Friday, August 30, 2013

Nobel-Prize Winning Poet, Seamus Heaney, Dead at 74

Nobel-prize winning Irish poet, Seamus Heaney dead earlier today. He was 74. Heaney died in a Dublin hospital, his family said, having suffered stroke in 2006 from which he never truly recovered.
From CBC:
The Northern Ireland-born Heaney was widely considered Ireland's greatest poet since William Butler Yeats. He wrote 13 collections of poetry, two plays, four prose works on the process of poetry, and many other works. 
Heaney was the third Irishman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, joining Yeats and Samuel Beckett.
Though Heaney’s career held many highlights, he is perhaps best known for his 1999 verse translation of Beowulf. “A better Beowulf,” the New York Times said at the time. “Heaney has turned to Beowulf,” gushed the Guardian, “and the result is magnificent, breathtaking....Heaney has created something imperishable and great that is stainless -- stainless, because its force as poetry makes it untouchable by the claw of literalism: it lives singly, as an English language poem.”

In tribute, here The Telegraph offers up what they felt were some of Heaney’s best lines.


This Just In… Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye by Colleen Collins

Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye is part-memoir, part-reference non-fiction based on the experiences of a professional private investigator and writer. Researchers, writers, detective-fiction fans, armchair detectives and anyone curious about the real world of private investigators will find the book of interest.

Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye is a research must-have.” -- Holly Jacobs, award-winning author of Steamed.

You can order Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye here. Visit author Colleen Collins 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 Birth of the Mother of a Monster

 Frankenstein author Mary Shelley was born on this day in 1797. According to Writer’s Almanac:
After her marriage to the poet Percy Shelley, the couple went to stay in a lakeside cottage in Switzerland with the poet Lord Byron in the summer of 1816. One rainy night, after reading a German book of ghost stories, Byron suggested that they all write their own horror stories. 
Everyone else wrote a story within the next day, but Mary took almost a week. Finally, she wrote an early version of a story about a scientist who brings a dead body to life. She turned the story into a novel, and Frankenstein was published in 1818. She was 21 years old.
You can see the Writer’s Almanac entry for today here.


Val McDermid to Appear at Agatha Christie Festival

Mystery fans in England can look forward to a massive Agatha Christie Festival in Torquay on the English Rivera next month. The festival will begin on September 16, just one day after what would have been the mystery author’s 123rd birthday.

Agatha Christie, the “Queen of Crime” was born in Torquay, not far from where the festival will be held and, according to the festival web site, Christie “spent many of the most important chapters of her life here, as well as using real places in the area as settings for her murder mysteries.”

It is estimated that two billion copies of Christie’s books exist worldwide, representing 80 titles in total.

On the 19th of September, bestselling author Val McDermid will appear at the Festival’s Literary Dinner at Torquay’s Grand Hotel, making this one of the most anticipated events at the 2013 Festival. This appearance comes just in advance of the publication of McDermid’s 27th novel, Cross and Burn.

More information on the Festival and the English Riviera can be seen here.

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This Just In… Stage Daughter by Sheryl Sorrentino

Sonya Schoenberg dreamed of someday becoming a famous actress, but instead, a hapless, one-time tryst with a Muslim man lands her the lifetime role of single mother.

Alone and forsaken by her family, Sonya tries to keep her dream alive through her “stage daughter,” Razia, now a precocious pre-teen enrolled in a competitive performing arts school. But Raz prefers drawing to drama and has no problem defying her mom to get what she wants -- be it piercing her own ears, doing a dumb dare, or hunting down her biological father, Aziz.

While Sonya struggles to keep a tenuous hold over rebellious Raz, she stubbornly sets her sights on transforming her mom’s “sperm donor” into a doting dad. Meanwhile, Aziz follows a script all his own trying to convert his newfound daughter to Islam.

Can this mismatched threesome improvise a successful “second run” despite deep-rooted animosities and seemingly insurmountable barriers? Or will bitterness and bigotry forever steal center stage? A daughter’s determination, a mother’s mistrust, and a father’s faith collide in this witty and powerful story of healing, forgiveness, and family.

You can order Stage Daughter 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.


Where Do Books Go When They Die?

No one likes to think about unwanted books. We’re focused on earlier phases: Making them. Writing them. Choosing them. Selling them. With all of that in our minds and hearts, dead books is the last thing on our minds. It has to be. But all of life is a cycle and, as it turns out, that’s just as true for books as it is for everything else.

When Dalhousie University in Halifax found itself with 50,000-plus unwanted volumes costing them over $12,000 per year to store, for a while it seemed like an impossible task to get rid of them. Enter David Cameron, a builder from Lunenberg county in Nova Scotia who has found uses for old books that range from building to art.

The Coast looks at Cameron’s innovative solutions to a new and challenging problem here.

This Just In… Watch Over Me by Tara Sivec

Addison Snow is your typical teenager. Her family loves her, friends make her laugh, and she’s wrapped up in the excitement of graduating high school and going off to college to pursue her dream of becoming an author. When her mother, who also happens to be Addison’s best friend, dies unexpectedly, her world comes to a crashing halt.

