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Helene Wecker's Debut Novel

She received a BA in English from Carleton College in Minnesota and an MFA from Columbia University in New York. Her fiction has appeared in the online magazine Joyland, and she has read from her stories at the KGB Bar in Manhattan and the Barbershop Reading Series in San Francisco.

A Chicago-area native who’s made her home in Minneapolis, Seattle, and New York, she now lives near San Francisco, CA with her husband and daughter.

Helene Wecker is Jewish, and her husband’s family is Syrian, giving her a unique perspective on these two cultures’ mystical traditions and the immigrant experiences of both groups.

The Golem And The Jinni, a historical fantasy, was nominated for both a Nebula Award and Audie Award.

When her master dies aboard ship, the Golem is stranded. Adrift among crowds of new immigrants on the Lower East Side, she is taken in by Avram Meyer, a retired Orthodox rabbi. He names her Chava. She is safe, but rudderless. Tailored to sense her master’s thoughts and respond without thinking, she is frequently overwhelmed as she taps into the unspoken fears and desires of the humans around her in the city. Avram finds her a job at a bakery. Soon the Golem is hard at work, shaping rolls and twisting pretzels with uncanny precision. But at night, when humans sleep, she grows increasingly restless.

The Jinni, a volatile fire creature, has been imprisoned within a copper flask for a millennium under circumstances he can’t recall. Boutrous Arbeely, a Syrian Christian tinsmith hired to do repairs, frees him unexpectedly. Working with Arbeely, who names him Ahmad, the Jinni becomes a master metalworker, creating fantastical gold and silver birds, striking bejeweled necklaces, and a ceiling of tin that re-creates the Syrian desert, the “portrait of an ancient memory.”

Wecker’s portrait of the shared experience of Jewish and Arab immigrants feels like a walk back in time, exploring the “wondrous and terrifying” city from the harbor view at Castle Gardens to the carriage roads of Central Park, from the Yiddish speaking shops to the coffeehouses of Little Syria in Lower Manhattan.

Most important, Wecker gives her main characters appealing emotional resonance, through their inner thoughts, which are not so inhuman after all, and their conversation. The “glowing man” and the clay woman share the loneliness of not fitting in. “Passing as human was a constant strain,” Wecker writes. The two are both trapped. The Golem yearns for a master because her destiny is to serve; the Jinni craves freedom, as he is bound to human form by an iron cuff welded onto his wrist by an ancient wizard’s spell.

Wecker maintains her novel’s originality as she orchestrates a satisfying and unpredictable ending. The Golem and the Jinni is a continuous delight — provocative, atmospheric, and superbly paced.- Jane Ciabattari | BOSTON GLOBE CORRESPONDENT MAY 08, 2013

George Guidall does an exclellent job narrating The Golem and the Jinni. Nominated for an Audie Award in 2014 in the fiction category The audio book is 19 hrs and 43 mins long.

Watch interview with Helene Wecker about writing “The Golem and the Jinni” on YouTube.











Kate Mosse's Latest Novel

Kate Mosse was born in Chichester in 1961 and was educated at Chichester High School for Girls and New College, Oxford. She graduated in 1981 with a BA (Hons) in English.

After graduation, she spent seven years in publishing, working for Hodder & Stoughton, then Century, and finally as an Editorial Director at Hutchinson, part of the Random House Group.
She was a member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Women in Publishing.

She left publishing in 1992, to begin her writing career and to setting up a new literary prize, and published two works of non fiction and two novels.

In 1989, she and her husband bought a small house in Carcassonne in the Languedoc region of southwest France, the inspiration for her bestselling Trilogy of historical timeslip novels.
In 2001, she began writing the first book of the Languedoc Trilogy, Labyrinth published in 2005 followed by Speulchre in 2007 and Citadel in 2012. Her bestselling books have sold millions of copies in over 40 countries.

The complex history of the Languedoc has proved fertile territory for Kate Mosse in her recent trilogy of adventure novels, beginning with the phenomenally successful Labyrinth in 2005, shortly to be a mini-series, and now reaching its conclusion in Citadel.

Labyrinth was concerned with the Albigensian crusade and the destruction of the Cathar heresy in the 13th century, weaving historical truth with the legends of the holy grail that flourished after the final massacre of the Cathars at their fortress of Montségur.

