“In The Womb: Extreme Animals,” the latest episode of a popular National Geographic Channel series, premieres Sunday, May 10. Meanwhile, the companion volume to a previous episode, In the Womb: Animals, was released just a couple of weeks ago. Guess who was asked to write that book? No, not me. Just as well, I'm too squeamish for that sort of thing, which is why our review of the book will be written by someone else (look for it in an upcoming edition of BookLetters*).
It was former BookPage contributor Michael Sims that National Geographic asked to take on the project; his finished book includes many of the astounding 3-D and 4-D images shown on the television series.
Michael has displayed his quirky, multidisciplinary approach to science in books such as 2003’s Adam's Navel: A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form (Viking) and Apollo’s Fire: A Day on Earth in Nature and Imagination, which was selected as one of NPR's Best Science Books of 2007.
But there’s another side to Michael, a slightly darker side that manifests itself in the crime fiction anthologies he edits. The third in the series, The Penguin Book of Gaslight Crime, was released earlier this spring.
OK, full disclosure: Michael and I were once colleagues at an alt-weekly and he's the person who suggested I apply for my current position at BookPage (I think he's been forgiven for that!).
*BTW, if you're not receiving BookLetters, our enewsletters, check your library's website to see about subscribing.
The morning after her big Edgar win, Meg Gardiner (The China Lake), describes herself as "dazed and excited and sleep-deprived." Check out her blog posts and photos from the ceremony here. Who knew the Edgar statuette was so adorable?
The Mystery Writers of America were celebrating in New York City last night! In addition to hosting their annual gala to honor the winners of the Edgar Allan Poe Awards (more simply known as “The Edgars”), the WMA were celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of their awards’ namesake—Edgar Allan Poe.
Here are some highlights from the 2009 awards for best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television and film published or produced in 2008. For a complete list of results, and more information on The Edgars, click here.
Blue Heaven by C.J. Box (St. Martin’s Minotaur)
Read a BookPage interview with C.J. Box here.
BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
The Foreigner by Francie Lin (Picador)
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
China Lake by Meg Gardiner (New American Library – Obsidian Mysteries)
Check out BookPage’s review of another Gardiner book.
BEST FACT CRIME
American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century by Howard Blum (Crown Publishers)
BEST YOUNG ADULT
Paper Towns by John Green (Penguin Young Readers Group – Dutton Children’s Books)
See our review of Paper Towns here.
BEST MOTION PICTURE SCREENPLAY
In Bruges, screenplay by Martin McDonagh (Focus Features)
Have you read any of the winning books? Who do you think was overlooked? Any predictions for the 2010 Edgar Awards?
As our national poetry month ends, the 10-year term for Britain's new poet laureate, Glasgow-born Carol Ann Duffy, begins. The 53 year old is the first woman to hold the position in its 341-year history.
Accessible yet insightful, Duffy's work has achieved best-selling status in the UK, and she was a front-runner for poet laureate in 1999 (rumor has it that she lost out to Andrew Motion only because Tony Blair was worried about a lesbian laureate alienating "Middle England"). The Guardian reports that Duffy, who was somewhat reluctant to accept the position, is donating the approximately $11,000 yearly stipend to the Poetry Society but will accept the 600 bottles of sherry that are traditionally granted to the laureate.
Maybe it's because they serve longer terms (prior to Motion's appointment, the position was for life), but it seems like British poets laureate get a lot more press than their American counterparts. Of course, we did appoint our first woman way back in 1945. But can anyone name her, or our current poet laureate (also female)? Answer is after the jump, along with a poem from Duffy.
America's first female poet laureate was Louise Bogan.
Our current poet laureate? Kay Ryan.
And a sample of Duffy's work:
Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.
I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or a kissogram.
I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.
Just got back from two (mostly) sunny weeks in L.A. where I took part in an NEA arts writing institute. One of my fellow fellows was Evelyn McDonnell, contributor to the L.A. Times, the Miami Herald, and The Village Voice (she was formerly a senior editor there). Evelyn has also written several books on pop music and, most recently, motherhood. I had to confess that BookPage hadn’t covered Mamarama: A Memoir of Sex, Kids, and Rock ’n’ Roll (Da Capo), because, well, so many books, so little space. Now, after meeting this queen of punk-inspired fashion, I’m looking forward to reading her memoir of pop culture, motherhood and making the New York scene. If you’re looking for something other than saccharine Mother’s Day fare, you should check out Mamarama, too.
A couple of weeks ago, I set off on a 12-day trip to London and St. Petersburg. Ordinarily, this would mean pretty much carrying my weight in reading material -- who wants to be stuck on a plane with the wrong book? -- but this trip was different. Instead of half a dozen books, I was setting out with only a Kindle. While my shoulder was happy about the lighter carry-on, I couldn't help feeling a bit unprepared.
