Crazy Love: A Memoir by Leslie Morgan Steiner
St. Martin’s, March 30, 2010
Crazy Love is the story of Leslie’s love-gone-wrong with boyfriend—and then husband—Conor. At first Leslie and Conor seemed like the perfect couple—totally in love and excited to begin their lives together—but slowly Conor begins to abuse Leslie, subtly and verbally at first, brutally and physically later. Gradually and methodically, he isolates her from friends and family, leaving Leslie terrified that she might never escape from the man she loves.
It’s not an easy book to read, but I think it’s an important one. And even though the subject matter is violent and difficult, Steiner’s writing is fluid and lovely.
Here’s an excerpt from the middle of the book, days before Leslie and Conor’s wedding, and just a few hours after Conor pushed Leslie up against a wall, choked her and then threw her to the floor over a simple misunderstanding.
I pretended I didn’t hear the Volkswagen pull in around 6:00pm. He came into my office holding the car keys, head down. I could smell fear on him, panic that I was going to vilify him for what he’d done or announce I’d canceled the wedding.
The dread on Conor’s face offered a spider’s thread of hope. If he were afraid, he’d never attack me again, right? I could leave anytime. And anyway, he’d just grabbed my throat. He couldn’t have hit me. We were getting married.
Three days later, when my family and our wedding guests started arriving, the ten small reddish brown bruises around my neck were so faint no one noticed them.
Since today's Trailer Tuesday, it seems like a perfect time to write about the 2010 Moby Awards, which on Thursday will recognize the best and worst book trailers produced between April '09 and April '10.
A panel of judges will award prizes in the following categories: Best Big Budget Book Trailer; Best Low Budget Book Trailer; Best Cameo in a Book Trailer; Best Author Appearance in a Book Trailer; and Least Likely to Actually Sell the Book.
You can view the complete list of finalists (and watch the trailers) at this link. I don't think anyone will be surprised that two mash-ups from Quirk Books made the list—Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Dawn of the Dreadfuls (one of our first Trailer Tuesday selections) and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
The trailer for Lowboy by John Wray (a finalist for Best Cameo) had me cracking up at my desk. Check it out:
What's your favorite out of the Moby finalists? On Friday morning, I'll do a follow-up post on the winners.
This November, nearly 10 years after the release of dark horse bestseller (sorry) Seabiscuit, Random House is publishing Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken. It's the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who endured incredible hardships during World War II.
Hillenbrand came up with the idea during her research for Seabiscuit. As she says in the press release, "While studying a newspaper clipping about the racehorse, I happened to turn to the back of the page, where an article on Zamperini caught my eye. I began to read, and was immediately enthralled. I jotted Zamperini's name down in my Seabiscuit papers. After finishing my book, I wrote Louie a letter. He wrote back to tell me of his youthful days as a runner, holding the inspiring image of Seabiscuit in his mind as he ran. With every exchange, I was drawn more deeply into his story and its phenomenally abundant narrative possibilities." Unbroken was written with the full participation of Zamperini, who is now 93—though he told his own story with help of a co-writer in 2003's Devil at My Heels.
Having struggled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 25 years, Hillenbrand knows something about coping with adversity. Though she married her longtime fiancé in 2007, an NPR interview from October 2009 reports that "Her symptoms, including pain and vertigo, have been so severe that she's only left her house twice in the last two years." Book tours are out of the question and sometimes she is too ill even to write. Perhaps she identified with Zamperini for the same reason the Seabiscuit story spoke to her:
I identified in a very deep way with the individuals I was writing about because the theme that runs through this story is of extraordinary hardship and the will to overcome it. That is the fundamental struggle of my life, trying to get over this extremely devastating physical condition. There are times when I think, "I can't stand this any more." But you find a way to do it.
Are you influenced by blurbs? (Lynn is. . . on very rare occasions.)
At first glance, Gordon Grice's Deadly Kingdom: The Book of Dangerous Animals didn't sound like my cup of tea. But then I read David Sedaris's cover blurb—mostly because I thought it was strange for David Sedaris to be blurbing a book about dangerous animals:
“Did he say repugnatorial gland? What a wealth of information Gordon Grice is, and what a fine, beguiling writer. This book is a must for anyone even remotely thinking of getting a monkey, a sea lion, or, heaven forbid, a dog.”
By the way, I will definitely be picking up Deadly Kingdom after reading Grice's behind-the-book essay for BookPage. I love the part where he explains his unusual research: "I stuck my arm into the flensed skull of an alligator to see how it felt. I searched for the black bear my neighbor spotted on her morning jog. I read things in medical reports I'd rather forget, and I learned all over again how gorgeous even the humblest animals can be."
Deadly Kingdom is out this week—will you pick it up?
Growing up, the thought of a summer reading list either inspired giddiness or dread in my group of friends. As kids, we attended summer programs at the library and competed to see who could read the highest number of books. In high school, we procrastinated on assigned readings that either puzzled us (Heart of Darkness), gripped us (The Poisonwood Bible) or both (Beloved).
As summer approaches, I've started to think about my grown-up version of a reading list, especially as I prep to go on vacation in a couple of weeks. So far, all I know is that I want to balance the contemporary novels that usually occupy most of my time (first up: The Lonely Polygamist) with classics I can't believe I haven't read (ex: One Hundred Years of Solitude) and backlist titles from authors I've recently discovered (ex: Steve Yarbrough).
