Monday, April 14, 2014

New York Times article about Seattle Bookstores, Michael Palin and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This article has an awesome quote from one of my favorite bookstore owners, Roger Page of Island Books. It's a lovely article that points out why indie bookstores thrive in Seattle and surrounding communities more than they do in other parts of the US. I could have told them it's because King County is chock-a-block full of readers and serious bibliophiles! I have seen people line up at library sales, at Goodwill half price book sales and I've seen people perusing the books at garage sales, so I know that there are those who, like myself, are always on the hunt for cheaper ways to feed their reading habit. Of course, I also spend too much money on new books that I get from places like Island Books, and when I can't find them there, I go to The Sequel used bookstore in Enumclaw or to Finally Found Books in Auburn and search there. Yes, I also sometimes buy books online, primarily at Barnes and Noble.com because I have a membership there, but I avoid Amazon unless I have no other option.

For its part, the Times went far afield for a positive story on indies,
offering a feature on how Seattle bookstores http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz20683959 are thriving despite--and in a few cases because of--Amazon's presence
in the city. "As Amazon has exploded with growth, hiring thousands of
tech workers at its downtown headquarters and helping bolster the
Seattle economy, local bookstore owners have seen a surprising new side
of the company they loved to hate: Many Amazon employees, it turns out,
are readers who are not shopping at the company store," the paper wrote.

The story went into detail about Jeopardy! champion and former Amazon
books editor Tom Nissley's purchase of Santoro's Books, which he is
turning into Phinney Books. (See our interview with him here http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz20683960.)

Like nearly every teenager in the 1970s, I was a huge fan of Monty Pythons Flying Circus, and I had a crush on Michael Palin, who was so goofy and adorable he was irresistible to a book and drama nerd like me.  I think it's wonderful that he's supporting local bookstores!

Michael Palin's Book Tour Will Support U.K. Indie Booksellers
Author, world traveler and Monty Python legend Michael Palin will
promote the latest volume of his diaries, "Travelling to Work: Diaries
1988-1998", with his first one-man tour across England. The Bookseller
reported that at "each of the 21 venues of the tour, a local bookshop
will be selling signed copies http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz20683969 of
Palin's books in the foyer of the theatre." Travelling to Work will be
released in September. 

"The link up is to give them http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz20683970 [local
bookshops] a little more coverage and visibility http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz20683971," Palin said. "I think there
is something that the bookshop represents which is the heart of
community life. Bookshops are a way of bringing people together. There
is a feeling when you go into one, an idea that this is a good place to
be. People talk to each other more. They take their time. I love
bookshops because they allow you to browse much more easily than online.
I love physical books, the look, the color."

These photos are fascinating. I wish I'd been able to see some of these stores before they closed.

Beautiful Vintage Photos of Bygone Bookstores'
In its "Beautiful Vintage Photos of Bygone Bookstores: http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz20684000"
slide show, Flavorwire invited readers to "indulge in some literary
nostalgia and appease your book-beauty tooth (you know you've got one)
with these lovely old photos of old bookstores (in some of which you
could, at one time, find old books). And all right, not all are complete
bygones--some, improbably, wonderfully, are still standing--but they
don't look quite like this anymore, and so the vintage-photo-ogling
endures."

I am so very excited about this, because I adore and rever Librarians, and because the movies were so deliciously fun.

For fans of bookish action heroes, TNT has greenlighted 10 episodes of
The Librarians http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz20684028,
a series based on an earlier TV movie trilogy called The Librarian and
slated to air in late 2014, Entertainment Weekly reported. Noah Wyle
(Falling Skies, ER) will executive produce and return in the lead role
"as the big cheese librarian," while Rebecca Romijn will play "a sexy
counter-terrorism agent who's in charge of protecting the librarians."

TNT's plot synopsis for the new series includes this description of
Wyle's character: "Prior to taking the job, he was a bookish nerd with
22 academic degrees and absolutely no social skills. As Librarian,
however, he managed to use his extraordinary knowledge, successfully
recovering ancient artifacts and, in the process, saving the world from
unspeakable evil on more than one occasion. Over the last decade he's
gone from bookworm to dashing swashbuckler, one of the secret heroes of
the hidden world. As great as Flynn is, the job of Librarian has become
more than one person can handle."