The verdict? I'm not sure I need to travel with books ever again. While I did end up buying a novel in the London airport (the first few pages of Little Bee got me hooked, and I couldn't use the Kindle's wireless feature overseas), having several books and periodicals at my fingertips was pretty much heaven. Not to mention that the device was a conversation piece -- even the flight attendants were asking about it.
This experience only cemented my opinion that the Kindle is the device that will take ebooks mainstream. The novelty factor, the convenience of having a world of books at your fingertips -- it reminded me of the way I felt the first time I traveled with an iPod. The Kindle isn't perfect: it's expensive, the joystick feels somewhat prehistoric if you're used to devices with a touchscreen, and the wireless network can be slow. And aside from the device itself, there are issues about pricing and DRM that have yet to be worked out (at least publishers can look to the experience of the music and TV industries while working on these). Still, I can't help but feel that ereaders are the best way to make reading relevant for a generation that's grown up with the Internet.
Anyone else ever traveled with a Kindle or another ereader?
Am I imagining this or have chickens become fashionable? In my suburban neighborhood, a few trendsetters are keeping chickens in their backyards -- it's against code restrictions, but if the neighbors don't tattle and the chicken coops are hidden from street view, the homeowners get away with it. And they're rewarded with a steady supply of delicious fresh eggs.
If this is a trend, debut author Jane Berentson is tapping into it in her new novel, Miss Harper Can Do It, on sale Thursday. Annie Harper is a third-grade teacher who finds solace in the companionship of a pet chicken when her boyfriend ships out for a 392-day military deployment. ("Wow, Annie," a friend tells her. "You have a garbage disposal, a dishwasher, and a chicken.") To prove that there are those among us who keep chickens not only for food, but also as pets, Berentson has produced a video about pet chickens on Staten Island:
Chickens are all the rage in children's books, too, with several new picture books touting the glories of our feathered friends. One of our favorites is Tillie Lays An Egg by Terry Golson. In finely detailed photos by Ben Fink, Tillie gallivants around the farm, laying her eggs in unexpected places. Pre-school teacher Allison tells us that her students love to spot Tillie's eggs and beg to hear this book read aloud again and again. And here's the best part: little ones (and their interested parents) can watch the real-life Tillie and her chicken companions on Golson's live hencam. Be sure to click on "Inside" for a second view inside the chicken coop (eggsactly!). Why am I suddenly craving deviled eggs?
Over at A Fuse #8 Production, a reader poll ranks Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes as number 15 on a list of the Top 100 Picture Books of All Time.
We share the love for Henkes' naughty-but-lovable heroine, and have for quite a long time. Back in 1996, when Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse was first published, we interviewed Henkes about the book and his inspiration for the story. In a sequence of events that's still hard to believe, Henkes also describes how he made a trip to New York at the age of 19 and landed a book contract with Greenwillow on his second day in the city. Although there are thousands (and thousands) of book reviews and features in the BookPage.com archives, this interview remains one of our most-read articles, year in and year out. Which proves two things: there's no explaining the mysteries of web traffic, and very few book-related sites on the web offer the length and breadth of the BookPage archives. Try browsing through BookPage.com yourself (including the flip-through version of the current print edition) and stay tuned for the long-awaited and totally redesigned site that will put more book news and recommendations at your fingertips.
More on Kevin Henkes: When Lilly returned for her Big Day in 2006, readers learned more about the memorable mouse and her creator in this illustrated Q&A.
One of our favorite books from the upcoming May issue of BookPage is Alan Bradley’s debut novel, Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. In Sweetness we meet Flavia de Luce, an 11-year-old aspiring chemist with a passion for poison and intrigue. When a series of inexplicable events strikes Buckshaw, the decaying English mansion that Flavia and her family call home, Flavia is delighted to get to the bottom of things.
70-year-old author Alan Bradley has written a memoir and collaborated on a work of nonfiction, but this brilliant mystery is his first novel. Fans of Flavia de Luce will be delighted to hear that Sweetness is just the first in a series following Bradley’s charming new heroine.
To read our review of Sweetness—and get a sneak peek of the May issue—click here.
To enter to win a free copy of Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, leave a comment (by May 1) that includes the title of your favorite mystery novel.
UPDATE: This contest has ended, but you can still join the discussion by commenting on your favorite mystery.
Ursula Le Guin won the Nebula Award (her sixth by our count) for best novel at a ceremony Saturday night at UCLA. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America chose Le Guin's Powers, the third book in the Annals of the Western Shore series, for the top honor. Interestingly, the novel is aimed at young adult readers, as is another Nebula finalist, Cory Doctorow's Homeland Security thriller Little Brother. Can we take this as another indicator that some of the most imaginative fiction being published today is in the YA market?
The winner of the Andre Norton Award for young adult science fiction and fantasy went to Ysabeau S. Wilce for Flora's Dare, a wild romp of a book, which has one of the longest subtitles we've seen lately: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room). For a look at the woman behind this fantastical vision, check out Kelly Link's 2007 BookPage interview with Wilce or the author's entertaining (and somewhat bizarre) website.