Thursday, June 28, 2012

Review and Giveaway: "Age of Miracles" by Karen Thompson Walker

Title: Age of Miracles
Karen Thompson Walker
Random House
Date Published:
June 26, 2012

**I have an extra copy of this hot-of-the-presses book to give away to a reader! Leave a comment below to enter, and be sure to include a way for me to contact you.  Extra entries for following on GFC or Bloglovin'.  Giveaway will close 11:59PM Pacific, Monday, July 2.**

How I Heard About It: This book has been all over the blogosphere and book world recently, getting rave reviews from Barnes and Noble and book-a-holics. I jumped at the chance to review for TLC Book Tours and was provided with an advanced readers' copy by the publisher.

Two Sentence Summary:  The life of adolescent protagonist Julia (and her family, and the whole world) becomes completely disrupted by breaking news that the rotation of the earth has begun to slow.  Days grow exponentially longer and the population becomes divided with fear of impending Armageddon, while Julia and her family deal with quieter disasters of survival: aging, relationships, and the lies we tell our loved ones out of necessity.

Things I Think:  For a novel that extends into the realm of science fiction, "The Age of Miracles" certainly occupies a different space than others recently published under such a banner.  Walker treats "The Slowing" as almost a backdrop to a more immediate story of a family disintegrating: the marriage of Julia's parents is under fire and Julia's grandfather becomes increasingly enmeshed in eccentric tactics of survivalism.  Julia experiences her first betrayal by too-cool classmate Hannah and finds herself falling inexplicably in love with the quiet, handsome skaterboarder that rides her bus.

Many reviewers have pointed out that this is more a "coming of age" story than a dystopian novel, and I would have to agree. While The Slowing and its many ecological ramifications (birds falling from the sky,  death of vegetation, the dangerous destruction of circadian rhythms) are ever-present, they serve as mostly a backdrop, throwing into stark relief the behaviors humans adopt when threatened.  And for all of this to be told from the perspective of an adolescent girl results in a brutally honest representation of how flawed the adults in her life have become. 

Walker writes beautiful prose, and its understated elegance really suits her subject matter.  The quiet, pensive nature of the narration parallels the concept of "slowing," or of lengthened time.  I did wonder, at times, if the voice was a bit too omniscient:  Julia's powers of deduction/observation seem almost superhuman for such a young person, which is equally compelling and frustrating for me.  Perspective is certainly a big discussion point that surrounds Walker's new novel, and I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on how it has been handled.

**Don't forget! Leave a comment to win a brand spankin' new copy!**

Thank you so much to TLC for inviting me to be a host on this tour.  There are still several stops left for "Age of Miracles," so to read further reviews be sure to check out the schedule!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mailbox Monday: Things to Read!

Due to an amazing influx of books in my life this week, I've decided to participate in Mailbox Monday, currently being hosted by Burton Book Review.  Check out the glory:

Lit Mags:
  • Issue 200 of The Paris Review - A gift from my friend Clay!
  • Issue 37 of Rattle
  • Issue 19 of The Baffler
  • Issue 10 of Slice
  • Tender Morsels and Woodsburner - Mailed to me by the most wonderful Meghan, Brooklyn's hottest librarian. These were recent reads at her book club, and she kindly passed them along to me.
  • Reamde, 1Q84, Angelmaker, and books 3-5 of Gail Carriger's Parasol Protecterate Series - Purchased with a delicious bookstore gift card I received from the fam for my birthday.

I am over the moon. And my apartment is overflowing with new literature. Want to come over and have a reading party?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: "With My Body" by Nikki Gemmell

Title: With My Body
Nikki Gemmell
Date Published:
October 1, 2011

How I Heard About It: I was selected as a blog tour host for this book. A review copy was kindly provided by TLC Book Tours and the publisher.

Also, I've been a huge fan of this author for years. My gorgeous, talented friend and fellow blogger Ginger told me about "The Bride Stripped Bare" in an undergrad creative writing workshop.  I am forever grateful.

Two Sentence Summary: As with "The Bride Stripped Bare," Gemmell narrates her novel from second person perspective; this means that "you" is/are the narrator, signifying the reader as a seminal part of the story's unfolding.  An untangling of womanhood (majestic naivete of youth, tumultuous repercussions of confusion, exhaustion and loneliness of motherhood), this novel is divided up in a series of "lessons" borrowed from a fabricated Victorian manual for females, consistently complicating and explicating the trajectory of a female body.

Things I Think: People are always saying, "I couldn't put it down," to mean simply that they enjoyed a book.  I read lots of books (lots and lots of them), and I say without sense of hyperbole that I could NOT put this book down.

Nikki Gemmell's prose is what every writer aspires to: simultaneously poetic and narrative; universal; omniscient and yet personal.  I read her novels and the "you" that narrates implicates me (reader) not only with its grammatical invitation, but also its guttural honesty.

Follow openly and fearlessly that same law which makes
spring pass into summer, summer into autumn,
and autumn into winter.

I laughingly think, while reading "With My Body," that this novel is what "Fifty Shades of Grey" only wishes it could be.  Truly, there is a blatant eroticism to Gemmell's writing but it is never trite; instead, it celebrates a (and I borrow from so many other reviewers here) "raw" recounting of feminine evolution, something to which any woman (and I suspect any reader) can relate.  The narrator makes blushing reference to "The Thorn Birds" as a dirty tome passed around her boarding school, and the reference creates a direct comparison in my mind: "With My Body" does, for my generation, what McCullough's "Thorn Birds" certainly did in its time. 

In this book many woman will find simply the expression of what
they have themselves, consciously or unconsciously, often times thought; and the more 
deeply, perhaps, because it has never come to the surface in words or writing.

I read, so infrequently, one writer's entire canon out of sheer love for their prosody.  Gemmell's work will always be crucial to me as a woman and as a writer; for the first time, I think I've found a book I will read multiple times in order to maintain a kind of proximity to wisdom. 

Thank you to the publisher and to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book! I'm lucky to to be the first stop on this tour, but there are many more, so check out the schedule.

Monday, June 11, 2012

New Poetry (More Destruction Loops)

tonight, my mind is
dumpster -
                  lead loaded
                  into pen like syringe.

I sift through the detritus
of seven days:
                 dead dads, dead
                 amor, unrelated

the night crew comes,
                accidental things and,
                well, I wonder -

which will melt first:
                skeleton or story?
                memories or steel?


dreaming each night
   of your death, I

forget sometimes to send
   cards -

your eulogy alive in me
   more than your musty

mudroom, my poems
   still there where you taped them.


locksmith and bartender
know me by name.

lives uniquely
                       in each.