Every month, we review the hottest new romance releases in our Romance column. But why let the print books have all the fun? In Digital Dalliances, we highlight digital-only releases guaranteed to heat up your eReader.
In Elizabeth Harmon's Pairing Off, the first in her Red Hot Russians series, two figure skaters unexpectedly join forces to bring home wins against the odds. (A plot that appeals to me because, despite having never strapped on a pair of skates, my life goal is to be a figure-skating ballerina.)
After being disqualified from the World Figure Skating Championships after her ridiculous partner sleeps with a judge, it appears that Carrie Parker's figure skating dreams are over. With no where else to turn, she goes to Moscow and is paired with World silver-medalist Anton Belikov, whom she spent one heated night with long ago. Carrie is determined not to let this fact get in the way, and because of her dyed hair and the darkened rooms seven years ago, Anton doesn't realize that they've met before. But as Carrie trains with him in the foreign landscape of Moscow, she finds it harder and harder to deny their attraction.
For the final spin, she faced him, back arched, one leg extended behind. Clinging to him, she wrapped her leg around his waist, molding her body to his so they appeared to be a single form. The shimmering red, yellow and gold bands on their clothes coiled into a continuous line. As they spun faster, her flowing hair and the fire-colored bands suggested flames burning at center ice. Four times, Peggy Lee purred the song’s closing stanza. “What a lovely way to burn.”
At the last note, they stood cheek to cheek, her heart pounding in time with his. Applause shook the arena and she wrapped her arms around his neck. She turned her head just as he turned his.
Lightly, their lips brushed together. Then she and Anton stepped apart, and turned to face the audience.
She wobbled on her skates, like a child taking her first lesson. Her heart, already pounding from the strenuous program, hitched into overdrive. Once again, Anton had almost kissed her, only this time they weren’t alone in a deserted practice rink. They were performing for thousands, with millions more watching on TV. Was it accidental? There was no way to know, no time to think. Surrounded by cheers and applause, they took their bows in the spotlight.
Do you think you'll be picking up this romance novel for your eReader?
While music is the highlight of the Grammy Awards, audiobooks got their fair share of play during last night’s ceremony as well. Two audiobooks won awards during the 57th Grammys: The Young Reader’s Edition of I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai won for Best Children’s Album, and the late Joan Rivers, who died last September at 81, received the award for Best Spoken Word Album for her narration of her memoir Diary of a Mad Diva.
Yousafazai’s award was accepted by narrator Neela Vaswani, while Rivers’ award was accepted by her daughter, Melissa Rivers. Melissa Rivers told E!, “It’s a difficult moment, it’s a little bittersweet.” This is the second Grammy nomination for Rivers, who was nominated for a Best Comedy Album Grammy in 1984.
It's February, and everyone has their favorite literary couples: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. Sometimes the best duos are the ones you'd never think had anything in common . . . like, who would've thought that Ron and Hermione would stop fighting long enough to fall in love?
Oh, it's just so difficult when everyone loves you. Where will the two medals go, anyway? Here's an attempt to pile them on via Mariko Tamaki's website.
With the recent announcement that This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki had won both a Printz Honor and a Caldecott Honor—the first graphic novel to win the latter—these two supposedly irreconcilable seals now sit side by side on the book's cover. The young adult (YA) world is buzzing with debate over this pairing, but I'd like to suggest that it's a terrific chance to challenge assumptions about these awards, and to think about what happens when they come together. Here are three ideas worth considering.
The Caldecott has pushed boundaries before.
The Caldecott medal is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children, with Honor books considered to be similarly distinguished runners-up.
Most Caldecott winners and Honor books have looked like picture books—they've been 32 pages or so, and generally taller than they are long—and many are appropriate for preschool audiences. But in 2008, the Caldecott medal went to The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, a book most likely to be enjoyed by late elementary school and early middle-school readers. Clocking in at a hefty 534 pages (and longer and almost wider than it is tall), Hugo Cabret was an unusual choice. And yet its detailed black and white drawings, and its mix of verbal and pictorial storytelling, could certainly be argued to be distinguished.
