Have Words–Will Write 'Em

On Books, Writers, Most Things Written, Including My Light Verse.

Archive for the ‘Book Reviews & Articles’ Category

Time Traveling to Meet Jane Austen; Fun Novel is Fantasy of Manners

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Liam pretends to be a doctor, because you cannot be a female and a doctor in England in 1815. What’s more, it was difficult for a woman to work and be taken seriously in almost any capacity; even Austen published her novels using a pen name, though many of her friends and relatives knew her as a writer. That difficulty will especially affect Rachel, who is an independent and outspoken woman. Like Austen, Rachel will have trouble being an “intelligent woman in a world that had no real use for them.” Rachel also likes to have sex as often as possible, which can present a problem in stuffy old England. Later in the story, Rachel will explain to Jane: “Our age does not place such limits on the freedom of women as yours does.”

You can read my review of The Jane Austen Project in the News & Observer by clicking clicking on the below.

The Jane Austen Project

Or you can read it at the Charlotte Observer by clicking here:

Kathleen Flynn

You buy The Jane Austen Project at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

June 18th, 2017 at 5:35 pm

“‘Othello’ Moves to Middle School and Loses Nothing in Tracy Chevalier’s Re-telling”

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Ian is, of course, Chevalier’s Iago. He is shrewd and calculating, the ruler of the playground, his kingdom. So, ’tis “by wit, and not by witchcraft” that this sixth-grade bully causes, without regard of any harm to himself or anyone else, the destruction of Osei and of Dee

You can read my review of Tracy Chevalier’s New Boy, in the May 14 edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.

New Boy

You can buy Chevalier’s New Boy at Barnes & Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

May 15th, 2017 at 11:55 pm

“SC Author Takes on Border Crossings”

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The story begins when Héctor tells Lilia that he’s seen a man in the village who may be a link to their missing daughter. The man, Emanuel, had arranged for an uncle to take Lilia and Alejandra into Texas. Alejandra had been left with a female coyote – as those who smuggle humans across the border are known – who was supposed to meet up with Lilia. She never did.

You can read my review of Michel Stone’s Border Child, in the April 16 edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.

Border Child

You can buy Michel Stone’s Border Child at Barnes & Noble

Written by Joe Peschel

April 12th, 2017 at 2:25 pm

“In Story Collection, Characters Endure ‘Weather of the World’”

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As exciting as Bausch’s stories can be, there’s plenty of psychological meat in them. In “Still Here, Still There,” Bausch follows up on the life of Robert Marson, the World War II soldier from his prize-winning 2008 novel Peace. Marson and former German soldier Eugene Schmidt reunite in a media event arranged by Schmidt’s grandson, Hans. During the war, Schmidt saved Marson’s life in Italy. Both men suffer health problems and share little in common other than the war, where ‘grief was the weather all the time.”

You can read my review of Richard Bausch’s Living in the Weather of the World in the April 2 edition of the Houston Chronicle by clicking the image below.

Living in the Weather of the world

You can buy Richard Bausch’s Living in the Weather of the World at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

April 3rd, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Retelling of Medea and Jason a Brutal, Graphic Read

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As for the truncated sentences, fragments without a verb – those may appeal to the “doing something new with language” crowd. But Vann, who’s translated Beowulf, says he patterned the sounds after Old English meter. The Germanic component “seemed like a good language for brutality.

You can read my review of David Vann’s novel Bright Air Black in the Sunday, March 12, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.

Bright Air Black

You can buy David Vann’s novel Bright Air Black at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

March 11th, 2017 at 2:29 pm

“In the ‘Underworld’: Gritty Life and Death in a Mining Town”

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It’s February 1972. Silverton is full of hard-drinking redneck miners. When they’re not in the bar drinking and fighting, they’re at the local whorehouse, or they’re sleeping. If the town had a credo, it would be, “Live for now, live directly, let the future take care of itself.

You can read my review of Kevin Canty’s novel The Underworld in the Sunday, March 5, edition of the Houston Chronicle, by clicking the image below.

The Underworld

You can buy Kevin Canty’s novel The Underworld at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

March 4th, 2017 at 1:53 pm

“Short Stories That Entertain and Teach.”

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This collection’s title story, “The World to Come,” selected for “Best American Short Stories 2013,” is told in diary form by Nellie, a housewife in rural New York in 1856. She records life with her near-stoic husband, their neighbors, and especially with her friend Tallie, revealing “emotions or fears, our greatest joys or most piercing sorrows.” Her diary begins in January. There’s deep snow and bitter cold, with ice even inside the farmhouse. Their daughter, also named Nellie, died at 2 1/2. Nellie, the mother, has heard reports that men have been killing their wives, so she becomes suspicious when Tallie leaves unexpectedly.

