Everyone's got Oscar fever this week, but we're also really excited about another awards ceremony coming up—the 2013 Audies, which recognize distinction in audiobooks.
Finalists were announced by the Audio Publishers Association today, and the winners will be awarded at the Audies Gala on May 30 in New York City. Our own Associate Publisher Julia Steele and Contributing Editor Sukey Howard (who writes our monthly audio column) are serving as judges in the competition.
Here are some highlights from the list of finalists:
• Sex and God at Yale by Nathan Harden (narrated by Scott Aiello), Audible Inc.
• Love Is the Cure by Elton John (narrated by Elton John), Hachette Audio
• Breasts by Florence Williams (narrated by Kate Reading), Tantor Media
• Cemetery John by Robert Zorn (narrated by Sean Runnette), Tantor Media
• The Crisis of Zionism by Peter Beinart (narrated by Lloyd James), Tantor Media
• A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes (narrated by Samuel L. Jackson), Audible Inc.
• The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (narrated by Claire Daines), Audible Inc.
• Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon (narrated by Edoardo Ballerini), Audible Inc.
• Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (narrated by Edoardo Ballerini), Harper Audio
• The Bartender's Tale by Ivan Doig (narrated by David Aaron Baker), Recorded Books
• America Again by Stephen Colbert (narrated by Stephen Colbert), Hachette Audio
• I Suck at Girls by Justin Halpern (narrated by Sean Schemmel), Harper Audio
• The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days by Ian Frazier (narrated by Cynthia Nixon), Macmillan Audio
• Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (narrated by Jenny Lawson), Penguin Audio
• Me the People by Kevin Bleyer (narrated by Kevin Bleyer), Random House Audio/Books on Tape
• Don't Cry for Me by Sharon Sala (narrated by Kathe Mazur), Audible Inc.
• The Witness by Nora Roberts (narrated by Julia Whelan), Brilliance
• Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt (narrated by Ashford MacNab), Hachette Audio
• The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley (narrated by Angela Dawe), Tantor Media
• Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks (narrated by Kristen Potter), Tantor Media
• Hush Money by Chuck Greaves (narrated by Dan Butler), AudioGo
• The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas by Chris Ewan (narrated by Simon Vance), AudioGo
• And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman (narrated by Linda Emond), Macmillan Audio
• The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (narrated by Ralph Cosham), Macmillan Audio
• The Nightmare by Lars Kepler (narrated by Mark Bramhall), Macmillan Audio
See the full list here (PDF link). What do you think of the finalists? Which audio books of the last year were your favorites, and are there any that you feel were snubbed? What books are you listening to right now?
You gotta love that Laura Lippman, our "Meet the Author" subject for the September issue of BookPage. She filled out a handwritten Q&A for us about her new novel, And When She Was Good, which is on sale now.
Here's what she has to say:
Pretend your favorite author could hand-write answers to a few questions. Who would you ask? What would you ask?
One of my favorite thrillers of 2010 was Still Missing by Chevy Stevens, an oh-so-creepy story of a realtor who is abducted at an open house. So I was really excited to see that Stevens praised the "dark and twisted love story" at the heart of Dare Me by Megan Abbott, one of the most buzzed-about suspense tales of August. And how could it not create buzz? Dare Me is about cruel cheerleaders—and what happens when their squad hierarchy is disrupted. (It ain't good.)
Besides Stevens' recommendation, here are a few other reasons why you might pick up Dare Me.
1. You were hooked on the inspiring teamwork on display during the Olympics, but now your cynical side wants to read about the dark side of group competition.
2. You love coming-of-age stories, high school dramas and thrillers. Here you can get a combination!
3. Many people love lighthearted love stories when they're on vacation, but I reach for thrillers—think Stevens or Laura Lippman or Gone Girl. Are you that way too? Labor Day is coming up . . . Reach for this twisted page turner.
Finally, BookPage reviewer Barbara Clark says Dare Me is "poised on the edge of beauty and darkness . . . a book you won’t soon forget."
And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman
Morrow • $26.99 • ISBN 9780061706875
On sale August 14, 2012
I am a huge fan of Laura Lippman—her smart thrillers make me think, stick with me for days and (best of all!) keep me turning pages long into the night. Her newest novel, And When She Was Good, is no exception. It's also now officially tied with I'd Know You Anywhere as my favorite Lippman thriller.
