Friday, March 28, 2014

Oddest Book Title, Dinner Theater, Kate Mosse and Susan Kearney's Rystani Warriors

As a Crohn's sufferer, I can honestly say that I am thrilled that some books on bathroom goings-on have made it to the Oddest Book Title awards.

The Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year
went to Mats & Enzo's How to Poo on a Date: The Lovers' Guide to Toilet
Etiquette, which garnered 30% of the public vote, edging Are Trout South
African? by Duncan Brown and The Origin of Feces by David Waltner-Toews
(23% each).

Tom Tivnan, features and insight editor at the Bookseller and Diagram
Prize administrator, said that "after Mats and Enzo's win this year,
with The Origin of Feces on the shortlist, and Saiyuud Diwong's Cooking
with Poo taking the crown in 2011, an all too-clear trend emerges.
Diagram devotees have spoken, and spoken in no uncertain terms: poo wins

What a great idea, to have a book launch and party with food prepared from the book and have a play going throughout it. Dinner theater is back! 

Theater with Dinner: I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti
Spaghetti, Giulia Melucci's 2009 memoir/cookbook of romance and food,
has been adapted into a play by Jacques Lamarre that's running through
April 6 at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, N.J. In the
one-woman play, Antoinette LaVecchia stars as Melucci, who used to work
in the publicity departments of Viking, Dutton and Scribner and is now
v-p of public relations at Harper's magazine. In the production,
LaVecchia recounts stories of life and love--all while preparing a
three-course Italian meal, which is served to a few audience members
seated on stage.

Tickets, beginning at $20, are available through the George Street
Playhouse Box Office at 732-246-7717 or online at A limited number of on stage seats are available on a first-come-first-served basis from $74-$102 (price varies
based on performance); on-stage seating includes the three-course meal
(antipasto, pasta and dessert) and wine.

Yay, for libraries, which were, and still are, my favorite havens:

'American Public Libraries Great and Small'  
The New Yorker has a slide show of "American public libraries great and
featuring photos from The Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert
Dawson, to be published next month by Princeton Architectural Press.

Amy Poehler is hilarious, and good for her for hosting World Book Night!

Amy Poehler, actress, comedian, Saturday Night Live veteran and star of
Parks and Recreation, has agreed to be the honorary chairperson for this
year's World Book Night U.S. <>, which
will be held April 23.

"I grew up loving books," Poehler said. "In today's digital world, it's
more important than ever to know how it feels to have a good book in
your hands. I'm thrilled to be part of World Book Night. People who read
are people who dream, and we connect through the stories we live and
tell and read."

World Book Night U.S. executive director Carl Lennertz said: "This news
is the icing, cherry and candles on the year three WBN cake. We've
already announced a seven-author New York Public Library launch event,
our highest percentage of free books going to teachers and students in
underfunded schools, and a record number of participating librarians and
booksellers, and Amy Poehler joining our cause is a happy, happy event.
On behalf of our 25,000 volunteer givers and 500,000 book recipients
this coming April 23, we say thank you."

I've read Labyrinth by this author, and I have Sepulchre on my TBR, but I found that I agreed with many of her choices and responses in her Book Brahmin essay.

Book Brahmin: Kate Mosse

Kate Mosse is the author of the thrillers
Labyrinth and Sepulchre--which have sold millions of copies in more than
40 countries--a playwright and nonfiction writer. She is co-founder of
the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction international literary award,
and serves on the board of the National Theatre in London and the
advisory board of Women of the World. Mosse won the Spirit of Everywoman
Award in 2012 and was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours
List 2013. Mosse divides her time between Carcassonne, France, and
Sussex, England, where she lives with her husband, grown-up children
(sometimes!), her mother, mother-in-law and a small white West Highland
terrier. Her new novel is Citadel (Morrow, March 18, 2014).

On your nightstand now:

Mason Currey's Daily Rituals, a snapshot of the weird, wonderful and
downright peculiar routines writers, artists, musicians and
choreographers have to get into their creative zone. Some I
share--getting up at 4 a.m., for example, with strong, strong black
coffee--others are a little too kooky!

Favorite book when you were a child:

Little Women, what else! The four March sisters and with a writer--the
independent, strong-minded Jo, at the heart of the novel. Amazing that
it is both of its time and yet incredibly current, topical, nearly 150
years later.

Your top five authors:

Tricky for any writer to answer (and not lose friends!), so I'll go for
my favourite "legacy" (i.e., no longer alive!) authors instead: the
inestimable Willa Cather, the elegiac T.S. Eliot, the brilliant French
short story writer Guy de Maupassant, the adventurous H. Rider Haggard
(of She and King Solomon's Mines fame) and, predictable for an English
writer of a certain age, the peerless Agatha Christie.

