New WKAR Book Review: Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson

Current StateI have always been obsessed with Shakespeare and his work. In many ways, I was exactly the target audience for Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson. Today, I reviewed this Shakespeare-inspired novel on WKAR’s Current State.

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-howard-jacobsons-shylock-my-name

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

If you want to check out Shylock Is My Name, you can find it on amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this pageContinue reading

Advertisements

New WKAR Book Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Current StateRecently on WKAR’s Current State, I reviewed Michigan Notable Book and Great Michigan Read selection Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-emily-st-john-mandels-station-eleven

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Great Michigan Read is a wonderful program. If you would like to learn more about what they do for reading, books, etc., you can visit this page.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

You can find the novel on Amazon.com here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this page. Continue reading

Banned Books Week 2014

Books! Everywhere! Books!Wouldn’t it be neat if we had a week to celebrate Shakespeare? A week when everyone was to read Charles Dickens or Mark Twain? A day even when everyone was supposed to talk like a character in a Jane Austen novel (as compared to a pirate)?

Nah, we book lovers get Banned Books Week. Where all of us book readers get to shake our heads collectively and wonder what others are thinking. The funny thing is most people that try to ban a book don’t actually read the book in question. A few years ago there was one protestor who strived to get Harry Potter banned from her school library. It made national news. She was discussed on all the Potter forums. What we discovered later is that she had never read Harry Potter and was worried it would drive kids to Satanism.

I don’t even know where I would start if I was to have an argument with such a perspective.

My grandmother used to be a member of her local library board. The reason she would give for being on the board was to fight people trying to ban books from the shelves. She was the voice of reason in a very conservative community and she kept up her end of the battle long after Parkinson’s made her life difficult. She will always be one of my heroes.

Last year on WKAR, I gave a commentary on their daily radio show Current State about Banned Books Week. Here is an excerpt from the beginning:

The playwright Anton Chekov has this great rule for writing a play. To summarize it, if a gun appears in the first act, it has to go off by the last act.

What Chekov is tapping into is that a gun is threatening, a gun can kill. An audience remembers it is there, and each and every playgoer expects that sooner or later, for better or worse it will be fired. I remember once I saw a production of “Hamlet” by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and they showed Hamlet with a gun in the first act. He carried it in his coat wherever he went on that stage, his concealed weapon, and we always knew it was there, expecting it sooner or later to cause destruction. Because a gun will always be fired, fictional or real, and there are always consequences for one being around.

The funny thing is, there are pockets in our country where people feel more at ease with guns than books.

You can listen to my complete thoughts (or read them) via this link.  I will be appearing on the show again this week, but this time to discuss the importance of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, another fighter in this literary battle. I hope you will check it out.

Well, if this is the only holiday people will give us book lovers, we might as well make the most out of it. Decorate your books shelves with garland, start a book club, pick up that classic you never got around to finishing, turn off the TV, and… most importantly… read, everyone, read.

Happy Holiday!

And Now the Back Flip! A Writing Update

The GymnastAh, my blog… How nice to be back. I’ve missed you. I feel like I am reopening the door of a room that has been shut for a while, wondering if I need to dust or vacuum. What’s funny about that is that while everything felt like a pause for me, my site continued to grow. Reaching now the awesome tally of 1406 followers. Thank you everyone!

I’ve been so focused on my fiction and writing outside the blog that I’ve only done simple entries over the last few weeks. Maybe others don’t see it that way, but I do when I look at the site. This site was built to challenge myself and my writing and when I don’t… well… I don’t.

While it may have seemed a little dry creatively on this site, I have been very busy. Actually, I feel on a writing high right now, Like I could do anything, accomplish anything if I put my mind to it. I am a gymnast in my mind, certain that I would land on my feet without even that little hop. It’s a good feeling and a good place to be creatively as a writer.

I have a lot of hope, there seems to be a lot of possibility, a wonderful feeling.

Hope is the thing with feathers… and a smile and wink of the eye.

Time for some updates. Continue reading

New WKAR Book Review: The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore

Current StateI am back on WKAR’s Current State with a new book review! This time I am looking at the new Shakespearean satire by Christopher Moore, The Serpent of Venice.

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-christopher-moores-serpent-venice

You can also read my book review below.

The Serpent of Venice can be found on Amazon here. If you would be interested in hearing/reading more of my NPR book reviews, you can do so via links on this page.

I hope you enjoy my new book review! Continue reading

My Battle With Roses

RoseI am lousy with plants.

I don’t feel particularly defeatist about this, this is just something that has never interested me, and clearly I have little skills around nature. So both sides seem to acquiesce to mediocrity.

The first time I even attempted to grow something was when my wife and I got a little live Christmas tree as a gift. This was back in the quiet days before kids and we were living in an apartment and I thought what the hell? Why not try to keep this thing alive. It deserved a chance to live, right? It was either that or throw it away. The second option felt cruel (picturing a little cartoon voice screaming in my imagination), so there you go.

After re-potting this little tree, I began to water it and keep a daily eye on it as it sat by the window. When the weather got warmer, we moved it to the balcony and, I’m still not sure how this was possible, a frog began visiting it. This frog would somehow get to our second floor balcony every night, and then relax by it, maybe under it or on the railing nearby. It would just chill, the tree would just chill, and we would sit by the window watching both, chilling as well.

A strange and beautiful moment of peace.

