Displaying articles for: November 2013

**For the most current Free Friday selections, please visit the New NOOK Blog at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/nook-blog/category/free-fridays/

 

Today's Free Fridays book selection is Beauty and the Wolf by Marina Myles - a sexy paranormal romance that will warm you up on the coldest of nights.

 

Isabella loves her new husband, the wealthy and powerful Lord Draven Winthrop, but not everyone feels the same. Many fear him and the dark, magical secrets that lie beneath his brooding stare...but Isabella has ancient secrets of her own, and they're about to get her into huge trouble. A gypsy curse and a mother's scorn await the couple as they race against the clock to avoid a horrifying fate.

 

 

 


Today's Free Fridays app selection is the Yatzy game app by Agile Fusion - a fun twist on the beloved dice game.

 

You can forget about looking for tiny pencils and all those hard-to-find dice - because this version of Yatzy is on your NOOK! Score the highest amount of points by rolling the 5 dice to create different combinations, and try to get a true yatzy by rolling 5 of a kind! Play against your device, or play with friends. It's never been easier to enjoy this classic American game.


Special to this week's Free Fridays: Smallville Season 11 #1 on NOOK Comics! The first issue of the celebrated series about Clark Kent and his superhero alter ego, Superman, is free today for NOOK users, featuring our beautiful graphic display with zoom view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Each week, we ask our featured author to recommend a book or author that you may want to check out. Since authors are such passionate readers themselves, we thought you might like to find out what they love to read, too! Here’s what Marina recommends:

 

From its opening scene with breakneck action and raw sensuality, to its tender ending, Fated (Book One in the Dark Protectors series) had me from the get-go.

 

Talen Kayrs is a vampire sent to protect Cara Paulsen and her four-year-old daughter, Janie from a band of monsters known as the Kurjans. It turns out these Kurjans are mortal enemies of Talen’s ancient vampire tribe. However, uber-hot Talen is no ordinary vampire. He can go out in the sun, has eyes that glow a luminescent gold, only drinks blood during sex or a fight, and craves one woman: his predestined soul mate (which makes Fated the perfect title).

 

The Kurjans want Janie for her psychic abilities, and Cara for her power to block emotion, so when Cara learns she is Talen’s potential mate, the stakes skyrocket. Will the Kurjans want her more if she marries Talen? Will consummating their union protect Cara as much as Talen promises?

 

I marveled at how expertly Rebecca Zanetti fills every page with conflict and how masterfully she weaves sexual tension into each exchange between Cara and Talen. Being a mother, I naturally scrutinized the heroine’s relationship with her daughter, but I found it believable and heart-warming. All in all, Fated is ideal to curl up with on a rainy day—just be sure to buckle your seat belt for one hell of a roller coaster ride!

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AT14553_BlackFriday2013_410x410.jpgHappy Thanksgiving everyone! While you're getting ready to have a lovely meal later with family and friends, we wanted to let you know that we've decided to start Black Friday...today!

 

Online only today, we're offering amazing deals: get the NOOK® Simple Touch for just $39, and the NOOK® HD starting at just $79!

 

Supplies are limited, so while the turkey's in the oven, go online, start shopping, and get ready to enjoy hours of reading and entertainment.

 

You can find all Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals here.

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Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum has won the hearts of millions of readers with her no-nonsense attitude and relentless pursuit of criminals on the run, and she's back and better than ever in Janet Evanovich's newest novel, Takedown Twenty, now available on NOOK.

 

Powerful mob boss and suspected murderer Salvatore "Uncle Sunny" Sunucchi is Stephanie's latest target, but getting involved with the Mafia is risky - even for a pro like Stephanie. Can she outsmart the family, or will she end up sleeping with the fishes?

 

For more Stephanie Plum and other novels by Janet Evanovich, click here.

 

 

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Bestselling author Hannah Howell has created an entire romantic universe with her Murray family sagas, following the Scottish clan as they fight battles, make and break alliances, and fall in love with roguish lords and ladies. Her latest addition to the series, Highland Master, profiles Lady Triona McKee as she struggles to save her family's cherished land from a vengeful cousin, while attracting the attention of a battle-scarred knight. Today on the NOOK Blog, Hannah delves into the story behind her beloved series.

 

The Murray series began with the tales of three brothers: Balfour, Nigel, and Eric.  They are the patriarchs of the clan. They were struggling to survive and in a constant battle with an old enemy, but one by one they found the peace and happiness they craved.

Next were the stories of the three daughters, one from each of the patriarchs.  After that came a son, a cousin, an inlaw, and, now, even a grandchild. The choice of the next story after the first two trilogies was easy enough. There was always one character that would slip into whatever Murray tale I was working on, slyly demanding his or her story. That is when the series began to expand to include the past. The clan, however, remains the tie that binds the whole series together, from the first book down through all that has followed.

Medieval Scotland is the stage the Murray clan struts on.  I am sometimes amazed at how widely the tales have spread out from the first one. The small clan ruled by three brothers has definitely grown, gaining allies, power, enemies, and wealth along the way. Despite how far they go, how convoluted those ties to the patriarchs become, it all still harkens back to those first three men. One thing that remains in all the stories: the strong familial bond.

Each Murray tale is its own story, the plot unconnected to the previous ones. Each can be read alone without needing to go all the way back to the beginning to find the thread of some storyline. These are stories of a clan, a family, and all the members of it, whether they are ones of the blood or the heart. The stage may belong to the Murray clan, but they allow friends and allies the use of it from time to time, especially when that person is undoubtedly soon to join the clan in some way.

Highland Master is the tale of Sir Brett Murray, the son of Nigel and Gisele from Highland Honor. He is rumored to be a rogue, as most Murray men are, and very late to settle down. Then he meets Lady Triona and his chivalrous instincts stir to life, along with a strong dose of lust.  As with all the rest of his kinsmen and women, he finds the path to happiness twisted and somewhat rocky. There are also several people from past books who make an appearance to give him aid, whether he welcomes it or not.  Readers of the series may enjoy their visit with these characters.

