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Graphic Novel Friday: Best of the Year...So Far!

To cover as many outstanding reads and hidden gems as can be featured (and devoured) in a year’s time, an annual tradition began: our Best of the Year So Far picks. Halfway through the year, editors get together over donuts, coffee, and email to discuss the books that shaped these first six months of publishing, and comics and graphic novels are certainly a part of that conversation.

At the top of this category is Gilbert Hernandez’s Mable Season, an oversized hardcover that marks a departure from the artist’s regular, renowned Love and Rockets work. Amazon editor Kevin Nguyen was particularly taken with this oversized hardcover:

Marble Season is Gilbert Hernandez’s first semi-autobiographic comic, as well as his debut on Drawn and Quarterly. In its playful nostalgia, Hernandez buries a sense of longing and hoping within the sunny adventures of his ‘60s suburbs. The cast that inhabits the pages of Marble Season recalls the subtle existentialism of Peanuts; the pop culture references celebrate the Silver Age of comics. Hernandez is prolific and, more incredibly, is still putting out some of his best work.”

Marble Season is far from alone, however, in a year that has already seen an unusual level of talented visual storytelling in both superhero and literary comics. The next four picks are below, and the overall Top 10 can be found in our Best of the Year So Far store. Now, back to that growing stack of books! Pass the donuts.

  • Hawkeye Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Javier Pulido –This is the biggest surprise for superhero comics in 2013—funny and gorgeous, it’s a reinvention of a character long left in the shadows of big-hitters. Bro!
  • Solo: The Deluxe Edition by Various – Darwyn Cooke, Michael Allred, Jeph Loeb, Brian Azzarello, Tim Sale, and more have free reign in the DC Universe and beyond, telling stories that fall outside everyday superhero humdrum. Every page is a surprise, spanning fisticuffs, crime, noir, horror, and romance.
  • Thor: God of Thunder, Vol. 1: The God Butcher by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic – It’s been a long time since Thor was this good. Kudos to Jason Aaron for making the Asgardian god’s adventures riveting, inventive, and—yes—human, even in the face of cosmic bloodbaths.
  • Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Kinsley – It’s a memoir, it’s a celebration of food, and it’s one lovable read. Plus, it even includes recipes at the end of each chapter. This is a book that’s as fun as a late-night snack but as rich as a full serving.

Please click here to see the full list of titles. Are there any that we missed?


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Brave Horse Sessions: Denise Kiernan on "Girls of Atomic City"

GirlsSome of the best nonfiction stories are the ones that take readers along a secret trail through a paved-over piece of history. It's a risky endeavor for an author, especially when writing about a topic was well-trod as World War II. But just when we thought we knew all there was to know comes Denise Kiernan's The Girls of Atomic City, which was just named one of our Best History Books of the Year So Far.

This New York Times bestseller tells the overlooked story of the young women who were shipped to a muddy, built-from-scratch town in Eastern Tennessee and, without knowing exactly what they were signing on for, contributed to the development of the atomic bomb. Over beers at Seattle's Brave Horse Tavern, Kiernan described the Aha! moment that prompted her to spend years researching the mysterious creation of this atomic city--and recreating the lives of the women who helped win the war.  



>See all of Kiernan's books


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YA Wednesday: The Best YA Books of 2013 So Far

It's hard to believe that 2013 is half over--before you know it, we'll be making promises to ourselves about Halloween candy consumption and talking about *shudder* the holidays...  But for now, let's just enjoy the moment, because it's been a great six months for new YA books and this week we announced our editors' picks of the 15 Best YA Books of the Year So Far.

Eleanor200Number one on the list?  Eleanor and Park.  This book made me a Rainbow Rowell fan and (as you may know from a previous post) I couldn't wait for her next one (Fangirl, coming in September).  Eleanor and Park brings back the magic of finding first love with someone who really "gets" you, but it's no sugary romance--these are teenagers dealing with real issues and finding their way through them, together.  Whether you are 14 or 45, don't miss it.

Now you may be wondering about the rest of the list, hmmm?   Well, below are the next 5 and you can go here for the rest.  Did we cover your favorite this year?

2. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey - Just yesterday a friend blamed me for her lack of sleep since she stayed up all night to finish this.  Action, aliens, romance, and fantastic twists. Enough said.

3. Out of The Easy by Ruta Sepetys - The underworld of 1950s New Orleans comes alive and Ruta Sepetys (Shades of Gray) brings her A game, once again creating complex characters that take up residence in readers' hearts and minds.

4. Requiem by Lauren Oliver - The final book in the Delirium trilogy and it's a stunner.  Lena and Hana's dual narration highlights a world still divided, but expect a thrilling conclusion as all the pieces come together.

5. Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler - A memoir of coming of age in a fundamentalist family, Hartzler pulls back the curtain on his teen years with generous amounts of humor and heart.

6. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer - Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, is back in Meyer's alternate universe fairy tale that is more steam punk/sci-fi than Grimms Brothers, and Wolf's dangerous magnetism brings a fresh dash of romance to the picnic basket.

See the rest of the list here...

5thWave160 OutofEasy200 Requiem300 RapturePractice  Scarlett

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How I Edited It: Charles Ardai, on Stephen King's "Joyland"

Charles Ardai photo - photographer Melanie King[In a twist on our semi-regular "How I Wrote It" series, we asked Charles Ardai to describe what it was like to edit one of the world's most famous--and famously prolific and voluble--authors. In his role as founder of the retro-noir Hard Case Crime publishing house, Ardai edited King's latest novel, Joyland -- selected this week as one of Amazon's Best Books of the Year So Far selection.]

There are easy jobs in this world and there are hard jobs. On the list of hard jobs: Coal miner. Brain surgeon. Middle-East peace negotiator. On the list of easy ones: Anger management coach to the Dalai Lama. Food taster to Tom Colicchio. And being Stephen King’s editor.

That’s not just because some forty years into a stellar career, Stephen King knows damn well how to do what he does. (Though clearly he does.) It’s also because he’s an enthusiastic and willing collaborator, more willing than many authors one thousandth as successful to listen to feedback, make changes when they’re called for, work with artists to get the visuals just so, help write lurid taglines for the front cover, and just generally be part of the publishing process. Working with writers can be ten kinds of pain, and working with Stephen King is exactly none of them.

Steve would probably tell you he’s got one of the world’s easier jobs too, or at least one of its best ones. He clearly loves every minute of it--loves making up stories and getting to tell them to millions of eager listeners crowded around a campfire of global proportions, loves the hundred little details that go into making a book a thing to cherish. The latter is a big part of why he and Hard Case Crime are such a good match: we both view books not just as vehicles for the stories they contain but as physical artifacts, colorful little treasures that shimmer and gleam like prizes in a midway arcade, paper pitchmen that draw you in with a showman’s lure and a coochie-girl’s seductive dance. C’mon, cutie, they whisper from the shelf or from a drugstore’s wire rack, want to see what I’ve got between my covers?

JoylandSo Steve’s job is easy (you just have to be one of the world’s most gifted novelists to do it), and mine is even easier (you just need one of the world’s most gifted novelists to let you do it)…is there nothing hard about being Hard Case Crime?

Well, in this particular case, just one: explaining to readers who’ve gotten hooked on ebooks why this book initially isn’t available in an ebook edition. Do we hate ebooks? Of course not. Steve has done plenty of ebooks before and I’m sure he’ll do more again; so has Hard Case Crime. But JOYLAND is something special, and we wanted to give it the special treatment it deserved. It’s a book about a time long gone but not (at least by Stephen King) forgotten, a novel that reminds us that music once came on vinyl, books once came in a form that could be creased and dog-eared, and amusement parks were once family-owned and the family’s name wasn’t Disney. It’s an old-fashioned book that Steve wanted readers to experience first in the old-fashioned way.

Which kind of leaves you with the easiest job of all: sitting back in a lounge chair or a swimming pool or grassy back yard and reading a terrific new novel by Stephen King.

Tell me--how did we all get so lucky?


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The Bravehorse Sessions: Brian Stelter on "Top of the Morning"

StelterBrian Stelter had a passion for TV news, a hobby that became a career and has now become a book. In college, he created a blog called TV Newser, which analyzed the television news business. Three years later, in 2007, Stelter was hired by the New York Times to blog about "the wide world of TV" for the Times' website, and he was later hired to become television reporter for the daily paper. Over beers at Seattle's Bravehorse Tavern, Stelter told us how a few years ago he decided to try his hand at an even longer format. "I was kind of curious to see if I could physically write 90,000 words, because I'd grown up blogging--200-300 words at a time," he said.

Turns out it he was more than capable: he wrote 150,000 words and was then forced to cut a third of them. The result, Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV, was a New York Times bestseller and has been excerpted in the New York Times magazine. (Stelter was also featured in the 2011 documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times.)

At the tail end of a West Coast road trip with his girlfriend, Stelter spoke with us about his obsession with the morning shows and his admiration for the unsung, behind-the-scenes heroes. 

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Announcing the Amazon Editors’ Best Books of 2013 So Far

Today the Amazon Editors announced our Best Books of the Year So Far list, in which we select our favorite books from January through June. Our headliner this (half) year is Kate Atkinson's impressive novel about a very memorable woman named Ursula Todd. Every time Ursula dies, she is born again—a conceit that could fall flat in a less capable writer's hands. In this case, Kate Atkinson has delivered a book that we can not forget. Back when we selected it as the top pick for April's Best of the Month list, Amazon Editor Kevin Nguyen had this to say: "Each successive life is an iteration on the last, and we see how Ursula's choices affect her, those around her, and--so boldly--the fate of the 20th-century world." 

