Monday, March 31, 2014

Worst Book Cover Ever?

As all booklovers know, you’d have to go a long way to pinpoint the very worst book cover of all time. This has become even more true since self-publishing started to boom and, at the same time, everyone’s nephew got Adobe InDesign.

So there are some truly terrible covers out there. It’s tough to decide which is the very worst. And then? The Korean translation of a western classic gets a cover that pushes it way up the list.

Though the cover for one of the Korean translations of The Diary of Anne Frank would be horrific for any book in any language, there’s something really revolting about this nubile and seductive young woman on the cover of the heartfelt scribblings of the girl who died in a concentration camp after writing her innermost thoughts and dreams in her diary while living in an Amsterdam attic during the period her family was being hunted by the Nazis. 

As Kotaku, who shared the photo, points out:
Usually, covers of The Diary of Anne Frank feature black and white photos of its author, Anne Frank. Or, you might see tasteful illustrations. You don’t usually see photos like this! 
So while this is probably not the worst book cover ever, between the inappropriate illustration and the typo in the English portion of the typography (we can’t proofread the Korean, so we’ll just have to assume it’s okay) we have to vote this one up pretty high. (Or low, as the case may be.)


This Just In… On the Pineapple Express by H. L. Wegley

In one of the most beautiful places on earth, the ugliest of crimes holds young, innocent lives in its evil grip.

An intercepted cell-phone call from a remote area on the Olympic Peninsula tells beautiful, brilliant NSA researcher, Jennifer Akihara, that a group of girls will soon be sold into slavery by human traffickers. She enlists her fiancé, Lee Brandt, to help find the holding location and convince the FBI to intervene.

With the clock ticking off the last few hours before both the sale of the girls and the arrival of a deadly storm, and with international criminals pursuing them, can Jennifer and Lee save the girls, or will their wedding plans be cancelled ... permanently?

You can order On the Pineapple Express here. Visit author H. L. Wegley 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, March 30, 2014

Fiction: The Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Watching a marriage grind to its painful, soul-shattering conclusion should not hold moments of strong wit. Yet Jenny Offill’s shimmering second novel not only manages this, it elevates domestic fiction to its highest possible form.

Slender, tiny (fit it easily in your bag for your daily commute) The Dept. of Speculation (Knopf) is barely a novella in length, yet it packs an epic whallop. It does this by way of emotional miles covered as we follow our nameless narrator through the final days of an unsatisfying marriage and the reawakening of a woman who has been emotionally sleeping through the common catastrophes of contemporary relationships. “The wife’s” marriage is crumbling, her career is stalled, her baby has grown to take over a huge portion of her life. She is unsatisfied, stagnating and -- as it is for all of us -- every day just takes her closer to death.

Like Ian McEwan’s Saturday, Offill takes a topic -- and, truly, an angle -- that is so everyday and puts it under a narrative microscope that reveals what we hoped all along: there are stripes of extraordinary in all of us. And that which on the surface can appear humdrum, doesn’t need to be viewed through a kaleidoscope to have its full colors revealed.

This is Offill’s second novel. Her debut work, Last Things, was lauded, awarded and over 10 years ago. Let’s hope she doesn’t make us wait so long again. ◊

India Wilson is a writer and artist.

Labels: ,

This Just In… Handbook of Nothin’ by N. K. Wright

The year is 1972. Against the stormy backdrop of a nuclear arms race, Watergate break-ins, the Vietnam war, and indescribable acts of terror, a teenage boy lives out his simple, rural life. But despite his seemingly tranquil farm life, “Nothin’ Right” -- as he’s known to many of his seventh-grade classmates --faces trouble on numerous fronts and against several adversaries.

Can a resourceful farm boy solve his own epic problems when the often-violent world around him is on the verge of self-destruction? Handbook of Nothin’ is a 1972 snapshot of rural western America as told through the experiences of a 13-year-old junior high boy and the scrawled pencil drawings in his school notebook. It is written for middle-grade readers, but is fun for older groups as well, including anyone who lived in the 1970s.

You can order Handbook of Nothin’ here. Visit author N. K. Wright 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.


Quote of the Day: Ayn Rand

“A creative man is is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.” -- Ayn Rand

American novelist, philosopher, screenwriter and playwright Ayn Rand (1905-1982) was born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum in St. Petersburgh, Russia, where she achieved some success as a writer before coming to America in 1926. Her best known works, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, identified her as the founder of the philosophical movement called Objectivism.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Winter is (Finally!) Coming

Winter is coming, and not a moment too soon, as Game of Thrones fans around the world hyperventilate for the release of season four on April 6th. If we weren’t sure about how well the series based on George R.R. Martin’s fantasy novels was doing, the cover of the April issue of Vanity Fair confirms it. Even Downton Abbey hasn’t achieved that. Yet.

If you need a hit of Game of Thrones’ goodness to keep you going until the series opener, you don’t have to look far. There are tributes, parodies and other tie-ins everywhere. There’s even a Belgian math teacher who is using the television series as a threat. According to Mashable, the teacher, who has read the books, threatened the students with spoilers if they didn’t quiet down.
Unsurprisingly, the teacher saw immediate results. When the skeptical pupils tested his nerve, he promptly wrote out all the names of the characters who perished in Season 3. Any students who hadn't seen the Red Wedding yet were undoubtedly traumatized.
The Vanity Fair piece on the series is online here. We wrote about the possibility of a big screen version here.  You can view the Game of Thrones Meets House of Cards parody video here.

This Just In… Ned & Rosco by Robin Robinson

Ned & Rosco is the first book in a series. This book stars two unforgettable characters and is filled with beautiful illustrations and humor that will thrill both young children and adults.

Ned is an introverted turtle who has always longed to study butterflies in a meadow across the forest. On the day he does, he meets Rosco, an extroverted puppy. Through their adventures, they find their differences are at times irritating but in the end beneficial to both. Here is a story about human personality and how two friends learn to appreciate and respect their differing gifts.

You can order Ned & Rosco here. Watch the free video book version 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, March 22, 2014

Dueling Jungle Book Films Get Ready for Production

There are currently two film projects based on The Jungle Book, the collection of short stories written by Rudyard Kipling, in pre-production. Andy Serkis, who played the CG-created Gollum character in the Lord of Rings films, will direct a live action Jungle Book for Warners.

