It would be swell to actually have a local bookshop to support, but, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'd like to report that I am thankful that only 15 or so miles down the road, in Enumclaw, WA, there's a nice little used bookstore called The Sequel that I do try and support as often as possible. My primary care doctor and the hospital where I get my Remicade infusions for Crohn's disease are in Enumclaw, so I have reason to go there every month or so. It's a great little town with a wonderful downtown area that also sports an irresistible stationary store (with a wall of pens!) and an old fashioned movie theater, in addition to some great restaurants. But Rubbo has a good point here about how your buying choices influence your community.
'Reasons to Support Your Local Bookshop'
"Bookshops--and all the shops that come together to make up our
communities, to entice us away from our screens and into communal
spaces--can't exist without our customers. Where you shop is of course
entirely your choice, but it's important to really make that choice a
"We know there are reasons why you might choose to buy books from
Amazon. But there are also good reasons to support your local bookshop.
History shows that community bookshops won't always survive the arrival
of Amazon in their home territory. So, please know that your choices
will influence what your local community looks like in the years ahead.
And that it might not, in the long-term, be possible to choose both
global convenience and local experience."
--Mark Rubbo, managing director of Readings, with seven shops in and near Melbourne,
Australia, in a Guardian column
related to the imminent opening of Amazon in Australia.
This doesn't surprise me so much as delight me, that more people read and buy books on Thanksgiving. Autumn is my favorite time of year anyway, but this only makes it more wonderful.
B&N Survey Finds Thanksgiving Eve 'Busiest Reading Day of the Year'
The day before Thanksgiving is the busiest reading day of the year, with
many holiday travelers turning to reading to help ease the stress of
traveling, an independent survey of holiday reading habits commissioned
by Barnes & Noble has found.
According to the survey, 77% of Americans read at least one book,
newspaper or magazine during Thanksgiving or other holiday travel, while
60% of travelers usually bring, buy or borrow reading material
specifically for travel on Thanksgiving Eve. Some 73% of respondents
said they felt that traveling on the day before Thanksgiving is a "good
time to bring a book they would enjoy and be able to read," and just
over a quarter of Americans feel that "bringing a book along for
Thanksgiving could give them a way to get out of an uncomfortable or
awkward conversation with a relative or other guest."
More than half of the survey's respondents said that they do not get to
read or enjoy books as often as they'd like, with 71% reporting that
holiday travel time is a good opportunity to catch up on books or
magazines that they haven't found the time to read. When it comes to the
benefits of reading while traveling, most respondents answered that:
it's a good way to pass the time while delayed; it helps ease the stress
of traveling; it helps "transport" the reader somewhere else; travel
time is good for catching up on books; and it gives the reader a chance
to learn something new.
Finally, 73% of respondents said that when they do read while traveling,
it makes their trip more relaxing, and 72% said that it makes their trip
I have been contemplating my theater degree, and how it has influenced my life recently, and this book sounds like one that would be utterly fascinating to read. I was not aware that Second City was a direct descendant of the original improv groups.
Shelf Awareness Review: Improv Nation: How We Made a Great American Art
Improvisational theater was invented and developed in the 20th century
United States, and continues to be a life spring of new ideas and talent
for the performing arts, TV and film. Sam Wasson (Fosse) spent years
writing Improv Nation from archival research and scores of interviews.
The result is encyclopedic, garrulous and funny.
Improvisational theater requires its players to be receptive and
generous with each other, competitive but also trusting, and to be
fearless in front of an audience. The first games and rules of improv
were made by Viola Spolin, a Jewish Chicagoan working at the famous Hull
House, which served new immigrant populations in Chicago. Working with
children and then with adults at the Chicago WPA Recreation Project
during the Great Depression, she developed "Theater Games" that
encouraged people to open up and play together spontaneously onstage.
Spolin's son, Paul Sills, founded the Compass Theater, whose members
included the brilliant comedy duo Nichols and May. Some of its members
went on to found the famous and influential Chicago improv theater
Second City, which opened in 1959 to such instant success they didn't
have to advertise. New theaters were founded in cities across the
country, and the age of improv had arrived.
Wasson often seems thrilled and dazzled by his famous subjects, and his
enthusiasm permeates this book. He has organized it chronologically,
with reference to the major political and cultural events of each
period. All the intertwined story lines and Wasson's frequent
digressions can sometimes feel a little chaotic, but another great
anecdote is always on the next page. He describes the evolution of
improv through scenes of creative meetings, rehearsals and performances.
Many artists succeeded and innovated in the early little theaters, and
went on to build strong networks and brilliant careers. Some found
improv "a hell of free will." Improvisational theater influenced a long
list of Hollywood movies, including The Graduate, Animal House and
Waiting for Guffman, and inspired TV shows such as Saturday Night Live,
the Daily Show, the Colbert Report and Key and Peele. Rage, depression
and addiction plagued many of the performers profiled here, along with
all the difficulties of starting careers in the arts. But the creative
and social joy of improvisational theater, and the application of its
principles to daily life, are the unifying themes. "Wherever there is
improvisation, anyone can speak her mind, and that mind, folded in with
others', will form a totally original, harmonious entity... the
democratic spirit channeled through art. Improvisation, then, is
inherently egalitarian; it is about how we can be free together." --Sara
Welcome to Gluttony Bay High Security Supernatural Prison. We value your patronage. For your entertainment this evening, we are delighted to welcome the world's most renowned paranormal culinary experts.
And on the menu: You.