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro was not at all what I expected. First of all, it's a science fiction book that is being sold as a literary novel, mainly because the author wrote the Remains of the Day, which was made into an award-winning movie from the award-winning book about servants in an English household. Here's the blurb that outlines the plot: "From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day comes a devastating new novel of innocence, knowledge, and loss. As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were.
Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special–and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. Suspenseful, moving, beautifully atmospheric, Never Let Me Go is another classic by the author of The Remains of the Day."
What that blurb, and the author, neglect to tell you is that these flashbacks into Kathy's life and the lives of her friends are marred and shaped by the knowledge that they are clones, created for the sole purpose of "donating" all their vital organs and blood and bone marrow to "regular" human beings until they die before reaching middle age. 
The author doesn't bother to share this vital fact with you until you're almost halfway through the book, but the strange way that these children act with their 'teachers'/guardians, and their somewhat detached and slightly cruel way of dealing with one another twigs most readers, especially science fiction readers, to the fact of their being "made" creatures early on. While most reviewers consider this to be the authors "restraint" with plot details, and totally justified because it somehow makes him more literary than those ghettoized genre authors, I thought it just made the novel's plot slow and stupid, and it made the characters seem dumb as well. Nor did I find it beautifully atmospheric. I found it depressing and full of the existential angst of people who were born to be cattle, for the use of others, and who weren't allowed any life of their own, really, outside of school. Once these clones completed school, they're sent off to farms until they're old enough (in their early 20s) to become "carers" or people who take care of the donors who are having one surgery after another to remove whatever body part is needed by a 'regular' human. Kathy is a particularly good carer who is allowed to stay on the job long enough to care for her school chums, who all 'donate' to 'completion' (read: death) under her care. What is never discussed in any solid way is WHY none of these clones runs away, gets a new identity and then lives a regular life just like anyone else. Do they have, like Blade Runner's "skin job" clones, only a certain number of years to live before they die from an off-switch coded into their DNA? Is there some feature of their design that shows physically, like a bar code tattooed on their arms or foreheads? It is mentioned that they are all born sterile, and they're told that though they can have sex, they need to be wary of STDs and to be certain that they really care for the person that they're becoming intimate with. So when Kathy has sex with various boys/men, and even when she has sex with Tommy, whom she supposedly loves, it is discussed in a fairly clinical way, without any passion or excitement, but more as a rote action that a person would take as a matter of course, like brushing your teeth. It is for this reason that it's hard to actually like any character in this book. The reader finds herself wondering why the guardians didn't try to do more to emancipate these clone children so that they don't become slaves to this donation routine that kills them in pain. We are told, late in the novel, that there is no reprieve, no legitimate way out for the clones, even if they are "in love" or have proven, via artistic ability, that they have a soul. So why is this story told at all? Why does it exist, except as a cautionary tale of the future, or science fiction, as it's known to the rest of us? I will give it a C, for the writing, and I would only recommend it to someone who isn't at all depressed by stories of hopelessness and pain.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

New Bookstore in Phinney Ridge, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, In The Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters and The Mermaid Garden By Santa Montefiore

I adored the Harry Potter series of books and movies, as did millions of others across the globe, so I am thrilled to see that a second series of movies is planned in the next few years.

Movies: Rowling's Fantastic Beasts to Be a Trilogy

"Three megamovies are planned" for the adaptation of J.K. Rowling's
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Harry Potter's Hogwarts textbooks. In a profile of Warner Bros. CEO
the New York Times reported that the "main character will be a
'magizoologist' named Newt Scamander. The stories, neither prequels or
sequels, will start in New York about seven decades before the arrival
of Mr. Potter and his pals."

"When I say he made Fantastic Beasts happen, it isn't PR-speak but the
literal truth," Rowling observed. "We had one dinner, a follow-up
telephone call, and then I got out the rough draft that I'd thought was
going to be an interesting bit of memorabilia for my kids and started
rewriting!"
I can't imagine why Seattle isn't on this list, but I am elated to notice that Portland, Oregon is, so at least the very literary Pacific NW is represented.
Highbrow Magazine's 'Top Literary Cities in the U.S.'

Independent booksellers received some love as Highbrow magazine featured
its picks for "Top Literary Cities in the U.S.
"a literary city is a blend of the historical, cultural and modern parts
of literature, encouraging and inspiring future generations to
appreciate and take part in the literary world."

The choices included Washington, D.C. ("The city boasts multiple
bookstores--Politics & Prose being the most famous..."), San Francisco,
Calif. ("the anchor of the literary scene in S.F. is still City Lights
Bookstore"), Boston, Mass. (Grolier Poetry Book Shop and Lame Duck
Books) and Portland, Ore. (Powell's City of Books).

