Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

On the Rise: Saunders’s Debut Novel

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

9780812995343_73f0aThe debut novel by acclaimed short story writer George Saunders,  Lincoln in the Bardo (PRH/RH; RH Audio/BOT; Overdrive Sample), is rising on Amazon in advance of its release next week.

It has enjoyed an enviable range of critical coverage, including the cover of in the upcoming NYT Book Review written by Colson Whitehead. He says:

“It’s a very pleasing thing to watch a writer you have enjoyed for years reach an even higher level of achievement … George Saunders pulled that off with The Tenth Of December, his 2013 book of short stories. How gratifying and unexpected that he has repeated the feat with Lincoln in the Bardo, his first novel and a luminous feat of generosity and humanism.’’

The novel centers around the death of President Lincoln’s 11 year-old son Willie, who is laid to rest in a crypt in a DC graveyard populated by a number of people in a kind of limbo, including the President himself. Whitehead explains “The bardo of the title is a transitional state in Buddhism, where consciousness resides between death and the next life.”

Michiko Kakutani, in a NYT daily review published today, says the novel is like:

a weird folk art diorama of a cemetery come to life. Picture, as a backdrop, one of those primitively drawn 19th-century mourning paintings with rickety white gravestones and age-worn monuments standing under the faded green canopy of a couple of delicately sketched trees. Add a tall, sad mourner, grieving over his recently deceased son. And then, to make things stranger, populate the rest of the scene with some Edward Gorey-style ghosts, skittering across the landscape — at once menacing, comical and slightly tongue-in-cheek.”

Critics compare it to multi-voiced works such as Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, and Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. New York magazine, however, says that “polyphonic approach can be dizzying … it can be hard to follow and tricky to keep in your head” and calls the book “very, very weird” with a “premise loaded with pathos but thin on dramatic tension.”

In his ultimately positive review, Washington Post critic Ron Charles says it is “a strikingly original production, a divisively odd book bound either to dazzle or alienate readers … an extended national ghost story, an erratically funny and piteous seance of grief … [it] confounds our expectations of what a novel should look and sound like.”

Expect more to come. Already Zadie Smith has called it a “masterpiece” in a “By the Book” column in the NYT and the WSJ provides a mix of review and interview.

For such a heavily anticipated novel, libraries have ordered surprisingly few copies and are showing 1:1 holds. Those that ordered very few copies are showing ratios as high as 11:1.

Orwell To Broadway

Monday, February 6th, 2017

1984-01A stage adaptation of 1984, George Orwell’s famous vision of a dystopian future, is heading to Broadway.

The production team behind Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will open the play on June 22 in NYC, reports Variety. It is based on Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s London production, which was a hit there in 2014.

Of the London run, the NYT wrote it was “willfully assaultive … Doublethink, a key notion in the Newspeak vocabulary that Orwell invented for 1984, spirals into quadruplethink and beyond.”

According to the paper it has already been staged in US theaters in California, Massachusetts, and Washington DC.

The story is being picked up widely, from the Rolling Stone to Paste.

New York Magazine says “Big Brother is arriving from overseas … from the land of Brexit to the land of Trump” and reports “it will arrive in New York with its London creative team intact, adding a new American cast of party members and proles.”

As we have noted, interest is booming for dystopian stories, which Paste recognizes in their headline, “1984 Comes to Broadway—With Excellent Timing.

Below are samples from the London production:

Handmaid’s Super Bowl Trailer

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

mv5botu3njczmteznv5bml5banbnxkftztgwnjk5mzcwmti-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_If you choose the Puppy Bowl over the Super Bowl this weekend, you will miss an ad for Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale (Houghton Mifflin, 1986). Good news, it has been released on YouTube, so you can have both. [UPDATE: as a result, the book shot to #1 on Amazon’s rankings on Monday].

The Super Bowl clip features more backstory as well as footage of the terror the handmaid’s face.

Two tag lines emerge. Elizabeth Moss, playing the handmaid Offred says: “My name is Offred — and I intend to survive.”

Joseph Fiennes, playing Commander Waterford, officially empowered to imprison and force Offred to bear his child, says: “We only wanted to make the world better, but ‘better’ never means better for everyone.”

Entertainment Weekly reports on the trailer in detail.

The series will premiere on April 26, 2017. A tie-in comes out in late March: The Handmaid’s Tale (Movie Tie-in), (PRH/Anchor, trade pbk; March 28, 2017). The book is rising on best seller lists and some see that as having more to do with protests against the Trump administration than with the upcoming series. The producer and the cast themselves have called the 20-year-old dystopian novel it is based on “prescient.”

