Quick Lit 4/16

When I got together with a bunch of writers recently we all talked about how much we loved Susan Meissner. Her most recent novel, published November 2015, begins in modern-day times when a distinctive green velvet hat is mistakenly dropped off for resale at a vintage clothing shop. The hat is instantly recognizable as one that Scarlett O'Hara wore in Gone with the Wind; it disappeared during filming and hasn't been seen since. Of course the hat has a long, strange history, and Meissner takes us back in time to 1938 Hollywood, where two young friends are trying to make it in Tinseltown, each in their own way. This isn't my favorite Meissner novel, but it's a solid one, and Gone with the Wind fans won't want to miss it.
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In short, story-driven chapters, Rob Bell explores presence, mindfulness, and creativity in his newest release (published March 8). Regular listeners of his podcast The Robcast will find many of the concepts familiar. I enjoyed this one, and especially appreciated his insistence that you don't need a fifty-year plan to begin something, you just need to do the next right thing. This would make an excellent companion to Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic.
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I was warned this beautiful and heartbreaking story would suck me right in and it certainly did. The year is 1791, and an orphaned Irish girl is brought to a Virginia plantation as an indentured servant and makes her home among the slaves. The story is told alternately by the orphan Lavinia and 17-year-old Belle, the half-white illegitimate daughter of the plantation owner, who becomes Lavinia's de facto mother figure. The story keeps a brisk pace, propelled forward by rape, corruption, lynching, and occasionally, love. Whether you've already read it or are thinking about it, don't miss Kathleen Grissom talking about how this story came to be on episode 78 of What Should I Read Next.
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I had heard good things about this one from a few readers I trust (which surprised me, given the book's solid 3-star rating on Amazon) but was hesitant to invest 944 pages of my reading life in it. But then I interviewed Seth Haines for What Should I Read Next? and he convinced me to give it a try. The novel revolves around a punk-rock band, a wealthy, dysfunctional NYC family, a pyrotechnics expert and his daughter, and the invisible threads that bind them all together in 1976 Manhattan. If you're deciding if this one's for you, you should know that it's being compared to Wallace, Wolfe, Franzen, and DeLillo, and is full of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
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