Is there a new young adult mega-hit in the making?
Writer Gail Carriger’s novel “Etiquette and Espionage” – the first in a planned quartet about a girl who attends finishing school and finds the institution is not what it seems – was released on Feb. 5 and is already garnering strong reviews as well as good sales.
“Etiquette and Espionage” follows Sophronia, a 14-year-old who is sent to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. The schools offers the kind of lessons you might expect – how to dance properly, the finer points of manners, etc. – but actually excels in the unexpected. The heart of Mademoiselle Geraldine’s establishment is located inside dirigibles and teaches its pupils how to become spies as well as proper ladies.
Carriger has written for adults before. Her previous books made up a series titled the "Parasol Protectorate," which took place in a Victorian London which was peopled by werewolves and vampires. “Etiquette and Espionage” inhabits that same universe. The book was released by Little, Brown.
Etiquette and Espionage” made the New York Times young adult bestseller list on Feb. 24, taking the ninth spot, while Kirkus Reviews, Booklist and the School Library Journal have all given the title starred reviews.
“Carriger’s YA debut brings her mix of Victorian paranormal steampunk and winning heroines to a whole new audience,” Booklist wrote.
The retro-futuristic steampunk style continues strong in pop culture in general. It seems to fascinate readers of Cassandra Clare’s bestselling "Infernal Devices" trilogy, the third title in which is scheduled for a March release this year. It has also been featured in movie theaters with the recent success of the rebooted “Sherlock Holmes” movies, which starred Robert Downey Jr. as the sleuth and Jude Law as his sidekick Watson and found them dodging lots of steampunk-style machines.
As we’ve previously discussed, skillfully written and well-reviewed young adult titles are today winning wider and wider adult audiences. The “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games” series, of course, won praise from critics as well as appealing to young and adult readers alike. (Stephenie Meyer's “Twilight” series failed to wow the critics and yet attracted a vociferous, wide-ranging fan base nonetheless.) More recently, books like John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” and the “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” series by Laini Taylor have received positive reviews and experienced strong sales among both adolescents and adults.
Carriger's new novel may be the "next big thing" to hit the new crossover category. Emilio Flores, the book buyer for the Redondo Beach, Calif. book store Mysterious Galaxy, told Publishers Weekly that an event in which Carriger came to the store to promote the book was a big success, with many attendees arriving in Victorian costume. He estimated that more than 100 people showed up.
"The author really appeals to both age groups, and she doesn’t talk down to her teenage readers," Flores said of the audience, which he said consisted of about half teenagers and half adults. "For some YA authors, that is hard to pull off, but Gail really gets it right."
“Game of Thrones” fans got new insight into the series' third season with a minute-long trailer that showed many of the program’s main characters.
The trailer begins with a character saying in voiceover, “It’s been a long time, my old friend” as Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) walks into a room. It then cuts to a man with red hair and a beard climbing a wall (is it the Wall, which separates the country of Westeros from the wild country beyond?). Then a figure that looks like Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), who is both the Hand of the King and the grandfather of the current monarch, enters the throne room on his way to see his grandson, King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson).
“Death is coming for everyone and everything,” another character then says in voiceover, as shots appear of Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) firing an arrow, Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and his mother Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) surveying the aftermath of a battle, and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) walking.
The trailer also shows Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) in the middle of an army and Catelyn telling someone, “Show them how it feels to lose what they love.”
It also offers a glimpse of previously unseen character Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds), known as the King-Beyond-The-Wall, who shouts, “I’m going to light the biggest fire the North has ever seen!”
Later, Joffrey tells his grandfather and uncle, Tyrion, “Everyone is mine to torment” while Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), sidekick to Daenerys, says, “There’s a beast in every man and it stirs when you put a sword in his hand.”
Other shots include Jon Snow kissing someone (wildling Ygritte, perhaps?) and a dragon, presumably one of Daenerys’ fully grown, flying to a ship.
“The revenge you want will be yours in time,” a character says in voiceover at the end of the preview as the faces of Robb, Tyrion, Robb’s sister Arya, Jaime, and Jaime’s sister Cersei are shown.
The song “Bones” by the duo MS MR plays over the preview.
Check out the full trailer.
Children’s author Patricia MacLachlan is writing a picture book she says she was inspired to create after speaking with a friend who lives in Newtown, Conn., said the author.