Death changes everyone...

Attempting to make the pain go away, Addison and her father travel down separate, dark paths. She chooses to end her grief forever, while he drowns his sorrows in the bottom of a bottle. How do you learn to live again when the most important person in your life is gone?

Addison struggles to pick up the pieces of her life. Instead of getting back to being the carefree teenager she once was, she’s stuck handling all of the responsibilities that should have been her father’s. She has no time to grieve, no time for emotions, and no time for happiness... until Zander Reinhardt walks in. All it takes is one little handwritten note on a napkin to kick-start her back to life and help her realize that maybe there’s more to that life than pain.

But can it really be that simple? Can she really trust this man who makes her feel alive again for the first time in a year?

Addison and Zander both have secrets they aren’t ready to share. When the truth finally comes out, is it enough to tear them apart or has something bigger than themselves always been watching over them, pushing them together, making sure they both get their happily ever after?

You can order Watch Over Me here. Visit author Tara Sivec 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, August 29, 2013

New in Paperback: Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars by Camille Paglia

“Modern life is a sea of images,” intellectual provocateur Camille Paglia points out in her introduction to Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars, new in paperback this month from Vintage.

This flood of images, Paglia says, creates some new challenges. “The brain, overstimulated, must rapidly adapt to process this swirling barrage of disconnected data.” Mass media and “slavishly monitored personal electronic devices” have “liberated individual voices but paradoxically threatened to overwhelm individuality itself.”

Those, in a way, are some of the questions Paglia addresses. Her answer? “We must relearn to see.” At the same time, she maintains, attention to fine art has waned while sports, animated movies and video games command an ever larger chunk of viewer’s attentions. And she sounds an alarm that resonates through its truth: “The arts are fighting a rearguard action, their very survival at stake.”

Although it’s the beginning, this might not be the best place to start telling you about Glittering Images. Though it sounds like it from the introduction, Glittering Images isn’t a philosophical discussion about art. Or rather, it isn’t just that. It’s also a wonderful, thoughtful contemplation on art as well as a guide through specific styles and movements. The result is… well, pure Paglia. The book is one part introduction to western art, one part art history and one part pure commentary.

Glittering Images wraps Paglia’s passionate, energetic prose around well-reproduced illustrations. The book is thoughtful and, at times, even provocative. Anyone who has wanted to know more about western art or wondered where it’s heading will find Glittering Images rewarding and even eye-opening. It’s a terrific book. ◊

Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.

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This Just In… Sophia's War: The End of Innocence by Stephanie Baumgartner

Sophia can hardly wait to return to Germany to help her great aunt run the town library, despite her father’s distrust of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. But Sophia’s not worried; she knows she will be safe with her extended family.

Unfortunately, the beautiful country that she remembers from her childhood visits is almost unrecognizable. Almost every man is in uniform, and everyone she meets seems watchful and secretive. It quickly becomes apparent that Germany is not what it used to be, and neither is her cousin, Diedrich.

Will Sophia return home when Diedrich gives her an ultimatum that defies her conscience? Or will her desire to fulfill her aunt’s wishes keep her in a dangerous foreign land on the brink of war?

You can order Sophia’s War: The End of Innocence here. Visit Stephanie Baumgartner on Facebook 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, August 26, 2013

Paris Uses Literary Links to Lure Customers

Want to make a hotel look sexy and desirable? Highlight its connection to books and reading! At least, that’s the approach some Paris hoteliers are taking: pointing out the city’s belles-lettres background in a celebration of French literary culture. The various campaigns seems to be netting at least certain hotels good results. From The Guardian:

The rise of the belles-lettres establishment, celebrating France's literary culture, and even that of its neighbours, is the latest marketing sensation in the French capital, as hoteliers come up with ever more innovative -- or desperate -- ways to attract guests.

Though some of the campaigns are bearing fruit, they’re not all entirely reflective of actual history. Maybe that doesn’t matter?
Sandwiched between a fast-food restaurant and a kebab house opposite the Gare de l'Est, the Le Marcel hotel has ideas well above its station. Born and raised in the chic 16th arrondissement, Proust would have spent little time in this, the gritty 10th, other than while passing through to catch a train.
But Le Marcel does not let the lack of the great man spoil the promotional plot: "Marcel Proust's spirit hovers all around," says the hotel brochure. "The Marcel dresses up in indigo. This color (sic), a major element of romantic literature, is present everywhere in slight touches to recall that infinity is ubiquitous."
You can read more about Paris’ literary marketing efforts here.

This Just In… Smiley Riley and the New Neighbor Gift Pack by Katie McLaren

The New Neighbor Gift Pack includes Smiley Riley and the New Neighbor Reading Book, as well as the Tracing Book and Coloring Book.

Kids can read the book, practice their drawing with the Tracing Book and color in the pictures the way they’d like them to be in the Coloring Book. Buy all three books together to get a great discount.

