Every month, the Writer’s Bone crew reviews or previews books we've read or want to read. This series may or may not also serve as a confessional for guilty pleasures and hipster novels only the brave would attempt. Feel free to share your own suggestions in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.
Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning by Elliot Ackerman
Daniel Ford: Author Thomas E. Ricks described Elliot Ackerman’s voice as “too close for comfort,” and author Phil Klay said the author “brings a novelist’s skill with language” and “a reporter’s eye for detail.” I can’t put it any more succinctly than that. It felt at times like Ackerman was across from me at a bar, telling me his story about war and returning (both home and overseas). In so many subtle ways, he paints such a visceral tableau that you’re transported to a border crossing in Syria or sweating through your uniform during the Battle of Fallujah. We’ve long been a fan of Ackerman’s work here at Writer’s Bone and he continues to set the bar even higher with each time out. Perhaps one of these days we’ll be able to buy him a beer and hear some of these stories in person. We (and I mean humanity) certainly need all of them now more than ever.
Look for our next podcast interview with the author on June 24. Listen to Dave Pezza’s last interview with the author below:
Emma and the Whale written by Julie Case and illustrated by Lee White
Rebecca Weston: Emma lives in an old house with “crooked walls and slanting floors,” but it is near her favorite place in the world—the ocean. One day, Emma and her dog, Nemo, are out for a walk, when they spot a beached whale. Emma stays with the whale and helps her back into the ocean with the help of the rising tide. Lines throughout the picture book are lovely in their straightforward simplicity: “One foggy day, Emma grabbed a small bucket because the tide was low and her green jacket because she thought it might rain.” But it was the illustrations that drew me to this book. The soft, ocean-colored pallet and the playful yet nostalgic style feel just right for depicting childhood by the sea.
The Patricide of George Benjamin Hill by James Charlesworth
Daniel Ford: I met James Charlesworth after he moderated Jason Allen’s book event at the Harvard Coop back in May. He endeared himself to this podcast for life when he not only mentioned us in one of his questions, but also proudly wore a Writer’s Bone button later on in the evening. I bought a copy of his debut The Patricide of George Benjamin Hill and was immediately hooked by the opening line: “Four hours in, his plan nearly dies.” We look forward to chatting with James about the book later this month at the Podcast Garage!
Strangers and Cousins by Leah Cohen
Daniel: It was a true pleasure listening to Stephanie Ford reconnect with her former Holy Cross professor Leah Cohen, whose new book Strangers and Cousins is now available from Riverhead Books, during a recent episode. Cohen had plenty of good advice for aspiring writers and her character approach to crafting a narrative matches our own! Strangers and Cousins features everything we want in a novel: quirky characters, a “seemingly idyllic” small town, and an upcoming wedding threatened by secrets bubbling to the surface. Cohen recently toured Boston-area bookstores, so keep your eyes peeled for a signed copy!
Listen to Stephanie’s interview with the author below:
Little Lovely Things by Maureen Joyce Connolly
Daniel: Little Lovely Things is one of those “thrillers” that keeps you up at night, and not just for its plot, but also its characters. You ache for them, even for those you maybe couldn’t stand to be in a room with for five minutes. It’s a well-told, refreshingly-structured story about parenthood, resilience, and hope.
Listen to my interview with the author below:
Cape May by Chip Cheek
Daniel: I gulped Cape May down in a couple of sittings and ran out of synonyms for "sexy," "sultry," and "cocktails” while crafting my questions for my interview with Chip Cheek. One of the things I really appreciated about the book is that Cheek gave space to those awkward moments in life. There’s that high from just being married, but also that feeling of, holy shit, I’m with this person day in and day out, and, my god, I have to go to the bathroom with them in the other room. I think that’s why the moments when characters like Effie and Henry lose their inhibitions land so well. Best read on the beach with a vat of gin and tonic.
Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke
Daniel: Author Minnie Darke became one of our instant favorites when she told us about her writing caravan, her view in Tasmania, and how a journalism job inspired her novel Star-Crossed. Did we mention her writing caravan? Darke told us that she’s happy Star-Crossed doesn’t have a villain (something inspired from watching “Gilmore Girls” with her daughter) and is “a joyful book.” We couldn’t agree more!
Listen to our interview with author below:
Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation by Robert W. Fieseler
Daniel: Robert W. Fieseler helped us kick off #PrideMonth by appearing on the show to chat about his Edgar Award-winning Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation. I would have given him the award (any award, really) for the opening line of his preface alone: “Every social movement in American history has a body count.” All the passion Fieseler put into his research and writing process is evident on every page.
“There's nothing more fun or enjoyable or exciting than fighting for your rights in America,” Fieseler told us. “Truth, if spoken courageously, will, in the end, win out.”
He’s exactly right.
Listen to my interview with the author below:
More News Tomorrow by Susan Richards Shreve
Daniel: More News Tomorrow is right in my sweet spot as a reader (and a writer). It’s atmospheric and features wonderfully drawn characters and earthy dialogue. We spend the most time with characters named Georgianna and Thomas, so it’s no surprise that readers might fall for them more, but their supporting cast is just as good. All these characters had a real lived in feeling from the beginning. Oh yeah, the plot. A woman heads back to the spot where her father killed her mother (according to his confession) with her cranky family in tow.
Listen to my interview with the author below:
Are You Afraid of the Dark Rum? by Sam Slaughter
Daniel: Can I interest you in a “Fresh Mint of Bel-Air” or “As Long As You Rum Me?” How about my personal favorite, a “Kimmy Gimlet.” These are but a few of the punny and delicious cocktails you’ll find in Sam Slaughter’s winning new book Are You Afraid of the Dark Rum? Slaughter combines his smart, tongue-in-cheek writing style with his love of 90s nostalgia and pours into the glass of your choice. This is the perfect book for the beginner mixologist, eager to saddle up to the recent craft cocktail trend/revival. In true Sam Slaughter fashion, there are playlists in the back of the book and on Spotify that you can throw on as you’re imbibing.
Look for our Friday Morning Coffee interview with Sam Slaughter on June 14. You can listen to his appearance on Pop Literacy below:
Just South of Home by Karen Strong
Rebecca: Just South of Home is a heartwarming story about family and friendship, but it is so much more than that. Sarah, science nerd and future astrobiologist, is in charge of watching her little brother, Ellis, over the summer. Their cousin, Janie, wants to spend her summer anywhere but with the two of them, stuck in the sticks of a small Southern town. But when the children see a haint, a spirit with unsettled business, it sets them on course for a summer-long adventure. It also brings them, their family, and their town to face the horrors that occurred in their predominantly black community decades earlier, when their church was burned to the ground by the KKK. Strong explores how this dark past, unaddressed, can inform the present in harmful ways but, when faced, can serve to teach, heal, and unite. This might sound heavy, and there certainly is a lot here for adults to appreciate. Yet the story is filled with humor and the lighter, day-to-day struggles of being an American tween, and it never strays from feeling very much for its intended middle-grade audience. I was taken with Karen Strong’s debut novel, which feels at once timely and classic, and I can’t wait to read what she writes next.
The Wife by Meg Wolitzer
Daniel: I read Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife (recently made into a film starring Glenn Close) in nearly one sitting on the beach. It’s certainly emotionally fraught at times, but it’s also damn entertaining! Wolitzer’s main character has a verve and a flinty disposition that propels you to keep turning the pages as she looks back on a life spent with her literary superstar husband. All manner of secrets are unveiled, of course, but the real magic of the book lies in the meditations on relationships and crafting words into art.
Listen to Caitlin Malcuit’s interview with the author below:
Author Leah Cohen stopped by the podcast recently and gave us a ton of good recommendations, so go out and buy all of them and add them to your reading list!