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Archive for the tag “Kirkus”

Aw, those poor authors of ‘overlooked books’

Yes, I know, some publishers won’t turn your manuscript into a book if they don’t think it’s going to sell 50,000 copies or more. Gosh, 40,000 copies must be a real downer causing middle management shake-ups, angry calls to agents who promised everything, and getting the book tagged as one of the most overlooked books of the year.

While headlines such as this one on Kirkus (The 9 Most Overlooked Summer YA Novels You Should Read) give a publication a cheap and easy feature story to write, they’re an insult to mid-list and small press authors whose books really have been overlooked. Readers, especially on-line readers, probably love these lists because (a) they (the lists) don’t require much of an attention span, and (b) might include a gem that the readers didn’t notice earlier in the year.

  • The first book on Kirkus’ young adult list is Solo, by by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess. It looks good, by the way. However, since it’s displayed on Kirkus’ list with a Kirkus starred review, the book wasn’t overlooked.  The second book on the list, Saints and Misfits, also had a starred review from Kirkus as did every other book on the list. “Overlooked” is a category for books that Kirkus won’t review.
  • Solo’s current rank on Amazon is #1 in teens fiction. I’ll stipulate that its publisher would probably like to see a better overall ranking than 2,949. However, “overlooked” better describes small press books that hardly ever get into the top slots of Amazon’s genre rankings which (due to recent changes) are biased in favor of major publishers and higher priced books.
  • Solo was also reviewed by Publishers Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, BookPage, and others. Sure, more would be better. But “overlooked” really refers to books none of these outlets consider at all.
  • So as not to unfairly single out Solo, I should mention that in addition to actual reviews, the authors of the books on this list were also interviewed.  For example, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) featured a Q&A with the author of Saints and Misfits (S. K. Ali). I like the ABA’s “Indies First” program that supports independent bookstores. Unfortunately, the ABA doesn’t lend this kind of support to indie authors even when their books are distributed by outlets where the bookstores get their titles. Truly “overlooked” is being off the ABA’s radar altogether.
  • Many less-well-known book review sites claim that they support indie authors and (thankfully) a lot of them make good on this claim. However, these outlets–even when they have a regional books flavor–want readers, too, so they often fill many of their review slots with mainstream bestselling books that certainly don’t need any help. “Overlooked” is being passed over by a small review site by monthly features about books by top-100 authors.

Overlooked? I think not.

As the year goes on, we’ll see more and more lists of BEST BOOKS even though there will be more stuff published by December 31: these lists really do overlook books because everyone and their brother tries to be first out of the gate with proclamations about the best of the best of the best. And, we’ll see more lists of OVERLOOKED books, too. Suffice it to say that if a book is noticed by the organization creating the list, it hasn’t been overlooked even if higher sales for it had been expected.




How do you find most of the books your read?

I’ve always had the impression that most readers find most of their fiction with very little effort. That is, their friends (on and off line), their newspaper, an on-line news site, or social media might well provide more tips and links for new books than they can afford to buy, much less have time to read.

During the time when I was doing my book-links posts for this blog called Book Bits, I had a regular list of places if checked for the latest author, book, publishing, how-to, and review information along with news. Since I was publishing a links-of-the-week kind of listing, I’m sure I looked at a great many more sites than most readers.

In no particular order, here are some places people tend to rely on for information about new books:

  1. Browsing Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble or the website of their favorite independent bookstore.
  2. Facebook, Twitter and other social-media links and chatter, with an emphasis on that people on one’s friends list are reading.
  3. Checking one or two favorite online book sites such as major newspapers that still review books, Book Page, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, and book blogs written by people with similar book tastes.
  4. Occasional news stories that surface on sites like Yahoo News, USA Today, CNN and other places that will feature authors and books that are usually at the top of the bestseller lists and/or famous.
  5. Browsing book displays in local bricks and mortar stores, grocery stories, Walmart and other places that sell paperback and hardback books.
  6. Local book clubs and other reading groups and/or discussions with friends and co-workers.

I probably discover most of my reading material via 1 & 2 above. How about you?


REVIEW: COLD COLD HEART by Tami Hoag. . .and other book news

COLD COLD HEART by Tami Hoag | Kirkus.

coldcoldheart“In Hoag’s (The 9th Girl, 2013, etc.) latest, talented young newscaster Dana Nolan is left to navigate a psychological maze after escaping a serial killer…A top-notch psychological thriller.” Kirkus (click on the link for the complete review)

Also in the News:

