We are big fans of novelist Gary Shteyngart here at BookPage. Not only can Shteyngart write wildly inventive, insightful fiction—it turns out he can put together one heck of a book trailer, too. Last summer we blogged about his trailer for Super Sad True Love Story, featuring cameos by actor James Franco and authors like Jay McInerney and Mary Gaitskill. Now Shteyngart is back with another trailer—this one publicizing the paperback release of Super Sad True Love Story, on sale this month from Random House Trade Paperbacks (check out our review here). If you didn’t think he could top his last effort, you might just be surprised. Academy Award nominee Paul Giamatti co-stars as Shteyngart’s rooomate, but we think Shteyngart’s dog, Felix, steals the show. Click the image below to check it out and tell us what you think in the comments!
As part of our Best Books of 2010 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
It’s no secret that we love to talk—and write—about our favorite books here at BookPage. And this year, I’ve had no problem talking about Emma Donoghue’s remarkable novel Room. I read Room over the summer, when we were debating who to interview for our September issue.
When I’m reviewing fiction for BookPage, I read as much as I can of the novels we are interested in. But with over 100 novels to consider each month, I don’t get to read as much of each novel as I would like. I try to read 50 pages or so, just to get the feel of the novel. But with Room, I couldn’t stop at 50 pages. I read the entire novel sitting at my desk one day, and then I walked into our editor Lynn’s office and told her we had to interview Emma Donoghue.
I was bleary-eyed from reading such a powerful novel so quickly, but I knew Room was a book we had to tell our readers about. I wasn’t the only one who felt this way about Room, but I still remember the power of the reading experience and the urgency I felt to get the word out to other readers.
Room’s premise is hauntingly familiar given recent headlines—a five-year-old boy, Jack, is being raised by a loving, attentive mother he calls Ma, in the only world he’s ever known, Room. Through the innocent eyes of Jack—and the completely original, inspired writing of Donoghue—we come to learn that Room is a soundproof converted shed in the backyard of a twisted kidnapper Jack knows as Old Nick, who has held Ma hostage for years, and Jack for his entire life.
If the novel sounds dark, well, it is; but what makes it great is the way in which Donoghue pitch-perfectly captures the voice of Jack in all his childlike wonder—even in the most unimaginable situation. Room is his home, his school and his playground, and Donoghue makes it ours, too. She gives us a haunting image of what it would be like, god forbid, to be a child raised in captivity—and worse, what it would be like to be that child’s mother. And yet somehow, despite the horrific storyline, Donoghue manages to teach us a great deal about the power of love, the importance of hope and the resilience of the human spirit. It’s unlike anything I have ever read, and it’s a book I still haven’t stopped thinking about, all these months later. When it came time to cast my votes for the best books of 2010, I didn’t hesitate—Room was my #1 pick. And as it turns out, it is our overall #1 pick, too. If you haven't read it yet, I have only these words for you: Go read it. Now.
Maryglenn McCombs is a local book publicist and a great friend to BookPage. Maryglenn emailed us with a great story this morning, and we just had to share:
Those of you who know me probably know that I love dogs—especially my beloved and humongous Old English Sheepdog, Garcia. Some of you have any suggested that I am obsessed with Garcia. (Note the absence of denial.) Most of you probably also know that I am, by trade, a book publicist who loves books. I am writing to share a story about the unusual collision of my love of dogs and love of books.
Please let me introduce one of my all-time favorite mystery writers, Don Bruns (www.donbrunsbooks.com) with whom I have worked for years.
When Don came to me with the idea for his ninth novel, I asked (okay, begged) that he consider including Garcia, in all his Old English Sheepdog glory, as a character in the book.
Well, he did.
And much to Don’s surprise, Garcia wound up “taking over” the plot and ultimately becoming a major character in Don’s new novel, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, which Oceanview Publishing will release in hardcover and eBook on December 6, 2010. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff is a hilarious mystery about two stumbling, bumbling amateur detectives who get mixed up in investigating a crazy traveling carnival show—and nearly lose their lives in the process of contending with a cantankerous cast of carnies who don’t take kindly to the investigation.
