Thursday, April 25, 2013

Most Well Read Cities and Other Stuff

 Well, bibliophiles, it appears that Amazon has a thing for Florida in this year's Well Read City race, because 5 major cities in Florida are represented on their list. Why is beyond me, as when I lived in Florida, it was more of a vacation spot where people didn't spend a lot of time reading, but did spend time drinking, carousing, laying out on the beach and getting into car accidents. There is a reason people call Miami "Gods Waiting Room" (sometimes they call all of Florida that), because there are so many retirees down there just putzing around, waiting to die. They always get in accidents with the kids who fly down for spring break and drive drunk or stoned. Though there were some great bookstores that I frequented when I lived there, "Wilsons Bookworld" among them, I always felt that I was in the minority of people who actually collected books and read a lot for pleasure. I didn't even have a TV set for the first two years that I lived there. Yet where I live now, in Seattle, bookish people abound. Somehow we ended up as 13 on the list, however, which makes me wonder if Amazon cooked the books a bit in their hometown.

Amazon's 'Most Well-Read Cities' in U.S.
For the second straight year, Alexandria, Va. topped Amazon's list of
the "Most Well-Read Cities in America," which is compiled from sales
data of all book, magazine and newspaper sales in both print and Kindle
format since June 1, 2012, on a per capita basis in cities with more
than 100,000 residents. This year's top 20 are:

1. Alexandria, Va.

11. St. Louis, Mo.

2. Knoxville, Tenn.

12. Salt Lake City, Utah

3. Miami, Fla.

13. Seattle, Wash.

4. Cambridge, Mass.

14. Vancouver, Wash.

5. Orlando, Fla.

15. Gainesville, Fla.

6. Ann Arbor, Mich.

16. Atlanta, Ga.

7. Berkeley, Calif.

17. Dayton, Ohio

8. Cincinnati, Ohio

18. Richmond, Va.

9. Columbia, S.C.

19. Clearwater, Fla.

10. Pittsburgh, Pa.

20. Tallahassee, Fla.
This week we lost a wonderful author, ELK, who wrote "From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler" a favorite book of mine when I was 12 years old. Here's a fitting tribute to her genius.

To E.L. Konigsburg

Elaine Lobl Konigsburg, two-time Newbery Medalist--in 1968 for From the
Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; and again in 1997 for The
View from Saturday--died on Friday, April 19, at the age of 83.

Is the Metropolitan Museum of Art the place
to which you wanted to run when you were a child?
How well you embodied the yearnings of young Claudia
as she stole away to a place of comfort.
You captured a New York in which children
could walk 40 blocks from the Met
to the main branch of the New York Public Library
in search of answers,
and then to the Donnell--
then devoted to children, and now closed.

How did it feel
to be one of the elite handful
who has won two Newbery Medals,
for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in 1968,
and in 1997 for The View from Saturday?
And the only author to win a Newbery Medal and Honor
in the same year--1968 (the Newbery Honor went to
Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth)
for your first two novels?

At a luncheon for Silent to the Bone
you spoke of the connection between Branwell's muteness
and "ma," the Japanese term for what we call "negative space."
Ma suggests a simultaneous awareness of form and non-form
resulting in an intensification of vision.
"Negative space" omits the idea of holding both
form and non-form at once.
Even though you are no longer with us,
your words, your awareness, your insights
into human nature remain.
You've made art, language, and life richer.
--Jennifer M. Brown 

Also, though I don't generally read his work, I think that Mr Patterson is spot on with this query...who WILL save our books, a most precious resource?
James Patterson: 'Who Will Save Our Books, Bookstores, Libraries?'
On the back cover of yesterday's New York Times Book Review, author
James Patterson took out a striking full-page ad that reads in part,
"The Federal Government has stepped in to save banks, and the automobile
industry, but where are they on the important subject of books? Or, if
the answer is state and local government, where are they? Is any state
doing anything? Why are there no impassioned editorials in influential
newspapers or magazines? Who will save our books? Our libraries? Our

He also listed 38 titles ranging from All the President's Men and To
Kill a Mockingbird to A Fan's Notes and Maus, saying, "If there are no
bookstores, no libraries, no serious publishers with passionate,
dedicated, idealistic editors, what will happen to our literature? Who
will discover and mentor new writers? Who will publish our important
books? What will happen if there are no more books like these?"

