Monthly Archives: October 2011

Some Haunting Lit for Halloween Lovers

Looking for a few scary reads this Halloween season? Below are just a few links from the many available lists online. Feel free to comment and add your personal frightening faves.

– Amazon’s Top Ten Scariest Books

Listverse Top 10 Most Disturbing Novels

10 Best Steven King Books for Halloween

listal 25 Best Horror Novels

Flavorwire 10 Utterly Terrifying Books for Your Hallowe’en Reading

Michigan Reads

Paranormal Michigan Book Series

Sprirts and Wine by Susan Newhof – University of Michigan Press

Ghost Writers: Contemporary Michigan Literature – Wayne State University Press

Haunts of Mackinac: Ghost Stories, Legends, & Tragic Tales of Mackinac Island by Todd Clements

– The Michigan Murders by EdwardKeyes

– Murder in the Thumb by Richard W. Carson

– Isadore’s Secret by Mardi Link

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-Post by Megan Shaffer

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Bohjalian Shoots to Thrill With ‘The Night Strangers’

Cover ImageYes, it’s October, and inevitably with it’s arrival comes the dark urban legends and tales that tingle our spines and goose-up our flesh. Publishers find readers more receptive to the bizarre, and therefore seize the month to release their edgier titles.

I’m not one for the horror genre, so I must say that Chris Bohjalian caught me completely off guard with his latest release, The Night Strangers. I’ve read enough of Bohjalian’s titles to know that when I pick one off the shelf I’m guaranteed a couple hundred pages of laid-back drama that easily entertain.

The Night Strangers, however, is a deviation from typical Chris Bohjalian book fare. Tagged as a psychological thriller, The Night Strangers calls on the supernatural to assist in the graphic retelling of pilot Chip Linton’s crash and his post-traumatic spiral into madness.

According to Bohjalian’s site, The Night Strangers “is a ghost story inspired by a door in his basement and Sully Sullenberger’s successful ditching of an Airbus in the Hudson.” The aforementioned door – and other eerie setting points – are well mapped in Night Strangers and are essential to the story’s creepy-factor. And Sullenberger? He haunts only in his competence and skill as a pilot who was able to stick an incredible landing.

Initially I had a hard time getting into the book. Picking around for strong literary passages and historical depth left me wanting, but I realized, that’s not what this story is about. Rather, it’s a let-yourself-go ghost story written to gun the imagination and scare the hell out of you.

And it does.

I’m a bit of a chicken, but I think The Night Strangers will spook even the hard-core. Once you buy into the exceedingly “super” aspect of Bohjalian’s “supernatural” plot line, you’ll find this book – spurting blood, spirits, and all – a hide-your-eyes, movie theater kind of read.

Chris Bohjalian is the author of fourteen books, most of which take place in his beloved Vermont. While he’s an enthusiastic storyteller, Bohjalian won’t rock your world from a profound literary standpoint. However, if you’re looking for escapism with sound characters and a well-laced storyline, he’s a sure bet. As for The Night Strangers? Toss it on your list for a rainy-day, but you might not want to read it at home all alone…

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Links

– Review: Miami Herald review of The Night Strangers

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Mitchell Zuckoff Brings ‘Lost in Shangri-La’ to Grosse Pointe War Memorial

Cover ImageSeveral noted military attacks took place as part of World War II combat on May 13, 1945. However, on that very same day there also occurred a more anonymous incident of devastation that has, until now, slipped historians and the world at large.

Author and journalist Mitchell Zuckoff  has plucked a diamond of a story out of the remaining rubble of World War II history with his vivid account of the crash of the Gremlin Special. Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II draws on remarkable interviews, journal entries, diaries and photographs to recount the astonishing tale of three plane crash survivors and their unlikely jungle rescue.

Lost in Shangri-La literally takes off in Dutch New Guinea where two dozen officers, soldiers and Women’s Army Corp members (WAC’s) board the Gremlin Special, a C-47 transport plane. The flight isn’t a tactical military mission, but rather a morale-boosting joy ride into the lush, untouched hidden valley known as Shangri-La.

