Archive for the ‘2011 — Summer’ Category

CBS Introduces New Book Club

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

NBC’s The Today Show leads the other morning shows in the amount of time they devote to books. The Early Show on Saturday Morning, challenges them with the new “R&R Book Club,” featuring monthly picks from the show’s co-anchors Russ Mitchell and Rebecca Jarvis.

One of Rebecca’s picks is a book that we’ve been writing about on EarlyWord, Amor Towles’s debut novel,  Rules of Civility (Viking, 7/26;  Books on TapePenguin Audio; audio on OverDrive).


Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

The media has been focused on a major debut coming from a division of Random House, The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday, 9/13).

Meanwhile, another major debut, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, from another Random House division, Ballantine (Audio, Random House Audio and Books on Tape and OverDrive; Large Print, Thorndike), was released to less media fanfare yesterday. Reviews are mixed, but they contain hints that the book will be a hit.

Despite its old-fashioned sounding title and elegant cover, the book is actually about a gritty subject, how foster care often harms kids. Victoria, who has grown up in the system in present day San Francisco, is newly on her own and homeless. Her background makes it difficult for her to trust people, but her knowledge of the secret messages conveyed by flowers leads to a job and finally a satisfying life.

In yesterday’s review on NPR’s Web site, under the pun-filled headline, “Overly Rosy Premise Proves Thorny In Flowers,” Rachel Syme makes an effort to talk herself down from enjoying the book,

As invigorating as [the language of flowers] is as a literary device, it does border on a gimmick — the overreaching and common curse of debut novels. It all seems to tie together too neatly…Where Diffenbaugh sees plot holes, she simply fills them with flowers.

Nevertheless, it leaves a lasting impression

The language of flowers, as illuminated through Victoria’s words and a special appendix, turns out to be an addictive preoccupation: Once you know that peonies represent anger; basil, hate; and red carnations, heartbreak, every supermarket bouquet takes on a new significance.

The Wall Street Journal throws in a few digs before ending on a positive note:

The Language of Flowers has been as carefully conceived and executed as a handmade wedding bouquet to appeal to readers accustomed to seeing their heroines sink into depths of despair before emerging to claim hard-won redemption. But if the novel is predictable, it is also lucid and lovely—Ms. Diffenbaugh has found a vibrant way to tell a familiar story of rift (Carolina jasmine) and reconciliation (hazel).

Both reviews attest, if condescendingly, to the book’s appeal for book clubs:

NPR; ‘The combination of harrowing orphan story and delicate exploration of a Victorian art form will be catnip for book clubs and airborne readers.”

WSJ; “Victoria’s emotional journey through the tunnel of her memories to the light of second chances is a staple of best-selling and book-club fiction”

The language of flowers may not be as antique as it seems. The UK’s Daily Mail sees a revival, both because of the book, which is a bestseller there, and because Kate Middleton used what is technically called “floriography” to choose the flowers for her wedding bouquet and the Royal wedding cake.

The book is now at #669 on Amazon sales rankings, but at a much higher #46 on B&, where it is promoted on the home page under  “Cool Books: Titles We’re Talking About.” Some libraries are showing heavy holds.

New Title Radar-Week of August 22

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

This week, novels to watch include a new thriller by Danish bestseller Jussi Adler-Olsen and a bittersweet story of committed love from comedy writer Patricia Marx. Usual suspects in fiction include Laura Lippman, Kathy Reichs and Terry Brooks. Nonfiction highlights include a memoir by Erica Heller, the daughter of Joseph Heller, and a parable by Buddhist bestseller Thich Nhat Hanh.

Watch List

Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Dutton; Penguin AudioThorndike Large Print; audio & eBook, OverDrive) is a thriller by the bestselling Danish author, about former homicide detective Carl Morck in charge of handling Copenhagen’s cold cases, including one about a missing politician. As we noted in an earlier roundup of Nordic Noir coming this summerPW gave this this one a starred review, saying “Stieg Larsson fans will be delighted.”