I love writing the Murray stories. I often feel as much a part of the clan as the characters I write about.  Highland Master shows how, no matter how many years have passed, the ties between the growing number of Murrays remain strong and true.

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Turkey Day is this Thursday (!) and I am so excited to celebrate this glorious holiday with family and friends – and to eat my mother’s amazing stuffing. NOOK has plenty of great Thanksgiving-themed apps to get us all in the holiday spirit, from exciting games to festive wallpaper to helpful recipes to prepare you for the big meal.

 

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**For the most current Free Friday selections, please visit the New NOOK Blog at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/nook-blog/category/free-fridays/

 

Today's Free Fridays book selection is A Darcy Christmas by Amanda Grange, Sharon Lathan, and Carolyn Eberhart - a holiday tribute to the master storyteller Jane Austen, in the spirit of the season!

 

This collection of novellas celebrates the magic of Christmas paired with the timeless love stories of one of England's most renowned novelists. Relive the romance of Pride and Prejudice with a holiday twist. A must for any Jane Austen fan.

 


Today's Free Fridays app selection is Survival Run with Bear Grylls by F84 Games - an action-packed game app where you race for your life against a ferocious grizzly bear!

 

There's danger around every corner and Bear Grylls (Man Vs. Wild) knows how to handle it - but do you? Run through different nature settings and collect coins and other prizes like Rocket Boots and Jetpacks to survive, and unlock nine different versions of Bear to fight against the relentless wilderness. Bear against bear - it's never been more fun!


 

Each week, we ask our featured author to recommend a book or author that you may want to check out. Since authors are such passionate readers themselves, we thought you might like to find out what they love to read, too! Here’s what Amanda Grange recommends:

 

I heartily recommend Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer. It's a lively, sparkling Regency romance with a spirited heroine who pits her wits against the arrogant hero, leading to much hilarity and a satisfyingly happy ending. Best of all, Heyer wrote a whole series of Regency romances, all full of bright, lively characters and hilarious plots. They make perfect winter tonics!

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Love Rocks is a look at new self-published romance titles from the community at Rock*It Reads.Today's author, Lila DiPasqua, is a national bestselling author of wicked & witty historical romance novels for Penguin/Berkley, as well as self-published works. She is best known for her critically acclaimed Fiery Tales series. Watch for her upcoming holiday novella (part of the Fiery Tales series) The Duke's Match Girl, a steamy, romantic retelling of The Little Match Girl (out Dec. 1, 2013).  

 

 

 

 

The Christmas season is upon us. You’d like to start a new series. Try something different. But do you really have the time to invest? Especially when your Christmas list is long. And you still haven’t figured out what to get Uncle Bob (He’s always so difficult to buy for.)

 

I have a soft spot for historical romance novels. It’s what I write, after all. And there’s a wonderful trend that I love—the historical romance novella written as a standalone story that’s part an existing series. Or in some cases, used to launch a new series.

What better way to sample a brand new series that’s caught your eye than to dive into a novella?

 

The great thing about indie publishing is that the author has total creative control. She can do something outside the box. Here are a couple of historical novellas that don’t feature your usual British aristocratic hero.

 

Oh, these heroes are definitely handsome. Irresistible and refreshingly different.

 

A Night of Forever by Lori Brighton

 

Who is Aidan Callaghan? Mary Ellen James is intent on uncovering the truth about the mysterious man. But as she soon finds out, some things are best left buried in the past.

 

In this historical romance novella, Mary Ellen is a sensible woman. She is looking for a man with a title and wealth, not because she’s shallow. But because she’s known the realities of living life while lacking both. Her brother-in-law’s friend is mysterious. And seemingly without means. So why can’t she stop thinking about Aidan? He’s all wrong for her.

 

In more ways than one.

 

You see, Aidan is a vampire. Yeah, that’s going to put a monkey wrench in her plans. This is a fast paced novella, with great chemistry between Mary Ellen and Aiden. She’s brave. He’s protective. Add in suspense and action and you’ve got a delightful read. I’m definitely going to check our Lori Brighton’s other books in The Night Series.

 

Romancing Lady Stone by Delilah Marvelle

 

At forty, Lady Cecilia Evangeline Stone thinks she has everything a woman could ever want. A title, a fortune, and four children who make her proud. After a marriage of convenience that was anything but convenient, she has no desire to complicate her life by including a man in it again. When her eldest son announces his engagement to a Russian actress in Saint Petersburg, Cecilia sets out to do what any good mother would do: stop the wedding. Unfortunately, destiny has other plans.

 

Konstantin Alexie Levin never considered himself to be a villain. In fact, he considers himself to be a Russian gentleman. Having grown up in a refined and well-educated family that embraced criminal life to avoid debtor's prison, the only thing preventing him from knowing happiness is the rest of the world. Everything changes, however, when Konstantin is given a chance to start life anew and travel to London to collect an unexpected reward for saving a man's life. To his surprise, he is about to become a hero at midnight to a beautiful aristocrat who desperately needs his help. The problem is...he wants to do more than save Lady Stone. He wants to make the woman his, all his.

 

Oh, how I loved Konstantin! He’s Russian. A former criminal. A little dangerous. And a man who definitely knows how to come to a woman’s aid. He is what every hero is made of. A chance encounter in a carriage puts him in the path of a beautiful, yet older woman, Cecilia. She’s been drugged, robbed and stranded in Russia. He doesn’t hesitate to help her find her son. Yet, the longer they’re together, the more compatible you see they are—despite the age difference. And their very different backgrounds.

 

I adored the story behind Konstantin’s prized pocket watch and his belief in destiny. Romancing Lady Stone is part of Delilah Marvelle’s School of Gallantry series. I’m now very eager to read her upcoming Whipping Society series!

