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This is Water by David Foster Wallace

this is water

Reviewed by Tim Gleichner

Only once did David Foster Wallace give a public talk on his views on life, during a commencement address given in 2005 at Kenyon College. The speech is reprinted for the first time in book form in THIS IS WATER. How does one keep from going through their comfortable, prosperous adult life unconsciously? How do we get ourselves out of the foreground of our thoughts and achieve compassion? The speech captures Wallace’s electric intellect as well as his grace in attention to others. After his death, it became a treasured piece of writing reprinted in The Wall Street Journal and the London Times, commented on endlessly in blogs, and emailed from friend to friend.

 
 
Most everyone has heard the timeless axiom about good things coming in small packages.  I’m never quite sure how much truth there is to that statement but I am sure that it does apply in the case of this particular book.
Written and delivered as a commencement address, I found it to be equal parts wisdom and humor, but moreover a short essay on life itself and how to make the most of it.
The book stopped well short of giving advice, rather challenging the graduates to use their education to decide how to approach and feel about situations that most all of them will inevitably face.
This book will certainly be one I reread from time to time when I need my own reality check.

David Foster Wallace is the author of the novels Infinite Jest and The Broom of the System and the story collections Oblivion, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and Girl With Curious Hair. His nonfiction includes the essay collections Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, and the full-length work Everything and More. He died in 2008.
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The Accidental Bestseller by Wendy Wax

The Accidental Bestseller

 Who knew the truth would make such great fiction?
 
Once upon a time four aspiring authors met at a writers’ conference. Ten years later they’re still friends, veterans of the dog-eat-dog New York publishing world.

Mallory St. James is a workaholic whose novels support her and her husband’s lavish lifestyle. Tanya Mason juggles two jobs, two kids, and a difficult mother. Faye Truett is the wife of a famous televangelist and the author of bestselling inspirational romances; no one would ever guess her explosive secret. Kendall Aims’s once-promising career is on the skids—as is her marriage. Her sales have fallen, her new editor can barely feign interest in her work—and her husband is cheating.

Under pressure to meet her next deadline, Kendall holes up in a mountain cabin to confront a blank page and a blanker future. But her friends won’t let her face this struggle alone. They collaborate on a novel none of them could write by herself, using their own lives as fodder, assuming no one will discover the truth behind their words.

No one is more surprised than they are when the book becomes a runaway bestseller. But with success comes scrutiny and scandal. Now all bets are off….as these four best friends suddenly realize how little they’ve truly known each other.

 

Even though this is a work of fiction, Wendy Wax gives us a true to life glimpse of what authors deal with in their professional lives.  She also has an uncanny ability to bring to life four women, friends for years, who are each going through their own problems.  The “star” of the story is Kendall.

Kendall has had a promising career for quite some time but it is not doing so well.  Add to that a marriage that is failing and she is in dire straights.  She decides that she needs to do something to meet her deadline which is looming – maybe if she goes away to a quiet location her muse will return and everything will be alright.  What she doesn’t anticipate is that her friends, Mallory, Tanya, and Faye will show up to lend a hand.

These four women are very different and believe they have enough between the four of them to add to the novel Kendall is working on.  And boy do they.  The novel they create becomes a bestseller!  But, as with anyone that experiences fame there is always a downside, and these friends are about to find out more about each other than they ever thought possible.

This was a fantastic book and I thought the author did a fantastic job melding all of the characters together. 

“The names have been changed to protect the innocent,” jokes novelist Wendy Wax about her new book The Accidental Bestseller. “It’s not a roman a clef, but I admit that parts of it are somewhat autobiographical. A few people may think they recognize themselves, but the real life experiences at its core are actually compilations of my own and other authors’ agonies, ecstasies and observations.”

