Published in July, the middle-grade novel, The Girl who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (Workman/Algonquin Young Readers) received rapturous reviews, including stars from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal and Booklist plus the NYT Sunday Review, which wrote, “Kelly Barnhill’s wonderful fourth novel … educates about oppression, blind allegiance and challenging the status quo while immersing the reader in an exhilarating story full of magical creatures and derring-do.” It also has a large number of “Much Love” ratings from booksellers and librarians on Edelweiss.
Word has made it to Hollywood. Fox Animation has picked up the movie rights. Deadline reports, it “is expected to be a hybrid live-action/animation.”
New York magazine calls the comic book Cage “one of the most important black characters in sequential art,” noting, however, that over his 44-year history, Marvel struggled to “make the character relevant in a world where conceptions of black characters in American pop culture were rapidly evolving.”
Charting the character’s evolution in “5 Comics to Read Before You Watch Luke Cage,” New York magazine writes that the first stories, collected in Luke Cage, Hero For Hire vol. 1, represent “Marvel Comics’ blatant attempt to cash in on the Blaxploitation craze.” As a result, the collection is “somewhat awkward to read today, with its urban patois (penned by white men, of course) and simplistic depictions of avarice.”
The Netflix series is quite the opposite. As the show’s creator Ched Hodari Coulter tells Wired magazine in a cover feature on the series, “There have been African American superheroes on our screens before—such as Wesley Snipes’ titular turn in Blade—but Luke Cage is the first to be surrounded by an almost completely black cast and writing team and whose powers and challenges are so explicitly linked to the black experience in America.”
A collection of comics featuring the character was released in August, Luke Cage: Avenger, (Marvel).
A gazetteer to the “the weird, the unexpected, the overlooked, the hidden and the mysterious” places of the planet, from a 40-year old sound instillation still humming away in Times Square to a tree in South Africa with a pub inside, is rising on Amazon’s sales rankings and in holds as a result of a round of media attention.
The coverage helped launch the atlas into Amazon’s top 10 sellers.
Public radio is big on the book. In an earlier story for NPR’s 13.7: Cosmos & Culture, a blog about science and culture, an essayist writes,
“The human brain seems to love lists and, at its core, Atlas Obscura is a text-rich, prettily illustrated, brick of a list. It invites us to compose fantasy travel lists of our own, or seek places we’ve already traveled to that have made the cut … Fair warning: It’s addictive.”
Back in 2015, PRI’s The Takeaway featured the website’s creation of a detailed literary map of road trips across America and discusses the ways different authors over time have described the same landscapes.
The new novel picks “up right where that first book left off” says NPR reviewer Amal El-Mohtart, “plunging us deep into the Evil Earth and all its machinations after the first” (The Fifth Season). She continues, it “pole-vaults over the expectations I had for what epic fantasy should be and stands in magnificent testimony to what it could be.”
The SF site, Tor.com has different take on the book, writing “The Obelisk Gate is small and safe where The Fifth Season was large and surprising.” It happens that El-Mohtart also writes for Tor.com and begins a short exchange with their reviewer in the comments section, helping RA librarians by speculating that reading both books back-to-back might affect a readers perception.
io9 sides with El-Mohtart regardless of reading order. They featured the book in their August list of “15 Must-Read” titles for the month.
The Fantasy fan world initially took note of the author when she won the Locus award in the first novel category for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Her profile rose even higher when The Fifth Season was shortlisted for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. It also hit many best books lists for the year, including the New York Times and the Washington Post‘s.
She is known for elaborate world-building, her unique settings, far beyond the typical locales for Fantasy, and her strong point of view. As The Guardian puts it, “Stereotypical fantasy series like, say, The Lord of the Rings, usually present a virtuous status quo threatened by a dark and eventually defeated outsider. But Jemisin’s stories almost always involve a flawed order, and the efforts (also flawed) to overthrow it.”
Host Terry Gross talked with the author, Ed Yong, a writer at the The Atlantic and for National Geographic‘s “science salon,” Phenomena. The early part of the interview is a not-for-dinner-table conversation about fecal transplants and “fake poop.” It then moves to a more wide ranging and fascinating exploration of what the microbiome and its nearly countless numbers do.