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Bombings and Blue Manatees

I lived in the Boston Cambridge area for 3 years back in the 1980s, and I know exactly where they hold the Boston Marathon, which is a huge tradition, as is "Patriot Day" on April 15th.  Yesterday, while the marathon was running, some evil piece of crap, or a group of slimebags, decided to place bombs in the crowds aligning the route and at the finish line. Two bombs went off, killing 3 people, including an 8 year old boy, and injured nearly 100 people. Another two bombs were disarmed and a fire broke out at the JFK Library at the same time (but no one was hurt there). There are horrific photos of this event, including photos of people who have lost limbs to this act of cowardice. Fortunately, as usual, there were heroes among the police and runners who helped many of the fallen get to somewhere safe for treatment. I sincerely hope that when they catch these terrorist asshats that they string them up and make them pay for this nightmare.
There have been many excellent reactions and posts from great authors all over the internet, but I felt that this one was particularly brilliant, as it sums it up quite nicely.

"Every thought and every prayer goes out to the victims and their
families and loved ones. What a senseless act of waste and violence....
It's hard to imagine any people more inspiring than all those people who
dashed across Boylston Street within seconds of the first explosion, and
rushed to the aid of the injured. Didn't give their own safety a
thought. Made me proud to be a member of the human race, which I think
was the exact opposite of the effect the bomber was hoping for....

"When I watch the footage of the first explosion, I look at the Boston
Public Library Main Branch across the street, and I think no matter who
they turn out to be--Islamic jihadists, home grown militia, neo-Nazis,
something else--what really scares them, what they truly hate, is the
access to knowledge that building exemplifies.... So proud to be a
Bostonian tonight. So brokenhearted to be one, too."

Facebook page last night

My husband once called me a manatee while we were dating (and I was thin then, too) and  though I've since learned to look at it as a compliment, I found this tidbit about a bookstore named for these gentle giants of the sea to be just wonderful.
Blue Manatee Bookstore: The Doctor Is In

Dr. John Hutton "wanted kids to read books and play outside. He wanted
their parents to unplug the kids' televisions and computers.... So he
focused on more books and less screen time. That would be his issue,"
the Cincinnati Enquirer reported in its profile of Blue Manatee's owner, who has gone from doctor to bookseller to doctor/bookseller
since he and his wife purchased the bookshop several years ago.

The name, which was chosen through a public vote, is "symbolic of what
independent bookstores go through. They are nurturing and intelligent
and sweet, but endangered," he said.

Being a bookseller has also "affirmed for Hutton what he already knew:
Reading with a child is rewarding for the parent and remarkably
beneficial for the child," the Enquirer wrote.

"This is old-fashioned stuff, but it is not just nostalgic," he said.
"For a small child, any interaction with a person reading a book is so
good for a child's cognitive, language, fine motor skills and emotional
well-being." Hutton now works a day or two a week as a doctor and the
rest of the week at the bookstore.

This is the link to a blog post that I found to be perfectly marvelous in explaining why it is not a crime to be fat, and why there are healthy fat people (like me, I do not have Crohns because I am overweight, in fact, the medications made me gain weight after my diagnosis) who don't eat junk food every day and who exercise regularly.

And in other  book news, Bill Bryson, former Des Moines (Iowa) Register Reporter is having one of his books made into a movie:
Richard Linklater "could be headed for A Walk in the Woods
The Los Angeles Times reported that Linklater is expected to helm Bill
Bryson's bestseller and "could shoot the independently financed movie as
early as this fall, according to Robert Redford, who will produce and
star in the film." Nick Nolte will play Katz.