The novel centers on a writer who, with her editor gone and her sales in a slump, discovers how merciless the business of book publishing can be. With the help of three writer friends, whose own successes range from modest sales to international renown, she faces daunting personal and professional setbacks as she struggles to pursue her dream. Wendy notes “I’ve intensified the difficulties, thrown in an empty nest, a cheating husband and taken a whole boatload of liberties, but I still see the story as a realistic look at the challenges confronting many published authors.”

In The Accidental Bestseller, Wendy explores the depth of women’s friendships and the emotional bonds that tie people to their families, their friends and their work. The writing itself proved somewhat cathartic for Wendy, mostly because, like her protagonist, she at one time contended with the emotions and stress involved with switching publishers. She also ended up sharing other attributes with her character. Each lives in the Atlanta area, has written numerous novels, maintains strong friendships with other women novelists, is married, has two children, and enjoys spending time in the mountains of northern Georgia.

A native of St. Petersburg, Florida, Wendy has come a long way since her days at Sunshine Elementary School. As a child she read voraciously, was a regular at her local library, and became fast friends with Nancy Drew and Anne of Green Gables. Her love affairs with language and storytelling paid off beginning with her first shift at the campus radio station while studying journalism at the University of Georgia.

After returning to her home state and graduating from the University of South Florida she worked for the Tampa PBS affiliate, WEDU-TV, behind and in front of the camera. Her resume includes on air work, voiceovers and production of a variety of commercial projects and several feature films. She may be best known in the Tampa Bay area as the host of Desperate & Dateless, a radio matchmaking program that aired on WDAE radio, and nationally as host of The Home Front, a magazine format show that aired on PBS affiliates across the country.

The mother of a toddler and an infant when she decided to change careers, she admits it was not the best timing in terms of productivity. “I’m still not certain why I felt so compelled to write my first novel at that particular time,” she says, “but that first book took forever.” Since then she’s written six more books, including Single in Suburbia and THE ACCIDENTAL BESTSELLER. Her work has been sold to publishers in ten countries and to the Rhapsody Book Club. Her novel, Hostile Makeover, was excerpted in Cosmopolitan magazine.

Wendy lives with her husband John and her baseball-crazy teenage sons in the Atlanta suburbs where she spends most of her non-writing time on baseball fields or driving to them. She continues to devour books and is busy producing Accidental Radio, a new feature on her web site.

You can visit her website at www.authorwendywax.com.

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Once upon a time four aspiring authors met at a writers’ conference. Ten years later they’re still friends, veterans of the dog-eat-dog New York publishing world.

Mallory St. James is a workaholic whose novels support her and her husband’s lavish lifestyle. Tanya Mason juggles two jobs, two kids, and a difficult mother. Faye Truett is the wife of a famous televangelist and the author of bestselling inspirational romances; no one would ever guess her explosive secret. Kendall Aims’s once-promising career is on the skids—as is her marriage. Her sales have fallen, her new editor can barely feign interest in her work—and her husband is cheating.

Under pressure to meet her next deadline, Kendall holes up in a mountain cabin to confront a blank page and a blanker future. But her friends won’t let her face this struggle alone. They collaborate on a novel none of them could write by herself, using their own lives as fodder, assuming no one will discover the truth behind their words.

No one is more surprised than they are when the book becomes a runaway bestseller. But with success comes scrutiny and scandal. Now all bets are off….as these four best friends suddenly realize how little they’ve truly known each other.

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Gone Away Into The Land by Jeffrey Allen

Gone_Away_Into_the_Land

 

 

This ambitious yarn follows twelve-year old John Greber who, along with his mother Ellie, is the object of abuse at the hands of John’s father whom he names “The Beast.”

One day, “The Beast” abandons John and his mother while at the same time snatching away John’s six-year old sister Marny. John vows to seek revenge, confront his repulsive father, and rescue his sister Marny. As we discover, all of this transpires during a time where John and his mother will be indirectly involved in a Civil War that has far reaching repercussions that may lead to the destruction of the world.Tagging along with John and his mother, Allen cleverly uses his mind-boggling world as a vehicle in understanding what life is all about and the human condition. This is particularly in evidence as we witness John’s challenge of making the transition from childhood to adulthood as he self-examines the big questions in life as well as the nature of good and evil, the meaning of life and the quest to understand himself.
What I found quite striking about Gone Away Into the Land is Allen’s skillful narrative pacing in revealing bit-by-bit the various themes to the reader and permitting him or her to slowly discover it. Another plus is that Allen does not resort to some kind of magic wherein here lies on the fantasy aspect in order to enable John to break out of a thorny situation by manufacturing a super-duper miraculous spell that the reader never even knew about.
With its deftly constructed plot, episodic structure, a lovable hero,interesting secondary characters, and a dash of suspense, Allen’s fascinating debut novel is a haunting tale that jolts along at its own pace. Moreover, Allen’s writing is extremely powerful particularly his imagery and masterful descriptions such as when John meets up with“The Beast.” And when all is said and done, we have a novel that is not only amazingly fitting for our times, but one that is rich and rewarding for anyone, young or old, wishing to ponder over insightful questions pertaining to our existence and journey through life.

I have to admit that I am not always a big fan of fantasy books.  Of course I have read and loved “The Lord of the Ring” series but have yet to read a Harry Potter book.  I am an enigma that way, lol!  I’ll get around to it, it just isn’t always at the top of my list.

I had the pleasure of having Jeffrey agree to do a virtual book tour with me and am I glad I did.  I am not sure if I would have read this book otherwise, as my TBR pile is constantly growing and books with fantasy at the forefront don’t always take precedence.  Maybe it’s time for me to change that.

This book is about John, a 12 year old boy  living in fear of his father – a man he calls “The Beast”.  This is an angry and abusive man who makes the lives of everyone around him miserable whenever he is around.  It is part reality and part fantasty and the two meld perfectly.  “The Beast” takes John’s sister Marny and John and his mother have to enter The Land to find her and save her from him.

There is so much that happens in this book it is hard to describe it and do it justice.  It truly is something to be read and experienced.  Great job Jeffrey!

Allen studied art at Bloomsburg University for two years before attending Boston University where he majored in history and minored in set design and fine arts. A one year hiatus, in the form a hitchhiking trip, served only to heighten his restless and inquisitive nature. Allen attributes those early journeys to laying the foundations for his views about politics and religion and the relationship they share with historical perspective.
Later, he traveled through Europe and Mexico where his compulsive curiosity with historical myth and legend intensified, especially for the interpretations that obscure the truths underlying foreign and American cultures. Allen was fascinated by the way events are twisted and misconstrued within historical writings because of religious beliefs or political power brokering. Those years of learning, searching, and questioning have contributed greatly to the philosophical depth of his writing. Allen continues to this day to study, research, and philosophize about the positive and negative effects on our culture due to an over abundance of historical and religious misconceptions.
Jeffrey Allen graduated from Millersville State University in architectural design and taught for two years while also working toward his Masters degree at Temple University in Philadelphia. After a brief teaching career, he created his own architectural woodworking firm in 1980.
By 1982, Allen was owner and president of Artistic Furnishings Incorporated, a design house and manufacturer of custom architectural millwork. The company employed designers, artisans and support staff. His work can be seen throughout eastern Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey in private residences and businesses. Today, Allen resides in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where he still works in the field of interior space planning, although most of his time is devoted to writing.
For more information about this author and his work visit: http://www.jeffreyballen.com/

 

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Katka by Stephen Meier

katka

Stephen Ross Meier was born in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the first of many places he would live worldwide. He received his Bachelors in English from Arizona State University. He currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada

Inspired by music, films, books, and the world around him, he is currently working on several projects, with his next book, Teaching Pandas to Swim, ready to be released soon. A huge fan of such writers as Charles Bukowski, Milan Kundera, Irving Welsch, Irving Stone, Chuck Palahniuk, and Brett Easton Ellis, Stephen has always been drawn to writing and story telling.

