Friday, May 16, 2014

Authors Brighten These Gloomy May Days


I think this danky weather in the New York area has something to do with my knitting summer tank tops. If I were still knitting sweaters, the weather would be a lot warmer. I knit a few rows of a sweater last night trying to break the cool/cold spell --- let’s see if it works. The pool is open and looking blue already; I have not stuck a thermometer in it yet as my husband's only words to describe it have been “very cold,” which I think translates to "beyond wetsuit cold.”

Lots of great author meetings have been brightening and warming up my days. When we left off last Friday, I was at the Random House Open House event, which was a huge success. Four friends joined me --- a wonderful way for me to partner seeing them and sharing my “book world” as well; they all had a wonderful time, and I have gotten notes all week as they are trying to decide what to read first. I also was lucky enough to meet three of our readers --- Augustus, Erika and Diana --- who were kind enough to share their thoughts on the day with us in this blog post.

Panache Desai, a contemporary spirituality thought leader and author of DISCOVERING YOUR SOUL SIGNATURE: A 33-Day Path to Purpose, Passion & Joy, was one of the speakers, and he led us on a meditation session that I embraced; I felt very energized after it. I am not someone who would seek out a program like his 33-day path, but I actually found myself intrigued enough to want to give it a try after the session with him. It’s surprising as I am a person who rarely stops enough to channel my inner self, so let’s see how this goes!

As promised in last week’s newsletter, DELICIOUS!, Ruth Reichl’s debut novel, is my latest Bets On selection. Hearing Ruth discuss the extensive research she did for it enhanced my reading of the last pages. Here’s the storyline: Soon after Billie Breslin takes a job at Delicious!, New York’s most iconic food magazine is abruptly shut down. Billie agrees to stay on in the empty office, maintaining the hotline for reader complaints in order to pay her bills. In a hidden room in the magazine’s library, Billie finds a cache of letters written during World War II. They provide her with a feeling of deep connection to the young writer whose courage in the face of hardship inspires her to come to terms with her fears. Click here to see why I’m betting you’ll love this book, which is now in stores.

Ruth also shared that her inspiration for the cheese and delicacies shop in the book came from Di Palo’s down in Little Italy. At the conclusion of the event, there was a cocktail hour with cheeses and other Italian delicacies that was a delight to this cheese lover. I fell in love with a pear mostardo that they had, which had a great bite to it. It’s an Italian condiment made of candied fruit and a mustard-flavored syrup. DI PALO'S GUIDE TO THE ESSENTIAL FOODS OF ITALY is coming out this September, and I cannot wait to cook from it.

Flash forward to Wednesday when we were lucky enough to have a visit from Mary Kay Andrews, who was in town for meetings with her publisher and agent. She came by and was amused by the purple/periwinkle outfit I had made that completely color-coordinated with the cover for her new book, SAVE THE DATE. You can see a picture of us above. We discussed junking, books, cocktails, theater, book tours, writing, and just had a wonderful time. Most of the staff got to meet her, and they saw why I enjoy her so much, both as a person and an author.

And her visit was just in time as Mary Kay returns to our Women’s Fiction Author Spotlight series this week with SAVE THE DATE. A Savannah florist is about to score the wedding of a lifetime, which will solidify her career as the go-to-girl for society nuptials. Ironically, Cara Kryzik doesn't believe in love, even though she creates beautiful flower arrangements to celebrate them. But when the bride goes missing and the wedding is in jeopardy, Cara must find the bride and figure out what she believes in. We have 25 copies to give away to those who would like to read the book, which releases on June 3rd, and comment on it. To enter, please fill out this form by Friday, May 22nd at noon ET.

