the novel – a sense that life is circular, that history repeats itself, that family stories go on and on, replaying themselves, and becoming more fantastical, that they are part of who we are and who we become.

#3 The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown – Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, January 2011 (ISBN 978-0399157226) – read my review.

I read Eleanor Brown’s debut novel midway through January, and it is still one of my favorites of the year. Centered around three sisters, this is a novel that uses the unusual technique of a “collective narrative.” Honest, heartfelt, funny, this is a book that made my heart leap.

[…] perhaps what makes The Weird Sisters so compellingly readable is the relationships between the characters. Anyone who has ever enjoyed a sibling relationship, but especially those with sisters of their own, will recognize the ambivalence, petty jealousies, and ultimately the love that binds them each to the other. Who among us does not revert instantly to our childhood personalities and ways of behaving the moment we are all together again as a nuclear family?

#2 The Paperbark Shoe by Goldie Goldbloom – Picador, March 2011 (ISBN 978-0312674502) – read my review.

This novel won the 2008 AWP Award for the Novel for good reason. Set in Australia during WWII, it tells the story of an albino woman named Gin Boyle and her husband Toad. I loved Goldbloom’s quirky characters, her beautiful language, and a glimpse into another time and place.

Many readers will wonder where the beauty is in this novel among the scarred and damaged characters, and the dry and desolate countryside, but I think those most observant will discover that the beauty lies in how the story is told – its honesty and its acute examination of what it means to be different in a society where uniqueness is often perceived as negative.

#1 Every Last One by Anna Quindlen – Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition, March 2011 (ISBN 978-0812976885) –  read my review.

Where do I begin? I loved the characters in this book. I loved its honesty. And I was devastated by it. Rarely does a book bring me to tears, but this one did just that.

Every Last One is a novel about what it means to put one foot in front of the other after an unspeakable tragedy. It is about the inner strength we all carry but hope we never have to rely on. It is a reminder that life is precious and can change instantly; that what we have is a gift we should treasure. This is also a book about what it means to be happy – the fleeting moments that come and go, the ordinariness of life’s little pleasures are the building blocks of happiness – and they are tenuous, fragile, unexpected.

This week I will also be posting anticipated books for the remainder of the year in a series titled Book Buzz. My first Book Buzz are the books which I am very highly anticipating – check them out here. Later today, I’ll be posting about highly anticipated debut novels.

What books are YOUR favorites so far in 2011?