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The Postmistress by Sarah Blake … Page 3 The Book Reviews of Roger Ebert … Page 5 Roberto Bolano and the Earthquake in Chile … Page 6 The Best Out-of-Print Children's Books … Page 7 Brief History of Alice in Wonderland Book Reviews … Page 8 Reviewing Enhanced eBooks That Don't Exist Yet … Page 9 The Devil and Sherlock Holmes by David Grann … Page 10 Out-of-Print Bookshelf … Page 12 Remixing Versus Plagiarism … Page 13 Laura Miller on the Book Review: Crisis or Renaissance? … Page 14 Playing Book Review Bingo … Page 15 Literary St. Patrick's Day Contest … Page 16 Caught by Harlan Coben … Page 17 The Best Passover Books for Children … Page 18 Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson … Page 19 Amazon Customer Reviews Policy Debated … Page 21 Twitter Book Club Seeks "A Zillion" Readers … Page 22 Murder City by Michael Paul Mason … Page 23 Best Editors on Twitter Directory … Page 25
Welcome to the March 2010 Print(out) Edition of GalleyCat Reviews
GalleyCat Reviews features daily book review content, including 300-500 word book reviews, excerpted book reviews from select review outlets, and curated posts linking to the best book reviews on the web. The reviews will be written by a mix of professional reviewers and passionate readers in the GalleyCat community. There will be more surprises this week as we unveil our rapidly growing book review directory and reveal the first publication to excerpt content on GalleyCat Reviews. As the program grows over the next few months, we will update the information on this FAQ page to include new developments. If you are a publicist looking to submit books to GalleyCat reviews, please email your pitches to this new email address. We are accepting pitches for new books in any genre, but we will only be able to review a fraction of the suggested titles. Want to read more? Check out our February 2010 Print Edition and our Best Book Reviewers on Twitter List.
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
Reviewed by P.E. Logan Read more about GalleyCat Reviews Women love to read about other women. This is the simplest explanation for the popularity of gal fiction--from the travails of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind to the Ole Miss alumnae in The Help. These are best-selling books that lure female readers in droves, partly because of an irresistible story arc, but also because of the feats of daring-do by the purposeful, strong women characters. The newest contestant on the stage of this ilk is Sarah Blake's The Postmistress. It's a tidy saga from the same imprint and publisher as The Help, but a weaker sister. The Postmistress is a book about fate. It's set in 1940, across two continents: in peaceable, but wary of war, Franklin, Massachusetts, a seaside town on the tip of Cape Cod; in London during the blitz when the Germans rained bombs on the British night after night; and on trains traversing Europe as the Jewish citizenry boards impossibly jammed cars to escape the slithering Nazis. Connecting these locales are the interwoven stories of three women. The author's triheroine approach reminds me of an Edvard Munch oil depicting a trio of female figures, each signifying the stages of womanhood as they tilt against nature and life. In Ms. Blake's novel, we meet Emma Fitch, a newlywed, married to the small town's lone doctor. Her job is to wait for fate to tell her what to do. There is Iris James, the middle-aged postmaster of Franklin who manipulates fate by controlling the delivery of the mail. And, there's Frankie Bard, the Seven Sisters-graduate turned war correspondent who works in London for Edward R. Murrow. Frankie captures the stories of the everyday people in London and on those packed trains. She sends the news back to the States via radio broadcasts. She is the type of woman that era would have called a dame: wise, leggy and ready to rip the hem of her A-line shirt, anything to stop the bleeding of World War II. She wants to tame fate. The plot is built on their crossed paths. Emma's young husband flees from Franklin to war-torn London after hearing Frankie's reports. He writes home every day and the letters are passed through the filtering hands of Iris. He and Frankie meet in a London bomb shelter and she becomes the last leg in the message relay, which takes her back to Franklin and to Iris and Emma. Iris has a late-in-life first love interest, the town auto mechanic, Harry Vale. He spends his days in a tower atop Franklin's City Hall watching
for U-Boats to breach the Cape Cod waters. Like Harry, we can see what's going to happen in this book miles away. But it's Frankie who women readers will admire, befriend, even wish to be. She's the reason, not the postmaster (postmistress in England), that women are making this a book club must-read. She is super cool. In 1940 you could smoke Lucky Strikes nonstop, pausing to think as smoke tendrils curled the air, without that killjoy, the Surgeon General, nagging you. Frankie puffs away. She swills bourbon, hooks-up (and we thought the 60s invented that...) and learns to shoulder the unbearable heaviness of her luxury as an American reporter. She is on those fleeing trains only to record voices, her U.S. papers are charms and pass inspection every time. Not so, for the many doomed passengers she encounters and interviews. She knows her fate. She's figured out theirs. Can she stop any of it? As for the postmistress, Iris's story is not as compelling. Neither is Emma's, although her emotional life is more wrenching by mid-book. Ms. Blake paints an apt picture of small town America--which in 1940 represented the entire U.S. We were safe here, then. Europe was a bloodbath. We had plenty of time to worry about what other people thought and what color to paint the house. The Postmistress is the second sure-fire shot from Amy Einhorn, a Putnam editor with an eponymous imprint. She is the reigning purveyor of three-gal fiction (there are three story arcs in The Help, a mega-seller edited by Ms. Einhorn). I think the door is just opening now on Amy's Little Shop of Stories. The Help was the most irresistible book I have read in months. This one, not so much. But damn, that Frankie. What a dame! And just in time for Women's History Month. P.E. Logan is communications professional and a writer in New York. She has worked at various adult trade publishing houses including Random House, Putnam, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster for almost three decades. She now works at The New York Times. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and other periodicals.
