January 30, 2018

Debut Novelist Whitney Scharer’s Million-Dollar Book Deal

Debut Novelist Whitney Scharer’s Million-Dollar Book Deal

Barista Rachael Allen meets the novelist everyone will be talking about. Whitney Scharer and her fierce protagonist are set to take the literary world by storm! At this time next year, Whitney Scharer’s debut novel, The Age of Light, will stare up at you from your nightstand. The book will not stare at you so much as, potentially, display a woman staring into the distance, anonymously cropped at the neck, with scenic Paris blurred behind her. As much as she hopes for something different, Scharer says wryly, audiences are familiar with this kind of book jacket (think Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife). And, following its million-dollar deal widely covered in the media, the book is banking on this commercial success. Perhaps a dreamy woman will attract an audience, but the book—and its personable, expressive author—aims…

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January 4, 2018

Chimezie Ihekuna’s “Poured Out Thoughts” – A Poetry Chapbook Review by Simran P. Gupta

Chimezie Ihekuna’s “Poured Out Thoughts” –  A Poetry Chapbook Review by Simran P. Gupta

The Fictional Café has recently been treated to a drop of sunshine in the form of Chimezie Ihekuna’s poetry collection, “Poured Out Thoughts.” We happened upon news of his forthcoming chapbook of collected poems as a happy accident, through corresponding about his submission to our virtual ‘zine. Affectionately known as Mr. Ben, he is based in Lagos, Nigeria, and is a poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, speaker, and voice-over artist. He says his “love for humanity has inspired him to thirst for knowledge towards its advancement.” Though this review is centered on his upcoming book, you can get a taste for his work through the five poems published here on the Fictional Café. Mr. Ben’s poetry collection is titled “The P.O.T.- Poured Out Thoughts.” His poems are organized around themes that anyone, regardless of background, with…

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December 20, 2017

Reimagining Kristen Roupenian’s Short Story, “Cat Person”

Reimagining Kristen Roupenian’s Short Story, “Cat Person”

Editor’s Note: From time to time, fiction and real life converge like a solar eclipse. The “ME TOO” movement and a short story by Kristen Roupenian entitled “Cat Person,” published recently in The New Yorker, have crossed paths and set the world on its ear. It’s a timely story, to be sure, but it’s also something of a literary fete: the author’s first short story, controversial as hell, accepted by the country’s most prestigious magazine (and one of the few still publishing fiction), which immediately landed Roupenian a book contract with Scout Press, reports the New York Times. Like Roupenian, Rachael Allen is a college student who found herself able to relate to the short story and draw some shared experiences into a complex skein of perception, emotion and experience that reaches out beyond the…

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August 7, 2017

Paula Bonnell’s New Book of Poetry, Reviewed by Simran P. Gupta

Paula Bonnell’s New Book of Poetry, Reviewed by Simran P. Gupta

Editor’s Note: Paula Bonnell enthralled us with her poetry two years ago here at the Café. Now Paula has written and published a new chapbook of her poetry entitled “Tales Retold,” which Simran, our poetry barista, reviews here. Paula Bonnell’s chapbook, “Tales Retold,” can be summed up as a masterpiece of words. Bonnell’s poetry demanded (and received) my full attention, with varying tone, emotion, and clever word choice. With each re-read, a new level of understanding was achieved and a new connection was made. This is not to make the poems in “Tales Retold” out to be puzzles waiting to be solved; that depends on the reader’s interpretation. It does, however, mean that anyone reading Bonnell’s poetry will never be bored, as something new awaits at each level of engagement. Before writing this review, I read…

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July 25, 2017

Understanding Reading Biases and My Mission to Fix Them

Understanding Reading Biases and My Mission to Fix Them

I still have all my summer reading lists from high school. The eternal optimist in me thought that someday I’d run down that list and read each one. Years later, I still haven’t read more than a few of those books, but that collection spawned a very important way of thinking for me. As a student, I treated these reading lists like they were the word of God – that to be a writer or English major in college, these were the texts I should be reading. Still, there was a quietly blasphemous part of me that questioned that belief and as I grew older, I realized that even these holy lists were imperfect. Fast forward to last year, when I was studying my Goodreads “to read” and “previously read” lists. I noticed biases reflected…

