Sunday, September 29, 2013

50 Shades of Vino, Smut, and Until My Soul Gets it Right by Karen Wojck Berner

This author has written Twilight fan fiction with some added smut, and somehow made millions of dollars doing it. So now that she's wealthy, she feels the need to sell wine? Why? Greed?

E.L. James has begun selling wines
according to the Drinks Business. Red Satin and White Silk are made from
grapes grown in California and feature labels that read "You. Are.

Speaking of smut, here's another TV adaptation of a book that has doubtless been created just for the soft-core porn aspect of it and the ratings that Showtime assumes it will get for airing it. Just like the Sookie Stackhouse series, which went from a fun Southern paranormal mystery book to a TV series that was all about inter-species supernatural sex, I am sure they will quickly gloss over any real scientific discoveries of Masters and Johnson and get right to the porn. Sigh.

Showtime's adaptation of Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William
Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love
by Thomas Maier (Basic Books, $16.99, 9780465079995) makes its premiere
this coming Sunday, September 29. With the amusing subtitle, "arousing
America's curiosity," the series stars Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as
Masters and Johnson and will have 12 episodes.

Though I am not a fan of TV shows that adapt books good books into poor excuses for porn, I do NOT believe in censorship or banning books, particularly books that show a unique point of view on society or a specific issue.

Noting that it "takes courage to defend intellectual freedom and the
freedom to read," the sponsors of Banned Books Week have identified
outstanding individuals and groups who have stood up to defend their
freedom to read and are recognizing them each day as "Heroes of Banned

I received a free copy of  "Until My Soul Gets It Right" by Karen Wojck Berner last week from a Shelf Awareness drawing.
This book is the second volume in Berner's "Bibliophiles" series, which is what attracted me to the title in the first place, as I've been a bibliophile, or book lover, myself, for over 45 years.
The story is the journey of Catherine Elbert, a young Midwestern farm girl, from her early years growing up with her toxic, cruel mother, her cowed and weak father and her brainless, bullying brothers, to her escape to Portland, Maine and later to the sunny climes of California.

After suffering years of abuse and not an ounce of support, Catherine bids her family adieu after high school graduation and heads out to Maine, where she finds a job in a Christmas shop right away, and becomes friends with Patsy, her co-worker and her boss, Katie McLellan. Things are going well until Cat is seduced by a slimy guy named Scott, (which on the face of it makes little sense, but I can only assume he was a sexy looking bad guy and had the kind of charisma that makes girls do stupid things) and starts a clandestine affair with him, only to discover that her friend Patsy is pregnant and engaged to Scott, who explains to a horrified Cat that she was nothing but a little dalliance on the side. someone to have sex with while he was intent on marrying Patsy. Unfortunately, Scott's mother is a horror, a nasty old woman whom everyone calls the Sea Hag, and his father isn't much better. When Patsy confides in Cat that she's become pregnant, Cat advises Patsy to get an abortion, lest she be caught in a miserable marriage to Scott and his interfering, disapproving mother (Mothers take a real beating in this book, and the fathers all seem to be ineffectual dunces. This wouldn't be such a bad thing if they weren't drawn in such an obvious black-hat, white-hat way. They almost become a cliche or a stereotype, instead of a real person.) Once Scott finds out that Cat helped Patsy abort "his" child, all heck breaks loose, and Patsy learns of Cat and Scotts affair and is devastated, as is Ms McLellan, who seems to think that Cat has robbed Patsy of the one thing that would give her life meaning.

I found myself thinking that Cat took a lot of blame that should not have been hers, when Patsy could have said no to the abortion, if she was that intent on carrying slimebag Scotts baby. I think she was much better off not being a part of such a horribly dysfunctional family, with a husband who would cheat on her repeatedly and a mother in law who would bully her constantly. And her boss, the shop owner, turned into instant fair-weather friend, which was sad because she had seemed like a decent person prior to that. Anyway, Cat moves on to a zoo in San Diego, where she meets a nice guy named Will who neglects to tell her that he is from a wealthy, snobbish family.  Cat also finds out that her in laws have a tendency to walk all over their son (another mean mother), yet her love for Will wins out in the end, and after failed attempts at acting, Cat realizes that she just needs to apologize to her friends in Portland and get involved with a book group, as well as learn to play golf with her husband and in laws, and life will be okay. After her apologies are accepted, (and after Cat returns home for her father's funeral, only to realize that her mother is still a monster and her brothers are aging idiots) Cat takes her husbands last name on her driver's license, and that's the end. A lot of questions were left unanswered by that ending.

