Monthly Archives: May 2010

Mailbox Monday – May 31, 2010

Welcome to this week’s edition of Mailbox Monday hosted each Monday by Marcia at The Printed Page. Click through to Marcia’s blog to find links to other bloggers’ mailboxes and to play along.

After spending last week in New York City at the BEA and Book Blogger Convention, I thought I might be “booked out”… but, no… I am still excited every time a book arrives at my doorstep!

Here is what found its way to me last week:

Caitlin at Unbridled Books was kind enough to send me Safe From The Sea by Peter Geye which saved me from having to cram one more book into my luggage home from New York! Once again, Unbridled gets it right with a gorgeous cover. This debut novel centers around the relationship between a father and son who attempt reconciliation thirty-five years after the father survives the tragic wreck of his Great Lakes ore boat. Praised by Joseph Boyden as a “tautly written gem” this book caught my eye immediately. You can read an excerpt here. Safe From the Sea is due for release in October 2010.

Peter Geye received his MFA from the University of New Orleans and his PhD from Western Michigan University where he served as editor of Third Coast. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and three children. Read more about Geye and his work by visiting the author’s website.

Caitlin from FSB Associates sent me an Advance Readers Edition of Lumby on the Air by Gail Fraser (due for release through New American Library/Penguin in July 2010). This is the fifth book in Fraser’s acclaimed Lumby series which takes place in the fictional small town of Lumby. In this latest installment, Pam and Mark Walker are celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with a week-long family  reunion. ‘As controversy pits family against family and neighbor against neighbor, will the spirit that defines Lumby triumph again?

Gail Fraser received a BA in English Education at Skidmore College, and went on to earn her MBA at the University of Connecticut, with graduate work done at Harvard University. She and her husband reside at Lazy Goose Farm in rural upstate New York where Gail writes in her library, overlooking their pond. Learn more about Fraser and her work (including the previous books in the series) by visiting the author’s website.

31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan arrived from Harper Collins for a TLC Book Tour in July. This debut novel was released in March 2010 and has been receiving great reviews. Horan was inspired to write the book after finding a yellowed newspaper page dated 1857 which told of the murder of a dentist named Dr. Harvey Burdell. The crime was considered the “crime of the century” and began a voyeuristic fascination with crime, sex and law. From this tiny scrap of old newsprint, Horan has fashioned a crime fiction novel around the original true event set in nineteenth century New York City. Read an excerpt here.

Ellen Horan has worked as a freelance photo editor for magazines and books in New York City and has a background in painting and visual art. To learn more about Horan and her work, visit the author’s website.

The Meaning of Matthew by Judy Shepard arrived from Plume/Penguin unsolicited. This memoir was released in paperback on May 25th and is Shepard’s account of her son Matthew’s horrific murder in Wyoming eleven years ago. But the book is not just a rehashing of the crime, it is also an exploration of Matthew’s life and legacy, as well as how a mother traveled through her grief to become an internationally celebrated gay rights activist.

Judy Shepard is the co-founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation which is dedicated to social justice, diversity awareness and education; as well as seeking equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

What great books arrived at YOUR home this week?

Book Blogger Convention: May 28, 2010

**NOTE: Click on ANY photo in this post to enjoy a larger view.

Before I start talking about the Book Blogger Convention…I realized that in my rush to get yesterday’s post up before leaving for the airport, I neglected to post the afternoon photo of the books that I picked up on Thursday afternoon. So here it is:

  • The Ape House by Sara Gruen (signed)
  • The Brave, by Nicholas Evans
  • Alone, by Richard Logan and Tere Duperrault Fassbender
  • Dangerous Neighbors, by Beth Kephart (signed)

Kip and I arrived at the Javits for the first Book Blogger Convention at 8:00 AM:

We picked up our swag bags and went in to enjoy a full breakfast and some early morning chat. I am still amazed at how every day I was in NYC I met a new to me blogger (or two or three or four!) and kept adding business cards to my stack. I am eager to start checking out some of these blogs (oh no, I can already feel my Google Reader growing!!).

After breakfast, we found our seats in the conference room for the start of the panels. The keynote  speaker was Maureen Johnson and she was hilarious. She gave a 90 minute presentation which just flew by and was filled with funny stories and great information about the impact of bloggers in the book industry. Some of the key points I wanted to mention:

  • Bloggers are activists (she mentioned the recent controversy regarding diversity and cover art…ie: whitewashing covers).
  • Bloggers are voices to defend books against challenges and bans.
  • Bloggers are the new marketing and help to bring to light books which might otherwise go unnoticed.
  • Bloggers are all about community and discussion (she mentioned how an off the cuff tweet she posted about blogging every day in April ballooned into a huge event in less than a day due to the bloggers).