The stories center on Mowgli, an orphan raised by wolves. The boy befriends Baloo the bear, Bagheera the black panther and the ferocious tiger Shere Khan. The stories were originally published in magazines in 1893 through 1894.

Disney is working on a live action Jungle Book which is currently in casting. Jon Favreau (Elf, Iron Man) will direct. From The Hollywood Reporter:
Putting Serkis in the director's chair is outside-the-box thinking, yet not far-fetched. Jungle Book would be Serkis' feature directorial debut after directing second unit on Peter Jackson's The Hobbit movies, the third of which Warners is due to open in December. Some of the shoots involved the creation of elaborate and lively action sequences. For example, Serkis helmed the widely praised barrel-chase sequence in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. 
Jackson entrusted Serkis with the job after Serkis developed a command of CG technology through his acting work not only in LOTR, but also in Jackson's King Kong, Steve Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin and the new Planet of the Apes movies.
And Warners’ version, at any rate, is likely to be a darker Jungle Book than those whose experience of Rudyard Kiping’s stories are based on Disney’s 1967 animated classic.
Warners is sticking closely to the source material, which is darker than most people know, seeing as how most of the knowledge of the material is distilled from Disney's 1967 animated classic. The Warners movie hopes to explore life-and-death issues and be true-to-life in portraying animal behavior. Hiring Serkis, who has pioneered lifelike animal behavior and characterization with his performances in such movies as Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is seen as an important first step.

Labels: ,

This Just In… The Cat That Went To Homecoming by Julie Otzelberger

The Cat That Went To Homecoming is the coming of age story of Ellen Jones, an overweight teenage girl from a single family home. She is under constant attack by her peers, bullied because of her weight and her family’s poverty.

Through volunteer work with her cat, Hershey, Ellen finds self-esteem and the courage to stand up to her bullies. Along the way, she discovers what true friendship and forgiveness are and tells us how Hershey became The Cat That Went To Homecoming.

The Cat That Went To Homecoming addresses many serious social issues including family separation, bullying, homophobia, social isolation, and depression. The compelling story is also about fun, friendship, and forgiveness.” -- Paula Scott-Ginn, Pet Partners Marketing Coordinator

You can order The Cat That Went To Homecoming here. Visit author Julie Otzelberger 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, March 21, 2014

“Poo Wins Prizes”

A couple of fast facts:

1. There are books out there on every topic, and…
2. Some of them are kinda nuts.

Seemingly in celebration of these two things, the UK’s Diagram Awards annually honor the oddest title of the year. The winner usually receives, “ a fairly passable” bottle of claret, according to Horace Bent, of The Bookseller.

“The public have chosen wisely,” writes Bent on How to Poo on a Date’s 2014 win. “Not only have they picked a title that truly captures the spirit of the prize, they have selected a manual that can help one through life’s more challenging and delicate moments.” From We Love This Book:
The book, by Mats & Enzo, published by Prion Press, topped a public vote to find the oddest title, in one of the closest contests in prize history. In the end, How to Poo on a Date: The Lovers' Guide to Toilet Etiquette, took home the title with 30 per cent of the vote, beating into second place Are Trout South African? by Duncan Brown (Pan South Africa) and The Origin of Feces by David Waltner-Toews (ECW Press), which both captured 23 per cent of voters.
The rest of the shortlist was made up of early frontrunner Working Class Cats: The Bodega Cats of New York City by Chris Balsiger ands Erin Canning (One Peace Books), with 14 per cent; Pie-ography: Where Pie Meets Biography by Jo Packham (Quarry) with 6 per cent ; and How to Pray When You’re Pissed at God by Ian Punnett (Harmony Books), with 4 per cent of the votes.
Nor is How to Poo on a Date the author’s first run at the prize. How to Poo on Holiday, How to Poo at Work and How to Bonk at Work, were all previously nominated for the prize.

The Diagram Prize was founded in 1978 as a way of relieving boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair by Diagram Group co-founders Trevor Boundford and Bruce Robertson.


This Just In… Five Corners: Book One of the Marked Ones by Cathi Shaw

Growing up in a sleepy village untouched by distant wars and political conflicts, it was easy for Thia, Mina and Kiara to forget such horrors existed in the Five Corners. That is until the dead child is found; a child that bears the same strange birthmark that all three sisters possess. A Mark their mother had always told them was unique to the girls.

Kiara’s suspicions grow as their inn is soon overrun with outsiders from all walks of life. Strangers, soldiers and elders who all seem to know more about what is happening than the girls do.

After Mina barely survives an attack in the forest, the sisters are faced with a shattering secret their mother has kept from them for years. As danger closes in around them, the sisters are forced from their home and must put their trust in the hands of strangers.

With more questions than answers, Kiara finds herself separated from everyone she loves and reliant on an Outlander who has spent too much time in army. She doesn’t trust Caedmon but she needs him if she has any hope of being reunited with her sisters and learning what the Mark might mean.

You can order Five Corners here. Check out the Five Corners Tumblr blog 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.


Game of Thrones May Head to Big Screen

As season four of the immensely popular television series, Game of Thrones, gets underway, author George R.R. Martin told a New York premiere audience that a larger screen may be necessary to do justice to the full series. From The Guardian:
He also hinted at the possibility of movies based on the Tales of Dunk and Egg, a trilogy of spin-off novellas set 90 years before the events on Game of Thrones in the mythical land of Westeros.
“It all depends on how long the main series runs,” Martin told The Hollywood Reporter. "Do we run for seven years? Do we run for eight? Do we run for 10? The books get bigger and bigger (in scope). It might need a feature to tie things up, something with a feature budget, like $100 million for two hours. Those dragons get real big, you know."
While it appears no deals have been made, according to The Hollywood Reporter, there are some good possibilities:
Warner Bros. would be the natural fit for a studio partner. Warners released the two films based on the long-running HBO series Sex and the City and is behind the upcoming big-screen adaptation of Entourage. The studio also knows how to market a dragon tale, with its The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug having earned nearly $1 billion worldwide.
You can see a trailer from season 4 of Game of Thrones below.


