The Daily Mail's recent account of Hilary Duff's time shooting on the set of "Gossip Girl" was focused on Hilary's "drab to fab" transformation when she changed from a gray T-shirt into a Herve Leger dress. I was more intrigued by the fact that a young actress had a book in her hand:
That's Jodi Picoult's Salem Falls. A quick Google search revealed that Duff had been caught reading The Pact on an earlier "Gossip Girls" shoot.
Which makes me wonder: has Duff made it to page 315 of Nineteen Minutes yet?
Now that we've listed some our favorites of 2009, let's look ahead to 2010. We're already getting tons of January books -- here are a few recent arrivals that are on our radar.
Roses was a big buzz book at BEA and is a four-generation family saga that has been compared to The Thornbirds. Juicy!
Tracy Chevalier was one of the writers who kicked off the latest wave of historical fiction. Her new novel, Remarkable Creatures (Viking) is about two female fossil-hunters in Lyme Regis, England, in the 19th century. Isn't the jacket gorgeous? The UK edition (which went on sale earlier this week) uses the same elements in a different way.
Chevalier talks about her inspiration for the book here.
Then there's the return of Elizabeth Kostova with The Swan Thieves (Little, Brown), which we blogged about earlier this summer.
I was intrigued by the fanciful cover of Ali Shaw's The Girl with the Glass Feet (Holt). Shaw said his debut—the story of a girl who visits an island where strange things are happening and subsequently finds herself slowly turning into glass—was inspired by the European fairy tale tradition.
And Mo Hayder has Skin (Grove), a sequel to Ritual, coming out in January. Though so far none of her recent books have topped the creepiness of The Devil of Nanking in my mind, fans of literary horror will have something to keep them up at night.
And of course, there's the new Joshua Ferris—The Unnamed.
Any January releases you're looking forward to?
The year isn't over yet, but in early July Amazon posted their "top 10 books of the year . . . so far" in several categories. This got me wondering: what are my top 10 books of the year so far? In no particular order, some favorite new books from the year. Links will take you to the BookPage review.
[gallery link="file" columns="5" orderby="title"]
The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Not exactly an original choice, but there's a reason for the good word-of-mouth on this novel. Tremendously moving and unexpected.
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. Like Henry James in Turn of the Screw, Waters leaves the "poltergeist or disturbed protagonist" decision up to the reader, but draws a compelling portrait of Britain's changing class system after World War II.
The Believers by Zoe Heller. Though this one wasn't as much of a page-turner as Notes on a Scandal, I appreciate a writer who's not afraid to make her characters less than likeable. Plus, I envy her Bahamas/NYC lifestyle!
Shelf Discovery by Lizzie Skurnick. Perusing this collection of essays dedicated to the teen reads of my childhood was a fun trip down memory lane. It will be especially enjoyed by anyone in the 25-35 age range.
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I know this isn't on sale yet. Does it make you feel better to know that I'm still in a state of anticipation -- this time for book #3? Sequels are often disappointing, but this one lives up to the standard set by The Hunger Games. (Watch for our interview with Collins in the September issue.)
A Day and a Night and a Day by Glen Duncan. I'd never heard of this British writer before galleys of Day crossed my desk, but I'm now on the lookout for his earlier works.
A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert. The lives of four generations of women are captured in just 300-0dd pages that have the heft of a much bigger book. It reminded me in some ways of The Stone Diaries, which I just read (and loved).
Little Bee by Chris Cleave. A talked-up novel that deserved the buzz it got, Cleave's portrait of a Nigerian refugee with a startling connection to a well-to-do British woman and her husband is a moving, honest story of immigrant life and the ties that bind us all.
A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. I've long read and loved Wizenberg's blog, Orangette. Her memoir is written in the same friendly voice, but goes deeper into the stories behind the recipes. It is heartfelt, but not sentimental, and told with honesty -- so I'll be completely honest here and admit to staying up too late to read the whole book in one gulp and actually wiping tears more than once.
My Abandonment by Peter Rock. This novel about father-daughter survivalists who live off the grid was inspired by a true story and takes an unexpected turn.