 

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This piece is from the Barnes & Noble Review, originally posted on November 13, 2013.

 

In this space for the past four years, I've described and evaluated the National Book Award fiction finalists before the winner was selected. Two months ago the judges announced a long list of ten books that was reduced last month to five works. Between the two announcements, experiments reported in Science demonstrated what fiction writers and readers have assumed all along -- that reading literary fiction has a positive effect on social perception, emotional intelligence, and empathy. Immersed as I was in the latest crop of entrants for literary laurels, I wondered: What if the five judges used these personal and social benefits as an important criterion when choosing a winner on November 20th?  Which book would most increase empathy?  Since, Science says, commercial fiction does not have the same effect, what would be the winner's distinctly literary methods?


The reported benefits issue from readers' understanding of characters -- people unlike themselves, persons with mixed motives and conflicting emotions in confusing situations, individuals presenting subtle psychological markers -- and, presumably, from readers' understanding of when and how and why they empathize. But what about the authors?  When would the relationship between readers and authors instruct and improve empathy?  Here I'll abandon what science might say and offer my own prescriptive answer -- influenced by finalist Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers, which begins with a young woman attempting a new speed record on an experimental motorcycle. I think readers have or, speaking as a novelist now, should have their capacity for empathy enlarged by riding along with daredevil authors, those who risk their writing lives to advance the art of fiction, who choose dangerous subject matter, chance frightening off readers with unpopular ideas or unconventional styles, and drive beyond their own comfort zones in earlier books. Kushner's protagonist hits a wind shear and crashes. No matter, better the author's "splendid failure" that Faulkner praised than modest success.


A former NBA fiction judge and now an NBA junkie, I read all of the books on the long list, which is new this year. I'm happy to report that the judges left out of the final five several works that were brimming with empathy but lacking in adventurousness. Unfortunately the judges also excluded the novel that would have been my pick for the award, so I'll comment on it -- don't scroll now -- after my mini-reviews of and samples from the books that can actually win. Having correctly picked the winner -- the daredevil novel Let the Great World Spin -- only one of the last four years, I like the "splendid failure" of selecting this time around a work that can't take the prize.

Before George Saunders' collection of stories Tenth of December was published in the winter, it was hailed as "the best book you'll read this year" in The New York Times and was then widely praised for its compassionate treatment of folks who, in his word, suffer from "paucity" -- of intelligence or education or sanity, of economic success or family happiness, of language to express their emotions. Despite or because of their limitations, Saunders' characters are powerful empathizers. The first and last stories present self-risking rescuers: a boy neurotically trapped in his parents' rules breaks them to save a girl from rape, a middle-aged man with brain cancer interrupts his suicide to save a schizoid boy from hypothermia. In the longest story, "The Semplica Girl Diaries," a debt-ridden father feels sorry for a daughter who will have no birthday party:

Poor Lilly. Her sweet hopeful face when tiny, wearing Burger King crown, and now this? She did not know was destined to be, not princess, but poor girl. Poorish girl. Girl not-the-richest.
No party, no present. Possibly no pic of cheetah in IOU. Could draw cheetah but might then think she was getting camel. Or not getting camel, rather. Am not best drawer. Ha ha!  Must keep spirits up. Laughter best medicine etc., etc.

From this bathetic realism, Saunders shifts to the providential fantastical: the father wins the lottery and arranges to have four immigrant women suspended on a rack in his front yard to impress neighbors and please his daughter. This sudden and dead-pan shift represents the shortcomings of Saunders' fiction: his use of extreme situations and crazed characters who are easy to pity -- if one is not sharing a secret laugh with the author at their expense ("Laughter best medicine"). Run across in a glossy magazine, the primer-style stories seem unusually "natural." Read and re-read together, they betray their contrivances and routines. The author comes to resemble the man in "My Chivalric Fiasco" who takes the drug "KnightLyfe," automatically becomes empathetic with everyone, and speaks artificially. Tenth of December does not advance Saunders' craft, only his career as a short-order Vonnegut.

Thomas Pynchon has said Saunders tells "just the kinds of stories we need to get us through these times," so it's no surprise that Bleeding Edge is a maximal version of Saunders' fabrications. Of the thirty or so characters who appear in the novel, only Pynchon's focal figure -- Maxine Tarnow, New York fraud investigator and mother of two young children -- is allowed enough history and behavior to elicit much empathy. Below is the wised-up Maxine responding to an obvious male villain:

"You want to hire me?  For money? Or were you planning to rely on charm?"
He finds a pair of tortoiseshell Wayfarer clones in his coat pocket and covers his eyes. Finally. Smiles, with that precision mouth. "Am I that much of a bad guy?"
"Oh. Now I'm supposed to help him with his self-esteem. Dr. Maxine here. Listen, a suggestion, you're from D.C., try the self-help section at Politics & Prose -- empathy, we're all out of that today, the truck didn't show up."

Tough-talking Maxine, no Dr. Ruth or Jewish mother here, learns to sympathize with even this shaded avatar of the Pynchonian "They," but the growth of her emotional intelligence plays only a small part in a novel overloaded with pointless plot proliferations, implausible or stereotyped heavies, and unoriginal Manhattan local color. So Bleeding Edge has to rely on its 200l history: for menace, the rise of the Internet, and for empathy, the fall of the Trade Towers. Pynchon displays his usual techie expertise but flunks 9/11, treating it distantly and perfunctorily as he pushes along his detective comedy to its happy family ending. "Nothing so loathsome as a sentimental surrealist," Pynchon says in Gravity's Rainbow. Bleeding Edge isn't loathsome. But lacking a hard edge, it is gravitas-defying and strangely genial given the "atrocity" it includes. I hate to disagree with another Barnes & Noble Review writer, but that most daredevil of novelists in his early works is not in Bleeding Edge "rollicking" along into the now but lumbering backward to the goofball self-indulgence of his last novel, Inherent Vice.

