It seems the reading world can't get enough of these psychological thrillers starring deceptive, unreliable female characters. Knight plays with our allegiances in this juicy domestic noir, already in the works to become a film with 20th Century Fox. Her debut tells the story of Catherine, a successful documentary filmmaker who receives a manuscript that describes in excruciating detail a day from her life she has tried so hard to forget. And at the end of the manuscript, Catherine's character dies. In alternating chapters, readers meet Stephen Brigstocke, who knows Catherine's secret all too well.
She tries to dislodge it with thoughts of the previous evening, before she picked up the book. The contentment of settling into their new home: of wine and supper; curling up on the sofa; dozing in front of the TV and then she and Robert melting into bed. A quiet happiness she had taken for granted: but it is too quiet to bring her comfort. She cannot sleep so she gets out of bed and goes downstairs.
They still have a downstairs, just about. A maisonette, not a house anymore. They moved from the house three weeks ago. Two bedrooms now, not four. Two bedrooms are a better fit for her and Robert. One for them. One spare. They've gone for open plan too. No doors. They don't need to shut doors now Nicholas has left. She turns on the kitchen light and takes a glass from the cupboard and fills it. No tap. Cool water on command from the new fridge. It's more like a wardrobe than a fridge. Dread slicks her palms with sweat. She is hot, almost feverish, and is thankful for the coolness of the newly laid limestone floor. The water helps a little. As she gulps it down she looks out of the vast glass windows running along the back of this new, alien home. Only black out there. Nothing to see. She hasn't got round to blinds yet. She is exposed. Looked at. They can see her, but she can't see them.
What are you reading today?
Debut novelist Catie Disabato "picks up" where her mentor left off in this faux-journalistic novel about two disappearances, one a Lady Gaga-esque pop star and the other music journalist Cait Taer. Multilayered doesn't begin to describe this tale packed with footnotes, commentary from Disabato, explorations into philosophy and history and the investigation itself, which includes secret notebooks, interviews and more. As complicated as all this sounds, Disabato is a clever guide and will charm readers hoping for something wholly original.
After Molly disappeared, a few kooks came out of the woodwork to offer elaborate explanations. A popular Illuminati conspiracy theory website called The Vigilant Citizen weighed in with their particular brand of insanity. On August 12, 2009, the website published a long article called "Molly Metropolis: An Illuminati Puppet," which claimed Molly was a mind-controlled puppet and every time she posed for a picture with her hair over her eye (which, admittedly, happend a lot in her early press photos and the music videos for her Cause Célèbrety singles) she was making herself into the symbol for the All-Seeing Eye. The Vigilant Citizen wrote: "Those who have passed the 101 of Illuminati symbolism know that the All-Seeing Eye is probablyits most recognizable symbol."
According to The Vigilant Citizen, Molly Metropolis disappeared because her "Delta" or "killer" programming had been activated and she completed her "final Illuminati opersation," then vanished to hide the evidence of her actions.* With the story, The Vigilant Citizen ran an early publicity photo with Molly dressed in a black t-shirt with a deep v-neck; she holds the back of her hand up to her left eye to reveal the tattoo of an eye inside a triangle Molly has on her palm. Needless to say, the police never investigated "Delta programming/evil Illuminati mission" as a possible explanation for her disappearance.
What are you reading today?
The 2015 Edgar Awards, honoring the best mysteries and thrillers and presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America, have been announced! Several of our favorites earned nods:
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Scribner)
BEST FIRST NOVEL:
Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman (Norton)
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL:
The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani (Penguin)
BEST FACT CRIME:
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood
by William J. Mann (Harper)
Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe by J.W. Ocker (Countryman)
Greenglass House by Kate Milford (Clarion)
BEST YOUNG ADULT:
The Art of Secrets by James Klise (Algonquin)
MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD:
The Stranger You Know by Jane Casey (Minotaur)
Did your favorites win?
For so many BookPage readers, the library is a very special place, and summer reading is something we look forward to as much as a vacation itself. Not all young readers feel the same way about summer reading—but fortunately, this year there's a hero to fight summer reading blues. The Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP), the largest summer reading organization in the country, has tapped their first-ever National Summer Reading Champion, and the honor goes to none other than Kate DiCamillo.
