Archive for October, 2010

Reviewing Grisham

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

John Grisham is one of those authors that are considered “review-proof.” For what it’s worth, below are the first consumer reviews of his new book, The Confession, which arrives today.

USA Today, Carol Memmott, Grisham prosecutes the death penalty in The Confession

If Grisham’s dialogue and narrative sometimes cross the line between storytelling and proselytizing about the evils of the death penalty, he compensates through meaty character portrayals and an unpredictable end.

Washington Post, Maureen Corrigan

The Confession is the kind of grab-a-reader-by-the-shoulders suspense story that demands to be inhaled as quickly as possible. But it’s also a superb work of social criticism in the literary troublemaker tradition of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

Bloomberg News, Laurie Muchnick, Grisham’s Flat Death Row Parable

I agree with John Grisham on capital punishment, but reading The Confession, still felt like spending a week in solitary confinement.

Grisham was scheduled to do his regular day-of-book-launch sit-down with the Today Show this morning; we’ll add the video when it is available.

The book is currently #6 on Amazon sales rankings (Keith Richards’ memoir, Life is #1), making it the top-selling adult fiction title (the children’s titles, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Lost Hero are both higher).

The Confession
John Grisham
Retail Price: $28.95
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Doubleday – (2010-10-26)
ISBN / EAN: 0385528043 / 9780385528047
  • CD: Random House Audio: $45; ISBN 9780739376195
  • Large Print: Random House; $29; ISBN 9780739377895
  • Playaway: $59.99; ISBN 9781616572488


Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Shakespeare wrote a play about the Battle of Agincourt (Henry V), Bernard Cornwell recently wrote a best selling book about the lead up to it (Agincourt) and now filmmaker Michael Mann is considering a movie based on Cornwell’s book, according to an interview in the Financial Times.

Mann directed another historical film, The Last of the Mohicans.

Don’t hold your breath, though. Mann is also considering a film about 1940’s Chicago’s crime boss, Tony “Big Tuna” Accardo and is currently producing a series for HBO about horse racing called Luck, due to begin in late 2011 or early 2012.

Neither of those projects are based on books.

Bernard Cornwell
Retail Price: $14.99
Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks – (2010-01-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0061578908 / 9780061578908

LIFE OF PI to Screen

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Director Ang Lee has completed his search for an actor to play the lead in his movie adaptation of Life of Pi, Yann Martels’ 2002 Man Booker Prize-winning novel. According to the movie news site, Deadline, newcomer Suraj Sharma won the part over 3,000 other teenagers Lee auditioned. Shooting will begin in January.

Life of Pi
Yann Martel
Retail Price: $15.00
Paperback: 326 pages
Publisher: Mariner Books – (2003-05-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0156027321 / 9780156027328

The Walking Dead

Monday, October 25th, 2010

As we all prepare for the zombie apocalypse—and by this I mean the much-touted new series from AMC (the cable network that brought us Mad Men and Breaking Bad) The Walking Dead—it’s important to remember that not all zombie apocalypses are created equal.

I, for one, have never been a huge fan of zombie tales.  Zombies always feel like a one-note threat, and one that, while notoriously relentless, is both icky and not very suspenseful (they’re just not very fast.)  Zombie stories of late are more silly than unnerving: Marvel Zombies (also by Walking Dead scribe Kirkman) is a ridiculous insider-joke of a series smashing together zombie movie cliches with your favorite Marvel superheroes (causing Spider-Man to exclaim the unfortunate line, “I can’t believe I ate Aunt May!”)  Pride and Prejudice and Zombies created a buzz-storm by combining Austen’s wit with zombie mayhem, and doing it cleverly enough that both the wit and gore remain satisfyingly zippy.

All that shambling and moaning can be tiresome unless you’ve got a deeper story going on behind it, and that’s where the best zombie stories find their hook.  Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, the comics series this TV incarnation is based on, is one of those stories.