You can read my review of Jim shepard’s collection The World to Come in the Sunday, February 26, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.

The World to Come

You can buy Jim Shepard’s collection The World to Come at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

February 26th, 2017 at 7:19 pm

“A Time Machine, a Likable Dimwit and a Future Gone Awry”

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Mastai places Tom in 2016. But it’s another timeline, a utopian world where the inventions promised to us in old movies, sci-fi magazines and on “The Jetsons” actually exist. Or as Tom says: “You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Flying cars, robot maids, food pills, teleportation, jet packs, moving sidewalks, ray guns, hover boards, space vacations, and moon bases. All that dazzling, transformative technology our grandparents were certain was right around the corner.”

You can read my review of Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays in the Sunday, February 5, edition of the Houston Chronicle, by clicking the image below.

All Our wrong Todays

You can buy Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

February 3rd, 2017 at 6:30 pm

Meditation on Physics Deep and Eloquent

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Oddly enough, the seemingly opposite assumptions that are the cornerstones of general relativity and quantum mechanics contradict each other. But each theory enables physicists to make remarkably accurate predictions of how the universe and the tiniest things in it work.

You can read my review of Carlo Rovelli’s Reality Is Not What It Seems in the Sunday, January 29, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.

Reality is not what it seems

You can buy Carlo Rovelli’s Reality Is Not What It Seems at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

January 28th, 2017 at 7:36 pm

“Fever Dream” is Both Thriller and Beautifully Tangled Allegory

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The dialogue floats along for several pages before you figure out just what is going on and who is talking. “Like worms, all over” partly describes Amanda’s pain as she lies dying in the emergency clinic. But the dialogue also gives an eerie supernatural feeling to this feverish allegory about pesticide poisoning.

You can read my review of Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream in the Sunday, January 8, edition of the Houston Chronicle, by clicking the image below.

fever-dream

You can buy Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

January 7th, 2017 at 12:39 pm

Here are the Best Books of 2016

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Fiction:

Enchanted Islands, by Allison Amend (Nan Talese)

Hag-Seed, by Margaret Atwood (Hogarth)

Moonglow, by Michael Chabon (Harper)

The Little Red Chairs, by Edna O’Brien (Little, Brown and Company)

Poetry

Garden Time, by W.S. Merwin (Copper Canyon)

Biography

Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises, by Lesley M.M. Blume (Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Peacock & Vine, by A. S. Byatt (Knopf)

Non-Fiction

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, by Carlo Rovelli (Riverhead)

Written by Joe Peschel

December 19th, 2016 at 2:44 pm

I Review Kathleen Collins’s “Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?”

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Collins, whose stories are set in the ’60s through the ’70s, fits into the Protest Era. Her stories expand on her foremothers’ subjects of racial inequality and rage. Some of the book’s expressions are dated, especially “chick” and “cat,” “Negro” and “colored,” but the topics remain as pertinent today as they were in her time. Like Hurston and Petry, Collins writes about how it feels to be colored in a white world and how it feels to be a black woman in a man’s world. She writes of pent-up male rage and male-female relationships like Hurston and Petry did. But by Collins’ time, some relationships have become interracial, just as the book’s title suggests. And unlike the stories of her predecessors, many of Collins’ stories read like a filmmaker wrote them as she transfers cinematic art and technique to paper.

You can read my review of Kathleen Collins’s Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? in the Sunday, December 18, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.

whatever-happed-to-interraical-love

You can buy Kathleen Collins’s Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

December 16th, 2016 at 5:25 pm

I Review Michael’s Chabon’s “Moonglow”

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Michael Chabon is known for his fondness for metaphors. So, it’s unsurprising that Grandpa advises the fictional Mike:

“Explain everything. Make it mean something. Use a lot of those fancy metaphors of yours. … Start with the night I was born. There was a lunar eclipse that night. … Very significant. I’m sure it’s a perfect metaphor for something.”

“Kind of trite,” I [Mike] said.

Despite Chabon’s self-deprecating humor, the astronomical metaphor is anything but trite.

You can read my review of Michael Chabon’s Moonglow in the Sunday, December 4, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.

moonglow-cover

You can buy Michael Chabon’s Moonglow at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

December 4th, 2016 at 2:20 pm

I Review Francine Prose’s “Mister Monkey”

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When the fictional children’s book is adapted for the stage, a clause is inserted in the contract that prohibits any mention during the play of evolution. That is Prose’s wedge to insert talk about evolutionary biology and the evolution of a preadolescent boy. Prose tosses in some slapstick and a few funny, though predictable, comic scenes – but some of the alleged humor is questionable. You must be deep into schadenfreude to enjoy much of it.

