Tag Archives: Other Press

The Books of BEA (And a little treat for you!)

27th June 2012

How have I not yet managed to talk about the books I got at BEA? I will tell you, though, that I am so excited about the books I had shipped home. There are only 15 of them, but wow, do they look good. These 15 represent almost all different publishers, many of them independent. They range from stories about an artist who does reproductions to a biography of a body part. Of the 15 books, 8 are by women, 7 are by men. Three are distinctly nonfiction, with Naomi Wolf’s Vagina in a category of its own. In all their, ahem, glory…

From the top:

From the top:

  • Johnson’s Life of London: The People Who Made the City Who Made the World by Boris Johnson/Riverhead Books
  • Instant by Chris Bonanos/Princeton Architectural Press (October 2012)
  • The Shadow Girls by Henning Mankell/The New Press (October 2012)
  • Inferno by Dante Alighieri, Translated by Mary Jo Bang/Graywolf Press (August 2012)
  • Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf/Ecco (September 2012)
  • Rules of Civility by Amor Towles/Penguin
  • Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See by Julianne Garey/Soho (December 2012)
  • The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón/Harper (July 2012)

Which will I be reading first? It’s almost as though I’m afraid to break the spell, as though if I choose one, the rest will disappear. That said, I think I’ll start with the slimmest volume, Beside the Sea. Lori and Tara actually told me about the book, saying: “It’s about a mother who is planning to kill her children.” Pleasant, right? Except that my Master’s thesis was about women who kill their children throughout literature. Specifically, the title is The Dialectic of Maternity: From Medea to the Moderns. Snazzy, huh? Ok, so it sounds kind of ridiculous, but it’s interesting how many many time this sort of story repeats itself in literature (and in life). So that will be my first pick.

And for those of you who weren’t able to make it, I have a BEA bag just for you. In the Random House tote bag are the BEA edition of The New York Review of Books, Anne Lamott’s newest, Some Assembly Required, in audio, Next to Love by Ellen Feldman (this one is so good!), and A Fatal Debt by John Gapper. Something for everyone! The only rules are you cannot have attended BEA, and you must leave me a comment. Which book would you most love to get your hands on? Is there any particular publisher you’re interested in? Do you think I’ve got 15 winners in these stacks? Make sure you comment by next Tuesday, July 3, at midnight!

UPDATE: Rachel won the BEA bag o’ goodies. Congrats!

Calling Mr. King by Ronald De Feo

29th August 2011

*I received this book at BEA from the great folks at Other Press. Buy it now from Indiebound.

What happens when a hit man is tired of being a hit man? He turns to architecture, of course. At least that’s what Mr. King does after he becomes increasingly distracted on the job. Mr. King is the go-to guy if you need someone hunted down and pegged, quickly and in a professional manner, but his latest target bothers him. The target seems cheerful, almost toying with his executioner, and when he buys a white carnation and places it in his lapel, taunting King, it’s game over. But King is thrown.

For a man who, for obvious reasons, has such difficulty in building a stable life, Mr. King suddenly wants one desperately, buying book after heavy book full of Georgian homes and their histories, seeking not just an abode but an area of interest. He knows how to hunt. He knows how to kill. He realizes, almost too late, he wants something more than either of those things.

The book isn’t action packed, which is not at all what you expect when the premise includes a hit man. Instead, King’s obsession takes control of everything, and there were several moments when I wanted to snap him out of it, but De Feo doesn’t let King – or the reader – off that easily, and King travels deeper into himself, unwilling to answer the phone call with his order to kill.

In the end, the symmetry of this novel was perfect. And it’s something I JUST CAN’T GIVE AWAY. And that drives me crazy. Because I totally want to sit and tell you how cool the ending is, but I can’t. And won’t.

This won’t be a book for everyone. In fact, if you are looking for a James Bond-style narrative, please do not pick this up. This novel’s intricacies lie in its exploration of obsession but also in structure and writing, and though not everyone will like that, I really did.

P.S. Read the first chapter here.

The Reservoir by John Milliken Thompson

14th June 2011

*You can preorder this book from Indiebound. Pub date is 06/21/11.

John Milliken Thompson’s The Reservoir sounds like a mystery: one cold morning in 1885, the body of Lillie Madison is found floating in the reservoir in Richmond, Virginia. The coroner is called. Evidence is gathered.

However, if you pass this book by because you don’t read mysteries, you’re doing yourself – and this book – a disservice. Similarly to In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, the murder of Lillie Madison is based on real-life events (though unlike In Cold Blood, it is fiction), and while the murder is part of the story, it isn’t the whole story.

Lillie is dead, yes, but she was also pregnant, which originally makes police believe her death was a suicide. However, when she is linked, intimately, with her cousin Tommie Cleverius, the police are confident they have Lillie’s killer, and the couple’s background is told in flashbacks.

Tommie Cleverius is a young, up-and-coming attorney. Engaged to a wealthy woman and painted by Thompson as an ambitious and sometimes dishonest man, he is as wily as his brother Willie is salt of the earth. Raised by an aunt, Tommie and Willie have wanted for nothing. Lillie has problems at home, and she, too, comes to live with her aunt. Both boys fall for Lillie, but she leaves for school and the competition dies down.

When Lillie moves to live and care for her uncle, Tommie visits her there, several times overnight. Tommie very well could be the father of her unborn child. Even though the only evidence is circumstantial at best, once the police latch onto the idea that Lillie was murdered, Tommie is swiftly arrested and tried, but everyone, including his own brother, wants to know: did Tommie kill Lillie?

With extensive research, Thompson crafts the tale of Lillie, her life, her lovers, her family, and finally, the circumstances of her death, leaving the reader to wonder alternately if Tommie was a narcissist ridding himself of a demanding lover and unwanted child or a mostly-innocent bystander, guilty only of loving and lusting after a woman.

Though the trial and ending ran a little long for me, The Reservoir was an absorbing read, and I’m curious which group you’ll fall into if you read it. Personally, I thought Tommie was guilty as charged. However, I don’t necessarily think there was enough evidence to convict him.

Has anyone seen this book and been intrigued? Courtroom dramas are also high on my list – anyone else out there enjoy the tension of a well-written courtroom scene?

jenn aka the picky girl

*Thanks to Other Press who allowed me to review an advance ebook copy through NetGalley.

Other reviews: