“I Am Forbidden” by Anouk Markovits

There are some books that are so good, as soon as you finish reading you’re ready to tell the world exactly what you loved about it; the words have been forming in your mind the whole time.

I Am Forbidden may not be one of those books.

It’s a book that you read obsessively—it takes over your thoughts—and quickly—because you have to know what happens, you have to stay with these characters. Yet when you put it down, you don’t know how to explain the book, much less why you loved it.

“A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan

Much is said about plot in writing. Without plot, you don’t have a book… right?

That’s why, at first glance, A Visit from the Goon Squad appears to be a series of interconnected short stories. There is no overarching plot, no event or circumstances that drive the characters through the narrative, which switches back on itself, going into the past and then the future over the course of four decades. In books like The Train of Small Mercies, the characters never meet. But the same event—the death of RFK—draws them together in theme and event if not in circumstance, and so their arcs mirror each other.

NaNoWriMo “Winner”!

You’ve probably noticed how quiet my blog has been lately–even quieter than usual. That’s because I participated in NaNoWriMo this year. In the month of November, I wrote more than 50,000 words of a novel. First of all, let me say: WOOOOOO! I’M A WINNER! I’M AWESOME! I set out to write a what seemed like an impossible number of words last month–not to mention maintaining a full-time job, buying a new car, keeping my house clean and in good repair, celebrating []

“Swamplandia!” by Karen Russell

The Bigtrees are the proud, indebted owners of Swamplandia!, a macabre and thrilling theme park devoted to “Seths”—their nickname for alligators. But when their star wrestler Hilola dies and a rival theme park, the World of Darkness, opens nearby, they hemorrhage customers.

Thirteen-year-old Ava is stricken with grief at the loss of her mother, the famous alligator wrestler Hilola Bigtree. Hilola died not from an aggressive gator attack but from cancer, and Ava finds herself adrift. She’s not the only one. Her father, known as the Chief; her seventeen-year-old brother Kiwi; and her sixteen-year-old sister Osceola (Ossie) also break and slide apart.

Poem: Halloween Haunting

I’ve written a prose-poem. That’s not exactly new, since I’ve done that before. But today I’m seized by the impulse to share it. I’ve been toying with the idea of posting some of my more creative/adventurous work on this blog, so I thought I’d go with it. I just wrote the poem today, and I’ll probably hate it tomorrow, but now it will live forever. What do you think? It is Halloween Ghosts and monsters wait Around corners once familiar The here []

Down by the Bay in Dar es Salaam

I’m so excited to be in Tanzania with the International Reporting Project (IRP). Yesterday, I had a few moments to myself. I walked through an overpriced market, but I only had eyes for the coastline. Dar es Salaam sits beside a bay of the same name that links up with the Indian Ocean. The water is gorgeous and calm.

“The Scar” by China Miéville

Bellis Coldwine is unhappily fleeing her home in New Crobuzon for a colony across the world. Bellis, a cold, competent linguist, soon finders herself impressed by pirates and dropped onto the floating city of Armada.

Twelve Nonfiction Books on Tanzania

In just a few weeks, I’m leaving for Tanzania! Naturally, my mind first turns to books about or from Tanzania. Last week, I listed six novels I’d like to read before/after the trip; this week, I’m focusing on nonfiction titles. Guides & Wonky Stuff Bradt Guide to Tanzania by Philip Briggs Hunger and Shame: Child Malnutrition and Poverty on Mount Kilimanjaro by Mary Theresa Howard The Hadza: Hunter-Gatherers of Tanzania by Frank Marlowe Personal accounts The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński []