I'm a veteran of HP midnight screenings, and last night's activities did not disappoint. Wand-carrying, cape-wearing, lightning-bolt-sporting fans were out in large numbers to pack the several theaters showing the movie after midnight.
As usual, the crowd cheered the second John Williams' iconic theme started playing . . . and then the action kicked off and didn't slow down for two and a half hours.
If you're going to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, you probably know where the plot is heading—although I won't write any spoilers. Suffice it to say that Harry, Ron and Hermione's quest seems bleaker and lonelier than ever as they search for the mysterious horcruxes, away from Hogwarts for the duration of the movie, constantly on the run from Death Eaters. I saw the movie with BookPage Web Editor Trisha along with contributors Stephenie Harrison and Tony Kuehn, and everyone agreed that the suspense in this movie was constant and effective. In this final (well, final—part I) chapter of the Harry Potter saga, Harry and his friends are almost completely self-reliant as they seek to destroy Voldemort. Although there's very little of the charming, happy scenes of wizarding life that I loved from the previous books and movies (scenes at the Burrow or in the classroom, for example), there are moments of humor, if not lightness—although I can't imagine a young child watching this scary adaptation.
I was always skeptical of how the two-part movie would split, but director David Yates (also the director of Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince) chose a natural spot. It's a cliff-hanger, but I don't think viewers will walk away unsatisfied.
Part II of the finale will not be released until July, which gives everyone plenty of time to re-read the entire series before the on-screen farewell. Did anyone brave the midnight showing? What'd you think?
Also on The Book Case: Watch a trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I.
Dan Chaon's novel Await Your Reply was "a profound and haunting exploration of the shifting, often tenuous, nature of identity . . . a thrilling example of the best of contemporary literary fiction," although he's probably best known for his story collections, like National Book Award finalist Among the Missing, in which he "[brought] clarity to the confusion of people's inner motives." Chaon hasn't published a story collection since 2001's Among the Misisng, but today it was announced on Publishers Marketplace that Ballantine will publish Stay Awake, his new collection of stories.
On his faculty page on Oberlin's website (where Chaon teaches creative writing), the author writes:
One of the things that I love about the short story as an art form is its ability to evoke the ephemeral quality of being alive.
Also in BookPage: Read an interview with Chaon about You Remind Me of Me.
Meet a February novel that has some of the best buzz of any fiction release this year. Darynda Jones' debut, First Grave on the Right, won the Golden Heart Award for best unpublished manuscript from the Romance Writers of America and has drawn raves from the likes of J.R. Ward, MaryJanice Davidson, Jayne Ann Krentz and more. It's the story of Charley Davidson, a P.I. who sees dead people. The twist: she sees them because she's the Grim Reaper.
Jones is being hailed as the next Janet Evanovich—but we'd like to let readers be the judge. First, the opening lines:
Better to see dead than be dead.
—Charlotte Jean Davidson, Grim Reaper
I'd been having the same dream for the past month—the one where a dark stranger materialized out of smoke and shadows to play doctor with me.
Next, we're putting the book to Ford Madox Ford's "page 99" test:
I turned back to Mr. Weir. "Sorry about that. It's a voices-in-my-head thing."
His expression changed, but not as I would have expected. He suddenly looked . . . hopeful again. "Can you really do what they say you can?"
Since I wasn't sure what he was talking about—who they were and what they said I could do–my brows raised in question. "And they would be . . ."
He leaned in, as if that would help me hear him better through the glass. "I heard the guards talking. They were surprised you'd come to see me."
"Why?" I asked, surprised myself.
"They said you solve crimes nobody else can solve. That you even solved a decades-old cold case."
I rolled my eyes. "That was one time, for heaven's sake. I got lucky."
A woman had come to me who had been murdered in the fifties. I'd convinced Uncle Bob to help, and we'd closed her case together. I couldn't have done it without him. Or all the new technology law enforcement had on their side. Of course, it helped that she knew exactly who murdered her and exactly where to find the murder weapon. That poor woman'd had one mean stepson.