You can read my review of Francine Prose Mister Monkey in the Sunday, November 20, edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, by clicking the image below.

mister-monkey

Written by Joe Peschel

November 19th, 2016 at 6:59 pm

I Review Jonathan Lethem’s “Gambler’s Anatomy.”

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Bruno’s an American expatriate who hasn’t been home for more than 30 years. When we first see him in Germany, he’s wearing a tuxedo and looks like James Bond, the Roger Moore version. He’s trying to recoup his Singapore losses and on his way to fillet a few thousand euros from a rich fish, the backgammon enthusiast Wolf-Dirk Köhler, who may indeed be rich enough to be considered a whale. Or, it may be that’s he’s not rich and not even Köhler. Along the way to Köhler’s estate, Bruno runs into a German woman named Madchen whom he tries to pick up as his good-luck charm.

You can read my review of Jonathan Lethem’s Gambler’s Anatomy in the Sunday, October 16, edition of the Houston Chronicle, by clicking the image below.
cover

You can buy Jonathan Lethem’s Gambler’s Anatomy at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

October 15th, 2016 at 1:36 pm

I Review Margaret Atwood’s “Hag-Seed”

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So far in this series, Hogarth has published four books written by critically acclaimed and popular writers. Hogarth began with Jeanette Winterson’s Gap of Time, her take on The Winter’s Tale; followed by Howard Jacobson’s Shylock Is My Name, a re-imagining of The Merchant of Venice; and Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl, a remake of The Taming of the Shrew. Jacobson’s Shakespeare rendition has been the best until now.

You can read my review of Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed in the Sunday, October 9, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.

hag-seed

You can buy Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

October 8th, 2016 at 3:15 pm

I Review Nicholson Baker’s “Substitute”

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Most of Baker’s students are “alert” and “funny,” “attentive, good-natured, and full of ideas,” as he often writes in his reports to their regular teachers. But there’s always some chaos in classrooms of captive students who, armed with iPads, face a dubious curriculum and inept instructors. There are no major classroom catastrophes, but one of Baker’s greatest challenges is class control, which is probably much easier when you stand nearly 6 feet 5 inches. Still, student voices do get loud, and Baker doesn’t like loud.

You can read my review of Substitute, by Nicholson Baker, in the Sunday, September 4, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.

Substitute

You can buy Baker’s Substitute at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

September 4th, 2016 at 3:50 pm

I Review Dan Cluchey’s First Novel “The Life of the World to Come”

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Leo and Fiona are 25; it’s her birthday. He tries to comfort her as she waits in a hospital bed for surgery. She’s worried about dying, despite Leo’s reassurance that “nobody dies during wisdom tooth removal surgery.” Fiona tells him she has a theory about the universe, the afterlife, and the nature of time, and it will “just blow the lid off of everything.”

You can read my review of The Life of the World to Come, by Dan Cluchey, in the Sunday, July 9, edition of the Charlotte Observer, by clicking the image below.

The Life of the World to Come

You can buy Cluchey’s Life of the World to Come at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

July 12th, 2016 at 10:51 am

I Review Allison Amend’s “Enchanted Islands”

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But “official secrecy act be damned” – Fanny, this plain, childless, Minnesotan daughter of immigrant parents, writes that third memoir, “so that something I’ve done will live on, and I can move on from this world.”

Friendships, after three-quarters of a century, can be strained and tested, and so is Fanny and Rosalie’s. But despite her revealing a national secret, Fanny remains silent about Rosalie’s biggest secrets: “Secrets shared by women are sacred. They transcend the duties of country or marriage.”

You can read my review of Enchanted Islands, by Allison Amend, in the Sunday, June 5, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.

Enchanted Islands

You can buy Enchanted Islands at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

June 5th, 2016 at 1:32 pm

I Review David Means’s First Novel “Hystopia”

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The point of the story is, of course, to highlight the mistreatment and neglect of traumatized veterans. That’s made clear early when Rake says, “They failed me big-time by not taking care of me when I returned from the war … and (they) pumped me full of Tripizoid, as per treatment, and then all they did was double it down, increase what they were trying to decrease.”

You can read my review of Hystopia, by David Means, in the Sunday, May 8, edition of the News & Observer, by clicking the image below.

Hystopia

You can buy Hystopia at Barnes and Noble.

Written by Joe Peschel

May 7th, 2016 at 6:46 pm