2016 New-to-Me Authors Reports

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2016 New-to-Me Authors Reports

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feb. 8, 2016, 1:32pm

In this thread, enter some remarks about an author you've "discovered." It doesn't matter whether the writer is living or dead, debuting or well known, as long as you haven't read any works by him or her until now.

The idea is maybe we will help each other s t r e t c h our reading minds and e x p a n d our universe of pleasure to include good writers who might otherwise elude us. And yes -- I think BEWARE! posts are also in order for those of us who want to exercise our curmudgeonly personae.

Let me start us off with an Author Report on Kader Abdolah.

Editat: feb. 8, 2016, 5:28pm

Recently, I screwed up my courage and denied my "wusser" angel and joined the ROOTs Reading Our own Tomes) Group in an attempt to inflict restraint on my book buying addiction illness that lets me ignore reading my new acquisitions in favor of letting my eyes wander over the field of Dreamy Books I Don't Own -- Yet."

Today I had to select my next Own Tome and my eye lit on a shiny object whose title is, My Father's Notebook by Kader Abdolah.

I had never heard of this author. So, I did a little Googling and learned he is a native of Iran who fled the Khomeni regime and took up residence in The Netherlands. He's written collections of short stories and several novels, some winning literary prizes. He writes in Dutch.

Think of it! I am sitting in NoGa, reading a book translated into English by an author born in Teheran, who now lives among tulip plantations and writes this book about an Iranian man and his son in Dutch. The mind boggles.

I've only read part way into the first chapter, but I already am in love with the book, feel sympathetic to the characters, like Abdolah's style, have cheerfully abandoned disbelief, and have embarked on an exploration of a land, people and culture I could not know except for the wonderful nature of books being what they are.

First sentence from the prologue:
And so it went until the men of Kahaf finally sought refuge in the cave. "Grant us Thy mercy," they said.

From the fly-leaf:
Aga Akbar, the youngest of seven children and the illegitimate son of a Persian nobleman, is a deaf-mute. He makes use of a rudimentary sign language to get by in the world, but his deepest thoughts and feelings go unexpressed. Hoping to free the boy from his emotional confinement, his uncle asks him to visit a cave on nearby Saffron Mountain, and to copy a three-thousand-year-old cuneiform inscription. . .Through the rest of his life, Aga Akbar uses these cuneiform characters to fill his notebooks with writings only he can understand.

That is what I call an irresistible invitation to read.

What about you? Tell us a little about the irresistible invitation from a stranger that you RSVP'd "Yes!" to.

Editat: feb. 8, 2016, 3:59pm

I'm currently reading Work by Louisa May Alcott. I've never read a work by her before. So far, so good. At least her style doesn't put me off. Yet.

feb. 8, 2016, 4:28pm

>1 Limelite: Nice idea for a thread. I will drop along when I next sample an author for the first time. I know I have been well rewarded by trying someone new in the past.

Editat: feb. 8, 2016, 5:33pm

>3 geneg:

Can you include a first sentence or a favorite passage from Work -- something that might tantalize us into reading it, too?

And I'm always interested in why you're reading that particular book -- a rec from a friend, cover art, advert., trying to prune your TBR pile? Please tell.

>4 pgmcc:

Look forward to seeing you soon!

feb. 8, 2016, 6:44pm

> 5

Well, LT ate my response. I'll try again. I'm reading this as part of my own project to read more of my own books than buy new ones. I received this from Library of America last month, had never read any of her work, read the blurb that came with the book, thought when I finished my next book I'd take it out, kick the tires, and take it for a spin. I'm interested in all kinds of things, so I thought I might learn something about women working outside the home, what jobs were available, how working women were perceived in the mid-19th century, and the issues that confronted these women. So I'm reading it now.

There is a kind of fun anecdote that goes with this: I just finished reading Scott's The Abbot Saturday morning before picking up Work Saturday afternoon. On page 26 of my volume I encountered this: "Hepsey used to watch her as she sat buried in her book when the day's work was done, and once a heavy sigh roused Christie from the most exciting crisis of "The Abbot." Imagine my surprise! Anyone who places a work by Scott in their own book is jake by me.

I have no other reason to read it than proximity, time and curiosity. The opportunity to learn something drives most of my reading. I really feel like a book that doesn't teach me much is a waste of time.

feb. 8, 2016, 9:15pm

>6 geneg:

Serendipity of reading is a topic for an essay. The unlooked for good thing one always finds in the best books.

"I really feel like a book that doesn't teach me much is a waste of time." Absolutely!

I listened to Toni Morrison narrate her novel, A Mercy. Besides being enraptured by the prose, her reading style, and vocal tone, I learned a lot about the earliest days of slavery at the beginning of the 17th C. in colonial America, and a lot about the price the "owners" paid beyond the bondage price for a human being.

And I learned what it takes to win the Nobel Prize in literature.

Agreed -- the best books have much more than one thing to teach us.

feb. 15, 2016, 4:22pm

I am like a lot of LTers in that I have a fondness for writers who write books about books and writers. Julian Barnes has written two such novels I enjoyed: Flaubert's Parrot and Arthur & George. Zafón wrote a favorite, The Shadow of the Wind, and Michael Cunningham's The Hours is more than an homage, it's an artist's copy of another artist's technique.