This idea of a connection between the story of a secret Cathar treasure and the grail was given substance in the 20th century by the work of Otto Rahn, a German historian and SS officer who believed that the Cathars held the key to the grail mystery, and that the evidence was somewhere beneath the ruins of Montségur. His writings attracted the attention of Himmler, whose own fascination with the occult, and with the possible ancient pedigree of an Aryan race, led to the founding of the Ahnenerbe, a society dedicated to research into proving the historical origins of a master race.

This Nazi connection provides a richly dramatic setting for Citadel. The novel takes place largely between 1942 and 1944, between the occupation and liberation of southern France.

Mosse has marshalled a large cast of characters, although (as in Labyrinth and its successor, Sepulchre) the story centres around a determined young heroine, in this case 18-year-old Sandrine Vidal, an orphan living with her older sister in Carcassonne. Sandrine is shocked out of her innocence in the summer of 1942 when her life is saved by a young resistance fighter, Raoul Pelletier, just as he discovers that his network has been infiltrated by a spy, Leo Authié, working for the Deuxième Bureau, the French military intelligence agency. When a bomb goes off at a crowded, peaceful demonstration, Raoul realises he has been set up by Authié to look like the perpetrator. He goes on the run, aided by Sandrine and her sister, Marianne, who is already working with the resistance.

But Authié wants Raoul for his own purposes: Raoul is in possession of a map belonging to his former comrade, Antoine, who died under torture at the hands of Authié’s henchman without revealing its whereabouts. Beneath his official guise, Authié is a kind of latter-day inquisitor, obsessed with restoring the purity of the Catholic faith; he knows that Antoine corresponded with Otto Rahn, and suspects that before Rahn’s death the German passed to Antoine a map revealing the whereabouts of an ancient codex containing a secret so powerful it could change the course of the war. The Ahnenerbe are also pursuing this codex, apparently with Authié’s assistance, though to their cost they fail to realise that his motivation for securing it is quite different to theirs.

As in the first two books, Mosse sets up two narrative threads progressing in parallel, though the difference here is that neither concerns the present day. Although the principal story follows Sandrine and her friends as they attempt to find the codex, while evading capture and throwing Authié and his collaborators off the scent, we also glimpse the far distant history of the region in the subplot of the codex’s original journey into the mountains, in the hands of a young, fourth-century monk risking death to save the heretical text from the flames.

Though the elements of fantasy and magic require a firm suspension of disbelief (there is a whiff of Tolkien about the alleged powers of the codex), what capture the reader most powerfully are the horrors of the Nazi threat and the sacrifices necessary to survive and resist, which make Citadel feel the most substantial and mature of the trilogy.

Mosse has grounded her story in exhaustive research, as testified by the bibliography, but she wears her learning lightly, keeping the characters and their personal dramas to the fore, switching neatly between perspectives to maintain tension. She has a particular knack for creating vivid action scenes — the blood, debris and panic of a bomb attack, or a skirmish – but she describes with equal precision the small, daily hardships of life under occupation: the endless paperwork, the difficulties of communication, the twitching curtains next door. Fans of the previous two books will be pleased to find characters and themes recurring here, most notably the magus figure of Audric Baillard, the enigmatic scholar who has lived many centuries and seems to embody the resilience of the land and its people.
Citadel is a deeply satisfying literary adventure, brimming with all the romance, treachery and cliffhangers you would expect from the genre. It is also steeped in a passion for the region, its history and legends, and that magical shadow world where the two meet.- Stephanie Merritt, The Observer

Finty Williams does a fine job narrating Citadel. The audio book is 26 hrs and 58 mins long.

Watch interview with Kate Mosse about writing “Citadel” on YouTube.











Ruth Ozeki's Latest Novel

Ruth Ozeki (born March 12, 1956) is a Canadian-American novelist, filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest. She worked in commercial television and media production for over a decade and made several independent films before turning to writing fiction.

Ozeki was born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut by American father, Floyd Lounsbury and Japanese mother, Masako Yokoyama. She studied English and Asian Studies at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts and traveled extensively in Asia. She received a Japanese Ministry of Education Fellowship to do graduate work in classical Japanese literature at Nara University in Nara, Nara. During her years in Japan, she worked in Kyoto’s entertainment district as a bar hostess, studied flower arranging as well as Noh drama and mask carving, founded a language school, and taught in the English Department at Kyoto Sangyo University.

