Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

On Most of 2016’s
Most Anticipated Lists

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Just as the book award season ends, the most anticipated list begin to appear, fueling TBR piles and driving up holds queues.

Now that a number of lists have appeared, we can assess which titles fared the best. Looking at seven of the most influential lists, fifteen titles received the most nods.

Spring 2016 Previews — downloadable spreadsheet

A caution, since it’s early in the year, most of the list-makers haven’t yet read these books (Entertainment Weekly makes this clear, headlining their list “25 books we can’t wait to read in 2016“), so they are based on buzz and author reputation, and are not guarantees of success. Also, most of the lists are by critics, so they tend to focus on literary titles and rarely include genre titles destined to become bestsellers.

9781501122729_8f332Innocents and Others, Dana Spiotta (S&S/Scribner; Mar. 8) makes it onto five of the seven lists we checked, with Entertainment Weekly writing“The Stone Arabia novelist’s anxiously awaited new work is about two best friends — both L.A. filmmakers — who tangle with a mysterious older woman who likes to seduce men over the phone.”

Alexander Chee’s The Queen of the Night (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Blackstone Audio) and Emma Cline’s The Girls (Random House; Random House Audio; June 14) fared well too, making five of the lists.

9780812998603_d74db  9780618663026_49632

As we reported earlier, Chee’s book, published last week, has received significant review attention and is even one of those rarities, a literary author who appeared on a late night talk show.

Cline’s novel was picked as one of the featured titles in PW‘s “Booksellers Pick Their Top Early 2016 Books.” Unlike the critics’ list, which represent titles they expect to review, this one features titles booksellers expect to handsell. Kris Kleindienst of Left Bank Books in Saint Louis, Mo. remarks that Cline’s novel about a murderous cult in the late 1960s (think Charles Manson) offers a “creative use of a historical incident to build a story [that] stays with you.”

Other titles that made the top 15 include two that librarians have been talking about on GalleyChat.

The Nest  9781400068326_8f573

The Nest, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (HarperCollins/Ecco; Mar. 22) —  GALLEYCHATTER, November 2015, Winter Reading for 2016 Titles. Advance attention seems to doing the trick already, several libraries are developing holds queues.

Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, Curtis Sittenfeld (Random House; April 19) —  GALLEYCHAT, December 2015, Eyes 2016 picks.

 

 

LATE NIGHT Lit

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

9780618663026_49632Seth Meyers continues his Late Night literary salon on Wednesday, featuring Alexander Chee.

The Queen of the Night (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Blackstone Audio) is Chee’s second novel (coming out over a decade after the Whiting Award–winning Edinburgh). It is set during the Second Empire and Belle Epoque Paris and features historic and fictional characters.

As Slate summarizes it, the novel’s main character is:

“Lilliet Berne, a clever, glamorous opera superstar … she sweeps into balls singing show-stopping arias to thunderous applause, yet never speaks a word in public. Lilliet is offered a role written specifically for her by an anonymous composer—an enormous compliment, until she realizes that the opera is based on her own shadowy past … Only four people know her true story, and it must have been one of them who betrayed her. As she hunts for each of the four in turn, she recounts the picaresque sequence of transformations that brought her to the pinnacle of Paris.”

Chee’s appearance follows a round of advance publicity. As we reported earlier, it is an IndieNext pick this month. It has also been selected as one of the year’s “most anticipated” novels by Bustle, Entertainment Weekly, FlavorWire, HuffPost, and The Millions.

NPR calls it “sprawling, soaring, bawdy and plotted like a fine embroidery,” and featured Chee on a recent Weekend Edition Saturday show.

Even Vogue has gotten in on the praise and featured Chee in an interview that highlights, in part, the novel’s lavish detail to the fashion of the era.

All the attention aside, in libraries we checked holds developing but few locales are topping a 3:1 ratio. Meyers may give the book the nudge it seems it still needs to break through.

