Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Coben Stalls the Train

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 9.42.23 AMPaula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train (Penguin/Riverhead) has slipped off the tracks, getting replaced as the top book on USA Today’s best-seller list by Harlan Coben’s The Stranger (Penguin/Dutton; Brilliance Audio; OverDrive Sample).

Girl on the Train ruled the top of the USA Today list for over a month but is now in the No. 2 spot.

In toppling Hawkins from her reigning position, Coben achieved what James Patterson could not. As we reported last week, Patterson’s newest, NYPD Red 3 (Hachette/Little, Brown), hit USA Today’s list in second place, behind GOTT. It has since slipped to the No. 5 spot.

Most libraries routinely buy more copies of Patterson then they do of Coben. It may be time to rethink that.

She’s Back

Monday, March 30th, 2015


The star attraction of the RH/Knopf Fall 2015  catalog, posted on Friday, is the fourth title in The Millennium series, which began with Stieg Larrson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Although Larsson reportedly left behind a manuscript for another title in the series when he died, this is an entirely new book, written by Swedish journalist David Lagercrantz, chosen by Larsson’s Swedish publisher, Norstedts with the approval of Larsson’s brother and father.

Another interested party is not happy about the forthcoming book. Larsson’s partner of 32 years, Eva Gabrielsson in an interview by Agence France-Presse, says this book’s release is not about continuing his legacy, “It’s about a publishing house [Norstedts] that needs money, (and) a writer who doesn’t have anything to write so he copies someone else.”

The title, translated from the Swedish, is That Which Does Not Kill.

UPDATE: The English-language title will be The Girl in the Spider’s Web, continuing the tradition of the others in the series, according to the Wall Street Journal, which also quotes Knopf’s Editor-in-Chief Sonny Mehta, who brought all three previous novels in the series to the U.S., “I think it has all the richness of the original sequence of novels. It’s got a whole chain of American characters in it, and American settings as well.”

The Girl in the Spider's WebMillennium Series: Book 4
David Lagercrantz
RH/Knopf: September 1, 2015
9780385354288, 0385354282
$27.95 USD


Saturday, March 28th, 2015


The HBO/BBC adaptation of  J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, (Hachette/Little, Brown) debuts on HBO April 29th & 30th.

It has already aired in the U.K., where fans resented a change in the ending. As a result, many took to Twitter to urge others to read the book instead.

The trailer for U.S. audiences was just released. Harry Potter fans will recognize one of the actors.

Media Tie-in Edition (cover not yet released):

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling
Hachette/Back Bay Books: April 28
Trade Paperback  $18.00 USD, $20.00 CAD

The BBC has also signed the detective series that Rowling wrote under the name Robert Galbraith (The Cukoo’s Calling, The Silkworm) for a series.

Crystal Ball:

Friday, March 27th, 2015

At the Water's Edge  9781565124998_36937  book_AH

Will word of mouth sink or buoy up Sara Gruen’s At The Water’s Edge (RH/Spiegel & Grau; RH Audio; RH Large Print; Overdrive Sample), arriving next week?

Early reactions are sharply divided. It’s the #1 LibraryReads pick for April but both Kirkus and Booklist were less than enthusiastic, with Kirkus calling it plain “silly” and complaining that the main characters came across as “spoiled brats.” Past history is also divided. The author has published one blockbuster, Water for Elephants, the basis for a successful movie (which may even become a Broadway musical), followed by the less successful Ape House.

We checked in with several collection development librarians to get their take. All of them expect At The Water’s Edge to hit best seller lists based on the author’s name recognition and to continue due to word of mouth. Several took a strong position early and others have gone back to order more copies.

Below are their major points (sorry, quotes had to be anonymous).


  • “The World War II setting will definitely be a bigger attraction than that of Ape House (a research center dedicated to studying bonobo apes).”
  • Set in Scotland, it includes fascinating details about the Loch Ness monster

Comparison to previous titles:

  • Most said that Ape House had not done well at all in their libraries, but one librarian cautions, “Underperformance is relative. We might have considered Ape House a success if we didn’t have Water for Elephants as a comparison.”


  • “Unlikeable characters have held back some titles from star writers for us before.”
  • “Some people complain about the characters in GOTT, but that hasn’t killed word of mouth.”
  • The main character shows emotional development and don’t forget, there’s a romance involved.