Since the series began in 2003, graphic novel readers of diverse ages and genders have been following the series devoutly although the violence level makes it best suited to older teen and adult readers.  Artists Tony Moore and Charles Adlard use black and white with gray washes to tense, evocative effect throughout these pages.  The series has been a consistent bestseller for Image Comics and had ranked on the New York Times Graphic Books Best Seller Lists for 48 weeks.

The Walking Dead appeals to far more than comics or zombie fans in large part due to smart writing, measured pacing, and because the emotional and ethical dilemmas are kept in the foreground. When Country Sheriff Rick Grimes wakes up in a hospital with empty halls, you know it’s not a good sign. Kirkman quickly does away with the immediate questions of whether Grimes’s family has survived or how long it will take for him to find a group of survivors. The series’ drama comes from observing how his cast of characters do (or don’t) cope with the fallout from the invasion. He uses the creep of the zombie infection to its best effect, revealing the best and worst of humanity and punctuating moments of calm with gruesome reminders that humanity is no longer top of the food chain. Where would survivors ultimately go to be safe?  Can civilization ever return or has it been permanently lost?

For any librarian with an adult graphic novel collection, this series should already be on your standing order list. The series up to the present storyline is available in compilations:

The Walking Dead, Book One, Image Comics, 9781582406190, $29.99
The Walking Dead, Book Two, Image Comics, 9781582406985, $29.99
The Walking Dead, Book Three, Image Comics, 9781582408255, $29.99
The Walking Dead, Book Four, Image Comics, 9781607060000, $29.99
The Walking Dead, Book Five, Image Comics, 9781607061717, $29.99
The Walking Dead, Book Six, Image Comics, 9781607063278, $29.99

You can check out the first issue online here at Newsarama.

The trailer for the series is below:

Steampunk Goes Mainstream

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Genres, other than mysteries, don’t get much attention from mainstream reviews, so it’s amusing to see Michael Dirda write about “the fabulous and always entertaining realm of classic steampunk” in the Washington Post, specifically The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, by Mark Hodder, the first in a new series from Pyr, the five-year-old speculative fiction imprint of  independent publisher, Prometheus Books.

The book received a starred review in Booklist. However, Publishers Weekly was not as positive.

The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack (Burton & Swinburne)
Mark Hodder
Retail Price: $16.00
Paperback: 373 pages
Publisher: Pyr – (2010-09-07)
ISBN / EAN: 1616142405 / 9781616142407

Authors on Comedy Central

Monday, October 25th, 2010

This week, Jon Stewart has no interviews with authors scheduled (unless you count the President, who is scheduled to appear on Wednesday — the first time a sitting president has been on the show, although Obama appeared two years ago when he was a presidential candidate).

Stephen Colbert takes up the slack, however, featuring three authors on his show.

The Colbert Report


Outside Looking In: Adventures of an Observer
Garry Wills
Retail Price: $25.95
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult – (2010-10-14)
ISBN / EAN: 0670022144 / 9780670022144



Zero Regrets: Be Greater Than Yesterday
Apolo Anton Ohno
Retail Price: $26.00
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Atria – (2010-10-26)
ISBN / EAN: 145160906X / 9781451609066

S&S Audio, UNABR.



And the Pursuit of Happiness
Maira Kalman
Retail Price: $29.95
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The – (2010-10-14)
ISBN / EAN: 1594202672 / 9781594202674


Monday, October 25th, 2010

An EarlyWord debut to watch for the fall, The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart, was featured on NPR’s
Weekend Edition Saturday and received a ringing endorsement from Susan Salter Reynolds in the Los Angeles Times, in a review that begins with this evocative line about the book’s power, “Lavaca County, Texas — one moment it’s a place you’ve never been, the next it’s a place you can’t forget.”

Thorndike will publish the book in large type in February. Recorded Books is doing an audio version. The anticipated release date is 11/29/10.

