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  • BN Editors 4:00 am on 2020/07/21 Permalink
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    An Exclusive Guest Post from Laura Lippman, Author of Lady in the Lake—Our July Mystery & Thriller Pick 

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    Laura Lippman, author of Sunburn and the Tess Monaghan series, returns to the streets of Baltimore in this classic story of ambition, dreams and murder with perfectly placed elements of noir and sly humor. This riveting thriller delivers all the right twists and will keep your mind spinning until the very end. Stephen King was even quoted as saying “Lippman answers all outstanding questions with a totally cool double twist that your reviewer—a veteran reader of mysteries—never saw coming.” Here, Laura shares some of the political and literary inspirations behind her latest novel—and our must-read July Mystery & Thriller Pick.

    Lady in the Lake began with a specific desire not to write about the present. It was early 2017, I had just finished a novel set in the mid-90s, but I couldn’t see how to write about the present day. I think one thing we can all agree on is that the early months of 2017 felt a little crazy, although relative to 2020—well, anyway, I was stumped.

    I was aware that the presidential election of 2016 had some uncanny similarities to the Maryland gubernatorial race of 1966. I had always known that the parents of my series character, Tess Monaghan, had met while working on that campaign. I began to plan a prequel— a story that would explain why Tess has an “uncle” named Spike whose connection to the family had always been murky and whose past as a convicted felon was unexplored.

    The problem with a prequel is that it’s hard to surprise readers. So, even as I immersed myself in all things 1966, I allowed my original ideas to recede to the background. But what to replace them with? I was re-reading Marjorie Morningstara beloved favorite, when I was struck for the first time by how young Marjorie is at the book’s end— only 39. Yet Herman Wouk writes her off as if her life is finished, with no surprises or adventures left.

    I began to think about how a chance encounter with someone who knew us in our youths could become a call to action, a reminder of all the things we promised our younger selves. And I also began thinking about how carelessly our culture has used Black bodies, Black suffering. What would happen if a White woman became obsessed with the mysterious death of an African American woman, saw it as her ticket to success and lost all sight of the humanity of the dead woman?

    And what would happen if the woman’s ghost was having no part of it?

    The post An Exclusive Guest Post from Laura Lippman, Author of <i>Lady in the Lake</i>—Our July Mystery & Thriller Pick appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • BN Editors 4:00 am on 2020/07/17 Permalink
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    A Guest Post from Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Author of Mexican Gothic-The Girl in the Mansion: How Gothic Romances Became Domestic Noirs 

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    Picture this: you’re driving in the middle of nowhere late at night. You look to your left, and there, off in the distance atop a tree-lined hill, looms an old, well-worn Victorian house. What kind of horrors might linger behind those heavy doors? Are there long-forgotten secrets hidden deep in the basement, or ominous spirits roaming the halls? Maybe you accelerate just a little to put the house in your rearview mirror, shivers running down your spine.  

    In case you couldn’t tell, we love a good gothic tale, which is why we can’t stop talking about Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s new novel, Mexican Gothic. With callbacks to classic literature like Rebecca, Jane Eyre, and Haunting of Hill House, Moreno-Garcia (author of Gods of Jade and Shadow) proves that she is just as consumed by stories of haunted houses as we are. Here, she explores how the genre has evolved over time—from fearful women trapped in fearsome houses to fearful women living in a fearsome world. 

    Whatever happened to that girl? The girl from the Gothic romance novels—long hair, old-fashioned dress, with a dark, looming house in the distance and a look of anxiety on her face.

    This was a category dominated by authors such as Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney, and their covers fixed in the minds of a couple of generations what ‘Gothic’ meant.

    Most of these mid-century Gothics adhered to a simple formula which contained a young woman, a big house and a dangerous yet exciting man. Often the women were in subservient positions, working for the lord of the manor, orphaned, or the like. The women encountered some mystery that needed solving and eventually found love with the dangerous-exciting man, who turned out to be misunderstood. Although the mystery and threats surrounding the heroine seemed to be of supernatural origin, there was usually a rational explanation.