Reading Group Appeal:

  • “Reading groups who will have a great time dissecting this book and parsing the characters.”


  • The LJExpress review, posted after the less appreciative Kirkus and Booklist reviews, has it right. “Get past [some issues with believability], and you’ll find yourself skimming along entertainingly with Maddie as she grows up, asserts herself, and gets the right man.”
  • “One of my very best ARC readers raved about it, and she’s never wrong.”
  • The consumer press will have an effect, especially if Entertainment Weekly and/or People are enthusiastic. It will get media attention of course. The  author is scheduled to appear on the upcoming NPR Weekend Edition Saturday and next week on the Diane Rehm Show.


  • “My best guess (educated, of course ) is this book will circulate briskly for most of the summer into the fall and be a book club favorite. It’s success will be closer to Water for Elephants and much better than Ape House, which was a bust for us. It has a lot of hooks going for it: Scotland, World War II, romance, Loch Ness monster, a Downtown Abbey vibe (few seem to be bothered that Lord Grantham and family continue going to balls and teas in the midst of war).”

Place your bets in the comments section, below!

The Spielberg Movie

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Ready Player OneThe long-gestating film adaptation of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, (RH/Crown, 2011) has made a giant step towards reality. Warner Bros. announced Wednesday that they’ve hired a director,  Steven Spielberg.

Currently finishing up the original Cold War thriller Bridge of Spies starring Tom Hanks, Spielberg’s next project is the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG, currently scheduled for release July 1, 2016. After that, reports Deadline, he plans to turn his attention to the Cline adaptation. Also on his plate, but evidently now third in line, is an adaptation of Lynsey Addario’s recently released memoir,  It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War (Penguin, Feb. 10), with Jennifer Lawrence set to star.

9780804149112_319ecReady Player One, Cline’s debut, was the top title on a list of librarian favorites for the year.

Cline’s second book, Armada (RH/Crown, RH & BOT Audio), set for publication on July 24th, has also been optioned for a movie .

Nancy Pearl Recommends UNBECOMING

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 8.55.01 PMYou can hear the joy in librarian Nancy Pearl’s voice when she discovers a new author she loves. During her program on Seattle’s NPR affiliate KUOW this week, she is especially excited about discovering a debut, Rebecca Scherm’s novel Unbecoming (Penguin/Viking, Jan. 22; OverDrive Sample).

Nancy particularly appreciates Sherm’s deftness in crafting a restrained novel with fully realized characters. The “psychological acuity, the way [Sherm] understands her characters and presents them to us, is just brilliant,” she says, adding “it’s amazing what she did in just 308 pages. I love this book.”

Sherm’s novel was also part of the Penguin First Flights program on EarlyWord in October. In a live chat with librarians, Sherm discusses her influences – Patricia Highsmith and Alfred Hitchcock – as well as how she hopes readers respond to her characters, “As a writer, there’s a sense of readerly discomfort that I want. One of the things I find so incredible about Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley novels is that I am rooting for him and against him at the same time.”

What’s the novel about? Summing it up on her own website, Sherm posts a useful RA description “Unbecoming reinvents the heist plot and takes up the making of a femme fatale — this time, from a woman’s point of view.” In their “Briefly Noted” summary The New Yorker writes this “lively début combines a knotty coming-of-age tale and a high-society caper.” The NYT Sunday Book Review deems it “startlingly inventive.”

Nancy features a new book each Tuesday. An archive of previous shows is on the KUOW site.

GALLEYCHATTER, Seven Titles to Read ASAP

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

Editor’s Note: With this column, our “GalleyChatter” Robin Beerbower marks her first anniversary writing the column. We appreciate her tenacity in wrangling so many titles from each of our monthly chats (a dazzling 92 books  during the March 3 chat) down to several to move to the top of your TBR lists (if you don’t find something here, Robin’s compiled the full list into an Edelweiss collection).

GalleyChats are held on Twitter the first Tuesday of each month. The next one is on April 7, 4 to 5 p.m. EDT. Please join us (details here).

From Robin:

9781250054807_1030cOf course librarians are drawn to books that feature fellow colleagues and the debut novel by Erika Swyler, Book of Speculation (Macmillan/St. Martin’s, June), has already received high praise from GalleyChatters. It features newly unemployed librarian Simon Watson who is working on saving his family house from falling into the sea and also trying to save his sister, who seems to destined to fall under a curse set by their female ancestors. Janet Lockhart (Wake County Public Libraries) and I believe that this fascinating and compelling story with touches of myth and magic is perfect for fans of Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants and the more recent Magical Lies by Greer McAllister.

