April's right around the corner, and even if it traditionally means lots of showers in the forecast, at least we'll have plenty of great books to cozy up with. The April LibraryReads list, which features ten of next month's newly published books that librarians across the country are most excited about sharing with their patrons, features something for readers of all tastes.
At the top of the list is Gabrielle Zevin's irresistible novel The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, which graces the cover of our April issue. Don't miss our insightful interview with Zevin about the list-topper.
See all ten of their selections right here. Are there any that you'll be adding to your TBR list?
Emma Donoghue became a household name for readers after the her 2010 novel, Room, sold more than 1.5 million copies. But Room was actually an anomaly for Donoghue, who was known as a historical fiction writer—or, as she puts it, a "fact-based historical writer." She returns to the past on April 1 with Frog Music (Little, Brown), a story set in 1876 San Francisco that's based on a real-life crime. A heatwave is sweeping the city—and so is a deadly smallpox epidemic. But French burlesque dancer Blanche Beunon has even bigger problems: Her friend, Jenny Bonnet, has been shot dead, and Blanche is determined to bring her killer to justice.
As Blanche pieces together Jenny's past for clues, she discovers that her frog-hunting friend had more than a few secrets. Will she be able to solve the mystery of Jenny's death before the killer catches up with her?
The breakout book of 2009 was Emma Donoghue's Room, a gripping exploration of the nature of freedom and the mother-son bond that completely captured readers' imaginations. Narrated by five-year-old Jack, who has never been outside the small room that he and his mother have been confined to by a nameless kidnapper, Room is a story that is at once very specific and completely universal. After all, what mother doesn't want the best for her child, even if it means risking herself? And what child doesn't have trouble realizing that his mother is not, in fact, his whole world?
If Room ranks among your favorite books, we have some recommendations for you! Read on—and please add to the list in the comments.
First up is My Abandonment by Peter Rock (HMH), which follows an unorthodox father-daughter duo living off the grid somewhere on the West coast. When they are discovered, Caroline is forced to enter public school, and struggles with a lifestyle she finds restrictive—much as Jack does when he must leave Room. Rock thoughtfully considers questions of parenthood and love, individualism vs. civilization and more in a thoughtful and suspenseful tale that deserves a wider readership.
If the drama of a mother fighting for her child is what you crave, try Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight (Harper). When the book opens, the worst has already happened for Kate Barton: Her daughter Amelia has apparently jumped to her death from the roof of her prep school. The grief-stricken Kate, a single mom, can't believe her daughter would do such a thing, and begins her own investigation, poring through Amelia's texts and Facebook posts to determine just what happened to her little girl.
As news stories continue to prove, stories like the one in Room exist outside of writers' imaginations. And they continue to fascinate. Koethi Zan's debut, The Never List (Pamela Dorman), is another thriller that centers on a woman held by a man against her will—and this time, it's four women, chained in the basement of an isolated house by a man they know only as The Professor. The novel opens 10 years after Sarah and the others have made their escape—but their tormenter is still out there, and he might have more plans for them.
OK, so the privileged Seattle lifestyle enjoyed by the mother-daughter duo in Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette (Little, Brown), is a far cry from the 12x12 prison that Ma and Jack share in Room. But if Donoghue's critical look at the media and the society that Ma and Jack re-enter appealed to you, you'll probably appreciate Semple's satire of America's modern upper-middle class. Better yet, you won't have any trouble sleeping after you turn the last page of this one.
An Atlanta family tries to put themselves back together after their abducted son is restored to them in Sheri Joseph's unsettling Where You Can Find Me (Thomas Dunne). Like Room, this is a novel that focuses on the ordinary in the extraordinary—though their situation is extreme, the Vincents had trouble in their marriage before Caleb's disappearance, and most of their struggles are those that any family would share. A heartfelt treatment of a difficult subject, Joseph's second novel is a closely observed tale of a fractured family.
