Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Kate Atkinson on NPR

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 10.05.10 AMNPR’s Morning Edition Book Club convened today, featuring the author of the latest pick, Kate Atkinson answering readers’ questions about A God in Ruins (Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio; OverDrive Sample),

Of course, one of the first questions is “How do you keep all the characters straight?” The first part of the conversation is here. Below is part two.

No announcement yet about the next Book Club pick.


Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 7.25.59 PMIn 2004 Susanna Clarke published Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Bloomsbury; OverDrive Sample), a moody, lavish literary fantasy novel set in an alternative 19th century England full of magic.

It was a sensation, reaching number three on The New York Times bestseller list, winning the Hugo Award for best novel, and getting longlisted for the Man Booker.

Still, for all the readers who adored the book, including Neil Gaiman who praised it lavishly, there were others who were not as charmed.

Now the BBC has adapted it into a seven-part mini series, airing on this side of the ocean on BBC America (Saturdays at 10 p.m.) and reaction is split again.

Mary McNamara, writing for The LA Times’s “Jacket Copy” says it is “a deft combination of Dickensian satire, Austenian wit and Gothic anxiety. For those put off by beheadings and orgies and even for those who are not, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a welcome return to literate magical fantasy.”

David Fear, in his Rolling Stone review, calls it “extraordinary” and says that it offers “some of the most fantastic imported TV you’re likely to view this year… the show’s immersive deep dive into the mystic is likely to leave jaws on the living-room floor.”

Dissenters include Mike Hale writing for The New York Times. He calls it “largely unremarkable” and warns “those who enjoyed the best-selling book to temper their expectations.” The highest praise Hale manages is “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is great to look at. It moves along at a gallop, and it’s not boring, even if it’s not exactly engaging either. Most important, it has appealing performances by Bertie Carvel as Strange and particularly by Eddie Marsan as the crabbed and proud Norrell.”

The AV Club, slightly less disappointed, wraps up its review with “The BBC’s first episode demonstrates it can pull off the story, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll pull off the magic.”

Those knocks aside, it seems readers are responding. Holds are at very respectable levels for a book that came out over a decade ago, in some places topping a 3:1 ratio.

For libraries that need new copies, Bloomsbury has released a new TV tie-in edition. Readers’ advisors might want to take note that the audiobook version narrated by Simon Prebble  (Macmillan Audio; CD and downloadable) is well worth suggesting as well.

Order Alert:

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.55.22 AMAlbert Camus’s classic novel The Stranger includes a scene in which the anti-hero, Meursault, shoots a nameless Arab while walking along a beach in Algeria.

In his debut novel The Meursault Investigation (Other Press; OverDrive Sample), Algerian writer Kamel Daoud gives the murdered man a name. It is Musa. He had a family in Daoud’s retelling, a mother and father and critically, a brother named Harun.

It is Harun who tells Musa’s story, one that creatively echoes and challenges the story of The Stranger and expands it, and the history of Algeria, in complex and incisive ways.

Laila Lalami, author of The Moor’s Account, a finalist Pulitzer Prize in fiction for 2015, reviews The Meursault Investigation for the cover of the NYT Sunday Book Review, saying that literary retellings must be “so convincing and so satisfying that we no longer think of the original story as the truth, but rather come to question it … Daoud has done exactly this. Not only does he use an indigenous voice to retell the story of The Stranger, he offers a different account of the murder and makes Algeria more than just a setting for existential questions posed by a French novelist. For Daoud, Algeria is the existential question.”

Heller McAlpin, writing for NPR, says “What begins as a reproach to The Stranger for marginalizing ‘the second most important character in the book’ becomes a lament for Algeria’s long battle for independence, first from French colonists and subsequently from authoritarian Islamism.”

Additional attention has come from The LA Times “Jacket Copy”, The New Yorker, The Millions, and The NYT Magazine. It is also an Indie Next pick for June and won France’s Prix Goncourt award for “the best and most imaginative prose work of the year.”

For libraries that have ordered it, holds are heavy on light ordering.

Crystal Ball: SAINT MAZIE

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 10.57.43 AMHow’s this for a summary? “The story of a Jazz Age party girl who winds up in a cage as a ticket-taker in a Depression-era Lower East Side movie theater, Jami Attenberg’s Saint Mazie is full of love and drink and dirty sex and nobility and beef stew.”

That is how Marjorie Ingall, writing for the upcoming  NYT Sunday Book Review, describes Jami Attenberg’s newest novel.

Saint Mazie (Hachette/Grand Central; Hachette Audio; OverDrive Sample) is inspired by the real life Mazie P. Gordon, a woman who lived in NYC, sold tickets at the Venice Theater in the Bowery, and spent her evenings helping the downtrodden. She was the focus of a Joseph Mitchell profile published in the New Yorker in 1940, and later published in the collection, Up In The Old Hotel (RH/Vintage).