The Book Reviews of Roger Ebert
In addition to his work as a film critic, Roger Ebert is also the author of a number of books, including Awake in the Dark. Inspired by Esquire and Deadspin's moving tributes to Ebert, GalleyCat Reviews collected some bookish material from the great critic. Do you have a favorite literary essay from Ebert? Add your links in the comments section... Here, the great critic remembers reading Jonathan Swift's famous essay, "A Modest Proposal," for the first time: "I remember Miss Seward at Urbana High School, telling us to read it in class and note the exact word at which Swift's actual purpose became clear. None of us had ever heard of it, and she didn't use a giveaway word like "satire." Yet not a single person in the class concluded that Swift was seriously proposing that the starving Irish eat their babies. We all got it." In a touching essay about his messy, well-loved library, Ebert celebrated the critically rejected novel, By Love Possessed by James Could Cozzens: "It and the other books on the list have been rendered obsolete, so that his essay is cruelly dated. But I remember reading the novel late into the night when I was 14, stirring restlessly with the desire to be possessed by love. I cannot throw out these books. Some are protected because I have personally turned all their pages and read every word; they're like little shrines to my past hours." More examples after the jump... Here is a link to Ebert's tribute to an old mystery novelist: "Harry Stephen Keeler was the most prolific Chicago novelist of all time--and perhaps the most forgotten, although perhaps we may have forgotten an even more forgotten novelist. Not even the devoted, even fanatical, members of the Harry Stephen Keeler Society claim significant fame for him. Yet perhaps no published author in history has produced more convoluted, bizarre plots, one of them related entirely in dialog between two men stranded on a small river island, another concealing its denouement within a Sealed Page at the end." In a tribute to London and novelists, Ebert curated a video homage to the English city entitled: "Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. -- Dr. Johnson."
Roberto Bolano and the Earthquake in Chile
Today The Takeaway quoted Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño in their coverage of the powerful earthquake in Chile--imagining his prose would offer "some comfort to the people of Chile." The late novelist once wrote: "Sometimes the earth shakes...The epicenter of the quake is somewhere in the north or the south, but I can still hear the shaking. Sometimes I feel dizzy. Sometimes the quake goes on for longer than usual and people take shelter under doorways or under stairs or they rush out into the streets. Is there a solution?" If you want to help the people of Chile, the Red Cross has more resources and information about donations. As we keep Chile in our thoughts, here are a few more links to help you explore the work of one of the country's greatest writers. New York magazine reviewed his great novel, 2666: "The heart of 2666 is its fourth and longest section, called simply 'The Part About the Crimes.' It is, flat out, one of the best stretches of fiction I've ever read. I broke my pencil several times writing catatonically enthusiastic marginalia ... Although he's clearly outraged by the culture of misogyny, exploitation, and indifference that enables the killing, he refuses to load the fictional dice." Here's a Believer essay about his life and work: "And, of course, what Bolaño is doing is laughing at the idea of writers--writers of any nationality or galaxy--getting together to talk about literature. In Bolaño's opinion--then and always--literature should inhabit books, not bars. From which it follows that the only protagonist of Bolaño's work--the authentic heroine of his books--is literature itself." Finally, The Quarterly Conversation reviewed The Skating Rink: "There is no rational solution to the crime--Bolaño has the murderer explicitly admit thisâ€”and there is no rational solution to this labyrinth of a book. The search is all. Though there are beautiful, potent moments rich with emotion, the meaning that should exist within these moments is deferred again and again, the senselessness of this one small act of violence comes to counterpoint and haunt the senselessness of life and atrocity." Want more reviews? Follow this link to download the February 2010 print edition of GalleyCat Reviews--one month worth of criticism and literary links.
The Best Out-of-Print Children's Books
What children's books do you want to see revived? It's time to make a list. Counting on our readers' collective knowledge of books, GalleyCat Reviews regularly features curated book lists from Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations. Today's list is surefire conversation starter: 10 Out-of-Print Children's Books Worth Overpaying For. Over the last year, Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations has created more than 300 lists--giving reading advice on everything from book club books to cancer survivor books. Working with this carefully curated publication, we will share our favorite lists with GalleyCat readers. Add your suggestions in the comments section. The complete list (created by Burgin Streetman) follows after the jump. Here's more from the 10 Out-of-Print Children's Books Worth Overpaying For list: "There are some books I would chop off my right arm for (and have... stops to wave with stump). These guys are the endangered species of the children's book world, dwindling down, sale by sale... until... Get them now before they are gone forever, my friends." The Day the Cow Sneezed by James Flora The Man Who Lost His Head by Claire Huchet Bishop, illustrated by Robert McCloskey Switch on the Night Babar and Zephir by Jean De Brunhoff, translated by Merle S. Haas The Hat by Tomi Ungerer The Tyger Voyage Little Boy Brown by Isobel Harris Where's Wallace? by Hilary Knight Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor by Mervyn Peake The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations is still trying to find the book club books. Interested in writing a book list? Do you know what book clubs are looking for? Email the site!