Those who loved the complicated, perfectly drawn mother-son relationship in Room shouldn't miss The Love Song of Jonny Valentine (Free Press) by Teddy Wayne. Though 11-year-old Jonny and his "momager" Jane live their lives in luxury hotel rooms or stately mansions, the trappings of fame prove to be as much of a cage for Jonny as Room is for Jack. And, though the tone of this novel is completely different, Wayne also uses his child narrator's unusual circumstances to highlight the universal struggle of coming of age in a complicated and hostile world.
OK, your turn. What books do you suggest for fans of Room?
Related: More 'Read it Next' posts
The most memorable example of this is Room: Emma Donoghue's 2009 novel was published only a few weeks after Jaycee Dugard was rescued after being kidnapped and held prisoner for 18 years.
Room, the story of a mother and son held in a backyard shed, was actually inspired by the 2008 case of Elisabeth Fritzl—but what are the chances that a similar case would appear right around its pub date?
Well, it's happened again: The breaking news of the three Ohio women who were rescued after being held prisoner for 10 years sounds chillingly familiar after reading Koethi Zan's upcoming thriller, The Never List.
The Never List is a graphic, extremely disturbing story of four girls who are held captive in a dungeon-like cellar for many years by a sadistic professor. Ten years after their rescue, Sarah is trying to live a normal life—but the professor is up for parole, and he's begun to mess with her head all over again. Sarah begins a search to put him away for good, and she finds herself reliving her worst memories and discovering some unpleasant secrets.
Over the next few weeks, there will be a lot of questions about the women in Ohio—what they endured, what their kidnappers wanted. The Never List is a gripping read, but what makes it so disturbing is its depiction of the psychological toll of captivity and abuse, something that news stories can only hint at. It seems likely that when The Never List is published on July 16, its readers might be wondering how similar the stories of its characters are to the terribly sad stories of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.
Koethi Zan is one of our 2013 Women to Watch. See the full list here.
After the runaway success of Room, Emma Donoghue is returning this October with a collection of stories, Astray (Little, Brown). Like her (amazing) earlier collection, The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits, the stories in Astray are all based on real historical factoids,
Donoghue describes the book on her site as "a sequence of stories about travel (from the seventeenth century to the twentieth)"—are you looking forward to the journey?
The Last Nude by Ellis Avery
Riverhead • $25.95 • ISBN 9781594488139
Published January 5, 2012
I was drawn to Ellis Avery's The Last Nude because a) how could you not be drawn to that bold jacket? b) I had just finished An Object of Beauty and was on a novels-about-art kick and c) there's a big honkin' blurb from Emma Donoghue, one of my favorite authors, on the cover.
The story is about the real-life Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka, and the relationship she strikes up with her muse, Rafaela, the woman depicted on the jacket in the painting Beautiful Rafaela. By the way, this painting sold at Sotheby's in November. The winning price? $8.4 million. I'm embedding a video from Sotheby's below the excerpt, where you can see the Vice President of Impressionist & Modern Art talking about the piece.
But back to the book (which can be yours for only $25.95). I'm enjoying the story because the setting is wonderful (Paris in the 1920s) and the relationship between artist and muse is believable and intriguing. As Megan Fishmann writes in a review in the January issue of BookPage, "Avery weaves historical fact with electrically charged narrative . . . Filled with fabulous literary anecdotes and characters that seem to leap off the page, The Last Nude is a novel perfect for lovers of the 1920s, of Paris or simply of love stories."
Here's a scene from the first day that Rafaela models for Tamara. Tamara has made her wear a plain dress while she poses. After looking at the other portraits in Tamara's apartment, Rafaela wishes she could look more glamorous.
As the minutes passed, I realized I no longer felt uneasy. I felt jealous. Why did I get the ugly dress, the ugly painting? And why didn't Tamara paint my face? The painting next to the mannish woman showed a nude—sleek, modern, Olympian—with her arm across her face. Was this Tamara's kink? She didn't paint faces? No, I saw plenty of faces in the room, some, to be honest, not as nice as mine. It was as if, by putting me in the ugly dress, she had made herself blind to me. Beautiful, she'd said. Did she really think so? I wanted to take off my dress and lie down on that velvet couch for her: I wanted her to see me in the grand way she saw the others.
What are you reading today? Are you interested in reading The Last Nude?
