Daily Archives: January 15, 2012

Mailbox Monday – January 16, 2011

Welcome to this week’s edition of Mailbox Monday.

This month Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. Check out Alyce’s blog today to get links to other readers’ mailboxes.

Go to the dedicated blog for the meme to see the complete tour schedule in the left hand sidebar.

I had not expected any books this week, but I was thrilled beyond belief to find an Advance Readers Edition of Beth Kephart’s newest book, Small Damages (Philomel, July 2012),  in my mailbox. Not only was I very excited to get my hands on this novel, but I was even more excited to see that Beth had autographed it for me as well. Beth Kephart was first a favorite author and has now become a dear friend and I cannot wait to read Small Damages which is set in Spain. Kenzie, a bright and ambitious young woman in her senior year of high school, has just discovered she is pregnant. Sent to live in an old corijo in Spain, she must “find a way to endure until her baby is safe in an adoptive couple’s hands.Small Damages is a tribute to a country that Beth loves and is a story “steeped in both the real and the imagined. Check out the opening lines on Beth Kephart’s blog. Go ahead, I’ll wait. *taps foot* Beautiful, right?

Beth Kephart is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books for both adults and young readers. She was named the National Book Award finalist for her book A Slant of Sun: One Child’s Courage. Small Damages is her first book through Philomel – but it won’t be her last, which makes me very happy indeed knowing that we can look forward to more wonderful books by this exceptionally talented author! Learn more about Beth and her work by visiting, the author’s blog.

Three unsolicited books arrived through William Morrow – two of which I hope to read at some point, and one for which I will most likely find a new home because it does not look like my cup of tea, although I think it may appeal to others:

The Face Thief by Eli Gottlieb (January 2012) centers around the charismatic character, Margot, a promising journalist who “morphs from a high-achieving affluent twentysomething into a grifter making her living preying on the weaknesses of men.” The novel moves back and forth in time to gradually reveal Margot as a child as well as a conniving adult. Described as “a hypnotic dance of predator and prey, creating a contemporary landscape where the educated are violent, the beautiful ugly, and the well-intentioned hapless,” this novel is lauded as a book rich in suspense and psychological depth.

Eli Gottlieb’s New York Times Notable Book, The Boy Who Went Away, won the Rome Prize and the 1998 McKitterick Prize from the British Society of Authors. His second novel, Now You See Him, has been translated into eleven languages. He lives in New York City. Learn more about Gottlieb and his work by visiting the author’s website.

Raylan by Elmore Leonard (January 2012) brings back U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, the hero of Pronto, Riding the Rap, and the FX series Justified. When Dickie and Coover Crowe, dope-dealing brothers known for sampling their own supply, decide to branch out into the body business, it’s up to U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens to stop them. The publisher describes Raylan as “dark and droll, a page-turner filled with the sparkling dialogue and sly suspense that are the hallmarks of this modern master.

Elmore Leonard has written more than forty books during his highly successful writing career, including the bestsellers Road Dogs, Up in Honey’s Room, The Hot Kid, Mr. Paradise, Tishomingo Blues, and the critically acclaimed collection of short stories When the Women Come Out to Dance. Many of his books have been made into movies. Justified, the hit series from FX, is based on Leonard’s character Raylan Givens. Leonard is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from PEN USA and the Grand Master Award of the Mystery Writers of America. He lives in Bloomfield Village, Michigan. Read more about Leonard and his work by visiting the author’s website.

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Navy Seal Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice (January 2012) is a first-person account of the life of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle who has recorded the most career sniper kills in United States military history. Iraqi insurgents feared Kyle so much they named him al-Shaitan(“the devil”) and placed a bounty on his head. Kyle is a native Texan who was thrust onto the front lines of the War on Terror following 9/11.

SEAL Team 3 Chief Chris Kyle served four combat tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom and elsewhere. For his bravery in battle, he was awarded two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation. Additionally, he received the Grateful Nation Award, given by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. Following his combat deployments, he became chief instructor for training Naval Special Warfare Sniper and Counter-Sniper teams, and he authored the Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine, the first Navy SEAL sniper manual. Today, he is president of Craft International, a world-class leader in training and security. He lives with his family in Texas, where he devotes much of his spare time to helping disabled veterans.

Did any amazing books arrive at YOUR house this week?

Sunday Salon – January 15, 2012

January 15, 2012

Good morning, and welcome to this week’s edition of The Sunday Salon – check out the Facebook page for links to other readers’ posts.

I have had a good week in reading this week – finishing up three books and beginning a fourth for the month. As I mentioned last week, I found The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman an incredibly powerful novel which explores the themes of racism, identity, antisemitism and the importance of our collective and individual histories (read my review). I am really excited to be able to offer a giveaway of this book over at The Chunkster Challenge blog at the end of this week (we’ll be also publishing a guest post by Perlman over there later in the month). This book is definitely worth the time to read. I love that I read such a wonderful novel as my first book of 2012!

My next read was a bit of a disappointment. Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman has been in my stacks for awhile now and I finally decided to dust off the cover and crack the spine. This book was shortlisted in 2009 for the Orange Prize for Fiction and I had high hopes for it. The book is about the real life criminal case of the Scottsboro boys – nine African American teens who were falsely accused of raping two white girls on a train in Alabama. The case itself is an important one, and I was eager to see how Feldman would fictionalize the story. Unfortunately, the book fell flat for me – in large part because of the main character who was not all that well developed (read my review). Not everyone agrees with me, so don’t let my opinion deter you from checking out this book.

