Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category

Readers Advisory: Historical Fiction and the “Ick” Factor

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

9780062335944_2516fKaty Simpson Smith has received enviable attention for her first novel, The Story of Land and Sea, (Harper; HarperLuxe; HarperAudio, 8/26/14 ). Vogue magazine profiled the author, under the headline, “Katy Simpson Smith’s Luminous Novel Is Set to Be the Debut of the Year.”

The Washington Post saw in the novel echoes of Hilary Mantel‘s Wolf Hall series, in that it “works to breathe life into history using the immediacy of the present tense. Its finely wrought (sometimes overwrought) language blends startling details of the everyday with a dreamy, aphoristic quality. The effect is to root the novel in its historical moment but to reach toward the universal in its exploration of love and grief.”

Wendy Bartlett, head of collection development at Cuyahoga P.L, Ohio, agrees that those details of daily life are “startling,” but not necessarily in a good way. She opened a discussion with branch staff about the book, via the following comments on the staff intranet.

Have you noticed the trend toward Realism with a capital “R” that has been hitting historical fiction? I get that living in 1793 was no picnic, but seriously, leave the ick factor to my imagination, okay?

I first noticed this with last year’s Longbourn by Jo Baker, a book I loved, but if there had been one more paragraph about chamber pots, I swear I’d have pitched it across the room. And Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Great book as a long as you aren’t depressed when you start it, because trust me, you will be when you finish it. Did I really need to know how grungy Iceland was in 1829? I have been blessed with a great imagination. Oh, Writer. Trust your readers. We could have figured it out.

And now along comes The Story of Land and Sea, an excellent historical novel with lots of good historical detail woven in, lots of examination of how people in 1793 North Carolina thought and believed and therefore behaved differently than we do, which is superbly done, but ugh—when you get to the part about yellow fever. Again, Oh, Writer, I can color in those details myself.

I wonder if this is part of a larger cultural change. Are people so accustomed to visual entertainment that writers have to literally give us the gory details to make it real for people used to getting their mental pictures drawn for them on Xbox and HBO?

If your customers like extremely well written historical novels with carefully crafted character development, they’ll love The Story of Land and Sea, but if they are more to the Gentle Reader side of the scale, they’d be happier with Light Between the Oceans or The Invention of Wings.

Several of Cuyahoga staff members responded that they like those details, including Susan Levinsohn, who wrote,

I think we are more tolerant than we were even 10 yrs. ago for the reasons you mentioned above. Senior ladies are not asking for cozies like they used to and don’t mind reading the more graphic fiction. I also think many people that read historical fiction (including myself) like to read background information that does represent the times. I like to get a “feel” for the times and the people of the era as well as the story woven around it. I think if part of the appeal for the reader is the history then the details, however “icky” are more likely taken in as just true to the times. I like Miss Marple but I’ll take Burial Rites too.

As Wendy says, it’s important to understand your customers preferences when making recommendations.

Read the first chapter here.

Readers Advisory: THE MINIATURIST

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

9780062306814_315ffAs we reported earlier, Cuyahoga Public Library’s Wendy Bartlett increased her orders for The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton, (HarperCollins/Ecco; HarperLuxe) after it received an enthusiastic review in the locally influential Cleveland Plain Dealer,

After reading it herself, she reported to staff:

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. Oh, wait. Similar plot, different book. Instead of the 20th century England of Rebecca, we’re in the 17th century Amsterdam of The Miniaturist. If your readers like a strong sense of place and a highly readable book, they’ll love this one.

I read The Miniaturist in two sittings, even though I figured out the family secrets in the first 100 pages (Jessie Burton could take some pointers on suspense from DuMaurier). However, the pacing is unusually strong for a historical novel, the mystery surrounding The Miniaturist holds up throughout, and you really do feel like you’re in 17th century Amsterdam, which is no small feat.

Holds are building, and I think this one will continue to have strong word of mouth, so it will behoove you to give it a look.

Happy Reading!

If you can’t get your hands on a copy, you can read a sample via OverDrive.

It is an August LibraryReads pick, gets an  A-, in Entertainment Weekly. The author was profiled in The Wall Street Journal.

Check your holds; they are heavy in some areas.

Major Promo for
THE MINIATURIST

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

9780062306814_315ffA sure indicator that a new book season is upon us is a WSJ story on the marketing efforts behind a particular title.

This season, it’s The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton, (HarperCollins/Ecco; HarperLuxe).