"A Walk in the Woods is the kind of movie that has something to say but
can also be really commercial because it's just so funny," Redford said.
"It will be nice to get back to doing a comedy."

 And there's been a lot of buzz about the latest remake of the Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio:

"There is probably no bigger (or riskier) question mark this spring than
Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby
which has battled a delay and rumors of a troubled production only to
nab the opening slot at the Cannes Film Festival," Indiewire reported in
featuring a new trailer from the 3D film version of F. Scott
Fitzgerald's classic novel that will be released May 10.

Yet another reason to go to a real bookstore to buy books:
"The physical browsing process is enormously pleasant. It's an important
part of our national culture, those bookshops.... But the arithmetic
does get more and more difficult, and online retailing gets more and
more seductive. And all of us get more and more used to it, from grocery
supply to buying books off Amazon. Yet I go to the Westfield shopping
centre down the road, and it's turned out to be an absolute goldmine,
heaving with people all year round. Anyone who tells you they know the
future is telling you the most grotesque lie, because none of us do."

--Tim Waterstone
founder and former owner of of the British bookstore chain that still
bears his name, in an interview with the Guardian. Waterstone is about
to return to bookselling as "non-executive chairman" of Read Petite an online outlet for short-form e-books that will be launched to the trade at the London Book Fair and to the public
next fall.

I read and really enjoyed this book, Beautiful Ruins, which is by a Seattle author:
Cross Creek Pictures' Todd Field (Little Children) "is teaming up with
Smuggler Films to produce, co-write and direct Beautiful Ruins
based on the novel by Jess Walter, Indiewire reported, calling it "an
ambitious project to tackle."

April is National Poetry Month:
Can you hear it now? That, my friends, is the exquisite sound of poems
making their way in the world. Poetry is everywhere. "We can leave it
out on the counter for our beloved, like a bowl of yellow pears," Dobby
Gibson observes in his answer to that question posed by Common Good
Books. "Or we can fold it up into a tiny square and bury it in our sock
drawer, like our most dangerous secret. Either way, it will lie there
patiently and wait to be discovered." --Robert Gray

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Quotes, Amazon in the Belly of the Beast, and Rosie Dunne

 Great quote that I totally agree with: "The biggest elephant--or myth--in the room is that bookstores are less relevant today. The opposite is true. As we engage in vast swaths of our
lives virtually, the face-to-face conversation becomes more necessary
and more valued. Bookstores fit perfectly into the community that
locavorism is seeking to preserve or reestablish." Jenny Milchman, author

My husband worked at Amazon as a contractor, and what this young man has to say pretty much jives with what he told me and what I saw when I came in to visit. I have to say that getting all the free books you can carry in a bag was a huge perk for me, though.

Burning the Page: Book Views from an Ex-Amazonian

The New York Times has a striking q&a with Jason Merkoski,
a former Amazon employee who led the team that built the first Kindle
and author of Burning the Page: The Ebook Revolution and the Future of
Reading (Sourcebooks), which for now is available only as an e-book.

Among his comments:
On Amazon, Apple and Google: "As far as social responsibility goes, let
me just say this: These companies have entire buildings filled with
lawyers. They aren't there to come up with new lawyer jokes. They are
there, in part, to keep people like me from even answering this
question. That said, I think if people were given a chance to spend a
day looking inside Amazon or Apple's veil of secrecy, most of them would
be fascinated--although some might boycott."

On censorship: "If push came to shove, I think most of these execs would
rather pull e-books from the store, effectively censoring them, if that
would avoid bad press. These are major retailers, not your quirky corner
bookstores. They're manned by former management consultants in clean
shirts and pressed Dockers, not eccentric book-lovers with beards and

On personal privacy issues: "I do trust them with my identity. These
companies are obsessed with safeguarding privacy. The worst they're
going to do is show me more ads."