Tolkien Translation of Beowulf Will Debut in May

Though the manuscript has been talked about for years, J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of the old English epic poem Beowulf will be published in May.

“The translation of Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien was an early work,” says the author’s son, Christopher, who also functioned as editor of the book, “very distinctive in its mode, completed in 1926: he returned to it later to make hasty corrections, but seems never to have considered its publication.”

But as special as a Tolkien translation of Beowulf would be, there’s more to this book even than that. “This edition is twofold,” says Christopher, “for there exists an illuminating commentary on the text of the poem by the translator himself, in the written form of a series of lectures given at Oxford in the 1930s; and from these lectures a substantial selection has been made, to form also a commentary on the translation in this book.”

And another treat, yet: the book also includes the story “Sellic Spell.” Written by Tolkien, it suggests “what might have been the form and style of an Old English folk-tale of Beowulf, in which there was no association with the ‘historical legends’ of the Northern kingdoms.”


Thursday, March 20, 2014

This Just In… Social Death by Tatiana Boncompagni

Gone Girl meets Gossip Girl in this gripping new mystery about the murder of a beautiful socialite and the scandalous secret she carries to her death.

When veteran news producer Clyde Shaw is called to the scene of a grisly murder on the Upper East Side, she thinks it’s just another high-profile crime, the kind she’s built her high-powered career on -- except the murder victim is Olivia Kravis, the daughter of Clyde’s billionaire boss and best friend since childhood.

As a high-stakes network ratings war begins, Clyde’s own privileged yet troubled past comes back to haunt her. She’s forced to choose between finding her best friend’s killer and losing everything -- her job, her reputation, even her life. Long-guarded secrets. Millions at stake. And only Clyde holds the key to unlocking the truth.

You can order Social Death here. Visit author Tatiana Boncompagni 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.


James Patterson by Number

Since 2001, James Patterson has been the bestselling novelist in the world. If the somewhat hyperbolic-sounding bio on his web site is to be believed, “In 2011, it was estimated that one-in-four of all hardcover suspense/thriller novels sold was written by James Patterson, he is the first author to achieve ten million ebook sales, and he holds the Guinness record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers of any author.”

The Telegraph looks at Patterson’s astonishing success (as well as some of the whys and hows) in a piece that includes the statistics below.

James Patterson in Numbers:
First novel: The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)
Number of novels, including forthcoming ones, to date: 130
Number of James Patterson pages published: 45,651
Years working entirely as an author: 18
Number of James Patterson series: 10
Number of co-authors: 23
Total book sales: Approximately 300 million
Number of New York Times hardback bestsellers: 76
Number of consecutive New York Times bestsellers: 19
Cost of second home: $17.4 million
Number of full-time publisher employees dealing solely with Patterson's work: 3 (plus assistants)
Maximum length of outlines for co-authors: 50 pages
Years spent publishing novels: 38

Monday, March 17, 2014

Feminism, Optimism and Genuine Creativity Fan Current Dystopia Craze

As fans get ready for the release of Divergent, the first film based on Veronica Roth’s popular novels set in a dystopian Chicago, in a recent piece for Wired, Devon Maloney examines the way dystopic storytelling has morphed and come to rule in recent years.

For one thing, Maloney notes, in a world that has itself become pretty dystopic, the success of the genre becomes easier to understand:
In a post-Harry Potter world where YA fiction is mega-franchise fodder, feminist sci-fi authors descended from the Atwood school—albeit with decidedly less sexual themes—have produced some of the most popular books of the past decade, nearly all primarily geared toward young adult readers. Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy—the harbinger of the dystopian YA craze—has put approximately 65 million copies into circulation in the U.S. alone; the first two movie adaptations have already grossed more than $800 million together domestically (and the third book, Mockingjay, will be adapted into two films over the next few years, making the franchise a multibillion-dollar machine). There’s Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy, and Marie Lu’s Legend, and of course, Veronica Roth’s Divergent. 
But though on the surface it would seem that feminism is one of the ruling factors, there’s more at play here than even that. Perspective is one factor. The current wave of successful “dystopian” books and movies “are being judged by a dystopian standard that hasn’t really evolved to meet an era in which dystopia is all around us. These books succeed largely because, unlike the traditional understanding of the genre … they offer hope to the young living in our real-life dystopia, where there’s rarely optimism to be found.”

And there are other factors, including the fact that the audience this media is aimed at is constantly in flux and, maybe even more importantly, vital, new voices can have something genuinely fresh to say:
But through the cries of market saturation and copy-paste plotting, the people behind this newest vision of young gloom remain (perhaps obligatorily) optimistic. “A lot of people said ‘sword-and-sandal’ was completely dead, but then we did Gladiator,” says Divergent producer Douglas Wick. “People said vampire stories were dead before Twilight. People said you couldn’t revive Batman and then Chris Nolan came along. There’s always some genuinely creative person, not a duplicator, who can make something fresh again.”
Meanwhile the Neil Burger-directed film based on Roth’s first novel is scheduled for to be released this coming Friday.  The cast includes Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Zoë Kravitz, Ansel Elgort and Kate Winslet.

Maloney’s full piece is here.

Labels: ,

New in Paperback: Butterfly People by William Leach

Butterfly People: An American Encounter with the Beauty of the World (Vintage) isn’t really about butterflies. Well, it is. But, also, it is not. More to the point, though, it sears deeply into the lives of middle class America in the 19th century when a newly industrial population began having the leisure to explore the natural world in ways that hadn’t been possible ever before.

The capture and collection of these “flying flowers” became a national pastime, heralding a time of change in America in every imaginable way. But first -- and at the heart -- the creatures who moved so many to such passion. Author William Leach, a one-time collector himself -- understands better than most and draws us a picture:
In the nineteenth century, many Americans … encountered the butterflies, among the most evolved in terms of beauty, by some accounts, of all creatures. By beauty here is meant not merely the wings, however beautiful they may be, but the metamorphosis (from the Greek for “changing form”) and life history of the insect from the egg and caterpillar to the pupa and adult, as well as the butterfly in relation to a world full of other life.
Columbia University history professor Leach has proven himself to be an able storyteller before. His Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture (1993) was a National Book Award finalist.

