Lisa Genova's remarkable 2009 debut, Still Alice, stands out for its sensitive portrayal of an intelligent woman faced with a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's. In fact, the book was one of those rare self-published success stories—it was picked up by Gallery Books, who will also publish Inside the O'Briens, her fourth novel, in April.
This week, the film version of Still Alice will hit cinemas. Starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin and Kristen Stewart, the film is already generating some awards buzz. (An actress playing a character with an illness is second only to an actress playing "ugly" when it comes to Oscar bait.) I dare you to not tear up at some point during the trailer below.
Will you see it?
Elizabeth Gilbert found massive success with her memoir Eat, Pray, Love, and now the writer wants to share some of her magic with readers. Today, Riverhead Books announced that Gilbert will be releasing a book on creativity titled Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear in September 2015. A press release from Riverhead states that with Big Magic, “Gilbert invites readers to embrace curiosity and to let go of needless suffering. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits that allow the most creative life possible.”
This sounds like a promising book, and the cover is pretty cool, too! Check out how they made it in this video.
Are you looking forward to it?
Have you been staring at a blank page for a few days (or years), waiting for literary inspiration to strike? Good news! Through the end of January, Penguin Random House is hosting a series on their blog Biographile that features essays by successful authors on their writing process and habits.
In a press release, Penguin Random House states that "the series showcases original essays from more than forty fiction and nonfiction authors who share insights, tips, and poignant personal stories on how to get that first sentence on paper." Contributing authors include Maggie Shipstead, whose novel Astonish Me is our Top Pick for Book Clubs this month; Andy Weir, whose debut The Martian made him one of the breakout authors of 2014; David Levithan and many more. Check it out here and get writing!
Ravi Howard's second novel, Driving the King, follows Nat King Cole's African-American friend and driver, Nat Weary, as he navigates the discriminatory and oftentimes cruel world of 1950s America. Our reviewer writes, "Through unfussy language and well-formed characters, Howard takes readers of all races, ages and classes into the world of pre-civil rights era black people, offering insight on and understanding of one of our country’s most tumultuous periods." (Read the review here.)
We were curious about the books Howard has enjoyed reading lately, so we asked him to recommend three favorites, which he graciously agreed to share.
I admired the way Jackon split the first-person narration between a mother and son, because this turned the novel into a chapter-by-chapter conversation. I’ve never been to Portland, Oregon, so I saw the city through Mitchell’s rendering. The visual storytelling was as strong as the language, so the writing showed the toll drug addiction took on these lives and voices. The writer Albert Murray once described a “spyglass tree,” where characters find a place to show what they observe, remember and imagine. That approach is very much alive in Jackson's work.
Of the many moments that stuck with me from this short story collection was when a young woman, Rosa, saw a beach she’d never visited by closing her eyes in a bathtub and listening to her lover, Yauba, describe it to her—the memory of one lived in the imagination of another. What I admired in these stories of migration, family and love was the way that feelings and memories became currency. Gautier’s characters moved through Puerto Rico and New York, and their notions of home were a function of distance, race and love. Even favorite songs of characters had nice layers of weight and longing. I enjoyed the way the stories were strong individually and had a nice chorus effect when read together.
I heard Rita Dove read from this book of poetry in New York in 1999. It was one of those readings that helped sustain my resolve to write. In “Testimonial,” Dove writes, How could I count my blessings when I didn’t know their names? I enjoy the notion of historical narratives honoring those names. Like most folks, I was more familiar with Rosa Parks than Claudette Colvin, a teenager who was arrested months before Parks’ arrest. The poems show both women as well as the harshness and elegance of that time. Being from Montgomery, I used Dove’s work as a lesson in making a setting feel like someone’s home. Like the work of Mitchell Jackson and Amina Gautier, the writing gave me an insider’s experience of these spaces and moments.
