Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Wishlist and Support Your Local Bookstore

I completely agree, and I hope people will shop their local indie bookstore for Christmas presents this holiday season:

"There are lots of reasons to support local businesses, whether it's
mom-and-pop hardware stores or neighborhood farmers' markets. But when
you buy from an independent bookseller, you're doing something more.
You're helping to keep alive an important force in making our national
literary culture more diverse, interesting and delightful. Your shelves
are full of books that wouldn't be there if not for indie booksellers
you've never met, struggling to get by in shops you've never heard of.
That's why it's so important to support the one next door."

--Laura Miller, introducing Salon's new project "Declaration of
created to "draw more attention to these fantastic local shops by
featuring your favorites."

I don't think this list is definitive, but it still contains some great shops that I would love to visit:

The Huffington Post featured the "World's Great Bookshops"
as chosen by Black Tomato,
which said, "We love a good book, and we're definitely advocates for
keeping traditional books alive and the bookshops in which they live. To
inspire you to feel the same we've handpicked our favorite bookshops
from around the globe. There are some truly magical bookstores out
there, if you just know where to look."

Below is a partial wishlist of books I'd like to gather to add to my already towering TBR!

Touch of Power, Maria V Snyder
Don't Sing at the Table, Adriana Trigiani
Darker Still, Lanna Renee Hieber
Bloodhound, Terrier, Mastiff, Tamora Pierce
Curiosity, Joan Thomas
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs
The Good Girls Guide to Getting Lost, Rachel Friedman
Stone Maiden, Ann Aguirre
The Reading Promise, Alice Ozana
The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson
Blue Eyed Boy, Joanne Harris
Dragon Ship, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Aftertaste, Meredith Mileti
Dark Descendant, Jenna Black
The Story and Its Writer, Ann Charters
A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup at a Time, Katrina Ávila Munichiello, editor
The Winter Sea, Susanna Kearsley
Mr G: A Novel About the Creation, Alan Lightman
Ghost Light, Joseph O'Connor
Second Read, James Marcus
The Fry Chronicles, Stephen Fry
The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach

On the same note, I've just finished "Wizard's First Rule" by Terry Goodkind, and though I loved the TV series, "Legend of the Seeker" that was based on it, I have to say that reading the book was a much richer experience. So now I've got to make a pilgrimage to Baker Street Books in Black Diamond to get myself copies of the others in the series, so that I can find out what happens next to Kahlin and Richard.

This is a brilliant blog post that describes how I feel when I read something great and engrossing:

"Maybe we build the stories we love into ourselves. Maybe we digest stories. When we eat a pork chop, we break up its cellular constituents, its proteins, its fats, and we absorb as much of the meat as we can into our bodies. We become part pig. Eat an artichoke, become part artichoke. Maybe the same thing is true for what we read. Our eyes walk tightropes of sentences, our minds assemble images and sensations, our hearts find connections with other hearts. A good book becomes part of who we are, perhaps as significant a part of us as our memories. A good book flashes around inside, endlessly reflecting. Its shapes, its people, its places become our shapes, our people, our places.
We take in a story. We metabolize it. We incorporate it."
Read the rest of this wonderful blog here:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Rest in Peace, Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey, author of the Dragonriders of Pern series and many other SF/F novels, died this past Friday at the age of 85. She had survived a stroke and a heart attack, only to succumb to a killing stroke that, according to the statement by her children, took her swiftly and with no pain, thank God.
I started reading Anne McCaffrey when I was 9 or 10 years old, and reading "Restoree" as a pre-teen was a lifesaver for me, because it gave me hope that one day I could, perhaps, trade in my old fat skin for someone lovely who would win the admiration and adoration of my classmates, particularly Karl McVey and Steve Manion, whom I had crushes on in Junior High.
When I met McCaffrey in 2001, she was wheelchair-bound, but fiesty as anything, swearing like a sailor and laughing with Elizabeth Scarborough, with whom she was on tour for one of their mutual efforts. When I revealed to her that I had just been diagnosed with Crohns Disease, she sputtered and swore about how horribly the disease had been treating her daughter, who had suffered through many intestinal operations. "G-damned Crohn's!" she said, and then, when I told her how much "Restoree" had meant to me as a pre-teen, she said "It meant a lot to me, too, it was my first book!" When I asked to take a photo with her myself, and then with my husband, she insisted that instead of saying "cheese" we say "SEX!" and smile broadly, which of course made everyone laugh. She was ferocious and determined not to let a stroke get her down. She talked about new books on the horizon, especially her collaborations with Scarborough and others. She asked if Jim and I would like to go to supper with her at a local fancy restaurant, but we had to decline, due to our lack of funds to buy dinner, and I was too embarrassed to tell her that, and to explain that we couldn't leave our son at home with a sitter for too long. She seemed somewhat peeved at us for not accepting her invitation, but I felt that otherwise, the meeting was a success, and that I'd met one of my author/heroes.
So when I heard she'd died, I found myself saddened, but I realize that McCaffrey's work leaves behind a huge legacy of great entertainment for young minds who dream of flying with dragons.
This gal's blog expresses what I felt about McCaffrey and her work perfectly.
Fly free, Anne!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Some Good Quotes and Some Good Books

