Author Steve Hamilton Appearing at Troy Barnes and Noble

Born and raised in Detroit and a graduate of the University of Michigan, author Steve Hamilton is well known for his Alex McKnight series, particularly A Cold Day in Paradise (Michigan,that is) which snagged both an Edgar and Shamus Award.

It appears, however, that Mr. Hamilton is branching out with a new piece of work. His site states that his latest book The Lock Artist, “…steps away from his Edgar Award-winning Alex McKnight series to introduce a unique new character unlike anyone you’ve ever seen in the world of crime fiction.”

Whether you are new to Steve Hamilton’s work or have been with him from the beginning, you can catch him up close and personal at the Barnes and Noble store in Troy on Friday, January 15, 2010 from 5-7 pm. As always, call first to confirm.

*Support your local bookstores. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

For More on Steve Hamilton:

The Lock Artist Q&A with author Steve Hamilton

Troy Hosts Author of Great Michigan Read

The Troy Public Library in conjunction with several other city departments will sponsor a “Community Read” book discussion featuring Stealing Buddha’s Dinner. As you well know by now, Bich Minh Nguyen’s memoir was chosen as the 2009 Great Michigan Read. The discussion will take place in room 304-305 of the Troy Community Center on Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 7:00 pm. For registration and information about the event, please click here.

In case you missed my prior posts and review of Stealing Buddha’s Dinner, I have provided the links from Night Light Revue below.

-NLR’s book review:  Stealing Buddha’s Dinner

-Post on the Great Michigan Read Program :  Stealing Buddha’s Dinner:  A Great Michigan Read

-Related link:  Michigan Humanities Council

-Post by Megan Shaffer

*As always, please support your local bookstores. It truly matters.*

Remarkable Creatures is Quite Unremarkable

Quickie Review

Tracy Chevalier, best known for Girl With a Pearl Earring, recently released her sixth novel titled Remarkable Creatures. Though the true-life story of the 19th century fossil hunter Mary Anning is fascinating, I’m afraid this fictional version falls short.

The life story of Mary Anning is a worthy one, but while Chevalier’s characters stand, they don’t inject quite enough ire and passion needed to fuel the feminine fury of this novel. The metaphors are forced and I found them pulling away from the stronger themes of women’s liberation and its role in academic history.

That said, Remarkable Creatures does provide a quick, easy slice of escapism. Without demanding too much from the reader, Tracy Chevalier’s latest will at the very least walk you through the early museums of London and introduce you to the key scientific players of 1800’s academia. Additionally, through the eyes of her characters Chevalier is able to personify the perceptions and practices of early England resulting in an unexpectedly pleasant lesson in history.

Overall, the content of the novel is interesting while the story itself is tepid. And while I can’t recommend the book as a powerful read, it is definitely worth a trip to Tracy Chevalier’s site for more on the facts and fossils behind the story. Unfortunately, Remarkable Creatures is rather unremarkable.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

A Wife’s War

Sometimes we have to jump out of the literary mainstream to remember where it all begins. I was recently asked to judge poetry submissions for a 7th grade Enrichment Class instructed by Beverly Hills freelance writer Maggie Lane. The students had to write an original poem in imitation of a published poem. Thinking it would be fun, I pounced on the chance to review what I thought would be sweet and adorable elementary verse. How could I ever have known that these poems would in fact be mature, engaging works that left me speechless?

Read the winning submission below and you’ll appreciate the difficulty of my task.

A Wife’s War by Riley  (In imitation of “Father’s Day” by James Tate)

My husband has been at war for a number

of months now.  He is in the army, and his commander

won’t let him communicate often with his children or

me.  He lives on hope and one day soon coming

to see his family.  He has terrors in the night constantly.  The commander,

his enemy, whips him with cruel words when he catches him writing.

The never-ending war won’t let him out of its sight.

I asked his comrade about my husband, but he was unaware

of any situation.  I have written millions of letters

to my husband.  I haven’t heard back from him.

I never said goodbye to him.  I was too

angry at him.  He asked me if he should go.  I said,

“Yes.”  I can’t believe I said it.  He always called me princess, because

he loved me, and I never said goodbye, and I never forgave myself.

War did not define him.