My main problem with this book was that I was expecting a novel about book-lovers and the books that they read and enjoy. I was also expecting a lot about bookstores and libraries and other places bibliophiles call holy, but there was nothing about bibliophiles until the final 1/4 of the book. There was a short story after the readers guide, but it was about characters I'd never heard of before, not having read the first book in this series, so it made little sense to me. Also, I was perturbed that Catherine's abusive, horrible mother is never explained. We never learn why she hated her daughter so much that she would continually abuse, ignore and neglect her. We never learn why nearly all the mothers in this book are twisted beasts, none of them worthy of having and raising a child. Most of the men in the book are either weak, stupid or evil (or a combination of all three), which also doesn't make a lot of sense. Will becomes so wimpy that he doesn't say a thing to Cat when she lashes out at him and snarls about his job with his father's firm.
Though I found this book engrossing, there were a number of things about it that didn't make sense to me, or needed to be elaborated on for the sake of clarity of plot. The characters needed to be more than black and white, and the prose, though clean, could have used more complexity and less redundancy. I'd give it a C+ and recommend this book to those who have survived abusive families and learned to move on with their lives.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Libnrary Cats, Downton Abbey Season 4, The Paris Wife and Dream When You're Feeling Blue

 Shelf Awareness, as always is on top of popular literary culture, and I was thrilled to read and watch these clips last week, of Downton Abbey season 4, which we have to wait until January 2014 to see, unfortunately.

You'll have to wait until January to see the fourth season of Downton
on PBS, but in anticipation of its U.K. premiere on ITV September 22,
RadioTimes featured a helpful guest list guide to "the new faces
arriving in Downton when it returns." Among them is author and
Bloomsbury icon Virginia Woolf, played by Christina Carty. "No doubt an
inspiration for Downton's new budding journalist Edith, our bet would be
that the middle Crawley sister finds herself rubbing shoulders with the
famous writer at a fancy soiree in London,"  

A new clip from Downton Abbey Season 4
been released. noted that the "new season starts six months
on from the death of Downton heir Matthew Crawley. An important focus of
the new season... will be how Matthew's widow, Lady Mary Crawley, deals
with his passing and her future."

I have always loved cats, and though I'm allergic to them, I still long to be able to pet kitties and feel them purr, which is such a soothing sound. Herein are library cats from Russia and the US who take good care of their bibliophiles and make certain, of course, to rout any mice who might chew on valuable books!

Kuzya, an official assistant librarian
at the Novorossiysk Library in Russia, is a cat who also knows that "bow
ties are cool," Buzzfeed reported. "The story goes that Kuzya wandered
up to the library one day and decided it was a nice place to live. But
there are restrictions about keeping animals in libraries--no matter how
stylishly you dress them--so the staff had to petition for Kuzya to get
a 'cat passport,' which is, hilariously, a real thing. Kuzya, not
content at being just a normal pet cat, was recently upgraded to the
title of 'assistant librarian.' "

Cats Who Live at the Library
Noting that "a library can operate without a cat, but a library with a
cat is special,"
Mental Floss featured a selection of feline bibliophiles and explained
that library cats "draw new patrons to the library, they make people
smile, calm the staff, and they keep mice away. Some also work to
promote literacy, library use, and pet adoption."

Though I love most of the adaptations done of Dicken's works, I was less than excited about the casting of Helena Bonham Carter, thin and boyish looking as she is, as Mrs Havisham. And she's also been cast as Elizabeth Taylor in a new TV movie, I believe. Carter is small and thin, with no curves to speak of, while Liz Taylor was known for her voluptous bust and hips, and she was, in fact, always concerned about being fat, because she loved to eat. I have no idea how Carter is going to pull off looking gorgeous, like Taylor, with her trademark sapphire eyes, when Carter isn't even attractive for the most part. But that's Hollywood for you, always casting the people who have the most pull, instead of the right person to play the part.
A new trailer has been released for the latest adaptation of Charles
Dickens's Great Expectations
directed by Mike Newell and starring Jeremy Irvine (War Horse) as Pip,
Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham, Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch and
Holliday Grainger as Estella, reported. The cast also
includes Robbie Coltrane, Jason Flemyng and Sally Hawkins. The film gets
a New York and Los Angeles release November 8.