One intriguing outtake is the fact that humans have evolved so that the sugars in breast milk feed the microbes in a baby’s stomach, sugars specifically meant for the microbe as the baby cannot digest them. Yong says “So breast milk isn’t just a way of nourishing an infant. It’s a way of nourishing babies’ first microbes. It’s really a way of engineering an entire world inside a baby’s body. You know, breastfeeding mother is a sculptor of ecosystems.”
There is also a microbe called Wolbachia that “allows some caterpillars that eat leaves to stop the leaves from turning yellow. It actually holds back the progress of fall so that … its hosts can have more to eat.”
To close the interview Gross asks Yong what he thinks about now that he knows about the microbiome multitudes and he says,
“all this biology which I thought I knew, all these creatures, these elephants and hawks and fish that I was fascinated by, these things I could see with my eyes, are actually deeply and profoundly influenced by things that I cannot see. And I know that if I go to a zoo now that every animal and every visitor in that zoo is in fact a zoo in its own right.”
Trevor Noah took over hosting The Daily Show from Jon Stewart last year. His predecessor was beloved by publishers for the many writers he featured on the show and for the resulting bumps in sales of their books.
Noah has not followed in those footsteps. While he has featured writers, they have been the usual late show mix of well known comedians and politicians who just happen to have written books and those appearances have rarely produced noticeable sales bumps.
Noah is passionate about the book, calling it “one of the most fantastic books I have read in a long time,” continuing that it is a “powerful … beautiful story … hopeful while at the same time being very realistic … you cry and you laugh as you are reading it.”
Gyasi says her visit to a slave fort in Ghana spurred her to write about the “diaspora as a family … if you go back far enough in time the thing that connects us … both African immigrants and African Americans … is the fact that we were all related … I wanted to bring it down to that most elemental level … to connect the family for all of us.” She also says that the story of slavery cannot be told without including the role played by African slave traders.
Noah closed the brief interview by reminding the audience that Gyasi’s novel is being hailed as “the new Roots of our generation” and saying he expects to be hearing more from her.
A circuitous publishing path has brought new attention to a frontier memoir, recounting the hardscrabble life in Arkansas and on the Mississippi Delta during the late 1800s and early 1900s, Trials of the Earth: The True Story of a Pioneer Woman, Mary Mann Hamilton (Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio; OverDrive Sample).
Featured on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday, the book is rising on Amazon, leapfrogging over a thousand other books to move from #1,170 to #76.
Hamilton’s life story first saw the light of day when a neighbor urged her to enter her journal into a writing competition sponsored by publisher Little, Brown in 1933. It did not win and languished in a box kept under a bed, until the University Press of Mississippi published it to little fanfare in 1992 (although it was reviewed by the New York Times). Coming full circle, Little, Brown, has just published a new edition.
NPR reviewer Maureen Corrigan calls it a “standout,” with a “blunt voice” that makes vivid the world Hamilton occupied. Highlighting a racist passage, she warns some of the “sections are ugly and tough to read” but that ultimately the book is rewarding, revealing the wildness of that world and “just how easy it was to vanish in an earlier America.”
USA Today gave it three out of four stars, writing it “underscores the huge power of unvarnished storytelling.”
The Chicago Tribune writes vividly about the “backbreaking labor” and wilderness Hamilton existed within, offering a picture of a woman tough as nails. In an especially intense example: soon after Hamilton gave birth, her home was cut off by flood waters, she “shelters with her daughter and three-month-old baby on a tree stump while bears swim past in the flood, not knowing whether her husband is dead or alive.”
Similar to the unexpected success of another frontier memoir, Pioneer Girl, holds are growing and inventory is low. In libraries we checked some systems are showing hold figures as high as 6:1.
One of the new movies opening this week is a blast from the past, Ben-Hur.
NY Magazine writes that the book it is based on “was a best seller on release, surpassing Uncle Tom’s Cabin as the most-purchased American book in history, and holding that record for an astounding 56 years (Gone With the Wind unseated it).”