Starting from Happy by Patricia Marx (Scribner) is a comical exploration of romance through the unlikely match up of a lingerie designer and a scientist, written in 618 “chaplettes.” The author has written comedy for Saturday Night Live and the New Yorker, as well as the 2007 novel Him Her Him Again The End of HimBooklist says, “Readers who enjoy the sly observations of Nora Ephron and the smart silliness of Woody Allen and Steve Martin should try it.”

We Others: New and Selected Stories by Steven Millhauser (Knopf) ranges across three decadesof the Pulitzer Prize winner’s stories. The Wall St. Journal says the best stories are “two concerning magicians, ‘Eisenheim the Illusionist’ (the basis of the very good 2006 film The Illusionist) and ‘The Knife Thrower,’ about a performer who may or may not be killing audience volunteers as part of his show. In these shimmering tales, the author deals directly with wonder and uncertainty rather than attempting to conjure those qualities through heavy-handed metaphors.”

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (Ballantine; Audio, Random House Audio and Books on Tape and OverDrive; Large Print, Thorndike) is a debut about 18-year-old Victoria, who has placed out of the foster care system with perilously few resources, and finds an unlikely path to stabilty in her understanding of flowers, by an author who has fostered many children and also adopted one. The San Francisco Chronicle calls it “Jane Eyre for 2011” and “a cautionary tale about what happens to kids who’ve grown without families, one that strives to be honest but still hopeful.”

Usual Suspects

The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman (Morrow; Harper Audio; Large Print, HarperLuxe ) follows a circle of Baltimore friends who harbor a deadly secret. The Los Angeles Times say it “occupies the unlikely middle ground between thriller and coming-of-age saga… [but] doesn’t always measure up. On the one hand, [Lippman] effectively evokes the wildness of kids alone in a landscape of their own making… yet there is also something a bit headlong, a bit unformed about [her] writing.”

Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs (Scribner; S&S Audio; Large Print, Wheeler/Thorndike) is the 14th thriller with forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. Library Journal says, “Although devoted Reichs fans will miss the clever repartee and nonstop action of her previous novels, they will still plod through this one. Series newcomers will find earlier titles, such as 206 Bones and Bare Bones, far more interesting.”

The Measure of the Magic: Legends of Shannara by Terry Brooks (Del Rey; Brilliance Audio; Large Print, Thorndike)  is the concluding volume of a two-book series set in the prehistory of Shannara, in which the survivors of the Great Wars must face unimaginable challenges when their sanctuary is discovered.

Young Adult and Children’s

Bloodlines (Razorbill/Penguin) by Richelle Mead is a new teen fiction series, set in the same world as the Vampire Academy series. Fans rose to the author’s challenge  to pre-order 10,000 copies. The second book in the series, The Golden Lily is scheduled for spring 2012.

Torn by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Simon & Schuster; Large Print, Thorndike) is book four of the children’s time traveling Missing series.


Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller Was Dad, the Apthorp Was Home, and Life Was a Catch-22 by Erica Heller (Simon & Schuster; Tantor Audio) recalls the tumultuous and eccentric childhood of Joseph Heller’s daughter. PW says, “The total effect is akin to leafing through a bulging family scrapbook where one finds a few blurry images among many snapshots in sharp focus. Erica Heller has inherited her father’s finely tuned flair with words.” And in a review that compares Heller’s memoir with a new biography by Tracy Daugherty called Just One Catch, The Los Angeles Times adds that Yossarian Slept Here is “much deeper and feels like all a reader needs to get the feel for the man who wrote, and lived with having written, “Catch-22.”

The Novice: A Story of True Love by Thich Nhat Hanh (HarperOne) is a parable about a Vietnamese woman who dresses like a man in order to become a Buddhist monk, by the second bestselling Buddhist author in the U.S.

The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts (Ballantine) chronicles the surprise success of Harry de Leyer and his horse Snowman in the late 1950s. Kirkus calls it “aheartwarming story begging for the Disney treatment.” USA Today gave it early attention on Friday.

