25 July 2010

Don't-Miss Books to Read from BEA

I tried to be fairly discriminating when I picked up books at Book Expo America (BEA) last May, and it paid off because I came home with some that truly look good. I have been remiss in sharing my favorites; thus today's post.

Here are six titles that I am looking forward to. In fact, when I was choosing books to feature, these held my attention enough that I wanted to sit down and start reading immediately. For each one, I have shared some text (some are from ARCs, so the exact wording may change a bit) and provided a link to the book's page on the publisher's website.

The books are presented in no particular order.

The Rebellion of Jane Clarke by Sally Gunning (William Morrow; June 2010) is historical fiction that takes place in Massachusetts just before the Revolutionary War.

Throughout Jane's life she'd not thought one way or the other about the sea—it was there, filling her days with the sound and smell and stickiness that traveled everywhere the air did—but she hadn't thought of it as a thing to love or hate or fear until that day, as she climbed on top it. The sea had drowned her Grandfather Berry, it was true, but it had also helped to feed her family and carry them trade goods from Boston and England and the West Indies and even China. She tried to remember that as she made her way over the gunwale with the assistance of a few well-placed and misplaced hands and began to think how low the rail that separated her from many fathoms of oblivion. (pp. 44–45)

Our Tragic Universe by Scarlet Thomas (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; September 2010), according to the publisher, "is a book about how relationships are created and destroyed, how we can rewrite our futures (if not our histories), and how stories just might save our lives." Despite the heavy description, the book looks like fun and crazy read.
The wind breathed heavily down the river, and I half-looked at the little ripples and wakes in the blackish, greenish water as I tried to hurry B home. There was no sign of Libby's car. I was watching the river and not the benches, so when someone said 'Hello,' I jumped. It was a man half hidden in the gloom. B was already sniffing his ancient walking boots, and he was stroking her between her ears. (p. 17)

We Were an Island: The Maine Life of Art & Nan Kellam by Peter P. Blanchard III (University Press of New England; 2010) is a beautifully produced book with text and photos about the true-life story of a couple who decided to escape the world in 1949 and lived for almost forty years on their own island off the coast of Maine.
Except for brief periods of travel, Art and Nan lived year-round—in all seasons and types of weather—in two buildings, which they had built largely with their own hands. Furthermore, they thrived in the absence of running water, electricity, and central heating and without many of the conveniences (which they would have termed "impediments") of life on the mainland. Their lifeline was a grey wooden dory, which they rowed four miles round-trip to Bass Harbor on Mt. Desert Island for mail and supplies. (p. 2)

Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton (Other Press; November 2010) "takes an English boy and his father's books on a tumultuous journey to unexpected fame in America and to the mysteries hidden at the heart of an extraordinary family." I like dark humor, and this novel promises to deliver.
There was a family. There was us. My father and mother, and Rachel and Luke, the Hayman children who became the Hayseed children. Rachel handled it quite differently from me but, then, her problems were quite different from mine. (p. 13)

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff (Little, Brown; November 2010) is a biography. There have been so many novels and movies and plays about the Greek-Egyptian queen that it's hard to figure out what is true and what is myth. I love biography and I love this time in history.
Can anything good be said of a woman who slept with the two most powerful men of her time? Possibly, but not in an age when Rome controlled the narrative. Cleopatra stood at one of the most dangerous intersections in history: that of women and power. Clever women, Euripides had warned hundreds of years earlier, were dangerous. (p. 4)

The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; October 2010) "compels us to consider the inescapable connections between sons and their mothers, between landscape and family, and between remembrance and redemption." The story takes place in the American west and Machart has been compared to two of my favorite authors: Kent Haruf and Cormac McCarthy. I have high hopes.
Softly, a cool wind came up from the north and swirled the smoke around the kettle and out into the newly lit morning. Across the pasture, hidden in the far hedgerow near the creekside stand of trees, three half-starved coyotes raised their twitching snouts to catch a breeze laced of a sudden with the hot, iron-rich scent of blood. (pp. 5–6)

I love this mix of quirky and literary, fiction and nonfiction. Now I just need to find the means to do nothing but read the hours away.

Do any of these look interesting to you? What books have you recently discovered that you're looking forward to reading?


Julie P. 7/25/10, 8:43 AM  

Wow! Great books and I didn't end up them. I only have two and only one of them from BEA.

