Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Finds

Three excellent finds (one purchased, two free and found completely randomly) mark the end of a truly exhausting work week.

- Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore - I am already about thirty pages into this one, and yet, I had to go back and review the title while typing this up. Why? Not because the book isn't a sheer pleasure to read, but because I never stopped to look at the title. I saw "Lorrie Moore" on a galley laying in one of our up-for-grabs boxes in the backroom and snatched it up before someone quicker and smarter than me could get at it.

- Impossible by Nancy Werlin - So, lightning does strike twice in one week, in the the same spot nonetheless. I have been considering Impossible for a while, but I just couldn't get off the fence of read/not read until it came out in paperback this week. So, I was considering buying the paperback, because I had heard really good buzz with the book, and it seemed like it could be up my alley

- Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform - I picked this one up right before his talk and signing at the store today. It appealed to me for two reasons: 1) It's a supposedly straight-forward, easy-to-follow take on the healthcare plan and 2) I could get it signed then and there. Maureen also took a photo of me with Dean (after I was too tongue-tied to really talk to him), which I will post ASAP.

Because I have two wonderful followers, I will go ahead and ask it anyway: In your mind, is there a perfect spread to a week's worth of book finds? Would it be nice to add a book a day, or maybe two or three good finds spread through the week? What's your ideal?

Monday, August 10, 2009

NPR's "Best Beach Books Ever"

Knicked from the fabulous Boston Bibliophile is the NPR "100 Best Beach Books Ever."

In bold are the ones I have read.

*Starred* = Want to read, planning to read, etc.

Underlined = What the hell? Picks that are confounding either because they don't make sense as a beach read or because I simply don't think they deserve a spot on the list.

NPR's 100 Best Beach Books Ever

1. The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling - All except the last book (which I'm going to start, promise, any day now).

2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

3. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini*

4. Bridget Jones's Diary, by Helen Fielding

5. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

6. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells - Weird, right? Cause my tastes really don't run to the chick lit at all, and this one is pure chick lit. It has "sisterhood" in the title, for God's sake... But I read it on a car trip with my mom back when I was fourteen or fifteen years old. We didn't have the audio book, so I just read it aloud to her.

7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald - This is my kind of beach book.

8. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams - Correction, this is my kind of beach book. Actually, I'd probably just listen to the fantastic BBC Radio series instead.

9. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg
- I went through a serious Fannie Flagg stage when I was thirteen or fourteen. Can't say why. Just loved it, though.

10. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

11. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

12. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel - Can't see this one as a beach book, other than it being a bestseller.

13. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan

14. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

15. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

16. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

17. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett

18. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

19. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides* - This is perpetually on my reading list, but I'm not sure it qualifies as a beach book.

20. Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen - Don't know about for the beach (probably a good fit) but it was perfect reading for the 24-hour read-a-thon last Fall.

21. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain*

22. The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver - Beach-goers really love the Kingsolver, don't they? Wonder why Prodigal Summer isn't on the list.

23. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith - Little interest in actually reading the books, but I have to admit, hearing the little bit from the audio books my mother plays in her car, the audio version is pretty charming.

24. The World According to Garp, by John Irving*

25. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller*

26. The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy

27. Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel

28. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

29. The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler

30. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

31. A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole*** - I'm working on a reading project for the Fall, loosely entitled "Back to Basics" where I'm going to try and read a bunch of classics and contemporary, modern favorites that I haven't yet gotten time for. This one is at the top of my list.

32. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

33. The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant

34. Beach Music, by Pat Conroy

35. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez* - Is there a confusion between what is "beach" reading and what is required high school "summer" reading?

36. Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier

37. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card*

38. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry

39. The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough

40. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon - I bought my copy of this book in a beach town independent bookstore.

41. Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett

42. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

43. Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice

44. Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier

45. Empire Falls, by Richard Russo

46. Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes

47. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

48. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins

49. I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb

50. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie* - The only AC I've read is Ten Little Indians [or, in PC times, And Then There Were None]. Agatha Christie would have scarcely been a blip if it were not for vacationing mystery enthusiasts and shore-side bookstalls that are always readily stocked with her paperback titles.

51. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
- Obsessed with this book as a kid. Read it everywhere, beach included. If I ever find the green hardbacked version that I always borrowed from the library, I will die of happiness.

52. The Stand, by Stephen King* - Probably a "B2B" title.

53. She's Come Undone, by Wally Lamb

54. Dune, by Frank Herbert

55. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows* - Almost read this on my last vacation. The person I was traveling with bought this book the second or third day in.

56. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez*

57. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

58. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

59. The Godfather, by Mario Puzo

60. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

61. Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver - Seriously, but no Prodigal Summer?

62. Jaws, by Peter Benchley

63. Good in Bed, by Jennifer Weiner

64. Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner

65. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson - In this version of "beach reads," anything that maintained a spot on the bestsellers lists for a long time counts. I don't think this book qualifies as a beach read, but then again, neither do half of these titles by my definition.

66. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway

67. The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand

68. Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut

69. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

70. The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler*

71. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway

72. The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy

73. Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns

74. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

74. Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe [tie]

76. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

77. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

78. The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher

79. Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver - Woo hoo! One of two Kingsolver books I've read. This one is similar to her others, I believe. The only real difference is that I had to read this one for my "Eco-Feminist Literature" class.