RA Discovery — THE CALL

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Local attention for Yannick Murphy’s The Call (HarperPerennial, 8/2; ebook on OverDrive) has sent holds skyrocketing at Cuyahoga Public Library (thanks to Ben Wlodarczak for the tip). Cleveland Plain Dealer reviewer Karen R. Long, noting the sameness of titles on best seller lists, says,

If I had one plink of the magic wand this week, I’d inject Yannick Murphy’s jaunty, original novel The Call into the best-seller mix. Here is a book to break the formula, both edgy and moving.

Written in the first person, the novel is in the form of short pieces by a small town veterinarian.

Word is spreading; an equally laudatory piece from The Barnes and Noble Review was republished on Salon on Tuesday; “The portrait of family life that emerges in The Call — at once ironic and warm — is ‘as layered as something in nature.’ Wonderful.” The Boston Globe ran an enthusiastic review on Sunday. UPDATE: People magazine has also discovered it. In the 8/22 issue, they give it 4 of a possible 4 stars, and say it displays “an almost magical economy.”

Prepub reviews were also strong. The generally tart-mouth Kirkus went all mushy, calling it, “A marvelous book: sweet and poignant without ever succumbing to easy sentiment, formally inventive and dexterous without ever seeming showy. A triumph.”

The Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s Long urges readers to explore the author’s backlist:

Murphy, who lives in Vermont and wrote the astutely sensuous novel Signed, Mata Hari in 2007, creates a different book on every outing, each a reverie and a joy. She is that rarity: a sharp writer unafraid to be tender.

The book is a paperback original, making it easier to buy extra copies for readers advisory and browsing.

The Call: A Novel
Yannick Murphy
Retail Price: $12.99
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial – (2011-08-02)
ISBN / EAN: 9780062023148 / 0062023144

THE SUBMISSION — Michiko Likes It!

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

In today’s New York Times, Michiko Kakutani calls Amy Waldman’s The Submission, (FSG; Audio, AudioGo; Large Type, Thorndike) released yesterday, a “nervy and absorbing new novel.”

“Nervy” is a good description. Waldman writes about the blind submission to an architectural panel of  plans for a 9/11-like memorial. It turns out that the winner is a Muslim-American. Kakutani says,

Though this may sound, in summary, like a contrived, high-concept premise, Ms. Waldman not only captures the political furor and media storm that ensue, but also gives us an intimate, immediate sense of the fallout that these events have on the individuals involved… [giving] the reader a visceral understanding of how New York City and the country at large reacted to 9/11.

Waldman knows intimately the many issues an event like this would raise. As a New York Times reporter, she covered the Sept. 11 attacks and interviewed victims’ family members. She also reported on the international response to the attacks.

Listen to the author talk about the book on NPR’s Leonard Lopate Show here.

The Jewish Week calls the book is “much discussed.” We haven’t heard those discussions, but given the moral issues The Submission raises, it is certain to continue being much discussed and therefore, sounds ideal for book clubs. Clearly, there is anticipation, it is showing heavy holds on light ordering in many libraries.

Chris Cleave, the author of Little Bee, reviewing the book in the Washington Post, gave this analysis of significant post-9/11 novels, which is useful as we come up on the 10th anniversary:

[The form came] to prominence in 2003 with Frederic Beigbeder’s Windows on the World, by 2005 [it] had evolved through the twin strands of Jonathan Safran Foer’s urgent and heartfelt Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Ian McEwan’s universalized and reflective Saturday. By 2006, distance permitted the satire of Jess Walter’s The Zero and the subversion of Jay McInerney’s The Good Life, and the next year brought Don DeLillo’s definitive and artful Falling Man. It is by her clever shift of focus from the events of 9/11 to their commemoration that Amy Waldman takes this literary line forward, and it is through her respect for history — her own act of submission in choosing a humbler stage — that her novel stands so proudly within it.

USA Today recently rounded up the forthcoming nonfiction that will be published around the anniversary.


Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

On Monday’s Fresh Air, Maureen Corrigan warned, “Make sure you start Helen Schulman’s new novel, This Beautiful Life, on a Friday night, so that when you find yourself compelled to stay up all hours reading it, you can take the rest of the weekend…to recover.”

