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Books Within Winter (10/18)
An integral part of Ali Smith's Winter are the frequent allusions and references made to other excellent works of literature. Though it would be nearly impossible to catalog them all, here are a few.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Dickens' famous work is referenced from the very outset of Winter in the opening line: 'God was ...
Floods in Myth and Legend (10/18)
The End We Start From takes place during a drastic, near-future flood that impacts London and its surrounding territory. During 2017, floods surged over many regions of the world. As the plausibility of future catastrophic flooding seems more and more likely, it is fascinating to take a look at how floods figure prominently in ancient ...
James M. Cain's Noir Novels (08/18)
At one point in Sunburn, Polly recalls having gone to a film series back in Baltimore, a showing of several films grouped under the title 'Raising Cain.' At the time, she didn't know what that meant, but savvy readers will pick up on Lippman's reference to her fellow Baltimorean James M. Cain, author of influential noir novels, ...
Female Comic Book Writers (08/18)
Leia Birch, the central character in Joshilyn Jackson's The Almost Sisters, is the writer of a comic books series published by DC Comics. While the characters and the comic are both fictional, in real-life, as is in the book, female writers are in the minority. The comic book world is chock full of men - they are both characters in the ...
My Favorite Gay Characters in Literature (05/18)
With his portrait of Arthur Less, a lovable — if somewhat hapless — man on a trip round the world, Andrew Sean Greer gives more than a nod to Mark Twain's 1869 satire, The Innocents Abroad. Less, a middle-aged gay man, needs to radically re-write his own novel about 'a middle-aged gay man walking about San Francisco.' This ...
Advice Books for Juggling Careers & Motherhood (05/18)
In The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, the eponymous main character struggles to maintain her career as a writer while raising two children. She is not alone; thousands of women grapple with this issue every day. In recent years many books have been published aimed at this demographic with the goal of providing advice, guidance and ...
The History of Fictional Female Detectives (03/18)
Many great novels start with a premise, which mirrors or takes inspiration from something in real life. In Greer Macallister's Girl in Disguise, the inspiration is the real-life Kate Warne, the first female private detective who began her career with Pinkerton's in 1856. Learning about her made me wonder which came first – did the ...
Women who Scheme: The Female as Villain in Greek Tragedies and Beyond (03/18)
The story of Clytemnestra is told in bits and pieces across several play cycles from the Classical period, and before. At the end of the House of Names, the author Colm Tóibín notes that, while the majority of the novel's events are not related to any source material, the overall shape of the narrative and the main characters ...
OCD in Young Adult Literature (02/18)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) impacts the lives of many Americans, including young adults and children. According to a 2013 article in American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, OCD 'is seen in as many as 1 in 200 children and adolescents.' Labeling exact characteristics of the disorder is difficult because, as the Anxiety...
A Slew of Southern Writers (01/18)
Mary Miller's Always Happy Hour is set in the south, but many will see it as something other than true southern fiction. The protagonists are too internalized, too walled off from the southerness – the land, the people, the ethos of pride, racial discord, and defeat – that is the beating heart of most great southern fiction...
Books About Empathy (09/17)
Empathy seemed to take a huge hit in 2016. I can't think of many weeks that went by where blatant hate or some form of intolerance wasn't at the forefront of the news. I got to a point where I decided to disconnect from media. I couldn't take it anymore.

When Will Schwalbe's Books for Living arrived on my doorstep, ...
Contemporary YA Novels about 9/11 (08/17)
Over 3,000 people died on September 11, 2001. With the impact of that catastrophe being so far-reaching, it's no surprise that there have been a plethora of films and books released that recall 9/11. Oliver Stone's World Trade Center and Paul Greengrass' United 93 are two of the most popular movies to recreate that day. Jonathan Safran ...
Young Adult Novels Exploring Depression (08/17)
According to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), suicide is the second leading cause of death in people 15-24 years of age, and ranks tenth when considering all ages. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the United States, eight percent of all people over the age of twelve suffer from depression in ...
Books About Books (08/17)
In The Book That Matters Most, literature turns out to be an important lifeline to Ava as she joins a book club to offer her some soul sustenance through trying times. Here a few other recommendations for books about other books, whose theme is the joy of the written word.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The ...
Young Adults as Unreliable Narrators (07/17)
In How to Set a Fire and Why, Lucia claims to not remember exactly what occurred during an argument with her aunt's landlord, leaving her exact reasoning and motivation somewhat mysterious. In writing Lucia as an unreliable narrator, Jesse Ball draws from an established tradition.

