Jason noted to me this week that mid-month release schedules tend to be a bit soft, which gives us more space to highlight titles you might not know about. We were noting that in the old days, before on sale dates, a lot of books would land just about now, readying themselves for the first of the month, arriving a little early, just in case. Or sometimes not arriving early, in which case we'd complain.
One book that hs arrived in plenty of time to be promoted in the Indie Next List is Justin Go's The Steady Running of the Hour (Simon and Schuster), which I already noted looks a lot like the new Anthony Doerr jacket, and rides the midnight blue trend. The jumping off point is the story is a young American, who learns he might be the rightful heir to a fortune from a mountaineer who perished trying to climb Mount Everest. Library Journal calls The Steady Running of the Hour "a page turner" and "impressive first work." The Indie Next quote is from Nicola Rooney of Nicola's, Ann Arbor, who says "this beautifully haunting story will appeal to a wide audience of readers." And Kate Mosse, whose quote is used on the front and back cover, calls the book "emotionally engaging and ambitious."
Another book that shows up on the May Indie Next list is All the Birds, Singing (Pantheon), from Evie Wyld. It's about "an outsider haunted by an inescapable past," with Jake Whyte (a gal), living with his collie and sheep in an old farmhouse off the British coast, only her sheep are being picked off one by one, but that's nothing compared to the internal horrors of family secrets and so forth. Hannah Kent (whom I discussed with the popular Australian kids' writer Andy Griffiths last night) wrote it was one of the best books she read this year. William Boyd in The New Statesman called it "a tremendous achievement" and Carin Pratt from the Norwich Bookshop (I used to walk there when I needed to clear my head in college, only there was no bookshop, just a general store) wrote "Wyld’s writing is atmospheric, wild, and scary, but there is a sense of redemption in the end.”
One fellow whose seen front-of-store placement many times in the past, and continues with this Boswell-Best-selected novel is Douglas Coupland, whose new novel is Worst. Person. Ever. (Blue Rider). It's about a B-unit cameraman whose life has taken a downward spiral, and decides to accept his ex-wife's offer to shoot a reality show on an obscure island in the Pacific. While John Harding in the UK Daily Mail calls the story "provocative and entertaining" and Martin Fletcher int the (also UK) Independent proclaims it "riotous." That said, I should also note that Library Journal's unnamed critic warns that "easily offended readers might want to take a pass on this ironic novel, as it playfully seeks to transgress most boundaries."
One book I hoped to read but haven't gotten around to is Mannequin Girl (Norton), the first novel from the author of The Last Chicken in America, a collection of stories I really liked, which was published several years ago. I didn't have a blog then but my friend Arsen did. Here's his interview with Ellen Litman on Kash's Book Corner. The new novel is set in a Soviet boarding school in the 1980s. Booklist called the story "strikingly lucid and affecting" while Kirkus Reviews calls it "highly readable fiction propelled by a vulnerable and crankily appealing heroine." David Cooper in online The New York Journal of Books suggests it is also good for teens.
Finally we have The Good Inn (It Books), a collaboration between Black Francis (of the Pixies), Josh Frank, and Steven Appleby*, who provided the illustrations. Jason thought there might be enough art here to be a graphic novel, but we decided in the end general fiction worked better. The novel is loosely based on the survivors of a battleship that exploded in 1907 and how this came in influence a film that was made year later, said to be the earliest-known, well, stag film. Here's a very enthusiastic writeup from the (UK) Guardian, which calls this "a fantastical piece of illustrated fiction based on a yet-to-be-written soundtrack to a movie that doesn't yet exist." The Guardian clearly calls this a graphic novel. What do you think? How much art does a book need to cross sections?
I really liked Steven Appleby's Encyclopedia of Personal Problems. Could that have been almost 15 years ago?