Tag Archives: Daniel Handler

2013 Q2 Reading Report

I hope you’ll forgive me, but I’ve been in the process of moving during the end of June and all of July, so that’s why this 2nd Quarter Reading Report is coming so late. My 2nd Quarter in reading was strong, but the 3rd will be a bit paltry, I’m afraid (especially the first third) because of how time- and energy-consuming this move has been.

April

A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin – This book, along with the next, A Dance with Dragons, only follows half of the characters from the series. Considering how many of my favorite characters died in A Storm of Swords or were absent, I found this one a slower read. GRRM never really lets up, kills some more major characters and really tortures some others. Still, it was fascinating reading, the kind that just sucks me in and holds me hostage.

The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker – The premise of this book is brilliant: the planet’s rotation starts to slow, which makes the days gradually lengthen, causing a societal schism and also some very real environmental catastrophes. The story is narrated by a young girl who’s going through an ordinary adolescence in the middle of extraordinary circumstances. I was continually surprised by the details that made it all feel very, very real. Best of all, it could be read as a giant metaphor for our current times. Like this haunting sentence near the end of the book: “No one knows what the world will be like by the time I finish school.”

Her, Christa Parravani – A memoir about two twins, one who was raped, struggled to recover and overdosed, and the other who survived the loss of her sister. This book, while incredibly hard and heavy, is also beautiful. Parravani talks about family, sibling (and twin) bonds, competition between women, art and ownership, addiction and mental health. I read this book obsessively and the end was cathartic and earned. I felt like I’d been on a journey by the time I got there.

A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin – So, I got to find out what the other half of the characters were up to with this book. Everyone (who’s still living…) is in such a tough place in these last two books. It made for compelling reading, but was also hard on the heart. The evening I finished this book, I went to a literary cocktail party and was asked what I would do if anything happened to GRRM before the series is finished. I immediately started tallying the cost of hiring private security for him. What would I do? What am I going to do while I wait for The Winds of Winter? It was like 6 years between the last two books and 5 for the two before that. The last one was published in 2011. I’m going to go mad if I have to wait till 2016 or 2017, even with the t.v. series to enjoy. Dammit.

May

Jake and the Giant, E.G. Foley – The sequel to The Lost Heir. Like the first book, I read it at the same time as one of my favorite kids, the son of a friend. We have our own little book club of sorts. He sped through this, sneaking it to school and reading it in the car, etc. (I miss being a kid). Since I had to, you know, drive, instead of read in the car, I was a bit slower. I found this follow-up dealing with Norse mythology entertaining and silly, but also really hefty reading (literally, the book is heavy). The Kid and I are looking forward to The Dark Portal in October.

The Half-Life of Planets, Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin – I started this book because I love Emily Franklin and I finished it because I fell in love with the characters. It seemed a bit formulaic and earnest at first, but then it started to feel like the kind of books I loved as a teen. I’m kinda fascinated when writers (especially Y/A writers) team up to write dual character narratives. Since I’m now on a memoir kick, and after reading this, I’m looking forward to reading Halpin’s Losing My Faculties.

The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe – I expected this to be really sad, since it’s about a mother and son reading books together in waiting rooms while she’s being treated for terminal cancer. It is sentimental, highly so, but also highly celebratory of the life that Schalbe’s mother Mary Anne led. It’s a remarkable story and reminds me why I love books so much, the power they have to form and heal relationships. The variety of books that they read during her last days is fascinating, both how they weave into the narrative of her life and how they may be situationally incidental, but speak so much to character and passion.

The Spindlers, Lauren Oliver – Thought I’d zip right through this one, since it’s a short middle-readers book by an author whose older books I read in a few hours. It was a bit treacly and light for me, but I’m not exactly the target audience. Also, I’m not really in a light, childish frame of mind, reading-wise, lately. If you combined The Borrowers and Labyrinth, you’ve got The Spindlers. I think kids growing up with this book will adore it.

Dead After Dark, Charlaine Harris – So I’ve basically been reading the last few books in this series because I hate leaving things unfinished (see my recent reviews of Iris Johansen books and the Stephanie Plum series). It’s hard for me to voluntarily not finish the ride, which is why I try to start series only cautiously lately. I totally respect why Harris decided to end the Sookie Stackhouse series and I basically felt rewarded by how things turned out for Sookie. But this book was so crazy and over-packed with returning characters and plot threads. It felt like a bit of a rush to finish.

The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate – This book is amazing! Took me totally by surprise. The first person narrative of Ivan, a gorilla who paints in captivity, is so funny and poignant and such a smart book. I flew through this, laughing out loud, quoting the book to friends in conversation and was entirely invested.

June

Why We Broke Up, Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman – This is a pretty unique book, but not a unique experience. Each section of the book, illustrated by Kalman, is about an object from a break-up box and the story behind it, from when the couple were together. I’ve had at least one such box and stories about the scraps of paper and objects that carry relationship residue. Another book I underestimated which stuck with me long after I finished it.

Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg with Nell Scovell – This is a quick, vital book that everyone should read. Period. Mostly about women in the workforce by the COO of Facebook, it’s packed with fascinating personal stories and research about the disadvantages women are dealt (often, by themselves) in business, how both women and men can counteract these disadvantages to everyone’s advantage. This came up in no fewer than 300 conversations since I read it.