We are reading "The Paris Wife" by Paula McClain for my Tuesday night book group. Though I am not a fan of Ernest Hemingway,  (I always found his writing too brutish and crude to be good...with the exception of "Hills Like White Elephants" and one of the Nick Addams stories) I was curious to know how he treated his first wife, Hadley, who was supposedly the love of his life.
McClain's prose is fairly clean and proper, with a nice river-swift plot that propels the story on with a somewhat reckless pace. Still, this is the kind of book with no real extraneous parts, so you can read it in a day or even an afternoon. The lush settings, Paris in the 20s, Madrid Spain, Germany and Chicago all fascinate with their casts of characters who came into Papa Hem's orbit, including F Scott Fitzgerald and his wild and crazy wife Zelda, Gertrude Stein, Sherwood Anderson and Ezra Pound. Though the book is a fictional take on how Hadley viewed her life with Hemingway, all of the facts of the tale, and the settings, are historical fact, which lends a richness and authenticity to the tale.
Unfortunately, Hemingway seemed just as much of an asshat in this book as he was in A Moveable Feast, and his ridiculous jealousy and poor treatment of nearly everyone he meets only makes him seem like a pretentious jerk whose struggles with writing were more about his own alcoholism and immaturity than anything else, including his hatred of his family. Then, when his wife has a baby, he seems to lose interest in her and has an affair with Pauline, a mutual friend of theirs, practically in front of Hadley. After reading all the nauseating cutesy nicknames that they gave to one another, and hearing how Pauline gave both of them nicknames and somehow expected Hadley to be fine with sharing Heminway, I nearly threw the book across the room. Hadley seems too passive and weak for most of the book, only finally drawing the line at the end. She divorces the sleazy Hem and marries a nice guy whom she lives with until her death, whereas Hemingway made his way through 2 more women after Hadley, having numerous affairs until he shot and killed himself years later. Because this book only cemented my dislike of Hemingway and his work, I'd give it a C+, with the caveat that if you're a fan of his work, you'll probably love this book.
Dream When You're Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg is the 6th book of hers I've read, and when I send it to my mother in Arizona, it will be her 10th Berg novel. This particular novel is about three sisters (and their 3 brothers) growing up during WW2 in a big Irish Catholic family in Chicago. As with all of Berg's novels, her characters are so well drawn they seem to breathe off the page. Her prose is tidy and her plots dance along with a grace only found in accomplished authors.
But while I understand that girls, boys and young men and women at the time were very naive and innocent, some of the sister's conversations just make them seem stupid, almost simpletons. I find protagonists who are too simple, especially female protagonists who only worry about clothes and shoes and makeup, and don't want to work for the war effort because they're ruining their nails to be too ridiculous to live, even in a fictional world. Other than that, the book is an enjoyable, engrossing read in which you get an up-close and personal idea of what life was life with rationing and war bonds and soldiers being killed and putting their loved ones into a tailspin.It is a credit to Berg that you can see, hear, smell and taste everything, with her rich descriptions and old-world Irish family dynamics. I'd give this book a B, and recommend it to those who are fascinated by what was going on on the "home front" during the second world war.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Bookstore, The Danger Box, the Suicide Shop, Seduction and Finally Found's New Home

I was very fortunate to get a ride with a fellow book lover Charlotte Cormier to the opening of Finally Found Books in Auburn last month. It was a hotter-than-hades day and we had trouble finding parking, but we had a great time anyway, and Char bought several used books, while I bought one new book and two used books, one of which was for Susan Whalen, who handfasted with my father this summer in a pagan ceremony in Iowa.
Todd and his staff were sweating mightily and hard at work when everyone arrived, yet they managed to put on a nice spread of finger foods and cold drinks while we listened to the authors read from their books and talk about why they became writers. The store seems much bigger than the former Baker Street Books space in Black Diamond, but I am still going to miss having a bookstore within a 5-10 mile radius of my home in Maple Valley, Washington.  Still, I wish Todd and company nothing but success in Auburn on that busy street corner. I know that I will be visiting again soon!

