We're running a roundup of historical fiction titles in the April edition of BookPage. The plots move from Renaissance Italy to 16th-century England, and feature "struggling artists and merciless monarchs, dysfunctional families and doubt-wracked lovers," writes contributor Julie Hale.
Two of the four books in the roundup come out this week: Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt (out tomorrow) and Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell (out today). And, lucky for us, there are book trailers of each book to compliment our reviews.
Daughters of the Witching Hill takes place in Lancashire, England, in 1612, as two women are targeted in a witch hunt. Hale raves: "Striking just the right balance between the demands of fact and the allure of a good story, [Sharratt] has produced a novel that’s both convincing and compelling. . . literally—a spellbinding book." In the trailer below, Sharratt tells the true story of the witches of Pendle Hill.
Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet tells the story of Monet and his wife and inspiration, Camille Doncieux. In her review, Hale writes that Cowell fleshes out "the artist’s biographical outline with fresh imagery, well-paced dramatic scenes and carefully calculated dialogue." Look at some of Monet's gorgeous paintings in this trailer:
Have you seen any memorable book trailers lately? Do you have a great historical fiction title to recommend?
Our top 50 books of 2009 list has been one of the most popular features on BookPage.com. With that in mind, we decided to compile a "Top 20 Books of 2010—so far" list, based on the most-viewed new reviews on BookPage.com, from January 1 until March 31.
In our recent reader survey, BookPage readers asserted their love for fiction, especially mysteries and thrillers. So I was surprised to see that several non-fiction titles, such as This Book is Overdue! by Marilyn Johnson and Crazy Like Us by Ethan Watters, have been incredibly popular this year.
View the complete list below and tell us: How many have you read? Come December, will any of these books make the year's "best of" list?
In the summer of 1988, a corporate transfer landed my husband Marty and me in Atlanta. A diehard baseball fan (and all-star shortstop as a youth), Marty was thrilled to finally live in a city with a Major League Baseball team—we were at a Braves game before the moving truck had even arrived with our belongings. He quickly made inquiries about season tickets for the 1989 season and found four to-die-for seats between home plate and the dugout on the first-base side.
If you know your baseball history, you know how awful the Braves were in the late 1980s and the Cinderella story of their "worst to first" season in 1991. We were there, through the painful string of losses to the playoffs and the World Series! And we continued to enjoy our amazing seats through the next several powerhouse seasons (while all the fair-weather fans scrambled for a ticket). My daughter learned the tomahawk chop about the same time she learned to walk, and my son honed his reading and math skills by studying the Braves box scores. Skip Caray, the venerable voice of the Braves, was literally the background soundtrack of those years of our lives.
So, when Robert Kempe of Seven Footer Press told me about their newest title, Cardboard Gods, I knew I had found the perfect book for Marty. This unique memoir tells the 1970s coming-of-age story of author Josh Wilker, "played out" through his baseball card collection. Each short chapter begins with a full-color image of one of his baseball cards, and as the narrative of his life unfolds, it twists and turns and ultimately relates to the pictured card and featured player.
Even though I was only a baseball fan for those six "Braves" years, I was still drawn into Cardboard Gods. Intrigued, I studied the card at the beginning of each chapter, wondering how it would relate to the author's continued story. It's clever and fun, even when your heart aches for young Wilker as he makes his way from boyhood to adolescence and beyond. If you know a lover of baseball (or not!), surprise them with a copy of this book.
My new iPad was delivered bright and early Saturday morning -- part of the nationwide synchronized rollout of Apple's latest device -- and the UPS delivery lady seemed almost as happy about it as I was. "This is better than payday!" she told me. "Everybody is so excited to be getting these."
In the two days since the delivery, I've found a lot to love about the iPad, but for Book Case readers I want to concentrate on my reaction to the iPad as a reader and booklover. I'll frame my reactions with comparisons to the Kindle, which has dominated the market for e-readers until this weekend.
