Monday, June 11, 2018

Book Expo 2018 - Day 1 (Wednesday)

I was so excited to head to New York City on the train first thing Wednesday morning for Book Expo. First, it was a few days off work and a true vacation for me. Second, I knew I'd be attending some fun book events and learning about some new books for the fall. And finally, I would get to spend some time with my best book friend in the whole wide world Kathy (aka Bermudaonion)!

I left Harrisburg on the 6:45 AM Amtrak train which was pretty uneventful, but I mean that in the very best way. I took along my new Kindle Oasis and read LYING IN WAIT by Liz Nugent. I had zero interruptions and just enjoyed 3 1/2 hours of reading time. It didn't hurt that I liked the book quite a bit -- you can read my review of it here.

I arrived at Penn Station and only had to walk as far as Macy's before I got to see Kathy. She arrived much earlier from South Carolina and was already settled in our hotel. This year we stayed at the Millennium Broadway, and I was a little hesitant about trying some place new... especially given that half of their elevators were out the week before. However, everything worked out well with our stay including that we were able to check in around 10:00 AM!

Kathy and I both had been up and traveling for some time and were extremely hungry. We knew we wanted to be at the Javits Center around 1:00 - 1:30, but we had just enough time to visit John's Pizza in Times Square. We always order the exact same thing every year -- a salad and a pizza, but we switched things up a bit and ordered a Traditional instead of a Margherita. I love getting pizza in New York because I swear I still haven't found decent pizza in Central PA after 17 years!

It was a lovely day so we decided to walk to the Javits Center. (I later regretted this decision because I had new shoes that left me with some pretty nasty blisters!) We arrived in plenty of time to get our press badges and a good seat at the Adult Editors Buzz. This event is always enjoyable and we learn about six of the major fall titles. Many books are submitted and only six are chosen!  The editor of each book gets about 10 minutes to talk about the book. Needless to say, some editors are better at presenting their books than others, but I always walk away with a list of six must-read books. (Last year, I read all but one of them... and they didn't disappoint!)

Here are the six books that were presented at the 2018 Adult Editors Buzz:


Summary: Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is one of the most beloved and notorious novels of all time. And yet, very few of its readers know that the subject of the novel was inspired by a real-life case: the 1948 abduction of eleven-year-old Sally Horner.

Weaving together suspenseful crime narrative, cultural and social history, and literary investigation, The Real Lolita tells Sally Horner’s full story for the very first time. Drawing upon extensive investigations, legal documents, public records, and interviews with remaining relatives, Sarah Weinman uncovers how much Nabokov knew of the Sally Horner case and the efforts he took to disguise that knowledge during the process of writing and publishing Lolita.

Sally Horner’s story echoes the stories of countless girls and women who never had the chance to speak for themselves. By diving deeper in the publication history of Lolita and restoring Sally to her rightful place in the lore of the novel’s creation, The Real Lolita casts a new light on the dark inspiration for a modern classic. -- Ecco

I love true crime books so this is a must-read for me! It's also fun to note that Kathy and I met the author for a few minutes after the panel!

SHE WOULD BE KING by Wayétu Moore (9/11/2018)

Summary: Wayétu Moore’s powerful debut novel, She Would Be King, reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through three unforgettable characters who share an uncommon bond. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left for dead, but still she survives. June Dey, raised on a plantation in Virginia, hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave from Jamaica, can fade from sight at will, just as his mother could. When the three meet in the settlement of Monrovia, their gifts help them salvage the tense relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous tribes, as a new nation forms around them.

Moore’s intermingling of history and magical realism finds voice not just in these three characters but also in the fleeting spirit of the wind, who embodies an ancient wisdom. “If she was not a woman,” the wind says of Gbessa, “she would be king.” In this vibrant story of the African diaspora, Moore, a talented storyteller and a daring writer, illuminates with radiant and exacting prose the tumultuous roots of a country inextricably bound to the United States. She Would Be King is a novel of profound depth set against a vast canvas and a transcendent debut from a major new author. -- Graywolf Press

Wow -- just wow! SHE WOULD BE KING sounds like a powerful book. I will admit that this novel probably wouldn't have been on my radar without this panel, but I'm so glad I learned about it.

