Monday, September 29, 2008

Feather Man

Marion Boyars, 2008

Australian author Rhyll McMaster, in her debut work, tells the tale of Sooky, a young girl growing up in Brisbane. Ignored by her parents, Sooky is pushed into the arms of a pedophilic neighbor whose actions will change her view of life and love forever. As Sooky grows into womanhood, she moves to London where she becomes a part of the art world. Soon her past, in the person of Redmond (her neighbor's son), confronts her in unexpected ways.
McMaster writes descriptively; her lyrical prose sets the scene for this story of a young girl moving towards adulthood. An interesting and moving story that is reminiscent of works by Margaret Atwood and Harper Lee.

Derek Raymond

I Was Dora Suarez (Serpent's Tail, 2008)

Legendary noir author Derek Raymond delivers another horrific tale of brutality set in London's West End. An unnamed narrator, a police sergeant, is obsessed with Dora Suarez, a murder victim with a secret past. The fourth book in Raymond's Factory Series, this is a harrowing tale of murder and mystery which leaves the reader mesmerized and bewildered.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Christian Teen Lit: The Miracle Girls

The Miracle Girls by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt (Faith Words, 2008)

In this Christian Teen Lit novel, authors Dayton and Vanderbilt deliver the story of Ana Dominguez, a teenager who has just moved to Half Moon Bay, California. An outsider, Ana soon finds herself stuck in detention with Riley (the most popular girl in school), Christine and Zoe; forced by their teacher to interact, the girls soon learn that they possess the same secret - they have all survived incidents that could have left them for dead. Through prayer, faith and youth group, the four girls learn just how much they have in common and how important their bond can be.

A sweet and engaging tale, the authors subtly add elements of religion to the story; the essence of faith becomes as important as the clothes the girls wear. At times moving, the book is perfect reading for today's young girls who need to be reassured that they are more than their outer appearance.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I am in love with Dewey!

Grand Central Publishing, 2008
I have to admit that I am not a cat lover - dogs have always been my favorites. However, after reading Dewey by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter, I may have changed my mind. Myron, the librarian of the Spencer, Iowa town library, finds a small, nearly dead kitten one cold morning in the drop box. Myron and staff nurse the tiny creature back to life and in the process create a newfound sense of community in a dying town.
Dewey, while clearly a cat (with quite an expressive face), becomes much more as he intuitively sleeps in the laps of those in need of comfort; sits next to a child whose parent must work a couple of extra jobs; and strolls across the library lights to the bewilderment of a homeless man who uses the library as he daily weigh station. Within the small body, beats the heart and compassion of a giant. Myron and Witter deliver a story of hope and true love that is desperately need during this time of uncertainty. Dewey represents all that we have forgotten - the sheer nature and strength of non-judgmental love.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Focus on Kate Pullinger

Focus on Kate Pullinger, Author of A Little Stranger

Your book, A Little Stranger, focuses on one woman's dire unhappiness with marriage and motherhood. Why this subject matter?

When I wrote ‘A Little Stranger’ I had two small children myself and felt that there weren’t many books that dealt honestly with the difficult subject matter of how tough and lonely parenting very young children can be. Since I wrote the book there’s been a real explosion of work dealing with this subject matter, though often through memoir instead of fiction. But it is definitely part of the current zeitgeist to speak about what had previously been difficult, almost taboo, subject matter. I found having babies isolating and lonely at times; however, I never contemplated leaving – I wrote this book instead! Despite all the progress women have made in terms of equal pay and equal rights, at the end of the day we are the ones who have the babies and the arrival of a baby into the life of a couple changes the status quo in ways that neither partner has anticipated. So the book arose out of my own experience, but it is not autobiographical.

Fran chooses to leave her life abruptly and fly to Las Vegas. Is Vegas a metaphor for the change she must go through?

I love Las Vegas, and have been there a number of times, and once did stay for 9 whole days, which felt like a lifetime. Vegas for me represents the US at its most excessive and crude – it’s all about money. It’s also a place where people behave in ways they wouldn’t ordinarily, so it’s kind of magic, while also being a lot like I imagine Hell might be like! So, yes, Vegas is a kind of metaphor, but to me it is also the kind of place where, down on your luck, you might meet the one person who can help you – like how Fran meets Leslie.

The "B Plot" deals with Fran's difficult relationship with her own mother. Does this serve as the catalyst for her own decisions?

Absolutely. Fran removed herself from her family at an early age, so she hasn’t been through the same processes that her father and sister have been through when it comes to dealing with Ireni. She has to track back through that before she can move on. I also found Ireni a really interesting character to write about. Until I was 10 we lived in a part of Canada, in British Columbia, the Kootenays, where there were Doukhobor communities, and they were famous for getting arrested for using farming gas in their cars, and then appearing in court naked. As a child, this fascinated me, of course, and I took writing this book as an opportunity to learn more about that community. As well as that, having an alcoholic parent is a heavy load to bear; I’d seen friends go through that and what I noted was the absence of parenting, the way my friends had to parent their parents.

The book honestly looks at the stresses facing women today - motherhood, marriage, career. Do you believe that women can have it all?

I think there are enormous pressures on women and that it is tough to combine our various roles successfully. But I see women all around me who are combining all these roles and getting a lot of enjoyment from it – from work, from family, from relationships. The trick is to be hugely organized and to find ways to steal time for yourself! I like to think that when Fran returns to London she finds a way to get a better balance in her life, and they all live happily ever after!

Who are some of your literary influences and why?

There are so many writers and books that I love. Scott Fitzgerald for the sparkling and spikey quality of his prose, Philip Roth for the depth and humour of his male characters, Margaret Atwood for her range and longevity, Mary Gaitskill for her sharpness and brutality, Cormac McCarthy for his hefty take-a-deep-breath style… the list is very long. But I also take influence from cinema and television and digital media… from the whole range of media that we have access to.

If you weren't a writer, you would be....

Oh god, my imagination doesn’t really extend beyond writing, I’m afraid. One thing I am profoundly not is entrepreneurial. I think it would be interesting to be some kind of entrepreneur – successful, of course – some kind of business person, someone who sees commercial opportunities and then knows what to do in order to exploit that opportunity. I am so not like that, and it would be very interesting!

Future plans?

I work in digital media a lot these days – see and, among other projects. I’ve also just finished a new novel (ALS came out here in the UK in 2006), ‘The Mistress of Nothing’, which will come out in the UK in 2009. It’s a historical novel about two English women who go to live in Luxor, Egypt in 1864, based on a true story.

Must Reads for Fall

You simply must read these great books:

New York Echoes by Warren Adler (Stonehouse Press, 2008): Brilliant short stories about New York and those that live within its confines.

A Pretty Face by Rafael Reig (Serpent's Tail, 2008): A story filled with humor and imagination, Reig delivers the tale in which Spain is part of the United States and a ghost refuses to leave. A MUST READ.

A is for Atticus by Lorilee Craker (Center Street, 2008): Need help figuring out a name for your about to be born child? Then check out this fun and informative book filled with some fabulous (and out of site) baby names.

Small Crimes by Dave Zeltserman (Serpent's Tail, 2008): A thriller in the vein of Jim Thompson, this is the story of a bad cop who is in a fight to the finish with the local small town mob boss.

The Chinaman by Friedrich Glauser (Bitter Lemon Press, 2008): Glauser is the "man" in European crime writing circles. This is yet another fine example of his incredible writing and enigmatic storytelling.

Check it out - we've been picked up by the cool new mag - VitaminV - rock on fellow Canadians!