We contacted DiCamillo, who is a two-time Newbery Medal winner and now both the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature AND the National Summer Reading Champion, to talk about summer reading and just how awesome it is:
Congratulations on being the FIRST EVER National Summer Reading Champion! What does this position mean to you?
It means I get to champion books! And libraries! And reading! It means that I get to promote the idea of reading books that you want to read. I was a kid who went to my public library’s summer reading program every summer. I loved it. It mattered to me.
What will be your greatest challenge as CSLP’s National Summer Reading Champion?
The biggest challenge is to make sure that I don’t use too many exclamation marks when I am writing (and talking) about CSLP and their programs. This is something that I believe in so much because it connects directly to the joy of reading.
The 2015 theme is “Every Hero Has a Story.” How do you define a “hero”?
A hero, for me, is the person who hands you a book. Librarians are heroes.
What do you consider to be the most important reason to encourage kids and teens to read all summer long?
Reading expands our universe. It enlarges our hearts. It entertains us and educates us and illuminates the world we occupy. Summer reading does that and winter reading does that. Lifetime reading does that.
What books (or kinds of books) do you most often recommend for summer reading?
Oh, I’ve got a list of classics that I love (The Borrowers, Paddington the Bear, Ribsy, Harriet the Spy, Island of the Blue Dolphins) and new books that I adore (Cody and the Fountain of Happiness, Circus Mirandus, The Great Good Summer), but I am, mostly, a big fan of standing back and letting a kid pick the book they want to read.
If you don’t mind me saying, I would define YOU as a hero for giving us so many marvelous stories! Speaking of . . . can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?
It’s a book about three friends. It takes place in Florida . . . in the summer time . . .
Learn more in DiCamillo's video address below, and read more here.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide during World War I, when approximately 1.5 million Armenians were killed from 1915 to 1923. YA author Dana Walrath is the granddaughter of survivors of the Armenian genocide—which, as she writes in a guest blog post below, is "a genocide that continues through denial." Her powerful novel-in-verse, Like Water on Stone (2014), uses alternating voices to tell of three siblings’ flight from these atrocities. To commemorate this anniversary, Walrath draws us into her research and heritage, and offers more reading suggestions for those who wish to bring this bit of history to the surface.
Place is always a character in a novel: It has a look, a history, a fragrance, distinct sounds. Places carry the memories and beliefs of their inhabitants. In Like Water on Stone, my verse novel about genocide and survival, the reader gets to know one of the world’s oldest places: Armenia.
I am the granddaughter of survivors of the Armenian genocide, a genocide that continues through denial, and so turns 100 this year. Growing up in New York, I never knew my Armenian mother’s parents, their language or the land that they called home. As a kid I once asked my mother about the childhood of her mother, Oghidar Troshagirian. I got the bare bones: Oghidar’s parents ran a mill in Palu; after her parents were killed she and Uncle Benny and Aunt Alice hid during the day and ran at night to an orphanage in Aleppo. Like Water on Stone put flesh on those bones, adding in a guardian spirit—an eagle—who protects the young ones on their journey. I wrote this story to find my grandmother, to find the Armenia in me.
In 1977, I traveled to Soviet Armenia with my parents and younger sister. There we met our cousins, descendants of Oghidar’s older brother, living on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Though by look and manner I seemed the average American, this trip woke up the Armenia in me.
In 1984, I traveled to the land where my grandparents were born, where 2 million other Armenians lived before the genocide—Eastern Turkey. Finding Palu, along the eastern branch of the Euphrates River, I traced my way to a mill. I did not know that this mill would eventually become the setting for Like Water on Stone. It took a dissertation’s worth of words in anthropology, complete with a social theory of genocide and its consequences, for me to start discovering the storyteller in me.
I returned to Armenia in 2012 as a Fulbright Scholar working on the anthropology of aging. My fieldwork gave me a score of grandparents who cheered for me when Random House acquired Like Water on Stone. Their stories, the meals we shared, the songs we sang and danced all found their place in the book.