Finally Found Books Finds Happy New Home
After little more than a year in Black Diamond, Wash., last month
Finally Found Books moved 15 minutes
away to a new location in Auburn. As Todd Hulbert, owner of Finally
Found Books, explained in an e-mail to customers sent out earlier this
summer, the move was one of necessity. Sales were simply too low to make
staying in Black Diamond feasible; the store would have to move or

"We were out in a very small, historic mining town," explained Hulbert.
"We just couldn't get the traffic necessary to justify leaving the store

The store opened on schedule on August 20, after a "mad rush" of putting
in new floors, installing more than two miles of shelves and
transporting more than 100,000 books to the new location. The Auburn
store is around 4,400 square feet--an increase of 800 square feet over
the previous location--and Hulbert has already expanded the inventory by
about 30%.

The store's opening-night "wine and cheese" celebration drew a crowd of
more than 100 people, and featured local writers Jeanne Matthews, author
of the Dinah Pelerin mystery series; Susan Schreyer, author of the Thea
Campbell mystery series; Tom Blaschko, author of Calculating Soul
Connections: A Deeper Understanding of Human Relationships; Lisa Stowe,
author of the Mountain Mystery series; and Waverly Curtis, author of the
Barking Detective series. Each of the authors talked about and read from
their respective books, and two copies of each book were raffled.

By not moving too far away, Hulbert has been able to retain many
existing customers while attracting many new ones. "We're a lot more
accessible to a lot of people. About 25,000 cars go by per day." In the
first two weeks in Auburn, the store's revenues are up more than 50%,
Hulbert said.

In Black Diamond, the inventory of Finally Found Books was roughly 95%
used books and 5% new. Hulbert has increased the number of new books
substantially, and plans to keep increasing as far as revenues allow. He
also hopes to expand the store's offerings of author events, ideally
hosting events several nights per week. Now that the store is settled in
Auburn, there's more work to do: lining up authors and drawing in book
clubs. --Alex Mutter of Shelf Awareness

There's a new documentary coming out about the infamous JD Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye and Franney and Zoey.  Though this documentary already has a very critical review running against it, I feel compelled to watch it when I can find it playing locally. Anyone who has ever read Catcher in the Rye has to wonder about the man who wrote such a ground-breaking book that has become a controversial classic.

Even the Weinstein Company, charged with marketing Shane Salerno's
nine-years-in-the-making documentary Salinger, wasn't able to suppress
before release the film's biggest secret--that legendary author J.D.
Salinger had five unreleased novels finished before his death, novels
that his estate to are planning to release before 2020," Indiewire

The movie, a last-minute Toronto International Film Festival screening,
"purports to be much more than a series of twists, although it does
adopt the aesthetic of a thriller. Five new clips and a last-minute
have just debuted, showing that Salinger was a symbol that of which we
only witnessed a fraction."

And for this of a more cynical bent, Buzzfeed helpfully offered "9
reasons Salinger might be too annoying to see
even if you really love J.D. Salinger."

This is a fascinating list that had me adding bookstores to my Bucket List! I was especially enamored of the Venice, Italy bookstore that has a sign saying that they will rent you a cat, probably for lap sitting/purring while you read.
To buy or to borrow... that is the question. Messy Nessy highlighted "10
inspiring bookshops around the world
calling them "just some shops that sell books that I think are worth
crossing oceans for."

These are GORGEOUS libraries...would that I could lead a world library tour! 

In showcasing "16 libraries you have to see before you die
Buzzfeed found "amazing libraries [that] are full of beautiful
interiors--and books--to check out."