Our top 5 picks for the Best of 2013 So Far are:


Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

The Son by Philipp Meyer

Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

We’ve named our favorites in 20 categories, including Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Romance, History, Literature & Fiction, and Children and Teens.

If you're looking for something good to read this summer, check out the Best Books of the Year So Far.

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Kim Thompson (1956-2013)

Kim-eisnersToday, publisher Fantagraphics confirmed the very sad news that co-publisher, editor, and translator Kim Thompson passed away at the age of 56. In 1977, the influential Thompson first arrived in America, having long been a fan of comics when he lived in Denmark (on their blog, Fantagraphics notes that Marvel Comics published his teen fan mail in the 1970s). Soon, Thompson partnered with Gary Groth, Fantagraphics’ much more outspoken co-founder, to bring independent comics like Love & Rockets by Los Bros Hernandez to a fanbase who craved literary-leaning, sequential storytelling over capes and muscles.

Thompson never lost his love for uncovering international talent, seeking to recreate that first step onto American soil by spotlighting creative minds no matter the native language, including the European artist Jason, whose iconic, anthropomorphic comics reached US audiences thanks to Thompson’s personal devotion, acumen, and eye for prowess. Recently, Thompson sought to darken the doorways of indie comics fans by editing the King of the Flies trilogy by French storytellers Mezzo and Pirus. His efforts were not in vain, as Volumes 1 and 2 (where Thompson is also credited as translator) were both selected as Amazon’s Best of the Year in Comics in 2010 and 2011, respectively. (Volume 3 is forthcoming.) Juggling many hats at Fantagraphics wasn’t enough, however, as Thompson partnered with Dark Horse Comics to translate the Milo Manara Library, an as yet unfinished, multi-volume project that spans the vast career of one of the most versatile European artists in comics.

On a personal note, I had the all-too-brief opportunity to meet Kim Thompson at a Fanatgraphics event in Seattle, WA (where the publisher is based), three years ago, and I witnessed firsthand his intelligence and humility. His loss will long be felt by those that Thompson inspired, helped, and touched in the industry, but there’s comfort in a legacy that flourishes at every turn of an atypical, gorgeous comics page.


Photo credit: Lynn Emmert via Fantagraphics

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A Magical Night: Neil Gaiman Live in Brooklyn

GaimanNeil Gaiman is gripping both of my hands in his, squeezing them. "We're at No. 5!" he exclaims. I don't correct him, but I already know by this time that he's advanced to No. 4, behind Dan Brown's The Inferno, Stephen King's Joyland and the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. For now--in the fevered rush of his repeatedly scrawling his name and doodling a character that seems to fall somewhere between a Pac-Man ghost and what looks disturbingly like a Klan member--No. 5 will do.

Much like the seven-year-old narrator of his new novel might be at the prospect of a new comic book, Gaiman's giddy about his Amazon Best Sellers ranking for said new novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. His reaction to metrics is more related to abating nervousness than feeding ego.

Ocean at the End of the LaneIt's release day, both here and in the U.K., and he's just spent the last couple of hours onstage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), reading from a chapter or two and answering questions from those in attendance. "This book is so me, it feels like I'm walking naked down the street," he said. To like this book is, in essence, to accept the man himself. The positive reaction, for the first time in a very long time, is extremely personal.

That sentiment has permeated every aspect of the event--culminating with an autographing session, and beginning when the lights went down two hours ago, he took the stage, and started using heartfelt phrases like "ridiculously grateful." The whole thing went a little something like this...

He briefly explains the book's origin: a short story for his wife, singer Amanda Palmer, which soon grew to a novelette, then a novella, and ultimately--upon finally transferring his handwritten story to typewritten pages, revealed itself to be a full-fledged novel. Then he cracks open the book and reads, in that soft, precise, utterly British voice of his, Chapter 2--a primarily innocent part of the story in which only the repeated pulsing of the italicized word "anatomy" warrants a menacing, almost Snape-like delivery.

Closing the book to (of course) enthusiastic applause, he visibly exhales, runs a hand through his mop top, and waits for the clapping to die down. While Palmer performs an interlude--a new song sung nearly a cappella with only her ukulele to keep her company--Gaiman collects himself, and the stack of index cards with audience questions, offstage. The stack he hands to Palmer; he returns to his podium.

Was the book inspired by his own childhood memories? "Yes." He stops there; question answered. Palmer ostentatiously flings the card behind her. The crowd laughs and Gaiman chooses to elaborate, emphasizing that it's not autobiographical, that it's "filled with lies," though he concedes that the "landscape is completely true."