  • Interview: “In her new book ‘Ghettoside,’ journalist Jill Leovy studies the epidemic of unsolved murders in African-American neighborhoods and the relationships between police and victims’ relatives, witnesses and suspects.” – NPR
  • Coming Soon: Malcolm R. Campbell (yes, that’s me) has signed a contract with a Florida publishing company to release his new novella Conjure Woman’s Cat. Campbell is the author of Emily’s Stories which is also set in the Florida Panhandle.
  • News: “Buzz Books 2015′ offers Maria Bello excerpt: Want a sneak peek at upcoming books by Maria Bello, Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski, Neal Stephenson, Sarah Dessen, Dennis Lehane and a host of mariabelloother writers? Exclusive excerpts from 65 “buzzed-about books” to be published this spring and summer are available through two free e-books from Publishers Lunch.”
  • News:Long-lost “Don Quixote” author finally found? Experts searching for the remains of Miguel de Cervantes said Monday that they found wooden fragments of a casket bearing the initials “M.C.” with bones in and around them in a crypt underneath the chapel of a cloistered convent in Madrid.” – CBS News
  • Quotation: “Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” ― Mark Twain

I have a feeling a sleepy conscience is probably harder to acquire than the friends and the books.


Book Bits Reviews on Friday: Laurie Halse Anderson and Gabriel Sherman

Kirkus Reviews displays a weekly list of books with thumbs up and thumbs down graphics labeled BUY IT, BORROW IT and SKIP IT. Kirkus gives thumbs up to two books this week:

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson


  • Publisher’s Description: “For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.”
    Kirkus: “A characteristically honest and deeply felt exploration of the lingering scars of war. (Fiction. 14 & up)”
  • New York Times: “In ‘The Impossible Knife of Memory,’ Anderson sensitively portrays a growing, complex problem particularly relevant in the United States today: the devastating ripple effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
  • Interview: Learn more about Laurie Halse Anderson in her Huffington Post interview with Monica Edinger

The Loudest Voice in The Room by Gabriel Sherman


  • Publisher’s Description: “When Rupert Murdoch enlisted Roger Ailes to launch a cable news network in 1996, American politics and media changed forever. Now, with a remarkable level of detail and insight, New York magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman brings Ailes’s unique genius to life, along with the outsize personalities—Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Megyn Kelly, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee, and others—who have helped Fox News play a defining role in the great social and political controversies of the past two decades.”
  • Kirkus: “Eye-opening biography of the would-be political kingmaker and Fox News mastermind…A well-reported, engaging book. A bonus: Bill O’Reilly won’t like it, either. Politics and media junkies, on the other hand, will have a field day.”
  • The Globe & Mail: “It’s not the nastiest book about Ailes – that’d be 2012’s The Fox Effect, by David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt of media watchdog Media Matters. But Sherman’s book distinguishes itself in its diligent characterization of Ailes as something more than just some political P.T. Barnum.”
  • Interview: Learn more about Gabriel Sherman in the published highlights of his interview on NPR’s Fresh Air.

“Book Bits” is compiled by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of the comedy/mystery “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”

Book Bits: Hot Books for the Week of December 9th

Here’s a quick look at the Books “Publisher’s Weekly” is spotlighting for the week of December 9, 2013.

  • PWdec9Once Upon a Lie by Maggie Barbieri (Minotaur) – “Barbieri takes a break from her Murder 101 series with what starts out as a standard suburban mystery but evolves into an unexpectedly riveting tale of ordinary cruelty and complicated heroism.” – Publishers Weekly
  • Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Case for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe by Ray Jayawardhana (FSG/Scientific American) – “An astrophysicist explains why scientists are eager to learn more about the elusive, “pathologically shy” neutrino…Jayawardhana includes a fascinating account of the disputes between the theorists and experimentalists in this epic scientific adventure story with—as of yet—no last chapter.” – Kirkus Reviews
  • Innocence by Dean Koontz (Bantam) – “As speedy a chase-thriller as any Koontz, a past master of the form, has ever constructed . . . The clamor for a new Koontz will be heard . . . especially when his fans hear how good this one is.” – Booklist (starred review) . . .  . . . “Laced with fantastical mysticism, it’s an allegory of nonviolence, acceptance and love in the face of adversity. . . The narrative is intense, with an old-fashioned ominousness and artistically crafted. . .with an optimistic and unexpected conclusion. . . Something different this way comes from Mr. Koontz’s imagination. Enjoy.” – –Kirkus Reviews
  • Paul Meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb (Candlewick) – “Paul is a fish who used to go around in circles. He made big circles and little circles. He circled from left to right and from right to left. He circled from top to bottom and from bottom to top. What else was there to do? Until one day Bernadette drops in and shows Paul that there is a whole world out there, right outside his bowl, with so many things to see. A banana-shaped boat! A blue elephant with a spoutlike trunk (be quiet when she’s feeding her babies)! A lovely lunetta butterfly, with tortoise-shell rims! Simple saturated paintings play off this charming ode to an active imagination — and the way that life changes when a bewitching creature opens your eyes.” – from the Publisher
  • The Remains of Love by Zeruya Shalev, trans. from the Hebrew by Philip Simpson (Bloomsbury) – “Lauded Israeli author Shalev tells the story of a family in turmoil, brought together in Jerusalem where the mother lies dying in a hospital bed. Hemda, the matriarch in her final days, remembers painful and touching moments from her life as a young girl on a kibbutz. Avner, the prodigal son, has become overweight and dull, but a fleeting moment with a woman he meets at the hospital infuses him with hope. Dina, the forgotten daughter, struggles to love her own teenage daughter in a way she was never loved by Hemda. Like Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine (1984), the story unfolds through the voices of different family members of several generations. Shalev’s writing is dense and slow-going, however, and while she is wise in the ways of the human subconscious, it is often difficult to distinguish reality from the life of the mind.” –Heather Paulson at Booklist

