28. October 2010 · Comments Off on You Do Understand by Andrej Blatnik · Categories: Short Short Stories, Slovenian Literature · Tags: , ,

The short short. I’ve come to love that form. It takes a talented writer to cram a novel’s journey into a mere page or two. Slovenian writer Andrej Blatnik seems to have the knack for this concentrated form of art. You Do Understand is 112 pages of short shorts that, if you’ve not tried them before, are sure to make you a fan.

As a grouping, Blatnik’s stories have a strong undercurrent of relationships – what makes them tick, what breaks them, what makes them make us lonely within them. One thing’s for sure, you’ll enjoy pausing between each to reflect, laugh, cringe, remember when you did something horribly similar.

Translated by Tamara M. Soban, the stories flow so well in English you’ll forget that’s not their first language. You Do Understand is part of the new Slovenian Literature series from Dalkey Archive Press, a publishing house dedicated to bringing some amazing works to American readers. Blatnik’s collection of short shorts is a prime example of why such an endeavor is worthwhile.

Some familial relationships seem easy. Others take every ounce of strength we have to endure them. Whether our relationships with our family members are smooth or jagged, they both require time, energy, and commitment. Anne Koroda Duppstadt of The Love Ceiling knew that all too well. At 64 years old, one might assume time would be opening up for  her, now that her family had grown. But with an adult daughter moving back home, her husband going through a retirement crisis, and her father, a famed artist, giving her as much difficulty as ever, she’s beginning to wonder if she’ll ever get the chance to pursue her own artistic dreams.

Author Jean Davies Okimoto’s writing is clean and bright, and she has the ability to relate to her audience and make them feel at home. Her characters will most likely be recognizable in some form as people in anyone’s own family unit. One thing that really struck me with this novel was the recurring sensation that I was joining in on the family conversations and the talk amongst friends over a  cup of coffee. Not the frivolous gossippy sort, but the sharing of heartache or the confiding in one another that most women find vital in the navigation through life. I’ve often read books where this sort of writing almost comes across as forced, or an “as the author I can relate to your normal life” tone that stays on the surface and doesn’t ring true. But Okimoto, through realistic and well-written dialogue (she is a playwrite, after all) exhibits the beauty that is part of tight family relationships, and the pain of it too.

Author Jean Davies Okimoto

Another important part of this book that can’t be overlooked is the theme of women and creativity. As caretakers of our families, we often shelve our creative endeavors, put the dreams on the back burner because we’re raising children, building a family, etc. Great and noble things, to be certain! But sometimes it gets too easy to leave things on the shelf when they really need to be dusted off and put to use – for ourselves as well as for those we love. Because our families benefit from seeing us thrive and finding fulfillment too.

The Love Ceiling is an inspiring story of a woman who doesn’t say “it’s too late to start now”. Based on Okimoto’s play “Uncle Hideki and the Empty Nest”, The Love Ceiling is the perfect novel to read when it’s time to remind yourself that it’s never too late to chase your dreams.

15. March 2010 · Comments Off on The Country Where No One Ever Dies by Ornela Vorpsi – Book Review · Categories: Albanian Literature · Tags: , , ,

Albanian born Ornela Vorpsi’s first novel, The Country Where No One Ever Dies, is a work of heartbreaking honesty. Albania, formerly one of the Easter Bloc’s most closed countries, is the backdrop to this novel, gives the story of a young girl dealing with youth in a severely oppressed nation.  Her father is a political prisoner, her mother the emotionally distraught town beauty.  The young protagonist herself appears to be levelheaded and strong, despite the surrounding tumult.  Although her personality remains stable throughout the story, her name and age often change with the chapters, leaving one wondering if she views herself as solid or in constant flux.

The Country left me feeling as if I’d actually spent time in Albania, in a most difficult and painful era.  I am most certain I gained a good look at truth, whether Vorpsi based her novel heavily on personal experiences or not.  The truth lies in the spirit of the work no doubt, and no one can share such deep hearted feeling without having first tasted it for themselves.

For anyone wanting a book that sets you in a dark place, yet somehow edifies you for having been there, you’ll find The Country Where No One Ever Dies to be a worthwhile journey.