Has he ever considered writing a proper autobiography? He "toyed with" the idea of writing the story of his family in the form of a travel tale to a town in Patagonia, Argentina called Gaiman, but blew it by taking a day trip there. He tells the story of that visit, nudged by Palmer, who is shuffling through the index cards and subtly whittling down the stack, dropping every few cards to the floor.

What was the best thing that happened to him this week and what was the worst? He describes how "scary" "joyful" "wonderful" it's been to see the reviews come out. "Usually you have to have photos of the reviewers in compromising positions... with farm animals," he says, "to get these kind of reviews." And the worst part--realizing that everything up to now has been "an overture" to the next few months of touring.

He's asked his thoughts on the semicolon. He answers in complete earnest. He's genuine. He's humble. He's hilarious. He remembers not being like other kids, having a "crippling imagination." He proposes that beauty is the key to the physical book's survival in an e-book era. He deftly dodges answering how he handles being let down by people or places: "I just want to go on record and say that places have not let me down. 'London, how could you? New York, you fickle bitch!'"

Gaiman SigningHe opens the book again and begins (but does not finish) Chapter 3. That will be up to each to do in his or her own time. Everyone who bought a ticket has received the book, and now he's going to spend who knows how much longer signing them for who knows how many people. No fan will be turned away is the understanding. The line, as I exit, spans the building's lobby, curves out the door, then down the street, then around one corner, then down the entire block. If I'm to believe that the poor woman who drew the short straw to hold the "End of the Line" sign which first directed me to my spot about 20 fans back a half hour ago is still out there, the line surely snakes around the next corner, as well, at least.

This evening's event (subtitled "A Night at the Opera") has kicked off what he has dubbed "The Last U.S. Signing Tour," a point he didn't make on stage, but which he touched upon as he described his travel approach this time. After his last adult book came out (Anansi Boys in 2005), he would do his bit on stage, spend hours autographing for a thousand or more fans, then go back to the hotel. The man who brought him his 3 a.m. hot chocolate, he said, would be the same man who knocked on his door at 6 a.m. with tea to tell him the car to the airport had arrived.

He sounds tired just describing it. So, taking a cue from his wife, he's rented a tour bus. He seems pleased with the solution, and it's quite likely that we all made a simultaneous wish in that moment that this might mean he's found new energy to continue the tours in the future. We're all there to see Neil Gaiman, after all, so naturally we believe that a wish like this--particularly one made en masse--can come true.

Catch Neil Gaiman in your town:
(*Sold Out status is accurate as of June 19, 2013)

  • June 19 New York, NY The Last US Signing Tour: Broadway Neil [SOLD OUT]
  • June 20 Saratoga Springs, NY The Last US Signing Tour: The Shire
  • June 21 Washington, DC The Last US Signing Tour: Mr. Gaiman Goes to Washington [SOLD OUT]
  • June 22 Decatur, GA The Last US Signing Tour: Gaiman on My Mind [SOLD OUT]
  • June 23 Coral Gables, FL The Last US Signing Tour: Coral (signing) Line
  • June 24 Dallas, TX The Last US Signing Tour: Fright-Hair on Elm Street
  • June 25 Denver, CO The Last US Signing Tour: Under Cover Gaiman
  • June 26 Phoenix, AZ The Last US Signing Tour: Changesgaiman [SOLD OUT]
  • June 27 Los Angeles, CA The Last US Signing Tour: Visitations and Angels
  • June 28 San Francisco, CA The Last US Signing Tour: Mr. Gaiman, with the book, in the Conservatory [SOLD OUT]
  • June 29 Portland, OR The Last US Signing Tour: City of Books [SOLD OUT]
  • July 02 Seattle, WA The Last US Signing Tour: Call of Clarion [SOLD OUT]
  • July 06 Santa Rosa, CA The Last US Signing Tour: When We Walk in Fields of Copper [SOLD OUT]
  • July 07 Ann Arbor, MI The Last US Signing Tour: A Man, A Book, A Theater, Ann Arbor
  • July 08 Bloomington, MN The Last US Signing Tour: Rock 'n' Roll High School
  • July 09 Chicago, IL The Last US Signing Tour: Gaiman Unabridged [SOLD OUT]
  • July 10 Nashville, TN The Last US Signing Tour: Of Course You Know This Means War Memorial
  • July 11 Lexington, KY The Last US Signing Tour: Manchester Reservation [SOLD OUT]
  • July 13 Cambridge, MA The Last US Signing Tour: The Parish at the End of the Tour
  • August 06 Toronto, ON An Evening with Neil Gaiman
  • August 07 Montreal, QC An Evening with Neil Gaiman
  • August 08 Vancouver, BC An Evening with Neil Gaiman
  • August 18 Portsmouth, UK An Evening with Neil Gaiman
  • August 20 Cambridgeshire, UK Neil Gaiman at Ely Cathedral
  • August 21 Oxford, UK Neil Gaiman in conversation with Philip Pullman [SOLD OUT]
  • August 22 Birmingham, UK Neil Gaiman at Waterstone's Birmingham New Street
  • August 28 Dundee, UK Neil Gaiman at Waterstone's Dundee
  • August 28 Inverness, UK Neil Gaiman at the Ironworks Inverness
  • October 01 Lewisburg, PA Bucknell University Forum: tech/no

