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I recently read Adam Wilson’s short story collection “What’s Important is Feeling: Stories,” and I have mixed emotions about it. But then again, that may well have been the entire point of the book. The stories in this collection are humorous, relatable, raw and heartfelt, so it’s not that Wilson’s writing disappoints. It’s just that that collection may have been too consistent for my taste in relation to it’s theme.

Most of the stories revolve around young men struggling with love, drugs, and transitioning into adulthood. Each story pulls at a separate heart string, plays with a different emotion, but there almost seems to be something missing. One story isn’t entirely different from the other but they aren’t duplicates either. It’s almost like I wanted to cry, wanted to get angry, wanted to laugh, but there was something lacking in the originality of it that was holding me back and I couldn’t break free of whatever it was.

This left me to wonder if this may have been the sole purpose of the book to begin with. It was intended to flirt with my emotions but never actually take them out on a date. Maybe it was up to me to make the first move, break through the plateau, and truly feel something. I didn’t hate a single story in the book but I didn’t love a single story in the book either.

My emotions are as mixed up as a thirteen year old girl with her first real crush. Wilson’s writing is solid and he knows how to capture the character of a twenty-something (I should know, I’m 23) but I wanted something more. If I knew what that something more was I would tell you. I tend  to lean more towards diversity in short story collections than I do cohesiveness but I know that there are readers out there who do just the opposite.

I may not know how I feel about the collection yet, but I know I would recommend it if someone asked me if they should read it. I want to see what others think and feel about Wilson’s writing and if anyone agrees that the possible purpose of the book is to help you get in touch with your emotions in your own way.

If anyone else out there has read “What’s Important is Feeling: Stories” by Adam Wilson, I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the book. To be honest, I’m baffled that I’m having such a difficult time forming a solid opinion of the collection because that just doesn’t happen to me very often. Most of the time I know pretty quick if I love or dislike a book. There’s just something different about this one that I can’t put my finger on.

For now I’m giving it 3.5 stars out of 5.

aStart your summer off right and start reading some of the most exciting books on the market right now. Vow to dedicate some time lounging by the pool, in your hammock, on a couch, or wherever it is you like to go when you read and dive into this reading list. Guaranteed to have a little something for everybody, you won’t be disappointed if you challenge yourself to read at least one of the books from the list that fits your age group.

Go to the library, make friends, start a book club and just have fun reading this summer!

 

Summer Reading List for Ages 17 and Under:

Picture Books:

  • Amos and Boris, by William Steig
  • Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Willems
  • The Pout-Pout Fish, by Deborah Diesen

 

New Readers:

  • Frog and Toad are Friends, by Arnold Lobel
  • Daisy Dawson at the Beach, by Steve Voake
  • Sammy the Seal, Syd Hoff

 

Classics & Award Winners:

  • Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
  • The Seashore Book, by Charlotte Zolotow
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien

 

Teens:

  • Divergent, by Veronica Roth
  • The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
  • will grayson, will grayson, by John Green

 

Summer Reading for Ages 18 and Up:

  • State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett
  • The Bohemian Flats, by Mary Relindes Ellis
  • The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
  • Lean In For Graduates, by Sheryl Sandberg
  • Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, by Michael Lewis


Books make for an adventure all their own. Treat yourself to a thrilling read this summer and you just might be surprised and what you’ve been missing. Sitting down with a good book is a great way to learn, make yourself think, and can even serve as fodder for interesting conversation later on. What are you waiting for? Hit up your local library or favorite book store today!

 

 

Knopf Publishing

Knopf Publishing

Published by Knopf in January, 2014, the short story collection from Ben Marcus’ “Leaving the Sea” is for readers who appreciate the dystopian universes, lapidary prose, caustic irony, and terrifying realism made famous by authors like George Saunders. Many of the sentences that make up the stories are constructed in such a way that they are stories in themselves. Stories within the stories.

The stories in this book are certainly not light or easy reading–but they are well worth the effort. The moral twists, intricacies of relationships, fear of death, survivor-guilt, self-guilt and other emotions that author writes about forces you into contemplating the shared human experience before you even realize what you’re analyzing.

I thoroughly enjoyed the entire collection but there were three stories in particular that really stood out.

Watching Mysteries with My Mother opens with the line “I don’t think my mother will die today.” You have to admire an author who opens a story with such a sneakily crafted inversion Camus’ famous opening to “The Stranger.” This particular story is a meditation of death that somehow manages to come off as almost normal while making Camus’ writing seem almost cheerful. Quite honestly, the way the story is crafted and the range of emotions and alienation you go through while reading it is astounding.

What Have You Done? features the hyper-caustic character Paul Berger returning to his family after a long absence. His family has such low expectations from him (regarding whatever offenses it was he committed in the past) make it impossible for Paul to convince them of the happy and successful life he has created for himself. There is a thread of humor throughout the story that offsets such a tragic human emotion as what we feel when we disappoint the ones we love.

I Can Say Many Nice Things focuses on creative writing teacher Fleming who is trying with pathetic futility to revamp his teaching career by offering a creative writing workshop to students on a cruise. This is one of the most comical of the stories in the collection and it is also one of the most surprising. In most cases, sarcastic humor writing is full of stereotyped characters and flat story lines–this is not the case with masterfully crafted prose of Ben Marcus.

