Pre-Pub Books – New and Upcoming

Just warning you, some of these will be a torturous wait…

 AstrayAstray by Emma Donoghue, Little, Brown, 388 pp. [October 2012]

"The fascinating characters that roam across the pages of Emma Donoghue's stories have all gone astray: they are emigrants, runaways, drifters, lovers old and new. They are gold miners and counterfeiters, attorneys and slaves. They cross other borders too: those of race, law, sex, and sanity. They travel for love or money, incognito or under duress.

With rich historical detail, the celebrated author of Room takes us from puritan Massachusetts to revolutionary New Jersey, antebellum Louisiana to the Toronto highway, lighting up four centuries of wanderings that have profound echoes in the present. Astray offers us a surprising and moving history for restless times."

 IlluminationsIlluminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 288 pp. [October 2012]

 "I loved Mary Sharratt’s The Daughters of Witching Hill, but she has outdone herself with Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard Von Bingen. She brings one of the most famous and enigmatic women of the Middle Ages to vibrant life in this tour de force, which will captivate the reader from the very first page." — Sharon Kay Penman, author of the New York Times bestseller Time and Chance

SecretkeeperThe Secret Keeper by Kate Morton, Atria, 480 pp. [October 2012]

"During a party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the road and sees her mother speak to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy.

     Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to the family farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by questions she has not thought about for decades. From pre-WWII England through the Blitz, to the fifties and beyond, discover the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined.

     The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths people go to fulfill them, and the consequences they can have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers, and schemers told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world."

AbsolutistThe Absolutist by John Boyne, Other, 320pp. [July 2012]

"It is September 1919: twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War.

But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan's visit. He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it. As Tristan recounts the horrific details of what to him became a senseless war, he also speaks of his friendship with Will–from their first meeting on the training grounds at Aldershot to their farewell in the trenches of northern France. The intensity of their bond brought Tristan happiness and self-discovery as well as confusion and unbearable pain.

The Absolutist is a masterful tale of passion, jealousy, heroism, and betrayal set in one of the most gruesome trenches of France during World War I. This novel will keep readers on the edge of their seats until its most extraordinary and unexpected conclusion, and will stay with them long after they've turned the last page."




PhantomsofthebookshelfPhantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet, Overlook, 144 pages [July 2012]

"The book's ideal readers will be those who share Bonnet's love of being surrounded by the evidence of their minds' journeys, insatiable readers who love to linger over large and quirky accumulations of the printed word. For those readers, highly recommended."

(–Library Journal )

DeargovernessMy Dear Governess: The Letters of Edith Wharton to Anna Bahlmann, ed. by Irene Goldman-Price, Yale, 336 pp. [June 2012]

"An exciting archive came to auction in 2009: the papers and personal effects of Anna Catherine Bahlmann (1849–1916), a governess and companion to several prominent American families. Among the collection were one hundred thirty-five letters from her most famous pupil, Edith Newbold Jones, later the great American novelist Edith Wharton…"

Remarkably, until now, just three letters from Wharton’s childhood and early adulthood were thought to survive. Bahlmann, who would become Wharton’s literary secretary and confidante, emerges in the letters as a seminal influence, closely guiding her, her precocious young student’s readings, translations, and personal writing. Taken together, these letters, written over the course of forty-two years, provide a deeply affecting portrait of mutual loyalty and influence between two women from different social classes…"














Already Published Yummies :


ThegreatcoatThe Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore, Hammer, 208 pp.

 "A terrifyingly atmospheric ghost story by the Orange-prize-winning Helen Dunmore.
In the summer of 1954, newly wed Isabel Carey arrives in a Yorkshire town with her husband Philip. As a GP he spends much of his time working, while Isabel tries hard to adjust to the realities of married life. Life is not easy: she feels out-of-place and constantly judged by the people around her, so she spends much of her time alone.
One cold winter night, Isabel finds an old RAF greatcoat in the back of a cupboard that she uses to help keep warm. Once wrapped in the coat she is beset by dreams. And not long afterwards, while her husband is out, she is startled to hear a knock at her window, and to meet for the first time the intense gaze of a young Air Force pilot, handsome, blond and blue-eyed, staring in at her from outside.
His name is Alec, and his powerfully haunting presence both disturbs and excites Isabel. Her initial alarm soon fades, and they begin a delicious affair. But nothing could have prepared her for the truth about Alec's life, nor the impact it will have on her own marriage."




