Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jean-Paul's Picks for April 2012

  1. Second Person Singular by Sayed Kashua - 04/03/12

    Sayed Kashua brings us a satirical story of two Arabs, a well to do lawyer and a social worker just starting his career. When the lawyer finds in a second hand book a love note, written by his wife to a certain Jonathan, he starts an investigation and soon he gets more and more enraged as his pride and culture take over all logical thinking.
    Captivating story of how two cultures are bound to live together, about inferiority and poverty, and about "much ado about nothing."

  2. The Coldest Night by Robert Olmstead - 04/03/12

    Henry and his girlfriend Mercy ran away from home and had the time of their life until Mercy's father and brother find them, take Mercy home, and threaten Henry's life.
    Henry, desperate and heartbroken, joins the Marines and is been sent straight away to the Korean War, just at the time when the tides of war are turning against the Americans. Lew, a grim WW II veteran, takes Henry under his wings. Together they suffer going through a living but freezing hell of atrocities and brutal never ending attacks.
    Only Olmstead has the magic to describe what those veterans must have endured; you'll feel the impact of the guns while you're shivering in their foxholes.

  3. Strange Flesh by Michael Olson - 04/03/12

    James, a super hacker for a security company, gets a special assignment. He has to find the step brother of his extremely rich old college friends (brother and sister). His investigation leads him deep into a virtual world of sex, sadism, and crime.
    It took me while to get into the story as there was way too much technical computer jargon, but once through that I got compelled by the story, and the plot is unexpected and breathtaking.
    For me there is not any similarity between this book and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (except for the sexual abuse.) "Strange Flesh" is a good but oversexed story and James' reality is over fantasized.

  4. Caring is Creepy by David Zimmerman - 04/03/12

    When 15 year old girls experiment on the internet things can go wrong. When Lynn finds a date who fits her fantasy, she goes for it. She keeps him hidden in a small attic. What starts as an adolescent dream turns slowly into a nightmare.
    The story is being told in the words of a fifteen year old girl, which makes this book even more creepier.

  5. Viral by James Lilliefors - 04/10/12

    Absolutely captivating mystery. Charles Mallory, private contractor and a former CIA operative, is investigating a spread of a deadly flu virus that is killing thousands in remote parts of Africe. He discovers terrifying scheme to create a "new perfect technological world" by first eliminating teh whole empoverished, sick, and less usefull population. But who's behind all of this? Bio terrorists? Misguided humanitarian projects? Greedy bussiness? Whoever it is, it is a very dangerous, deadly, and smart opponent who is able to use a maximum of technological potential.
    Captivating, frightening, a perfect thriller!

  6. What do you want to do before you die? by "The Buried Life" - 04/15/12

    Four young guys take on a trip to accomplish a list of a hundred things to do before they die. Some are just nice, some are crazy, but all of them are so human. Once started, they kept on going. Now they are world famous and they accomplished #18, "write a bestselling book."
    Filled with their own thoughts and experiences, filled with dreams from people all over the world, this is a really inspirational book that teaches us that nothing is impossible, you just have to go for it.
    Easy, fun, great read. And now, I have to write my book!

  7. Quaranteen by Thomas Lex - 04/24/12

    Another captivating story in the style of "The Hunger Games". A high school is hit by a virus infection that will kill every adult or young child. The school is under quarantine, no one comes in, no one gets out. The meager supplies (dropped by helis) are stolen or grabbed by the strongest. The only way to survive is being member of a gang; however some loners manage that on their own.
    Gripping and captivating but very cruel and bloody descriptions, not for the faint of heart.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Highlights from Grodstein/King

Lauren Grodstein talked with Stephen King about her novel A Friend of the Family, as part of the Algonquin Book Club on Saturday, March 3rd. They had the genuine chemistry of writers who respect and admire each other. It was really wonderful to watch (and they're both hilarious!). If you missed it, check out the archived video here.

"I just liked to make stuff up and it blew my mind when people believed me."

"I can't believe that someone who isn't my mother is reading this stuff."

Audience question: "Where do your ideas come from?"
Lauren: "The alchemy that created the novel remains mysterious, and I'm pleased about that."

"I woke up one morning and there was the voice of a doctor and he had done something bad."

Audience question: "How did you make your characters so multi-faceted?"
Lauren: "I believed that they were real."

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lauren Grodstein answers our five questions

Lauren Grodstein is the author of A Friend of the Family (Algonquin) and will be interviewed by Stephen King this Saturday as part of the Algonquin Book Club, live and in person at the Cooperative Middle School in Stratham, and streaming online at

1. What's on your nightstand right now?

There’s always lots on my nightstand: a few toddler books (lately Good Night, San Francisco and Harry the Dirty Dog), four or five old New York Times Magazines with the crosswords half-filled in, my Lonely Planet Guide to Vancouver, which is as close to Ambien as a book can be, my grandmother’s copy of Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions, and lately, for serious no-bones-about-it reading, Russell Banks’s The Lost Memory of Skin.

2. How do you write?

Writing is about half my job (directing the MFA program at Rutgers-Camden is another half, as is taking care of my three year old son, as is folding laundry and doing dishes and buying groceries, but I have nothing too interesting to say about women’s work, so I guess I’ll stop there…) The best time for me to write is in the morning – say 5:30 or 6:00. This is mostly because I’m a morning person, but I also write early because neither child nor student is likely to bother me at that ridiculous hour, and I feel positive and excited about what the day might bring. By three o’clock in the afternoon I’m usually shot and good only for folding laundry, buying groceries, etc.

3. Name the first time or moment you realized you were a writer.

I always knew I liked to tell stories – when I was a little kid, before I could even spell, I would take sheets of my mom’s sketch paper (she’s a painter, so we always had art supplies in the house) and lie on my stomach in my bedroom and draw characters and tell their stories out loud. So I’ve been creating fiction, in a way, since before I was even able to write. But as for feeling like a professional writer – I don’t know. I think I will always feel like a bit of a fraud, like I can’t believe people are really willing to read the stuff I make up. Maybe I shouldn’t say that? But it’s true – I’m always amazed, and always so grateful.

4. What are you working on now?

I’m editing a novel that remains nameless – I’m pretty bad at titles. It’s about a fight over evolution on a college campus.

5. Favorite recent find?

Okay, this might seem ridiculous, but lately I’ve been in love with a small internet framing company called I’m sure this is symptomatic of early motherhood, but bear with me – you can order a print of your kid, pick out the mat, pick out the frame, and have it delivered to your doorstep all assembled and ready to hang. It’s kind of addictive, mixing and matching photos of your adorable toddler with a series of adorable frames. So there’s that, and Words With Friends, and a British sitcom called Peep Show I can stream on Netflix. Throw in a half bottle of red wine and I’ve basically got my best possible Saturday night.