Yesterday I finished reading The Artist of Disappearance by Anita Desai which is a collection of novellas all set in India (read my review). Desai is a well known author who has published more than a dozen novels and collections. She was born in India, although she currently makes her home in New York. The three novellas which make up this latest collection explore Indian culture and are firmly grounded in the country of India. The stories explore themes of identity and the loss of culture in a modernized world. There is quite a bit of metaphor and symbolism which make this a thoughtful read.

My current read is Swamplanda! by Karen Russell – a book I purchased last year and have been eager to read ever since it was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2011. Set in Florida, the novel is about an eccentric family named the Bigtrees who own an alligator-wrestling theme park. I absolutely love quirky characters and I expect to thoroughly enjoy this book. Stay tuned for a review by mid-week.

I need to do some catching up if I am to hit my goal of ten books this month. Here is what is in my stacks for the rest of this week:

  • In the Time of the Feast of Flowers by Tina Egnoski
  • The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney
  • Alice in Bed by Cathleen Schine

I should mention that we have chosen our four books for the Chunky Book Club which will be: The Fall of Giants by Ken Follett, 11/22/63 by Stephen King, The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer, and The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna. Check out the schedule for the discussions here.

I’ll be reading a bit today…also doing a little quilting later on after Kip and I take Raven for a hike in the woods (she is DYING to go run her little brains out!). What about you – what are YOU doing today? Whatever it is, I hope it involves a great book!

The Artist of Disappearance – Book Review

All of us, every one of us, has had a moment when a window opened, when we caught a glimpse of the open, sunlit world beyond, but all of us, on this bus, have had that window close and remain closed. – from Translator Translated –

The Artist of Disappearance is a collection of novellas which are all set in India and have the similar themes of identity, searching for meaning in one’s life and how place can define who we become.

The Museum of Final Journeys, the first novella in the book, introduces the idea that memory is fragile and unreliable. Another theme in the story is the delicate balance of the natural world in a modernized society. In this story, a young man arrives in a dusty, desolate town where he has been posted to complete his training for a government position. He laments the long, dull days and the slovenly conditions of his new home. Then, one afternoon, a clerk arrives to make an appeal – he is the curator of sorts of an unusual museum but he can no longer afford to keep it running and wishes for the government to take it over. Intrigued, the narrator agrees to visit the museum. What he finds is astonishing and surprising – a treasure trove of objects, the unusual story of a family, and a creature whose life depends on the benevolence of her caretakers. Years later, his memory of the event is fragmented and frail like a mirage – perhaps as a way to resolve the guilt he feels for his lack of action.

The second story in the collection, Translator Translated, centers around Prema, an Indian woman who unexpectedly runs into an old high school friend and gets the opportunity to realize her dream of translating fiction. In this novella, Desai explores the different cultures of India and the loss of little known languages, as well as the role language plays in our identity. Prema loves the language of Oriya which is her mother’s tongue, but it is a language which very few people speak or understand. When Prema begins translating a book from Oriya into English she finds herself struggling to connect the two halves of her own life which includes the inter-caste marriage of her parents. As Prema works, she finds it harder and harder to be faithful in her translation of the author’s work.

Wasn’t this what the Impressionist painters had done in those early adventurous days, breaking up flat surfaces to refract light into many scattered molecules, and so reconstruct the surface and make it stir to life? – from Translator Translated –

As the novella unfolds, Prema becomes more lost to herself as she converts her mother tongue into the colonial language of English. Translator Translated is a beautiful meditation on the loss of culture and identity in a modern world.

The final story of this collection is, perhaps, my favorite. The Artist of Disappearance centers around Ravi, an odd man who is isolated from society and lives in the burned out shell of his family’s home. Ravi has always been different from others. He is especially connected to nature.

Outdoors was the life to which he chose to belong – the life of the crickets springing out of the grass, the birds wheeling hundreds of feet below in the valley or soaring upwards above the mountains, and the animals invisible in the undergrowth, giving themselves away by an occasional rustle or eruption of cries or flurried calls; plants following their own green compulsions and purposes, almost imperceptibly, and the rocks and stones, seemingly inert but mysteriously part of the constant change and movement of the earth. – from The Artist of Disappearance –

Ravi’s story is about nurturing that part of ourselves which is connected to the earth. In the towns around Ravi’s home, bulldozers are destroying the land and mining has stripped the earth of living creatures. But, high in the mountains, Ravi constructs a beautiful glade made from stones and trees, flowers and berries. Ravi is completely disconnected from society while being wholly connected to the physical space he calls home.

As a whole, Desai’s collection is nearly dreamlike in quality. Her characters have unfulfilled dreams and are disillusioned with their lives. Each character is presented with opportunities to enrich themselves and then find they stumble because of their human imperfection.

Anita Desai writes beautifully. She captures the beauty of India, but also does not hesitate to reveal its faults and complexities. I thoroughly enjoyed this slim volume of stories whose characters struggle and search for meaning in their lives.

Highly recommended for readers who love literary fiction.

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FTC Disclosure: I received this book through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.

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