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Books To Watch Out For publishes monthly e-letters celebrating books on various topics. Each issue includes new book announcements, brief reviews, commentary, news and, yes, good book gossip.
More Books for Women
covers the finest in thinking women's reading, plus mysteries, non-sexist children's books,
and news from women's publishing. Written by the owners and staff at Women & Children First, and friends.
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The Gay Men's Edition
covers both lesbian books and the whole range of books lesbians like to read.
It covers news of both the women in print movement and mainstream publishing. Written and compiled by Suzanne Corson.
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announces and reviews new books by and about gay men as well as other books of interest and gay publishing news. Written and compiled by Richard Labonte.
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Books for Women
- May 2007 -
Volume 3 Number 5
When Women and Children First, the bookstore home of many of the More Books
for Women reviewers, announced in mid-April that they were facing financial
difficulties and might have to close at the end of the summer, the response
was huge: both in-store and online sales doubled (one staff person's time
is largely devoted to online sales now), they've received both small and large
donations, four different groups have offered to do fundraisers for the store,
and more than sixty people have signed up for new memberships (benefits of membership
include a subscription to More Books for Women). Their MySpace page
has received more traffic and shows a record of the supportive messages they've
received. The store has also received quite a bit of media attention, with
articles in the Windy City Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Publishers
Weekly, and an appearance on PFLAG-TV, a local cable access show. Fortunately
the store is no longer in imminent danger of closing, and things overall are
"extraordinarily better," according to Linda Bubon.
We hope that people continue to support Women & Children First in Chicago,
in Atlanta (home of MBW reviewers Sara Luce Look and Linda Bryant),
and their sister stores, not just during times of crisis, but year-round.
These stores provide such valuable services to us as women and as readers
with their community building, resources, knowledge, and enthusiasm. We can
honor their important work with our shopping choices and gratitude.
Ann Christophersen recommends...
That fabulous Irish lesbian writer Emma Donoghue has a new book out, a novel called
Like all her previous books, Landing is a great pleasure
to read. It's a love story featuring two lively, likeable characters,
Jude Turner, a butchy and beautiful 23-year-old woman living in
her small hometown of Ireland, Ontario, and Síle O'Shaughnessy,
a 40-year-old gorgeous woman of Indian ancestry born and raised
in Dublin, Ireland. Síle is a seasoned flight attendant and very
much a jet-setter, thrilled by travel and deeply involved in urban
life. She and Jude couldn't be more different, but after they meet
during a quietly dramatic event mid-air, they fall in love during
a courtship by email. The novel unfolds as they move through the
perils of a long-distance relationship, during which time we meet
the important people in their lives and begin to understand how
rooted each is in her own environment. I won't tell you how it ends,
but Donoghue pulls you in and keeps you riveted to the final pages.
Donoghue's last book, a collection of short stories called Touchy
Subjects, has just come out in paperback. The sparkling humor
and wit in those stories is also evident in Landing. I predict
any reader will love both. Landing: Harcourt, $25, 9780151012978.
Touchy Subjects: Harcourt, $12, 9780156032612.
A Feminist Hullaballoo: Reuniting the Wild Sisters!
June 22-24, 2007 in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Paula Gunn Allen, Mary Daly, Sonia Johnson, Cherrie Moraga
+ 10 more dazzling
See www.feministhullaballoo.com or call 505.583.2470
for further information.
Linda Bubon loves...
Openwork is the perfect title for Adria Bernardi's rich,
poetic new novel about three generations of Italian immigrants.
The novel is broken into three sections, set in three different
time periods: 1913, 1968, and the present. While different family
members re-appear in each section, there isn't a clear (or predictable)
narrative that flows from mother to daughter to granddaughter. Bernardi
shows us, rather, a community in the Tuscan hills of cousins and
neighbors, many of whom have relatives who have emigrated to the
U.S. and elsewhere. Two of these men, Egidio and Antenore, end up
at the Dawson Coal Mine in New Mexico. Antenore goes on to Colorado
and then the Midwest,
organizing miners. Later he settles in the northern suburbs of Chicago,
becoming a stone mason, and something of a patriarch to an extended
family of Italian sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. In
the second section, Bernardi focuses on the second generation and
their children, particularly Rina and Ray, as they struggle to accommodate
their aging, dolorous parents, and their slang-y, rebellious children.