While many of us think of the summer months as prime reading season, publishers tend to save plenty of their sure-to-be fiction hits for fall. And this year’s crop of late 2010 novels is certainly no different.
Our September issue has already gone to press, and we are particularly excited about our interviews with Jonathan Franzen and Emma Donoghue. Franzen’s Freedom and Donoghue’s Room are two of the most talked-about upcoming releases, and we can’t wait to see what readers make of them once they go on sale in the coming weeks (for Freedom, that’s August 31 and Room, September 13).
September also marks the release of Sara Gruen’s follow-up to the smash hit Water for Elephants, Ape House, (Sept. 7), Ken Follett’s first part in a new trilogy, Fall of Giants (Sept. 28), another love story from Nicholas Sparks, Safe Haven (Sept. 14) and Michael Cunningham’s first novel since Specimen Days, By Nightfall (Sept. 28).
But things don’t slow down in October. Nicole Krauss is back (after The History of Love) with Great House on Oct. 12 (be sure to check out our interview with Krauss in the October issue of BookPage) and John le Carré returns with Our Kind of Traitor (also on sale Oct. 12).
In November, we’re excited about a new—and very dark—story collection from Stephen King, Full Dark, No Stars (on sale Nov. 9) and Dennis Lehane’s follow up to Gone, Baby, Gone, Moonlight Mile (on sale Nov. 2).
If courtroom dramas and thrillers are your cup of tea, you are certainly in luck this fall. Vince Flynn, John Grisham, Lee Child, David Baldacci, Patricia Cornwell, James Patterson, Tom Clancy and Steve Berry all have new releases in the coming months.
So as the kids go back to school and the leaves change from green to red, be sure to pick up one of these new novels. You won’t be disappointed!
If you’re an avid Glee fan like me, last night’s season finale was more bitter than sweet. Sure, the kids from New Directions sang their hearts out at regionals, several romantic entanglements got even more complicated and Quinn finally had her baby girl. But with our favorite show on hiatus, what’s a Gleek to do? Well, it turns out you don’t have to watch endless reruns of season one or listen to the cast recordings over and over on your iPod . . . because Glee is hitting bookstores this fall!
Glee: The Beginning: An Original Novel by Sophia Lowell goes on sale September 1 from Poppy, a young adult publishing division of Hachette. And while this first book is a prequel to the TV show, multiple book projects are in the works—and all are authorized by Twentieth Century Fox. Now that’s music to our ears.
Are you a fan of Glee? Will you read the books?
Just a few weeks ago, Random House announced that the Bantam Dell imprint would be merging with Ballantine to form Ballantine Bantam Dell (or BBD), under the leadership of senior vice president and publisher, Libby McGuire. And just yesterday, BBD announced their first major acquisition—a debut novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh titled The Language of Flowers.
According to BBD, “the novel tells the story of a woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to come to terms with her own troubled past as a foster child. When she falls in love with a young farmer at the flower market, she must confront a memory that has haunted her for years, and decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.” BBD won North American rights in a “heated auction with eight bidders” and translation deals have already closed in Holland, Spain and Italy, with other international auctions underway.
BookPage traded emails with editor Jennifer Smith, who acquired the novel, and is clearly thrilled to have The Language of Flowers on the BBD list. Smith says, “We all fell in love with this novel immediately. There was such an outpouring of enthusiasm in-house, and nobody could put it down. It’s definitely a special book, and one that we think will really resonate with readers. We’re so excited to be publishing it.”
Author Vanessa Diffenbaugh was “inspired by her own experience as a foster mother. To write the novel, she researched the original Victorian language of flowers—used by lovers to communicate—in which every flower corresponds to a specific meaning.” The novel is set to publish in August 2011, and we can’t wait to hear more about it.
Are you excited about The Language of Flowers?
It’s always a treat to have the opportunity to speak with authors after you’ve read their books. So I was thrilled to interview Emily Giffin about her latest novel, Heart of the Matter, for our May issue.
We mostly talked about Heart of the Matter, of course, but I was delighted as our conversation veered off-course a few times. I couldn’t include all of the great content in my print interview, so here's the dish on Giffin’s writing process, how she balances a full-time writing career with raising three young children and—gasp—some then “off-the-record” (and now public) details on the upcoming movie version of her debut novel, Something Borrowed.
