Despite having only two novels to her credit, Lauren Groff is one of the most original voices in American literature today. Rumor has it she cements that reputation on September 15, when she'll release novel #3, Fates and Furies (Riverhead). A tour de force about a marriage, it's a story that posits that "the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets." Lotto and Mathilde married at 22, in secret, and their whirlwind romance and creative partnership is the envy of their friends. But 10 years on, we revisit the couple to find that there is more beneath the surface.
Check out an excerpt here. Who else is looking forward to this one?
James Hannaham's bold debut novel and our March Fiction Top Pick, Delicious Foods, centers on a mother's search for her son as she struggles with grief, addiction and the diabolical business of Delicious Foods Farm. Our reviewer writes, "Few novels leap off the page as this one does. Delicious Foods is a cri de coeur from a very talented and engaging writer." (Read the full review here.)
We asked Hannaham to tell us about three books he's enjoyed reading lately, and he graciously agreed to share.
Last year, indie publisher The Dalkey Archive released the first 14 of a planned 25 translations of modern Korean works of fiction. And if you think K-Pop, bibimbap, and Kias are all that nation has to offer, the books that have appeared so far are already revelatory. No One Writes Back exemplifies a lot of what’s terrific about Dalkey's Library of Korean Literature: It’s ostensibly the story of a man compelled by a family tragedy (unnamed until late in the novel) to wander purposelessly, accompanied by his aging and blind dog, Wajo, sending letters to everyone he meets. But the story isn’t as thin as it seems; Jang deftly illuminates the alienated tone of our times through the hero and his animal companion, balancing hipness and heartbreak.
When I visit a new place for the first time, I sometimes read a well-known novel set there, hoping it will deepen the experience culturally, perhaps emotionally. My partner and I visited Cartagena, Colombia, recently, so I chose this one, which is supposedly based on his parents’ relationship. Gabo, as they call Marquez there, was on my mind after he died last year, and I’d already read One Hundred Years of Solitude. Gabo never mentions the old city of Cartagena by name in his mordant and ironic, yet intensely romantic, tale. But as I meandered, entranced, through the gorgeously well preserved, 16th-century walled city on the Caribbean coast, with its belated Christmas decorations still glittering everywhere, it was unmistakable. I sometimes felt as if I had opened the book instead of going for a walk.
Almost like a black remake of Jennifer Egan’s first novel, The Invisible Circus, Bridgett Davis’ Into the Go-Slow is also a story about a young woman who idolizes an older sister who perished in a foreign country and decides to re-trace the older woman’s steps. In Egan’s case, the protagonist travels from San Francisco to Italy; Davis’ heroine, Angie, flees a dead-end life in Detroit to follow her late sister's adventures in Lagos, Nigeria. As she learns shocking new details about her sister, she begins to discover herself, Africa and how different the realities of these things are from everything she expected. Davis makes all these moves feel fresh and almost effortless in this wonderfully engrossing book.
Thank you, James! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Ian Douglas)
Congratulations to all of the authors nominated for the prestigious RITA awards, which recognize the best romance novels published in the past year. We've covered many of the books and authors in the running and wish them the best of luck. Check out the full list of nominees on Romance Writers of America's website!
A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev
The Best Medicine by Tracy Brogan (Bell Harbor)
It’s in His Kiss by Jill Shalvis
Love with a Perfect Cowboy by Lori Wilde
One in a Million by Jill Shalvis (Congrats on the double nod!)
Douglas: Lord of Heartache and Worth: Lord of Reckoning by Grace Burrowes
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
Hope at Dawn by Stacy Henrie
The Darkest Touch by Gena Showalter
My two favorite food groups are coffee and cake, so clearly baking Lorraine Pascal's Simply Coffee, Vanilla & Walnut Cake has jumped straight to the top of my weekend priorities. Find this and a wealth of, ahem, a bit healthier recipes in her new cookbook, Everyday Easy.