One of those children, Adele, returns to Italy in the third section
to find her great aunt, Imola, (whose narrative begins the book)
in a nursing home, and she attempts to connect the threads that
interweave the women in their family, some of whom have fallen prey
to mental illness in their middle years. Bernardi's ability to capture
time and place is formidable, and she uses her characters' voices
and vocabulary to make us see and hear them. There are beautiful
insights, moving revelations, and gentle humor, throughout Openwork;
more than once I was moved to tears. I highly recommend this book,
particularly if you share a European immigrant background (as I
do). Southern Methodist University Press, $22.50, 9780870745102.
I loved Cynthia Kaplan's Why I’m Like This, a collection
of short, humorous essays reminiscent of David Sedaris, so I was
excited to read her new collection, Leave
the Building Quickly: True Stories. I was, once again,
thoroughly charmed and entertained. Kaplan's mind works like no
one else's, but I think she
have some of Woody Allen's genes. No one's paranoia is as extreme
or extremely funny as Kaplan's. Doubtful about taking that treacherous
Disney cruise? Cindy would definitely back you up. Her perspective
is also uniquely female. I especially liked "The Squirrel
Stores His Nuts," in which she shows no sympathy for her
husband not getting sex because she has just given birth and is
breastfeeding: "No woman who is nursing full-time feels like
having her nipples teased or licked or rubbed or even looked at
by anyone who does not measure his age in months." She muses
that her former identity as a sexy, fun-loving gal has been crowded
out by the new mom identity. I've never read anything that so
frankly addresses this issue and made me laugh too. This book
is just a treat to read, and the poignant stories are more touching
because of the humor surrounding them. HarperCollins/William Morrow,
I promised a review of Kinfolks:
Falling Off the Family Tree: The Search for My Melungeon Ancestors
by Lisa Alther. Well, she's lost nothing of her zest for humorous
Southern-inspired storytelling, and
I zipped right through this fascinating story of her roots in
the eastern Tennessee hills. If you want to know about genetic
research - it's amazing what a DNA test can tell you about where
your people come from - you'll find it here. But the most interesting
part of the book is her memoir of growing up in Tennessee, the
daughter and granddaughter of country doctors, who emerge as wonderful,
funny, heroic men, and a mother and grandmother who never saw
eye to eye (her father had the temerity to marry a Yankee). I
laughed throughout and actually did learn where (probably) the
Melungeons came from. Arcade, $25, 9781559708326.
Three of my favorite reads from last year are now out in paperback:
the World by Julia Alvarez is a rich, complex, double
story, part of which is narrated by a middle-aged contemporary
writer who is experiencing writer's block
while her husband is setting up a "free" clinic in the
Dominican Republic, where she is from. The writer is also caught
up in the second, historical story narrated by a 19th century
nun who is in charge of a troop of boy orphans who are sailing
to the New World. Their mission, under the leadership of a charismatic
doctor, is to carry the live smallpox vaccine to the settlements
in America, Mexico, and the Caribbean Islands. Both missions are
well-intended, but both men are also egocentric and oblivious
to the true cost of their mission. Perfect for book groups, there
is much to discuss in this very compelling novel. Algonquin Books,
Latest Grievance is another deftly written, wry, and witty
novel from Elinor Lipman. Narrated by the most precocious and
funny teenager I've encountered in fiction, Lipman's novel takes
place in a second-rate women's college in Brookline, Massachusetts,
in 1978. Raised by two excruciatingly politically correct teacher
parents, Frederica Hatch causes an enormous upheaval for them
when she invites the glamorous Laura Lee French, her father's
first wife (briefly), to be a part of their lives. I chuckled
on nearly every page. Houghton Mifflin/Mariner Books, $13.95,
Sara Gruen's Water
for Elephants provided me with the most reading
pleasure of any book I read last year. I know I reviewed it then,
but in short, it's great historical fiction, a fabulous love story,
and very satisfying for those of us who love animals and are fairly
certain that they know what's going on. Set on a traveling circus
train during the Depression, the main character is an endearing
young vet who falls in love with the bareback rider, who is married
to the maniacal animal trainer. Algonquin Books, $13.95, 9781565125605.
Chelsey Clammer suggests...
