Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category


Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 10.04.11 AMAfter its heady initial run in 2011, Ernest Cline’s debut Ready Player One, (RH/Crown; Random House Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample) is getting new buzz as it makes its way to movie theaters.

Director Steven Spielberg has found his female lead, Olivia Cooke (Me and Earl and The Dying Girl,  Bates Motel). According to The Hollywood Reporter, she beat out Elle Fanning and Lola Kirke for the role of Art3mis and is currently in negotiations to finalize the deal. THR comments, “The role is major breakthrough for Cooke, a rising talent who’s been working mostly in the indie world,” Meanwhile, the search for a male lead continues.

The story has been picked up by the consumer press and fan sites — Entertainment Weekly, io9, and MTV.

Holds are still strong in many libraries, with some still topping a 3:1 ratio. At other libraries, all copies are in circulation.

A Diverse Man Booker Shortlist

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

The Man Booker Prize, Britain’s most prestigious literary award and, oddly, one of the few awards that affects sales in the U.S., surpassing our own National Book Awards, has released the 2015 shortlist of six titles.

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In the second year that American authors were eligible for the award, five made the longlist of 13, causing says the Guardian to worry that fears the US would dominate had become “more well-founded.” For the shortlist, however, only two US author made the cut, Hanya Yanagihara, for A Little Life (currently the bookies’ favorite in the UK. where people actually bet on such things) and Anne Tyler for a A Spool Of Blue Thread. Two authors from the UK, and one each from Jamaica and Nigeria round out the list.

The BBC noted that this list is exceptionally diverse, “four of the six authors are non-white, beating 2013’s record of three” but what “unites the books is the grimness of their themes.” When the judges were asked about this, they agreed, with one adding that, while the themes may be grim, “there isn’t a single book that isn’t touched with humour.”

The Guardian commented that the “biggest surprise” was that American author Marilyn Robinson (Lila) was eliminated from the list.

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The full shortlist, with links to reviews, below. The winner will be announced on Oct 13.

Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings (Penguin/Riverhead; HighBridge Audio; OverDrive Sample; Oct. 7, 2014), Jamaican, living in the US

Published last year in the US, this title appeared on many of the year’s best books lists.
Reviews — Michiko Kakutani, New York Times; Washington Post; Wall Street JournalNYT Sunday Book Review

Tom McCarthy, Satin Island (RH/Knopf; Recorded Books; OverDrive Sample; Feb. 17, 2015), McCarthy was on a previous Booker Prize shortlist (for C), UK

US Reviews — NYT Sunday Book ReviewWashington PostL.A. Times

Chigozie Obioma, The Fishermen (Hachette/Little, Brown; OverDrive Sample; April 14, 2015), Nigeria

Reviews — NYT Sunday Book ReviewNPR review

Sunjeev Sahota, The Year of the Runaways (RH/Knopf; 9781101946107; Mar. 2016), UK

Forthcoming; no US consumer reviews yet. UK reviews, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent

Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread (RH/Knopf; Random House Audio; OverDrive Sample: Feb. 10, 2015), US

Reviews —NYT Sunday Book Review; Ron Charles, Washington PostLos Angeles Times; Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life (RH/Doubleday; OverDrive Sample; March 10, 2015), US

Reviews — Washington PostNYT Sunday Book ReviewLos Angeles TimesWall Street Journal; NPR review on Fresh Air.

Yanagihara was one of the few literary novelists to appear on a late night show this year (we’re hedging our bets here — she’s probably the ONLY one) .


Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 1.00.33 PMFollowing closely on the heels of a chorus of praise for Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies (Penguin/Riverhead; BOT Audio; Overdrive Sample), publishing today, NPR announces that it is the third pick in the Morning Edition Book Club.

The previous picks for the program, Deep Down Dark and A God in Ruins enjoyed dramatic sales and holds increases as a result.

Each title in the club is picked by another author. Doing the honors this time is Richard Russo.

Rumor Mill: The Winds of Winter out in 2016?

