Is there anything as aesthetically intriguing as swinging 60's London? Pop-culture and music journalist William Shaw transports us into the world of mini-dresses, go-go boots and, of course, The Beatles in his newest mystery, She's Leaving Home.
But it isn't all peace and love and youthful rebellion—Shaw taps into the rampant sexism and xenophobia that colored much of this decade as well.
When the strangled body of a teenage girl is found near Abbey Road Studios, Detective Sergeant Cathal Breen is assigned to the case, along with Helen Tozer, the first woman to join his detective staff. Shaw is on point with his characters, dialogue and period detail, making this first installation in his planned trilogy of cultural thrillers a highly recommended read.
Check out the slick trailer from Mulholland Books below:
Well readers, what do you think? Are you interested in reading She's Leaving Home?
Veteran romance author Lorraine Heath has written more than 60 novels over the past 20 years. Her latest, When the Duke Was Wicked (out today!), is the first in her brand-new, deliciously titled new Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series. Will the rakish Duke of Lovingdon (love it!) forgo his wicked ways and give in to his love for Lady Grace Mabry? In this guest blog post, Heath offers a peek into her creative process and shares how real life has a tendency to influence her while she's writing.
I’m a by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. When characters visit me, asking for their story to be told, they aren’t always forthcoming with what that story entails. Very often, they simply give me a glimpse—a scene or two—something to intrigue me, to make me want to explore what leads to the scene and what follows. When the Duke Was Wicked, the first book in the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series, was no exception.
When I began writing the book, my husband had just finished a successful prostate cancer treatment, and three of my friends had beaten breast cancer. Cancer was very much on my mind. I didn’t originally intend for Grace, my heroine, to have cancer. She was quite obsessed with marrying for love, but as I wrote the story, I realized that she needed to be struggling with something internally in order for the reader not to find her motivation weak. It needed to be something hidden, that her husband would discover on their wedding night. She planned to reveal it before the wedding, wanting someone who would love her so much that whatever her secret was wouldn’t alter his feelings. I considered an accident that had resulted in scarring, something that made her self-conscious. Then I envisioned the scene where Lovingdon, with his wicked ways, would seduce her. And when I envisioned him undressing her, I realized she’d had a mastectomy. During Victorian times, cancer was a disease that no one talked about. It was shameful to have suffered through it. So of course Grace didn’t tell anyone, not even her dearest friends. Her parents knew, and that was it.
When writing a story, we want the characters to have to face their deepest fears. Lovingdon had already lost his first love to disease and never wanted to love again. But he does fall in love with Grace. And then he discovers she’s had cancer—sees that physical indication—and it terrifies him, angers him. He can’t bear the thought of loving and losing again. There’s no guarantee that she will remain cancer-free. But during the time period for this story, the treatment of breast cancer was advancing so I could realistically have a character who survived it.
As a writer, I tend to incorporate in my stories whatever I need to work through. Not always, of course. I tend to be cruel to my characters, and I’ve never had anyone be cruel to me. I’ve never been abused or beaten. But there is usually something reflected in my writing that is part of me. Unfortunately cancer has been very present the past few years. Writing about it, giving my characters an optimistic and hopeful story, has allowed me to work through some of my anger and fears. Grace is such a strong character that I think I channeled some of my friends into her. She faces the disease with dignity and an indomitable spirit. She is determined to make every moment count, because she doesn’t know how many she might have left. She won’t be cowed. I think she is a remarkable character, one who has given me the opportunity to acknowledge those who face cancer—any cancer—with such grace.
Thank you, Lorraine! Readers, will you be adding When the Duke Was Wicked to your TBR list?
(Author photo by Kayla Marie Photography)
Bich Minh Nguyen's enthralling second novel, Pioneer Girl, offers a version of the immigrant experience that's different from the one we usually read about: the Middle America Asian-American experience. Our interview with Nguyen about Pioneer Girl highlights the fascinating inspiration behind the book, also offering a peek into her creative process.
We were curious about the books Nguyen has enjoyed reading lately, so we asked her to recommend three recent favorites, which she graciously agreed to share.
Happiness, Like Water
By Chinelo Okparanta
I love the distilled experience of reading short stories, and Okparanta’s debut collection is powerful and heartbreaking in the best way. Set in Nigeria and the United States, the stories follow characters struggling in their relationships, families, and social and political circumstances. The question of identity, especially for women, is always at the forefront, as in two of my favorite stories here, “On Ohaeto Street,” about a couple’s doomed marriage, and “America,” about a woman whose decision to emigrate creates hope but also signals the loss of family heritage.