BloodfeudAmerica’s most notorious family feud began in 1865 with the murder of a Harmon McCoy, a Union soldier, by a Confederate Hatfield relative. But Southern grudges run long and deep. More than a decade later tempers flared over stolen hogs. This accusation triggered years of bloody violence and retribution that led to a tragic Romeo-and-Juliet interlude, a Supreme Court ruling, and Kentucky’s last public hanging. The final feud trial took place in 1898, but the rivalry didn’t end there. Its legend continues to have an enormous impact on the popular imagination and the people of the region. Here is a fascinating new look at the infamous story of the Hatfields and the McCoys."



An interesting article or two:

Via Flavorwire, Interview with Justin Torres re: The Future of American Fiction

Finally, first finished book of 2012!

Well, now. It's taken me eleven days but I have actually finished my first book of the year. I won't review it here, as it's slated for publication in Library Journal next month and I consider it theirs, but once it's up I'll link to it, I promise, though I've been woefully shameful about that. It's hard keeping up with it all but I am bound and determined to make 2012 THE YEAR LISA GETS IT TOGETHER. Or at least isn't quite so pathetic.

The book I finished is one I've been talking about here, A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy by Helen Rappaport. Really great stuff, can't emphasize it enough. If you're a Victorian buff keep an eye out for it. It will be published sometime in March.

Think you know all there is to know about Victoria? Well, think again.

VictoriaI feel a bit sheepish because I realized earlier today I've read another book co-authored by Ms. Rappaport, Dark Hearts of Chicago.


"When young, inexperienced but very ambitious female reporter Emily Strauss bluffs her way into newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer’s office, she comes away with a treacherous assignment: to find out what happened to Anna Zemeckis, one of many women who have disappeared during the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. With the support of a young man who is just venturing into the burgeoning trade of news photography, Emily soon finds herself in a race against time to save Anna’s life and to bring her story back to New York before Pulitzer’s tough deadline expires."

Really good novel, especially if you live in Chicago. It's still good even if you don't. I also like books with strong female characters in professions generally considered the realm of men. And in the 19th Century that was usually the case. Not always, but usually.

Harriet Martineau wrote some pretty brazen articles about the rights of women. Ditto Nellie Bly (pen name of Elizabeth Jane Cochran). So they were out there but not in huge numbers. Just wish I had the time to read a lot more by these determined women. Same for the suffragettes, one of whom, Mina Van Winkle, was very likely related to me since this side of my family originated in the NY/NJ area as did she. And it's not that common a name. I smell a research opportunity, another one I have no time to pursue. Sigh.



Next, three books I requested from Yale University Press:

Losing It: In Which An Aging Professor Laments His Shrinking Brain, Which He Flatters Himself Formerly Did Him Noble Service by William Ian Miller

A Little History of Philosophy by Nigel Warburton

Reading the 21st Century: Books of the Decade, 2000 – 2009 by Stan Persky

And, hiding beneath those, Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, the surprise, come from behind winner of the National Book Award. If you know my love of southern writing the attraction will make sense and this one's set in my native Mississippi.

 The Yale U.P.s are, unsurprisingly, VELLY academic in tone. Or at least the first I've started, Reading the 21st Century. They may be a bit slower going but I will fit them in somehow. Great titles, too, aren't they?

Salvage the Bones I've already started and it slammed me into Mississippi within the first couple of pages. I mean that in a good way, as far as sense of place. Her style is delicious: simple, not flowerly and it conveys both place and character masterfully. I have a feeling this is going to be a "read more quickly than I'd like" book, one I have to finish to know what happens and wish I had time to re-read.

But thank goodness I finally finished that first book of 2012. Not sure why that bothered me, but patience has never been a virtue of mine. Speaking of, a load of laundry stands between me and some reading. Catch you later.