"Signs are taken for wonders," Eliot wrote in "Gerontion." The levity of Saunders and Pynchon is not levitation; devil-may-care is not the same as daredevil. Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers is no "wonder" but is the most intellectually and culturally ambitious of the finalists, for she invents the twentieth-century history of an Italian motorcycle company, Moto Valera, so she can depict 1920s Futurists and 1970s political terrorists in Rome. In between are '60s and '70s New York anarchists and artists, including the sculptor Sandro Valera. Continuity is provided by a more than plucky protagonist, a recent grad filmmaker called Reno, who crashes a Valera in Nevada, lives with Sandro in New York, listens to him pontificate, observes his theory-gibbering friends, and then, on a trip to Italy, leaves Sandro and lives with young gun-toting radicals who may have kidnapped Sandro's brother. Reno is an appealing narrator, but, like the Futurists, Kushner's characters are more concerned with objects -- motorcycles, Sandro's aluminum boxes, guns -- and abstractions than with subtle or profound emotional attachments. In the following passage, Reno is watching a woman in a film who resembles Reno observing her elders:

Gazing at department store mannequins as if they possessed something essential and human that she lacked. Mannequins were carefully positioned to look natural, looking off in this direction or that but never at us. This was part of the Sears Mannequin Standard….If the mannequins made eye contact with shoppers they would disrupt the dream, the shopper's projection. A mannequin's job was to sell us to ourselves in a more perfect version for $19.99.
The woman peered at the mannequins for guidance. Examining
 their enameled makeup, a purse dangling from a stiff arm, a pole supporting each life-size figure from behind, disappearing into a hole cut into the rear seam of her slacks. They each have a pole up their ass, says the sudden wryness in the woman's face.

Art "had to involve risk, some genuine risk," Reno thinks at the novel's beginning. Kushner's gamble is wryly treating her eccentric characters like objects, like "enameled" mannequins, so that Reno can eventually recognize the "pole up their ass," their inhumanly fixed positions. The Flamethrowers takes its title from Italian soldiers in World War I whose weapons made a dramatic show but were impractical. Kushner employs her risky method of character portrayal to examine inflammatory twentieth-century activities -- technological, political, artistic, erotic -- more dedicated to thrills than to social improvement or personal empathy. Although I admire Kushner's spunk and range of knowledge, her high-heat sentences, and her mockery of artists who burn with Pater's "hard, gem-like flame" but produce little, Kushner implausibly retards Reno's developing maturity. Because Reno is slow to judge those who use her, Kushner has plenty of time to include set pieces that fill out the novel's thematics but sometimes downshift this work about speed into low gear. I, personally, wouldn't object to a fiction obsessed with objects (rather than people) receiving the award, but if judges really did use empathy training as a criterion The Flamethrowers would probably be found wanting, too cool and collected.

Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowland is also a bi-national novel stretching over many decades and including revolutionary youths, but Lahiri is more traditional in her treatment of intimate human relations. Subhash and Udayan are inseparable Hindu brothers growing up in 1950s Calcutta. After Subhash leaves for graduate study in the United States, Udayan makes bombs for a communist party and is killed by the police. Subhash returns to India, takes pity on Udayan's pregnant widow, Gauri, marries her, and brings her to Rhode Island where she is a miserable mother, Subhash is a devoted father, and their daughter Bela hates both of them after her mother walks out. Lahiri follows their lives and records their thoughts until Subhash and Gauri are in their sixties. In the following passage, Gauri thinks about why raising her daughter is "not bringing meaning to her life":

In the beginning she'd told herself that it [meaning] was like a thing misplaced: a favorite pen that would turn up a few weeks later, wedged between the sofa cushions, or discreetly sitting beneath a sheaf of papers. Once found, it would never be lost sight of again. To look for such a misplaced item only made it worse. If she waited long enough, she told herself, there it would be.
But it was not turning up; after five years, in spite of all the time, all the hours she and Bela spent together, the love she'd once felt for Udayan refused to reconstitute itself. Instead there was a growing numbness that inhibited her, that impaired her.

Everyone will love Subhash. Lahiri's challenge and accomplishment are in her teasing out readers' empathy for her initially unlikeable, more complex women. But The Lowland is so insistently conventional -- in its omniscience and low-key style, in its depiction of teeming Calcutta streets and empty American suburbs, family skeletons and criminal secrets, immigrant pleasures and assimilation anxieties, generational conflicts and tearful resolutions -- that I felt little sympathy for the novelist as creator, as inventor of novelty. Lahiri has settled for (as Gauri did not) the traditional role and comfortable home of the immigrant writer, the multigenerational chronicle. The Lowland is the kind of almost lowbrow novel -- earnest, transparent, endearing but undaring -- that often wins the Pulitzer Prize, but National Book Award judges can do better.

In 1996 Jane Smiley published a provocative essay asserting that Uncle Tom's Cabin was superior to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the sentimental novel better than the comic bildungsroman. The Lowland is in Stowe's tradition; James McBride's The Good Lord Bird is Huckleberry Finn's African-American cousin. Huck temporarily wore a dress to get information. McBride's protagonist, Henry Shackleford, an adolescent slave in Kansas, passes as a girl for three years to avoid going into combat for abolitionist John Brown, who liberated and adopted him. "Henrietta" can also get away with living in a whorehouse, spying on slavers for Brown, and manipulating dimwits "she" meets on her quest for freedom. Like Brown the murdering moralist, Henry/Henrietta is a several-sided character who initially elicits responses oscillating between empathy and antipathy.