The Wake of Forgiveness
Bruce Machart
Retail Price: $26.00
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade – (2010-10-21)
ISBN / EAN: 0151014434 / 9780151014439

Large Type; Thorndike; 2/16/2011; 9781410435248; $30.99
Audio; Recorded Books; 11/29/10


Monday, October 25th, 2010

There’s been chatter all summer and into the fall about Stacy Schiff’s new bio, Cleopatra, most of it focused on whether James Cameron will direct a movie adaptation (in  3-D, no less), starring Angelina Jolie. Headlines indicate it’s definitely the director’s next project, but Cameron has only confirmed that he is considering it and that Jolie would be “hot” in the role.

The book finally arrives next week. Newsweek says,

Rarely have so distant a time and obscured a place come so powerfully to life. It is a great achievement…Faced with the perplexing question of how to write about a person when the evidence is sketchy and often misleading, Schiff has hit on an ingenious solution. She has written a biography in negative, describing the outlines of what she cannot know by brilliantly coloring around the queen.

It’s also featured in O, the Oprah Magazine; Why Cleopatra Still Matters. Schiff herself writes in the Wall Street Journal about why we are Still Under Cleopatra’s Spell.

Cleopatra: A Biography
Stacy Schiff
Retail Price: $29.99
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company – (2010-11-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0316001929 / 9780316001922

Hachette LARGE PRINT; Hdbk; 9780316120449; $31.99
Hachette Audio; UNABR; 9781607887010; 34.98

Today Show Fall Book Picks

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Eight books are profiled in less than five minutes (including two titles we’ve been watching — Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin and Room by Emma Donoghue) on the Today Show.


Reacher’s New Fans

Monday, October 25th, 2010

A CBS Sunday Morning profile of mystery writer Lee Child brought him new fans, sending the paperback of his first book, Killing Floor up Amazon’s sales rankings to #79 (from #1,704), the second book, Die Trying to #152 and the third, Tripwire to #298. The newest hardcover, number 15 in the Jack Reacher series, Worth Dying For, (Delacorte, 10/19), rose to #12 from #24 yesterday.

NYT BR, 10/22

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

The NYT BR’s cover this week is cleverly topical, but it won’t sell many books. It features two views of American politics today, as reflected in books; “The State of Conservatism” by Christopher Caldwell, senior editor for the conservative magazine, The Weekly Standard and “The State of Liberalism,” by Jonathan Alter, Newsweek columnist and MSNBC political analyst.

Chelsea Cain provides a lively review of John le Carré’s Our Kind of Traitor (sample; “John le Carré is to spy fiction what Lindsay Lohan is to TMZ. It’s hard to imagine one without the other.”) It’s as likely to bring new fans to her writing as to his. Cain’s next thriller, The Night Season, (Minotaur), is coming in March; le Carré hardly needs any help; his book debuts on the Hardcover Fiction list this week at #7.

The daily NYT profiled Tom McGuane this week and the Book Review follows with an assessment of his new book, Driving on the Rim (Knopf); “the rambling plot is sustained because the individual episodes are a pleasure, often farcical and always acutely observed, and because the hero is sympathetic in his dissociated journey.”

In best sellers, the Man Booker winner, The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury) hits the Paperback Trade Fiction list at #14; last year’s winner, Wolf Hall is still on the list at #20. Our own award nominees are not faring as well. The National Book Award finalists were announced the Wednesday of the week the lists were compiled. Nicole Krauss’s Great House, (Norton) is the sole title to appear on any of them. It’s on the extended Hardcover Fiction list at #24.

Jane Leavy’s bio of Mickey Mantle, The Last Boy, (Harper), arrives at #4 on the Hardcover Nonfiction list, Condoleezza Rice’s memoir, Extraordinary, Ordinary People (Crown/Archetype) at #9 and Nelson Mandela’s Conversations with Myself (FSG) at #10.

Grisham’s Stands Tall

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

John Grisham‘s new legal thriller, The Confession, is his first to be released in the fall instead of his usual February slot. Another tale of innocence on death row, The Confession involves a guilty man paroled because of an inoperable brain tumor, who decides to confess to a crime he committed for which another man is about to be executed. Libraries we checked have plenty of books on order to meet the voracious demand.

