Tag: Judith Frank

Top 5 Fiction Reads of 2014

These are my favourite fiction books read or reviewed (not necessarily published) in 2014. Click the title for links to the full reviews. Check back on Friday for my top non-fiction reads of the year.

All I Love and Know 

ISBN 9780062302878

Cover image for All I Love and Know by Judith FrankDaniel and his partner Matt live a peaceful life in Northampton, Massachusetts. Their quiet existence is torn apart when Daniel’s twin brother Joel, and his wife, Ilana, are killed by a suicide bomber in a Jersalem cafe, leaving behind two young children. Both Joel’s parents and Ilana’s assume they will raise Gal and Noam, but neither set of grandparents knows about the promise Daniel made Joel and Ilana on his last visit to Israel.  Author Judith Frank lived in Israel for several years as a teenager, and her own twin sister still lives their with her husband. All I Love and Know is a complex and challenging novel that deals with not one but two important contemporary issues–gay parenting and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict–wrapped in a love story about a couple struggling to find their way back to one another after a devastating loss.

Categories: LGBT

A Thousand Pieces of You

ISBN 9780062278968

Cover image for A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia GrayMarguerite is an artist, but she is the daughter of two brilliant scientists, inventors of the Firebird, a groundbreaking device that enables inter-dimensional travel. When one of her parents’ graduate assistants murders her father and escapes by stealing a Firebird and jumping into another dimension, Marguerite teams up with another graduate student, and gives chase. Her mission: KILL PAUL MARKOV. With a twist on the idea of multiple universes, Claudia Gray invents a device that projects the consciousness of the user into the body of their alternate selves in other dimensions. While this eliminates the usual trope of accidentally encountering other selves, it creates its own set of moral and ethical quandaries when characters hijack the lives and choices of their counterparts. As Marguerite pursues her father’s killer through multiple dimensions, Gray has a forum to show off her talent with multiple genres, from science fiction, to contemporary, to historical in this fast-paced adventure.

Categories: Young Adult, Science Fiction

I’ll Give You the Sun

ISBN 9780803734968

Cover image for I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy NelsonThirteen-year-old Jude and Noah are twins, but also polar opposites. Jude is popular, outgoing and adventurous, where Noah is shy, introverted, and deeply weird . He is also in the closet. But despite their differences they are like two halves of the same person, both smart and creative. Three years later, the twins are unrecognizable. Noah is normal and socially competent, and Jude has withdrawn into herself, dressing in baggy clothes and shunning social interaction. They are also barely speaking to one another. Told in alternating perspectives, Jude and Noah relate how their family and their bond broke, and the secrets they are keeping from one another that prevent them from repairing their relationship. Poet Jandy Nelson has a beautiful way with words that translates into fluid prose and striking imagery. I’ll Give You the Sun is a dazzling, exuberant work of fiction full of art and passion, jealousy and loss.

Categories: Young Adult, LGBT

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

ISBN 9781250037756

Cover image for Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin SloanWhen the recession shuts down his San Francisco start-up, Clay Jannon finds himself working the night shift at a peculiar 24-hour bookstore. Not only are customers few and far between on the night shift, but they come in not to buy books, but to borrow them, from a special collection Clay is forbidden to read, but must carefully track in a log book. When Clay tries to digitize the process, he  accidentally cracks a centuries old code with his computer and a sense of humour. With the help of a couple of techie friends, Clay turns the power of the digital age on the mystery behind the secret code hoping to succeed where others have failed. Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is  humourous mystery with something for both book-lovers and tech geeks alike. Robin Sloan has written a novel that both embodies the anxieties of the digital age, and shows digital and manual technologies working alongside one another.

Categories: Mystery, Humour

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

ISBN 9780316213103

Cover image for The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly BlackA raging epidemic of vampirism has swept across the world like wildfire, contained only by the invention of Coldtowns, government-run ghettos that are home to vampires and infected humans alike. Anyone can go into a Coldtown, but it is almost impossible to get back out. Inside Coldtowns, the most powerful vampires are internet reality stars, streaming a facade of decadence to the world that draws in human acolytes and misfits. The reality is much darker, as Tana finds out for herself when she and her ex-boyfriend, Aidan, are potentially infected at a party, and she turns them both in. Holly Black tackles the vampire novel with dark humour and a willingness to skewer tropes at every turn, while also acknowledging her debt to her forerunners. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is both a reimagining of the vampire novel, and a tribute to the classics of the genre.

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy

That’s it for me! What were your favourite fiction reads of 2014?

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All I Love and Know

Cover image for All I Love and Know by Judith Frankby Judith Frank

ISBN 978-0-06-230287-8

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book at ALA Annual 2014. All quotes are based on an uncorrected text.

“He’d heard somewhere that mourning was like falling in love, and it was, he was—thinking of Joel came with a strange, painful elation. Oh, he loved him.”

Matt and Daniel have been together for four years, living a quiet life in gay-friendly Northampton, Massachusetts. Though Matt is a former party boy, and Daniel is a Jewish intellectual, they are happy together despite their differences. When Daniel’s twin brother and sister-in-law are killed by a suicide bomber at a café in Jerusalem, Daniel is called on to fulfill a promise he made to Joel and Ilana; not just to care for their children if anything were to happen to them, but to get Gal and Noam out of Israel. The will shocks both sets of grandparents, each of whom assumes they will be the ones to raise the children. The tragedy forces Daniel to confront his complicated feelings about being a twin, particularly the gay twin, and his difficult relationship with his Jewish heritage and the nation of Israel, even as he battles his way through the Israeli court system to have his guardianship approved. Meanwhile, Matt finds himself thrown into instant parenthood in a family that has never entirely accepted his role as Daniel’s partner. Matt tries to be a rock for the family, but as grief transforms his partner into a shadow of the man Matt fell in love with, their relationship is sorely tested by the fallout of the bombing.

The aunt or uncle who never wanted kids being forced into parenthood by a sibling’s death is an old cliché that would make All I Love and Know easy to pass over without a second glance. I almost did, before a blurb by Alison Bechdel on the back of the galley caught my eye. More often than not, these narratives centre on the protagonist realizing that their life was empty and meaningless without the joy of children. All I Love and Know is never so simplistic, and the changes that Gal and Noam bring into Matt and Daniel’s home are tinged by the darkness of the circumstances that brought them there. There are very moving, realistic moments in which Daniel and Matt mourn their freedom, and the life they gave up to raise Joel and Ilana’s children. This story is as much about grief as about parenthood, and is the way these two themes weave themselves together that make All I Love and Know an exceptional novel.

Either gay parenting or the Palestinian/Israeli conflict would provide ample material for a novel, but together the result is explosive. Frank deals candidly with complex issues, choosing to directly address Matt and Daniel’s sexually open relationship in defiance of straight sensibilities, and the mixed feelings many American Jews have about the nation of Israel. Of Jewish descent herself, Frank writes with familiarity about Israel and the conflicts that surround it, but most of her characters are deeply sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people. Daniel finds it difficult to grieve properly for his brother because he understands why the Palestinian bomber would feel compelled to act, but publicly expressing this sentiment within the Jewish community is taboo. For the non-Jewish audience, Matt is the window into this unfamiliar world. Although partnered with a Jewish man, he has never converted, and while Daniel’s family is not particularly religious, Matt is, in many ways, an outsider looking in. He copes with this sense of exclusion and alienation through a dark, snarky sense of humour that sometimes alleviates the tension, and sometimes serves to drive him and Daniel further apart.

All I Love and Know is a complex and challenging novel that deals with not one but two important contemporary issues, wrapped in a love story about a couple struggling to find their way back to one another after a devastating loss.

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