The structure of Saint Mazie is a bit hard to describe, but Hannah Gersen writing for The Millions seems to nail it: “Saint Mazie is a collage of voices taken from Mazie’s diary entries, postcards, scraps of Mazie’s unpublished memoir, and interviews with people who knew Mazie … about half the novel consists of her plainspoken, melancholy diary entries, but there are also present-day voices, interviewed by an unseen documentarian, who provide historical information and personal anecdotes about Mazie.”

Library orders are light, due to the less than enthusiastic trade reviews and the less-than-anticipated popularity of Attenberg’s heavily-promoted previous novel, The Middlesteins.

But the consumer press has been much more enthusiastic about Mazie.

In addition to the positive reception in the NYT and The Millions, Alan Cheuse, reviewing for NPR says that “Mazie’s story unfolds with simplicity and grace… all of these voices taken together make for an augmented story that’s easy to follow and delightful to contemplate; a straightforward, direct, stark sometimes (especially during the Depression years), but often ebullient tale about the simple pleasures of a working life.”

Bustle, listing it as one of “The 17 Best Books of Summer” says:  “The Middlesteins author Jami Attenberg has traded writing about the Midwest for Jazz Age New York – and, oh, what a glorious swap it is. If you love historical stories with bold language that vividly paint a picture of another era, you’ll be so happy to spend your summer days alongside Mazie Phillips, the real-life proprietress of a downtown NYC movie theater called The Venice. Take a peek inside Mazie’s diary, and get swept away.”

As we mentioned at the start of the month, it is one of Amazon’s Best Books of June, one of the ten books the Wall Street Journal picked for its summer reading list, and is on Entertainment Weekly’s summer list. It was also a favorite with our GalleyChatters as far back as March.

Reaction was strong at BEA as well. Jen Dayton of Darien Public Library said pointedly at the Shout ’n’ Share, “this is NOT The Middlesteins” and went on to enthuse that Mazie captured her heart.

Keep a weather eye out. Holds are light now, but may grow with word of mouth and even if they don’t, with its catchy cover, real-life background and strong story line, this is a book with browsing appeal. You won’t lose by buying more copies.

THE MARTIAN, The Trailer

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

The Martian WeirThe trailer for the film adaptation of The Martian by Andy Weir, (RH/Crown) debuted online this week.

Scheduled for release on November 25 [Update: just a few days after we posted this story, 20th Century Fox switched the release date to Oct. 2. The logic? Less competition, according to Deadline ]. Directed by Ridley Scott, it has a killer cast, including Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Donald Glover.

The book began as a self-published science fiction title, later picked up by Random House’s Crown imprint. It appeared on multiple best books lists, was a Feb. 2014 LibraryReads pick, the 2014 RUSA Reading List selection for  Science Fiction, as well as an Alex Award winner.

A tie-in is scheduled for October.

The Martian (Mass Market MTI)
Andy Weir
RH/Broadway; October 13, 2015
Mass Market; $9.99 USD, $12.99 CAD
9781101905005, 110190500X

#1 May LibraryReads Title
to Big Screen

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Is Hollywood taking note of the LibraryReads picks?

Warner Bros. has just won a bidding war for the rights to the LibraryReads #1 Pick for May, Naomi Novik’s Uprooted (RH/Del Rey; OverDrive Sample). Aaccording to The Hollywood Reporter. Ellen DeGeneres will produce. She currently has six TV shows in production, “making this her rare foray into features.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 12.12.50 PMLucy Lockley of St. Charles City-County Library (MO) offers this description of the story:

“A young girl is unexpectedly uprooted from her family and becomes involved in a centuries-old battle with The Wood, a malevolent entity which destroys anyone it touches. Fast-paced, with magic, mystery and romance, Novik’s stand-alone novel is a fairy tale for adults.”

VanderMeer Wins Nebula

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.33.29 AMJeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation (Macmillan/FSG; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample), the first title in his Southern Reach trilogy, has won the 2014 Nebula Award (presented in 2015) for best novel.

Along with Authority and Acceptance (books two and three), Annihilation tells the story of Area X, an isolated landscape cut off from human occupation which nature has taken back. Previous expeditions to the area have resulted in nightmare outcomes. Now a new expedition is under way.

When we wrote earlier about the series we quoted Sara Sklaroff’s review in The Washington Post which still stands as a good summary, “Annihilation is successfully creepy, an old-style gothic horror novel set in a not-too-distant future. The best bits turn your mind inside out.”

VanderMeer’s acceptance speech makes note of the Hugo controversy and the need for diverse reading.

This is the first time the very literary-leaning FSG has published a Nebula winning title.

Three other Nebulas are awarded for best novella, novelette, and short story (each based upon word count).