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Vince Flynn (1966-2013)

FlynnBestselling author Vince Flynn, known for his page-turning tales of assassins and terrorists, CIA agents and crooked politicians, died early this morning. Flynn had been diagnosed in 2011 with late-stage prostate cancer. His death was announced by his publisher, Carolyn Reidy, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster.

“As good as Vince was on the page--and he gave millions of readers countless hours of pleasure--he was even more engaging in person,” Reidy said in a statement. “He had a truly unique ability to make everyone … feel as if we were on his team and sharing in his life and his success.

"Yes, we will miss the Mitch Rapp stories that are classic modern thrillers, but we will miss Vince even more.”

A constant presence on bestseller lists, Flynn was best known for his steely counter-terrorism operative, Mitch Rapp. Flynn’s devout fans rarely had to wait more than a year for a new Mitch Rapp political thriller. His most recent book, 2012's The Last Man, received more than two-thousand customer reviews on Amazon, with an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars.

Flynn took a unique path to bestseller status. After graduating from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul he worked for Kraft General Foods. He attempted to join the Marine Corps, with hopes of becoming an aviator, but was medically disqualified from the Marine Aviation Program. He then returned to a 9-to-5 job, but quit and began bartending at night so could write full time. He self published his first book, the 1997 techno-thriler Term Limits, which became a bestseller and led to a publishing deal with Simon & Schuster.

Though popular across a wide swath of readers, Flynn's books were especially embraced by well-known political conservatives. (Flynn was friends with Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.) Flynn attributed this to his books' patriotic and pro-military themes, and he once said that he felt his books were "entertainment, educational and serve as cautionary tales."

Flynn wrote many of his novels at his cabin on Deer Lake, in Wisconsin. He told USA Today in 2012 that he'd often grab a yelow legal pad and float on the lake in his pontoon boat, glass of red wine at hand, scribbling Mitch Rapp's latest adventure "like a maniac."

Flynn is survived by his wife Lysa and three children.


> See all of Vince Flynn's books

> Visit his website

> Read a lengthy USA Today interview from 2012

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YA Wednesday: Summer Picks from John Green, Cassie Clare & Markus Zusak

I always want to know what books my favorite authors are reading and recommending, so we asked John Green, Cassandra Clare, and Markus Zusak to tell us what four books they recommend this summer.   Check out their great lists below (and why they chose the books they did) and look for summer reading picks from Lauren Oliver, Christopher Paolini, and James Dashner in the coming weeks.

Green160John Green:

  • The End Games by T. Michael Martin:
    I feel like calling The End Games a zombie apocalypse novel will deter many of the readers who will love it most. It's brilliant, fun, and blisteringly intelligent fiction that happens to feature a zombie apocalypse. I can't recommend this one highly enough.
  • The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen:
    Dessen's newest book is maybe my favorite of hers, and that's really saying something. The Moon and More is a true coming of age story with a hint of romance. There is something in here for everyone.
  • Every Day by David Levithan:
    This book has a brilliant premise: The narrator wakes up every day inside the body of a different teenager. But it's the rare high-concept novel that proves better than its premise.

Clare160Cassandra Clare: The City of Bones movie opens August 21st and looks amazing...(you can watch the trailer here) Summer is for vacation, and what better, cheaper way to vacation than with your own imagination? Four books that take you on adventures in distinctly different places.

  • Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan:
    Kami Glass has always had an imaginary friend, a boy she talked to in her head. But what happens when he turns out to be real, and not just real but one of the mysterious Lynburns family who may or may not be dark magicians, is a sparkling, clever modern update on the gothic horror, lashed through with rip-your-heart-out romance.
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo:
    A story set in a magical Russia-that-never-was called Ravka, a country divided by the Shadow Fold, a dark rent in the world caused by the magic of an overly powerful Grisha, or magic user. Alina Starkov is a Sun Summoner, one of the few of the Grishas who can call forth light and potentially destroy the Shadow Fold, but can she harness her power? Lushly written, with sympathetic and complex characters, this is what you'd get if you managed to cross Harry Potter and Anna Karenina.
  • I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga:
    Dexter, The Early Years. Jazz is the son of one of the nation's most brutal serial killers. He lives in a tiny town where everyone knows who he is, and knows his past. His only parental figure is the police officer who took down his father so many years ago. When the killings start up again, Jazz is determined to stop them, to redeem his past, so that he doesn't repeat his father's. A gritty, bloody, noir murder mystery with a protagonist so charming he's deadly.
  • Legend by Marie Lu:
    My favorite of the current crop of dystopic fiction for teens, Legend takes place in the Republic, a fascist regime that has replaced the western United States. June is a privileged girl being groomed for success among the elite; Day is a wanted criminal. Two people who have no reason to meet — until their stories entwine when Day is suspected of murdering June's brother. But all is not as it seems in the shadowy future, and June and Day find themselves fighting for the most precious commodity of all, the truth, in a heart-pounding chase to the finish line. You'll be turning pages fast enough to not need a fan to get you through the hot days!

Zusak160Markus Zusak: More movie news--*finally* The Book Thief movie is coming in January 2014!  Here are the books Markus wants to read this summer...

  • Far Far Away by Tom McNeal:
    Who wouldn't want to follow a guy like Jeremy Johnson Johnson, his ghost, and the amber-haired Ginger Boultinghouse through a summer in a place called Never Better?
  • The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt:
    The great thing about all Dana Reinhardt novels is that you start to feel like you'll wake up the next day and find the characters in your kitchen. That's how well you get to know them.
  • Rumble Fish by S.E. Hinton:
    I know other S.E Hinton books are more popular, but Rumble Fish is always the one I come back to. Rusty James. The Motorcycle Boy. The Siamese fighting fish. It's one of my favourite books. It's stood the test of time.

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How I Wrote It: Rebecca Lee on "Bobcat"

BobcatRebecca Lee's remarkable story collection, Bobcat, was selected as one of our Best Books of the Month for June. Her characters all wrestle with the emotional messiness of their complicated lives and imperfect relationships. Jealousy, infidelity, sacrifice, trust, and hope--it's all in there. Reviewer Kevin Nguyen called Bobcat "one of the strongest collections I've read in recent years." At Seattle's Bravehorse Tavern we spoke with Rebecca about old-timey word processors, about reading poetry to prime the pump, and about what she's working on next. 


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Recently Discovered Novel by Nobel Prize-Winning Author Pearl S. Buck

A new book by Pearl S. Buck, "The Eternal Wonder," found 40 years after it was written, will be introduced to readers this coming October.

EternalWonderCROPThe recently discovered book, The Eternal Wonder, by Pulitzer Prize– and Nobel Prize–winning author Pearl S. Buck is a rare and truly esteemed find in the book world.

Buck wrote this moving and mesmerizing book shortly before she passed away in 1973. Forty years later, in January 2013, the manuscript was found in storage and brought to Open Road, Buck’s digital publisher. The Eternal Wonder will be published by Open Road on October 22, 2013, both in digital format and in a beautifully packaged paperback edition.

Jane Friedman of Open Road, Michael Carlisle of InkWell, and Edgar S. Walsh, Buck's son, said, “We are thrilled to discover and publish a novel by one of only two American women to ever win both the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes. The Eternal Wonder is as brilliant and inspiring as Pearl Buck’s most famous works, and we look forward to readers across the world getting to enjoy this long-lost masterpiece this fall along with Buck’s other wonderful books.”

The Eternal Wonder is a personal and passionate fictional exploration of the themes that meant so much to Buck in her life. It tells the coming-of-age story of Randolph Colfax, an extraordinarily gifted young man whose search for meaning and purpose leads him to New York, England, Paris, a mission patrolling the demilitarized zone in Korea that will change his life forever—and, ultimately, to love.

Open Road currently digitally publishes 28 other titles from Pearl Buck, including The Big Wave, The PromiseA House Divided, and Buck's Pulitzer Prize–winner, The Good EarthBorn in Hillsboro, West Virginia, Buck was the daughter of missionaries and spent much of the first half of her life in China, where many of her books are set. In 1934, civil unrest in China forced Buck back to the United States. Throughout her life, she worked in support of civil and women’s rights, and established Welcome House, the first international, interracial adoption agency. For her body of work, Buck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938, the first American woman to do so.

Read more about Pearl Buck and her novel, The Eternal Wonder, available on pre-order.

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Caitlin R. Kiernan, Mort Castle, Joyce Carol Oates among 2013 Bram Stoker Award Winners in Horror

It was a frightfully fabulous weekend for the Horror Writers Association, which spent the last few days in New Orleans hosting the Bram Stoker Awards™ Weekend 2013, as well as the World Horror Convention. Amid the panels and art shows, readings, and signings, the gala presentation honored writers in 11 categories, including Novel, Graphic Novel, Nonfiction, Screenplay, and Poetry.