Book you've faked reading:

None--honest! Why do that? It's daft. Then again, the list of novels
I've started but failed to finish, well... if I confess to those, all
credibility flies out the window!

Book you're an evangelist for:

Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. Her only novel--published in 1847, the
year before her death--it's an astonishing tour-de-force that changes
every time one reads it. It's about revenge and obsession, strong female
characters, race and class, all set against the brutal and unforgiving
landscape of the Yorkshire Moors. Even now, the last paragraph still
brings tears to my eyes! Beautiful.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Again, none--though I admire great jacket artwork. I used to be a
publisher, you see, so learnt the shabby old cliché of never
judging a book by its cover was good advice.

Favorite line from a book:

"What will survive of us is love." --from Philip Larkin's poem "An
Arundel Tomb"

When researching for Citadel--the story of an all-women's resistance
unit during WWII in France--I saw it was love--of families, of friends,
of country--that gave women and men the strength to keep fighting.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

So many--it's that thrill of discovery, so hard to recapture--but top of
the list would be Adrienne Rich's poem "Diving into the Wreck," Milton's
Paradise Lost, the ghost stories of M.R. James, Erich Maria Remarque's
All Quiet on the Western Front, Marilyn French's The Women's Room,
George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss....

Why we like "best of" book lists:

For the sense of connection it gives with us with other writers, other
readers. For the evidence that words, when all is said and done, survive
and endure and speak beyond generations, beyond background. But it's
good to remember our lists will change--it's about the chemistry of
time, place, context and the person we are when we are reading. Tomorrow
things might be different.

Author Susan Kearney has written a series of paranormal romances (actually, they should be called science fiction/romances or space opera) that is truly a delight for fans of romance and fans of futuristic fantasy, called the Rystani Warrior series.
Starting with "The Challenge," which is a fish out of water story that takes place when a secret service agent is propelled 330 years into the future, Kearney plays into most women's fantasy of a hot, sexy male animal who dominates females and is yet able to be sensitive, loving and protective of them at the same time. While I am not a fan of the dominating guy who is huge and muscular and makes the female protagonist seem weak and in need of rescue, Kearney manages to make her women characters seem tough and yet "normal" enough that they make it clear that they do not need a man to rescue them. "The Dare" is the second book, followed by "The Ultimatum" and "The Quest."
Each of her female protagonists, from the only human Tessa to Dora, the computer who longs to be human (and becomes so, only to discover that it's not that easy to develop a relationship and a life when you're used to being everywhere and now have to settle for one point of view), to Alara the woman who is part of a race that has created females who must mate every few days, or their bodies start to disintegrate as their cells die, to starship pilot Angel Taylor in the final book of the series,  each woman is in some way damaged, broken or distrusting of men, which makes for a challenge for each Rystani who is paired with them to overcome on the road to true love and partnership.
Though I've been a fan of paranormal romance and science fiction/fantasy romance for a long time, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed these books, because they are far heavier on the romance side of the equation than the science fiction/fantasy side. And like most romance novels today, there are the requisite sex scenes, with Kearney detailing much of the sex in great detail, so these are books that should carry an R rating, and a warning that only those 18 and over should be allowed to read them. These days, with all the sexuality on the internet and on TV, my guess is that young women ages 15 and over would probably find the couplings tame, and not at all shocking. Still, I'd give the series a B, and recommend it to those who enjoy steamy romance with their science fiction.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tumbleweeds, Peter O'Toole, Amazon and "Summer Island" by Kristin Hannah

 Oh my, am I jealous of Molly getting to be a Tumbleweed? Heck YES!

'What It's Like to Live at a Bookstore in Paris'

"One minute I was a visitor just like any other, and the next minute I

was welcomed in to this huge, historic community of writers and

expatriates," said Molly Dektar, a Brooklyn College MFA student who

in Paris as one of the store's legendary "Tumbleweeds"

in January and June 2013.

Young writers are invited to stay at the legendary bookshop "without any

form of payment, as long as they work in the bookstore for a couple of

hours every day and commit to reading and writing every single day,"

Buzzfeed noted. They are also asked to write a one-page autobiography,

including a photo.

"I spent many happy hours reading these pieces, some overblown or silly,

some heartbreakingly poignant," Dektar said. "There are maybe ten

thousand.... Because it's such a rare and lucky experience, the shop

brings out everyone's best side--people are creative and selfless and

fascinating. But more than that, there's this feeling that things are

better when they are shared.... I think every Tumbleweed ends up with a

more optimistic sense of human nature."

This is so awesome, because Peter O'Toole was an awesome actor and a wonderful Irishman and a good human being. His like will never walk this earth again.
Robert Gray: Shoplifting Books--Stop! Thief! Oh, Never Mind

"Time: 1985 or thereabouts. Place: Shakespeare & Company Booksellers (as

I remember it) in Manhattan." A New York Times "Metropolitan Diary"

entry last week opened with that CSI: Bookstore intro, then shared a

brief but amusing tale involving a few classic ingredients of the crime

suspect, witness and potential theft, with a devilishly clever

comeuppance at the end.

