Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

What Happens on Sunday by Laurie Koozer

I know an author!  Well, technically we’ve never met in real life, but I know her via Twitter.  It still counts!  Laurie Koozer just published her first novel, “What Happens on Sunday“, and I’m so excited to share my thoughts AND a special Q&A with Laurie!

From Amazon.com:

In Pittsburgh, what happens on football Sundays is more than just a game and for six women during the 2005 Steelers season their complicated relationships with the team provides solace, distraction and occasionally frustration.

Jen is a very young and very pregnant newlywed who worries that getting married on the same day as a Steelers loss will doom her marriage.

Megan never met a tailgate or a man she couldn’t conquer but is scared of losing her best friend to a relationship.

Desiree is a brash professional struggling to deal with her husband’s ex-wife and children and beginning to wonder if it’s the right time to start a family of her own.

Angela is a high school senior long ago branded bad luck for the Steelers and all she wants to do is get the hell out of Pittsburgh even if it means leaving behind her best friend Robbie.

Patty, a mom who sends a pair of sexy panties to a different player every week, hasn’t been on a date since her divorce five years ago.

And then there’s Shannon, thirty-four and single she spends the majority of her days navigating Pittsburgh traffic and her evenings tending bar and pining after her sister’s boyfriend.

As the Steelers make what seems to be an impossible run to the Super Bowl, their lives will intersect, each of them finding connections in the most unexpected places.

I love books set in or about Pittsburgh, you know that.  ”What Happens on Sunday” is no exception.  As a lifelong Pittsburgher and a Steelers fan (duh), I could totally relate to the characters in this book and I think most other people could, too.  Maybe not all of them in all situations, but I feel like I could see little bits of myself in almost all of the ladies.  I could picture the characters as regular women walking around town, someone I might run into at Target or Primanti’s.  The story took me back to the ups and downs of the 2005 football season.

And if you love Pittsburgh, you’ll get your fill with a ton of Pittsburgh references, similes, and metaphors.  I felt like I was “in on the secret” because I knew all of the things and places that were in the story.  Laurie did a great job of capturing the spirit of the city, both good and bad parts and stereotypes.  This was a fun, easy read that I didn’t want to put down, and if you’re local, used to be local, like Pittsburgh for no reason, are a Steelers fan, are a female, or just need something fun to read, get it!  It’s only $3.99 on Amazon – about half the price of a Primanti’s Capicola and Cheese.  Save yourself some calories and buy this instead.

If you want to hear more about the book or follow Laurie’s other adventures in reading and in the ‘Burgh, check out her blog at Yinz R Readin and you can also find her on Twitter at @yinzrreadin.  The ebook is available for sale on Amazon and if you’re not into the ebook thing, you’re in luck!  You can buy a print copy at the following locations: Caliban Books in Oakland, East End Book Exchange at the Pittsburgh Public Market and Eljay’s Used Books in Dormont.  Support local authors and bookstores!

 

Laurie was also nice enough to answer some of my questions about her book (my questions in bold).  Enjoy!

I know you’re a native Pittsburgher. Why did you choose to write your first book about Pittsburghers and the Steelers instead of something else?

I was actually born in Central PA so even though my family moved to Western PA when I was 11, I don’t know if I can claim to be a native Pittsburgher. J I have lived in the city for the past 11 years though and I think that the number one reason I wrote this book was selfishness.   Like you, I love to read and as many books as I’ve read, I’ve never really found one that captured the world or the people that I know, so this was my attempt to do that.

Do you think that readers not familiar with Pittsburgh would understand and enjoy this book as much as someone from Pittsburgh?

I would hope so, but with the specific nature of the book, right now I’m not worrying too much about what Jane Smith from Kansas would think about the book and just hoping that Pittsburghers like it!   Still, I think that the specific characters in the book are struggling with the sorts of conflicts that all sorts of women can relate to – love, loneliness, growing up, etc – so I definitely wouldn’t rule it out from finding a wider audience.