DOMESTIC FAILURE Finds Success

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

9780778330684_f2b57Known for her satirical Facebook posts as “The Honest Toddler,” Bunmi Laditan just announced that she is publishing a novel this summer, Confessions of a Domestic Failure (HC/MIRA; May 2, 2017), sending it soaring to #16 on Amazon’s sales rankings.

The publisher bills it as a witty “lambasting [of] the societal pressures placed upon every new mother” and seals that with a blurb from satiric-blogger-turned-best-selling author Jenny Lawson, “Freaking hilarious. This is the novel moms have been waiting for.” No pre-pub reviews have appeared so far.

Only a few of the libraries we checked have placed orders.

Laditan also wrote The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting (S&S/Scribner; Tantor Media; OverDrive Sample) and Toddlers are A**Holes: It’s Not Your Fault (Workman; RH Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample).

SMALL GREAT THINGS To Screen

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

9780345544957_b58a3Jodi Picoult’s most recent novel, Small Great Things (PRH/Ballantine; RH Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample), is movie-bound with an attention-getting all-star cast.

Deadline Hollywood reports that Viola Davis and Julia Roberts will star and that a producer for La La Land will help shepherd the project.

As we noted at the time it hit shelves, the LibraryReads selection generated media attention.  It debuted on the NYT Hardcover Fiction list at #1 and is currently at #8 after 14 weeks.

NPR Weekend Edition Saturday featured the author, opening with a gripping summary:

“Ruth Jefferson, a labor and delivery nurse at a hospital in Connecticut … is barred from tending to a newborn baby by the baby’s parents. Ruth Jefferson is African-American. Brittany and Turk Bauer are white supremacists. But Davis, their baby, goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is on duty, briefly alone in the nursery. Should she disobey the order she’s been given by the hospital or touch the baby to try to save him? And does her slight hesitation doom the newborn boy?”

Picot also appeared on CBS This Morning. Host Gayle King noting that the book is “thought-provoking … interesting … and so timely,”asked Picoult how a “white woman of privilege” writes a book confronting racism.

It is early days yet so there is no word on when filming will begin. The paperback edition comes out in June from PRH/Ballantine.

First Trailer: My Cousin Rachel

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

9781402217098Daphne du Maurier’s moody Gothic romances have been adapted by many directors. Alfred Hicthock was a particular fan, basing two of his movies on her novels Rebecca and Jamaica Inn and a third, The Birds on one of her short stories.

One that escaped him was 1951’s My Cousin Rachel (republished in 2009 by Sourcebooks Landmark; Hachette Audio; OverDrive Sample). Adapted as a film in 1954, it starred Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton, winning him a Golden Globe award as “Most Promising Newcomer, Male.” 

The international trailer for a new adaptation, set to debut on July 14, has just been released.

Director Robert Michell (Notting Hill) tells The Telegraph that his version, starring Rachel Weisz (The Mummy) and Sam Claflin (Hunger Games), will be “detailed, dark, sexy, cinematic and full of surprises.” 

Variety summarizes the Cornwall-set story as that “of a young Englishman who plots revenge against his mysterious, beautiful cousin, believing that she murdered his guardian. But his feelings become complicated as he finds himself falling under the beguiling spell of her charms.” As Slate notes, the sex between cousins angle was toned down for 1950’s sensibilities. It seems that will not be an issue this time around.

THE PASSAGE Trilogy Heads to TV

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

After a flirtation with the big screen, Justin Cronin’s post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy trilogy is now headed to the small screen via a pilot order by Fox for a possible 10-episode series adaptation.

Liz Heldens (Friday Night Lights) will write the pilot and Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) will direct. Cronin is on board as a co-producer.

Deadline Hollywood reports “The Passage‘s road to the screen started in 2007 when, in a fierce bidding situation … Fox 2000 landed the first book — then half-written — for $1.75 million … Originally developed as a feature, the producers eventually determined that the property would be better served as a TV series.”

Scott Free Productions is behind the series. Founded by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, The Martian) and his brother Tony Scott (Top Gun), the production company is no stranger to high concept adaptations. They are the team responsible for The Man in the High Castle based on Philip K. Dick’s classic 1954 SF title and AMC’s upcoming The Terror, based on Dan Simmons’s historical horror novel.

