Showing posts with label jon clinch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jon clinch. Show all posts

Friday, February 1, 2013

January 2013 in Review

And so January 2013 has come to an end.  A crazy month around these parts, for sure.  I had to dial it down on my posting a little bit, because things just got a little too crazy with work, home, and blogging all at once.  You'll be seeing fewer memes here, but I'm actually okay with that, because I never intended to participate in so many of them in the first place!  I think some memes are fun but can be a bit repetitive when done too often.

I still got a lot of reading done though!  The fave/least fave honors go to...

January 2013 Favorite: Where She Went by Gayle Forman
January 2013 Least Favorite: Dreamcatcher by Stephen King

In total, I read/reviewed 8 books:

I also posted mini-reviews for 2 books:

And one new Small Fry Saturday: Press Here by Herve Tullet

Beyond reviews, we chatted about my New Year's resolutions, bookish travels, and the merits (or not) of reading your book jackets.  I also hosted two more giveaways, and we all know how much I LOOOOVE spreading the free stuff around.  :)

Oh, and I got bangs.  BEFORE Michelle Obama.  Whatever Mrs. O, you can't start EVERY trend.
Why can't I make this photo smaller? Oh well, enjoy judging my pores.

What's on tap for February?  I actually have a lot of ARC/review copies to get to, so you'll be seeing more of that.  And on the personal front, my husband and I are going to try to have a "no spend month"...basically no spending beyond bills, groceries, gas.  Bye bye candy bars from the checkout aisle...and of course, no book purchases.  **sad trombone**  We'll see how this goes.  Luckily February is a short month.

However, I DID budget for my trip to Vermont to see Jodi Picoult on February 26!  WOOT WOOOOT!  So you'll hear about that soon.

What will you be reading in February, my well-read readers?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wondrous Words Wednesday (15)




Welcome back, wordy friends!

Wondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by BermudaOnion each week. It's an opportunity to share new words you've encountered in your reading, or highlight words that you particularly enjoy.

Here are three of my favorites new-to-me words, from The Thief of Auschwitz by Jon Clinch. All definitions from Dictionary.com.


1. loden. "The sturdy Prussian marching across the winter fields in her braids and her long loden coat."

noun
1A thick, heavily fulled, waterproof fabric, used in coats and jackets for cold climates.
2. Also called loden green. the deep olive-green color of this fabric.

2. strop (stropped). "They've been shorn and shaven raw with razors whose edges have seen a hundred times a hundred men since last they were stropped..."

1.noun: Any of several devices for sharpening razors, especially a strip of leather or other flexible material.
2. verb: To sharpen on or as if on a strop.

3. voluptuary. "Schuler, like an old voluptuary who's drained his last bottle, sighs and nods his head."

1.noun: A person whose life is devoted to the pursuit and enjoyment of luxury and sensual pleasure.
2.adjective: Of, pertaining to, or characterized by preoccupation with luxury and sensual pleasure: voluptuary tastes.

What are your new words this week?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book Review: The Thief of Auschwitz by Jon Clinch




Title: The Thief of Auschwitz
Author: Jon Clinch
Publisher: unmediated ink (self-published)
Publication Date: January 2013
Source: e-book provided by the author for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

"The camp at Auschwitz took one year of my life, and of my own free will I gave it another four."

So begins The Thief of Auschwitz, the much-anticipated new novel from Jon Clinch, award-winning author of Finn and Kings of the Earth.

In The Thief of Auschwitz, Clinch steps for the first time beyond the deeply American roots of his earlier books to explore one of the darkest moments in mankind’s history—and to do so with the sympathy, vision, and heart that are the hallmarks of his work.

Told in two intertwining narratives, The Thief of Auschwitz takes readers on a dual journey: one into the death camp at Auschwitz with Jacob, Eidel, Max, and Lydia Rosen; the other into the heart of Max himself, now an aged but extremely vital—and outspoken—survivor. Max is a renowned painter, and he’s about to be honored with a retrospective at the National Gallery in Washington. The truth, though, is that he’s been keeping a crucial secret from the art world—indeed from the world at large, and perhaps even from himself—all his life long.

The Thief of Auschwitz reveals that secret, along with others that lie in the heart of a family that’s called upon to endure—together and separately—the unendurable.


My Review:

Remember back when I said I was struggling with self-published novels?  To summarize; I said that I had had very bad luck with self-pubs in the past (which is why my review policy says I do not accept them for review).  However, I had been solicited to review several that sounded really, really promising, so I took the plunge and agreed to read two of them.  The first was Bluff by Lenore Skomal, which, though it had its hitches, was overall a very coherent and engaging read.  My cold reviewer heart began to melt, just a tad.

The Thief of Auschwitz is the second self-published novel that I decided to read and review.  This is partially because I was intrigued by Jon Clinch's personal publication journey.  You can read about it HERE, but basically, he had what so many authors covet: a publishing deal with Random House.  Even so, it ended up causing him more frustration than success, so for his newest novel, he decided to self-publish.  His "microbrewery approach," as he calls it, allows him to have more control over the success or failure of his writing, from the social media outreach, to the sales numbers on Amazon.  It was a risky move, but admirable--and so far, it seems to be working.

Okay, enough talking about how Jon Clinch kicked the publishing industry in the ass.  What did I think of the book?

I thought...the book rocked.

Gripping, masterfully written, profound--I sound like a flippin' book jacket, but The Thief of Auschwitz is all of these things.

The Holocaust is a difficult subject for authors to tackle, because it's been written about so many times before.  Adding another fictional perspective runs the risk of either not hitting the mark that the nonfiction accounts describe, or repeating the impassioned efforts of other fiction novels.  However, The Thief of Auschwitz is not lacking in authenticity or sentiment, and in fact captures the harrowing everyday lives of the death camp prisoners in a way that I found to be remarkably unique.

Clinch's writing style is much of what drives that uniqueness.  Most Holocaust books I've read (everything from Anne Frank to Wiesel's Night) focus very much on using passion-filled language to nail down the emotional core of that time period--which, of course, is appropriate and often unavoidable.  However, Clinch's novel speaks in a crisp, straightforward manner about the things the Rosen family had to do to survive in the camp, and in so doing, the emotional aspects seep out between the lines.  It is amazing to see how the family moves from being carefree and compassionate, to hardened and survival-focused by the time we reach the end:

"The good news...is that there's been a catastrophe on the rail project and scores of men have died."

Plus, the mystery.  The story of the family's time in the camp is told alongside Max's modern-day perspective, as he (now a world-renowned painter at the end of his career) slowly reveals a secret that he has been keeping from the art world.  Clinch builds the tension in both the historical narrative and Max's secret in the last 10% of the novel, to the point where you literally will not want to put it down.  All is not revealed until the very end, and while it's not a Gone-Girl-esque atom-bomb ending, it's still a reveal that takes your breath a bit, and fits with the emotional climate of the rest of the novel.

My only (small) gripe about this novel is the title.  While there is thievery involved (and it relates to the central mystery of the story), I just felt like it didn't capture the majority of the plot very well.  There are so many other things that I think the title could capture, about art and beauty and love through adversity, but it just doesn't.  Again, this is a very small disappointment, as no matter what the title, the book itself is still awesome.

Final verdict: read this book.  If you already gravitate towards books about the Holocaust, this is a must.  But even if you don't, the Rosen family's story is still one that is painstakingly told and worth experiencing.

(As for me and self-pubs?  Clinch knocked this one out of the park, but I'm still taking it day by day...)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Self-Published Novels, Reconsidered.

Copyright Mick Stevens, The New Yorker Collection

If you've read my review policy (which I'm sure you have...I mean, who hasn't?), you know it includes this line:

"I currently do not accept self-published books for review."

I have gotten questions about this statement several times since I started the blog.  Some people are just curious why.  Others imply via their tone that I'm being a snot.  And still others tell me that I'm missing out--self-publishing is blowing up right now, so why would I neglect all those books for review?

Let me tell you how that policy came to be.