This pack makes a great gift for any young reader -- be it your own young one, or a friend or a relative. The Gift Pack also comes with Free gift wrapping!

You can order Smiley Riley and the New Neighbor Gift Pack here. Visit Smiley Riley 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.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Massive Elmore Leonard Tribute

We knew all along that the passing of Elmore Leonard earlier this week would create a sad stir at our sister publication, the crime fiction-focused Rap Sheet. A tribute to Leonard began rolling out yesterday and readers should keep their eyes peeled for subsequent installments: it’s clearly going to be a Rap Sheet classic.

Editor J. Kingston Pierce responds to the sad news in his typical style: partly personal, partly deeply factual and partly shepherding responses from a phalanx of grief-stricken authors who share their sense of loss upon losing a writer who was a hero to many of his kind. Robert Ferrigno, Kelli Stanley, Ace Atkins, Gary Phillips, R.J. Ellory, Bill Crider, Libby Fischer Hellmann and Jason Starr are among those who add their voices to The Rap Sheet’s tribute.

The first part of The Rap Sheet’s massive tribute to Elmore Leonard is here. Part II has now been posted here.

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This Just In… Portals of Time: A Woman’s Shamanic Visions by Rebecca Ra’Chel

Portals of Time: A Woman’s Shamanic Visions is an adventure that takes you on an excursion through a portal into a parallel world. Dr. Rebecca Ra’Chel learns that she is a shaman, obviously her true indentity. Readers are introduced to this alternate world by means of time travel. The book engages themes of identity, moral value, audor and social structure and it answers what every reader wants to know in a Sci-Fi thriller: “What if a person could alter the course of history by entering a parallel but ancient world and be in touch with much earlier versions of herself?” This assumption would permit readers to explore and evaluate that possibility, to live and engage with the indigenous peoples, and return safely to a modern world.

You can order Portals of Time: A Woman’s Shamanic Visions here. Visit author Rebecca Ra’Chel 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, August 22, 2013

Literary Notes: How Do You Define “Trash”?

To call this list, as Flavorwire has, the “40 Trashy Novels You Must Read Before You Die” seems an overstatement and even, in some cases, an insult to readers and writers everywhere. And some classic and actually terrific books. Here the publication builds the case for their choices:
Here are 40 of the greatest trashy books written in the last hundred years that, if you’re not looking for perfect prose, will surely decrease muscle tension over a weekend, or on vacation. These books aren’t perfect, but each has some kind of hook -- either unexpectedly good construction, entertainingly inventive salaciousness, or historical import in and of itself. 
So who makes the list? Clearly, if you’re interested, you’ll have to make the journey on your own, but a taste tells the real story: “trash” is certainly in the eye of the beholder and, in this instance, Flavorwire has gone all the way to the classics to make their case.

For example, though I personally never thought all that much of the prose that makes up Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, it is inarguably a classic. Other (IMHO) non-trashy books on the list include Judith Krantz’ Scruples, The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins (for crying out loud!), Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann (so, okay: sometimes trash is trash is trash), Delta of Venus by Anais Nin, The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, The Stand by Stephen King and several more.

The list makes you wonder about the nature of “trash.” A lot of the included titles are chockfull of sex and scandal, so there’s a clue. And there are a couple of weirdly violent entries. But a large percentage seem to have made the list simply by virtue of having been extremely popular in their day. Gone With the Wind, for example. James Clavell’s wonderful Shogun and Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Michener’s Hawaii.

You can see all of Flavorwire’s list here and, if so inclined, you can shout at them through the comments as so many others have already done.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

This Just In… Diana and Dodi The Fairytale by Frances Collins

Princess Diana was a beautiful young lady and a real princess. Everyone loved her for her selfless acts of kindness and compassion.

Unfortunately, Diana embarked on a disastrous marriage, but wanted and looked for love in her life. She had a relationship with a lovely heart surgeon which would challenge her feelings and question her love once again.

Diana finally met a man who would love her deeply and forever. Together they would outwit the media, avoid a fatal car accident in Paris,
and fall desperately in love.

That man was Dodi Al-Fayed.

You can order Diana and Dodi The Fairytale 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.


Hunger Games Kicks Harry Potter to the Curb

To our knowledge, Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling and Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins have never been in competition. But if they were? The latest word is that Collins would be in the lead. Forbes tells us that The Hunger Games series has passed the Harry Potter series to become the all-time bestselling series of books. From Forbes:
Although author Suzanne Collins only wrote three books, her Hunger Games trilogy has been able to zap the magic out of J.K. Rowling’s seven-part Harry Potter franchise on,. Taking into consideration print and digital Kindle book sales combined, The Hunger Games, which are much shorter reads than the Potter books, have captivated a wider range of fans around the globe. All of the books in the Hunger Games and Harry Potter series are available for Kindle owners with a Prime membership to borrow for free in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.
See the full post here.