Simply Coffee, Vanilla & Walnut Cake
One of the first cakes I ever ate was a simple coffee-flavored cake. No bells, no whistles, nothing fancy, simply coffee cake with a rich coffee buttercream. I have, however, played around with the recipe a bit and added whole wheat flour, which gives a tasty, nutty dimension to the sponge cake. But if you don’t have whole wheat flour in the cupboard, then just make this up with all-purpose flour instead for an equally appetizing cake.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Time baking in the oven: approximately 25 minutes
Equipment: Kettle, two ¾ x 8-inch round cake (springform) or tart pans with removable bottoms,
large baking sheet, mug, 2 large bowls, pastry brush, wire rack, fine sieve
++Preheat the oven to 350°F, and put the kettle on to boil (with just a small amount of water). Grease the bottom of two cake or tart pans with butter and line with baking parchment. Set them on a large baking sheet and set aside.
++First make the sponge cake. Put the coffee powder into a mug, using 1 tablespoon for a subtle coffee flavor or 3 tablespoons if you want to be awake for quite some time! For me, 3 is just right. Then add 1 tablespoon of hot water from the kettle for every tablespoon of coffee and mix until smooth. Finely chop half of the walnuts and set aside.
++Put the flours into a large bowl along with the sugar and baking powder and mix a bit to combine. Then add the butter, eggs, vanilla extract, prepared coffee and chopped walnuts (reserving the halves for decoration). Beat it hard until smooth and well combined. Divide the mixture evenly between the two pans and then pop them in the oven for around 25 minutes.
++About 5 minutes before the cake is ready, put the kettle on again for the coffee syrup. Spoon the coffee powder into the mug with the sugar and 2 tablespoons of hot water from the kettle. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and set aside.
++Check that the cakes are ready. A skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean. Return to the oven for another 5 or so minutes if not. Once ready, remove from the oven and brush liberally with the coffee sugar syrup to give a wonderfully soft sponge. Then leave the cakes for a few minutes until cool enough to handle. Carefully remove from the pans, peel off the paper and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
++Cooling should take about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the buttercream. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl. Add the butter and beat hard until light and fluffy. Blend the coffee powder in the mug with 1 tablespoon of hot water from the kettle and stir into the buttercream.
++Once the cakes have cooled, put one layer on a cake stand or serving plate and slather the top liberally with half of the buttercream. It will be a good thick layer. Place the other cake layer on top and slather the remaining buttercream over. Arrange the remaining walnuts on top. Totally yum.
Spring is finally (finally!) here, and finding a new book is a great way to celebrate. LibraryReads has put together a list featuring the 10 books coming out next month that librarians across the country are the most excited about putting on their shelves.
Our April Fiction Top Pick, Sara Gruen's At the Water's Edge, also tops LibraryReads' list. Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan's The Royal We promises to be a fun royal romp, while The Bone Tree continues Greg Ile's incendiary trilogy that began with Natchez Burning. Rounding out the list is Kimberly McCreight's chilling mystery, Where They Found Her.
You can see the full April LibraryReads list here. Which book are you most looking forward to getting your hands on?
Taisy Cleary and her twin brother, Marcus, haven't seen much of their father since he left the family when they were toddlers. Now, Wilson Cleary wants Taisy back in his life: He's writing a memoir, and needs her help. But doing so also means Taisy has to meet her teenaged half-sister for the second time—and confront the love she lost almost 20 years ago.
"Where there's a father saying 'whorish,' there's a boy. Spill it, missy."
I opened my mouth. Shut it.
Trillium reached for my hand. "Hold on. The boy wasn't a bad one, was he? He didn't abuse you or something?"
I shook my head. "He was good."
My mouth was dry. My heart was marbles in a tin can that someone was shaking.
"Name?" asked Trillium.
"Ben Ransom." The tin can shook harder. Clatter, clatter, clatter. After all this time, all it took was saying his name.
What are you reading this week?
Works by two contemporary best-selling authors and a classic re-issue top this week's paperback releases:
By Michael Lewis
Norton • $16.95 • ISBN 9780393351590
Lewis provides an eye-opening account of the revolt by a group of Wall Street rebels who decided the financial markets were rigged and set out to expose the chicanery.