I totally agree with Mr Wallach and I treasure the fact that my mother read to me as a child, and I've read to my son until recently, now that he's a pre-teen and way too cool for that sort of thing.

"I know I'm a Luddite on this, but there's something very personal about
a book and not one of one thousand files on an iPad, something that's
connected and emotional, something I grew up with and that I want them
to grow up with.... I feel that learning with books is as important a
rite of passage as learning to eat with utensils and being

--Ari Wallach, "a tech-obsessed entrepreneur" and parent in a New York
Times article on parents' preferences for printed books for their children

I also find great wisdom in this, from two authors who are pleading for the life of independent bookstores this holiday local for your book presents, people!

In Down East magazine, cookbook author Kathy Dunst
made a case for supporting independent bookstores, beginning with a
confession: "I am a cookbook author and I often send people to Amazon or
Barnes & Noble because I don't know which stores actually stock my
books. It's a damn shame. The independent bookstore crisis seems to
mimic, in some small way, the whole Occupy Wall Street crisis--the 99%
begging to have a voice, to be given a chance when it comes up against
the power of big banks and big money.

"So I am making a vow. I will shop at independent books as much as
possible, even if it means going out of my way and paying a bit more.
It's worth it to me in the end to know that there are still book stores
out there where I can browse for an hour, or an entire afternoon,
reading through new and old books and learning about authors I never
knew. I don't want a computer-generated list of book suggestions coming
to me through my computer. I want to spend more time talking to the
devoted shopkeeper of an independent bookstore who has read these
books--often met the author--and can truly recommend something great. I
want more human-to-human book connection and less time 'talking' to my
computer. I want to look at book covers and feel the gorgeous quality of
the paper. I want to go to readings at independent bookstores and hear
authors talk about writing and the state of the world. This cannot be
reproduced in a computer or chain store."

--- YES!

"I believe that real books, those pulp-and-paste objects that threaten
our backs when moved from home to home in old wine boxes, must
survive--as should the most dedicated merchants who sell them," wrote
author Julia Glass
in her "Ode to Indies" for Ladies' Home Journal. "So if you are lucky
enough to live near an independent bookstore, think hard before you
exploit its browsability and then go home to order your books from an
online retail behemoth. (Some bookstores, by the way, can 'fill' your
e-reader onsite.) Even if you don't live near a good shop, many now
maintain websites that enable you to order online just as easily as you
might from Amazon....

"But there's another reason it's so essential to preserve independent
bookstores: The people who run them and what they know. I read reviews
and consider myself pretty 'plugged in' to the literary cosmos, yet one
of the things I love best about book-touring is the opportunity to
compare notes with favorite booksellers around the country. I always
come home with books by authors I'd never heard of--or books I've read
about but didn't realize I might love."

Today marks the beginning of the sun in Sagittarius, my birth sign and that of my son, so I thought I'd drop in a little tutorial about all things Archer!

All About Sagittarius
Sagittarians are known as the "favorites of the gods" for good reason: These folks are famous for their generosity, humor and optimism, as well as their ability to see the best is every situation, no matter how dire the circumstances. A Sagittarius will find a real reason to celebrate each and every day, something due in no small part to Jupiter, this sign's planetary ruler that's best known for benevolence. Of course, the other side of this coin is excess and extravagance, so in addition to knowing how to laugh -- and how to make others laugh -- Sagittarians are also experts at overdoing everything. At the same time, if a Sag has to be restricted to just one of anything, it better be the most impressive of its kind!