The iPad is super-thin, beautifully designed, lightweight (1.5 pound) and easy to use. It looks and functions almost exactly like an iPhone or iPod touch, so if you're familiar with either of those devices you'll know what to expect. The screen is strikingly sharp, the colors gorgeous and the battery life amazing. The iPad arrived at my house fully charged and the battery was still going strong after an entire day of steady use. The glare on the screen is considerable, however, and because of its 7.5 inch width, holding it like a book can feel a bit clumsy at first.
The Kindle is lighter (10 oz.) than the iPad, uses e-ink rather than a backlit screen and has push button controls rather than a touch system. The screen display is black and white only (or, as some users have described it, gray on gray) -- a sharp contrast to the vivid colors of the iPad. Though the Kindle might have the edge in being easy on the eyes for hours of nonstop reading, in every other category, the iPad is a better designed, more functional device. And in addition to reading, the iPad allows users to access the Internet, read email, watch TV shows or movies, and run thousands of specially designed mini-programs (apps). Whether you consider that a plus, or an intrusion on your time for reading books, is up to you.
THE IPAD vs. KINDLE VERDICT: iPad wins this round
The iPad uses a new e-reader program called iBooks. I loved it almost from the first moment I tried it out while reading a beautifully illustrated edition of Winnie the Pooh (which comes free with every new iPad). Each page is clearly defined on the screen, whether you're using the iPad in landscape or portrait mode. And when the reader turns the page -- by dragging a finger across the page from right to left -- the page appears to curl from the edge and turn, exactly as it would on a real book. It's hard to say why this visual trick is so enticing for a booklover, but it works. Other nice features: tap on any word and you can instantly look it up at dictionary.com, bookmark it or search for it elsewhere in the text. And increasing the font size or style is one-click easy, a big help for older readers who aren't quite ready for large print books. The iPad is also especially well suited for children's books and is sure to be a hit with young readers. Children's books have been among the top ranked reading apps for the iPhone and that's likely to continue with the iPad.
VERDICT: iPad wins again
Apple has the goods -- a cool new e-reader and appealing software -- but at least for now, it does NOT have the books. Especially not a wide selection of books that would appeal to an eclectic reader like me. The very first book I wanted to buy was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which my book club is reading this month. Though I have a hard copy of the book on hand, I thought it would be interesting to compare the experience of reading the same book on the iPad and in traditional printed format. But, darn, Apple doesn't have this acclaimed book available in its iTunes store, because Random House hasn't reached a deal with Apple yet. What to do? I went back to the iTunes store and downloaded the brand new (free) Kindle app for the iPad, which enables me to read Amazon's Kindle books on my Apple device. Then I went to Amazon.com on my browser, found the book almost immediately and downloaded it to my iPad. Amazon has the shopping experience for books down to a science, while the iTunes store seems constrained, hard to browse and to search. The experience of reading Kindle books on an iPad isn't ideal -- for one thing you don't get the advantages of the iBooks software -- but for now it gives users the best of both worlds: the vast book selection of Amazon paired with Apple's sleek new device.
VERDICT: Amazon/Kindle, hands down
Which of these devices would be best for you depends on several factors, most notably whether you want a gadget only for reading books and periodicals or whether you'd prefer to have other capabilities.
Also, I have to admit that while I love my new iPad, I ultimately put it down and picked up a hard copy of The Book Thief to finish my reading. After several hours of reading on the iPad, I'll readily admit that I yearned to pick up an old-fashioned book and hold it in my hands, a posture that's so ingrained in a long-time reader it's probably been incorporated into our DNA. After all is said and done (and read), a book is still the most portable, most readable and most satisfying "reading device" of all.
Congratulations to Diana and Beth, the winners of last week's contests on The Book Case.
Diana will receive a copy of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees.
Beth will receive a copy of Aries Rising by Bonnie Hearn Hill.
Ladies, notification emails are on the way.
Whether you're interested in the complexities of religious extremism or you're a huge YA fantasy fan, this week there is something for everyone on BookPage.com. Below, I've highlighted a few new features (click the book titles to continue reading). Note that all of the pieces are web-exclusives, so you won't find the Q&A, interview or reviews in the print edition of BookPage.
Which book will you read first?