Before Tim Burton: Brief History of Alice in Wonderland Book Reviews
As director Tim Burton brings Alice in Wonderland to the big screen this weekend, GalleyCat Reviews collected some classic criticism of the novel from some great writers. In 1964 cultural critic Marshall McLuhan raved about the book: "Pervading this uniform Euclidean world of familiar space-and-time, Carroll drove a fantasia of discontinuous space-and-time that anticipated Kafka, Joyce, and Eliot. Carroll, the mathematical contemporary of Clerk Maxwell, was quite avant-garde enough to know about the non-Euclidean geometries coming into vogue in his time. He gave the confident Victorians a playful foretaste of Einsteinian timeand-space in Alice in Wonderland." The great Joyce Carol Oates praised the book in the mid 1990s: If you could transpose yourself into a girl of 8, in 1946, in a farming community in upstate New York north of Buffalo, imagine the excitement of opening so beautiful a book to read a story in which a girl of about your age is the heroine ... It would not have occurred to me even to suspect that the 'children's tale' was in brilliant ways coded to be read by adults and was in fact an English classic, a universally acclaimed intellectual tour de force and what might be described as a psychological/anthropological dissection of Victorian England." In 2000, Will Self criticized the epic scholarly version of the classic books, The Annotated Alice: "There is something malodorous about this book - like the stinking petals of a rotting bloom. Gardner first published an annotated version of Carroll's Alice books in 1960, and since then he has - with a pedantic avidity that makes train-spotters appear lazily dilettante - continued to amass more and more material concerning them." Finally, last week the literary television show Lost featured a loving cameo appearance of The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition--W. W. Norton's special edition of the Lewis Carroll classic. Want to read more? Check out the February 2010 Print(out) Edition of GalleyCat Reviews.
Reviewing Enhanced eBooks That Don't Exist Yet
How do you review a Kindle eBook? Do you measure the book only by its literary merits, or do you analyze formatting and interactivity as well? As enhanced eBooks hit the market for tablet computers, future Kindle models, and the iPad, these questions will be more important. Over the weekend, this GalleyCat editor enjoyed the Kindle edition of The Cardboard Universe: A Guide to the World of Phoebus K. Dank. Writingwise, the book is fabulous: laugh-out-loud John Kennedy Toole-style slacker satire mixed with Vladimir Nabokov's knack for postmodern black humor. It is a fictional encyclopedia written by two obsessive fans of a science fiction writer with some striking similarities to the great Philip K. Dick. The book has quite deservedly earned a spot on the Believer Book Award shortlist. Still, the encyclopedia format begs for some simple HTML coding in the eBook edition. When reading the book's individual encyclopedia entries, the reader should be able to jump between entries with the same ease as a print book--but the clunky Kindle interface just isn't built for this kind of browsing. With an iPad or tablet computer version, the author could actually embed a few sly Wikipedia entries or websites to help the reader find out more about the real life science fiction author lurking behind the pages of this funny book. Enhanced eBooks don't have to be loaded with fancy video and interactive graphics. But this GalleyCat editor wishes they had a standard level of interactivity beyond the regular eBook. What do you think?
The Devil and Sherlock Holmes by David Grann
Reviewed by Michael Paul Mason Read more about GalleyCat Reviews I learned my lesson after reading The Lost City of Z: use caution when approaching anything written by David Grann. It will take everything you've got to set down the work and walk away. Grann, a staff writer at the New Yorker, isn't so much a verbal acrobat as he is a mesmerizing storyteller, and his newest work, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession solidifies his place among the best nonfiction writers of our time. It isn't a perfect work--I'll offer a few gripes later in the review--but it's going to be one of the best story collections of the year. The opening story, "Mysterious Circumstances," for example, is inescapable. Grann introduces us to Richard Green, the world's foremost expert on Sherlock Holmes. Green isn't just an expert. He's a fanatic--and Grann somehow instills that zeal into the story, so that we're just as curious about the life of Arthur Conan Doyle as any other member of the peculiar Sherlock Holmes Society. Before long, we find ourselves entranced in the curious characters that comprise the society, and then learn that Green himself has died, the apparent victim of a homicide. As we accompany Grann along on the investigation into Green's death, we're treated to a dive into the mind of Sherlock Holmes and his creator, Doyle. But Grann isn't just a keen reporter--he employs the subtlest literary touches that add texture and soul to his work. When we meet Steve O'Shea, the "Squid Hunter," Grann notes that O'Shea's glasses make his eyes look large, and he reeks of the sea. Then as we begin to learn more and more about the giant squid Architeuthis, the object of Shea's obsession, Grann drops an occasional parallel between the squid and O'Shea, making us wonder if O'Shea himself isn't part squid. Grann's writing sings as well as it teaches. For subscribers to the New Yorker, much of Grann's writings in this collection will appear familiar: the report "Trial by Fire" is a nearly suffocating account of a death row inmate accused of killing his children; "City of Water," tells of a dynasty of "sandhogs" that helped create New York City's monumental underground waterways; and "The Brand," is a chilling revelation about the far reaches of the Aryan Brotherhood. And this is where I have a beef with the collection. Many of Grann's works are dated, and there are only partial attempts to make them current. He published "The Squid Hunter" in 2004, and in this collection, he offers up a paragraph indicating that a giant squid was captured in 2006. What he fails to tell us is the far more fascinating news: that Squid Hunter O'Shea actually caught the larger,