Sagittarians are also famous for their love of travel and philosophy -- these people crave knowledge and will spare no effort to satisfy their innate curiosity. Sag's own personal philosophy is that life is nothing more than a series of extended vacations, which is why so many born under the sign of the Archer end up living in a different city, state or even country than where they grew up.

When it comes to relationships, Sagittarians often find that some of their most successful ones are with four-legged creatures -- their connection to anything with fur, feathers and even leaves is legendary. Romantically speaking, if you're a human, you can only have a Sag of your very own if you're willing to hold them with an open palm; restrictions will not be tolerated. However, if you let your Sag sweetie know you care, but allow them to live as they see fit, you'll have gained an intelligent, witty and highly impressive partner whose long-term loyalty will astound you.

One warning about Sagittarians: Don't ever ask them a question if you can't withstand an honest answer. They're bound to tell the truth above all else, regardless of the consequences -- that way, at least they can be sure you know exactly who they are. And while Sagittarians can get along with just about anyone, many of them are drawn to those born under other Fire signs also living by the motto, "What you see is truly what you get."

In the past two weeks, I've finished two novels and a short story collection, Laurel Hamilton's "Never After" a collection of "revised" fairy tales in which the female protagonist refuses to be married off to whomever is chosen for her, and instead chooses her own "happily ever after." With story titles like "Can He Bake a Cherry Pie?" and "The Wrong Bridegroom" it's inevitable that there will be quite a number of twists and turns in this anthology, which, although somewhat uneven in storytelling talent, is still a darned good read. The authors keep the characters just entertaining enough, and just different enough from their classic fairy tale counterparts that the reader feels compelled to read on to find out what happens. It's a fast-paced book and well worth the time. I'd give it a solid B+ and recommend it to fantasy fans who enjoy seeing what a contemporary author can do with a tale retold.
Alice Hoffman's "The Red Garden" was less satisfying, unfortunately, mainly because I felt I'd already read it. Her book "Blackbird House" is nearly a carbon copy of this book, about the origins of a town and the generations of the founders through time. This time, we're again following the pioneer families who founded Blackwell, Massachusetts, and the one crazy woman who manages to keep them all alive, and who eventually runs off with a bear and is never seen or heard from again. As with all her books, there is "magical realism" woven throughout, and people come to realizations, fall in love with someone they're not supposed to, and have strange children. Inevitably, the founders house and her "red garden" are characters in and of themselves, and Hoffman brings it all back around at the end and ties it up with a bow for the reader, though I found that a bit too facile an ending. I also found myself getting bored with the book, which is a cardinal sin for me as a reader, because Blackbird House was so similar in content and form, right down to the child who drowns and the crazy pioneer woman. I've also read "Practical Magic" and "The Ice Queen" and I have a copy of "Probable Future" that has been in my TBR for awhile, so I am familiar with Hoffman's style and her tendency toward quirky female protagonists and bad male characters who meet with grim ends. Though I respect the fact that she's written 29 novels, I am saddened that she seems to "phone it in" with the Red Garden, and re-tread a previous plot with characters that are much the same. I regret that I paid full price for this trade paperback book, though I plan on turning it in for credit at Baker Street Books Used Bookstore. Still, it merits a C at best and I wouldn't recommend it to any but the most die-hard of Hoffman fans who love East Coast historical fiction.
Finally, the last book I finished was Tess Gerritsen's "The Keepsake" which is a Rizzoli and Isles mystery, and as I've watched and loved the TV show (though it has been cancelled, much to my consternation) I thought I'd see how the original novels stacked up. Boston cop Jane Rizzoli isn't as sassy as the TV version, and Medical Examiner Maura Isles on TV is blonde, sleek and not having an affair with a priest, so she seems a lot less skittish and guilty on the tube. Still, though they interacted a bit less than they do on TV, I liked the book version of Rizzoli and Isles, and I found the deft plot and fully-realized characters very interesting, along with the twist at the end that I didn't see coming. This book deserves a B, and I'd recommend it to those who like women solving mysteries and getting their hands dirty in the case, while also learning a lot about Egyptian mummifying techniques.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Home Front, Magic on the Line and Flavia DeLuce