Maureen Johnson, YA Author

The next presentation came from Ron Hogan of Beatrice (he has also worked as an industry professional with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Ron talked about professionalism and ethics and noted that the standard by which print reviewers (or literary critics) write are not necessarily the same  standards for bloggers. Ron referenced Linch Pin by Seth Godin for his presentation and made Godin’s principles relevant for book bloggers.  Ron  says regarding professionalism, bloggers must ask the following questions:

  1. What binds you and your readers?
  2. What makes your blog stand out? He mentioned here that bloggers have the benefit of unique creativity and the space to share it which traditional platforms often do not allow.
  3. What is your focus?
  4. Where are you pointing readers?
  5. What do your readers do next (ie: how do you inspire readers)?
  6. Do you know the territory?
  7. What perspective do you bring?

Perhaps the most interesting part of Ron’s presentation was that which centered around ethics. An excellent point (and one I completely agree with) was that bloggers should be trustworthy without having to say so. We read our favorite blogs because we have a trust in the writers of them; we don’t read our favorite blogs because we demand a written code of ethics. Two major issues brought up:

  1. Do you talk about how you get your books? This related directly to the FTC disclosure edict late last year.
  2. Do you ask people to write for your blog for free, and is this exploitation?

When the floor was opened for discussion, many other issues came up…such as are we obligated to read and review every book we receive from a publisher (Ron says “no”  if you are working in “good faith” when you accept them; and more importantly, publicists and publishers agree and do not have the expectation that every book sent will get a review). Also a member of the audience mentioned that we should not refer to review books as “free” as it makes us look like we are just trying to get swag! There was also some discussion about how publicists should go about contacting bloggers.

Ron Hogan

We broke for lunch just before noon and I have to give a nod to the people who provided the lunch – it was excellent! During lunch I was thrilled to meet several people who I have had the pleasure to work with over the last year or so: Marissa at JKS Communications, Wiley Saichek  who is the marketing director at Authors on the Web, Joy Strazza at Joan Schulhafer Publishing and Media Consulting, and Meryl Zegarek and Rachel from Meryl Zegarek Public Relations.

After lunch it was time for the panels – which were all excellent. I am not going to try to recap these..but suffice it to say that they were all informative and the panel members provided some great opinions and thoughts on a variety of topics. I was thrilled to be a part of the Blogging With Social Responsibility panel.

I.  Writing and Building Content:

(left to right) Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, Christina at Stacked, Rebecca at The Book Lady’s Blog (moderator), Betsy at A Fuse 8 Production, and Amanda at The Zen Leaf

II. Marketing:

(left to right) Gayle at Everyday I Write the Book, Ann at Books on the Nightstand, Heather at Age 30+ Books (Moderator), Yen at The Book Publicity Blog, and Thea at The Book Smuggler

III. Blogging With Social Responsibility:

(left to right) Zetta at Fledgling, Stephen at Band of Thebes, Marie at The Boston Bibliophile (Moderator), Me (Wendy) at Caribousmom, and Terry at The Reading Tub

IV. Impact of the Relationship Between Author and Blogger:

(left to right) Caridad Pineiro at Caridad Pineiro’s Blog, Bethanne at The Book Studio, Kristi at The Story Siren, Nicole at Linus’s Blanket (Moderator), Amy at My Friend Amy, and Beth Kephart at Beth Kephart Books

At the end of the day, I was left feeling amazed by the bloggers and industry professionals who champion books. I was also blown away by the level of organization for this first time event…many, many thanks to those who worked tirelessly to make this all happen: Trish, Michelle, Amy, Natasha, Nicole, Pam, and Rebecca. You guys ROCK!

So to wrap up this post, here are some of the goodies we all got by attending this fabulous convention:

  • Suite Scarlett, by Maureen Johnson (audiobook)
  • Summer at Tiffany, by Marjorie Hart
  • The Outside Boy, by Jeanine Cummings
  • Think of a Number, by John Verdon
  • The Secret Life of Prince Charming, by Deb Caletti
  • Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, by Josie Brown
  • The Perfect 10 Diet, by Michael Aziz M.D.