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This Just In… Firefly by Whitney Hamilton

Grace Kieler had a comfortable life in Charleston until the outbreak of the Civil War. After losing everyone but her sister and surviving the Great Fire of 1861 Grace found herself in the uniform of her dead Confederate brother, Henry, her sister donning the gray of their little brother, Will. Both fought at Antietam but only one survived.

After the war Grace, still living her life as Henry, tries to find work during spring planting near Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Henry finds himself on a farm owned by a blind widow, Virginia Klaising. As Henry’s secret becomes harder to conceal the two realize they have something precious -- an unspoken candor that reveals the soul.

You can order Firefly here. Visit author Whitney Hamilton 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, August 20, 2013

New Today: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Some novels are novels. That is, they’re just novels. You read them, they infect you or may even insinuate themselves into you, and it’s fun to spend a few hours or days losing yourself inside them. Other books, though, they haunt you. You know as you read them that there’s something a bit different. A way with words, sometimes. A pattern of telling detail. The pictures they paint in your mind.

Marisha Pessl’s new novel, Night Film (Random House), is of the second kind. This massively entertaining dream of a novel is something you experience. It leaves you breathless at times, stunned at others, and wonderfully entertained for all of its some 600 pages.

Night Film is the story of a group of people bound by the horrifying work of a reclusive film director, Stanislas Cordova. I say bound. But the truth is, a better word would be tangled. There’s Cordova himself, whose work brought him fame, a pitch-black reputation, and a life that some might envy and others might mourn. His family, his children, his colleagues -- all have suffered for the sake of his art. His daughter, Ashley, whose death opens the book, suffers perhaps the most, driven to her death by the echoes his work brought to her life.

The novel follows the dogged investigation of a shamed reporter, Scott McGrath, as he tries to unravel the mystery surrounding Ashley’s death, and the two young colleagues who are caught up in Cordova’s spell as well.

There’s so much going on here, all at once, that it’s nothing short of miraculous that Pessl, author of Special Topics in Calamity Physics, manages to keep it all moving as briskly as she does. But while the pace keeps you hooked, what keeps you enthralled is her eye for detail. You don’t just read about where McGrath goes; you’re there with him, seeing what he sees, smelling what he smells, thinking what he thinks. Pessl’s descriptions are razor-sharp, each one honed until it sings.

One of the most interesting things in Night Film is that Pessl has built not just Cordova’s world, but also his films. The titles, the key plot points, the characters, even the props and sets. His work as a filmmaker isn’t just referred to; it’s integral to the overall feeling of the book, and you get a real sense of his movies even though you haven’t seen a single frame.

Perhaps to make the read more filmic, in the absence of the visual sizzle of Cordova’s movies themselves, Pessl has sprinkled throughout the novel some of the ephemera that drive McGrath forward, placing his own family at risk, as well as his own sanity. Articles, a police report, web pages, handwritten scribbles; each contains a clue, sometimes many clues. Many help McGrath unravel what’s happened, helping him spy a potential next step or a tiny thread to tease.

These bits are interesting and fun, and they help you understand more about the people who populate Night Film, both on- and off-stage. However, I’m not sure any of it is needed. Pessl’s writing is so good, these little slices of “reality,” while sometimes illuminating, stop the action she works so hard to propel. And while one of them provides the ending to the book, it’s merely a coda. It seems superfluous and the novel’s only misstep; a better ending would have been the chapter before.

But this quibble is minor. Pessl’s intention is clear, and so is her talent. Her Night Film is a novel whose own calamity physics will grab you and stay with you. ◊

Tony Buchsbaum has been reviewing books and interviewing authors for January Magazine since 2000. He recently finished a new novel, and he needs an agent. If you're an agent -- or if you know one -- please e-mail him right away. Really.

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This Just In… Four Florins by Valeria Jane Wilson

The Fenton family -- John, chief reporter for the Edinburgh Courier, his elegant wife Dorothy, and their four daughters, Isabella, Anna, Constance and Jemima -- live comfortably in Edinburgh at the outbreak of the First World War.

The rather shrewish Dorothy is a Suffragette, and spends her days handing out white feathers to young men who have not volunteered for the front. When Isabella's secret sweetheart, a young artist, on his way to the Dardanelles, disappears in the troop train crash at Quintinshill, the already tense relationship between Isabella and her mother breaks down.

Isabella is forced to leave her comfortable home and life as a promising art student and experiences desperate poverty. Yet strangers around her are able to give enough solidarity for her to make a new life, with a new name, Ishbel, and eventually to continue her artistic career.

Four Florins begins with a real event: the tragic train-crash at Quintinshill, 1915. To this day the worst train disaster on British soil. The War and, later, the impending Depression form the framework for this story of ordinary people just trying to get on with their lives.

You can order Four Florins here. Visit author Valeria Jane Wilson on the Facebook 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.


Elmore Leonard’s “10 Rules for Writing”

While the world mourns the loss of crime fiction writing legend (and Justified executive producer) Elmore Leonard (Get Shorty, Up in Honey’s Room), we thought to celebrate his many gifts to writers with the republication of his famous “10 Rules for Writing,” first published in The New York Times in 2001.