An unreliable narrator lies, expresses uncertainty or ...
Brother, Can You Spare a Few Books? (06/17)
The Great Recession, in 2008, was the vicious charley horse that followed the extreme chest pains of the financial crisis in 2007. During that period, the $8 trillion housing bubble burst, and the stock market dropped precariously, taking down consumer spending, driving up the unemployment rate (from 5% in December 2007, to 9.5% in June ...
Young Adult Literature Set in the Big Apple (05/17)
A lot of books for children and young adults are set in suburbia - but some truly memorable examples of the genre are set in cities, especially (like Goodbye Stranger) in Manhattan. Here are just a handful of the many classic and contemporary novels for young people set in the Big Apple. Whether your family already lives there or you just...
Uncovering YA Novels with Transgender Characters (05/17)
Modern American culture has a fascination with understanding what being transgender truly means. Popular television series such as I Am Cait and I Am Jazz are bringing real, transitioning lives into households everywhere. But, of course, TV series aren't the only way that people are beginning to understand what being transgender ...
Misery Lit (05/17)
The Sound of Gravel, a personal account of the author's traumatic childhood, is part of a surprisingly popular genre commonly called, somewhat derisively we might add, the misery memoir.

In a 2006 Guardian article, a publishing industry official pointed out that 'readers of these books would previously have looked to fiction for their ...
A Florida Reading List (04/17)
Sarah Gerard's Sunshine State celebrates her coastal Florida upbringing. We've chosen five more books that also showcase Florida.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
Ava Bigtree is 12 and reeling from her mother's death. She and her siblings participate in the family business, a gator-wrangling theme park on Swamplandia!, their (fictional...
A Maritime Reading List (04/17)
The North Water is a gritty, graphic novel about 19th-century whaling. Here are a few additional maritime adventures.

Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett

In this rollicking debut novel, Mary Davidson, an Australian whaler's daughter, looks back at 1908 – a catastrophic whaling season but her first chance at romance. At 19 she is ...
Circadian Novels (01/17)
Nicola Yoon's The Sun Is Also a Star is an example of a circadian novel where the main action (except flashbacks, for instance) takes place all on one day. The most celebrated example is James Joyce's Ulysses (1922), set in 1904 Dublin on what has come to be known as 'Bloomsday,' June 16th. The protagonist, Leopold Bloom, mostly wanders ...
Childhood Food Novels (10/16)
When my sister, Meridith, was little my parents' frequent dinner table entreaty was that she stop playing with her food. But she was an unstoppable force (a picture of her as a baby shows her pointing a crooked finger at the camera as if to warn the world to beware because she had lots of things to say and do). Mom and Dad soon gave up on...
Uplifting Books (09/16)
It is difficult to write an uplifting book about death and dying but it seems that Anna McPartlin has succeeded in doing so.

We featured a dozen uplifting books about a variety of topics in a recent blog post and invite you to add them to your reading list and share recommendations of your own.
Animals in Literary Fiction (08/16)
In an interview with The Globe and Mail in 2009, David Wroblewski, author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, said: 'I thought that 'dog stories' had been juvenilized over the course of the 20th century, and that was wrong.'

Like Lauren Holmes, whose short story 'My Humans' - in the collection Barbara the Slut and Other People - charts...
Mysteries Set in Far Flung Places (08/16)
Jade Dragon Mountain is the start of a new mystery series that proved a hit with the members who reviewed it for First Impressions. Here are some other recently published, or soon to publish, mysteries set in far flung locations to add to your 'must-read' list:

The Invention of Fire by Bruce Holsinger

Apr 2015. 432 pages. ...