I'm sad to admit that I've never read any of Ivan E. Coyote's
short stories before. I knew of her name from working in a feminist
bookstore, and I know that she's also a pretty rad queer lady from
her biography and list of topics she's covered in her writing. So
when I saw that her first novel was coming out in April, I decided
to read it as soon as I could. Coyote's Bow
Grip surprised me in ways I never imagined. The novel is
about Joey, a small town man whose wife left him for a woman a year
ago. The town mechanic, Joey meets different people who live in
the margins of society, as he tries to learn how to play an old
cello that an ominous fellow gave him in exchange
for an old car. He is also trying to get over the built-up anxiety
that he has from his wife leaving him. These two activities - the
stress relief and the cello playing - merge together in a wonderful
narrative about one man trying to transcend his masculinity. I wouldn't
call this book a lesbian novel, but it is definitely queer. Coyote
challenges normative notions of masculinity and the social construction
of human relations in order to give us a beautifully written novel
that grabs your attention on every page. The writing style and plot
content swiftly carry the story along until the eye-opening ending.
After you read Bow Grip, I seriously suggest you pick up
some of Coyote's earlier work, because I'm quickly falling in love
with her writing. Arsenal Pulp Press, $16.95, 9781551522135.
Cristy C. Road is well known for her drawings. Her work has
been featured in Bitch magazine, on the cover of the current
North American Congress on Latin America Report of the Americas
March/April 2007 edition, on
the cover of the new anthology We Don’t Need Another Wave,
and many zines, band posters, shirts, and other magazines. Road's
work is truly the face of the younger feminist movement. Now,
she has written down her experiences of being a rebellious, gender-queer,
Latina high school student in her illustrated novel Indestructible.
Road's language and drawings are so honest and raw in emotion
that you'll instantly be addicted to her story in the first couple
of pages. From being a part of the punk rock scene to deciding
whether or not to pluck her eyebrows in a rejection of white femininity,
Road's narrative is captivating and inspiring to anyone who ever
felt rebellious towards the status quo. Road's novel makes me
want to get off my butt and do things in this world! Plus, she's
really witty and her drawings are unforgettable. Read it, now.
Microcosm Publishing, $6, 9780977055777.
Mary Ellen Kavanaugh is inspired by...
and Veronika: A Novel by Linda Olson is a lovely, short
but deeply satisfying read. Astrid and Veronika are two women of
two different generations who come together in a lovely friendship
which, like all good relationships, offers them each what they need
in the moment in which they need it. Veronika, the younger woman,
a writer, has rented a house in a small village in Sweden, where
she hopes both to write a novel and to grieve the death of her lover.
Astrid, a long-time resident of the village, a solitary woman who
is called a witch by those who are frightened of her aloneness,
next door neighbor and befriends the sorrowful young woman. As they
slowly get to know each other over the course of a harsh winter
and into the light of spring, they confide in one another and are
witness to the pains and joys of each other's lives. In one very
memorable passage, Astrid, who has just confessed to having done
a truly horrible thing, tells Veronika, "I have never talked
to anyone about that night. Ever… And now when I listen to my own
words, I realize that they tell a different story from the one I
have carried all these years. … I think that if we can find the
words and if we can find someone to tell them to, then perhaps we
can see things differently. But I had no words, and I had nobody."
This is a dear piece of writing - a true telling of what we can
be to one another. Linda Olson's debut novel is a special book to
give to a new friend, a soul friend, and will be a great reading
group selection. Penguin, $14, 9780143038078.
I have been dreamily lost in the reverie that is Lia Purpura's
Looking, a collection of lyrical essays. Today, I ate
my lunch sitting outside on a busy corner in Minneapolis, slurping
down Szechwan noodles, listening to a street saxophonist and carried
away, as if in
a meditation, by Purpura's descriptions. The focus of these essays
is, as the title implies: looking. Seriously looking. The way
we look as children but often lose the capacity to look so closely
as we age and our vision widens out to "the bigger picture."
Anything I can say about her writing feels inconsequential - here
is an example of why: "Frost on the bathroom window this
morning burgeons and twines in winged fleur-de-lis. Astonishing
frost on this, the same morning I discover my mother's old cigarette
case: the same, precise blooms but in silver-etched motion. How
the mind of frost, the form reaches out, draws its heirs close:
from anywhere, cracked riverbeds and leaf veins in sun."
Sarabande Books, $14.95, 9781932511390.
Sara Luce Look is up all night reading...
