Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New Releases from Matthew Quick, Susan Minot, Laua Lippman, Jennifer McMahon, and Newcomer Andy Weir, Which is Jason's Pick.

Today in The New York Times, Julie Bosman writes about series that are being released in a speeded-up time frame, instead of the traditional once per year. We would have added Joelle Charbonneau's Testing/Independent Study/Graduation Day series, which was the first major teen series that Amie could recall that was released in six-month increments. Charbonneau is coming back to Milwaukee for Independent Study. She'll be appearing at the Hales Corners Library on Wednesday, March 5, at 6:30 pm.

But as I say before events, all that pales in comparison with this week's new releases.  This week I'm focusing on fiction, and the first thing that caught my eye was The Good Luck of Right Now (Harper) by Matthew Quick, the author of The Silver Linings Playbook. A middle-aged guy who has lost his mom writes to Richard Gere, based on his mom's obsession with him, leading to a road trip to Canada from Philadelphia with a librarian, her brother, and defrocked priest to find life's answers. Early reviews from the trades were positive and quirky, if not starred, and if Janet Maslin in The New New York Times (I promise I'll link to other medium) had issues, he was reviewed by Janet Maslin the day before on sale, and that's something right there. Should I say Jonathan Tropper-esque?

Susan Minot returns with Thirty Girls (Knopf), a change-of-pace novel about a group of kidnapped schoolchildren in Uganda, under the control of The Lord's Resistance Army, based on a real event that happened in 1996. The story is told through Jane, an American writer in Kenya, and Esther, one of the kidnapped girls.The unnamed Booklist reviewer wrote: "So sure yet light is Minot's touch in this master work, so piercing yet respectful her insights into suffering and strength, that she dramatizes horrific truths, obdurate mysteries, and painful recognition with both bone-deep understanding and breathtaking beauty." Marie Arana in The Washington Post notes that while Minot's style is an acquired taste, "if you keep patient, all its scattered, neurotic strands will wind into a tight cord, and, in the end, you may calm down, stay in this writer’s hands and make sense of the exhilaration and horror."

On the way to our Sue Monk Kidd event last night, Sharon was telling me that Laura Lippman started her tour, which reminded me that I should include our rec of After I'm Gone (William Morrow). Here it is: "Although I have only visited Baltimore once, and then, only the train station, it is a city that I feel quite familiar with, thanks to the mysteries of Laura Lippman. Her latest book tells the story of Felix Brewer and his disappearance to avoid prison. It’s not so much Felix’s story as it is the tale of the women he left behind. His wife, Bambi, his three daughters, and his mistress, Julie. Julie’s body is found ten years later. After I’m Gone is told in Lippman’s engaging style, moving back and forth between decades and crimes to piece the puzzle together. Familiar characters from Lippman’s other books make cameo appearances to keep the story going. I enjoyed this fictional trip to Baltimore as much as I have all the others."--Sharon Nagel, Boswell Book Company.

If you'd like to read more about Lippman's latest, here's an interview Mary Carole McCauley conducted in The Baltimore Sun of course, the paper where Lippman was once a reporter, and where for a short time, my old friend Michelle was a copy editor for her. After I'm Gone launches at Baltimore's own The Ivy Bookshop.

Speaking of recs, Jason has a great one for The Martian (Crown), a new novel from Andy Weir that is also on sale today. He writes: "On the Ares 3 mission to Mars, a freakish storm causes the crew to abort the mission and flee back to earth. The only problem is that they think Mark Watney is dead and they left him behind. In fact, he is very much alive and is now the only living thing on Mars. Mark, who is fortunately a botanist by trade, attempts to figure out how to stay alive, setting up communications with Earth, and entertaining himself with old 1970s television and disco music. Along the way, he will have to deal with being very much alone. Andy Weir's book is hilarious and action packed, and very well thought out. This is how a space mission to Mars would most likely go. Having read The Martian, I’d probably pass on the chance to join up."--Jason Kennedy, Boswell Book Company

Entertainment Weekly called Weir's book, which they note was originally self-published, "an impressively geeky debut novel, and it could easily double as a survival guide."

And finally there's Jennifer McMahon, who moved to Doubleday for The Winter People, after several releases at Harper/Morrow (I assume she jumped imprints there along with an editor, but who knows?) In her newest, a young woman in Vermont, who finds her mother has disappeared, and find some answers in the diary of another mother-daughter death of 100 years ago, where the mother is said to still haunt the town as a ghost. The starred Booklist review notes that "this mystery-horror crossover is haunting, evocative, and horrifically beautiful."

And here's a nice recommendation from fellow Vermonter Chris Bohjalian: "I don't believe in ghosts. At least that’s what I kept telling myself as I read The Winter People. I also don't need to sleep with the lights on. I told myself that, too. But I was whistling past a graveyard—or, in this case—past a Vermont landscape that is authentic and recognizable and still altogether chilling. The Winter People is terrifying—everything you could want in a classic ghost story.”

Addendum: I got an email back from our always-on-the-ball rep Jason, noting that Jennifer McMahon didn't move from Harper to Doubleday with an editor, but was acquired by longtime Knopf/Vintage/Doubleday/Pantheon/Anchor dare-I-say-anchor Anne Messitte. What I meant to say was that McMahon moved from Harper paperbacks to Morrow paperbacks with Promise Not to Tell, Island of Lost Girls, Dismantled, Don't Breathe a Word, and The One I left Behind might have been editorial movement, but when I looked closer, this was actually movement between the paperback lines, which is sometimes more of a positioning statement than for which imprint the editor acquires.

I actually knew the backstory about this, since I had talked to agent Dan Lazar about McMahon several months before publication. He told me that he was excited about Messitte's enthusiasm for taking McMahon to the next level, and I think they've done a good job. The book rocks the literary/commercial and genre/mainstream divides with its cover treatment, and I can see both Sharon and Jane (whose been getting into ghost stories with Wendy Webb) reading it. And maybe Anne for the mystery angle.

So that's more of the story, in an effort to offer a little clarification.

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