HCI Books, the company that publishes the Chicken Soup books, announced today that they have created a “new subgenre” of romance novels: fantasy meets reality. (When I read about this, I’ll admit that the first thing that popped into my head is a line from David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice: “It’s these real-life dramas that tend to draw a larger audience. Why? I chalk it up to five simple words we use in every print or televised promotion. Five words: ‘Based Upon a True Story.’”)
The idea is that real-life couples can share a “sexy, steamy, bigger-than-life, or just plain worthwhile love story” and romance authors will write a novel based on the truth. The line of books will be called "Vows," and book one, Hard to Hold, comes out in October 2010.
Written by Julie Leto, Hard to Hold is about a woman who falls in love with a man with Tourette’s Syndrome. The pub copy also alludes to a second hurdle in the relationship. My curiosity got the best of me, and I searched the couple’s names online. Turns out they had the lead wedding story in the Sunday New York Times in August, so you can get the juicy details now, if you’d like.
The cheesy factor is certainly amped in the Vows books. (“When fantasy meets reality anything can happen. Believe it. It’s true.”) And as someone who spends hours a week engrossed in fiction, I take issue with the line from HCI’s promotional copy asserting that “the best things in life—and in romance—are real.” (Father Ralph and Meggie are real, too... to me!)
But I can still recognize that this is a very clever concept that’s perfectly suited for the age of Facebook and Google stalking and The Bachelor. When I finish a book, I love to find out everything I possibly can about the author. With the Vows books you’ll be able to do the same with the main characters. Plus, their story will keep on going when you finish the novel, which is an interesting idea.
What do you think, readers? Are you more interested in a romance novel that’s Based Upon a True Story—is truth stranger (or rather, steamier) than fiction? Or are romance plots best developed in a writer’s imagination?
For some traditional romance, check out Christie Ridgway’s February column in BookPage.
Young adult author Barry Lyga recently signed a deal with Little, Brown for a book that Publisher's Marketplace described as "'Dexter' meets 'The Silence of the Lambs' for teens, about a teen boy who uses his killer instinct, inherited from his serial killer father, to help solve a series of gruesome murders." The book, I HUNT KILLERS, will be published in spring 2012.
Lyga is a rising star in the field of teen fiction, with four YA novels under his belt, all set in the town of South Brook, Maryland. I wonder if I HUNT KILLERS will take place in South Brook as well — and if so, should fans of his earlier books fear for the lives of their favorite characters? But even if the place and people are all new, Lyga's ability to create fully realized and believable characters will no doubt have me hiding under the covers with a flashlight, frantically turning the pages to find out who survives.
Related in BookPage: A Q&A with Lyga about his most recent book, Goth Girl Rising.
And a question for readers: What was the scariest book you read as a teenager?
We were happy to hear that Libba Bray has signed a contract with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers to write a new YA series for major bucks—$2 million, rumor has it. Editor Megan Tingley (who also publishes Stephenie Meyer) will be working with Bray on The Diviners, a trilogy set in the 1920s. Bray describes the series as "a wild new ride full of dames and dapper dons, jazz babies and Prohibition-defying parties, conspiracy and prophecy—and all manner of things that go bump in the neon-drenched night.”
Bray's success comes on the heels of winning the Printz Medal for Going Bovine, a picaresque tale of a teenage boy searching for a cure for mad cow disease, but she is also known for her atmospheric Victorian-era series that started with A Great and Terrible Beauty and contains supernatural elements.
One mystery: in our interview with Bray, she told us her work-in-progress was something quite different, “a satire about a group of teen beauty queens whose plane crashes on a deserted island. Sort of Lord of the Flies as channeled by P.J. O’Rourke and [National Lampoon writer] Doug Kenney.” Though we're eager to see what she makes of the 1920s, we're hoping this intriguing project will also see the light of day!
Keep your eyes on The Book Case for more giveaways!