Thank you, Ravi! See any books you'd like to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Beri Irving)
The line of customers waiting to get their paws on the sweet and savory treats from Brooklyn's Ovenly bakery often stretches down the block. Can't get to the brick-and-mortar bakery any time soon? Then pick up a copy of founders Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin's debut cookbook, Ovenly. This savory, grown-up version of a childhood favorite may take a bit of extra effort to re-create, but the final product is sure to beat anything you could find in a box.
CARAMEL BACON HOT TARTS
Yield: 4 Hot Tarts
These Hot Tarts are our mature version of Pop-Tarts. The salty-smooth caramel is followed by a smoky, crispy bacon crunch. A dose of sweet-savory decadence.
1. Cook the bacon in a skillet until crisp and done. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel–lined plate to drain off any excess grease. Let cool.
2. Prepare the Pâte Brisée recipe below (you will need only 1 crust, either halve the brisée recipe or save the second crust for later use). Remove 1 disk of the pâte brisée from the refrigerator 10 minutes before rolling.
3. On a lightly floured, clean surface, roll the disk of pâte brisée into an approximate 9 x 15-inch rectangle. To prevent the dough from sticking to the counter and to ensure a uniform thickness, keep lifting and turning the pâte brisée a quarter turn as you roll.
4. Using a ruler, measure the dough and mark a rectangle that is exactly 9 x 15 inches. Then cut the ragged edges off, leaving straight edges, with a knife or pizza cutter. Cut the dough lengthwise every 3¾ inches. This will result in four 3¾ x 9-inch rectangles.
5. Layer ½ strip of bacon on the bottom half of 1 rectangle and then sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the light brown sugar over the bacon. Top with 1½ tablespoons of the chilled Salted Caramel Sauce. Repeat these steps for the remaining 3 rectangles.
6. Using a pastry brush or your finger, brush water on the outer edges of the top half of each rectangle to help seal the edges. Then fold in half, and press the edges together with your fingers to seal.
7. Crimp the edges together with a fork to seal more. With your knife or pizza cutter, remove the ragged edges by cutting the Hot Tarts into perfect 3¾ x 4½-inch rectangles. Using a fork, gently poke a few holes in the top of each Hot Tart.
8. Transfer Hot Tarts to a rimmed sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Freeze the Hot Tarts for 10 minutes.
9. Preheat the oven to 400⁰F. Prepare an egg wash by whisking the egg yolk with the water in a small bowl until smooth.
10. Remove the Hot Tarts from the freezer. Brush them with the egg wash, and bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until just golden. Let the tarts cool before serving.
PÂTE BRISÉE (FLAKY PIE CRUST)
Yield: two 9-inch pie crusts
The mother of all pâte brisée (a fancy French word for “shortcrust pastry”) recipes, we make this in large batches so that we have preportioned crusts on hand at all times—a trick to making pies, quiches and Hot Tarts in a pinch. The recipe can be adjusted for savory pies, and you can experiment with adding whole-wheat flour for nuttiness. Compared to the store-bought version, the flaky texture and buttery goodness of homemade pie crust is unrivaled. You can easily cut the pâte brisée recipes in half if you need only one crust!
1. Cut butter into 1-inch cubes, and place in the freezer for 20 minutes or until very cold.
2.In a food processor, add the flour, sugar and salt and process until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 15 seconds.
3. Pour in the ice water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, and process until the dough just holds together when pinched. If necessary, add more water. Do not process more than 30 seconds.
4. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and gather it into a ball. Divide the dough in half, flatten each half into a 6-inch disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight before using. If not using right away, you can freeze unrolled dough for up to 1 month. Just let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
5. After the dough has chilled sufficiently, remove 1 disk from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a 12-inch circle. To prevent the dough from sticking to your surface and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting it up and turning it a quarter turn as you roll. Always roll from the center of the dough outward.
6. Fold the dough in half and gently transfer it to a 9-inch pie pan. Press the dough gently against the sides of the pan. Brush off any excess flour and tuck the overhanging dough under itself, crimping as desired. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes before filling.