Poser, Claire Dederer – The subtitle says it all: “My life in 23 yoga poses.” Each chapter focuses on one particular pose/period of Dederer’s life as she’s learning yoga and what it reveals about her history and relationships. I have to add this one into the gumbo of my own book – the way she uses yoga poses as a frame for her memoir is a lot like what I’m hoping to do with my memoir (framed by tango). If I can be anywhere near as funny and brave as Dederer is in this book, even better.

Elysian Fields, Suzanne Johnson – My 225 Magazine review is available here.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Jennifer E. Smith – I hope they make a movie based on this book. Hell, *I* might make a movie off this book, if someone doesn’t. It’d be a sweet, smart rom-com like The Wedding Date meets Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Oh look, someone is making a movie. Good. I can focus on my memoir, since I’m all moved into my new place.

Now, I’m gonna go read so I can bulk up my third quarter…

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Filed under books, musing, what I'm reading

Brag and the city

I’m late in bragging on this essay I wrote for 225 Magazine about LSU Press. I interviewed a lot of amazing people for this one and it was a joy to write a positive piece about all the good work being done in publishing, since we all read a lot of negativity about the way the industry is failing.

 

Ronlyn Domingue has an essay in the anthology, The Beautiful Anthology, work collected from The Nervous Breakdown, where she’s been publishing nonfiction for a while. Also, she has a publication date for her second novel, The Mapmaker’s War, which will be released February 19th, 2013. The sequel will be published in the spring of 2014.

 

Here’s the latest update from James Claffey, who has a plethora of recently published work (I especially love his signature – one day I will have a signature like his):

Nice words at the Review Review that mention my three short stories at Thrice Magazine: “Within the journal, my favorite illustrations were the ones that accompanied James Claffey’s trio of stories near the beginning of the issue,” and, “James Claffey’s trio of short pieces about life in Ireland may be succinct, but they explode with powerful descriptions that float off the page and flood the reader’s senses.”
New work at Press 1: Mad Dogs & Irishmen; Tampa Review Online: Hard Freeze; and Orion Headless: Cut Short
If you can, buy a copy of Scissor & Spackle containing two of my short fictions: Counting Holes in my Shoes & Ghost Watch
 —

 

Jamey (Hatley) interviewed the Ernest J. Gaines award winner, Dinaw Mengestu, for 225 and was herself interviewed, along with Chef Chris DeBarr by Tad Bartlett for his new Oxford American column Food and Writing.

 

Arion Berger, a super talented Peauxdunque member, has self-published (as Lyra Byrnes) the first of three paranormal romances set in New Orleans.

 

Daniel Handler selected  Kiki Whang‘s story “Cucarachero” as the 2012 fiction winner of the Enizagam Literary Awards. Her story is published in Issue 6, so mosey on over and buy it. Here’s what Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) has to say about Kiki’s story:

‘Cucarachero’ is one of those stories that works like a trap. I wandered into the first paragraphs, charmed and intrigued, and then, curiouser and curiouser, fell deeper and deeper in, and not until the story was over did I have a real appreciation for how smart the thing is, how wise about people so unwise, how careful and yet how instinctually the whole thing is put together. This is the kind of thing I always want to read.”

 

The MelaNated Writers Collective has had three successful events in their Summer Reading Series. Check out L. Kasimu Harris‘s teaser for the second event event:

Video and photos from the events are available on MelaNated’s website. Here’s a great essay about why the Collective is so vital for its members and for New Orleans.

Some members of MelaNated Writers Collective

 

Tad’s done an amazing job keeping track of events and publications at the Peauxdunque website. There are a plethora of brag-worthy achievements in between my posts, so book your browsers accordingly. He’s beat me to the punch in listing the Peauxdunque finalists in the Faulkner-Wisdom Literary Awards, but I’m still gonna brag.

Keep in mind, the finalists who are still in the running are listed by title only, so there may be additional bragging later. I’m going to mention the folks I know who are finalists, but not list the titles of their work, since it’s a blind reading process.

In the novel category, Tad Bartlett and J.Ed Marston are on the short list of finalists for their novel Flying Kites. My friend and former teacher Rick Blackwood is the author of the semi-finalist novel <Ô!>. Peauxdunque member Susan Kagan ‘s novel Ruxandra is also a semi-finalist.

In the novel-in-progress category, Eloise Holland (Be My Thrill), Elsie Michie (Broken Ornaments) and Susan Kirby-Smith (Canyon Relics) are all semi-finalists.

In the short story category, Maurice still has a story in the running, and also has one on the short list for finalists, “The Winter Lion.” Also on the short list is Tad (“Hawks”), Craig Brandhorst (“No Air Holes Anywhere”), and Emily Choate (“Thunder Sometimes, Never Bells”). Emily is also a semi-finalist with “The Falling Down Side,” as are Jamie Amos (“A Good Dog Buries Its Bone”), Kiki Whang (“Keepers”), and Jenn Nunes (“Nothing That Couldn’t Just Float Away”).

In the essay category, Terri Shrum Stoor and yours truly are both still in the running.

I’ll add folks as the rest of the lists go up, as names are revealed and in case I’ve missed anyone. Congrats to all!

 

In other news, my friend Arvid Cristina is teaching a Final Cut Pro/After Effects class for NOVAC called Gimme Credits, later this month.

 

I’m so lucky to have the friendship of such talented people. I hope you’ll join me in supporting them all.

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Filed under books, bragging on, coolness, freelance work, Friends, literature, New Orleans, pop culture