Here in Nashville, we're still mourning the loss of the RWA 2010 convention, but the RITA and Golden Heart winners have a lot to celebrate. We were especially pleased to see Kristan Higgins' Too Good to Be True get the nod for Best Contemporary Romance (read our interview with Higgins for The Next Best Thing). Former BookPage columnist Barbara O'Neal's The Lost Recipe for Happiness (read our review) took home the trophy for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Element.
Click on over to the RWA site for the full list of winners.
What book blog posts have you enjoyed this week? A few of my favorites are highlighted below:
Freebie Friday: Penguin's 75th Anniversary
Posted by The Quivering Pen
Today is the official 75th anniversary of Penguin Books, and bloggers are celebrating in style—with posts and giveaways galore. To locate the blog coverage online, start by searching #Penguin75 on Twitter. Also, check out this documentary on Penguin's website, The Bird You Have Throughout Your Life, in which the company's execs and staffers talk about Penguin's history and future.
David of The Quivering Pen is doing a nice giveaway from this list of 75 Penguin books (Penguin itself did a similar giveaway which is now expired—but the giveaway is still active on the blog). David writes:
At some point in our reading lives, all of us have held a Penguin. (And if you haven't, then you're really missing out on the world's finest literature.) What began as the brainchild of Allen Lane in 1935 as a way to distribute quality paperbacks at a price cheaper than buying a pack of cigarettes, soon exploded into a publishing phenomenon.
It's a big day over at Penguin, but I bet the folks at Harlequin are celebrating, too, as right now the 30th annual Romance Writers of America conference is in full swing in Orlando. (I write that with some amount of sadness, as the conference was originally scheduled to take place in Nashville—until the flood made that impossible.) So, from July 28-31, I have been vicariously attending RWA via blog coverage. Harlequin is posting about events, authors and more; it's definitely worth a read if you enjoy romance novels.
Top 100 YA novels
Posted by Persnickety Snark
YA blog Persnickety Snark is counting down the top 100 YA novels ever. The list appears to be leaning toward more contemporary novels, and some of you will probably be outraged by the choices. (Let's just say that nobody consulted me before choosing A Ring of Endless Light as #89 and Eclipse as #58.) But still, it's fun to browse through the choices. What would be your #1?
It's Friday, and I bet many of you are looking forward to this afternoon, when you can take off from work and go out for a drink with friends. Maybe followed by some quiet reading time at home?
At the Gyopar, a small pub in a town outside of Budapest, you can do both at the same time. Listen to this genius idea: The Gyopar is a public library inside a pub.
Customers can quench their thirst not only for ales and spirits but enjoy some intellectual refreshment as well . . . The rules are simple. There are no registration or borrowing fees and the library works on a bring one, take one basis.
Does anything of this kind exist in your town?
Yesterday Anne Rice announced on her Facebook page that she was through with Christianity.
For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to "belong" to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.
In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
When she came back, it was with the spirit of a reformer. "People are always going to misuse things. And some Christians are going to misuse Christianity. They are going to use Christianity to hit someone over the head because they frighten them or threaten them," she told the LA Times in 2005. "We Christians have to get back to our roots as a people of love. Now we're associated with a religion of intolerance and hate. We have to come forward and speak about love." It seems she got tired of trying.
Rice's Songs of the Seraphim series, which began with last year's Angel Time and continues in November with Of Love of Evil, blends religious and supernatural themes—Rice calls them "metaphysical thrillers." She is said to be working on the third Christ the Lord book.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid #5 (coming out on November 9) will be titled . . . The Ugly Truth:
Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams, announced the book's title and released its cover today. The book's first printing will be an enormous 5 million copies (book #4, Dog Days, had a first printing of 4 million). Author Jeff Kinney has said this book is the "linchpin of the series." We'll have to wait a few more months to find out why.
In the meantime, read a hand-written (and illustrated) interview with Kinney or watch a trailer of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie. Also, did you know that Rodrick Rules, a movie based on book #2 in the Wimpy Kid series, is coming out on March 25, 2011?
Who's excited about this announcement?
The device will now come in two colors -- white and graphite -- and prices start at just $139 for the wireless-only version. (The WiFi and 3G version is still $189). This is a dramatic price cut for a device that cost $259 just a few months ago.
The new Kindle ships August 27.
Other changes: a smaller size (with the same 6-inch reading area), lighter weight of 8.5 oz, better contrast and an astounding one-month battery life. No word on whether the lag time between "pages," my one major issue with the Kindle 2, has been improved, however.*
Critics might ask why the web browser is still described as "experimental" or why they're not interested in accommodating or developing multimedia e-books, but I think Bezos is right to focus on building the best reading device he can instead of trying to compete with devices like the iPad.
Perhaps I need to forget about the iPod Touch I'd been saving for and get a Kindle of my own? Then again, the advances in e-readers are coming so hot and fast that it might be worth my while to hold out for $99 or less.
Anyone tempted to finally take the plunge and buy the new Kindle?
*ETA: Publisher's Lunch mentions "20 percent faster page turns" but I haven't seen this noted elsewhere.
This week's recipe comes courtesy of Steven Raichlen, grilling guru extraordinaire and author of Planet Barbecue! (Workman), July's Cookbook of the Month. This perfect summer dinner is so delicious, and Raichlen's headnotes are so mouthwatering, that I'm just going to let you get to it. Novice griller? Don't miss these top tips from Raichlen himself.
