Book Blog – Likely Stories, from Booklist Online
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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, May 29, 2014 10:30 am
Book Trailer Thursday: The Good Girl
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

Mystery Month We’ve reached the end of our #MysteryMonth of Book Trailer Thursdays, but not before we go out on a creepy note. Rebecca Vnuk says that Mary Kubica’s debut thriller, The Good Girl (Harlequin MIRA), “will have readers guessing what’s really going on until the final pages.” In the case of this trailer, it’s the final polaroid we’re waiting for–though that doesn’t really answer any questions either, does it?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 12:19 pm
A tribute to Maya Angelou (1928-2014)
Posted by: Donna Seaman

As news of Maya Angelou’s passing quickly spread, we find ourselves contemplating her tremendous accomplishments and universal resonance. The list of awards bestowed upon poet, writer, performer, professor, and activist Maya Angelou in recognition of her groundbreaking work and commanding persona is long and distinguished. Angelou received The National Medal of Freedom from President Obama and the National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community,  as well as more than 30 honorary degrees.

Image of Dr. Maya Angelou, credit Dwight


Her first memoir,  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969)  is a landmark work, and the entire story of Angelou’s life reads like a bluesy saga of a heroic and creative survivor. A regal six-feet-tall and known around the world for her distinctive voice, Angelou had been plunged into silence as a girl after a shocking trauma, and was restored to herself by the power of poetry, an experience that carried her forward as she toured the world performing “Porgy and Bess,” joined the Harlem Writers Guild and the civil rights movement, and wrote a stream of essay collections, books for children, more than a dozen poetry collections, and many more memoirs, including Mom & Me & Mom (2013), a profound chronicle of her relationship with her mother. Maya Angelou will continue to raise our spirits through her indelible works, many of gravitas, others quite mischievous, including her saucy poem, “Phenomenal Woman,” which begins:

“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.”

Indeed. Rest in peace, Dr. Maya Angelou.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014 7:10 am
The Power of Libraries Booth at Book Expo
Posted by: Rebecca

Lucky enough to be attending Book Expo America conference in NYC this week? Be sure to stop by the Power of Libraries, in booth #1242 (naturally, come say hello to us at the Booklist booth, as well, booth #1043!).

There are five library consortia from across the country that are collaborating on this theme.

The groups are: Amigos (TX), Califa (CA), LYRASIS (GA), MLS (MA), and RAILS (IL)
Collectively they represent over 6,000 libraries of all types across the United States.

Each of these groups have statewide e-book platforms, and they seek to strengthen the library-publisher relationship, especially in this time of great flux in the e-book marketplace. Some of their goals with this Power of Libraries campaign are to:

Engage in dialogue with authors and publishers on the importance of e-books in libraries, and voice current concerns held by librarians and patrons while respecting the views and interests of authors and publishers.

Demonstrate the collective buying power of libraries in the e-book market.

Keep letting publishers know that readers use libraries AND buy books.

Reinforce the fact that librarians have the expertise to bring readers to new books that they may eventually buy.

Take some time away from the galley grab of BEA and spend a moment talking to Veronda Pitchford and the Power of Libraries team. They’ll be distributing a fun comic strip showcasing librarians as superheroes.  (Preview panel below, click for best image.) Let them know Booklist sent you!


Tuesday, May 27, 2014 12:24 pm
Gay Romance Comes Out at the Romantic Times Convention
Posted by: Pat Henshaw

Rt Booklovers conventionGLBT romance came out of the erotica closet at the Romantic Times convention in New Orleans in May 2014 to stand as its own entity, a legitimate romance subgenre.

RT2014_NewOrleansCanadian GLBTQ romance author Heidi Belleau explained, “Until recently, queer characters in books were either serial killers or dead people.”  Having them now be the heroes of the story, gay authors agreed, is refreshing and long overdue.

Both publishers and authors at the RT convention said that two events have caused the upsurge in gay romance readership: the emergence of e-readers and the social climate in the U. S. E-readers have made it possible for people who read books in public to read whatever they want without comment from people around them.  Also the growing acceptance of gay marriage and of gays in general has made readers curious and willing to explore the subgenre.

With over a half dozen sessions at the RT convention about GLBT romance, including panels on what a gay hero is like and why GLBTQ might be readers’ next favorite subgenre, both editors and authors were excited about the enthusiastic response of reader attendees. In fact, author Suzanne Brockmann, the mother of a gay son, exhorted authors and readers to become crusaders for gay romance because the time is ripe for the subgenre to branch out and claim as many new readers as possible. Dreamspinner Press added to reader excitement at the conference by passing out cards entitling readers to one free e-book at their website.