The witness recalls seeing "an unmistakable tall, reedlike figure with a

jutting jaw and blondish hair, wearing a floppy knit hat that could not

disguise him." She recognizes the celebrity and begins stalking him

through the aisles until, quite suddenly, she's astonished to catch him

in a criminal act: "He doesn't seem to notice me as he stops and pulls a

book off the shelf. He examines it. Then, he quickly snaps it shut,

slips it under his oversize coat and strolls away."

Still in shock, the witness continues to trail her suspect until his

"pace, slow at first, begins to quicken as he approaches the cashier

through the front exit. Wait! What do I do? Do I rat him out? I am

stunned into silence."

In a dramatic plot twist, the suspect "magically flips the book out from

its hiding place onto the counter along with a $20 bill. He then flashes

a conspiratorial wink at me and my gaping jaw. Peter O'Toole then exits

the stage, leaving this sole audience member both amused and amazed."

I love that story. It brought to mind any number of incidents from my

bookselling days, including the time a new manager at the store where I

worked thought he had the goods on an elderly customer who seemed to

frequently walk out with unpaid books. The case was quickly solved,

however, once clues were assembled and he was informed, Inspector

Lestrade-like, that the suspect was actually the co-owner's mother.

As sometimes happens, the Peter O'Toole story tempted me not only to

stroll along my own guilt-lined memory lane, but down the Internet

rabbit hole as well, where I found a gem from the June 6, 1968, NYT:

"A film about shoplifting

that included an episode about a woman slipping a vacuum cleaner under

her skirt and walking out of a store evoked horrified laughter yesterday

at the American Booksellers Association convention. The audience was

told afterward that unexplained shortages in bookstores probably run

from 2.4% to 4% of total business handled....

"After the shoplifting film, Hubert Belmont, a Washington book

consultant who was a shop manager for 15 years, told the booksellers:

'Now that we have all decided to close our stores we will still go on

with the program. However, we will no longer wonder why some of our

friends walk away peculiarly when they are leaving the store with

encyclopedias between their legs.' "

I should mention (call it a confession, just to keep with the theme)

that bookstore shoplifting is a subject that has long intrigued and even

haunted me, for a few reasons:

* I often feel irrationally guilty when I'm browsing in a bookstore I

haven't visited before.

* I wouldn't snitch on another customer I saw shoplifting and I feel a

little guilty about that, too.

* When I was a bookseller, I never once caught anyone stealing, even

when I was sure they had; even when they set off the security alarm

while leaving. I was a master of the slightly delayed leap into action,

hoping one of my colleagues would beat me to the door and the


* I knew I would be lousy at the chase-and-apprehend nature of catching

shoplifters, so I didn't try.

* The standard rule that you could never let suspected shoplifters out

of your sight for an instant (lest they dump the goods and increase the

dangers of litigation) reinforced my natural inclination to inaction.

Maybe I should have been more vigilant. Certainly I was no Paul Constant

the Stranger: "In my eight years working at an independent bookstore, I

lost count of how many shoplifters I chased through the streets of

Seattle while shouting 'Drop the book!' I chased them down crowded

pedestrian plazas in the afternoon, I chased them through alleys at

night, I even chased one into a train tunnel."

to rat out his own Uncle Leo for shoplifting books at Brentano's

Jerry: Leo, I saw you steal.

Leo: Oh, they don't care. We all do it.

Jerry: Who, criminals?

Leo: Senior citizens. No big deal.

When I was a bookseller, I just couldn't take the pressure of being an

anti-shoplifting enforcer, and now I'm an oblivious bookstore customer,

avoiding any temptation to snitch. Oblivious... and maybe just a little

guilty. --Robert Gray, Shelf Awareness editor

 Of course Americans love their public libraries! I've been a fan since I was old enough to walk into one. My mother recalls me walking out of the Kirkendahl Library when I was a kid, carrying a stack of books that was almost as big as I was! 

Pew Report: Americans 'Actively Engaged with Public Libraries'

More than two-thirds of Americans are actively engaged with public


according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, which polled

6,224 Americans ages 16 and older. The study, which was released

yesterday, examined the spectrum of Americans' relationships with public

libraries to shed light "on broader issues around the relationship

between technology, libraries and information resources in the U.S."

Among the key findings:

* 30% of Americans are highly engaged with public libraries, and an

additional 39% fall into medium engagement categories.

* As a rule, people who have extensive economic, social, technological

and cultural resources are also more likely to use and value libraries

as part of those networks.