What's your top 10?
One of the best things about working at a book review is being one of the first to know when a favorite author has a new book on the horizon. Today brought that pleasure for me—Lionel Shriver has a March 2 release scheduled with Harper.
Info on So Much for That is scarce (they don't even have a cover design available yet), but the catalog describes it as "a searing, deeply humane new novel about the tragic costs of the American healthcare system."
Before you think, ugh, a novel about issues, consider that Shriver has previously taken on such controversial topics as violence in schools, maternal ambivalence and infidelity in her novels, and still managed to make them completely absorbing. Plus, her current status as an expat (she is an American who lives in England) gives her a different perspective on the health care controversy. It also doesn't hurt that she's a sharply intelligent writer who won't pull punches. I have high hopes that this novel will be another winner.
Read our interview with Shriver for The Post-Birthday World.
I'm not normally a fan of book trailers—most of them are either cheesy or amount to little more than a dramatic reading of the back cover copy, which doesn't thrill me. However, this book trailer from Libba Bray promoting her latest book for teens, Going Bovine, is a hilarious exception to the norm (embed code not available, so you'll have to visit EW.com to watch).
The 3-minute video is incredibly wacky. Any author who describes a book as "having all the hallmarks of being weird that people have come to know and tolerate in my writing" while wearing a cow suit gets my vote. We're talking to Bray about Going Bovine in an interview that will only appear on our website, and now I can't wait to hear what else she has to say about the book.
If you check it out, come back and let me know what you think. Are there any other book trailers I shouldn't miss?
Don't miss the contest going on at BookPage.com this month. To win up to 10 free copies of Impossible by Nancy Werlin for you and your book club, all you have to do is create a profile for your club on our site and post a review of a book you've read by September 1. Then email or comment on this post to tell me you've done it.
If you haven't heard of Impossible, check out the story behind the book as told by Nancy Werlin herself on our site.
As a child I stole my mom's Stephen King novels from her bedside table (nothing like the lure of the forbidden!) and continued to read him through my teens. Over the last few years I've been a more sporadic King reader—skipping pretty much everything except Lisey's Story since Bag of Bones—but when I heard Under the Dome was along the lines of one of my favorites, The Stand, I was ready to dive in.
Then I opened our galley and found out it started on . . . page 73. Oops. Gives a whole new meaning to the term in media res, doesn't it?
Apparently we were the only unlucky ones, and Scribner got us a complete copy within a week. I've been working my way through the book ever since and can say that the Stand comparison is not too much of a stretch. After the jump, more on my impressions of the book so far (no real spoilers or plot details beyond those given in the published summary, but if you don't want to know anything about this one before you buy, stop here).
Since Under the Dome takes place in a small town sealed off from the world, it lacks the epic feel of The Stand. However, as in The Stand King uses his characters' predicament to address some major questions about human nature. The Stand asks if humans can avoid repeating their mistakes, and King's answer is ambiguous. In Under the Dome, the emphasis here is on compassion—or, sparing that, pity. What could force us to feel these emotions for the people we hurt, or see being hurt? What makes us stop seeing people as people, and why? The world watches as the situation in Chester's Mill goes downhill fast, and then turns away once the novelty of a town sealed off from the rest of the world fades and other news stories take top billing, recalling tragedies like Hurricane Katrina.
Under the Dome also contains signature King moments—images you'll remember, for better or for worse. And though the cast is huge, the characters manage to stand out as individuals. King fans should definitely mark November 10 on their calendar.
When we blogged about South of Broad, Pat Conroy's new novel, back in April, we were thrilled with the huge reader response we got.
Our readers commented to tell us how much they love Conroy and how excited they are for his new book. (To check out my original blog post, click here).
Today South of Broad goes on sale—and to celebrate, we are offering free copies to two lucky Book Case readers. All you have to do is comment on this posting by Friday, August 14. Tell us what your favorite Conroy novel is, or why you're looking forward to reading South of Broad. We'll select the winners at random. And don't forget to check out our August cover story on Conroy and South of Broad here.