The story is about Helen, a smart girl from an abusive family who eventually turns to sex work to make ends meet. She risks her life to sneak away to the library, but she never receives a formal education. She ends up pregnant by her pimp, who eventually goes to jail for a series of illegal deeds. Fast forward more than 15 years, and Helen—now Heloise—has a relatively normal life. She lives in a nice house on a quiet street, and her polite son excels in school. Only thing out of the ordinary is that she's actually an efficient and successful suburban madam (and working call girl), catering to the beltway's elite. She's got a clever cover for her business and a foolproof method of destroying her paper trail—but her situation starts to get increasingly dire when a madam from the next county over winds up dead. Here's a taste of the plot:
When the Suburban Madam first showed up in the news, she was defiant and cocky, bragging of a little black book that would strike fear in the hearts of powerful men throughout the state. She gave interviews. She dropped tantalizing hints about shocking revelations to come. She allowed herself to be photographed in her determinedly Pottery Barn-ed family room. She made a point of saying how tough she was, indomitable, someone who never ran from a fight. Now, a month out from trial, she is dead, discovered in her own garage, in her Honda Pilot, which was chugging away. If the news reporters are to be believed—always a big if, in Heloise's mind—it appears there never was a black book, no list of powerful men, no big revelations in her computer despite diligent searching and scrubbing by the authorities. Lies? Bluffs? Delusions? Perhaps she was just an ordinary sex worker who thought she had a better chance at a book deal or a stint on reality television if she claimed to run something more grandiose.
A woman's voice breaks into Heloise's thoughts.
"How pathetic," she says. "Women like that—all one can do is pity them."
The woman's pronouncement is not that different from what Heloise has been thinking, yet she finds herself automatically switching sides.
What are you reading today? Have you read any good thrillers lately?
I've mentioned before how much I enjoy Laura Lippman's smart thrillers, so any book that she recommends with a blurb is naturally going to catch my eye. Even better when that book is delivered to BookPage inside an over-sized milk carton (read this blog post to see what I mean).
I stated reading Alison Gaylin's And She Was with high expectations, and I was not disappointed. First of all, the thriller has an interesting hook: Missing persons investigator Brenna Spector has Hyperthymestic Syndrome, a rare, real-life condition that causes a person to have a perfect autobiographical memory. In other words: She can remember every moment from her life.
For example, you probably went to the dentist, oh, 10 years ago. Do you remember exactly what the receptionist said to you, exactly what the waiting room sounded and smelled like, exactly what you wore? Well, Brenna can remember details like that from her life, no matter how insignificant, important or tragic. It's a helpful quality for an investigator, but also a hindrance. Would you really like to have every memory from your life automatically playing on loop in your mind?
Brenna's sister disappeared when she was a child, and that's what triggered the disorder to kick in. As an adult, she is called to investigate the disappearance of a woman named Carol, and that case is connected with the disappearance of another young girl that happened years before, and to Brenna's past.
I interviewed Gaylin for BookPage.com and asked her whether a perfect memory would be a blessing or a curse. Here's what she said:
Having a pretty good memory myself, my first response was, “That must be awful!” I honestly think that the ability to forget—to let the past fade into soft focus and recede in your mind—is one of the great tools of survival. How can you forgive and forget if you can’t forget? How can you move on at all, if the past is just as clear and visceral as the present? How can you truly be with the people around you, if your mind is full of everyone who is no longer in your life?
The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman
Morrow • $25.99 • ISBN 9780061706516
on sale August 23, 2011
In general, I prefer stand-alone suspense novels to series, so I was thrilled to learn that Lippman has a September book coming out that is indeed a stand alone—and not part of her series about Baltimore PI Tess Monaghan.
The Most Dangerous Thing alternates between the present and the 1970s. It's about five childhood friends who come together again after one of their group dies in a car accident . . . and a secret comes out.
Here's an early scene from the friend's funeral:
Gwen was spared funerals as a child and accepted this practice, as she accepted so many of her parents' practices, as the inarguably right thing to do. Certainly, it never occurred to her to bring Annabelle to Go-Go's visitation, and she is shocked to see how many young children are here. More disturbing, they are gathered around the open casket, inspecting Go-Go with a respectful but palpable excitement. A dead person! This is what a dead person looks like! In the fact of their bravery, how can Gwen not come forward and look as well?
A dead person this may well be, but it is not the boy she remembers and not only because he is thirty years older than the Go-Go who lives in her memory. This person is too still, his features too composed. Go-Go was never still.