All you have to do is look at our February cover to know we’re excited about Valentine’s Day here at BookPage. To celebrate even more, we’re giving away a box of beautiful picture books—a perfect gift for any child. The collection features both board books for babies and picture books for young readers, including:
Related in BookPage: See our Valentine’s Day coverage (relationship guides and memoirs, romance column and more) in the February print edition.
Here’s another question for you. Does popular fiction translate on the stage?
If you loved Lee Smith’s The Last Girls or Jill McCorkle’s Going Away Shoes, you may want to make a trip to NYC: Paul Fergusen has adapted their stories into a play called Good Ol’ Girls, which seeks to celebrate "childhood through old age with big hair and bigger hearts.” Music is by Marshall Chapman and Matraca Berg, and previews start Feb. 8.
BookPage columnist Julie Hale dubbed Smith “the mistress of modern Southern literature” and The Last Girls a “sassy classic.” McCorkle has been called an “acute observer of the foibles of domestic life.” What do you think—will their stories be a hit in an Off-Broadway production?
Related in BookPage: Read an interview with Smith.
The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
Viking, March 18, 2010
Prime numbers are divisible only by 1 and by themselves. They hold their place in the infinite series of natural numbers, squashed, like all numbers, between two others, but one step further than the rest. They are suspicious, solitary numbers, which is why Mattia thought they were wonderful. Sometimes he thought that they had ended up in that sequence by mistake, that they’d been trapped, like pearls strung on a necklace. Other times he suspected that they too would have preferred to be like all the others, just ordinary numbers, but for some reason they couldn’t do it. This second thought struck him mostly at night, in the chaotic interweaving of images that comes before sleep, when the mind is too weak to tell itself lies.
In his first year at university, Mattia had learned that, among prime numbers, there are some that are even more special. Mathematicians call them twin primes: pairs of prime numbers that are close to each other, almost neighbors, but between them there is always an even number that prevents them from truly touching. Numbers like 11 and 13, like 17 and 19, 41 and 43. . .
Mattia thought that he and Alice were like that, twin primes, alone and lost, close but not close enough to really touch each other. He had never told her that.
Here in Nashville, we're still digging out from our biggest snowstorm in years, which dumped several inches of snow and ice on the city and wiped out last Friday's work day. If you've never observed the behavior of Southerners when a snowstorm is approaching, think London during the Blitz. As the snow fell, we were greeted with wintry scenes like this:
It's been cold and dreary for days since the storm hit, so imagine how pleased I was to open my inbox today and find this picture:
The photographer of this beautiful scene is Michael Sims, who writes: "In case it's as gray down there as it is here, herewith a moment of drama and color from E.B. White's garden in Maine, shot last summer. I wonder if Charlotte knows this bee. . . ."
Michael, the author of Apollo's Fire, Adam's Navel and several other books that combine his Renaissance-man interests in science, nature, evolution, literature and goodness knows what else, is working on a fascinating new project: The True Story of Charlotte's Web, coming from Walker/Bloomsbury in 2011. "The subtitle is still unsettled, and for that matter we may well change it," Michael tells us, "but right now it is something like this: The Dramatic Story of E.B. White's Eccentric Affair with Nature and the Birth of a Beloved Children's Book."
Charlotte's Web is my all-time favorite children's book (and it may well be yours, am I right?*), so I can't think of a more interesting project, or a lovelier place to do research, than E.B. White's Maine home. Here's Michael, in a photo taken by his wife Laura Sloan Patterson, in front of EBW's boat house, where Charlotte's Web was written:
Whatever the weather where you are, enjoy the summer greens of Maine, and stay tuned to the Book Case for updates on The True Story of Charlotte's Web.
* We'd like to know: What is your all-time favorite children's book? Tell us in the comments.
As a major Project Runway devotee, I was thrilled to learn that Nina Garcia has sold a book to Hyperion’s Voice imprint. Titled Nina Garcia’s Look Book, the guide will feature advice on what to wear for “every occasion” and include artwork by Ruben Toldeo, who has also illustrated for The New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar and others (and he’s the husband of Isabel Toledo, who designed Michelle Obama’s Inauguration Day dress and overcoat). The book will be published in August 2010.