Authors Damon Suede, Heidi Cullinan, and K.A. Mitchell.

Authors Damon Suede, Heidi Cullinan, and K.A. Mitchell.

Authors of gay romances spoke about the overwhelming response to their work, giving poignant examples of emails and reactions at book signings and readings. Author Damon Suede talked about how touchy-feely his fans are.  He recounted a woman at one of his readings who stood beside him with her elbow gently touching him.  The bookstore owner asked Damon if he wanted the woman to be removed, but Damon is used to his fans’ visceral response to him and assured the owner that the woman’s touch didn’t bother him.

Amy Lane, another GLBT romance author, said that often her fans will cry when they meet her because something she wrote moved them.  In fact, she added, “People tell me that some of my most injured characters are their friends or their brothers or the lover they had to leave before they fell into a pit of despair, and then they thank me for the happy ending.” All the authors had stories of how their novels had helped readers because for the first time they saw gay characters enjoy happiness and fulfillment, something that other plotless, sex-riddled erotica is missing.

Fans, waiting outside the Marriott ballroom for an autograph session.

Fans, waiting outside the Marriott ballroom for an autograph session.

Who is buying gay romances?  Both publishers and authors agree that the audience is 60 percent female and 40 percent male readers. The larger picture of GLBT buyers break down into three large groups.  Anne Regan of Dreamspinner press says that by far the biggest sales come from their online site where they have 26,000 regular users.  Editors and publishers from Riptide, Loose ID, and Samhain agree. The next biggest segment of buyers come from the online booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Riptide publisher Rachel Haimowitz says the third big buyer is libraries that are starting to shore up their gay fiction sections.  Anne Regan, who heads the YA and NA Harmony imprint of Dreamspinner agrees.

The editors and publishers also discussed what they would like to see for their GLBT romance fiction lines in the future.  Kierstin Cherry of Loose ID says they are looking for more f/f (female/female) fiction including full-figured heroines as well as more interracial gay romances.  Cris Brashear says Samhain is also looking for more f/f fiction and multicultural gay stories.

From authors and publishers to fans, everyone agreed that GLBT romance fiction is the wave of the future.

Friday, May 23, 2014 8:47 am
Hostile Questions: Rainbow Rowell
Posted by: Daniel Kraus

HOSTILE LOGOWe at Hostile Questions HQ have been tapping the phones of thousands of authors since we founded our operation in 2012 and it’s time to go public with yet another bombshell. In March 2013, General Rowell (Codename: “Rainbow”) launched a frontal assault against the young-adult world with the Printz Honor-winning (and also Everything-Else-winning) Eleanor & Park. Then, in September–a mere six months later–she hit our flank with the celebrated Fangirl. We crumpled before this two-pronged blitzkrieg.

What we have uncovered is shocking. Even as we struggle to reassemble our shattered YA universe, Rowell is plotting to release a relentless six books in the latter half of 2014: Eleanor & Fangirl, Fangirl & Park, Fanpark, Parkgirl, The Fault in our Parks, and Eleanor and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Do you not have a shred of decency, Rowell? Not a single shred?!?

Rowell relaxing and pondering 17 more books.

          Not seen: hands, furiously typing.

Just who do you think you are?

Is that a mean way of asking if “Rainbow” is my real name? Because it is.

My mother said I could change it when I turned 18, and I was like, “I’m totally going to change it to Sarah with an ‘h.’ I’ll show you, you misguided hippy.

And then I turned 18 and realized that my friends would mock me if I asked them to start calling me “Sarah.” I’ve been stuck with Rainbow ever since.

I think that 90 percent of the people who read my books assume that “Rainbow” is a pen name, which makes me think about what sort of person would choose to be called “Rainbow”… It’s not the pen name you’d choose if you wanted people to take you seriously, you know? (I always think of that woman in Harold and Maude, who introduces herself as “Sunshine Doré.”)

I suppose I’ve mostly made peace with it now. It’s hard to imagine having a name I’d have to share with other people.

Where do you get off?

Omaha, usually.

I was born here, and I mostly grew up here, and I’ve never seriously thought about leaving.

When I started writing books, I decided to set them in Omaha because Omaha almost never shows up in popular culture. And when Omaha or Nebraska does show up, it’s usually as a punchline. (Maybe these are just funny-sounding words, and I don’t get the joke because I’m from here.)

I’ve always liked the way John Waters keeps telling stories about Baltimore. I’d like to keep telling stories about Omaha.

Though, as I typed that, I realized that my next book, Landline, mostly takes place in Los Angeles.

LandlineWhat’s the big idea?

