Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Weekend of Books

Transgressive fiction authors write stories some are afraid to tell. Stories with taboo subjects, unique voices, shocking images — nothing safe or dry.

Burnt Tongues is a collection of transgressive stories selected by a rigorous nomination and vetting process and hand-selected by Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, as the best of The Cult Workshop, his official fan website.

These stories run the gamut from horrific and fantastic to humorous and touching, but each leaves a lasting impression.

Some may say even a scar.

An enchanting and staggeringly original debut novel about one day in the lives of three unforgettable characters

Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, rebellious nine-year-old who also happens to be an aspiring jazz singer. Still mourning the recent death of her mother, and caring for her grief-stricken father, she doesn’t realize that on the eve of Christmas Eve she is about to have the most extraordinary day — and night — of her life. After bravely facing down mean-spirited classmates and rejection at school, Madeleine doggedly searches for Philadelphia's legendary jazz club The Cat's Pajamas, where she’s determined to make her on-stage debut. On the same day, her fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who’s just moved back to Philly after a divorce, is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with an old high school crush, afraid to hope that sparks might fly again. And across town at The Cat's Pajamas, club owner Lorca discovers that his beloved haunt may have to close forever, unless someone can find a way to quickly raise the $30,000 that would save it.

As these three lost souls search for love, music and hope on the snow-covered streets of Philadelphia, together they will discover life’s endless possibilities over the course of one magical night. A vivacious, charming and moving debut, 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas will capture your heart and have you laughing out loud.

Not typically my cup of tea, but Chris Ewan is super cute.

If you're a security expert, what do you do if your fiancée suddenly goes missing, presumably kidnapped?

If you're Daniel Trent, a highly trained specialist in hostage negotiation, the answer is simple: You find out who took her and you make them talk. But what if your chief suspect is taken as well? How do you get him back quickly—and alive—so you can find out what really happened to your fiancée?

Set in Marseille, Chris Ewan's Dead Line is a fast-paced stand-alone thriller that pitches the reader into Daniel's world, as he tries desperately to secure the release of Jérôme Moreau from a ruthless gang in order to interrogate him on the whereabouts of his fiancée. When things don't go according to plan, Daniel must use all his skills and instincts to find the answers he's looking for, but will he be in time?

Ride Around Shining concerns the idle preoccupations, and later machinations, of a transplanted Portlander named Jess — a nobody from nowhere with a master's degree and a gig delivering takeout. He parlays the latter, along with a few lies, into a job as a chauffeur for an up-and-coming NBA small forward, a Trail Blazer named Calyph West, and his young wife, Antonia. Calyph is black, Antonia is white, and Jess becomes fascinated, innocuously at first, by all that they are that he is not. In striving to make himself indispensable to them, he causes Calyph to have a season-ending knee injury, then brings about the couple's estrangement, before positioning himself at last as their perverse savior.

In the tradition of Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley and Harold Pinter's The Servant — not to mention a certain Shakespeare play about a creepy white dude obsessed with a black dude — Ride Around Shining is a striking, propulsive debut that is by turns hilarious and discomfiting, moody and thrilling, and which asks unforgettable questions about the modern tensions of race and class in America.

David is a freshly minted NYU grad who’s working a not-quite-entry-level job, falling in love, and telling his parents he’s studying for the LSAT. He starts a Tumblr blog, typing out posts on his BlackBerry under his desk — a blog that becomes wildly popular and brings him to the attention of major media (The New York Times) as well as the White House. But his outward fame doesn’t quell his confusion about the world and his direction in it.

This semiautobiographical debut is a coming-of-age story perfect for our time. In A Sense of Wonder author Gideon Lewis-Kraus’s words, “If Tao Lin had been born to Gary Shteyngart’s parents and spent his early twenties slaving for pageviews at NewYorker.com, he would have written something like this, the Bright Lights, Big City of the click-here-now generation.”

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