Son of a Gun
By Justin St. Germain
I recently taught this memoir, which is as clear-eyed, beautiful and intense as one could hope for in a work of nonfiction. While St. Germain focuses the narrative on his search for understanding in the years after his mother’s murder, he also reflects on the landscape of Tombstone, Arizona, and its culture of myth-making and violence. With restraint and care, St. Germain weaves together ideas about past and present, rage and stillness, loss and reinvention.
By Natalie Baszile
I just started this lovely and absorbing novel about a mother and daughter who move from Los Angeles to Louisiana, drawn by an inheritance of 800 acres of sugarcane land. The farming life and the Southern country life are completely unfamiliar to Charley Bordelon and her daughter Micah, and they have to learn quickly. Much is on the line here, as Charley feels like this is her one big chance to start over and make a life for herself and Micah. And there’s a tantalizing mystery, too: Who was Charley’s father? Why did he leave all this land to her? I can’t wait to see how the stories and secrets unfold.
What do you think, readers? Will you be adding Pioneer Girl—or any of Nguyen's recommended books—to your TBR list?
• A literary treasure brought to our attention by Open Culture: The British Library has posted a digital copy of Jane Austen's simply delightful parody, "The History of England," which she hand-wrote and illustrated when she was just 15 years old.
• HuffPost presents 8 female characters who deserve their own book. (My addition to the list: Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca.)
• Ever wondered what sorts of books Bill Gates likes to read? (Some might be a little surprising!)
• J.K. Rowling recently admitted to having a few regrets about the ending of the Harry Potter books, inspiring the folks over at The Millions to round up a slew of other infamous literary second thoughts.
• Stein by Picasso, Zola by Manet—Book Riot offers up 9 portraits of great authors painted by great artists.
Popular nutritionist and Food Network host Ellie Krieger's latest cookbook, Weeknight Wonders, is perfect for health-conscious foodies with little free time to spend in the kitchen. This quick and easy shrimp recipe is packed with smoky Spanish flavor, and unlike most take-out, it's guilt-free!
Shrimp with Spinach, Garlic and Smoked Paprika
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
If you have yet to discover the glory of smoked paprika, this is your official invitation. Made from smoked red peppers, it is a key ingredient in Spanish cooking (where it is called pimentón). It imparts a deep ruby color and distinctive smoky flavor and aroma, instantly giving the simplest foods, like eggs, potatoes or grilled chicken, a huge wow factor. In this dish, it teams up with golden toasted garlic for doubly exciting seasoning for sautéed shrimp and spinach. You can buy smoked paprika in sweet or hot varieties, but I buy the sweet because I figure you can always add some heat if you want it—and I do add a touch here.
Rinse the shrimp and pat dry with a paper towel. Thinly slice the garlic. Coarsely chop the spinach.
Place the oil in a large nonstick skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is golden, about 5 minutes. Watch closely so the garlic does not burn. Transfer the garlic to a small dish using a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the skillet.
Raise the heat to medium-high, add the shrimp, paprika, salt and cayenne to the skillet and cook until the shrimp turns pink and is nearly cooked through, about 3 minutes. Stir in the spinach, return the garlic to the pan, and cook until the shrimp is opaque throughout and the spinach is wilted, 1 to 2 minutes more.
SERVING SIZE 1 ¼ cups (6 or 7 shrimp)
CALORIES 260; Total Fat 13g (Sat Fat 2g, Mono Fat 7.8g, Poly Fat 2.1g); Protein 30g; Carb 6g; Fiber 2g; Cholesterol 215mg; Sodium 410mg
EXCELLENT SOURCE OF Iron, Phosphorus, Protein, Selenium, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12
GOOD SOURCE OF Calcium, Copper, Magnesium, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Zinc
Listen up! The Audio Publishers Association has announced the nominees for the 2014 Audie Awards across 29 categories. Two of our own here at BookPage—Julia Steele, our associate publisher, and Sukey Howard, contributing editor who writes our Audio column—will be serving as judges this year, and we certainly don't envy their having to select just one winner from all of the nominees, which include:
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (read by Will Patton)
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (read by George Guidall)
The Good House by Ann Leary (read by Mary Beth Hurth)
The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler (read by Tavia Gilbert)
Jacob's Oath by Martin Fletcher (read by Ari Fliakos)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (read by Neil Gaiman)
Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willett (read by Amy McFadden)
The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan (read by Kate Udall, George Guidall, Jason Culp, Erik Bergmann)
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (read by David Pittu)
The Son by Philipp Meyer (read by Will Patton, Scott Shepherd, Kate Mulgrew, Clifton Collins Jr.)
