The Furious Gazelle

Literary as hell.

Book review: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Review by E. Kirshe

The bestselling author of The Night Circus is back with something very different yet also familiar in The Starless Sea.

Erin Morgenstern had readers fall in love with her immersive fantasy world in her debut novel. Those looking to recreate that experience may be disappointed as The Starless Sea is styled very differently, however her knack for creating a fantastical and multidimensional world is all here. 

Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find.

On the one side, we have a story about a man named Zachary Ezra Rawlins, who, upon finding a book in which he is part of the story discovers a much bigger world beneath his real one. Zachary and the people he meets are all part of an old story that will change the fate of this hidden world.

The big strength of The Starless Sea and the thing that had me eager to read all 500 pages was the way Morgenstern tells stories via any sense and medium- built, sculpted, written, carved, heard, tasted, etc. It’s this writing that had readers love The Night Circus and what makes this book worth reading.   Continue reading

Eoin Colfer in conversation with Charles Soule in NYC

Eoin Colfer, author of the bestselling children’s series Artemis Fowl, is back with a new book for adults, Highfire. Last Friday, January 31st, he launched the American leg of the Highfire tour with a can’t-miss event at the Strand’s Rare Book Room.

Colfer spoke along with Charles Soule, author of comics including Star Wars and Daredevil. Both authors had a lot to say on everything from their personal writing processes to dealing with crazed fandoms and more.

How did Highfire come to be? In the book, a boy meets a dragon hidden in a New Orleans swamp, weirdness and humor ensue. Why a boy and why a dragon? When he first set out to write, the book was going to be about a boy that befriends a misanthropic old man who lives alone. After writing a chunk, Colfer realized it was similar to other ideas that had already been done better (his words, not ours). “But what if the old man was a dragon?”

He originally conceived the book as a children’s novel, but then “one day the dragon began to swear and was having a martini for breakfast” and Colfer realized it might be more appropriate for adults.

When Colfer realized the old man was going to be turned into a mythical creature, he set out to choose the right one to fit the story. Why a dragon? “My brain subconsciously had the answers and turned this character into a dragon,” said Colfer. “Also dragons are iconic as far as mythical creatures go.”

If you love reading about Vern and Squib in Highfire, you can look forward to a potential sequel. Colfer has another book planned, “if there’s an appetite for it.”

They also discussed the upcoming Artemis movie, which is finally set to be released this May after years in pre-production (plans for the movie were originally announced in 2001). Apparently, some of the delay came from a struggle to find the right creative team. In an early production meeting, they went around the table and everyone agreed to keep the film set in the iconic Fowl Manor in Dublin, Ireland – until the director asked, “But could it be set in outer space?”

 

Colfer and Soule also took questions from the audience. Here are selected tidbits from the Q&A:

 

  • On advice for new authors, Soule said to, “start small, hone your talent.” “Don’t start by writing a 75-page masterpiece of a comic, don’t start with a novel, write short work, even a page and work out who you are as a writer. Soule added that it’s important to practice finishing work that you start. “No one is going to buy half a novel.”
  • Per Soule, when you have a lot of projects with urgent deadlines, “you make it happen because you’re blessed that it’s happening.” Being an artist or writer is fun, but a lot of the time it’s just the same as having a job – you have to schedule your time, come up with a system, and get things done.
  • Airman is Colfer’s favorite standalone novel that he’s written, as he says it’s a classic old adventure story.
  • Fans are crazy: there’s a chance they’ll all turn on you for even minor things. People feel ownership of things that they love.
  • One of Colfer’s biggest writing regrets is a Doctor Who short story he wrote as a bit of a joke without ever having seen the series – he feels like he let fans down by not putting in the research to get the characters right. As a friend told him, he had “written a great Star Trek episode”
  • Eoin Colfer puts little jokes into his works for kids “for all the dads” he imagines reading the book to their children. He named one of the dwarfs in Artemis Fowl Kolin Ozkopy so that when read aloud, the dads would be surprised into saying “colonoscopy.” When asked why he was laughing, one dad told his kid, “There’s nothing funny about Kolin Ozkopy.”
  • Colfer puts an orange key ring on his office door so his family knows not to disturb him when he’s writing. “I’m either writing or having a nap, no one knows.”

