Sunday, February 27, 2011

I Love You More Than You Know

I'm a Jonathan Ames fan. I love his novels and his essays. The guy just flat-out cracks me up. I haven't read him in a while, so I really enjoyed this collection (Black Cat, Grove/Atlantic 2006). It was somehow comforting to know he is still obsessed with certain things about himself--his itchy ass, his baldness, his bathroom problems, his "cataloging of his ruination" as he moves into middle age. His self-deprecating humor is blunt, bawdy, outrageous, and hilarious. It appeals to my 12 year-old boy sense of humor. But mixed in with these funny essays are a few downright touching ones, like "Snowfall" which is about the death of a friend who Ames had lost touch with, and the two essays that discuss his close relationship with his great-aunt Doris. All in all a good, quick, engaging, satisfying read.

Into the Sunset entered in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Again.

Amazon is holding their fourth annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest. The winners of the contest get published by Penguin USA and a $15,000 contract. There are two categories, general fiction and young adult.

I entered Into the Sunset (general fiction) last year, and it made it through the first round, but was eliminated in the second round (despite very favorable reviews from the two reviewers assigned my excerpts. They wrote how much they liked the book, and how they laughed out loud. Which is good, because the novel is a comedy).

Anyway, Sunset has made it through the first round again this year, so I'm back to where I was last time. I'll find out the results of Round Two on March 22.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Miracles, Inc. by T.J. Forrester

Vernon Oliver was the hottest, rocking-est, money-making televangelist going, the "biker preacher," riding onto the stage on his Harley, then grabbing his audience by their souls and giving them what they wanted—hope. Of course it was all a sham, the healings staged, but the people were getting what they wanted, they got a show—a rock show, really. They willingly handed over their money. Of course this whole carnival known as Miracles, Inc. eventually came crashing back down to earth.

The novel begins with the narrator, Vernon Oliver, telling his story from his cell on death row, the story of how and why he got there. The writing and voice of Vernon grabs you right from the get-go and doesn't let go. The structure of the novel cuts back and forth between his life as a rich and famous faith healer and his solitary jail cell, where he is working on his autobiography, as he marks down the time to his execution. The contrast between the two keeps the story and the tension moving forward. How did Vernon become the face of Miracles, Inc? How did he end up on death row? Is he really guilty? Will he really be put to death at the end?

A great cast of characters is along for the ride: His girlfriend Rickie; Miriam, the woman who runs Miracle, Inc.; Alton, the ex-preacher who is teaching Vernon everything he knows; and the cast of actors who are "healed" by Vernon on stage.

Miracles, Inc. (Simon & Schuster, 2011) is definitely a "page turner," the back and forth of the plot, along with Forrester's deft, clean, tight, well-edited, and engaging writing keeps your nose in the book until you find how it all turns out. This is one hot book, one that would translate into a film very well. Check it out!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

A Painted House, reviewed

I enjoyed A Painted House (2001), Grisham's first departure from his normal legal thrillers. He does a good job of bringing the reader into the world of a Southern (Arkansas) cotton farm during picking season, circa 1952, as seen through the eyes of the seven year-old narrator, Luke. The "hill people" and a team of migrant Mexican workers arrive and live at the farm for two months to pick the cotton. The many characters and different plot lines come together believably and naturally, and little Luke is exposed to human drama like he's never experienced before. At times the novel seemed a little slow (the book could have benefited from some editing), but as a reader you eventually settle in and experience another world, one that doesn't exist anymore. I also loved the baseball references, as Luke was a big fan of Stan Musial and the St. Louis Cardinals. My only real complaint is that the voice of the narrator sounded too adult.