As you may know, the biggest book show of the year is right around the corner. BookExpoAmerica (BEA) the trade show for the American Bookseller Association, runs May 11-13 in Chicago. Sadly, I will not be attending BEA this year. It has been a long time since I have gone, and since it’s in my own backyard this year, I am especially miffed that I can’t make it. I would love to meet some of the bloggers I have come to know in the past year, who helped me and encouraged me to start this blog! Hopefully that will happen soon.
What I got to do, though, was write some pieces for the PW Show Daily for the second year in a row. I had been doing reviews for Publishers Weekly for a few years, and last year got connected with the editor in charge of the Show Daily, a kind of newsletter that tells what’s going on at the show. These are exciting interview opportunities, but boy is the turn-around time short! It is worth it, though, to get to talk to these authors about their upcoming books.
This year, I got to talk to five authors. Yes, five books, five authors, five interviews in two weeks. It was a pretty hectic time! They were all wonderful, and all the books were fantastic – very different in every way but all good. Here are the five books that my interviews focused on. If you go to BEA, be sure to look for the Show Daily – a new one each day, for very day of the show. The Show Daily also includes schedules of all the author events for each day in there, so be sure to pick yours up!
Mischling: A Novel by Affinity Konar
This is a haunting, lyrical story of a set of twins held in Auschwitz under the “care” of Dr. Josef Mengele, the infamous Dr. Death. They are experimented on, as was his wont, and ultimately become separated. The first half of the book shows the depth of their coping and will to survive. The second half of the book concerns their journey after the liberation of the camp, while they are searching for each other. While this is not an easy story to read, it is told so beautifully and carefully, it will be worth the effort. Konar was a sweet person to talk to, and I felt like she bared her soul to me. Look for the interview in the Show Daily if you go; I think it was the best of the lot. A tiny drop of the sparseness and poetic prose in this book: “Sensitive to my disappointment, he gave me a weak smile, and clasped at my hand, which was rather uncomfortable because my heart was busy falling into the blackest depths of me, a locale unknown even to Uncle, and in that place it shed its skin, grew thorns, rolled in bile, and assumed a new shell. Thus armored, the resourceful organ climbed the ladder of my ribs back into place.” Just, oh. Takes your breath away.
Fates and Traitors by Jennifer Chiaverini
This is a riveting account of a time in history that most of us think we know very well. It is told compellingly from the point of view of the four women who knew John Wilkes Booth best: his mother, his sister, his sweetheart and his friend’s mother. The idea of taking a reviled villain and making him appear sympathetic (because we get to know these women and feel sympathy for them, as they loved him dearly) is a tall order (think Wicked), but here it has been accomplished. It is an engaging and dramatic story, full of all kinds of detail of the life in those times, including the social codes and the way actors were regarded. In our phone call, Jennifer suggested, “Think how the country would respond today if George Clooney shot the President.” We had a riveting conversation about feminism, loyalty and public opinion. [Note: GoodReads lists the hardcover edition under A Memoir of the Assassin John Wilkes Booth As Told by Four Ladies, but the ebook is under the final title.]
The Virginity of Famous Men by Christine Sneed
This is a collection of short stories, a few of which are based in the same world as Sneed’s novel Little Known Facts. The other stories vary widely, from a teen driven by her mom to do the right thing and learning to care about something outside of herself, to a woman working in a call center who can’t relate to her co-workers. The short story is a fine art form, and Sneed executes it well. She was also a delight to talk to, just like having coffee with an old friend. We talked a lot about writing and how she balances her work.
Darktown by Thomas Mullen
This is a thriller noir type book – most of it takes place at night. It is set in the deep south in 1948, and centers around the first black police officers in Atlanta. Of course, they are trying to solve a murder, but they are also dealing with all kinds of threats, issues and problems associated with their positions and racism. It is fast and tense at times, but the characters are built of whole cloth, so it also feels literary. Mullen also has an incredible lexicon for describing heat. The issues that it brings to light still resonate today. This is more of a police procedural but I like mysteries in general so I found it a good read.
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
This book is nonfiction –it is memoir-ish, in that she talks about some things in her life, reflects on her children and shares snippets. But mostly it is an interactive book. This was perhaps my favorite interview and my favorite book to read. I read it in one evening. The textbook part of the book is that it is split up into subject areas, like junior high: Language Arts, Science, Music. The basis of the interactive part is that there are 18 different texting prompts that fit in with the book. You are invited to do all kinds of fun and interesting things: send in a picture of a rainbow, listen to an audio segment, send Amy an idea for a matching tattoo you could get. You can even be matched up with another reader. This is all facilitated via the texting and through the book’s website, where you can see galleries of the rainbows and self-portraits, or even win a pie or a visit from Amy. I would pay to have lunch with this woman! We had a great conversation and I can’t wait to see the reaction to this book. Her previous book, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, was voted one of Amazon’s Top 10 Best Memoirs of the Decade. Be sure to check out the website for fun stuff.
If you happen to find any of my stories in the Show Daily (watch for byline Linda White), snap a pic and post it on Twitter with the hashtag #LindaShowDaily. You must be following me to win, @LindaWonder. I will choose random winners for these and other ARCs, five winners total! Let’s see your pics!! Deadline for hashtag use is May 31; winners will be notified by June 6. This is my first blog giveaway, and May is my six month bloggiversary, so come celebrate with me!