The two medals' criteria overlap in interesting ways.
In December, I'd predicted that This One Summer would walk away with the Printz award as the best book written for teens this year, based entirely on literary merit. Although "literary" seems at first to refer only to words, books that include both words and pictures have been recognized in the past. Consider American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, the medal winner in 2007.
Similarly, while the Caldecott's "for children" designation seems at first to exclude teens, a deeper dig through its terms and criteria reveals that "children" is actually defined as "persons of ages up to and including fourteen" (possibly a holdover from before the Printz and other YA awards were established, or before YA lit as it's currently understood existed at all). While the Caldecott is usually thought of as a children's illustration-based award and the Printz as a YA word-based one, there's no definitional reason why an illustrated book aimed at 12- to 14-year-olds can't qualify for—and win—medals in both categories.
This One Summer is all about in-between-ness and liminality.
And if any book was the one to show how this overlap might work, it's Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki's monochromatic, intensely reflective graphic novel. As discussed on this blog series all the way back in November, narrator Rose's age is never actually specified. We know that her younger friend Windy is still very much a child and her aspirational "like eighteen"-year-old crush is too old for her, making Rose probably around 12.
But by writing (and drawing) Rose as an in-between character, the Tamaki cousins actively invite readers to think about liminality, or what it means to be part one thing and part another. Suspended between childhood and young adulthood, Rose is the perfect protagonist of a book that's the first ever to be recognized by both the Caldecott and the Printz committees.
Sure, there've already been calls to redefine the Caldecott criteria to include only books aimed at children 12 and under—and already questions of whether collections that're determined to buy every Caldecott book will wind up with a title that doesn't quite belong. But I think the dual recognition of This One Summer is great for the book, great for children's and YA lit, great for graphic novels and great for ongoing discussions about what these awards are . . . or should be. Like Ron and Hermione, these two opposites might have more in common than they first appear.
What do you think of This One Summer's dual win? Do you think young-leaning YA graphic novels should be eligible for the Caldecott? Tell us in the comments!
Locker Combinations is a Book Case feature by BookPage contributor and young adult (YA) literature expert Jill Ratzan. Using a variety of literary, cultural and educational perspectives, Jill guest blogs about the latest in YA lit and the general direction, trends and changes of the field. Read more BookPage reviews, interviews and posts by Jill here.
In Jonathan Odell's Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League, two women unite to change their community in pre-Civil Rights Mississippi despite their seemingly opposite lives. Our reviewer says, "Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League is quintessentially Southern in its frank discussions of friendship, marriage, family, feminism, grief and redemption." (Read the review here.)
We asked Odell to tell us about three books he's been reading lately, and he graciously agreed to share.
The next book I’d like to complete writing is a memoir about growing up as gay boy in Fundamentalist-crazed Mississippi. This will include making public the craziness of my own particular family. My editor recommended The Memory Palace by Mira Bartók. When it comes to crazy, her family puts mine to shame. Bartók writes poignantly about her schizophrenic mother whom she goes to extreme lengths to escape, including moving away and changing her name. But of course, all roads lead home again, and Bartók, after years of separation, must return to her still mentally unstable mother to tie up loose ends. I want to write a book that tells a hard truth as compassionately and as unsentimentally as Bartók.
Abandonment to Divine Providence was written during the 1700s by Jean-Pierre de Caussade, a French Jesuit priest. Caussade was the original “power of now” kind of guy, but he called his method “the sacrament of the moment.” The subtitle of the translation I'm reading is “Classic Wisdom from the Past on Living Fully in the Present.” I chose this little book because I’m about to embark on an over-scheduled 25-city tour and, as an introvert, am seriously worried about my sanity. Written passionately yet simply, Caussade’s work is a meditation on how to stay open to, and trust, the gifts of the present moment. He may be too religiose for most readers, but as a Southerner, religion for me is not so much a belief system but a way of talking about things that matter. And Caussade employs the language beautifully. I’ll tell you in March how it worked.