Here's the video:
Reader name: Aisha
Hometown: Tacoma, WA
Favorite genres: GLBT fiction, short stories, realistic YA thrillers
Favorite authors: Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, Jeffrey Archer, Lee Child, Caroline B. Cooney
Favorite books: Room, The Little Stranger, And Thereby Hangs a Tale
I also loved the satirical (and fiercely feminist) Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, a YA novel about the competitors in the Miss Teen Dream pageant whose plane crashes on a desert island.
Finally, check out Barb Johnson’s More of This World or Maybe Another, a linked story collection that centers around a New Orleans laundromat owned by a lesbian couple. In a 2009 review, BookPage praised the way each story is “suffused with warmth and empathy, focusing on those singular moments in life, painful or ecstatic and sometimes both, when everything changes.”
What books do you think Aisha should read, based on her list of favorites?
Put your name in the hat for you own book fortune by sending an e-mail to bookfortunes (at) bookpage (dot) com.
Nearly two years ago, Jaycee Dugard was discovered living in a shed in the backyard of the man who abducted her at the age of 11 and is the father of her two daughters.
Now that her court case against Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy has been settled with a guilty plea, Dugard is telling her own story in a book to be published by Simon & Schuster on July 12 called A Stolen Life.
The public hunger for details about the Dugard case creates even more parallels to Emma Donoghue's bestseller, Room, which was inspired by a similar case in Austria. Hopefully Dugard, who has not spoken publicly or given interviews since her recovery, is prepared for the media onslaught that will doubtless ensue once the book is published.
Are you interested in reading Dugard's memoir?
Sometimes I think I'm done reading the New York Times Book Review, but at least once a month they come up with something that gets my attention. Like Kakutani reviewing Candace Bushnell in the voice of Elle Woods, or (more recently) Dwight Garner's hilarious takedown of Timothy Ferriss' The 4-Hour Body.
This week's most intriguing item: assigning Karen Russell's Swamplandia! to Emma Donoghue (spoiler: she likes it). Russell was our lead interview for February, as Emma Donoghue was back in October, and though at first the two novelists and their works seem to have little else in common, they've both managed to create believable young characters living in extreme situations.
In a separate interview for the Arts Beat blog, Donoghue gave Jennifer McDonald an update on her current projects. In addition to "putting the finishing touches" on a Room screenplay, she's completed a book of short stories about migration and is working on a novel "about a murder among lowlifes in 1870s San Francisco. It will feature cross-dressing, the sex trade and motherhood, which are all topics that I’ve touched on before, and that continue to fascinate me."
It's an exciting time of year to read book blogs, what with all the end of year "best-of" lists, roundups and blog tours.
What book blogs have you read this week? Do you stick to a select few blogs in your RSS feed? Have you stumbled upon anything new and noteworthy?
On Reading and Thinking
Posted by Trish on Hey Lady!
In the wake of #whyiread trending on Twitter, you might enjoy reading Hey Lady!'s discussion "on reading and thinking," inspired by Lev Grossman's article about Jonathan Franzen published in Time. Here's Trish's choice quote on why she reads: "I read to understand people and human nature and, ultimately, myself."
Ain't that the truth. (I posted a similar quote on Wednesday myself—from Curtis Sittenfeld's American Wife.)
Why do you read? What does reading bring to your life?
2010 Winter Blog Blast Tour Schedule
Posted by Colleen Mondor on Chasing Ray
The link above will take you to a master schedule of the Winter Blog Blast Tour (WWBT), a week-long event in which children's/YA authors participate in interviews all around the blogosphere. Several of BookPage's Top Children's Books of 2010 authors are featured—Kathi Appelt (author of Keeper), Jennifer Donnelly (author of Revolution) and Paolo Bacigalupi (author of Ship Breaker).
A Year in Reading 2010
Posted by C. Max Magee on The Millions
The Millions has asked some of the year's biggest authors—from debut novelist Tom Rachman to old favorites (who have gotten a ton of recent acclaim) Emma Donoghue and Lionel Shriver—what they've read in 2010. I think you'll be surprised by some of the answers.