Ozeki moved to New York in 1985 and began a film career as an art director, designing sets and props for low budget horror movies. She switched to television production, and after several years directing documentary-style programs for a Japanese company, she started making her own films. Body of Correspondence (1994) won the New Visions Award at the San Francisco Film Festival and was aired on PBS. Halving the Bones (1995), an award-winning autobiographical film, tells the story of Ozeki’s journey as she brings her grandmother’s remains home from Japan. It has been screened at the Sundance Film Festival, the Museum of Modern Art, the Montreal World Film Festival, and the Margaret Mead Film Festival, among others. Ozeki’s films, now in educational distribution, are shown at universities, museums and arts venues around the world.

Ozeki has written three novels, My Year of Meats which won the Kiriyama Prize, All Over Creation
winning the American Book Award and A Tale for the Time Being shortlisted for both the Man Booker Prize as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.

Ozeki’s meditative, era-flipping story starts with a chance discovery by a Japanese-American novelist called Ruth. Ruth lives on an island in British Columbia. Walking on the beach she stumbles on a barnacle-studded wad of plastic bags protecting a Hello Kitty lunchbox. Inside are some old letters and the diary of 16-year-old Nao (pronounced “now”) Yasutani, who describes herself as “a little wave person. Floating about on the stormy sea of life”.

By either coincidence or karma, Nao also happens to be a kind of Japanese-American, and therefore a bit like Ruth. She was born to Japanese parents, but her heart belongs to Silicon Valley, where she spent her happy formative years, and she feels just as at ease in English as Japanese. She is now back in Japan, miserable, and contemplating “dropping out of time” altogether.

Just how long has her testament been bobbing about on the waves? Is Nao a tsunami victim, or does her possible suicide predate the tragedy? The fact that Ruth is itching to know may make her decision to read Nao’s story episodically, in the on-off rhythm in which it was written (rather than to speed-read to the end and find out), feel contrived. But it gives Ozeki the chance to switch between the now of Ruth’s quietly claustrophobic life with her artist-naturalist husband Oliver and the turbulent now of Nao, whose story begins in Tokyo at the turn of the new century.

The two protagonists are chalk and cheese. Ruth’s daily life consists of Google searches, speculations about a mysterious crow, pedagogically driven information-exchanges with her husband and neighbours, internet access breakdowns and missing cats. No wonder she’s hooked on the sad soap opera of Nao’s Tokyo life.

Nao (“I’m a time being. Do you know what a time being is? It’s someone who lives in time”) may be irritating, with her constant tugging on the reader’s sleeve and her hysterical emoticons, but it’s hard not to feel sympathy for this beleaguered teenager, or to admire the power with which Ozeki evokes her plight. Nao’s father, unemployed and depressed, reads western philosophy, constructs origami insects and makes failed suicide attempts, while her mother absents herself completely: one day she’s a zonked housewife tuning out in front of aquarium jellyfish, the next she has a job in publishing. Meanwhile Nao is bullied by baroquely sadistic schoolmates: the abuse culminates in a staged funeral, a near-rape and a humiliating online knicker auction that sends her into a vortex of despair.

But thanks to the Universe, help is at hand in the form of Jiko, Nao’s ancient, anarchist-feminist great-grandmother. The tiny bald nun invites Nao to her mountain temple where fresh air and Zen wisdom work their magic. Here Nao is taught to sit straight, empty her mind, scrub old-lady skin, and offer prayers of gratitude to toilets: “As I go for a dump / I pray with all beings / That we can remove all filth and destroy / The poisons of greed, anger and foolishness.”

In an environment as fertile as this, more stories are bound to sprout, and sure enough they do. Old Jiko had a kamikaze pilot son who left secret letters – also in the Hello Kitty lunchbox – written in a code language called French. At this point Ruth, normally a keen advocate of Google’s many useful applications, seeks out Benoit, a waste disposal worker, who translates the doomed pilot’s words with the finesse of an award-winning interpreter. And finally, all – or rather a set of parallel alls – is revealed.

Seen from space, or from the vantage point of those conversant with Zen principles, A Tale for the Time Being is probably a deep and illuminating piece of work, with thoughtful things to say about the slipperiness of time. But for those positioned lower in the planet’s stratosphere, Ozeki’s novel often feels more like the great Pacific gyre it frequently evokes: a vast, churning basin of mental flotsam in which Schrödinger’s cat, quantum mechanics, Japanese funeral rituals, crow species, fetish cafes, the anatomy of barnacles, 163 footnotes and six appendices all jostle for attention. It’s an impressive amount of stuff.