Autism in Middle Grade and Young Adult Literature (06/16)
Eli Gottlieb's Best Boy tells the story of the life of Todd Aaron, an autistic man struggling to understand and fit into the world that surrounds him. Todd's story, while unique in its own right, is increasingly familiar. Autism is something that is increasingly talked about in the American popular culture and embedded in the ...
Epistolary Novels (06/16)
Epistolary novels are not new – Bram Stoker's Dracula, for example, was published in 1879, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein even earlier, in 1818. The form, which is not limited to letters, (nor to horror novels!) but also includes journal entries, newspaper clippings, emails, and other forms of correspondence, has held appeal, ...
Bending Real Life into Fiction (06/16)
Clare Mackintosh's debut novel, I Let You Go, is inspired by an event – a hit-and-run accident – that happened early in the author's career as a police officer. Embarking on a work of fiction by using an actual event as inspiration is a common occurrence in books, movies and television. Note that this story is 'inspired by'...
Grief in Contemporary Literature (05/16)
Bill Clegg's Did You Ever Have A Family tells the story of different characters whose lives intersect as they deal with the struggles (and few successes) of life. One character stands out among the large cast: June Reid, a middle-aged woman, who is dealing with the loss of her entire family from a tragic fire.

As you might guess...
A Murderer's Point of View (05/16)
The Convictions of John Delahunt is narrated by a murderer. The technique of using a first-person account to bring readers into the world of the killer can certainly be effective. Here are some of the better-known novels written from the viewpoint of a murderer.
  • Hyde by Daniel Levine (2014)

    Levine flips the plot of Robert Louis ...
Unusual Literary Devices (03/16)
Olga Grushin's novel Forty Rooms is set in forty different rooms – from a childhood bathroom to her father's study in Russia, and on to a dorm room, and eventually the many rooms in her large suburban American home in which she lives with her husband and six children.

The number forty comes from the idea that the average...
A Montana Reading List (03/16)

Dog Run Moon is mostly set in Montana. Here is a selection of recommended books also set in Big Sky Country.

Winter: Notes from Montana by Rick Bass
This is a memoir of the author's first winter spent in Yaak Valley, Montana with his wife, the artist Elizabeth Hughes, whose line drawings illuminate the book. With their dogs and ...

Novels That Feature Close-Knit Friends (02/16)
One of the many astute portrayals in A Little Life is the closely knit group of friends to which Jude St. Francis, the haunted protagonist, belongs. While the literal coming-of-age happens during the teen years, it could be argued that college, for those who attend, is the real deal. It is a transformative experience for most people, and ...
Tim Johnston - A Carpenter Who Builds Houses and Stories (12/15)
In 2007, Tim Johnston's father asked him if he would go to his new house in the Rockies and do the finish work. Johnston made his living as a carpenter at the time, and since 2006 his father had been asking him to do the job. Johnston wasn't writing at the time; he was contemplating, instead, that he might never write again, and so he ...
Car Crashes in Middle Grade and Young Adult Literature (11/15)
In a controversial article in The Wall Street Journal in June 2011, 'Darkness Too Visible,' Meghan Cox Gurdon lamented that the world of young adult literature has become too dark – a forest thick with loss, pain, death, and the gruesome details that describe them all. She offered the suggestion that such books might introduce teens...
Troubles in Southern Memoirs (11/15)
Barry Moser's We Were Brothers presents his troubled relationship with the South. He shares his positive memories of his childhood filled with games and conversation, but what he seems to remember the most, now in his later adulthood, are the times of strife – those moments of conflict and bigotry.

Anyone familiar with ...
Coming of Autumn (04/15)
Autumn of Age. Isn't that a beautiful phrase? It conjures the image of magenta and orange leaves falling from trees, and the landscape preparing to take stock for a season, quietly hunkering down, stripping itself of the old, and getting ready for the new.

