Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Nebula Nominees

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

The nominees have been announced for one of the most prestigious awards in genre fiction, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s 51st Annual Nebula Awards.

The buzziest of the five nominees for Best Novel are All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Macmillan/Tor; Recorded Books; OverDrive Sample) and The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin (Hachette/Orbit; Hachette Audio; OverDrive Sample).

9780765379955_d589bAll the Birds in the Sky was selected as a best book of the year by Amazon, Kirkus, The Washington Post, and Time, where it was #5 on their list of “Top 10 Novels” of 2016.

It got rave reviews generally as well. NPR wrote “With All the Birds in the Sky, Anders has given us a fresh set of literary signposts — and a new bundle of emotional metaphors — for the 21st century, replacing the so many of the tired old ones. Oh, and she’s gently overturned genre fiction along the way.”

Anders, until recently, was the founder and co-editor of the science fiction site io9.com. She won the Hugo in 2012 for the novelette Six Months, Three Days.

9780316229265_b53adThe Obelisk Gate is the second novel in the Broken Earth series. We wrote about its reception earlier and Naomi Novik reviewed it for the NYT BR, praising its “intricate and extraordinary world-­building.”

Jemisin won the Hugo for the series launch, The Fifth Season, and she won the Locus award for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. She is a notable voice in the field, sharing her opinions on the genre and writing reviews for the NYT column “Otherwordly.”

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Somewhat more under the radar but still making end of the year best lists is Borderline by Mishell Baker (S&S/Saga; S&S Audio; OverDrive Sample), which was an Library Journal top pick for the year. Tor.com said it is “dark and creeping and smart as a whip.

The final nominees are Everfair by Nisi Shawl (Macmillan/Tor; Tantor Audio; OverDrive Sample) and Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (S&S/Solaris; Recorded Books; OverDrive Sample).

The website The Verge picked both as among their 2016 recommendations.

The Washington Post says of Everfair, it is “a beautifully written and thrillingly ambitious alternate history … It’s a tribute to Shawl’s powerful writing that her intricate, politically and racially charged imaginary world seems as believable — sometimes more believable — than the one we inhabit.”

In her NYT column, Jemisin says of Ninefox Gambit, “Readers willing to invest in a steep learning curve will be rewarded with a tight-woven, complicated but not convoluted, breathtakingly original space opera. And since this is only the first book of the Machineries of Empire trilogy, it’s the start of what looks to be a wild ride.”

As The Verge notes, the list highlights a welcome diversity, “three of the five nominees for Best Novel are authors of color, and four out of the five are women.

The winners will be announced during the annual Nebula Conference, which runs from May 18th-21st in Pittsburgh. The full list of nominees is online.

Reviews Swell for
THE DARK FLOOD RISES

Monday, February 20th, 2017

9780374134952_139acThe focus of critical attention, Margaret Drabble’s newest novel, The Dark Flood Rises (Macmillan/FSG; OverDrive Sample) explores death and old age, but is enlivened by humor and enriched by deeply dimensional characters. The central figure is 70-something Fran who spends her time examining retirement homes for those older and more infirmed than she. The novel follows her circle of friends and family, all suffering in their own ways.

NPR’s reviewer says the novel “is a beautiful rumination on what it means to grow old [populated by] an unforgettable character [Fran], steely but likable … This isn’t a sentimental book, but it’s a deeply emotional one [asking readers] to consider how sad, how funny, how genuinely absurd aging is.”

The Washington Post‘s Ron Charles says “Margaret Drabble has written a novel about aging and death, which for American readers should make it as popular as a colostomy bag. That’s a pity because Drabble, 77, is as clear-eyed and witty a guide to the undiscovered country as you’ll find.” He continues, “the novel’s humor vaccinates it from chronic bleakness.”

The Guardian says “With their echoes of Simone de Beauvoir and Samuel Beckett, this quiet meditation on old age seethes with apocalyptic intent” and continues, that while not much happens in terms of plot, the characters are “brilliantly drawn.”

In its front page NYT Sunday Book Review, Cynthia Ozick calls it “humane and masterly.”

Perhaps fulfilling Ron Charles’s prediction, holds are light in most of the libraries we checked, but Salon points out the grimness of the topic is not the point of the novel, “A vein of black humor pulses in Margaret Drabble’s The Dark Flood Rises, which, thankfully, makes the novel’s reflections on how we age and die as entertaining as a conversation with a dear friend.”