The reader knows what’s coming, but Zuckoff maintains a holding pattern of suspense as he lays out the tropical tangle of mountainous land below. Anticipation builds as the Gremlin’s passengers unwittingly jockey for prime seating and optimal views of the very gorge into which the plane will soon disappear – and disappear it does.

“The distance between the C-47 and the unforgiving terrain closed to zero. To the ear-splitting din of metal twisting, glass shattering, engines groaning, branches snapping, fuel igniting, bodies tumbling, lives ending, the Gremlin Special plunged through the trees and slammed into the jungle-covered mountainside.”

Lost in Shangri-La is a wonderfully readable account of the demise of the Gremlin Special, inner-tribal warfare, and World War II military history. Zuckoff doesn’t cease to fascinate as he touches on topics such as the WAC, Filipino forces, tactical rescue and indigenous peoples. Shangri-La doesn’t bog down with overdone detail, but rather offers the opportunity for insight and tender reflection on prophecy and contemporary contradictions long after you close the cover.

Mitchell Zuckoff will be bringing his fantastic story, Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II, to the Grosse Pointe War Memorial this Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 7:30pm. This event is presented by Wayne County Community College District and the Grosse Pointe Public Library. For more information, call 313.343.2075.

* Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

Related Links

The Ambiguous Charms of Zuckoff’s ‘Lost in Shangri-La

BookBrowse.com

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Women’s National Book Association Hosts Hot Authors Bonnie Jo Campbell and Samuel Park at BPL

Cover ImageFans of fiction opted out of the beautiful sunshine this past weekend to head indoors instead. Why? Authors Bonnie Jo Campbell and Samuel Park were in town for a reading and signing of their latest books as part of the Women’s National Book Association 2011 National Reading Group Month.

Baldwin Public Library played host to both authors Sunday in celebration of the WNBA Detroit Chapter’s October programming. Bonnie Jo Campbell and Samuel Park, who recently released Once Upon A River and This Burns My Heart respectively, read to an appreciative audience followed by a discussion and Q&A session regarding their latest novels.

Michigan author Bonnie Jo Campbell has received numerous awards and was a finalist  for the 2009 National Book Award for fiction. Once Upon A River, Campbell’s fourth published book, is an absolute stunner and tells the troubled story of sixteen-year-old Margo Crane.

Cover Image“I wanted to write the most American book I could,” said Campbell of Once Upon A River. Campbell’s main character Margo invokes the spirit of Annie Oakley, and hones her skills as a sharpshooter to navigate the ebb and flow of her hardscrabble life. Like Margo, Campbell grew up along the rivers of Michigan and used her intimate knowledge of river life to flesh out her story.

Samuel Park, who is an assistant professor of English at Columbia College, flew in from Chicago to discuss his debut novel This Burns My Heart. Based on stories from his mother’s life, This Burns My Heart is set in South Korea in the 1960’s and centers on the young woman Soo-Ja Choi who is bound by both marriage and culture.

“This book is about permanence of choice,” said Park of his post-Korean War novel. After Park’s own mother told him she turned down a promising suitor the very day before her wedding, Park became intrigued with the idea of choice and how many possibilities life can hold based on the decisions we make.

Both Campbell and Park are easy at the mic and were incredibly engaging. Plenty of laughs were shared as the authors took ample time to field personal questions and speak sincerely about the challenges of publishing, the pressures of writing and the painstaking wait for those early reviews.

Naturally, copies of Once Upon A River and This Burns My Heart were available for sale from Colleen Kammer of Book Beat Bookstore. It is certainly of note that Kammer is the recipient of the 2011 Detroit WNBA Bookwoman Award.

This Baldwin Public Library event was taped and will be made available on the BPL site in the near future.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

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The Ambiguous ‘Charms’ of Mitchell Zuckoff’s ‘Lost in Shangri-La’

Cover ImageAs a reader I often find myself wondering about little tangential topics, quirks, or details that cushion a story. As my eyes move over one page my thoughts might still be caught a few paragraphs back, roaming around with questions that itch for a little more info. What was that war all about? Does this tiny country really exist? How did the author manage to survive?

Charms candy was that little itch for me in Lost in Shangri-La. 

