I've just come across a debut fiction deal that I think will appeal to BookPage readers (perhaps the same readers who have loved Marilyn Johnson's This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All). In winter 2011, Amy Einhorn Books will publish Eleanor Brown's The Weird Sisters, "about three adult sisters of an eccentric, renowned Shakespeare professor whose family motto is 'there is no problem a library card can't solve'," according to Publisher's Marketplace.
Not surprisingly, the first thing I thought of when I read the title is Harry Potter rock band The Weird Sisters. And their rocking music video "Do the Hippogriff." Of course, the original Weird Sisters were the three witches of Macbeth, which is probably where Brown is coming from. The book's already getting some buzz; novelist Caroline Leavitt recently tweeted that she was up until three reading a galley of the "knockout debut."
What do you think—will you check out The Weird Sisters?
By the way, this morning, Trisha wrote about Little Brown imprint Reagan Arthur Books, and it's not hard to drawn comparisons to Amy Einhorn, who has her own imprint at Putnam. Have you enjoyed any Amy Einhorn books? (Have you read The Help? The Postmistress? The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott?) And book bloggers have also hosted Amy Einhorn challenges.
Day for Night by Frederick Reiken
Reagan Arthur Books, April 26, 2010
It is often said that successful novels need at least two out of three things: good writing, good characters or a good story. That may be true. But in the best novels, like Frederick Reiken's Day for Night, you get all three.
Just a handful of pages later, we leave Beverly to fly to Utah with Tim and the lead singer in his band, Dee. A few pages after that, we're reading a deposition from a federal agent who's been tracking a suspected terrorist for the last 20 years. All of these threads, and more, come together in surprising, compelling ways. Poetic and moving, Day for Night is a novel to remember.
This excerpt is from the second section, told from Tim's perspective.
We have a song, which Dee wrote—she's written all of our songs—called "Close You Are," and unlike "Down in the Sea of Me," it isn't cryptic and it isn't about Dee's history of childhood trauma. What it's about is the idea that we're much closer than we think to the random people we see on any given day, that everyone in this world carves out a little groove and that although you may think your world is large you rarely venture far outside that groove. That there are other people in these grooves with you, that grooving, at least in this song, means to be dancing with the people in your groove. The chorus of the song—Close you are, grooving!—might sound dumb just to say (especially since people hear it as "groovy" and not "grooving"), but it sounds good when you hear Dee sing it. She jumps around a lot when she sings this song and it's fun to watch her. It's like she's two different people singing, one who sings Close you are and another who chimes in grooving! She seems so happy and clear, unlike in "Down in the Sea of Me." When she sings that song, you get scared because it's like she's turned into this big black hole and you're sucked right in. Her face turns mean and you would think a person with a face like that could kill you. A face like that you will keep on seeing in your mind and you'll feel relief when you drive home and know that face is just a memory. The problem is that when you're far enough away you'll want to see it again, this face that is cruel and luscious and arousing. You think you really might be willing to go down into that sea.
Novelist and filmmaker Peter Hedges will adapt his latest novel, The Heights, for the big screen—and serve as producer and director. This is the first time Hedges has adapted his own work for film since What's Eating Gilbert Grape? was released in 1993, though he has written original screenplays and was nominated for an Academy Award for his adaptation of Nick Hornby's About a Boy.
As prescient BookPage contributor Stephenie Harrison says in her review, "Given past precedence, it wouldn’t be surprising if The Heights one day graces a theater near you, but this is definitely one book you’ll want to read before seeing the movie."
No casting decisions have yet been made, of course—any readers care to weigh in?
I wouldn't shy away from it if I felt that I had a compelling story to tell in a location that really worked for me. . . Location is crucial to my books. I've been careful to go to places to make sure that I am going to feel that mystical or visceral connection that allows me to say yes, this is it, this is the place I'm going to write about.
George fans: Will you read The Edge of Nowhere? The book will be published by Viking Children's, and currently there is no set pub date.
If you've spent the past 18 years wondering what Terry McMillan's memorable heroines from the 1992 hit Waiting to Exhale are up to now that they've hit middle age, the answers are coming in September, when Viking will publish Getting to Happy.