Sadly, this was not to last and the tree didn’t survive the summer with its branches turning from green to brown. There was nothing I could do. My wife explained that little trees like that are not really breed to survive. So my dream of it growing into a full tree that I could plant in a future yard and each year decorate with lights, telling my perfect future kids about how I had grown it from a little sprout… well… that wasn’t going to be.

I know we gave that tree and frog both names, but I can’t remember either of them right now. Continue reading

Is Historical Fiction a Good or Bad Thing?

HistoryI have a few writing posts on my site that are a little bit controversial.

One of those posts is my discussion around fan fiction, which you can read here. Every time—and I do mean every time—I share this article on Twitter or on a site it generates a response. (This is not surprising because people that read and write fan fiction come from a place of loving a story or an author. The debate is really around how best to show their love, what is appropriate and what isn’t, and who owns the story.)

On Saturday, I decided to re-tweet some of my writing articles, and just like clockwork I was getting responses to my fan fiction piece. One responder, Vanilla Rose (@MsVanillaRose), asked if that was not the same thing I was doing with my novel A Jane Austen Daydream. I quickly replied that my novel was historical fiction, a re-imagining of Jane’s life as one of her romantic and literary adventures.

It was after a few more tweet exchanges that Vanilla Rose said this, taking my breath away:

“…I think that inventing stuff about a person’s life is more problematic than playing with their work.”

Whoa… Continue reading

Loving Goodreads (And Some Reviewing Suggestions)

Good ReadsI am addicted to Goodreads.

I visit the site a few times a day and I can lose hours (hours!) just scrolling through the home page, looking at what readers are reading and saying about books that they had just finished. It’s almost like a sport as I moan and then cheer.

Yeah, I can get depressed by how few classics are being read by the population (I’ve never been one of those people who believe reading something is better than reading nothing), but it is always a thrill to see this immediate literary data. People always like to claim that literature is dying, but I see breath and heartbeats on this site everyday.

Right now, I have over 4,300 “friends” and over 80 fans. Some of this is related to my Twitter account, but I think it’s also because of my books, my blog (Hello!) and the book reviews I do on my local NPR station (you can check them out via links on this page).

The thing about book reviewing is that in many ways it is an art onto itself. Yet, ever since Amazon so long ago allowed customers to review products and books, that special door controlling whose voice is heard in the market has swung so far open that the hinges are broken. That door will never be fixed, and everyone is now welcomed in.

I know someone who will never give a book 5 stars. Never. Her reasoning, nothing is perfect. Case closed. I also had one person give my novel A Jane Austen Daydream only 4 stars with the comment that she would give it 5, but she wanted to encourage me to write more. I still don’t know how I feel about that. (Does that mean I am encouraged? I don’t feel encouraged, only a little confusedly sad.)

So yes, anyone can review on Goodreads, and, yes, anyone can review how they want. But I would love to give some suggestions for my fellow Goodreaders. Consider these my recommended new ground rules before you join this new literary sport.
Continue reading

My 6 Favorite Blogposts of 2013

ChampagneEvery year, I like to stop and take a look at my life and the year that just was. And one of the great things about having a blog is it makes it quite easy to do just that! I get all of the highs and the lows, they are all there in easy to read formatting… sometimes even with cute pictures.

How did I feel about being a parent or on a child’s birthday, it is there. It’s like a personal photo album, but it is available for all to share. I just hope I am not that annoying friend who is showing you slides of their last family outing. That is the blogger nightmare, I guess.

Looking back, 2013 has been a great year for me. I finished writing a new novel (Permanent Spring Showers), I had two very well-reviewed books published (A Jane Austen Daydream and Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare), and I continued to watch this blog and my writing grow. Over the course of the year, my blog gained 600 new subscribers (now having over 1000) and my digits are higher on all of my other social media platforms.  It all almost calls for champagne.

Okay, I don’t like champagne. Seriously, I’m a light drinker. It is almost embarrassing. It makes my patient wife laugh how little I can handle. And when I do order drinks they come with funny straws and too much chocolate. I’m not James Bond, but I wish I was. I also threw up once in college after drinking goldschalger. You remember a moment like that, trust me. I kept drunkenly thinking, “There is gold everywhere! Look at all the money!”

For those new to my blog, or those who are catching up, here are my six favorite posts from the last year. If you have already read the articles, I have included a new afterthought to each. Something for everyone… about me. Enjoy! Continue reading

Dreaming for a Holodeck. Thoughts on Star Trek: The Next Generation

Our EnterpriseStar Trek: The Next Generation has become comfort food for my soul.

While I always enjoyed the original cast, and even dig the new film series by J.J. Abrams, there was something about the Enterprise D that called to me. I wanted to join that crew. Visit Ten Forward, go on that holodeck. It was the Enterprise I dreamed of.

The show was originally on when I was a kid in high school and I used to collect the episodes on old VHS tapes, stocking them on my bookshelf, as if they were precious treasures; not realizing then that in a few years, videotapes would be nothing more than junk, a lost piece of technology.

Of course, now that is all twenty years ago. The show is off the air for the most part and the cast has moved on as best as they can. Even the universe The Next Generation seemed to fit so snuggly at the top of (being the show that all of the later shows owed some of their success and beginning to) has moved on.

And yet, for me, while the rest of the world is chasing after Captain Kirk again, I am rewatching the show on Netflix. It is more than a homecoming in a way, it is a return to a different time, a different way to look at life. A different me, one that was much younger and dreamed of owning his own holodeck and wanted nothing more than to be assigned to an away mission… no matter how dangerous.

Continue reading