Drowning GirlCaitlin R. Kiernan won best novel for The Drowning Girl, Joyce Carol Oates shared an award, and Mort Castle walked away with two haunted house trophies. Lifetime Achievement Awards went to Clive Barker and Robert R. McCammon.

The complete list of 2013 category nominees and winners were as follows:



Life Rage First Novel


Flesh & Bone Young Adult Novel


Witch Hunts Graphic Novel 


Long Fiction



  • Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard -- The Cabin in the Woods (winner)
  • Jane Goldman -- The Woman in Black
  • Sang Kyu Kim -- The Walking Dead, "Killer Within"
  • Tim Minear -- American Horror Story: Asylum, "Dark Cousin"
  • Gary Ross Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray -- The Hunger Games



New Moon on the Water Black Dahlia and White Rose Fiction Collection


Shadow Show Anthology


Trick or Treat Non-Fiction


Vampires, Zombies & Wanton Souls Poetry



The 2012 Bram Stoker Award® winners: Top row (left to right): Mort Castle, L.L. Soares, Jerad Walters, Rocky Wood, Jonathan Maberry. Lower row/middle: Sam Weller, James Chambers, Lucy Snyder, Marge Simon, Robert McCammon, Caitlin R. Kiernan (seated), Charles Day, Lisa Morton
(Not pictured: Gene O'Neill, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, Joyce Carol Oates, and Clive Barker)

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Amazon Asks: Elizabeth Silver, on 'The Execution of Noa P. Singleton'

Eliz-silverWhat's the elevator pitch for your book (which was selected as our Best Books of the Month Debut Spotlight)?

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is the narrative of a young woman on death row in Pennsylvania and her relationship with her victim’s mother, an attorney, who initiates a clemency petition on her behalf six months before her execution date. It’s a character-driven story about guilt, punishment, remorse, and gradations of the truth.

Describe your book in 10 words?

A woman on death row chats with her victim’s mother.

What's on your nightstand/bedside table/Kindle?

Transatlantic by Colum McCann, The Son by Philipp Meyer, and on audio May We Be Forgiven by AM Homes.

Top 5 favorite books of all time?

Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Important book you never read?

War and Peace. My husband has read it and I haven’t. It’s a point of contention.

Book that changed your life?

I’m going to try to narrow it down: Bird by Bird changed my attitude and focus on writing, while Crime and Punishment taught me the psychological and moral power of literature, and We Need To Talk About Kevin inspired me, in part, to write The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, so it changed the last five years of my life.

Favorite book(s) as a child?

I devoured the Anne of Green Gable series. My parents gave me a special edition hardback copy with gold trim and a fancy spine and I thought it was the most astonishing gift in the world. In adolescence, I loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

What's your most memorable author moment?

Can I have two? The first is standing outside on a street corner in Koreatown in Los Angeles hearing my agent tell me we have an offer. I might have hyperventilated and cried for an inordinate amount of time. A second was my first book signing at Book Expo this May. It went on for 90 minutes, which to me seemed like the longest signing I could have fantasized.  To be able to celebrate the novel with everyone who had worked on it as a team was an extraordinary experience I don’t imagine will happen again.

What talent or superpower would you like to have (not including flight or invisibility)?

Time travel – forward and back. I’d love to be a voyeur in the past, sit in on cultural events and experience how we lived before electricity. I can vaguely remember my life before the internet, but it probably doesn’t take a superpower to revive those memories. It would also be fun to see where we stand in the future. I’d like to pop into a time with a woman as president and pray I don’t need a superpower for that.

What are you obsessed with now?

Photography. I absolutely adore it and am collecting lenses more than my wallet permits. Also Homeland. When does it come back?

What are you stressed about now?

Moving.  I’ve been living on a futon at my in-laws for over a year since I moved to Los Angeles and am about to move into my own place. Right now, I’m knee-deep in renovation and am stressed out about contractors and HOAs and weird things like dry wall and underlayment. This is a whole new world to me. 

NoaWhat are you psyched about now?

Sorry for the obvious--but the publication of Noa! I’ve been writing fiction for fifteen years and I’m still pinching myself that I’m here, getting to answer questions like this, and see my book on the shelves.

What's your most prized/treasured possession?

A gold ring with my grandmother’s initials that my grandfather gave to her after they were reunited following their separate, but equally miraculous survival from the Nazis in Poland. She gave her wedding ring away to save my infant father and he gifted her with this new ring years later. We have the same initials. 

Author crush?

I sort of have a permanent author crush on Jennifer Egan, but am cheating on her with Claire Messud and Ben Fountain.