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 12.30.26 PMMaybe, just maybe George R.R. Martin is getting near to finishing The Winds of Winter, the next book in his glacially slow-to-appear yet meteorically popular Song of Ice and Fire fantasy saga.

Alejo Cuervo, an editor for Ediciones Gigamesh, the publishing house which owns the Spanish language rights to the books, told a Catalan radio station that the new book will come out in 2016.

A release date early next year would coincide with Martin’s own self-proclaimed goal of publishing the new book before the premiere of the sixth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones series, which is anticipated to air next spring.

New York magazine reports the story and includes a link to an English-language version of the radio  transcript.

NOTE: The cover we use here  is NOT official, according to the publisher. It seems to have originated as fan art that has become the internet stand-in until the real cover debuts.

Nancy Pearl Interviews Paula McLain

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 9.48.46 AMLibrarian Nancy Pearl, who has often recommended Beryl Markham’s West with the Night (Macmillan/North Point Press; Blackstone Audio; eBook from OpenRoad Medic; OverDrive sample), interviews author Paula McLain as part of the Book Lust series airing on the Seattle channel. McLain’s  fictional take on Markham’s life, Circling the Sun (RH/Ballantine; BOT and RH Audio; OverDrive Sample) has been a NYT best seller since its publication at the end of July.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 9.49.41 AMThe two discuss how McLain came to focus on Markham after her success writing about Hemingway’s first wife in the novel The Paris Wife (RH/Ballantine; BOT and RH Audio; OverDrive Sample). It turns out that McLain struggled after the publication of that breakout book, spending years searching for a subject.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 9.50.27 AMShe wrote hundreds of pages on both Georgia O’Keeffe and Marie Curie only to have both projects fail to take off. Finally, while on vacation with her sister and brother-in-law she stumbled across West with the Night, Markham’s vivid memoir (which even Hemingway, who hated Markham, praised to the skies). McLain’s brother-in-law was reading it poolside and told her it was going to be important in her life. She ignored him and it for a year longer before picking up the story and getting swept away.

What Happened to Harper Lee’s Murder Mystery?

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

Hints that there might be more books by Harper Lee in the safe deposit box that contained Go Set a Watchman were laid to rest last week by a story in the Wall Street Journal,

Still, stories about other books continue to roil around.

Today, the AP revives questions about what happened to Harper Lee’s  true crime novel, raised earlier this year in the New Yorker.  Rumored to be in the vein of In Cold Blood, it is based on a twisted and deeply Southern Gothic case of a preacher suspected of a string of killings of family members.

The family of the lawyer involved in the case has evidence that Lee had started work on the book, “four typed pages [that begin] with an early morning phone call from the accused black preacher to his white lawyer … Hand-scrawled at the top is the title The Reverend. The text is dotted with handwritten b’s, filling in where a typewriter key apparently stuck … consistent with the typewriter Lee used at the time.”

One of the few people close to Lee also tells the AP that one of Lee’s sisters told him that the book was completed.

Yet, as is the case with most of Lee’s literary history, stories are contradictory. One of the people Lee interviewed for the novel tells the AP she had second thoughts, telling him after months of work that “she didn’t know if she was going to write the book or not.”

Typically, Lee’s lawyer, who controls all access to Lee and her papers, did not respond to the AP’s requests for clarity.

RA Alert: Diverse Fantasy on NPR

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

NPR,org  is on something of a Fantasy spree, devoting stories to Terry Pratchett’s last novel and, in what seems like a direct response to both the Hugos and the We Need Diverse Books campaign, offering two reviews that highlight the diversity of the genre, its authors, and its characters.

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 1.44.20 PMOne is Bradley P. Beaulieu’s newest novel, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (Penguin/DAW; Brilliance Audio), a Silk Road Fantasy, set not in the fantasy genre’s  familiar quasi-medieval world of Western Europe but in locales inspired by and situated within Eastern cultures. For Beaulieu that means Islamic and Ancient Egyptian influences fill this first of a new series.’s reviewer Jason Heller sings the novel’s praises noting itsintricate, suspenseful” plot, the female “gladiator by trade” central character who is “fierce…dynamic, multilayered, utterly fascinating,” and a setting created out of a “fabulist mix of cultures.”