THERE WILL BE NO MIRACLES HERE by Casey Gerald (10/2/2018)

Summary: Casey Gerald’s story begins at the end of the world: Dallas, New Year’s Eve 1999, when he gathers with the congregation of his grandfather’s black evangelical church to see which of them will be carried off. His beautiful, fragile mother disappears frequently and mysteriously; for a brief idyll, he and his sister live like Boxcar Children on her disability checks. When Casey–following in the footsteps of his father, a gridiron legend who literally broke his back for the team–is recruited to play football at Yale, he enters a world he’s never dreamed of, the anteroom to secret societies and success on Wall Street, in Washington, and beyond. But even as he attains the inner sanctums of power, Casey sees how the world crushes those who live at its margins. He sees how the elite perpetuate the salvation stories that keep others from rising. And he sees, most painfully, how his own ascension is part of the scheme.

There Will Be No Miracles Here has the arc of a classic rags-to-riches tale, but it stands the American Dream narrative on its head. If to live as we are is destroying us, it asks, what would it mean to truly live? Intense, incantatory, shot through with sly humor and quiet fury, There Will Be No Miracles Here inspires us to question–even shatter–and reimagine our most cherished myths. -- Riverhead

THERE WILL BE NO MIRACLES HERE is a memoir that sounds amazing! I guess the author is supposed to be extremely impressive, and it seems like this book addresses many of the issues in today's society.

MAID by Stephanie Land (1/29/2018)

Summary: Evicted meets Nickel and Dimed in Stephanie Land’s memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America. Includes a foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich.

“My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter.”

While the gap between upper middle-class Americans and the working poor widens, grueling low-wage domestic and service work–primarily done by women–fuels the economic success of the wealthy. Stephanie Land worked for years as a maid, pulling long hours while struggling as a single mom to keep a roof over her daughter’s head. In Maid, she reveals the dark truth of what it takes to survive and thrive in today’s inequitable society.

While she worked hard to scratch her way out of poverty as a single parent, scrubbing the toilets of the wealthy, navigating domestic labor jobs, higher education, assisted housing, and a tangled web of government assistance, Stephanie wrote. She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told. The stories of overworked and underpaid Americans.

Written in honest, heart-rending prose and with great insight, Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes. With this book, she gives voice to the “servant” worker, those who fight daily to scramble and scrape by for their own lives and the lives of their children. - Hachette

MAID is another memoir that sounds fantastic... and it also touches upon some very pertinent issues in the United States including class structure, poverty, and more. This is one of the books I'm not excited to read!

SMALL ANIMALS by Kim Brooks (8/21/2018)

Summary: One morning, Kim Brooks made a split-second decision to leave her four-year old son in the car while she ran into a store. What happened would consume the next several years of her life and spur her to investigate the broader role America’s culture of fear plays in parenthood. In Small Animals, Brooks asks, Of all the emotions inherent in parenting, is there any more universal or profound than fear? Why have our notions of what it means to be a good parent changed so radically? In what ways do these changes impact the lives of parents, children, and the structure of society at large? And what, in the end, does the rise of fearful parenting tell us about ourselves?

Fueled by urgency and the emotional intensity of Brooks’s own story, Small Animals is a riveting examination of the ways our culture of competitive, anxious, and judgmental parenting has profoundly altered the experiences of parents and children. In her signature style—by turns funny, penetrating, and always illuminating—which has dazzled millions of fans and been called "striking" by New York Times Book Review and "beautiful" by the National Book Critics Circle, Brooks offers a provocative, compelling portrait of parenthood in America and calls us to examine what we most value in our relationships with our children and one another. -- Flatiron Books

I wasn't sure that SMALL ANIMALS appealed to me all that much when I first read the book's description; however, I think the editor of this one convinced me that it's an important book. It's another non-fiction title that delves into today's culture of parenting. I love the background for why the author wrote first a Salon article on this topic (The Day I Left My Son in the Car” ) and then the book. We were also lucky enough to run into Ms. Brooks after the panel and talked with her for a few minutes about her book.