mythic colossus squid in 2007--a story deserving of at least a mention, if not several extra pages. We spend time being charmed by a geriatric bank robber in "The Old Man and The Gun," which ran in 2003, but aren't treated to any news of his current condition. The post-scripts that Grann arbitrarily offers following several of the stories seem too anemic, and generally unworthy of the characters he has labored to introduce us to. If Grann fans are expected to pay extra for several stories that have already appeared in print, then it's an editorial oversight to offer them such a meager nod. Don't let my complaints deter you, though. This is a book you shouldn't miss, even if you are a subscriber to the New Yorker. The Devil and Sherlock Holmes is a collection of masterful reporting, and remains relentlessly engaging throughout. Just be careful: like a great writer, Grann will leave you begging for more. Michael Paul Mason is the author of 'Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury & Its Aftermath,' published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. His work appears in magazines and newspapers, including Discover, The Believer, and NYT. Learn more at michaepaulmason.com
To celebrate the one year anniversary of the online journal The Second Pass, founder John Williams has published short essays by readers, asking them "to recommend their favorite out-of-print book." His post reminds us of an often neglected side of book reviewing--helping readers find neglected books. The excellent list includes Killings by Calvin Trillin; Love is the Heart of Everything: Correspondence Between Vladimir Mayakovsky and Lili Brik edited by Bengt Jangfeldt; and Tropisms by Nathalie Sarraute. Add your suggestions in the comments section. Here's more from the post: "one of my main goals was to approach reading the way that readers do, not necessarily the way that publishers and even many other reviews do. Publishers naturally want to tell you about what's new or what's evergreen. But most readers know the pleasure of somehow discovering and falling in love with a book that has fallen from view. And no status is farther from view than the dreaded 'out of print." Last week, GalleyCat Reviews readers helped Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations create a list (adding more than 20 suggestions) of the Best Out-ofPrint Children's Books
Remixing Versus Plagiarism
Among literary critics and authors, plagiarism has been a perpetual debate in the 21st Century--we've reported on many, many stories over the years.GalleyCat Reviews covered the On Copyright 2010 conference yesterday, the many speakers focused on the crucial difference between remixing original content and plagiarism. Author David Shields read an excerpt from his book Reality Hunger: A Manifesto: "This book contains hundreds of quotations that go unacknowledged in the body of the text. I'm trying to regain a freedom that writers from Montaigne to Burroughs took for granted and that we have lost ... However, Random House lawyers determined that it was necessary for me to provide a complete list of citations for these quotations; the list follows (except, of course, for any sources I couldn't find or forgot along the way)." Not everyone agrees. The Book Bench has a round up of Reality Hunger reviews, remixing both critics and champions of the book. What do you think? If you want to read more, Shields offered this solution for writers who also believe in remixing: "If you would like to restore this book to the form in which I intended it to be read, simply grab a sharp pair of scissors or a razor blade or box cutter and remove pages xxx-xxx by cutting along the dotted line."
Laura Miller on the Book Review: Crisis or Renaissance?
Twenty years from now, will we see the current state of the book review as a crisis or a renaissance? Today's guest on the Morning Media Menu was Laura Miller, the author and literary critic from Salon.com. She talked about her recent book, The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia. In addition, we discussed the future of the book review and things aspiring novelists can learn from readers. Press play on the embedded player below to listen. Here's an excerpt: "Book reviews have gotten to be a sleepy, dull genre of journalism ... [Reviewers] have fallen into a lot of bad and lazy habits--taking it for granted that people are interested in what they have to say. They aren't working as hard to engage with the readers." Miller concluded: "In a way, I'm hopeful that writing about books will be rejuvenated in a way by the crisis. Because reviewers will have to think harder about how to speak to readers and not kind of lapse into this connect-the-dots book reviewing that you used to see in some newspaper review sections." Miller had advice for writers as well: "The biggest complaint that readers have about literary fiction is that nothing happens. These were my suggestions for how you can get past that--how you can appeal to readers without sacrificing your writerly skills and artistry. The first one was: Have your main character want something. Often writers write about characters who are like writers, who are detached observers and very reflective but don't have any particular desire. Desire is the fuel of all narrative. Desire is the fuel of life."
Playing Book Review Bingo
In a beautifully written, thought-provoking, and haunting blog post written in the tradition of a gritty yet rollicking epic--one blogger has created Book Review Bingo. Examiner writer Michelle Kerns built some handy playing cards so readers can count common critical clichés and compete while reading book reviews. Here's more from the post: "Print them out. Distribute them among your reading fellows. See who can get to Bingo first. Or -- depending on which publication you're reading -- who can get a blackout first. (Playing for a blackout will absolutely be a requirement when reading some publications. I mean, what's the fun of playing Book Review Bingo when everyone gets a Bingo in the first two reviews?) Wallow in the joy of artificially inflated, knee-jerk, ultimately meaningless book reviews." All writers should memorize the words on these cards. After blogging for a few years, this GalleyCat editor has grown painfully aware of his own vocabulary shortcomings. In the 21st Century writing world, clichés make easy crutches.