Near the novel's end, Henry is infatuated with Brown's daughter, Annie, who is taking him north under a load of hay. When Henry realizes he forgot to tell a password to "Captain" Brown, thus endangering the attack at Harpers Ferry, Henry has, like Huck with Jim far down the river, a crisis of conscience. Understanding both Brown's madness and goodness, Henry discovers an empathy that turns a girl into a man:

The thought of the Captain getting deadened on account of me made me feel ten times worse than Annie not loving me, which if she'd'a knowed what I was, she'd'a been disgusted with me, a nigger, playing a girl, not man enough to be a man…. And I'd have her father's blood on my hands the rest of my life, laying there like a coward under the hay and not being a natural man, man enough to go back and tell him the words that might help him live five minutes longer, for while he was a fool, his life was dear to him as mine's was to me, and he'd risked that life many times on my account. God damn it to hell.

In a parallel situation, Huck says he'll save Jim and go to hell. McBride dares the devil by telling the life of Brown -- from Kansas in 1856 to Harpers Ferry in 1859 -- in the language of an illiterate narrator. Like Brown, McBride will suspend action to quote copious Bible verses against religious hypocrites. Like the Russell Banks of his Brown novel, Cloudsplitter, McBride knows his mid-nineteenth century, its savage particulars and ugly politics. And like that equal-opportunity provocateur Ishmael Reed, McBride has no compunctions about combining low comedy and high dudgeon to attack icons such as Frederick Douglass. But mostly McBride is unlike the other finalists because of the dangers he courts: turning an American classic upside-down while improving its careless plotting, treating the satanic peculiar institution and its saintly peculiar opponent in a humorous context. A slave tells Henry, "Every nigger got the same job…to tell a story the white man likes." Not everyone, white or black, will like the audacity of The Good Lord Bird, but I think McBride deserves the award. He probably won't get it. More than two decades have passed since a comic novel won. Perhaps this year's judges will summon some courage and recognize The Good Lord Bird, a work of conflicting empathies, artistic daring, and pointed pleasure.

And now the finalist that should have been: Anthony Marra's novel A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. The title is the definition of "life" in a Russian medical dictionary and a description of Marra's narrative structure -- isolated yet connected stories about life-and-death matters in war-ravaged Chechnya during the early years of this century. The book is also a constellation of finalists' virtues: Kushner's knowledge of violence and her vivid sentences, Lahiri's understanding of how politics and cultural difference can destroy families, McBride's presentation of moral conundrums with mother wit.

The people of Chechnya and even the invading Russian soldiers are, says a character, "victims of absurdism," but Marra's novel is no pity party. Yes, all citizens are scratching to survive in a collapsed infrastructure where the sale of rubble is a growth industry. Marra's characters, though, are particularized victims -- of evasion they might call stupidity, of guilty altruism, of their betrayal of others. A man informs on his friends so his father can get needed insulin, and the father almost kills the son for his charity. As individuals' secrets are revealed and stories intertwined, the village where most of Marra's characters live becomes an empathy experiment, the novelistic equivalent of a scientific thought experiment, for both characters and readers.

The village doctor, Akhmed, rescues his friend Dokka's eight-year-old daughter, Havaa, after Dokka is disappeared and his house burned down. Akhmed takes the girl to a hospital in a nearby town, where he offers to work if the director (and only remaining doctor) Sonja, will keep the girl, now hunted by the Russians. Although traumatized into cynicism by the suffering she treats and the disappearance of her sister, Sonja agrees to shelter Havaa -- and Marra's five-day plot begins. What compromises and sacrifices will the Chechen Akhmed and ethnic Russian Sonja have to endure to save this one girl? Will they succeed? Into his suspense narrative Marra interjects the adults' histories and other villagers' back stories, as well as accounts of the Chechen people who were all victimized when Stalin removed them, like Havaa, from their homes and land.

While still in the village, Havaa watched her companion Akim die and constructed a memorial that an adult named Natasha thinks is a scarecrow:

Too young to explain in words, the girl's face was old enough to show the loss that was that name. Natasha, not understanding what this meant, was briefly annoyed, believing it profligate to expend pity on a scarecrow when there were more deserving life forms, but of all people, who was she to judge how a girl disburses her empathy. She wrapped her arm around Havaa. The whole of the girl's bony shoulder fit in the cup of her palm, and the girl reached up and held on to her fingers. If Akim could have seen the two of them, he would have taunted them for weeks.

Although the Chechens in the novel are all scarecrows, Marra, like Akim, distrusts sentimentality in his disbursing of empathy. The author doesn't mock, but his characters do as they contest the absurdism of their situations with Beckettian banter, inventive curses, Sisyphean buffoonery, and gallows humor. An aged nurse considers "illness and injury as the practical jokes of a God wheezing with laughter." Because Marra's humor is even bleaker and blacker and riskier than McBride's, more like late Twain than Huckleberry Finn, the humor may puzzle readers unused to wit in the ruins. The hazard of sentimentality is also reduced by Marra's constellation structure; his interruptions of the imperiled-child plot prevent readers from too intense an emotional investment in its outcome.

I'm not claiming that Marra's humor and structure make him the Evel Knievel of fiction, but I do believe Marra's novel is superior to the finalists because -- in addition to the qualities I've mentioned -- it is meta-empathetic, a sophisticated experiment that requires readers to think about how and with whom they empathize, maybe victimizers as well as victims. If you dare having your strongest emotions elicited, then reversed, then possibly modified again, then maybe even judged by a novel, read A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, a failed finalist and splendid success. - Tom LeClair


Tom LeClair is the author of five novels, two critical books, and hundreds of essays and reviews in nationally circulated periodicals. He can be reached at thomas.leclair@uc.edu.

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Rose is extremely focused on her career, so it’s hard to find time to date – and understand – men in her city! She decides to try hypnotism to break her disappointing dating routine, and finds herself transported to another world: the quaint country village of Hearts Home, where there are some seriously good-looking local men. As she explores new relationships with these hunks, she starts to understand her true desires – but she needs your help to live happily ever after! While you follow Rose’s story, you decide what she’ll say next and which Prince Charming to pursue. With several possible endings, you can create numerous true love fantasies for Rose – and you!

