Friday, May 31, 2013

Non-Fiction: Strange Rebels by Christian Caryl

There are banner years. Years that make all the difference. Years that somehow count more than others and, according to journalist, scholar and all around brainy guy Christian Caryl, 1979 was the nexus. “History has a way of playing tricks,” Caryl writes in Strange Rebels (Basic Books), pretty much undoing everything anyone ever learned in grade 11. “As events unfold around us, we interpret what we see through the prism of precedent, and then are amazed when it turns out that our actions never play out the same way twice.”

Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century, is mind-blowing stuff. Writes Caryl:
Rarely has the oats proven a more deceptive guide to the future than at the end of the eighth decade of the twentieth century. If youtake a certain pleasure in seeing the experts confounded and the pundits dismayed, then 1979 is sure to hold your interest.
As Caryl points out, in 1979, after 37 years in his comfy chair, the Shah of Iran “got on a plane and left his country, never to return.” Also in 1979, Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister just a few months after Chinese Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping had “heaved himself into the top job” in China. These and other things combined to make an irreversible difference. As Caryl tells us, “Like it or not, we of the twenty-first century still live in the shadow of 1979.”

Strange Rebels is both dense and staggeringly eye-opening. It is no one’s idea of a beach read, but take it with you anyway. It’s possible that only surf and sand will be able to quell your pulse as you follow the connections Caryl brings his readers to. This is a deeply thoughtful and thought-provoking book. ◊

Jones Atwater is a contributing editor to January Magazine.

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This Just In… Shadows and Ghosts by Barbara Froman

Ida Mae Glick, a critically acclaimed filmmaker, has lived and taught in the small town of Willow Bend, New York for five years without drawing attention to her troubled past. But when she suffers a near fatal heart attack, the result of trying to live on the same meager rations as a group of homeless people she is filming, she winds up in intensive care under the scrutiny of a neurotic psychiatrist who believes she’s unstable. To make matters worse, her mother’s ghost has appeared at her bedside with old gripes, and her angry, estranged identical twin, Lisa, is heading toward town intent on having her committed. Ida Mae is desperate to escape with her freedom intact, but knows she’ll have to get past her psychiatrist first. The only question is, can she?

Shadows and Ghosts is Ida Mae’s tale of artistic passion, fierce sibling rivalry, failed love affairs, substance abuse, and the magical redemptive power of cinema.

From the author: “I wrote Shadows and Ghosts because I love movies and I wanted to give readers a cinematic experience, but, more specifically, the kind of cinematic experience one finds in classic women's movies.  So, I fashioned a tale about a critically acclaimed, slightly crazy, Bohemian filmmaker, and gave her a conservative, uptight, identical twin sister. Then, I surrounded her with a cast of women as smart, mouthy, and neurotic as she is, and framed her story with screenwriters' directions and images from the films that shaped her life.”

You can order Shadows and Ghosts here. Visit author Barbara Froman on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Ethical Book Reviewer

Are book critics due for a code of ethics? According to a panel held at Book Expo America, running now through June 1 in New York City, whether one is needed or not, getting critics to agree on what’s missing is no easy task. Lily Rothman reports for TIME:
It was a topic that, because of one obvious reason, provoked lots of spirited debate, As of now, book reviewers have no set of guiding principles. Sure, publications and individual writers have vague ideas about what’s okay, but the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) has not adopted a set of ethical guidelines. Yet. After conducting a survey of members of the industry—the data from which will be available in the fall—and holding events like the BEA panel, the NBCC will issue its ethical best practices.
It’s difficult for anyone to even agree on some of the basics. For example, what does the word “objective” really mean?
For one thing, even the words that might be used need definitions. In the world of criticism, where opinion is key, what does it mean to be objective? Maureen Corrigan, a participant and the book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air, clarified that objectivity, impartiality and fairness are three very different things: a critic can be honest and up-front about her biases without abandoning her personal taste. The survey (a few tidbits of which were revealed at the panel) also revealed that different people have different ideas about which part of a reviewer’s background would cause him to be automatically biased.
You can see the full piece here. Meanwhile, BEA continues at the Javits Center until Saturday.


This Just In… Moonlit Nights by Jacob Parr

A crime spree of horrendous proportions is just beginning in the Washington Metropolitan Area as bodies begin to turn up horribly mutilated and torn to pieces.

Aidan Preston, a homicide detective for the Montgomery County Police Department, delves into the case, finding himself immersed in a dark and dangerous world, the likes of which he has never seen.

What secrets do these moonlit nights hold?

The author explains that, while fictional, his narrative calls on scientific fact to take readers on a vivid and very real journey.

“It is a fresh new take and offers a well-researched perspective on not only these creatures of legend but the psychological condition of lycanthropy as well while making it a pulse racing thriller that continues to build all the way until the climax,” says Parr, who set his book in his native East Coast of the United States. “It’s being compared to NY Times bestselling authors’ work such as Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s The Relic, many of Michael Crichton’s science-laced novels like Congo and Jurassic Park and others as well. It takes a supernatural/mythological character and bases it in science and reasoning to make it a very real and horrifying possibility.”

Since its release, the book has garnered a consistent string of rave reviews.

“It is a fresh new perspective in a world where people seem to keep rehashing the same tired storylines over and over again. One of the greatest strengths of Moonlit Nights is the author’s development of the characters, their individual storylines and particular arcs. It devotes just the right amount of time to every person in this book and actually makes you care about what happens to them,” says reviewer, Mark Kyle.

You can order Moonlit Nights here. Visit author Jacob Parr on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Graphic Novel: War Brothers by Sharon E. McKay, Illustrated by Daniel LaFrance

Though I’m still slightly torn about whether or not the making of a child soldier is appropriate fodder for a graphic novel aimed at young adult readers, the combination of Sharon E. McKay’s powerful prose and Daniel LaFrance’s luminous illustrations is just right in War Brothers (Annick).

War Brothers was originally written in traditional novel form and published in 2008. Storyboard and graphic artist LaFrance brings the story to life with richly vivid illustrations shown us the abduction, training and ultimate escape of 14-year-old Ugandan Jacob, an apparent composite of children McKay interviewed several years ago who had been kidnapped then trained as soldiers for the Lord’s Resistance Army under the infamous Joseph Kony.

These components -- strong story, powerful storyteller, talented artist -- make for a winning combination. I’ll be very surprised if War Brothers doesn’t pick up its share of awards this year. ◊

Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.