I loved Butterfly People for Leach’s deft ability to bring a whole time and culture to vivid life. As with the best of history, Butterfly people not only brought a whole period to fascinating life, it made me examine aspects of myself and my attitudes to the natural world though a lens that had been altered, perhaps forever. ◊

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.

Labels: ,

This Just In… Vengeance by Denise Tompkins

The demons that haunt you don’t have to be your own.

The Niteclif Evolutions, Book 3

Maddy Niteclif’s world has changed so radically she’s no longer sure she recognizes the face staring back at her in the mirror. Pale skin, wide eyes, new scars, and even newer wounds. They’ll heal. It’s the invisible wounds -- the ones that disfigure the soul -- that pose the most danger.

Hell’s higher thinkers have organized. They’re seeping into the paranormal world, bypassing easy targets as they run larger prey to ground. Maddy is caught in a mad scramble to identify the next target before the demons find the individual. But when the demons’ mark is someone from under her roof, she finds just how far she’ll go to protect those who belong to her.

Maddy is about to learn the most difficult lesson yet: loving someone, seeing his scars ripped open and watching as he’s driven to his knees…it hurts. To save his life means she’ll have to sacrifice the only other man she’s ever loved. There’s only one guaranteed way to ensure both men survive, but it will require the ultimate sacrifice. Herself.

You can order Vengeance here. Visit author Denise Tompkins 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, March 16, 2014

Young Adult Fiction: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Cath Avery has just started university, living on campus. Her twin sister, Wren, has decided that after a lifetime of doing everything together, they will not be sharing a room; she’s keen to meet new people and have new experiences.

One thing they have always done together is write fan fiction (or fanfiction, as it’s called in this novel). Not just fanfiction, but slash fiction, the kind that has gay relationships between the two leading male characters. 

Cath is working on her magnum opus, Carry On Simon, a novel set in the World of Mages, a world not entirely unlike that of a certain boy wizard in our own universe (and actually, Harry Potter exists in the Fangirl universe too). It has to be finished before the final novel comes out in a few months, or it will be forever AU (alternative universe to all you mundanes out there). Cath has signed up for a unit in Fiction Writing, though, and has a ten thousand word major project to write as well, and the ideas just aren’t coming. Meanwhile, there’s all this stuff going on in Real Life: Nick the gorgeous guy in her writing class who writes everything in second person present tense and won’t let go of his notebook, even when they’re writing together. Reagan, her roommate, who smokes and goes out a lot, but who drags Cath out of her hiding place to take part in campus life. Levi, her boyfriend (or is he?) who has a sunny nature and suffers reading issues. Cath and Wren’s father, a loopy advertising man who eats frozen meals when he’s eating at all and needs to be checked up on. Stuff, you know?

First, a confession: I wanted to review Fangirl (MacMillan) because I know about fan fiction. I even know about slash fiction, though I don’t read it. But I did write fan fiction for many years, at least 150 stories, set in the universes of Star Trek, Blake’s 7, Robin Of Sherwood, Dr Who (one or two).  I stopped writing it when I ran out of ideas and then people started paying me to write. I won the Mary Grant Bruce Award for children’s fiction, using a story based on an idea I’d originally had for a fan story, though I ended up writing the non-fan version first.

But like Cath, I found that when you’re writing in someone else’s universe, it’s very hard to think of anything else, or to get ideas for anything else. I don’t regret the experience. It taught me a lot of writing skills, including characterization, development, short story writing, even how to write book reviews. There wasn’t an entire Internet fandom in those days, but there was plenty of feedback of a kind you don’t get in other kinds of writing. You could start a writers’ group, but that can be ineffective. But eventually, I had to focus on other writing, that might actually pay. I still read fan fic, though, and am amazed at how big it has become since the Internet came along.

So I can relate to Cath and her fannish life. And it’s nice that the author doesn’t say, “Ha ha, this nerd needs to get a life and leave fandom!” Cath eventually finds that she can do both, and have a life with friends and a boyfriend and all. The author even mentions in the FAQ at the end that people are already writing Fangirl fan fiction and she is absolutely delighted about it -- and that she started writing this when she was reading stacks of Harry Potter fiction online. I liked the regular quotes both from the Simon Snow novels and Cath’s fan fiction, between the chapters. The whole book was gentle, charming, funny and sad, all at the same time.

I did think that there would be a campus fan club for such a popular book series -- actually, Cath’s university seems strangely lacking in clubs and societies, but it’s a real place, so maybe it doesn’t have them.

I enjoyed Fangirl and I think I can persuade some of my fan writing students to read it too. ◊

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

Labels: , ,

This Just In… Figs, Vines and Roses by Joy M. Lilley

Figs, Vines & Roses follows the privileged life of the heroine Isabella and her brother Clarence. It meanders through their young lives, their adolescence and schooling, describing the joys and the dramas along the journey.

The huge divide between the wealthy and those living in poverty are discussed along with the vast differences existing between them.

The Merryweather family decide on a move from the Black country to the South of England and to Kent. It is here that Isabella falls deeply and secretively in love with a man who her family would consider a totally unsuitable partner.

Their lives become both complicated and tragic, Isabella against all the odds of a rich woman working, becomes a teacher and she continues to take the reader into her later life within this role.

You can order Figs, Vines and Roses here in the UK or here in the United States. Visit author Joy M. Lilley 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, March 13, 2014

New This Week: The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier

Though it felt like a long wait since Juliet, Anne Fortier’s 2010 debut, The Lost Sisterhood (Ballantine) seems absolutely worth it. Once again we have stunning historical detail, though this time with a strong thread of fantasy: or so many of us have been led to believe.

As the book opens, we meet bright young thing Diana Morgan, a philologist at Oxford University with a personal fixation on the Amazons that her colleagues find ridiculous. Morgan’s fixation has a strong foundation, though: an eccentric grandmother who thought that she herself was descended from the Amazons.

Diana’s beliefs seem vindicated when a mysterious organization invites her to consult on an excavation that will prove the Amazons existed.

In another thread, we meet those elusive and legendary Amazons as they begin their trek in North Africa and set out, accompanied by great danger and exciting adventure, on a mission of revenge.