9780062358325_9699eIt’s always fun to predict what book smart beach goers will be carrying in their totes come summer and Jennifer Dayton (Darien, CT, Library) thinks it will be the tale of a man’s obsessive love for a free-spirited woman, Girl in the Moonlight, Charles Dubow (HarperCollins/Morrow, May). Jennifer said this not-so-guilty pleasure “is a wonderful take on Brideshead Revisisted.” [Note: the cover doesn’t render well in this thumbnail size. Click on it to see a larger version]

9781594633294_c128cSt. Charles Parish Library’s (LA) Vicki Nesting‘s enthusiasm for Anna Freeman’s The Fair Fight (Penguin/Riverhead, April) had many of us scrambling to download the DRC from Edelweiss. This novel set in 18th century England’s world of female boxers is already Vicki’s favorite historical novel of the year because, “From the backyard boxing rings to the disturbing long-term effects of smallpox, readers will be swept up in Freeman’s compellingly authentic, not-to-be-missed novel.”

9781455599899_acfa2Jamie Attenberg’s The Middlesteins landed on many “best of” lists in 2013, and her follow-up novel, Saint Mazie (Hachette/Grand Centra, June), has popped up in the last couple of GalleyChat discussions. Based on a real-life story of a woman in New York City, this novel of a theatre owner’s big-hearted move to open her establishment to help the needy during the Depression garnered rave reviews by Kansas City (MO) Library’s Kaite Stover, who said this epistolary novel has a “feisty female lead, quick pace, and is cinematic in scope. Would make a great flick.”

9780525429142_89846In J. Ryan Stradel’s Kitchens of the Great Midwest (Penguin/Pamela Dorman, July), a superstar chef’s rise to fame is told in a collection of short stories told from various viewpoints. Rich in unique characters and with enticing food descriptions, this is one to watch and would make a great book club choice. Even though the tone is a little different, try this for those who loved Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kittredge. [Note: this is one of the upcoming titles in the Penguin Debut Authors program. Join here]

9781455557103_300c9Judging from the enthusiastic GalleyChatter raves for The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (Hachette/Grand Central, April), this charming novel is sure to be a hit, especially for Will and Kate watchers. Leslie Stokes of Heard Co. Public Library in Franklin, GA, said the authors “show that in today’s world of paparazzi, TMZ, and Twitter, dating a prince may not necessarily be a fairytale. Believable new adult romance that avoids the overabundance of angst present in so many teen dramas.”

9780761171713_3f9a8This month’s nonfiction choice is The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital, Alexandra Robbins (Workman, May), a fascinating and somewhat alarming examination of the contemporary nursing profession. Carol Kubala (retired librarian, Saxton B. Little Free Library, CT) gave it five stars on Good Reads, saying “Robbins not only shows, she tells in this revealing expose of the modern day state of nursing. It is an eye-opener not to be missed.”

635604653206302811-JojoMoyesGalleyChatters are also anticipating JoJo Moyes’ After You, the sequel to Me Before You, announced in late February. Sorry to say there is no DRC or print ARC available but Penguin’s library marketing rep said they are working on print ARCs for ALA annual. Is there any better reason to attend?

Please join us for our next spirited GalleyChat discussion on April 7, and “friend me” on Edelweiss to see what’s on my TBR pile.

Holds Alert: A LITTLE LIFE

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

9780385539258_d6a46Heralded by many as the next Goldfinch (as in, poised to be a popular literary breakout) and an early favorite for the year of librarians on GalleyChat, Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (RH/Doubleday; OverDrive Sample) is becoming a holds superstar, with some libraries we checked spiking to ratios in the double digits.

Yanagihara’s second novel, after her acclaimed debut The People in the Trees, it tells the story of four friends, one of whom has lived a life of gothic trauma.

The 720-page novel is enjoying lavish attention. The LA Times’ review begins, “I’ve read a lot of emotionally taxing books in my time, but A Little Life … is the only one I’ve read as an adult that’s left me sobbing.” Vogue says the book announces “the arrival of a major new voice in fiction.” Kirkus, in a starred review, claims “The phrase ‘tour de force’ could have been invented for this audacious novel.” John Powers, a reviewer for NPR’s Fresh Air, confesses, “As I was reading, I literally dreamed about it every night.”