I was surprised by how much I like
Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica
Pradhan. It's about a group of women, originally from different regions of
India, who now live in the Washington, D.C. area. Their now-adult daughters
refer to their mothers as "the Hindi-Bindi club." It's a good read
about mothers and daughters, generational and cultural differences, and some
history as well, with observations about what happened when Pakistan was separated
from India. I loved reading all the recipes - I want to try them all. Random
House/Bantam, $12, 9780553384529.
I too read
Falling Off the Family Tree - The Search for My Melungeon
Ancestors by Lisa Alther this month. It is written in the author's breezy
style, very flippant, funny, and entertaining. Melungeon people don't know
their history, so Alther does research to find out if she's Melungeon. Kinfolks
also discusses what it means to be a person of color in the South, the politics
of race in the South, what it means to pass, and at what point someone may
or may not want to pass. For those who have read her novels, Alther provides
information about where some of those characters came from. She also touches
on what's taught in U.S. schools and what the truth is, about colonization,
etc. I am disappointed that her publisher didn't choose to reprint Alther's
classic novel Kinflicks and her other backlist titles; it's such a
shame that they're all out of print. Kinfolks: Arcade, $25, 9781559708326.
Two books that have sold very well at our store
Books in Atlanta)
Lies Beneath: Katrina, Race, and the State of the Nation
edited by South End Press Collective (South End Press, $15, 9780896087675)
Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial
Complex edited by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence
(South End Press, $18 paper, 9780896087668). What Lies Beneath
looks at Katrina in relationship to race, politics, and justice,
while The Revolution Will Not Be Funded discusses the politics
of non-profit organizations and philanthropy - there's quite a
buzz in Atlanta about this latest INCITE! book.
And a couple For the Kids:
and Sugar: A Big City Kitty Ditty, written and illustrated by
Barbara Johansen Newman, features bold and detailed illustrations of cowboy
and cowgirl cars trying to make their way in the country music world. With
well-done rhymes, it's a great read-aloud book for kids three to seven. Sterling
Publishing, $14.95 hardback, 9781402738876.
Bee Tree by Stephen Buchmann and Diana Cohn with beautiful
illustrations by Paul Mirocha is based on a true
story about a family in Malaysia. They have a tradition where
every year someone climbs this tree to collect honey, and this
year, it's Nizam's turn, as he's coming of age. The back of the
book has the story behind the story - about bees in Malaysia,
why they collect the honey - and includes photographs of the people
on whom the story is based and the tree itself. We had this book
featured on Charis' Earth Day display last month. Cinco Puntos
Press, $17.95 hardback, 9780938317982.
Linda Bryant is moved by...
I was drawn to Rise
and Shine by the beautiful swallowtail butterfly on the
cover and because I love Anna Quindlen,
but I did not get around to reading it until a 91-year-old woman
told her Booklover's Club (where I was speaking about feminist bookstores
for women's history month) how much she loved it. She was from New
York, and she said it was such a wonderful representation of the
glitz and glamour and the soul-wrenching poverty that coexists there
that she felt it was very "New York." It's a book to learn
from, to cry with, to live in for a while, and taste and see how
fragile and resilient people can be. It's not a story that I identify
with, a life that I know, but it feels real and alive. Random House,
I loved The Book of Dead Birds by Gayle Brandeis,
so I was eager to read Self
Storage, her new novel. Whitman's
Leaves of Grass infuses this beautiful book, lines of poetry
interwoven with the narrator's thoughts, then the ancient copy
of the book she owns becomes another kind of salvation for her.
Flan deals in storage units, purchasing the contents of units
left unpaid for, sight unseen, then selling what she can until
one day all that is in the unit is a box with a slip of paper
that says, "Yes." When she follows that yes to its source,
everything changes. As always, Brandeis brings political realities
into her story, much like Barbara Kingsolver, slips them in and
makes you care about them by letting you know a person, not an
idea. Heartbreaking and yet hopeful, I loved this book. Random
House, $23.95, 9780345492609.
Minutes by Jodi Picoult is a tough book - hard, especially,
for those whose children are not yet grown. As usual, Picoult
draws the reader in emotionally. My co-worker could not finish
the book - "too
hard," she said. I could not put it down. Taking the reader
into the heart of a school shooting, into the mind of the shooter,
but, more importantly, into the heart of his parents, it reminded
me of all the little decisions that we as parents make daily that
affect our children in ways we might not guess. Or if we did,
we might not guess right. The other side of the experience - the
families of the victims - is also very real, as is the complicated
nature of bullying. And then there's the judge, oh, and the cop.