One of the things that made this literary journey so enjoyable is the fact that there just hasn't been much fiction about the Amazons, though myths abound. Fortier leads us through largely uncharted territory as we follow her tribe of warrior women from North Africa on an indirect journey to their ultimate home.

The Lost Sisterhood is a perfectly fleshed out embodiment of a bit of lost history it would be wonderful to be able to believe. ◊

Labels: ,

This Just In… The Shell of a Person by Lance Pototschnik

“Never have disgusting, miserable living conditions been so funny. When someone finally finds a way to send back a report from hell, I hope it will be Lance Pototschnik. Except this guy is going to heaven, for the way he writes.” -- The Kindle Book Review 
“Welcome to beautiful Costa Rica! Come and experience our diverse wildlife. Exhume nests of dead baby turtles and stay up all night while mosquitoes elicit blood from your very soul! Indulge in the local cuisine. Eat rice and beans until the malnutrition engenders hallucinations! Travel west to Guanacaste, to the peninsula that pokes into the Pacific like a fang. Lose yourself on the remote, cocoa-dust beaches, where rare sea turtles drag themselves from the seething ocean to nest. Camp beside the water to leave civilization and all its cheerfulness behind. Burn bucketfuls of used toilet paper, shiver in an infested bed and pump your bathing water from a putrid hole... every single day for weeks!”

Lance Pototschnik and his friends must have booked their trip with that agency. Their incredibly affordable “vacation” was meant to be a relaxing time to meditate on the direction of their languid, aimless lives. Instead, they are introduced to hell and the insane diversity of its tortures.

Marooned on a remote sea turtle conservancy with a handful of fellow unanchored souls, Pototschnik, in his debut memoir, ponders who he is and what he is likely to become. In Pototschnik, those who have fallen prey to the desolation of broken dreams, the young and the listless, find a voice to cast out demons and turn them into laughs. Through his own outrageous tale, Pototschnik offers the questions of the brooding, the concerns of the anxious and the hopes of the hopeless in a witty, irrepressible voice that will not shame them.

Beneath its shell, this rollicking, episodic story is also a treatise about finding your purpose, realizing your full potential and learning to love your own life.

You can order The Shell of a Person 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, March 10, 2014

Where Is My Jet Pack? (Weaponized Cat Edition)

Many of those who grew up with 1960s pop culture have long complained about the technological promises that weren’t kept. In particular, the jet pack. Whole books have been written on the subject. Now a 16th century manuscript that has been gaining some attention seems to be indicating that the idea of jet packs might go further back than previously thought. Much, much further. From The Guardian:
You're a 16th century German prince plotting to crush a peasant rebellion, or perhaps you're leading an army against the Ottoman Empire or settling a score with a rival nobleman. What's a guy looking for a tactical edge to do?
The answer, of course, is rocket cats.
Fanciful illustrations from a circa-1530 manual on artillery and siege warfare seem to show jetpacks strapped to the backs of cats and doves, with the German text helpfully advising military commanders to use them to "set fire to a castle or city which you can't get at otherwise".
But, of course, things are often not quite what they seem and Australian researcher, Mitch Fraas, gave himself the task of discovering what was true in the illustrations. After an initial struggle, Fraas feels he’s uncovered the answer:
According to Fraas's translation, Helm explained how animals could be used to deliver incendiary devices: "Create a small sack like a fire-arrow. If you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place. And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited."
In other words, capture a cat from enemy territory, attach a bomb to its back, light the fuse, then hope it runs back home and starts a raging fire.
 Fraas said he could find no evidence that cats and birds were used in early modern warfare in the way prescribed by Helm.
"Sort of a harebrained scheme," he said. "It seems like a really terrible idea, and very unlikely the animals would run back to where they came from. More likely they'd set your own camp on fire."
So much for weaponized cats. And, the last time we looked, we still didn’t have our jet packs, either.

This Just In… 3rd Hand Ranch by L.R. Claude

More than a second helping hand, 3rd Hand Ranch is a farm in which young ladies can find escape for a school year to avoid bullies and abusive lives to find themselves, learn to trust once again and take on tasks that will make them stronger in their personal lives.

With the oversight of a rancher and his wife, not to mention the lovable four-legged pal, Banjo, whose mischievous ways make light of many situations, all help to ease this group of young ladies into more mature and fulfilled selves.

You can order 3rd Hand Ranch here. Visit author L.R. Claude 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.


Friday, March 07, 2014

Bailey’s Fiction Prize Announces Longlist

Though you may not have heard of the Bailey’s Woman’s Prize for Fiction before, it’s only because it’s wearing a new hat. Between 1995 and 2012 it was known as the Orange Prize, for the British telecom that sponsored it all those years. And though the prize has been riddled with controversy over the years (Man Booker Prize winner A.S. Byatt was not the only one to call the award “sexist”) it has successfully helped increase the profile of an ever-larger number of women writers.

The finalists for the 2014 prize were announced this morning. And with Bailey’s now in the key sponsorship position, the Women’s Fiction Prize should be able to go forward for many years. (And, yes: we are talking that Bailey’s: “The world’s first cream liqueur, a unique blend of smooth Irish cream with quality spirits and whiskey … the world’s biggest seller, with over 82 million bottles sold world wide each year” and so on.)

At the time of the announcement of their support for the Prize last summer, the company said that “BAILEYS wants to inspire and enrich the lives of women, bringing the power of spirited stories and storytellers to ever-wider audiences.”

And so here we are.

The winner of this year’s Prize will be announced at a ceremony in London on June 4th. She will receive a cheque for £30,000 and a limited edition bronze known as the Bessie, created and donated by the artist Grizel Niven.

Previous winners include A.M. Homes for May We Be Forgiven (2013), Madeline Miller for The Song of Achilles (2012), Téa Obreht for The Tiger’s Wife (2011), Barbara Kingsolver for The Lacuna (2010), Marilynne Robinson for Home (2009), Rose Tremain for The Road Home (2008), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for Half of a Yellow Sun (2007), Zadie Smith for On Beauty (2006), Lionel Shriver for We Need to Talk About Kevin (2005), Andrea Levy for Small Island (2004), Valerie Martin for Property (2003), Ann Patchett for Bel Canto (2002), Kate Grenville for The Idea of Perfection (2001), Linda Grant for When I Lived in Modern Times (2000), Suzanne Berne for A Crime in the Neighbourhood (1999), Carol Shields for Larry’s Party (1998), Anne Michaels for Fugitive Pieces (1997), and Helen Dunmore for A Spell of Winter (1996).