Even reviews that mention shortcomings offer high praise. The Huffington Post, in its “Bottom Line” column,  useful for readers advisors because it aims to combine “plot description and analysis with fun tidbits about the book,” calls it “a flawed but impressive novel that lifts the veil on the heart-wrenching consequences of trauma and loss.” It also calls the book “wondrous” and concludes that “the triumph of A Little Life’s many pages is significant: It wraps us so thoroughly in a character’s life that his trauma, his struggles, his griefs come to seem as familiar and inescapable as our own.” Entertainment Weekly in its B+ review says the novel is a “sometimes maddening read” but goes on to assert, “flaws and all, it’s still a wonderful Life.”

Check your holds. The waiting list might be as long as the novel itself.

GO SET A Cover

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

harper-lee-435According to People magazine, in an exclusive this morning, this cover is the real deal.

The art and type echo those from the cover of To Kill a Mockingbird. Quoted on the HarperCollins Library Love Fest blog, President and Publisher Michael Morrison notes,

“There are so many wonderful parts of Go Set a Watchman that it was hard to pick just one iconic image to represent the book. This design is perfect – it draws on the style of the decade the book was written, but with a modern twist. Go Set a Watchman begins with Scout’s train ride home, but more profoundly, it is about the journey Harper Lee’s beloved characters have taken in the subsequent 20 years of their lives.”

Go Set A Watchman, (Harper; HarperLuxe, HarperAudio; July 14, 2015)

Holds Alert: HAUSFRAU

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

9780812997538_b69f5Growing attention for Jill Essbaum’s debut novel Hausfrau (Random House; RH Audio; OverDrive Sample), which came out last week, is having an effect. Holds are rising and as a result, some libraries have increased their orders.

About an unhappy wife who seeks solace elsewhere, it has been compared to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, (see our earlier roundup) and even Anna Karenina mixed with a bit of Fifty Shades of Grey‘s eroticism.

The author was interviewed on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday. Host Lynn Neary quotes reviewer Jane Ciabattari who says, “For a first novelist, Essbaum is extraordinary because she is a poet. Her language is meticulous and resonant and daring.”

But another influential reviewer rains all over the parade. On Friday in the daily The New York Times Janet Maslin, who was on board for The Girl on the Train as well as an important early supporter of Gone Girl, is dismissive, calling Hausfrau “graceless.” She damns both the story, “Ms. Essbaum hasn’t got much of a plot in mind” and the prose as having “all the charm of a sink full of dishwater.”

Will this novel do as well as the books it is compared to? Both Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train hit the NYT Hardcover Fiction best seller list at #2 during their first week on sale, quickly rising to #1. We’re not likely to see the same for Hausfrau. Although holds are growing, they are not nearly as high as they were for the other two titles when they first arrived and the book is still relatively low on Amazon’s sales rankings.

9780062267528_70098  9781616203689_6ef70

R.A. Note: Several librarians on GalleyChat recommend another title, The Kind Worth Killing, by Peter Swanson (HarperCollins/Morrow; HarperLuxe; OverDrive Sample) as “better than The Girl on the Train.” Also check out other comparable new titles in our earlier post, Girl On The Train: A Nonstop Ride and one on the horizon, The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor (Workman/Algonquin, May, eARCs available from Edelweiss and NetGalley).

Trashy Books on NPR

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Sarah Wendell, one of the founders of the web site Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, appeared on the “Small Batch” edition of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour yesterday to discuss the romance genre.

9780373775149   Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 10.11.11 AM

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 10.14.14 AM  Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 10.13.22 AM

Wendell and host Linda Holmes’ conversation is wide-ranging and concludes with Wendell offering some reading recommendations: two contemporary romances, Just One Of The Guys by Kristan Higgins (Harlequin, 2010) and A Gentleman In The Street by Alisha Rai (eBook only), and two mysteries with romance, Silent In The Grave by Deanna Raybourn (Harlequin/Mira, 2007) and In The Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Macmillan/Minotaur, 2003).