Literary St. Patrick's Day Contest
The folks over at the literary t-shirt company Novel-T are sponsoring a Literary St. Patrick's Day Contest today. All you have to do is answer this riddle: "What's green and can be found both in Yankee Stadium and the NY Public Library?" Email the company your answer. The 3rd, 17th, and 317th respondents with the correct answer will win a Novel-T shirt of their choice. UPDATE: Include "Pot o' Gold Riddle Answer" in the subject line of your email. To give you some inspiration, here are some links to St. Patrick's Day-inspired literary criticism. The Daily Beast picks The Funniest Irish Novel Ever Written. True/Slant makes some Irish literature suggestions. Barnes & Noble Review critiques the latest book by Irish novelist John Banville. Here's an excerpt: "Banville has spoken of a clinging fantasy to enter a bookshop and, with an incantatory gesture, efface the print from inside of his books so he might revisit and better them. When Belinda McKeon raised this subject in a Paris Review interview he avowed, "Yes I hate them. I mean that. Nobody believes me, but it's true."
GalleyCat Reviews: "Caught" by Harlan Coben
Reviewed by Louise Leetch Read more about GalleyCat Reviews I have to admit I was leery when I first picked up Harlan Coben's latest book, after slogging through the gratuitous violence in his previous book, Long Lost. Caught deals with another ilk of life's icky people, pedophiles. The new book eschews graphic detail, dealing instead with innuendo, accusations and the power of fear-mongering. Wendy Tynes is a TV reporter still trying to work her way out of the tabloid type stories. She's assigned a sting operation to trap pedophiles. Dan Mercer, a man who works with kids in foster care, responds to a fake e-mail from a troubled teen. When he appears at the address the fake girl gave him, the sting is sprung-setting off a sequence of fateful events. Mercer may not be convicted, but everyone knows he's a pedophile; after all, it says so in the blogs. But a disastrous encounter sparks Wendy's doubts about his guilt--what she discovers will lure you into succeeding chapters (if you even notice the transition) and stop you from turning out the light. Luckily, Coben's writing is so crisp and fluid, you can finish this book in a day or two: worry about sleep later. In a pre-trial evidentiary hearing, the gallery includes parents of abused children, including Ed Grayson, a man whose anger and hatred emanates from every fiber of his being. Wendy feels his rage burning through her as she testifies about the trap and subsequent discoveries in Dan's home. Grayson feels that Wendy must be able to tell him where Mercer is hiding. "Alcoholics, well, they can quit. Pedophiles are simpler--there really is no chance for redemption," he explains with murder on his mind. The novel is ultimately about the difficulty of forgiveness; easy to ask for, harder to deliver. Along the way it reinforces our trepidation of the incredible power of the Internet's social networking sites. It may be great fun to connect with friends, but watch out for your reputation. You never know when you'll be photo-shopped, blogged or tweeted into the abyss. Louise Leetch divides her time between Chicago and Wisconsin. Both houses are just crammed with books. She collects her reviews on her GoodReads page.
The Best Passover Books for Children
As the celebration of Passover nears, parents, relatives, and friends are preparing to teach children about the Jewish tradition. Counting on our readers' collective knowledge of books, GalleyCat Reviews regularly features curated book lists from Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations. Today's list is timely: The Best Passover Fiction for Children. Over the last year, Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations has created more than 300 lists--giving reading advice on everything from book club books to the best children's books. Working with this carefully curated publication, we will share our favorite lists with GalleyCat readers. Add your suggestions in the comments section. The complete list (created by Linda Silver) follows after the jump. Here's more about the Passover List: "The exodus from Egypt, the Civil War, the Depression, and contemporary seders with a divorced mom and dad are some of the settings for this plateful of well-told, splendidly illustrated Passover stories. And as in so many children's books, animals as well as humans take center stage with Chicken Little, Sammy Spider, and a talking horse all helping to celebrate the holiday." Let My People Go! by Tilda Balsley, illustrated by Ilene Richard Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim: A Passover Story by Deborah Bodin Cohen Private Joel and the Sewell Mountain Seder by Bryna J. Fireside The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman, ill. by Paul Meisel A Tale of Two Seders by Mindy Avra Portnoy, illustrated by Valeria Cis The Yankee at the Seder by Elka Weber, illustrated by Adam Gustavson Make a Wish, Molly by Barbara Cohen, illustrated by Jan Naimo Jones Carp in the Bathtub by Barbara Cohen, illustrated by Joan Halpern Shlemiel Crooks by Anna Olswanger, illustrated by Paula Goodman Koz The Matzo Ball Boy by Lisa Shulman, illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger
Be sure to check out the Best Passover Nonfiction for Children list as well...