Then at lunch on Wednesday, Tom, Nikki and I met Rosie Thomas, whose book THE KASHMIR SHAWL we featured last year. She was in town to talk to us about THE ILLUSIONISTS, which will be in stores on June 26th. Her new book is a departure from the books she is known for as she looks at the world of illusion and builds an exciting story around it. I loved talking to her about this novel, as well as her extensive travels and experiences, which clearly inspire her work. You can see a photo of us above, and we look forward to sharing THE ILLUSIONISTS with you in the weeks to come.

Releasing this week is THE PEARL THAT BROKE ITS SHELL by Nadia Hashimi, which we’ve been featuring in our Women’s Fiction Author Spotlight. Alexis Burling has our review and says, “The narrative of Hashimi’s book --- the struggles of two generations of women coming of age in Afghanistan --- mirrors the experiences of those who share her heritage…. THE PEARL THAT BROKE ITS SHELL is an intimate portrayal of a woman’s plight in Afghanistan, dealing with lack of education, inequality, domestic violence and sexual servitude.” Alexis also had the opportunity to ask Nadia some questions about her debut novel, and you can read their interview here. More on why this is a Bets On selection next week!

Tuesday, May 6th was a HUGE day for book releases, thus there is no shortage of reviews in this week’s newsletter…17 to be exact. (Thank you to Tom Donadio, our Editorial Director, for a yeoman’s job of getting so many books covered). Please take a look at Tuesday’s On Sale This Week newsletter here, and you’ll see for yourself just how busy this week was in the book world.

Among this week’s reviews is Anthony Doerr’s latest book, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, which is the #1 Indie Next Pick for May and is being published 10 years after his debut novel, ABOUT GRACE. This is one very special book --- and it will be a Bets On selection next week. Here’s the plot: Marie-Laure is a young blind girl living in Paris with her father, who is a master of locks at the Museum of Natural History and is in charge of some of their most valued works. When she is 12, the Germans move into the city, and they are forced to flee to the town of Saint-Malo, where a reclusive uncle lives by the sea. In a parallel story, a young orphan boy named Werner lives with his sister in Germany and is tapped to be part of the Hitler Youth, eventually given a role to teach the Resistance.

Michael Magras has our review (which I love), where he says, “ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE consists of short chapters, most of them fewer than five pages, the collective impact of which is devastating as Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s stories converge. The book’s title gives you a sense of Doerr’s style: formal and elegant, direct yet poetic…. But the greatest achievement of this book is that, unlike many similar works, Doerr emphasizes his protagonists’ capacity for kindness.”

On a related note, Greg returned from a trip to Europe on Tuesday night. Among his travels, he visited Normandy, in advance of the crowds that are sure to be there in early June to mark the 70th anniversary of the invasion. He was so moved by his visit to the cemeteries of the American, British and German soldiers. Reading the gravestones of the German soldiers, he realized how desperate they were at that point for support as many were just 17; the graves of our soldiers did not bear their birthdates. Standing on Omaha Beach and visualizing D-Day was quite an experience for him.

Michael Cunningham is back with his first novel in four years, THE SNOW QUEEN. In what is sure to be his latest bestseller, Cunningham follows the Meeks brothers as each travels down a different path in his search for transcendence. Barrett, haunted by a mysterious light, turns unexpectedly to religion, while Tyler grows increasingly convinced that only drugs can release his creative powers. According to reviewer Damian Van Denburgh, “Throughout the book, Cunningham portrays in a convincing, organic style the symbiotic nature of his characters’ relationships, the ways in which friends grow to become surrogate family members while siblings grow into surrogate parents.” Just this week, we posted a guide for THE SNOW QUEEN on our site, which you can see here.

Another Indie Next Pick for May is THE BEES, a debut novel by Laline Paull. Flora is not like other bees. With circumstances threatening her hive’s survival, Flora’s curiosity is regarded as a dangerous flaw, but her courage and strength are an asset. However, when she breaks the most sacred law of all --- daring to challenge the Queen’s fertility --- enemies abound. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce maternal love that will lead her to unthinkable deeds. Jana Siciliano has our review and calls the book “one weird and awe-inspiring literary event…. THE BEES is a marvel, a story worth telling with ramifications you’ll want to consider over and over again. Paull’s vision is a scary yet exciting one for readers who love their fiction dangerous and just this side of too close for comfort.” I completely agree with Jana; Flora is a character who has stayed with me!

