Book Buzz: Neurotics Broadening Their Horizons, 19th Century Frontier Romances, Real-Life WWII Partisans

Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For August, we’re looking at a surprisingly sweet romance, a trilogy of historical romances set in 19th century Oklahoma, and a history of British secret operations in France during WWII.

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Book Buzz: Searing Literary Debuts, Murderous Siblings, and Cow-Induced Friendships

Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For February, we’re looking at an acclaimed new literary novel about contemporary urban Native American life, a zany Nigerian horror-comedy about siblings and serial murder, and a heartwarming memoir of friendship and the culture of cows in India.

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Book Buzz: Featured Creatures, Suspense Thrillers, and Rake Thieves

Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For December, we’re looking at an unusual, animal-centric memoir; a pulse-stopping suspense thriller; and a hilarious ode to the quirks of families.

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Old Favorites: Ambrose Bierce

I was going to substitute this feature with something else about the Great American Read, but then I realized that Ambrose Bierce’s birthday was this coming Sunday and, well, I just had to pen an ode to one of my favorite writers, AKA Bitter Bierce, The Diabolical Bierce, The Wickedest Man in San Francisco, The Rascal with the Sorrel Hair, The Laughing Devil, and (last but not least) The Devil’s Lexicographer. (I think I hit all the high points and included all the nicknames.)

Now, these nicknames make Bierce seem like evil incarnate, but he wasn’t. Honest!

He was just really, really, really, really grouchy, even by 19th century standards. And according to biographers, he was a crotchety, eccentric kid, so maybe when he entered this world on June 24, 1842, in rural Ohio, he was already destined to be one of the world’s best known literary misanthropes. (Though certain life events certainly did help him along that path.)

If you know of Bierce, it is likely because his two most famous works: his delightfully mean Devil’s Dictionary and his haunting, surreal Civil War short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” These are both great, but there’s a lot more to Bierce than meets the eye. . . .

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Oddly-Specific Genres: If They Can Write A Book, So Can You!

Are you ready to unleash your writing superpowers? That’s the theme of this November’s NaNoWriMo, the annual writing challenge that requires participants to write a novel in the span of 30 days.

Think you couldn’t write a book in 30 years, let alone 30 days?

Well, if these decidedly non-author celebrities can write fiction, why can’t you?

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Maria Parr’s Adventures with Waffles

Adventures with Waffles

Keeping to the theme of going back to school, here’s a review of a book meant for those still having to find their desks quickly once that bell rings!

For the most part, nine year-old Trille has an idyllic childhood in rural Norway. His life is a series of never-ending adventures with his neighbor and best friend Lena. She’s far more daring and impulsive, but that doesn’t stop Trille from joining in on the fun. From snarfing down waffles to pretending to be spies to using, ahem, creative license in crafting a bonfire decoration to sledding with a chicken, they never lack for a good time. Trille can’t imagine life without Lena causing mayhem and mischief at every turn. Still, Trille harbors a disheartening suspicion that Lena is far more indifferent to him. She is his best friend, but is he her best friend?

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Jasper Fforde’s The Last Dragonslayer

The Last Dragonslayer

Dreams of bigger, better worlds don’t have to be so great that you can’t have a little bit of fun. Enter Jasper Fforde’s The Last Dragonslayer.

Jennifer Strange has her hands full overseeing a talent management company for magicians. Even when the fifteen-year-old orphan isn’t fulfilling her apprenticeship in magical management by booking wizards for plumbing jobs and magic carpet riders for food delivery, as well as soothing ruffled egos, there’s also the whole issue of magical energy becoming weaker. Strange herself doesn’t have much power, but even her once skillful clients are feeling the effects. What happens if magic runs out? How are they going to keep a roof over their heads? Where did her boss disappear to months ago when he didn’t come back home? And on top of that, there are rumors that the Last Dragonslayer is supposed to kill the last dragon in a few days. Complications ensue.

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