By day, Garcia is the fashion director of Marie Claire, although I know and love her as the no-nonsense (and occasionally snippy) judge of the best reality TV show in the history of reality TV shows: Project Runway. (“Don’t bore Nina!” is a favorite warning from designer mentor Tim Gunn.)
Garcia has also published other style guides: The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own, The Style Strategy: A Less-Is-More Approach to Staying Chic and Shopping and The Little Black Book of Style.
While you wait for Look Book, browse the BookPage fashion archive, where we’ve highlighted everything from Barbie fashion to street fashion.
What’s your favorite style guide?
Jennie Bentley is the author of the best-selling Do-It-Yourself home renovation mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. She doesn't just write about home renovation, she lives it—working as a renovator and real estate assistant as well as a writer. Today, Jennie shares her top 5 cheap and easy renovation tips with Book Case readers.
On March 2, the third installment in my Do-It-Yourself Home Renovation mysteries featuring textile-designer-turned-renovator Avery Baker, and her boyfriend, handyman Derek Ellis, will be in bookstores everywhere.
I’ve always done my best to make Avery and Derek ‘real people,’ the kind of fictional characters most of us can relate to and that we might like to hang out with. Inherited house and lapsed medical degree notwithstanding, they’re not independently wealthy and they’re not dilettantes. They’re hard-working people trying to make ends meet the same as the rest of us. At the beginning of Plaster and Poison, they find themselves in a place we all are likely to find ourselves sooner or later, especially in these economic times: short of cash.
In Derek’s and Avery’s case, what this means is that instead of buying a new house to renovate, they’re forced to go to work for someone else until their cash flow situation improves. For the rest of us, being short of cash usually means tightening the belt, skimping on luxuries like going out to eat and going to the movies. Updating our homes go on the back burner, except for fixing important things like leaking roofs or dripping faucets.
Sometimes, though, a change of scenery can do wonders for the morale. Here are a few tips from Avery for updating the look of your home on a budget:
Rearrange your furniture. You’d be amazed at the difference it can make. While you’re at it, try to get rid of some of the clutter, too. We all accumulate lots, and it can obscure and even make you forget the things you like about your home.
Paint a wall—or four. At $20-$25 per gallon, paint is the quickest and cheapest picker-upper, because it can totally change the look of a room. Even if all you do is paint one wall, it’ll change the entire space. With not much more money and a little more work, try a special effect, like sponge painting or crackling. Remember too, that paint doesn’t just work on walls: you can paint floors, doors, furniture, kitchen cabinets . . . all kinds of things.
Have some fun with fabrics. New curtains can make a huge difference, at not too prohibitive a price. Slipcovers are great: they totally change the look of a sofa or chair. Toss some new, cheap throw pillows on the furniture to update the look. For a dining room or kitchen, try a new tablecloth. If you’re feeling adventurous—and have access to a sewing machine—grab some cheap fabric remnants at a craft store and whip up your own pillows and window treatments. Or do a Scarlett O’Hara and recycle an old pair of curtains or even a shirt or sweater. Slipcovers, pillows, and window treatments in different fabrics can transform a room in no time flat.
Update your accessories. It’s amazing how the artwork on the walls and the tchotchkes on the table can define a room. Try changing your accessories to get a different look. Move things from one room to another, and update both spaces at the same time.
Play hardball with your hardware. Change out your doorknobs, the kitchen or bathroom faucets, or the cabinet handles and drawer pulls. The difference something so small can make is profound. On a slightly larger scale, a new chandelier above the dining room table, or replacing an outdated ceiling fan with a new, streamlined model, can make a world of difference as well.
So there you have it. It doesn’t have to take an arm and a leg, or a fortune, to update your house. And if you run out of ideas, you can always pick up a DIY-book for some inspiration. Preferably one of mine.
Jennie Bentley lives in Nashville with her husband (a realtor), two kids, two frogs, two goldfish, a parakeet, and a hyperactive dog. Learn more about Jennie and the DIY books on her website.