Forbes reviews the re-make, saying “the pitch here is basically 300: Rise of an Empire … with cheaper looking costumes, the same CGI and editing, and Morgan Freeman, whose performance as God in Bruce Almighty and as a divine narrator in so many other things helps subtly sell the godly aspect.”
The biblical epic is executive produced by Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) and husband Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, The Apprentice). It stars Jack Huston and Morgan Freeman and opens Aug. 19.
War Dogs opens on August 19 and stars Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, Bradley Cooper, Ana de Armas and J. B. Blanc.
As we wrote earlier, it is based on a nonfiction account originally titled Arms and the Dudes. It tells the unlikely story about winning a $300 million US government contract to supply weapons for the war in Afghanistan.
A tie-in came out in late July: War Dogs: The True Story of How Three Stoners From Miami Beach Became the Most Unlikely Gunrunners in History, Guy Lawson (S&S; OverDrive Sample; also in mass market).
Also heading to theaters is Kubo and the Two Strings by Oregon’s stop-motion animation house Laika (the operation behind Coraline and The Boxtrolls).
As we wrote when the preview lit up the Internet, the the fantasy-adventure is set in Japan and features the voices of Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, George Takei and Art Parkinson (Game of Thrones). It debuts in theaters on 8/19/16.
Opening in limited release is A Tale of Love and Darkness, Natalie Portman’s directorial debut (she acts in the film as well). It is based on the memoir of the same name by Israeli author Amos Oz.
Variety calls the film “well-meaning but dreary,” but Esquire headlines it as “the Most Revolutionary Jewish Movie Since Schindler’s List” and goes on to say it “is urgently relevant and unlike anything else.”
There is no tie-in but the book is available in paperback: A Tale of Love and Darkness, Amos Oz, translated by Nicholas de Lange (HMH/Mariner Books).
Jacqueline Woodson’s first novel for adults in two decades, Another Brooklyn (HarperCollins/Amistad; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample), is racing up the Amazon sales ranks, moving from #1,678 to #346.
The jump is a result of Woodson’s appearance on NPR’s Fresh Air, where she talks with host Terry Gross about poetry, sex, gender, homosexuality, and how growing up in a deeply religious family fueled her creativity and instilled in her a confidence that she had “a right to say what I believe in.”
USA Today reviewed the coming of age novel Tuesday, giving it 3 out of 4 stars and writing “it’s a story about adolescence as a feat of survival … alert to the confluences of dramas that a teen absorbs all at once, from racism to sexual abuse to the loss of family members.”
It is the #1 Indie Pick for August and earned rare all-star status from the four trade review journals. As we wrote earlier, it is on the majority of the summer reading lists and is sure to be heavily reviewed.
One of the most-reviled medical practices of the last century is the lobotomy. In a book published this week, Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets, (PRH/Random House; RH Audio/BOT), Luke Dittrich examines one of the practitioners, a neurosurgeon who lobotomized Patient H.M. in an effort to solve his epilepsy. As a result, the patient emerged from the operation unable to create new memories and, in a time when “the lines between medical practice and medical research were blurry” became the “most important research subject in the history of brain science.” Dittrich says he finds the story personally shocking, particularly because the neurosurgeon was his grandfather.
An excerpt titled, “The Brain That Couldn’t Remember: The untold story of the fight over the legacy of ‘H.M.’ — the patient who revolutionized the science of memory” is the cover of this week’s New York Times Magazine.
UPDATE: A letter of protest sent to the NYT (but, oddly, not to the book’s publisher), signed by 200 members of the scientific community, most of them from MIT, protests parts of the story that are critical of MIT professor Suzanne Corkin.
With her 8th novel, a dark thriller about a young female gymnast,You Will Know Me(Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio; OverDrive Sample), author Megan Abbott is poised to break out,
It got the NPR bounce on Amazon (rising to #145) after Maureen Corrigan reviewed it on yesterday’s Fresh Air, using gymnast metaphors to describe it as a “terrific new psychological suspense novel [with] a plot that somersaults and back flips whenever a safe landing seems in sight.”
It’s been racking up positive reviews, with the daily NYT ‘s critic Jennifer Senior enthusing that Abbott “is in top form in this novel … filling her readers with queasy suspicion at every turn.”
