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Showing posts from November, 2012

Book Review: My Memories of a Future Life

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Reading FEAR OF FLYING at 15 and 50 (Jong holds up beautifully.)

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I first read FEAR OF FLYING in 1977. I was 15. My algebra teacher nicked it from my hand, threw it in the trash can and told me it was pornographic garbage, but I was already halfway through the book and smart enough to know that wasn't true. I rescued the book and spent a few weeks in detention, but it was well worth it. FEAR OF FLYING blew my tiny mind on several levels.

Because of the open discussion of sex in FEAR OF FLYING, some of the other important themes get back-burnered. For me, having been raised in the 1960s attending Wisconsin Synod Lutheran churches and schools that were dominated by German culture, the greatest impact of the book was how it made me rethink everything I'd been taught about Jews. (Unscrupulously greedy. Killed Jesus. Automatically going to Hell.) Here was the fresh antidote to the heartbreaking guilt of Anne Frank and Corrie ten Boom, along with an electric cattle prod of enlightenment for a child indoctrinated with the party line about how Jews …

FEAR OF FLYING by Erica Jong

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Fear of Flying at 15 and 50: Still one of my favorite booksAmazon Verified Purchase(What's this?) This review is from: Fear of Flying (Isadora Wing) (Kindle Edition) I first read FEAR OF FLYING in 1977. I was 15. My algebra teacher nicked it from my hand, threw it in the trash can and told me it was pornographic garbage, but I was already halfway through the book and smart enough to know that wasn't true. I rescued the book and spent a few weeks in detention, but it was well worth it. FEAR OF FLYING blew my tiny mind on several levels.

Because of the open discussion of sex in FEAR OF FLYING, some of the other important themes get back-burnered. For me, having been raised in the 1960s attending Wisconsin Synod Lutheran churches and schools that were dominated by German culture, the greatest impact of the book was how it made me rethink everything I'd been taught about Jews. (Unscrupulously greedy. Killed Jesus. Automatically going to Hell.) Here was the fresh antidote to the…

Dwight Okita's THE PROSPECT OF MY ARRIVAL

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Genius idea, complex journey, beautifully delivered

I loved this book. The premise is genius, and the beautiful writing totally delivered the goods.

I was intrigued when I saw the trailer. It sounded like "Benjamin Button" meets "What Dreams May Come"; could the author actually pull that off? You're in some very dicey territory, endowing the unborn with a persona. I suspect a lot of editors and agents would look at that and glaze over instantly. Not gonna touch that with a vaccinated cattle prod.

This book is not a no-brainer. It's quirky and delicious. Like ice cream with bacon. But it's also profoundly uncomfortable in places. One moment two loving parents are tucking their child in under a magical lit up ferris wheel mural, the next moment something incredibly dark unfolds. (And here the editor who hoped for an easy trip to the acquisition committee coughed coffee and hit "delete"...) What keeps you reading is the austerely lovely writing and …

The fabulous Mavis Staples: "Hard Times Come Again No More" ('Nuff said.)

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Vissi d'arte (I have lived for art)

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Barbara Taylor Sissel's THE VOLUNTEER

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If you love Jodi Picoult and Anita Shreve, read Barbara Taylor Sissel

Another richly told story from a wonderfully talented author. Barbara Taylor Sissel weaves beautiful novels from fine, unexpected threads. Characters are complex and thoughtful. Places are fragrant and real. Conversations ring true and meaningful. Plots unfold with startling but graceful turns. This is a terrific author I want everyone to discover. She does an amazing job of first making us care about these people, pinging curiosity just enough with the mystery surrounding the codex, then pretty much tearing our hearts out with the beautifully written final chapters.

THE VOLUNTEER is a satisfying read, and that's enough in itself, but I think book clubs will find a whole additional dimension for discussion. Beyond the big questions that gray the core topic of capital punishment, there's the complicated realm of family relationships, the definition of "the honorable thing" and whether or not it's …

Eric Coyote's THE LONG DRUNK (Kirkus Reviews Best of 2012)

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Fear and Loathing meets Ironweed - a hilarious heroic journey on the skids

I hardly know where to begin. The most off-putting first chapter you'll ever be hooked by? The most offensive protagonist you'll ever love? The most revolting cast of wretches you'll ever stand up and cheer for? I just finished reading THE LONG DRUNK, and I honestly don't know which of us is more appalling: Eric Coyote for writing this bodily-fluid-soaked misadventure or me for loving it.

