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Book Blog - Likely Stories, by Keir Graff - Booklist Online

Likely Stories

A Booklist Blog
Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

Thursday, July 24, 2014 1:30 pm
Book Trailer Thursday: The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

Meet Zakir; he loves books. He’s also five years old, and maybe likes penguins. His interview style is…refreshingly offbeat. That’s pretty much all I know about him, though I’d certainly like to learn more. Here he is talking to author Mira Jacob about her debut novel The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing (Random).

Thursday, July 24, 2014 10:40 am
2014 Man Booker Longlist
Posted by: Sarah Grant

The Blazing WorldThe 2014 Man Booker Prize longlist, announced Wednesday, notably includes five Americans (if you count Irish/American Joseph O’Neill). Thanks to a recent rule change, this is the first time in 46 years that the prestigious fiction award has included writers from outside the U.K. and British Commonwealth. A shortlist of six contenders for the 50,000-pound ($85,000) prize will be announced September 9. Links to Booklist reviews, when available, have been included below.

The Blazing World, by Siri Hustvedt (American)

The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell (British)

History of the RainThe Dog, by Joseph O’Neill (Irish/American)

History of the Rain, by Niall Williams (Irish)

How to be Both, by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)

J, by Howard Jacobson, (British)

The Lives of Others, by Neel Mukherjee (British)

The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan (Australian)

Orfeo, by Richard Powers (American)

The Narrow Road to the Deep NorthTo Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by Joshua Ferris (American)

Us, by David Nicholls (British)

The Wake, by Paul Kingsnorth (British)

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler (American)

Friday, July 18, 2014 9:21 am
Hostile Questions: Matt de la Pena
Posted by: Daniel Kraus

HOSTILE LOGOWhile perusing Matt de la Peña‘s bio (I investigate all my interviewees to learn their weak spots), I discovered that he went to college on a full basketball scholarship. Well, whoopty-doo! Allow me to phrase this in a way that Mr. de la Peña will understand. He may think he’s burst off the baseline of publishing with a quadruple-double of acclaimed books leading up to his latest buzzer beater from the paint: the YA thriller The Living. But this ball hog will be a benchwarmer after my pack-line defense hits him with a blindside screen so bad he suffers a 24-second violation at halfcourt and okay I have no clue what in the hell I’m saying anymore.

Point is: Game on!

Matt should get that baby-shaped mole removed from his lip.

Matt should get that baby-shaped mole removed from his lip.

Just who do you think you are?

See, here’s where it gets interesting. I’m a half Mexican, love-advice-giving, two-finger typer. It’s sad that I don’t know my “HOME ROW” keys—actually, who am I kidding. I’m quite graceful with two fingers. And fast. I should make a video and post it on YouTube. I’ve typed up five YA novels that way. But enough about the novels. Are you having relationship problems? ‘Cause I’m kind of your guy.

Where do you get off?

Brooklyn, NY. At the Brooklyn Writers Space, to be exact. I pay a hundred bucks a month for the right to sit in a cube with a couple dozen other writers (most writers are busters, by the way, avoid them if you can – no, really) and type up my books. With two fingers. I have a brand new baby girl in my life. Luna. And she doesn’t like it when I type at home. She prefers to wail in my ear while I hold her. So I have to take my show on the road. I’ve been writing books at the BWS for six years now. Man, time flies. I’ve only spoken to one other person in all that time. It wasn’t pleasant.

What’s the big idea?

It has been my dream since day one for my tiny little stories about mixed-race kids, growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks,” to end up in the hands of mixed-race kids growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks.” It’s a powerful thing to see yourself in a book. Empowering, I think. But over the past couple years I’ve expanded my dream a bit. Pushy, I know. I now want my tiny little stories about mixed-race kids to end up in the hands of middle-class suburban white kids, too. It’s equally powerful to see yourself in a book being read by the “haves.” It’s a silent revolution I’m secretly trying to nudge along. Books with diverse characters in the hands of everyone.

The LivingWhat is your problem, man?

It’s my teeth, if you really wanna know. I chipped one of my bottom incisors in a skateboarding accident at age eleven. Got it capped a week later. Then I went and got in a fight on a basketball court in high school and some dude we called “Hagler” (as in Marvelous Marvin) (as in not the guy you wanna fight) punched me in the mouth (I highly recommend not getting punched in the mouth). The cap popped right off. A month later I got a new one. When I moved to NY (post grad school) I took an elbow playing pick-up hoops and watched my precious cap skip across the hardwood. Thing is, I didn’t have health insurance during that stretch so I said screw it and left my grill looking sort of mangled. Haven’t got around to fixing it since. Also, I wrote a book called The Living which I really hope people read. It involves a massive earthquake. And a sunken cruise ship.

