With February right around the corner, let's take a look at the February LibraryReads list, which features 10 books coming out next month that librarians across the country are the most excited about sharing with their patrons.
Topping the list is Red Rising by Pierce Brown, which Cindy Stevens of the Pioneer Library System in Norman, Oklahoma, proclaims as "the next great read for those who loved The Hunger Games."
While the list offers up lots of suspenseful thrillers to curl up with by the fire—The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon (our Top Pick in fiction for February!) and The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin, among them—it also features much-anticipated new novels from best-selling authors Matthew Quick and Wiley Cash. See the full list right here.
What do you think, readers? Any of the books going straight to the top of your TBR list?
It's been a long, long wait for fans of Scott Sigler's science-fiction series that begin with Infected and Contagious, but the story finally concludes with Pandemic, out today.
Why, oh why, would an author make his readers wait this long to find out what happens in a series, especially when everyone's about to die?
Sigler offers a look into the years between the first two books and Pandemic—and why the conclusion kicks off in real time, five years after the events of Contagious.
If you read a series as the books come out, waiting for that last installment can be barbed-wire torture, you want your story, and you want it now. Waiting a year between books feels normal. But two years? That’s enough to make the die-hard fan rethink her devotion to an author. Three years? Oh, the insufferable agony.
The real jerks, however, straight-up tease their fans with that dreaded magic number: five years between books.
I’m one of those jerks. Allow me to explain why.
Five years . . . who does that to their fans? Well, lots of authors. If I can armor myself with two of the more famous examples, I give you Stephen King and George R.R. Martin. King averaged five years between books I-IV of his Dark Tower series (the first three books of which I personally count as the best trilogy of all time, of any kind). GRRM, of course, recently caught all kinds of Amazon-review hell for the five-year wait between A Feast for Crows, book four of his Song of Fire and Ice series, and book five, A Dance with Dragons.
Sometimes, delays happen.
Five years also turned out to be the wait between Contagious, book two of my Infected series, and book three, Pandemic, which is out today from Crown Publishing. The long pause in my series is a little different from those juggernaut properties listed above in one key way—that five year delay isn’t just in the publication dates, it’s also in the story itself. When Pandemic opens, the characters from Contagious (the few who survived that book, anyway) have been going about their lives for five years since Contagious ended.
I did this for two reasons.
First, the five-year fictional delay had to happen because of my storytelling style, in that all my horror/thrillers—not just the Infected series, but my stand-alone novels as well — happen in “real time.” The date of hardcover publication always coincides with the date the story in the book begins. If you open up Pandemic on January 21, you’ll see characters living in an eerily similar-but-fictitious January 21 of their own.
Second, Contagious doesn’t end like most thrillers do. The hero doesn’t snip the blue wire when the counter reads 0:01 and save the day with only a moment to spare. At the end of that book, shit goes wrong, way wrong, with world-impacting consequences. That big ending meant the story and the characters needed a little time to breathe. The world needed time to return to normal so that it was ready to face the next level of disaster in Pandemic.
Did this long delay affect my writing style? Absolutely.
For starters, I wrote Infected, the first book in the series, over the course of a decade while working at least one (and usually two) day jobs. The sequel, Contagious, was also penned while holding down a regular gig. After Contagious, I was able to leave those jobs behind. That gave me five years of hardcore growth as a full-time author between book two and book three. I am a changed writer, a stronger writer.
But like the characters in my book, I’m also five years longer on this Earth. I’m not just a different writer, I’m also a different person. Half a decade has done to me what it does to most of us: magnified my understanding of mortality. Everything ends, everyone dies. It’s also taught me that, sometimes, even the strongest of relationships don’t last. We are chaotic creatures: People grow and change, which can warp and shear bonds once thought unbreakable. This happens in Pandemic: The opening scenes show us how a love forged in fire has cooled and fractured, driving apart two people who clearly belong together.