The judges for the 2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction are: Helen Fraser, (Chair), Chief Executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust; Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge; Denise Mina, Writer; Caitlin Moran, Times columnist, Author and Screenwriter; Sophie Raworth, BBC Broadcaster and Journalist.

Finalists for the 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Fiction Prize:

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigerian, 3rd Novel) Americanah (Fourth Estate)
  • Margaret Atwood (Canadian, 14th Novel) Maddaddam (Bloomsbury) 
  • Suzanne Berne (American, 4th Novel) The Dogs of Littlefield (Fig Tree)
  • Fatima Bhutto (Pakistani, 1st Novel) The Shadow of the Crescent Moon  (Viking)
  • Claire Cameron (Canadian, 2nd Novel) The Bear (Harvill Secker)
  • Lea Carpenter (American, 1st Novel) Eleven Days (Two Roads)
  • M.J. Carter (British, 1st Novel) The Strangler Vine (Fig Tree)
  • Eleanor Catton (New Zealand/Canadian, 2nd Novel) The Luminaries (Granta)
  • Deborah Kay Davies (British, 2nd Novel) Reasons She Goes to the Woods (Oneworld) 
  • Elizabeth Gilbert (American, 2nd Novel) The Signature of All Things (Bloomsbury)
  • Hannah Kent (Australian, 1st Novel) Burial Rites (Picador)
  • Rachel Kushner (American, 2nd Novel) The Flamethrowers (Harvill Secker)
  • Jhumpa Lahiri (Indian/American, 2nd Novel) The Lowland (Bloomsbury)
  • Audrey Magee (Irish, 1st Novel) The Undertaking (Atlantic Books)
  • Eimear McBride (Irish, 1st Novel) A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (Gallery Beggar Press)
  • Charlotte Mendelson (British, 4th Novel) Almost English (Mantle)
  • Anna Quindlen (American, 7th Novel) Still Life With Bread Crumbs (Hutchinson)
  • Elizabeth Strout (American, 4th Novel) The Burgess Boys (Simon and Schuster)
  • Donna Tartt (American, 3rd Novel) The Goldfinch (Little, Brown)
  • Evie Wyld (British, 2nd Novel) All the Birds, Singing (Jonathan Cape)


This Just In… Family Ties by Joshua Sanofsky

For Alys Kinnear, becoming a wizard was her life’s ambition, but it’s an ambition that might just cost her her life. Does a country girl from Éire have what it takes to handle the dangerous and inglorious realities that come with being a practitioner in the magic-infused modern day city of London?

She quickly finds herself confronted by street thugs trying to steal her new employer’s property and a client whose home turns out to be a former asylum filled with the angry ghosts of former patients. With her new Familiars, a pair of snow leopards she rescued from an unscrupulous shop owner, Alys must overcome these and the more mundane day-to-day difficulties of studying to become a full-fledged Wizard.

Because before she expects it, she’ll find herself tested in ways she never imagined.

You can order Family Ties here. Visit author Joshua Sanofsky 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, March 06, 2014

Lippman Led Selfie Project Brings Raw Beauty to the Forefront

When she called on her Facebook and Twitter followers on Wednesday to post selfies sans makeup, filters or Photoshop, New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman’s goal was not to start an Internet meme or something that would be viral.

The Laura Lippman selfie
that started it all.
“I think it began because I was bored,” Lippman says. “It was the rainiest, coldest Mardi Gras day I’ve ever seen. It was so bad that we could not, in good conscience, take our young daughter out. So I scrubbed off the heavy make-up I had put on and removed my green fake eyelashes and spent some time reading on the Internet.”

Some of what she read distressed her. “I hadn’t watched the Oscars, but it’s interesting how much bubbles up from social media and someone had linked to a very interesting piece about Kim Novak’s appearance. I was struck by the damned if you do/damned if you don’t societal pressure (and also the intense secrecy that surrounds people who have had very successful cosmetic surgery/treatments). I decided to take my photo in solidarity with Kim Novak, not as a criticism of her.”

Though a desire for virality may not have been the goal, within hours, members of the mystery writing community -- men and woman, both -- were posting their selfies to Facebook and Twitter.

Part of the way through a day of the beautifully bared faces, Lippman summed things up via Facebook. “Has anyone else noticed that these photos are becoming MORE beautiful as they proliferate?” Lippman asked. “Seriously the more we look like ourselves, the more the aesthetic skews toward that standard.”

There was something to what she said as photo after photo was posted via Facebook and Twitter, on the latter connected via the hashtag #itsokkimnovak.

Though many Facebook users saw the parade of bare faces, Lippman claims it was far from viral. “I cannot begin to put a number on this. I wish someone would tell me how.”

Even so, many of the hundreds who participated were deeply moved by various aspects of the experience. One of those was author and journalist Clea Simon. Simon blogged that, after the Oscars there came, “a vitriolic back and forth across Facebook and Twitter, with many people calling out an industry (film) and a culture (us) that place a ridiculous premium on youth. Others, myself included, argued that we needed to take responsibility for our own decisions -- and own up to the reality of aging.”

Lippman says that, even though they were expressly invited, she was most surprised at how many men participated. “I thought that was cool,” Lippman says. “Because, alas, the only progress that we seem to have made on this front is to make men as self-conscious.”

Lippman’s most recent book, After I’m Gone, was published by William Morrow last month. A film adaptation of her 2004 novel, Every Secret Thing, directed by Amy Berg and starring Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Banks and Diane Lane, will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival next month.

With #itsokkimnovak still drawing participants and commentary, Lippman continues to be fascinated at the result of her impromptu Internet experiment, as well as what caused it.

