Thursday, September 18, 2008

All the latest...

Oprah has chosen The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski as the next pick for her book club.

Barnes & Noble has chosen Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo as the newest selection in its Barnes & Noble Recommends program.

The Sony Reader will now be sold in Target stores for $299. People who purchase a Sony Reader from Target will receive a code enabling them to download a free copy of The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory from the Sony e-book store.

Deborah Rodriguez, author of The Kabul Beauty School, will be publishing her first fiction novel, The Kabul Coffee Club. The book will tell the story of 6 women, both Afghan and foreigners, who form an unlikely friendship in a coffee house in the middle of a war zone. I wonder if the move from nonfiction to fiction has anything to do with the rumblings that the book contained inaccuracies and inconsistencies.

Nicholas Sparks is simultaneously writing a new novel and its adaptation for film, which will star Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus. The book is scheduled for publication in September 2009 and the movie will follow soon after.

Audio recordings of Agatha Christie have recently been discovered by her grandson. The tapes are of Christie dictating the last third of the first draft of her autobiography. The company that oversees her estate is determining what to do with the tapes.

Candace Bushnell has signed a two-book deal to write teen novels featuring Carrie Bradshaw during her high school years. The first book, The Carrie Diaries, will be published in the fall of 2010. The idea is that the teenagers who love the Sex and the City book/show/movie will be thrilled to read about Carrie's teenage years.

The nominees for the FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award are:
A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World by William J. Bernstein
Cold Steel: The Multi-billion-dollar Battle for a Global Industry byTim Bouquet & Byron Ousey When Markets Collide: Investment Strategies for the Age of Global Economic Change by Mohamed El-Erian
McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld by Misha Glenny
Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy by Lawrence Lessig
The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder
The winner will be announced on October 14th.

Witchy Woman

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent just came out this month and has been getting a lot of buzz. This historical fiction novel is based on a real person, Martha Carrier, who was one of the 19 people executed during the Salem witch trials. The author is a tenth-generation descendant of Martha Carrier, and she incorporates actual court testimonies and transcripts, as well as stories that have been passed down through her family.

Sarah Carrier, Martha's eldest daughter, recounts the events which led up to her mother's death. When an outbreak of the plague occurs in their village, the Carriers leave their home to live with Martha's mother. In their new village, the villagers are less than welcoming. They are angry that the Carriers may have brought the plague with them (which they have). Martha's nephew believes he is entitled to his grandmother's house and land, and poisons the villagers' minds against the Carriers. Soon everyone begins accusing everyone else of witchcraft, and many are arrested, including Martha. Shortly after, Sarah and her brothers are arrested as well. Martha vehemently maintains her innocence, but encourages her children to admit to the charges, so that they will be set free. Ignorance prevailed, and in the end Martha was hung. Sarah and her brothers are eventually released, but their lives are forever haunted by this event.

This story was so well done, it's hard to believe it is Kent's first novel. She tells a great story, weaving fact and fiction seamlessly. She does a fantastic job of illustrating life in the late 1600s-the chores, the customs, the hardships, as well as the ignorance and fear that ran rampant at this time. The scenes of the trials made me furious and the description of the jails made me cringe. Kent also took much care in the development of her main character, Sarah. I felt her fear, pain and sorrow, but I also saw her grow as a character. Historical fiction fans should be pleased with this story, and I hope we see more from this author.

Monday, September 15, 2008

David Foster Wallace Dies

David Foster Wallace died Friday, September 12th of an apparent suicide at the age of 46. Wallace suffered from severe depression for many years. Wallace was best known for his mammoth 1996 novel, Infinite Jest, a 1,079-page monster that perceives American society as self-obsessed, pleasure-obsessed and entertainment-obsessed.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Child 44

Tom Rob Smith's debut novel Child 44 has gotten a lot of buzz, and for good reason. It's a gripping suspense novel that skillfully captures the dark mood and paranoid fears of Soviet Russia. In Stalin's Soviet Union, a serial killer of children is on the loose. The State's official position is that the deaths are merely coincidental and unrelated, but when MGB officer Leo Demidov begins to question the State's judgement, he is demoted. Leo convinces his new superior officer that the killings are not unrelated and the two quietly begin their own investigation. When the State learns of Leo's continued investigation, he is arrested, declared a traitor and sent to a gulag. After escaping, with the help of local villagers, Leo tracks down the killer, whose identity makes for a shocking twist. Be sure you don't miss this one!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

All the latest...

