Last week I spoke to Newbery medalist Laura Amy Schlitz (Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!) about her new release The Night Fairy (Feb. 23 from Candlewick). The middle grade novel tells the story of Flory, a fairy who loses her wings in an accident and must fend for herself in a garden alongside bats, praying mantises and other potentially threatening creatures.
As she learns to appreciate life in the daytime—Flory was born a nocturnal fairy, although she attempts to change her sleep schedule—the little fairy also discovers emotions like empathy and hope.
I predict that this charming story will be a hit with kids who love the outdoors and playing make believe—not only because of the text, but because the accompanying illustrations are truly works of art. Illustrator Angela Barrett studied at the Royal College of Art in England with Quentin Blake (best known for immortalizing Roald Dahl’s characters in cartoons). She has illustrated more than 24 books, and her depictions of Flory’s miniature world will enchant young readers. (Visit this gallery on The Night Fairy’s website for examples.)
On Feb. 23, you can read about Schlitz’s intriguing new project and her interest in fairy stories on BookPage.com. In the meantime, listen to an audio clip from the author. In it, she discusses the joyful moment of winning the Newbery Medal in 2008:
We’re giving away a copy of The Night Fairy to a lucky reader. To enter, tell us in the comments: Who is your favorite fairy from literature? I’ll vote for Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Deadline: Feb. 17 at 10 a.m.
Scott Turow has made a name for himself writing fast-paced, incisive legal thrillers (eight of which have been bestsellers). But the book that started it all—1987's Presumed Innocent—is undoubtedly his best-known (and best-selling) work. Set in a midsize Midwestern city, the novel focuses on Rusty Sabich, Kindle County's longtime chief deputy prosecutor, who has been asked to investigate the rape and murder of one of his colleagues, Carolyn Polhernus. Her murder has been an embarrassment to Rusty's boss, Raymond Horgan, who is facing a serious challenge in the upcoming election and who looks to Rusty for a fast solution to the case that will help save him politically. But what Horgan doesn't know is that, only a few months before she was murdered, Carolyn Polhemus and Rusty Sabich were lovers. And, after several complicated legal twists and turns, Rusty finds himself accused of Carolyn's murder.
Twenty years after Rusty Sabich and Tommy Molto went head-to-head, they find themselves pitted against each other once again in a riveting psychological match. When Sabich, now sixty years old and the chief judge of an appellate court, finds his wife, Barbara, dead under mysterious circumstances, Molto accuses him of murder for the second time, setting into motion a trial that is vintage Turow—the courtroom at its most taut and explosive.
. . . Katherine Heigl. Variety reports that the "plum" role of buxom bounty hunter in the film version of Janet Evanovich's One for the Money will be played by the "Grey's Anatomy" star. It's been a long time coming; Columbia pictures first optioned the novel for film in 1994 and Reese Witherspoon was previously attached to the project (though Janet E. has said on her website that she envisions Sandra Bullock in the role). Now that Heigl has signed on, the project has gained momentum and is likely to start production.
Now, the question is, who will be cast as Stephanie's two love interests, Morelli and Ranger?
Since political memoirs have been a dime a dozen in recent weeks*, I was intrigued by a different kind of book deal from (could-have-been political memoirist) Nicolle Wallace, former White House Communications Director under George W. Bush and advisor to Sarah Palin (with whom she famously had a head-butting relationship).
In October 2010, Atria will publish Wallace’s debut novel, a story that “follows the first female President of the United States, Charlotte Kramer, and her staff as they take on dangerous threats from abroad and within her very own cabinet.” The title is Eighteen Acres, insider lingo for the White House Complex.
Atria’s vice president and executive editorial director Emily Bestler said that “Heroines in woman’s fiction typically struggle with the weight of the world on their shoulders. . . Nicolle Wallace has created a character in which that can be said literally. Forget everything you know about the genre. Whatever family, friend or workplace drama we’ve read about in the past becomes magnified tenfold when you’re the nation’s first female president.”
Here are my follow-up questions: Will President Kramer be a Democrat or Republican? (Since she was dreamed up by Nicolle Wallace, I’m guessing Republican. . . but you never know!) Will you read this debut?