It seems that Tootsie Roll Industries would have little to do with Mitchell Zuckoff’s Lost in Shangri-La. However, Tootsie Roll Industries is the owner of Charms Candy; the very candy that provided the Gremlin Special’s crash survivors with enough sustenance to survive in the jungle.

“Breakfast was water and more Charms, still their only food on the third day after the crash,” writes Zuckoff. “They separated the candies by color, eating the red ones until they tired of them, moving on to yellow, and so on.”*

Due to the hardiness of Charms Candy under a variety of conditions, the candy became a standard part of American soldiers’ military issue around the time of World War II. The individually wrapped candy squares, made from sugar and corn syrup, came in an assortment of fruit flavors and were a staple of soldier rations.

The treat meant to sustain military forces, however, has taken on a more ominous tone in recent years. The Curse of Charms Candy is of unknown origin, but superstition claims that if a soldier eats, or even keeps the candy in their possession it brings bad luck.

In the article US Marines Ditch Their Unlucky Charms, one sergeant says, “Chew on a lemon Charm and you’re heading for a vehicle breakdown. Suck on a lime and it rains. Raspberry – for the highly superstitious – means death.”

Journalist Ashley Gilbertson of the New York Times found the same beliefs among forces in Afghanistan. “Never eat the Charms, the troops say; they’re unlucky. It’s just a superstition, of course – I’ve never met a soldier who could tell me why they were unlucky – but the G.I.’s take it seriously. I sometimes think that if I ever got separated from my unit in the field, I’d just follow a trail of discarded unopened Assorted Charms to find them again.”

You can link over to BookBrowse.com where you will my full review of Mitchell Zuckoff’s Lost in Shangri-La as well as thousands of reviews and intriguing sidebars.

* Taken from Mitchell Zuckoff’s Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredibly Rescue Mission of World War II

-Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

Post by Megan Shaffer


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Author Boyle Returns Home for Great Michigan Read

Author and Detroit native Kevin Boyle is pretty pumped about the idea of coming home. The reason? Boyle’s compelling book, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age is the Michigan Humanities Council featured title for the 2011-2012 Great Michigan Read.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have Arc of Justice selected for the Great Michigan Read,” Boyle shared in an email, and said the choice of his book holds “particularly powerful meaning.”

Boyle’s Arc of Justice “tells the story of African American Dr. Ossian Sweet and the chain of events that occurred after he purchased a home for his family in an all-white Detroit neighborhood in 1925.”* After an altercation one evening with his enraged white neighbors, Sweet’s life – and the course of Detroit’s racial history – are forever altered.

Published in 2004 (Henry Holt and Co.), Boyle’s Arc of Justice was released to high praise. Called “electrifying” and “powerful” by critics, Arc of Justice snagged several coveted literary prizes such as the 2004 National Book Award for Nonfiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was nominated as a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Arc of Justice has also made its mark on Michigan’s literary scene. Boyle’s nonfiction book was selected in 2005 as a Michigan Notable Book and was the 2007 pick for the Detroit metro community-wide Everyone’s Reading program. Now Arc of Justice returns for another appearance in the state as the star of this year’s Great Michigan Read.

The Great Michigan Read is a free statewide initiative intended to encourage Michiganians of all ages to read and participate in book discussions and events that take place across the state. It targets Michigan themes so the literature will be more accessible and interesting to citizens of communities throughout the state.

Free is certainly a word that catches the eye these days. As our literary and   educational resources continue to dwindle, programs such as the Great Michigan Read are a boon to local communities and to those of us who relish fine reading. Book clubs, classrooms, colleges and museums are but a few of the potential sites that can sponsor a reading or get directly involved with Arc of Justice and bring fine literature to life.

Boyle currently lives in Ohio but is, in fact, excited to be “coming home” this fall for a six-city author tour as part of the Read program. “It’ll be great to talk about Detroit, about Arc of Justice, and about the big questions the story raised,” Boyle says, “Most of all, it’ll be great to be home.”

Kevin Boyle will be appearing in Detroit at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 7:00 pm. His discussion of Arc of Justice will take place at the General Motors Theater at 315 E. Warren Ave (www.thewright.org). If you aren’t in the metro area, feel free to link here for a full schedule of Great Michigan Read exhibits and events.

*Information from Michigan Humanities Council

– Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

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