Ornela Vorpsi was born in Tirana, Albania and currently lives in Paris. The Country Where No One Ever Dies has won several prizes in Italy, including the Viareggio and Grinzane Cavour Prizes.  It’s been published in fourteen languages, and the English version is published by Dalkey Archive Press.

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In Michael Malone’s brand new novel The Four Corners of the Sky, Annie’s father gave her a lot more than an old broken-down airplane when he took off.  After leaving her to be raised by her aunt and uncle, he also gave her a mystery to solve years later; a mystery that would change everything.  Annie’s father Jack is a con artist who, after abandoning his daughter for years without any word, has resurfaced and suddenly needs her help.  Now a successful Navy pilot, Anne isn’t so willing to take the bait – but perhaps if he agrees to finally tell her who her mother is…

The Four Corners of the Sky is suspenseful, humorous, and filled with mystery.  New York Times Best-Selling Author Michael Malone gives us a host of unforgettable characters, both dramatic and humorous, and a plot that will keep you guessing right up to the end.  This his tenth novel, Malone offers an entertaining read to a large audience base.  Whether you’re a mystery, romance, thriller, or comedy reader, you’ll find it in aces in The Four Corners of the Sky.

Want to win your own hardcover copy?  The book debuted this week, so enter to win while you’re still the first in your book club to hear about it! ($24.99 retail)

Multiple Options for Entry:

1.) Just give me a con!  Try and sell me a watch, snow me, or tell me about a con you experienced or heard about.  Ever buy some land in Florida?  Get creative!  (You may enter once a day.) Remember, leave an interesting comment.  If I cannot contact the winner, you might be chosen instead based on your comment.

2.) Email subscribers get an extra entry for as long as their subscription is active.

     Already a subscriber?  Leave me a separate comment on this post to let me know you’re interested in this giveaway.

     Want to subscribe?  Just enter your email address in the “Subscribe” box on the left. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you do not receive it, check your junk mail. Only verified subscriptions are entered for all the giveaways.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back to this post.  Come back and leave me a Comment with a link to your blog post. (If your comment doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry – I may have to approve it first.  My blog might think it’s spam but gosh darn, I certainly don’t!)

4.) I’m feeling Twittery.  If you Twitter a link to this giveaway, come back and comment here to let me know your Twitter name for another entry! (I’m dkmommy if you want to follow me.)

Feel free to do all four to gain several entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Tuesday, May 19, 2009, to enter.

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So much about The Five Lost Days appeals to my adventurous side.  Taking place in Belize, a small Latin American country I long to see, it focuses on Michael Burns, a documentary film director who takes his crew to the jungles to film a “curandero”.  Curanderos are a sort of Mayan medicine man, close to extinction.  Their focus on herbs and medicinal plants only heightened my fascination with the book.

Kelly, an American who lives in the jungle with distant pot-smoking rebel husband Frank, works for an American pharmaceutical company.  She was sent to Belize ten years previous to study the healing plants; in her love for the jungle and a deep affection for the elderly curandero, she stays on much longer than she’d originally intended.

As Burns soon finds out, the five days he’s scheduled to film are considered in Mayan tradition to be The Five Lost Days – an evil time Mayans of the old ways see fit to stay home and wait out in fear  But the show must go on… if Burns can help it.

 

Multiple Options for Entry:

1.) Just tell me why you’d like to read The Five Lost Days (You may enter once a day.) Remember, leave an interesting comment.  If I cannot contact the winner, you might be chosen instead based on your comment.

2.) Email subscribers get an extra entry for as long as their subscription is active.

     Already a subscriber?  Leave me a separate comment on this post to let me know you’re interested in this giveaway.

     Want to subscribe?  Just enter your email address in the “Subscribe” box on the left. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you do not receive it, check your junk mail. Only verified subscriptions are entered for all the giveaways.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back to this post.  Come back and leave me a Comment with a link to your blog post. (If your comment doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry – I may have to approve it first.  My blog might think it’s spam but gosh darn, I certainly don’t!)

4.) I’m feeling Twittery.  If you Twitter a link to this giveaway, come back and comment here to let me know your Twitter name for another entry! (I’m dkmommy if you want to follow me.)