There were also other assorted goodies such as pens, a reading light, bookmarks and also a wonderful personalized luggage tag made by JKS Communications for each attendee at the convention.

Truly…it was overwhelming in a wonderful way. And I must tell you, I will be sharing some of the books I came home with…so stay tuned for some giveaways here on my blog in the next few weeks.

Book Expo: May 27, 2010

Well, I am sitting in the hotel lobby waiting to be picked up for the airport…so thought I would keep on trying to catch up with all the BEA fun. Thursday was the second day of the exhibition hall and I must admit, I was really dragging! The first thing we did was drop by the Unbridled Books booth for a blogger breakfast with the lovely Caitlin Summie and authors Masha Hamilton (31 Hours), Emily St. John Mandel (Last Night in Montreal AND The Singer’s Gun), and Joyce Hinnefeld. I was SO excited to finally meet Joyce whose book In Hovering Flight (read my review) topped my list of best reads for 2009. She has a new book coming out in October (check out Stranger Here Below).

Me and Joyce Hinnefeld

The Unbridled Books booth (Caitlin…this one is making me LAUGH!!)

I also finally got to meet the vivacious Miriam Parker from Little Brown and Company and picked up a copy of Kathleen Kent‘s latest novel.

I also met Beth Kephart and got her latest book signed. She is as lovely in person as she is on her blog…and I can’t wait to read her novel.

Kip and I headed out at lunch time to pack up the books I’ve picked up so far and take them to the post office (two blocks from our hotel) to be mailed media mail. We sent a HUGE box and only had to pay $20 which I considered a deal!

Later we headed back to the Javits to do some wandering about before the Book Blogger Convention reception. Here are some scenes from inside the exhibition hall:

Algonquin Books booth

Harper Collins

Other Press

Here are the books I picked up on Thursday:

  • Still Missing, by Chevy Stevens (for a giveaway later this summer)
  • Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff
  • The Wolves of Andover, by Kathleen Kent
  • Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson (signed)
  • The Bells, by Richard Harvell
  • City of Tranquil Light, by Bo Caldwell
  • Some Sing, Some Cry, by Ntozake Shange and Ifa Byeza (signed)

At 4:00 PM we headed downstairs to mingle at the Book Blogger Convention reception.

Natasha and Amy registering people

This event was very much a networking event with authors, publicists and bloggers all exchanging business cards and chatting it up. If there was ever any doubt that bloggers are not a huge part of the marketing plan for books, that was quickly dispelled!

Kip and I headed back to the hotel around 6:00 PM, grabbed a quick bite to eat and went to bed early to get rested up for the Book Blogger Convention on Friday!

TLC Book Tour – Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann
ISBN: 978-1400063734
368 pages
Published by Random House (June 2009)

I was really happy when I saw that TLC Book Tours was going to tour Let the Great World Spin which won the 2009 National Book Award. Like all well written literature, this novel touches on the larger issues of life. I loved this book which only got better and better as I turned the pages.

I am in New York City this week, taking part in the BEA and Book Blogger Convention, and my husband and I got a chance to see ground zero. McCann’s book is set on that spot before the tragedy of 9-11. It is a fitting place to set this novel about moving forward and life continuing after tragedy; a novel about the connections between people; a novel about the light in the midst of darkness.

While Kip and I walked around the area where the Twin Towers used to stand, we were very moved. There is now only a large crater and the face of a destroyed building on the site…along with cranes and debris. A flag soars high above the ground – a reminder of how our country came together in the face of tragedy.

**Click on any photo to see it in a larger screen


Read my review.

Hear the author reading an excerpt:

From the author’s website:

An American masterpiece from internationally bestselling novelist Colum McCann—a dazzling and hauntingly rich vision of the loveliness, pain, and mystery of New York City in the 1970s In the dawning light of the late summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. . . .

It is August, 1974, and a tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter-mile in the sky. In the streets below, ordinary lives become extraordinary as award-winning novelist Colum McCann crafts this stunningly realized portrait of a city and its people.


Colum McCann is the internationally bestselling author of the novels Let the Great World Spin, Zoli, Dancer, This Side of Brightness, and Songdogs, as well as two critically acclaimed story collections. Published in thirty languages, McCann’s work has been a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Other awards and honors include a Pushcart Prize, the Rooney Prize, the Hennessy Award for Irish Literature, the Irish Independent Hughes and Hughes/Sunday Independent Novel of the Year 2003, and the 2002 Ireland Fund of Monaco Princess Grace Memorial Literary Award. Let the Great World Spin won the 2009 National Book Award.