Home Front by Kristin Hannah is the fourth book I've read by this author, and, full disclosure, it was sent to me as an ARC with a publication date of January 31, 2012. I was surprised at how fast this book reads, because its 390 pages long. But local favorite Hannah has created a wonderfully intimate story with characters so realistic I found it hard to believe I hadn't actually met them. The squeaky-clean prose has just the right amount of description and the plot, though complex, is still swift and sure. I found the book hard to put down once I started reading it this weekend, and, as I wrote to the marketing person for the book, you'll need to have a box of kleenex tissues handy when you read the novel, because from page 199 on, if you're not crying, you have no soul.
Home Front is, as the title declares, the story of a soldier at war, but this time, the soldier is Jolene "Jo" Z, whose husband Michael, a lawyer, doesn't approve of her military service and who tells her the day before she is deployed to Iraq that he no longer loves her. What follows is Jo's emails home to her two daughters that downplay the horrors of war, her private journal entries that tell the terrifying reality and Michael's struggle to raise his two children while also growing up and figuring out what he wants out of life and of his wife. When Jo's Apache Helicopter is shot down, and her best friend is near death's door and Jo loses her leg, the real test of family and marital love, loyalty and mental health are tested. I really felt for Jolene from the beginning of the book, because she had such a horrible childhood with selfish, alcoholic parents who abandoned her, only to have her selfish husband try to abandon her again just when she needed him most. But the fact that Jo gets through all the grief and guilt and manages to keep her marriage and her family intact while learning to walk with a prosthetic leg was just amazing and uplifting and made me proud to be an American and a woman. I would give this book an A, and recommend it to those who have either served in the military or come from military families. It's a journey worth taking, trust me.

Flavia deLuce is back, just in time for the holidays in "I am Half-Sick of Shadows," by Alan Bradley. As with all Flavia's mysteries, there is skulduggery afoot, but this time, it's all happening under Flavia's nose at the family estate, Buckshaw. The colonel, her father, is drowning in debt and allows a film crew to rent his family mansion for a movie to try and solve his cash flow problem. The film stars aging star Phyllis Wyvern, who agrees to do a scene from Romeo and Juliet (prior to shooting the film) as a fundraiser for the town church's roof repair. Unfortunately, though the whole town of Bishops Lacey shows up, so does a blizzard of Biblical proportions, and everyone is stuck at Buckshaw until the roads clear. Meanwhile, Flavia is concocting a sticky trap for St Nick and putting fireworks on the roof, while also uncovering family secrets about Phyllis Wyvern. When Wyvern ends up dead, strangled with her own movie film, Flavia gathers clues and figures out whodunit in record time. Though Flavia is the same age as my son Nick, she's a bit more mature, and uses her brilliant mind to see through the lies and secrets of the adults around her, without being judgmental. As with all the previous Flavia deLuce mysteries, Bradley's prose is clear and precise and his plots are so fast they're breathtaking. I'd give this book a B+ and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys British mysteries and unusual detectives/sleuths.
Finally, the second to last Allie Beckstrom urban fantasy, Magic on the Line (by Devon Monk) just hit the shelves at the beginning of November. This 7th novel in the series is pretty dark, and has Allie going up against the new head of the Authority, a bad apple named Bartholomew Wray, who refuses to believe that all the magic in the city has been corrupted by the Veiled, and is making Allie sick whenever she uses it. Add to that a plague that kills people who get bitten by the Veiled, and you can imagine the mayhem that ensues. Both Allie's boyfriend Zayvion and her Hound friends and authority friends will have to make some seriously tough decisions before the end of the book, and there is a lot of emotional fallout to deal with not only in her relationship with Zay, but in her dealings with the Authority and magic. As usual, I love Monks fun and funky Portland,Oregon setting, her zingy, tangy prose and her lightening-fast plots. It took me less than a day to read this book, and like potato chips, Monks novels leave you hungering for more. I'd give this book a B+ and recommend it to anyone who loves local urban fantasy and kick-arse heroines.

This guy has a point! Especially for someone like me, who has loads of books:

E-Books: A Threat to Marriage?