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Worshipping at the Feet of Goddess Librarians

I don’t know how I’ve missed Librarian Avengers for oh so very long. Because the site rocks. Deeply. An example: on the FAQ page under “What is this site about?” the cheerful response is, “This site is about kicking your butt if you don’t start saying thank you at the reference desk.”


Librarian Avengers was started by user experience designer Erica Firment in 1997. Firment writes that she was “a young English Major when I wrote an essay called Why you should fall to your knees and worship a librarian and hooked it up to the domain name I got for my birthday. The positive response from the library community was one of the forces that propelled me into graduate school.” And the rest, as they say, is Internet history.

The essay, “Why You Should Worship A Librarian” is still at the core of the site. It’s mind-blowingly on-target, reminding us in no uncertain terms about why librarians rocks. Here’s a teeny excerpt:
Ok, sure. We’ve all got our little preconceived notions about who librarians are and what they do.
Many people think of librarians as diminutive civil servants, scuttling about “Sssh-ing” people and stamping things. Well, think again buster.
Librarians have degrees. They go to graduate school for Information Science and become masters of data systems and human/computer interaction. Librarians can catalog anything from an onion to a dog’s ear. They could catalog you.
You can read the whole piece -- and surf the whole site -- here.


This Just In… The Adventures of Billy Chicken Toes & the Wolf: Add Your Own Art Children’s Books by Jeannee DeWolfe

This is the story of Billy Chicken Toes, a young but inquisitive barnyard chick who one day finds himself shooed out of the henhouse to make room for new hatchlings. He is told to stay close to home, but Billy’s curiosity and innocent free spirit lead him far from the safety of the Jones farm and cause him to tumble down a dark, damp rabbit hole, where he encounters one adventure after another. He meets a not-so-clever wolf who deceives poor Billy and tricks him into leading the hungry old scallywag back to the hen house. When Billy learns the truth about the wolf and the threat he poses to his loving family, Billy discovers that even a little chick like himself can possess daring and courage far beyond his tiny size. In the end, Billy learns the true meaning of friendship.

Jeannee DeWolfe is from Jamestown, New York, the hometown of Lucille Ball. “While this is my first book, I anticipate Billy Chicken Toes and I will have many more adventures to come.”

You can order The Adventures of Billy Chicken Toes & the Wolf here. Learn more about author Jeannee DeWolfe here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Books on the Street

Flying Books jazz mural by artist Bill Weber on Jackson Square, San Francisco. 
Here’s something fun from EBook Friendly: “25 hilarious street art and mural works about books, libraries and reading.” 'Nuff said: here’s the link.

This Just In… Under the Linden Tree by Cassandra Krivy Hirsch

From a trunk in an old house in Rockport, Massachusetts emerges the yellowed pages of a journal and a clutch of letters. Marianne Parsons, a young mother and the wife of a sea captain, made her first entry in that journal on a spring evening in 1855. Her recorded days revolved easily around her husband, James, and their little son, Henry.

Marianne lived an exemplary life, did good works in the village, was dutiful to the demands of an affluent, well-mannered upbringing. All this would come to an end.

Under the Linden Tree is the story of a vanished time and sensibility. Marianne Parsons finds herself faced with a decision she never wanted to make. Now she must struggle against the propriety that once held her in a comfortable embrace. Now she must ask herself questions that her family -- and her own past -- have not equipped her to answer.

You can order Under the Linden Tree here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Fiction: Apocalypse Cow by Michael Logan

“Forget the cud, they want blood!”

Somehow that coverline puts the nature of Apocalypse Cow (St. Martin’s Griffin), Scottish journalist Michael Logan’s debut novel, into perspective. Because even if you were about to wonder if Logan’s lighthearted tale of a bovine zombie apocalypse was meant seriously, you have to know that any time someone rhymes “blood” and “cud” on any book cover anywhere, someone’s tongue must be jammed firmly into their cheek.

And so it is here. What surprises is that, despite the morbidly screwball presence, Logan’s dark take on mad cow disease is actually surprisingly entertaining.

Apocalypse Cow mines the same vein as the comedic British film that launched Simon Pegg’s career, 2004’s Shaun of the Dead. Like that film, Apocalypse Cow takes a decidedly unfunny premise and (ahem) milks it for all it’s worth, ringing laughter from situations one would not think could hold any. And amid the madness of a plague of cow zombies threatening the future of the world, Logan manages to insert an unexpected stylishness as well as some very real humor: both sly and otherwise.

Let’s face it: a book featuring bovine zombies is not going to have many socially redeeming qualities. But if you’ve ever liked the sort of humor that skates you right to the edge and tries to push you over, this is one that you’re likely to enjoy. ◊

Lincoln Cho is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in the Chicago area where he works in the high tech industry. He is currently working on a his first novel, a science fiction thriller set in the world of telecommunications.

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How to Diagnose a Book Addiction

Like a lot of Buzzfeed’s reportage, “25 Signs You’re Addicted to Books” looks more like a series of Facebook timeline images than anything else. Even so there are still a few things here to chortle at. And, certainly, if you are one of the addicted and afflicted, you’re likely to add your own self-deprecating laugh.

You can see the Buzzfeed piece here.

This Just In… Why Me by Robert Mulolo

Renee is a young woman who has yet to understand the true meaning of happiness. Her reasons vary from never knowing who her father was to having a mother who shows her nothing but contempt to an absentee sister who indulges more in her partying than acknowledging her baby sister. Renee’s loneliness perpetuates through the pestering of her mother to the point where jumping off a ledge seems terribly alluring.

Yet, with all these emotions spreading through her; Simon, Richard and Christopher come along. They will have a strong and powerful impact on Renee’s life, attempting to heal the wounds of a past love. This bares the question: Will they salvage a young woman’s life or will they push her off the edge?

You can order Why Me here. Visit author Robert Mulolo on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Art & Culture: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Okay, so who didn't love The Mary Tyler Moore Show? Just as I thought: no one. The iconic 1970s TV program was must-see TV back in the day, and for good reason. It starred Mary Tyler Moore in a role that would redefine her (after her first defining role, that of Laura Petrie in The Dick Van Dyke Show).

The featured the likes of Ed Asner and Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman, and it stood on the shoulders of creators James L. Brooks and Allan Burns. The show started out as a way to showcase Mary Tyler Moore's talent, then quickly became a showcase for many issues of the day (as well as a springboard for other shows produced by the fledging MTM studio, including Newhart and the Rhoda spin-off). And though the show’s voice was never as sharp or in-your-face as that of Normal Lear’s All in the Family, it held its own for five years and became one of the greatest achievements in TV history.