She doesn't miss a beat. To me, a novel that opens up the complexity
instead of simplifying it is worth the read. Simon & Schuster,
Suzanne Corson enjoys...
After fielding numerous questions about what virginity is -
and isn't - on teen-sex advice website scarleteen.com, Hanne Blank
began doing research in an attempt to get clear answers. Her inability
to find either clarity or consensus led her to write Virgin:
The Untouched History. This is probably a subject that,
in and of itself, has a major impact on many women yet is rarely
explored in depth. People make
and spout things about the hymen, history, and religion. Yet even
with those things, there isn't agreement. For one thing, though
different types of virginity have been written about since before
the birth of Christ, discussions of vaginal hymens and their link
to virginity weren't noted until the fifteenth century. So clearly
the existence - or not - of a hymen wasn't a factor at all in identifying
a virgin for, oh, at least the first millennium. Blank's research and scholarship
is impressive, and she writes with an entertaining and accessible
style. She covers cultural, historical, religious, medical, and
scientific thoughts on virginity and tells of the great impact of
this subject on women throughout the ages - and today. I was stunned
to read that a 12-year-old in Alabama was murdered by her mother
in 2004 (only three years ago, folks) because her mother thought
the girl was no longer a virgin. Blank also looks at how virginity
is addressed in films and on TV, by the government, with things
like "abstinence-only sex education," and by some churches
today, with "chastity pledges." Virgin: The Untouched
History is a must-read for anyone interested in women's history
and the intersections between history, religion, culture, and sexuality.
Bloomsbury USA, $24.95, 9781596910102.
I finally had a chance to read Marge Piercy's latest collection
of poetry, The
Crooked Inheritance. What a
treat. It's a great blend of her trademark political poetry, intimate
personal poems, and those about everyday life: gardening, making
pesto, baking bread. Of special note is "Choose a Color,"
which covers everything from the Cold War to global warming. From
her childhood neighborhood in Detroit to her home in Cape Cod,
from the war in Iraq to the U.S. government's response to Hurricane
Katrina, there's plenty to think about, remember, wonder about,
and enjoy in this strong collection. Random House/Knopf, $24,
Julie Fisher-McGarry has come up with a handy, inspirational,
and incredibly useful guide
to living green and in better harmony with your mind, body and
the Change You Want to See in the World: 365 Things You Can Do
for Yourself and Your Planet has tips for everyday of
the year: recipes, websites to check out, parables, lessons, and
motivational gems. There are many books like this, but this one
clicked for me in a way that others haven't. These are things
I actually can do - and will do. Check it out. Conari Press, $14.95,
Science Fiction and Fantasy
By Jill Roberts
Sister Eileen Callaghan is no ordinary nun. For starters, she
wears a Colt revolver in a garter holster beneath
her habit. And her journey across post-Civil War America is littered
with mangled corpses. It turns out that Callaghan has a strange
affinity for werewolves, and she becomes locked in a deadly duel
with an elusive killer. Will she have to emulate him in order to
defeat him? In a Southern gothic with taut suspense and memorable
characters, Cherie Priest (Four and Twenty Blackbirds) puts
her own scary stamp on werewolf stories. With its three linked stories,
Skin is an enjoyable thriller with some very interesting
morality thrown in. Subterranean Press, $25, 9781596060807.
In the Tiptree-verse, the girls are strong and the boys,
are - well everyone's pretty much whomever they want to be. The
Awards have just been announced, with co-winners Shelley Jackson
Life) and Catherynne M. Valente (The
Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden) sharing the prize
(actually, they each get the $1,000 in prize money, an original
Tiptree-related piece of artwork, and most importantly, the signature
chocolate created specifically for the award. Yum). In writing
superlative fiction that explores and expands gender, these authors
move us toward the unconstrained world you'd really want
to live in. Here are Tiptree juror Joan Gordon's comments on the
"Half Life is a spectacular book. Jackson uses the science fictional
conceit - conjoined twins born in large numbers after the A-Bomb testing in
the 1950s - to explore both sympathetically and satirically all the negotiations
in the women's movement, in gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender movements, in
other rights movements - separatist, solidarity, identity, integration, etc."
HarperCollins, $24.95, 9780060882358.
