Sunday, April 21, 2013

'The Tiger's Wife'

A few years ago, I read an interesting short story by Yugoslavian writer Téa Obreht, and when I finished it, I thought, "Wow!  What a fantastic writer!  I wonder what she'll do next."

'The Tiger's Wife' was sitting on the shelves at my Borders store, but I was so busy writing my own story that I didn't have the time to read it.  I now slap my forehead, saying over and over, "Stupid!  Stupid!  Stupid!"  I learned that an author like Obreht cannot be ignored.

Today, I finished reading 'The Tiger's Wife' and, to put it lightly, I was left breathless.  Breathless because her writing is so brilliant.  Breathless because she will undoubtedly have more to offer (as I type this, I'm praying that she's working on a new story).  Breathless because she has taken so many strings and woven them into a perfectly-blended narrative.

Needless to say, Obreht is now on my list of favorite authors, and I hope she can forgive me for taking such a long time to join the party.

Natalia, a young doctor living in a Balkan country mending from almost-constant war, sets out to uncover the mystery of her beloved grandfather's death.  With the reference of his worn novel, 'The Jungle Book', to guide her, she stumbles upon unsettling discoveries, and at the same time, remembers the stories he told her; the meeting with the 'Deathless Man', and the most extraordinary story of all, the legend of the tiger's wife.

Although death and loss are central to this amazing story, it is also filled with hope, reconciliation, and love.  And while I could fully visualize the characters and feel as if I were accompanying them on their separate journeys, it was the folklore that truly touched me.

I will never forget this story, and I'm sure you'll feel the same way.  As I've said before, great writing is still alive and well.

Especially when it leaves you breathless.

Friday, April 12, 2013

'Courting Greta'

It's so refreshing to find a book that doesn't fit into a standard genre.  Vampires and 'Fifty Shades of Gray' are a bit...tired.  But I've found an unusual romantic novel that challenged me.  One that made me glad that great writing is still alive and well.  

'Courting Greta', the wonderful novel by Ramsey Hootman, is the story of Samuel Cooke, a crippled computer genius who has decided to change his life by leaving his high-paying job to teach computer programming to high school students.  Prickly, sarcastic, and unwilling to let love enter his life, Samuel meets Greta Cassamajor, the high school gym coach, and just to prove he has the courage to do it, asks her out on a date.

But Greta is more than his match.  She is tough, she is strong and no-nonsense, and no one dares mock her.  Yet, surprisingly, she accepts Samuel's offer.  And that's where it all begins.  

'Courting Greta' is a quiet story, yet it has hard edges.  It has secrets; while Greta is the one who challenges Samuel to confess, it her own confession that startled me and gave me more than a glimpse beneath the hard exterior of such an interesting woman.

Although the story didn't grab me right at the beginning, I soon found myself becoming very involved and read it every chance I could I get.

And when I found out why Greta called Samuel 'Mr. Cooke' (*spoiler*: it will melt your heart), I prayed that Ms. Hootman would grace us with another equally-wonderful novel.

Of that, I have no doubt.  

As long as it doesn't contain vampires or sadomasochism.

'Courting Greta', by Ramsey Hootman, will be released on June 18, 2013, by Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Life is just one big mystery, isn't it?  That's what makes it so darn exciting.  Should I turn left, or right?  What will happen if I don't answer the door or phone?  Should I choose door number one...or door three?

That also includes books.  Should I choose a noir mystery?  Or a cute, little 'bed-and-breakfast' mystery?  Or a political thriller?  Hm...serial killers just might be my cup of tea this week.

That is, until I opened M.J. Rose's new novel, 'Seduction'.  

I've always been a sucker for mystery novels with an underbelly of the paranormal, especially reincarnation.  One chapter dealing with the past, the other dealing with the present, and how both swirl around each other in a passionate dance until it results in a boffo denouement.

Let's just say that 'Seduction' really delivered the tango.

Novelist Victor Hugo's beloved daughter drowned in 1843, and a distraught Hugo begins participating in séances  in hopes of contact.  Claiming contact with Plato, Galileo, Dante, and even Jesus and the Devil, Hugo writes journals of those conversations, and they have been published.  But, it turns out, not all of them...

Jac L'Etoile, mythologist and chief protagonist from Rose's previous novel, 'The Book of Lost Fragrances', is recovering from her own losses.   Invited to the Isle of Jersey by Theo Gaspard, an old friend, they investigate Hugo's journey into the world of the paranormal, and Theo is hoping that Jac can help him discover something very different...and very sinister.

M.J. Rose is a master of the atmospheric novel, and this one is no exception (I suggest you read 'The Book of Lost Fragrances' first, if you haven't already).  I love how she employs the paranormal to help her characters find their strengths and, perhaps, answer their life-long questions.  

With her trademark elegant style, Rose's characters are fully brought to life.  The twists-and-turns kept me turning the pages.  And things aren't always what they seem.  

And that's why I love mysteries...

...because things aren't always what they seem...until you hit that last chapter and the Universe lets you go to dance another day.

'Seduction' will be released May 7, 2013, by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.