Last week, we featured THE BLESSINGS by Elise Juska and ONE HUNDRED NAMES by Cecelia Ahern in special Author Spotlights. Now, we’re pleased to share our reviews of these titles, both of which released this week. Bronwyn Miller has many great things to say about THE BLESSINGS. Here’s a preview of her review: “Fans of writers like Anne Tyler, Alice McDermott and even Richard Yates will revel in Juska’s resplendent novel detailing two decades in the life of the Blessing clan. The story carefully balances the highs and lows of the everyday through the author’s exquisite prism.” I am looking forward to reading this even more after seeing Bronwyn's comments. Meanwhile, Terry Miller Shannon offers her own rave of ONE HUNDRED NAMES, calling it “a delightfully warm and whimsical meditation on the theme of second chances and connections, wrapped in an irresistible just-one-more-chapter-before-I-stop page-turner."

ONE HUNDRED NAMES is among the titles we're featuring in our New in Paperback roundups for May. Others include THE LONGEST RIDE by Nicholas Sparks, DEATH ANGEL by Linda Fairstein, THE SUPREME MACARONI COMPANY by Adriana Trigiani, AND THEN I FOUND YOU by Patti Callahan Henry and THE WIDOW WALTZ by Sally Koslow.

Congratulations to the winners of our Mother’s Day contest! Click here to see if you were one of the lucky 10 who will receive 10 books and some wonderful goodies to treat your mom (or yourself, of course!). If you’re still searching for that perfect gift for the big day, we strongly recommend taking a look at the 20 titles in our Mother’s Day feature for plenty of literary suggestions.

We’ve been posting some outstanding essays this week for our Mother's Day Author Blog series. To date, we’ve heard from Francine Rivers, Dorothea Benton Frank, Eva Marie Everson, Cassandra King, Brenda Bevan Remmes, Christa Allan, Holly Peterson, Karen Alpert and Lacy Crawford. This year’s series will wrap up with Sarah Jio and Lynn Cullen this weekend. Many thanks to all the authors who took time out of their busy schedules to participate --- and to Emily Hoenig for scheduling these pieces and writing the opening blurbs that appear at the top of each blog post.

For our latest poll, we’re asking you which books releasing in May are you planning to read (if any). Click here to see our list of titles and let us know! In our previous poll, we were curious as to what percentage of your friends are avid readers. And the verdict? Many of your friends enjoy reading just as much as you do! You can see the results here.

We have a new Word of Mouth contest up right now. Let us know what books you’ve been reading, and you’ll be in the running to win THE SKIN COLLECTOR by Michael Connelly, MILLION DOLLAR ARM by J. B. Bernstein, on which the movie starring Jon Hamm (in theaters May 16th) is based, along with the aforementioned ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE and DELICIOUS! To enter, please fill out the form on the Word of Mouth page by Friday, May 23rd at noon ET.

Aside from MILLION DOLLAR ARM, there are many more reasons to head to the theater this month, and the proof can be found in our Books on Screen feature for May. You'll also find plenty of offerings to keep you entertained right from the comfort of your own home.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you celebrating this weekend! My mom is in Atlanta for my nephew’s high school graduation. We are having dinner with my mother-in-law on Saturday night, and Sunday I would be happy to just sit in a hammock and read. Cory wraps up freshman year on Monday; that was one REALLY fast school year. It will be nice to converse with him in person; he loathes the phone and email. I was lucky enough to find that my new phone has a voice-to-text feature, thus I can now dictate missive-long texts to him, which amuse him since they are email length. Read on….and have a great week….

Carol Fitzgerald