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The trilogy consists of:

The Passage (PRH/Ballantine, 2010; RH Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample)

The Twelve (PRH/Ballantine, 2012; RH Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample)

The City of Mirrors (PRH/Ballantine, 2016; RH Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample)

Back to the Future

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

1484156264-atwood1-1484154644UPDATE: Another older title experiencing a sudden boost is Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (Houghton Mifflin, 1985). As the NYT reports, several signs spotted at the recent Women’s Marches made reference to the book. In addition, producers of the upcoming Hulu TV adaptation, which debuts April 26 starring Elizabeth Moss, say it  intentionally parallels the current political atmosphere.

1984-01George Orwell’s 1949 classic dystopian novel, 1984 (PRH/Berkley; Blackstone Audio; PRH/Signet mass market) is making headlines and is the bestselling book on Amazon.

Its popularity has brought a 75,000 copy reprint from Penguin USA, and a possible additional printing.

The NYT reports that demand for the novel rose on Sunday, after Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, used the phrase “alternative facts” during a contentious interview on Meet the Press about White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s first press briefing.

Entertainment Weekly reports “The connection between ‘alternative facts’ and Orwell’s dystopian novel was made on CNN’s Reliable Sources, where Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty said, “Alternative facts is a George Orwell phrase.’ ”

The Guardian writes that readers and reporters were quick to make comparisons to the novel’s “fictional language that aims at eliminating personal thought.”

Outside of the United States interest is strong for the novel as well. The NYT reports that this January “sales have risen by 20 percent in Britain and Australia compared to the same period a year ago.”

happen-hereAs we posted earlier, 1984 is not the only classic getting increased attention since the election. Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here (PRH/Signet; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample), is also selling well, both in the US and the UK. Penguin re-printed it in Britain last Friday for the first time since its original publication date and adds that they are “already on to our third printing.”

The NYT published a new essay on Lewis’s novel, which Jon Meacham also mentioned in his newly launched book essay series for the paper,”The Long View.”

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Other dark political classics doing well on Amazon include Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (HC/Harper Perennial; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample), Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (S&S; Tantor; OverDrive Sample), and Orwell’s Animal Farm (PRH/Berkley; Blackstone Audio).

The New GIRL?

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

The Girl BeforeCalled the “‘ top girl’ of this season’s suspense novels,” by The Washington Post and picked as the #1 LibraryReads title for January, The Girl Before by JP Delaney (PRH/Ballantine; RH Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample), receives two additional high profile reviews today.

Charles Finch, author of the Charles Lenox mysteries, gives it three stars in USA Today. He opens by listing its “major faults,” but then goes on to say “Delaney has created a genuinely eerie, fascinating setting … The pages fly.”

Putting Delaney in the company of Ruth Ware, B.A. Paris, and Shari Lapena, “the tier of writers a solid two or three notches below Tana French and Gillian Flynn,” he points out that even an imperfect novel can be fun to read and, as his review illustrates, fun to talk about. He concludes that this one is “worth a few hours of idle pleasure.”

Janet Maslin is less generous in her NYT review, headlined, “He Doesn’t Like It When You Leave Your Shampoo Out.”

She acknowledges that the novel works in many ways. It is set in “a high-tech house so sadistic that it practically spanks” the main characters. It features a man who is  “50 shades of pervy but still charms, ” is fast paced, and “milks suspense” from its juxtaposing plots.

Unlike Finch, Maslin, who was an early supporter of the fun to be had from recent successful “girl”  titles, does not find this one a worthy “girl” contender, saying “The author, clearly writing with commercial success in mind, has used as many other familiar genre ploys as the book can hold, to the point at which it has everything but a dead cat. Oh, wait. There’s a dead cat too.” There is also “clumsy trickery” and, at times, “unnerving ghoulishness.”

Based on the strong holds in libraries, Finch’s theory, that an imperfect novel can still be fun to read, has more followers.

UPDATE: the minimal book trailer underscores the meaning of the title.

GOOD OMENS To Screen

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

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Amazon plans to produce a six-part series based on Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, a fantasy-comedy novel written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins, 2007; trade pbk.; orig. pub date 1990; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample).

Slate reports BBC Studios will partner with Amazon and that Gaiman has already written all of the episodes. He will also act as showrunner and serve as a co-producer.

Amazon summarizes the series in its press release:

Good Omens takes place in 2018 when the Apocalypse is near and Final Judgment is set to descend upon humanity … So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, and tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming war. And…someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist.”