The characters in “Leaving the Sea” are fully developed and well-rounded and the stories resonate with something deep inside you. I have no choice but to give this short story collection five stars and applaud Marcus as one of my new favorite short story authors.

Rolling Stone recently published an interview with Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin (which you can read in full here). Martin makes it clear both in his writing and in his interview that if there’s one thing he wants you to know, it’s that the world is full of moral ambiguity. There aren’t any real heroes or villains; there are only people who do good things and bad things and more often than not, most people do both.

I found Martin’s interview exceptionally interesting because he talks about killing your darlings, the limitations of J.R.R. Tolkien (who happens to be one of my favorite authors) and a myriad of other topics. I highly suggest reading the interview in its entirety but there are certain quotes that really popped out at me that I felt like noting. I think that the quotes I have chosen to list here (and the interview as a whole) can serve a great deal of purpose for readers, writers, and Game of Thrones fandom nerds alike.

On History

We have the untold-history book coming out later this year, where I’ve written a fake history. I find it amusing, and secretly pleasing, that I have so many fans who are interested in the history. I’m not sure if they would so eagerly study real history, you know?

On Imagination 

Ideas are cheap. I have more ideas now than I could ever write up. To my mind, it’s the execution that is all-important.

On Tolkien

The Tolkien model led generations of fantasy writers to produce these endless series of dark lords and their evil minions who are all very ugly and wear black clothes. But the vast majority of wars throughout history are not like that.

On Violence

We’re setting up mechanisms where we can kill human beings with drones and missiles where you’re sitting at a console and pressing the button. We never have to hear their whimpering, or hear them begging for their mother, or dying in horrible realities around us. I don’t know if that’s necessarily such a good thing.

On Killing Your Favorite Characters

The more I write about a character, the more affection I feel … even for the worst of them … Whoever it was who said ‘Kill your darlings’ was referring to his favorite lines in a story, but it’s just as true for characters.

On Forgiveness & Redemption

Our society is full of people who have fallen in one way or another, and what do we do with these people? How many good acts make up for a bad act? If you’re a Nazi war criminal and then spend the next 40 years doing good deeds and feeding the hungry, does that make up for being a concentration-camp guard? I don’t know the answer, but these are questions worth thinking about. I want there to be a possibility of redemption for us, because we all do terrible things. We should be able to be forgiven. Because if there is no possibility of redemption, what’s the answer then?

On Moral Ambiguity 

We have the angels and the demons inside of us, and our lives are a succession of choices. 

I personally believe that we can learn just as much from authors as they are–breathing, sweating, struggling human beings like the rest of us–as we can from their books. And I believe that every one of the excerpts I have listed from the interview serve as some serious food for thought. What do you think?

I love reading magazines like The Kenyon Review, Dogwood, The Indiana Review, and other well established literary journals just as much as any lit journal aficionado does. Magazines like that are well established for a reason: they have a proven track record of printing some of the best literary fiction, non fiction, and poetry our reading eyes ever have the opportunity to skim over. But, I also like branching out and trying new things. I’ve discovered several up and coming lit journals over the last few months that just keep me coming back for more and are well on their way to establishing themselves as magazine giants. These three magazines are some of my recent favorites. Enjoy!

 

bettermagazine.org

bettermagazine.org

Better MagazineI stumbled across Better Magazine’s website when a friend I follow on Twitter shared a link to a poem by Janelle Adsit titled “Turn This Map Into Sky,” published in Issue #3, which you can read here. This is hands down my favorite poem of the year so far that I’ve had the pleasure to read. Better is a an online quarterly that publishes some of the most creative and experimental writing available on the web. They’re only a year old but they are quickly establishing themselves as a premier journal with some of the finest work I have ever seen.

 

elsewheremag.org

elsewheremag.org

elsewhere— Having only released their second issue in March of 2014, elsewhere is already making a scene in the lit journal community. They offer a unique publishing schedule releasing a new issue online every two months that features three poets and three fiction writers. So far (though we’re only two issues in to what appears to be a promising run) elsewhere tends to focus on flash fiction and prose poetry–all of which will either leave you breathless or force you to read and re-read the work again. One of my favorite flash pieces that they’ve published so far is Steve Almond’s “Courtroom Drama,” which you can read here. I partly enjoyed the piece because it takes place in the Southeast, given I have roots there, and I enjoyed the rest of Almond’s writing because of all the emotion he managed to convey in five short paragraphs. His writing is exceptional.

 

 

mojaveriverpress.com

mojaveriverpress.com

Mojave River Review–Mojave River Press & Review has already released two books so far in 2014: Leesa Cross-Smith’s short story collection “Every Kiss a War,” and Daniel Romo’s prose poetry collection “When Kerosene is Involved.” Both writer’s are exceptionally talented and big reason why Mojave River Review is so hot right now. But, the ambitious editors didn’t stop there. Mojave released the first issue of their ejournal in February 2014 with work that lit up the web with over 5,000 reader views for the inaugural issue. These folks know what they’re doing. Some of my favorite pieces from the debut issue (and boy was it hard to narrow it down to two) include Diana Lockward’s “How I Dumped You,” and Angela Cardinal Bartlett’s “The Big A.” You can read these fine works and others in the 200+ page debut issue here. I can’t wait to see what Mojave River Review has planned for the summer issue.

