Thursday, June 30, 2011

Literary Blog Hop Winners!!



The Help by Kathryn Stockett...Lisa B.

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi...Dogwood 

Classical Myths to Read Aloud by William F. Russell...
Mary Ellen

All three of my winners have already responded with their addresses, so these results are final.

Thank-you to Judith for organizing this hop and to all of you who stopped by.  I hope that this will not be the last time you visit!  Visiting all the blogs on the hop was a fun, creative journey.  I also look forward to visiting the blogs and websites of those of you who, though not authors of a participating blog, left comments here over the last several days.  It was exciting to see how many of you "hopped" over from another participating blog and found Lit in the Last Frontier for the first time, because that means that I now get to come and visit your blogs and expand my horizons too!  ☺

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

THE TIGER’S WIFE by Téa Obreht ✰✰✰✰✰

Unbelievably good first novel!  Ms. Obreht is going to be fun to watch over the coming years.  Initially, I turned down an advanced reader copy of this one because the plot sounded a little chaotic to me.  A reading friend gave it five stars and a glowing review;  we don’t always agree over books, but her review made me give it another look.  Thank you, Susan!  I couldn’t agree more!
Generally, I synopsize my reads in a couple of quick sentences, but there are so many layers to this plot that I am cheating and giving you Random House’s advanced publication copy (the same one that made me turn the book down initially...):
In a Balkan country mending from years of conflict, Natalia, a young doctor, arrives on a mission of mercy at an orphanage by the sea. By the time she and her lifelong friend Zóra begin to inoculate the children there, she feels age-old superstitions and secrets gathering everywhere around her. Secrets her outwardly cheerful hosts have chosen not to tell her. Secrets involving the strange family digging for something in the surrounding vineyards. Secrets hidden in the landscape itself.
But Natalia is also confronting a private, hurtful mystery of her own: the inexplicable circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. After telling her grandmother that he was on his way to meet Natalia, he instead set off for a ramshackle settlement none of their family had ever heard of and died there alone. A famed physician, her grandfather must have known that he was too ill to travel. Why he left home becomes a riddle Natalia is compelled to unravel.
Grief struck and searching for clues to her grandfather’s final state of mind, she turns to the stories he told her when she was a child. On their weekly trips to the zoo he would read to her from a worn copy of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, which he carried with him everywhere; later, he told her stories of his own encounters over many years with “the deathless man,” a vagabond who claimed to be immortal and appeared never to age. But the most extraordinary story of all is the one her grandfather never told her, the one Natalia must discover for herself. One winter during the Second World War, his childhood village was snowbound, cut off even from the encroaching German invaders but haunted by another, fierce presence: a tiger who comes ever closer under cover of darkness. “These stories,” Natalia comes to understand, “run like secret rivers through all the other stories” of her grandfather’s life. And it is ultimately within these rich, luminous narratives that she will find the answer she is looking for.

This is one of those books which, when you close the cover for the final time, makes you sit there for a moment staring at the picture on the front and thinking, “Wow!”
In structure, the book has the feel of being composed of a number of short stories.  While this is Ms. Obreht’s first novel, she is an acclaimed short story author, so it is possible that this technique was used intensionally.  What the author manages to do with these segments is what speaks to her great gifts.  Imagine sentences as silken threads of a tapestry, woven into sections.  As the narrative moves forward, many such sections emerge, and the background begins to fill in and connect the seemingly disparate parts.  Téa Obreht is a master weaver.  Never does the book come across feeling as if someone tried to write together a batch of shorter pieces. 
Setting would probably be the weakest point of the novel.  Not that it is poorly done-just not as powerfully written as some of the other elements.  No specific country is given as the setting, but given the author’s birthplace, the novel almost certainly takes place in the former Yugoslavia, just after its partition.  The reader is given a clear picture of place, people, and customs.
Ms. Obreht shows a strong talent for depicting relationships.  The relationship between Natalia and her grandfather is given special attention, but others, such as her grandfather’s relationship with the deathless man, are nicely etched as well.  As might be imagined, given the number of interwoven plots, the cast of characters is rather large.  Despite this fact, each character is given consideration and time to develop within the context of their place in the novel.
What made the book so stirring for me had nothing to do with plot, setting, characterization, etc.  There is such quiet, unforced wisdom here, and it comes through not only in the things characters say, but in the way their very body language is portrayed.  That such prose could come from a twenty-five year old author is nothing short of astounding.  I wondered many times as I read if Ms. Obreht had a wonderfully wise grandfather of her own-and at her obvious ability to absorb his teachings.
My recommendation: Do not let the crazy sounding plot keep you away from this treat of a first novel!  This is one which will stick with you and doubtless leave you waiting eagerly, along with the legion of fans that Téa Obreht is building, for her next offering.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Come Hop With Us!

Come join Leeswammes Blog's Literary Giveaway!
(Click here to link to Leeswammes, the host blog)

My fellow blogger, Judith, has an excellent site.  It is our great fortune that she has organized a massive Giveaway involving more than 70 bloggers, each of whom is giving away either books, gift cards, or some other item bound to be loved by bibliophiles.