In recommending readers dive in he offers this ready-made RA annotation:

Fantasy and horror, catacombs and sarcophagi, resurrections and revelations: The book has them all, and Beaulieu wraps it up in a package that’s as graceful and contemplative as it is action-packed and pulse-pounding. As fantasy continues to diversify and open itself up to a more vibrant representation of cultures and possibilities, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai should rank among the most satisfying.

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 1.46.53 PMThe second of NPR’s most recent picks is Zen Cho’s debut novel Sorcerer to the Crown (Penguin/Ace; OverDrive Sample).

Reviewer Amal El-Mohtar says it nods towards Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in its settings and blend of real world and magic, but that it “actively exploits gaps and shortcomings in” Clarke’s modern classic.

In a packed and multifaceted review, El-Mohtar neatly explains the many-threaded plot:

When Sir Stephen Wythe, England’s Sorcerer Royal, dies in mysterious circumstances, his adopted black son Zacharias takes up the Sorcerer’s staff amid malicious mutterings that he murdered his guardian for the position. The timing is terrible: Besides being in disgrace with Fairyland, England is enmeshed in non-magical war with France and in tense diplomatic talks with the Sultan of Janda Baik over the matter of witches and snake-women. Zacharias must contend with an overreaching government, assassination attempts, the decline of magic — and, most unexpectedly, with Prunella Gentleman, a dark-skinned young Englishwoman of uncertain parentage who wishes to escape her magical school and enter society.

And then heaps praise on Cho for her approach and execution:

Cho foregrounds characters that are usually treated as curiosities and set pieces in Regency fiction giving them complex inner lives and thoroughly enriching her world-building as a result… Cho’s achieved something remarkable in making corrupt bureaucracy more terrifying than dragons; ambitious baronets more dangerous than vampires. I was genuinely chilled by the depiction of powerful men’s whims where magic and the Sorcerer Royal’s position were concerned: Dragons can be fought and beaten, but white supremacy and institutional oppression are as atmospheric as the magic in Cho’s world.

Lest she leave readers thinking that Cho’s novel is a slog, El-Mohtar is also quick to point out

Absolutely everything about this book is delightful. I can’t remember the last time I read a fantasy novel that made me laugh so much — and as often as I laughed, I gasped, I shouted rude words at offending characters, and just generally fell over myself with admiration for Cho’s dextrous depiction of Regency manners and wit.

Lee Child on SPIDER’S WEB,
Maslin on Lee Child

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 11.33.47 AMspiders-webThere is plenty of Lee Child in this week’s New York Times 

For the cover of the Sunday Book Review, he offers his opinion of The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz (RH/Knopf; RH Audio) and today, in the daily NYT, reviewer Janet Maslin offers her take on Child’s newest Reacher novel Make Me (RH/Delacorte Press; BOT).

First, Child on Lagercrantz.

While he admires some of what Lagercrantz has done with the story itself, which he deems “a fine plot,” in the end he decides the task of bringing back Lisbeth Salander was impossible:

And what of Lisbeth Salander? Given that Lagercrantz knows she’s what ­readers want, her long and suspenseful introduction is masterful. It’s a striptease. She’s mentioned in the prologue (“One Year Earlier”), and then she’s not in the story at all, and then she is, maybe, purely by inference, and then we get a brief glimpse of her, and then another, and then some longer scenes. But it’s not until Page 216 that she actually speaks to Blomkvist. “Lisbeth,” he asks, answering her phone call, “is that you?”  “Shut up and listen,” she replies, and he does. And we’re off to the races. Or are we? Does she spark to life and get up off the slab?

No decides Child, she does not, “The sublime madness of Larsson’s original isn’t quite there.”

It is another story for Maslin’s reaction to Make Me.

She likes it, a lot, calling it “a hot one” and going on to say “Lee Child’s Reacher series has hit Book No. 20 with a resounding peal of wisecracking glee… Everything about it, starting with Reacher’s nose for bad news, is as strong as ever.”

