You may remember when not too long ago I reviewed a book of short short stories published by Rose Metal Press. I discovered I loved the short short story form, and thankfully that book wasn’t the only of this sort Rose Metal chose to publish. Their latest, In the Land of the Free, written by Geoffrey Forsyth, is another fascinating example of why I feel short shorts should get more exposure. Forsyth’s stories, most lasting no more than three or four pages, are packed with raw human emotion. From humor to ache, love to death, these stories are concentrated forms of literature that bear reading over and over.

Forsyth’s stories are most original; I’m sure it’s a large part of the reason he won the Rose Metal Press Second Annual Short Short Chapbook Contest. His stories feature young people – a baby born in the kitchen, a man who in his youth purchases a wall out of his naivete, a young man who wakes to find his dead relatives in his living room. These addictive little bits will most certainly get you hooked on short shorts.

If you’ve not read a short short story before, I highly recommend you try it. We all need something artistic and deep in our lives, and let’s face it – most people skip it completely, never realizing it’s missing. But for us readerly types, it’s a necessity that we recognize. Think of short shorts as multivitamins for the brain and the soul. Or a pick-me-up more handy than a cup of coffee, healthier than a cigarette break. If you decide to start with In the Land of the Free, you’ll have yourself a most creatively published work as well. This chapbook has an old-style letterpress cover which was produced at the Museum of Printing in Andover, Massachusetts–the perfect format for In the Land of the Free. I ask you, when was the last time you heard of a mainstream press take such care with their book printing? Another reason to love the Indie presses.

Want to win your own copy of In the Land of the Free? Here’s your chance.

3 Ways to Win:

1.) Leave a comment telling me what interests you about reading short short stories.  Have you read them before?  Why would you like to try? 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 Thursday, September 18, 2008, to enter.

There is something about the short but powerful novel that I love. I look forward to immersing myself in an emotional and thought-provoking world, one that hits you with a wallop of depth in just a few sittings. These books often have the ability to stay with me more than the longest of epics. The Albanian Affairs by Susana Fortes is just this sort of novel. Originally published in Spanish as El amante albanes, and now translated by Leland H. Chambers by McPherson & Company (an indie press with a fantastic catalog), The Albanian Affairs manages to offer lust, love, political history, and family intrigue all in a mere 180 pages.
The story takes place in an Albanian villa full of family secrets. Ismail, the youngest son, is growing more and more curious over the death of his Spanish mother when he was only a boy. He also finds himself tormented by the presence of his older brother’s new wife, the first woman to reside in their family in many years. He and Helena find themselves drawn to each other – too much. At the same time he struggles against his growing feelings for his brother’s wife, he begins to unravel his mother’s story.

The Albanian Affairs is a passionate work that is painted rather than written. The language is stunning leaving me to marvel at the translation, and the backdrop of an Albania under the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha makes for a dark and moving novel. 

As for McPherson & Company, there are a few publishers out there that make me drool over their book list like a kid with a department store Christmas catalog. This is one of them. If you love translated works and unique literature as much as I do, you learn to follow the indie publishers as much as your favorite authors, and McPherson & Company is one I like to keep my eye on.

Read the first two chapters of The Albanian Affairs online.


I’ve been wanting to review books either written by Chinese authors or containing a Chinese setting, but until recently, I haven’t really seen many. Now I have a few waiting on my “to-be-reviewed” shelf; I suppose we can credit this interest to the Beijing Olympics. Lately we’ve all had a little glimpse into different aspects of Chinese life and culture. For me, The Painter from Shanghai has been more than a glimpse; it has been a riveting history lesson hidden between the pages of an amazing story.

Jennifer Cody Epstein took her fascination with the Chinese painter Pan Yuliang and turned it into a well-written, painstakingly researched story that gives us a vivid portrait of what this artist’s life may have been like. Although we don’t know a lot of detail about Pan Yuliang, we do know she was orphaned and sold into prostitution, and that she was rescued by a man who took a special interest in her. There are other skeletal details, but Epstein has filled in the picture to add flesh and muscle. Pan Yuliang and her early 1900’s China leaps to life and keeps every one of the over 400 pages burning with tales of art, Chinese culture, and one woman’s struggle to become the artist society says she has no right to be.