Haven’t you done enough?

Not yet. But sometimes I feel like I’m getting closer to starting. Yesterday, at a rough junior high in Newark, NJ, I signed about 100 books for students. One girl (frizzy braids, soiled jeans, messed up teeth like mine) took her copy and looked at it and then looked at me and said: “Ain’t you gonna ask for MY autograph, mister?”

Her girls laughed and laughed and said: “Now why he gonna want your autograph, dum-dum? You ain’t famous!”

Normally I would have laughed it off, too, but I saw her face.

Instead I handed this girl my Sharpie and held out the inside of my forearm and told her: “Hell yeah I want your autograph, sister. I don’t have a piece of paper so why don’t you just write it here, on my skin.”

‘Cause maybe that’s what it takes to be someone when you come from nothing.

Thursday, July 17, 2014 9:29 am
Book Trailer Thursday: Travels with Casey
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

Have you ever wondered, What is it about Americans and their dogs? Well, so did Benoit Denizet-Lewis–and he wrote a book about it. Out next week, Travels with Casey (Simon & Schuster) follows Denizet-Lewis and his dog on a four-month, cross-country journey to explore the close relationship between humans and dogs (and work on their own a little). Vanessa Bush calls the author’s investigation “thoroughly engaging and often hilarious.” Watch on! I promise puppies.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 2:00 pm
2014 ITW Thriller Awards
Posted by: Caroline Lynch

International Thriller WritersWe are thrilled to announce that the International Thriller Writers (ITW) have revealed the winners of their 2014 Thriller Awards. Last week, ITW concluded ThrillerFest IX in the city of mystery, crime, and suspense—New York—with the unveiling of the 2014 winners.

Thrillmaster Award

Scott Turow is the author of ten best-selling works of fiction, including his first, Presumed Innocent, which was later made into a film starring Harrison Ford. His latest book, Identical, is out now.

Identical-Scott TurowSilver Bullet Award

Brenda Novak is a New York Times bestselling author of over 50 novels. She is also known for her philanthropic work for diabetes research.

Best Hardcover Novel

The Demonologist, by Andrew Pyper 

Best Paperback Original

The One I Left Behind, by Jennifer McMahon

Best First NovelRed Sparrow-Jason Matthews

Red Sparrow, by Jason Matthews

Best E-Book Original Novel

The World Beneath, by Rebecca Cantrell

Best Young Adult Novel

All Our Yesterdays, by Cristin Terrill

Best Short Story

“Footprints in the Water,” by Twist Phelan

Monday, July 14, 2014 12:08 pm
August 2014 LibraryReads
Posted by: Caroline Lynch

LibraryReadsThe votes are in, ladies and gents! LibraryReads has posted the latest list of books librarians loved reading and couldn’t wait to share. One Kick, by Chelsea Cain, has been voted the favorite among books published in the month of August. The full top ten follows, linked to Booklist reviews when available. (Our take on some titles, such as Scalzi’s Lock In, will be published in forthcoming issues.) Want to learn more about LibraryReads? Click here!

Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty

Heroes Are My Weakness, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Lock In, by John Scalzi

Lucky Us, by Amy Bloom

The Magician’s Land, by Lev GrossmanOne Kick, Chelsea Cain

The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton

One Kick, by Chelsea Cain

The Story Hour, by Thrity Umrigar

The Truth about Leo, by Katie MacAlister

An Unwilling Accomplice, by Charles Todd

Friday, July 11, 2014 9:30 am
Marrying Mr. Darcy: Will Janeites’ Wishes Come True?
Posted by: Karen Doornebos
The "eligible ladies" prepare to woo Mr. Darcy (photo: Samantha Doornebos)

The “eligible ladies” prepare to woo Mr. Darcy (photo: Samantha Doornebos)

But We Do Wish for Cards

On a summer afternoon not too long ago, a party of five ladies from The Jane Austen Society of North America’s Greater Chicago Region, some in bonnets, gathered to play a game of cards. No, it wasn’t whist, loo, vignt-et-un, or any of the other card games popular during Austen’s time and played by the upper classes after dinner.

This card game, cleverly titled Marrying Mr. Darcy, had naturally drawn an eager crowd from my friends at the Jane Austen Society (JASNA). We chose to play an hour before our summer meeting, where we would partake of a lecture about Regency-era food, a cooking demonstration and tasting featuring “Pease Soup” and “Rout Cakes” followed by a lecture on tea. And, of course, we would be drinking tea, too. (Consider joining JASNA if you find such an event appealing!)

But, I digress. Despite the game box’s claim that playing time would last 30 minutes to an hour, 45 minutes turned out to be far too short a time to indulge in this delightful game. Spoiler alert: to say we didn’t finish and not one of us married Mr. Darcy would be accurate; to say we had a laugh and wanted to spend more time with the game would be equally true.