Slow to the Finish, Though I Eats Me Spinach: January reading, etc…

I haven't finished one book yet in 2012. Not one. I've started a few, and made some good progress but I keep getting distracted by other books and can't finish a single one. It's getting a little frustrating, especially seeing so many other book bloggers joyously declaring they're ready to post their first – or even second, the over-achievers! – review of the year, then here's me – six days into Apocalypse 2012 without a single finish to call my own.

I hang my head in shame.


LonglongwayI'm just over halfway in A Long Long Way, Mr. Sebastian Barry's previous Booker nominee. It tells the tale of Willie Dunne, of the recurring Dunne family, and his experiences in WW I. Positively gut-wrenching stuff. The description of death by mustard gas was an agony to read. How could human beings be so cruel to each other?

It's not all horrific, thankfully, but much of it is dedicated to expressing the brutality – and frustrations – of war. Impossible not to love Willie Dunne and wish him anywhere but along the front lines. Also difficult not to feel enraged when his superior officer denigrates the Irish, putting them down as stupid for going and getting themselves killed. As if they'd done so on purpose? I could have slapped the man which goes to show you how Mr. Barry creates such emotion in – in this case – a more stripped-down example of his prose, a less-poetic book than On Canaan's Side but powerful nonetheless.

During Willie's visit home on leave it feels so easy identifying with the glory of being bathed for the first time in ages, though I've never been that dirty I assure you. Reading it made me feel the itch of the nits (I'm scratching my head as I type this!) and the relief after the scrub down by his father, while Willie stood in the tin tub shivering but enjoying the personal attention from the parent who'd always found him lacking before. Such a simple scene, really, though not simple at all from the standpoint of their fraught relationship. Having been tested and coming through one stage of the war raised the boy in the opinion of his father, disappointed as he'd been by his son's short stature and inability to prove himself strong and manly otherwise. Sad knowing it took so much to get his father's attention though Willie himself seems proud enough of the fact. 


MagnificentobsessionIn a nonfiction work for review it's the story of Victoria and Albert, specifically Victoria's obsession with death and mourning, contrasted with Albert's complete resignation he had no doubt he would die young. Many readers will find it eerie how accepting of death Albert was, though Rappaport does a brilliant job explaining reasons for it. For one, he was a German having to live away from his homeland and all his family. For another, when he married Victoria he was discriminated against for being foreign and also emasculated for his status as mere husband of the monarch, until made Prince Consort.

Ironically, it turns out he's the one who put the ramrod iron in Victoria's spine, disciplining her from a silly thing (Victoria?!) into a serious ruler. But even then he was every inch the king, though not in name. He answered official correspondence, heavily influencing the direction Britain took, necessarily using his persuasion on Victoria herself, as well.

My idea of the romance between Victoria and Albert was smashed by the reading of this book. Certainly, they loved each other, and when Albert died Victoria was devastated. Only, she was one for indulging herself in deep mourning, almost taking pleasure in its austerity, judging from her reactions to other deaths in the family. It's all riveting and shocking, not at all the story I was expecting. Fascinating stuff. During this year of the celebration of Dickens's 200th it's a wonderful addition to my reading, thanks to Library Journal!

And should you read an LJ blurb on the back of the finished U.S. edition that would be ME. The first time I saw a quotation from myself in the guise of Library Journal (individuals aren't credited) I was taken aback, I was so impressed. I told the person I was with, "I wrote this review, so I know I said this, but I don't remember it!"

So it goes as a review churner-outer. I expect I'm all over the place and don't know it. I'm too focused on what's next I seldom look back, though I may wish otherwise someday. Ah, but it will still be there now, won't it.


Bleakhouse2On to Dickens (happy birthday in a month and a day, old chap!) and Bleak House! It's a huge, huge book – weighing in between 900 + and 1,000 + pages depending on the edition – and I'm just past the middle reading it on my new Kindle Fire.

Until last night I was so proud I'd been keeping all 5,000 characters straight, then I hit a scene in which I had no concept on earth what had just happened, nor did I recognize to whom it did. I soldiered on, hoping it would come clear but then it never did after another 50 or so pages.

