Are you set for vacation reading this summer? If not, we're here to help! Follow the flowchart below to your ultimate summer read. Click on the graphic for an interactive version that will lead you more information about each book, or download it here.
What are you reading this summer?
It starts with one teenage girl—the severe tics, the twitching. Then it spreads to another, then another, then another. Is it a virus? Anxiety? Are the girls faking it? Soon, a dozen or more girls are twitching, and mass hysteria has an entire town in a panic.
I could be talking about the notorious Salem Witch Trials, the girls in LeRoy, New York, in 2012—or the two novels coming out this summer, one for adults and one for teen readers. Both novels were sparked by the mass hysteria in 2012 and tell the same general story—with some key differences. Both blend the thrills of a plague narrative with the psychological tension of paranoia and guilt.
We'll never forget how Megan Abbott addressed the cunning powerplays and precarious hierarchies of high-school girl world in her dark and twisted novel, Dare Me. In her next adult novel, The Fever, coming June 17 from Little, Brown, teenage girls fall one by one to unexplained seizures, sending the town into chaos. There's something distinctly sexual about the girls' twitching, and Abbott's dreamlike prose gives these events a haunting, disturbing quality.
YA novel Conversion by Katherine Howe, coming July 1 from Putnam, heads in a more supernatural direction and makes the satisfying connection between past and present twitching. Howe is a direct descendent of two of the women accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials, which has inspired her before. Conversion moves between Salem Village in 1706 and an all-girl's high school in Danvers, Massachusetts, in 2012. When girls start twitching and people start panicking, a parallel is drawn: Danvers was once Salem Village.
It seems the mass hysteria narrative is catching. I suspect we will see several more novels featuring twitchy girls before the end of the year.
Though William Shakespeare's exact date of birth went unrecorded, it's typically observed on April 23, the day he died on 52 years later—a neat piece of symmetry for such a literary life.
In the years since, the scant biographical facts available about the poet have combined with his singular status to ignite countless imaginations. This spring brings three additions to the lengthy list of Shakespearean tomes.
How did the son of a glovemaker rise to the heights of literary fame? This question has engendered many hypothetical answers over the years—including the well-known assertion that Shakespeare did not, in fact, write the plays he is credited with. Historical novelist Jude Morgan comes up with his own Bardic backstory in The Secret Life of William Shakespeare (St. Martin's), which opens in 1582, shortly before Shakespeare meets his wife-to-be Ann Hathaway. Morgan's Shakespeare adores his father and has a close relationship with his sister, Joan. He also feels a genuine passion for Ann, one that competes with his calling as a poet.
In Dark Aemilia (Picador), we move from investigating the source of Shakespeare's genius to unveiling the inspiration for the "Dark Lady" of his sonnets, the mistress whose "hair is nothing like the sun." Author Sally O'Reilly posits that the woman in question is a real-life contemporary, Aemilia Lanier—the fourth woman to ever publish a book of poetry in English. Lanier's biography is as sketchy as Shakespeare's own, leaving O'Reilly plenty of room to weave in a tumultuous romance with fellow poet Will while he's out and about on the London theater scene.
Finally, for those who don't take their Shakespeare too seriously, there's William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return, the final Star Wars/Shakespeare mashup from Ian Doescher. The first, Verily, a New Hope, was a surprise hit back in 2013, and fans can't seem to get enough of the Star Wars story told in iambic pentameter.
If none of these suits your fancy, hold on until 2016, when Hogarth books will launch the "Hogarth Shakespeare Collection," a series that allows modern-day authors to turn several of Shakespeare's most popular plays into novels.
Those who prefer a "just the facts, ma'am," approach might try Germaine Greer's 2008 biography of Ann Hathaway or Stephen Greenblatt's National Book Award Finalist Shakespeare biography, Will in the World.
What's your favorite Shakespeare-inspired work? Or do you believe the play's the thing?
Since so many people expressed interest in the Amish/vampire fiction idea when I posted about it last year, I wanted to let you know that your wait is (almost) over.
We just got the galleys of Plain Fear: Forsaken, by Leanna Ellis, which will be released by Sourcebooks in August. Although their cover image is a bit more restrained than my vision, I like to think that when that girl turns around we might see a resemblance.
The book came out strong, starting with the dedication:
Rest peacefully, my sweet friend
So I skipped straight to the page 69 test:
Blood spurted like an oil well gone amok.
Roc rolled his eyes and scrunched down in his seat, arms crossed over his chest. When would this movie end? Surrounded by the Amis teens he'd met a week ago, he laughed inwardly at their grunts and groans when axes split heads like melons—Hollywood probably used canteloupe and honeydew—but Roc had seen blood as thick as Log Cabin syrup, smelled death where the rotting odors forcecd him to smoke a cigar to counter its effect, and tasted the coppery tang of fear. This horror flick didn't come close.
His cell phone vibrated in his hip pocket, and he reached for it as he slid out of his seat and up the aisle, ogging through the swinging theater door and into the bright lights of hte lobby with its orange and purple carpet. "Roc here."
"Have the Amish converted you yet?" Mike's voice came over the line extra loud and Roc turned down the volume.
Roc paced in front of a row of gaming machines with Star Wars lasers and Terminator weaponry. "Yeah, I'm at a church right now."
"Well, say a prayer."
"What's up? Too early for the DNA test on New Orleans' Amish gal."
"A body was found. South of Promise."
Yesterday we posted about a big deal for a post-apocalyptic novel—today I wanted to mention this deal for writer Benjamin Percy, whose first novel The Wilding "speaks of an author with many more tricks up his sleeve," according to BookPage reviewer Jillian Quint. Previously published with Greywolf Press, Percy has sold "a timely reinvention of the werewolf myth set in the American West" to Grand Central. The book is tentatively titled Red Moon.
In an interview with Powells, Percy says he will be turning the manuscript in next month.
It's a literary-genre-hybrid-mash-up — so no compromises with the language, but it's a horror story. . . . I had 90 polished pages by the end of the summer, and a 20-page pitch. My agent sent it off after Labor Day. And on Monday, crazily, these huge preempt offers came in. Then it went to auction on Wednesday, and a bidding war ensued for six hours.
If these covers are any indication, we're going to be starting at the backs of a lot of people's heads this fall.
At least this brunette beauty is letting her locks flow free! Probably because she's an unconventional woman for her time, just like Cleopatra. The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove (Crown, August) is the second novel from Susan Gregg Gilmore, and it's set in Nashville! We're looking forward to giving it a read.
No one does "wistful" like an Anita Shreve heroine, and this photograph evokes that emotion perfectly. It's possible that Shreve's novels kicked off this back-of-the-head trend; her last book, A Change in Altitude, featured this motif as well.
And last but not least, a debut novel about a ballerina, Russian Winter (Morrow, September). Her chignon is lovely, but the low back on her top (leotard?) combined with the backwards necklace is giving me an Exorcist flashback.
Have you noticed this trend? Do these covers spark your imagination, make you curious or set a mood? Or would you rather see a person's face on the cover of your book?