Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tuesday New Releases, More or Less--Sue Miller, Rosie Thomas, Jean Kwok, Celeste Ng, and James Patterson writing with David Ellis.

Our buyer Jason's biggest buy this week is for Sue Miller's The Arsonist (Knopf), which is set in a small New Hampshire town, where a woman who has lived many years in East Africa comes home to her aging parents. The problem is that somebody is burning down the town's summer homes. Booklist praises "her trademark elegant prose and masterful command of subtle psychological nuance" while Kirkus Reviews observes that "Miller's portrayal of early Alzheimer's and the toll it takes on a family is disturbingly accurate and avoids the sentimental uplift prevalent in issue-oriented fiction."

I'm not sure what makes about this thing called foreign rights. If HarperCollins is so excited about Rosie Thomas's The Illusionists in the UK, why didn't they publish it here? I guess their loss is Overlook's gain. The publisher calls this the follow-up to The Kashimir Shawl, but I misread that as sequel and the books themselves are not related. The new book is set in Victorian England and is about a theater troupe. There's a thriller element, a romance, and a lot of historical detail, and I saw Water for Elephants and The Night Circus's names dropped. Here's Rosie Thomas's blog, chronicling the process.

I can't describe Jean Kwok's Mambo in Chinatown (Riverhead) better than Library Journal who describes it as about "a 22-year-old Charlie Wong, a dishwasher who gets caught up in the world of professional ballroom dancing." She hoped to be a noodle maker, like her father, but the legacy of her dead mother, once a dancer for the Beijing Ballet, weighs on her. I think I went to see Kwok at Next Chapter  in Mequon for her previous novel, Girl in Translation. Kwok is interviewed by P.P. Wong in Banana Writers, where she discusses her inspiration: "I wanted to write about the Asians who don’t often appear in the media: namely, the low-achieving ones. There are so many people whom we pass every day yet don’t truly see, in restaurants, taxi cabs, dry cleaners. Although my own life is now quite different, my heart remains in Chinatown."

Interestingly enough, a Penguin Random House sister imprint also has a novel that touches on the Chinese American experience, Everything I Never Told You (Penguin Press), from Celeste Ng. It actually comes out on Thursday, as the Penguin division is still working on a soft/hard release schedule, but that's said to change in the next few months. I read and enjoyed this book, and offer my recommendation here.

"Once upon a time there was a Chinese man (James) who married a Caucasian woman (Marilyn) moved to a small Ohio college town to live happily ever after. The only problem is that their children are anything but, and now their middle child, Lydia, on whom both of them had pinned all their hopes and dreams, is dead, drowned in the nearby lake. Marilyn put all her hopes and dreams of Lydia having the medical career she herself gave up. James hoped that with her blue eyes, she’d be the popular kid he never was, a lone Asian in a sea of White people. Their son Nathan suspects that Jack, the neighbor kid who spent time alone with Lydia in his car, is somehow connected. The pieces of the puzzle might lie in another fateful time, when Marilyn disappeared for several months. This delicately written, character-driven story is an interesting portrait of the seventies, when Chinese folks were still uncommon in the heartland, and the racial, as well as gender, prejudices took a toll on their victims. Heartbreaking, yes, but also hopeful."(Daniel)

And finally, while I don't normally round up the James Patterson novels, I feel compelled to mention the release of Invisible (Little, Brown), his new collaboration with David Ellis, on several fronts. For one thing, he's published by the beleaguered Hachette Book Group, and has been one of the most outspoken of their authors. Amazon might have been playing with this title pre-publication, but right now, it's under their normal terms. We'll get it to you more expensively and slower, but on the other hand, we're not trying to destroy publishing as we know it. Also, Patterson has been giving out these amazing grants to independent bookstores and these recipient doors are doing some great things with the funds.

In the stand-alone thriller named Invisible, Emmy Dockery, an FBI researcher pushes herself to the edge, trying to find a link between between hundreds of unsolved cases, forcing her to take leave and remain completely ignored, until her ex-boyfriend "Books" Bookman accepts that a new piece of evidence is compelling enough to help find the connections. When I was younger, I used to be called "Books" by several neighborhood fellows, not because my last name was Bookman, but because they always saw me walking around and reading. So now I identify with Patterson and Ellis's latest on three levels.

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