Hotel Angeline: A Novel in 36 Voices is unique in that it is one complete novel written by 36 distinct authors. Each chapter represents the work of one author. The novel was originally written in front of a live audience during an event was called The Novel: Live!. You can read more about the original concept here. Given the parameters of the original event, the outcome is pretty incredible.
Knowing the number of authors involved had me asking all kinds of questions while reading. In the introduction, Garth Stein explains that a committee convened and outlined a plot before the writing ever began. During the six-day writing marathon, each author was provided with the text created prior to their chapter, and an editor suggested which direction the writer should take to follow the plot. My questions included: Was there a definite shell of a story – beginning, middle, end? Did the concept/plot ever change due to a writer’s contribution? I think it is more fun not knowing how much was decided in advance. That makes the novel as a whole seem more magical.
Hotel Angeline centers around fourteen-year-old Alexis Austin, who lives in a former mortuary turned hotel. The basement is filled with coffins leftover from the mortuary business. The hotel houses several long-term residents, including a pirate with a peg leg and a bonsai gardener. Alexis’ mother, also the hotel manager, is sick and no one has seen her for a while. In her absence, Alexis takes over and tries to run the hotel, dealing with everything from repairing the plumbing to serving afternoon tea. Alexis soon finds herself overburdened with grown-up responsibilities. What’s a girl to do? Go on a wild adventure and try to save the hotel from creditors! The long-term residents are like family to Alexis and she cannot bear to see them (or herself) lose their home.
Even though the novel is written by 36 different authors, the change in writing is mostly unnoticeable. There were only a handful of chapters where the writing style seemed noticeably different to me. In the foreword, librarian extraordinaire Nancy Pearl recommends that you read the novel once without noticing the author and a second time paying attention. I was not familiar with many of the authors so I did not have a need to pay close attention to which chapter went with which author on my first reading. I plan to go back through and take note of who wrote the chapters that I enjoyed the most.
Hotel Angeline is out next week, May 3rd, so have a read and find out what an event like The Novel: Live! has the ability to produce.
Disclosure: I received a free e-galley from the publisher, Open Road Media, via NetGalley.
Hotel Angeline: A Novel in 36 Voices
Hotel Angeline is a rare book in that it was written by 36 authors, but it is not a compilation of short stories. The final product is one complete novel. Further, the novel was written in front of a live audience. Imagine the pressure! Watch a video about the concept:
Cop Killer by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (audiobook)
Cop Killer is ninth in the Martin Beck series. Of course, this is the first Martin Beck that I have read. I hope I am not missing too much by having not read the first eight in order. I am about halfway through and the narrator, Tom Weiner, is very good.
The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars by Paul Collins
I won this one in a Goodreads giveaway and I can’t wait to read it.
Thereby Hangs a Tail and To Fetch a Thief by Spencer Quinn (audiobooks)
I listened to the first book in the series, Dog on It, and I loved it so much that I bought the book to read again. I bet I will want to do the same with these two. Going in, I never would have thought that Dog as Narrator could work so well. Folks, it works very well. I love a good animal-centric mystery.
I interrupt the book updates for a cat update. We planned for Suki* to get a dental last week. We took her in for pre-op bloodwork the weekend prior to her scheduled dental. As it turns out, she has early stage kidney disease. We re-scheduled the dental and did some more tests – a urine culture and an ultrasound – to make sure it was safe to put her under anesthesia for a dental. Yesterday she went back into the vet for fluids to help her kidneys out during today’s dental. We expected that one tooth might need to be pulled. To everyone’s surprise, seven teeth needed to be extracted. She had resorptive lesions. Research led me to find out these lesions are very painful, so I am glad those painful teeth are out of there.
Suki has always been a pretty solitary cat. She’s not so much a fan of our other cats, although she has learned to share her space with Basil. I’m wondering if removing some of those painful teeth will make her a bit more social? We’ll see!
In other cat news, Basil** turns 17 this month! Yes, 17. This guy has been my companion since he was a kitten. I have shared half of my life with him. He is such a fantastic, mellow cat. Happy Birthday, Basil!
* Suki is a failed foster. We adopted her in June 2009 from Austin Pets Alive!
** Basil was my first cat and was adopted in June 1994 from an animal shelter in Orange Park, FL.
The Coffins of Little Hope by Timothy Schaffert was a very enjoyable read – one that I wanted to pick up every chance I had a little time for reading. The story is narrated by Essie Myles, an 83-year-old obituary writer for a small town Nebraska newspaper. The newspaper was started by her father and is now run by Essie’s grandson, Doc. The newspaper’s printing press also happens to be the location secretly chosen to print the last book in a wildly popular young adult series.
Essie begins the story with a trip to The Crippled Eighty, a local farm, to write the obituary of Lenore, a young girl who was reported missing months before. Essie sits with Lenore’s mother, Daisy, to discuss Daisy’s wish for Essie to write her daughter’s obituary. Daisy does not believe Lenore to be deceased, but she misses the attention that she received when Lenore was front page news. She seeks to regain that attention. Essie then backtracks her story to the point at which Lenore first went missing so that the reader can better understand Daisy’s motives for her obituary request.
Daisy’s story about Lenore missing is problematic. At first the small town rallies together to search for Lenore, but slowly the town begins to doubt Daisy’s story and many wonder whether Lenore ever even existed. Then there is the issue of Daisy working at the printing press where the final installment of that young adult series is being printed. Daisy begins reading excerpts of what may or may not be the official final book via CB radio. The town is captivated by these readings until Daisy stops broadcasting. Then the town begins to forget about Daisy and Lenore.
The novel includes additional subplots that depict the dynamic of Essie’s family and the reclusive nature of the young adult series author. Schaffert has written an engaging story that brings all of the subplots together in one fresh story. At the end of the story, the reader has to decide whether or not Lenore was a real child or a figment of Daisy’s overactive imagination.
The Coffins of Little Hope is out in paperback today. Thanks to Unbridled Books for providing me with a free e-galley to review via NetGalley.
My rating: 4 stars
Shine, by Lauren Myracle, portrays the residents of a small North Carolina town in the aftermath of a vicious crime. The narrator is 16-year-old Cat, who is on a mission to find her former best friend’s assailant. Cat’s former friend, Patrick, is openly gay and spends the duration of the novel in a coma, the apparent victim of a hate crime.
The reader finds out early on that a traumatic event occurred three years prior that caused Cat to drop her friends and withdraw, but the details of the event are not divulged until later in the novel. Despite the distance between the two friends, Cat feels she owes it to Patrick to figure out who hurt him. She is not confident the police will investigate local suspects because they are judgmental of Patrick’s sexuality. As Cat opens up to old and new friends while searching for Patrick’s assailant, her wounds begin to heal.
Shine includes some pretty heavy material: homophobia, abuse, drug addiction and prejudices. Despite the heavy subject matter, the reader is left with a sense of hope. Hope that sometimes people say things that they don’t truly mean and hope that sometimes people do change for the better.
Lauren Myracle is very popular for her Internet Girls series. I hope that her popularity helps get this book into the hands of young adults whose minds might be changed for the better after reading Shine.
Disclosure: I received a free e-galley of Shine from the publisher, Abrams Books, via NetGalley.
My rating: 4 stars