While any one of us “eligible” and accomplished ladies, namely, Lori Davis, Molly Miles, Linda Reinert, Laura Whitlock, and I would have happily “married” Mr. Darcy, there is always so much more to things than just a happy ending, as any Austen fan knows.

But we do wish for cards! (photo: Samantha Doornebos)

But we do wish for cards! (photo: Samantha Doornebos)

No one in our group mentioned the irony that the creator of Marrying Mr. Darcy had conceived a card game based on Pride and Prejudice, but they no doubt thought it. Entire scholarly papers have been written, and lectures given, on how Austen used card-playing to define character and deepen themes. Often, Austen’s card-loving characters are immoral or stupid, in contrast to the ones who don’t play. In Persuasion, heroine Anne Elliot “is no card player.”

Indeed, in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet famously declines to gamble on cards with her social superiors because she couldn’t possibly afford to lose—and we learn of the vast social gap between her world and Darcy’s. She opts to read a book instead. In a subsequent scene, Mr. Darcy “did not wish for cards” for her benefit, but chose to read instead, and, well, he was the King of Hearts for putting an end to the card playing.

Harder Than Pokémon?

When I broke out the game in our little nook at Counter Coffee in Forest Park, Illinois (they were kind enough to reserve a private room for us), we all liked artist Erik Evensen’s smart and even snarky design for both box and cards. Happily the art doesn’t take its cue from any of the Austen film adaptations but offers up a fresh, graphic-novel style look at our favorite characters.

“I’m already liking this game,” said Lori. We all agreed and bon mots flew, as they tend to do with Austen enthusiasts.

We laughed in Lydia Bennet fashion as we read the premise of the game by creator Erika Svanoe:

Marrying Mr. Darcy is a role-playing game where players are one of the female characters from Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. Players work to improve themselves and become more desirable as potential wives for the available Suitors. Our heroines attend events and build their character, but extra advantage can be gained by strategic use of cunning. But be warned—though you can turn down a proposal from a suitor you do not admire, you will run the risk of becoming an old maid! All of our heroines’ efforts are in hopes of securing the husband that will make them the most satisfied character at the end of the game.

Marrying Mr. Darcy (photo: Samantha Doornebos)

Marrying Mr. Darcy (photo: Samantha Doornebos)

We did struggle with some of the game’s set-up directions. In a room full of very talented and accomplished ladies—a milliner, an editor, and a high-school English teacher among us—we could not at first discern whether the three Character Cards dealt to us should be exposed to other players, kept in our hands, or set face down as with the Cunning Cards. The directions stated we needed to hide these from other players, yet diagram B in the instructions shows the Character Cards face up. As it turned out we need to play our Character Cards from our hands and then accumulate them face up for all players to see. It took us a while to figure that out. Perhaps we weren’t as smart as Elizabeth Bennet after all?

“This is harder than Pokémon,” joked Laura Whitlock as I read the directions in their entirety.

Playing and learning how to win for the first time proved layered and complicated, but worth it, rather like Mr. Darcy himself. has a video demonstrating how to play the game and it would have been helpful to view that before we read the instruction booklet. We all agreed the instructions might benefit from further clarification.

Un-ladylike Behaviour

We enjoyed rolling the die to choose our heroines, and Linda Reinert chose first—taking Elizabeth Bennet of course. “I hope I’m witty,” she said.

The complications of choosing Georgiana Darcy or Caroline Bingley and marrying their brothers struck us, but there is a variation of the rules that states both ladies were adopted . . . it takes a bit of an open mind to accept this deviation from the book.

The game is divided into two stages—Courtship and Proposal. This made complete sense to us Austen aficionados. We began play and each one of the Event Cards elicited a smile or a laugh from the group.

We all found the writing and game concept by Erika Svanoe to be on point (pun intended). What fun it was to draw Event Cards such as:

Nosy Old Lady

You are confronted by Lady Catherine. Roll the die . . .


Your rich Aunt settles some money on you . . .


Un-ladylike Behaviour

Your rival is caught pretending to read a book to capture your suitor’s attention . . .

When it came to discussing the game’s writing, the word “charming” was bandied about, and that speaks volumes from a discerning Austen crowd!

Play the game and you, too, may be so lucky as to Flirt With Officers, Host a Ball, Paint a Portrait, navigate Scandals such as your sister’s hasty elopement or even Discover Your True Nature after you read a letter that reveals your prejudices.

One of our party didn’t like the cutthroat aspect of the game in which you could remove another player’s Cunning or Character cards, but then again, modern JASNA members tend to be extremely polite and might never survive a day (or ballroom night) in Regency England’s marriage market.