“These are rules I’ve picked up along the way,” Leonard wrote at the time. Adding that they are intended “to help me remain invisible when I'm writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what's taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over.”

The master was and remained the master for many reasons. More than 10. Still, there’s a reason this particular 10 has been republished so often:

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . .
5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
6. Never use the words ''suddenly'' or ''all hell broke loose.''
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

And while adherence to his rules will make us all stronger writers, I can’t imagine a time when we won’t miss that strong, laconic voice. We bow our heads.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

10 Million Dollar Cornwell Move Will Bring Scarpetta to the Screen

Patricia Cornwell’s upcoming move from Penguin to HarperCollins might have as much to do with getting fictional medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta to the screen as it does with the reported $10 million the author will see for signing up for a two-book deal. From The Hollywood Reporter:
The deal is part of a renewed effort to finally get a Scarpetta movie into theaters. Elizabeth Gabler, president of Fox 2000, which is developing the film, played an influential role in the move to sister company HarperCollins, according to all parties involved.   In the statement announcing the publishing deal, Gabler said, "One of our greatest priorities is to begin production on the film as soon as possible." She hopes to have a movie in theaters in 2015.  Michael Morrison, the president and publisher of the General Books Group at HarperCollins, said his imprint had "good synergy" with Fox 2000, pointing to their work together on 2008's Marley & Me. "Knowing that Elizabeth and her team were high on [a Scarpetta film] definitely influenced our acquiring the books."
There is no mystery as to who will play the woman who has been the heroine of 21 of the popular novelist’s books:
Angelina Jolie has been attached to play Scarpetta since 2009 and as recently as December 2011 Cornwell reaffirmed Jolie's role. "If all the other pieces … fit together to make sure everyone’s happy with it," she said, the actress will play her popular character, adding, "It's looking hopeful."

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Friday, August 16, 2013

This Just In… The Artificial Mirage by T. Warwick

A relentless pursuit from Vietnam to Saudi Arabia in which augmented reality distorts the nature of attachment and desire.

In a world where augmented reality blurs the line between the real and the computer generated, Charlie cherishes the reality of Lauren. His life as a young American banker in Vietnam seems idyllic until a series of events precipitate her disappearance. When her trail leads to Saudi Arabia, he must navigate a criminal underworld. The stakes grow higher as it becomes apparent that reality isn’t what it once was.

You can order The Artificial Mirage here. Visit the author’s Facebook page  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.


Birthday for Bukowski

Poet, novelist and short story writer Charles Bukowski was born in Germany on this day in 1920. The author of six novels, many hundreds of short stories and thousands of poems, in 1986 TIME magazine named Bukowski a “laureate of American lowlife.”

Bukowski’s final novel, Pulp, was completed not long before Bukowski died of leukemia in 1994. The novel was a pastiche of American pulp fiction and a poorly executed mystery that is nonetheless considered to contain some of the author’s sharpest writing and starkest observations.

The author has been the topic of several films, notably the 2003 documentary Bukowski: Born Into This. James Franco is currently working on a film adaptation of Bukowski’s 1982 novel Ham on Rye, which Franco has described as one of his “favorite books of all time.”

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Top Hitchcock Quotes

Producer, director and all-around man of mystery Alfred Hitchcock was born on this day in 1899. To commemorate the date, Studio System News offers up a subjective but nonetheless highly entertaining list of “Top 10 Alfred Hitchcock Quotes.”

The number one quote isn’t very instructive, but it’s fun (if somewhat insulting to actors.)
“I never said all actors are cattle. What I said was all actors should be treated like cattle.”
For my money, a couple of the included quotes relate directly to the writing life. For instance:
“Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.”
Which is an interesting thought, any way you turn it. Here’s another:
“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”
Which seems certainly one to think about.

You can see the other collected quotes here.

This Just In… The Unholy by Paul DeBlassie III

A young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil Archbishop.

Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, The Unholy is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions, shape changing, and natural magic work to spin a neo-gothic web in which sadness and mystery lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision.

“Paul DeBlassie III has captured the energy and challenges of shamanic healing practices in a book that will keep people reading long into the night. Many speak or write about shamanic experiences or skills with no real understanding; Paul, on the other hand, is the real deal. Enjoy a great read!” -- Jim Graywolf Petruzzi, author of White Man, Red Road, Five Colors

You can order The Unholy here. Visit author Paul DeBlassie III 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.


Which Authors Will Take Home the Biggest Check in 2013?

What do the top earning authors in the world have in common? If the research Forbes magazine has done is any indication, not very much. Forbes’ recently published list of the top ten earning authors for 2013 illustrates this very plainly.

Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James tops the list at $95 million. As almost everyone knows, this upstart author started out writing the bit of Twilight fanfic that became 50 Shades. How did she accomplish this? Forbes answers: “Simply by selling more copies faster than any other author in history -- more than 70 million in the first eight months they were on sale in the U.S.” (Hey, wait: why didn’t I think of that?)