Wendell notes that readers internalize the way others respond to their choices: “Romance readers are so often subjected to shamming, we’re not actually ashamed of the books that we read but we’re told we ought to be … even by the people at the checkout counter at the bookstore. When you get that reception to the books you are buying or checking out from the library you internalize that [but] when you find other people who love the same thing you do. there is this enormous ‘squee’ of relief.”

Nancy Pearl Recommends: SINGLE, CAREFREE, MELLOW

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 10.07.41 AMNancy Pearl featured Katherine Heiny’s debut short story collection Single, Carefree, Mellow (RH/Knopf; RH & BOT Audio, OverDrive Sample) on Seattle’s NPR affiliate KUOW yesterday.

Offering tips on how to read short stories, she suggests they are closer to poetry than fiction and advises readers to start with the first story and then put the book down for a day or two before picking it up again. “They repay you more,” she says, “if you give them space.”

Suggested as read-likes are Laurie Colwin’s The Lone Pilgrim and Melissa Bank’s The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing.

Nancy is not alone in appreciating Heiny. She has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, The Millions, and in The New York Times. Her book has been reviewed in Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times and was highlighted in O, the Oprah Magazine as one of the “17 Books You Should Be Reading This Spring.”

Circulation is strong in libraries we checked with holds at or exceeding a 3:1 ratio.

Nancy discusses a book each Tuesday on KUOW. An archive is available of past titles.


Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

9781101886045_52d82HBO’s Game of Thrones returns with Season 5 on April 12th. As the SF site, io9 observes, the series has so far been “a remarkably faithful adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s [novels],” but that will change in the new season. Listing five major deviations, they say that’s actually a good thing.

Nevertheless, tie-in editions in mass market and trade paperback are coming 3/31/15 (RH/Bantam).

A new trailer was released yesterday:

Meanwhile, George R.R. Martin has set off fan frenzy by writing on his blog that he is clearing his calendar to work on the sixth book in the series, The Winds of Winter (no release date has been announced, but some sites claim Martin told reporters earlier that it will come out in October). It will be followed by the final book, A Dream of Spring.

For those who need a refresher on the HBO series so far, the cast tries to sum it up in 30 seconds for Entertainment Weekly.


Monday, March 16th, 2015

9780385353304_db2df-2Emily St. John Mandel is having a great month. Her novel Station Eleven (RH/Knopf; RH & BOT Audio; Thorndike), was just announced as a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Fiction Prize as well as  a longlist title for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. In addition, a heated auction for the film rights were won for a reported six figures.

The icing on the cake may be George R.R. Martin’s strong endorsement. In a blog post, he urges fans to nominate Station Eleven for the Hugo Awards, which he says, “… are the oldest awards in our genre, and to my mind, the most meaningful,”

“I won’t soon forget Station Eleven. One could, I suppose, call it a post-apocolypse novel, and it is that, but all the usual tropes of that subgenre are missing here, and half the book is devoted to flashbacks to before the coming of the virus that wipes out the world, so it’s also a novel of character, and there’s this thread about a comic book and Doctor Eleven and a giant space station and… oh, well, this book should NOT have worked, but it does. It’s a deeply melancholy novel, but beautifully written, and wonderfully elegiac… a book that I will long remember, and return to.”

Librarians spotted the book early. Station Eleven was a Library Reads pick in September and made the LibraryReads Top Ten Favorites list for 2014. It was also a favorite on several GalleyChats.

Harper Lee Fraud Investigation Dropped

Friday, March 13th, 2015

At least one part of the State of Alabama’s investigation into complaints of elder abuse against author Harper Lee has been closed.

Alabama Securities Commission Director Joseph Borg tells the Associated Press that they have closed their investigation and that, in their conversations with Lee, “she was able to answer questions we asked to our satisfaction,” adding, “We don’t make competency determinations. We’re not doctors, But unless someone tells us to go back in, our file is closed on it.”

The Commission, which investigates financial crimes, interviewed Lee at the request of Alabama’s Department of Human Resources. A spokesperson for the department declined the A.P.’s request for comment on whether there will be other inquiries.

All the attention is not sitting well with Lee. According to the Wall Street Journal, Lee’s close friend, historian Wayne Flynt, said in an interview on Thursday, “All the reporters, all the controversy. At 88, in bad health, she’s wondering if it’s worth it.”

Meanwhile, holds in libraries are skyrocketing for the book that is at the center of the controversy, Go Set A Watchman (Harper; HarperLuxe, HarperAudio; July 14, 2015).