Few publishers are brave enough to put their major titles in direct competition with his – so otherwise it’s a sparse week for major fiction.

The Confession
John Grisham
Retail Price: $28.95
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Doubleday – (2010-10-26)
ISBN / EAN: 0385528043 / 9780385528047
  • CD: Random House Audio: $45; ISBN 9780739376195
  • Large Print: Random House; $29; ISBN 9780739377895
  • Playaway: $59.99; ISBN 9781616572488

Other Notable Fiction On Sale Next Week

Side Jobs: Stories From the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (Roc) is a collection of short stories related to bestseling urban fantasy series featuring wizard/private investigator Harry Dresden. PW says fans will “probably want to skip ahead to the last of this collection’s 11 stories, “Aftermath,” set just hours after the end of [the 2010 book Changes]. . . .  The rest of the book is a mixed bag.”

Then, there is the HOT category of Amish fiction, combined with Christmas:

An Amish Christmas by Cynthia Keller (Ballantine)

And, simply, Christmas themed fiction:

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas (St. Martin’s) explores the sudden fatherhood of a bachelor after he becomes the guardian of his deceased sister’s daughter

A Christmas Odyssey by Anne Perry (Ballantine) is another Victorian mystery featuring the distinguished mathematician Henry Rathbone.

The Mischief of the Mistletoe: A Pink Carnation Christmas by Lauren Willig (Dutton) is the seventh installment in the Regency romantic suspense series, which moves away from espionage and toward Jane Austen, in a “refreshing” update on the series formula, according to Kirkus.

Young Adult
Three Quarters Dead by Richard Peck (Dial Books)  is a young adult ghost story by the Newbery Medalist and Edgar Award-winning author. Horn Book says, “Peck’s message about the power of the peer group could easily have been more didactic, but wrapping the story in the shrouds of a ghost story was a stroke of genius, making it a creepy tale middle school girls will die for…if they put down their cell phones long enough to read it.”


The 39 Clues: The Black Book of Buried Secrets Intro by Rick Riordan (Scholastic) is the latest entry in the series for young readers.

Richards’ Memoir Sticks it to Mick

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Legendary Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards is setting the tabloid press abuzz over excerpts from his new memoir, Lifein the Times of London, where (big surprise) he says that Mick Jagger has been “unbearable” since the 1980s.

In the New York Times, Janet Maslin calls Richards’ memoir “a big, fierce, game-changing account of the Stones’ nearly half-century-long adventure. . . . some of its most surprisingly revelatory material appears in what Mr. Richards jokingly calls ‘Keef’s Guitar Workshop.’ Here are the secrets of some of the world’s most famous rock riffs and the almost toy-level equipment on which they were recorded.”

Keith Richards
Retail Price: $29.99
Hardcover: 576 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company – (2010-10-26)
ISBN / EAN: 031603438X / 9780316034388
  • CD: Hachette Audio; $34.98; ISBN 9781600242403
  • Large Print: Little Brown and Co., $31.99; ISBN 9780316120364

Other Notable Nonfiction On Sale Next Week

The Mind’s Eye by Oliver Sacks (Knopf) explores how people with impaired senses handle, and even excel at, everyday life, drawing on six case studies including his own loss of depth perception due to a tumor.

Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth and Treasure by Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe (Threshold) outlines the economic ideas of the Fox News pundit.

Memoirs and Biographies

Cleopatra by Stacy Shiff (Little, Brown). Sure, it’s a bio of a fascinating historical figure by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, but the buzz around this book has focused on its adaptation as a movie, with Scott Rudin producing, James Cameron in talks to direct (in 3-D!), and Angelina Jolie possibly starring.

The Elephant to Hollywood by Michael Caine (Holt) “revisits familiar territory” from his first memoir, according to Kirkus, “including childhood poverty, the deprivations of World War II, faltering first steps in show business before signature roles in The Ipcress File (1965) and Alfie (1966) made him an international film star—but his warm, wry delivery keeps the material interesting, even though many of the anecdotes have a distinctly practiced feel.”