Now the program’s creation has been captured in a book by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: All the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic  (Simon & Schuster). I pretty much tore into this book, hungry for all the juicy secrets, and I suppose they’re all here. Read it and you’ll learn about how the show was born, how it developed, some of the tensions that threatened the show and then helped to shape it, and much more. You’ll read about casting. You’ll read about certain episodes in depth, notably the pilot, the last episode, and the one about the death of Chuckles the Clown, in which Mary can’t stop herself from laughing at the funeral. You’ll read about the show's number one fan -- and how its creators embraced him.

To gather all this material, Armstrong spoke with Asner, Harper, Gavin MacLeod, Leachman, Brooks, Burns, and many others, including script writer Treva Silverman. The one person she did not speak with is Mary Tyler Moore. Now, biographies are written every season without any direct interview material from the subjects themselves, but somehow the missing voice and perspective of Mary is a pretty obvious hole in this narrative, and it left me hanging and frustrated.

While fascinating, I found the book only an okay read. Armstrong, a well-known entertainment journalist, obviously put this book together with all kinds of care, but she should have paid closer attention to her writing. I mean, how many times do we need to be told that Valerie Harper was married to Dick Shawn? (You’ll read that many times in this book.) Beyond what comes across as just sloppy writing, the tone is much more reportage than insight. I wanted more of the latter, not just a bullet list of facts. I wanted more sizzle, more punch, more passion. It’s clear that the author loves this subject, but her love doesn’t come across in her treatment of it. Unfortunately, her style here is a lot of “this happened, then this happened, and finally that happened.”

Nevertheless, the story behind The Mary Tyler Moore Show is worth telling and worth reading. The show itself was groundbreaking, and it held the attention of a nation at a time when virtually everything in the culture was changing. While All in the Family covered the issues of the day with anger and controversy and by stepping out of the accepted bounds much of the time, Mary Tyler Moore covered them through the eyes of an almost innocent character, a young woman simply trying to find her place in a world. It stayed within the accepted bounds, yet found ingenious ways of nudging beyond them before anyone thought to notice.

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This Just In… Delusions of Grandeur by Jason Najum

“Reads almost like a poem …. An earnest, soulful book about the world’s woes.” -- Kirkus Reviews
Delusions of Grandeur asks the big questions facing today’s generation. It is part dark and humorous memoir, part relentless cultural critique. How can a people who have so much still feel dissatisfied? How does an educated but jaded society reconcile what they know with what they see happening around them?

Thousands protesting in the streets of New York. Revolutions across the Middle East. Millions of people plugged into social networks, searching for a connection, longing for a sense of community. This is not the trailer for a movie, not the hook of an epic novel; this is what’s happening today, all around us.

Using a familiar backstory and well-known cultural examples, revisiting our history to better see where we came from, Delusions of Grandeur is a passionate and personal examination of that “something” that is missing in our lives, why this something continues to eat at us, and why we need a different approach to how we deal with it.

In a modern and fast-paced style, a compelling and common sense argument is presented for the next stage in our cultural evolution.

You can order Delusions of Grandeur here. Visit author Jason Najum on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Book Titles That Weren’t

As almost everyone knows, a rose by any other name is still a rose. Even knowing that (and knowing it well), if someone were to try to tantalize you with a book called Something That Happened, what would you think? Well, you probably wouldn’t think about the literary mastery of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Something That Happened just lacks that essential snap, does it not?

There are more examples of classic books with original titles that missed the mark. Many of them.

The working title of Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice was First Impressions and Frances Hodgson Burnett magical children’s classic The Secret Garden was originally entitled Mistress Mary. (“Mistress Mary Quite Contrary...” Any connection?)

Good old Philip Roth apparently had not one but three preferred titles for the book that would become Portnoy’s Complaint, none of them good: The Jewboy, Wacking Off, or A Jewish Patient Begins His Analysis. (Clearly, the editor responsible for the name change should be thanked for that one. If nothing else, one can’t imagine Wacking Off would have had quite the same panache on the shelf.)

The heavy lifting here was done by the Huffington Post who dug up 24 classic books that ended up with titles mostly pretty far from the ones originally intended. You can see all of them here.


This Just In… Bobby Convict, School of Hard Knocks by Bobby Wilhelm and Faye Higbee

Note: It is suggested that readers of the print version of Bobby Convict, School of Hard Knocks read with a UV light in order to see the invisible ink entries scattered throughout the book.

Drop the book and no one gets hurt! Ahh, so you’re a rule breaker yourself. Ok, fasten your neck brace for the rollercoaster ride of disbelief or neck-breaking laughter at the antics of a misguided youth. Grandpa Louie passed down his legacy of bootlegging, gambling and pool sharking to me, and I one-upped him by becoming the Drug Kingpin of the Northwest. I was chased by the cops as a six year old kid, a wild teenager, and a major drug trafficker.

These nefarious adventures take you through the underbelly of the drug world where readers meet notorious criminals, including three made Mafia members, the Spokane Serial Killer, the accused Tylenol Killer, an Aryan Brotherhood shot caller and the Oklahoma City Bomber. My domestic terrorism of drug trafficking cost me 16 years in the School of Hard Knocks (prison) and eventually saved me from myself through redemption. 97 people were interviewed for this book. Don’t believe them. They’re jealous and out to get me. I sure hope the Statute of Limitations is up or I’m screwed.

According to Idaho State Police Drug Agents, Bobby was considered one of the highest level drug traffickers Idaho law enforcement ever pursued. “He was a real challenge and we enjoyed the hunt.”

You can order Bobby Convict, School of Hard Knocks here and here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Hemingway: Each Book a New Beginning

“For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.”
In 1954, Ernest Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, a prize which, at the time, he said he felt unworthy of. Hemingway said publicly that Isak Dinesen, Bernard Berenson and Carl Sandburg had each been more deserving than he.

Eventually, Hemingway gave in and accepted both the honor and the award (thoughts are, he needed the money) but he didn’t personally attend the ceremony, opting instead to have the US Ambassador to Sweden read a lovely acceptance speech which Hemingway had written for the occasion.

Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings reproduces a transcript of the speech here, as well as an excerpt of it recorded in Hemingway’s own voice at a later date.


