Last Train to Istanbul Launches L

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Last is kind of a funny word to choose smack dab in the middle of the alphabet, but it’s one of those words that grabs your attention right away. It’s a story, all by itself, and the use of it in a title gives the book a sense of nostalgia before it’s even started. It makes you ask “why,” and that’s a strong pull to read onward.


Last Train to Istanbul: A Novel by Ayse Kulin; translation John W. Baker.
Amazon for $4.99. International bestseller by one of Turkey’s most beloved authors
As the daughter of one of Turkey’s last Ottoman pashas, Selva could win the heart of any man in Ankara. Yet the spirited young beauty only has eyes for Rafael Alfandari, the handsome Jewish son of an esteemed court physician. In defiance of their families, they marry, fleeing to Paris to build a new life.

But when the Nazis invade France, the exiled lovers will learn that nothing—not war, not politics, not even religion—can break the bonds of family. For after they learn that Selva is but one of their fellow citizens trapped in France, a handful of brave Turkish diplomats hatch a plan to spirit the Alfandaris and hundreds of innocents, many of whom are Jewish, to safety. Together, they must traverse a war-torn continent, crossing enemy lines and risking everything in a desperate bid for freedom. From Ankara to Paris, Cairo, and Berlin, Last Train to Istanbul is an uplifting tale of love and adventure from Turkey’s beloved bestselling novelist Ayşe Kulin.

Like a mystery? Try Her Cousin Much Removed. Or download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities. It’s free!

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At Amazon, the Book Buys You

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OK, that’s not entirely accurate. Or remotely accurate, but I couldn’t resist the joke.

Normally, about now I’d be telling you about a book you can buy from Amazon, but today I figured I’d flip that. I don’t know if you know, but Amazon will buy your books as well. It’s like a big, natural circle of reading. Amazon pays for shipping, so it won’t cost you anything. Current best-sellers are probably your best bet, but at least that takes some of the guilt out of buying a full-priced new book.

And it’s not just for books, either. You can trade in movies, video games and other things, and get an Amazon gift card in exchange. When I logged in, it even told me what some things I’d bought from Amazon were worth, which is nice to know, not that I’m parting with my Zumba World Party, which is the most fun game ever, but I digress.

So you can use books to feed your reading habit. It’s beautiful, in a way.

Anyway, thus concludes this public service announcement.

 

 

 

Ticket for the Lottery

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I don’t know if Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” was the first short story I read that gave me chills as the twist came around, but it’s certainly one of the most memorable. Whether you are writer, reader, or both, her masterful use of suspense is worth revisiting, and makes her an author everyone should read.


The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson. Amazon for $8.89. The Lottery, one of the most terrifying stories written in this century, created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker. “Power and haunting,” and “nights of unrest” were typical reader responses. This collection, the only one to appear during Shirley Jackson’s lifetime, unites “The Lottery:” with twenty-four equally unusual stories. Together they demonstrate Jack son’s remarkable range–from the hilarious to the truly horrible–and power as a storyteller.

Celebrate John Steinbeck’s Birthday with This Collection

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In honor of his 112th birthday, here is a comprehensive collection of John Steinbeck’s short novels. Steinbeck immortalized the lives of people who would have been forgotten, mere footnotes in the pages of history. Almost tenderly, yet with gripping realism, he lets us inside their worlds.

And with six novels for one price, think of this as a bargain for your brain.


The Short Novels of John Steinbeck: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) by John Steinbeck. Amazon for $20.99. Collected here for the first time in a deluxe paperback volume are six of Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck’s most widely read and beloved short novels—Tortilla Flat, The Red Pony, Of Mice and Men, The Moon Is Down, Cannery Row and The Pearl. From Steinbeck’s tale of commitment, loneliness, and hope in Of Mice and Men, to his tough yet charming portrait of people on the margins of Monterey society in Cannery Row, to The Pearl’s mythic examination of the fallacy of the American dream, Steinbeck created stories that were realistic, rugged, and imbued with energy and resilience.

Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God Should Be on Your List

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Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is renown for it’s flawless use of dialect, and every writer must read it to understand why dialect is a bad idea for anyone but the most skilled. And even then it’s dicey, unless you’re Hurston herself.

More than that,though, it’s glimpse into a specific moment in time, into lives greatly unlike ours, into people who, at one time, were not considered worthy of protagonist status. It’s books like these that let us into the living rooms we’d never have seen, that really help us to understand our common humanity.


Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Amazon for $1.99. One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.

Authors I Love Category Had to Begin with This Author

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I’m adding a new category to books called “Authors I Love,” and there is no better inaugural author than the late, phenomenal Kurt Vonnegut. No one can distill the complexities of the human condition the way he did, and yet still make you laugh while slicing you clean with his words.

Brilliant.

I met him once, and as you’ll find is a common theme for me when meeting my favorite authors, became a babbling idiot. I managed to ask him, when I became somewhat coherent, how he felt about being labeled a science fiction writer back when that kind of a label was meant to sting.

In a perfect display of Vonnegutesque on the fly, he told me he wrote about science because he was a chemist and that’s what he knew.

So it goes.

Here is one of my favorites, which is little off the beaten path of his body of work.


Hocus Pocus (Kurt Vonnegut Series) by Kurt Vonnegut. Amazon for $5.99. Eugene Debs Hartke (named after the famous early 20th century Socialist working class leader) describes an odyssey from college professor to prison inmate to prison warden back again to prisoner in another of Vonnegut’s bitter satirical explorations of how and where (and why) the American dream begins to die. Employing his characteristic narrative device–a retrospective diary in which the protagonist retraces his life at its end, a desperate and disconnected series of events here in Hocus Pocus show Vonnegut with his mask off and his rhetorical devices unshielded.

Debs (and Vonnegut) see academia just as imprisoning as the corrupt penal system and they regard politics as the furnishing and marketing of lies. Debs, already disillusioned by circumstance, quickly tracks his way toward resignation and then fury. As warden and prisoner, Debs (and the reader) come to understand that the roles are interchangeable; as a professor jailed for “”radical”” statements in the classroom reported by a reactionary student, he comes to see the folly of all regulation. The “”hocus pocus”” of the novel’s title does not describe only the jolting reversals and seemingly motiveless circumstance which attend Debs’ disillusion and suffering, but also describe the political, social, and economic system of a country built upon can’t, and upon the franchising of lies.

Revisit The Skirt and the 90s with 2000 Deciduous Trees

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If you get nostalgic about the ’90s and grunge culture, take a quick time trip back to the days when dark literary magazines were plentiful (and fleeting). The Skirt only ran for four issues, but lives on through the magic of ebooks.

2000 Deciduous Trees: Memories of a Zine by Nath Jones. $4.99 from Smashwords.com
2000 Deciduous Trees is an exploration of individual experience selected from Nath Jones’s ‘90s zine, The Skirt. The writing resists losing its balance during a time when gas was cheap and no one drove slowly on the cusp of a new millennium. The voice yearns for change. But nothing can be done in a twenty-something world where one-night stands get forgotten with execution-style murders.