7. If you are making a crust to top your pie, remove the second disk of dough from the refrigerator and roll it into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. You can choose how to top the pie with the crust.
8. Once you fill the pie, cover it with the top crust, using the method of choice, and bake according to recipe instructions.*
*If you have to blind bake your pie crust for an open-faced pie or tart, or for a pie that has a separately prepared filling, lay a piece of parchment twice the width of the pie pan over the crust and then fill the paper with pie weights or dry beans. For a par-baked crust, bake at 425⁰F for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are barely golden. For a fully baked crust, bake at 425⁰F for 20 to 25 minutes until the edges are barely golden. Carefully remove the parchment and weights, reduce the heat to 375⁰F and continue to bake for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until the crust is evenly golden.
Tip: We recommend finishing a filled pie directly on the bottom of the oven floor, or on a pizza stone. It will help the bottom crust to crisp.
SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE
Yield: approximately 1½ cups
This is Erin’s favorite caramel recipe, and it is the only one you will ever need. It can be used in cakes and buttercreams, spooned onto ice cream, mixed into pie fillings, drizzled onto pudding or eaten straight up with a spoon.
1. Bring ½ cup of the cream, sugars, butter, corn syrup and salt to a boil in an uncovered 1½- to 2-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the sugars have dissolved, whisk the mixture a few times to combine. Continue to boil the mixture over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, until deep dark tan bubbles form and until it has thickened and is paste-like.
2. When a candy thermometer reads 250°F (this takes about 5 minutes after the mixture reaches a boil), take the saucepan off the heat. (See note below if not using a thermometer.)
3. Pour in the remaining ½ cup cream and add the vanilla bean caviar, and whisk to incorporate. Be careful, as the mixture will bubble up and can splatter. Return the saucepan to low heat, and bring it to a low boil, whisking vigorously until no visible clumps remain and until the caramel sauce is smooth, about 45 seconds.
4. Immediately pour the hot caramel sauce into a jar or a heatproof bowl, and let it cool completely. Once it has cooled, cover it tightly and store it in the refrigerator or freezer. Reheat to use.
Note: You don’t need a candy thermometer for this recipe as long as you use your nose and your eyes. The key is to take the caramel to a point just short of burning, so when the mixture begins to have a bit of a singed odor and when it looks paste-like and caramel-brown, quickly remove it from the heat.
1. Add all the ingredients minus ½ cup cream and vanilla bean caviar to a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan.
2. Heat the mixture over medium-high heat. As the ingredients melt, whisk to combine.
3. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil. After about 5 minutes, large tan bubbles will form, and the caramel will be a dark golden brown.
4. Whisk vigorously to check the consistency. The caramel should be paste-like.
5. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and add the remaining ½ cup cream and vanilla bean caviar.
6. Return saucepan to low heat, bringing it to a low simmer and whisking vigorously.
7. Immediately pour the hot caramel sauce into a jar or a heatproof bowl, and let it cool completely. Once it has cooled, cover it tightly and store it in the refrigerator or freezer. Reheat in a microwave or saucepan to use.
Ah, New Year’s resolutions. For me, they’re more like a five-day resolution. But not for Mark Zuckerberg! The Facebook founder has announced his resolution: He will read one new book every other week for the year of 2015.
However, unlike the rest of us, Zuckerberg currently has 215,798 (and counting) people keeping him on task. Zuckerberg has invited the entirety of the Facebook community to join him in an online book discussion. (It’s a Facebook page, natch). Zuckerberg says his online book club’s selections will “emphasize learning about new cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies.”
His first pick is The End of Power by Moisés Naím, and Zuckerberg’s chosen book might turn into a golden book as well—Perseus, The End of Power’s publisher, rushed into a new print run of the title after Amazon quickly sold out of available copies two days after Zuckerberg’s announcement. We look forward to seeing how this trend keeps up as the months roll by.