Where did you come up with the characters?  

The original two characters – Patty and Angela – developed from a Post-Gazette article I read about sports rituals and superstitions.  The article talked about women mailing underwear to different players and it really got me wondering what type of person would do that.  And I think we’ve all heard of (or maybe been) the person who has to stay out of the room during a sports game because their family thinks that they’re bad luck.  Usually the person is a sports fan and in on the joke but I started wondering how it would play out if the person being removed from the games wasn’t a fan at all. Jen and Dave were inspired by a couple I saw in Detroit during Super Bowl XL – a husband proudly showing off the Steelers helmet he’d painted on his pregnant wife’s belly.  Shannon’s character was inspired by a neighborhood bar where I used to hang out. Megan and Desiree were more of an amalgam of different types of people that I’ve known or observed over the years.

Was it as hard as I think it would be to intertwine their stories and relationships?

It actually wasn’t because I had that vision from the very beginning so I kind of worked out various scenarios in my head and then worked backwards from there.  I wanted their lives to connect or even collide but I also wanted to have character arcs that stood on their own. More than anything, I wanted it to be reflective of the very real “it’s a small world” thing that is always at play in Pittsburgh where you almost always have a mutual connection to strangers if you dig deep enough.     I have to say that some of my favorite scenes to write were the ones where we see the same incident from multiple points of view – like that infamous night at The Locker Room and especially at Jen’s wedding.

Which one of your characters would you most and least like to be friends with and why?

I feel like I could be friends with all of my characters, but if I have to choose I would say that I probably have the least in common with Jen and that if Patty could ever see fit to leave her desk and take a lunch out sometime, I would love to be her office lady lunch buddy!

How much studying did you have to do on the Steelers’ 2005 season to get all of the facts right?

I don’t know if studying is the right word but I have a binder with recaps of every game and all kinds of articles about different storylines that were going on that year, so yeah I definitely did my homework, even down to researching what weather Pittsburgh was having during specific games that year.  And it wasn’t just the Steelers season I had to research – I started writing in 2006 so everything was very fresh to me but as the years went by I started adding a lot of pop culture and current event facts to my 2005 binder so that I could stay accurate. It’s funny to me that there’s a MySpace reference in the book because that seems pretty quaint now but back then it was pretty big.

Hines Ward or Troy Polamalu?

Troy!!!

Do you have any plans to write a sequel?  I would love to know what happens to all of the characters after the Super Bowl!

I’m glad you asked that question. A lot of people are asking me that and I will take that as a very good sign about the success of these characters and the book itself.  I’m definitely not done with these women –  how that is going to play out I’m not sure yet because with working full-time and kids I don’t get as much writing time as I used to but yeah, there’s definitely a lot more that happens to these characters after Super Bowl XL.

What is your second favorite (assuming yours is your favorite) book set in Pittsburgh?

Ah, I can’t narrow it down so I will say that my second favorite Pittsburgh-set book is a three-way tie between An American Childhood (Annie Dillard), The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky) and Wonder Boys (Michael Chabon).

Lastly, is that your butt on the cover?

No, but I’m flattered that you think it is.  The identity of that front cover butt is supposed to be top-secret but unfortunately I think we messed up when we took my three-year-old on the photo shoot because as soon as she saw the cover she yelled “That’s XX!!!”  So yeah, if you really want to know who that butt belongs to you’ll have to ask her, because I swore I’d never tell.

 

Thanks again to Laurie for the interview and for writing a great book n’at!

After the Fog by Kathleen Shoop

Alright folks.  After a way-too-long hiatus from blogging, I’m [hopefully] back. And with some wonderful books that I must tell you about!

First, “After the Fog” by Kathleen Shoop.  One day recently, I was in the mood to read something Pittsburgh-y.  Wasn’t sure what.  I thought I’d just type “Pittsburgh” into Amazon’s book search and see what came up.  That’s how I found this gem.