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.25.13 AMNancy Kress won the novella category for Yesterday’s Kin (Tachyon Publications; OverDrive Sample) while Ursula Vernon won best short story for “Jackalope Wives.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.26.10 AMAlaya Dawn Johnson won the Novelette category for A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i. She also won The Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy for Love Is the Drug (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books; Scholastic on Brilliance Audio; OverDrive Sample). The Andre Norton Award is one of several given alongside the Nebulas.

Another such award, The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, went to Guardians of the Galaxy, written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman.

Larry Niven, author of the 1970 Nebula winning Ringworld, won the Damon Knight Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement.

The Nebula Awards are presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and honor outstanding achievement in Science Fiction or Fantasy. Unlike the Hugo Awards, which are based upon membership votes including the votes of fans, only the author-members of the association vote upon the Nebulas. See a  full list of nominated titles here.


Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 4.33.59 PMThe buzzy memoir Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin (Simon & Schuster; ebook, 9781476762722) is falling victim to the truth squad with questions arising about the events in the book and its timeline.

According to The New York Times, publisher S&S plans to add a note to future editions as well as the eBook, saying “It is a common narrative technique in memoirs for some names, identifying characteristics and chronologies to be adjusted or disguised, and that is the case with Primates of Park Avenue. A clarifying note will be added to the e-book and to subsequent print editions.”

After early juicy reporting pre-publication, questions have been raised by the New York Post about how accurate the stories are. Reviewing it, Janet Maslin in the daily New York Times includes whoppers such as “Ms. Martin’s description of her book as a ‘stranger-than-fiction story’ is fair — but only because fiction usually makes sense” and “someone has a book to fill and a theme to stick to, regardless of whether it has any point.” On the other hand, Vanessa Grigoriadis in the NYT Sunday Book Review, someone who knows the territory, wasn’t bothered if a few things are suspect, “the sociology rings true, even if the codification can be off (a common practice among stay-at-home moms and their working husbands in a flush year called ‘presents under the Christmas tree’ is here designated a ‘wife bonus’). ”

On track to hit best seller lists this week, the attention is likely to only add to the interest, following the old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Tony Awards Move Books

Monday, June 8th, 2015

Few book awards actually increase sales but this year the two big Tony Awards – Best Musical and Best Play – are having an effect similar to the announcement of Pulitzer Prize in Literature or the Booker winner.

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Fun Home
: A Family Tragicomic (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 2006) by Alison Bechdel and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (RH/Doubleday; 2003; Recorded Books; OverDrive Sample) by Mark Haddon are both racing up Amazons sales rankings on news that their play adaptions have won the Tonys.

Fun Home won Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, and Best Leading Actor in a Musical.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time won Best Play, Best Leading Actor in a Play, Best Direction of a Play, as well as awards for set design and lighting.

According to a story by NPR, both authors had doubts their books could be changed to other formats. Bechdel thought the idea of a musical “was crazy” and Haddon once called his book “unadaptable.” Sellout theaters have proved them both happily wrong.

Women’s Prize for Fiction Winner

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 10.25.02 AMAli Smith’s How to Be Both (RH/Pantheon; OverDrive Sample) has won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

The novel has garnered much attention. It won the Costa Novel Award and The Goldsmiths Prize and was a shortlist title for the Man Booker.

Comparing it to “what it felt like reading Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, all of the greats,” the award committee chair tells The Guardian, “this is not a good book, this is a great book, and people are going to be reading it long after I’m dead.”

The book was printed in two versions. One begins with the story of George, a young modern woman coping with the death of her mother who becomes enthralled by the paintings of the 15th century Renaissance artist Francesco del Costa. The other begins with the story of Francesco. Each edition contains both sections and were distributed in a random mix.

Reviews at the time of publication (Dec. 2014) were largely admiring if a bit nervous about its unusual structure.

Ron Charles wrote in The Washington Post: “Ali Smith’s playfully brilliant new novel makes me both excited and wary of recommending it. This gender-blending, genre-blurring story, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, bounces across centuries, tossing off profound reflections on art and grief, without getting tangled in its own postmodern wires. It’s the sort of death-defying storytelling acrobatics that don’t seem entirely possible — How did she get here from there? — but you’ve got to be willing to hang on.”

Janet Maslin told her readers in The New York Times: “Never judge a book by its structure. How to Be Both has a lot more allure than its overall rigor suggests, thanks to the obvious pleasure Ms. Smith takes in creating her peculiar parallels and exploring the questions they raise.”

Formerly known as the Orange Prize, the Baileys Award celebrates excellence in women’s writing from around the world. The shortlist included Rachel Cusk’s Outline, Laline Paull’s The Bees, Kamila Shamsie’s A God in Every Stone, Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread, and Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests.

