Archive for June, 2011

Further Reading – Untold Story by Monica Ali

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

There are certain events that live on in all of us. Everyone remembers exactly where they were when the world changed. It’s natural to want to look back and think, “What if….” What if it had been different? What if it had never happened at all? Monica Ali does that in her new novel Untold Story with the death of Princess Diana. July 1, 2011 marks what would be the 50th birthday of Princess Di, and in Untold Story, she lives to see it. What kind of woman would she be?

There are plenty of world events that cause us to sit back and think about how drastically they changed our world. In all of these novels, something about our world or our history is different. All three authors answer that important question: “What if?”

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. DickThis is one of the more famous examples of an alternative history, since The Man in the High Castle won the Hugo Award in 1963. In 1933, a man assassinates Franklin D. Roosevelt, which means the United States is never brought out of the depression and, because of isolationist policy by the president who replaces him, the US never enters WWII. Without the help of the American army, the Allies are defeated by the Axis powers. Pearl Harbor results in the destruction of the Navy and results in Japan taking over the West Coast, creating the Pacific States of America. Though the differences between our world and this alternative reality are clear from the beginning, the history is revealed slowly. Though I gave you the basics here, this is a richly detailed story that examines how drastically different our culture would be if the Axis had won.

The Daughter of Time by Josephine TeyWhat if Richard III is not the evil man that history has made him out to be? When Inspector Alan Grant sees a painting of the monarch, he simply cannot believe that a man with such a kind face could be so evil. So Grant decides to solve the mystery of who Richard III really was and who really killed his nephews, if not Richard III himself.

The Black Tower by Louis BayardThis book takes several real people from the years following the French Revolution and posits that Louis XVII of France, son of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, didn’t die as is claimed in 1795, but escaped his prison. With Eugène François Vidocq, the infamous criminal-turned-first private detective, as the narrator, this historical fiction tale is full of mystery and intrigue.

Trade Publication Launches New Book Review For Consumers (via paidContent)

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

paidContent recently posted an article explaining the newest venture for Bethanne, ShelfAwareness’s Enlightenment for Readers, the new newsletter offered by the popular trade publication. You can read the full article from paidContent here.

The word “discoverability,” when used in the book publishing context, tends to focus on how readers can find authors and books that are new to them. But another part of the discoverability challenge is how readers can find authors and books that are new to the world, as in recently or soon-to-be published. As brick-and-mortar bookstores close and newspaper book review sections fold, it’s harder to stumble across publishers’ latest offerings.

A new, free online newsletter for consumers, titled Shelf Awareness: Enlightenment for Readers—from the editors ofShelf Awareness—aims to introduce everyday readers to the best new books. And while that sounds like an obvious goal, the fact is that it is much easier for consumers to learn about upcoming movies and music than it is for them to learn about new books. “Movie houses put up their trailers many months in advance and show previews every time you’re at the movies,” says Jenn Risko, Publisher of Shelf Awareness. “You start seeing ads on iTunes for upcoming albums in advance and they usually release the hit song before the whole album….I’ve wished for a long time that I knew what was cool and new [in books]. This is our answer to that.”

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“The reviews will be honest, but they’ll be positively honest,” says Bethanne Patrick, consumer editor of the new publication, “not because we’re against running critical or negative reviews but because we’re trying to set up the 25 best books for people to pay attention to in their local bookstore. That’s the goal behind it. We’re not reviewing everything and we’re not trying to do critical analysis.” However, reviews of exceptional books will be starred, “in recognition that it often takes a starred review for a library or bookstore to stock a title.”

Shelf Awareness: Enlightenment for Readers also aims to differentiate itself from Kirkus and PW by the backgrounds of its over 60 freelance reviewers, who include booksellers, critics, book bloggers, and librarians with “great street cred” in a variety of genres. The reviewers are paid more than the reviewers forKirkus or PW. Patrick and book review editor Marilyn Dahl will select the books to be included each week.

Further Reading – Centuries of June

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Centuries of June, the newest novel by author Keith Donohue, is about a man named Jack who has just woken up on his bathroom floor and he’s trying to figure out exactly what happened and how he ended up there. To help him figure it out, 8 women from throughout history visit him and add their own explanation to the story, in which Jack usually represents some other disappointing man in history. Finally, the eighth visitor is his wife. Centuries of June is a funny novel that tells the story of one man through history, reiterating the old idea that history just keeps on repeating itself.

But Centuries of June isn’t the only novel that uses this technique. For this Further Reading, I’ll look at three books that use history and alternative history to tell a modern story.

Man in the Dark by Paul Auster – In this slim novel, Paul Auster uses an alternative dream world, where the United States is involved in another Civil War, to symbolize the internal struggle of main character and car accident victim August Brill. In August’s alternative US, the the World Trade Center still stands and the 2000 election results in a secession that leads to the second Civil War.

Flight by Sherman AlexieI know I’ve already talked about Flight in Further Reading, but this was too good of a connection to pass up. Previously I talked about how Sherman Alexie uses his controversial narrator Zits to explore inequalities in the world, but this time I’d like to focus on the alternative realities. Much like the protagonist of Centuries of June, Zits finds himself transported back in time to inhabit the lives of terrible men throughout history.

The Company Novels by Kage Baker - These are some of the post popular science fiction novels, especially for cross-over readers, because they incorporate rich historical and literary details. The main character of this series is Mendoza, a botanist cyborg that was born during the Spanish Inquisition. Essentially, in the future, the Company has developed a way to make humans immortal, but it results in the humans being more or less machines. Though most people in the future do not want to become immortal, they travel throughout history to find people in need (like Mendoza, who is about to be executed in Spain), people who would be willing to devote their life to service in the Company. Those cyborgs have to find and preserve valuable artifacts from the past. In Mendoza’s case, she finds plants that will eventually go extinct and preserves them for the Company. They’re richly detailed, complex and satisfying novels.