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Reviewed by Clea Simon Read more about GalleyCat Reviews Does "delightful" sound demeaning? It shouldn't, because Helen Simonson's debut novel, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, is just that and it's a gem. A small-scale domestic romance, set among the middle-aged widows and widowers of a small English village, this IndieBound pick is the kind of good-natured book that depends on note-perfect details to succeed, and Simonson has them: from the brewing of tea to the pacing of dialogue among a certain educated, but quite restrained class. Major Pettigrew, our retired hero, has just learned of the death of his brother, as this positively charming--there's another of those words--opens. Temporarily overcome by grief, he is aided by Mrs. Ali, the local shopkeeper, who has dropped by to make a delivery. And that touch of kindness sparks an unlikely sequence of events that will shake the village of Edgecombe St. Mary to its duck-shooting Anglo-Saxon foundations. Pettigrew, after all, is not given to passion. The sensible scion of an honorable family, he has raised his only son, Roger, with an eye toward not spoiling him, and can only look on with dismay as Roger, now a London banker, puts materialism before the traditional values his father holds dear. But the major does have a secret vein of covetousness: now that his brother is gone, he longs for his hunting gun, one of a matched pair that his father, he believes, always intended to be reunited. Mrs. Ali, meanwhile, has her own family drama. Her nephew, Abdul Wahid, has fathered a charming little boy, George, with an unsuitable woman. But Mrs. Ali sees how much her repentant, and newly religious nephew loves George's mother, Amina, and is willing to sacrifice her own happiness to unite them, if only the warring couple could make peace. Add in a village's worth of busybodies, a smattering of new-money city folk, and a rare few sensible types, and the stage is set--at least for the annual golf club dance. With the humor of Wodehouse and a touch of James in the precise dialogue, the drama unfolds. No, not much happens in Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, but in its own quiet way, it tells of a world of change. Under the guise of an old-fashioned novel, Simonson has crafted a
tale of free spirits and the triumph of courage. It makes for a brave little book--a moral one, actually, that takes a stance on heroism and life in an era of observation as art--and it evokes the appropriately old-fashioned, if not sentimental response. Once one meets these characters, in all their specificity, one longs for a happy ending, or, at least, a just one. True to form, and without giving anything away, Simonson delivers, bringing her charming tale full circle with what the good Major himself might call the proper ending. Clea Simon is the author of nine books, the most recent being the mystery Grey Matters. She can be found online at cleasimon.com
Amazon Customer Reviews Policy Debated by Authors and Readers
A massive debate has erupted between readers and writers after Amazon (AMZN) Kindle critics overwhelmed the reviews section for The Big Short by Michael Lewis--complaining not about substance, but the lack of a Kindle edition. In a blunt TechCrunch post, author Paul Carr generated hundreds of comments about Amazon's customer reviews policy: "I speak from pained experience as an author when I say that we have absolutely no say on when our books are released, in what format and at what price. And yet we're the ones who have the most to lose from negative Amazon reviews. A book's overall star rating is one of the most prominent pieces of information on an Amazon page and many readers--quite reasonably--equate a low average rating with a poorly written book. This damages sales of the book and also damages our reputations as writers." These consumer reviews have changed the book review landscape forever. Via Twitter, Changing Hands Bookstore reminded us that Amazon is one of America's most trusted brands. What do you think--should they change their book review policy?
Twitter Book Club Seeks "A Zillion" Readers
Recently Crowdsourcing author Jeff Howe decided to create the largest book club possible on Twitter--a place where "a zillion" Twitter users could read the same book at once. Today, he asked GalleyCat Reviews readers to pass along their suggestions for the best book to read. Here's more about the kind of book Howe seeks: "The final selection needs to be of general interest. It needs to be translated into many, many languages, and ideally it should be freely available." While writing about his new idea, Howe name-checked some excellent book club resources: "There are some wonderful book clubs on Twitter, including #thebookclub and the Twitter Book Club (#tbc). The aim with One Book, One Twitter is--like the one city, one book program which inspired it--is to get a zillion people all reading and talking about a single book." Add your suggestions in the comments. We've set up an interview with Howe next week--email us your questions about this new project. If you are looking for some books to nominate, we suggest you check out eBookNewser's Free eBook of the Day feature.
Murder City by Michael Paul Mason
Reviewed by Michael Paul Mason Read more about GalleyCat Reviews American media coverage of the drug-related violence in Mexican border towns delivers a brief shock when reporters cite the incredible number of homicides. Few reports, however, take you into the center of the violence. In Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields, author Charles Bowden doesn't help readers make any sense of the terror; instead, he makes them feel it. In 2008 alone, more than 1,600 homicides occurred in Juarez, and by the end of Murder City, you feel like you've read about every one of them. Combined with the disorienting tone that Bowden weaves into the book, Murder City has a tendency to numb you with the persistent cataloguing of dead women, children and men. Like all true works dealing with evil, there's an element of banality mixed in between moments of sheer terror. In a work that is more expressionistic literature than reportage, Bowden uses the ghostly characters of rape victim Miss Sinaloa, El Pastor, and a Mexican assassin he calls the Murder Artist to create a portrait of Juarez in a time of nightmarish violence, and the result is a meditation on murder that is almost too sickening to continue yet too thoughtful to resist. Take Bowden's digression on the subject of fear, for example: "Fear has been my pale rider. I have never faced an audience without it, nor gotten out of the car to do that first interview in some strange city without fear ... The killer facing me over a plate of food is rational. He kills and sometimes feels nothing. There are such people, who are calm while taking a life. They do not induce the fear in me that I feel when around the fearful." Bowden's encounter with the sicario, the Mexican assassin, is easily the most distressing and horrifying story I've come across in recent memory--perhaps ever. After a game of cat-and-mouse in an unnamed city, Bowden finally meets the killer face to face, who openly shares the darkest acts he's witnessed. As the assassin boasts of his techniques, you also wonder if Bowden is courting his own murder by simply meeting the man.
