From the TBR Shelf #52: The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/513cHhnuVpL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThe Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (2004) by Stephen King

Yup, this is my favorite Dark Tower book- so far.

It's concentrated and self-contained, even as it continues the main themes of questing and good vs. evil that run through the previous books. Here, a small farming community- Calla Bryn Sturgis- is preparing for a once-in-a-generation attack by unknown creatures. As had happened many times before, these creatures swoop in, take one twin from each pair in the community (most children born there are twins), and whisk them off to an unknown location. These children are ultimately sent back to their families, but with significant physiological and psychological problems. No one knows why they are taken, or what is done with them. But this time, instead of just letting the kidnappings happen, the people of Calla Bryn Sturgis are determined to fight. They ask Roland and his ka-tet (who are passing through their region) for help.


Review: Party Headquarters by Georgi Tenev, translated by Angela Rodel

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/5194z5Y0PgL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgParty Headquarters by Georgi Tenev, translated by Angela Rodel (Open Letter, 124 pages, February 9)

Party Headquarters is the latest in a string of post-Soviet-Union literature that has passed through my hands lately, revealing yet another piece of the puzzle that is life in modern Eastern Europe.

This particular novel, set in Bulgaria and Germany, explores the legacy of deceit and greed that has continued even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  While reading this, I found myself thinking about how it connects to my own life (having been born just a few years before the Chernobyl disaster). When, for instance, the unnamed narrator of PH wonders how politicians could have kept the news of Chernobyl secret from people across the region, allowing them to unwittingly poison themselves, all to guard the top party leaders from censure, I think about what one of my Ukrainian friends told me once. She said she was told not to ever stay in the sun too long, even while wearing sunscreen, because the radiation from Chernobyl vastly increased her risk for skin cancer. She and her family had left Ukraine just a few years after the disaster.


In Translation: January Fiction and Poetry

This first “In Translation” post of 2016 is brought to you by Denmark, Japan, Russia, and Finland, and by 208, which is the number of pages in THREE OUT OF FOUR of the books I’ve highlighted here. That was not done on purpose. I’m still trying to figure out what it means.

HelleThis Should Be Written in the Present Tense by Helle Helle, translated by Martin Aitken (Soft Skull Press, 208 pages, January 12)

Danish writer and literary prize-winner Helle Helle brings us the story of Dorte, a 20-year-old girl leading a double life in an effort to figure out who she really wants to be. Considering Helle’s popularity in her home country (Denmark) and around the world, This Should Be Written in the Present Tense is one to watch for.

In Translation: December Fiction and Poetry

I don’t know about you, but it’s December and it’s cold and all I want to do is sit on a sofa chair drinking hot chocolate while reading a book. Wondering what you should read this month? I’ve got some suggestions, and they’re comin’ atcha from Egypt, Georgia, India, and Algeria. Enjoy!

bisatieDrumbeat by Mohamed El-Bisatie, translated by Peter Daniel (The American University in Cairo Press, 128 pages, December 30)

Winner of the Sawiris Foundation Award for Egyptian Literature, Drumbeat offers us a compelling look into the very heart of a stratified society and its relationship to sports and national pride.

Catching Up with Author Sigal Samuel

Sigal Samuel is an award-winning fiction writer, journalist, essayist, and playwright. Currently opinion editor at the Forward, she has also published work in the Daily Beast, the RumpusBuzzFeed, and Electric Literature. She has appeared on NPR, BBC, and Huffington Post Live. Her six plays have been produced in theaters from Vancouver to New York. Sigal earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. Originally from Montreal, she now lives and writes in Brooklyn. The Mystics of Mile End is her first novel.


Books to Look For (February): Biography/Autobiography

http://images.abovethetreeline.com/ea/UTP/images/jacket_covers/original/9781477308462_9bb68.jpg?width=1000  http://images.abovethetreeline.com/ea/RH/images/jacket_covers/original/9781101875551_92053.jpg?width=1000 


Review: The Visitors by Simon Sylvester

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/50/3d/82/503d82bb1f5e9ddad5aedacf310c0640.jpgThe Visitors by Simon Sylvester (Melville House, 368 pages, December 2015)

In case you are as clueless as I was before reading this novel, a "selkie" is a "seal-person," born out of the storytelling and mythmaking traditions of the British Isles. In The Visitors, Sylvester takes us to a remote island off the Scottish coast (Bancree) where several men have mysteriously vanished, and selkies are involved. In fact...well...I won't spoil it for you.

At once a mystery and a story about storytelling, The Visitors is one of those quick, absorbing reads that keeps you up until 2am, even when you know that you have to get up in less than four hours. Flora, the main character, feels trapped on Bancree, waiting for her senior year to end so that she can escape to a more happening place (which would be anywhere, basically, except maybe Antarctica). Her boyfriend has left for college and she sees a long, lonely year stretching out in front of her...until Ailsa Dobie and her father John move in to the abandoned house on Dog Rock, a tiny island off the coast of Bancree. They're kind of strange, and pale, and intense, but soon Flora and Ailsa become friends and confidantes.


Review: Red Star Tales, ed. by Yvonne Howell

[This is an excerpt from my review on SF Signal 12/18/15. Read the entire review here.] 

http://i1.wp.com/images.amazon.com/images/P/B016C3KATY.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_SL400_.jpg?w=620Red Star Tales began as a Kickstarter initiative to publish “the first comprehensive edition of truly notable Russian and Soviet science fiction – works chosen for their artistic and scientific merit, not because of any political or ideological agenda.” None of the 18 stories included in the collection has ever been translated into English until now, and because of this book we can truly appreciate the dramatic and dynamic scope of Russian science fiction from the end of the 19th century, through the Soviet era, and into modern times.

As such a book should do, Red Star Tales includes a useful introduction to the development of the genre in relation to Russian political and social changes, as well as a section dedicated to information about each of the authors and the translators who have made them available to us English-language readers. Editor Yvonne Howell comments on each story in this introduction, providing much-needed context and background so that readers can more readily appreciate the extent of this unique volume. Especially appreciated by this reviewer is the book’s three-part structure, which helps us contextualize each story in terms of its genesis in a particular era of Russian/Soviet history (Part I: Red Star Rising [1892-1915]; Part II: Red Star in Retrograde [1926-1946]; Part III: Red Star Reforming [1958-1992]).