Julia Steele, BookPage Associate Publisher
Just listened to Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende. It's a great story set during the gold rush years and takes the reader from Chile to China to the new world full of 'easy gold.' The audio is read by Blair Brown, and she does a wonderful job—I will read or listen to more books by this author. Next I'll be starting on People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks for my book club—I think it will make for great discussion.
The Guinea Pig Diaries by A.J. Jacobs is on my bedside table —I read a chapter every once in a while when I need a laugh. Jacobs is a journalist who has made his living turning his life into an experiment. In this book he outsources his life to India, poses as a beautiful woman on match.com, tries being “radically honest” at all times, and poses nude—among other things. It’s the perfect book to read in a chunk at a time.
Ok, I admit it—I’ve been a bad BookPage blogger as of late. Trisha thinks our blog readers must miss my voice—I think she’s just trying to flatter me into blogging more. But whatever the case, I’m back on this fine Tuesday because of the Facebook. I am, like most people I know, Facebook friends with a number of people I went to high school with—even if I haven’t seen them since graduation. And today, several high school friends updated their statuses about going out to get a copy of Fading Echoes. What’s this? A book I haven’t heard about?
A quick trip to Amazon.com reveals that Fading Echoes: A True Story of Rivalry and Brotherhood from the Football Field to the Fields of Honor by Mike Sielski goes on sale today.
It’s set in my tiny hometown of Doylestown, Pennsylvania and centers on the long-standing Central Bucks East/Central Bucks West football rivalry. Anyone who went to East (like me) will tell you what we lacked in football skills we made up for in academic achievement. Anyone who went to West will tell you it must have been terrible to go to East. But this book isn’t just about football.
From the publisher:
Doylestown, Pennsylvania, was home to the greatest high school football rivalry in the state. There was Central Bucks West, captained by senior fullback/ linebacker Bryan Buckley. And there was Central Bucks East, led by senior lineman Colby Umbrell. Bryan and Colby would meet each other as opponents in a game played on a grass field, but their dreams and devotion to their country after the horrific events of September 11, 2001 would lead each of them to the conflict in the Middle East. Only one would return. This slice of small-town American life is the compelling chronicle of two outstanding athletes: their lives, the game they loved, and the separate journeys they would undergo from the football field to the battlefield. But it is also a chronicle of those who helped shape them into the men they became, and the community that watched and cheered as they grew from game-playing boys into fighting men-and witnessed a sacrifice it would never forget.
Library Journal deems it: "A very moving, striking story exceptionally well told; for all readers." I'll have to join the Doylestown Facebook crowd and go out and get myself a copy.
Over the weekend, I went to see The Time Traveler's Wife with my book club. As someone who liked Niffenegger's novel but wasn't enthralled with it, I expected to the enjoy film version—especially since it starred one of my favorite actresses. Unfortunately even Rachel McAdams couldn't save the clunky script. (The guys from "Mystery Science Theater 3000" would have had a ball with this one.) There's a lot going on--jumping through time, marriage, miscarriage, childbirth--but the film never pauses to take a breath and allow the characters to contemplate the questions that loving someone who travels through time (or being the person who travels through time) raises. The few and far-between scenes that do explore Henry and Clare's feelings about their strange lives feel heavy-handed, forced and out of place, especially when supported by the cheesy score.
It didn't help that the darker edges of Niffenegger's novel, like Henry's alcoholism and the real dangers he faces during time-travel, Gomez's politics and Clare's family issues, are all absent. This, I presume, was so that a good 30 minutes of the film could be used to establish that time-travel 1.) is real and 2.) freaks people out, as Henry spends them explaining his impairment to one character after the other in gravelly tones ("I'm a time-traveler") and then deals with their disbelief by slowly dissolving into a puddle of clothing.
My book club also pointed out that while the book tries to be more evenhanded and tell Clare's story as well (it is called The Time Traveler's Wife after all) the film is most definitely all about the time-traveler. Also, Gomez is supposed to be blond.
Have you seen the film? How did you think it compared to the novel?
Daniel Handler, aka "Lemony Snicket," has just signed a deal with the UK's Egmont Press to publish a new four-book, middle-grade series starting in 2012. Snicket commented to BBC News: "I can neither confirm nor deny that I have begun research into a new case, and I can neither confirm nor deny that the results are as dreadful and unnerving as A Series of Unfortunate Events. However, I can confirm that Egmont will be publishing these findings."
According to the New York Times, Snicket has not yet sold the books in the US, but his HarperCollins editor, Susan Rich, has been working with him on the series.
Snicket fans can look forward to the 2010 publication of a picture book, 13 Words, which Snicket worked on with the artist Maira Kalman.
The Series of Unfortunate Events was a publishing sensation, and the first three books inspired a 2004 film starring Jim Carrey.
As a child growing up in the early 1980s, I loved the picture book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and its goofy—but oddly realistic—illustrations of such meteorological events as the floods of orange juice and storms of hamburgers that engulfed the town of Chewandswallow. (My father, who read the book aloud to my brother and me many hundreds of times, was less fond of it, which may explain why I never saw the sequel, Pickles to Pittsburgh, until I was an adult.) So I was excited to find out that Sony Pictures Animation has done a movie adaptation of this classic book by husband-and-wife team Judi and Ron Barrett, although its distinctive illustrations have been replaced Pixar-style animation. The movie, which will be released in the U.S. on September 18, includes the voices of such talented and funny actors as Lauren Graham, Neil Patrick Harris, and Bruce Campbell.
Those of us who miss Ron Barrett’s illustrations can see more of them in the Barretts’ newest book, The Marshmallow Incident. This book tells the tale of the towns of Left and Right, and how they are brought together by a marshmallow war that looks more like a blizzard than a military campaign. With its detailed drawings of the two towns and their curious establishments (“Lefty’s: We Proudly Serve Leftovers”), The Marshmallow Incident is a delightful story about how the towns of Left and Right learned right from wrong.
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?
Oprah has selected a new book for her club and will share this pick with readers on September 18. All we know now is that it will be a Little, Brown trade paperback priced at $14.99. Given their extensive backlist and Oprah's esoteric taste, this could mean anything at all. What book gets your vote?
UPDATE: The always-stellar Publisher's Lunch has narrowed it down to the following selections based on the Amazon.com listing, which says the book was priced at $23.99 in hardcover:
Amigoland by Oscar Casares (August 10)
Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness by Lyanda Lynn Haupt (July 27)
This Wicked World by Richard Lange (June 30)
Do Over! by Robin Hemley (May 11)
The Man's Book: The Essential Guide for the Modern Man by Thomas Fink (May 6)
Secrets to Happiness by Sarah Dunn (March 25)
Eat, Drink and Be From Mississippi by Nanci Kincaid (January 6)
The Book of Calamities: Five Questions About Suffering and Its Meaning by Peter Trachtenberg (August 27, 2008)
The Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgerton (August 11, 2008)
Undiscovered Country by Lin Enger (July 3, 2008)
Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan (June 9, 2008, with trade pb published at $14.99 on July 15, 2009)
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.
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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.