The remedy for that will be a quick look at Spark Notes or the equivalent, which I believe an excellent resource when you're actually reading – or have read – the primary work and have a question to be answered. Because falling behind in a Dickens novel is a serious thing, indeed.

This is at least my second read of BH, if not my third. I can't keep anything straight I live in such a muddle of books. I'm not as irritated with Esther Summerson this time around (reserving that feeling for Ada, the long-suffering fool), and far more annoyed with Richard Carstone. Mrs. Jellyby is still a nuisance of a thing I'd love to slap, and her Peepy adorable beyond words as a background character you can't help but love, the poor duck.

I just don't remember the covers of the book being so far apart,or the distance between mentions of Lady Dedlock separated so much. If this were a modern book I'd be screaming WHERE IS THE EDITOR?! but it's funny with Dickens I push through all the diversions.

But I honestly don't recall all these side-plots… The Smallweeds and granddaughter Judy, for one, though any scene featuring them is grimly hilarious. Old Smallweed is tossed around, as an elderly invalid, but the reader feels no sympathy at all for the calculating old coot. When he's pushed too close to the fire and his stockings begin to burn the reader almost wishes he'd been pushed a little closer.



Nasty old thing.

And here's a wonderful link with Bleak House illustrations in case you're looking for them and you hopefully will be someday, if not today.

So, having lots of fun with this but I'm getting a little nervous about finishing on time for the group discussion in another week or so. I read 'til I can't keep my eyes open every, single night and get through hundreds of pages but did I mention the book is VERY  LONG?


And don't even ask me what's up and coming or I'll slip into a coma. A publicist for Barry Unsworth sent me a note asking if I'll review his new one,  The Quality of Mercy, coming out January 10. Well, if I can I love to post a review right as a book's debuting and though this one's not so chunky as BH it's still over 300 pp. of thoughtful reading, with the Victoria and Albert review due January 8, no less.

Next week I'm attending a signing for Sara Levine (and three other writers but never mind that…), author of Treasure Island!!! with which I had mixed reading success. For her I'll be working up a review-y, maybe interview-y thing for local papers,  plus of course the blog. With photos, video if possible but don't hold your breath.

As if that's not enough to make a woman a raving lunatic, my library is hosting a TREMENDOUSLY PROLIFIC BIG NAME AUTHOR during National Library Month in April and I've, to date, read only one of her 20ish books. SO I WILL NEED TO REMEDY THAT. And she may be bringing along another writer, first book coming out in May, and I NEED TO LAY MY GRUBBY HANDS ON A COPY OF THAT AS WELL.

And no, that's not all that's between January and April, just all I'm willing to type.

I may not come up for air until June, during which I'll have roughly two weeks to cry piteously until time to gear up once again and read the works of NUMEROUS WRITERS I WILL BE MEETING AT BOOKTOPIA 2012 in Oxford, MS.

For all or  most of these writers my work will include much of my usual services. Of COURSE there's much joy and rapture in all my endeavors – or damned if I'd do it – but it makes my brain feel squeezy sometimes, you must understand. Occasionally it becomes so squeezy all the blood flees my brain, my head flops to the side and I stare at nothing for hours until someone comes along and pushes me over, allowing my blood to again flow freely. Then I eat chocolate and all is right with the world.

So all this is a very round-about way of saying, "Gosh I'm busy." You could have just read this last bit and avoided everything else. Makes you want to kick yourself, doesn't it?


2012 Books to look forward to: A Selection

A wealth of riches is anticipated in 2012, so much so it makes me feel positively ill there’s no way on earth I’ll get to all of them, much less be able to afford them. There is the library, yes, yes but sometimes I love having the books in-house, being able to pick them up when I feel like it and not rushing to finish before they’re due to be returned.

I am a horrid librarian.

Following are some of the tasty delights slated for publication this year, mostly the fiction as that interests me most. Some of these are UK publishing dates, I feel the need to warn you. So check Amazon US for pub dates here in the colonies:

Read further on Much of a Muchness