McCann’s short film Everything in This Country Must was nominated for an Oscar in 2005.

Born in Dublin in 1965, McCann began his career as a journalist in The Irish Press. He currently teaches in the Hunter College MFA Creative Writing Program and lives in New York City with his wife and their three children.

Visit the author’s website.

Listen to the author speak about his novel Let the Great World Spin:

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Random House for the opportunity to tour this wonderful book.

Let the Great World Spin – Book Review

Tacked inside his cabin door was a sign: NOBODY FALLS HALFWAY.

He believed in walking beautifully, elegantly. It had to work as a kind of faith that he would get to the other side. He had fallen only once while training – once exactly, so he felt it couldn’t happen again, it was beyond possibility. A single flaw was necessary anyway. In any work of beauty there had to be one small thread left hanging. – from Let the Great World Spin, page 160 –

On August 7, 1974 Philippe Petit – a 24 year old daredevil –  walked a tightrope wire strung between the twin towers 1350 feet above New York City. His feat stunned New Yorkers who marveled at the ease at which he traversed the wire – not once, but seven or eight times – before handing himself over to police. It is this event which opens Colum McCann’s novel Let the Great World Spin – a novel less about New York City and more about the connections between people and how life continues forward despite unfathomable loss.

Let the Great World Spin introduces nearly a dozen characters to the reader who at first seem unconnected. But as McCann allows them to tell their stories in alternating chapters, the synchronicity of their lives begins to unfold.  At first it seems they are only related to each other through the feat of the tightrope walker – it is only by reading through to the end of the novel that the reader recognizes their connections on a deeper level.

It had never occurred to me before but everything in New York is built upon another thing, nothing is entirely by itself, each thing as strange as the last, and connected. – from Let the Great World Spin, page 306 –

John Corrigan is a spiritual man who immigrates to America. He finds himself living in the Bronx among the prostitutes and pimps, the crime and the poverty. He is a gentle man who is searching for a greater meaning. His character represents the quest for the simple things in our lives which bring comfort and beauty – the yearning for light in the darkness.

What Corrigan wanted was a fully believable God, one you could find in the grime of the everyday. The comfort he got from the hard, cold truth – the filth, the war, the poverty – was that life could be capable of small beauties. He wasn’t interested in the glorious tales of the afterlife or the notions of a honey-soaked heaven. To him that was a dressing room for hell. Rather he consoled himself with the fact that, in the real world, when he looked closely into the darkness he might find the presence of a light, damaged and bruised, but a little light all the same. – from Let the Great World Spin, page 20 –

Throughout the novel, the reader is reminded of the darkness in the world – the wars, addiction, crime. A judge finds himself cynical and overwhelmed despite his desire to make a positive difference in the world. A group of women meet each week to share the stories of their sons who have died in the Vietnam War.  A prostitute examines her life from behind the bars of a prison cell.

Every now and then the city shook its soul out. It assailed you with an image, or a day, or a crime, or a terror, or a beauty so difficult to wrap your mind around that you had to shake your head in disbelief. – from Let the Great World Spin, page 247 –

My big tall boy, shaving. Long ago, long ago. The simple things come back to us. They rest for a moment by our ribcages then suddenly reach in and twist our hearts a notch backward. – from Let the Great World Spin, page 81 –

Yet, McCann does not leave his readers in the darkness. The novel is also full of hope and that little bit of light which Corrigan seeks. At its heart, Let the Great World Spin is about moving forward despite the flaws in our world, overcoming our losses, and leaning on each other.

It was America, after all. The sort of place where you should be allowed to walk as high as you wanted. – from Let the Great World Spin, page 262 –

When the twin towers fell on September 11, 2001 New York gasped, mourned, hugged each other closer, and then kept on going. That resoluteness in the face of unspeakable tragedy is mirrored in McCann’s book. The prose is rich, the characters infused with grace and courage, and I found myself drinking in the story, letting it wash over me.

McCann’s novel also takes a look at a pivotal point in American history – the final year of the Vietnam War, a war which took a huge toll on young lives, and forced us to look deeply at what brings us into conflict and the cost of such decisions. Decades later, it seems we are still learning the same lessons, and so it seems fitting that the final pages of Let the Great World Spin take place in 2002, as America totters on the cusp of yet another controversial war.