Feel free to do all four to gain several entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Friday, March 20, 2009, to enter.

Check out all current giveaways for both my blogs here.

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Most people are fascinated by the con job, myself included.  Maybe it’s the mystery of the underworld, perhaps it’s the brilliance of schemes most of us are too moral to contemplate.  Whatever our motives for finding enjoyment in con jobs, one can look to books and movies like “The Sting”, “Paper Moon”, or “Ocean’s Eleven” to verify the popularity.  I’d say Dizzy City fits comfortably into this category.

Dizzy City by Nicholas Griffin is the story of Benedict Cramb, a 1916 English soldier of the Great War.  After deserting and running off to America, he hooks up with a master con artist who takes him under his wing.  As con artists try to pull one over on con artists, readers will marvel at the complexity of plot.  Dizzy City had such brilliant twists and turns that I often grinned or laughed out loud whenever Griffin caught me offguard, which was regularly.  It seemed every chapter or two something happened to throw me off the trail of where the story would lead.  And I’m not easily fooled.  Maybe it’s all the book reviewing I do, but I’m always annoyed that I figure out endings before the book is near completion.  I’ve been banned from guessing during movies because my husband tires of me figuring it out.  But Dizzy City?  No way.  I hadn’t a clue where it was going, and I thoroughly enjoyed being fooled.  Perhaps being conned.

Dizzy City is Nicholas Griffin’s fourth historical novel.  His latest proves to be heavily researched, full of rich living detail, and completely captivating.  If you’re in the market for a mystery, a historical novel, or for a con job, Dizzy City is your next fix.

Published by Steerforth Press.

We’re not all pleasant people; we have flaws, some of us more than others.  Sometimes we do or think despicable things.  This may not be the best way to conduct life, but it does make for an interesting character for a book.  In April Fool, George Willets is at a point in his life where maybe he’s just a wee bit too comfortable.  His daily routine with his wife is just that – routine.  The boredom he endures begins to be too much for him; so when he meets the perfect woman, he feels his luck is about to change.  It may be changing, but whether or not it’s for the better is what makes this book a great read.

Author John Neufeld does an excellent job at taking a distasteful personality and turning him into someone a reader wants to spend time with and learn about.  This is a difficult task for any writer; despite George’s behavior and his desire to consider murder an option for getting out of a rut, I still somehow rooted for George and hoped he’d find the error of his ways.  The book was entertaining and a pleasure to read, filled with humor, suspense, and politically incorrect characters.  I doubt there was a noble one in the bunch, which made it all the more interesting.

John Neufeld has written over 20 novels for adults and young readers, and has been nominated for an Edgar, been twice included in the Sunday New York Times’ Best Books of the Year, and has been published in several countries as well.  I’m happy to tell you I have a copy of April Fool to give to one carp(e) libris reviews reader.

3 Ways to Win:

1.) Have you known people with major character flaws?  Of course you have! But did you like them anyway?  Do share.  Be thoughtful with your comment! Winners are randomly chosen, but if the name drawn doesn’t respond, I choose the next winner by comment.

2.) Email subscribers are entered into this and all future giveaways, for as long as their subscription is active. Simply place your email address in the little white box at the top of my sidebar on the right. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you don’t receive it, check your junk mail. Only verified subscriptions are entered for all the giveaways.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back to this post. Come back and leave me a Comment with a link to your blog post.

Do all three, and you’ve got three entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Saturday, October 25, 2008, to enter.

Congratulations to Rebekah, the winner of The Front Porch Prophet.  

A.J. has just discovered his best friend is deathly ill, so he decides it’s time they got over their rift and made amends.  But Eugene is no simple friend.  His dying requests are killers.  What A.J. has to face is more than just sorting through their friendship’s past.  He also has some big decisions to make, and it’s time to see how far he’ll go for friendship.

Set in the mountains of Georgia, The Front Porch Prophet gives the reader a look at quirky small town life.  Amidst humorous dialogue and unusual townsfolk, Atkins weaves a tale that will have the reader hard-pressed to set the book down. The Front Porch Prophet is a touching and clever novel that looks at life, death, and friendship with a warm Southern slant.  If you like John Nichols (The Milagro Beanfield War), you’re gonna love Raymond L. Atkin’s new novel.  This book does all the things a good novel should do:  It inspires, brings on the tears, makes you laugh out loud.  That’s why The Front Porch Prophet gets the Goldfish Award.  And that’s why I’m so pleased to tell you I have an extra autographed copy to give away.  