"That's not what they said," Mr. Weir continued. "They said you knew things, things that no one could know."
Oh. "Um, who said that?"
"One of our guards is married to a cop."
"Well, then, that explains it. Cops don't really think—"
"I don't care what cops think, Ms. Davidson. I just want to know if you can do what they say."
A dismal sigh escaped through my lips. "I don't want to get your hopes up."
"Ms. Davidson, your mere presence is giving me hope. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is."
At the rock-bottom end of the sport of kings sits the ruthless and often violent world of cheap horse racing, where trainers and jockeys, grooms and hotwalkers, loan sharks and touts all struggle to take an edge, or prove their luck, or just survive. Lord of Misrule follows five characters—scarred and lonely dreamers in the American grain—through a year and four races at Indian Mound Downs, downriver from Wheeling, West Virginia.
I’ll weep a little, without any sadness . . . when I’m standing at the rail of a horse race and the horses go by, especially if I’m watching some late closer make his move from many lengths back, or if a stalker slips into the lead in the stretch. It’s just visceral . . . I know all that’s wrong with horseracing and I still have this weakness.
Just for fun, at this link you can catch a hilarious video of Washington Post fiction critic Ron Charles joking about the ubiquity of the title "Lord of Misrule." (Start watching around 2:10.)
And because I couldn't resist, here's Patti Smith singing "Kimberly":
If you're looking for some new sides to put on the Thanksgiving table this year, check out these stuffing and chutney recipes from our cookbook of the month, David Tanis' Heart of the Artichoke. They're definitely out of the common way and will wow your guests.
3 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
One 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely slivered
Grated zest of 1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
Put the cranberries and sugar in a shallow saucepan or a wide skillet over medium heat, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for a few minutes, then add the ginger, orange zest, salt, and cayenne. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the jalapeño. Transfer to a serving bowl and let it cool and jell in the refrigerator before serving.
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
2 large onions, finely diced
4 celery stalks, finely diced
Salt and pepper
4 tart apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
1/2 pound turkey or chicken livers, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped sage
2 teaspoons chopped thyme
10 cups cubed day-old bread (crusts removed), in 3/4-inch pieces
1 cup turkey broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the onions and cook until softened. Add the celery and let it soften, then season with salt and pepper. Add the apples and cook for a minute, then stir in the livers. Add the sage and thyme and turn off the heat.
Put the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl and add the contents of the skillet. Stir together well. Pour in the turkey broth and cream and mix well to moisten the bread.
Taste and adjust the seasonings; it should be highly seasoned.
Beat the eggs, and stir them in well. Transfer the stuffing to a buttered shallow baking dish. Bake for about 40 minutes, until golden.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Scholastic • $34.99 • Originally published July 21, 2007
It feels like yesterday that I was waiting in line at a bookstore in New York City—at midnight—about to explode with excitement over the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (It seems like I can track my childhood in terms of where I was when I bought the Harry Potter books. Like, the time when I had one overnighted to rural Tennessee so I could read it at summer camp. Or the time I made my parents pull over to a Books-a-Million in Hattiesburg, MS, so I could read the latest Harry Potter en route to Florida on a family vacation.)
If you don't know what Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is about, then you probably have no interest in the series at all, because there's no way you could read earlier books and not make it to #7, in which Harry continues on his quest to find the final horcruxes and destroy Lord Voldemort once and for all.
I'm always shocked when I meet people who didn't read Harry Potter when it was coming out (especially people who are now in their '20s or '30s—wasn't everybody you knew reading it?). The Harry Potter series is fantastic. Even if you have never liked fantasy or children's/YA books, I'd encourage any person of any age to start the series. Forget about reading them because they're popular, or because the movie is coming out this week (woo-hoo!). Read them because J.K. Rowling's world building and character development is so detailed and alive that these stories will truly stick with you forever.
Here's a short excerpt from Deathly Hallows:
I had proven, as a very young man, that power was my weakness and my temptation. It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.