The publication of Sherry Jones' novel The Jewel of Medina, which was recently cancelled by Random House, was picked up by Beaufort Books for publication sometime in October, along with a deal for a sequel. Beaufort, which was named one of the fastest growing independent publishers of 2007, was the house that picked up O. J. Simpson's If I Did It last year after being cancelled by HarperCollins.

Stephenie Meyer's fifth book in her popular Twilight series, Midnight Sun, has been put on hold indefinitely after a partial draft was leaked online. Take a look at her statement posted on her website.

The shortlist for the Man Booker Prize was recently announced. A few surprises: neither Salman Rushdie's novel, The Enchantress of Florence nor Joseph O'Neill's novel Netherland made the cut. Sadly, Tom Rob Smith's Child 44 didn't make the cut either, but I think that was to be expected. Although it's a great book (which I will talk more about later), it's not very Bookerish. The finalists are:
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant
The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

Fox 2000 has won film rights to Water for Elephants.

Maxine Hong Kingston was awarded the 2008 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation.

Herman Wouk was given the Library of Congress Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Writing of Fiction.

The Guardian has a fun article titled "How Bestsellers Chart the State of Nations." In the UK, readers are apparently "incapable of thinking for [themselves] and making any decisions without Richard and Judy" as two-thirds of the bestselling authors have appeared on the show. American readers are cultivating their spiritual side with books like Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth, Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love and Rhonda Byrne's The Secret. The Irish are patriotic readers, preferring Ireland-born Cathy Kelly, Maeve Binchy, Sheila O'Flanagan and Marian Keyes. The Australians are romance readers and the French like highbrow literary fiction. is tracking America's political book buying by state. They have created a map of the country showing each state's percentage of "red" and "blue" books as well as the most popular books in each state. There is a lot of red on that map. Illinois seems to be sporting some odd shade of lavender.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Books To Movies

It seems that most movies these days are based on books. Maybe that's the way it's always been and I'm just now noticing. In any case, there are quite a few movies coming out this fall that have been based on novels or memoirs. We won't get into the Harry Potter fiasco. You can see my previous rant here.

Coming in September:
The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley, is a chronicle of the life of 18th century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who was reviled for her extravagant political and personal lives. Based on the biography by Amanda Foreman, Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire.

Miracle at St. Anna, based on the novel by James McBride, chronicles the story of four black American soldiers who are members of the all-black 92nd Buffalo Soldier Division stationed in Tuscany, Italy during World War II. They experience the tragedy and triumph of the war as they find themselves trapped behind enemy lines and separated from their unit after one of them risks his life to save an Italian boy.

Choke, based on Chuck Palahnuik's novel, depicts a sex-addicted con-man who pays for his mother's hospital bills by playing on the sympathies of those who rescue him from choking to death.

Nights in Rodanthe, based on the novel by best-selling author Nicholas Sparks, starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane. Adrienne is a woman who's trying to decide whether to stay in her unhappy marriage. Her life changes when Paul, a doctor who is traveling to reconcile with his estranged son, checks into an inn in a North Carolina beach town where she is staying.

Coming in October:
Appaloosa, based on the novel by Robert B. Parker, starring Jeremy Irons, Ed Harris, and Viggo Mortenson. When Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch arrive in Appaloosa, they find a town suffering at the hands of a rancher named Randall Bragg. Cole and Hitch are used to cleaning up after scavengers, but this one raises the stakes by playing not by the rules. Cole and Hitch are hired to save the town from Bragg, but a young attractive widow arrives to complicate matters.

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, based on the humorous memoir by Toby Young, starring Simon Pegg. A British writer struggles to fit in at a high-profile magazine in New York.

Body of Lies, based on the novel by David Ignatius, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. A CIA operative is sent to Jordan to track a high-ranking terrorist. The spy is aided by the head of Jordan's covert operations in an uneasy alliance that leads to cultural and moral clashed between the men.