Travel the world’s barbecue trail and you’ll find lots of grilled chicken. What you won’t find outside of North America is a lot of grilled skinless, boneless chicken breasts. The reason is simple: The breast contains less fat and flavor than dark meat. It’s also more expensive and more likely to dry out on the grill. So when I found these chicken breasts, fragrant with curry and lemongrass, sizzling hot off the grill, at the night market in the French-Colonial town of Luang Prabang in northern Laos, I knew I had tasted a rarity—a chicken dish that would play equally well to health-conscious, convenience-loving North America and flavor-addicted Southeast Asia. In Laos, the chicken would be grilled on a split stick over a charcoal-filled clay brazier. Here’s how to do it on a grill with a conventional grate. The lemongrass, curry, and cilantro speak loudly enough for themselves.
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise, or 3 strips lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or dill
1½ teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus 1 tablespoon for basting
4 skinless, boneless half chicken breasts (each about 6 ounces, 1½ pounds in all)
Lime wedges, for serving
Place the lemongrass, garlic, cilantro, curry powder, salt, sugar, and pepper in a heavy mortar and pound to a paste with a pestle. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, finely chop these ingredients in a food processor. Gradually work in the 2 tablespoons
Rinse the chicken breasts under cold running water, then blot them dry with paper towels. Arrange the chicken breasts in a baking dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer. Spread the lemongrass marinade over the chicken breasts, turning to coat both sides. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 1 hour or as long as 4 hours; the longer it marinates, the richer the flavor will be.
Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat it to high.
When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Drain the chicken breasts and arrange them on the hot grate at a diagonal to the bars. Grill the chicken breasts until golden brown and cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes per side, giving each breast a quarter turn on each side after 1A minutes to create a handsome crosshatch of grill marks. After 3 minutes, start basting the chicken breasts with the 1 tablespoon of oil as they grill to keep them moist, taking care not to touch raw chicken with the basting brush.
Transfer the grilled chicken breasts to a platter or plates and serve them with the lime wedges.
Where: Luang Prabang in northern Laos
What: Chicken breasts marinated in a fragrant paste of lemongrass, garlic, and curry, grilled until crusty and golden
How: Direct grilling
Just the facts: Pounding the marinade ingredients in a large heavy mortar with a pestle will give you a richer flavor than pureeing them in a food processor; however, you can certainly use a processor.
By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham
FSG • $25 • September 28, 2010
Readers have been waiting five years for another Cunningham novel, and I suspect they will be immediately drawn into the world of Peter and Rebecca Harris, a "happy" middle-aged couple in New York City. The word happy is in quotes because of Peter's constant, questioning interior monologue—"What if she is falling out of love with him? Would it be tragic, or liberating?"
Peter is a successful art dealer and Rebecca is an editor at an art magazine. Their world gets a jolt when Rebecca's younger brother, Mizzy (for "the mistake") comes to visit, eager to find work—"Something in the Arts." Mizzy's youthful presence causes Peter to question his life even more . . .
The excerpt below provides an example of Peter's thoughts early in the novel. He and Rebecca are on their way home from a party.
The cab stops for the light at Sixty-fifth Street.
Here they are: a middle-aged couple in the back of a cab (this driver's name is Abel Hibbert, he's young and jumpy, silent, fuming). Here are Peter and his wife, married for twenty-one (almost twenty-two) years, companionable by now, prone to banter, not much sex anymore but not no sex, not like other long-married couples he could name, and yeah, at a certain age you can imagine bigger accomplishments, a more potent and inextinguishable satisfaction, but what you've made for yourself isn't bad, it's not bad at all. Peter Harris, hostile child, horrible adolescent, winner of various second prizes, has arrived at this ordinary moment, connected, engaged, loved, his wife's breath warm on his neck, going home.
Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me, doop doop de doop . . . .
That song again.
The light changes. The driver accelerates.
Yesterday, the "Man Booker Dozen" was announced. On September 7, six of these 13 books will be chosen for a shortlist, and on October 12, the winner of the Man Booker Prize—who will receive £50,000 and wide acclaim—will be announced.
The Man Booker honors "any full-length novel, written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland and published in the United Kingdom for the first time in the year of the prize. The novel must be an original work in English (not a translation) and must not be self-published." [Read more about the Prize here.] The most recent winner is Hilary Mantel for Wolf Hall.
This year's longlist includes five books already published in the United States:
There are a couple repeats in that group; Carey has already won the Booker Prize twice, for Oscar and Lucinda (1988) and for True History of the Kelly Gang (2001). Mitchell has been shortlisted twice, for number9dream (2001) and Cloud Atlas (2004).
The longlisted books forthcoming in the U.S. include:
Room by Emma Donoghue (out Sept. 13, and look for an interview with Donoghue in our September issue)
C by Tom McCarthy (out Sept. 7—look for a review in September)
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray (out Aug. 31)
Trespass by Rose Tremain (out Oct. 18)
Rounding out the list are titles not currently planned for an American release:
The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (This is Jacobson's second longlisted novel.)
The Stars in the Bright Sky by Alan Warner
In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut (This book is currently available in the U.S. via Kindle.)
Do you have any predictions about the winner, or favorites from this list?
In this morning's edition of Reading Corner, we asked YA fiction fans to let us know which supernatural teen books stand out from the crowd.
What books would you add to the list?