Coyote very wisely opens with a poetically vivid glimpse of Venice's underbelly before plunging us into the unfiltered conversations and filthy hand to mouth existence of Murphy, the damaged anti-hero, and his fallen crew. If I hadn't had that preface - that initial assurance that, yes, this is an incredibly talented writer - I wouldn't have made it through the first chapter. Not a punch is pulled, not a frack is given, not a politically correct construct is spared. Murphy is on a noble quest, but wha…

Happy Birthday, Scorsese! (Brilliant "Goodfellas" steady cam scene)

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One of my all-time favorite movie scenes. Simply brilliant down to the tiniest detail.

Emily St. John Mandel's LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL

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Gorgeous writing, irresistible scavenger hunt of a story

Up to my eyes in research, rough writing, and revisions on a work in progress, I have absolutely no time for pleasure reading right now. So it was a huge mistake to allow even a passing glance at an advance copy of Emily St. John Mandel's lovely debut novel, Last Night in Montreal. I can't help it; I am about to utter the hacky cliche of all book recommendations: I couldn't put it down. The words "pleasure reading" hardly begin to describe it. This was somewhere between a spa treatment and mid-day lovemaking. It's a mystery and a love story, a twisting path through the heart and mind of a richly drawn character.

This is not the blockbuster you're going to see on an endcap at Borders, but I hope hope hope it catches on with book clubs. There's so much fertile ground for discussion here, and this talented author deserves the affirmation.

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers

Astonishing plastic art rescued from the flotsam

Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang of San Francisco’s Electric Works gallery have created an astonishing array of sculptures, installations and sundry objet d'art from bits and pieces of plastic debris they've collected on Kehoe Beach in Point Reyes, California.

"We're not cleaning the beach. We're curating the beach."

"Hard Headed Woman" Cat Stevens

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The harder the head, the bigger the hair.

Raymond Chandler's THE BIG SLEEP

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Chandler is the master

There is something transporting about this book. The relentless rain. The over-the-top blondes. The hats always have some angle, whether they're cocked on top of a fashionable fairy or parked on a telephone receiver.

"If the mystery novel is at all realistic (which it very seldom is) it is written in a certain spirit of detachment; otherwise nobody but a psychopath would want to write it or read it," Chandler wrote in his essay "The Simple Art of Murder". "The murder novel has also a depressing way of minding its own business, solving its own problems and answering its own questions." (Hence the rain, maybe. It keeps the head down, the shoulders hunched, the collar up.) Okay, good to know, but more importantly, The Big Sleep corrected my mistaken belief that the detective/murder/mystery novel is all about plot. It isn't. Not when it's done right.

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers

Agent-Author Lois Winston Dishes on Top Ten Reasons Your Novel Is Rejected

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Whether you've been looking to break into publishing or you've grown frustrated with rejections and want to "bulletproof" a future submission, you might want to check out this offering from someone with a unique perspective. Award-winning crafting mystery, romantic suspense, romance, and humorous women's fiction author and (in her other life) literary agent (with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency) Lois Winston has a brand new e-book designed to guide you around the most common pitfalls. Since I've known Lois for years, mostly as a fellow author, and respect her opinion on publishing matters, I asked her to stop by the blog today to answer a few questions about Top Ten Reasons Your Novel Is Rejected and How to Avoid Them. (Click the link to find buying links for all e-book platforms.) BtO: Thanks so much for visiting Boxing the Octopus, Lois! We're delighted to have you here. First question: I've known a number of agents who are also (sometimes pse…

Why I'm supporting the Bald Ambition Kickstart (and I hope you will too!)

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I sat down to write a book about cancer. What came out was a book about life.

When my memoir, Bald in the Land of Big Hair, was originally published by Harper Collins in 2001, I never imagined that this funny little book by a nobody novelist would take on a quietly powerful life of its own. Over the years, BLBH has been condensed by Reader's Digest, excerpted in Good Housekeeping, translated and published around the world. In 2011, with the paperback still in print from HC, I independently released the 10th anniversary ebook edition with a forward from the wonderful Elizabeth Berg and an update on me and my family.

Now the hilarious and heart-wrenching one-woman show adaptation by actress Lisa Hamilton is headed for an off-Broadway debut. And she needs your help. Not a lot of help. Just a little. As she says in her Kickstarter video below, "I want your beer money." With just 3 days left in her Kickstarter campaign, $20 each from fewer than 100 people would get her to her g…

Joanna Weiss' MILKSHAKE

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Funny, smart and refreshing!

I thoroughly enjoyed this smart, funny, fast-paced novel. The characters are bright and engaging, the dialogue is zingy and true, and for those of us who tend to take ourselves a little too seriously when it comes to personal choices and political stands, it's a friendly but incisive calling out. A terrific debut from a talented author!