Four books I've just finished are "The Bookstore" by Deborah Meyler, The Danger Box by Blue Balliett, The Suicide Shop by Jean Teule and Seduction by MJ Rose.
The Suicide Shop is a French book, therefore the 'gallows humor' is tinged with the Gallic penchant for an existential outlook on life. You can almost hear Jean-Paul Sarte reading this book aloud and laughing a bone-dry laugh at the end. In a dystopian future, when all hope is lost for a decent quality of life, the Tuvache family owns a popular business that sells a variety of creative ways of committing suicide. They have everything from strong ropes with a pre-knotted hangman's noose to poisoned potions and a 'produce section' that includes toxic frogs and other comestibles that kill. Everyone in the Tuvache family is appropriately grim, including an anorexic son who has a perpetual headache and invents creative ways to off yourself, a daughter who believes herself ugly and unlovable, and a mother who has a "Russian roulette" candy dish at the front of the store for children that allows one out of three candies to be deadly. Unfortunately, while trying out condoms that have pinprick holes in them, the Tuvache mere and pere concieve a child named Alan, who is born with a sunny, optimistic outlook on life. He listens to happy songs, he smiles constantly and wishes the customers of the suicide shop "good morning" instead of the requisite "farewell."  Throughout the book and his parents deepening despair, Alan loves everyone he meets, talks people out of suicide and transforms a number of the potions and suicide kits into innocuous items that give people hope for a better life. Alan gets his brother to taste good food and to eat, which improves his outlook on life and prevents him from creating more death traps, he consistently tells his sister how beautiful she is, and gives her a silk scarf that starts her on a journey of self discovery and love, and he shows his mother how to make great cafe food that can feed people cheaply and well, creating in her a love of helping others live instead of helping them die. Everyone is on board with the shop becoming a community cafe full of life and love except Mishima, the father of the family, who keeps trying to find ways to kill Alan and get his grim shop, which has been in his family for generations, back up and running. Fortunately, Alan wins over his father in the final moment, just before the surprise ending to a cunningly plotted book. Though you can read this book in an afternoon, it holds some wonderfully profound ideas on reasons for living a good life in service of others and not turning to despair and suicide as an answer to problems.