This spring I’ve returned again to Armenia for the premiere of an animation of Like Water on Stone, created by a team of young people at Yerevan’s Tumo Center under the direction of my cousin Shushanik Droshakiryan, Oghidar’s great-grand-niece. I’m grateful to know my story will reach so many young people via this film.
I am also deeply grateful for my writer “cousins,” fellow Armenian Americans who also strive to reckon Armenia’s place in history, to tally the complexity and resilience of genocide survivors:
Dana Walrath in eastern Turkey, 1984
Eastern Turkey, 1984
Images from raw drawings that will be included in the animated film based on Like Water on Stone, created by two teen students at the Tumo center in Armenia.
Dana Walrath, writer, poet, artist, Fulbright Scholar and second generation Armenian, is committed to the movement for reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia. She believes an honest reckoning of history, apology and forgiveness is essential for healing and will help bring about peace in the future. Like Water on Stone is her first book for young readers. She lives in Vermont. For more information, visit her website: danawalrath.com
British noir author Ted Lewis (1940-1982) is best known for his 1970 novel Jack’s Return Home, later renamed Carter and then adapted to film by Mike Hodges as Get Carter, starring Michael Caine. Lewis' nine crime novels were brutal, unflinching in their depiction of the British underworld and set a new standard for hardboiled British thrillers. His final novel, GBH, is now available in North America for the first time. It tells the story of George Fowler from two periods of time: the first in George's past, when he reigned over a hardcore porn empire; the second in the present, when George is in hiding in a small English seaside town for some mysterious reason.
At the time of GBH's original publication in 1980, Lewis' literary career was plummeting, so it's not surprising that his final novel would go overlooked by many readers. But GBH is often considered to be Lewis' masterpiece, even better than his famous Jack's Return Home.
Consider a man like me and love. A butcher loves. He slits an animal's throat and dismembers it and washes the blood from his skin and goes home and goes to bed with his wife and makes her cry out in passion. The man who made it necessary to rebuild Hiroshima loved and was loved back, and I don't necessarily mean the pilot or the man who activated the bomb doors. Whoever left the bomb at the Abercorn rooms would comfort his child if it came into the house with a grazed knee. Everyone loves. Everyone considers things, considers themselves. And I considered why it came to be that Jean should be the one, as opposed to anyone else. And like everyone else, I could compile a list of things that added up to my obsession, and as with everyone else, it just remained a list; the final total defied the simple process of addition.
Her husband couldn't have timed his return from California any better. A couple of days after we'd made love for the first time. For a week I didn't see her; I waited for her to get in touch with me. When she did, she suggested we have lunch together; it was going to be one of those meetings.
What are you reading?
Nancy Atherton didn't intend to start a mystery series when she wrote her first book, Aunt Dimity's Death, and she certainly didn't intend to forever change cozy mysteries by creating the original paranormal detective. But she did! And with the publication of Aunt Dimity and the Summer King, Atherton marks the 20th book in her beloved series.
Twenty books? I’ve written 20 books? Are you serious? I guess you are, because Aunt Dimity and the Summer King is indeed the 20th title in a mystery series I began writing more than 20 years ago.
Aunt Dimity has been around longer than Netflix, Google, Facebook and some of you. The fact that she’s still alive and kicking (so to speak) in a brand-new story is nothing short of miraculous. Not in a million years could I have predicted that my first book would lead to my 20th.
When I wrote my first book, Aunt Dimity's Death, I didn’t think it had a snowball’s chance of being published. At the time, there was no known market for a nonviolent, non-vulgar novel that was sort of a mystery and sort of a love story, with a supernatural element, some gardening, a bit of military history, a pink flannel bunny and a recipe thrown in because, what the heck, why not? The plot couldn’t be summarized in a simple catchphrase, and the story didn’t fit neatly into an established genre. It was a very strange little book—a marketing nightmare!—and I was absolutely convinced that it would remain forever in a box on a shelf in my closet, unseen by any eyes but mine.