MacLachlan, who is the author of the book “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” among others, is friends with illustrator Steven Kellogg, who has lived for decades with his family in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown.
The book, called “Snowflakes Fall,” uses the title object to discuss themes like the differences among individuals and how time can heal. It is illustrated by Kellogg, the first time the two have worked together.
“I wrote this book after my dear friend Steven Kellogg told me of his sadness and concern for his community, and children everywhere,” the author told Publishers Weekly. “This is a sadness that the world felt, and that I felt too. What brought us comfort was the idea of renewal and memory and, while writing every word, I thought about all children touched by loss.”
Kellogg told Publishers Weekly that he thought of Sandy Hook and its residents when completing the illustrations for the book.
“It is my hope that this book will celebrate the laughter, the playful high spirits, and the uniqueness of the children of Sandy Hook, and of children everywhere,” he said.
The book will be released by Random House Children’s Books this coming fall. The imprint of Random House will, together with Random House, make donations to an organization of MacLachlan and Kellogg’s selection that benefits Sandy Hook victims as well as to a yet-to-be-decided national organization that centers on children. Random House Children’s Books also plans to give 25,000 books to First Book, a nonprofit which “connects book publishers and community organizations to provide access to new books for children in need,” according to their website.
The Oscars didn’t just honor achievements in filmmaking in 2013. With five of the six winners of the big prizes going to movies that started as books, the Oscars also honored great writing.
The Best Picture winner of the night, the movie “Argo,” was originally based on an article for Wired magazine by writer Joshuah Berman. The original piece was titled “How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran” and was published in 2007.
Meanwhile, of the four top acting awards, three went to stars who appeared in movies based on books. Actor Daniel Day-Lewis, who won the Best Actor prize, had starred in the movie “Lincoln,” which was based on the 2005 Doris Kearns Goodwin biography “Team of Rivals.” Jennifer Lawrence, who won the Best Actress award, appeared in the film “Silver Linings Playbook,” which was adapted from the 2008 novel of the same name by Matthew Quick. Best Supporting Actress winner Anne Hathaway starred in “Les Miserables,” a musical adaptation of the 1862 Victor Hugo classic.
In addition, director Ang Lee took the statuette for his movie “Life of Pi,” which was based on the 2001 novel of the same title. The movie “Django Unchained,” for which Christoph Waltz won a Best Supporting Actor statuette, was an original work, though the film paid homages to many classic stories, including the 1936 novel “Gone with the Wind.”
Last year, it was a different story. In 2012, only one out of the six winners in the top Oscar categories was awarded to a film adapted from a book. That one was Octavia Spencer, who won a Best Supporting Actress award for her role in the film adaptation of the 2009 Kathryn Stockett novel “The Help.”
Literary films that took other 2013 Oscars included “Anna Karenina,” based on the 1873 Tolstoy classic, which won Best Costumes, and “Skyfall,” which was based on the character of James Bond first written about in Ian Fleming’s novels, which won Best Original Song and tied for Sound Editing.
“Argo” also won Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing, while “Lincoln” won Best Production Design. “Les Miserables” took home Best Sound Mixing and Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and “Life of Pi” snagged the Best Visual Effects award as well as Best Original Score and Best Cinematography.
Each year, the Poetry in Motion initiative puts poems (or excerpts of poems) in place of ads on public transport buses and subway cars in the cities which are participating.
Through the program, which was established in New York in 1992, the Poetry Society of America normally chooses the words of established or emerging poets to grace the walls of a given city’s public transport. From Fresno to Boston and a few places in between, the selected poems have appeared in nearly 30 cities in the past 20 years.
"They are a delight," Susie Estrada told the Poetry Society of America of the displays, according to their website. "I smile every time I find a new one... Please continue to place these signs of humanity in among the monotony of the bus and other transportation."
This year, however, will be a little different in Tennessee. Submissions from the public for the Poetry in Motion initiative are not usually accepted, but this year, Nashville has introduced a contest to select the poems of local poets for their celebration. Instead of the Poetry Society selecting what they want from previously published works, a panel of local authors and poetry enthusiasts will judge and select submissions from area residents. The submissions must be original works, and the author must have all rights to them. The contest is only open to residents of Davidson County, where Nashville is located.
Submissions in Nashville will be accepted until March 8. The original poetry will be displayed throughout April, which is National Poetry Month.
