The hot new setting for suspense novels is Stalin's Russia. In case you missed it Sunday: Herald TV critic Glenn Garvin takes a look at why the land of the gulag is cropping up so frequently in popular fiction. Some of these books are as scary as a train trip to Kolyma.
NICHOLAS SPARKS, author of Safe Haven
Sparks signs copies of Safe Haven at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave. in Coral Gables. You must purchase a copy of the book at the store to get in line. More info: 305-442-4408.
Back in 1992, before those Sex and the City fashionistas prompted everybody to order Cosmos and daydream about a closet full of Manolos, a different, straight-talking quartet of friends captured female imaginations. Terry McMillan's breakthrough novel Waiting to Exhale, about women in Phoenix negotiating variations of romantic turmoil, broke the color barrier to dominate the bestseller lists and inspired a Forest Whitaker film. It also made guys look like dogs, which was just the icing on the cake for its
Now, after three other novels and a whole lotta personal revelations on Oprah, McMillan has returned to Savannah, Gloria, Bernadine and Robin in Getting to Happy, as they suffer through various midlife crises, some but not all related to the opposite sex (looming menopause, pill and porn addiction, money and job issues, family chaos and sudden death among them).
Their troubles are more pressing, more serious than before, and for obvious reasons: The friends are older, and there is less time left to get things right. They all thought by fiftysomething they'd be settled, happy, content. Instead, they're still not exhaling comfortably.
Getting to Happy is pretty much required reading for anyone who cared about Waiting to Exhale, although it has problems. Some of the dialogue issounds stilted and preachy, and sometimes the protagonists are more defined by their problems (say, Robin's shopaholic tendencies) than actual traits. Some of the issues are dispatched too easily; McMillan's characters all have unending supplies of money, so the financial crises aren't terribly daunting.
Still, the male characters are slightly more fleshed out (or at least less predictably unreliable), and the girlfriends' arguments about life are a blast. And there's undeniable entertainment in some of the empowering moments, such as when a grieving Gloria finally finds solace in pampering a customer in need, or when Savannah, who grew up in a Pittsburgh ghetto, sits by the Seine in Paris and contemplates just how far she has come. "I like my life,'' she marvels."I'm free.''
Sometimes, McMillan writes, "you luck up and sometimes your luck runs out.'' Overall, we're pretty lucky that she returned to these old friends.
Wow. It's been a week, and I haven't even mentioned e-readers or technology or the way the digital police are going to show up at our homes and demand our hardbacks. Did you know they're going to be selling Kindles at Best Buy soon?
Fortunately, others have kept up the good work:
The School Library Journal writes about a New York panel debating the effects of e-books on kids.
And novelist Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from The Goon Squad - one of my favorite books of 2010 - reveals her reluctance to throw away her exceedingly beat-up day planner and adapt to the BlackBerry way of life in Salon.
Check out Herald staff writer Howard Cohen's story on University of Miami creative writing professor Lester Goran, who celebrates 50 years of teaching Hurricanes fans how to write (which this Gator knows can't be easy).
UM pays tribute to Prof. Goran this weekend by launching the Goran Reading Series of master classes and workshops - and, it hopes, beating the pants off Ohio State in Columbus.
My new favorite person on the web is the Evil Librarian Supervillain, who has compiled an absolutely hysterical list of some of the most ridiculous bodice-ripper novels to ever have graced a book shelf. And yes, no. 1 is The Very Virile Viking, but I'll let you read her description of it, as it is classic.
Thanks to Friend of the Blog Gina for sharing this!
Six finalists have emerged from the Man Booker Prize long list, and to no one's surprise Peter Carey is among them. Carey is one of two authors to have won two Bookers (for Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang) and would probably get a nomination for his grocery lists, if only the Booker judges could get hold of them. He's nominated this time for Parrot and Olivier in America, which Herald reviewer Ellen Kanner called "as big and bold as the country itself."
The other finalists:
Emma Donaghue, Room
Damon Galgut, In a Strange Room
Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question
Andrea Levy, The Long Song
Tom McCarthy, C
The winner gets $50,000 and will be announced on Oct. 12.
Water for Elephants is one of those novels that it seems everyone has read (everyone who reads fiction, anyway). Following up such a bestseller - which is being made into a movie with Robert "Twilight" Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz- is a tough job, but Sara Gruen gives it her best shot with Ape House, in stores and available online Tuesday.
I haven't read the book yet, but Herald reviewer and Friend of the Blog Amy Canfield says it's "entertaining" and "enlightening." Click here to read her full review. And see Gruen on Oct. 14 at Temple Judea, where she appears for Books & Books.
And listen to a clip of the audiobook here.
life. At the heart of this book, like the elephant in the living room, sits marital infidelity, a subject which Ostermiller handles with spellbinding grace. A fascinating portrait. ''
A. MANETTE ANSAY author of Good Things I Wish You
The 2010 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Awards have been announced, honoring six women who "demonstrate excellence and promise in the early stages of their careers."
This year's winners are Hannah Dela Cruz Abrahms (nonfiction); Rachel Aviv (nonfiction); Sara Elizabeth Johnson (poetry); Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich (nonfiction); Laura Newbern (poetry); Tiphanie Yanique (fiction). Two of the writers have already published works: Nebern has published the poetry collection Love and the Eye, and Yanique is the author of How to Escape from a Leper Colony: Novella and Short Stories.
The awards, $25,000 each, will be presented on Sept. 23.