The Secret Life of Bees, based on the novel by Sue Monk Kidd, starring Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson and Dakota Fanning. Set in South Carolina in 1964, fourteen-year-old Lily Owens is haunted by the memory of her late mother. To escape her lonely life and troubled relationship with her father, Lily flees with Rosaleen, her caregiver and only friend, to a South Carolina town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by the intelligent and independent Boatwright sisters, Lily finds solace in their mesmerizing world of beekeeping, honey and the Black Madonna.

Coming in November:
Twilight, based on the best-selling young adult novel by Stephenie Meyer. When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, based on the young adult novel by John Boyne. Set during World War II, a story seen through the innocent eyes of Bruno, the eight-year-old son of the commandant at a concentration camp, whose forbidden friendship with a Jewish boy on the other side of the camp fence has startling and unexpected consequences.

The Road, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, starring Viggo Mortenson. A father and his son walk alone through a post-apocalyptic America. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing, just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road and each other.

Coming in December:
Yes Man, based on the humorous memoir by Danny Wallace, starring Jim Carey. In the habit of saying "no" to everyone and everything, a guy challenges himself to say "yes" for an entire year.

Revolutionary Road, based on the novel by Richard Yates, starring Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio. A young couple living in a Connecticut suburb during the mid-1950s struggle to come to terms with their personal problems while trying to raise their two children.

Marley and Me, based on the popular memoir by John Grogan, starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson. An impossibly cute, but impossible-to-live-with yellow Labrador retriever named Marley teaches his newlywed owners a thing or two about patience and parenthood.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead

How could I not pick up a book with this title? In Saralee Rosenberg's latest novel, Mindy Sherman lives in an upscale neighborhood on Long Island. Trying to juggle three kids, a step-son that just moved in, a job she hates, annoying in-laws, and a failing business, her neighbor, Beth Diamond, is not making life easier. Beth seems to live a charmed life. She has the body of a sixteen-year-old, designer clothes, a beautiful house and perfect children. Demanding, demeaning, selfish and insensitive, she is the neighbor from hell. But when Mindy realizes that Beth's life isn't as perfect as it seems, the two call a truce and begin to build a friendship that will see them through some of their most difficult moments.

Although Mindy's battles with Beth can be quite humorous, there is a serious side to the book too. Most readers will probably identify with Mindy, her hectic life and constant worries over family and money. And even though Beth can seem pretty terrible at first, once you realize she has problems and is just as insecure as anybody else, she starts to grow on you. A fun quick read with a touching story of friendship between an unlikely pair.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Author Visits!

On September 8th at 12:30 pm Brad Meltzer will sign his latest thriller Book of Lies at the Borders bookstore on State Street in Chicago. Brad will also be appearing later that evening at 7pm at the Book Stall in Winnetka.

Also on September 8th at 6pm, Alan Weisman will be discussing his nonfiction book The World Without Us at the Chicago Public Library.

On September 12th at 6pm Junot Diaz will be appearing at the Chicago Public Library to discuss his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

On September 16th Philip Roth will be participating in a virtual interview from New York, which will be broadcast at the Chicago Public Library at 6pm and the Book Stall in Winnetka at 7pm. Registration is required at both locations. The first 48 people to register at the Book Stall will have the opportunity to purchase a signed 1st edition of Roth's latest work Indignation.

On September 24th at 6pm, Paul Theroux will discuss his latest travel memoir Ghost Train to the Eastern Star at the Chicago Public Library.

Also on Septmeber 24th, Candace Bushnell (Sex and the City) will be signing her newest novel One Fifth Avenue at 7pm at the Borders bookstore on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Happy Belated Birthday

So, I just realized that I completely missed the 1-year anniversary of Running With Books! (I'm really slipping here-I forgot my dog's birthday last month too.) The blog started on July 11th, 2007, and since then we have had over 5,000 hits from around the world! Not only local readers, but readers from all over the U.S., as well as in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico. So thank you to everyone that has been faithfully reading the blog, and even those who stop by periodically. I really enjoy blogging about books and I hope you keep coming back!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Case of the Missing Books

1 cozy mystery + Northern Ireland setting + librarian as main character = great read

Israel Armstrong arrives in Northern Ireland via overnight ferry, bus and train from London, ready to take on his new job as Librarian of Tumdrum and District Public Library. But when he arrives, the doors are shut tight and a sign indicates that the Library has been closed. For good. After tracking down the Deputy Head of Entertainment, Leisure and Community Services, Israel discovers that town council decided to close the library, but Israel is expected to take on the role of Outreach Support Officer. In other words, he will be driving the mobile library. But when he stops at the library to load the books onto the van, he finds that all the books are missing. Not wanting to attract attention by calling the police (which might make the town council think they are incompetent), it's up to Israel to find the missing books. Along the way, Israel meets several quirky characters, learns to enjoy tea, and decides that Northern Ireland is not so bad after all.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

All the Latest...