George Hodgman’s Bettyville, like The Memory Palace, tells the story of a child’s return home to care for his mother. That’s about where the similarity ends. Hodgman’s memoir, though tenderly told, is one spiked with perfectly timed wit and a kind of irreverent gothic humor that it seems only a Southerners can get away with when speaking of his own family’s dysfunction. Though hilarious, there is not an iota of meanness. Hodgman proves once again, that in the South, we are proud of our crazy.
Thanks, Jonathan! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Jim Kuether)
Lovers of British literature have a lot to look forward to in 2015, as three beloved bestsellers make their way to the small screen as miniseries adaptations.
First up is J.K. Rowling's first post-Potter work, A Casual Vacancy, which BBC One will air in the U.K. later this month (
no U.S. date has been set yet) and HBO will air in the U.S. on April 29 and 30. The cast of mostly lesser-known British actors does include Michael Gambon, who starred as Albus Dumbledore in the later Harry Potter films. When it was released in 2012, A Casual Vacancy surprised Rowling's millions of fans with its dark, realist take on life in small-town Britain, and the adaptation looks appropriately gritty. (read our review)
Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall is next up, making its royal bow to U.S. audiences on April 5 as part of PBS' "Masterpiece Classic" series. Starring "Homeland" star Damian Lewis as Henry VIII and lauded British actor Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell, this meticulously staged (well, almost) six-part drama is sure to be a spring highlight. (read our review)
And finally, a miniseries we've been looking forward to since it was announced in 2013: The BBC America adaptation of Susanna Clarke's Hugo Award-winning novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (read our review). This tale of rival magicians in an alternate Regency England could be difficult to translate to film, but early indications point to the producers getting it exactly right, as shown in this teaser clip.
Which of these do you think is the best bet to join North & South (Richard Armitage version, natch) and Andrew Davies' Pride and Prejudice and in the literary adaptation hall of fame?
Molly Gilbert makes cooking (and cleanup!) a breeze with 120 sheet pan recipes in her new cookbook, Sheet Pan Suppers. This simple, homey recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies is sure to become one of your go-to's.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 25 cookies
This is a tweaked version of a recipe I got from my friend Jen King, who co-owns Liddabit Sweets, an artisanal confectionery in Brooklyn. They don’t do anything just plain ordinary at Liddabit (hand-dipped candy bars and caramels with beer and pretzels inside, hello) so needless to say, this is one good cookie.
I prefer oatmeal cookies with plentiful chocolate chips, but feel free to substitute raisins if you’re that guy—no judgments. Well, a few judgments. I hope we can still be friends.
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and oats in a medium-size bowl.
3. Beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, or in a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer, on high speed, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth.
4. Add the flour mixture and stir gently with a wooden spoon to combine. Fold in the chocolate chips.
5. Scoop the dough by the heaping tablespoonful onto the pans, leaving about an inch of space between cookies. Flatten each cookie slightly with the palm of your hand (see Note).
6. Bake the cookies until they are slightly puffed and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
7. Let the cookies cool slightly before enjoying warm.
The cookies will keep, in an airtight container at room temperature, for about 1 week.
Note: After you flatten the cookies in Step 4, they may be frozen until solid on the sheet pan, about 30 minutes. Transfer them to a heavy-duty zip-top bag for storage. Bake them right from frozen when you want some; they may take an extra few minutes.
We're excited to announce that BookPage will be launching Smitten, a monthly romance newsletter, next week. Smitten will feature exclusive guest author blog posts and Q&As with some of your favorite authors along with our monthly Romance Top Pick, a digital-first feature and reviews of some of the month’s biggest romance novels. Sign up for Smitten here.
The plot of Sharma Shields’ The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac sounds pretty bizarre, but it’s worth the suspension of disbelief. Eli Roebuck is certain that when he was 9 years old, his mother carried on an affair with a sasquatch and ran away with him into the woods. He vividly remembers meeting the sasquatch, or Mr. Krantz as he is introduced, and his giant furry feet. Eli, who grows up to be a podiatrist, becomes deeply obsessed with hunting down the Big Foot who carried off his mother. Unfortunately, Eli’s onerous quest to find the monster of his childhood is a heavy toll on his family. And he’s not the only one in his family dealing with very real demons. And unicorns. And lake monsters.
