The Review: Book-ish News You May Have Missed

Reading can be a solitary habit and I’m in an interactive kind of mood today.  With that in mind –  here’s a set of links to things that require some giving & receiving.  Enjoy!

    • The Readers Podcast, hosted by the UK litbloggers Savidge Reads and GavReads, is compiling a long list for The International Readers Book Awards 2011.  Due to some technical difficulties with the website they’ve decided to extend the deadline until Tuesday, December 20th.  ANYONE IN THE WORLD can nominate a book (that’s been published in 2011 in hardback or paperback format) and there are multiple categories to choose from.   Including:  Best Character, Best Opening Line, Best First Novel and, of course, Best Book of the Year.  Follow the link to fill out the longlisted nomination form.  And I strongly encourage you to download an episode of The Readers while you’re there (they’re on iTunes as well).
    • Kimbofo of Reading Matters has designated January 2012  Australian Literature Month – complete with a challenge.  The rules are simple:  read an Australian book and celebrate the writers from the land down under (and NO!  New Zealand books do NOT count!  I’m still blushing over that faux pas).  If you blog – not a requirement – Kim has created a set of 5 badges to use in your posts.  Each one features a different Australian native animal.  And, finally, if you’re unsure what to read I recommend visiting Lisa at ANZ Litlovers.  I guarantee she’ll set you on the right track.
    • Closet political junkie?  Levi Asher over at Litkicks has been hosting an ongoing discussion about the Occupy and Tea Party Movements.  Whichever side of the debate you fall on – or if you find yourself performing a balancing act on razor-wire between the two – you’ll be welcomed.  Your opinions (as long as you keep it polite) will be heard.  And let’s be honest. That’s more than most of us got over Thanksgiving dinner with family.
    • Speaking of politics:  it seems that there’s a new Republican front-runner!  Lori at TNBBC is hosting a giveaway of TAFT 2012, a novel by Jason Heller published by Quirk Books.  Follow the link to learn about the book, view the trailer and to enter to win the fantastic prize pack that includes a campaign pin and poster!  (I’m such a geek).  5 winners, U.S. residents only and the opportunity to join a group discussion with the author on GoodReads in January.  All entries need to be in by December 21st.
    • If we’re handing out points for creativity:  Quirk seems to be ahead of the curve in keeping print books relevant in the wake of the e-book revolution.  How do they do it?  By making the physical object as unique and desirable as the text it contains.  Case in point:  their upcoming January release The Thorn And the Blossom:  A Two-Sided Love Story by Theodora Goss.

This novel is beautifully illustrated, comes with a slipcover and without a spine.  It’s what is known as an accordion book.  In Goss’ incarnation each side opens up to the same story told from a different perspective, each perspective containing new revelations.  (A shame this wasn’t out in time for the holiday because it would make the perfect stocking stuffer).  Watch this space for my upcoming review.

    • And last, but not least, check out this tweet from last week:

https://twitter.com/#!/BookedinChico/status/147484567438245889

Are you as excited about a new Toni Morrison book as I am???

Please feel free to use the comments to post any contests, challenges, awards and exchanges that you’re hosting, taking part in or just geeking-out on.  ‘Tis the season for sharing!

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The Sisters Brothers Contest Winners

In case you missed my tweets on Saturday, the winners for the contest were:

  • Ben, who won that beautiful limited edition print of the book’s cover
  • & Erica, who won my much loved galley.

It turns out that both Mike & Erica have blogs of their own.  Erica’s blog is called Booked in Chico and you can follow her twitter handle @BookedinChico.  Ben is an author and a blogger.  You can read more at his blog, Benjamin T. Miller.  His twitter handle is @benjamintmiller.

Congratulations to you both – your prizes are in the mail.  And thank you to everyone who entered.  Because of you, there has been a substantial increase of Westerns in my Netflix queue.

Last, but not least, thanks to the team at HarperCollins for a great cover (and fun giveaway!)

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt… & A Special Giveaway!

Read 5 pages into The Sisters Brothers and you begin comparing it to Charles Portis’ (or, for that matter, the Cohen brothers’) True Grit. Both are Westerns, obviously. Neither narrator uses contractions or slang and – despite one being a man & the other a girl – they speak in almost identical voices. Which was an intelligent choice on the author’s part when you think about it.  Patrick deWitt has built his story on a foundation of prose, linking to the classic book through phrasing.  Because of Portis’ book we automatically associate this bare bones style with Westerns.  And having deftly established his book as a Western in this way, deWitt is left with more room to zero in on his characters & plot. The Sisters Brothers is a rare  homage. One that never risks becoming derivative.

The brothers of the title are Charlie & Eli Sisters, gunslingers working for a man known only as the Commodore. Their current job is to hunt and kill Hermann Kermit Warm, a California prospector. Along the way they encounter a motley assortment of characters and adventures, all described to us by Eli. Despite his profession he is ridiculously likeable (and likeable-y ridiculous). An honorable man who, like all good Western heroes, makes no excuses for  his brother or himself. But as he tells his story it becomes clear that he no longer has the heart for killing, if indeed he ever did. Charlie chose their profession.  Eli continues out of loyalty to his brother and little else. Certainly not for the money, which he gives away freely to every underdog that crosses their path.  Charlie, though, is a different matter entirely.  And it’s the relationship between these two brothers that is at the heart of this book.

“We had many adventures together, Charlie and I, and we saw things most men do not get to see.”

The Sisters Brothers has enough gunfights, whores, horses, gamblers, hired guns, outlaws, and prospectors to satisfy even Louis L’Amour.  It’s one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a long time. One encounter in particular, when Eli & Charlie stumble onto a boy who becomes intent on joining them – whose “head invited violence” –  is so funny that I read it twice.  And the dynamic between Eli and his horse Tubb is equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking.  Which is what struck me hardest about this novel. DeWitt carefully balances comedy and tragedy, never allowing the story to weigh too heavy on either side. And isn’t that why we love Westerns? Because they blur  the lines? Good and bad, right and wrong, hero and villain – in a Western who you are is determined by the choices you make, not necessarily the consequences of those choices. Yet, ultimately, those consequences remain.

Patrick deWitt has joined the ranks of my favorite kind of author: those who are exploring genre fiction and taking it to the next level.  The Sisters Brothers is a grand adventure not to be missed.

Publisher:  Ecco HarperCollins, New York (2011)
ISBN:  978 0 06 204126 5

_______________

I know I’m not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but that’s what initially drew me to The Sisters Brothers.  Designed by Dan Stiles, the cover art has a wonderful graphic quality that made me want to hang it on the wall.  The Ecco team at HarperCollins must have felt the same way. They’ve ordered a limited edition run of 12″ x 18″ art quality prints, each signed and numbered by the artist.  Seriously, they are FABULOUS!  And when they offered me one for my readers, I couldn’t say no.

So, here are the rules:

  • One winner, open to residents of the U.S.A. only.
  • The contest will run for 2 weeks.
  • Leave a comment below naming your favorite Western. Books, movies and television shows will all be accepted.
  • Make sure you also leave your email or twitter handle (remember to follow me!) so I can get your address if you win.
  • In addition to the poster, I’ll be giving away a used galley of the book to a second winner (Patrick deWitt is also popular with American Bulldog puppies – so there is some slight scratching to the cover).

And that’s it! I’ll announce the winner on Friday, June 10th.  Good luck everyone!

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