About a lonely young woman in 17th C Amsterdam who creates a magical dollhouse that begins to predict the future, it is also a LibraryReads pick and gets an A- in Entertainment Weekly. Read a sample vis OverDrive.

Based on a review in the locally influential Cleveland Plain Dealer, Wendy Bartlett of Cuyahoga Public Library, has already put in a hefty additional order that is quadruple the initial quantity.

article-2717879-2021DE2300000578-388_306x473Published earlier in the U.K., it’s been in the top ten there since July. The Wall Street Journal details the elaborate U.K.  marketing campaign, with intricate shop displays that include “doll’s houses and Delft pottery, in one case flying a motorized parakeet around the books (a green bird figures in the novel).”

The U.K. cover features an actual dollhouse, complete with its own “making of” video.

 

Hot in Cleveland

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

When Wendy Bartlett, head of collection development at Cuyahoga P.L, Ohio, has a gut feeling about a title, she buys it in quantity, to be ahead of the demand curve. She lets the staff in on her thinking through her “Hot Title Thursdays” posts on the staff intranet, a clever way of ensuring the success of these titles, as staff in turn recommends them.

Conversely, Wendy relies on staff response when she just doesn’t see the potential in some heavily-promoted title (not a fan of The Night Circus when it was first announced, she asked staff to read galleys to tell her if she was nuts. They told her she was. She ordered more. Good thing; it went on to be a best seller).

We’ve asked Wendy to begin sharing her Hot Title Thursdays posts on EarlyWord. Below is the first, about a book that’s also been generating enthusiasm on GalleyChat. It’s coming out the end of July and is now available via NetGalley and Edelweiss (sounds perfect for the Memorial Day weekend).

Fortune HunterThe Fortune Hunter, Daisy Goodwin, (Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press; Macmillan Audio; Thorndike)

Wanna find out how the 1% lived back in the day?

Here’s your chance!

If you don’t think “gossipy page turner” when you think of historical fiction, you clearly haven’t read Daisy Goodwin. Her previous title, a debut novel, The American Heiress also did very well for us.

I’m happy to report that her new novel, The Fortune Hunter, is even stronger, particularly in terms of pacing, and will again appeal to a wide range of readers, from romance to historical fiction, to royal watchers, to the Downton Abbey crowd, and even to people who love travel.

Part of the fascination is that Goodwin has based the novel on actual historical figures in Victorian-era Europe, including Victoria herself. The main characters are Elizabeth “Sisi” Winterhalter, the Empress of Austria, Bay Middleton (yes, a distant relative of the current Princess of Wales), the Earl of Spencer, as in Diana’s great-great-grandfather……..you get the idea. Sisi, a legendary beauty, travels Europe to alleviate her boredom. (The cocaine mixture administered by the Hungarian lady-in-waiting doesn’t hurt either.) She decides she wants handsome Bay Middleton, the best rider in England, to be her personal assistant for hunting season. But Middleton is in love with the heiress to the Lennox fortune—a young woman not wise at all in the ways of the world. It’s a love triangle, but also a clash of societal roles, classes and cultures. Fun, fun, fun. I read it in two sittings.

This one has a street date of July 29th. Get those holds in now! ENJOY!

WOLF HALL Begins Shooting

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Chalfield Manor

The village of Holt in Wiltshire is gearing up for the BBC’s arrival next week to begin filming the adaptation of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. The shoot will take place in Great Chalfield Manor, standing in for Thomas Cromwell’s home.

Mark Rylance, who will play Cromwell, is familiar with that house. It was used as the Boleyn family home in the 2008 film of Phillipa Gregory’s novel, The Other Boleyn Girl (S&S/Scribner), in which he portrayed Thomas Boleyn.

Fans who have been eagerly awaiting Mirror And The Light, the projected final volume in Mantel’s series, were disappointed when it was announced that her next book, coming at the end of September, is The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher and Other Stories, (Macmillan/Holt, Macmillan Audio, read by Simon Vance), which is obviously not part of the Tudor series.

She has said, however, that she plans to finish Mirror And The Light this year. That book is clearly very much on her mind. On Saturday, speaking on BBC radio about why she finds her subject Cromwell so fascinating, she addressed the inevitable final event of the story, when his “life will end abruptly on the scaffold.” Rather than seeing his life as ending of failure, she hopes the “reader, when we get there, will be moved, will be sorry, but will also be  astounded by the life I’ve narrated. I aim to leave my reader harrowed, and yet braced, ready for the next thing.”