While you wait for Eighteen Acres, read an interview with Curtis Sittenfeld about American Wife, a “thinly veiled account of Laura and George W. Bush's courtship and rise to the top of American politics. . . a sparkling, sprawling novel.”
*Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by political reporters John Heilemann and Mark Halperin; The Politician: An Insider’s Account of John Edwards’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down by Edwards aide Andrew Young; On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System by former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson; Staying True by betrayed South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford. . . Has anyone else noticed a trend of 15-word titles?
In honor of Valentine's Day, we at BookPage were asked by the folks at Springpad to share a Top 10 love story list. We put our heads together and came up with the following. Do you agree? disagree? have a favorite literary couple of your own? Tell us in the comments before 10 a.m. on Valentine's Day, and be entered for a chance to win a box of 6 romance novels, including the latest from Christine Feehan and Stephanie Laurens!
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Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
May 2001, Pocket
I recently devoured Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed (which I would highly recommend) and have just started on Jennifer Weiner’s debut novel, Good in Bed. Weiner didn’t become one of the queens of women’s fiction (In Her Shoes, Little Earthquakes, this summer’s Best Friends Forever) for nothing, and Good in Bed is just plain good so far.
In the first chapter, we meet Cannie Shapiro, a twentysomething reporter for a Philadelphia newspaper, who has just parted ways with her boyfriend, Bruce. A normal work day becomes anything but when Cannie’s best friend calls her to suggest she check out the latest issue of Moxie, a women’s magazine, and turn to page 132:
I sat, opened the M & M’s, eased a few into my mouth, and flipped to page 132, which turned out to be "Good in Bed," Moxie’s regular male-written feature designed to help the average reader understand what her boyfriend was up to . . . or wasn’t up to, as the case might be. At first my eyes wouldn’t make sense of the letters. Finally, they unscrambled. “Loving a Larger Woman,” said the headline, “By Bruce Guberman.” Bruce Guberman had been my boyfriend for just over two years, until we’d mutually decided to take a break three months ago. And the Larger Woman, I could only assume, was me.
You know how in scary books a character will say, “I felt my heart stop?” Well, I did. Really. Then I felt it start to pound again, in my ears, my throat, my fingertips. The hair at the back of my neck stood up. My hands felt icy. I could hear the blood roaring in my ears, as I read the first line of the article: “I’ll never forget the day I found out my girlfriend weighed more than I did.
Good news for Weiner fans: Best Friends Forever comes out in paperback in May, and Weiner's latest novel, Fly Away Home goes on sale in July. What's your favorite book by Jennifer Weiner?
British author Andrew Grant hit the thriller scene in a big way with his 2009 debut, Even. Starring rogue spy David Trevellyan, the novel was a favorite of Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney, among others, and marked the launch of a series that will continue in May with Die Twice. Recently Grant traveled from his home in Birmingham, England, to participate in a conference in Birmingham, Alabama. Here, he gives a behind-the-scenes look at the weekend's events.
Half an hour from the airport, bogged down in heavy traffic, threading our way through the lattice of raised, sweeping concrete highways towards Birmingham city centre. I was starting to feel right at home. But this wasn’t spaghetti junction, and we weren’t in the heartland of England. We were in Birmingham, Alabama, on our way to the Murder in the Magic City writing conference—followed by the annual Murder on the Menu dinner in nearby Wetumpka—over the weekend of February 6 and 7. The first included talks by authors, featuring best-selling writers S.J. Rozan and C.J. Box on Saturday, and the second was a ‘moving feast’ with the same 16 crime fiction authors on Sunday.
Both days offered a wonderful opportunity to meet enthusiastic readers, talk to other writers and listen to a wide variety of stimulating and informative panels. I’d be hard pressed to say which I enjoyed more, but was delighted to part of two evenings that were not only enjoyable, but which raised funds for two very worthwhile causes—the national Crime Lab project, and the Wetumpka Public Library.
I am apparently a rare creature—a beer-drinking book club member. While my fellow book clubbers are sipping Chardonnay, I'm happily chugging down a cold beer, preferably a Bud Light (my beer of choice).