On discoverability: "When it comes to book recommendations, [online]
retailers have the literary sensibilities of a spreadsheet--they'll just
recommend the most popular books to me, or books that other people also
bought, but they know nothing of the soul and sparkle of a great book. I
hope this changes over time."

On the advantages of e-books: "Reading is great, but I don't know
whether you need paper and ink for it. You're going to get so much more
from e-books because they bring your friends and family into the margins
of your reading experience. They will be literally on the same page with

On the future of books: "In 20 years, the space of one generation, print
books will be as rare as vinyl LPs. You'll still be able to find them in
artsy hipster stores, but that's about it. So the great advantage of
e-books is also their curse; e-books will be the only game in town if
you want to read a book. It's sobering, and a bit sad. That said,
e-books can do what print books can't. They'll allow you to fit an
entire library into the space of one book. They'll allow you to search
for anything in an instant, save your thoughts forever, share them with
the world, and connect with other readers right there, inside the book.
The book of the future will live and breathe."

On the value of printed books: "I found a book at my grandmother's house
that was inscribed by my great-grandfather. I learned what his original
last name was--before he changed it. That was an interesting link to my
past. We're going to lose that sort of trace of ourselves if we go all

On his Amazon experience: "Working at Amazon was like getting an M.B.A.
and a Ph.D. at the same time. It was an incredible education. These were
the smartest people I ever worked with. But Amazon had a dark side as
well, as if it were the mean stepmother in a fairy tale. There was this
push to get great products out to consumers. It makes a lot of teams
very haggard. Amazon is held together by adrenaline, spreadsheets and
people running around like crazy."

"The codex, which is the ancestor of the book, was invented 2,500 years ago,
and ever since then the book business has been in incredible flux, and
it's not going to change. But one thing that's also not going to change
is people love to go to bookstores, and people still have tremendous
loyalty for the physical book. And our task and our challenge is to give
the people of Concord the best bookstore that we can possibly put up."

--Michael Herrmann, owner of Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, N.H., in a
video interview with the Concord Patch giving a tour of the new store, which is
under construction.

 I just finished a great book, "Rosie Dunne" by Cecelia Ahern, daughter of the former Prime Minister of Ireland. I've read a couple of Ahern's other novels, and I've enjoyed them, but I have to say I found Rosie Dunne to be spectacularly fun, interesting and un-put-downable.
The book revolves around the life of the title character, Rosie Dunne, who lives in Dublin with her family and has a best friend in Alex Stewart.  The book begins when Rosie and Alex meet in kindergarten and soon discover that they're both rebellious and rather wild young people who like passing notes about their teacher, "Miss Big Nose Smelly Breath Casey." The novel follows them right through their grade school and teen years into adulthood and middle age.
The main reason that Rosie D is so readable is that the story is told through notes, emails, instant messages and letters from Rosie to Alex and her family members. Is there anything more delicious than the thrill of voyeurism that one gets while reading someone else's private letters, emails or notes? I don't think so! Of course, disaster strikes Rosie fairly regularly, and Alex has his share of heartache, too, but Rosie's hilarious take on everything that happens to her makes it seem as if even the most horrible events are survivable and that she learns and grows from them, as a person. By the time the HEA rolls around, the reader feels as if they know and adore Rosie and Alex, and they're so realistic that you may find yourself wanting to fly to Ireland just to hang out with Rosie at a pub and get "pissed." I'd recommend this book to fans of comedic romantic fiction, and I'd give it a solid A.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Jennie Shortridge's Newest Novel Debuts, Circle of Magic Books by Tamora Pierce

Though I was unable to attend this event, I have read all but the latest of Jennie Shortridge's novels, and I loved them all. She's an amazing writer, (and a talented singer, it appears) and this event sounds like it was quite a hit!