From left, Karen Doornebos, Martha Miles, Laura Whitlock, Linda Reinert, Lori Davis (photo: Samantha Doornebos)

From left, Karen Doornebos, Martha Miles, Laura Whitlock, Linda Reinert, Lori Davis (photo: Samantha Doornebos)

We enjoyed the Events and collecting Character Cards so much that we nearly forgot about the Proposal stage of the game and our time had nearly run out. We did agree that the Proposal stage would be great fun. Personally, I would opt for the “Ladies’ Choice” variation and try for Mr. Darcy. I had met his “requirements” of at least five Wit points to gain a proposal from him even though I was Jane Bennet.

Although we all thought the directions could use some fine-tuning and the myriad of Rule Variations proved confusing, we all generally enjoyed the game. Spend an afternoon or evening, not merely an hour, playing Marrying Mr. Darcy. It’s a card game that perhaps even Austen herself might enjoy.

Or, at least, we would hope she wouldn’t judge us for playing.

News flash: An “undead” expansion of the game is due to be released on July 11th. Austen purists may take a pass, but I always say anything that inspires newbies to read Austen is welcome.

Undressing Mr. Darcy

Editor’s note: Karen Doornebos is the author of the novels Undressing Mr. Darcy and Definitely Not Mr. Darcy. A lifelong member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, she lives in the Chicagoland area with her husband, two teenagers and various pets—including a bird. Speaking of birds, you can find her on Twitter. Her website is


Thursday, July 10, 2014 9:47 am
Book Trailer Thursday: The Magician’s Land
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

More than a few special guests from the book world showed up for today’s trailer, and with good reason. The Magician’s Land (Viking), the final volume of Lev Grossman’s Magicians Trilogy, proves the importance of magic and books, Michael Cart writes in his starred, high-demand review. (Former Booklister Ian Chipman was on to something, back in 2009, when he wrote of book one, The Magicians,”Harry Potter goes to college by way of John Green.”) The trilogy’s many fans don’t have much longer to wait: The Magician’s Land will be released next month.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 8:00 am
Revisiting Wainscott: Twenty-One Years of Tor Seidler’s The Wainscott Weasel
Posted by: Maggie Reagan

The Wainscott Weasel, by Tor Seidler, originally published in 1993 and newly reissued by Simon & Schuster’s Atheneum imprint, is one of those rare stories that remains as unequivocally magical now as it felt when I first heard it at the ripe old age of four. Stuffed full of whimsy, attitude, and sparkling inventiveness, this fairy tale about weasels and fish reads like a call for individuality and creativity. As beautifully (and fancifully) told as it is illustrated, the story doesn’t shy away from harder topics, including family tragedy and a brassy girl weasel who insists on leading dances against weasel protocol. From the unlikely but endearing beginning (Weasels have cotillions? Also, what’s a cotillion?) to its bittersweet firefly ending, this is one I’ll be saving for generations to come.

Monday, July 7, 2014 12:52 pm
Read, White, and Blue
Posted by: Katharine

Fresh off return flights from Annual Conference in Las Vegas (“fresh” in the most generous sense as many of our planes were delayed—and one was even rerouted through Milwaukee!), we returned to the Booklist offices last week realizing that Independence Day was upon us. What else could we do but take up scissors, secure construction paper, and celebrate our freedom to read? Herein follow our #redwhiteandbooks, volumes that take on a whole new, star-spangled look with the mere addition of a dapper Uncle Sam hat. You’ll find a list of titles, linked to their Booklist reviews, at the bottom.

WomanintheHouse  Hillary


We celebrated women of our country’s past and present, but. . .




Coolidge  . . .we didn’t forget the good ol’ boys. . . Jefferson







Oppenheimer   . . .or the geniuses . . . Dyson


Love Me by Rachel Shukert . . .the loved, or the unloved. . .Red white and books_The Joker


Red white and books_Hug Machine . . . the hugged, or the huggableTheBestCatBookEver. . .



StephenKing . . .nor the masters of death and undying.Red white and books_Afterlife with Archie


Did you miss out on the fun? Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for edifying and vital updates on the book world and library land.


Titles pictured above:

A Woman in the House (and Senate), by Ilene Cooper

Hard Choices, by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Coolidge, by Amity Shlaes

Thomas Jefferson, by Andrew M. Holowchak (not yet reviewed)

Robert Oppenheimer, by Ray Monk

Maverick Genius, by Phillip F Schewe

Love Me, by Rachel Shukert

The Joker, by various (not yet reviewed)

Hug Machine, by Scott Campbell

The Best Cat Book Ever, by Kate Funk

A look into the inner-workings of @DanielDKraus

Afterlife with Archie, v. 1,  by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa  (review coming in August 2014 Booklist)

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Quoted material should be attributed to:
Keir Graff, Likely Stories (Booklist Online).

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