Voices of the Lost and Found gives the reader a well-written collection of short stories, each crafted in a distinctively different voice than the one before. How author Dorene O’Brien manages to carry all these personalities around in her head, I can’t even begin to imagine. But this, together with edgy story lines and delicious irony, is what makes Voices of the Lost and Found an impressive work.

Eleven stories in all, the characters are truly the heart of the book. From the gripping story of a graffiti artist (Way Past Taggin’) to the humorous tale of a fishery worker whose boss was murdered with only his left hand remaining (No Need to Ask), the narration is so realistic you’ll swear you’re hearing voices. I don’t know if it’s this way for everyone, but when I read, it’s usually my own voice slightly altered to fit the character. Men are a little lower register, sometimes with an accent, but it’s still me in there. With O’Brien’s work, I heard actual voices. Please don’t turn me in. I just tell it like it is.

I had the honor of interviewing Dorene O’Brien about her experiences writing this book. I’ll be posting that tomorrow, so make sure and stop by.

If you want to hear voices in your head too, you’re in luck. I have one extra copy of Voices of the Lost and Found to give away. There are three ways to win: All subscribers are already entered into this and all future giveaways, so if you aren’t subscribed, you can do so in the right hand column of this page. Or you can leave a comment telling me what interests you about this book. (Something more than “sounds good” is kindly requested.) You can also link back to this post in your blog for an entry. Do all three, and you have three entries! I’ll draw a winner on at midnight EST on April 27th, 2008.

Special thanks go out to Bloggy Giveaways, who does a fantastic job of promoting. They’re hosting a giveaway carnival right now, so if you like winning things, this is your spot.

If you’re looking for a series of short stories that will completely absorb you, the kind that keeps you up later than you intended thinking “I’ll read just one more,” then I’ve got your book.

Eight Dogs Named Jack is filled with everything from street rats and made men to hardworking honest people. Set in the contrasting locations of wooded Northern Michigan and the city of Detroit, all the stories are held together with fascinating characters. Large Italian families fill the pages with lingo that makes one misty-eyed over the loss of The Sopranos. You can’t help but start using words like “mamaluke” or “Maddon” or craving Italian sausages grilled with a little beer dumped on for good measure. The author, ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year finalist Joe Borri, seasons his writing with fantastic metaphors and similes. One of my favorites? “Tighter than an accountant’s rosebud.” No one talks like that in my neighborhood. What a pity.

My biggest surprise in this book was how Borri could take stories anywhere from a tough Detroit setting to the remote and beautiful wilderness of upper Michigan and back, and make it a perfectly cohesive collection. His singular voice pulls all the stories together in a unified group, yet each plot is unique.

And let’s not forget the artwork. Each story contains drawings by the author that I really enjoyed, reminding me of the sort of art I often see in my favorite mystery magazines or pulp fiction novels. The subjects vary as much as the story topics, and it adds to the book’s appeal.

Overall, Eight Dogs Named Jack is an absolute blast to read. Giving you everything from on-the-edge-of-your-seat mob thrills to tear-jerker tales about man’s best friend, this book has wide appeal. So take a copy to your favorite outdoor chair and break out your best cigar. Because if you miss this one - well, fuhgetaboutit.

I’ve got one hardcover copy to give away thanks to Momentum Books, so leave a comment telling me what you find intriguing about the book. If you’re subscribed to my newsletter, you’re automatically entered to win this and all book giveaways here. I’ll select a winner on 03/15/08, 12noon EST. Check the Giveaway Rules for more details and another shot at winning. Don’t be a mamaluke - just enter.

A carp(e) libris goldfish award book.

Set in the less-than-perfect Philadelphia of the ’60s and ’70s, Joseph Bathanti’s book The High Heart reads as both a collection of short stories and a novel. Each story of Fritz Sweeny, the only son of two unconventional parents, stands alone as a short. But placed all together, you come away with a captivating look at an unusual family.

Bathanti has a way of writing dialog that makes the characters jump off the page. Reading the banter between Fritz’s mismatched parents was completely entertaining. I found myself rereading some conversations; they made me feel like I was listening in on my neighbors - if my neighbors were a fiery Italian woman married to an Irish American, that is.

While reading The High Heart, it’s easy to feel Bathanti’s poetry roots within the stories. The sentences are dense with meaning and enjoyably visual. Overall, this book was a fulfilling read, hitting all the right chords of well-chosen words and rich, unpredictable characters. And here’s the good news - I have an extra copy.

To win The High Heart, please leave a comment here telling me what intrigues you about the book. Or subscribe to carp(e) libris reviews to be entered in this and all book giveaways. Or link to this contest from your blog. Do all three, and you’ve got three entries. I’ll randomly select a winner this Friday, March 7, 2008, at 12noon EST. The winner will be contacted by email.

Published by Eastern Washington University Press.

Buy The High Heart here and support carp(e) libris reviews and your local bookseller!