Pandemic is dear to me because it catches me in creative flux: The story is stronger because I’m better at showing both the strength of love and the pain of loss. The span between books gave me the perfect way to illustrate the subtle shift of a good-to-going-bad relationship by not focusing on the slow process of dissolution, but rather giving the reader two jarringly mismatched bookends. Those who’ve been through such difficulties know that love doesn’t die in a spectacular supernova, but rather fizzles out in a slow, cooling fade.
Does that mean I turned Pandemic into a romance novel? Not in this lifetime, sister. I engineered the climax of this book with one thought in mind: tear the roof off this sucker. I’m still that slam-bang author who wrote the grizzly tale Infected. While five years of added wisdom let me tell a story with more complexity and depth, I remained true to my soul, to my roots and to my kick-ass fans.
And to those fans, to the people who have been blogging, emailing, Tweeting and Facebooking at me for the last five years, demanding the conclusion to their much-loved story? To you, I say two things: Sorry about the wait, and I hope the end result was worth it.
Thanks, Scott! Fans of the Infected series finally find out what happens to the human race on the brink of mass extinction, as Pandemic comes out today!
Author photo image credit Amy Davis-Roth, surlyramics.com.
According to British author Louise Doughty, there comes a point in each woman's life where she finds herself wondering, "What's it all about?" The infamous mid-life crisis is exactly what her latest novel, Apple Tree Yard grapples with.
Accomplished geneticist Yvonne Carmichael meets an alluring stranger in a corridor and begins a sudden affair. But this one attempt to shake up her domestic life evolves into a much broader set of choices with increasingly tumultuous consequences.
Our reviewer, Amy Scribner appreciates how Doughty "perfectly captures the quiet details of domestic life, the erotic charge of a high-stakes affair [and] the crackling drama of a courtroom," while also boldly challenging the way we think about fate.
Watch Doughty play the heck out of a piano and describe the details of her novel, now available in the U.S. for the first time.
We're still putting the final touches on our 2014 preview, but couldn't wait to share this news: Hilary Mantel is publishing a short story collection in September. The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher is the double-Booker winner's second short story collection and her first in 10 years—and it certainly has a killer title (ha).
If you need convincing that Mantel is as able a short-story writer as she is a novelist, there are a few samples of her short fiction online:
"Curved Is the Line of Beauty" (Times Literary Supplement, 2002)
"The Heart Fails Without Warning" (The Guardian, 2009)
"Comma" (The Guardian, 2010)
"Winter Break" (welovethisbook.com, 2012)
"The Long QT" (The Guardian, 2012)
I can't wait to get my hands on this book. Will you read it?
p.s. More about Mantel on our site. And did you know she was named one of Time's most influential people last year?
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
Doubleday • $25.95 • ISBN 9780385538497 • on sale February 11, 2014
Could there be a more apropos time to read Jennifer McMahon's chilling new novel, The Winter People, than while a "polar vortex" funnels arctic air across much of the country? One thing's for sure—this is a super-creepy book. Like, sleep-with-the-lights-on, close-the-closet-door scary, with plenty of hair-raising moments that will linger in your thoughts long after reading them.
Haunting in more ways than one, The Winter People is primarily set in West Hall, a remote small town in Vermont. The story alternates between the diary of Sara Harrison Shea, who was brutally murdered back in 1908 shortly after the heartbreaking death of her young daughter, and a present-day mystery revolving around the disappearance of Alice—who happens to live in the old Shea farmhouse. Alice's daughters, Ruthie and Fawn, go in search of their mother and end up making some horrifying discoveries about the past and themselves. Add in some unexpected twists, and you've got a genuine page-turner.
Here's the opening entry from Sara's diary, to lure you in:
January 29, 1908
The first time I saw a sleeper, I was nine years old. It was the spring before Papa sent Auntie away—before we lost my brother, Jacob. My sister, Constance, had married the fall before and moved to Graniteville.