Publisher's Weekly: Wallace returns to the unusual, highly imaginative world of the Sin du Jour catering crew in his sixth installment (after 2017’s Greedy Pigs), the darkest yet. After the disastrous fallout from the American and supernatural presidential inaugurations, which Sin du Jour was hired to cater, the gang barely has a chance to breathe. Allensworth, Sin du Jour’s diabolical patron, kidnaps chef Lena Tarr—who’s sick with worry over her best friend, Darren Vargas, who’s missing—and head honcho Bronko Luck and whisks them off to Gluttony Bay, which happens to reside right next door to another infamous bay in Cuba. Lena and Bronko must cook up a feast for the diners, and, to their horror, they discover that someone they love is on the menu. Lena and Bronko’s dilemma is terrifying, and though Wallace’s trademark sharp humor is present, this installment is much heavier on horror elements than past stories, making a strong statement about the human capacity for cruelty. A spectacular, harrowing, and ultimately heartbreaking action sequence in the third act paves the way for the last installment. This novella is a gem to be savored, much like the delicacies that Sin du Jour serves up to its very strange clientèle
Though Lena and Bronko manage to escape with Vargas, I was not at all sure they'd escape with their lives, and it seems the rest of the team is imploding. The ending of the book is left fairly wide open, and several members of the staff are still in jeopardy, while one staff member is dead and another proves to be completely incompetent. Still, I was riveted and, as usual, hungered for more by the end. I am thoroughly hooked on these slight volumes (not a one is over 200 pages) and eagerly await each installment. I'd give this book an A, with a warning for those who are horror averse that it's a bit more grisly than previous volumes, and I'd recommend it to dark fantasy and horror fans.
A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne is the first in a new epic fantasy series, by the author of the witty and wonderful Iron Druid series, which I adored. Hearne is friends with Patrick Rothfuss, whose Kingkiller Chronicles have resonated with fantasy fans around the world, so I wasn't at all surprised when Hearne announced that he was going to start writing an epic similar to Rothfuss, but of course completely different. Hearne starts out with a different style to his novel by having it told through the performances of a Bard who uses magic to appear as different characters, each with a story to tell about how they came upon the bone giants who started the war. At the front of the book are actual drawings of the main characters with a little bio information beneath, so readers can delve into the book with confidence that they won't lose their place trying to figure out who is who. Here's the blurb:
From the author of The Iron Druid Chronicles, a thrilling novel that kicks off a fantasy series with an entirely new mythology—complete with shape-shifting bards, fire-wielding giants, and children who can speak to astonishing beasts
MOTHER AND WARRIOR Tallynd is a soldier who has already survived her toughest battle: losing her husband. But now she finds herself on the front lines of an invasion of giants, intent on wiping out the entire kingdom, including Tallynd’s two sons—all that she has left. The stakes have never been higher. If Tallynd fails, her boys may never become men.
SCHOLAR AND SPY Dervan is an historian who longs for a simple, quiet life. But he’s drawn into intrigue when he’s hired to record the tales of a mysterious bard who may be a spy or even an assassin for a rival kingdom. As the bard shares his fantastical stories, Dervan makes a shocking discovery: He may have a connection to the tales, one that will bring his own secrets to light.
REBEL AND HERO Abhi’s family have always been hunters, but Abhi wants to choose a different life for himself. Embarking on a journey of self-discovery, Abhi soon learns that his destiny is far greater than he imagined: a powerful new magic thrust upon him may hold the key to defeating the giants once and for all—if it doesn’t destroy him first.
Set in a magical world of terror and wonder, this novel is a deeply felt epic of courage and war, in which the fates of these characters intertwine—and where ordinary people become heroes, and their lives become legend.
Many of the main characters are of the Brynt race, who are dark skinned, while other races are depicted as Asian and some seem to be Celtic or Pictish. I found this inclusion refreshing, while Publisher's Weekly felt that Hearne portrayed one of the SE Asian races as being refugees and therefore impoverished and not as worthy as the other races, which is bunk, in my opinion. The fact that he made sure that his fantasy was inclusive of many races and genders made it a better story, stronger and more realistic, because our world is full of different kinds of people, too. Inbetween the Bard's stories are some great scenes with fun characters who are heartwarming and human. Though things slow down a bit toward the end, I still enjoyed the storytelling provided herein delightful. Hearne's prose is sterling, and his plots never falter, though at times they do have slow spots. I'd give this book an A, and recommend it to anyone who has enjoyed the Kingkiller series by Rothfuss.
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman is a much-anticipated prequel to her famous tome, Practical Magic, which was made into an award winning movie about 25 years ago. I read and loved Practical Magic, and most of the other books Hoffman has written. She has a style reminiscent of MJ Rose and Susana Kearsley, that is dreamy yet robust and lively. Here's the blurb:
From beloved author Alice Hoffman comes the spellbinding prequel to her bestseller, Practical Magic.
Find your magic.
For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.
Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.
From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.
The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy. Thrilling and exquisite, real and fantastical, The Rules of Magic is a story about the power of love reminding us that the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself.
That last line is indicative of the theme of this novel, which seems to be that you can't escape who you are at the core, and what you can do with whatever powers you possess. Franny, Jet and Vincent are all imbued with magical talents that they struggle with using appropriately.
While I loved reading about Aunt Isabelle, and Franny and Jet, Vincent seemed too capricious and cruel to me, and I didn't like his treatment of his sisters or of any of the other women in his life. Still, Vincent's child is the one who creates a line of family that comes down to the Owen girls that we know and love from Practical Magic. Hoffman's prose is, as always, lush and mesmerizing, which moves along on her dancing plots with nary a hitch. I couldn't put this book down, and I would give it a higher grade than an A if there were one. I'd recommend it to anyone who loved Practical Magic or any of Hoffman's other delightful novels. You can't go wrong with any of her books, really.