One version of you might be intrigued. Another might pray it doesn’t land on your shore.- Liz Jensen, The Guardian

Ruth Ozeki does a fine job narrating A Tale for the Time Being, with an average ratiing of 4.4 out of 5 from Audible listeners. This is somewhat unexpected as many authors make poor narrators. The audio book is 14 hrs and 48 mins long.

Watch Canongate TV’s interview with Ruth Ozeki about writing “A Tale for the Time Being” on YouTube.







11.11.2013




Donna Tartt's Latest Novel

Donna Tartt was born in 1963, in Greenwood, MS to Don and Taylor Tartt. She attended University of Mississippi, c. 1981 and graduated from Bennington College in VT in 1986.

After Tartt graduated from Bennington College in 1986, she moved to New York City, living in Greenwich Village. She also lived in Boston, Massachusetts, for a time, and went back and forth between the cities.
During this period, she attended an art school in New York City for a short time, but did not have much skill as a painter and gave up this pursuit.

Donna Tartt has published three novels—1992’s The Secret History, 2002’s The Little Friend and 2013’s The Goldfinch, she is considered an important, influential novelist.

The petite, very private Tartt is a native of Mississippi, and though her first novel was set at a northern college, she has been considered a Southern Gothic writer, however her latest book is set in New York, Las Vegas and Amsterdam.

Her books also have some qualities of thrillers and suspense novels with intricate plots and interesting characters. The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014.

There’s a passage early on in The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt’s massively entertaining, darkly funny new book, that goes a long way toward explaining why its author is finally securing her place alongside the greatest American novelists of the past half-century, including John Updike, Philip Roth, Toni Morrison and that other latter-day Dickensian, John Irving.

“I was fascinated by strangers, wanted to know what food they ate and what dishes they ate it from, what movies they watched and what music they listened to, wanted to look under their beds and in their secret drawers and night tables and inside the pockets of their coats,” says the narrator and hero of The Goldfinch, a boy (later a young man) named Theo Decker. “Often I saw interesting-looking people on the street and thought about them restlessly for days, imagining their lives, making up stories about them on the subway or on the crosstown bus.”

This avid, even obsessive interest in strangers is among the earliest signs that Theo —whose life is upended when he and his mother are present at a terrorist bombing at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which kills his mother and leaves him in possession of the rare Dutch painting that shares the novel’s title — will be one of the memorable figures in recent fiction.

Haunted, guilt-ridden and prone to self-endangerment — much of it centered around the painting, to which Theo clings as a symbol of his lost, beloved parent — Theo takes the reader on a fantastic journey. It’s full of moral confusion, hairpin plot turns and, best of all, a vivid, rather raucous cast of characters drawn with the fond yet gimlet-eyed insight of Charles Dickens, whose spirit hovers over this book like a guardian angel.

Of course, Theo’s description of his habit of imagining the lives of others is also the key to his creator’s brilliance. For all her prodigious gift for suspenseful plotting, Tartt, who exploded onto the literary scene with her addictive The Secret History in 1992 and then stumbled slightly a decade later with The Little Friend, develops her characters with the deftness, humor and sympathy of Dickens, her literary hero.

We get to know Theo and his associates — including the Barbours, the wealthy Upper East Side couple who take Theo in after his mother’s death; Hobie, the antique restorer in whose shop Theo learns certain dark arts that help hasten his ethical drift; and Boris, the merry, oddly philosophical thug who accompanies Theo to the edges of the international art-theft circuit — through the sort of telling, comprehensive detail that etches them in our minds as indelibly as Mr. Micawber or Uriah Heep from David Copperfield, Magwitch or Miss Havisham from Great Expectations.

Along the way, Tartt manages to deliver wistful, always wise meditations on class divisions, the contradictions of the art world, the power of memory and the randomness of fate, in which life can take all sorts of seemingly disastrous turns and yet, in true Dickensian fashion, turn out all right in the end.

The result is the best book of 2013 so far, and required reading for anyone who loves great literature from this or any other century.- Kevin Nance USA TODAY

David Pittu does an excellent job narrating The Goldfinch, garnering a 4.6 out of 5 rating from Audible listeners. The audio book is 32 hrs and 30 mins long. Pittu is not well known for narrating major novels, but his reading of The Goldfinch is near perfect. Clearly he has been undervalued for some time. It is hard to imagine that the book could have been read more perfectly.