If you’ve got some free time this weekend and don’t currently have a book to stuff your nose into I highly recommend getting your  creative writing fix from the previously mentioned magazines. You won’t be disappointed and you’ll be hooked for life. As readers, I  think it’s important not to limit ourselves to only reading books. Read magazines, journals, note cards, the backs of cereal boxes,  etc. and expand your horizons. You never know where some awe-inspiring, life changing poem or short story is waiting for you, so                                   you have to go and find it.

History buffs unite- The story is that of Louie Zamperini, a track and field star during the 1930’s who competed in the Berlin Olympics. He was also part of the US Air Force in World War II, was shot down in the ocean, drifted across the Pacific ocean for over a month, was held as a POW by Japanese forces and finally made it back to his life with the courage to live it to the fullest.

I read this book in two days. If I had the time I know I probably could have finished it in one sitting. “Unbroken” grips you, draws you in, and leaves you feeling like a brand new person after reading it–somehow, it makes you feel slightly better as a person, a human being.

I was never tempted to read “Seabiscuit: An American Legend,” so this was my first experience with Laura Hillenbrand’s work. She is a sensational author. Her writing was gripping, exciting, and vivid throughout the entire story. “Unbroken” (a non fiction story) was well researched and Hillenbrand’s writing portrayed it; nothing was overly embellished. It was simply the facts told in such a way the story never even flirted with being dull.

Hillenbrand moves swiftly, taking the reader through Zamperini’s early beginnings, his quick rise to track star, the Olympics in Berlin, and then into the war. It is here, in the war, that the story truly blooms. We ride B24 bombers on the words of the man who actually flew them and the sequences in which Zamperini is adrift with his comrade Phil in the ocean are vivd and strangely beautiful. The horrors in the prison are not glossed over and Hillenbrand does an excellent job of not dwelling on the gore as some authors are tempted to do. The story of these men is portrayed by an author with the utmost respect for their life and experiences.

Solidly based on statistics and reports from both sides of the war, Hillenbrand paints a clear picture of the hellish conditions POW’S endured. This is a hard story to read as it portrays the decline of a man’s life. But it is also inspiring as that same man pulls himself up by his bootstraps and regains his sense of purpose.

This book will hold a permanent place of honor on my bookshelf. When you reach the end of this incredible journey I’m willing to bet it will a hold a place on your bookshelf as well. An awe inspiring, non fiction story, “Unbroken” will hold you spellbound from the start.

Gimme! Books is looking for some help. The blog is growing daily, and that means I have the opportunity to add another book loving person to the team.

Gimme! Books is looking for someone who can help out with a few specific things. The new intern will contribute to the blog (one to two posts per week) and help run the Twitter Feed. It would also be a huge plus if you could dedicate the time to developing a Facebook page (as I haven’t had the time to get around to it yet).

Though there is no monetary compensation offered for this position, in turn for a modest time commitment you can expect to receive some thank-you swag which will be discussed upon acceptance. You will also have the opportunity to show off your writing and review skills to a wide audience of readers.

The Details:

What I’m Looking For:

  • A voracious reader—The ideal candidate will be well-read and have a solid knowledge of literary and commercial fiction and poetry.
  • A social media guru—Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.
  • Experience with WordPress is a huge bonus but not a requirement.
  • Someone who can correspond through email on a regular basis

Responsibilities:

  • Writing at least one unique blog post per week
  • Maintaining the Twitter account
  • Creating and maintaining a Facebook page
  • Coming up with new and fun ideas to utilize the above

I don’t think this time commitment should take more than five to ten hours per week. You’re schedule, for the most part, would be up to you and how many posts you write per week will be up for negotiation. As long as you can meet a deadline with as few grammar mistakes as possible you’ll be in good shape.

I’m looking for at least a three month commitment but I can be flexible about the duration. I think this would be a great fit for a college student, but anyone (over the age of 18) who can read and write is welcome to apply.

Why Should You Do This? Gimme! Book reviews may be young but it’s growing fast. By joining the team as an intern you have the opportunity to help build something great and gain a ton of useful experience while doing it. It will be a killer addition to your resume, not to mention all of the engaging writers and avid readers you’ll have the opportunity to network with.

You’ll get to hone your writing skills, voice your thoughts and opinions, and flaunt your creative side all within a flexible schedule. This is a 100 percent virtual position. It’s also a lot of fun.

How to Apply:

*Please send the following to gimmebookreviews@gmail.com with Intern Applicant in the subject line of the email:

  • A resume, with cover letter stating why you would be perfect for this position
  • Blog post sample (300 to 500 words)
  • If applicable and willing to share, Twitter account.
  • Any other cool stuff you’re responsible for online
  • A list of the last three books you have read

The deadline to apply is May 1st, 2014.

I look forward to hearing from you!

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