The Classics I’ve Reviewed

Books
So, things have been… distracting.

For the last year, I’ve been working with an agent on my latest novel (which I still can’t talk about here). I really hope we are close to locking down the book soon. Whatever the case, I can easily promise it will be ready before the next book by George R.R. Martin.

Anyway, all of that jazz has distracted me from this website. And it might distract me for a little while to go (including my work on Uses of This World). So until I can find time to write something new here, I’ll be sharing something from time to time. Bear with me, this will all pay off in the long run, I am sure of it.

I’ve had the pleasure on WKAR to review quite a few classics on their morning show Current State. I love classic literature so these were the moments I savored like a great meal. The kind of meals with a half-dozen courses and they give you a nice mint at the end.

I hope you will check out (and enjoy) these reviews:

 

 

 

 

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Books 2015…. and one last review! Salman Rushdie’s Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights

BooksIt’s almost 2016 and I am feeling a little guilty. See, I got a copy of Salman Rushdie’s latest offering (Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights) back in the late summer. I read it over a week, wrote my review and… sat on it.

I didn’t review it in the Fall or Winter. And here it is, almost 2016 and I can’t look at my copy The Satanic Verses without feeling a little ill.

So why the hold up? Well, I only do two reviews a month on WKAR’s Current State and I like for my reviews to stick (You can find links to all my reviews here). In other words, I want them to feel important. I want to take on the bestsellers, celebrate new authors or works I found, say something maybe about the Michigan literary scene or literature in general (I love taking on a classic). And this book didn’t inspire me. There was just something I always wanted to say or review more.

I had some great reads over 2015! I loved Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper, adored In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume and recommended The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman to everyone I know. I also was dismayed by the mess that is Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last and couldn’t get rid of my copy of Above Us Only Sky by Michele Young-Stone fast enough. And don’t get me started on the heartbreak that was Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. I’m still recovering from that publishing error.

So to take care of my Rushdie guilt, I have decided to just post my draft of my book review here. This is me, cleaning my reviewer palate and preparing for the new year ahead. You can read my book review below. (And Happy New Year!) Continue reading

Banned Books Week (Sept 27 – Oct 3)

BBW-logoWe are in the midst of Banned Book Week, that time each year when readers and authors alike scan articles and essays about attempts to ban books from libraries and schools over the last year and wonder “What the heck is going on here?”

I’ve had the pleasure for the last three years of doing the book reviews for my local NPR station (WKAR) as part of their show Current State, and each year I try to take on another book that has faced the always surreal argument for censorship.

  • This year I reviewed The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. You can listen to my discussion or read my review via this page.
  • Last year, I reviewed Mark Twain’s classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. You can check that our here.
  • During my first year as part of Current State, I discussed the importance of this holiday and why we need to reflect on it via this audio essay.

I’ve also snuck in over the years other authors that have faced censorship, including (with links) Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, Judy Blume, Harper Lee, and J.K. Rowling. In the future, I will be reviewing Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie, so this is not slowing down for me anytime soon.

I hope you enjoy checking out some of these book reviews and try to read something a little controversial this week.

My Ten Favorite Books: In My Head…

BooksBusy editing… busy reading… busy reviewing… and it’s summer.

Oh, I’m still here, just locking down my new book. And the new Harper Lee is out today (wow, it is sooo weird to type that). and I need to read it fast for my book reviews.

But I haven’t forgotten about this site! No you guys are still in my heart and head, so I thought I would share a quick list.

If you ever want to get into the head of an author ask them their 10 favorite books. Nothing will give you a better insight into their mind and creativity. So here is mine…

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- Easily, one of the few perfect novels in literature. Not a word out of place.

2. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut- My favorite from one of my favorite authors.

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald- Great to read, better to read aloud.

4. The Abortion by Richard Brautigan- The obscure work in the list. Love this book and the bookstore in it (which would be called in today’s world “Amazon.com.”)

5. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury- Beautiful, beautiful…

6. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis- When I was a kid and I visited new houses I would check every closet for Narnia. (Honestly, I still do that from time to time.)

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee- You read this, right? Kind of a big deal in American Literature, especially right now (new book and all).

8. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf- A huge influence on how I set up family scenes and develop characters.

9. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens- This is a story stolen by the business of Christmas, but once it was just a wonderful novella. Well, it still is and it is great.

10. Middlemarch by George Elliot- A literary epic, grand and at the same time filled with wonderful little moments and characters. Also one of the most beautiful endings.

Now I’m off to read this new book by Harper Lee (again, crazy we get to say that).

“Nightmares and dreams” Part one of an interview with Nancy Christie

Jane AustenHappy New Year faithful readers! 

Last month I was interviewed by novelist Nancy Christie as part of her “One on One” series. It was quite a long and fun interview, and she has turned it into a two-part series for the site!

If you ever wanted to get really into my writing head, meet the wizard hiding behind the curtain, this is that interview! The first part of her interview was released today; you can read it here.  In this excerpt is my answer to the most challenging undertaking I have had as a writer:

A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM was easily the most difficult book I have ever undertaken, because I had to be true to Jane. In other words, I wanted her to be alive on the pages, which means her own dialogue and spirit had to be part of the narrative.

So first, I had to research her life and her books thoroughly. I used to be able to quote entire passages of her novels! (Not anymore, now that space is taken over by cute kid songs from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood thanks to my young daughter’s obsession with the show.)

Then I had to decide what of her life I wanted to keep and what I wanted to use for the book. See, I wanted the plot to be influenced more by her own stories than her actual life (it is a daydream).

After the plot was in place (with some very notable surprises and literary twists included), I then had to write a book where her voice would feel natural, but not too dated to scare off a contemporary reader.