 

 

 

Austen Adaptation Set for Release

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

On a buying spree at the Sundance Film FestivalAmazon acquired the buzzed-about Love and Friendship, based on an unfinished early novella by Jane Austen. Originally untitled, it was published in 1871, after Austen’s death, as Lady Susan. (available in several editions, including one from Penguin Classics). To make things more confusing, the movie uses the title of a different work by Austen, an early short story.

The movie is directed by Whit Stillman, described in an interview with Vanity Fair last week as “The cult director of contemporary and contemporary-ish Austen-inflected fare” (including Metropolitan and The last Days of Disco). It stars  Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny, with Xavier Samuel and Stephen Fry.

It will first be released in theaters, followed a month later by streaming via Amazon Prime. One source lists the release date as May 13.

The tie-in is written by the director:

Love & Friendship

Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated by Whit Stillman, (Hachette/Little, Brown).

The reviews of the screening at Sundance have been warm, as exemplified by those from Vanity Fair, “Love & Friendship: A Cream Puff of a Movie” and the Guardian, “Kate Beckinsale is a devious delight.”

Nancy Pearl Interviews Elizabeth Strout

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Librarian Nancy Pearl sits down with Elizabeth Strout to talk about writing and reading in the latest episode of herr Book Lust author interview show for the local Seattle channel.

9781400067695_a388eStrout, whose newest book is My Name Is Lucy Barton (Random House; Random House Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample), says that writing for her is a long and messy process.

She begins by sketching out pieces of scenes, by hand, on paper, and moves them around on her desk until some shape starts to form.

She always searches for the voice of the character, never writes from beginning to end, and focuses on characterization always.

In fact, she says that, for her,  everything starts and ends with character, and that even a description of a setting makes her think about how a character would respond to seeing it.

9780143120490Pearl and Strout end the conversation with a lovefest about Stewart O’Nan and his books they have both treasured, including West of Sunset (PRH/Viking, 2015) and Emily, Alone (PRH/Viking, 2011).

9780375705199Of Strout’s books, Pearl urged readers especially to pick up Amy and Isabelle (Random House, 1998) as well as Olive Kitteridge (Random House, 2008).

LiveChat with Author Camille Perri

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

The chat has now ended — read the transcript below.

To join First Flight and receive advance galleys of titles from debut authors, sign up here.

Live Blog Live Chat with Camille Perri : THE ASSISTANTS
 

Readers Advisory: ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

9780765379948_59f81The editor-in-chief of the science fiction site io9.com, Charlie Jane Anders, is receiving critical attention for her new novel  All the Birds in the Sky (Macmillan/Tor Books; OverDrive Sample), which is an example of the rich possibilities along the crossroads of genre.

As we reported last week, it is a Feb. Indie Next pick. In addition praising the story, characters, and writing, reviewers say Anders is re-examining the genre.

The Los Angeles Times offers:

“[A] brilliant, cross-genre novel [that has all] the hallmarks of an instant classic. It’s a beautifully written, funny, tremendously moving … Like the work of other 21st century writers — Kelly Link and Lev Grossman come immediately to mind — All the Birds in the Sky serves as both a celebration of and corrective to the standard tropes of genre fiction.”

Cory Doctorow agrees, writing on Boing Boing that the novel is “smartass, soulful … everything you could ask for … a fresh look at science fiction’s most cherished memes, ruthlessly shredded and lovingly reassembled.”

The Guardian echoes those thoughts, saying that the novel “subverts genres … coming up with something greater than the sum of its parts … the result is a weird and charming read.”

Finally, Jason Heller, reviewing for NPR, says:

Anders has been writing with passion and insight about science fiction and fantasy for years — so it only makes sense that … she’s melded the two genres in a way that opens a profound, poetic new perspective on each … 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.”

All the attention has yet to transfer into large hold queues but this is certainly a book to watch as award season comes around again.

Today on io9, in the essay “What It Means To Be a Science Fiction Writer in the Early 21st Century,” she describes how the process of writing the book led to her believe that “There is a huge opportunity, in 2016, for authors (and creators of all kinds) to scrape off the accumulated layers of meta from old story ideas—and to come up with brand new story ideas as well.”

Anders also recently gave a Harvard TedX presentation.

New #1 Best Sellers

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

There’s no surer sign of the beginning of a new season than movement on the best seller list.

Two new titles land at #1 on the NYT Hardcover Fiction and Nonfiction best seller lists, breaking through titles that have dominated the top spot for weeks.

AIR  lucy-barton

At #1 in nonfiction is one of our crystal ball titlesWhen Breath Becomes Air, (PRH/Random House; BOT; OverDrive Sample).

A young neurosurgeon’s account of facing his own death, it is followed at #2 by another new best seller, Pope Francis’s The Name of God Is Mercy (PRH/Random House).

In fiction, Elizabeth Stout’s latest, My Name Is Lucy Barton (Random House; Random House Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample) breaks through to number one, moving The Girl on the Train down to #3, which has just completed over a year on the list, most of that time in the top five. At #4 is an even greater phenomenon, Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, on the list for 89 weeks.

Holds Alert: THE PAST

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

9780062270412_df6afRave reviews and a storm of attention are helping Tessa Hadley’s newest novel wrack up impressive holds queues.

The Past (Harper; OverDrive Sample), is a character-centered novel about families.

Entertainment Weekly gives it an A-, saying:

“Hadley is so perceptive about the tiny ways we find ourselves performing for one another, and so skilled at fluidly dipping in and out of the minds of her characters—whether they’re 6 and wishing to spy on the grown-ups or 76 and considering the comforts of decades-long marriage—that it can feel like she’s revealing little secrets about life that it would have taken you years to notice on your own.”

Ron Charles writes in The Washington Post:

“… for anyone who cherishes Anne Tyler and Alice Munro, the book offers similar deep pleasures. Like those North American masters of the domestic realm, Hadley crystallizes the atmosphere of ordinary life in prose somehow miraculous and natural.”

The Guardian flat out raves:

“In her patient, unobtrusive, almost self-effacing way, Tessa Hadley has become one of this country’s great contemporary novelists. She is equipped with an armoury of techniques and skills that may yet secure her a position as the greatest of them. Consider all the things she can do. She writes brilliantly about families and their capacity for splintering. She is a remarkable and sensuous noticer of the natural world. She handles the passing of time with a magician’s finesse. She is possessed of a psychological subtlety reminiscent of Henry James, and an ironic beadiness worthy of Jane Austen. To cap it all, she is dryly, deftly humorous. Is that enough to be going on with?”

It has made The Millions “Most Anticipated: The Great 2016 Book Preview,” The NY Magazine list of the “7 Books You Need to Read This January,” and The Huffpost Arts & Culture’s “32 New Books To Add to Your Shelf in 2016,” which says:

“Hadley’s popular reputation, especially in the U.S., hasn’t caught up with her critical one. But this novel, which uses her much-praised perceptiveness and her fine-brushed prose to tell a story of familial secrets and tensions, may help her break through.”

Indeed. Holds are exceeding a 3:1 ratio by wide margins at many libraries we checked.

To catch up with the book, listen to this interview with Hadley, which aired earlier in the month on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

Found in Translation

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

9781609452865_92e01  9781101875551_92053  9781609452926_cb5cd

In 2014 few Americans knew Italian author Elena Ferrante’s name, let alone the name of her English-language translator Ann Goldstein.

In a profile yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reports that Goldstein, who by day is chief of the New Yorker magazine’s copy department, often draws packed audiences at events where she stands in for the author, who does not make appearances.

Goldstein tells the WSJ that she became attracted to writing translations in typical copy editor fashion, because it focused her attention. “I liked it as a way of reading,” she said, “If you have to copy down every word of something, you become very close to it.”

Describing her take on translation, Goldstein says,

“Sometimes, I think, it’s puzzle-solving. I want to make good English sentences but without losing the particular voice of the Italian writer. I can’t explain how that happens. I think it has to do with staying pretty close to the original.”