“Years ago, I went to the Television Critics Association with my then-boyfriend, David Simon, now my husband,” Lippman says. “And I was so outlandishly different looking from the teeny-tiny actresses with enormous heads that I felt perversely -- not gorgeous, but striking, like I was from a different species. I caught a very famous actor looking at my butt, almost as if it were a curiosity. ‘Look, there’s a butt that sticks out! I’ve never seen one of those in person!’ So I’ve been thinking for years about the way an aesthetic develops, takes hold. And I’ve always said if there were a procedure that could allow me to look as I did at age 30 or so, I’d be happy to avail myself of it. I do dye my hair, exercise, watch what I eat. I have a good friend (more than one, I think) who uses Botox and I think she looks good, but botulism in my face, near my brain? No thank you.”

This Just In… Influence by Chris Parker

Influence kills.

Influence is the greatest force on earth.

Influence equals power, the power to affect people and events.

The most powerful people alive have the greatest influence. And they can use it for good or bad.

Marcus Kline is the world’s leading authority on communication and influence. He can tell what you are thinking. He can see inside you. He can step inside your mind. Yet when a series of murder victims bear the horrific hallmarks of an intelligent and remorseless serial killer, Detective Inspector Peter Jones turns to Marcus for help -- and everything changes. As the killer sets a deadly pace, the invisible, irresistible and terrifying power of influence threatens friendships, reputations and lives. When events appear to implicate the great Marcus Kline himself, everyone learns that the worst pain isn't physical.

You can order Influence here. Visit the fictional Marcus Kline 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.


Govier Dissects Nursery Rhymes

In her new book, Half For You and Half For Me (Whitecap), Katherine Govier, one of Canada’s best loved novelists, takes a close look at a very different form: the nursery rhyme.

In Half For You and Half For Me: Best-Loved Nursery Rhymes and the Stories Behind Them, Govier takes a whimsical look at the meaning behind popular nursery rhymes.
Who was Wee Willie Winkie? 
Did live blackbirds really fly out of a pie? 
Was Humpty Dumpty a person -- or clumsy cannon?
What is the magic and what is the meaning of these rhymes that stay in our heads for a lifetime?
According to Govier, the answers are as fascinating as the rhymes themselves. In Half For You and Half For Me she breaks the codes of those well-loved rhymes to bring context to what can seem like outdated thoughts and actions.

For Govier, it’s all part of a deeply personal journey. “Ninety-five years ago,” she writes, “when my mother was born, her parents bought a beautiful book: The Jessie Willcox Smith Mother Goose. They read it to her while she sat on their knees. When she was old enough for crayons and scissors, she expressed her affection all over the pages. She kept it until she grew up and became a mother. Thirty years passed and I had two children of my own. When we visited their grandparents, the Mother Goose came out, and we read together. Now my kids are grown up. Soon I may have grandchildren. This year she gave me her vintage Mother Goose. Antiquarians say the Jessie Willcox Smith collection is the best ever published, with its beautiful colour plates and lovely thick paper. A good condition copy sells for $750. But ours is falling apart, its spine like shredded wheat, its pages floating, cut up and crayoned upon.”

Whimsically illustrated by Sarah Clement, Half For You and Half For Me will be equally enjoyed by adults and children.

January Magazine’s 2000 interview with Govier is here.

Labels: ,

Speed Reading With A High Tech Twist

Wish you could read more quickly? There’s an app for that. From Quill & Quire:
Boston-based tech company Spritz has developed a technology that replaces digital pages with quick-streaming text, thereby eliminating time-consuming “inefficient eye movements.” According to the company’s website, some test subjects were tracked reading 900 words per minute, thanks to a process referred to as “spritzing.” At that pace, the company claims Atlas Shrugged could be read in a day.
Read the full story here.

Labels: ,

This Just In… Glass Screams by L.R. Claude

Young Lorna Daniels already has the challenges of life ahead of her as womanhood is upon her. A sudden car accident is just the beginning of her long road to recovery. Lorna’s struggles force her to stare down and face a slew of challenges and demons, as well as a monster that made her his prey, how will she turn out?

You can order Glass Screams here. Visit author L.R. Claude 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.


Are Creative Writing Courses a Waste of Time and Money?

Are creative writing courses worthwhile? Not according to Hanif Kureishi, an English professor at Kingston University whose debut novel, The Buddha of Suburbia (1990) won the Whitbread first novel prize.

Speaking at the Independent Bath Literature festival last Sunday, Kureishi said:
“A lot of my students just can't tell a story. They can write sentences but they don't know how to make a story go from there all the way through to the end without people dying of boredom in between. It's a difficult thing to do and it's a great skill to have. Can you teach that? I don't think you can," said Kureishi, according to the Independent, which sponsors the festival.
"A lot of them [students] don't really understand," said Kureishi. "It's the story that really helps you. They worry about the writing and the prose and you think: 'Fuck the prose, no one's going to read your book for the writing, all they want to do is find out what happens in the story next.'" He works with his own students, said Kureishi, "for a long time". "They really start to perk up after about three years. And after about five years they really realise something about writing. It's a very slow thing.  People go on writing courses for a weekend and you think, 'A weekend?'"
Nor is Kureishi the only one who feels that way:
Novelist and former creative writing teacher Lucy Ellmann, while disagreeing with Kureishi that style is unimportant, nevertheless described creative writing as "the biggest con-job in academia", and pointed to the poet August Kleinzahler's comment in the Guardian that "It's terrible to lie to young people. And that's what it's about."
"The whole system is set up to silence writers, and dupe students. It doesn't even provide a safe haven for writers, as Hanif made clear, because most universities go out of their way to ruin writers with admin, overwork, and other nonsense. There's lousy teaching too: I know of creative writing teachers who don't even read the students' work. This is criminal," said Ellmann. "But of course, the purpose of corporations - which is what universities now are - is to scupper originality and dissent.Universities have gone from being culture-preserving institutions to being culture-destroying institutions. And people queue up to pay these culture-destroying institutions £9000 a year to ensure that any idea of literature is destroyed before it can enter their heads."
If you want to write, said Ellmann, "what you should really be doing is reading as much good literature as you can get your hands on, for years and years, rather than wasting half your university life writing stuff you're not ready to write".
You can read the full story here.


Wednesday, March 05, 2014

This Just In… If Everyone Knew Every Plant And Tree by Julia C Johnston

Ollie is drowning. No one notices.

