As BookPage’s fiction editor, I get to read (or at least partially read) dozens and dozens of great novels every month. But the hardest part of the job (at least for me) is narrowing all of these great books down to a stack of 10 or 12 to review each month. As my mother would say, “That’s a nice problem to have!” And it really is. But in my time with BookPage, there has not been a month when I didn’t lament not including a certain book in our issue. Such is the case with The Fixer Upper, the latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Mary Kay Andrews (Deep Dish, Blue Christmas, Savannah Breeze, etc.).
On sale at the end of this month, The Fixer Upper is the story of Dempsey Jo Killebrew—an impressive young woman who thinks she has landed her dream job at a Washington, D.C. law firm. She’s living the high life until her boss is implicated in a very juicy political scandal—and she is shown the door right along with him. Dempsey is suddenly out of a job with bills piling up; and because her name has been splashed all over the news along with her boss’s, no potential employer will touch her. So what’s a girl to do? Well, in a Mary Kay Andrews novel, she has only one choice—return to her Southern roots. For Dempsey, that means taking her father up on his offer to restore the old family mansion in sleepy Guthrie, Georgia.
Like Andrews’ other novels, this is a light, sassy, easy read, perfect for the beach or lazy days on the porch. I loved what I read of the novel, and even though we didn’t pick this one for print coverage, the kind folks at Harper sent us three finished copies of the book. So in celebration of the start of summer, three lucky Book Case readers can enter to win a free copy—even before it officially hits the shelves. Just post a comment and tell us what your favorite beach read is before June 15th. We’ll select the winners at random. Good luck!
Another book talked up during one of Books-A-Million's publisher-buyer meetings: The last-minute addition to the McSweeney's fall list of an adult novel based on Where the Wild Things Are, titled simply, Wild Things (October). The author? Dave Eggers, who adapted the children's book into the screenplay for the anticipated movie directed by Spike Jonze.
Like the movie, the adult novelization seems to have followed a rocky road, with a delay or two along the way. A 2008 Publisher's Weekly article reported that the book would be published as a joint venture between Harper and McSweeney's but would bear the Ecco imprint (they happen to publish Eggers' wife, Vendela Vida). Now it looks like the project is being handled McSweeney's alone—perhaps Harper wasn't up for producing the (faux) fur-covered special edition? Perseus will distribute.
Little information on the book is available other than the publisher's annotation:
Wild Things is about the confusions of a boy, Max, making his way in a world he can’t control. His father is gone, his mother is spending time with a younger boyfriend, his sister is becoming a teenager and no longer has interest in him. At the same time, Max finds himself capable of startling acts of wildness: he wears a wolf suit, bites his mom, and can’t always control his outbursts. During a fight at home, Max flees and runs away into the woods. He finds a boat there, jumps in, and ends up on the open sea, destination unknown. He lands on the island of the Wild Things, and soon he becomes their king. But things get complicated when Max realizes that the Wild Things want as much from him as he wants from them. Funny, dark, and alive, The Wild Things is a timeless and time-tested tale for all ages.
Where the Wild Things Are
Away We Go
Congratulations to our own romance columnist Christie Ridgway, who just signed a deal with Berkley to publish a new series of contemporary romance novels. Set in Napa, The Three Kisses trilogy focuses on three single sisters who are fighting to keep their struggling vineyard afloat—and the smoking hot bachelor brothers who are the sisters' biggest competitors. Or, in Christie's words: “One failing winery, two feuding families, three unforgettable pairings.” The first book is tentatively scheduled for next summer. I have very fond, fuzzy memories of a trip I took to Napa a couple of years ago—Christie, if you need help with all that research, give me a call!
If you haven't read Christie's column for June, check it out here. In my humble (and yes, biased) opinion, it's a must-read for any romance or women's fiction fan.
ETA: Anyone with Napa Valley area insights for Christie, feel free to share in the comments.
Have you heard about Book: The Sequel (Public Affairs)? Here’s the gist: readers were asked to contribute the first line of a proposed sequel to their favorite book, via a website that was up for about a month. Sounds fun, sounds great. But wait, you also get...the actual book. During a 48-period, beginning the first night of BEA, the submissions were edited, formatted and then published—as a paperback, audiobook, e-book, large print, etc.
OK, but what's the point? That’s a question we put to Rick Joyce, Perseus Books Group’s chief marketing officer, Saturday at BEA during the launch party for Book: The Sequel. Admittedly, we went for the champagne, but came away with much more. As you'll hear, this project wasn't just about beloved books, it's about the future of publishing.
This weekend marked my first BEA experience—and even though reports indicated that attendance was down from past years, you wouldn’t have known it on Friday afternoon at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. The place was absolutely packed and MiChelle and I worried that we might not make it to the BookPage booth with our rolling suitcases, since we headed right from LaGuardia airport to the show (apologies to the several people I inadvertently rolled over).