More NEVERWHERE

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

9780062371058_4efe1Over twenty years since it first published, Neil Gaiman is writing a sequel to his beloved Neverwhere (HC/William Morrow; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample). It will be titled The Seven Sisters.

Neverwhere takes place in an underground London, a fantastical place with real London landmarks populated by those who have fallen through the cracks.

The Guardian reports that Gaiman was “prompted to write the sequel both by the changes in the world over the past 20 years and his work with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). Under the latter’s auspices, he has visited refugee camps in the Middle East and spoken to people displaced by the conflict in Syria.”

He told an audience in London recently:

Neverwhere for me was this glorious vehicle where I could talk about huge serious things and have a ridiculous amount of fun on the way. The giant wheel has turned over the last few years and looking around the work I have been doing for UNHCR for refugees … I decided that it actually was time to do something. Now I had things I was angry about. I cared about things I wanted to put in and I’m now a solid three chapters in.”

The Guardian says the title “takes its name from an ancient area of the real north London replete with myths and legends. The name comes from seven elm trees planted in a circle there, with suggestions of pagan places of worship dating back to Roman times.”

No word when the book will be published.

Best Seller Debut: UNIVERSAL HARVESTER

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

9780374282103_b809eJohn Darnielle’s second novel debuts on the NYT Hardcover Fiction list at #10.

Universal Harvester (Macmillan/FSG; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample) received strong advance publicity, including two starred prepub reviews and listed as a most anticipated novel by sources as diverse as The Millions, Tor.com, and Bustle.

The author is also known as the singer/songwriter for the cult indie rock group Mountain Goats. His debut novel, Wolf in White Van (Macmillan/FSG, 2014), was longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction.

Set in the Midwest, his new novel opens with a horror novel premise, someone has spliced creepy footage into mainstream movies rented from the local video store. But after that, it turns into something far more subtle, filled with shifting questions, taking place over multiple time periods, and ending as the Spin reviewer puts it, “in a more tender place than I could’ve anticipated.”

Booklist says the “masterfully disturbing [novel] reads like several Twilight Zone scripts cut together by a poet.”

NPR says it is full of “knife-jab sentences” and is “a fairy tale — an old, un-Disney-fied one — filtered through the fragrant, dusty Iowan air; a ghost story that’s all too real; a detective story with no simple solution.”

More from Darnielle is on the way. Publishers Weekly reports in a profile of the author, that “FSG has already signed Darnielle for two more novels” and they plan to “release a limited vinyl edition of the Harvester audiobook, with the author narrating and providing original instrumental music.”

NORSE MYTHOLOGY A Best Seller

Friday, February 17th, 2017

9780393609097_a8601Neil Gaiman lands at #1 on the NYT Hardcover Fiction bestseller list for his newest work, Norse Mythology (Norton; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample). It is also doing very well against other formats and categories, debuting at #2 on the USA Today list.

The strong sales track alongside high demand in libraries and largely glowing reviews. The Guardian says “The halls of Valhalla have been crying out for Neil Gaiman to tell their stories to a new audience. Hopefully this collection will be just the beginning.” Tor.com calls it a must read.”

The book marks something of a full circle for the bestselling author. Last summer he told the NYT that the stories “have accompanied me through pretty much everything I’ve done.”

Gaiman discusses the book with NYT Book Review editor, Pamela Paul, on the “Inside the New York Times Book Review” podcast.

Colbert Loves Saunders

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

9780812995343_73f0aCalling him “quite possibly my favorite living author,” Stephen Colbert hosted George Saunders on The Late Show yesterday to discuss his debut novel, Lincoln in the Bardo (PRH/RH; RH Audio/BOT; Overdrive Sample).

Colbert asks why, after a successful career writing short stories, Saunders wanted to write a novel. He decided to try his hand, he replies, because he had heard a story about president Lincoln holding the body of his dead son in a graveyard crypt and could not get it out of his mind. 

Colbert calls the novel “heartbreaking” even as he jokes about all the white space on the page, caused by the line breaks between the 166 speakers in the novel (which led to the audio with a celebrity-studded cast of an equal number of narrators. In addition, the NYT has created a virtual reality adaptation).