This Just In… Coeur d’Alene Waters by Ned Hayes

A dark literary thriller, Coeur d’Alene Waters follows Matt Worthson, a northern Idaho Sheriff's deputy searching for a murderer and along the way finding out the truth about the never-solved Sunshine Mine disaster. Coeur d’Alene Waters is the debut offering from Northwest journalist Ned Hayes.

Coeur d’Alene Waters is the first novel in the Bitterroot Series, set in the panhandle of northern Idaho. The series focuses around Matt Worthson, a Sheriff's Lieutenant and one-time candidate for Sheriff. Matt’s family has a long history in corrupt politics and in the powerful mining industry.

“What is it about the Pacific Northwest that leads some into dark worlds of violence and despair? Had one-time north Idaho journalist Ned Hayes made this tantalizing question the centerpiece of his debut novel, he might have only created a derivative retelling of an all-too-familiar serial killer plot. Instead, he takes the idea for this well-written literary thriller from the historical facts of the still-unsolved Sunshine Mine disaster in 1972, and winds it tight around the troubled central figure of Matt Worthson, a one time candidate for Sheriff in Coeur d’Alene…. a solidly written murder mystery with a haunting finish, reminiscent of the best of Ridley Pearson or the early work of fellow Washington writer Jess Walter.” -- Book Note, Featured Review

You can order Coeur d’Alene Waters here. Visit author Ned Hayes on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Grammar Fail in Movie Titles

So, okay: this has almost nothing to do with books. Scratch that: it has nothing at all to do with books. Still, it’s a bit of fun and it’s loosely connected by way of writing, so maybe that’s enough?

TIME magazine dishes up some “Writing Wrongs” with “10 Movie Titles with Bad Grammar.”

And, truly, some of these are pushing the envelope of bad: but TIME needed to get to 10, didn’t they? Even so, it’s a fun exploration with a round-up that includes The Ladies Man, My Big Fat Greek Weddding and even the latest release in the Star Trek franchise.

This Just In… Hangman’s Wood by Paula K. Randall

When Jake Summers, a university student, is viciously attacked and left for dead, newly promoted D.I. Fiona Brightman finds herself on the trail of a couple of young thugs embarked on a spree of brutal assaults.

Soon the violence escalates and first a child and then a middle-aged woman are murdered in Hangman’s Wood, with a fourth person missing: young and attractive Natalie Gower. With time running out, can Brightman, dealing with a tricky marriage and still grieving from the death of her four year old daughter, stop the killers and find Natalie before they strike again?

Brightman's search for the killers take her as far afield from her home county of Suffolk to the Scottish borders and the Kent coast, at one point endangering her own life during a frantic chase through the notorious Hangman’s Wood.

You can order Hangman’s Wood here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Gifts for Booklovers

We’re loving the offerings from The Literary Gift Company, a Reading, U.K. based company specializing in -- you guessed it -- gifts for and about books and reading. From the conmpany’s Web site:

We aim to be a one-stop-shop for all book lovers. We produce our own range of literary products, as well as offering a unique combination of gorgeous products from new designers, along with the best of quality brands from our partners. We are particularly interested in promoting products which recycle, or 'upcycle' abandoned or out-of-date books.

What that translates to is a whole online shopping experience comprised of gifts for people who love books.

The online store is organized into loose categories: new items, gifts for her, gifts for him, for kids, homewards, gifts for readers and gifts for writers.

The inventory includes things that are silly (an Oscar Wilde Apron, a Literary Rubber Duck) to the elegant (various upcycled brooches a Cheshire Cat pendant) to the sublime (their instant classic “Shhh Happens” mugs, above left).

You can check the Literary Gift Company’s FAQ here to learn about returns, delivery and -- mysteriously -- the reading order of Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels.

This Just In… How You Leave Texas by Alana Cash

How You Leave Texas by award-winning filmmaker and author, Alana Cash, is a volume of three short stories and a novella about four young women who leave Midland, Austin, Fort Worth and Mayville, Texas for New York, California, Jakarta, and in one instance, jail.

The young women seek escape from boredom and sorrow and they find it. Hilarious, tragic, and revelatory, the stories are about extraordinary women with ordinary lives.

Alana Cash taught writing classes at the University of Texas, informal classes in Austin, Texas, and was one of 60 U.S. teachers chosen to be profiled in the PBS series A Writer’s Exchange. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

You can order How You Leave Texas here. Visit author Alana Cash on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Stephen King Uneasy About the Future of Reading

From the sound of things, Stephen King is about to enter what could well be one of the busiest stages of his professional life.
Stephen King (right) with T-Bone 
Burnett and John Mellencamp for
Ghost Brothers of Darkland County.

A new novel, Joyland, will be published by Hard Case Crime next month. King’s sequel to 1977’s The Shining, Doctor Sleep, will be out in September.  A much talked about television  miniseries based on his 2009 novel Under the Dome will premiere on CBS June 24th starring Mike Vogel (Pan Am, Clovefield), Dean Norris (Breaking Bad), and Rachelle Lefevre (A Gifted Man). Plus his musical-theater collaboration with T-Bone Burnett and John Mellencamp, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, opened last month in Atlanta and will begin a US tour in the autumn. Meanwhile, a companion album featuring Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Roseanne Cash, Taj Mahal and others will be released June 4th.

In a recent interview in Parade Magazine, Ken Tucker asked King is he felt that reading occupied the same importance for today’s kids as it has in years past. King said he didn’t think so and, in fact, that he was uneasy about some aspects:
No, absolutely not. I think it’s because they’re so screen-oriented [TVs, computers, smartphones]. They do read -- girls in particular read a lot. They have a tendency to go toward the paranormal, romances, Twilight and stuff like that. And then it starts to taper off because other things take precedence, like the Kardashian sisters. 
I did a couple of writing seminars in Canada last year with high school kids. These were the bright kids, Ken; they all have computers, but they can’t spell. Because spell-check won’t [help] you if you don’t know through from threw. I told them, “If you can read in the 21st century, you own the world.” Because you learn to write from reading. But there are so many other byways for the consciousness to go down now; it makes me uneasy.
Asked what books he’s currently recommending, King replied:
The new Kate Atkinson, Life After Life, is a terrific read. And I go back to Agatha Christie in the summertime; I love those. There’s also a hard-boiled mystery called Gun Machine [by Warren Ellis]. Of course, I have to mention my son Owen’s new novel, Double Feature, which is very, very funny, and it’s a bighearted book. And my son Joe [who writes under the name Joe Hill] has a new [vampire] book out called NOS4A2. It pulls you in and keeps you in.
You can read the full interview here.