80. Eye of the Needle, by Ken Follett

81. Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck*

81. The Pilot's Wife, by Anita Shreve [tie]

83. All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy

84. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson* - Never finished. Heard that it picks up after a slow beginning. Will try it again soon.

85. The Little Prince, by Antoine De Saint-Exupery - Who reads this on the beach?

86. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

87. One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich

88. Shogun, by James Clavell

89. Dracula, by Bram Stoker*

90. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera*

91. Presumed Innocent, by Scott Turow

92. Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger

93. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt

94. Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris

95. Summer Sisters, by Judy Blume - Back during those years where I could stand Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood... Still, Blume is a genius at crafting feminine relationships. There is stuff in Summer Sisters that echoes even my present-day female friendships.

96. The Shining, by Stephen King

97. How Stella Got Her Groove Back, by Terry McMillan

98. Lamb, by Christopher Moore*

99. Sick Puppy, by Carl Hiaasen - Wondered when Carl Hiaasen would make an appearance on this list.

100. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson - Because it has island in the title?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Finds

After the heaping loads of the last two weeks, I took it easy on my bookshelves and bank account and only grabbed a few items.

- Our GM, Chris, handed over the ARC of the upcoming Margaret Atwood, Year of the Flood, for which I'm psyched for. Atwood is usually the opposite of light-hearted, and with the summer waning (really, August? Already?) I'm not sure if I'm in the best of spirits to be sinking into one of her complex, heavy-duty novels. That being said, I'll probably start it this coming week. Immersing yourself in children's literature has many, many rewards, but there's a significant shortage of depressing yet brilliant books written for young audiences. Whenever I find myself getting into a rut with what I'm reading for kids, I turn to adult titles to shake up my system, whether its with heavily plotted morality plays, wickedly crafted murder mysteries, wry, ironic statements on present popular culture... even the occasional horror title... Sometimes I read myself into such a coming-of-age hole that the only thing that can save me is a good old gory monster story.

Three from the Scholastic box that arrived today:
- Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve - He's a favorite among intermediate-level enthusiasts, and I've never read any of his stuff. Why not start out with this very intriguing upcoming release? This one's a fantasy-mystery about an orphan discovering her roots through assisting an archaeologist with a top-secret mission. Oh, and I want the coat the illustrated girl is wearing on the cover of the ARC. This one comes out April 2010.

- The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco Stork - Because I really liked Marcelo in the Real World, and this one sounds pretty heady. Out March 2010.

- Smile by Raina Telgemeier - A graphic novel about a girl getting braces. I'm a sucker for this type of cute comic thing. They're surprisingly hard to sell on people, though, but as Wimpy Kid gets bigger and bigger, the profile on young kid-friendly graphic novels may go up, and customers might respond better to something that at first seems juvenile and beside the point. This one hits February 2010.

And one from the Random House box I received a few weeks back:
- THree Rivers Rising by Jame Richards - A YA title about the Johnstown Flood, a topic that is close to my heart: My mother grew up in Johnstown, PA, and we still have relatives living in the town and around the area. I've been to the Johnstown Flood Museum many, many times, watched the same old rickety informational film, watched as the diorama lit up and flooded with water, walked the trail, stood around half-bored as family members read every plaque and information post available.

So yeah, I'm going to read this ASAP. Besides, I love historical/disaster YA titles.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Re-Post: Galley Talk

Okay, so this appeared in last week's "Children's Bookshelf," a children's literature email newsletter by the friendly and invaluable folks at Publishers Weekly. I have made no edits to increase the slickness or better the language of this review. This is exactly what was published:

Emily Fear, manager of children’s books, Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Pittsburgh, Pa., talks about a fall favorite, Candor by Pam Bachorz.

Candor by Pam Bachorz (Egmont USA, Sept.) is a Stepford Wives-esque tale—the galley even references that novel. But instead of a novel about the brainwashing of wives, this is about brainwashing an entire community, especially its teenagers. The founder of the town of Candor tries to shape what he believes should be model teens—down to what they should eat and how they should dress. He plants subliminal messages into audio CDs that play nearly constantly throughout the town. Everyone becomes addicted to the CDs and has to keep listening to them—otherwise they’ll go insane.

The novel doesn’t pull any of the punches you might expect from a YA thriller. You might expect a tidy ending or a hero whose motives are unquestionable and who has noble intentions. But this novel’s protagonist is very flawed. He’s the son of the town’s founder and runs a secret business selling teens CDs to counteract the brainwashing. But actually he’s also brainwashing them—and doing it for profit. There’s a totally unexpected ending that defies the reader’s expectations of what this character is capable of.

I’d recommend this book to customers for a number of reasons. This is a very intelligent teenage thriller, and a spooky one. The novel offers a dark twist on society’s expectations of teens, revealing an exaggerated form of parental authority. I think teens will respond to the notion of what it would be like to have the pressures on them magnified like this. The plot’s pacing is really well done and the action is creepy without being violent. Well, there’s a tiny bit of violence, but nothing very graphic. The gleefully misanthropic protagonist is very likable despite his flaws. And the relationships between the characters are really dynamic.

It’s an incredible first novel, and the fact that the author wrote it while living in Celebration, Florida, the planned community developed by Disney, makes it all the creepier. It’s a great crossover book, especially since so many adults have read or seen the film version of Stepford Wives.