    As Joanna Russ explains in her essay “Somebody’s Trying to Kill Me and I Think It’s My Husband: The Modern Gothic,” the 1960s Gothic romance ultimately resembled a crossbreed between Jane Eyre and Rebecca, and publishers such as Terry Carr believed the appeal of the books was that they featured “women who marry guys and then begin to discover their husbands are strangers.”

    Whatever the plot variation, Gothic novels allowed for excitement, romance and sublimated sexual desire, as well as providing the heroine with a certain level of agency: after all, she had to survive and solve the mystery, even if the killer was inside the house with her.

    This game of literary Scooby-Doo was profitable. Such was the demand for Gothic books that in true pulp fashion sometimes one title would be re-issued with a different cover and a new name.

    Yet, by the end of the 1970s, the Gothic novel seemed to vanish from shelves. Fans who had previously turned to these books now looked for the emergent, spicier romances such as The Flame and the Flower, and readers more inclined to chills were about to discover Stephen King and the 1980s horror boom.

    And so, the genre died. Or did it? I believe that rather than disappear completely, what happened was that the impulses behind the Gothic novel mutated and eventually gave birth to what we call the Domestic Noir.

    Author Julia Crouch has defined Domestic Noir as a genre which “takes place primarily in homes and workplaces, concerns itself largely (but not exclusively) with the female experience, is based around relationships and takes as its base a broadly feminist view that the domestic sphere is a challenging and sometimes dangerous prospect for its inhabitants.”

    Domestic noirs emphasize the female experience with their covers and titles. Peruse the shelves and you’ll find that it’s a world of girls (Gone Girl, The Girl Before), wives (The Wife Between Us, The Silent Wife, My Husband’s Wife, The Perfect Wife), and the like.

    In The Gothic Romance Wave: A Critical History of the Mass Market Novels, 1960-1993, Lori A. Paige states that although Gothic romances offered upright heroines, “below the surface of every story remained an undercurrent of self-conscious repression, vice and even depravity.” The same could be said of domestic noirs such as The Girl on the Train where a heroine attempts to conceal her alcoholism and the woman she is fascinated with—a seemingly perfect woman—is involved in a torrid affair.

    In domestic noirs, heroines might still fear their husbands, but they also seem to be frightened of a wider variety of people including neighbors, friends and even employees, the rollercoaster taking them through numerous peaks and valleys of anxiety.

    I don’t think it’s a perfectly straight line between the Gothic romances of old and the current boom of domestic noir, but they both reflect that eerie feeling that the call is coming from inside the house. And perhaps the phone has been ringing for a long time.

    The post A Guest Post from Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Author of <i>Mexican Gothic</i>-The Girl in the Mansion: How Gothic Romances Became Domestic Noirs appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • BN Editors 4:00 am on 2020/07/16 Permalink
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    Podcasts, Memory and Setting Up the Perfect Summer Thriller: Five Questions for Kit Frick, Author of I Killed Zoe Spanos—Our July YA Book Club Pick 

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    There’s nothing better than kicking back with a twisty thriller during the summer, and that’s why I Killed Zoe Spanos is the perfect choice for our July YA Book Club. This fever-dream thrill ride will leave you catching your breath and guessing again and again until the very end. Amber Smith, author of The Way I Used to Becalled this book “haunting, addictive, and simply unputdownable,” and we couldn’t agree more. Fans of Sadie by Courtney Summers and One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus, as well as podcasts like Serial will not want to miss this must-read book of the summer. We were thrilled to ask Kit Frick five questions on everything from her favorite podcasts to the inspiration behind some of her most haunting characters to what she’s reading now.

    And don’t miss our virtual #BNYABookClub event live on B&N Facebook on Thursday, August 6th at 4 PM ET.

    The Missing Zoe podcast sets to uncover the truth of Zoe’s disappearance. Were there any podcasts that you were a fan of, or listened to, while writing that inspired you?

    Absolutely! The Missing Zoe podcast transcripts were so much fun to create. I’m an avid true crime podcast listener, as I’m endlessly intrigued by crime and criminality. There’s so much to discover about humanity, the criminal justice system, prejudice, and even storytelling through the examination of real cases. That being said, all true crime podcasts are not created equal. I’m not a fan of those that set out to sensationalize or that seem to forget that their subjects and their families are real people. (Martina grapples with that last point herself while hosting Missing Zoe.)