This Just In… Good to Her by Enid Harlow

Good to Her is a historical literary novel set against the backdrop of the famous New York City restaurant, Dinty Moore’s, which stood at the corner of 46th Street just off Broadway for some 50 years.
Enlivened by the irascible character of the restaurant’s real-life proprietor, James “Dinty” Moore, the novel takes readers back to the days of Prohibition and the police raids foisted on Moore’s establishment, often resulting in his compulsory appearance in court.

The novel moves forward through 1964, exploring the changing political and social life of the times, and focusing on the marriage of Nate Neumann, a successful New York City businessman, and Sallie, his much younger wife.

Having fled the confines of small-town Indiana, Sallie comes to New York with dreams of becoming an actress. She meets Nate in Dinty Moore’s. Sallie is 20 and fresh off the farm. Nate is 46 and instantly smitten. The story is brightened by appearances or references to celebrities who frequent the place such as Walter Winchell, Lauren Bacall, and Humphrey Bogart.

Enid Harlow is the author of two novels and her short stories have appeared in numerous literary journals of national distinction. She received two PEN Syndicated Fiction Awards and a fellowship in fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts. The author earned both her BA and MA degrees from New York University. She lives in New York, the city of her birth.

You can order Good to Her here. Visit author Enid Harlow on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Don’t Panic! It’s Towel Day

Big fans of the late Douglas Adams’ much celebrated 1979 book, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, probably already know that May 25th is officially Towel Day. It’s intended as a celebration and remembrance of the delightfully touching talent of the creator of the Hitchhiker’s series, Douglas Adams, who died in 2001 at the age of 49.

According to the Towel Day web site and Facebook page, international preparations for the event increase every year. You can see what’s planned for this Towel Day here.

If you missed the significance of the towel to the work, it’s from Chapter Three of The Hitchkiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough. 
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost." What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in "Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There's a frood who really knows where his towel is."

Friday, May 24, 2013

This Just In… Reader: Daughter of Time Book 1 by Erec Stebbins

From the future, a final plea. Out of the past, a last hope.

From the author of The Ragnarök Conspiracy comes a vastly entertaining science fiction adventure.

She was a victim: enslaved after the murder of her parents.

She was made a monster: deformed, modified against her will.

She became a messiah: opening the Orbs and leading a galactic rebellion. Share the cosmic quest of seventeen-year-old Ambra Dawn, Reader, and the most unbelievable step in the adventure will be your own.

Praise for author Erec Stebbins:

“Promising newcomer...”  -- Library Journal
“A monster new talent...” -- Allan Leverone, author of The Lonely Mile
“Engaging characters, great conflicts, profound thoughts…” -- William Greenleaf, author of Bloodright and The Tartarus Incident
“Hooked on this author’s writing.” -- BiblioBuffet

You can order Reader: Daughter of Time here. Visit author Erec Stebbins on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Cookbooks: One Pan, Two Plates by Carla Snyder

In our culture, we are obsessed with time. Because of this, it is inevitable that some of the basics begin to become neglected. Unfortunately, one of the most basic basics of living that often gets left behind is eating properly. I know affluent, professional people whose evening meal is a constant decision about which take-out place to frequent on which particular evening. And no matter how good the take-out, there’s a part of me that really thinks that all that food made with only sustenance in mind (no thought for either love or health) just can’t be good for you.

In One Pan, Two Plates (Chronicle), Carla Snyder not only addresses these very basic concerns, she does something about it. “I can’t help you with your laundry or bills,” Snyder writes in her introduction, “but One Pan, Two Plates can help you get a healthful meal on the table in less time and with less cleanup.”

The book is focused on making beautiful one dish meals for two people -- a couple, perhaps or a parent and child -- but some of these would be terrific for a single, as well: dinner tonight and lunch for one reheated at work tomorrow. Either way, life gets a whole lot healthier.

Healthier and more delicious. Here’s a sampling of what’s on offer: Veal Piccata with Brussels Sprouts Hash and Apples. Rib-Eye Steaks Florentine. Crispy Sage Pork Cutlets with Couscous. Tuna Burgers. Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches. Barley and Lentil Salad. Pasta Carbonara. Wild Mushroom Frittata. Clearly I could go on -- there are “over 70 complete weeknight meals for two” included in the book -- but you get the idea.

If I have one quibble, it would be that One Pan, Two Plates is rather heavy on meat-based recipes. These days, that would not seem to be an accurate reflection of how most people eat or want to be eating. There are some recipes that are light on meat products, but few that are devoid of it. For some people, however, that news will be a plus rather than a minus. And for non-vegetarians, it’s a terrific book. The recipes are clear and well-illustrated. Most ingredients are easy to come by and each recipe lets you know how long it will take from start to finish as well as the amount of time you’ll actually spend fiddling in the kitchen. ◊

Aaron Blanton is a contributing editor to January Magazine. He’s currently working on a book based on his experiences as an American living abroad.

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This Just In… Travels in Elysium by William Azuski

Plato’s metaphysical Atlantis mystery plays out on an archaeological dig on the island of Santorini.

It was the chance of a lifetime. A dream job in the southern Aegean. Apprentice to the great archaeologist Marcus Huxley, lifting a golden civilization from the dead... Yet trading rural England for the scarred volcanic island of Santorini, 22‐year old Nicholas Pedrosa is about to blunder into an ancient mystery that will threaten his liberty, his life and even his most fundamental concepts of reality.

“This extraordinary novel, part murder mystery, part metaphysical thriller, kept me guessing until the very last page. The intellectual duel between the troubled hero and his ruthless mentor is mesmerising. William Azuski’s treatment of the Atlantis legend is completely original and I have rarely read a novel with such a strong sense of place. The bizarre landscapes of Santorini and the daily lives of its people, both ancient and modern, are vividly evoked. Anyone who enjoys the work of Umberto Eco, Orhan Pamuk or Carlos Ruiz Zafón should try this book.” -- Geraldine Harris, author, Egyptologist, and a member of the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford.