We have to admit to some surprise over this announcement, since in our 2005 interview with McMillan about her last novel, The Interruption of Everything, she didn't seem too crazy about Exhale's characters.
"[T]hose women make me sick! They seem like such whiners, except for one," she says. "But the thing was, at that time, there were so many women that I knew, myself included, who looked up and realized, gee whiz, what happened to those husbands we were supposed to be getting? Not only husbands, we didn't even have dates! Back then, it was kind of important because we were in it, but then it kind of came and went. But they don't let you forget!"
We're running a roundup of historical fiction titles in the April edition of BookPage. The plots move from Renaissance Italy to 16th-century England, and feature "struggling artists and merciless monarchs, dysfunctional families and doubt-wracked lovers," writes contributor Julie Hale.
Two of the four books in the roundup come out this week: Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt (out tomorrow) and Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell (out today). And, lucky for us, there are book trailers of each book to compliment our reviews.
Daughters of the Witching Hill takes place in Lancashire, England, in 1612, as two women are targeted in a witch hunt. Hale raves: "Striking just the right balance between the demands of fact and the allure of a good story, [Sharratt] has produced a novel that’s both convincing and compelling. . . literally—a spellbinding book." In the trailer below, Sharratt tells the true story of the witches of Pendle Hill.
Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet tells the story of Monet and his wife and inspiration, Camille Doncieux. In her review, Hale writes that Cowell fleshes out "the artist’s biographical outline with fresh imagery, well-paced dramatic scenes and carefully calculated dialogue." Look at some of Monet's gorgeous paintings in this trailer:
Have you seen any memorable book trailers lately? Do you have a great historical fiction title to recommend?
Our top 50 books of 2009 list has been one of the most popular features on BookPage.com. With that in mind, we decided to compile a "Top 20 Books of 2010—so far" list, based on the most-viewed new reviews on BookPage.com, from January 1 until March 31.
In our recent reader survey, BookPage readers asserted their love for fiction, especially mysteries and thrillers. So I was surprised to see that several non-fiction titles, such as This Book is Overdue! by Marilyn Johnson and Crazy Like Us by Ethan Watters, have been incredibly popular this year.
View the complete list below and tell us: How many have you read? Come December, will any of these books make the year's "best of" list?
In the summer of 1988, a corporate transfer landed my husband Marty and me in Atlanta. A diehard baseball fan (and all-star shortstop as a youth), Marty was thrilled to finally live in a city with a Major League Baseball team—we were at a Braves game before the moving truck had even arrived with our belongings. He quickly made inquiries about season tickets for the 1989 season and found four to-die-for seats between home plate and the dugout on the first-base side.
If you know your baseball history, you know how awful the Braves were in the late 1980s and the Cinderella story of their "worst to first" season in 1991. We were there, through the painful string of losses to the playoffs and the World Series! And we continued to enjoy our amazing seats through the next several powerhouse seasons (while all the fair-weather fans scrambled for a ticket). My daughter learned the tomahawk chop about the same time she learned to walk, and my son honed his reading and math skills by studying the Braves box scores. Skip Caray, the venerable voice of the Braves, was literally the background soundtrack of those years of our lives.
So, when Robert Kempe of Seven Footer Press told me about their newest title, Cardboard Gods, I knew I had found the perfect book for Marty. This unique memoir tells the 1970s coming-of-age story of author Josh Wilker, "played out" through his baseball card collection. Each short chapter begins with a full-color image of one of his baseball cards, and as the narrative of his life unfolds, it twists and turns and ultimately relates to the pictured card and featured player.
Even though I was only a baseball fan for those six "Braves" years, I was still drawn into Cardboard Gods. Intrigued, I studied the card at the beginning of each chapter, wondering how it would relate to the author's continued story. It's clever and fun, even when your heart aches for young Wilker as he makes his way from boyhood to adolescence and beyond. If you know a lover of baseball (or not!), surprise them with a copy of this book.
My new iPad was delivered bright and early Saturday morning -- part of the nationwide synchronized rollout of Apple's latest device -- and the UPS delivery lady seemed almost as happy about it as I was. "This is better than payday!" she told me. "Everybody is so excited to be getting these."