 

This app is recommended for ages 12 and up.


Are you on Twitter? Tell @nookBN what you’re reading, watching, and playing with hashtag #TellNOOK.

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**For the most current Free Friday selections, please visit the New NOOK Blog at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/nook-blog/category/free-fridays/

 

Today's Free Fridays book selection is The Knitter's Life List by Gwen W. Steege - a rich and comprehensive collection of must-have experiences and knowledge for knitters, from the expert purler to the true beginner.

 

Ever wanted to try a unique variety of fiber, a classic sweater design, or find the yarn-friendliest city in America? This book contains seemingly infinite advice, garnered from interviews with top knitters from all over the country, on unique patterns, ground-breaking designers in the field, and even suggestions of knitting-related movies and museums - basically, everything you've ever wanted to know about this beloved textile tradition.

 

Friendly to all levels of knitting, The Knitter's Life List is a joyous exploration of a craft that'll enrich your winter days and nights - plus, 'tis the season for mittens, hats, and cozy woolen socks!


Today’s Free Fridays App selection is Math Bugaboo – a fun and engaging educational app that introduces children to the wonders of math!

 

If your child isn’t so crazy about learning arithmetic, Math Bugaboo offers exciting games that teach addition, subtraction, multiplication and division with ease and simplicity. Just watch the bugs as they carry numbers across your NOOK screen, and pair up the right critters to get the correct answer to the equation – but be sure to watch out for some angry bees! Each level increases in difficulty, and covers math tables from numbers 1 through 12, so your child will learn math essentials in a comprehensive, enjoyable manner.

 

For more great educational game apps from Bugaboo Math Games for Kids, click here.


Each week, we ask our featured author to recommend a book or author that you may want to check out. Since authors are such passionate readers themselves, we thought you might like to find out what they love to read, too! Here’s what Gwen recommends:

 

The Spinner's Book of Yarn Designs by Sarah Anderson: My goal is to spin my way through the dozens of yarn designs in Sarah’s book, hoping to become a better spinner as I do. Sarah, with her spot-on descriptions of how to create each yarn, from the simplest and most basic, to the craziest and most glamorous, is the perfect guide. Plus, the yarns are all tantalizingly beautiful – truly a library full of inspiration.

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What Happens At Christmas author Victoria Alexander loves the holidays, but her previous career in TV made it difficult for her and her husband to find time to celebrate. So they created a unique holiday tradition all their own. Victoria tells us all about it, plus shares a classic New Years recipe - today on the NOOK Blog.

 

Once upon a time, my husband and I both worked at television stations which meant we rarely had holidays off unless they fell on our usual days off. Instead of having a New Year's Eve party, we started having a Not-On-New-Year's-Eve party which traditionally falls on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year's (unless New Year's Eve actually falls on a Friday or Saturday, then it becomes The Not-On-New-Year's-Eve Party on New Year's Eve).

 

We have been having this party every year forever; it is our big holiday entertaining tradition. The house is completely decorated (it really does look its best at Christmas), and we invite everyone we know. We've often joked that even if we didn’t have the party, people would show up anyway.

 

The tradition begins by coming up with unique invitations, and when you do something a little different, you have to keep doing it; people expect it. Nothing is sacred on these invitations—not even the dogs. Since we send out party invitations instead of Christmas Cards, I’ve mention it on the invitation, i.e.: even if you can't make the party—Happy Holidays!!!

 

The menu tends to change every year with one exception—my pâté. I generally do not like liver in any form, but I love this. I guess if you include mushrooms, wine and butter—anything will taste good.


Really Good Pâté

 

Sauté 1lb mushrooms, 1 bunch sliced green onions, 6 cloves of garlic and 1 stick butter until soft

Push them to one side, and add 1 lb chicken livers 

Cook livers just until done

Add 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp rosemary, ½ tsp dill, ½ tsp dry mustard

Cover almost completely with red wine

Simmer until liquid is reduced by half

Throw it all into a food processor and blend with 1 stick of butter 

Chill

Serve with crackers or toasted baguette slices


 While the Not-On-New-Year's Eve party is our big holiday party it's not the only entertaining we do. We usually have all sorts of casual gatherings and always have a table full of friends for Christmas dinner.

           

           

Happy Holidays!

Victoria

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Readers have found a lot of great new books, thanks to our NOOK First collection. We’re constantly updating our featured titles, so there’s always something fresh to dig into. Some recent favorites are highlighted below, but don’t forget to explore the entire range of NOOK First selections.

 

 

The Disappearance of Lizzy Ross  by Jessica Schein

 

 

Mimi Lerner and Lizzy Ross have been best friends since high school began and now, as seniors, they've made big plans together—from a trip to the Bahamas only months away to going to college the following year and ruling it like they do high school. But when Lizzy goes MIA after a party Mimi throws at a posh Manhattan hotel, everything is suddenly up in the air and Mimi must face facts: Lizzy Ross may not be the girl she knew, and the life she thought she'd have is going in a very different direction.

 

 

 

Saguaro  by Carson Mell

 

Saguaro chronicles the life of rock legend Bobby Bird as he finds himself rolled up in barbiturates, at sea with satanic cults, finding true love, selling out, and coming back. Bobby Bird’s unique voice—and fistfights with Bob Dylan—place him irrevocably in America’s cultural and musical history.

Bobby Bird may be many things—a legend in pink cotton, a living history in tattoos, the very embodiment of rock and roll—but he isn’t a bad man. At least not all the time. He made his name as a crooner, revered as a singer with soul, a soul he quickly sold without ever considering the implications.