"Gwen." Doris Halloran holds her hands tightly, peers into her face, as if nearsighted. "Pretty little Gwen. You look wonderful."
She does? She doesn't feel as if she looks wonderful. True, she is thin. She has no appetite as of late. But she is pretty sure that the lack of food has made her face gaunt, her hair dull and dry. Then again, maybe it's all relative. She looks better than Go-Go, for example. And better than Mrs. Halloran, whose face is white and puffy in a way that cannot be explained by mere grieving. Her eyes are like little raisins deep in an uncooked loaf, her mouth ringed by wrinkles.
I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman
William Morrow • $14.99 • ISBN 9780062070753
paperback on sale May 3, 2011 • hardcover available now
I'd Know You Anywhere is about a 38-year-woman, Eliza Benedict, who was kidnapped when she was 15. Her kidnapper killed a handful of other girls, and Eliza was his only victim who survived. The mystery in the novel is the "why"—why was Eliza allowed to live? The action alternates between the present, where the killer is on death row and set to be executed, and the past, when he took Eliza. In the present—seemingly out of the blue—he has contacted Eliza and wants to explain what happened. As you might imagine, his presence turns her life upside down. . .
It's been said before and I'll say it again: Lippman is not just a great suspense writer, but she is a great writer. When the novel first came out in August, reviewer Susan Schwartzman called it a "compelling and provocative psychological thriller." I wanted to remind you of the novel again now because it comes out in paperback in two weeks. Here's an excerpt to pique your interest:
Her mouth freed, she thought for a moment about screaming her head off but found she could not make the sounds come. She was too frightened, too scared. His hands lingered near her throat. She thought about the mound of dirt where she had first seen the man, working with his shovel. He had not said, explicitly, what he had done, but she knew. He was capable of killing someone. He had done it. Elizabeth decided in that moment that she would do whatever was necessary to survive. She would endure whatever plans he had for her, as long as she was allowed to live.
"What's your name?" she whispered.
"Walter," he said. "I think sometimes I should shorten it to Walt. What do you think?"
She was terrified that there was a right answer, and she wouldn't give it. "Both are nice."
From posting about Dr. Seuss or the Great American Novelist—to making fun of the Great American Novelist—book bloggers have been busy this week. Highlighted below are a few posts I enjoyed. What about you?
Green Eggs and Ham Hit Bookshelves Everywhere 50 Years Ago Today!!!
Posted by Between the Covers: Tattered Cover book Blog
Between the Covers writes that Dr. Seuss's beloved Green Eggs and Ham turned 50 on August 12 (yesterday). Interesting fact: Did you know that the book came about because of a bet? This blog post explains:
Green Eggs and Ham, the critically acclaimed 1960 book, was born out of a $50 wager between Ted Geisel and his Random House publisher, Bennett Cerf, who bet he couldn't write an articulate, entertaining book using only fifty words.
When Bennet Cerf heard Ted's first reading of the book, he seemed dazed, shaking his head over the clear triumph of Green Eggs and Ham.
Trust Me -- This Could Be Fun
Posted on The Memory Project (author Laura Lippman's blog)
Are you sick of all the Jonathan Franzen coverage? Crime novelist Laura Lippman has a good anecdote—a hilarious Mad Libs-style game in which she re-writes Franzen's Time cover story to feature herself, instead. Here's how Lippman introduces the game:
Jonathan Franzen is going to be on the cover of TIME. I had it on good authority that I was the other August author under consideration, but so it goes.
Now, many years ago, Nora Ephron -- man, how many times have I cited her on this blog -- had a killing parody of how to write a magazine cover story. Interestingly, the rules as she observed them do not seem to have changed much. This profile (an abridged version is online) begins with a comically strained scene involving 41 sea otters. [Click here to keep reading.]
Editor & Author: Jonathan Galassi and Jeffrey Eugenides
Posted on Farrar, Straus and Giroux's "Work in Progress" blog
This post may have gone up a month ago, but it's still worth a read. FSG maintains a site devoted to their authors' works in progress, and this entry is all about Jeffrey Eugenides' (of Middlesex fame) next book—which editor Jonathan Galassi calls "One of the most anticipated new books around the FSG offices (and out in the real world, I daresay)." Though Eugenides won't reveal his novel's title, he will say that "the new book ranges in setting from Providence, Rhode Island, and Cape Cod to Calcutta." Will you be excited when you get more details on this project?