From Amazon:

 The sins of the mother… In the mill town of Donora, Pennsylvania, site of the infamous 1948 “killing smog,” headstrong nurse Rose Pavlesic tends to her family and neighbors. Controlling and demanding, she’s created a life that reflects everything she missed growing up as an orphan. She’s even managed to keep her painful secrets hidden from her loving husband, dutiful children, and large extended family. When a stagnant weather pattern traps poisonous mill gasses in the valley, neighbors grow sicker and Rose’s nursing obligations thrust her into conflict she never could have fathomed. Consequences from her past collide with her present life, making her once clear decisions as gray as the suffocating smog. As pressure mounts, Rose finds she’s not the only one harboring lies. When the deadly fog finally clears, the loss of trust and faith leaves the Pavlesic family—and the whole town—splintered and shocked. With her new perspective, can Rose finally forgive herself and let her family’s healing begin?

I’ll just come right out and say it – I LOVED this book.  So many things about it.  First of all, I don’t know if I’ve actually ever been in Donora before.  It’s a town south of the city of Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River, for those not familiar.  But there are SO many other little towns like that around here that I could picture it anyway.  Heck, for the past three years, I lived right across the river from a coke plant and saw the smoke and flame every day (most air-polluted borough, not FTW!).  I have ancestors on both sides of my family that worked in the local steel and tin mills.  So I was thinking of what my family members may have gone through as I was reading this book.

Second, I feel like I KNEW Rose and her family.  They could be anyone around here.  Early yinzers, perhaps.  Even though the story took place in the 1940s, I felt like I could really put myself in the story and feel like it was happening “now”.  I also learned a lot about the history of the mills around here.  I had no idea about this “fog” (what we’d now refer to as smog) that happened when this story occurred.  That part is real even though the story is fiction, but some parts of the story and some characters are based on some historical records and stories that Kathleen Shoop was able to dig up.

This book seemed long compared to other books I’ve read recently on my Kindle, but that’s a good thing because I didn’t want it to end!  I can’t say enough good things about this book.  I honestly think it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  The story, the characters, everything just came together.  I’ve already recommended it to a few people and am now telling YOU to go buy/download it if you’re interested in reading Pittsburgh historical fiction.  Kathleen Shoop also has another book out that I can’t wait to read.  I don’t think it’s based in Pittsburgh, but still sounds really good. Check it ‘aht!

Upcoming New Releases

I went just a wee bit crazy on Amazon recently pre-ordering books for my Kindle.  I admit that I’m not very good at keeping up with what new books are coming out, but Amazon’s “Recommended Items” that show up whenever you buy something else are FANTASTIC.  Thanks to that handy little tool, here’s everything that I pre-ordered…

Looks like I’ll be busy for the next six months or so.  This list is just about all of my favorite authors.  2012 is gonna be AWESOME!

By the way, have you started your 2012 Reading Challenge yet on Goodreads?  I’ve already read 8 books out of the 35 that I predicted as my goal for the year.  I have a feeling I’m going to go over since this is only February.  I’m thinking about doing a contest for my readers to guess how many I’ll go over by and then whoever comes the closest at the end of the year will win some sort of a prize… what do you think?  I credit author Jenn Thorson for the contest suggestion during a recent discussion on Twitter.  Thanks Jenn!

There Goes the Galaxy by Jenn Thorson

So you guys probably know my taste in books based upon my reviews here.  I’ve never been one to get into science fiction stuff, whether it’s books or movies.  My suspension of disbelief threshold is very low (and here’s an interesting post about that on Book Riot).  Though, I did read the “Twilight” series, but whatever, who didn’t.  Anyway.  When I was approached to read and review a science fiction book, I thought I’d give it a shot because A) it was supposed to be a FUNNY science fiction book, so that gave me some extra incentive, and B) the author is from Pittsburgh, my hometown.  How can I not want to support a local author?