Like Bob Dylan’s Chronicles Volume One, Patti Smith’s Just Kids, and Keith Richards’ Life, Saguaro allows us to look behind the curtain of celebrity. Because it’s an American tradition to carefully observe the legends of our time, to live vicariously through the adventures of our heroes. Just like the paths of all those who live fast and hard, Bobby’s path is one better experienced second-hand, beset, as it is, on all sides by drugs, dangerous women, and fisticuffs. Now if Bobby teaches us one thing, it’s that we can learn from our mistakes, and fortunately he’s made enough to fill a textbook.

 

Now Or Never (A Last Chance Romance)  

 

Claire is looking forward to some romance now that her son is finally off to college. As a devoted single mother she desperately needs to get her groove back and make up for lost time. But a sudden crisis has her wondering if her sex life will be over before she even goes on her first date.

When Claire meets Justin, she cannot understand why the handsome, charming guy who can get any woman he wants is so preoccupied with her and her dilemma. What is wrong with him? And why is he pushing Claire so hard to complete her sexual bucket list?

Figuring out Justin and the getting through her ‘now or never’ list of fantasies just might get Claire her real life happily ever after…

 

Charisma  

 

Haunted by visions and voices for most of her life, Sarah Lange manages to shut them out, until a violent incident and near death experience shatter her earthly existence. She is plagued by heavenly voices and dogged by a desire to return "home". Frightened by her desire to terminate her existence on earth, she checks into a trauma center in Malibu, California and meets Dr. David Sutton, an intellectual, a scientist, a reductionist, someone who believes in nothing beyond his immediate experience. David’s world is as divorced from mystery and magic as Sarah’s is alive and animated by it.

Their sessions open up a dialogue about the separation of worlds—one easily defined and explained and one unknowable and waiting on some other side of human experience.

David, worn down by a mean spirited and demanding family, has grown disillusioned in his work as a therapist while Sarah has come to feel liberated by her impulse to escape all worldly demands. Even as his faith in his profession leaks away, David struggles to bring his disturbed patient back into the rules of the real world.

The sessions between the two evolve into an exploration of what it takes to exist in the world, the courage required to confront life on its own terms, and the even greater courage it takes to deny the constrictions of life.

In a desperate effort to define herself, Sarah "escapes", putting her own life as well as the life of a fellow trauma patient at risk and David must decide how far he is willing to go to save a patient and ultimately himself.

 


 

Are you on Twitter? Tell @nookBN what you’re reading, watching, and playing with hashtag #TellNOOK.

 

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It pays to have a worldly uncle who brings back fascinating souvenirs from his travels – especially if those souvenirs include a mysterious puzzle, that, once solved, will open the door to a magical land that’s yours for the taking! Keep an eye out for important symbols and puzzle pieces that will guide you through this other world – there’s a dynamic map and a hint system that’ll help you on your way to the reward at the finish.

 

This lushly illustrated game app is recommended for children ages 6 and up.

 

For more Fire Maple Games apps, click here.

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In his bestselling The Good Soldiers, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Finkel embedded with the 2-16 Infantry battalion to write a vivid, on-the-ground account of the Surge. In his new book Thank You for Your Service, he has done something even more extraordinary—he has embedded with the same soldiers back home, taking a similarly immersive approach to capturing what their lives are like after war. As we remember the men and women who have served our country this Veterans’ Day, here is a snapshot from the research of a reporter embedded not on the battlefield but on the front lines of the “after-war.”

 

 

Adam Schumann is driving, trying not to speed. Michael Emory is in the passenger seat, trying to keep his balance. I’m in the back seat, watching and taking notes for my book, Thank You For Your Service.

Three years before, in the war, Emory had been shot in the head by a sniper, and Schumann had carried him on his back down three flights of stairs. Emory should have been dead. But here he is. He shouldn’t be able to talk. He talks. He shouldn’t be able to walk. He walks. Not that it’s been easy. There was the day, for instance, that he tried to kill himself by biting through one of his wrists.

 

It hasn’t been easy for Schumann, either, who three years and several suicide attempts later is still tasting Emory’s blood.

 

But they are both still alive, and seeing each other for the first time since that day.

 

Emory holds out his right hand, the one he bit, toward Schumann. He wishes he could have tried it on his left hand, he says, the one that remains paralyzed and without feeling, because he wouldn’t have felt his teeth and might have been able to finish. But the right one was the one he could lift to his mouth.

 

Schumann takes Emory’s hand.

 

“I appreciate it,” Emory says.

 

Schumann’s eyes redden and fill with tears.

 

“Somebody had to do it,” he says.

 

This is what I see from the back seat.

 

In the after-war, this is what any of us can see if we take the time.

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**For the most current Free Friday selections, please visit the New NOOK Blog at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/nook-blog/category/free-fridays/

 

Today's Free Fridays book selection is Wasteland by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan - a dystopian thriller perfect for Allegiant and The Hunger Games fans, and the first installment of the Wasteland trilogy.

 

Wasteland is an unrecognizable futuristic America, a post-apocalyptic nightmare-scape where citizens marry at 14 years old, are considered elders at 17, and die at just 19. Plus, residents of Wasteland are constantly under attack from rampant illness and siege from brutal outcasts, called variants, who live on the outskirts of towns.

 

But Esther doesn't seem to fit in - at 15 years old, she hasn't yet partnered up with anyone, and her best friend, Levi, belongs to a band of feared variants.Then she meets the new guy in town, Caleb, and thinks she may have found her - and the town's - salvation and reason to survive. But does Caleb have sinister motives of his own?


Today's Free Fridays app selection is Quell by Toy Studio LLC - a unique app that's an ocean of fun Zen-like gameplay!

 

You're a single raindrop whose task is to collect pearls stationed around a complex puzzle. You can use the elements (Earth, Air, Water, Fire) to your advantage, but be careful - some elements will dry you up!

 

 Quell contains over 80 visually-stunning levels, plus 4 secret levels. It's the most fun you can have with water without getting wet!

 

For more great Toy Studio LLC games, click here.