About The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden, Gordon
continues, "The structure... is brilliant, stories within
stories, looping around and following through one another. On
the surface it's a girl telling fairy tales a la 1001 nights,
but the tales are influenced by worldwide story-telling traditions,
and the roles of men, women, heroes, villains, animals, mythic
beings, gods, etc., are constantly being subverted, upended, tweaked,
so that gender and sexuality are more liquid than solid."
Bantam Spectra, $14, 9780553384031.
really couldn't have said it any better. I chose James
Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon as my
favorite sf-related nonfiction book of 2006. This dazzling biography
of one of my literary heroes subsequently won the National Book
Critics Circle Award and has just received a special recognition
Tiptree Award. I won't review it again, even though I want to.
The trade paperback will be out in June: Picador, $18, 9780312426941.
Here's the rundown of the 2006 Tiptree Awards, all worth watching out for:
Shelley Jackson, Half Life
Catherynne M. Valente, The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden
Julie Phillips, James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon
Andrea Hairston, Mindscape, Aqueduct Press, $19.50 paperback, 978933500034
Betsy James, Listening at the Gate, Atheneum, $16.95, 9780689850684
Ellen Kushner, The Privilege of the Sword, Spectra, $6.99,
James Morrow, The Last Witchfinder, Harper Perennial, $15.95, 9780060821807
Michaela Roessner, "Horse-Year Women," Fantasy & Science
Fiction, January 2006
Karen Russell, "Ava Wrestles the Alligator" and "St. Lucy's
Home for Girls Raised by Wolves," from St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised
by Wolves, Knopf, $22, 9780307263988
Karen Traviss, Matriarch, Eos, $7.99, 9780060882310
Mark von Schlegell, Venusia, Semiotext(e), $14.95, 9781584350262
By Nan Cinnater
Those of us who are hooked on mystery fiction are to some extent
searching for the Grail: that perfect mix of suspense, character,
structure, and language that will engage and entertain in equal
the new entry by Nicola Griffith in her series about Norwegian-born
martial artist and former cop Aud Torvingen, comes very close. Aud
is the enigmatic lesbian heroine of Nicola Griffith's noir
classics Blue Place (Harper, $13.95, 9780380790883) and Stay (Vintage,
$12.95, 9781400032303). Always is the most ambitious and
most feminist book in the series so far. In this beautifully structured
novel, Griffith alternates between two stories. In one, Aud travels
to Seattle to rendezvous with her mother, a Norwegian diplomat,
and take care of some business. We quickly realize that something
is amiss with Aud's real estate holdings, in particular a warehouse
rented to film a trouble-plagued television pilot. The other story
follows a women's self-defense course Aud teaches in Atlanta. As
often happens in real life, the self-defense classes double as consciousness-raising
sessions for the students. In both stories the tension mounts slowly
but inexorably, with plot developments firmly rooted in strong,
real characters. In addition to all that, we get to meet Aud's mother!
Riverhead, $26.95, 9781594489358.
Glass Devil by Helene Tursten, translated by Katarina
E. Tucker, Swedish Detective Inspector Irene Huss investigates
a triple homicide (Soho Press, $24, 9781569474525). The victims
are a school teacher living in a lakeside cottage and his parents,
a minister and his wife, murdered in their beds in a small-town
rectory. There are virtually no clues except for the pentagrams
drawn in blood on their computer screens, suggesting a Satanic
(To her credit, Tursten has a likeable Wiccan character explain
the different connotations of the pentagram, as well as the difference
between Satanism and more benign occult practices.) Irene learns
that there is a fourth member of the family, a daughter who lives
in London, and eventually Irene goes to England to investigate.
The mystery is compelling and complex, with some masterful misdirection.
Irene appears to be a realistic working wife and mother of twin
teenage daughters. Occasionally, though, I felt like I was watching
a dubbed movie and wondering what was lost in translation. Sometimes
social interactions seemed cold or stilted when I suspect they
were meant to be casual and even heart-warming. These odd glitches
do not detract from a terrific plot, however. This is the third
in the Irene Huss series to be published in the U.S. by Soho Press,
following Detective Inspector Huss ($14, 9781569473702)
and The Torso ($13, 9781569474532).