One of the more unusual titles going on sale this week is Three Wishes: A Story of Good Friends, Crushing Heartbreak and Astonishing Luck on Our Way to Motherhood. Written by three friends, the memoir chronicles their unusual path to motherhood. All three were single and pushing 40. All three had made the decision to go the sperm donor route. And as soon as they did, all three met a man and had a child the old-fashioned way.
Today we're featuring a Behind the Book story from authors Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones and Pamela Ferdinand, explaining why they felt compelled to tell their tale to readers.
As Goldberg puts it, "They say you write the book you need to read; I was doing that, writing just what I would have liked to read as a single woman facing a harsh biological deadline, looking for role models and inspiration."
Continue reading the story behind Three Wishes here.
Today is International Children's Book Day, a celebration sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People. Children's Book Day is celebrated annually on Hans Christian Anderson's birthday (April 2) "to inspire a love of reading and to call attention to children's books."
Every year, a different country sponsors the celebration, and this year Spain is the host country. Eliacer Cansino, a children's author from Sevilla, has written a message to children in honor of books and reading. (Cansino has written many books, perhaps most notably his award-winning El misterio Velázquez, which tells the story of the famous painter and one of the dwarfs from Las Meninas.) Book illustrator Noemí Villamuza designed the Day's poster.
I really enjoyed Cansino's message, which you can find translated in English at this link. He quotes a popular children's rhyme about learning to sail, then describes how a forgotten book is able to unfold its sails when a child picks it up—and the child, likewise, is able to be transported "to a world that was at once exciting and unknown":
And that is the story of how I discovered that beyond my home there was a river, and behind that river a sea, and in the sea was a boat setting sail. The first boat I embarked was called La Hispaniola, but it could just have easily be called Nautilus, Rocinante, Sinbad's Ship or Huckleberry's Great Big Boat… All of these, no matter the passing of time, will be there waiting for a child's eyes to look upon them, unfold their sails and set them sailing…
So, don't wait any longer. Reach out and pick up a book. Read it and you'll find that much like that childhood song of mine, there is no boat, no matter how small, that in time doesn't learn how to sail.
Are there any book blog posts that you'd like to recoginze? Give them a shout out in the comments. Happy reading!
A few interesting posts I've stumbled on in the past week include:
Welcome to National Poetry Month
Posted by Savvy Verse & Wit
Yesterday I posted a few poem-a-day e-mails hosted by several different websites, but Savvy Verse & Wit takes National Poetry Month coverage to a whole different level. This week she posted a blog tour, so you can see which blogs are showcasing poets and poetry on every day of the month. For example, on April 9, Rhapsody in Books will feature W.B. Yeats and Literate Housewife will blog about Alan Ginsburg. Look out for discussion of contemporary poetry on Savvy.
Book Plant Potters: A DIY Project
Posted by Entomology of a Bookworm
Alright, booklovers, I can understand if you're unwilling to rip apart a hardback in the service of a nifty project. But still: think of all those books in the giveaway box at your local bookstore! Recycle them into plant potters—sounds like a great springtime activity to me.
Kurt Vonnegut Reads from Slaughterhouse-Five
Posted by Open Culture
Vonnegut fans will definitely want to check out this post, which links to an online recording of the author reading from Slaughterhouse-Five. (I guess you probably figured that out from the title of the blog post!) Open Culture also provides a link to Vonnegut's 1962 Sci-Fi story, "2BR02B." This reminds me: Has anyone had a chance to read Look at the Birdie?
Anyone seen all the TV commercials for Walgreens, Wal-Mart and everywhere else about the "perfect" Easter basket? I don't know about you, but I think a great Easter basket includes a couple picture books next to those chocolate eggs.
In the April print edition of BookPage, beloved author and illustrator Jan Brett writes about her new book, The Easter Egg. (Click the graphic below to see the whole interview.) You can also catch Brett on The Martha Stewart Show today.
For a lovely book that focuses on Christian teaching (rather than Easter bunnies), check out Carol Wedeven's The Easter Cave.
Do you have a favorite book to share on Easter?