The two also talk about the concept of the bardo, a space of transition where. Saunders explains. all the regrets, issues, and concerns one has while living are magnified and must be worked through before a soul can move on.

The book  been racking up an impressive number of rave reviews, as tracked by Book Marks. In a NYT Book Review cover piece Colson Whitehead says:

“It’s a very pleasing thing to watch a writer you have enjoyed for years reach an even higher level of achievement … George Saunders pulled that off with The Tenth Of December, his 2013 book of short stories. How gratifying and unexpected that he has repeated the feat with Lincoln in the Bardo, his first novel and a luminous feat of generosity and humanism.’’

Check your holds. After a slow start they are climbing in several systems.

Live Chat with
Eleanor Wasserberg,
Author of FOXLOWE

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Today’s chat has concluded. Read the transcript, below.

And please join us for the next chat, with Gail Honeyman, the author of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. Read more about it and sign up for the program here.

Live Blog Live Chat with Eleanor Wasserberg: FOXLOWE
 

EXPATRIATES To TV

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

9780143108429_de82bNicole Kidman has optioned Janice Y.K Lee’s sophomore novel, The Expatriates (PRH/Penguin, 2016; Penguin Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample), for a planned TV series, reports Deadline Hollywood.

Lee’s debut, The Piano Teacher (PRH/Penguin, 2009), was a hit, selling well and landing on the NYT bestseller lists in both hardback and paperback. In paperback it spent 18 weeks on the list in total, 7 weeks in the top 10, and rose as high as #2.

The Expatriates did not do as well, spending only one week on the NYT hardcover list before falling off. It did get some notable attention. USA Today wrote, “Raise a glass: The first great book-club novel of 2016 has arrived” and the NYT wrote Lee is “A female, funny Henry James in Asia … vividly good on the subject of Americans abroad.” The LA Times highlights her novel’s strong sense of place.

The novel is about three women, all members of the Western expat community, who connect and circle around each other as their relationships deepen.  Alice Bell (Suburban Mayhem) will write the adaptation and Kidman is considering a lead role.

Kidman, and her Blossom Films partner, Per Saari, will executive produce and Deadline says “The project will be shopped to premium networks and streaming-services.”

Like her frequent collaborator Reese Witherspoon, Kidman has become a powerhouse in literary adaptations. Blossom Films created the big screen adaptation of Kevin Wilson’s The Family Fang and are behind the HBO series Big Little Lies, based on Liane Moriarty’s bestseller. The company is also working on a big screen adaptation of another of Moriarty’s hits, Truly Madly Guilty, as well as the upcoming adaptations of A.S.A. Harrison’s The Silent Wife and Kimberly McCreight’s Reconstructing Amelia.

Ursula K. Le Guin
Heads To The Movies

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

planetofexileThe topics Ursula K. LeGuin explores in her novels should make her books attractive to today’s movie and TV producers, but none have made it to the screen since the 2004 mini-series based on Earthsea, most likely because LeGuin was not a fan of the outcome, writing “How the Sci Fi Channel wrecked my books.”

Last year, she told the site Den of Geek!, “I’ve got very hard-nosed about this. I don’t need the money so I can just say ‘no, you can’t have my book, if you’re going to chop it up and use its name and make it into something or other of yours that has nothing to do with what I wrote’. Enough of that.”

Thus, it’s big news that several well-credentialed producers, have acquired the rights to one of her early works, the 1966 SF novella Planet Of Exile, re-published in the collection Worlds of Exile and Illusion (Macmillan/Orb, 1996; OverDrive Sample). 

It is part of the Hainish universe of titles, which includes two of Le Guin’s most famous novels, The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. As the site Signature characterizes Planet Of Exile, it “explore themes of power, justice, freedom, and personal responsibility towards society at large. Told from the distant future on an imaginary planet, [it] concern[s] matters of love and survival as familiar to readers today as they were when [it was] first published in the 1960s.”

In a retrospective review, Tor.com writes that it is possible to see Planet Of Exile as one of LeGuin’s “dry runs for The Left Hand of Darkness.” Perhaps this forthcoming adaptation will also be a dry run for more to come.