You can order Travels in Elysium here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Keith Richards in Trouble Again

Rock n’ roll bad boy and millionaire, Keith Richards, is known for more than his music. One of the founding members and the unofficial leader of The Rolling Stones, Richards is ranked fourth of the top 100 guitarists on the planet. Today, however, he’s making headlines for a different reason: his long overdue library books. From The Mirror:

The Rolling Stones legend, 69, admits he still owes for books he borrowed and failed to return to his local public library in Dartford, Kent, when he was a teenager. 
And at 15p a day – plus interest and admin fees – the star could be slapped with a bill for around £3,000.
Keith confessed: “I’ve still got overdue fines from about 50 years ago. They must be astronomical by now.”
With an estimated personal worth in excess of over £175 million, the legendary rocker would be in a fantastic position to help out Britain’s much beleaguered library system with a big, fat gift, especially since, according to Richards, he really loved the library when he was growing up:
Keith explained: “To me it was a place where you get a hint there was somewhere called civilisation.
“It was the only place where I would willingly obey the laws, like silence. It was somewhere I could find out about things I was interested in.”
The Rolling Stones’ 50 and Counting tour is currently rolling across North America. And, hopefully, when he isn’t on stage or on a bus, Richards is finding time to read.

Monday, May 20, 2013

E-Book? Just Say “No”

It’s interesting that, even though he was a pioneer in getting his books to market electronically, Stephen King has actively delayed e-book versions of his new book, Joyland, from shipping on the book’s June 2013 publication date. From Slashgear:
Stephen King is shunning ebooks in favor of traditional print runs for his new novel, Joyland, the outspoken author has revealed, confirming he has “no plans for a digital version.” King – whose new book is released in the US from June 4, though as a printed title only – specifically retained the digital publication rights so that physical copies could be prioritized. 
“Maybe at some point [there'll be an ebook]” King told the WSJ, “but in the meantime, let people stir their sticks and go to an actual bookstore rather than a digital one.”
Meanwhile, the e-book edition of Doctor Sleep, the long-awaited sequel to The Shining, is scheduled to go on sale the same September 2013 day as the hardcover.

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This Just In… One Big Beautiful Thing by Marie Flanigan

In this touching debut novel, artist Kate Abernethy is trying to put her life back together after the death of her boyfriend.

At first, moving back in with her mother seems like a good way to sort out her finances and re-evaluate her life -- instead it proves to be a minefield of doubt and recrimination.

Floundering, Kate pushes herself to take new opportunities so she can rebuild her life and have a second chance at happiness.

You can order One Big Beautiful Thing here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Bespoke Books Unique to Every Reader

The idea sounds straight out of The Jetsons. An electronic reading experience -- a “book” if you will -- that is unique to each reader and is precisely as long as the available amount of time.  And what work of fiction has tantalized us with these possibilities?

Well, this particular idea comes straight from the pages of fact, not fiction. According to Advertising Age, Australian airline, Quantas, has gotten together with publisher Hachette and international advertising agency Droga5 to create Stories for Every Journey, “a collection of custom books, each of which promises to last only for the duration of one of the airline’s routes.”
Stephanie Tully, CMO Qantas Loyalty, said the tactile experience and custom-created books are meant to reflect the sophistication of the brand. It's a trait that's Qantas is focusing on more than ever thanks to its recent partnership with luxury airline Emirates, which makes Dubai a key travel hub and opens the airline up to 65 destinations. The effort is aimed at the brand's high-frequency travelers but is "just one of many conversations we're developing with our members, from Bronze to Platinum One," she said. 
"It occurred to us that, in this world of Kindles and iPads, the last bastion of the humble, paperback novel is actually at 40,000 feet," said Droga5 Sydney Creative Chairman David Nobay. "Just take a look at the bulging shelves at any airport bookstore. But, for all its relative clumsiness, there's an unmistakably reassuring charm about thumbing through a good book as you recline amongst the clouds."
But frequent readers will spot the possible hole in this scenario: how long is long enough?
“According to our literary friends at Hachette, the average reader consumes between 200 and 300 words per minute, which equates to about a page per minute,” said Mr. Nobay. That idea was applied more specifically to the shorter novels and flights, but “for the longer flights, we accommodated some napping time and meals,” Mr. Nobay said. “After a few hours with a fine Qantas in-flight meal with Australian Shiraz, most people need a break from reading.”
It’s a novel idea, quite worthy of getting Qantas -- and Droga5 -- a lot of ink. But in a world where the acquisition of reading material is as easy as it is in this one and where both airport bookshops and WIFI connections abound, a limited available reading selection, no matter how custom, seems… well… silly: one of those bright ideas you’d think someone would have had a second thought about before it got out of the gate.

The upside, of course: we’re in another new conversation about books and reading and that’s always a good thing.

This Just In… Untethered by Katie Hayoz

Sylvie isn’t comfortable in her own skin. In fact, there are times she can’t even manage to stay inside it. But if there is one thing she’s sure of, it’s her love for Kevin Phillips. She’s willing to stake everything on it -- her family, her friends, and possibly her soul.

Sixteen-year-old Sylvie has been best friends with Cassie forever. But everything is turned around when the boy Sylvie has loved since fifth grade falls for Cassie. Devastated, Sylvie intends to get Kevin by any means possible, even if it involves treachery, deceit and the dark side of astral projection. She is positive her plans will give her what she wants, but she doesn’t count on it all spiraling out of control.

Finalist in the Mslexia novel competition, Untethered by Katie Hayoz explores the intoxicating and dangerous world of jealousy and obsession when coupled with paranormal ability. It is a touching, sometimes funny, sometimes heart-breaking novel that speaks to the self-doubt lurking in us all.

You can order Untethered here. Visit author Katie Hayoz on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Small Bookstores Fight Back

Though you don’t have to go far to find news from the book industry that is filled with doom and gloom, a bright thread can be seen gleaming through recent stories focusing on independent bookstores. From the Christian Science Monitor:

"2012 was the year of the bookstore," says Wendy Welch, co-owner of Tales of the Lonesome Pine in Virginia and author of the 2012 memoir "The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap." In her memoir, she recounts how she and her husband, Jack Beck, created – sometimes despite themselves – a successful used-book store in a town that, by any business measure, is too small to support one.
"Jack and I will never be rich. But we found a place where people said there wasn't a market and we said 'yes there was,' " says Ms. Welch. "We feel like it's important for bookslingers to hang together – we'll hang together or we'll hang separately.... And we're holding the line."
Sales at independent bookstores rose about 8 percent in 2012 over 2011, according to a survey by the American Booksellers Association (ABA). This growth was all the more remarkable since the sales of the national chain Barnes & Noble were so tepid. "I think the worst days of the independents are behind them," says Jim Milliot, coeditorial director for Publishers Weekly magazine. "The demise of traditional print books has been a bit overblown. Everybody is a little anxious, but they are starting to think they've figured it out for the time being."

The balance of this lengthy and interesting piece is here.