My husband and I lived in Phinney Ridge (on 71st and Greenwood) for about 5 years, and I don't remember this bookstore, though it might have been one that was farther down the street than I am thinking of. But whatever the reason, I am glad that someone has purchased the store and is keeping it going. I was a frequent client of the Couth Buzzard New and Used books, which had to move from across the street from the GreenTree Apartments to nearly at the end of Greenwood Ave.
This is from Shelf Awareness:

Jeopardy! Champ Buys Seattle's Santoro's Books
Carol Santoro, owner of Santoro's Books 
 http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz20564699
in the Phinney Ridge/Greenwood area of Seattle, Wash., is selling the
store to Tom Nissley, an author, former Amazon books editor and
eight-time champion on Jeopardy! The sale is effective in early May, and
Nissley plans to close the store and reopen it under the name Phinney
Books in early June. Santoro is keeping the Santoro's Books name for her
wholesale business providing books for schools and libraries.
"I couldn't have hoped for a better buyer or a better outcome for the
bookstore," Santoro said in an announcement about the sale. "After nine
years owning Santoro's Books and 29 years in the bookselling business,
it's time for me to make a change. I feel completely confident that Tom
will take the bookstore in an interesting new direction. He's extremely
knowledgeable and well-connected in the bookselling world--it's a
perfect fit. My customers are ecstatic that this will live on as Phinney
Books."

For his part, Nissley said, "After recommending books online for 10
years, and then in the pages of my own book, I'm looking forward to
putting good books directly in readers' hands for a change. And I'm
excited to be doing so just eight blocks from my house, at a store that
Carol has built into a neighborhood institution."

He called the Kindle "an excellent machine, but so is the book. We're
living in a digital age, but it's become clear in the past couple of
years that many readers still want to read physical books and want to
buy them at local, independent bookstores, which are thriving in
Seattle."

Nissley plans to continue the 1,200-square-foot store's general-interest
emphasis and also offer a selection of other items, including custom
book-themed paper goods and the sparkly vinyl handbags made by
Glittersweet, his wife Laura Silverstein's company.

Santoro began her bookselling career in 1985 when she opened Second
Story Bookstore in Wallingford Center in Seattle. After 10 years, she
sold the store, and with a partner started an online bookselling
business, Books on Call. (Coincidentally, another person in Seattle had
a similar idea around the same time.) Then she joined Fremont Place Book
Company as a partner in 1997. Five years later, she repurchased Second
Story Bookstore, where she sold new and used books with Marla
Vandewater, former owner of Vandewater Books. In 2005, Santoro opened
Santoro's Books.

Nissley received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington in
1999 and was an editor for Microsoft's Encarta encyclopedias for two
years before joining Amazon as a books editor. Between 2000 and 2011, he
founded Omnivoracious, the Amazon books blog, managed the Best Books of
the Year and Best Books of the Month programs and interviewed dozens of
authors.

In 2010 Nissley won eight games and $235,400 on Jeopardy!, the
fourth-highest regular-game total in the history of the show. He won
another $100,000 as the runner-up in the 2011 Jeopardy! Tournament of
Champions, and appeared again on the show this past Monday as part of
the 30th anniversary Battle of the Decades.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is nothing less than a work of art. Art, whether it be an Emily Carr painting of a dark forest or a beautiful song full of truth sung by a choir or an individual, or a play or film performed exquisitely by well trained talented actors always sends my heart racing, makes me cry, fills my spirit and soothes and enriches my mind. Most of the books that I read are good, some are even great, but few truly move me as a work of art.
The Fault in Our Stars moved me not just because it is a tragic story about two teenagers with cancer, but because it was written in elegant prose and with deceptively simple style that lures the reader into the book and the character's lives and sends them on a journey with the swift, clean plot that is surprisingly hard to predict. Yet the surprises seem natural, and the story doesn't jar the reader at all, allowing them to feel as if they're living each moment with Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters. Powerful and poignant as the Fault in Our Stars is, the book is riddled with deliciously dry wit and gallows humor that isn't black enough to depress but real enough to give one a shiver as they laugh. While it's somewhat Romeo and Juliette-esque, I didn't get as impatient with the teenagers and their falling in love, sparring with words and longing looks as I usually do, but I would guess that is because both characters are so ill that we spend a decent amount of time in hospital rooms with both or one of them at the edge of death. Yet even the grim march of cancer and cancer-fighting drug's side effects, which are often worse than the disease, can dim the shine of miraculous love that pours forth from this novel. My book group is reading this book in August, and I am thinking of switching it around on the schedule and moving it up to June, because I loved FIOS so much that I can hardly wait to discuss it with the ladies in the group. I can't really tell too much about the plot without spoiling it, so I will just say that it is well worth the time to read it and worth any price you might have to pay to secure a copy. I find myself moved to watch more Mental Floss videos on the internet just so I can listen to the voice of John Green and dream of telling him one day that I loved this book with all that is in me, and I sincerely hope that he continues to write, because word art and artists are all too rare a creature in this day and age. An A+, of course, and I recommend this book to any and all who believe in true love, the beauty of the human soul, life, the universe and everything.