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December 20, 2016

Book Review: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

Book Review: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

My feelings about this novel were like the swells of the sea. At times, I loved the magical realism and the character interweaving, while at other times it was disjointed and irreverent, as the biographical information dragged on for pages with nothing really happening, like a the conversation you wish you hadn’t started with the stranger at the bus stop. The last 30 pages or so are where this book earned its rating for me. This was the ultimate “wait for it…” book. The culmination of everything that happened, the justification of the need for so many frustratingly confusing characters and the symbolic meaning of so much of the book all came together at the end. I didn’t truly *get* the novel until then and when I did, it had a big pay off. I…

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November 28, 2016

Book Review: “Barkskins” by Annie Proulx

Book Review: “Barkskins” by Annie Proulx

From The Shipping News to Accordion Crimes to “Brokeback Mountain,” Annie Proulx hasn’t written a novel or short story I didn’t enjoy. Proulx is a storyteller with a great depth of understanding for not just people, but environments both physical and emotional. One of my particular favorites is “On the Antler” from Heart Songs and Other Stories. It’s the story of a feud between two emotionally primitive men who live in the woods and have few means of expression, but seek revenge upon each other for crimes both real and imagined. A novel which lingers in my thoughts for its engaging thematic thread is Accordion Crimes. The musical instrument travels from hand to hand, place to place over a century, sometimes in danger and sometimes cherished, but never revealing its secret. Although Proulx’s works linger…

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October 26, 2016

Is “The Death of Books” Eminent? Nope!

Is “The Death of Books” Eminent? Nope!

We often hear that people aren’t reading much these days. Is the death of books eminent? New research by the Pew Center points out that people are still reading paperback and even hardcover books – in fact, often preferring them to e-books. It startled me into recalling a conference I attended while still a book editor in publishing – I seem to recall 1981 as the year – entitled “The Death of Books.” Hah. People read books and e-books. More people are listening to audiobooks. We have many more choices in how we consume the stories between book covers, even as we discover more and more sophisticated ways to acquire information. Here’s an interesting article about how reading real books is still pervasive. And here’s another about the growing interest in audiobooks, which is why we podcast for…

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October 18, 2016

When Trouble Is Truly Worth It: Two YA Book Reviews

When Trouble Is Truly Worth It: Two YA Book Reviews

Note: We welcome contributor Simran P. Gupta back to the Café with reviews of two new young adult [YA] novels. She’s not only a thoughtful literary critic and skilled essayist, but she’s opening an avenue into a literary genre which we haven’t given the attention it deserves. When Trouble Is Truly Worth It: Two Essential YA Novels To Help Ring in the School Year By Simran P. Gupta             The title of YA novelist Tony Wallach’s second book, Thanks for the Trouble, may have a sarcastic echo to it upon a first read. Upon reading the book, however, a wry and heartfelt tone emerges. The “trouble,” after all, is what forces the development of protagonist Parker Santé. Wallach’s story starts out as an enigma, through sullen, introverted Parker’s POV. A mute who prefers to spend…

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September 16, 2016

Podcast: “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis, Episode 2

Podcast: “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis, Episode 2

Here we continue our September podcast of the Amazon/Audible audiobook, “It Can’t Happen Here,” with thanks to Amazon, Blackstone Audio, Inc. and the excellent narration by Grover Gardner. In this segment we see how Senator “Buzz” Windrip insidiously works toward becoming president from the perspective of Doremus Jessup, editor of a small-town Vermont newspaper. In case you missed last Friday’s first episode, it’s here. If you have any concerns about the sentiment of the American people or their feelings about the current presidential candidates, you owe it to yourself to listen to, or read, this novel. The Audiobooks version is available here on Amazon for a very reasonable price, or free if you take a one-month subscription.

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