Over recent weeks, celebrity gossip sites and lit blogs have been buzzing about Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. With DiCaprio in the title role, who would Luhrmann choose to play the flighty, maniuplative Daisy Buchanan? Lunches with Blake Lively and workshops with Rebecca Hall had rumors swirling, but the director chose Carey Mulligan, who'd been something of a dark horse (although we already know she's a favorite for literary adaptations).
Rumor has it that Mulligan burst into tears when she got the call.
What do you think of this casting? Can Luhrmann, Mulligan and DiCaprio make a go of this difficult-to-film literary work?
The trailer for Salman Rushdie's Luka and the Fire of Life (on sale today) is so fantastical and fun that I'll just let it speak for itself:
As BookPage reviewer Tony Kuehn notes, this novel—a sequel to Haroun and the Sea of Stories—is best suited for children ages 10 to 13. However, he writes,
underneath the pithy writing and pop-culture-laced references lies a stranger, more adult undercurrent. There is darkness, there is fear and there is a subtle admission that the world of our children is more nuanced and far more advanced than we sometimes care to admit.
Will you read Luka and the Fire of Life? Have you seen any good book trailers lately?
The scene inside of Belmont University's Curb Event Center (in Nashville) was a little out of the ordinary on Friday, November 12.
For one thing, this bus was parked outside:
Inside, hundreds of kids and parents eagerly waited in the arena to hear the guest of honor talk about the week's hot topic. Yep, Jeff Kinney was in the building to talk about Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth.
While some kids scrambled for seats next to friends or ran back and forth from the popcorn stand, many of them looked just like this girl sitting in front of me:
Or these guys (please excuse my shaky camera hand):
When Jeff took the stage, he talked about the many, many rejection letters he got prior to signing a deal to publish Diary of a Wimpy Kid. He also mentioned that he originally thought Wimpy Kid would be published for adults, but he's so glad it got marketed as a kids book. He loves being embraced by "reluctant readers" (a term that was new to him when he started publishing).
Audience members also got to see a photo of the Greg Heffley float that will be appearing in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and watch a funny video of Jeff with cast members from the Wimpy Kid movie.
And then, there was a major surprise . . .
The actors who play Greg Heffley, Rowley Jefferson and Fregley in Diary of a Wimpy Kid made a surprise appearance! Jeff interviewed the boys about how their lives have changed since starring in the hit movie.
While everyone waited in line to get their books signed after the talk, I snagged a few fans to chat about why they love the Wimpy Kid series:
Moral of the story: Always go to events with your favorite author—you never know what surprises there will be!
Why do you love the Wimpy Kid?
As the year draws to a close, it's time to take a look back at the books that impressed us. We editors put our heads together and came up with a Top 40 list of books—fiction and nonfiction—that stood out from the crowd in 2010. From literary novels to memoirs to mysteries, they include established authors, new voices and a few surprises. We're pleased to share them with you and hope you'll chime in with your own favorites.
We're revealing the list in reverse order, so books 26-40 are up first. Coming up over the next two weeks: books 11-25. The top 10 will be revealed in the Dec. 7 edition of BookPageXTRA. (not a subscriber? Click here! Our next edition will include a link to our Reader's Choice: Best Books of 2010 ballot.)
26. The Tiger by John Vaillant (Knopf, September 2010)
27. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (Morrow, October 2010)
28. The Big Short by Michael Lewis (Norton, March 2010)
29. Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides (Doubleday, May 2010)
30. The Line by Olga Grushin (Putnam, April 2010)
31. How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu (Riverhead, October 2010)
32. I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman (Morrow, October 2010)
33. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (Atlantic Press, April 2010)
34. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman (Viking, January 2010)
35. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (Random House, August 2010)
36. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Knopf, June 2010)
37. Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans (Riverhead, September 2010) (read a blog post about this book)
38. Breath by Martha Mason (Bloomsbury, July 2010)
39. The Grace of Silence by Michele Norris (Pantheon, September 2010)
40. Hitch 22 by Christopher Hitchens