You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam (Riverhead) is about a “slightly wacky person who, instead of looking inward for answers [to how to be happy], decided to help others — specifically, Boston terriers,” according to the 11/1 issue of People, where the book is a People Pick and garnered 3.5 of 4 stars.

My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space: Adventures of an Ordinary Woman by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Scottolini Serritella (St. Martin’s Press) is a collection of true life stories originally written for the Philadelphia Inquirer by the popular suspense writer and her daughter.

Twisted Sisterhood: The Dark Side of Female Friendship by Kelly Valen (Ballantine) is based on the author’s New York Times “Modern Love” column about the lasting scars of her sorority sisters’ betrayal, which attracted lots of reader mail from other women. She is scheduled to appear on Good Morning America on October 26.

Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage by Hazel Rowley (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) examines the relationship between FDR and his wife.  PW says “Despite Rowley’s cheerleading that the cousins’ conflicts brought out their courage and radicalism, and that they loved with a generosity of spirit that withstood betrayal, FDR emerges as a narcissist while Eleanor carved a spectacular life.”

First Family: Abigail and John Adams by Joseph J. Ellis (Knopf) gets praise from PW: “Ellis’s supple prose and keen psychological insight give a vivid sense of the human drama behind history’s upheavals.”

Cookbook Season
The major gift-giving season will soon be upon us, bringing a raft of new cookbooks.

Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?: Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter) focuses on simplifying meals without sacrificing quality. The Food Network guru will appear on the Today Show October 26  and 27.

The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century, Amanda Hesser (W.W. Norton) ; long before the Contessa became barefoot, the NYT was publishing recipes. In what is sure to be THE gift cookbook of the year, Amanda Hesser examined the NYT recipes since the newspaper began running them in the 1850’s, chronicling the effort in the NYT Magazine series Recipe Redux (the latest is about readers’ “most stained” recipes).

Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes, Harold McGee (Penguin Press) was featured on NPR’s Fresh Air last night, shooting the book to #15 on Amazon sales rankings.

JFK’s Secret Service Agents Talk

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Secret Service agents are supposed to carry their stories to the grave. That code was broken earlier this year when several former and current agents spilled some juicy secrets to Ron Kessler for his book In the President’s Secret Service.

In a book coming out next month, the code is broken again. In The Kennedy Detail, Gerald Blaine, who was guarded JFK for three years, draws on his own memories and those of fellow service agents, to give new details about the Kennedy years. He reveals he almost shot LBJ in the confusing days after Dallas, creating headlines in newspapers around the world today,

Ex-Agent: I Almost Shot LBJ Hours After JFK Murder, The Associated Press

US agent nearly shot President JohnsonBelfast Telegraph

I nearly shot Lyndon Johnson after JFK was killed: Secret Service agent claims, The Australian

Secret service almost shot Lyndon B. Johnson by accident hours after JFK’s.death..New York Daily News

Blaine’s claim that JFK did not have an affair with Marilyn Monroe is also mentioned, but doesn’t grab the headlines.

The book was embargoed and therefore not available to the prepub review media, so few libraries have ordered it.

The Kennedy Detail: JFK’s Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence
Gerald Blaine, Lisa McCubbin
Retail Price: $28.00
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Gallery – (2010-11-02)
ISBN / EAN: 1439192960 / 9781439192962

Unabridged audio available from Tantor Audio

Inside the White House

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Two former White House insiders got together on Monday’s GMA, when George Stephanopoulos, who was White House Communications Director for Bill Clinton, interviewed Nicolle Wallace, who held the same position under George W. Bush.

Wallace’s debut thriller, Eighteen Acres (insider slang for the White House) broke into the Amazon Top 100 after the appearance and strong reviews in both USA Today and the Washington Post.

Where ordering is light, holds are heavy.


Eighteen Acres
Nicolle Wallace
Retail Price: $25.00
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Atria – (2010-10-19)
ISBN / EAN: 1439194823 / 9781439194829