Works by more than 50 poets have appeared in past years as part of the initiative. The pieces "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" by Walt Whitman, "Hope is the Thing with Feathers" by Emily Dickinson, "When You Are Old" by William Butler Yeats, and "Let There Be New Flowering" by Lucille Clifton were the first four poems chosen in the program's inaugural year.
To see if your city participates in Poetry in Motion, check here. If you don't see your city on the list, you can contact your local transit authorities and the Poetry Society of America.
Ben Frederick is a contributor to The Christian Science Monitor.
Authors can agonize for hours over the perfect title with which to anoint their novel or nonfiction work, aiming for drama, emotional resonance, or sometimes humor. And sometimes their efforts can bear unusual fruit, as they did for six authors whose book names are currently competing for the award of Oddest Title of the Year.
Some of the nominees for the prize include the book “Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop” by Reginald Bakeley, “How Tea Cosies Changed the World” by Loani Prior, and “How To Sharpen Pencils” by David Rees.
The top title is selected by the public online at http://www.welovethisbook.com. The winning author will be announced March 22.
Philip Stone, who coordinates the prize for The Bookseller, said he hopes the contest will shine a spotlight on works that otherwise may have gone unnoticed.
“People might think this prize is just a bit of fun, but I think it draws welcome attention to an undervalued art,” he told the Telegraph.
Three independent bookstores are suing online bookseller behemoth Amazon and the publishers known as the Big Six, claiming that the group has created a monopoly in the sale of e-books.
Fiction Addiction, a store based in Greenville, S.C.; Posman Books, a New York City store which has three locations; and Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza of Albany, N.Y., filed the class action lawsuit.
The stores that filed the suit say that they represent “all independent brick-and-mortar bookstores who sell e-books."
The root of the complaint centers on digital rights management, which makes it difficult for a reader to switch an e-book from one e-reading device to another – for example, to move a book from a Kindle, the Amazon e-reader, to a Kobo, the one sold by indie bookstores.
The indie bookstores are saying that’s hurting their business.
"We are seeking relief for independent brick-and-mortar bookstores so that they would be able to sell open-source and DRM-free books that could be used on the Kindle or other electronic ereaders,” Alyson Decker of Blecher & Collins PC, who is serving as lead counsel for the bookstores, told the Huffington Post.
The suit claims that Amazon entered into confidential agreements with the six publishing houses. E-books sold by all six publishers come with the digital rights management lock that makes it difficult to move them to different devices.
“Currently, none of the Big Six have entered into any agreements with any independent brick-and-mortar bookstores or independent collectives to sell their e-books,” the plaintiffs write in their suit. “Consequently, the vast majority of readers who wish to read an e-book published by the Big Six will purchase the e-book from Amazon.”
In addition to damages, the three indie bookstores also want an injunction which would “prohibit ... Amazon and the Big Six from publishing and selling e-books with device and app specific DRMs and further require ... the Big Six to allow independent brick-and-mortar bookstores to directly sell open-source DRM e-books.”
Simon & Schuster representative Adam Rothberg told The New York Times, “We believe the case is without merit or any basis in the law and intend to vigorously contest it. Furthermore, we believe the plaintiff retailers will be better served by working with us to grow their business rather than litigating.”
As industry newsletter Shelf Awareness pointed out, the lawsuit is somewhat baffling because the six publishers require digital rights management on e-books no matter who’s selling them – including indie bookstores selling e-books for the Kobo device. In addition, the bookstores state that only e-books sold to users by Amazon will work on Kindle devices, which is not the case – users can read e-books from other sellers on their Kindles. (Transferring books from a Kindle to another device is tricky, though the technically savvy may be working on a solution not sanctioned by the companies.)
Another confusing point, wrote Shelf Awareness, is that while the bookstores charge that "the vast majority" of readers purchase e-books from Amazon, they fail to point out that Kobo, the company that produces the device sold by indie bookstores, also sells e-books obtained from the Big Six publishers.
In addition, Cory Doctorow, a writer for the blog Boing Boing, points out that the bookstores incorrectly used the term “open source” to describe what they want, which is e-books that would work across e-readers. “Open source” is defined as a computer program whose original code is made available to users, allowing them to change the program.