Watch BBC’s Kristy Wark interview Donna Tart about writing The Goldfinch on YouTube.










JK Rowling's as Robert Galbraith Latest Novel

Everyone knows now that Robert Galbraith is really JK Rowling, she outed herself once The Cuckoo’s Calling was favorably reviewed.

JK Rowling was born in July 1965 at Yate General Hospital in England and grew up in Chepstow, Gwent where she went to Wyedean Comprehensive.

Jo left Chepstow for Exeter University, where she earned a French and Classics degree, her course including one year in Paris. As a postgraduate she moved to London and worked as a researcher at Amnesty International among other jobs. She started writing the Harry Potter series during a delayed Manchester to London King’s Cross train journey, and during the next five years, outlined the plots for each book and began writing the first novel.

Post Harry Potter books have been strickly adult fiction, The Casual Vacancy published in September 2012 and The Cuckoo’s Calling in April 2013.

JK Rowling’s latest novel The Cuckoo’s Calling is a crime thriller, written using the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. As a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I can understand why she would want to do that. After The Casual Vacancy, which wasn’t that well-received critically, the reaction of many readers may be, ”But there’s no magic here, so why should I read it?” Not that the pseudonym helped, because it was revealed early on that Galbraith was actually Rowling. So much for that.

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a completely different genre from the magical lives of Harry and his Friends. And yes, Rowling knows how to write a crime thriller. It’s a good ‘masala read’. The Harry Potter series is ample proof of her ability to tell a story and keep readers engrossed and this new book just adds to that reputation. If you don’t believe me, The Cuckoo’s Calling is the number one seller as of 12 August on Apple’s iBooks store and number three on NYT‘s bestselling list.

The books deals with the death of a young model Lula Landry and it is assumed that her death is a suicide by all but her brother who calls in a private detective named Cormoran Strike to investigate the case.

Associated Press The cover for The Cuckoo’s Calling. Associated Press
When reading a crime thriller, there are few crucial points that I look for: the plot, the pace of the novel and the characters.

Her protagonist Cormoran Strike isn’t your regular private detective. He is the underdog and one that you are unlikely to root for. He’s not good looking, has one leg, lives alone and is the illegitimate child of a famous rockstar. He isn’t doing too well with his agency either. Cormoran, in fact, seems destined to fail. It’s a clever trope by Rowling since you don’t get overwhelmed by the hero. So when he does get it right, you’re actually quite astounded.

In addition, there’s Cormoran’s temporary secretary, Robin, who eventually grows on you as a character. Though she’s quite useful as a secretary, you can’t help but feel annoyed with her because Rowling keeps referring to how her boyfriend isn’t too pleased with Robin doing this job.

Rowling delivers on plot and characters but the pace is a little trying. I kept wishing Rowling would get on with the story, instead of talking about the protagonist’s girlfriend or giving lengthy descriptions of London. For instance, we don’t learn why Cormoran broke up with his girlfriend, Charlotte, but that they did break up is dangled before us every now and then.

There’s no predicting the end of The Cuckoo’s Calling, which is the book’s greatest strength since it is, after all, a thriller. Cormoran’s investigation seems long drawn at times and frequently, we detour into Cormoran’s past. The fact that Cormoran himself isn’t convinced about the fact that Lula was murdered, at least not in the beginning, adds to the suspense as well and even after 200 pages, the novel doesn’t give much evidence of a murder and you wonder, is this just a wild goose chase?

Rowling has also chosen to weave in the problem of the prying paparazzi , the hacking scandal in the Britain. She ties this in with her description of Lula’s life: the fact that the model didn’t trust anyone, used someone else’s phone because she knew her own phone had been hacked by the press. It’s a subtle comment on the voyeuristic nature of the press in Britain. Remember, Rowling too had testified as before the commission, set up to investigate the hacking scandal trial in Britain. The book makes it evident that Rowling isn’t a fan of the paparazzi.

The way Rowling ends the novel, you can see that she’s probably going to write a sequel with Cormoran and Robin back as detective and sidekick. After Harry Potter, this could be her second chance at making a successful book series. In short, if you’re a fan of crime thrillers, I’d definitely give this one a read.
- Shruti Dhapola, Firstpost, Aug 20, 2013

Watch SabelCaught’s Review on YouTube.

Robert Glenister does an excellent job narrating The Cuckoo’s Calling, garnering a 4.5 out of 5 rating from Audible listeners. The audio book is 15 hrs and 54 mins long.







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