OHIO by Stephen Markley (8/21/2018)

Summary: The debut of a major talent; a lyrical and emotional novel set in an archetypal small town in northeastern Ohio—a region ravaged by the Great Recession, an opioid crisis, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—depicting one feverish, fateful summer night in 2013 when four former classmates converge on their hometown, each with a mission, all haunted by the ghosts of their shared histories.

Since the turn of the century, a generation has come of age knowing only war, recession, political gridlock, racial hostility, and a simmering fear of environmental calamity. In the country’s forgotten pockets, where industry long ago fled, where foreclosures, Walmarts, and opiates riddle the land, death rates for rural whites have skyrocketed, fueled by suicide, addiction and a rampant sense of marginalization and disillusionment. This is the world the characters in Stephen Markley’s brilliant debut novel, Ohio, inherit. This is New Canaan.

On one fateful summer night in 2013, four former classmates converge on the rust belt town where they grew up, each of them with a mission, all of them haunted by regrets, secrets, lost loves. There’s Bill Ashcraft, an alcoholic, drug-abusing activist, whose fruitless ambitions have taken him from Cambodia to Zuccotti Park to New Orleans, and now back to “The Cane” with a mysterious package strapped to the underside of his truck; Stacey Moore, a doctoral candidate reluctantly confronting the mother of her former lover; Dan Eaton, a shy veteran of three tours in Iraq, home for a dinner date with the high school sweetheart he’s tried to forget; and the beautiful, fragile Tina Ross, whose rendezvous with the captain of the football team triggers the novel’s shocking climax.

At once a murder mystery and a social critique, Ohio ingeniously captures the fractured zeitgeist of a nation through the viewfinder of an embattled Midwestern town and offers a prescient vision for America at the dawn of a turbulent new age. -- Simon & Schuster

And last but certainly not least is OHIO. This is definitely the book that I'm dying to read. It was on my radar even before I knew it was chosen for the Adult Editors Buzz, and it just sounds like a novel I will adore. So many of the themes of this book seem to be timely, especially the economic decline in rural areas; and it's also somewhat of a mystery. Sounds like the perfect summer read for me!

It's interesting to note that four of the six books are non-fiction. I've been attending this panel for some time and I don't ever remember there ever being more than one. For some reason, I found it interesting that there is definitely a trend this fall to non-fiction titles; and it was definitely apparent on the showroom floor too.
After the buzz panel, Kathy and I were fortunate enough to spend some time with Miriam Parker. Miriam is the first book person who ever send me a book to review, so she'll always hold a special place in my heart. Plus she's just a fantastic person! Miriam is the Associate Publisher of Ecco, but she's also a soon-to-be published author. Her debut novel is THE SHORTEST WAY HOME (7/31/2018) -- you can read my review here; and it's the perfect summer read. We headed over to the Gotham West Market for a cocktail and some chips and guac. Gotham West Market is such a fun place to visit while in the city, and it's nice to have somewhere like this in walking distance from the Javits.
One thing Kathy and I love to do is see musicals when we are in New York. We always just take our chances and see what tickets we can get at TKTS. Since we haven't seen a ton of shows, there are always some good tickets still available at the booth. I was a little concerned because we were heading to the booth so late that there might not be anything that we wanted to see, but never fear! We were able to get amazing seats (8th row orchestra -- smack dab in the center) for HELLO, DOLLY! with Bernadette Peters. I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy this show, but I figured you have to see Ms. Peters in this role if you have the chance. She was terrific and so was Victor Garber. The show was a lot of fun, but what I found even more entertaining was when Ms. Peters did something silly during one of the scenes, and Mr. Garber had to really work not to break character. The audience was already pretty rowdy for a broadway show, and needless to say, there was a lot of laughter for the next few minutes of the show.

It was almost 11:00 PM when we got out of the theater, so we decided to call it a day. We were both pretty tired from such an early start (and such an action-packed day!) Amazingly enough, we both slept fairly well... which we never do. Maybe we are just getting old!


bermudaonion said...

What a fun day! The best part of the whole trip was seeing you!

Dorothy N said...

I always look forward to your commentary on visiting Book Expo and I look forward to this every year. You & Kathy always have the best times together! I also love hearing what new books are on the horizon. Thanks so much!