Between the Covers 27/01/2013

Your weekly guide to what's really going on inside the world of books

The shortlists have just been released for this year's Romantic Novelists' Association Awards, and Madeline Miller's Orange Prize-winning The Song of Achilles seems to stand a good chance in the Epic Romantic Novel category.

Between the Covers can confirm that this is not the first time that a gay romance has been shortlisted for a Rona award: the 1995 overall Romantic Novel of the Year Award went to Sue Gee's The Hours of the Night, in which the love affair between Edward and Rowland is a peripheral, though not the primary, relationship. However, Miller's book, which makes explicit the sexual relationship between Achilles and Patroclus that is hinted at in classical literature, may be the first shortlisted novel in which the romantic couple's relationship is threatened by one partner's mother, a homophobic sea goddess. (If any IoS readers know of another, Between the Covers can't wait to read it.)

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Sometimes the title of a book makes it a guaranteed winner, especially when it comes to members of reading groups. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka just begged to be read, as did Chris Stewart's Driving Over Lemons and Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows's The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Between the Covers is able to predict, then, that a new guide to choosing wine will be a sure fire winner among book clubs. It's called The Knackered Mother's Wine Club, and it will be published by Macmillan on 14 February.

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Thanks to Tom Tivnan, the features editor at The Bookseller for figuring out the following statistics: In 2012, 9,236 people bought Lance Armstrong's autobiography, It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life. That's 2,000 more people than bought Sir Chris Hoy's autobiography in the same period. The lesson: cheaters win.

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On the other hand, two Canadians who purchased the book are now suing Armstrong under California laws against unfair competition and false advertising. They accuse Armstrong of marketing the book as a "true and honest" work of non-fiction, and claim that they would not have bought it had they known that it was a really a work of his active imagination. They are seeking unspecified damages. One imagines that they will not be at the top of the list.

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For the next four months, the British Library will be hosting an exhibition celebrating the history of crime fiction. Enticingly, it is called "Murder in the Library".

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Between the Covers is fascinated by the questionnaires sent out to readers of Mslexia – the magazine for women who write. Not just reading the results, but filling them in. The latest aims to discover if women's writing is affected by cyclical hormonal changes, or by anti-depressants. Or even by phases of the moon ….

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