This novel about a teenager whose life is ruined after a sexting incident is building steam. Two weeks ago, we issued a heavy holds alert. Holds have grown quickly since, with some libraries showing them as high as 14:1.

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman, (Harper, 8/2; Blackstone Audio; audio and ebook from OverDrive)


Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Tom Perotta’s forthcoming novel, The Leftovers, about what happens to those left behind after the Rapture, is being developed into a series by HBO, reports Variety. Perotta is writing the script and will co-produce. Two of his earlier books, Election and Little Children were made into film.

The Leftovers
Tom Perrotta
Retail Price: $25.99
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press – (2011-08-30)
ISBN / EAN: 9780312358341/ 031235834

Macmillan Audio


Monday, August 15th, 2011

Kevin Mitnick was one of the top computer hackers during the 70’s and 80’s. Eventually caught and jailed, he now works as a security consultant. As his new memoir, Ghost in the Wires (written with William L. Simon) shows, his ability to con people into giving him information was even more important to his hacking career than his computer skills.

The author will appear on The Colbert Report on Thursday. On Sunday, the book was reviewed in both the NYT BR (which says it “reads like a contemporary über-geeky thriller”) and the Boston Globe. Holds are already heavy where ordering is light.

Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker
Kevin Mitnick
Retail Price: $25.99
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company – (2011-08-15)
ISBN / EAN: 0316037702 / 9780316037709

Audio, Blackstone Audio

The NYT BR Bump

Monday, August 15th, 2011

The 8/11 New York Time Book Review calls Nicholson Baker’s House of Holes (S&S, 8/9; 9781439189511) “hilarious and extremely dirty.

Unsurprisingly, that review sent the book up Amazon’s sales rankings, to #65 (from #130), where it is as of this morning. Holds are running as high as 5:1 in libraries.


But serious science trumps literary smut, at least this time. The book that got the biggest boost is The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World, David Deutsch (Viking, 7/21; 9780670022755) which went to #48 from #173. Library orders are light with holds as high as 3:1. The review calls it,

…a brilliant and exhilarating and profoundly eccentric book. It’s about everything: art, science, philosophy, history, politics, evil, death, the future, infinity, bugs, thumbs, what have you…[author Deutsch] is so smart, and so strange, and so creative, and so inexhaustibly curious, and so vividly intellectually alive, that it is a distinct privilege… to spend time in his head.

After a series of laudatory reviews and strong word of mouth, the NYT BR sent Rules of Civility by Amor Towles to #61 from #124. Library holds continue to be heavy.

It also debuted on the 8/14 NYT Print Fiction best seller list at #16 (it’s tied with #15, so it’s on the main list rather than the extended).

New Title Radar – Week of August 15

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Next week, watch for a dystopian debut infused with Gen X nostalgia by Ernest Cline and nonfiction looking at Al Qaeda, sexual abuse in the Church, a town recovering from a tornado and what ails the U.S. educational system.

Watch List

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Crown) is a debut novel set in 2044, in a dystopian America where the only escape is a vast virtual-reality simulation game based on geek culture from the 1970s and ’80s. It gets an “A-” from Entertainment Weekly, which says: “To say [it’s] the literary-fiction equivalent of VH1’s I Love the 80’s series may not sound like a compliment, but we… give Cline credit for crafting a fresh and imaginative world from our old toy box, and finding significance in there among the collectibles.” It was also a BEA Shout ‘n’ Share pick.

Usual Suspects

The Omen Machine by Terry Goodkind (Tor) continues the story of Richard and Kahlan begun in the Sword of Truth fantasy series.


Big Nate on a Roll by Lincoln Peirce (HarperCollins) is an illustrated children’s book based on the Big Nate comic strip.


Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker (Times) reveals some of the covert methods used to combat terrorism.

The Grace of Everyday Saints: How a Band of Believers Lost Their Church and Found Their Faith by Julian Guthrie (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) chronicles the struggle by members to reopen a San Francisco church closed by the Archdiocese to conceal evidence of sexual abuse.