Colum McCann won the 2009 National Book Award for Let the Great World Spin – and it is easy to see why. This is a complex novel peopled with unforgettable characters.

Highly recommended.

Visit my blog tour for this book.

Read more great reviews of this book through the TLC Book Tours website.

**FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for a book review tour.

Book Expo: May 26, 2010

**Click on any photos in this post to enjoy a larger view

Wednesday marked the first day of the exhibition part of the BEA and I have to say, it was overwhelming and exciting. Kip and I got up at 5:00 AM to get to the Javits by 6:00 AM to get tickets for a couple of author signings (Jan Brett and Joyce Carol Oates). We were delighted to discover Serena and Anna (along with “the girl”) just in front of us in the line (later Heather also joined us).

The exhibit hall opened at 9:00 AM, so we sat around drinking coffee and talking, talking, talking…so fun!

The masses of people who swamped the exhibit hall beginning at 9:00 was incredible. I met up with Lisa Roe while waiting in the autograph area (she is as animated and lovely in person as on her blog and in her emails!):

I missed getting Joyce Carol Oates autograph when she failed to show up for her signing (they gave us the book unsigned), and then meandered over to Other Press to meet Mitchell Kaplan who was delightful. I also met Caroline Leavitt and picked up a signed copy of her book.

I made sure to stop by the Unbridled Books Booth to meet Caitlin Summie – she feels like such a friend after all these months of working with her and it was great to give her a giant hug and sit and talk with her.

I did not get to visit any of the stages or presentations…there was just too much to see and do on the exhibit floor. After lunch I met Jan Brett and picked up a signed copy of her latest book. It is gorgeous!

After dodging the crowds and talking to authors, publicists and other bloggers…Kip and I finally crashed at around 3:00 pm. The last few days caught up to us (and the backpack was getting to weighted down with books for Kip), so we headed back to the hotel and collapsed on the bed for a 2.5 hour nap! Here are the books I picked up on Wednesday:

  • The Rain Song, by Janice Grove
  • Bamboo People, by Mitali Perkins (signed)
  • The Gendarme, by Mark T. Mustian
  • I Curse the River of Time, by Per Petterson
  • The Things That Need Doing, by Sean Manning (signed)
  • Mr. Toppit, by Charles Elton
  • The Pages, by Murray Bail
  • Pictures of You, by Caroline Leavitt (signed)
  • Alzheimer’s Care With Dignity, by Frank Fuerst (signed)

  • Crossing Antarctica, by Will Steger (signed)
  • The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, by Benjamin Hale
  • Room, by Emma Donoghue
  • Sourland, by Joyce Carol Oates
  • The Man in the Wooden Hat, by Jane Gardam
  • Sudan, by Art Ayris and Ninie Hammon
  • The Blessings of the Animals, by Katrina Kittle
  • Bone China, by Roma Tearne

After our much needed nap, it was time to get up, get showered, grab some dinner and head to the Algonquin Hotel for the Harper Collins Celebration of Book Bloggers.

The Harper Collins event was buzzing – there were so many bloggers there that it was hard to talk above the noise of all the chit chat. I was thrilled to meet Simon Van Booy who handed me a signed book of his short story collection Love Begins in Winter (remember how much I loved that book?!). Simon is funny and easy to talk with and it was such an honor to meet him.

And of course, I met LOTS of the bloggers whose blogs I love and read every day:

Amy, Natasha and me

Me, Kathy, Jill and Dawn

Nat (Tanabata) and me

Candace (Beth Fish), me, Rebecca, and Swapna

Me and Avis

Later on Kip, me and Avis moved down to the elegant bar at the Algonquin and laughed and shared stories until well after midnight!

And of course, what would a book blogger event be without a few books:

  • Love Begins in Winter, by Simon Van Booy (signed)
  • Manhood for Amateurs, by Michael Chabon
  • Up From the Blue, by Susan Henderson

Wow, what an incredible day of books, meeting friends, and making new acquaintances. And there is still TWO days left!

Book Expo: May 25, 2010

Things have been SO busy that I am late posting updates…but I am going to go ahead and post the day to day happenings here in New York anyway!