The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín (read by Meryl Streep)
White Dog Fell From the Sky by Eleanor Morse (read by Carla Mercer-Meyer)
Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill (read by Sandy Rustin)
David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell (read by Malcolm Gladwell)
The End of Nature by Bill McKibben (read by Jeff Woodman)
The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti (read by L.J. Gasner)
Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel (read by Arthur Bishop)
C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race by Geoff Williams (read by Robertson Dean)
Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King (read by Peter Francis James)
Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff (read by Mitchell Zuckoff)
The Hour of Peril by Daniel Stashower (read by Edoardo Ballerini)
Nero's Killing Machine by Stephen Dando-Collins (read by Robert Fass)
One Summer by Bill Bryson (read by Bill Bryson)
See the full list of nominees here. Winners will be announced at a gala in New York City on May 29. Which books will you be rooting for?
The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh
Crown • $25 • ISBN 9780307461605
On sale March 4, 2014
In her second novel, Therese Walsh explores the tumultuous, yet fiercely loyal bond between two young sisters, Jazz and Olivia Moon. After their mother dies of an apparent suicide, Olivia, whose synesthesia causes her to see sounds and taste sights, is determined to chase their mother's dream of seeing a fabled ghost light in the bogs of West Virginia. A resentful Jazz is cajoled into helping Olivia reach her destination, but there's plenty of trouble along the way. When their borrowed vintage bus breaks down, Olivia tries to shake Jazz loose and acts on her first impulse—she hops a train and forges a fragile alliance with some fellow travelers.
Readers who love a good road trip story will want to check this one out, and Walsh taps into a family's grieving process with sincerity. Here's the opening of the first chapter, told from Jazz's perspective:
My sister began staring at the sun after our mother died, because she swore it smelled like her. For me, it would always be the scent of oven gas, since that’s how Mama went—fumes pouring out, her breathing them in. Like Sylvia Plath, my father said, because Mama was a tortured writer, too.
Olivia’s actions were just as purposeful. Burned her retinas out over a period of months, made it so she couldn’t drive or even read. Well, she could’ve, if she’d used the glasses the doctor gave her—those big things that look like telescopes on her face—but she wouldn’t. So no reading. No driving. Instead, she lived with her head always tilted to the side, with an oil smudge in the center of everything she might want to see.
My sister’s reality had always been bizarre, though, with her ability to taste words and see sounds and smell a person on the sun. So when she decided to toss our dead mother’s ashes into a suitcase and go off to the setting of our dead mother’s story to find a ghost light, I wasn’t all that surprised. She’d never been the poster child for sense.
Will you check out The Moon Sisters? What are you reading this week?
Alice Hoffman, the best-selling author of The Dovekeepers, has delivered another historical novel, brightened by her talent for magical realism, and it's out today. Set in New York City in the 1900s, The Museum of Extraordinary Things presents a city in flux—sidewalks are quickly covering the remaining green space, overcrowded tenements stand in juxtaposition to well-appointed mansions and child labor is all too common in the factories.
Coralie Sarder's father runs The Museum of Extraordinary Things on Coney Island where he displays "freaks and oddities." But when Coralie meets young photographer Eddie Cohen in the aftermath of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, they begin a liberating love affair.
Lovely sephia photographs of New York open a window into Hoffman's dreamlike world in this trailer for The Museum of Extraordinary Things:
What do you think, readers? Will you pick up a copy of this book?
A couple of weeks ago, we shared our favorite recent literary love stories . . . and asked you to share yours. Hundreds of you participated in the poll, and, after careful tabulation, we are thrilled to present the five books that garnered the most votes:
#1 Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
#2 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
#3 The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
#4 Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
#5 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
What do you think about the results? Did your favorite literary love story make the list?
How popular was Shirley Temple among Americans in the 1930s? "Within a year of her breakthrough in 1934, hers was the second most popular name in the country," John F. Kasson writes in his upcoming book, The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America (Norton, April). In fact, Shirley Temple was popular not only in America, but around the world, becoming a global sensation on a scale that could make even Justin Bieber envious. From 1935 through 1938, Kasson reports, "she was the most popular star at the box office both within the United States and worldwide, a record never equaled." Among the countless fans who treasured portraits of Temple was Anne Frank, who kept a picture of the child star in the room where she hid from the Nazis.
Shirley Temple Black's death last week at the age of 85 will likely prompt a re-evaluation of her life and legacy, and Kasson's timely volume is a first step in that process. A professor of history and American studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, he focuses on Temple's boundless optimism and its effect on the Depression-weary public. Both insightful and filled with interesting details about Temple's career (her "preternatural talents" fostered persistent rumors that she was an adult midget), The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression is a case study of the interplay between celebrity and culture. Look for it in bookstores and libraries on April 14.