Having been to art school, I appreciated Epstein’s ability to comfortably write about art and the technical aspects of painting and drawing. As an avid reader, I was impressed with her knack for making these technical tidbits flow through a story, without dragging the reader through any dull sections. Everything flowed effortlessly in a way that will allow any reader to follow the pace set.

Want to win your own copy of The Painter from Shanghai? I’ve got your ticket to China via typeface, so leave me a comment and good luck!

3 Ways to Win:

1.) Leave a comment telling me if you know anything of Chinese art or culture. What interests you most about either? 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 Friday, August 22, 2008, to enter.

Published by W.W. Norton & Company.

13. August 2008 · Comments Off on The Book of Marie by Terry Kay · Categories: Book Reviews, Fiction · Tags: , , ,


Cole needs to sort out his feelings about what happened in his complicated past. He’s facing his 50-year class reunion, and with that come the questions, the flashbacks, the story of a girl he knew so long ago. She touched his life much more deeply than he seems to be willing to admit, and here she is again, resurfacing. Way back when, in a 1950’s Georgia town, she exploded on the scene with her “controversial” viewpoints about the South, civil rights, and even Cole himself. She never was liked, but she was right–no one forgot her.

The Book of Marie is an aching and heartfelt novel that flashes back and forth between the present day and the events of 50 years ago, giving the reader an interesting perspective on how a life can change so much over the years, and how it stays the same despite the passage of time. I loved the setting of high school in the pre-civil rights South, and the relationship between Cole and Marie kept me riveted to the book.

Terry Kay is an accomplished author with a long line of books to his credit. For me, reading The Book of Marie is only the first of many Terry Kay works I intend on reading. The quality of the writing style and the sensitivity towards his characters have me wishing I would have discovered his sooner, but glad I finally did. He has a real mastery for storytelling, and I can recommend it with confidence. My only warning: Finish the book alone and with tissue nearby. If nothing else, you’ll be sorry to see this one end.

Published by Mercer University Press.


Ross was completely enveloped in love for Iliana. He’d finally found the love of his life, so he married her. They were barely starting their first year of marriage when a brutal accident turned their lives, and their expectations, on end. Iliana, now paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair, was looking at life from a whole new angle. And Ross? Ross was laden with the guilt of having caused the accident.

If you’ve ever wondered what life would be like after being yanked off you gravitational center, Sitting Practice sure gives you a good look at the possibilities. They say we don’t really learn who we are until we’ve been through a fire, but for most of us it takes much longer than the fire itself. For most of us, we have to wait for the smoke to clear just to get our bearings. For Ross and Iliana, this is every bit the truth.

Sitting Practice is filled to overflowing with likable, realistically flawed and spiritual characters, with a story line that keeps your head in the book even when it’s regretfully closed. Adderson has a knack for conveying life-giving detail in her writings, making the reader wonder just how many shoes she’s walked in to offer such realistic points of view. From Iliana’s day-to-day experiences in a wheelchair to the simple toddler behavior of Ross’ nephew, each part is played out in vivid 3-D. Sitting Practice is certainly a touching and entrancing look into some of life’s more painful lessons.

Published by Trumpeter Books.

PhotobucketCongratulations to Susan of Oregon – enjoy the book!

Last week I posted my first-ever podcast. It was an interview with bestselling author Iris Johansen and her son, award-winning author Roy Johansen. They wrote a great thriller novel called Silent Thunder that promises to be a best seller. If you love books that beg to be movies, you’ll love Silent Thunder. It’s all that a thriller-lover wants in a fun summer read, so I’m happy to be able to offer one copy to a carp(e) libris reviews reader!

3 Ways to Win:

1.) Leave a comment telling me whether or not you like thrillers and mysteries. Who are your favorites?

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 Thursday, July 31, 2008, to enter.

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If you’ve ever visited carp(e) libris reviews before, then you know I usually review books from the indie publishers: literary fiction and nonfiction, memoirs, works recently translated to English, even art books. But did you know I’m a sucker for thrillers and mysteries too? My shelves are not only lined with the books you’ve read about here, but I also have quite a collection of everything from Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie to Dean Kootz and Stephen King. So when indie bookseller Schuler Books & Music welcomed Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen into their store for a book signing, I took over my podcasting equipment and sat down with the Johansen’s for an interview.