We’ve heard the good news that Something Borrowed (and Something Blue) are being adapted for film. Something Borrowed is slated to begin filming this summer. What can you tell us about that experience?
It’s been totally thrilling and I’ve been very involved with the details and become very close to both producers and the director. It’s been such a positive experience. I’ve heard that it can be a very negative experience for writers and they can be completely not involved and hate the direction. They have listened to my thoughts, and they don’t always agree with what I say—which is fine, because I’ve always viewed it as a separate project—but they listen and they are just great people. So it’s been awesome. Ginnifer Goodwin has been cast as Rachel—she’s perfect. So sweet. And John Krasinski is in for Ethan.
[This is where Abby devolved into total celeb geek mode and Emily and Abby discussed all the casting options and possibilities. Recently, more of the cast has been revealed (and even seen on set the week of April 19), including: Kate Hudson as Darcy, Colin Egglesfield (from the new Melrose Place) as Dexter and Steve Howey (who co-starred with Hudson in Bride Wars) as Marcus. Giffin said the movie is slated for release in early spring 2011, and you can bet I’ll be first in line at the theaters.]
So will you get to be on set and meet all these fabulous people?
My book tour starts May 11 and filming starts April 27 and I’m like, 95% of my life is totally boring, why do these two things have to happen at once? But I should be able to get up there a few times. And technically, in the contract, I’m supposed to have a small speaking part.
How does your creative process work? What comes to you first? The characters? The situations?
It’s pretty much worked the same with all of my books. It’s more of a very general premise. What would happen if a woman fell in love with her best friend’s fiancé, or what would happen if a couple got married and then, a few years into their marriage, one changed their mind about something that was fundamental to their marriage? Or what would happen if you ran into your “one who got away” and suddenly you realized that being with him was an option. I think I always start with that scenario, and I try to make it very relatable. Most everyone has someone from their past who they wonder about; and most of us have a friendship that is not 100% pure, marked by an undertone of insecurity or competitiveness, or something toxic about it. I think women—people—of all ages can relate to that. So the situation comes first and then the characters emerge from that. And then as I get to know the characters and write about them, the plot comes after [that]. It’s a very character-driven process for me.
Do you outline and plan it all out?
No, I don’t. I haven’t for any of my books. I have a very general sense of beginning, middle and end, but I don’t outline any scenes or specifics. I just think to myself, “Ok, this is where they’re starting out, this is where they’re going and this is where I think they’ll end up.” But in many cases they don’t end up where I think they will because as I get to know them, I think to myself, “Well, that’s not actually what this person would do.” You get to know the characters as you spend time with them, and sometimes I’m very surprised. For me, it’s a lot more fun to write that way. It’s inefficient, but I enjoy the little surprises along the way.
How do you balance a full-time writing career with raising three young children?
I think it’s interesting that people often ask that question. In a way, I think it gives me too much credit. I think every time we go into a bookstore, Harriet that she’ll have a role model—someone who does both.
You initially tried to break into publishing by writing a YA novel. Do you ever think of revisiting that genre and writing anything for a younger audience now that you’re a best-selling author?
Occasionally. If I had more time, I definitely would. I have been writing the screenplay for Baby Proof and I’ve been thinking about young adult books. I just wish I had more time because there is so much I would like to do. But I have to prioritize because I do have small children and I don’t have all the time in the world to work. So I think I’m going to stick with what I’m doing, for the most part.
Are you working on your sixth novel? Can you tell us anything about it?
I’ve started it. But it’s a little too new to get into what it’s about.
Read the complete interview with Giffin on BookPage.com.
The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw
Doubleday, April 6, 2010
I’m pleased to say The Swimming Pool has lived up to its own hype—and then some. It’s the tangled story of two families linked forever by a love affair and a shocking murder. Marcella Atkinson fell in love with her summer neighbor, Cecil McClatchey, but before their relationship could even get off the ground, his wife was murdered. Seven years later, Marcella’s daughter is hired to nanny for Cecil’s daughter; Cecil is now dead, but his grown children are spending the summer at the family’s Cape house. And then his handsome son, Jed, finds an old swimsuit in his father’s closet, and begins to connect the dots between his father’s affair, his mother’s death and this mysterious older woman, Marcella.
