Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fiction Frenzy--New Boswell's Best Titles from Simon Van Booy, Carl Hiaasen, Kevin Kwan, Beth Hoffman, Elizabeth Silver, and a Little Extra Push for Colum McCann.

I asked Jason for the list of Boswell's Best titles before I could do the blog today and he said, "I just found out that HarperCollins moved up Simon Van Booy's The Illusion of Separateness (Harper) by two weeks. I think you want to get that on your fiction roundup."

He's right, I do! Stacie's been championing the book since she first picked up the galley. It's on my stack as well (I read Love Begins in Winter several years ago) but you know the excuse--I'm reading as fast as I can. If you're not a Jim Gaffigan fan, maybe you want to attend Book Cellar's event in Chicago this Saturday, at 7 pm on June 15th.  I'm just saying they have a liquor license too. If you don't live in these environs, here's the rest of the tour (photo credit by John Minihan).

Here's Stacie's rec:
"The incandescent prose of this slender novel transfixed me until my heart shattered. Each character I met—with such deep longing in their souls and generosity of their spirits—seemed to be painstakingly carved from the granite of profound emotional truths, and I quite literally collapsed under the weight of it all. Moving backwards and forwards in time, we follow a starburst of people, from France to Los Angeles, whose smallest gestures have grand, echoing reverberations over the course of 66 years. I was (and continue to be) rendered utterly speechless for the magnificence of it." (Stacie M. Williams)

We're a little early on reviews, partly because of the moved up on-sale date. But the Publishers Weekly trade review notes "Full of clever staccato sentences ('Most nights, he watches television. Then he falls asleep and the television watches him') bookended by snippets of inner monologue obvious, but ripe with meaning ('We all have different lives... but in the end probably feel the same things, and regret the fear we thought might somehow sustain us'), the writing is what makes this remarkable book soar."

There are other books out too this week.  Carl Hiaasen's newest, Bad Monkey, lands today. Bob Minzesheimer, in today's USA Today review, offers this almost dare to other novelists: "If there were a contest to name the funniest novelist still writing, one of my nominees would be Carl Hiaasen, even if he has a territorial advantage." The new story starts out with an ex-policeman and soon-to-be-ex-sherriff explaining how he has a human arm in his freezer. I'm sure there's a perfect good explanation for it. Booklist agrees: "Plot convolutions twice cause him to insert multipage explanations of what's going on, but as always, Hiaasen is laugh-out-loud funny and thoroughly entertaining" though they note that he has taken a step back from confronting the environmental apocalypse that once underpinned most of his plotlines.

Speaking of funny, Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians (Doubleday) is fighting it out for most funny release of the week. Per the publisher, it's about "three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season."I thought the South China Morning Post was a good source for a review--are they laughing with or at the characters? Of course one can't tell from names alone, but Louise Rosario is a fan: "This is an entertaining and well-written book about the life of the Chinese super-rich, a new class who are keeping alive five-star hotels, restaurants and luxury shops around the world." I'm sure Chinese laugh at language mistakes all the time, so I'm not going to bat an eye at the publisher being "Double Day."

I'm sort of irritated that I didn't get to do one bookstore visit on my recent trip to NY. If I were there right now, I'd be plotting out how to get to The Corner Bookstore on 93rd and Madison, to hear Kwans talk/read on June 13.

On a less funny note, Elizabeth Silver's The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is also out today. It's about a woman on death row for murder, who has refused to talk about the case. And then (thank you publisher copy) "Seemingly out of the blue, she is visited by Marlene Dixon, a high-powered Philadelphia attorney who is also the mother of the woman Noa was imprisoned for killing. Marlene tells Noa that she has changed her mind about the death penalty and Noa’s sentence, and will do everything in her considerable power to convince the governor to commute the sentence to life in prison, in return for the one thing Noa is unwilling to trade: her story."

I guess when a book is on the bestseller list for a year (happy birthday) like Gone Girl, it's going to invite a lot of comparisons. Stephan Lee in Entertainment Weekly (A-) wrote: "Like the narrators in recent best-sellers Gone Girl and The Dinner, Noa is endlessly complex and impossible to trust. Don't try to outsmart her — you can't. Just let her manipulate, shock, and maybe even move you."

I just want to say that there are interesting type covers and boring type covers, and these last two books fall on the side of dullsville. I really don't think either gives a handle on what the books are at all. While I understand this allows them to not over-segment their audience, can't there be a happy medium that hints at the insides while not limiting their audience. And just to keep the grief coming, several of my booksellers are displeased with the paperback jacket for A Hologram for the King. It's like The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry all over again, only with a little color.

I have to do write up a book on this list that is not corporate Random House. How about Lookng for Me (Pamela Dorman Books/Penguin), by Beth Hoffman, the author of Saving CeeCee Hunnicutt? They won't be Random House for a couple of months anyway. The new story is about Teddi, an antiques restorer whose brother disappears--and she heads back to rural Kentucky to look for him. It is said that the novel "brilliantly melds together themes of family, hope, loss, and a mature once-in-a-lifetime kind of love. The result is a tremendously moving story that is destined to make bestselling author Beth Hoffman a novelist to whom readers will return again and again as they have with Adriana Trigiani, Fannie Flagg, and Joshilyn Jackson." It's the "red hot book of the week" on the She Knows blog, but it's all jacket copy. I will at least tell you that the unnamed Kirkus reviewer didn't like the mystery-romance mashup. Doesn't seem like a bad idea to me, actually.

And finally, just one more pit stop, and it's another room at the Random House, alas. I haven't written up Colum McCann's TransAtlantic ("Little" Random House, or Random House Publishing Group) officially and I'm a little irritated because our first week of sale was only ok, not amazing. Based on our fabulous reads for this book, we should be through the roof. Here's Anne's take:

"How difficult it is to describe one of the best reading experiences I’ve had in a long time! It starts with three historic episodes, one of two pilots crossing the Atlantic, another of Frederick Douglas on speaking tour in Ireland, and a third of George Mitchell brokering a peace accord for the Troubles. From there, TransAtlantic incorporates several more voices, weaving together a narrative tapestry. What I can say for sure is that the structure of the book was unlike anything I have read, the characters are wonderful, and the language is gorgeous." (Anne K. McMahon)

and here's Hannah's:
"The characters of Let the Great World Spin were beautiful because they were flawed. In TransAtlantic, every person is steeped in dignity, fighting for his or her sense of justice. That sense of justice is so much bigger than who they are, whether you’re talking about George Mitchell brokering the Irish peace accord or Frederick Douglas working to end slavery. As for the ancillary players, I liked them even more. Colum McCann perfectly inhabits the thoughts and the movements of all his characters. It’s like he puts on their skin and lives their lives, telling their stories with beautiful prose. It gave me goosebumps!" (Hannah Johnson-Breimeier)

Hannah went down to see McCann at Book Stall on Sunday and had a wonderful time. Goosebumps again, no doubt. I'm going to work with the gang to see if we can at least double sales for this week. And you're saying to yourself, "Daniel, why didn't you help the book by reading?" and I would reply, "I was way too busy reading about Insane Clown Posse. I'll have that story for you on Friday." So there you go.

All titles are 20% off in store, at least through Monday, June 17.

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