I received my Kindle as a gift in May 2011 (over a year before this blog opened).  Before that, I don't think I had ever read a self-published book.  But if you get a Kindle, what is one of the immediate appeals?  ALL THE FREE BOOKS!!  I blindly waded into Amazon's "free" section and started downloading anything that looked even remotely up my alley.

Then I started reading them.  The first one was...eh.  The second one was...meh.  By the end of the third one, I was a disgruntled reader.

The books had flat characters, awkward dialogue, nonsensical plot elements, and confusing uses of POV.  Not to mention that they were riddled with bad spelling and grammar.  I found myself wondering who in the world their editors were, allowing these things to be published?

And then I realized--there were no editors!  These were self-published works.

So when I started my blog, I decided that I would not be seeking out or accepting self-published works for review.  My early Kindle freebies had ruined me, and I had thousands of other books to choose from anyway.

However.

Now that the blog has been running for a couple of months, I've had ample opportunity to read reviews of self-published works from my fellow bloggers.  And while some of them sound similar to how I reacted to those Amazon freebies last year, others sound pretty awesome.  I've also received several review requests from authors who have self-published works (despite the disclaimer in my review policy).  I've turned them all down up to this point, no matter how good they sounded, in the interest of sticking to my original policy.  Because when it comes right down to it, anyone can self-publish--and who wants to take the time to wade through all that mediocre work, looking for the good stuff?

But in the last week, two things happened.  First, I received an email from Novel Publicity tours (for whom I serve as a tour host), asking for blogs to host a book called Bluff by Lenore Skomal.  Reading the description, I was excited--this book sounded awesome!  I couldn't wait to read and review.  However, going on Goodreads, I quickly realized it was self-published.  Feeling deflated, I emailed a bit with the Novel Publicity rep about it.  She assured me this was a well-vetted piece of fiction, encouraging me to host if I was considering it.  I couldn't forget my initial excitement about the book--should I really let this one go?  So I took a chance, and said I would host.

Second, I clicked on a link in my daily Shelf Awareness email last week to get an ARC of a book that sounded pretty great: The Thief of Auschwitz.  The author (Jon Clinch) has published with Random House before, so I was initially confused as to why I was downloading the ARC off his personal website.  Then I read this article.  And I found Clinch's story quite compelling.  Long story short: he published with Random House, and despite good reviews, had disappointing sales with the publishing house.  As an experiment, he wrote another book and self-published it under a pen name--and lo and behold, sold thousands of copies with no publisher backing him.  So he decided to also self-publish his next literary novel (The Thief of Auschwitz).  Of course, this created a conundrum for me--should I turn down a self-published novel from someone who has already earned critical acclaim for his writing through bigger publishers?

In the end, I decided to take another chance, and I downloaded the ARC.

So, where does this leave me and my snooty review policy?

For now, I'm going to leave that line in the policy.  My personal belief is still that a lot (A LOT) of self-published work does not have enough editorial support to read as cleanly and strongly as that put out by publishing companies (indie or big-name).  (That's not to say publishers never put out terrible books--but the "terribleness" is usually not based in structural/editorial issues the way I've seen it in self-pubs, and if it is, the book usually gets enough widespread bad publicity that you know it well beforehand.)  However--I am more open to the idea of self-published work, if (after researching it) I have some compelling reason to believe it is a strong piece of fiction.  

These two examples have shown me that my early Kindle freebies may not necessarily be reflective of all self-published books.  Thus, I am going to use these two novels as an experiment.  Because my critics' assessments are correct--in the era of e-readers, self-publishing is huge.  And some awesome work is bound to come out of that.  But for me (especially as a blogger), the trick is wading through that messy sea of self-pubs and finding the treasure--not an easy task.

So, be on the lookout for my first two reviews of self-published work (for Bluff and The Thief of Auschwitz) coming up in December/January.  We'll see how this experiment goes, and I will post a follow-up once they've both been reviewed.

Readers, respond!  What has been your experience with self-published work?  How do you distinguish between the good and the bad--or do you not bother to do so?
 
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