“For some reason, they're using ‘open source’ as a synonym for ‘standardized’ or ‘interoperable,’” Doctorow writes. “Which is to say, these booksellers don't really care if the books are DRM-free, they just want them locked up using a DRM that the booksellers can also use. There is no such thing as ‘open source’ DRM – in the sense of a DRM designed to run on platforms that can be freely modified by their users.... I wish they'd actually bothered to spend 15 minutes trying to understand how DRM works and what it is, and how open source works, and what it is, before they filed their lawsuit.”
The suit from the three independent bookstores follows after the Department of Justice sued several major publishers, stating they had worked with Apple to make e-books more expensive. Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Macmillan and HarperCollins all agreed to settle, leaving Apple as ithe only defendant in the suit. The trial is scheduled for June.
It could have been a case ripped from the pages of her bestselling crime novels. Fortunately for Patricia Cornwell, a contentious dispute about mismanaged money had a happy ending when a Boston jury awarded her $51 million in damages in a suit against a Manhattan financial firm she said cost her millions of dollars in lost revenues.
The mystery writer was awarded $50.9 million in a federal lawsuit against financial firm Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP, and its former principal, Evan Snapper, for negligence. Cornwell hired the firm in 2005 to manage her accounts and claimed it mismanaged her fortune, causing her to lose $89 million, with her net worth dwindling to close to $13 million – a record low for the commercially successful author who earns an eight-figure salary most years.
“God bless justice,” Cornwell said after the verdict was announced, according to the Associated Press. “It’s a huge relief and it’s been a huge ordeal.”
The author – who, thanks to the lawsuit, is now also known for her lavish lifestyle, which includes Ferraris, helicopters, and a $40,000-a-month apartment she rented in New York City – said the firm’s mismanagement “caused her to miss a book deadline for the first time in her career when it failed to find her a suitable place to write after renovation work on her house in Concord went on much longer than expected,” according to the Associated Press.
“This was very destabilizing. I really lost my ability to focus and concentrate. I did not know what the book was about anymore,” Cornwell said, according to the AP.
That missed deadline caused her to lose at least one year’s income – about $15 million, she claimed.
The 56-year-old crime novelist is best known for her Scarpetta series starring medical examiner Kay Scarpetta. The books shine a spotlight on the field of forensic science and are even said to have influenced such popular TV series as "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "Cold Case Files."
Cornwell’s books have sold more than 100 million copies. Perhaps, with this real-life happy ending in hand, they will climb higher yet.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
Fresh off a presidential primary run and retirement from Congress, Ron Paul is hitting the books.
Actually, he’s writing them. The former Texas GOP congressman is turning his libertarian focus to education with a new book that advocates for a free-market approach to schooling and education.
“New School Manifesto” will be published by Grand Central Publishing Sept. 17, just in time for back-to-school season.
According to the publisher, the book will be “a focused guide to Dr. Paul’s position, which centers on a strong support for home schooling and free-market principles applied to education. He makes the case for individual freedoms as they pertain to educating our children, and nimbly dissects the most pressing issues that need to be addressed from the libertarian point of view.”
In “New School Manifesto,” Paul compares the education system to the postal service, arguing both would benefit from private sector competition, according to Politico. The libertarian author also examines a variety of education policy proposals, says the news site, and advocates that parents should have more leverage in choosing what schooling system is best for their children.
Some interesting context: Throughout his career, Paul has tried to get the government out of education. During the 2012 presidential campaign, then-GOP nominee contender Paul advocated closing the Department of Education as well as abolishing “No Child Left Behind.” Instead Paul was in favor of giving tax credits and vouchers to parents. That small government, free-market approach is sure to shape his latest book. He has also long opposed federal student loans and has called federal education efforts a “propaganda machine,” according to the Houston Chronicle.
“Ron Paul’s beliefs are always controversial, and even if you disagree with his principles, his arguments will make you think,” his publisher says of the forthcoming book. ”Ron Paul’s ideas and his urgent appeal to all citizens and officials will tell us what we need to do fix America’s education system for future generations.”
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
Last Friday brought quite the sky show to the Ural Mountains when the apparent explosion of a meteorite spawned tremendous sonic booms, bright flashes of light and hundreds of injuries. But this wasn't the first time chaos rained down from above in the huge chunk of North Asia known as Siberia.
Back on June 30, 1908, something in the sky above Siberia exploded, stunning people who lived dozens of miles away and leaving a scar across the landscape that exists to this day.