In stark contrast, the number two spot on the list is owned by thriller author James Patterson. Patterson’s Alex Cross series of books make him as traditional an author to be on this list as possible. Number three, Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins, and number five, popular conservative pundit Bill O'Reilly, show the varied nature of this list. But even within this disparity, there is some connection. From Forbes:
While the big books are bigger than ever thanks to the dynamics of book retailing and the frictionless e-book purchasing environment, the most important ingredients of a blockbuster never change, says Michael Pietsch, CEO of Hachette Book Group. “I think it’s the surprise and originality that lead to the giant scale,” says Pietsch, whose roster of writers includes Patterson. “That’s why there are all these delicious stories of the book that was rejected by 96 publishers – because people are looking at what worked in the past.”
Here’s the list:

#1: E.L. James $95 million
#2: James Patterson $91 million
#3: Suzanne Collins $55 million
#4: Bill O'Reilly: $28 million
#5: Danielle Steel: $26 million
#6: Jeff Kinney: $24 million
#7: Janet Evanovich $24 million
#8: Nora Roberts: $23 million
#9: Dan Brown $22 million
#10: Stephen King: $20 million


Friday, August 09, 2013

Art & Culture: Sign Painters by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon

I’m a graphic designer, so it’s easy for me to create a sign. With a computer and the right program, I can reproduce images and letters, over and over, with no loss of fidelity and no mistakes. Perfect every time. But in the old days (though really not that long ago) signs were actually painted by hand and though each letter may not have been computer perfect, the sign’s distinct personality was revealed in those imperfections.

We’ve seen these hand-painted signs. We’ve photographed and Instagramed them. We’ve bought reproductions of them and hung them on our walls. We love their weathered patina. The pealing and chipping of the paint. The faded colors and rough, indistinct edges. We’ve made an industry of reproducing these signs of yesteryear to hang and admire in our homes or to upload to various social networking sites, yet on most storefronts we see nothing but clean lines and bland, clinical order. For the most part there is nothing wrong with that, but there is something beautifully ornamental about a handlettered and painted sign. It’s the imperfections that bring personality, that draw you in for study. Perhaps even make you go into the store being advertised (which is the sign’s primary function).

In short: A hand-painted sign has character.

I have a friend who is in the sign business, as was his father. He shows me old books and examples of the sign painter’s trade. Gets a bit misty eyed about the past and frustrated when he talks of clients wanting nothing but styleless black lettering on white backgrounds.

As I read Sign Painters (Princeton Architectural Press) by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon, I began to understand what my friend has been going on about.

Sign Painters talks to more than two dozen first class tradespeople who practice the art of the hand-painted sign and they all have something in common: passion. A passion for something done by hand and a love of what they do. Each one of them undeterred by the advent of modern technology and proliferation of computer perfect, vinyl cut lettering. Each of them embracing time honored methods and appreciation of quality and craftsmanship.

Sign Painters is about a once vibrant industry that has been sublimated by the sterility of the computer, but it also of a resurgence of this once highly valued art form. How the men and women who do it, do it for the enjoyment of taking time to create and craft something that’s genuine and beautiful and at the same time functional. 

Filled with examples of their work, some simple some highly detailed and complex and all of them real art, Sign Painters is an ode to a bygone era that still has some teeth and to the men and women who are helping to keep the art form from being completely forgotten. ◊

David Middleton is the art director of January Magazine as well as a highly acclaimed photographer and graphic designer.

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This Just In… Be A Critical Thinker by Donald L. Karshner

When reading the newspaper, listening to politicians or discussing current events, how can you determine whether the facts and opinions shared are truthful and accurate or misleading and false?

Donald L. Karshner has had a lifelong interest in developing critical thinking skills. Inspired by his granddaughter, who was open to suggestions as she went off to college, Karshner began compiling his advice on honing critical thinking. This book evolved from the few pages he had written for his granddaughter.

Be a Critical Thinker offers a clear process for applying critical thinking skills to scrutinize ideas, facts and interpretations, even when they are inconsistent or contradictory.

By applying the skills of critical thinking, you will be better equipped to clarify your thinking process, to intelligently critique what you read and hear, to correct errors, to dispel misunderstandings and ignorance, and to make a positive contribution to a discussion or debate.

You can order Be A Critical Thinker 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, August 08, 2013

Libraries Get Grassroots Treatment

Though books and reading have never been more popular, in a difficult world economy, traditional libraries are constantly under threat. Not only is funding an increasing challenge, the very concept of a community library is  being questioned in some areas. In an age of e-books and an ever-present Internet, is there even really a need for an institution that makes books available to the community?

A grassroots movement has the answer to all of these questions. Ask anyone involved with the Little Free Library if people still want books and it seems likely you’ll get a resounding “Yes!”