I was up exploring in the woods, near the Devil's Hand, where Papa had forbidden us to play. The trees were leafing out, making a lush green canopy overhead. The sun had warmed the soil, giving the damp woods a rich, loamy smell. Here and there beneath the beech, sugar maple, and birch trees were spring flowers: trilliums, trout lilies, and my favorite, jack-in-the-pulpit, a funny little flower with a secret: if you lifted the striped hood, you'll find the preacher underneath. Auntie had shown me this, and taught me that you could dig up the tubers and cook them like turnips. I had just found one and was pulling back the hood, looking for the tiny figure underneath, when I heard footsteps, slow and steady, moving my way. Heavy feet dragging through the dry leaves, stumbling on roots. I wanted to run, but froze with panic, having squatted down low behind a rock just as a figure moved into the clearing.
I recognized her at once—Hester Jameson.
She'd died two weeks before from typhoid fever. I had attended her funeral with Papa and Jacob, seen her laid to rest in the cemetery behind the church up by Cranberry Meadow. Everyone from school was there, all in Sunday best.
Look for our review of The Winter People—our Top Pick in fiction for February!—in next month's issue of BookPage.
What do you think, readers? Will you be adding this to your TBR list? What are you reading this week?
It has been almost seven years since the publication of Kaui Hart Hemmings' promising debut, The Descendants, which became an Alexander Payne film starring George Clooney. But! On May 13, 2014, the wait is over for Hemmings fans with the release of The Possibilities (Simon & Schuster). This time out, Hemmings is eschewing the lush setting of her native Hawaii for the ski resort town of Breckenridge, but she's continuing her exploration of family bonds and the weight of grief.
Single parent Sarah St. John lost her son, Cully, in an avalanche just three months ago. Consumed by grief, Sarah is just going through the motions despite the urgings of her friends and family to move on. Then a girl shows up on her doorstep with a surprising connection her dead son.
As part of our Best Books of 2013 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list. Marisha Pessl’s sophomore effort avoids the dreaded slump with a shadowy, tightly wound thriller. Readers follow Scott McGrath, a journalist who watched his career crumble after leveling a threat against Stanislas Cordova—an elusive cult filmmaker reminiscent of early horror visionaries like Alfred Hitchcock and Dario Argento. But when Cordova’s 24-year-old daughter Ashley is found dead in a warehouse, McGrath sees a chance to salvage his own name while perhaps exposing Cordova’s dark side. Pessl writes with power and authority in Night Film while inviting readers to “explore their darker selves.” Read our review. View our complete Best Books of 2013 list, and find more Best Books of 2013 coverage on the blog.
Ruth Reichl, the former NYT restaurant reviewer, final editor of Gourmet magazine and author of several best-selling memoirs, will be turning to fiction with her next book. Random House will publish Delicious! in May 2014, "a novel of sisters, family ties, and a young woman who must let go of the past to embrace her own gifts." The aforementioned heroine is Billie Breslin, who has moved to New York City to take a job at the food magazine Delicious!. But after Delicious! is abruptly shuttered, Billie discovers of WWII-era letters between a 12-year-old girl and famous chef and cookbook writer James Beard—a correspondence that ends up changing her own life. Readers can count on evocative descriptions of NYC and an authentic depiction of the foodie magazine scene—and yes, even a recipe for Billie's famous gingerbread. Related in BookPage: Read an interview with Ruth Reichl and other coverage of her previous books.
As part of our Best Books of 2013 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list. Think J.R. Ewing and “Dallas.” Think Lonesome Dove. Think Faulkner. This stunning second novel from Philipp Meyer (following his critically praised debut, American Rust) combines epic storytelling, Texas tragedy and raw, powerful writing. Tracing the rise to power of the McCullough clan—from the birth of patriarch Eli in 1836 to the 20th-century struggles of great-granddaughter Jeannie—Meyer reveals more about Texas and its violent past than any history book ever could. Read our review or interview, or check out an excerpt. To see the full list of our best books of 2013, click here.
As part of our Best Books of 2013 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
Donna Tartt's hefty new novel is that rarest of creatures: a book that is both exquisitely written, and excruciatingly suspenseful. Like the work of art it centers on—Carel Fabritius' 1654 painting The Goldfinch—the novel's vivid detail and creative spark combine to create a masterful work of trompe l'oeil.
Read our review.