This Just In… Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth by Scott Terry

Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth: How a Gay Child Was Saved from Religion offers an illuminating glimpse into a child’s sequestered world of abuse, homophobia and religious extremism.

Scott Terry’s memoir is a compelling, poignant and occasionally humorous look into the Jehovah’s Witness faith -- a religion that refers to itself as The Truth -- and a brave account of Terry's successful escape from a troubled past.

At the age of ten, Terry had embraced the Witnesses’ prediction that the world will come to an end in 1975 and was preparing for Armageddon. As an adolescent, he prayed for God to strip away his growing attraction to other young men. But by adulthood, Terry found himself no longer believing in the promised apocalypse. Through a series of adventures and misadventures, he left the Witness religion behind and became a cowboy, riding bulls in the rodeo. He overcame the hurdles of parental abuse, religious extremism and homophobia and learned that Truth is a concept of honesty rather than false righteousness, a means to live a life openly, for Terry as a gay man.

An Out in Print Best Book of 2012

“A lively, affectionate autobiography with messages of inspiration and acceptance." -- Kirkus

You can order Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth here. Visit author Scott Terry on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


The Place Where Art is Born

They are cluttered and cramped; they are airy and spare. They have vast and open views; they are small, windowless spaces. They are casual living spaces at the heart of their homes; they are cloistered nooks where no one else enters. These are the “Inspiring Workspaces Of The Famously Creative” and the only thing that connects them is the amazing -- world-changing? -- works that have been produced there.

BuzzFeed’s collection of the wonderful workspaces of 40 creative geniuses  includes painters, designers and writers: most of them household names. Among the writers Susan Orlean, Martin Amis (whose studio is shown above left), Will Self, Charlotte Bronte, Anne Sexton, Jane Austen, Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw, Mart Twain and others. You can see them here.

This Just In… You Know Yourself 2.0 by Uma o’Gil

You Know Yourself 2.0 is a madcap satire of the heady days of the Celtic Tiger in cosmopolitan Dublin as seen through the eyes of a wet-behind-the-ears radio reporter who tries to get a break, find love and put up with her ex-rockstar of a father... usually with disastrous consequences.

You Know Yourself 2.0 pays tribute to the rantings and ravings of salt-of-the-earth Dubs caught in the maelstrom and conjures up the ghost of Flann O’Brien as it revisits the National Library of Ireland, St-Stephen's Green, Grafton Street, Phoenix Park, Cafe-en-Seine, Bewleys, The Point and many other genuine Dublin places like no touristic guide ever will (oh no).

Shameless petting sessions in public places, drunken pub crawls, made-on-the-fly cabby running commentaries, charity parades, glitzy funerals, daytime TV madness, a feminist analysis of action movies, tricks of the trade for winding up radio interviewees, agony aunt cliches, spivs, playboys, meat markets, shopping emporiums, on-air assassinations, the Jesus Lizard at their most riotous -- and a simply cataclysmic reader-meets-author evening that will not reflect gloriously on anyone involved.

You can order You Know Yourself 2.0 here. Visit author Uma o'Gil on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Puns for a Wordy Cause

What is the worst pun of all time? There are so many bad ones, aren’t there? It would be difficult to tell! But it’s possible the question will be answered today in Austin, Texas at the O. Henry Pun-Off, a competition that turns 36 this year.

In the competition, punveterates stand against each other for two titles: Punniest of Show and Punslingers. You can see more about this “Jest for a Wordy Cause!” here and if you’re anywhere near the O. Henry Museum on Fifth Street in Austin, pop around back right now and see what can be seen.

JD Salinger Film Will Solve Mystery

Catcher in the Rye author, JD Salinger, has long been a source of myth and mystery. But one of the big questions remaining about the reclusive author, who died in 2010 at the age of 91, is this: what’s taken Hollywood so long to get to the story of hiss life?

Whatever the reason, the silence has ended: with the upcoming release of an indie documentary called Salinger, the gates of privacy and silence are being lifted and it seems as though you can expect to be hearing a lot about Saligner from here on in, at least for a while. From The Guardian:
Called simply Salinger, the film is the brainchild of Shane Salerno, who has spent nine years writing, producing and directing the project, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money. The move is a major shift in career for Salerno, best known as a writer of mainstream blockbusters such as Alien vs Predator: Requiem and Armageddon.
But the promise of lifting the lid on the life of one of America's most revered writers has proven a massive lure to Hollywood. Salinger has been bought up by independent film mogul Harvey Weinstein after he reportedly saw a private screening of it at 7.30 on the morning of the Oscars. Even though the screening did not apparently include all of the film's most confidential revelations, he snapped it up immediately. 
In fact, so impressed have its backers been with what Salerno and his team have uncovered they are also releasing a TV show based on the documentary and have struck a deal with publisher Simon and Schuster to bring out a book called The Private War of JD Salinger.
Taking a page from his subject’s style, filmmaker Salerno is stoking the fires of public interest by not giving interviews and not giving air to rumors of previously unknown about affairs Salinger might have had and unpublished books he might have written. However, when the book was announced, , Salerno said that the “myth that people have read about and believed for 60 years about JD Salinger is one of someone too pure to publish, too sensitive to be touched. We replace the myth of Salinger with an extraordinarily complex, deeply contradictory human being.”

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Book Publicity 102: Another Wave

In late January, we wrote about an interesting press package that had appeared in the midst of the scads we receive every day. The book was a title to be published by Vintage in June called Taipei. As we pointed out in that piece, gifts and their books are soon separated and don’t add anything to the way we treat the book or how -- and even if --  it will ultimately be reviewed.

As much as we like presents, their inclusion will not buy a would-be reviewee any traction. In fact, if you send stupid gifts, it might lodge you in our memories in ways you had not desired. And what’s “stupid”? Like everything to do with this process, that’s pretty subjective. But walk cautiously and err on the side of lean. In general, the only way to get a great review is to start out with a great book. All the rest? It’s just icing on the cake, and you know what Marie Antionette had to say about that.

So, again: though gifts are not invited or even desired, every now and again one makes us stop and blink. Such was the case recently, when a press kit for a young adult novel called The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey rolled into the January offices. It was immediately apparent from the package we got that there’s something post-Apocalyptic going on with this one. A tiny first aid kit. A compass. A tampon. A tiny notebook and a tiny pencil. A pack of Welch's Fruit Snacks. All in a clear plastic bag labeled “The Fifth Wave Survival Kit”. There was also an ARC of the book with a simple one page press release.