And I was OK with that. I hadn’t written Aunt Dimity's Death in order to see my name in print. I wrote it because the first two lines of the story popped into my head one evening, and I simply had to find out what they meant. If there’s one trait I share with my characters, it’s a burning desire to get to the bottom of things.
I didn’t stop to write an outline, and it never occurred to me to do market research. I just hopped, skipped and jumped my way through the book like a kid on a treasure hunt. I never knew what would happen next, and I loved the excitement of not knowing. I wrote to please no one but my characters and myself, and when I finished the first draft, I knew for certain that it would never be read by anyone but me.
I’ve seldom been so happy to be wrong. To my utter astonishment, Aunt Dimity's Death found a great publisher as well as a loyal and highly enthusiastic family of fans. Best of all, it contained a snippet of dialogue that inspired me to write my second book. I hadn’t intended to write a series, but my characters insisted that I stick around to tell more of their tales, and I’m exceedingly glad they did. It has been a privilege to watch them grow and change over time. It has been a pleasure to share in their continuing adventures.
Not in a million years could I have foreseen the long and joyful journey that would spring from the opening lines of Aunt Dimity's Death. I never dreamed that my strange little book would lead to a series that’s still going strong two decades after its most unlikely birth. I hope you’ll join me in a toast to my 20th title. And I hope you enjoy Aunt Dimity and the Summer King. As for me, I'm off to work on number 21. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!
Nancy Atherton is the best-selling author of 20 Aunt Dimity mysteries, including the latest installment, Aunt Dimity and the Summer King (Viking; on sale April 14, 2015). The first book in the series, Aunt Dimity’s Death, was voted “One of the Century’s 100 Favorite Mysteries” by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. Atherton lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Author photo credit Grey Taylor.
Fans of Elly Griffiths, author of the popular Ruth Galloway mystery series and winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award, will be delighted to hear she's kicking off a new series this September with HMH.
The first in the Magic Men Mystery series, The Zig Zag Girl follows Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens in 1950 Brighton as he attempts to track down a killer who seems to be mimicking a famous magic trick—the Zig Zag Girl, when the body of some lovely assistant is "cut" into pieces. To help solve the case, Stephens enlists the help of Max Mephisto, the inventor of the trick and an old war buddy. The two men served in a special ops troop called the Magic Men, which staged illusions to trick the enemy.
Perhaps what's most interesting about this series is Griffiths' personal connection to the story: She's the granddaughter of one of the members of the Magic Gang, the real group of camouflage experts that served in Egypt during WWII and famously made the Suez Canal "disappear."
Magic tricks, history and mystery? This sounds like one to look forward to on September 15.
With his National Book Award-winning YA novel, Godless, Pete Hautman explored themes of religion and spirituality through the story of a church that worshipped a water tower—the perfect blend of weighty, provovative themes and a humorous premise. His new novel, Eden West, touches on similiar topics, this time through the story of a teen boy who belongs to an insular, secluded cult, and what happens when the outside world begins to creep in on his protected world. In a guest blog post, Hautman shares his thoughts on readers' fascinations with cults.
Every few years some group of people who share an unconventional set of beliefs winds up in the news: The Branch Davidians. Heaven’s Gate. The Unification Church. Trekkies.* Because these groups are tiny and somewhat (ahem) peculiar, we call them “cults.”
This year, with the release of the HBO documentary Going Clear, the cult of the moment is Scientology—never mind that Scientology might not be a true “cult” (any more than it qualifies as a true religion). Our love of schadenfreude means that any excuse will do to put the sensational and pejorative word cult in a headline. (Did I just do that very thing? Yeah, I guess I did.)
But while the rest of us are congratulating ourselves for being comparatively normal, it’s easy to forget that these cults—or cult-like groups—are largely made up of smart, creative, well-intentioned individuals who are working hard to live good lives within a carefully constructed framework. The majority of cults don’t make the news. They are functional and largely invisible. And while most cults eventually self-destruct or wither away, a few groups with cultish origins—Christians, for example—have evolved to become accepted, mainstream religions.
Since nobody else was doing it, I wanted to write a story concerning a fictional cult that was functional—not your usual cults-are-evil-and-everybody-dies-in-the-end scenario. I wanted to write a love story.