In the First Impressions Review of Mimi Malloy At Last, by Julia MacDonnell, ...
Famous Men – and the Women Next to Them (10/14)
Above All Things, Tanis Rideout's debut novel, is about a man, his wife and his other great love – a 29,000 foot mountain. Rideout explores Ruth Mallory's point of view in Above All Things; her love for George Mallory, her acceptance of his passion for Mount Everest and her deep grief at losing her husband to the hulking mountain. ...
Two Post-Apocolyptic Novels Set Outside of the US (10/14)
After I finished reading The Last Man Standing, I became curious about post-apocalyptic novels written by authors from countries outside of the United States. A rather lengthy and frustrating Internet search led me to science fiction conventions around the world, prizes awarded, and books that have been translated into English. It also ...
The American Road Trip Book (09/14)
Readers who wish to travel America without leaving the couch have always had a vast tradition from which to cull. While you may prefer to watch the mountains and the desert going by from the back of a horse (Lonesome Dove) or atop a raft (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), the most common way to go is, of course, by car.

From Route 66 ...
Ten Classic Children's Novels for Winter (09/14)
The Twistrose Key is full of frozen landscapes inspired by Norwegian winters – sleighs, ice caves, and sled runs, plus a good place to take the chill off with a mug of hot mulled cider. Here is a list of ten other novels for children that will give readers a good dose of frost and snow, either as inspiration for getting through the ...
The Wonderful World of Fictional Settings (08/14)
In Enon (as in his 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Tinkers), Paul Harding constructs and describes the fictional New England town of Enon, complete with a chronicling of its multi-generational history, descriptions of its homes, woods and native plants, and stories of those buried in its cemetery.

Generally speaking, the setting of ...
Hardboiled Detective Fiction: Literary Greats (07/14)
Even if it does veer off into other categories, The Search could be essentially classified as hardboiled detective fiction.

In the 1920s and early 1930s, Dashiell Hammett became the preeminent writer in the field. Until this time, detective stories were lumped in with the rest of 'crime fiction,' with the focus being on a plot that ...
Linda Castillo's Kate Burkholder series (07/14)
Her Last Breath is the fifth book in the Kate Burkholder series. While readers have made it clear that it can be appreciated as a stand-alone book, story lines and character development are carried as threads running throughout the series. Here is a recap of the series for those who have read the other books, and a teaser for those who ...
Child Abduction Novels (07/14)
The sudden disappearance of a young child is certainly one of a parent's worst nightmares. It's probably no wonder, then, that the topic has been explored in a large number of novels, ranging from straightforward mysteries and thrillers to more literary approaches that use child abduction as a springboard for exploration of other topics. ...
A Discovery of African Literature (05/14)

How Emmanuel Sigauke Found African Literature and Founded a Magazine

A conversation between Naomi Benaron and Emmanuel Sigauke

Emmanuel Sigauke is a Zimbabwean writer. He is an English professor at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento California and is the editor of the on-line Munyori Literary Journal which has published the work...

Creating a Sense of Place (05/14)
In Visitation Street Ivy Pochoda puts us smack in the middle of a place like few authors can.

'Music from Coffey Park is rolling down Visitation Street, signaling the kickoff of Old Timers Day on the backside of the neighborhood. Overnight, families from the projects have staked out plots of the park, jockeying to get prime real ...

Notable Novels About Hollywood (02/14)
In 'Illuminati,' one of the stories in Jim Gavin's short story collection, college dropout and writer, Sean, describes the experience of selling his first and only script. 'Two years ago, all my dumb ideas and tenuous connections came together. I sold a screenplay to a finance company that was developing a project for a pair of comedians&...
Pick Your Favorite Best Selling Self-Help Book Quote (01/14)
Each chapter of Peter Herman's fictional self-help book, Marriage Is a Canoe, ends with an aphorism such as 'Compromise keeps your canoe steady. Compromise and you'll never go in circles.'

Publications categorized as self-help or personal development books have been among the very best-selling books for decades. Here are some quotes ...
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