Over the last few years, free and pop up libraries have been appearing with increasing frequency around the world. For example, 40 countries have registered 5000 Little Free Libraries, such as the one shown at left. Basically the size of a large birdhouse or an ample dollhouse, patrons may come an take a book… or leave one, with the idea being a sharp focus on literacy and an effort to get and keep people reading.

If you’d like to see if there’s a Little Free Library in your community, visit the world map here. Meanwhile, there’s a message here for library administrators and anyone who would wonder about the health of books and reading: despite extreme technological advances, at their core, libraries still really need to be about books.

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This Just In… Phoenix by Philippa Mayall

Set in Manchester, UK, Los Angeles, and the center of the narrator’s mind, Phoenix is a compelling memoir that takes the reader through an odyssey of escape. The writing is as raw as the emotions of the narrator, Flip, and the story as gritty as the northern UK city where she was raised.

The book begins with a tragic house fire destroys the life Flip knew. She flees the scene, devoured by guilt and drowning in self-loathing, then leaps into a synthetic existence of mind-altering drugs and alcohol, but before long her pain starts to bleed into her psyche once again.

Flip’s desperate urge to escape takes her 6000 miles from home to Los Angeles, where she is distraught to discover her feelings have come with her, and she soothes them with ever more potent drugs. Flip ends up homeless, living in a car with two other people and two cats, and a new flame is ignited within her. After a violent confrontation with her friends, Flip is forced to enter a drug rehab so she isn’t sleeping on the streets. This is the beginning of her real and most courageous escape.

“This is a memorable book -- beautifully and even lyrically written. At times it is melancholy, at times hopeful, at times shocking, but it is always moving. At times it is even exuberant with the sense of a life lived determined to survive." -- John Rechy, author of City of Night.

You can order Phoenix 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 World According to Catsby

Okay: it’s silly beyond words and we ask your forgiveness in advance, but when we came across this seriously good doodle by someone identified as Devin, we just had to share. Look closely and we think you’ll agree, how could we not enjoy a chuckle on a contemporary cat-based riff on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic 1925 novel?

You can find more doodles by Devin (seriously? A lot of doodles!) at a microblog called (appropriately enough) According to Devin. Not all book-related, but certainly worth the trip. C'mon, Devin: wanna take a run at Garp?

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Young Adult: Black Spring By Alison Croggon

I heard about Black Spring (Walker Books), a work of fantasy inspired by Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, at the Reading Matters Conference, where the author spoke, and decided to give it a go. I read Wuthering Heights for school and was curious to see what this author would make of it, so bought a copy.

First, the language: the author has done a very good job of getting that right. It reads pretty much like a 19th century book, to my eyes at least. The story is very similar to the original, with some changes. For example, Lina, the Cathy character, has no older brother and Damek, the Heathcliff of this novel, is related to the king and is imposed on the family. That makes a big difference to the storyline.

The technology is about the same, but the social structure is somewhat different. The north has its own royal family, which raises money by means of the Vendetta. Only those related to the ruler are exempt. If someone kills a person related to you, you must kill them and, in turn, be killed by someone in that family and, before you go off to commit your murder, you have to drop off some cash at the palace. Entire villages are wiped out because it's compulsory. If the royal coffers are low and nobody has a vendetta going, the king ensures one is started. Oh, and the victim not having a family doesn't prevent vendetta; in this case, the last family who hosted them must avenge the death.

Then there are the wizards, who don’t seem to do a lot apart from terrorizing villagers and issuing orders. On the other hand, if a girl is born with the violet eyes of a witch, she is killed. Presumably the wizards don’t want competition. Lina is a born witch, but the family move south for some years and then are allowed to move back without her destruction.

Interesting as all this is, I’m not sure that the Vendetta, at least, adds anything to the novel. If the author wanted to have a disaster in the village, a plague would surely have done the trick.

Despite all this, I’m sure Black Spring will have a lot of fans. It may do well for fantasy fans who aren’t ready to try the original. Those readers who, like me, have read the Bronte book, will have the fun of following the storyline and seeing how connected it is to the original. And I have to say that Lina is a somewhat more sympathetic character than Cathy: I have long thought that Cathy and Heathcliff are among fiction’s more obnoxious lovers, who thoroughly deserve each other. 

But as a YA novel, it really needs very good readers, the kind who could handle the original, and if they can handle Wuthering Heights, why not give them the original?

Still, it’s well worth a read and hopefully, anyone who discovers and enjoys Black Spring first will check out Wuthering Heights, and that can be no bad thing. ◊

Sue Bursztynski lives in Australia, where she works as a teacher-librarian. She has written several books for children and young adults, including Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly and, most recently, the YA novel Wolfborn. Her blog, The Great Raven, can be found at

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This Just In… Smiley Riley and the New Neighbor by Katie McLaren

Smiley Riley and the New Neighbor is the first reading book in the Smiley Riley Adventure Series. Here Smiley Riley meets her new neighbor, Noodles, and his house full of animals including his pet ferret Bandit.