Louise 7/25/10, 8:48 AM  

They look good, especially the one about the couple on an island. Intriguing. Which can also be said about the Cleopatra-book I guess. Look forward to hear your thoughts about those :)

Jen - Devourer of Books 7/25/10, 8:52 AM  

Wow, I only came home with one of those. Amazing the variety at BEA.

bermudaonion 7/25/10, 8:54 AM  

You did get a nice variety of books. I'm like Jen, I only came home with one of them, but another one has shown up in my mailbox since May.

Teresa 7/25/10, 9:34 AM  

I wasn't lucky enough to attend BEA, these look good. I think I'm going to have to seek out The Rebellion of Jane Clark and Cleopatra. They look really good.

amckiereads 7/25/10, 10:01 AM  

I came home with all but two of those (I didn't pick up The Rebellion of Jane Clark or We Were an Island). I haven't started any of them yet besides Our Tragic Universe which, unfortunately, I wasn't a fan of. I got about 50 pages in and ended sending it off to another blogger. It must pick up though because I know others have been loving it.

bookfanmary 7/25/10, 10:19 AM  

I hope you'll review Cleopatra. I've read a few historical novels about her but would like to read something more factual.

farmlanebooks 7/25/10, 11:06 AM  

I've read two of the books on your list and I'm afraid I wasn't that impressed with either of them.

Mr Toppit was OK, but the cover gives the impression it is a Gothic mystery, when it is much too modern for that.

Our Tragic Universe is great if you enjoy philosophy, but it lacked a plot. There is still lots to enjoy in it, but I prefer a more conventional narrative.

Some of the others look great. I hope that you enjoy all your BEA books :-)

Sandy Nawrot 7/25/10, 12:32 PM  

I'm impressed that you were able to pick, but it appears you did well. I've got so many book I want to read, I don't even know where to start. My current focus right now is "So Cold the River" which takes place in French Lick, where we visited this summer and last fall.

Kathleen 7/25/10, 12:54 PM  

There are several here that sound interesting to me but I think the Cleopatra one would probably grab my attention first and foremost. I've always been fascinated by her story and place in history and would love to learn more.

Marg 7/25/10, 5:01 PM  

I keep on meaning to try and read a Sally Gunning novel, but haven't managed to fit it in yet.

softdrink 7/25/10, 6:28 PM  

I'm reading Mr. Toppit right now...I've read almost half of the book today. I'm still waiting for the darkness, but it has been entertaining.

Vasilly 7/25/10, 7:16 PM  

Now I want to read Mr. Toppit and Our Dark Universe. Both look really good.

Andi 7/26/10, 12:29 AM  

I have an e-galley of Our Tragic Universe that I'm working on now. The format (PDF) is weird on my Nook, though, so getting used to that part of it is slowing me down. HOpe to return to it soon...after I polish off Beatrice and Virgil, perhaps.

Happy reading!

Beth Hoffman 7/26/10, 9:20 AM  

I'd never heard of Mr. Toppit until I read your post, and now I really, really want to read it! Thanks.

Helen Ellis 7/26/10, 9:47 AM  

Oh, Jane Clarke looks marvelous!
Thanks for the list,

Heather J. 7/26/10, 10:54 AM  

The only one of those I saw at BEA was CLEOPATRA - were we even at the same convention?! LOL

And since I thought this CLEOPATRA was yet another fictional version of her life, I passed it up. *head desk*

Kris 7/26/10, 3:25 PM  

The Rebellion of Jane Clark and Cleopatra both sound good to me. Can't wait to read some reviews.

Patty 7/26/10, 4:41 PM  

They all sound wonderfully intense. I am not sure I could read any of them but I so admire people who can. I am looking forward to reading Lily King's new book...Father Of The Rain.

caite 7/26/10, 5:25 PM  

We Were an Island...Oh, I must say that one grabbed my attention. The cover, Maine...weather. I will have to seek that one out!

Serena 7/28/10, 9:51 AM  

wow, I didn't see any of those!

Topher 7/29/10, 1:33 AM  

This is why I come to your blog - Mr. Toppit. Black humor. Ok, clickity clack, dang - November is almost Christmas!

Michelle 7/29/10, 6:15 AM  

I'm not much of a non fiction reader but Cleopatra piqued my interest enough for me to pick it up at BEA as well. Hope you enjoy them all!

Christy 8/6/10, 8:10 PM  

We Were An Island sounds fascinating - I was born in Bass Harbor, so I have a definite personal link to the setting. I wonder if my parents knew this couple since from the description the Kellams would have been around when our family was living in Bass Harbor.

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