The Land Across by Gene Wolfe

landacrossLately I don’t read much science fiction, though it was once a passion. I received this book as a gift, though, and found the cover information intriguing. “Wolfe is our Melville,” proclaims Ursula Le Guin on the inside jacket. She’s an author I admire, so started in, not looking for Moby Dick, exactly, but maybe Billy Budd.

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The Contractor by Charles Holdefer


As the twenty-fist century accelerates toward a new low point in modern political history, eighty-five people possess about forty percent of the world’s wealth (that’s not a typo),* second- and third-generation war-terrorized children are born to benumbed, dehumanized parents, and most news reports would probably seem horribly unreal to even Bradbury and Orwell.

One may ask, What does twenty-first century art have to say about all this?  We’ve heard from activists, a few courageous whistle-blowers; we’ve seen Hollywood thrillers with at least one Cheney-like character snarling with glee as he slaughters the hopes of yet another welfare mom. But where is the nuanced rendering of this story about the death of democracy?

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Sunflower by Cass McMain

sunflowerSunflower (Holland House Books, 452 pages) moves slowly forward, accumulating in its plain language the details of Michael’s uneventful life as a metal worker and sculptor. He and his live-in girlfriend, Jess, mostly talk about ordinary things, like what to pull out of the freezer for dinner, why the item in the freezer wasn’t pulled out in time for dinner, and whether or not Michael has finished the metal fence commissioned weeks and weeks ago. (He hasn’t.) Continue reading

Cocoa Almond Darling by Jeffra Hays

cocoaalmonddarlingJeffra Hays’ Cocoa Almond Darling (Smashwords 2011, 126 pages) is the story of Millicent Randolph, survivor of a bad marriage and starting over in tough circumstances. These include finding a place to live and a job. She finds work in a sewing shop and enjoys a brief, happy relationship with her employer, in which she becomes pregnant although he is married. Her difficulties are then resumed through a long, turbulent aftermath to this affair. The turmoil continues following the birth of her child and on up to this daughter’s marriage and birth of her own daughters, when Milly becomes a grandmother. Continue reading

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

Edward Tulane is a china rabbit…

The bulk of my reviews deal with serious fiction and not with children’s literature. Therefore, you may ask yourself, “What does a china rabbit have to do with literary fiction?” Well, to answer that question honestly, I must say: “Nothing…nothing at all.”

There is no question that a children’s book about a china rabbit is an unlikely contestant to end up in my `favorite books’ pile. After all, this book is not about a character contemplating the murderous attitude of the world. Nevertheless, the book is about a character – a china rabbit Continue reading

An Unfinished Season: A Novel by Ward Just

Ward Just’s novel about the loss of innocence is the type of novel that can sneak up on a reader with its unassuming style and emotional power. Told in the steady voice of narrator Wils Ravan, An Unfinished Season (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 251 pages) is set mostly in and around Chicago during the 1950’s. Wils, who will soon enter the University of Chicago, spends his summer divided between working for a tabloid newspaper and attending the obligatory debutante balls: seersucker jacket by day, tux by night. These Continue reading