Early Attention for FROG MUSIC

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Frog MusicAfter the huge success of Room, it’s no surprise that critics are vying to be the first to review author Emma Donoghue’s next book, Frog Music, (Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio and Large Print), which arrives this coming Tuesday (although some libraries are showing that it is in process).

The Washington Post‘s is among the first of the consumer reviews, with Ron Charles noting, “The millions of readers who know Donoghue only from the harrowing tale of that little boy [in Room] will discover in Frog Music just how expansive and boisterous this Irish Canadian author can be … Donoghue has created a full-throated murder mystery, spiced with song and forbidden love.”

The Wall Street Journal profiles the author’s background research, in which she came up with a solution to a real-life murder that took place in San Francisco in 1876.

The film rights for Room were acquired in 2013. It is still in development as of January, according to a story in Deadline.

Media Attention: THE TRAITOR’S WIFE

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Traitor's WifeThe daughter of former New York governor George Pataki, Allison, has published a novel about Benedict Arnold and his wife Peggy, The Traitor’s Wife. An original trade paperback released by Howard Books, a Christian publisher bought by S&S in 2006, it got attention from Fox News, as well as the Wall Street Journal Live.

The book rose to #5 on Amazon sales rankings as a result. Libraries are showing holds on light ordering.

UPDATE: The author is scheduled for the Today Show on March 19

TODAY SHOW Picks UNDER THE WIDE

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Under the Wide and StarryThe Today Show Book Club, which has been quiet for a while, re-emerges with a new pick, Nancy Horan’s novel based on the story of Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny Van de Grift, Under The Wide and Starry Sky. (RH/Ballantine; released on Tuesday).

Describing the book, Savannah Guthrie says,”Think Downton Abbey with a twist.”

Stevenson’s name is in the air currently; it is also attached to the new STARZ series, Black Sails, billed a a “prequel” to the author’s classic, Treasure Island.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

This is the third pick since the club as announced in September. The others were:

1) The Bone Season, Samantha Shannon, (Macmillan/Bloomsbury)

2) Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, Helen Fielding, (RH/Knopf)

PAINTED GIRLS Possible TV Series

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

The Painted GirlsCathy Marie Buchanan’s novel, The Painted Girls, (Penguin/Riverhead), published in January, was inspired by Degas’s Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.

It is now the inspiration for a possible TV series, produced by The CW and CBS TV Studios, according to Deadline.com.

The novel received praise in a Washington Post review by Susan Vreeland, the author of another book inspired by a work of art from the same period, Luncheon of the Boating Party, (Penguin).

LIVE BY NIGHT To Movies

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Live by NightThe film adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s Live By Night, directed by Ben Affleck, will be released on Christmas Day, 2015. Affleck will star; no other stars have been announced.

Affleck’s first outing as a director was a film based on another Lehane novel, 2007’s Gone Baby Gone.

Live by Night (Harper/ Morrow) is a crime novel set in the Prohibition era about the rise of an Irish-American gangster. Prophetically, Entertainment Weekly, called it a “ripping, movie-ready yarn that jumps from a Boston prison to Tampa speakeasies to a Cuban tobacco farm.”

Affleck is currently at work as an actor, playing the lead in David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, set for release on Oct 3, 2014.

Lehane is no stranger to the movies; in addition to Gone Baby Gone, films have been made of his novels Mystic River (2003) and Shutter Island (2010). He has also written for the TV series The Wire and Boardwalk Empire.

OUTLANDER Shooting In Scotland

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

OutlanderBased on the first title in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels, the STARZ series began production in Scotland earlier this month, and now has an official web site, Starz.com/Originals/Outlander.

During last week’s Comic Con in NYC, Gabaldon and Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore held a special event for fans (summary here:  “Who’s Been Cast in Starz’s ‘Outlander‘? Plus 11 More Things We Know About the Upcoming Series“). Moore emphasized how faithful the adaptation will be to the book  (“I live with a fan, my wife, and it’s my job not to screw up her favorite book!”)

Below is the video, preceded by some scenes from the shoot. Concept art for the sets is shown beginning at time stamp 9:15:

Written in My Own Heart's Blood

The forthcoming 8th title in the series, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, (RH/Delacorte) has been moved from its original December publication date to March 25, 2014, when it will tie in to the publicity for the STARZ series.