Each participating blogger is asked to have their post up the evening of the 24th if they are in the United States and by the morning of the 25th if they live in Europe or elsewhere.  Feel free to begin posting comments here right away, but please be patient, as some of the links to other blogs might not yet have an active Giveaway post up until the 25th-if they have not yet posted, be sure to try again over the next few days!

Each blogger has their own Giveaway rules.  Here are mine:
  • Comments (ie: requests to be entered to win a book) may be posted from as soon as this post is up until 10 PM, Alaska Standard Time on 29 June 2011. 
  • This giveaway is open to all commenters, including INTERNATIONAL.  You do not need to be a blog follower (although I would love it if you choose to become one!) or even have a blog of your own.  If you are not a blogger, you can simply post anonymously.  Just be sure you identify yourself somehow in your comment!
  • Please let me know which title or titles you are interested in being entered to win.
  • All requesters' names will be put in an online randomizer, and winners will be posted either late on 29 June or sometime during the day on 30 June.  Winners will have until 10 PM, 5 July 2011 to email me their mailing address.  I am giving an extra long time to take into account the holiday weekend in the U.S.  If a winner does not respond within the timeframe, an alternate winner will be announced. 
NOW FOR THE GOOD STUFF!  Here are the books I have on offer:
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett (fiction-new trade paperback).  This debut novel took readers by storm last year.  If you have yet to fit it in, now is a great time to at least get it a well earned spot on your shelf.  Set in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, and written in alternating viewpoints, this novel tells the tale of a naive, young white woman, fresh out of journalism school, and black maids who work in white people's homes, as they set out to write a book disclosing their social situation and the goings-on in their employer's residences.  An eye-opening rendering of life in the southern United States during the 1960s.
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (non-fiction memoir-gently used).  One of my all-time favorite non-fiction books.  Azar Nafisi was a professor of western literature in Tehran, Iran during the Islamic Revolution.  This book details her experiences and those of a group of her students who meet in her house once a week to discuss forbidden works of literature.  This book is a social commentary of Iran in the late 1990s and a wonderful journey through some of the great works of British and American literature, as seen through the gaze of a group of young Muslim women in an Islamic nation.
  • Classic Myths to Read Aloud (The Great Stories of Greek and Roman Mythology) by William F. Russell (family literature-new).  For the younger set, but I guarantee you will love reading them aloud to the little people!  These are adapted to be comprehended by kids as young as five; my eldest read them himself when he was twelve and enjoyed them immensely.  The format is why I prefer this book to others of its type: a quick synopsis, estimated reading time, pronunciation guide, the story itself, then a few notes of historical significance regarding the myth.  Makes a great bedtime story book. 
SEE WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO OFFER!  Below is the list of all the other participating blogs. Enjoy the chance to discover great new book blogs and win some great giveaways!  Notice some giveaways are only open to participants from certain countries, but it is still fun to find new blogs. The Book Whisperer (Int) Kristi Loves Books (Int) Teadevotee (Int) Bookworm with a View (Int) Sarah Reads Too Much (Int) write meg! (USA) My Love Affair With Books (Int) 
Always Cooking Up Something (Int) ThirtyCreativeStudio (Int) The Book Diva's Reads (Int) The Scarlet Letter (USA) The Parrish Lantern (Int) Lizzy's Literary Life (Int) Read, Write & Live (Int) The Readers' Suite (Int) I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (USA) Ephemeral Digest (Int) Miel et lait (Int) Bibliophile By the Sea (Int) Polychrome Interest (Int) Book World In My Head (Int) In Spring it is the Dawn (Int) every book has a soul (Int) Nishita's Rants and Raves (Int) Fresh Ink Books (Int) Teach with Picture Books (USA) How to Teach a Novel (USA) The Blue Bookcase (Int) Reflections from the Hinterland (USA) No Page Left Behind (USA) Silver's Reviews (USA) Nose in a book (Int) Lit in the Last Frontier (Int) The Book Club Blog (Int) Under My Apple Tree (Int) Caribousmom (USA) breienineking (Netherlands) Let's Go on a Picnic! (Int) Rikki's Teleidoscope (Int) De Boekblogger (Netherlands) Knitting and Sundries (Int) Indie Reader Houston (Int) Eliza Does Very Little (Int) Joy's Book Blog (Int) Roof Beam Reader (Int) The House of the Seven Tails (Int) Sabrina @ Thinking About Loud! (Int) Rebecca Reads (Int) In One Eye, Out the Other (USA) Books in the City (Int) Lucybird's Book Blog (Europe) Book Clutter (USA) Exurbanis (Int) Lu's Raves and Rants (USA & Canada) Sam Still Reading (Int) Dolce Bellezza (Int) Lena Sledge's Blog...Books, Reviews and Interviews (Int) a Thousand Books with Quotes (Int)