 Each week, we ask our featured author to recommend a book or author that you may want to check out. Since authors are such passionate readers themselves, we thought you might like to find out what they love to read, too! Here’s what Susan and Laurence recommend:

 

I loved The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. Although it’s also a post-apocalyptic story of survival, Heller’s book takes a decidedly different and adult angle. Gritty, suspenseful, and beautifully written, The Dog Stars deals with issues we write about in our trilogy: the battle over limited resources, trust, and the search for human connection, all set against a backdrop of global tragedy. - Susan Kim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard: J.G. Ballard was a great science fiction writer, but one of his best novels is based on reality: the story of his life as a child in Shanghai when the Japanese invaded during WWII. Like "Huckleberry Finn" and "Oliver Twist," it's a novel about a young person that has just as much--if not more--meaning for adults than for kids. - Laurence Klavan

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Summer may be over, but along with those wintery chills comes the season's greatest treat - delicious and hearty home cooking. The Kinfolk Table is a yummy amalgamation of recipes from folks all across the country striving for simple yet mouthwatering meals that harken back to a different century. From one-pot meals to unforgettable sandwiches, this collection of recipes is curated by people like you, for you - in pursuit of unforgettable, and easily replicable, meals. Find a recipe from the cookbook - Almond-Coconut Granola - below.

 

 

 

Almond-Coconut Granola

Makes 6 cups/500 grams

 

3 cups (101/2 ounces/300 grams) whole rolled oats

1 cup (6 ounces/170 grams) whole raw almonds, coarsely chopped11-6-2013 10-27-49 AM.jpg

1/2 cup (21/2 ounces/70 grams) whole flaxseeds

1/2 cup (13/4 ounces/50 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup (80 milliliters) vegetable oil

1/3 cup (4 ounces/115 grams) honey

1/4 cup (60 milliliters) fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) vanilla extract

 

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).

 

Combine the oats, almonds, flaxseeds, coconut, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk the oil, honey, orange juice, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the oil mixture to the oat mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.

 

Spread the granola on a baking sheet. Bake, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes, for 45 to 60 minutes or until golden and dry. Transfer the sheet to a rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes. The granola can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks and frozen for up to 4 weeks.

 


Tell Me: What's your favorite cold weather recipe?

 

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In honor of National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, author Elizabeth Bass tells the story of her grandmother's struggle with the illness and its far-reaching effects on all those who knew and loved her - today on the NOOK Blog. Her poignant novel about a family in a similar crisis, Wherever Grace Is Needed, is available on NOOK.

 

 

 

After my mother dropped me off that afternoon at the end of my grandparents’ secluded, rural lane, I soon sensed that something wasn’t right. Dinner preparations seemed to take forever, and we ended up eating an odd meal that included burned pork chops and blueberry muffins with no blueberries. My grandmother acted frustratingly distant, and my stabs at conversation would peter out after a few stiff exchanges. After dinner, as I was consoling myself with a plate of chocolate-covered grahams and a Root Beer, when she finally revealed the source of the tension. She announced, solemnly, that there was a good chance that a person who wanted to kill her would try to break into the house during the night and make an attempt on her life. I would probably be spared this madman’s wrath, but she thought I should be warned.

 

This was my first run-in with dementia. My grandmother had many good days ahead of her, but also many more episodes like this one. It was the early 1980s, and I was only beginning to hear about Alzheimer’s disease, primarily because the actress Rita Hayworth had been diagnosed with it. My grandmother never was. She was simply declared to be old, or suffering from senile dementia. But through her, my family lived through the sadness that families of Alzheimer’s sufferers know—of watching a loved one losing their mental faculties and their memory. Looking into the eyes of the woman who introduced me to the joy of reading, who taught me how to tie my shoes, who took such comical, ruthless joy in knocking my croquet ball into the trees, and realizing that she didn’t recognize me at all remains one of my hardest memories.

 

Three decades after that first startling, bewildering visit with my grandmother, the world knows more about Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia in general, but it is still far from a cure. I’ve always felt a personal animosity to the disease, as well as an added interest in Alzheimer’s research. When I was researching my novel Wherever Grace Is Needed, during which time so many people generously shared their own family experiences of Alzheimer’s Disease, it became clearer to me than ever that the suffering falls equally hard on the person afflicted and their caregivers. To my mind, that makes it a doubly heartbreaking disease.

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FB_Sweeps_PostImage_410x410.jpgWe were very excited last Wednesday to announce the release of our newest eReader: the NOOK GlowLight! Holding up to 2,000 books and 18% lighter than our NOOK Simple Touch™, the GlowLight is our lightest, highest resolution eReader yet - and we're giving away 10 of them!

 

Enter our Facebook Sweepstakes by November 14th to be one of 10 lucky fans to win. Winners will be announced on November 18th.

 

Every Book Deserves a Great Reader. Click here for details on how to enter.

 

 

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 Do you have a favorite childhood toy? When I was young, I used to love to build things like tree houses, forts out of blankets, and bubble warships while I was in the bath. But for smaller projects, I’d always turn to LEGO® – classic, functional, and you can literally build ANYTHING. So when LEGO® Hero Factory Brain Attack was released, I was very excited to play. Better yet, it's FREE.

 

The Hero Factory of Makuhero City is under siege from some very intelligent and evil brains, and it’s up to you to use your battle skills to save the day. You can customize your LEGO® defender with an amazing array of weapons and armor, and select a sidekick for maximum fighting power. Earn extra points to gain more firepower and other battle defenses – the fate of this LEGO® city depends on you!

 


Are you on Twitter? Tell @nookBN what you’re reading, watching, and playing with hashtag #TellNOOK.

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Each week, we ask our featured author to recommend a book or author that you may want to check out. Since authors are such passionate readers themselves, we thought you might like to find out what they love to read, too! Here’s what Julie recommends:

 

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