“Her name on a book now is gold,” says Robert Weil, editor in chief of Norton’s Liveright imprint (she translated the imprint’s enormous Complete Works of Primo Levi). Her upcoming projects include Jhumpa Lahiri’s new memoir In Other Words (PRH/Knopf; BOT), which was composed in Italian when Lahiri moved to Italy and decided to write in that language, and Frantumaglia: Bits and Pieces of Uncertain Origin (Europa Editions) Ferrante’s upcoming collection of interviews, letters, and other writing.

Her fame will only grow if circulation is any measure. Libraries still have active holds queues on all four of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, (Europa Editions).

Goldstein discusses them in this New Yorker “Out Loud” podcast.

FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING
to NetFlix

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

9781616200398_151f4Called one of the “hottest titles” heading to this week’s Sundance Film Festival, rights to The Fundamentals of Caring may be nabbed by Netflix, according to The Hollywood Reporter, with theatrical rights still up for grabs (which can be tricky, since the major theatre chains refuse to book films that will be streamed simultaneously).

Based on the novel by Jonathan Evison, the movie title is shortened from the book’s, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving (Workman/Algonquin, 2012).

Starring Paul Rudd with Selena Gomez and Craig Roberts, the movie will be featured as the Closing Night Film.

The movie’s female star, Selena Gomez, has a separate Netflix deal in the works. She is set to executive produce a series based on Jay Asher’s 2007 YA novel, TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY (Penguin/RazorBill).

Slate Takes on PURITY

Monday, January 18th, 2016

9780374239213_454c1The Slate Audio Book Club is back, this time discussing Jonathan Franzen’s Purity (Macmillan/FSG; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample).

Calling it a big, sweeping, Dickensian novel, the Slate critics, Meghan O’Rourke, Parul Sehgal, and Katy Waldman, jump into a conversation about the core of the novel and its message.

While the central character, a woman named Pip, should serve as the novel’s heart, all the participants agree that it is the mothers in the story that power its interest, saying that those characters offer a creepy sensibility that provides “a range of tones from horror to simmer” and become the most fascinating part of the story.

The group also discusses the portrayal of women and the ways the men operate in the novel, accusing  Franzen of failing the Bechdel;Wallace test.

Each ends up recommending the novel, despite clear flaws, saying they admire Franzen’s ambition and his ability to identify questions readers need to address. However, they say that this is not the book to start reading Franzen – for that they suggest The Corrections.

Next month the book club will explore Lucia Berlin’s short-story collection A Manual for Cleaning Women, which was featured on a number of the year-end best books lists.

Hitting Screens, Jan. 18 thru 24

Friday, January 15th, 2016

MV5BMTUxNzY5MzgwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDM0NDgxNzE@._V1_SX214_AL_After stealing key scenes in Downton Abbey and wowing small girls in Cinderella, Lily James stars in one of the great epics of all time, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. She takes up the role along side another familiar PBS face, James Norton from Grantchester.

The two help lead the newest BBC historical drama (in partnership with the US based Weinstein company), which is set to air in the US on January 18th on no less than three channels, A&E, Lifetime, and the History Channel.

Reaction to the sexy, violent, and lush drama has been mixed at best.

Here is The Guardian’s drooling take:

“This is proper, proper costume drama at its most lavish and its most dreamily, romantically Russian. This is how you do it, people. This is how you do it. Stop all period dramas being made now because nothing is going to match up to this. Sunday-night TV has been rescued. It’s hard to imagine how the BBC could have done a better job. It makes Downton Abbey look like am dram. It’s tonally perfect, striking exactly the right balance between drama and wit, action and emotion, passion and humour.”

On the other hand, in their preview, Flavorwire says:

“It’s hard to say whether American audiences will take to a literary miniseries comprising six one-and-a-half-hour episodes, but any low ratings won’t be for lack of celebrity or sex or war or incest … it’s Downton Abbey with war scenes, which should be enough to draw and retain an American viewership … Still, based on a single episode, it seems unlikely that this production of War and Peace will reach the heights of the 1966-67 Sergei Bondarchuk version, or the 1956 King Vidor adaptation starring Audrey Hepburn … Anyway, shouldn’t you be reading the book?”