Noodles and Smiley Riley start a great friendship, despite a small drama with Smiley Riley’s Lucky Bracelet. Smiley Riley and the New Neighbor is a great book for parents to read to children, as well as a great book for youngsters learning to read. Also, look for the Smiley Riley Coloring Book and the Smiley Riley Tracing Book plus the gift pack which includes all three books at a great discount.

You can order Smiley Riley and the New Neighbor here. Visit the Smiley Riley web site 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.


Art & Culture: The Art of Bob Peak by Thomas Peak

I’ve always believed the experience of moviegoing starts with the poster. A movie’s one-sheet -- the poster that hangs in the lobby -- features the film’s key art, sometimes a photo collage, sometimes a painting that represents the actors or the action. Whatever the image, the idea is the intrigue. After all, the one-sheet is really just an ad designed to inspire ticket sales.

For me, this experience was never more exciting than when the one-sheet featured the art of a man named Bob Peak. An artist with movie-star looks, Peak worked in advertising and magazines as an illustrator in the 1950s, then began designing movie posters in the early 1960s, most notably for West Side Story and My Fair Lady.

For both, he brought something new to movies: a thrilling, highly artistic style that didn’t just create a collage of key moments, but a collage that became its own key moment -- a moment that, for me, actually began the film.

Over the years, Peak brought this magic to Camelot, Our Man Flint, Funny Girl, Superman The Movie, Apocalypse Now, Excalibur, and the Star Trek movie series, to name a tiny sliver of the movies his work graced.

Now Peak’s work has been collected in a gorgeous book, The Art of Bob Peak (Peak Books). The book covers his entire career, moving from advertising and magazines to movies and beyond, to his covers for TV Guide and Time and fine art.

Using different styles and taking into account the medium he was using -- a movie poster can hold more than, say, a TV Guide cover -- there is something about a piece of Peak art. His magic is as clear in a smaller image, of, say, Elizabeth Montgomery in “Bewitched” or Ricardo Montalban and Hervé Villechaize in “Fantasy Island” as it is for a movie. Peak simply knew what to do.

At a time when the idea of a collage was simply a collection of moments in a film, he did something new: he wove images together. He found a base image and then layered in other ones, literally weaving moments together to create intrigue and excitement in what would become a single, iconic image. He provoked emotion -- and ticket sales.

He didn’t just illustrate movies; he suggested them. And it was this suggestion, created with such high art, that kickstarted the feeling of the film.

Peak set out to change how Hollywood sold its work. He started like many illustrators, doing advertising and magazine work. Movies came later, but his influence was immediate -- on moviegoers, the industry, and on key-art illustrators for decades to come.

The book is filled with an exhaustive and inspiring collection of images, as well as essays and quotes by people who worked with or were influenced by Peak, such as directors Steven Spielberg, Frank Darabont, and Leonard Nimoy and artist Drew Struzan, who created key art for the Star Wars films, among scores of others. I think the most notable of these comes from Spielberg. Peak didn’t create the poster for Jaws, but Time magazine used the artist to create an issue in which the film was the cover story. The director said he wished he’d seen Peak’s painting of a shark before making the film, implying that the film would have been more frightening.

This is a tribute to a man who knew how to tap into the emotion of a film using its art. The quote -- and the book itself. ◊

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This Just In… Shadows by Don Castle

The Jake Somers series continues to bring deep looks into the world of a private investigator and his closest family members.

In the third book in the series, Jake is dealing with the murder of a beautiful college co-ed right at his own back door. When multiple murders occur across the city under similar circumstances, Jake’s crime-solving expertise is called upon by the police to help catch a serial killer.

Death on a college campus, illegal synthetic drugs and a maniacal killer are all in a day’s work for Jake Somers.

You can order Shadows here. Visit author Don Castle 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, August 05, 2013

Amazon’s Bezos Buys Washington Post

In a move sure to keep both the Twitterverse and the mainstream media buzzing for days, online bookseller Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos has purchased The Washington Post, one of the most respected newspapers in America. Bezos’ $250 million purchase ends four generations of ownership by the Graham family. From The Washington Post
Seattle-based Amazon will have no role in the purchase; Bezos himself will buy the news organization and become its sole owner when the sale is completed, probably within 60 days. The Post Co. will change to a new, still-undecided name and continue as a publicly traded company without The Post thereafter. 
The deal represents a sudden and stunning turn of events for The Post, Washington’s leading newspaper for decades and a powerful force in shaping the nation’s politics and policy. Few people were aware that a sale was in the works for the paper, whose reporters have broken such stories as the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate scandals and disclosures about the National Security Administration’s surveillance program in May.
For much of the past decade, however, the paper has been unable to escape the financial turmoil that has engulfed newspapers and other “legacy” media organizations. The rise of the Internet and the epochal change from print to digital technology have created a massive wave of competition for traditional news companies, scattering readers and advertisers across a radically altered news and information landscape and triggering mergers, bankruptcies and consolidation among the owners of print and broadcasting properties.