Happy President's Day! Has the holiday (whether observed with a day off of work or not) influenced your reading choices?
If you're looking for a presidential read, we have some suggestions. His Excellency, by Joseph J. Ellis, just might be the definitive look at George Washington, as BookPage contributor Alden Mudge said in an interview with Ellis about the book. For kids, What Presidents Are Made Of by Hanoch Piven is pure fun. And last year, in honor of Lincoln's 200th birthday, BookPage published a great roundup of Lincoln books that should be out in paperback right about now, including Ronald C. White's A. Lincoln, as well as a feature on Lincoln books for the younger set.
But the Lincoln story that stands out in my mind isn't actually about the president at all--it's a fictionalized account of the life of his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, that was published in 2006. As I said in my review of Janis Cooke Newman's Mary, it's a sympathetic account that paints Mary as "a deeply passionate, intelligent woman in a time when these qualities in women were discouraged and feared."
Do you have a favorite book with a presidential link?
The popular Welsh novelist and former RAF pilot and jockey died yesterday at his home in the Grand Cayman islands. His son, Felix, who collaborated with his father on four recent novels, says: “My brother, Merrick, and I are, of course devastated by the loss of our father, but we rejoice in having been the sons of such an extraordinary man. We share in the joy that he brought to so many over such a long life. It is an honour for me to be able to continue his remarkable legacy through the new novels.” Sounds like Felix may continue to write, or at least publish any incomplete manuscripts the two may have been working on?
Dick Francis' long string of mysteries set in the world of horse-racing have been solid sellers since the 1960s. Many were written with the collaboration and support of his wife, Mary, whose death in 2000 caused Francis to temporarily retire from writing. Perhaps his fascination with trackside mystery was spurred by his own involvement in one of the sport's most memorable moments: Francis was riding the Queen Mother's horse, Devan Loch, in the 1956 Grand National. In the lead, and just yards from the finish line, the horse inexplicably collapsed. But whatever his inspiration, it's clear that Francis' writing brought hours of enjoyment to millions over the past 50 years.
Related in BookPage: our review of Dick Francis' Under Orders.
For five more days, you can listen to a dramatized version of Dick Francis' Enquiry on the BBC's website.
The Random Number Generator has chosen a very suitable number for our love story giveaway: 14. Congratulations to commentator Angelo Crapanzano, who suggested we add Irene Hannon's Rainbow's End to our list of love stories we can't forget.
Keep an eye out for more contests later this month.
If you saw this holiday season's hit movie The Blind Side, you may think you know all about Michael Oher, the young black man who was taken in by a well-off white family and eventually became a star left tackle on his high school football team, then for Ole Miss, and now for the Baltimore Ravens. If you read Michael Lewis' book of the same name (you can read an excerpt on the NYT website), you'll learn more about both Oher and the couple who adopted him, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy.
Now you can have the chance to hear about the Tuohys' experience in their own words. Publisher's Marketplace reports that the Tuohys' book (no title yet) will be published by Holt this summer, and will explore "the power of giving." Will you be interested to see what this extraordinary family has to say?
Related in BookPage: The power of giving is certainly a timely topic these days! Check out reviews of books on philanthropy and money management in our January feature, "Getting and Giving," or a review of The Power of Half, by an Atlanta family that sold their house and donated half of the proceeds to an organization working to end poverty and hunger in Ghana.
For those of us born in the '70s and '80s, all this news about beloved teen series might be too much to handle. (In case you missed the updates, The Baby-Sitters Club is coming back and Sweet Valley High might be turned into a movie.)
Today, Publishers Marketplace confirmed that Francine Pascal has signed a deal to publish Sweet Valley Confidential in early 2011. The book will follow Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield—and all their Sweet Valley friends—into their late twenties and early thirties. The novel will be published by St. Martin’s Press. No word yet if it will be a single book or the start to a series (here's hoping. . .), or if the target audience will be teens or adults.
Of the book, Pascal said, “I’ve had thousands of queries from fans over the years wondering what Jessica and Elizabeth would be like as adults... Well, Sweet Valley Confidential should give them all the answers. And I can guarantee they will be very surprised. Actually, more like shocked.”
Will Elizabeth get back with boring Todd Wilkins? Are Jessica and Lila Fowler still frenemies? Will the twins still be a "perfect size six"? We’ll have to wait until 2011 to find out.
SVH fans: What are your hopes for the book?
In December we posted the news that The Hunger Games #3 will arrive on August 24, 2010, and asked readers for title predictions. A couple of you suggested “The Victors” (which USA Today claims has been the most popular guess among book bloggers), but BookPage commenter Kali knew what she was talking about when she wrote:
This is my favorite book ever. The whole series is about her being the mockingjay, so I have a suggestion. Mockingjay. That should be the title. Plain and simple, Katniss IS the mockingjay. That says it all.