Murder City's subtitle, "The Global Economy's New Killing Fields," is a bit misleading, making the book sound more like a CNN special report than the work of an artist at the top of his game. Don't expect a clear picture of cartel players, Mexican army officials, or border patrol agents--given the fate of so many journalists, that story may never get told. Instead, steel yourself for a gritty submersion into the life and feel of a city utterly undone by murder. Michael Paul Mason is the author of 'Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury & Its Aftermath,' published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. His work appears in magazines and newspapers, including Discover, The Believer, and NYT. Learn more at michaepaulmason.com
The Best Book Editors on Twitter
According to Tweepsearch, 25,080 people identify themselves as an "editor" on Twitter. Nevertheless, book editors have had a rough time in recent years-layoffs, uncertain roles, and crazy workloads. Today we've decided to celebrate and recognize the editors in our lives. After the jump, we are building a new directory linking to the best book editors on Twitter. Add your favorite editor (or yourself) to the growing list. We will constantly update the directory, just like our Best Book Reviewers on Twitter directory. All the editors will be listed below and included in our Best Editors Twitter list. If you want to hone your own editing skills, check out Book Oven's excellent new web game, Bite-Size Edits. On this site, readers can get edits on their own work and practice editing on real work by writers like Lydia Millet and Clay Shirky. Here's more about the project: "Earn points in Bite-Size Edits by editing sentences and leaving comments for writers. High point earners can get free books, and players can trade in earned points for discounts on books and other goodies." This list is not comprehensive, yet. Add your favorite editors after the jump--because the digital future needs editors and we need to stay connected with our editors. Aiah: "Writer. Editor. Knitter. Cellist. Cynic. Cook. Mets fan." Reagan Arthur: "Bio Book editor, music fan, east coast transplant, banana-hater, defender of the em-dash." Charleen Barila: "Cookbook & gardening (asst) editor at Wiley, voracious pop culture/knowledge consumer. my true love: good food shared with good friends. all opinions are my own." Tara Barnes: "Freelance copy editor fighting the good fight. Support your local copy editor and save the world. Don't let my unenlightened musings dissuade you." Tim Bartlett: "Random House Editor" Pete Beatty: (Bloomsbury Press) "140+char serious nonfiction brought to you by publisher Peter Ginna (#pg) and editor Pete Beatty (#ptb)"
Paula Berinstein: "Producer and host of The Writing Show, writer, writing consultant, freelance editor" Jason Black: "I'm a freelance book editor who blogs about character development in fiction." Holly Blanck: "Assistant Editor at St. Martin's press, book lover, Met's fan, eternal optimist." Iris Blasi: "Associate editor tweeting about books past, present, and future." Jevon Bolden: Editor, singer, songwriter, wife, mom. Developmental editor for Strang Book Group Brooke Carey: At Portfolio. Carolynn Carey: "a former academic editor, now writes romantic fiction." Julia Cheiffetz: Book editor Kelli Collins: "Editor-in-Chief @ Ellora's Cave. Got subs? We want your sex." Brenda Copeland: "Bio editor, teacher, reader, friend, cheese lover." Sarah Cypher: "Freelance editor and writer tweeting about writing, the Middle East, and cultural miscellany. Author of The Editor's Lexicon: Essential Terms for Novelists." Pamela Dorman: "Pamela Dorman Books/Viking publishes upmarket fiction, much aimed at women, as well as selected non-fiction." Barbara Dycus: "Acquires and edits books." Daniel Ehrenhaft: Acquisitions editor for Sourcebooks Fire, YA author/fan, Guitarist of Tiger Beat, Proud Papa" Lindsey Faber: "Managing Editor of Samhain Publishing" Rose Foltz: "Freelance textbook and magazine editor specializing in nursing and health professions" Melissa Frain: "Editor at Tor/Macmillan / skeeball MVP / lover of hot chocolate, high fives, and the Phillies." Jay Franco: "An independent editor and lover of SF, fantasy, comics & military history."
Jess Haberman: "Editor at FalconGuides / GPP, freelance editor, writer, and floral assistant." Marty Halpern: "Wielder of Red Ink" Diana Gill: "Executive editor. Runs Eos Books. Needs: caffeine. Wants: plane tickets." Peter Ginna: (Bloomsbury Press) "140+char serious nonfiction brought to you by publisher Peter Ginna (#pg) and editor Pete Beatty (#ptb)" Jillian Gray: "Renegade of publishing, Panhellenic, philanthropic and entrepreneurial world. And boarding school/ Ivy University Survivor." Vicki Gundrum: "Freelance book editor [who] tweets about publishing, amusements, little surprises. My obsessions: books, writing, publishing, amusements, little surprises, basenjis. Stretching to 5 feet, I rely on love & understanding not intimidation & fear." Lori Cates Hand: "Nonfiction book editor with 19 years of experience specializing in career information." Travers J.: "A small town boy from TX, living & thriving in NYC. I'm an Editorial Assistant at Penguin." Angela James: "Executive Editor for Carina Press, Harlequin's digital-first imprint. Dragging the world to the digital dark side, one reader at a time." Alison Janssen: "Run Away With Us," Tyrus Books editors. Sara Kase: "Assistant Editor at Sourcebooks, acquire and develop everything from historical fiction to gift to trade." T.J. Kelleher: "Hopping the pons asinorum. Science book editor. Likely overconfident." Cheryl Klein: "I'm an editor at Scholastic, a reader and writer at home, and lots of other things in lots of other places. All opinions expressed here are solely my own." Angela Klinske: "writer/editor/going local/public speaking/corp comm." Vicki Lame: "She would edit books; she would create constellations." Alvina Ling: "Senior Editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Editor of picture books, middle grade, and young adult. And lover of bloomabilities." Megan Lynch: "Senior Editor at Riverhead Books" Dick Margulis: "Producer of top-quality books for discerning publishers and authors."