“Book Bits” is compiled by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of contemporary fantasy novels and paranormal short stories.


Book Bits: Reviews of ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’

oceanendoflaneBy now, most readers who love myth, fantasy, a hint of magic, and wonderful stories know that Neil Gaiman’s first novel for adults in eight years is available online and at nearby bookstores. Everyday E Book calls The Ocean at the End of the Lane “a Gift for Your Inner Child.”

Here’s a roundup of recent reviews:

  • Kirkus Reviews: “From one of the great masters of modern speculative fiction: Gaiman’s first novel for adults since Anansi Boys (2005)…Poignant and heartbreaking, eloquent and frightening, impeccably rendered, it’s a fable that reminds us how our lives are shaped by childhood experiences, what we gain from them and the price we pay.”
  • Christian Science Monitor: “‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane,’ pairs themes from Gaiman’s young adult novels – a lonely child having to outwit an evil masquerading as a caregiver – with a middle-aged melancholy. It’s his most successful “grown-up” book since 2001’s Hugo and Nebula-winning ‘American Gods,’ at one-third the page count.
  • Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “If you like Neil Gaiman’s books, chances are you enjoy his voice as much as anything he might choose to say with it. Whether he describes forgotten gods down on their luck or a transcendentally brilliant plan to swap a dad for goldfish, the voice remains a familiar and kindly sort of trickster, smiling its affectionate smile, intending to lead you down to a very dark place and abandon you there.”
  • The Columbus, Ohio Dispatch: “Gaiman has stripped away the glamour and frippery of some of his previous stories and writes sparely of a child’s joys, sorrows and courage. He paints a child’s life with wrenching sympathy and precision, and delivers an engrossing myth for our age. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, full of discovery and bonding, sacrifice and heroism, will gratify Gaiman fans and new readers alike.”
  • The Guardian: “This is Gaiman’s first adult novel since Anansi Boys in 2005 and his millions of fans will be mad for it. It tells the story of a man who returns to Sussex for a funeral and then finds himself driving “randomly” to the scenes of his childhood. He is drawn to the Hempstock farmhouse wherein, he remembers, there lived three generations of powerful and mysterious Hempstock women. The youngest of these, Lettie, used to call their duck pond her “Ocean” – later revealed (in a beautiful passage) to be a metaphor for what might best be described as the cosmic life force. And it is by this Ocean that the narrator sits down and recalls the magical and traumatic events that befell his seven-year-old self.”
  • The Washington Post: “This is a novel of nostos — that ineffable longing for home, for the sensations and feelings of childhood, when the world was frightening and magical all at once, when anything and everything were possible…’The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ is a small thing with much joy and heartache, sacrifice and friendship, beautifully crafted and as lonesome as the ocean.”
  • Barnes & Noble Review: “I think, Gaiman would be better to follow his character’s advice and let his attempts at myth just be. When he does, ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ is not just very good but cleaves quite close to greatness. It suggests that the process of growing may be learning how those “greater things” the narrator reflects on are entwined with the small things he took pleasure in as a child — much as the pond at the Hempsteads’ farm is actually, as one of the women there insists, an ocean.”
  • Salon: “The novel begins and ends with the narrator, now an adult, returning to the English village where he grew up, for a family funeral. (The deceased is never identified, but there are hints it is the man’s father.) We learn that he’s been married and separated, that he is a working artist, that he has grown children. When he looks back on the strange events of his childhood, it is through the mellowed and slightly melancholy lens of middle-age. What the story sacrifices of the sweet, glassy purity of a child’s view, it compensates for with the complex sepia of maturity; it’s the difference between a bright young white wine and a well-aged burgundy.”
  • Book List: “Gaiman mines mythological typology—the three-fold goddess, the water of life (the pond, actually an ocean)—and his own childhood milieu to build the cosmology and the theater of a story he tells more gracefully than any he’s told since ‘Stardust’ (1999). And don’t worry about that “for adults” designation: it’s a matter of tone. This lovely yarn is good for anyone who can read it.”

“Book Bits” is compiled several times a week by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of the Vietnam War-era contemporary fantasy “The Sailor”


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