This weekend I picked up Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse from the library. The author is new-to-me, Faith Sullivan who has seven novels to her credit and who has won a number of literary awards. Though she may be well known to you, still, she and her books have eluded me until now.

"Good Night" promises to be unlike the other books I mentioned above except in exhibiting that compelling commonality of all good books -- the transcendent and transformative power of reading.
On her most anxious days, Wodehouse became a place and she retreated there. Like her apartment and the classroom, Wodehouse protected her, leading her far from Harvester, into London's Chelsea. There, artists without much money, or even talent nevertheless mingled absurdly, critiquing each other's work in both grave and fawning tones and finding unlikely romance.

Such was the opening story in The Man Upstairs. In the next, Wodehouse spirited Nell off to a village in Hampshire. . .The stories were compellingly funny and she got lost in them. And that was all she asked -- to lose herself in the abundant goodwill of Wodehouse.

What a pity she couldn't spend all her hours with her nose in his books.
Yes, what a pity we all can't.

Editat: març 11, 2016, 11:36am

Another debut author I stumbled upon because I was looking for a light and hopefully fresh palate cleanser after reading some dry and heavier non-fiction, is Simmer and Smoke: A Southern Tale of Grit and Spice by Peggy Lampman. Definitely falls into the category of women's lit. I'll give Lampman props for writing an even book without glaring faults. However, I'm probably also giving it the kiss of death by characterizing it as "nice."

If you like foody stories with some informal recipe notes, if you like following three women whose lives eventually intertwine because of their varying but mutual involvement with and love of all things gastronomical, and if you like like a homey comfortable read that won't startle you with unexpected turns of event, then you could take this book to the pool.

It could be the "meh" impression it left was influenced by the fact that I'm simultaneously reading Kingsolver's Flight Behavior, a far more sophisticated, complex, and thematically rich novel that might be classified as "thinking women's fiction." If I have a choice between her and Lampman when it comes to choosing to read a book about dysfunctional Southern domestic fiction, Lampman will probably come in a distant fourth behind Kingsolver, Anne Rivers Siddons, and Pat Conroy.

Well, new lands in literature can't always be refuges of milk and honey. Off to look for another Eden. Will I find it in Kingsley Amis? I've heard of him but never read him and just picked up Lucky Jim.

How are your voyages into the unknown faring?

ag. 3, 2016, 1:42pm

I'm only fifty pages into Rebecca but, wow, Daphne du Maurier has won a new fan. This is so, so much more than what I expected, I don't want to put this down and I'm scanning the rest of what she's done. Jamaica Inn looks like it will be worth pursuing later, the rest appear to run hot/cold. Even if I don't find another by her that I'll love quite so much, I've got a feeling at least this one is going to stick with me.

ag. 3, 2016, 2:35pm

>10 Cecrow: Du Maurier's short stories are also worth a look...

ag. 3, 2016, 5:35pm

>10 Cecrow: I have enjoyed Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, Scapegoat, Jamaica Inn and her collection of short stories entitled, The Doll.

ag. 3, 2016, 10:50pm

>10 Cecrow:, >12 pgmcc: I liked all four of those novels, too, but definitely don't recommend The House on the Strand. As for short stories, did you know that she was the author of the novelette "The Birds," on which Hitchcock's famous horror movie was based?

ag. 31, 2016, 10:35pm

I seem to be back after having immersed myself in the Primary races and Rio Olympics to the detriment of my reading life. September looks auspicious for delving into books. To get started, I offer two New-To-Me authors that I am currently reading.

1) Dora Heldt -- best selling novelist in her native Germany. She lives in Hamburg, a city I've visited and where some dear friends live, but was born on the "Queen of the North Seas," the Island of Sylt where she has set the novel, Tidal Shift that I began while sitting in a waiting room Monday. I've just been introduced to the major players and already know that Aunt Inge, who has thrown over the traces of her married life, is going to upset everyone in her liberated new life. I'm reading her in translation

2) James Thayer -- is probably well known to many of you but a total stranger to me. I'm reading his latest (?) adventure novel, House of Eight Orchids. Set in the Sino-Japanese War, in Chunking, the novel whose first 3 chapters I've read features kidnapped American brothers, Chinese eunuchs, and a mysterious female of great beauty and somewhat aggressive personality. I don't normally read action/adventure novels, but this one sounded so exotic, I couldn't resist.

Who have you "discovered" these long summer months while I've been away?

set. 27, 2016, 10:52pm

What a year for new authors 2016 has turned out to be. Now, I'm not a devotee of thrillers in the school of Jason Bourne. In fact, I try hard to avoid them. But I may be due for a change of heart.

Looks like I'm the only LTer who has People Die: A Novel by Kevin Wignall. It's his debut novel, it's a thriller, and it has sunk its hooks into me. If you like the philosophical bent of John Le Carre's espionage novels and the minimalist writing style of a Hemingway (only better, IMO), then get this book.