Having been diagnosed with Heart Disease on May 10th, 2006, Stephen has been reminded that life void of passion is really not a life at all.

For more information please visit http://www.stephenrossmeier.com

Katka by Stephen Meier is a gritty, edgy novel of greed, love, and swindles gone very wrong. When Gavin and his girlfriend team with her best friend Simona to pull a phony mail order bride scam in the Czech Republic, Gavin gets in way over his head in the high-stakes and dangerous business of selling wives. When Gavin talks Katka, his girlfriend, into becoming part of the merchandise, planning to bait-n-switch the client in the end, things go awry and Katka disappears with the client. Partnering with the jealous and volatile Simona, Gavin begins to lament this risky life he has chosen, but finds the money is something he can’t walk away from. Gavin’s doubts grow; the con begins to consume him, and he finds himself thinking of Katka, the fate he dealt her, and whether he can undo the biggest mistake of his life.
Written with staccato grit and streetwise savvy, Katka reads like a Quentin Tarantino movie. Stephen Meier’s work will leave you begging for more.

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April and Oliver by Tess Callahan

april and oliver

Best friends since childhood, the sexual tension between April and Oliver has always been palpable. Years after being completely inseparable, they become strangers, but the wildly different paths of their lives cross once again with the sudden death of April’s brother. Oliver, the responsible, newly engaged law student finds himself drawn more than ever to the reckless, mystifying April – and cracks begin to appear in his carefully constructed life. Even as Oliver attempts to “save” his childhood friend from her grief, her menacing boyfriend and herself, it soon becomes apparent that Oliver has some secrets of his own–secrets he hasn’t shared with anyone, even his fiancé. But April knows, and her reappearance in his life derails him. Is it really April’s life that is unraveling, or is it his own? The answer awaits at the end of a downward spiral…towards salvation.

This is Tess Callahan’s first novel but you would never know it.  This is an author that knows how to get to the heart of her characters and develop them in a way that makes you feel as if you are taking part in their journey.  I read this in one sitting finding it impossible to put down.

April loses her brother to a car accident and is shocked when her friend Oliver returns with his fiance.  Oliver knew that it was the right thing to do – he needed to be there to help support April through this tragedy.  What neither of them expected were the feelings that blossomed almost immediately upon seeing each other.

April fights the attraction she feels to Oliver – not only is he engaged but she has a history of making bad decisions when it comes to romance, partially due to an abusive past.  She knows that she has made some mistakes and deserves to be happy but at what expense?

Oliver has his own problems with secrets of his own.  He loves his fiancee but there is something about April that he can’t shake.  He feels he needs her in order to be complete and shake some of the skeletons from his past.  Will they be able to be together without causing grief to those around them?

This is one of the most heartfelt novels I have read in quite some time and I am hopeful the author will continue to keep April and Oliver in the back of her mind.  Maybe she’ll bring them back in a new novel to let us in on what their future became.

A painter, teacher and mother of twins, Tess Callahan has written for Cottonwood, The Stylus Anthology: 1950-2000, The Boston College Magazine, New York Newsdayand elsewhere through syndication. When not exploring the complex motivations of intriguing characters (in her personal life and in her work), she finds nourishment and sustenance in periodic travels to wild, austere landscapes around the world. Tess has an MFA in Fiction from Bennington College. April & Oliver is her first novel.

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Miranda’s Big Mistake by Jill Mansell

miranda's big mistake

An irresistible summer read from Jill Mansell, an international bestselling author.

Jill Mansell is one of the UK’s premiere contemporary authors, with her 19th title coming out in January 2009. She has sold nearly 4 million copies of her books in the UK.