Skald Stories

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

9780393609097_a8601Neil Gaiman’s newest work, Norse Mythology (Norton; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample), is actually very old. It is a re-telling of the 13th century myths that, as he told the NYT, “have accompanied me through pretty much everything I’ve done.”

Now the 4th bestselling title on Amazon, it is also in demand in libraries. Several systems are showing holds ratios of 6:1. In libraries that bought it more heavily, all copies are in circulation.

Reviews range from glowing to puzzled. The Guardian says “The halls of Valhalla have been crying out for Neil Gaiman to tell their stories to a new audience. Hopefully this collection will be just the beginning.”

Tor.com says “This evocative and lyrical book is a must read … While the stories are ancient, Gaiman makes them fresh and lively, as if the antics of the gods and giants only just happened … you’ll be hard-pressed to finish it and not feel just as inspired.”

However, the LA Times is not as enthusiastic, writing that the publication “seems oddly superfluous … it’s the equivalent of going to see a rock band you like and finding that they’re just playing a set of Chuck Berry covers that night: great material, yes, and executed nicely, but less than the inventiveness we go to him for.”

In the book trailer, Gaiman makes his own strong case:

BEHIND HER EYES Getting Looks

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

9781250111173_74e10Positioned as her breakout title Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes (Macmillan/Flatiron Books; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample) has fulfilled expectations by making the author a New York Times best seller for the first time. The book arrives at #15 on this week’s list.

The British author has written over 20 YA and fantasy novels, few of which have been released in the US. Her first foray into the hot genre of domestic thrillers, it was a hot commodity at the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair. Reviewing it her most recent NYT BR Crime column. Marilyn Stasio calls it “an eerie thriller calculated to creep you out … [a] terrifying mind game.”

The Guardian reports the much hyped plot twists deliver, “When the first of her twists is revealed, it is fantastically creepy, if not entirely unexpected. The second twist turns the creepy factor up to 11 and is a total wrong-footer. #WTFthatending indeed – the sort that makes you go back to the beginning to check if it all pans out. And it does.”

That hashtag was developed by the publisher to promote the book but has been adopted by others. It was even applied to the outcome of the Super Bowl.

Librarians were early adopters. It was a January LibraryReads pick and a GalleyChat title. Holds are strong in most libraries we checked, with some topping 4:1 ratios.

Word of Mouth Success: GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

9780670026197_2f9f3A sleeper hit from the fall is doing well on multiple bestseller lists, rising as spring titles start to replace many others from 2016.

A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles (PRH/Viking; Penguin Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample), is not only still on best seller lists, it is climbing.


With media attention and the largest wave of publisher PR over, it is word of mouth that is propelling the novel upward.

It debuted at #82 on the Sept. 22nd USA Today list. This week, five month later, it rose to #40 . The Indie Bestsellers Lists currently has it at #3 and the novel has never fallen out of their top 11. On the LA Times list it has ranged from a low of #18 to a current high of #2. The NYT list is not as strong but does show a steady rise from outside the top 15 to its current position at #10.

Ron Charles, book reviewer for The Washington Post, and clearly an admirer, wrote upon its publication:

How delightful that in an era as crude as ours this finely composed new novel by Amor Towles stretches out with old-World elegance. [It] offers a chance to sink back into a lost attitude of aristocracy — equal parts urbane and humane … this is a story designed to make you relax, to appreciate your surroundings, to be a person on whom nothing is lost. And don’t worry: There’s some gripping derring-do in the latter parts. (Hollywood: Why haven’t you snapped this up?).”

Library patrons are also interested. Holds remain above a 3:1 ratio in most systems we checked.

As we noted earlier, this marks a significant leap for Towles. His debut, Rules of Civility, did not break into the NYT top ten, rising only as high as #16 and holding that position for just one week. Beyond its continued success on bestseller lists, Gentleman was both an Indie Next pick and a Fall Reading favorite from Entertainment Weekly.

LATE NIGHT Lit

Friday, February 10th, 2017

9780802126399_db599Continuing his literary salon, Seth Meyers hosted Pulitzer Prize-winner Viet Thanh Nguyen on Late Night yesterday.

Meyers opens by saying he is a fan of Nguyen’s writing and loved The Sympathizer (Grove Press, April 2015) before it won the Pulitzer. His newest book is a short story collection entitled The Refugees (Grove; OverDrive Sample). Nguyen came to the US with his parents from Viet Nam when he was four years old. He says refugees face the double sorrow of being “unwanted where they come from, unwanted when they arrive.”