Eden West started out that way. A boy growing up in an odd, insular cult compound in Montana meets a girl from the other side of the 13-mile-long chain-link fence. Inside the compound, several dozen hard-working people are raising their families and waiting peacefully for the end of the world. I wanted my fictional “Eden West” to be idyllic and entirely functional—a sort of backdrop to a more personal story, that of one boy who becomes tainted by contact with the outside world.
As often happens, things fell apart. My carefully laid plan to write a simple love story set against the backdrop of a utopian cult turned out not to be so simple. During the 12 years it took to write, Eden West became the story of a world within a world, a world colliding with itself. Unforeseen events lead the young man, Jacob, to an unexpected series of epiphanies, each of which chisels away at the foundations of his reality. My little utopia imploded, my characters were swept into the resulting vortex, and the story went to places I had never intended to visit.
I learned a lot, and it turns out there’s a good reason why most cults separate themselves from the mainstream—most of them simply can’t survive close contact with the juggernaut of the conventional. Not even in fiction.
*Just kidding, Trekkies. Live Long and Prosper!
And check out Pete's Eden West unboxing video below:
BookPage is excited to reveal the cover for Frank Einstein and the BrainTurbo, the third book in the Frank Einstein series from Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs, to be released August 18. Click to view larger.
The first two books in the series, Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor and Frank Einstein and the Electro-Finger, became New York Times bestsellers with a winning combination of real-life science and humor. In book three, Frank Einstein and the BrainTurbo, kid-genius scientist and inventor Frank Einstein's adventures continue—this time involving the science of the human body.
Frank and his best friend, Watson, along with Klink (a self-assembled artificial intelligence entity), create the BrainTurbo to boost the human body and help their baseball-pitching pal Janegoodall. But when Klank goes missing, they must first rescue their robot pal and stop T. Edison—Frank’s classmate and archrival—from stealing their latest invention and using it against them.
We've already had lots of fun with Scieszka and Biggs for this series, as they shared their favorite scenes from book one. BookPage checked in with the writing duo to find out more about book three.
Author Jon Scieszka (left) and illustrator Brian Biggs (right)
BookPage: What are you most excited about in the new book?
Jon: This book, and the whole series, completely excites me with the big idea of inventing a new kind of narrative for kids—equal parts hardcore information, action narrative and humor. Shelve under: InfoFictionHumor!
Brian: Robots playing baseball! Klank is my favorite character in the series, and in the third book we spend a lot of time with him. New layers of his personality are revealed, and we realize that things aren’t as simple as they might originally seem.
If you could choose any invention from the series, which would you want to use in your real life? What would you do with it?
Jon: I would really love to have the invention from Book #6, and I would use it to access other worlds and universes, create an intelligent universal love and allow all lifeforms to eat lunch whenever they want to.
Brian: The Electro-Finger, for sure. I’m really into bicycling, and on a long ride when I’m making my way up another steep hill, it would be nice to just press the button and zoom to the top. Also, I’d like to wire it so it could help me draw faster. Maybe.
What’s it like working with each other?
Jon: Bizarre. Insane. Ridiculous. Educational. Crazy. And Fun. We go back and forth a lot to make sure the science is just right . . . and Klank is always goofy. And it's always fun to see how Brian shows scenes I have imagined. It's a lot like working with Klink and Klank and Watson.
Brian: Jon stands over me as I draw the pictures and chuckles every time I make a mistake. It’s pretty annoying, but it’s OK because I try to add things into the illustrations that later on make him have to change the text.
We work together well. I think we have the same weird sense of humor, and since we were both 12-year-old boys once, I think we enjoy reverting to those mischievous kids we once were to make these stories.
Also, he remembers my birthday, which is nice.
What would you like to tell all brilliant kid scientists out there?
Jon: Ask questions. Test answers. Find out for yourself how the universe works. It is so important for the future of our world to be scientifically literate. And the truth of the scientific world is endlessly crazy, beautiful and fascinating.
Brian: Use your powers for good. Not evil. Make enormous donuts with your scientific knowledge, not vegetables.