In The Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters wasn't a book that I was expecting to become so engrossed in that I couldn't put it down, but that's exactly what happened when I picked it up this morning, and just finished reading it about an hour ago.
It's the story of a plucky young woman named after the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley Black, who is 16 in 1918 and has been sent to her aunt's home in San Diego to try and escape the Influenza epidemic and the embarrassment of her father's imprisonment for protesting the war.
She had fallen in love earlier with a young man in her aunt's neighborhood, Stephen, and is dismayed  when he reveals that he has signed up to fight in WW1. He has a half brother, Julius, who is a brute and a cheat, and has turned their father's photography business into a "Spiritualist" photography business by taking photos of people and exposing the film enough to have background photos appear ghostlike in the original photo. This, in addition to his opium addiction, makes Julius a menacing presence throughout the novel. In addition to the deaths from the war, the Spanish flu has laid low nearly everyone around Mary Shelley, and the constant use of masks, poultices, onions and garlic to ward off the virus are woven throughout the novel. My grandmother was a child of around 9 or 10 during this era, and I am always amazed at her descriptions of how many people she noticed dying, even in Iowa, during that time. It's like listening to someone who survived the bubonic plague describing the world around them falling apart. Horrific. Yet the central mystery of Mary Shelley's ability to hear the spirit of her beloved speak to her after she'd been hit by lightening, and how she solves his murder helps keep the plot from becoming mired in horror and death. There's a distinct Steampunk flavor to this book that is enhanced by the art deco font used for titles and the creepy photos that dot each chapter and remind the reader of Ransome Rigg's "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children." Though I gather it's something of a YA novel, I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves odd stories of the WW1 era. It deserves an A for it's smooth prose and swift plot.

The Mermaid Garden by Santa Montefiore wasn't a joy to read, like the two books mentioned above. The POV and passive construction, which didn't show so much as tell the reader what to feel, see and expect made me irritable from the first chapter on. Then there was the annoying teenage step-daughter, Clementine, who just hated everything in her privileged life, and was miserable and snotty throughout the book. "Clemmie" was especially obnoxious to her stepmother, Marina, for no other reason than she married Clementine's father, Grey. I could barely restrain myself from shouting "seriously, GROW UP" every time we had to listen to more of Clementine's whining. The story is told in two eras, 1966 and 2009, and it appears, at first, that we are reading about two different people. It becomes apparent to any reader with half a brain, however, that the skinny poor child of the town drunk in 1966, Floriana, is the grown up woman Marina of the modern-day chapters. So when Marina hires a handsome young man to be the painter in residence at her Bed and Breakfast in England, again, it's a forgone conclusion that he's the baby she gave away in the 1970s.
Though I understand the characters were supposed to be charming and fascinating, they all seemed rather shallow and vain, and the women especially seemed weak and whiny and hysterical or over-emotional, when they weren't being man-hunting sluts. The men were all stereotypes of men (ie the loutish evil drunk, the young man so handsome he's irresistible to all the women he meets, regardless of age, the older gentleman who is a supportive, fatherly figure) and their ridiculous behavior, along with the mystery that wasn't really a mystery, made the plot trudge along like a tired old friar. The prose was makeshift, with too much passive construction and redundancy, and I found that since I didn't really like any of the characters, I could hardly wait for the book to end. I'd give it a D, and only recommend it to those who don't really like to think too much while reading.

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
prizes."

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
http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz20447695. 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. <http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz20475915>, 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 http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz20495236 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
http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz20495237 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

confrontation.

* 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

libraries


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

decision.





"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.