RA Alert: FRESH AIR’s Summer Reading Suggestions

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

NPR reviewer Maureen Corrigan, author of So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came To Be And Why It Endures, offers a collection of early summer reading suggestions during a segment on NPR’s Fresh Air.

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She begins with Vendela Vida’s new novel, The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty (HarperCollins/Ecco; HighBridge Audio; OverDrive Sample). A traveler loses her wallet and passport and “What ensues is a kind of existential suspense tale in which our heroine is at first paralyzed by the theft and then emboldened to borrow other women’s documents and identities.”

Corrigan calls Patricia Park’s debut novel Re Jane (Penguin/Pamela Dorman Books; OverDrive Sample) “a wickedly inventive updating of Jane Eyre.”

Two nonfiction works round out her picks.

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Deborah Lutz’s The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects (W.W. Norton) examines objects important to the Brontë sisters, including a dog collar, a writing desk, and an amethyst bracelet.

In No Better Friend: One Man, One Dog, and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival In WWII (Hachette/Little, Brown; OverDrive Sample), Robert Weintraub tells the story of the only official American canine POW, a dog named Judy who survived the horrors of a Japanese interment camp.

Corrigan says each of her picks “begin in familiar territory and then surprise us readers by going off into places we could never anticipate.” Read on indeed!


Monday, June 1st, 2015

GreyAnother Grey is on its way, Titled simply Grey, it’s Fifty Shades told from Christian’s point of view.

Author E. L. James announced on Instagram today that the book will be published on June 18th and the story has been picked up widely, from USA Today to the Wall Street Journal.

According to Amazon, it will be published by RH/Vintage in trade paperback with the ISBN is 978-1101946343, but it is not yet listed on Edelweiss or wholesaler catalogs (UPDATE: it is now listed on some wholesaler catalogs).

In a press release, Tony Chirico, President of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group indicates this was a surprise release (in other words, you were not living under a rock if you haven’t heard of it), “Given the secrecy and immediacy of the publication, we’ve worked hard to ensure that the book will be well represented in the retail marketplace on June 18th.”

Thanks to Janet Lockhart, Collection Development Librarian at Wake County Public Libraries for the alert!

Closer to Screen: CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

9780609610978The  pilot for a Lifetime series, The Clan Of The Cave Bear, based on Jean M. Auel’s 1980’s books, has behind it high-profile executive producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. The cast is now taking shape, indicating that filming may begin soon.

Set 25,000 years ago, Auel’s Earth Children series, the first of which is The Clan Of The Cave Bear (RH/Crown), imagines a clan of Neanderthals adopting an orphaned Cro-Magnon girl Ayla, who, as she grows up, demonstrates superior intellect and eventually breaks free of the restrictions imposed on the female members of  the Clan. The book was a New York Times best seller for five months.

The lead role of the adult Ayla went to British actress-model Millie Brady in January. Since then, other major roles have been filled. Johnny Ward will play Broud, the future clan leader. Hal Ozsan will play Brun, the current Clan leader. Charlene McKenna has just joined the cast in the role of  Brun’s sister Iza, the Clan’s medicine woman and Ayla’s mentor.

The book was made into a disastrous movie in 1986, starring Daryl Hannah as Ayla.

Tanith Lee Dies at 67

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

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The first woman to win the British Fantasy Award, Tanith Lee has died at age 67 after a long illness. She won the World Fantasy Award twice and was a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from both the World Fantasy Convention and the Horror Writers Association. Although she never won the Nebula, she was nominated twice.

In an appreciation, the SF web site i09 says Lee “was one of the most prolific and influential authors of fantasy and horror. Everyone seems to know her for something different. Some people are obsessed with The Silver Metal Lover, [RH/Spectra; originally published in 1977] while others devoured her fantasy series.”

But the Guardian notes she “seemed to have fallen out of favour as a writer in recent years, as did many writers who came to prominence in the SF fields in the Seventies.” the author herself said in a 1998 interview, with Locus Magazine “If anyone ever wonders why there’s nothing coming from me, it’s not my fault. I’m doing the work. No, I haven’t deteriorated or gone insane. Suddenly, I just can’t get anything into print.”

As tastes in genre fiction shifted, that problem only continued and now just a handful of her books are in print.

Her debut, The Birthgrave (Penguin/DAW; OverDrive Sample) is being reprinted for its 40th anniversary next week. The other books in that trilogy are planned for release over the next several months.



Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

The Martian WeirThe first look at stills from the film adaptation of The Martian by Andy Weir, (RH/Crown) are now on

Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Donald Glover, and scheduled for release in November, it is directed by Ridley Scott.

The book began as a self-published science fiction title, later picked up by Random House’s Crown imprint. It appeared on multiple best books lists and was a Feb. 2014 LibraryReads pick, the 2014 RUSA Reading List selection for  Science Fiction, as well as an Alex Award winner.