Finally the visitor arrived. Agnes raised to the door and stood very still before it, her hands on the belly of her apron, taking a deep breath, as though to calm herself. She swept the door open.
There stood her guest, “the most interesting man.”
Eli tried not to stare. He did not see a man at all. What he saw was an enormous ape crushed into a filthy pin-striped suit. He remembered a book from school about exotic beasts, the giant apes who lived in the savage countries of the world, and the guest resembled those creatures: deep hooded brow, small blank eyes, thin-lipped mouth like a long pink gash. And the hair! The guest was so hairy that Eli was unsure of the color of his skin: Beneath the thick brown fur, his flesh—tough and charred, like strips of dried deer meat—appeared red in some places, purple in others. The guest even smelled of hair, badly, like a musty bearskin rug singed with a lit match.
What are you reading today?
In her latest novel, Girl Before a Mirror, Liza Palmer puts a recently divorced ad exec in charge of a competition involving seven sexy male cover models. But it's a British financial consultant who really challenges Anna's self-imposed dating sabbatical. Palmer, who earned two Emmy nominations for her work on VH1's "Pop-Up Video," is known for writing thought-provoking love stories that take unpredictable turns. In this guest post, she talks about how she learned to own up to loving what she loves—no matter what "they" think.
By Liza Palmer
Growing up, I’d been pop culturally feral. No television until my 20s, no money in the oft-empty coffers to see movies, the only music we had was the 101 Dalmatians book on record and the Annie soundtrack. And while my mom had her fancy college books, I wasn’t truly swept away by a book until I read The Color Purple in high school.
Combine this with a circle of friends that were about as with it as I was and you’ve got a childhood far removed from the fandoms and peer pressure that usually mold us whether we like it or not. So, when I liked a thing, I just got to like it. And when I loved a thing, I got to love with it my everything. The Twilight Bark can still bring me to tears, and don’t even get me started on making something shine like the top of the Chrysler building.
And then it happens. Maybe you announce—HYPOTHETICALLY, OF COURSE—that your favorite song is “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang and it’s met with snickering and some side eye. Maybe you proudly tell your friends that you bought that new Oakridge Boys tune and . . . maybe you hum a few bars of “Elvira” and learn that not everyone is as big a fan of multi-harmony genius as you are. And because being different in junior high was second only to death, I adapted. But, what started as me adapting came very close to ending with me disappearing.
If I liked a thing, I learned whether it was something I could like out loud or in secret. These were the books I could proudly display, and these were the ones I read when no one was around. These were the songs I put on mixes and these were the songs I told people I listened to “at the gym.” These were the movies I tweeted about and these were the movies I told people I liked “ironically.”
The me that loved things with all my heart got eroded away until I didn’t even remember what loving things purely felt like anymore. And although it feels slightly melodramatic, once I’d been corrupted it was much easier to then join the ranks of those who made fun of people who had the audacity to love the things that made them happy out loud, no matter the protest.
We are told that these *points to a very high shelf full of fancy things* are IMPORTANT. And if we don’t like these fancy things then we ourselves are not important. If we say we didn’t like it, we are told we didn’t “get it.” If we enjoy something They feel is pedestrian, then we become the reason our civilization is crumbling.
But then, the voice of reason came crackling through the darkness. And, as is usually the way in my life, the voice of reason was Joshua from WarGames.
“A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?”
The only winning move is not to play—whether we’re talking about Global Thermonuclear war or being true to oneself. I am valuable not because of the things I like, but because of the person I am. I am more than an algorithm. We deserve more than a brooding barista who only likes us because he thinks we like jazz. It’s time to recapture that same little kid sprawled out on our bedroom floors surrounded by an explosion of the things that made us happy.
We get to say what is important. And if something makes you happy, then it’s important. And guys. The Oakridge Boys are a really good band.