At the bottom of the closet, among the dust bunnies, was a half-crushed shirt box. It felt light, and he opened it expecting to find nothing, or, at most, some old, ill-considered birthday gift. But instead, neatly folded, there was a woman’s bathing suit.
He felt he was seeing it not only with his eyes but with his whole body. A one-piece, plunging neckline, dark blue with vertical white stripes. Almost clownish—but then he lifted it out of the box and held it up by the straps. Yes. He remembered.
How old had be been?—that afternoon by the pool, their pool, when Marcella Atkinson had been stretched out in a lounge chair, alone at the corner of their patio? She had seemed separated from the rest of them, from the party that was going on, not only by a few feet that the chair was pulled but also by her stillness and, Jed had sensed, her sadness. And her beauty. Her perfect legs and olive skin and dark upswept hair had not seemed to belong with the cheerful Yankees in their madras shorts and flowered dresses, grilling fat American burgers and drinking gin and tonics.
Scott Turow has made a name for himself writing fast-paced, incisive legal thrillers (eight of which have been bestsellers). But the book that started it all—1987's Presumed Innocent—is undoubtedly his best-known (and best-selling) work. Set in a midsize Midwestern city, the novel focuses on Rusty Sabich, Kindle County's longtime chief deputy prosecutor, who has been asked to investigate the rape and murder of one of his colleagues, Carolyn Polhernus. Her murder has been an embarrassment to Rusty's boss, Raymond Horgan, who is facing a serious challenge in the upcoming election and who looks to Rusty for a fast solution to the case that will help save him politically. But what Horgan doesn't know is that, only a few months before she was murdered, Carolyn Polhemus and Rusty Sabich were lovers. And, after several complicated legal twists and turns, Rusty finds himself accused of Carolyn's murder.
Twenty years after Rusty Sabich and Tommy Molto went head-to-head, they find themselves pitted against each other once again in a riveting psychological match. When Sabich, now sixty years old and the chief judge of an appellate court, finds his wife, Barbara, dead under mysterious circumstances, Molto accuses him of murder for the second time, setting into motion a trial that is vintage Turow—the courtroom at its most taut and explosive.
Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
May 2001, Pocket
I recently devoured Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed (which I would highly recommend) and have just started on Jennifer Weiner’s debut novel, Good in Bed. Weiner didn’t become one of the queens of women’s fiction (In Her Shoes, Little Earthquakes, this summer’s Best Friends Forever) for nothing, and Good in Bed is just plain good so far.
In the first chapter, we meet Cannie Shapiro, a twentysomething reporter for a Philadelphia newspaper, who has just parted ways with her boyfriend, Bruce. A normal work day becomes anything but when Cannie’s best friend calls her to suggest she check out the latest issue of Moxie, a women’s magazine, and turn to page 132:
I sat, opened the M & M’s, eased a few into my mouth, and flipped to page 132, which turned out to be "Good in Bed," Moxie’s regular male-written feature designed to help the average reader understand what her boyfriend was up to . . . or wasn’t up to, as the case might be. At first my eyes wouldn’t make sense of the letters. Finally, they unscrambled. “Loving a Larger Woman,” said the headline, “By Bruce Guberman.” Bruce Guberman had been my boyfriend for just over two years, until we’d mutually decided to take a break three months ago. And the Larger Woman, I could only assume, was me.
You know how in scary books a character will say, “I felt my heart stop?” Well, I did. Really. Then I felt it start to pound again, in my ears, my throat, my fingertips. The hair at the back of my neck stood up. My hands felt icy. I could hear the blood roaring in my ears, as I read the first line of the article: “I’ll never forget the day I found out my girlfriend weighed more than I did.
Good news for Weiner fans: Best Friends Forever comes out in paperback in May, and Weiner's latest novel, Fly Away Home goes on sale in July. What's your favorite book by Jennifer Weiner?