* Deeper connections with public libraries are often associated with key

life moments such as having a child, seeking a job, being a student and

going through a situation in which research and data can help inform a


"Building this typology has given us a window into the broader context

of public libraries' role in Americans' technological and information

landscape today," said Kathryn Zickuhr, research associate at the Pew

Research Center and a main author of the report.

Surprises in the data, according to the Pew Research Center, included:

* Technology users are generally library users.

* There are people who have never visited a library who still value

libraries' roles in their communities--and even in their own lives.

* 18% of Americans say they feel overloaded by information, a drop from

27% in 2006.

Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center's Internet Project and a

main author of the report, said, "A key theme in these survey findings

is that many people see acquiring information as a highly social process

in which trusted helpers matter."

 I live in Maple Valley, which is about 10 miles from Kent, so I am excited about Amazon opening up another fulfillment center close by...perhaps that means when I do buy a book from them, or some other item, it will get here faster! I hope it also means more jobs for this area of SE King County.

Amazon to Open Fourth Warehouse in Washington

Amazon plans to open a nearly one million-sq.-ft. fulfillment center in

Kent, Wash. This will be the online retailer's fourth fulfillment center

in the state where its corporate headquarters is located.

Mike Roth, Amazon's v-p of North America operations, said the company is

"grateful to local and state elected officials who have supported Amazon

in bringing a new fulfillment center to the state of Washington."

Governor Jay Inslee called Amazon "a marquee company for how Washington

innovation can change the world." 

I just finished "Summer Island by Kristen Hannah, and it was such a lovely book that I didn't want it to end. 
Summer Island was one of 8 books that I found at Goodwill this past weekend, and I just knew that it was going to be un-put-downable when I read the cover blurb. "Years ago, Nora Bridge walked out on her marriage and left her daughters behind. Now she is a famous talk show host. Her daughter Ruby is a struggling comedienne. The two haven’t spoken in more than a decade. Then a scandal from Nora’s past is exposed, and Ruby is offered a fortune to write a tell-all about her mother. Reluctantly, she returns to the family house on Summer Island, a home filled with frayed memories of joy and heartache. Confronting a past that includes a never-forgotten love, a sick best friend, and a mother who has harbored terrible family secrets, Ruby finally begins to understand the complex ties that bind a mother and daughter—and the healing that comes with forgiveness"
Nora Bridge, the talk show host and lousy mother works for a Seattle radio station, KJZZ,  and her rise and fall are reminiscent of Dr Laura's rise and fall, especially when Dr Laura had naked photos of herself that were taken by a lover surface when she had been giving advice to women to not cheat on their husbands and to be more moral and stay at home with their children. Nora Bridge has pretty much an identical problem of naked photos taken by her lover surface when she's been giving moral advice to women for years both on the radio and in print.  So, once the powers that be at the radio station catch a blackmail demand for a half a million, which they refuse to pay, Nora does what any famous talk show host would do, she gets drunk and gets into a car accident. Fortunately, her estranged daughter Ruby is having no success being a comic in LA, and ends up getting fired from a crappy diner job, so she decides to go back to the Summer Island home her family has had for years, and help her hated mother convalesce. Of course, a tabloid has offered her 50K to write an expose of her mother and Ruby accepts with the fervor of the poor and disenfranchised. Into this mix is added Nora's friend Eric, who is home dying of AIDS and his brother, who was once Ruby's best friend growing up, and whose heart she broke when her parents split up. 
All of the action takes place in Seattle and Lopez Island, which is exciting to read for those of us who have lived in the Seattle area for any length of time. It's also exciting to read about the radio biz when my husband was in that business for 25 years. As usual, the print journalists comes off as being the worst sort of people (and having been a print journalist, I hate that we're always the villains) but Hannah's portrayal of radio people was fairly accurate. 
Though I didn't like the first protagonist, Nora Bridges, very much at all (I thought she was weak, venal, a liar and a fraud, and a crappy mother to boot), I LOVED her daughter Ruby, and I thought the "perfect" sister Caroline was kind of like the female version of my older brother, Phil. I could relate to Ruby and her disgust and hurt at the way that her mother left her children behind with an alcoholic father and no explanation as to why. At least when my parents divorced, they were both very open about their infidelity and their abhorence of one another. Still, Ruby's desire for the spotlight (I have a theater degree) and her anger at her parents being such weak people was completely understandable to me, and it resonated with my own late teen years. Though the ending was a bit too tidy, the HEA was satisfying and the book itself a joy to read as pure escapist literature. 
I'd give it an A, with the caveat that this is one of those "beach reads" that can be consumed in about 5 hours and isn't meant to be "literature." It's comfort food, rather than gourmet cuisine. But sometimes, comfort food is just what you need when you're recovering from day surgery and just need something to keep your mind off the pain.
Next up, "The Invention of Wings" by Sue Monk Kidd, a book that just arrived on my doorstep today.