The timing of the release conveniently ties in to the Summer Olympics. Interviewed by Entertainment Weekly Abbott says that the inspiration for the parents in the novel came directly from US Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, who recently pulled off a nail bitter to qualify for the women’s all-around finals. Abbott references video footage that went viral in 2012, but Aly’s mom and dad are also getting noticed this year (see video below).
Holds are soaring, with some libraries we checked running as high as 5:1.
In spite of some pretty damning reviews. the comics-based movie, Suicide Squad had what Deadline characterizes as a “huge” opening this weekend. They credit that success in part to the diverse cast of Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto and Viola Davis.
Opening this week is Pete’s Dragon, the next in the Disney run of remakes of their earlier successes (Jungle Book, Cinderella), creating a new story from the 1977 original. Debuting Aug. 12, it stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, and Robert Redford.
IndieWire calls it “a warm, wistful, and wholly wonderful remake.” Variety says it is one “of the year’s most delightful moviegoing surprises, a quality family film that rewards young people’s imaginations and reminds us of a time when the term ‘Disney movie; meant something: namely, wholesome entertainment that inspired confidence in parents and reinforced solid American values.”
The Hollywood Reporter disagrees, calling it “dismayingly dull,” while The Guardiansays it “is part ET, part Jungle Book, part Peanuts. It’s sweet and soulful and Spielberg-ish, but with a bitter streak.”
A very different film premieres as well, the Mel Gibson vehicle Blood Father, a “rescue-and-revenge thriller,” as Variety calls it, featuring Gibson as a very, very down-on-his-luck father who takes on all comers to save his daughter. It is based on the 2005 book of the same name by Peter Craig (no tie-in has been released).
The Guardian, calls the film “a muscular and deliriously entertaining B-movie that is sure to play like gangbusters with genre aficionados,” continuing “As comeback projects go, Blood Father is stellar. It’s a wonder Quentin Tarantino, the king of career resurrection, didn’t get to Gibson first.”
Variety agrees, saying it is a “a perfect platform to launch the comeback of Mel Gibson … a way to remind people that Gibson, if given the chance, could juice up a serious movie.” About the film itself, they call it “a grimy little pulp action thriller … a scuzzy-bloody B-movie … way down on the totem pole of respectability.”
Indiewire was less impressed saying “Gibson now solidifies his new stature as a B-movie star, fated to anchor discardable material readymade for the bottom-of-the-barrel VOD treatment.”
On the small screen comes Chesapeake Shores, the Hallmark Channel adaptation of Sherryl Woods’s ten-book series of the same name. The first episodes follow events from The Inn at Eagle Point, Sherryl Woods (HC/MIRA; OverDrive Sample).
As Deadline describes the story, “It centers on the O’Brien clan—a large Irish-American family living on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in a town designed and founded by three O’Brien brothers. The television series focuses on the drama that ensues when the O’Brien family reunites after years apart to face the memories from their past and learn the importance of reconciliation.” It debuts on August 14 and stars Meghan Ory, Jesse Metcalfe, and Diane Ladd.
Several sneak peeks are available on Hallmark’s show site.
The Slate Audiobook Club is generally a rather highbrow, New Yorker version of a book club. Not so in their latest, as the conversation about the boy who lived, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine), quickly becomes closer to a version of a Big BangTheory geek-out about the best Superman movie.
Slate contributors Katy Waldman, Dan Kois, and L.V. Anderson each have issues with the play script, Kois most of all, who cannot bring himself in the end to actually recommend the play in print form to new readers (see his review here). Anderson mourns the loss of motivations, emotions, and personality missing from the play’s scant information (it is almost entirely dialogue) but does, in the end, suggest it to readers. Waldman, far less invested in the story than her panelists, liked it and thinks it is great fun.
Their conversation centers around what the play does well (introduce interesting new characters and provide rewarding tidbits about those readers already know and adore) and very poorly (it lacks, they say, world building, internal logic, and is far too beholden to fan fiction).
While not as useful as previous discussions for book group leaders, the conversation provides insight into the widely varying reviews and fan reactions.