What do you think, readers? Will you be joining Zuckerberg in his Year of Books?
Scottish author Irvine Welsh turns his off-kilter worldview to his new home country: the United States. Luckily for fans of the Trainspotting author, there's plenty of weird and crazy antics on the streets of Miami Beach, where personal trainer Lucy discovers that the two men she rescued from a crazed attacker are actually pedophiles (oops). That's only the first of many wild twists taken in this story, whose narrator is something like Jillian Michaels, times 10—in other words, not very generous to her clients.
They want to believe that it's all easy from here on in. That it can literally be done in their sleep. Because heaven forbid that they interrupt sitting in front of the TV, rising only to refrigerator-raid and pack shit into their sneaky, blubbery mouths. They don't wanna get up before ten, eleven. Perish the thought that any diet and exercise regime should impinge on those basic American freedoms.
What are you reading this week?
BookPage was saddened to hear of the death of Edward Herrmann due to cancer on Dec. 31. He was 71. Not only was Herrmann an excellent actor, he was the voice behind many beloved books, and he won numerous Earphone and Audie awards for his narration. His voice can be heard on audiobooks such as The Greater Journey, The John Updike Audio Collection, Isaac’s Storm, Unbroken and many more. Our audio reviewer, Sukey Howard, has noted that Tony-award winner Herrmann was a “master narrator,” with a voice that could bring listeners to tears as he read books such as The Boys in the Boat.
Herrmann brought his talents to the stage and screen, appearing in Broadway productions, films such as The Wolf of Wall Street and television shows. He is perhaps best known as the lovable and kind—if a bit reserved—patriarch on “Gilmore Girls.” His son, Rory Herrmann, said, "He was full of knowledge and kindness and goodness . . . He always wanted to share the great and beautiful things in life.” Herrmann’s kind voice will be missed.
Best-selling author Jayne Ann Krentz's latest romantic-suspense novel, out today, is Trust No One. But you may know the author by one of the two other names she writes under, Jayne Castle or Amanda Quick. So why did she decide to write under three different names? Allow her to explain the allure of the pen name.
Yes, it’s weird but true—I write under three names. Why? It’s complicated.
I swear I did not set out to create three writing careers. I do not recommend this publishing path to aspiring writers. I mean, what kind of strategy is that? The drawback to having three names is obvious at every signing event that I do—about half the people who come through the line will say: “I didn’t know you were Jayne Ann Krentz,” or “I didn’t know you wrote as Amanda Quick” or “I didn’t realize you were Jayne Castle.”
The fact that I write under three names is in every bio on every one of my books. Hey, it’s not like I’m trying to keep it a secret. But evidently very few people actually read those author bios!
So, for what it’s worth, my advice to budding authors is choose one name and stick with it, because if you don’t you will spend the rest of your career trying to explain yourself to readers.
That said, the reason my path took three different names is not because I write three very different kinds of stories. I have always written romantic-suspense under each name. It is my core story—the book of my heart, as writers say—and I expect to spend the rest of my career exploring that story. Romance and danger is a perfect combo for me. It’s what I love to read and it’s what I love to write.
But I do like to shift fictional landscapes, so I decided to use a different pen name for each world. Turns out readers have strong preferences when it comes to settings. A lot of people won’t read my paranormal landscapes, even if they love me in my other worlds. Others only want my historical or contemporary backdrops.
So, the only big advantage of my three-name career? When readers pick up one of my books, they know exactly which fictional landscape they will enter.
In Trust No One, you will enter my Jayne Ann Krentz contemporary world. The setting is Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. The heroine, Grace Elland, has a past that she had hoped would stay buried. Let’s just say that going home can be murder. . .
Thanks Jayne/Amanda/Jayne! You can find Trust No One online here: BAM | B & N | Indiebound | Amazon
(Author photo by Mark Von Borstel)
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