“There Goes the Galaxy” is about a Pittsburgh grad student named Bertram Ludlow who is abducted by aliens.  Not the short, green, big-headed and beady-eyed aliens, but ones who are somewhat human-like….. but different.  As Bertram spends more time with his abductor Rollie, who comes off at first like a tough guy and that he wants to dump Bertram as soon as possible, he learns that planet Earth (referred to as “Tryfe” everywhere else) is up for sale to the highest bidder.

Bertram goes on a quest, dragging Rollie and his motley crew along, to find the current owner of Tryfe and stop the sale before his planet and human life as we know it isn’t obliterated.  Bertram is helped along the way by a friend of his named Rozz who was also abducted and was forced into alien barista slavery (yes, I said barista.  She slings space drinks).  So, do they succeed?  What’s next for planet Tryfe?

As my first real sci-fi read, I really enjoyed it!  If there wasn’t humor involved, I think my opinion would have been different.  I found myself chuckling when I noticed something that the author threw in there that was a play on a real celebrity’s name or personality, and I think my favorite planet was definitely Ludd… home of the Luddites.  It’s exactly what you think.  The characters were all human-enough to have personalities that you could relate to, and I even found myself liking Rollie, who doesn’t seem to want or need anyone to like him, even though deep down he does have feelings.  The names of the planets and some of the characters got a little confusing, which often happens to me when there are too many new and unique names of things/places to keep track of (the same thing happened when I read the book “Wicked”), but I was easily able to pick back up and understand what was going on with no problems.  The book was also a little longer than I expected and it took me longer than usual to read, but I can’t imagine taking anything out of the book or splitting it up into two because it would completely destroy the story.  Bertram had so many different adventures that you wanted to keep reading to see what trouble he got himself into next.

Jenn Thorson definitely opened my eyes to a new genre that I may not have given a second look to otherwise.  I wonder what’s next for Bertram and Rozz!  Oh, and if you’re on Twitter, Bertram just joined, so you can follow him to get tips on how not to get abducted by aliens (and what to do if you do): @BertramLudlow.

Seasons Greetings and Reading Resolutions

I know I’m a little late for some of the holidays this month, but I hope all of my readers had a wonderful holiday season!  It doesn’t feel like winter in my part of the world so it really didn’t FEEL like the holidays compared to past years.  On another note – look at this cute book tree that I found on Pinterest!

Did you get any good gifts?  Any good gifts involving BOOKS?  I know quite a few people who were gifted Kindle Fires.  I’m really curious about them but it doesn’t seem to make sense for me to get a tablet like that since I already have a smartphone, Kindle 2, and a laptop.  But they look pretty awesome!  I’ve noticed that the traffic here has been pretty steady over the past few days – I guess a lot of people are searching for new books to download to their e-readers and tablets!

One of my Twitter friends is a librarian, avid reader, and blogger and gave me an idea.  She had set a goal of 45 books to read in 2011.  And she hit the goal with a few weeks left in December!  Holy cow!  When I heard that, I thought I’d check Goodreads to see how many books I’ve read this year because I knew it had to be a lot.  I was slightly disappointed to see that it was only 26, but then I realized that 1) that’s a whole lot more than most normal people read per year (or per five years!  Or ten!), and 2) I was planning a wedding for the first half of the year and was too busy doing DIY stuff to read in my spare time.  So I GUESS I can be okay with 26.  But I bet I could get more than that next year.  35 maybe?  I also have to keep in mind that I have to pay for most of these books so I can’t go too crazy.  Although I still have a ton of books on my Kindle that I haven’t read yet for numerous reasons, so at least I have a stock to go to if I’m short on cash.

What’s your reading resolution for 2012?  Finish a series?  Read a classic that you’ve had your eye on for awhile?  Beat me in the number of books you read?

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Jaci has read 1 book toward her goal of 35 books.
hide

What I'm Reading



Jaci's favorite books »
Categories
Blogroll Center Books