The two-part interview, below:

The new book is stocked at Costco, a sure sign, says Nguyen. that he has “made it.” The reviews give further proof:

 

The Washington Post writes it “couldn’t come at a better time,” and that it is “as impeccably written as it is timed … an important and incisive book written by a major writer with firsthand knowledge of the human rights drama exploding on the international stage — and the talent to give us inroads toward understanding it.”

NPR calls it “an urgent, wonderful collection that proves that fiction can be more than mere storytelling.”

The Guardian says it an “accomplished collection,” continuing it is “With anger but not despair, with reconciliation but not unrealistic hope, and with genuine humour that is not used to diminish anyone, Nguyen has breathed life into many unforgettable characters, and given us a timely book.”

Writing for The New Yorker, Joyce Carol Oates calls it “beautiful and heartrending.”

Grisham Double Play

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

9780385543026_11db6Fans of quickly paced novels filled with twisty plots can look forward to two John Grisham titles in 2017 reports Entertainment Weekly.

He will release a heist thriller in June, Camino Island (PRH/ Doubleday; RH Audio), followed by a legal thriller on October 24, 2017 (that title has not yet been announced).

EW says the heist story will circle around a literary topic:

“thieves pilfer five handwritten F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from the Princeton Library and send them into the rare books black market. As the FBI and a secret underground agency hunt them down, a young writer embarks on her own investigation into a prominent bookseller who is believed to have the precious documents.”

Knopf head Sonny Mehta tells EW that Camino Island “is a caper of the highest form … John has outdone himself.”

Grisham, who collects first editions, says the idea for the book came to him while he and his wife were on a 10-hour drive to Florida.

As his 30th novel,Camino Island is somewhat of a landmark for Grisham. 

On the Rise: Saunders’s Debut Novel

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

9780812995343_73f0aThe debut novel by acclaimed short story writer George Saunders,  Lincoln in the Bardo (PRH/RH; RH Audio/BOT; Overdrive Sample), is rising on Amazon in advance of its release next week.

It has enjoyed an enviable range of critical coverage, including the cover of in the upcoming NYT Book Review written by Colson Whitehead. He says:

“It’s a very pleasing thing to watch a writer you have enjoyed for years reach an even higher level of achievement … George Saunders pulled that off with The Tenth Of December, his 2013 book of short stories. How gratifying and unexpected that he has repeated the feat with Lincoln in the Bardo, his first novel and a luminous feat of generosity and humanism.’’

The novel centers around the death of President Lincoln’s 11 year-old son Willie, who is laid to rest in a crypt in a DC graveyard populated by a number of people in a kind of limbo, including the President himself. Whitehead explains “The bardo of the title is a transitional state in Buddhism, where consciousness resides between death and the next life.”

Michiko Kakutani, in a NYT daily review published today, says the novel is like:

a weird folk art diorama of a cemetery come to life. Picture, as a backdrop, one of those primitively drawn 19th-century mourning paintings with rickety white gravestones and age-worn monuments standing under the faded green canopy of a couple of delicately sketched trees. Add a tall, sad mourner, grieving over his recently deceased son. And then, to make things stranger, populate the rest of the scene with some Edward Gorey-style ghosts, skittering across the landscape — at once menacing, comical and slightly tongue-in-cheek.”

Critics compare it to multi-voiced works such as Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, and Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. New York magazine, however, says that “polyphonic approach can be dizzying … it can be hard to follow and tricky to keep in your head” and calls the book “very, very weird” with a “premise loaded with pathos but thin on dramatic tension.”

In his ultimately positive review, Washington Post critic Ron Charles says it is “a strikingly original production, a divisively odd book bound either to dazzle or alienate readers … an extended national ghost story, an erratically funny and piteous seance of grief … [it] confounds our expectations of what a novel should look and sound like.”

Expect more to come. Already Zadie Smith has called it a “masterpiece” in a “By the Book” column in the NYT and the WSJ provides a mix of review and interview.

For such a heavily anticipated novel, libraries have ordered surprisingly few copies and are showing 1:1 holds. Those that ordered very few copies are showing ratios as high as 11:1.