I tried a Jo Nesbo but gave it up. Slow paced, and sorry, the characters didn't capture my interest. I like Donna Leon's Venetian detective series -- but her books aren't thrillers in the strictest sense. I'm also an unabashed fan of the Camel Club adventurers, creations of David Baldacci. However I have not yet felt compelled to read any of his other thrillers.

Despite my limited exposure or experience, I think I recognize a talent in Wignall. I'd call him the intellectual's John Grisham sans the lawyers. People Die is a thinking person's escape into an unthinkable world. In this novel, the hero/antihero is an assassin for some nebulous boss(es) who suddenly finds himself in the position of being the prey instead of the predator. The casual brutality of instantaneous death is as near to poetry as I've ever read when Wignall tells it.

Here's an excerpt.
The kid looked quite graceful now on the hard stone floor, like the kill in a hunt, like a leopard or cheetah. It didn't matter how pathetic or otherwise his life had been, he was beautiful now, composed. And within a few days he'd probably make the papers and move people here and there in the suburbs of America, and it would seem quite exotic, that he had gone to Paris and been killed there.

Kevin Wignall -- a new-to-me writer who just may be who it takes to convert me into a fan of thrillers.

set. 28, 2016, 1:13pm

>15 Limelite: There are 73 copies of People Die -- your copy just wasn't combined

Editat: nov. 10, 2016, 8:12pm

What is this? I keep finding my interest piqued by suspense books. Now it's an espionage novel set in Russia and Europe, featuring a CIA operative. The book is Red Sparrow: A Novel by Jason Matthews, himself, like of many of the great Brit espionage writers a former agent in the CIA. Unlike the Brits, Matthews was a career spook.

The novel is heavy on the adventure element and the author has the hero running -- well, flying -- all over the continent. He's more of an action stylist than an introspective character character developer. There's no reluctance in this hero, no obvious disgruntlement. But I'm reading along willing to let Matthews take me where he will because he's adept with descriptions, especially of people's appearance. A lingering skill from his days practicing trade craft, i suppose.

Not sure why nor if it works, but Matthews includes a recipe at the end of each chapter for a food item or dish the hero eats within it. So far I've "digested" Old Lady's Beet Soup and a Moscow Airport Cuban Sandwich. The recipes are very detailed and authentic. Maybe I'm dealing with a frustrated career spy who's cover was chef? Or one whose hobby is cooking?

Haven't finished the novel yet; it's a read aloud book with Lime Spouse. If you're intrigued, this is Book 1 of a trilogy that I assume features the same intrepid hero, Nate.

nov. 23, 2016, 12:11pm

Ahhh. . .a return to Readers' Nirvana. Have you heard of Derek Palacio? No? Well, I have a feeling you will. Like Junot Diaz (who has to be a literary influence of Palacio's), Palacio has a distinctly Latino-Caribbean voice and has debuted with a novel, The Mortifications, that I feel will become an "important" book about the Cuban exile experience.

Make no mistake, Derek is all-American from birth to upbringing in the States. He's a creative writing teacher at the college level and he's the co-director of The Mojave Project, a writing program for rural Nevada youth.

Having lived in Miami for most of my life and until recently, I've read quite a few Cuban-American novelists. They all have something in common in their works -- a nostalgic longing for a romanticized Cuba. While Palacio allows this universal sentiment a dominant place in his first novel, he takes the desire for the exile's return one step further. He returns his characters to their island nation, but it is not the romanticized idyll of the emigrant's misty memory.

I received The Mortifications as an LTER book. What a great "win"! My review is here.
You can bet, I'll be keeping a look out for more by Derek Palacio. If you like "wallowy" and deep reads about family sagas, rich with skillful symbolism and layered themes, strong and original characters, and unpredictable plotting, then The Mortifications and Derek Palacio are for you.

des. 15, 2016, 2:52pm

Memorable new-to-me in 2016, looking back as the year comes to a close:
- Daphne du Maurier (as noted above) for Rebecca; I would read more by her.
- Haruki Murakami for The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. I'll read more by him.
- Catherynne Valente may require another visit for me to decide.
- Kim Stanley Robinson, I'll read more of his sci-fi.

I'm unfortunately content with one sampling of Erin Morgenstern and Jasper Fforde and Wallace Stegner; all with their good qualities (especially Stegner) but not my cup of tea.

des. 15, 2016, 2:57pm

I am a great fan of both du Maurier and Murakami. I have only read one by Kim Stanley Robinson and was not bowled over. I have read two by Jasper Fforde and regard the works as occasional light relief. I have not read anything by the others.

des. 15, 2016, 7:07pm

>19 Cecrow:

Sad to learn Wallace Stegner not your cup of tea. One of my favorites. Have you tried Norman Maclean, most famous for his novella, A River Runs Through It? I think he's contemporaneous with Stegner and they're both considered Western writers. He writes beautifully about high moral conflict.

One sampling of Fforde was enough for me, too. Liked du Maurier when I read her as an adolescent. Dunno if she'd still be to my taste at my advanced age. Your other authors are unknown to me. And haven't screwed up my courage to delve into Murakami yet.

Thanks for your post!