Yes, it was a slow process, with each sentence and chapter written and re-written numerous times. By the end, I felt like I had run a marathon (or at least what I assume that would feel like). But it was all very worth it.

You can read the rest of the interview here. Part 2 of the interview will be on Nancy Christie’s site on January 15. Thanks Nancy! 

A Jane Austen Daydream

My latest novel, A Jane Austen Daydream, can be purchased in print ($13.46) or as an eBook for the outrageously low price of $3.99 for Kindle. You can find it on Amazon here (http://amzn.com/B00CH3HQUU).

My Time Lost in Books…

A fellow writerLike I said in my post “The Five Books That Made Me” I can get pretty sentimental about books and my history in reading when one of my novels is about to be released.

It’s like a kid going off to college! Packing the bags could be working with the editor, the drive there could be finalizing everything with the publisher, and dropping them off is the big goodbye. So that’s me this week, the parent trying to hide the tears.

Okay, I’m a little surprised this analogy is working…. What would that make the aftermath of the publishing? No idea there, but the grades are reviews, right? Perfect. Hopefully, my book won’t party too much.

A Jane Austen Daydream is set for release on April 30 exclusively via amazon.com, ending a project of years in the making. I could not be happier with the novel and I look forward to hearing what everyone thinks of it. Until then I am going to continue to enjoy my sentimentality. Care to join me? Here are ten of my favorite posts on my site around books:

  1. Missing My Vonnegut MomentVonnegut
  2. Me, Myself & Charles Dickens
  3. I get James Joyce… Well, no, not really
  4. Ray Bradbury
  5. Maurice Sendak: Childhood Visionary
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien; The Crazy & Magical Grandfather
  7. Say Hello to Mr. DeVere, I Mean Shakespeare…
  8. Hidden Away: The Marvel of Disappearing Writers
  9. The Folio Society: Celebrating Literature
  10. Living With Snoopy

Only a few days left!

The Five Books That Made Me

CompassOur lives are filled with landmarks. And just like the sites that dot our landscape, these moments dot our lives, creating the definition of who we are. For me, I can see them like a map spread out in front of me from movies to TV shows to experiences to relationships to plays to books… oh… a lot of books.

I was the kid who would come home with a pile of library books each weekend, who later would take his bike out to only ride to libraries, having three in my vicinity to choose from with a separate card for each. If I could have had a collection of cards with aliases I would have done it. See, I would lose summer days just wandering through the aisles like visiting old friends, allowing my fingers to grace along the covers as I walked past, secretly hoping that a book would reach out and grab me.

I always get a little sentimental when a book is released (A Jane Austen Daydream). I can’t help it. This is a new kind of landmark; I’m adding to my own landscape now. And if I am lucky my work might find its way on to another’s map. See, that is the thing for me. It’s not about money, it never was.  It was always about the love of a good yarn, with surprises and new adventures.

When I look back at my life there are five books that stand out the most in inspiring me.  This is not to say they are my favorites, or what I consider the greatest works; no, not at all.

They are just the ones that grabbed me just when I needed them to. Continue reading

My Five Favorite Posts, 2012

Father TimeI know we are not at the end of the year yet but I couldn’t wait. Yes, I am the kid on Christmas Eve wanting to open all of the presents early. And. let’s be honest, every blogger or writing site is going to be a doing a post like this. Why not be ahead of the curve?

So that’s me- Mr. Ahead of the Curve.

Before I get to my favorite posts, let me begin by saying how much I got a kick out of running this site this year. As a writer it has been very satisfying. Over the course of one year, I went from zero followers to 213 with over 25000 views this year alone. That is pretty awesome in my book, and just as satisfying this blog gave something back to me as a writer.

  • I was able to share fiction; things I have cared about that have been collecting dust around my house (and in my brain). The Dante Experience radio series is once again available to listen to, along with the unproduced scripts of the sequel.
  • A new collection of short stories, Upon The Ground, was shared on Green Spot Blue.
  • And I am writing a new book, Permanent Spring Showers, right here live for all to follow along… and many do!

A lot of what drives me and this site right now are you the readers. I know people say things like that all the time, but I am being very honest. You have no idea how powerful a like and a comment can be in spurring me forward, inspiring me. I might have abandoned this months ago if it wasn’t for the numbers and the responses. So this year, I am the most thankful for you the readers.

Thank you.

Here is my list of my favorite posts in no certain order… Continue reading

The Folio Society: Celebrating Literature

I have never understood why we readers treat literature so poorly.

We confine our classics to cheap paperbacks, five-dollar hard copies, bulk versions, and we throw them in bargain bins alongside fake biographies of yesterday’s celebrities.

Worse, sometimes we even add zombies to them…

Why aren’t readers more shocked by this treatment? These are our Rembrandts, our Van Goghs, our Monets. Basically, the classic books are what makes literature art, and yet we treat them so utterly, utterly horribly. Its like we take them for granted; we even dare write in their margins and use highlighters on them! (Okay, I did that too in college, but you get where I am going with this.) Continue reading

Ray Bradbury

It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living, this was the first morning of summer.

-Dandelion Wine

I apologize if this sounds overly dark, but the last of my childhood writing heroes is gone.

One by one, as I get older and older, they slip away. I remember when I heard of Kurt Vonnegut’s passing. I was backing up my car from the driveway… and it was a normal day, nothing special about it. It all felt so very bland. And all they had to say on Morning Edition was “So it goes” and I knew what they were about to say. I parked my car in front of my house and hung my head. It was about ten minutes before I restarted my car and the rest of my day felt slow.

Growing up though Ray Bradbury always felt like more than just an author. He felt like a mentor, a friend; and with his vast library of work, He always felt “available” to me—if that is the right word to use—because there was always something new to discover. Continue reading