If you don’t win, do yourself a favor and go buy a copy of The Front Porch Prophet.  This is the kind of novel to read when the autumn weather is moving in and you just want to curl up in your favorite spot with an absorbing book.  

3 Ways to Win:

1.) Leave a comment telling me what you’ve done for a friend or what they’ve done for you.  Did it change you?  Did it change your friendship?  Be thoughtful with your comment! Winners are randomly chosen, but if the name drawn doesn’t respond, I choose the next winner by comment.

2.) Email subscribers are entered into this and all future giveaways, for as long as their subscription is active. Simply place your email address in the little white box at the top of my sidebar on the right. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you don’t receive it, check your junk mail. Only verified subscriptions are entered for all the giveaways.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back to this post. Come back and leave me a Comment with a link to your blog post.

Do all three, and you’ve got three entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Monday, October 6, 2008, to enter.

Silent Girl brilliantly takes the short story and adds a Shakespearian twist. Each short, written by Tricia Dower, is based on a work of Shakespeare; but if you’re not well versed in this most famous of writers, you’ll not miss out on enjoying some talented writing. If you do enjoy Shakespeare, then you’re in for a special treat when you pick up Silent Girl. Each story is written with plays such as The Tempest and Hamlet in mind, but it’s done in a subtle manner and in an entirely different setting than the play upon which the story is based. For instance, imagine a sort of Taming of the Shrew set in Kyrgyzstan. Or Twelfth Night set in Minnesota. Shakespeare fans will enjoy searching for the similarities, but those who’ve never studied his work will simply enjoy short stories that are sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes humorous, but always well executed.

For the book club, Silent Girl is a perfect choice due to its many layers. In fact, the book comes with a study guide to help book clubs along, whether or not they’re Shakespeare readers. If you’d like to read Silent Girl for yourself, I have one autographed copy. So grab your reading group and enter here for your own copy.

3 Ways to Win:

1.) Leave a comment telling me if you’ve read Shakespeare. What did you think? Have fun with your comment! Winners are randomly chosen, but if the name drawn doesn’t respond, I choose the next winner by comment.

2.) Email subscribers are entered into this and all future giveaways, for as long as their subscription is active. Simply place your email address in the little white box at the top of my sidebar on the right. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you don’t receive it, check your junk mail. Only verified subscriptions are entered for all the giveaways.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back to this post. Come back and leave me a Comment with a link to your blog post.

Do all three, and you’ve got three entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Sunday, September 28, 2008, to enter.

Published by Inanna Publications.


Every parent faces it at some point or another – empty nest syndrome. In Liam’s Going, Cathleen and Noah prepare to start this new and unfamiliar stage of their lives after their son Liam leaves for college. As Cathleen drives with her son to drop him off at college and Noah stays behind to give mother and son much-needed alone time, each of them flash back to the defining moments of their lives, both together and apart.

Author Michael Joyce has a sensitivity to language that brings an almost poetic feel, quite appropriate for a story whose protagonist Cathleen is a poet herself. Join that with realistic character building, wonderful dialogue, and a touching plot, you’ll find you have a book that’s both a pleasure and a heartbreak to absorb.

McPherson & Company is giving away one copy of Liam’s Going to a carp(e) libris reviews reader, so if you’re in the mood for a good read, enter to win!

3 Ways to Win:

1.) Leave a comment telling me if you’re an empty nester; or were you the one who left the nest? What do you remember about that? Have fun with your comment! Winners are randomly chosen, but if the name drawn doesn’t respond, I choose the next winner by comment.

2.) Email subscribers are entered into this and all future giveaways, for as long as their subscription is active. Simply place your email address in the little white box at the top of my sidebar on the right. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you don’t receive it, check your junk mail. Only verified subscriptions are entered for all the giveaways.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back to this post. Come back and leave me a Comment with a link to your blog post.

Do all three, and you’ve got three entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Monday, September 22, 2008, to enter.