Trying to come up with the perfect name for your new bundle of joy (or fur)? Try A is for Atticus: Baby Names from Great Books by Lorilee Craker. Harry and Bella are the current popular names, but there are some great ones that none of the other kids (or dogs/cats) will have. I like Mr. Tibbs for a cat name. (Ok, so that's not from a book. But who knows what movie that is from?)

One of my new favorite mystery writers, Ariana Franklin, has two more books in the works, both part of her great historical mystery series featuring the mistress in the art of death, Dr. Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar. Book 3 will be released in the spring of '09 and book 4 will be released in the spring of '10.

Last month I mentioned the story about Random House cancelling the publication of Sherry Jones' novel, The Jewel of Medina, a historical fiction novel detailing the origins of Islam through the eyes of the prophet Muhammad's youngest wife A'isha, because they were afraid the book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community. It seems that this has caused some bad feelings toward Random House. The Langum Charitable Trust, which awards two $1000 prizes each year to writers, says it will not consider any submissions of any books from Random House or any of its affiliates due to its "cowardly self-censorship." Meanwhile, it seems that all this attention has helped get the book published overseas. The rights to publish the novel have been sold to publishers in Denmark, Spain and Brazil.

Three finalists for the 2008 Thurber Prize for American Humor have been announced. The finalists are: Larry Doyle for I Love You, Beth Cooper, Patricia Marx for Him Her Him Again The End of Him, and Simon Rich for Ant Farm.

Another film adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel is set to hit the big screen this fall. The Road will be released on November 26th, starring Viggo Mortensen.

I just read that XBox has partnered with Rock the Vote to allow people to register to vote via their XBox Live subscription. That is seriously cool. Has anyone tried this?

Oprah will be announcing her next book club pick soon. The book is apparently a Harper Collins title that is only available in hardcover and large print. People who care are betting on either Paul Coelho's Brida or David Wroblewski's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. After her disappointing pick for the last book, I've given up hope.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Around the World in 80 Dinners

I'm a huge fan of travel and food narratives. Anthony Bourdain's show No Reservations is one of my favorites, so I was looking forward to something similar with Cheryl and Bill Jamison's Around the World in 80 Dinners: The Ultimate Culinary Adventure. For their anniversary, the Jamison's decided to take a three month trip around the world, stopping in Bali, Australia, New Caledonia, Singapore, Thailand, India, China, South Africa, France and Brazil. The cool part is that they were able to get almost all of their airline tickets using their frequent flier miles. I have got to get signed up for something like that! In each place they visited, they were determined to eat authentically local food. Some of the food they tried came from food stalls and street vendors, some from mom and pop restaurants, and some came from very expensive restaurants, serving elaborate versions of native dishes (and in my opinion, some of it seemed quite pretentious). In some places in Thailand, they had difficulty finding authentically Thai food. It seems that the Thai people thought the Americans would find the food too spicy, and so downplayed the flavors and spices, even though the Jamisons specifically asked them not to. But for the most part, the Jamisons seemed to have great food experiences. Aside from the eating, the Jamisons visited several wineries and sight-seeing spots and even attended a few local cooking classes. All in all, the book is a satisfying read for those who enjoy travel and food narratives. It's not as humorous as Bourdain's writing, but the Jamisons include lots of descriptions of the various foods and flavors, which is obviously important in this kind of narrative. A few annoyances: the narrative is written in third person, which I didn't care for. I think a travel narrative needs a first person perspective to really build an intimacy with the reader, so it was a little off-putting. Also, at the end of each chapter, the Jamisons included contact information of the restaurants they visited as well as a recipe from that particular region. Out of all the recipes, none sounded interesting enough that I would try them at home, which was disappointing. I do recall them mentioning that they ate banana fritters while in Singapore-where was that recipe?? Nonetheless, an interesting read.