In the same release, Gaiman says “Almost thirty years ago, Terry Pratchett and I wrote the funniest novel we could about the end of the world … It became many people’s favourite book. Three decades later, it’s going to make it to the screen … I just wish Sir Terry were alive to see it.”

The Guardian points out that it has been adapted before, as an award-winning radio drama on BBC Radio 4 and there were a proposal for a film adaptation, directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Johnny Depp as Crowley and Robin Williams as Aziraphale, that did not move forward.

The series will premiere sometime in 2018. Casting information is not yet available.

Holds Alert: HISTORY OF WOLVES

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

9780802125873_cb9d6Demand is continuing to build for Emily Fridlund’s debut novel History of Wolves (Atlantic Monthly Press; Recorded Books; OverDrive Sample), with library holds ratios topping 4:1 in a number of systems.

As we reported earlier, it was released to the kind of buzz that generally signals a hit. Since then, the NYT and LA Times have also weighed in.

The reviewer for the NYT Sunday Book Review says that this “novel of ideas …  reads like smart pulp, a page-turner of craft and calibration.”

The L.A. Times writes “the chilly power of History of Wolves packs a wallop that’s hard to shake off … Fridlund … has constructed an elegant, troubling debut, both immersed in the natural world but equally concerned with issues of power, family, faith and the gap between understanding something and being able to act on the knowledge.”

On the other hand, the critic for the daily NYT Jennifer Senior, objects that the novel’s tension is drawn out too long and as a result “Those thunderheads massing on the horizon let loose only a weak drizzle.”

Edgar Nominees Announced

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Today is the 208th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth, excellent timing for the announcement of the 2017 Edgar Nominees.

9781455561780_72e84The buzziest title among the five nominees for Best Novel is Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall (Hachette/Grand Central; OverDrive Sample).

It debuted at #2 on the NYT Hardcover Fiction list and racked up impressive holds queues when first released. Written by the creator of the Fargo TV series on FX, it earned multiple starred reviews in advance of publication and made a number of end-of-year best lists.

Somewhat more under the radar,9780399169496_dec56 Jane Steele, by Lyndsay Faye (PRH/G.P. Putnam’s Sons; BOT; OverDrive Sample), also a Best Novel nominee, caught the attention of library staff, as a LibraryReads choice in March and a #libfaves2016 title. One librarian summed it up well:

JANE STEELE by Lyndsay Faye – excellent re-imagining of Jane Eyre if Jane killed off all the people who deserved it. — Jane Jorgenson@madpoptart

9781101903735_a6beaThe Best First Novel category includes Dodgers by Bill Beverly (PRH/Crown; BOT; OverDrive Sample), which made both Amazon and Booklist‘s end-of-year selections and was among the Carnegie Medal’s longlist titles. It was an Indie Next choice and a B&N Discover pick as well. The Bookreporter writes “Those who enjoy reading George Pelecanos and Cormac McCarthy, or viewing Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, will find much to love here.”

9780316267724_1a04aAnother first novel nominee that received strong critical attention this year, IQ by Joe Ide (Hachette/Mulholland Books; Hachette Audio; OverDrive Sample), was on The New York Times best of the year list. Entertainment Weekly called it a “crackling page-turner” in their Fall Book Preview.

9781594205781_2dcf5Kate Summerscale, as the NYT notes, has found a “nifty literary specialty: resurrecting and reanimating, in detail as much forensic as it is novelistic, notorious true-life tales of the Victorian era.” Her latest, The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer (PRH/Penguin; OverDrive Sample) is a contender in the Best Fact Crime category. The Atlantic wrote that Summerscale “expertly probes the deep anxieties of a modernizing era. Even better, she brings rare biographical tenacity and sympathy to bear.”

9780871403131_8fe66The critically praised biography of the author of “The Lottery” is among the Best Critical/Biographical nominees. Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin (Norton/Liveright; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample) is on multiple year-end best lists, including those by Booklist, Kirkus, NYTBR, Publishers Weekly, and The Washington Post.

The award winners will be named on April 27 in a ceremony to be held in NYC, a city that claims him as their own, as the NYT points out today (Boston, Richmond, and Baltimore will beg to differ). The dress code? The Mystery Writers of America says “Dress to Kill – Black Tie Preferred.”

The full list of nominees is now online.

George Saunders on Audio

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

9780812995343_73f0aThe literary world is eagerly awaiting the debut novel from George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo (PRH/RH; RH Audio/BOT; Feb. 14).

Audiobook fans should start the countdown as well.