"The lightness of the e-book medium, literally and figuratively, holds a
terrible allure and an insidious threat to the heavily booked-up among
us. How many marriages, seemingly held firm by the impossibility of
moving several hundredweight of vinyl or CDs out of a family-sized home,
have already foundered post the digitization of music? How many more
will break if apparently inseparable and immovable matrimonial libraries
become something that anyone can walk out with in their pocket?"

--James Meek in the most recent issue of the London Review of Books

In my opinion, this is a much better way to change the world:
John Wood Continues to Change the World

Nicholas Kristof had a touching update in the New York Times yesterday
on John Wood, author of Leaving Microsoft to Change the World,
whose charity, Room to Read, has opened 12,000 libraries and 1,500
schools around the world since it began in 1998 and also supports some
13,500 impoverished girls. Recently, in Vietnam, Wood handed out his 10
millionth book.

Kristof wrote in part: "So many American efforts to influence foreign
countries have misfired--not least here in Vietnam a generation ago. We
launch missiles, dispatch troops, rent foreign puppets and spend
billions without accomplishing much. In contrast, schooling is cheap and
revolutionary. The more money we spend on schools today, the less we'll
have to spend on missiles tomorrow."

Woods told Kristof: "In 20 years, I'd like to have 100,000 libraries,
reaching 50 million kids. Our 50-year goal is to reverse the notion that
any child can be told 'you were born in the wrong place at the wrong
time and so you will not get educated.' That idea belongs on the
scrapheap of human history."

Thursday, November 03, 2011

I Got An ARC From Kristin Hannah!

Anyone who knows me can tell you that nothing makes me happier than getting a new book to read, and yesterday I was delighted to receive two books in the mail. One was Devon Monk's latest Allie B book, Magic on the Line, which I ordered from the perfectly wonderful Island Books on Mercer Island, and the other was an unexpected but most welcome copy of Kristin Hannah's "Home Front" which is due out next year. I was so delighted that I was doing my "Milk the Dairy Cow" happy dance, recently stolen from the TV series "Body of Proof!" So now I have a ton of great reading ahead of me. The enclosed literature says that if I like the book and post a review, they will send me a free hardback copy of the novel...I like the sound of that, getting another free book in the mail, hurrah! I've already read three of Hannah's other books, Magic Hour, True Colors and either Night Road or Firefly Lane, I don't remember which, with the other one in my TBR. Still, I always look forward to reading good local authors whose works are traditionally published.
Meanwhile, here are some fun things I found in Shelf Awareness this week:
I couldn't agree more:

"You must hold a real book in your hand, smell the pages, examine the
type face, the spacing between letters; must note the shape and size of
the book, the weight of it. Only then can you experience the book's full
import. And its magic.

"A book as an object is a piece of history....

"Of course, new books are not quite the same, but you can be a book's
'first' owner, the first to hold, read and study it. You can learn from
its binding and paper and weight and lettering and smell. You can hold a
new book in trust for its future owners. You can become part of its

"Give your e-reader a rest, grab a real, printed book: and feel the

--Helen Selzer, owner of Farshaw's Too, South
Egremont, Mass., in a post on her blog Books Books Books

This is a splendid idea!

Point Reyes Books,
Point Reyes, Calif., has developed a program called community supported bookstore (CSB),
based on the principles of community supported agriculture (CSA), the
Point Reyes Point reported.

Under the CSB, customers can deposit from $150-$500 into a bookstore
account, make purchases from that account and receive a 5% discount. The
bookstore will use CSB fees for operational and community events during
slower months. The store introduced the program two weeks ago at an
event with Michael Ondaatje and already has 30 members.

Steve Costa, who with his wife, Kate Levinson, bought the store in 2003,
told the paper: "It's an opportunity for locals to step up and really
support the bookstore. To say, 'I really want this bookstore to survive
over time.' Those dollars really will make a big difference."

The store hopes to have 200 members in the CSB by the end of the year
and at least 500 members within a year. The model might work for other
indies, Costa said.

Sad, but true:

"When we are green, still half-created, we believe that our dreams are
rights, that the world is disposed to act in our best interests, and
that falling and dying are for quitters. We live on the innocent and
monstrous assurance that we alone, of all the people ever born, have a
special arrangement whereby we will be allowed to stay green forever."
--Tobias Wolff, This Boy's Life: A Memoir