On Tuesday Kip and I met up with a friend from Library Thing and had breakfast before heading out to a tour at the Penguin publishing house. I am not even going to attempt to list all the publicists we met! But Shannon Twomey, Senior Publicist with Penguin/Viking, gave our group of bloggers a thorough, book-filled tour; and I finally got to meet Lydia Hirt in person. I should have counted up the number of bloggers who attended, but I didn’t think to do it at the time. I’m going to guess it was about 15 to 18 of us. I was thrilled to see Jill from Fizzy Thoughts and finally meet Swapna from S. Krishna’s Books and Lenore at Presenting Lenore. I also picked up business cards from several other “new to me” bloggers.

Penguin is huge. We got a handout listing all their imprints and contacts for each imprint. We also picked up catalogs of all the up and coming books and I felt a bit faint thumbing through them!

We met with several publicists from various imprints in a large conference room where everyone introduced themselves. The publicists had lots of questions, such as: How much lead time do bloggers like in terms of getting review copies? Do we want to be “pitched” or would we rather request from catalogs? And what types of books are we looking to review? They also love getting our links to reviews (since Google Alerts are not always 100% reliable).

Once again, we picked up some great books:

The Divorce Party, by Laura Dave

Sima’s Undergarments for Women, by Ilana Stanger-Ross

Lake Wobegon Summer 1956, by Rebecca Goldstein

Why Dogs Eat Poop, by Francesca Gould and David Haviland (Tarcher/Penguin)

Every Dog Has A Gift, by Rachel McPherson (Tarcher/Penguin)

Through Black Spruce, by Joseph Boyden

Stay tuned for my post-BEA wrap ups (in the next couple of weeks) and ticklers of all the books mentioned here!

After the tour, Kip and I headed into Greenwich Village to grab some lunch and walk around the shops. Then we headed back to our hotel room for a little “down time” before going to the Javits to catch the opening ceremony of the BEA with Barbra Steisand promoting her new book My Passion For Design (due for release in November 2010). The interview with her was enlightening – I guess I had never realized how much of a perfectionist Streisand is (she actually matches the color of the flowers in her outside gardens to the colors of the rooms which overlook them!).

After the headliner event, Kip and I trudged back to our hotel and fell into bed to get a good night’s rest…and to anticipate Wednesday’s exhibit events!

Book Expo: May 24, 2010

Monday marked the first official “happenings” for the Book Expo and Book Blogger Convention.

Kip and I headed over to the Flat Iron Building in Chelsea for a tour of Bloomsbury Publishing at 10:30. Michelle Blankenship, Associate Director of Publicity, and Peter Miller, Director of Publicity, spent about an hour with us answering questions about publishing, and asking us questions related to blogging as a marketing tool for publishers. It was a small showing of bloggers including Rachel at Home Between Pages, Gaby at Starting Fresh, Angela at Dark Faerie Tales, and Tania at Literary Cravings…but I think in some ways that was a benefit to those of us there. Some high points of the discussion:

  • Bloomsbury has found that creating “buzz” about a book three to four months ahead of the publication date boosts sales. Buzz might including providing ticklers of the book (for example, showcasing the book as part of memes like Mailbox Monday), and chatty posts highlighting the book.
  • Publishers are interested to know the best way to approach bloggers with ARCs or review books. Bloomsbury (and probably most other publishers) can add a blogger to their mailing lists for catalogs of upcoming new releases so that a blogger can request a book they might like to cover vs. getting unsolicited pitches for books.
  • Another interesting question: Do you prefer getting books direct from authors, or would you prefer to deal directly with a publicist. In our small group, the consensus was we preferred receiving books from publicists (for me, this is preferred because I think it is easier to be honest in a review of a book I might not have loved).

We had a tour of the Bloomsbury offices and met all the people who are responsible for making sure readers get the books in their hands! And, indeed, we managed to pick up a few books for our TBR shelves:

Chef, by Jaspreet Singh

Mrs. Tim of the Regiment, by D.E. Stevenson

The Brontes Went to Woolworths, by Rachel Ferguson

A Kid for Two Farthings, by W0lf Mankowitz

Love’s Shadow, by Ada Leverson

After touring at Bloomsbury, we traveled to another part of the Flat Iron Building and met up with James Meader, Director of Publicity, at Picador who popped a couple of bottles of champagne and poured each of us a mimosa before introducing us to the very friendly publicists of Picador. Very laid back and chatty, this meeting was informative and friendly. Some things you might want to know:

  • The folks at Picador are really interested in what bloggers are doing and what they want to do in terms of book marketing…they asked a lot of questions about giveaways, ARC tours, author posts, and wanted to know about new or innovative approaches bloggers might have to market books.
  • Picador doesn’t just reprint trade paperbacks…they are interested in taking a previously published hardcover and giving it a new twist such as a new or more pertinent cover and a new marketing strategy (and their covers are gorgeous!).