Surendra Verma, a science journalist and author based in Melbourne, Australia, wrote about the so-called "Tunguska event" in his 2005 book "The Tunguska Fireball: Solving One of the Great Mysteries of the 20th Century."
In an interview, Verma told me about the theories regarding the Siberian explosion of 1908 (including a wacky one featuring a volcanic eruption and extraterrestrials), his thoughts on what actually happened (sorry, no aliens involved) and the reason why this all matters to us today.
Q: What exactly happened on that day in 1908 in Siberia?
A: An explosion flattened a Siberian forest bigger than metropolitan New York, stripping tens of millions of ancient trees of leaves and branches, leaving them bare like poles and scattering them like matchsticks. A dark mushroom cloud of dust rose to a height of 50 miles over the area, and a black rain of debris and dirt followed.
The explosion lasted only a few seconds, but it was so powerful that it could be compared only with an atomic bomb – 1,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs.
The explosion was even registered by an earthquake measuring station 2,485 miles away in St. Petersburg. Earthquake tremors were also recorded by more distant stations around the world. But at that time no one knew the cause of these tremors.
Q: How far did this happen from inhabited areas?
A: The explosion site was then so remote that it was not even accessible to local inhabitants, the Tungus people. The nearest witnesses to the explosion were at Vanavara, a small trading station some 40 miles from the explosion site.
Several miles north of Vanavara, dozens of nomads and herdsmen were thrown into the air and bruised. An elderly man hit a tree and broke his arm. Another elderly man died of fright. Thousands of reindeer belonging to four separate herds were killed as the pines and cedars around them blazed.
Q: How have theories about what happened evolved over time?
A: In 1908, Russia was a country caught in political unrest and social upheaval. Nothing was [studied] until 1927 when a Soviet scientist, Leonid Kulik, visited the explosion site. After three expeditions to the site, Kulik came to the conclusion that the Tunguska event was caused by a meteorite.
Since Kulik’s death in 1942, numerous scientific expeditions have been conducted to the explosion site, but no crater and no meteorite material from outer space has yet been found.
Q: What if it wasn't a meteorite?
A: The question fascinates scientists and science fiction writers. There are nearly 100 theories.
The lineup of suspects includes a comet, a mini-black hole, an asteroid, a rock of antimatter or a methane gas blast from below. More imaginative explanations include an alien spacecraft that exploded in mid-air and an experiment on a "death ray" which got out of hand.
My favorite theory is that the famous Krakatoa volcanic eruption in August 1883 generated strong radio waves, which were received 11 years later at the star 61 Cygni, 11 light-years away from us.
The Cygnian scientists misread the signal as greetings from a distant civilization and decided to send a return message by laser. Unfortunately, the well-meaning scientists misjudged the Earth’s distance and fired a powerful beam that zapped Tunguska. The "extra strong" Cygnian message was all Greek to the local Siberian people; they did not have the required technology to read their greeting card from the stars.
Q: What do you think happened?
A: I believe – and overwhelming data supports my belief – that the Tunguska explosion was caused by a asteroid that vaporized 3 to 6 miles above Tunguska. The resulting fine debris and gases then dispersed over wide areas in the atmosphere.
Q: This is the "so what" question: So what? Why does this strange event matter to us today?
The Tunguska event matters because the number of victims could have been hundreds of thousands if it had happened over Europe instead of the desolate region of Tunguksa.
Scientists expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years. And we must not forget that it was an asteroid that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
And by comparison, the Russian meteor that exploded [last week] about 15 miles above the Earth packed energy equivalent to only 30 Hiroshima atomic bombs as compared to the 1,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs of the Tunguska event.
Q: Are there possible connections between 1908 and the event last week? Or is it purely a coincidence that these things both happened in Siberia?
A: It's pure chance. Incidentally, the 2013 meteor blast was 3,000 miles west of the Tunguska blast.
Q: If all this worries me, should I go outside with an umbrella? Build a meteorite-proof building? Move to Mars? Or just stop worrying and learn to love the asteroid or meteor or whatever?
A: Don’t worry. Scientists are exploring ways of nudging, pushing, crushing, covering, nuking or burning rogue large space rocks that may threaten good readers of The Christian Science Monitor.
Until then, the best strategy is to work on early warning systems.
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.