Mary Anna Evans has just published the third in her series about her mixed-race
heroine, archaeologist Faye Longchamp, and her Native American colleague Joe
Wolf Mantooth. In
(Poisoned Pen Press, $24.95, 9781590583425),
Faye and Joe are on a dig in Mississippi when racial tensions boil over, and
a local KKK member is found murdered with an Indian blade. Evans does a neat
job of incorporating scientific and archaeological data into stories that
are equally driven by character and history. The first in the series, Artifacts,
is currently out of print; the second is Relics (Poisoned Pen, $14.95,
Martinez, herself a former federal prosecutor, is writing a sharp
and suspenseful series about Hispanic federal prosecutor Melanie
Vargas. In The
Finishing School (Harper, $7.99, 9780060724016), Melanie
is investigating the heroin overdoses of two prep school girls,
and she begins to suspect that at least one was not an accident.
Melanie is a single mom with a family and a life, as well as a
crush on an FBI agent she works with, giving this more depth and
interest than the run-of-the-mill thriller. Melanie Vargas is
back in Martinez's latest novel, Cover-Up.
Morrow, $23.95, 9780060899004.
Cows by Karen E. Olson (Warner, $6.99, 9780446616850) introduces
New Haven reporter Annie Seymour - tough, funny, and cranky bordering on misanthropic.
(Annie is the kind of city dweller who is afraid that if she gets to know
her neighbors, she'll have to move.) Annie is pulled out of bed in the wee
hours to cover the death of a Yale co-ed, who fell or jumped from an apartment
balcony. Annie quickly learns that the apartment was rented by a mysterious
corporation, and the girl was dead before she fell. Annie's life is almost
as complicated as the mystery. Her lover is a cop; her mother is a high-powered
lawyer retained by the girl's family; her chief rival is a zealously annoying
cub reporter; and she's being followed by a sexy private investigator. As
a final straw, Annie is assigned to cover the Cow Parade, an urban art installation
of fiberglass cows decorated by local artists. Olson brings Annie back in
Smoke (Mysterious Press, $22, 9780892960255).
In the film of The Big Sleep, Humphrey Bogart runs
into a series of wonderfully outspoken working women who epitomize
the homefront feminist spirit - most notably a sexy, spunky cab
driver who's more than game
when the private eye tells her to follow that car. I like to think
that one of those women could be Sandra Scoppettone's heroine
Faye Quick, a former secretary running a PI agency while her boss
is fighting overseas in WWII. Faye debuted in This Dame for
Hire (Ballantine, $6.99, 9780345478115) and now the sequel,
Darn Hot, is also available in paperback (Ballantine,
$7.99, 9780345478139). Narrated by Faye, the series at first seemed
premise-heavy, written in an extremely slangy dialect and packed
with every forties detail that would fit. Something clicked for
me with the second book, however, and I gave myself over
to the black and white movie that this should be. In Too Darn
Hot, a good-looking broad walks in to the office and asks
Faye to search for her missing boyfriend, a soldier on leave named
Charlie. When Faye gets to his hotel room, she finds a corpse
- but is it Charlie?
Louise Penny writes literate and subtle whodunits in the classic Agatha
Christie mode, although her hero, Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector of the Surete
de Quebec, is a quietly observant and likeable character who is more Maigret
than Poirot. In Still Life (Minotaur, $6.99, 9780312948559) murder
disrupts the tiny town of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, when
a retired schoolteacher and Sunday painter is felled by an arrow in hunting
Fatal Grace (Minotaur, $23.95, 9780312352561) Gamache
returns to Three Pines at Christmas when murder occurs during a curling competition.
Maybe I expect less of unpretentious little paperbacks, and
therefore I am more satisfied when they turn out to be reasonably
well written and entertaining. Or
maybe I just like golden retrievers. In any case, I thoroughly
enjoyed Smoky Mountain Tracks by Donna Ball (Penguin/Signet,
$6.99, 9780451218025), and the sequel, Rapid
Fire. Raine Stockton is a kennel owner and dog trainer
who also works part time for the Forest Service in North Carolina.