Podcast, did you say? Yes, this is the latest addition to carp(e) libris reviews, a longtime goal I’ve had. In fact, I’ve wanted to podcast ever since iTunes first introduced me to the addiction. So I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to speak to Iris and Roy about their first book together, Silent Thunder.

A special thanks must go out to the Johansen’s for answering my questions and giving me my first shot at a live interview. I’d also like to thank Schuler Books & Music for their high level of professionalism. What an amazing and friendly staff! No wonder I shop there all the time…


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Ever since space exploration first became a real possibility, the people of America have been looking towards the skies with hopeful wonderment. Finally, there is something more mysterious for humans to focus on than our own complicated lives. Susan Woodring’s collection of short stories,Springtime on Mars, captures this sense of the unknown, in regards to all that has been America’s pulse from the 1950’s to today. 

The assassination of John F. Kennedy, walking on the moon, the Vietnam War, and UFO’s are all backdrops to Woodring’s stories as the characters try to understand their own universes of death, disappointment, and fear. If this book has one overall theme, I’d have to say it is fear of the unknown. By placing the stories in various time periods rich with American history, Woodring has managed to bring out the best in each plot, giving a wonderful contrast and lending much more to the flavor of each. 

One thing that impresses me about any book or story, no matter the length, is a good ending. Most tend to peter out after the climax, and while they may tie up loose ends and give the reader a sense of closure, very few leave me with a sigh of good old fashioned readerly satisfaction. But I believe I got that sigh out of every one of Woodling’s stories. I actually found myself putting the book down to say, “Now, that was a good one,” before picking it up to start the next. Combine that with a constant shifting of time periods, most of which any reader will remember and hold a sentimental attachment to, and you have a great combination for staying on Mars straight through to summer.

Note: Published by Press 53.  If you buy from their site, you even have the opportunity to buy a book for a soldier.  They really appreciate reading materials!

 


Two men of very differing personalities have excused themselves into lives of crime. Their upbringings and inner workings may be as opposite as Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison, but here they are, living together as drug traffickers. Arkansas by John Brandon gives the reader a humorous, sometimes dark look into the lives of Kyle and Swin, who are trying their best to be successful drug carriers for the mysterious crime boss “Frog”. As people keep turning up dead, or perhaps getting killed in the wake, they figure they might as well cover up the mishaps and give themselves promotions.

Set in the woods of Arkansas, this story is told from varying viewpoints (including that of the elusive Frog), often written in a catchy repetitive rhythm that gives Brandon his own unique voice while lending more flavor to the humorous yet edgy characters. Brandon is every bit worthy of being published by McSweeney’s, which is known for delivering humorous, slightly off-balance literature to the book-hungry masses. The story line is unpredictable from start to finish, as are all the characters within.

Overall, Arkansas has a solid and complete package: Humor, suspense, criminals you can root for, and even an ugly blue dog. The book holds the attention of its readers with a good pace and no laggy parts. If you’re searching for a good summer read with a darned cool cover to boot, then you best head for Arkansas.


In 1961, Tell Me Another Morning was published for the first time. This novel, based on Zdena Berger’s teen years in several concentration camps of Nazi Germany, has been lost to the world for quite sometime. But Paris Press has brought it back, publishing it once again for a new generation of readers.

I think the most fascinating aspect of Tell Me Another Morning is the perspective from which it is told and the author’s ability to show the main character’s gradual loss of innocence throughout her four years of concentration camps. The book begins with an innocent 15-year-old girl living a normal life with her family. At age 16, she and her family are whisked away, sent to the camps, uncertain if there is any future at all for them. I appreciate that Berger assumes you already know the basics of the Holocaust and doesn’t recap things that should be common knowledge. There’s no rehashing of historical facts we all know, and on thinking back, I don’t remember the name “Hitler” being mentioned once. What you will gain is a new and painful look from the viewpoint of a girl the age most of us begin to search for control of our lives–and she has none.

Forget that the book was written 47 years ago–the writing style is fresh and smooth. I like books that have an artistic, almost poetic quality without making you read sentences three times to get it. Tell Me Another Morning doesn’t bog you down, yet it’s full of weighty subject matter. If you’re looking for a great book for your summer reading club, go for this one. There’s even an online study guide to help you. Even without the study guide, no need to worry–you’ll never be short on discussion points! Berger’s book is rich in character and plot, worthy of a resurgence in popularity.