The One & Only
By Emily Giffin
Ballantine • $16 • ISBN 9780345546906
Shea has a crush on the football coach in her college town; unfortunately, he's also her best friend's father. In Giffin's hands, this story of football heroes and unexpected romance offers an insightful look at a young woman finding her way.
The Power and the Glory
By Graham Greene
Penguin Classics • $18 • ISBN 9780143107552
If (like me) you've always intended to read Greene's masterpiece but haven't gotten around to it, here's your chance: This 75th anniversary edition includes an introduction by the late John Updike. Named by Time magazine as one of the 100 best novels of the past century, Greene's book chronicles the struggles of a Mexican Catholic priest persecuted by government authorities.
In Jill Ciment's Act of God, things begin to fall apart for four women, as well as the entire city of New York, when a dangerous mold takes over. But Act of God goes far deeper than a typical bio-suspense novel. As our reviewer writes, "Ciment has pulled off an admirable literary feat, creating a novel that moves at the speed of light, all the while urging us to pause and look inward." (Read the full review here.)
We asked Ciment to tell us about three books she's enjoyed reading lately, and she graciously agreed to share.
This novel, recently reissued by New York Book Classics, follows the life of William Stoner, an everyman. Stoner might have become a farmer as his parents had, but in college, studying agriculture, his life is diverted by literature. One of the great gifts of this novel is watching a mind come awake and then alive. What I most admired is the novel's tempo—slow, precise, correct and private—a life lived before contemporary media.
This book, by one of the great memoirists, explores the transformative power of art. As an alumni of Cal Arts, where much of the memoir is set, I was enraptured by the way Cooper captures the fearlessness and rapture of falling in love with the avant-garde.
This fascinating study of Ted Bundy is more than a recreation and delineation of a monster. Rule knew Bundy personally: she worked beside him on a crisis hotline for eighteen months and continued her friendship with him for the remainder of his life. What makes this true crime book exceptional is that it is an exploration of denial: Rule, an expert in all matters of crime, misses what is beside her.
Thanks, Jill! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Arnold Mesches)
Believe it or not, it's the first day of spring! Raise your hand if you're sick of gray days and ice—or if you're pretty sure the spring equinox is a big fat liar (looking at you, NYC). Littlest readers can celebrate the return of spring (or dream of it) with a fresh crop of picture books:
Shawn Sheehy sneaks plenty of fun facts into his outstanding new pop-up book, Welcome to the Neighborwood. Each spread reveals the home of a different creature, from spiders to hummingbirds. I love how this delicate paper craftsmanship mirrors the intricacy and fragility of nature, encouraging little ones to both explore and respect their environment.
For another unique offering that gets up close and personal with nature, April Pulley Sayre's Raindrops Roll zooms in on the magic of rain with a captivating balance of science and poetry. Seven Impossible Things blogger Julie Danielson shares a few spreads from the book on her blog here.
The title of Kadir Nelson's If You Plant a Seed recalls the slippery-slope hijinks of a certain demanding mouse and his cookie (or moose and muffin, if you prefer), and the rabbit and mouse at the beginning of this gorgeous book certainly need to learn some manners—but fortunately they do, and their gardening efforts become a sweet allegory for the importance of kindness and sustainability.
You Nest Here with Me, written by Jane Yolen and her daughter and fellow birder, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, is a classic bedtime book—but with so many baby birds tucked into their little homes, it's also a classic springtime book.
Carin Bramsen's Just a Duck? is on this list simply because of its hyper-vibrant illustrations. It's a story of unlikely best friends who learn to appreciate each other's unique strengths, but there's something about the colors, textures and, most of all, hilarious expressions that reminds me of all the best parts of spring.
Finally, the bears have it in two exceptional new picture books: The magical paper collages in Finding Spring by Carin Berger capture just how hard it is to wait for new seasons; and The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach is irresistibly full of mischief and bright, sunny adventures.
Want even more? Check these out at your local library:
You can view all our children's picture book coverage here.