Holds Alert: ORPHAN TRAIN

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

The Orphan TrainThe Orphan Train, a novel by Christina Baker Kline (author of The Way We Should Be, among others) rises to #5 on the USA Today Best Seller list this week, its highest spot to date. A paperback original, it is based on historical events, the rounding up of orphans from New York streets, between 1854 and 1929, to ship them via train to the midwest, in hopes families there would adopt them.

Programs commemorating that history are being held this month on the both ends of the orphan train route; New York’s Grand Central Station, where a musical based on the story opens next week, and in Minnesota’s Union Depot. CBSNews.com posted a slideshow of photos from a nonfiction title, Extra! Extra! The Orphan Trains and Newsboys of New Yorkby Minnesota historian Renee Wendinger, whose mother was one of the Orphan Train children.

Christina Baker Kline’s novel, The Orphan Train  (Harper/Morrow; 4/2/13) was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday in April. Holds are heavy in most libraries.

Debut with Legs; BURIAL RITES

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Burial RitesThe number one pick on the September IndieNext list is Burial Rites, (Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio; Hachette Large Print), a debut novel set in Iceland and based on the true story of the last woman executed there 1820’s. It is by Australian writer Hannah Kent, who became obsessed with the story after visiting Iceland as a teenager.

Prepub reviews have been strong, with Kirkus breathlessly applauding it for language that is “flickering, sparkling and flashing like the northern lights.” LJ puts it “In the company of works by Hilary Mantel, Susan Vreeland, and Rose Tremain” and calls it a “compulsively readable novel [that] entertains while illuminating a significant but little-known true story.” Librarians on GalleyChat also say the book had them “mesmerized.”

Libraries are so far showing few holds on minimal ordering.

Digital galleys are available from Edelweiss and NetGalley, until the pub. date of 9/10.

Beach Read Challenge: LETTERS FROM SKYE

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Continuing the “Beach Read Challenge,” the staff at Cuyahoga Public Library are reading ARC’s (both e-ARC’s and print) to identify new titles for summer reading. Supporting the effort, Wendy Bartlett, Collection Development Manager, orders more non-reservable copies of each selected title to make it  available for browsing and recommending. The first pick was The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, Anton DiSclafani, (Penguin/Riverhead). The second arrives next week. The following is from Wendy’s weekly “hot title alert” to the staff:

Letters From SkyeLetters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole, (RH/Ballantine) [Ed note: Digital ARC's available from Edelweiss, but hurry, they won't be available after the book is published next Tuesday].

Here’s another good book to hand customers this summer, one that is a more poignant Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. Just prior to World War I, a young American writes a fan letter to his favorite poet. Little does he know that the poet is a lovely young woman. As the letters go back and forth, we learn more about Elspeth and David, and their unfolding, very complicated love story.

Elspeth lives an isolated life on the Isle of Skye, and years later, Elspeth’s daughter Margaret, in the midst of her own love story, tries to piece together what really happened and where her scattered family might be. The mystery keeps the romance from being overly sentimental. You  want to see if it all works out for these likable characters.

If your customers like historical fiction and don’t mind epistolary novels, they’ll enjoy Letters from Skye.

Thanks to Sue Levinsohn and Barb Wilson, who also gave this one a test drive and came back with positive reports!

Philippa Gregory’s WHITE QUEEN On Starz

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Philippa Gregory’s novels in The Cousins’ War series, set during Great Britain’s War of the Roses, have been adapted into a ten-part tv series that will premiere on STARZ cable network on Saturday, August 10th at 9pm ET/PT. Titled The White Queen, the BBC/STARZ production is actually based on the first three books [UPDATE: the fourth title, The Kingmaker's Daughter is also being released as a tie-in], which are being released as trade paperback tie-ins in early July by S&S/Touchstone.

The White Queen,9781476735481

The Red Queen, 9781476746302

Lady of the Rivers, 9781476746319

The Kingmaker’s Daughter, 9781476746326

The White Queen  The Red Queen  Lady of the Rivers

It stars Max Irons (son of Jeremy Irons, he appeared in the movie Red Riding Hood), Amanda Hale (The Crimson Petal & The White), James Frain (The Tudors). Newcomer Rebecca Ferguson plays the Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen. Amanda Hale is Margaret Beufort, the Red Queen and Faye Marsay is Anne Neville, the Lady of the Rivers. Gregory is an executive producer on the project.

The two teasers give quite different impressions of what to expect (see if you can guess which is the STARZ promo and which the BBC without looking at the credits).

First:

Second:

The next book in the series, The White Princess, (S&S/Touchstone; S&S Audio) will be published on July 23.