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Interviews | April 8, 2014

Shawn Donley: IMG Gabrielle Zevin: The Powells.com Interview



Gabrielle ZevinThe American Booksellers Association collects nominations from bookstores all over the country for favorite forthcoming titles. The Storied Life of... Continue »
  1. $17.47 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

    Gabrielle Zevin 9781616203214

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Customer Comments

Tara McDaniel has commented on (14) products.

Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction by Tara L. Masih
Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction

Tara McDaniel, January 25, 2010

I found this book to be one of the finest resources of writing fiction in any genre I’ve ever worked through. I’d been curious about flash fiction for some time, having read several anthologies and individual chapbooks of flash, but always got a little stuck when I tried my hand at the form. The Field Guide offers a comprehensive yet entertaining historic overview of flash written by its editor, Tara L. Masih, a yummy (and extensive) reading and further resources list, and 25 wholly unique essays. I love how many different perspectives are in this book as well as all the little tidbits of helpful advice given in the essays. I was inspired by the exercises enough to actually do them, even though I’ve not had much success with the form before. I came away feeling like I could work with the form now that I’d grasped the central elements of flash. The book is like a smorgasbord of ideas and I’ve got a notebook of drafts to play with now. I also learned a little something about how to write better fictions in general—a nice added benefit, I think, of working through this resource.
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Fingersmith: A Novel by Sarah Waters
Fingersmith: A Novel

Tara McDaniel, January 3, 2010

The best book I've read in a decade? Nay. The best book I've read in my life! Water's writing is lush, moody and provocative, and the plot has one twist after another, leading you to the perfectly surprising ending. I lost sleep for days reading this book. I haven't found another to surpass it--yet.
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(3 of 5 readers found this comment helpful)



Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five

Tara McDaniel, June 1, 2009

I pretty much thought this book was brilliant--I've read it twice now and I shall read it again. It is difficult to write about, and read about, a subject of horror. Because, c'mon, that's what it is. If the earth in Dresden becomes a veritable tomb for stinking, rotting corpses, and the few survivors have to spray fire into the holes to incinerate the rot because it is physically impossible to smell and touch the rot without hacking all your guts out...well, that's horrific. Yet Vonnegut mangag...more I pretty much thought this book was brilliant--I've read it twice now and I shall read it again. It is difficult to write about, and read about, a subject of horror. Because, c'mon, that's what it is. If the earth in Dresden becomes a veritable tomb for stinking, rotting corpses, and the few survivors have to spray fire into the holes to incinerate the rot because it is physically impossible to smell and touch the rot without hacking all your guts out...well, that's horrific. Yet Vonnegut mangages to write about such experiences with a certain degree of humor; he can look straight at a subject but give the reader enough breathing space and entertainment that he or she does not have to throw the book aside in total disgust. Vonnegut can get you to think, not by standing on a soapbox, but by placing an object before you and saying, "Well--here it is." And then, sliding his hands in his pockets, "What do you think of it?"
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(11 of 16 readers found this comment helpful)



Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds: Poems by Eleanor Lerman
Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds: Poems

Tara McDaniel, June 1, 2009

Lerman is awesome. Her poems are conversational, like she's talking right to you. Maybe over pie and coffee, maybe in black boots, stillettos. She's one smart, somewhat brash, and very funny woman: "Liquid metal debris, alien hieroglyphics, ranch hands threatened by the goverment--/I love it all! I love Area 51!" (We're Ready in Roswell). So when you read the poems, you feel as if you've joined one heck of a discussion, and Lerman is not afraid to challenge you, either ("Where are You?" Lerman demands in "Why we Need to Start a Dialogue").

I loved how sassy this narrator is, but also how unflinching: "and yes, that sure is/ my little dog walking a hard road in hard boots. And/ just wait until you see my girl, chomping on the chains/ of fate with her mouth full of jagged steel. She's damn/ ready and so am I" (That Sure is My Little Dog). My favorite poems were about science, where Lerman got fanciful and--dare I say it?--spiritual: "And this is true: You are a stardust person" (Muons are Passing Through You). This poet is a hard-hitter but there's no navel-gazing here, she makes the things she thinks about Universal...and they are.

I didn't give this book 5 stars because I had to be honest. If I had grown up in the 50s, 60s, or 70s, I'm sure I would have connected to this book 100%. But I was born in 1980 in Los Angeles, so Nintendo, beaches, and the Simpsons make more sense to me than New York Jews, the Red Menace, and old Russian ladies. That's entirely personal and subjective, though. The book is highly recommended.
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(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)



A Temporary Sort of Peace by Jim Mcgarrah
A Temporary Sort of Peace

Tara McDaniel, June 1, 2009

This was one of the best memoirs I’ve read yet. Memoir is not my first pick among reads because, in general, I find them tedious and long-winded—what will do in 100 pages is instead done in 300 or 350. I’d rather read a novel and be entertained. However, McGarrah’s memoir not only reads like a novel and jaunts along quickly to its end (there are many page-turning stories in this book), but it has the added benefit of a real-life-narrator admitting vulnerabilities and sharing hard-won wisdom with his reader throughout.
McGarrah begins his story in the present moment, as a Vietnam veteran arriving at the VA Clinic. The reader is quickly introduced to the lasting effects of the narrator’s experience as a soldier in Vietnam. McGarrah juxtaposes the realities of physical and psychological treatment for war veterans in America with visceral flashbacks of combat. It is a little unnerving but McGarrah swiftly brings the reader back in time to his childhood in Indiana, where we get the beginnings of her story but also a healthy dose of humor. In this way McGarrah balances the horrors of his story with laughter and a sense of shared experienced between reader and writer. This is a hallmark of the entire book and one of the reasons why it was so enjoyable to read.
The first quarter of the book highlights the main developments in the writer’s life prior to Vietnam. The mid-section is life in Vietnam—a well-plotted string of stories about the smells and tastes of a new culture, life at camp, frightfully real action scenes of combat, and the psychological tolls that were taken upon the men and women struggling to survive on both sides. Here McGarrah shows his prowess as a poet as well as a man of humor. Describing his mess hall food as “some kind of roasted pseudo-beef with huge globs of mashed potatoes drowned in a dark brown gelatinous substance labeled gravy” offers a necessary respite from the terror of combat and violent death.
But even in these scenes, McGarrah manages to make his prose beautiful, as if to contain the gore and violence in a digestible format for the reader: “The trees dipped and swirled with the monsoon breeze. The bamboo played a tango so hypnotic and hallow I hardly noticed another whistle, the harsh hiss of a RPG ripping through the melody like off-key fusion jazz. Sheep must have heard it, though, because he opened his arms wide and embraced the rocket. It entered him and became him, sending all unnecessary attachments in different directions. Arms flew east and west and his head shot skyward as if it were a basketball some referee had tossed for the opening jump. Damp grit splattered my fatigues and face.”
In the final quarter of the book, McGarrah relates his experience in the Tet Offensive and his resulting wounds. He also shares his time in the hospital with other wounded vets, exploring the psychological impact of war, and his return to American life. What is so striking about the last part of the book, though, is when McGarrah returns to Vietnam in 2005. Here he meets the honored Vietnamese poet Vo Que, and together they create a new relationship based on peace, respect, and understanding. The photographs in this book are outstanding, and the last scene in the book will make you gasp.
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(2 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)



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