Good luck! And happy reading!
The Book Case is proud to welcome author (and handwriting analyst!) Sheila Lowe. Here, she examines several handwriting samples from famous authors and demonstrates that telling a person's profession by their handwriting is easier said than done.
As part of my work as a forensic handwriting expert, I've studied more than 10,000 handwriting samples from people who work in a wide spectrum of professions and industries, including publishing. Authors like Dean Koontz, Michael Connelly, Anne Perry, and Dominick Dunne are part of my collection. So when BookPage asked me what commonalities there might be in the handwriting of authors, I had plenty of samples to look at.
The fact is, everyone's handwriting reveals a great deal about their personality, social skills, thinking style, ego strengths, and much more. But it's not a matter of merely looking at how a person forms their loops or dots their i's. Handwriting contains thousands of variables, and the experiences the writer has accumulated throughout a lifetime and their response to them creates a distinct pattern in the spatial arrangement of the writing on the page, the way the letters are formed, and the rhythm and movement of the writing.
Emily Dickinson had handwriting that is unusual in its excessive simplification, which reveals a problem with her ego. The extremely wide spaces between letters and words indicate her sense of, and need for, isolation.
Oscar Wilde's writing pattern is similar to Dickinson's in that the spacing, though not as extreme. So, we see these two authors had a strong need for personal space that dominated all aspects of their lives.
One of my favorite handwriting samples came in a letter from Dean Koontz, who kindly replied to a letter of mine. In his sample, the letters, words, and lines are quite close together, but not so close that the lower loops fall down and interfere with the next line (which would mean that he had trouble keeping things in their proper place). The writing looks warm and friendly but self-disciplined (the writer whose books have sold more than a half-billion copies would need to be self-disciplined!).
Dominick Dunne's handwriting is highly stylized, indicating someone who is concerned with image. It also has a left slant, which says he doesn't easily get close to people.
So we can see that despite some common characteristics, these authors have real differences, personality-wise, which makes sense. There is one thing they all have in common, though: their handwritings look nothing like the copybook model they were taught in school, and that means they each possess the characteristics of creativity, artistry, originality.
So coming back to the question, how do you tell who is an author by their handwriting? The answer is, you can't. Because each person is an individual with their own set of experiences and responses, like fingerprints, every handwriting is unique. There isn't just one type of author, so there isn't one type of author handwriting. But if the handwriting is creative, original, and expressive, it might have been done by an author. Or an artist. Or a photographer. Or...well, you get the picture.
Sheila Lowe is the author of the Forensic Handwriting Mysteries series, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis, and Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous. Her latest Claudia Rose mystery, Dead Write, is on sale this week.
Today’s publication of Nick McDonell’s third novel, An Expensive Education, probably has more than a few would-be writers twitching with jealousy—McDonell’s first novel, Twelve, was published when the author was just 18 years old.
On Sunday, the New York Times profiled the now 25-year-old writer. McDonell comes from a literary background—his father edits Sports Illustrated, and Hunter S. Thompson was a family friend. Although these connections no doubt helped McDonell get his first book deal, critic Michiko Kakutani validated the writer’s talent by calling Twelve “as fast as speed, as relentless as acid.” In BookPage, the novel was praised as being “energetic and episodic, brimming with tension. . . . McDonell, who is only 18, writes with a worldliness and wisdom that exceed his years.” Currently, Twelve is being turned into a movie by director Joel Schumacher, starring Kiefer Sutherland, Chace Crawford and 50 Cent.
Does anyone have other favorite authors who were discovered at a young age? A few immediately come to mind: Michael Chabon (The Mysteries of Pittsburgh was Chabon’s honors thesis and published when he was 25); Marisha Pessl (Special Topics in Calamity Physics debuted when Pessl was 28; Night Film is forthcoming in 2010); and Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything Is Illuminated was drawn from Foer’s senior thesis and published when he was 25). Young writer Kaleb Nation (age 20) is starting to get some buzz. His YA novel Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse will be published on Sept. 1.