What's next for you?

I’m working on some short pieces-short stories and essays--and am really enjoying the form. I’d also like to play around with a film script before jumping back into a new novel.

Favorite line?

This is my favorite first line to a novel: ''I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.'' – Middlesex, Geoffrey Eugenides

What's favorite method of procrastination?

At the moment, it’s Facebook and I’ve just discovered Twitter. I’m trying to learn how it works and I fear my learning curve is sucking up a bit too much time.

What do you collect?

Bookmarks from every city and country to which I’ve traveled. I feel that’s probably a bit cliché, but I’ll own it.

Best piece of fan mail you ever got?

Everything is still so new, so perhaps ask me again in a year. Thus far, I received a beautiful letter from my very first babysitter, which was so kind and thoughtful. She also went through her predictions for my future and my siblings’ future and some of them were hysterical.


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Graphic Novel Friday: The Man of Steel


Look, up on the screen! It’s a film. It’s a well-coifed hero. It’s Man of Steel! In his 75th anniversary (Great Scott!), Superman returns to the movies via producer Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy), director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, and more), writer David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight trilogy), and DC Comics. What follows below is a snapshot of contemporary Superman comics that capture the essence of the hero while also exploring fresh territory—perfect for before or after the new film that leaps into theaters today.

  • All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely: If you read one book off this list, please make it this one (the first digital issue is available for free). Morrison distills the Superman mythos while still playing with the goofier aspects, and Quitely beautifully renders the widescreen super-action and the humdrum Clark Kent lifestyle. The twelve chapter series is available in one paperback and in DC’s deluxe Absolute format (recommended).
  • Superman: Birthright by Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu: Writer Waid updates the classic origin and characters for a more Smallville-esque audience, and it works. Readers see more of Clark’s life as a reporter, his teenage encounters with Lex Luthor, and where the Superman suit fits into a modern world.
  • Superman for All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale: Told over four seasons, here are comic veterans Loeb and Sale as they capture the core of Superman in this coming-of-age story. Sale’s artwork is all broad shoulders and strong jaws while Loeb writes in the sweet spot of his career, focusing on familial relationships and responsibility.
  • “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” and “For the Man Who Has Everything” by Alan Moore, Curt Swan, and Dave Gibbons: These two definitive stories capture the nostalgic essence of Superman—both the mortal and the hero, the alien and the man—as only master storyteller Alan Moore can capture him. In the former, Superman bids farewell to his Silver Age roots, while the latter explores Superman’s greatest wish. These are both collected (along with other Moore stories) in a single paperback, or the first story can be purchased as its own book.
  • All-star-supermanSuperman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen: Set in the “real world,” a man in Kansas must live with the name Clark Kent and suffer all the “Hey, Superman!” jokes that come along with such a moniker. Kent examines what Superman means to a populace, and then…well, to say more would be to spoil it. Immonen turns in the dynamic but grounded artwork that would later lead him to be one of the top artists in mainstream comics. [As of this writing, the store is sold out of the paperback edition, but the digital edition is available until the restock!--ed.]
  • Honorable mention: Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar and Dave Johnson: This is an alternate reality Superman story—what if Superman crash-landed in Russia instead of America? It’s an entertaining concept that lives up to its premise, with plenty of twists and surprises for longtime fans.

And if you’re looking for more on Superman and comics, please see the new and free Amazon Comics Newsletter, delivered to your inbox faster than a speeding bullet! Subscribers will receive a digital copy of the new Superman #1 (free until midnight Pacific Time on July 21, 2013), courtesy of DC Comics and George Perez.

--Alex (who has tickets for tonight!)

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R.I.P. Iain (M.) Banks, Seminal Scottish Genre Jumper (1954-2013)

Iain M. Banks You may have heard that Scottish novelist Iain M. Banks passed away on Sunday at age 59, having announced on his blog in April that he had terminal gall bladder cancer.

Upon learning of Banks's death, fellow author and convention buddy Neil Gaiman wrote on his own blog, "His work was mordant, surreal, and fiercely intelligent. In person, he was funny and cheerful and always easy to talk to."

Banks was known equally for his science fiction writing and his general literature, and he ammassed an oeuvre of 28 books in his career, beginning with his acclaimed debut The Wasp Factory. His 29th and last, which will be released on June 25, is The Quarry--the story of a teenage boy who longs to learn about his mother, but has limited time since his father is dying. What a poignant final work of humor from a man who brought so much joy to his readers over the last three decades.

"If you've never read any of his books, read one of his books," Gaiman advises. "Then read another. Even the bad ones were good, and the good ones were astonishing."

Wasp Factory Crow Road Consider Phlebas The Algebraist Complicity Espedair Street

Whit Use of Weapons Feersum Endjinn The State of the Art


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