    A few investigative true crime podcasts I’ve really enjoyed are: Serial season one (obviously!), Bear Brook, Direct Appeal, Finding Tammy Jo, and all the seasons of the CBC podcast Someone Knows Something. A few currently airing, weekly true crime podcasts on my regular rotation are Women & Crime, DIE-ALOGUE and Criminal.

    We see Anna’s memories stretch and change over the course of the story. How do you think the people around you shape your memory and what you believe to be true?

    Memory is a fascinating and scary thing. Without giving too much away, the malleability of memory plays a key role in the novel, and it’s something I spent a lot of time thinking about when building the story. People like to say, “I have a great memory,” or “my memory is terrible,” but usually it’s not as cut-and-dried as those statements make it out to be. In fact, those of us with “great” memories often misremember important events, and those of us who readily acknowledge that our memories are bad are probably just more tuned into the faultiness of the human brain in this regard. There are illuminating studies on eyewitness testimonies and false memories that would blow your mind.

    We’re highly suggestible as humans when it comes to memory—even if we’d like to think we’re not. I’m not saying everyone is lying to you (or am I?) but when we hear others’ accounts of events, or when a past occurrence is suggested to us, it can actually alter the memory stored in our brain. There are scientists and researches that would be able to speak to this much better than I can but suffice to say that I really empathize with my protagonist, Anna, who is unreliable yet very relatable in her struggle with memory.

    As a little girl wise beyond her years, Paisley wasn’t what we were expecting. Did you always set out to create her this way or did she evolve over the course of your writing?

    In fiction, as in life, it’s so often the case that kids pick up on things that adults miss or exhibit a depth of perception beyond that which we give them credit for. I always knew that Paisley—Anna’s nannying charge for the summer—would play a special role in the story. As is the case for many writers, the magic of discovery is often in the drafting, so while the kernel of Paisley’s character was there from the beginning, it was through the process of writing and revising that she really came into her own.

    Setting always plays such an important role, especially in a thriller. What drew you to telling this story in such an idyllic place like Herron Mills?

     I chose the Hamptons setting largely because of Daphne du Maurier’s classic romantic thriller Rebecca, which served as a source of inspiration for my novel. Rebecca is set in an upscale, seaside suburb of London, England, so when thinking about the perfect setting for I Killed Zoe Spanos, placing my own mystery in an affluent seaside village in the Hamptons, just east of New York City, was a natural fit.

    There’s a fascination we have as readers when bad things happen in beautiful, privileged places. That sheen of perfection and impenetrability is stripped away. I love a vivid, atmospheric setting and creating the fictional Hamptons town of Herron Mills Village—which is based on East End villages like East Hampton and Amagansett—was key to getting to the heart of this story. The setting is truly a character in its own right.

    This is shaping up to be quite the summer for YA. What are you reading now and what’s up next in your TBR pile?

    It certainly is! I could go on and on here, but I’ve limited myself to four summer books in four different genres that I’m very excited about:

    Romantic Comedy: Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon is an absolutely delightful rivals-to-lovers rom-com set over 24 hours in Seattle.

    Contemporary Realistic / Mystery: This Is My America by Kim Johnson is one of my most anticipated summer debuts. It’s going to strike a chord for readers seeking a compelling, timely crime novel.

    Horror: Interview with the Vixen by Rebecca Barrow is an Archie comics horror novel by one of my absolute favorite young adult authors.

    Paranormal Romance: The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig is a queer vampire romance I can’t wait to sink my teeth into.

    The post Podcasts, Memory and Setting Up the Perfect Summer Thriller: Five Questions for Kit Frick, Author of <i>I Killed Zoe Spanos</i>—Our July YA Book Club Pick appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • BN Editors 4:00 am on 2020/07/03 Permalink
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    Why Rick Riordan Loves Sal and Gabi Break the Universe—Our July Young Reader Pick 

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    No one weaves the classic stories of Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology into hilarious, action-packed thrill rides for young readers quite like Rick Riordan. While Rick’s spent years enchanting the minds of our younger readers (and let’s be honest, adults too), most recently he’s turned his attention to showcasing the talents of a whole new crop of amazing writers. Rick Riordan Presents spotlights “middle grade authors from underrepresented cultures and backgrounds, to let them tell their own stories inspired by the mythology and folklore of their own heritage.” And these stories are not only brilliant but earning top awards with much-deserved praise. Here Rick does some praising of his own as he raves about one of the latest additions to the Rick Riordan Presents family: Sal and Gabi Break the Universe.