What works about this package is that it’s the opposite of stupid. None of these things are costly or rare and very few of them are actually needed by a book review editor, and certainly not from one source. Together they tell a story about the book. Without cracking the cover you get a sense of danger and disconnection (the first aid kit, the compass, the notebook) you have the idea a girl will be involved (the tampon) and that survival will require the use of all available resources (those fruit snacks).

The package, while inexpensive to put together, gives the idea of the kind of journey is in store. The fact that the ARC also tells us that the books has a $750,000 marketing campaign is a big clue that the publisher has a pretty big steak in the success of the book. (And even inexpensive notebooks and tampons don’t grow on trees.)

A lot of YA hopes are riding on this one, which said press release makes pretty clear: “With the Solitary heartbreak of I Am Legend, the literary caliber of The Passage, the epic good vs. evil drama of The Stand, and the adrenaline of The Hunger Games,” and Booklist got on the bus with, “part War of the Worlds, part Starship Troopers, part Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and part The Stand.” Others go further for comparisons, but you get the idea: think big, think edge-of-your-seat, think mega-seller. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, the film rights were dealt with long before the book came out, as reported by Collider in March of 2012:
GK Films has pre-emptively acquired the feature rights to The 5th Wave, a sci-fi trilogy that young adult novelist Rick Yancey is planning. Variety provides the logline: “Series follows a teenage girl who survives an alien invasion only to then search for her brother, who may or may not have been abducted by human-looking extra-terrestrials.”  Naturally, romance is involved, as a cute* boy helps our heroine in her search.  But there’s a twist: he may be an alien in disguise.
Will The 5th Wave survive the hype? A week after the book came out, sales look strong and reviews are pretty glowing. This is definitely one to watch.

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This Just In… The Confessions of Sylva Slasher by Ace Antonio Hall

Eighteen-year-old Sylva Fleischer and her friends raise the dead for a living for police investigations and mourning families.

Two years after her high school crush is assumed dead, Sylva’s friends convince her to go on a spring break cruise in an effort to suppress her depression over him. But when passengers mysteriously die and reanimate into flesheating zombies, Sylva plunges into a horrifying struggle between a ship infested with the undead and the scariest thing of all: a second chance with Brandon after she discovers he’s still alive. This is a zombie story that eats right to the core and leaves you licking your chops for more.

Got zombies? Sylva Slasher does...

“[Ace] wastes no time immersing us in full, gore-spattered, Technicolor horror… The tension is almost unbearable…” -- Leslie Ann Moore, author of Griffin’s Daughter

You can order The Confessions of Sylva Slasher here. Visit author Ace Antonio Hall on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Dr. Joyce Brothers Dies at 85

Syndicated columnist, author, mother and beloved psychologist, television personality and advice columnist, Dr. Joyce Brothers, passed away earlier today at the age of 85.
Joyce Brothers in 1957.

Joyce Diane Bauer married internist Milton Brothers in 1949, six years before she won The $64,000 Question game show, the first woman ever to do so. Her success put the attractive, intelligent and personable young doctor in the public eye, which led to more television, including her own relationship show in 1958 and a career in television and radio broadcast that would last into the 1990s. Brothers also had a column in Good Housekeeping for almost 40 years and, beginning in the 1970s, a syndicated newspaper column. From the New York Times:
Dr. Brothers arrived in the American consciousness (or, more precisely, the American unconscious) at a serendipitous time: the exact historical moment when cold war anxiety, a greater acceptance of talk therapy and the widespread ownership of television sets converged. Looking crisply capable yet eminently approachable in her pastel suits and pale blond pageboy, she offered gentle, nonthreatening advice on sex, relationships, parenting and all manner of decent behavior.
Brothers was the author of several bestselling books including 1982’s What Every Woman Should Know About Men and Widowed from 1992, a book about dealing with grief which she was inspired to write after the loss of her husband, Milton, to cancer in 1989.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Mother’s Day Seduction

With Mother’s Day upon us, those of us who have lost our moms can find the day bittersweet. As author and occasional January Magazine contributor, MJ Rose, says eloquently in a fond remembrance at The Huffington Post, “I always miss my mom. Mother’s Day would be just one more day I’d feel her absence but for the relentless commercialization. Thanks to that, this day is even harder to deal with.”

And though all of our moms are special, to a booklover, Rose’s mom sounds like she was especially cool. Among other things, Rose recently shared on Facebook, “Her job before she had me was as a short story editor at Good Houskeeping -- assistant to Judith Krantz.”

Sadly, Rose’s mom never got to read any of her books, though Rose feels her influence in so many aspects of her own life to this day. “So for Mother’s Day,” Rose writes in her HuffPo piece, “I thought in tribute, I’d list the books on her shelves that she gave me  (or I snuck) to read. The ones I remember. The ones she loved or admired the most.” You can see Rose’s list here.

Rose’s dozen critically acclaimed novels were joined by a new one just this last week. Seduction (Atria) is a beautiful ghost story. Once again, Rose weaves a present day tale with a strong thread locked in history. In Seduction, a grief-stricken Victor Hugo, exiled to the Isle of Jersey, struggles to contact his beloved dead daughter in the afterlife… and comes in contact with some of the big names of myth and history: Plato, Shakespeare, Jesus and even the devil.

Meanwhile, in the present, a mythologist battling her own demons, comes to Jersey looking for secrets about the island’s Celtic roots. She’s been invited by an old friend who has a dark motive: Hugo’s lost conversations with a dark and evil force.

Seduction is twisty, sensuous and ultimately satisfying.

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This Just In… Mayor of Hollywood by MB Brophy

A Hollywood murder with eerie ties to a 75-year-old case forces Lucy Cassidy to confront her child star past as old friends and colleagues top the suspect list… that is, until they start dying.

Ten years ago, Lucy Cassidy turned away from a lucrative acting career for a life in academia. Now a tenure-track professor of history and still shooting the occasional film during semester breaks, Lucy is asked by her lover, Detective Mark Adamson, to consult on the murder of a former A-list agent who was campaigning for the honorary position of Mayor of Hollywood. Intrigued by the case’s uncanny resemblance to the infamous 1931 “Handsome Dave” murders, Lucy is quickly drawn into the investigation, even as she struggles to conceal her own personal connection with the victim. But when an old friend joins the body count, Lucy begins to suspect that her past may hold the key to solving the case.

You can order Mayor of Hollywood here. Visit author MB Brophy on the web here. ◊

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