51GF8ik4yoL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_Oddly, War and Peace: Tie-In Edition to Major New BBC Dramatisation, Leo Tolstoy, (BBC Books) is not due to be released until Feb. 23.

Hitting a completely different note, MV5BMjQwOTc0Mzg3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTg3NjI2NzE@._V1_SX214_AL_The 5th Wave is coming out on Jan. 22nd.

An alien invasion movie based on the novel by Rick Yancey, it stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Matthew Zuk, and Gabriela Lopez.

9781101996515_7d7c3As we reported earlier, tie-ins came out in November. In addition, another book the series has been released, The Infinite Sea (Penguin YR/Putnam, 2014). A third book The Last Star (Penguin YR/Putnam) is due in late May.

9780399162428_325539780399162435_ce5e6

 

 

 

 

Strout on FRESH AIR

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

9781400067695_a388eTerry Gross interviews Elizabeth Strout about her newest book, My Name Is Lucy Barton (Random House; Random House Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample), which was published yesterday.

As we noted earlier, Robert Redford is set to produce a series for HBO based on Strout’s previous book, The Burgess Boys.

Bringing Lit to LATE NIGHT

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

9780316386524_298a2Seth Meyers added a new episode to his “Late Night Literary Salon” by interviewing Sunil Yapa, the author of the just-released debut novel, Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist (Hachette/Lee Boudreaux Books; OverDrive Sample) last night. Meyers, who has a personal interest in literature, hand picks the authors he wants to interview. Earlier, he’s featured novelists Hanya Yanagihara, Marlon James (before he won the Booker) and Lauren Groff.

Meyers and Yapa briefly discuss the novel’s story – one chaotic day during the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle – and then turn to Yapa’s childhood growing up with a father who is a “Marxist professor of geography.” A native of Sri Lanka, Yapa’s father first arrived in the U.S. in 1964 and was amazed by the crowds that greeted his plane. It turned out that the Beatles also happened to be on the same flight.

NOTE: if the video doesn’t play, link to it here.

In part two of the interview, Yapa reveals the heartbreak of losing his only draft of Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist and having to completely rewrite it.

Yapa’s appearance has yet to boost sales or holds of the book, which is getting largely positive reviews.

The Washington Post‘s Ron Charles says it is a “taut …fantastic debut” that “arrives like a punch in the chest” and goes on to compare it Norman Mailer’s Armies of the Night.

The Rumpus says that “Yapa does a heroic job of journeying into the heart of this complex set of events, illustrating how they grow out of and impact the character’s lives. And while the heart may be the size of a fist, here it paradoxically seems to encompass the whole world and all of its citizens, who pulse with its every beat.”

Flavorwire offers “Your Heart is a Muscle The Size of a Fist is the rare contemporary novel about protest that has the courage to side with the protester — but does so skillfully enough to maintain its literary authority.”

As we reported earlier it is an IndieNext pick as well.

NPR’s reviewer Michael Schaub offers a very different take, however. In a pull-no-punches review, he says “Yapa isn’t an untalented writer, but he lets his writing get away from him way too often … After a while, it begins to feel like you’re getting lectured by a hippie professor who writes messages for fortune cookies on the side.”

THE BURGESS BOYS Heading to HBO

Monday, January 11th, 2016

9781400067688_ec1ddRobert Redford is planning to adapt Elizabeth Strout’s The Burgess Boys (Random House; RH Audio; BOT) for an HBO miniseries according to Deadline Hollywood.

MV5BMjIzOTk4NzMzMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTczMzY4MjE@._V1_SX214_AL_This is the second of Strout’s books to make it to the cable network, following the Emmy winning Olive Kitteridge.

Frances McDormand, who worked for years to get Olive made, produced that hit pavinf the way for Redford.

9781400067695_a388eStrout’s newest book, My Name Is Lucy Barton (Random House; Random House Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample), will be published on Tuesday.

See our Titles to Know and Recommend, Week of January 11, 2016 for more. Strout is scheduled to appear on NPR’s Fresh Air on Wednesday, Jan. 13.

No word yet on an air date for Burgess.