The Bookstore is the second book I've read recently that was written by an English/British female author. Therefore I was less surprised that the protagonist, Esme Garland, was something of a whiny wimp when it comes to love, as it seems that once an English gal gets ahold of her man, she can't imagine letting him go, even if he's a complete psychopathic asshat. Esme, who is supposedly a brilliant Cambridge grad working on her PhD at Colombia University in NYC on scholarship, meets a rich "blue blood" New York native Mitchell van Leuven, and seems to fall rapidly under his spell, despite it being obvious to the reader that this guy is one of those charming "players" who puts notches on his bedpost regularly. Mitchell breaks up with Esme three times, gives her clamidiya and she becomes pregnant within a short period of time, yet she still pines after this slimebag, whom she consistently describes as physically beautiful, but mentally unstable (He runs hot and cold with her, one minute being extremely loving and attentive and the next totally rejecting her and being cold and cruel. He sounds like a bi-polar manic depressive narcissist). After their initial breakup, Esme starts work at The Owl bookshop on the West Side of NYC. The store, run by a latter-day hippy named George, boasts a whole raft of crazy characters both on staff and as customers. Several of those characters are "street people" or homeless bums who are filthy physically and also not quite in their right minds, yet they are treated with respect and kindness in the store, given money and allowed to steal from the store for their own gain, which I found rather hard to believe in a cynical place like NYC. Luke, the night shift manager, is a sensitive young guy who teaches Esme about good music, how to be a bookseller and he also tries to help her see that she's better off without snobbish Mitchell. Though her prose was strong and her plot evenly paced, I feel that Meyler failed her protagonist by not giving her more grit and self awareness as a person, and by letting the ending just happen. I'd give this book a C+, and hope that Meyler comes up with someone a little tougher and smarter in her next novel.
The Danger Box is Balliett's 4th YA novel, and as with the previous three (which I read and enjoyed), there's a mystery involving a young man and a historical celebrity, in this case, Charles Darwin.
Zoomy is a bright 12 year old who, though he's legally blind, can see through the aid of heavy glasses and proximity. He was dropped off on his grandparent's doorstep (in a small town) in a cat carrier when he was a baby by his crazy alcoholic father, whom he hasn't seen since. Gam and Gumps, as he calls them, have raised Zoomy, who is somewhat autistic as well, because he has to make lists of everything he does to make sense of the world. When he's afraid or anxious, he has "worry crumbs" and when he ventures outside his comfort zone, he calls the unknown terrors "the deeps." When Zoomy's father steals a truck with a box inside that he drops off with his parents for safekeeping, Zoomy discovers an aged notebook inside with old-fashioned writing and drawing in it that turns out to be one of Charles Darwin's field journals from his trips to the Galapagos Islands where he formed his theory of evolution. Zoomy and his new friend Lorrol do research on Darwin, discover his nickname was "Gas" and form a partnership while they publish a series of newsletters called "The Gas Gazette" that reveal all sorts of information about Darwin in his voice without revealing his identity, and always ending with the line "Who am I?" Unfortunately, there is a man who belongs to a shadowy society of thieves who is looking to get the box with the stolen journal in it back at any cost.
Balliett runs a tight novel, and her prose is strong and graceful. Though her plots sometimes take side-routes and can stall a bit on rare occaisions, readers can rely on Balliett to get them to a satisfying ending that is usually educational, emotional and delightful. I loved Zoomy, and I eagerly await the next amateur sleuth that Balliett dreams up. This novel gets a B+, and I'd recommend it to preteens and early teens who like historical mysteries.
Seduction by MJ Rose is the sequel to her fascinating Book of Lost Fragrances, which takes place in the Channel Island of Jersey, while the Book of Lost Fragrances took place in France and other places in Europe. Jac L'Etoile, the mythologist who was raised to be a perfumer (and has the perfumer's nose) is back, grieving the loss of her love and searching for Celtic myths and for the lost journals of famed author Victor Hugo, who stayed on the Island and conducted seances using Ouiji boards and mediums to try and contact the spirit of his dead daughter. As reader's switch POVs in this novel from the present day with Jac to the past with Hugo and ancient times with a Celtic druid family, the mysterious connections come fast and furious, and the mystery of what really happened to Hugo deepens. The "Shadow of the Sepulcher," a nasty spirit who tries to seduce every generation it encounters, is a thematic thread that connects all three time periods as well. Rose writes with sumptuous prose that weaves its way through an intricate, elegant plot with characters who seem so real, readers will believe they've had tea with them by the time the book is finished. I also enjoy her judicious use of foreshadowing and her evocative use of smells, sights and sounds to bring the mileau of Jersey to life for the reader. The novel starts with the quote "Every story begins with a tremble of anticipation. At the start we may have an idea of our point of arrival, but what lies before us and makes us shudder is the journey, for that is all discovery." By the time the reader reaches the end of the book, the same quote has taken on a new, richer meaning, and we have the satisfaction of a tale well-told. Seduction deserves an A, and is a marvelous read for anyone who enjoys historical mysteries, famous author's lives and beautiful, transformative scents.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Butterfly Sister, The Girl You Left Behind, Deepest Night and Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman

This is pretty funny, and I am sure similar things have happened to many a bookseller.

Every bookseller can tell you one of those stories you would only
experience working in a bookstore. On Saturday, Nick Berg of Boswell
Book Company, Milwaukee, Wis., had a "chance encounter" on the sales floor with an "enormous Harley-Davidson
rider" who "looked like one of the Vikings from the Capitol One Venture
Card television commercials and towered over me like a grizzly bear on
its hind legs."
Lifting his mirrored sunglasses, the biker said, "I'm looking for The
Song of the Lark." What happened next? Read Berg's entertaining post at
the Boswellians blog

 I adore Downton Abbey, and though I have to wait, like everyone else, for the nest season to air on PBS in January, I can, at least, salivate over these lovely trailers.
for the next season of Downton Abbey
according to, "hugs and kisses, dancing and brawling, smile
and scowls, lots and lots of meaningful glances, even advice on a
life-or-death decision." The series lands in the U.S. January 5 on PBS.