Without spoilers, she hints to readers that the book marks a turning point in the series while giving a sense of its gritty core:

… this book’s spectrum of good and evil is so wide, and its depths of horror so extreme, that it seems impossible for even Jack Reacher to come away from it unchanged. Usually he walks away from one novel and into the next without even getting his hair mussed. Maybe not this time…[the book] takes Reacher from the kind of cracking wise his fans love and the violence that he understands into the eerie realities of 2015, not the ones Reacher learned in the last century as part of his military training.

News also just arrived that the second Jack Reacher movie will arrive next fall, again starring Tom Cruise.


Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

9781101874899_dba60For its Labor Day weekend issue, arriving when subscribers are likely to have more time to read it than usual, Sunday’s NYT Magazine profiles an author few readers know, Joy Williams. Her new book, arriving next week, The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories (RH/ Knopf), writes Dan Kois, culture editor at Slate, “cements her reputation as not merely one of the great writers of her generation, but as our pre-eminent bard of humanity’s insignificance.”

A reminder, the magazine has done this before, featuring another author greatly admired but largely unknown short story writer, George Saunders, making his book The Tenth of December a long-running best seller.

Kois lavishes Williams with praise, saying, “To call her 50-year career that of a writer’s writer does not go far enough. Her three story collections and four darkly funny novels are mostly overlooked by readers but so beloved by generations of fiction masters that she might be the writer’s writer’s writer.”

The list of authors lining up to sing her praises is a modern who’s who of greats. Don DeLillo, George Saunders, and Karen Russell are quoted, with Russell saying Williams is “a visionary” and “resizes people against a cosmic backdrop.’’

In a few share-worthy lines Kois offers a quick introduction:

Her stories often reveal themselves as parables, and her writing on the environment is equal parts fire, brimstone and eulogy…The typical Williams protagonist is a wayward girl or young woman whose bad decisions, or bad attitude, or both, make her difficult to admire: She drives away while her husband is paying for gas, or ransacks a houseguest’s room to read her journal.

Orders are very light (or nonexistent) in libraries we checked.

Crystal Ball: GIRL WAITS

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

9780544409910_db716-2Amy Stewart’s Girl Waits with Gun (HMH; Recorded Books; OverDrive Sample) is gathering velocity.

Stewart spoke with Steve Innskeep on NPR’s Morning Edition yesterday. The charming interview sent her debut novel (after successful nonfiction titles) racing up Amazon’s sales rankings.

Separately, Girl Waits with Gun was also reviewed on NPR by author Genevieve Valentine. “Charming” is a word that comes up frequently there as well, with Valentine saying “It might seem odd to be reading about an old-fashioned farmstead shootout and thinking about how charming it is, but if you’re reading Girl Waits With Gun, you might as well get used to it. You’ll be thinking that a lot.”

As we reported in the look ahead to books coming out this week, Stewart’s novel has four prepub stars and is both an Indie Next and a LibraryReads pick.

Holds are topping a 3:1 ratio at some libraries and are strong everywhere we checked. Don’t be surprised if it shows up on best seller lists next week.

Harper Lee: Nothing New in
That Safe Deposit Box

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 10.13.27 AM Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 10.12.26 AMDespite hints by Harper Lee’s attorney, Tonja Carter, there is no new book in Lee’s safe-deposit box.

As we reported earlier, Carter had suggested there could be more than one new title on the way.

As the Wall Street Journal now reports, those hints turned up empty. A rare-book expert, James S. Jaffe, brought in to review the box, has issued a report stating that it only contains pieces of Lee’s two published novels and copyright documents.

According to Jaffe, the pages show the transformation of Lee’s original draft into the published form of To Kill a Mockingbird and where segments of Go Set a Watchman appeared in Mockingbird.

Jaffe’s full report is posted at the end of the WSJ article.

Of course, for all those invested in even more books by Lee, there could always be other papers in other places and there is still the rumor of the true crime novel floating around.