  

To see the Strand’s other upcoming events go here

Highfire by Eoin Colfer is out now from Harper Collins. Click here to buy Highfire.

“The Days Are Long” by Katie Borders

Has anyone actually died of boredom playing trains with their toddler? Marty pushed Thomas around the track, followed by too many cars. He took a tight turn and the last five cars slipped from the grooves, flopping limply to the side. Being a master engineer, Marty was no stranger to this, and calmly filed the trains back where they belonged. Continue reading

Book Review: Highfire by Eoin Colfer

Highfire book coverFor years, Eoin Colfer captivated a generation with Artemis Fowl, his beloved children’s fantasy series. Now with Highfire, he’s written his very first fantasy novel for adults.

Highfire follows a similar tread to Artemis Fowl. Squib is a 15-year-old boy, just young enough to retain a childlike belief in fairies and mythical creatures so that he doesn’t totally lose it when he meets Vern.

Vern is a character straight out of Colfer’s unique sense of humor. The last dragon on Earth, Vern is a wise-cracking misanthrope who spends his days hiding in the swamps and obsessively researching human pop culture online. Picture a small scaly dragon naked except for a Flash Dance t-shirt. “Vern tolerated the swamp. It wasn’t exactly glorious, but these weren’t exactly the glory days. Once upon a time he had been Wyvern, Lord Highfire, of the Highfire Eyrie, if you could believe that melodramatic bullshit name. Now he was king of jack shit in Mudsville, Louisiana.”

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Poetry by John Grey

Mound by Sarah Walko

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“The Pa-hay-Okee” by J L Higgs

Photo by Brian Michael Barbeito

Photo by Brian Michael Barbeito

The wooden dock’s planks groaned beneath the blazing Florida sun.  Neal adjusted his sunglasses. He watched as a snowy egret took a step with one of its long twig-thin black legs.  It paused, then stretched its swan-like neck and body with the precision of a ballet dancer. Neal tucked a pinch of tobacco between his lower lip and gum.  As he folded his sun-freckled arms, the bird took a few quick steps, then lumbered skyward. Continue reading

“You Sleep Against My Bones” by Jonathan Douglas Dowdle

"Now Is the Hour" by Sarah Walko

“Now Is the Hour” by Sarah Walko

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“Eight Times Rob Left the Toilet Seat Up This Year” By Linnea Cooley

1. February 3rd. The first time I was introduced to the sniveling, drooling, troglodyte that is my sister’s boyfriend Rob. Really, Ashley? You couldn’t do better than a middle-aged branch manager who loves ranch dressing and thinks that Justin Timberlake is an underrated artist? I went into the bathroom to reapply my neck blush, and that’s when I saw it. Rob had used the bathroom, and when he was done he hadn’t put the toilet seat down! 

2. July 15th. In the spirit of good will, I tried to forget about the incident on February 3rd. I gave Rob the benefit of the doubt and assumed that his behavior had been an unfortunate blip. Boy was I wrong. On July 15th, after my entire family came back from the Michael Jackson Memorial 5K, I was horrified to discover that Rob left the toilet seat up again. It is truly unfortunate to see my sister paired up with such a primitive companion.  Continue reading

Poetry by Richard Weaver

Wolf Moon

Freezing in the gray light, the wind
at our backs like an anchor,
our boat steadies itself against the moon
and the captain’s hand. We tack across the sound
where the scallops are hidden.

We’ve prepared the nets again, patched
and mended our traps,
coiled the thick, sea—green ropes.
Our tongues are still raw from coffee.
We watch the wolf moon, still red, Continue reading

Holiday Gifts For Book Lovers 2019

It’s that time once again – ‘twas the week before Christmas, and all through the house, everyone was all like, “Crap, what last-minute gifts can I get on Amazon Prime?” Have no fear – our annual book review round up collects some of our favorite titles from 2019, as well as other standouts we’ve read this year.

Our lists focus on books that your recipient isn’t likely to already have, either because they’re obscure and lesser-known or because they just came out that recently. You can also check out our 2017 and 2018 book lists.

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