Do you mean with my next book?


Landline is about a woman whose marriage is in a rough place. Her husband just took the kids to Omaha for Christmas while she stays in Los Angeles to work. As soon as she leaves, she discovers a magic phone (that’s right, I said MAGIC PHONE) that lets her communicate with him in the past.

But then she has to decide what she’s supposed to do with the phone. Is she supposed to fix her marriage from the past? Is that even possible? Or is she supposed to make sure she and her husband never get married at all?

Besides a magic phone and marital strife, this book also has lots of jokes and references to ‘70s TV shows. Also, there’s snow.

What is your problem, man?

The Sherlock hiatus.

Haven’t you done enough?

For real. I’ve had three books come out in 15 months, and I am tired.

I’m working on a novel right now, but then I’m going to take a break. I’m going to try writing the Eleanor & Park screenplay instead. (Wish me luck. I’ve never written a screenplay before.)

And then I’m going to collaborate on a graphic novel with Faith Erin Hicks – which I am SUPER excited about, because I’m a big fan of her work, and I’ve always wanted to work in comics.

Thursday, May 22, 2014 4:00 pm
2013 Nebula Awards Winners
Posted by: Sarah Grant

Nebula AwardsCongratulations to the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America’s 2013 Nebula Awards winners—the best of Science Fiction and Fantasy last year. Below are the winning titles.


Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice by Ann LeckieNovella

“The Weight of the Sunrise,” by Vylar Kaftan


 “The Waiting Stars,” by Aliette de Bodard

Short Story

“If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,” Rachel Swirsky

Sister Mine, by Nalo Hopkinson

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation


Andrew Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy

Sister Mine, Nalo Hopkinson 

Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award

Samuel R. Delany, author of Babel 17 and The Einstein Intersection (winners of Nebula Award for 1966 and 1967 respectively)

Samuel R. Delany, author of Babel 17 and The Einstein Intersection (winners of the Nebula Award for 1966 and 1967 respectively)

Michael Armstrong

2013 Damon Knight Grand Master Award

Samuel R. Delany

2013 Special Honoree

Frank M. Robinson

Thursday, May 22, 2014 9:57 am
Book Trailer Thursday: The Three
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

Mystery Month Booklist reviewer David Pitt calls horror thriller The Three (Little, Brown) a “very creepy, very effective novel,” displaying the author’s stroke-of-genius use of an oral-history format to tell the story of The Three: the mysterious, only survivors of four simultaneous worldwide plane crashes.

Tune in next week for the last remaining #mysterymonth BTT!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 12:36 pm
Share Your #MysteryMonth Reading, Win a Year of Booklist!
Posted by: Keir Graff


Mystery Month is rolling right along, and now it’s time for you to get into the act! From now until midnight on Thursday, May 22, share a picture of the mystery you’re currently reading (or listening to), and you will have a chance to win a free year of Booklist, Booklist Online, and Book Links. Just tweet a picture of the cover using the hashtag #mysterymonth, or share it on our Facebook page (use the hashtag there, too). One winner will be chosen at random on Friday and announced—how else?—with the #mysterymonth hashtag.

Mystery Month

Haven’t had a chance to catch the Mystery Month coverage? Just head over to the home page of Booklist Online, where you’ll see some of the great online-exclusive material we’ve been publishing, such as “Mystery Mom: Growing up with a Crime Novelist” and “Nothing but Gray Skies: 6 Reasons Minnesota Is the Best Place for Scandinavian Noir.” You’ll find something new every weekday for the rest of the month, and even more on our Twitter feeds and Facebook page. Just follow #mysterymonth to keep up on all of it.

And now I’ll start off the sharing with the book I finished reading this morning, before work, on a Chicago park bench . . . Samuel Fuller’s Brainquake!

Brainquake by Samuel Fuller

Friday, May 16, 2014 2:11 pm
Mystery Mom: Growing up with a Crime Novelist
Posted by: Biz Hyzy

Editor’s note: Biz Hyzy recently completed an internship for Booklist.

Do mystery writers become hyper-aware of danger because they constantly write about it, or do people with danger-prone imaginations become mystery writers? I’m not sure one precedes another. Instead, I believe both are manifestations of a person’s personality. And, as the daughter of mystery author Julie Hyzy (Home of the Braised, 2014), I can tell you that—at least in my mother’s case—this dark imagination is not limited to writing.

I could describe the wonderful ways my mother, author of the White House Chef series and Manor House series, raised me and my sisters. She was and is supportive, encouraging, and loving. Or I could expose the bizarre—but true!—ways she took care of us, which reflects the mentality of someone constantly plotting fictional crimes.