Sunday, August 30th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 9.20.58 AMNPR posted a sneak peek of Terry Pratchett’s The Shepherd’s Crown (HarperCollins; HarperCollinsAudio and Blackstone Audio) last week and on its heels comes Michael Dirda’s RA-friendly review and very helpful summary of the entire Tiffany Aching story arc.

Writing in The Washington Post, Dirda guides readers through Tiffany’s adventures, starting with The Wee Free Men (2003) and continuing through A Hat Full of Sky (2004), Wintersmith (2006) and I Shall Wear Midnight (2010). He explains both the story arc and the point of the adventures.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 11.43.34 AMDirda clearly admires Pratchett and adores Tiffany, sharing an excerpt from The Wee Free Men:

“Another world is colliding with this one,” said the toad. . . . “All the monsters are coming back.”

“Why?” said Tiffany.

“There’s no one to stop them.”

There was silence for a moment.

“There’s me,” said Tiffany.

Writing about his feelings when reading, re-reading, and thinking of that passage, Dirda says, “Even now, I feel a thrill just typing those words.”

Readers’ advisory librarians in search of a quick catchup will be happy not only with Dirda’s summary but the way he shares his joy in the entire series.

The review ends with a quick summary:

The Shepherd’s Crown is certainly a worthy crown to Terry Pratchett’s phenomenal artistic achievement, though sharp readers will recognize that some elements… are never fully developed. Moreover, anyone expecting lots of laughs will need to revisit some of the other books set on Discworld… much of this novel concerns itself with death and life’s purpose, while also examining the claims of tradition against the need for change and progress. Above all, though, The Shepherd’s Crown — like all of Pratchett’s fiction — stresses the importance of helping others.

Iggulden Novels to Big Screen Franchise

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

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After The Hunger Games and Divergent where do you turn for your next franchise?

Lionsgate’s Summit Entertainment will move from the dystopian future to the historical past, reports Deadline, with a potential trilogy about Julius Caesar, based on Conn Iggulden’s Emperor novels.

The first film, titled Emperorwill be based on The Gates Of Rome and The Field Of Swords (both trade pbk, RH/Delta).

The series consists of five books.

The author recently began a new series about England dynastic wars. The second in the series was published this year, Wars of the Roses: Margaret of Anjou (Penguin/Putnam, 6/16/15).

Along with his brother Hal Iggulden, he also published the surprise best seller, The Dangerous Book for Boys (Collins, 2007). In the fall NBC bought the rights to a series based on the book to be produced by Bryan Cranston.

Nancy Pearl Revisits
Her Home Town

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 12.08.25 PM This week on the NPR affiliate KUOW show “On the Record,” librarian Nancy Pearl talks about Angela Flournoy’s debut The Turner House (HMH; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample), a book set in Nancy’s hometown of Detroit.

The novel, which was a May Indie Next pick and one of our Eight Titles to Know and Recommend for the week of April 13, is set in the East Side of Detroit, from the early 1950s through the 2000s.

About a large African American family with 13 children, it focuses on the oldest son and youngest daughter, it blends history, including the Civil Rights era in Detroit and the northern migration, into the story of place and family.

Nancy suggests it for readers interested in characters and calls it “such a good reading experience.”

ROOTS Remake

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

9781593154493Referred to as an “up-and-coming British actor” by Deadline, Malachi Kirby has just landed the lead role as Kunta Kinte in A+E Networks’ remake of the seminal 1977 TV series Roots, based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Alex Haley (cover of the 2007 Thirtieth Anniversary Edition, left). LeVar Burton played Kinte in the original series.

Playing author Alex Haley in the series is Laurence Fishburne. In the original, James Earl Jones played Haley, appearing in the first episode of the series.

Set to begin shooting next month in South Africa and New Orleans, it is expected to air some time next year.

Kirby is known in the U.K. for his role in the TV series East Enders. He also starred as the younger brother in the 2013 British film Gone Too Far. The trailer, below, includes an eerie foreshadowing of his future role.