What do you think, Collins fans?
If you haven’t been sucked into the series yet, it’s not too late. To see if it's something you would like, read an interview with Suzanne Collins about Catching Fire or a review of The Hunger Games.
Last week I spoke to Newbery medalist Laura Amy Schlitz (Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!) about her new release The Night Fairy (Feb. 23 from Candlewick). The middle grade novel tells the story of Flory, a fairy who loses her wings in an accident and must fend for herself in a garden alongside bats, praying mantises and other potentially threatening creatures.
As she learns to appreciate life in the daytime—Flory was born a nocturnal fairy, although she attempts to change her sleep schedule—the little fairy also discovers emotions like empathy and hope.
I predict that this charming story will be a hit with kids who love the outdoors and playing make believe—not only because of the text, but because the accompanying illustrations are truly works of art. Illustrator Angela Barrett studied at the Royal College of Art in England with Quentin Blake (best known for immortalizing Roald Dahl’s characters in cartoons). She has illustrated more than 24 books, and her depictions of Flory’s miniature world will enchant young readers. (Visit this gallery on The Night Fairy’s website for examples.)
On Feb. 23, you can read about Schlitz’s intriguing new project and her interest in fairy stories on BookPage.com. In the meantime, listen to an audio clip from the author. In it, she discusses the joyful moment of winning the Newbery Medal in 2008:
We’re giving away a copy of The Night Fairy to a lucky reader. To enter, tell us in the comments: Who is your favorite fairy from literature? I’ll vote for Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Deadline: Feb. 17 at 10 a.m.
Scott Turow has made a name for himself writing fast-paced, incisive legal thrillers (eight of which have been bestsellers). But the book that started it all—1987's Presumed Innocent—is undoubtedly his best-known (and best-selling) work. Set in a midsize Midwestern city, the novel focuses on Rusty Sabich, Kindle County's longtime chief deputy prosecutor, who has been asked to investigate the rape and murder of one of his colleagues, Carolyn Polhernus. Her murder has been an embarrassment to Rusty's boss, Raymond Horgan, who is facing a serious challenge in the upcoming election and who looks to Rusty for a fast solution to the case that will help save him politically. But what Horgan doesn't know is that, only a few months before she was murdered, Carolyn Polhemus and Rusty Sabich were lovers. And, after several complicated legal twists and turns, Rusty finds himself accused of Carolyn's murder.
Twenty years after Rusty Sabich and Tommy Molto went head-to-head, they find themselves pitted against each other once again in a riveting psychological match. When Sabich, now sixty years old and the chief judge of an appellate court, finds his wife, Barbara, dead under mysterious circumstances, Molto accuses him of murder for the second time, setting into motion a trial that is vintage Turow—the courtroom at its most taut and explosive.
. . . Katherine Heigl. Variety reports that the "plum" role of buxom bounty hunter in the film version of Janet Evanovich's One for the Money will be played by the "Grey's Anatomy" star. It's been a long time coming; Columbia pictures first optioned the novel for film in 1994 and Reese Witherspoon was previously attached to the project (though Janet E. has said on her website that she envisions Sandra Bullock in the role). Now that Heigl has signed on, the project has gained momentum and is likely to start production.
Now, the question is, who will be cast as Stephanie's two love interests, Morelli and Ranger?
Since political memoirs have been a dime a dozen in recent weeks*, I was intrigued by a different kind of book deal from (could-have-been political memoirist) Nicolle Wallace, former White House Communications Director under George W. Bush and advisor to Sarah Palin (with whom she famously had a head-butting relationship).
In October 2010, Atria will publish Wallace’s debut novel, a story that “follows the first female President of the United States, Charlotte Kramer, and her staff as they take on dangerous threats from abroad and within her very own cabinet.” The title is Eighteen Acres, insider lingo for the White House Complex.
Atria’s vice president and executive editorial director Emily Bestler said that “Heroines in woman’s fiction typically struggle with the weight of the world on their shoulders. . . Nicolle Wallace has created a character in which that can be said literally. Forget everything you know about the genre. Whatever family, friend or workplace drama we’ve read about in the past becomes magnified tenfold when you’re the nation’s first female president.”
Here are my follow-up questions: Will President Kramer be a Democrat or Republican? (Since she was dreamed up by Nicolle Wallace, I’m guessing Republican. . . but you never know!) Will you read this debut?
While you wait for Eighteen Acres, read an interview with Curtis Sittenfeld about American Wife, a “thinly veiled account of Laura and George W. Bush's courtship and rise to the top of American politics. . . a sparkling, sprawling novel.”
*Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by political reporters John Heilemann and Mark Halperin; The Politician: An Insider’s Account of John Edwards’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down by Edwards aide Andrew Young; On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System by former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson; Staying True by betrayed South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford. . . Has anyone else noticed a trend of 15-word titles?