So imagine my surprise at the outcry that's greeted the Super Bowl commercial in which a Bud-loving guy crashes an all-female book club meeting. Who can blame the guy, after all? He spots a bowl of ice-cold Bud on a table and decides to join the group with scintillating discussion questions like this one: "So, what's the story?"
Ed Champion, among others, is outraged, describing the spot as "Madison Avenue Misogyny." He finds the ad sexist, anti-reading and way too sexually suggestive. To which I can only reply: c'mon, lighten up! The commercial was meant to be funny, and to me at least, it was. Also, as some commentators have pointed out, the ladies at the book club were the ones who set out the bottles of Bud (go girls!). They were ready to kick back with a beer and a good book and enjoy a conversation with friends. Not a bad idea from my perspective, and a not a bad way to portray books and reading. It's the guy who comes off as an dim-witted lout who can't follow the discussion.
Now if I could just get my own book club to change its name from "Wine, Women & Words" to something that's more inclusive for beer drinkers like me.
Her YA art caper novel, Heist Society, hits stores today, and you can read all about it in an interview on BookPage.com. I talked to Carter (also the author of the bestselling Gallagher Girls series) about the book in December and am excited that teens can finally read the book for themselves. (Imagine if Julia Roberts' and George Clooney's characters in Ocean's 11 had a daughter. Who staged a huge heist as a teenager. That would be Kat, the star of Heist Society.)
Carter was a lot of fun to talk to (In response to “How to you feel about Valentine’s Day?” she answered: “Valentine’s Day is the day before all the chocolates go on sale”), so yesterday I was happy to see that Publisher’s Lunch reported a major film rights deal concerning Heist Society. The film rights were optioned to Warner Brothers for seven figures. Denise Di Novi (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) is slated to produce.
On her blog, Carter wrote: “The whole time I was writing Heist I always thought of it as a movie. More than once I've said that it's far more cinematic than anything I've ever done. But what do I know, right? I also think cake is a well-balanced breakfast, so I'm wrong. A lot. . . At the end of the day we ended up signing with Warner Brothers and the talented Denise DiNovi as the producer. The screenplay will be written by the fabulous Shauna Cross (who wrote Whip It and the screenplay for If I Stay).” She also reminded readers that a film option is not a guarantee that a movie will get made—but it’s a step in the right direction.
So commenters: Who would you pick to play Kat, the daughter of notorious art thieves, or her love interest Hale? What’s your favorite heist book?
HCI Books, the company that publishes the Chicken Soup books, announced today that they have created a “new subgenre” of romance novels: fantasy meets reality. (When I read about this, I’ll admit that the first thing that popped into my head is a line from David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice: “It’s these real-life dramas that tend to draw a larger audience. Why? I chalk it up to five simple words we use in every print or televised promotion. Five words: ‘Based Upon a True Story.’”)
The idea is that real-life couples can share a “sexy, steamy, bigger-than-life, or just plain worthwhile love story” and romance authors will write a novel based on the truth. The line of books will be called "Vows," and book one, Hard to Hold, comes out in October 2010.
Written by Julie Leto, Hard to Hold is about a woman who falls in love with a man with Tourette’s Syndrome. The pub copy also alludes to a second hurdle in the relationship. My curiosity got the best of me, and I searched the couple’s names online. Turns out they had the lead wedding story in the Sunday New York Times in August, so you can get the juicy details now, if you’d like.
The cheesy factor is certainly amped in the Vows books. (“When fantasy meets reality anything can happen. Believe it. It’s true.”) And as someone who spends hours a week engrossed in fiction, I take issue with the line from HCI’s promotional copy asserting that “the best things in life—and in romance—are real.” (Father Ralph and Meggie are real, too... to me!)
But I can still recognize that this is a very clever concept that’s perfectly suited for the age of Facebook and Google stalking and The Bachelor. When I finish a book, I love to find out everything I possibly can about the author. With the Vows books you’ll be able to do the same with the main characters. Plus, their story will keep on going when you finish the novel, which is an interesting idea.
What do you think, readers? Are you more interested in a romance novel that’s Based Upon a True Story—is truth stranger (or rather, steamier) than fiction? Or are romance plots best developed in a writer’s imagination?
For some traditional romance, check out Christie Ridgway’s February column in BookPage.