In the two days since the delivery, I've found a lot to love about the iPad, but for Book Case readers I want to concentrate on my reaction to the iPad as a reader and booklover. I'll frame my reactions with comparisons to the Kindle, which has dominated the market for e-readers until this weekend.
The iPad is super-thin, beautifully designed, lightweight (1.5 pound) and easy to use. It looks and functions almost exactly like an iPhone or iPod touch, so if you're familiar with either of those devices you'll know what to expect. The screen is strikingly sharp, the colors gorgeous and the battery life amazing. The iPad arrived at my house fully charged and the battery was still going strong after an entire day of steady use. The glare on the screen is considerable, however, and because of its 7.5 inch width, holding it like a book can feel a bit clumsy at first.
The Kindle is lighter (10 oz.) than the iPad, uses e-ink rather than a backlit screen and has push button controls rather than a touch system. The screen display is black and white only (or, as some users have described it, gray on gray) -- a sharp contrast to the vivid colors of the iPad. Though the Kindle might have the edge in being easy on the eyes for hours of nonstop reading, in every other category, the iPad is a better designed, more functional device. And in addition to reading, the iPad allows users to access the Internet, read email, watch TV shows or movies, and run thousands of specially designed mini-programs (apps). Whether you consider that a plus, or an intrusion on your time for reading books, is up to you.
THE IPAD vs. KINDLE VERDICT: iPad wins this round
The iPad uses a new e-reader program called iBooks. I loved it almost from the first moment I tried it out while reading a beautifully illustrated edition of Winnie the Pooh (which comes free with every new iPad). Each page is clearly defined on the screen, whether you're using the iPad in landscape or portrait mode. And when the reader turns the page -- by dragging a finger across the page from right to left -- the page appears to curl from the edge and turn, exactly as it would on a real book. It's hard to say why this visual trick is so enticing for a booklover, but it works. Other nice features: tap on any word and you can instantly look it up at dictionary.com, bookmark it or search for it elsewhere in the text. And increasing the font size or style is one-click easy, a big help for older readers who aren't quite ready for large print books. The iPad is also especially well suited for children's books and is sure to be a hit with young readers. Children's books have been among the top ranked reading apps for the iPhone and that's likely to continue with the iPad.
VERDICT: iPad wins again
Apple has the goods -- a cool new e-reader and appealing software -- but at least for now, it does NOT have the books. Especially not a wide selection of books that would appeal to an eclectic reader like me. The very first book I wanted to buy was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which my book club is reading this month. Though I have a hard copy of the book on hand, I thought it would be interesting to compare the experience of reading the same book on the iPad and in traditional printed format. But, darn, Apple doesn't have this acclaimed book available in its iTunes store, because Random House hasn't reached a deal with Apple yet. What to do? I went back to the iTunes store and downloaded the brand new (free) Kindle app for the iPad, which enables me to read Amazon's Kindle books on my Apple device. Then I went to Amazon.com on my browser, found the book almost immediately and downloaded it to my iPad. Amazon has the shopping experience for books down to a science, while the iTunes store seems constrained, hard to browse and to search. The experience of reading Kindle books on an iPad isn't ideal -- for one thing you don't get the advantages of the iBooks software -- but for now it gives users the best of both worlds: the vast book selection of Amazon paired with Apple's sleek new device.
VERDICT: Amazon/Kindle, hands down
Which of these devices would be best for you depends on several factors, most notably whether you want a gadget only for reading books and periodicals or whether you'd prefer to have other capabilities.
Also, I have to admit that while I love my new iPad, I ultimately put it down and picked up a hard copy of The Book Thief to finish my reading. After several hours of reading on the iPad, I'll readily admit that I yearned to pick up an old-fashioned book and hold it in my hands, a posture that's so ingrained in a long-time reader it's probably been incorporated into our DNA. After all is said and done (and read), a book is still the most portable, most readable and most satisfying "reading device" of all.
Congratulations to Diana and Beth, the winners of last week's contests on The Book Case.
Diana will receive a copy of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees.
Beth will receive a copy of Aries Rising by Bonnie Hearn Hill.
Ladies, notification emails are on the way.