* For the original poem: Father’s Day by James Tate

– Post by Megan Shaffer

A Little of This, A Little of That

I happened to like Eat, Pray, Love (well, a third of it), but whether you loved or hated it, Elizabeth Gilbert’s confessional managed to sell 7 million copies and the movie adaptation starring Julia Roberts is in the works. Gilbert’s latest release, Committed, hit the stores January 5th as a psuedo follow-up to Eat, Pray, Love. Click the following link for NPR’s positive take on Gilbert’s new title Committed, or for a more in-depth (and less optimistic) piece, try Ariel Levy’s piece Hitched in the January 11th edition of The New Yorker.

For those of you who suffer from bibliokleptomania, check out this interesting article, Literary Larceny: A Book Thief Meets His Match. It pertains to the characters in The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett.

Born in the U.S.A.:  Yes, Americans often get a bad rap, but if your self-esteem is running low, read Geoff Dyer’s charming article in the New York Times titled My American Friends. Dyer is the author of Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi.

Here at home:  Check out literary journalist Bill Castanier’s picks for The best Michigan-related books of the ‘00s in the Lansing City Pulse to see where he weighs in on picks from the last decade. After our stellar literary year, this must have been a daunting task to undertake.

Out of the ordinary: check out this Cool Flip Book I found on Huffington Post.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Isadore’s Secret Still Thrills

“Every device imaginable for the darkest gothic novel appears in these pages, and yet this drama was not drawn from the imagination, but from tattered bits of fact confined, for more than a century, to local gossip and legend, and scattered historical records. This story is true, and yet somehow had escaped a thorough retelling until now.”

So accurately states Mardi Link at the beginning of her latest work Isadore’s Secret, the true story of the 1907 disappearance and murder of the young Felician nun, Sr. Janina.  Incredibly, the “…sin, sex, torture, confession, and secrets…” that abound in this novel push like contemporary fiction, making it all the more sensational that the event in question happened more than 100 years ago.

Living in the tiny town of Isadore, Michigan was an isolated affair. Not only was the Leelanau Peninsula geographically remote, but Isadore of the early 1900’s was further obscured by its tight-knit, Polish settlers and their devotion to God and the Catholic church. At the time of this story, anyone outside of Isadore’s proud community was considered undesirable. It was among this insular, Polish speaking populace that “the tragedy” occurred.

Not unlike the handsomely paid bloodhound of the book, Mardi Link also “hunts a cold line” for the truth behind the murder of Sr. Janina. For on a seemingly ordinary day in August of 1907, Sr. Janina went to her room to rest and was never seen again. The massive search that ensued turned up only speculation and rumor, and the quiet town of Isadore was reluctantly thrust into the media spotlight.

With what must have been painstaking research, Link digs into the past and unearths the facts and events surrounding the mysterious disappearance of the affable young nun. From stark fields to dark confessionals, the reader is taken on an esoteric journey into the mind-set of small town secrets and the larger, though no less complex, machinations of the church.

Isadore’s Secret is absorbing, and its constant supposition keeps you ruminating on the facts long after you close the book. Though the story is a century old, it continues to be cloaked in mystery up to the present day. Artfully drawn on historic Michigan tableau, it is no wonder that Isadore’s Secret was selected as a 2010 Michigan Notable Book. However, with its mass appeal and intrigue, you don’t have to live in Michigan to appreciate its thrill.

-Review by Megan Shaffer

Of Interest

-Mardi Link is a native Detroiter who currently resides outside of Traverse City. Click   here for more on the author.

-Milan Stitt’s play adaptation of the story:  The Runner Stumbles

-The movie adaptation of The Runner Stumbles

University of Michigan Press

*Please support your local bookstores and our state universities!

Borders Hosts Jeannette Walls

For those of you who liked her memoir The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls will be appearing at Borders in Ann Arbor for a reading and signing of her latest book Half Broke Horses. Though I recently did a Quickie Review of Half Broke Horses, feel free to enjoy  my full review on BookBrowse. Ms. Walls will be appearing at the 612 E. Liberty Borders location in Ann Arbor, at 7:00 on Tuesday, January 5, 2010.

*As always, double check dates and times and support your local bookstores!

-Post by Megan Shaffer