    You know how I can tell a book is great? When I can’t even describe it to you without ruining the marvelous surprises.

    You’re about to meet Sal Vidón. He’s recently moved from Connecticut to Miami with his dad and American Stepmom because . . . well, let’s just say things got complicated when Sal’s mom, his real mom, changed from Mami Viva to Mami Muerta.

    Then there’s Gabi Reál—student council president and editor of the school paper—whom Sal either finds fascinating or wants to run away from at light speed. He’s not sure yet. All he does know: Gabi is suspicious of Sal’s deepest, darkest secrets. She’s determined to find out more about this strange new kid who is able to pull impossible tricks . . . like putting a dead chicken in the school bully’s locker.

    My wife and I have both fallen in love with Sal and Gabi, and Becky’s a tough critic! The book deserves all the accolades it has received, including four starred reviews and the Pura Belpré Award.

    Welcome to Culeco Academy—a world only Carlos Hernandez could dream up! After reading about Sal and Gabi’s marvelous universe, you’re going to want to move there!

    Don’t miss our virtual event with Sal and Gabi Break the Universe author Carlos Hernandez in conversation with the legendary Rick Riordan on Thursday, July 29th at 4PM ET live on B&N YouTube!


    The post Why Rick Riordan Loves <i>Sal and Gabi Break the Universe</i>—Our July Young Reader Pick appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • BN Editors 4:00 am on 2020/06/11 Permalink
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    An Exclusive Guest Post from Bryce Andrews, Author of Down from the Mountain—Our June Nonfiction Pick. 

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    Bryce Andrews, author of Down from the Mountain, our latest Monthly Nonfiction Pick, joins us to offer a glimpse into the wild spaces of the changing American West. Quietly dramatic and gorgeously written, Outside Magazine calls this beautiful new book about the life and death of a grizzly bear an “ode to wildness and wilderness.” Here the author reflects on the resilience of the grizzly and some wisdom we can all take away right now from these majestic creatures.

    This spring, going into town for groceries feels riskier than my day job. That’s saying something, since my job is keeping grizzly bears away from western Montana’s corn fields, calves, chicken coops, and garbage cans.

    My last town trip was on a cold, overcast morning. A gray inversion sat on Missoula like a broody hen, and it was easy to imagine that cloud of tailpipe emissions and breath as the virus currently wracking us.

    I did not want to enter the city and found it strange to fear my own people—those wilderness-loving, flannelled, hearty pint-glass clinkers. Of course, they meant me no harm. They hadn’t changed. It was just that now, without meaning to, we could lay each other low.

    This got me thinking about grizzlies, and how they survive in today’s West. Everywhere in the mountains around here, bears are waking from miraculous five-month slumbers, emerging from black-mouthed dens as if regurgitated by the earth, stepping hardily into spring’s pale light.

    Their world has changed much more over the course of the past century than ours has in the last few months. Because we’ve inhabited and cultivated so much of this region, the modern grizzly’s hardest task is avoiding humans: keeping away from our livestock and crops; staying out of the paths of speeding cars and bullets. Put simply, grizzlies survive by steering clear of us. And though the bears are good at such distancing, humans still kill more of them than anything else does.

    A grizzly’s life—the subject of Down from the Mountainisn’t easy. It’s built of staggering effort and contains too much tragedy. The amazing thing is that bears often manage it. With caution, they can thrive. Up here in the Northern Rockies, grizzlies are slowly returning to places from which we exterminated them in the twentieth century.

    I find this heartening. Right now, all around us, the natural world is quickening toward spring. Sap is rising and geese are beating up from the south. Bears are rousing to their busy season. And though none of this makes the virus less fearsome, it stands as a testament to the hunger and strength in living creatures—that burning desire to persist, adapt, and find our way on.

    The post An Exclusive Guest Post from Bryce Andrews, Author of <i>Down from the Mountain</i>—Our June Nonfiction Pick. appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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