Time magazine reports it will be an event, an audiobook with 166 narrators, each reading a single character. So many readers will contribute, in fact, that Time says Penguin Random House Audio is applying for a Guinness World Record.

The cast for the production looks like a Hollywood red carpet. Nick Offerman, Lena Dunham, Ben Stiller, Susan Sarandon, and Don Cheadle all have parts. So do Jeffrey Tambor, Bradley Whitford, and Megan Mullally.

Authors David Sedaris, Mary Karr, and Miranda July narrate, as does Saunders himself. Award-winning professional narrators Kirby Heyborne and Cassandra Campbell participate as well.

Saunders tells Time, “This was a really gratifying artistic venture … I love the way that the variety of contemporary American voices mimics and underscores the feeling I tried to evoke in the book: a sort of American chorale.”

Readers and listeners might want to keep the concept of a chorale in mind. Early reviews point out the complexity of the reading. As Booklist puts it the “surreal action … resembles a play, or a prose variation on Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology (1915), as [the multiple characters] tell their stories.”

A clip of the recording gives a taste of the mix of voices:

Brandon Sanderson To Big Screen, Times Two

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

9780385743563_594189780385743587_33252One of the biggest names in Fantasy is going to the movies.

Brandon Sanderson’s YA series, The Reckoners, has just been bought by 20th Century Fox in what Deadline Hollywood calls “a hotly contested” deal. Both Steelheart and Firefight, the first two books in the series, will be adapted.

Deadline describes the series:

“a burst in the sky gave ordinary people extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics, but with incredible gifts came the desire to rule. In what was once Chicago, an … Epic named Steelheart installed himself as emperor. Nobody fights back but the Reckoners, a shadowy group of ordinary humans who spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.”

9780385743600_ffd5eSteelheart came out in 2013 (PRH/Delacorte Press; RH Audio; Brilliance Audio; OverDrive Sample)

Firefight followed in 2015 (PRH/Delacorte Press; Brilliance Audio; OverDrive Sample)

Calamity, the final book in the trilogy, came out in 2016 (PRH/Delacorte Press; Brilliance Audio; OverDrive Sample). The trade paperback of Calamity hits shelves on 2/28/17 (PRH/Ember).

wp_20150517_109-1Also in the works, from MGM, is Sanderson’s Snapshot, a SF detective thriller novella about a society, says Deadline, that:

“can create a snapshot of a specific day in time. The experiences people have, the paths they follow — all of them are real again for one day in the snapshot. All for the purposes of investigation by the court. The cop uses it as a way to find where a criminal dumped a weapon or what really happened in a domestic dispute. It’s drudgery, until the day the cop investigates the memory of a call that was never logged, and he makes a horrifying discovery.”

According to Sanderson’s website, the print book comes out in February in an expensive leather-bound edition, but also as a simultaneous ebook and, later in 2017, in a regular hardcover edition.

THE SPY Is Hot

Monday, January 16th, 2017

19494John le Carré’s beloved 1963 thriller, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (PRH/Penguin, reprint 2013; OverDrive Sample), is headed to TV as a limited-series adaptation created by AMC and the BBC.

It follows on the success of The Night Manager adaptation, which just won three Golden Globes (stars Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston and Olivia Colman each took home awards) and racked up a great deal of critical praise during its run.

New York Magazine reports that “Oscar winner Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) will write the entire series.” The Hollywood Reporter quotes le Carré as saying “I’m very excited by the project, and have great confidence in the team.” As well he might, many of the figures behind Night‘s success are back at the helm.

Nearly fifty years after the novel’s original publication, author William Boyd summarized its enduring power, for The Guardian, calling the story,

“a complicated act of deadly triple-bluff perpetrated by the British Secret Service against its enemies in the German Democratic Republic … At its centre is Alec Leamas, sent, he believes, on a clever under-cover mission of revenge but in fact the unwitting tool of even cleverer British brains with other motives”

Boyd goes on to praise its tone and skillful construction, writing “one of the sheer pleasures of the grade one espionage novel is in unravelling its multifarious complexities and le Carré handles the unspooling web of narrative and motive with exemplary poise … there is a clear sense in The Spy of a writer hitting his stride with resolute confidence.”

mv5bmjyxodq0nzy1nv5bml5banbnxkftztcwnze4ntg5mq-_v1_The book was adapted into a movie, the 1965 Oscar nominated film starring Richard Burton and directed by Martin Ritt (Hombre, Norma Rae).

The TV project is just getting underway so there is no word yet on its stars or air date.