John Scalzi, a favorite SF author of mine, won a Hugo award last week for his novel "Redshirts" which is a parody of the red-shirted guys in Star Trek who are the first to die in every episode of the Original Series. Scalzi has a magnificent blog called "Whatever" and another series of books that I read called "The Old Man's War" series, and he's a former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He's also a decent gentleman who has granted me an interview in the past, and I am thrilled that he's finally been recognized for his work.
The Hugo Award and John W. Campbell Award winners were announced over
the weekend at LoneStarCon 3, the 71st World Science Fiction Convention.= 
The John W. Campbell Award for the best new professional science fiction
or fantasy writer of 2011 or 2012, sponsored by Dell Magazines, went to
Mur Lafferty.

The Hugo winners:

Best Novel: Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi (Tor)
Best Novella: "The Emperor's Soul" by Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon
Best Novelette: "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" by Pat Cadigan
(Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
Best Short Story: "Mono no aware" by Ken Liu (The Future Is Japanese,
VIZ Media)
Best Related Work: Writing Excuses, Season 7
Best Graphic Story: Saga, Volume 1 written by Brian K. Vaughn,
illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): The Avengers screenplay and
directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios, Disney, Paramount)
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): Game of Thrones: "Blackwater"
written by George R.R. Martin, directed by Neil Marshall (HBO)
Best Editor (Short Form): Stanley Schmidt
Best Editor (Long Form): Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Best Professional Artist: John Picacio
Best Semiprozine: Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke, Jason Heller, Sean
Wallace, and Kate Baker
Best Fanzine: SF Signal edited by John DeNardo, JP Frantz, and Patrick
Best Fancast: SF Squeecast
Best Fan Writer: Tansy Rayner Roberts
Best Fan Artist: Galen Dara

Prairie Lights is one of the most famous bookstores in America, and it happens to be in Iowa City, very near Wellman and Mt Pleasant and Cedar Rapids, all towns where my parents, grandparents and my brothers and I were born and raised. My father got his master's degree at the University of Iowa, which also happens to be the location of the famous Iowa Writer's Workshop, which has churned out a whole host of famous novelists and poets. All that goes to say is that I totally agree with the quote below.
"Like all great bookstores, Prairie Lights feels secure and comforting. There are many sections I never browse---it's healthy to feel limited; and, given
the store's 40,000 titles, inevitable. A staircase rises to the natural
light of the second floor, where a café buzzes, and the bookcases
roll away for the almost-nightly readings. On a recent Sunday afternoon,
it was overflowing with a crowd of young and old who had turned out for
a reading by the most recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction;
at the end of an hour, it seemed as if absolutely everyone were standing
in the lines for an autographed copy.

"It is at such moments, and not only during a bad day at work, that I
wonder why I didn't, fifteen years ago when I arrived in Iowa City,
apply for a job. I wouldn't mind unpacking and labeling and
section-coding and alphabetizing new arrivals, or learning the art of
buying from a publisher's backlist. When I walk past a case, my hand, of
itself, aligns a spine reshelved too deeply. And I've come to notice
that these opportunities to surreptitiously straighten are rare, because
the shelves tend to be immaculate, resonating with the loving attention
paid to them. And then I can't help suspecting that there are more hands
at work than just the staff's--that many, if not most, of the customers
are, like me, always working there in spirit; and that this is why
Prairie Lights feels like everyone's store."

--Hugh Ferrer in the Buenos Aires Review

This is the coolest little library, made from a bicycle!

Checking in at Little Free
Facebook page is always fun, but a post
yesterday was so mesmerizing that even the LFL folks couldn't resist
exclaiming: "Is this the most amazing, stupendously clever
excellent (?!) and stunningly cool Little Free Library ever? It's a
kinetic sculpture! A neighborhood art piece! Destined for the Museum of
Modern Art? The Walker? The Guggenheim? Have you ever seen anything this