Oliver Campbell, 14, fanciful and funny in equal measure, struggles to unravel the knots of emotion when his little sister, Lily, falls gravely ill with a mysterious disease. Irritating and puzzling to his two older half-brothers, neglected by his self-absorbed parents, and unfalleninlovewith by Poppy Teasdale, he longs to be something more than invisible.

Quirky Kamal doesn’t think it’s weird that Ollie, his best friend, is fascinated by words and plants. He knows what it’s like to be different and to be bullied. He coaches him on love, and how to clinch his dream-girl, tickles him with his highfalutin language and aspirations, impresses him with his fortitude despite a tragic past and is there when life takes a terrible turn, is loyal to the end.

Ollie’s two special people throw him lifejackets, but will they be enough to save him?

You can order If Everyone Knew Every Plant And Tree here. Visit author Julia C Johnston 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, March 04, 2014

New Today: Night in Shanghai by Nicole Mones

Kiriyama Prize contending author Nicole Mones mixes things up deeply in her fourth novel, Night in Shanghai (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

An African American jazz musician from Baltimore is recruited to lead an all black jazz orchestra in Shanghai in 1936. Once there he discovers his life has taken a startling turn. Where he had struggled mightily back in the States -- against both poverty and racism -- he discovers that, in Shanghai he is revered and can reach for the highest heights.

While there, his life becomes entangled with that of the beautiful, educated and forbidden Song Yuhua. While Song initially appears obedient to the most powerful crime boss in Shanghai, it develops that she is secretly a spy.

To this already intriguing set up of characters, Mones mixes in the onset of the Second World War and a sea of change that will alter the very face of Shanghai -- and in some ways the world -- for ever.

Whether or not you recall her name, this is a storyteller whose voice we trust in matters of the recently historical. Not only is she the author of the stellar Lost in Translation and two other novels, her non-fiction work has appeared in the New York Times magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and Gourmet magazine and she is a member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

Mones has said that Night in Shanghai is the result of extensive research. The novel is based on historic events including China’s role during the Holocaust when it became the only nation to welcome all Jews who managed to get there. Aspects of this are dramatized in the book. Mones’ genius comes in her attention for detail and her ability to sort out which of the vast array of facts she must search through will give the book its verisimilitude. And while Jazz Age China leaps to life for us, it never bogs down in encyclopedic overexplanation.

Night in Shanghai is a riveting, entertaining and illuminating look at a moment that has largely been lost from history. ◊

Labels: ,

This Just In… Mariners Hollow by F.G.Capitanio

A mysterious and desolate island. A devastating turn of events. A secret that will reveal the true meaning of justice.

Fifteen-year-old Justice Worth is summoned to the house of Eleanor Burby, an unknown aunt living on Mariner’s Hollow Island, miles off the turbulent Maine coast.

Events transpire that are much worse than spending winter break apart from his friends back home, and turn his visit into a nightmare. A blizzard slams the island in all its fury, and in its midst, his aunt dies of an apparent suicide. Trapped in her island home, stalked by ghosts within and a murderer outside, Justice begins to unravel not only the truth behind his aunt’s death, but the family secrets threatening to destroy his perception of those he loves most.

Little about Aunt Eleanor’s death makes sense, but as Justice probes the lives of those closest to her, suspects multiply and new dangers arise. Through it all, island spirits continue to haunt him, pushing him towards the family’s dark secrets, before the only living person who knows them all silences him forever, burying the truth in the one place where it may never be found: Mariner’s Hollow.

You can order Mariner’s Hollow here. Visit author F.G. Capitanio 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, March 03, 2014

Cookbooks: Cowgirl Creamery Cooks by Sue Conley and Peggy Smith

The story of Marin County’s Cowgirl Creamery echoes that of the organic food movement in the United States. Starting when Sue Conley and Peggy Smith met in college and twining through various paths to the ultimate creation of Cowgirl Creamery and, in 2010, the partners’ admission into the Guilde des Fromagers in France, one of the most esteemed groups of cheese professionals in the world.

And now, of course, this wonderful book. Cowgirl Creamery Cooks (Chronicle) celebrates all that this terrific duo of artisan cheesemakers have learned and accomplished over the years. Yes, this is their story. And it’s an interesting one. Even beyond that, it collects and shares information about tasting, buying, pairing, storing and appreciating a wide variety of cheeses. It also instructs on how to make a few simple cheeses from scratch (including a Fromage Blanc that is truly simple and -- once you’ve done it -- essential).

Though all of this information is valuable, to my mind the largest success in Cowgirl Creamery Cooks comes through the cookbook portion of the book. They offer 75 terrific recipes for appetizers, soups, salads, snacks, entrees and desserts that help you get the very most from your cheese.

Though I anticipate many happy hours cooking from this book, aside from the Fromage Blanc, my one attempt thus far was ultra successful. The Panade with Gruyere and Onion Garlic Confit is (for cheeselovers) a soup beyond anything you’ve imagined. A kind of country French Onion soup, this version is based on a cheese broth rather than the traditional beef stock. Yes cheese broth. And the resulting soup seems to me typical of this book: rustic, hearty, elegant, beautiful. Real. Everything that food should be.

That last line pretty much sums up Cowgirl Creamery Cooks. The sort of book that sets one off dreaming and cooking, you leave the book better than when you started. And possibly with a deeper appreciation for cheese and the artisans who make it.

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 02, 2014

This Just In… Sixteen Scenes From A Film I Never Wanted To See by Stephen Policoff

Stephen Policoff offers a new picture of vulnerability. By exposing his own suffering, he shows us the courage and sacrifice necessary to transcend our anguish, loss and grief, reminding us of the grace with which we live our lives, with death over our shoulders.

Praise for Stephen Policoff:

“Policoff more than ever burns onto the reader’s consciousness a full and new wonderful understanding of what it means to be completely vulnerable to and unconditionally  loving and exposed by the things closest to us.” -- Steven Gillis, co-founder and publisher, Dzanc Books

“… the immediacy of his voice and the juiciness of his romantic entanglements put … Stephen Policoff in that rare category…” -- Jana Prikyl, Salon

You can order Sixteen Scenes From A Film I Never Wanted To See here. Learn more about author Stephen Policoff 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.