Miranda is thrilled with Greg. He’s gorgeous, funny, and practically perfect. Greg thinks Miranda is great, but he hasn’t told her everything about himself. After all, even the sweetest girl is likely to be put off by a man who’s left his newly pregnant wife. But there’s now way she’ll ever find out… is there?

When Greg inevitably breaks Miranda’s heart, her friend Danny is there to cheer her up, and they quickly wreaks an unforgettable revenge. Miranda’s now ready to move on to another affair – but will Danny get a chance to tell her he’s in love with her himself…

“Watch and learn as Miranda wreaks her sweet revenge – and memorize her sharp one-liners.”

Miranda is a junior stylist at Fenn Lomax.  Everyone loves her and she truly does have a heart of gold.  But, it seems to do nothing but get her in trouble.  First she ends up giving money to a homeless man that belongs to a client.  Then she gives him a pair of gloves that were left at the salon that the rightful owner now wants back…after more than six weeks.  She keeps trying to do the right thing but it just doesn’t seem to work.  Until she meets Greg.

Greg is everything she has been looking for to make her life complete.  Besides being handsome, they have an instant connection that neither of them can ignore.  It looks like fate has decided to give Miranda a break for once and give her the love she has been so desperately searching for.

What Miranda doesn’t know is that Greg is married, with a child on the way.  When his wife tells him that she is pregnant he is shocked and upset and leaves her.  Will Greg get involved with Miranda and lead her on, not telling her that he is already married?  Will Miranda find true love, or is fate going to deal her another low blow?
 
This is a great summer read – nothing too thought provoking, but that’s ok sometimes.  I would recommend this book and think the author is a lot of fun to read.

 

Jill Mansell is a UK bestselling author, with over 4 million copies sold. She has written nearly 20 romances with multi-generational appeal. She worked for many years at the Burden Neurological Hospital, Bristol, and now writes full time. She lives with her partner and their children in Bristol, England.

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The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly

the scarecrow

Forced out of the Los Angeles Timesamid the latest budget cuts, newspaperman Jack McEvoy decides to go out with a bang, using his final days at the paperto write the definitive murder story of his career.

He focuses on Alonzo Winslow, a 16-year-old drug dealer in jail after confessing to a brutal murder. But as he delves into the story, Jack realizes that Winslow’s so-called confession is bogus. The kid might actually be innocent.

Jack is soon running with his biggest story since The Poetmade his career years ago. He is tracking a killer who operates completely below police radar–and with perfect knowledge of any move against him. Including Jack’s.

I own a few Michael Connelly books but have yet to read one.  When I received this one from Miriam at Hachette I figured it was high time I give this author a try.  Looks like I’ll be pulling out the other books I own, I think I have a new author to add to my list of favorites!

One of my favorite parts about the book is the fact that you know who the murderer is from the get go, you just have to wait for Jack McEvoy to follow the clues and put all the missing pieces together to lead him to this seasoned criminal who has been outsmarting some of the best minds in the field for years. 

McEvoy is a L.A. Times crime reporter who has lost his job due to some budget cuts the newspaper is forced to make.  McEvoy is offered two weeks “severance” if he agrees to train his replacement.  Instead of telling his boss to kiss his behind, Jack decides to use the two weeks he has left to try and help him build a story that will be the foundation needed to get recongnized and create another best seller.  

McEvoy begins working a story about two murders with the same M.O. – both of the victims bodies are stuffed in the trunk of cars.  While investigating Jack stumbles upon a killer who is smarter than any he’s ever dealt with before.  The Internet is a key factor in this book and the side of the Internet that Connelly portrays will make anyone leary.  It was truly fascinating!

Excellent writing and strong character development make this a must read!

Michael Connelly is the bestselling author of the Harry Bosch series of novels as well as The Poet, Blood Work, Void Moon, Chasing the Dime, andthe #1 New York Times bestseller The Lincoln Lawyer. He is a former newspaper reporter who has won numerous awards for his journalism and his novels. He spends his time in California and Florida.

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