New Title Radar, Week of 9/12

After months of anticipation, Erin Morgenstern‘s impossible-to-miss debut novel The Night Circus finally comes to town. Now it’s time to see how the hype plays out. The book that will rival it for attention is Brian Selznick’s middle grade novel, Wonderstruck, which has stirred great excitement among prepub reviewers. In nonfiction, Jackie Kennedy will be making news again, along with Michael Moore.

Watch List

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday; Random House Audio; Center Point Large Print) has already received a bevy of press attention. Comparisons to other titles in terms of expected commercial success range from The Help and The Da Vinci Code (USA Today), to the Harry Potter and Twilight (WSJ). PW set its sights a bit lower, saying, “This is an electric debut on par with Special Topics in Calamity Physics [by Marisha Pessl, Viking, 2006],” which was a best seller, but briefly. It’s also been compared to another book about English magicians, the 2004 bestseller Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, (Bloomsbury), which also arrived with great expectations and comparisons to Harry Potter. It did well, but not nearly as well as HP. It was in the top ten on the Indie Best Seller list for 13 weeks, four of them at #2.

Two reviews have appeared already; many more are sure to come next week. The 9/19 issue of People awarded it 3.5 of a possible 4 stars. Why not the full Monty? People warns the book can be disorienting with chapters that “leap from city to city across oceans and continents on no discernible schedule.” Laura Miller in Salon assesses the book as  “sentimental enough to win over a large audience but unlikely to cloy the palates of more sophisticated readers.” She warns, “Plot is this novel’s flimsiest aspect, however, serving mostly as a pretext for presenting readers with a groaning board of imaginative treats.” That may just undercut the potential for “large audiences” to embrace it. Miller calls it “the first Etsy novel” (sorry, you have to read the review to find out what that means).

Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam (Other Press; Blackstone Audio) gives Lolita a 21st century spin in this tale of a man whose wife has left him and whose father has died. He stumbles on a seventh grade girl who enters a fantasy friendship with him with a creepy edge. PW says, “Nadzam has a crisp, fluid writing style, and her dialogue is reminiscent of Sam Shepard’s. The book suffers from the inevitable Nabokov comparison, but it’s a fine first effort: storytelling as accomplished as it is unsettling.” On our GalleyChat, librarians report that there’s “lots of talk over the twitterverse about Lamb! People sucked in from the get-go.” It’s also a Sept Indie Next Pick.

The Winter’s in Bloom by Lisa Tucker (Atria; Brilliance Audio) is a suspenseful tale about overprotective parents whose child disappears. Library Journal is on the fence: “if the characters had been more fully developed, the novel would have blossomed.” Booksellers are more enthusiastic; it’s a Sept Indie Next Pick. Tucker recently wrote an essay in the New York Times about how the novel was unintentionally shaped by her diagnosis and treatment for a brain aneurysm while she was writing it.

Kids and Young Adult

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, (Scholastic), Prepub reviewers were practically sputtering in their excitement over Selznick’s follow up to The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which also inventively combines text and graphics. The consumer press, though slightly more measured, is showing equal excitement, as in yesterday’s review on the NPR Web site. Even the Wall Street Journal joined in, offering an “exclusive preview” on its SpeakEasy blog earlier this month. We probably don’t have to remind you that Martin Scorsese’s first 3-D family film, Hugo (see trailer here), releasing on Nov. 23, is based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins, (McElderry/S&S); continues the author’s signature verse poetry style in this story about four 12th-graders who are expected to be perfect

Usual Suspects

Robert B. Parker’s Killing the Blues (a Jesse Stone) novel by Michael Brandman (Putnam; Random House Audio; Books on Tape; Thorndike Large Print); Before you (or your customers) get too excited about a new Robert Parker book, look closely at the fine print. This one is actually written by Michael Brandman, who collaborated with Parker on TV adaptation of his books. In his first effort to fill in for the departed author, PW found the plot lacking, but praised Brandman for maintaining Parker’s “easy, banter-filled writing, balanced with the lead’s apparently limitless compassion, informed by bitter experience.” Booklist felt exactly the opposite, calling it “strong on plotting but derivative on everything else.” Parker’s Spenser series will also continue, written by author Ace Atkins. The first title will be released in the spring of 2012. Sixkill, the final Spenser novel from Parker’s hand, was released in May.

Goddess of Vengeance by Jackie Collins (St. Martins, Macmillan Audio, Thorndike Large Print); Lucky Santangelo is back and still looking great since her 1981 debut in Chances.

Forbidden by Ted Dekker, (Center Street; Hachette Audio and Large Print); mega seller Dekker begins a new trilogy (The Books of Mortals) with a new collaborator. Says Booklist, “Dekker and Lee have created an intriguing future world in which human beings are fundamentally different from what they are today but who still operate with the same basic motivations, even if they don’t know that they do.”

Kings of Vice by Ice-T with Mal Radcliff (Forge Books) is the first novel by the rapper (and husband of Coco, whose first novel, Angel is also coming out this week). Says Booklist, “Ice-T takes readers into the murky world of gangs and organized crime. A solid crime thriller.” Kirkus was not as appreciative, “a relatively slow-moving crime caper, with much rationalization and philosophical musings apparently meant to add gravitas.”

Angel by Nicole “Coco” Marrow and Laura Hayden (Forge Books); expect plenty of cross-promotion with the title above.

The Ballad of Tom Dooley by Sharyn McCrumb, (Dunne/St. Martin’s; Brilliance Audio); Set in North Carolina after the Civil War, the next in McCrumb’s Ballad series looks in to the violent crime that inspired the popular song.

New York to Dallas by J. D. Robb, (Putnam; Brilliance Audio); The publisher claims that this, the 33rd in the Eve Dallas series, “takes readers deeper into the mind of Eve Dallas than ever before.”


Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy by Caroline Kennedy, (Hyperion), arrives on the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s first year in office. It is already rising on Amazon as news begins to leak that Jacqueline dishes on LBJ and Lady Bird. The book includes eight audio CDs. It will be featured on ABC’s Primetime and on Good Morning America next week.

Life Itself: A Memoir, Roger Ebert, (Grand Central/Hachette); the film critic, who was silenced by throat cancer, writes about the importance of life. It was previewed in USA Today this week

Happy Accidents, Jane Lynch, (Voice/Hyperion); the star of TV’s Glee on finding happiness. In a video promo, she’s every bookseller’s nightmare.

Here Comes Trouble: Stories from my Life, Michael Moore (Grand Central/Hachette); vignettes from Moore’s early life.

Movie Tie-ins

Killer Elite (original title, The Feather Men) by Ranulph Fiennes (Ballantine) is the basis for a movie opening September 23 and starring Robert DeNiro. This mass market paperback, which Kirkus called “marvelously entertaining,” recounts the true story of an elite group of vigilantes drawn from the ranks of England’s select paramilitary operatives and charged with eliminating four contract killers so deftly that their hits appeared to be merely accidents.

Anonymous and the Shakespeare Authorship Question (Newmarket) one of the two official ties-in to the movie Anonymous, opening 10/28, this provides backgrounds and debate on the playwright’s identity. Movie trailer here.

Anonymous: William Shakespeare Revealed, (Newmarket), this is the “visual companion” to the movie.

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