We did make it to the booth, and we had a great weekend. A lot of interesting people stopped by to say hi, to tell us what they liked about BookPage and to learn more about us. I had a great time meeting with publicists at the various publishing houses to hear about their Fall fiction lists, and I’m really excited to share some great new novels with our readers.
The only disappointment would have to be the lack of galleys available for pickup—or at least that’s how it seemed to me. I heard that in past years BookPage staffers came back with entire suitcases filled with advance reading copies; this year the galleys seemed few and far between. But there were two notable exceptions: Roses by Leila Meacham (on sale in January 2010) and Stardust by Joseph Kanon (on sale in late September).
Grand Central publicists tell me everyone is really excited about Roses, an epic saga that spans the 20th century in a small East Texas town and is being compared to The Thorn Birds. Joseph Kanon was at the Atria booth signing copies of his latest, Stardust, and I was lucky enough to get one inscribed to my Dad! This novel is being pitched as a tale of Hollywood glamour, post-war espionage and family secrets, and Kanon is best known as the author of The Good German.
Once I recover from the weekend, I’m looking forward to digging into both of these novels. Hopefully they will live up to the hype!
One of my most enjoyable visits this weekend at BookExpo was with Adriana Trigiani (see photo below), author of the popular Big Stone Gap series. Trigiani is making her young adult debut this fall with Viola in Reel Life, and she led me right down to the HarperCollins booth to make sure I got a galley. Aimed at ages 12 and up, the new novel focuses on a teenager who is shipped off to boarding school and has to find her way with a new group of friends. The author never attended boarding school herself and her own daughter is only six, so the new book isn't a "drawn-from-real-life" story. "I made it all up," Trigiani says with refreshing honesty. She did tap her memories of teenage angst and adolescent awkwardness in creating Viola, who is named after Adriana's grandmother, continuing a tradition of naming characters "after the people I love."
Trigiani says she really enjoyed writing for a younger audience and is looking forward to expanding the new book into a teen series. We give her credit for starting a new YA series that does NOT involve supernatural characters—werewolves, angels, vampires, you name it—when almost every other teen author and/or publisher is rushing to snag a slice of the huge Stephenie Meyer market.
The BookPage booth had a special Saturday visitor:
The New York Times may be bemoaning the state of publishing/bookselling, but there's a strong fall shaping up, with the return of many favorite authors. We've already posted about Stephen King, Pat Conroy, Dan Brown, Barbara Kingsolver and A.S. Byatt. Now Diana Gabaldon enters the list in October with a new installment in her popular Outlander series. An Echo in the Bone is set during the American revolution and pits Jamie against his illegitimate son who is fighting for the British. At a reported 992 pages, this is a book readers can get lost in, and should keep them occupied until Spring 2010, when Del Rey will release a graphic novel based on the series.
Gabaldon was an early internet adopter, and former BookPage editor Ann Shayne was an early fan. Check out their 1997 Q&A here.
That's what David Young, chairman and CEO of Hachette Book Group, hopes for Twelve's upcoming memoir from Senator Ted Kennedy. At a recent meeting with Books-A-Million, Young told buyers that editor Jamie Raab says True Compass "delivers" and described the book as "electrifying."
True Compass covers everything from Kennedy's youth to the current day in surprising detail. "Revelations in this book will amaze people," Young said, promising that Kennedy "went everywhere we wanted him to go" in the memoir -- including Chappaquiddick -- and that the scene where Kennedy informs their father of his brother Jack's death is especially poignant. The book will, of course, be embargoed until its October 6 release date. Will you read?
We're feeling rested and relaxed here after the long Memorial Day weekend. The overcast skies and occasional showers made it a perfect reading weekend here in Nashville, and I managed to spend a few hours with the galleys of the forthcoming A.S. Byatt novel I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, The Children's Book.
I'm about 300 pages into this behemoth, and so far it's pretty compelling. The cast of characters rivals that of War and Peace, but Byatt manages to make each one stand out. Among my favorites are Olive Wellwood, a complicated woman whose writing for children supports her large family (she's based on one of my favorite childhood authors, the writer E. Nesbit); her eldest daughter, Dorothy, whose desire to become a doctor is verbally but not always materially supported by her permissive, counter-cultural family; and Phillip, a boy with the drive and genius to become a great potter who is discovered living in the basement of the brand-new South Kensington (soon to be Victoria & Albert) Museum. Creepy fairy-tale comparisons abound, and as in Possession, some of the best passages are the stories that Byatt has created for Olive Wellwood.
Did you have time to read this weekend? And if so, what book did you choose?