I've just finished, this past week or so, "Revenge of The Middle-Aged Woman" by Elizabeth Buchan, "The Girl You Left Behind" by Jojo Moyes, "The Butterfly Sister" by Amy Gail Hansen and "The Deepest Night" by Shana Abe
The Deepest Night is the 7th book in Abe's rich and luscious "Drakon" series, and I must state at the outset that I am glad that she's seen fit to continue to illuminate the fantasy landscape with her beautiful Drakon stories. 
Abe's prose is flawless, and, like Patricia McKillip's, almost poetic with it's fluid grace and gorgeous images. Once begun, readers become mesmerized and can't put the book down as they become enchanted with Abe's world and her fascinating characters. Earlier books in the series have taken place in the 18th and 19th centuries, while the Sweetest Dark and Deepest Night take place in the early years of the 20th century, the latter taking place at the dawning of the First World War. This story is the continuation of Sweetest Dark, with Lora going out with Armand and helping rescue his brother from a German prison camp. As usual, I was riveted during the entire story, and saddened when it came to an end. However, inbetween the story continued to recount Lora's growing powers as a Drakon and her sorrow at missing her 'star' who seems to speak only to Armand and his father, who is stuck in an insane asylum. I'd be spoiling the book to give away much more, suffice to say that this book gets a well deserved A, with a recommendation to any who love dragon stories and beautifully-wrought prose.
The Girl You Left Behind is the second book of Moyes that I've read, the first being the wonderful "Me Before You" which told the story of a handicapped young man and his caretaker in a lovely, bittersweet tale that I will never forget. The Girl You Left Behind takes place in Nazi-occupied France and in current times, with flashbacks back and forth. The story concerns a painting of  Sophie Lefevre, created by her husband, a famous student of Millais. The painting gets lost and is eventually purchased by Liv Halston's husband for her as a wedding gift, and cherished after he dies unexpectedly. When the descendants of the Lefevre family attempt to recover the painting, claiming it was stolen from their family by the Germans during WW2, Liv (and her American lover who works for a recovery company) both research the past and struggle to find out what exactly happened to the painting and why it ended up being sold off a rubbish bin for $300, when it is now worth millions. I must confess that I found Sophie's story much more engaging than that of Liv's, who seemed a bit wimpy and whiny to me, and whose refusal to deal with her husbands death and debts just seemed ridiculously childish and weak. Especially in light of Sophie's struggles for survival. I would give this book an A-, and recommend it to those who enjoy stories of how people lived and died in WW2 France, and those who find stories of stolen art interesting.
Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman was at first a rather harrowing story of Rose Lloyd, whose husband decides to leave her for her editorial assistant, Minty, at the same time her boss decides to give her job to the scheming Minty as well. Rose is close to 50 years old, so the husband straying for a younger woman due to his own mid-life crisis is a well-worn cliche. However, Buchan manages to make her characters, including Rose's idiot husband Nathan, seem more than their awkward circumstances, allowing them to grow and change in ways that are unexpected enough to make them real. Although Rose spends way too much time mourning the loss of Nathan, and way too much energy attempting to get him to come back to her, I was glad that 2/3 of the way through the book, Rose realizes that she's going to be okay, and starts to move on with her life, getting work, having her children around and helping them with their lives, as well as hooking up with an old flame. By the time we've reached the end of the book, things have come full circle and Nathan the rat has gotten his comeuppance, as well as Minty getting hers. The best part is that Rose realizes the best revenge is living a better life after divorce than you had before. I'd give this book a B+, and recommend it to those who have gone through a mid-life divorce and are wondering if they can survive the devastation. Hint: You can. 
The Butterfly Sisters wasn't at all what I thought it would be. Ruby Rosseau's alma mater is an all-women's college in the Midwest (similar to my alma mater, Clarke) where she had an affair with her literature prof, and only discovered later that he was a slimebag who used her thesis as his own and put his name on it. But when a suitcase belonging to a former classmate shows up on her doorstep, Ruby ends up going back to Tarble, her college, for homecoming, where she discovers that Beth is missing and presumed dead, and, as the story unfolds, she realizes that she wasn't the only one the slimebag professor took advantage of. Just when you think you know what is going to happen in this mystery/thriller disguised as a 'chick lit' novel, Hansen throws in a twist at the end that will surprise the reader into disbelief. Though I understand why Hansen decided to provide the bizarre twisty ending, I was taken aback by how no one seemed to suspect this character of being a crazed psychopathic killer. Still, the clean, workmanlike prose and the precise plot that never wavers until the end kept me reading to find out what happens to our protagonist Rose. Well worthy of a B+ for its unusual blend of good women and really, really bad ones, I'd recommend this to those who love mystery/thrillers in a collegiate environment.