With the help of her ex-husband the police chief, her business
partner Maude, and most of all her golden retriever Cisco, Raine
is equal to almost any challenge. But Raine is torn when the FBI
contacts her while searching for her old lover, a fugitive eco-terrorist,
in Rapid Fire. Meanwhile, a bear wreaks havoc at a construction
site, and Raine finds a dead body by the side of the road. The
threads of this mystery are not as tightly tied as I expected,
but that makes it interesting and realistic. And, besides, it's
really all about the dog. Penguin/Signet, $6.99, 9780451219992.
about unpretentious little paperbacks! I had a high fever when
I picked up What's
a Ghoul to Do? by Victoria Laurie, which looks like chick-lit-meets-Ghostbusters,
and that's pretty much what it is. But Laurie takes her psychic
sleuthing seriously, and is therefore convincing in her explication
of paranormal happenings. Meanwhile her heroine's gay male best
friend, loud-mouthed parrot, and sexy client/love interest keep
the repartee flying and make the reader take everything but the
ghosts very lightly. Penguin/Signet, $6.99, 9780451220905.
New in Paperback
Topics in Calamity Physics, Marisha Pessl, Penguin, $15, 9780143112129.
Triangle: A Novel, Katharine Weber, St. Martin's/Picador, $14, 9780312426149.
Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life, Erica Jong, Penguin/Tarcher,
Piece of Paradise, Terri Jentz, St. Martin's/Picador, $15,
Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion, Random House/Vintage, $13.95,
Books Into Movies
The movie based on Susan Minot's novel Evening opens nationwide on
June 29. The cast of this story of mothers and daughters features two real-life
mother-daughter acting pairs: Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha Richardson, and
Meryl Streep and Mamie Gummer. Others in the cast include Claire Danes, Toni
Collette, and Glenn Close.
Alice Sebold's novel The Lovely Bones is a few steps closer to a movie
theatre near you as well. Director Peter Jackson and writing partners Philippa
Boyens and Fran Walsh have finished the script, and Dreamworks won the bidding
war for the film, which according to Variety is a natural fit, since
the studio tried to acquire the script before Jackson successfully did so.
Jackson's recent work includes films such as King Kong and The Lord
of the Rings trilogy, but he also directed 1994's Heavenly Creatures,
which is more similar in tone to Sebold's novel than the blockbusters made
of the Tolkien books.
Online with Our Authors
CNN's Talk Asia program talks with Kiran Desai:
Vermont Woman profiles Grace Paley:
…and interviews Lisa Alther:
Tavis Smiley interviews Anne Lamott for PBS:
Scarleteen.com interviews Hanne Blank about Virgin: The Untouched History:
T Cooper discusses touring for the paperback release of Lipshitz
6 with Publishers Weekly:
Bookslut.com interviews Alison Bechdel about Fun Home:
Young Adult Books to Watch Out For
Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Books, will publish Allegra (Intuition)
Goodman's first young adult novel, The Other Side of the Island, in
fall 2008. The book is described as a post-apocalyptic dystopian tale.
Also due in fall 2008: a collection of young adult stories from Kelly Link,
author of two story collections for adults, Magic for Beginners (2005)
and Stranger Things Happen (2001). Link says the stories in the forthcoming
collection for young adults are a combination of fantasy, ghost stories and
"some pretty funny" tales.
The Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction recently announced the shortlist
for its 2007 awards, which celebrate "excellence, originality, and accessibility
in international women's writing." The shortlist consists of:
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half
of a Yellow Sun
Rachel Cusk, Arlington Park
Kiran Desai, The
Inheritance of Loss
Xiaolu Guo, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
Jane Harris, The Observations
Anne Tyler, Digging to America
Listen to some of the 2007 Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction-shortlisted
authors read from their nominated books:
In addition, here is the short list for the 2007 Orange Broadband Award
for New Writers, which honors authors of first works of fiction:
Clare Allan, Poppy Shakespeare
Roopa Farooki, Bitter Sweets
Karen Connelly, The Lizard Cage
Three women are included in the Judges' List of Contenders for the second
Man Booker International Prize. The 15 authors on the list are: Chinua Achebe,
Margaret Atwood, John Banville, Peter Carey, Don DeLillo, Carlos Fuentes,
Doris Lessing, Ian McEwan, Harry Mulisch, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, Amos
Oz, Philip Roth. Salman Rushdie, and Michel Tournier. The writers come from
ten countries, and four are writers in translation.
The Man Booker International Prize can be won by an author of any nationality,
providing that his or her work is available in the English language. It is
awarded every second year, which allows the judges time to study in depth
the work of those authors under consideration. The current judges are Elaine
Showalter (chair), Nadine Gordimer, and Colm Tóibin.
We hope you've enjoyed this issue of More Books for Women.
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Graphics © Judy Horacek
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