What's on your list for the summer? Any recommendations for Book Case readers?
Trisha called Justin Cronin's The Passage "the buzz book of the summer" back in January, and four months later she's still singing the novel's praises. (She should know, since she's read the 784-page epic and interviewed Cronin for our June issue.)
As the June 8 pub date approaches, we are hosting a very special giveaway. . . one lucky reader will win a SIGNED copy of The Passage. The contest will appear in tomorrow's edition of BookPageXTRA, our bi-monthly e-newsletter.
XTRA includes reviews of hot new titles, exclusive author interviews and sneak previews of upcoming issues of BookPage. If you haven't already signed up to receive the newsletter, there's no time like the present!
I've seen a reviews of The Passage popping up on book blogs. . . those of you who've read it: does it deserve the buzz?
My pop-culture and literary credentials have taken a beating: my aunt, who lives in Hawaii, had to be the one to tell me that George Clooney was in the state filming an adaptation of one of my fave books of 2007—Kaui Hart Hemmings' The Descendants. (Read our review of The Descendants)
Clooney has been running around Oahu and the North Shore of Kauai this month filming the movie, which follows Matt King, a wealthy and detached father (Clooney) who is forced to become hands-on when his wife is gravely injured in a boating accident. While Joanie lies in a coma, Matt discovers she's been having an affair and takes his daughters on a trip to Kauai in pursuit of the other man.
Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways) is directing the film, and seems like a perfect fit to bring this nuanced novel to the big screen without turning it into a soap opera.
Newcomer Amara Miller and "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" star Shailene Woodley will play Clooney's daughters, Scottie and Alex. The film will be released sometime in 2011. Interested?
Just days after the release of her memoir, Spoken from the Heart, former First Lady Laura Bush seems determined to speak from her heart as she was unable—or unwilling—to do during her husband's presidency.
On "Larry King" on Tuesday night, she spoke openly about the differences she has with her husband on gay marriage and abortion, something many had long suspected.
As Sady Doyle says in a comprehensive Atlantic essay, these differences of opinion were "eerily predicted" by Curtis Sittenfeld in the 2008 novel American Wife. (Read our interview with Sittenfeld about the book.)
It's a somewhat shocking statement for a First Lady who, like most First Ladies, stuck to supporting uncontroversial issues like heart disease and literacy while her husband was in office. These opinions are not included in her memoir, which despite a few revelations about her youth, mostly sticks to the conventional persona we saw during the Bush years.
How much of this silence was due to the constraints of being the First Lady, and how much to her personal code of loyalty or manners—one topic she does express strong opinions about in her memoir, as Elaine Showalter points out—is unclear. I doubt we'll ever really know. Sittenfeld couldn't even convincingly imagine the answer to that question, which was my one disappointment with the otherwise excellent American Wife.
Have you read either book? Will you? Does this news change your opinion of Laura Bush?
I've already posted a couple times about the flood in Nashville (read here and here), but I today I've got an update on how you can contribute to relief efforts—and get some awesome book-related prizes!
Local authors Amanda Morgan, Victoria Schwab and Myra McEntire are hosting an online auction called Do the Write Thing for Nashville.
You can bid on anything from a manuscript critique from professional authors, agents and editors, to signed books, to lunch with authors.
A few of the choice auctions that are active right now:
What blog posts have you enjoyed this week? My picks:
Claire In Africa — Part One
Posted by FiveChapters
I just stumbled on this site today and thought readers would enjoy it—FiveChapters publishes a short story in five parts every week. This week, they're serializing Emily St. John Mandel's "Claire in Africa." I haven't had a chance to read the story yet, but I enjoyed our Q&A with St. John Mandel and review of her latest novel, The Singer's Gun ("a nail-biting thriller overflowing with high-stakes issues such as blackmail, theft, fraud and human trafficking"). Plus, the five-part short story is a great idea. I'll definitely be bookmarking FiveChapters, especially because a James Hynes story is up next week.
Review: The Giver, by Lois Lowry (mother and son joint review)
Posted by Read React Review
In this post, blogger Jessica reviews Lois Lowry's classic YA novel The Giver along with her 10-year-old son. Jessica asks her son questions like, "How would you describe this book to someone your age who has not read it?", and their exchange is both funny and a perfect intro to the book. (In fact, I read The Giver as a fourth grader myself, and I would have loved to revisit my first reaction to the novel.) Have you and your son or daughter ever read a book together and held a discussion? Have any tips for a parent-child book club? Leave us tips in the comments section.
Also, although Lowry is best known for The Giver and Number the Stars, she has written many other books. (Anyone remember the Anastasia series?) Most recently, she wrote The Birthday Ball. Click here to view BookPage's Lowry archives.
How to Dress Like Nancy Drew
Posted by A Novel Idea
It's Friday so I thought I'd post something fun—and what's more fun than Nancy Drew? If you think you channel the Girl Detective, you have to check out this guide to getting her outfit from the cover of The Hidden Staircase. I am always looking out for my next literary Halloween costume. . . this might be it! Do you have a favorite character costume?