The Sacred Acre: The Ed Thomas Story by Mark Tabb and Tony Dungy (Zondervan) tells the story of an Iowa town destroyed by a tornado and the coach who gave hope to the community.

Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools by Steven Brill (Simon & Schuster) assigns the majority of blame for America’s education shortcomings on teachers unions. Kirkus call it “an in-depth, impeccably researched examination of the education-reform movements that have swept America over the last several decades, as well as the obstacles they’ve faced…The author “tackles this beast of a topic admirably, creating a lucid, often riveting history that will be invaluable to the next generation of reformers.”

Movie Tie-in

Moneyball by Michael Lewis (Norton) is a reissue of the bestselling behind the scenes look at the world of baseball, tying in to the movie opening September 3, which stars Brad Pitt.

FAMILY FANG Gaining Followers

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

When we first read the galley of Kevin Wilson’s Family Fang, we loved its quirky charm and the uncomfortable truths it explored about parents’ demands on children. It’s one of those books that you hope manages to “find an audience.”

We didn’t have to worry; strong reviews, topped by today’s NYT profile of the author indicates it’s found readers. The story notes that the book has gone back to press three times for a total of 23,000 copies in print. While barely touching the numbers for NYT bestsellers, it’s still respectable. Holds are buiding, as high as 100 on 8 copies in one large library we checked.

The Family Fang: A Novel
Kevin Wilson
Retail Price: $18.99
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Ecco – (2011-08-09)
ISBN / EAN: /780061579035/ 006157903

Machu Picchu on The Daily Show

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

If the great reviews of Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time (Dutton, 6/30) haven’t already grabbed you, check out the author’s interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show last night.

Stewart says it’s “Really entertaining writing, really fun, a great trek and really interesting story.”

Fresh Air, 1493

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Charles C. Mann’s two books debunking what we think we know about the new world before and immediately after Columbus, jumped up Amazon’s sales rankings after the author was interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday.

Sales rank: 10 (from 105 yesterday)
1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, Charles C. Mann, Knopf, Knopf, 8/9/11; audio, Books on Tape

Sales rank: 50 (from 773 yesterday)
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles C. Mann, Knopf , 8/9/05; now in trade pbk from Vintage, 9781400032051 and audio from Highbridge

Mann said that the arrivial of Columbus marked “…a tremendous ecological convulsion — the greatest event in the history of life since the death of the dinosaurs.”

FAMILY FANG, A Minty Fresh Delight

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

On EarlyWord‘s GalleyChat, we’ve been talking about The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson (Ecco, 8/1) for months. It just arrived last week and it’s fun to see others come to the party.

On Fresh Air yesterday, Maureen Corrigan said it’s particularly refreshing that the book is being published during the heat of summer,

“…it’s such a minty fresh delight to open up Kevin Wilson’s debut novel, The Family Fang, and feel the revitalizing blast of original thought, robust invention, screwball giddiness. Every copy of The Family Fang sold in August should have a sticker on it imprinted with the life-giving invitation that used to be issued on movie marquees in summertime during the dawn of the air-conditioning age: ‘Come on in! It’s cooool inside!’ “

Holds are heavy in libraries on light ordering.


Monday, August 8th, 2011

The respected British biographer (he’s even been knighted), Michael Holroyd’s new work, A Book of Secrets: Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers, (FSG, 8/2), has received enthusiastic reviews from both the Wall Street Journal (the author is “that rare biographer who is read for himself as much as for the sake of his subject”) and the daily New York Times. Neither of them holds a candle to the excitement that Toni Bentley (author of five books, including the taboo-breaking The Surrender: An Erotic Memoir, ReganBooks, 2004) expresses in her NYT Book Review cover story. It’s one of those rare reviews that’s worth reading for itself as much as for the sake of the book. Evidently, Bentley’s enthusiasm is contagious. The book is currently at #20 on Amazon’s sales rankings (from #3,815).