Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Freebie: Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie Jr. and The Burn Palace by Stephen Dobyns

Congratulations to Jennifer Spiegel, winner of last week's Friday Freebie: Canada by Richard Ford and The Tell by Hester Kaplan.

In this week's book giveaway, one lucky reader will win a copy of both Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie Jr. and The Burn Palace by Stephen Dobyns.  I've previously written about them here at the blog and it's pretty obvious that both of these novels have top slots in my To-Be-Read pile.  Here's a little more info about each of them:

Chris Bohjalian begins his review of Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles in The Washington Post thusly:
A few weeks ago, I was nearly asked to leave the waiting room outside the endoscopy clinic at a Vermont hospital, thanks to Ron Currie Jr.’s new novel, Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles. A friend of mine had just turned 50 and was getting his first colonoscopy. I drove him to the hospital and brought Currie’s novel to read while he was sleeping through what we euphemistically refer to as “the procedure.”  I reached a scene so blisteringly funny that I laughed as I hadn’t laughed in years: We’re talking demonic, unstoppable, don’t-sit-next-to-that-guy howls.
Like the saying goes, he had me at "colonoscopy."  I'm not sure if this plot summary of Currie's novel (in which the main character is also named Ron Currie Jr.) really does justice to the book, but here goes nothing:
The protagonist of Ron Currie, Jr.’s new novel has a problem­—or rather, several of them. He’s a writer whose latest book was destroyed in a fire. He’s mourning the death of his father, and has been in love with the same woman since grade school, a woman whose beauty and allure is matched only by her talent for eluding him. Worst of all, he’s not even his own man, but rather an amalgam of fact and fiction from Ron Currie’s own life. When Currie the character exiles himself to a small Caribbean island to write a new book about the woman he loves, he eventually decides to fake his death, which turns out to be the best career move he’s ever made. But fame and fortune come with a price, and Currie learns that in a time of twenty-four-hour news cycles, reality TV, and celebrity Twitter feeds, the one thing the world will not forgive is having been told a deeply satisfying lie. What kind of distinction could, or should, be drawn between Currie the author and Currie the character? Or between the book you hold in your hands and the novel embedded in it? Whatever the answers, Currie, an inventive writer always eager to test the boundaries of storytelling in provocative ways, has essential things to impart along the way about heartbreak, reality, grief, deceit, human frailty, and blinding love.
The Charlotte Observer had this to say about The Burn Palace: “A story that rocks along without a word wasted…Dobyns writes a straight thriller, but his mastery of language puts the reader into empty streets swirling with bits of paper and dead leaves, makes us feel at one moment hurried along and at the next expansive and thoughtful…Read slowly (if you can!) to enjoy his craftsmanship.”  In Dobyns' novel, the sleepy community of Brewster, Rhode Island, is just like any other small American town. It’s a place where most of the population will likely die blocks from where they were born; where gossip spreads like wildfire, and the big entertainment on weekends is the inevitable fight at the local bar. But recently, something out of the ordinary—perhaps even supernatural—has been stirring in Brewster. While packs of coyotes gather on back roads and the news spreads that a baby has been stolen from Memorial Hospital (and replaced in its bassinet by a snake), a series of inexplicably violent acts begins to confound Detective Woody Potter and the local police—and inspire terror in the hearts and minds of the locals.  This is a sardonic yet chillingly suspenseful novel: the literary equivalent of a Richard Russo small-town tableau crossed with a Stephen King thriller.  None other than the King himself has lavished praise on The Burn Palace by saying:
Dobyns has always been good, but this book is authentically great. The characters are vivid originals, not a stereotype among them, and the story pulled this reader in so completely that I didn't want the book to end, and actually did go back to re-read the first chapter. One of the characters, Bingo Schwartz, loves opera, and there's something operatic about this book. All the disparate plot-threads draw together in a smashing, full-volume climax. This one is the full meal, by turns terrifying, sweet, and crazily funny. By God, there's even a sex scene so hot it makes those 50 Shades books look like Little Women....One more thing. If ever there was a novel that demonstrates why this mode of entertainment remains healthy and vital more that 150 years after Charles Dickens did his thing, The Burn Palace is that book. It is, simply put, the embodiment of why we read stories, and why the novel will always be a better bang for the entertainment buck than movies or TV.

If you'd like a chance at winning a copy of both Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles and The Burn Palace, all you have to do is email your name and mailing address to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on Feb. 28at which time I'll draw the winning name.  I'll announce the lucky reader on March 1.  If you'd like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week Quivering Pen newsletter, simply add the words "Sign me up for the newsletter" in the body of your email.  Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).

Want to double your odds of winning?  Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter.  Once you've done any of those things, send me an additional e-mail saying "I've shared" and I'll put your name in the hat twice.

*One small caveat: the hardcover copy of The Burn Palace has a small tear on the top back cover--damaged in shipment to me.  So, if you're a book-collecting purist and those kind of things bother you, I thought I should let you know.  The contents inside the cover, however, remain rippingly good.

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