Music and Memory in Seattle
Jennie Shortridge launched her new book, Love Water Memory (Gallery
Books), Tuesday night at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle with
readings bookended and punctuated by music from the Rejections (and
Trailing Spouses). The band, whose first gig was at the launch party for
Erica Bauermeister's The Lost Art of Mixing, is composed of
 and spouses: Shortridge on vocals, her husband, Matt Gani, on guitar and vocals; Paul Mariz
(husband of Laurie Frankel) on guitar and vocals; Ben Bauermeister
(husband of Erica) on violin; Garth Stein on bass; and Stephanie Kallos
on keyboard, vocals and percussion. And what a band it is! Shortridge is
a soulful, lyrical singer, and Kallos is a sultry songstress who soloed
on "They Can't Take That Away from Me." The violin perfectly complements
the guitars, the vocal backup is a pleasure. Lucky attendees found a CD
taped under their chairs, and you can download the songs on Shortridge's
website (highly

Aside from the sheer joy of the music, the songs in the set fit nicely
with Shortridge's readings. In Love Water Memory, Lucie finds herself
far from home, suffering from amnesia. Her fiancé, Brady, finds
her and takes her back to Seattle, where she is a stranger to him and to
herself. One of her first connections with her past is at the piano in
the basement of their house, where she finds herself playing "They Can't
Take That Away from Me" in the middle of the night. As Lucie begins to
recall her life, she sometimes longs to leave it; as she falls in love
again with Brady, he becomes distant. If you've read any of Shortridge's
books (When She Flew, etc.), you will guess how this ends, but that
doesn't lessen the journey you will take with Lucie and Brady one whit.
Get the book, download the music, and settle in for a treat. --Marilyn
Dahl, from Shelf Awareness
I've been reading Tamora Pierce's "Circle of Magic" YA fantasy series for the past 6 weeks, and I have to say that I'm really enjoying them. I've read most of the other series that Pierce has put out, including her Lioness series and Protector of the Small and her "Dog" series, the latter of which I think I enjoyed the most because Becca Cooper was such a kick-butt heroine.
Then someone mentioned this Circle of Magic series, and I knew that I had to get my own copies ASAP. I started with Sandry's Book, (#1) and found myself slipping easily into this latest world Pierce created, where four children are brought together by a mage named Nico, who uses his powers to find children whose magic isn't of the usual variety. Sandry, who is an orphaned noble, has weaver magic that uses fabric and thread to do its bidding, while Tris, a merchant's child, barely has control over weather magic, which uses air, lightening and water to create storms. Daja is basically a gypsy child whose family perished at sea, leaving her an outcast with her people. She has fire magic and can create living metal trees and other wonders by working with a forge and her magic. Briar is a street rat and a thief whose magic involves anything green and growing, from trees to grass and flowers in the soil. Each of these characters has their own book, but the stories within that book still include each of the other children, whom I gather are somewhere around 10-12 years old.
I have just completed Daja's book and I'm now on book 4, which is Briars book and the last of the series, or the first part of the series, I believe.
Pierce is one of the best YA writers in existence, and one of the few who write, and have been writing, strong female protagonists into their books since the 80s. I like to think that there are whole schools, gaggles and bundles of women out there who grew up reading about Alana and Becca Cooper, and were inspired to forge on through the sexist nonsense and patriarchal crap that society and industry throws at women and become whatever profession they felt called to become, be it traditionally male or not. I like to think there are a lot of female firefighters, truck drivers, rocket scientists and astronaughts, to name a few, who can trace their intestinal fortitude to Tamora Pierce's books of girls and women who refused to let someone else define who they are and what they can be, or shape their destiny.
Unfortunately, since I had a male child, I can't pass these books on to my son, who wouldn't find them particularly interesting. But, I hope one day to be able to hand them to a female grandchild and say "Read these and dream!"
BTW, I am looking forward to the grand reopening of our local branch of the King County Library System in Maple Valley next week. The place is supposed to be remodeled and refreshed, and hopefully it will have even easier access to books, videos and computers. I have really missed the MV Library these past 4 weeks, and I am looking forward to discussing "Maine" by J Courtney Sullivan, with my Tuesday night book group in the new library on April 9.