We met in the “book room” and it was a reader’s paradise. A floor to ceiling bookcase (their latest releases) stood on one side of the room, and we were told to pick what we’d like. Here is what I snatched up:

The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg

Blame, by Michelle Huneven

Cost, by Roxana Robinson

Many thanks to the wonderful people at these two publishing houses who welcomed us with open arms and took the time to talk to us and fill our bags with some great books.

Stay tuned for my post-BEA wrap up (next week) and ticklers of all the books mentioned here!

Kip and I caught some lunch over near Greenwich Village, and then made our way to The Strand Bookstore. Wow, this is one terrific bookstore and it ate up about 2 hours of our time. Of course, I could not resist picking up a book. I bought Burmese Lessons, by Karen Connelly for half price (this is the same author who wrote The Lizard Cage, which you might remember…I loved!).

From The Strand, we headed back to our hotel for a little nap and “down time” before leaving to go to the Upper East side of Manhattan to have dinner with Kip’s cousin (who he has not seen for 30 years). We enjoyed a delicious meal, and terrific conversation before making it back to the hotel at around midnight.

In the Wake of the Boatman – Book Review

As soon as he finished showering and straightening up, he fled the apartment. Confused and sickened, he went downtown, and at a bar in Fells Point, he drunkenly contemplated suicide for the first time in his life. What he had done seemed worse than kissing Clyde. He had been a kid back then, but now he was an adult – an adult man who had derived pleasure from dressing up as a woman. He turned and searched the bar. If he could pick a fight with some combustible character, maybe he would be stabbed or shot, and no one would ever guess he was so sick. – from In the Wake of the Boatman, page 110 –

Puttnam (“Putt”) Douglas Steward has grown up in the shadow of a father who emotionally abuses his son to accommodate his own identity crisis. Carl Steward wants to fight in a war, but can’t because of a trick knee; he repeatedly builds boats which sink when placed on the water; he loves Puttnam, but also has expectations of him which the boy can never meet. Carl feels disappointment in Putt from his infancy onward.

[…] Carl had questions about the baby. He scrutinized him from the corners of his eyes. A single whimper and he interpreted it as a horrible sign his son lacked something inside. – from In the Wake of the Boatman, page 4 –

So it is not surprising when Puttnam struggles with his own identity as he matures from a young boy into man. In the Wake of the Boatman is about that struggle. Putt attends college at the school from which his father never graduated (a slight which Carl believes is done on purpose to further embarrass him). Once in college (on an ROTC scholarship), Putt has a sexual encounter with another man which terrifies him. He compensates by plunging fully into his military role and volunteering to go to Vietnam. Putt’s search for his identity is often painful, but also tender. Putt begins finding joy in dressing as a woman – a secret fantasy which repulses him as much as it brings him sexual pleasure and leads him to consider suicide (if not by his own hand, then by placing himself in dangerous situations such as the war).

Jonathon Fuqua fully develops Puttnam, a character who fears rejection not only from his demanding father, but from his sister Mary and best friend Milton. The tension and conflict in the novel are Putt’s internal struggles to accept himself and learn to trust those who love him. The novel explores the idea of nature vs. nurture in human sexuality, and opens the door for further discussions about alternative lifestyles. Puttnam is a character who readers will empathize with as he searches for a true understanding of himself.

I found the writing to be a bit uneven at times in this thoughtful novel. Fuqua’s overuse of adverbs was something that at times distracted me from the story, while at other times I was swept up in the gorgeous descriptive paragraphs and pithy dialogue. Where Fuqua excels is in his understanding of the characters’ motivations, fears and dilemmas. Carl is a destructive father, one who consistently hurts his only son, and yet I found myself feeling sorrow for the character and wanting Putt to find forgiveness for him.

In the Wake of the Boatman is literary fiction which may polarize readers due to its subject matter. But, it will also allow readers to gain a better understanding of those who are labeled “different” by society and perhaps foster acceptance of those differences.

Jonathon Scott Fuqua is an award winning author of YA literature, as well as the Alex Award winning novel The Reappearance of Sam Webber.

FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by Bancroft Press for review on my blog.