Marianliz: "Book editor, beginner standup comic, curator of questionable crafts at kraftomatic." Debbie Marrie: "I acquire and edit health books and Christian fiction for Strang Communications." Laurel Marshfield: "I help authors (nonfiction, fiction, memoir) prepare their book ms for publication + write book proposals. Offer ms evals, editing, ghosting, coaching + more" Martha Mihalick: "Children's book editrix, Greenwillow Books, An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers." David Moldawer: "I'm a nonfiction book editor at Penguin Group (USA), where I acquire business and science titles. I live in Brooklyn with my wife, son, and dog." Jackeline Montalvo: "Book editor at Random House, pop culture enthusiast, dog person, boricua at heart." Moonrat: "Book editor. rabid reader. love to eat. yumm." Calvert Morgan: Harper editor. Deborah Moss: "A very happy copyeditor." Joan Murray: "Exploring the Microsoft developer world-at-large in search of immensely talented people to publish with Addison-Wesley and Pearson Technology Group." K. O'Moore-Klopf: "Your favorite copyeditor since 1984." Heather Osborn: "Editor at Tor Books. Pop culture fan. RPG gamer. Romance junkie. Ninja Warrior addict. Yup, I'm a nerd." Kelly Nickell: "Digital Copywriter & Freelance Writer/Editor" Molly O'Neill: "Children's & YA book editor. Collector of words and art and stories." Denise Oswald: "Editrix Rex at Soft Skull Press. Krav Maga yellow belt. Currently thinks her drumming isn't quite brutal enough." Lori Perkins: "Editorial Director of Ravenous Romance and Agent Extraordinaire. A Writers Fairy Godmother." Allyson E. Peltier: "An editor/writer helping you put your best word forward." David Pomerico: "[Editor at] Del Rey and Spectra are two of the biggest SF, fantasy, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance imprints in--and out of--the world."
Jennifer Pooley: "Book editor @ William Morrow & Perennial most often found buying all I can carry at the Webster Library book sale & reading old Domino Magazines." Ruta Rimas: "Kids Books Editor at Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)" Nellie Sabin: "Freelance nonfiction editor and writer - health, medical, psychology, mind/body/spirit, etc. Formerly an acquisitions editor in NYC, now living and working in beautiful Cape Cod." Victoria Sandbrook: "Associate Editor (acquiring non-fiction) at Adams Media. Writer, Reader, Blogger. Of course, my opinions do not reflect those of my employer." Maria Schneider: "Freelance writer, editor, blogger, forum hostess, book reviewer, former editor of a writing magazine you've probably heard of. Wants to eradicate the semicolon." Adrienne Schultz: "I'm an editor at Portfolio, the biz book imprint at Penguin Group." Esi Sogah: "Romance editor at Avon; theater, pop culture junkie." Anne Sowards: "Science fiction & fantasy editor (vampires & wizards & spaceships, oh my)" Alyssa Smith: "Editor at a NY publishing house, reviewer, convention organizer, avid costumer, and owner of several demanding parrots" Jonathan Strahan: "An editor, anthologist, and SF critic doing his best to keep up." Allison Trzop: "Editing nonfiction books--sports, law, comics--for independent-minded Beacon Press." Erika Tsang: "I'm a romance editor and proud of it." Juliet Ulman: freelance editor at large extraordinaire." Johanna Vondeling: "VP, Editorial and Digital at Berrett-Koehler Publishers" Jessica Wade: "An editor and a gentlelady. Well. An editor." Dinah Wallace: "Copyeditor and Reprints Manager for Strang Communications Book Group." Meghan Ward: "Writer and book editor." Christy Webster: "Editor of children's books, from Maine. I also like: TV, art, comics, food, blogs, video games, feminism, my cat, my couch, my handsome guy."
Michele Wells: "Editor w/experience in adult nonfiction, children's, and YA." Ivy Wigmore: "I'm content editor and grammar blogger @whatis.com. Got a grammar/writing question or comment? Pet peeve? Tweet me!" Michelle Witte: "Opening @firepetalbooks, a children's bookstore in Utah. YA fiction writer. Formerly a book editor with Gibbs Smith." Tessa Woodward: "Romance Editor and huge book nerd." Courtney Young: "Book editor for Penguin's Portfolio imprint. And I do other stuff, too."