For example, Mom occasionally administered “Run away from the bad guy” drills. When we strolled from the grocery store to our Honda Odyssey (named Homer, in case that wasn’t indication enough of her career plan), Mom would shout, “Someone is chasing us!” Robyn, Sara, and I would take that as a cue to run to the van, check to make sure no one was hiding in back or underneath—never forget to look underneath!—and lock ourselves in. We saw it both as a game and a routine similar to our school’s fire drills. The plan was to hide in a safe, enclosed space while Mom fought off the attacker, which we had full confidence she could do. We were not allowed to wait for her; she prioritized our safety over her own. This behavior might sound paranoid to some of you, and maybe it is. Okay . . . let’s be honest, it definitely is. But, for us, these moments were fun and—dare I say?—normal.

Mom learning how to shoot at Firearms and Fiction, 2005.

But Mom wasn’t only worried about planning for public emergencies. She also implemented precautionary habits for the times we were home alone. Our house is set up so that you can see the back wall from the front window, specifically the hallway between the family room and the kitchen. (Even as I write this, I’m thinking, “I shouldn’t describe my house to strangers! They’ll break in!”) As you might suspect, when home alone, these were the two rooms my sisters I spent the most time in—one for games, movies, and books, the other for snacks. Mom worried that someone evil might look through the window, and—seeing unsupervised children—break in and kidnap us. The solution? Crawling. We had to crawl from one room to the next, not even on our hands and knees, but military-style on our bellies and elbows (which is no easy task when carrying a bowl of Lucky Charms). Whenever Mom left, she made us promise to crawl and explained why we should. Again, this seemed totally rational to us, so we did as she asked.

Because of this upbringing, I suspect more often than I should that villains are lurking around street corners. This fancy isn’t enough to scare me from living fully, but because of Mom’s lessons, I nestle my keys between my knuckles when walking alone. That way, if someone attacks, I can punch-stab him or her in the eye. Just in case.

From our East coast vacation in 2011, during which we visited Washington D. C. for Mom’s White House Chef research. (L to R: Mom, Sara, me, Robyn)

As strange as my childhood was, most of it was fun. Our family can always count on Mom eavesdropping in public; she enjoys hearing strangers’ stories almost as much as she loves writing her own. If she is not in hearing range, she’ll comment on others’ appearances and body language, trying to deduce their story through visual means.

Recently, Mom asked me to tie her to a chair, wrists knotted behind its back and ankles strapped to its legs, because she wanted to know how to free herself for a scene she was writing. I’m afraid I wasn’t a very good assistant as my hands were shaking from laughing so hard. We tried multiple times, testing an assortment of restraints, until she decided on duct tape. Other materials did not work because they were either too flimsy or, like masking tape, became tighter and stronger the more Mom fought them. She needed a sufficient constraint that was still possible to sever. Duct tape, though difficult to rip in such conditions, will eventually stretch until it breaks. (Be sure to look for this scene in her upcoming Grace Against the Clock!)

Just a few weeks ago, I took Donald J. Sobol’s Two-Minute Mysteries off the shelf. My Mom, Dad, and I took turns reading the short whodunits aloud, guessing how Dr. Haledjian caught the culprit. However, the game quickly changed from “Solve the mystery” to “Who can remember the answer first?” Mom and I read the stories so much as children—during different eras, of course—that we had most of the solutions memorized. After only a sentence or two, one of us would say, “The car was parked on the hose!” “A flag can’t wave on a windless day!” or “The candle wax dripped on the wrong side!” My poor Dad was the only one left genuinely guessing. For the record, his sleuthing skills were spot on.

Mom always wanted to write mysteries. Even before she did, she’d envisage criminal scenarios that would eventually make it into her books. With all that action and danger slashing through her imagination, she became extra—but not overly—protective of us. It added a layer of play time to my childhood, and silly as it is, I feel more prepared now. You may call it eccentric, but I call it love.

Dressing as flappers for Sara’s golden birthday! (L to R: Robyn, Dad, Mom, Sara, me)

Thursday, May 15, 2014 10:30 am
Book Trailer Thursday: Midnight Crossroad
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

Mystery Month The May 15th Spotlight on SF/Fantasy issue of Booklist went live on Booklist Online yesterday, and there are still 15 days of #MysteryMonth to go. Thankfully Charlaine Harris delivers all of the above, with a side of paranormal romance, in the first book of a planned trilogy. Rebecca Vnuk says Midnight Crossroad (Ace) is sure to appeal to readers who miss Sookie Stackhouse, now that Harris’ wildly popular series has ended.

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