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers

Harlequin Intrigue vs. Harlequin Romantic Suspense

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I've been asked a number of times about the differences between the two lines I've written for: Harlequin Intrigue and Harlequin Romantic Suspense. As their senior editors, Denise Zaza (Intrigue) and Patience Bloom (HRS) tell prospective writers in their linked Q&A chat, the two lines are definitely not interchangeable. In a nutshell, I'll summarize what they're saying, adding in some examples from my own experiences: 1. Intrigue is a bit shorter (65-70K), more focused on the criminal investigation/procedural aspect of crime solving, and extremely "hero-centric." The more alpha the male is, the better. The romance element is less predominant than the intrigue focus, sensuality may vary but must be fully integrated with the crime plot, and love scenes receive less emphasis, if they're in the book at all. (My most recent Intrigue, Relentless Protector, involves a very suspenseful hunt for the heroine's missing five-year-old, and I can tell you, s…

Too much awesome in one place: Cheryl Strayed interviews Anne Lamott

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Can't touch this! (Just sayin'.)

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Trailer Park: SUGARLAND by Joni Rodgers

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In this modern retelling of the Psyche and Eros myth, two Texas sisters rebuild their lives and relationships in the wake of a violent betrayal.

Remember, remember the 5th of November

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Valerie's letter from "V for Vendetta" written by Alan Moore
"I shall die here. Every last inch of me shall perish. Except one. An inch. It's small and it's fragile and it's the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us."

Yellow Sub Love & a quick $10 Red Cross donation

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All You Need is Love! Unless you're in a hurricane, in which case you also need mops, medicine, blankets, bandages, diapers, Clorox, generator fuel, dry socks, protein bars, water bottles... The Red Cross is on the ground immediately in any disaster (including hurricanes!) and you know your money is going directly to the people who need it. To donate, visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-HELPNOW or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

You Don't Own Me: Why I voted early & voted for Obama

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Kicking back for a few weeks, giving myself a moment to rebound from a hysterectomy. Just had to share this terrific message from Leslie Gore and friends.
I voted early because I knew I wouldn't be able to stand in line so soon after major surgery, and I voted for Obama.
Big Reason #1: I was diagnosed with blood cancer when I was a young stay-at-home mom, so I am now uninsurable without the protections offered by Obamacare. I'm just one example of how the old healthcare system drastically discriminated against women striving to be entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Big Reason #2: Post-surgery, I'm now dependent on estrogen support, but even if I was using these same hormones for contraception, satan worship or the secret in my barbecue sauce, drugs prescribed to me are my own private business, and no governmental or religious entity should be able to come between me, my doctor and the choices I deem appropriate for my own body. In the big picture, we absolutely can…

In Support of Passion

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Write what you know, they they told me. So I wrote about a firefighter. A wilderness firefighter, called a hot shot, who is recovering from horrific injuries doing the job he loves. Write what you love, I thought, as I added terrain so rough that it requires horses, along with a beloved family dog and the lost love Jake Whittaker has never gotten over. Only now, both are forced to risk their own lives to save the children she had with another man. The wrong man...one who will never letter her go, no matter what it takes. My latest release, Passion to Protect, is available in stores and online today. I have to admit, I fell head over heels for this hero, and as the wife of a firefighter, who can blame me? Reviews have been terrific, but why not make up your own mind? Pick up your copy today and settle in for a fast-paced, heart-wrenching autumn read. If you've already bought your copy or you're still on the fence, could you please do me the favor of popping over to Amazon…

CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell

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One of the most profound... (stare...blink...head explodes) Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?) This review is from: Cloud Atlas: A Novel (Kindle Edition) With plot (!), character and structures ably covered elsewhere, this review is about my experience of David Mitchell's CLOUD ATLAS. I was curious when I started and weeping when I finished. In between, taken heart and soul. Resonating in the background were some of my favorite reading experiences: The majesty and moral character of Melville's MOBY DICK. The gimlet eye and heartbreaking hindsight of Michener's HAWAII. The rich, musical ethos of Elise Blackwell's AN UNFINISHED SCORE. The hardboiled cunning of Elmore Leonard's OUT OF SIGHT. The chilling resonance of George Orwell's 1984. The bleak dystopian vision of Cormack McCarthy's THE ROAD.

Each of the six worlds in CLOUD ATLAS vividly awakened sense memories, books, music, movies, conversations, experiences. The nesting doll metaphor is apt for the …