Thursday, December 6, 2007

Author signing | Sara Zarr, Brandon Sanderson, Pat Bagley


We were very excited last night to have three amazing authors at the University Campus Store for our annual Staff and Faculty Appreciation Night. Sara Zarr, author of Story of a Girl, Brandon Sanderson, author of Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians and the Mistborn series, and Pat Bagley, author of Bagley's Utah Survival Guide and the Clueless George series were signing their books during the evening event.
It was Sara's first signing at the Campus Store and a return trip for both Pat and Brandon. They were able to chat with many customers and sign books for them. Our staff and faculty customers commented that they love having authors in the store for the event. I was pleased that we're able to bring such a high caliber of authors into the Campus Store.
Sara will be back on December 12, 2007 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to meet customers and sign copies of Story of a Girl for those who weren't able to attend the event last night.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cowboy hats in the City of Brotherly Love

I am always looking for a good book- a great book. There are so many books published each year that it is hard to keep up. You end up wading through through piles of poor to fair stories to find that one gem that finally shines. What makes the reading experience so much better is to be given a recommendation by someone else- someone who likes the kinds of stories you do, someone whose reading interests are similar to yours. When you talk to, chat with, or exchange emails with someone, you can quickly ascertain if they like similar types of books.

Recently I was having a conversation with my book rep from Penguin, Eric, and as it so happened, our interest in books are somewhat similar. While looking through the catalogs of books, we came across a series that Eric suggested I read, or at least pick up one of the books and give it a try. I did, and now I’m hooked.

I just finished Kindness Goes Unpunished by Craig Johnson, a Walt Longmire Mystery and I’m grateful Eric recommended it. This is actually the third book in the series, but reads nearly like a stand alone novel. The characters are written well and are fleshed out quickly enough that even though I didn’t read the two books prior to this, I felt I understood their backgrounds and knew them after only a couple of dozen pages.

Walt Longmire, Absaroka County, Wyoming sheriff, travels to the Philadelphia with his close friend and Cheyenne Indian (don’t call him a Native American), Henry Standing Bear, to visit his daughter Cady, a workaholic, up and coming lawyer. Before Longmire has a chance to see his daughter, she is knocked unconscious and ends up in the hospital in a coma. Longmire sets out to discover what really happened to his daughter the night she was hurt and ends up entangled with Cady’s ego-centric boyfriend, Philidelphia’s drug kingpin, a dirty assistant district attorney and a mysterious “white Indian” who is trying to protect him. Work into the story the family of his deputy, Victoria Moretti (Vic), aka The Holy Terror, and you have all sorts of fireworks ready to be lit. The American west meets east coast swagger.

Well written, filled with subtle humor and lacking nothing in good plot or characters, Craig Johnson has written a book that branded me a fan. I am going back to read the first two books of the series, Cold Dish and Death Without Company and hoping he has a fourth book in the works- at the rate I devoured Kindness Goes Unpunished, I’ll be done with the first two within the week.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Learn to live from those who've died

Question: Why would anyone sit down and read a book full of obituaries?

Answer: Because these are amazing, touching, funny stories of everyday people who did something extraordinary with their ordinary lives (thus the subtitle).

ObitIn Obit by Jim Sheeler, a reporter who wrote obituaries for a living for the Boulder Planet and the Denver Post, collects obituaries written to share lives and experiences of those that have gone before. These are not the obituaries on page B10 that every newspaper carries, but extensions of these. They are three to five page stories of what people did in their lives that reminds each of us how to be better human beings. They are poignant, funny, sad, heartrending, heartwarming and always touching. Although each is the story of a life from someone who lived in Colorado, I think we all know of someone in our own communities reflected in these essays.

If my own obituary eventually reads anything like the individuals in this collection, I would be wholly satisfied with my life.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Don't 'Kindle' the flames just yet...

Let me just preface this entry by saying that I’m not a Luddite or technophobe- if I was, would I be writing this blog?

Kindle, Amazon.com’s attempt to do to the printed book what the iPod did to the CD, was released today. I read the article in Newsweek. I read the article in the New York Times. I watched the promotional videos on Amazon. I thought about the Kindle, worried about it briefly, and then came to yet the same conclusion I have a dozen or so times before- the printed book is not yet dead.

About 1997 I read an article talking about the future of the book. The digital book was to be the wave of the future. All sorts of advancements were coming down the road in the next few years that would allow hand held devices to not only replace books, but to allow us to carry hundreds with them. Ten years and numerous attempts later nothing has yet displaced that block of wood pulp and ink.

Here’s why, with a book, paper is superior to an LCD screen:

1). Books have been portable a lot longer than computers. The technology in books has been perfected over centuries and is unlikely to be replaced so easily.

2). Price. Invest in a book and only a book. You don’t have to spend a quarter to a third of a mortgage payment just for the ability to read a book. For a minor investment, you get permanence, not bits of electricity floating about in the ether.

3). Ever tried to get your favorite author to sign an ebook? Or, ever tried to give an ebook as a gift, inscribed with a personal thought?

4). Try lending an ebook to a friend.

5). Every donated an ebook to charity or sold it to a used bookstore for a little extra cash?

6). The feel, the heft, the smell of a printed book just can’t be duplicated by an ebook. Unless Kindle comes with a scent generator- is that possible?

7). Lastly, no batteries required.

Good luck Kindle, but does the word Rocketbook mean anything to you?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Where's the mystery?

The Eye of Jade by Diane Wei Liang was not quite what I was expecting from the description on the book cover. It certainly billed itself as being a mystery being solved by the female protagonist of the story- Wang Mei, who has set up a detective agency in Beijing. It turned out to be much less of a "mystery" than a story about the intricacies of family and Chinese culture, and social and political intrigues within China.
While well written, I approached it (because of the cover description) as a mystery story and came away disappointed. What does the publisher expect of the reader when they put "A Mei Wang Mystery" as a subtitle?
I thought the author tried a little too hard to make some of the wording feel like awkward English, like a Chinese person might speak if they learned English well, but not fluently. For example, in the hospital, Mei and her sister hire what amounts to a nurse's assistant to help take care of their mother, yet the author refers to her as a "help-worker" throughout the book. This is just one instance, but it occurs regularly throughout the book and makes the reading slightly awkward in some places. Strangely, in most other places, the characters/authors command of English is the equivalent a native speaker.
This may simply be the attempt of a first time novelist (both the wording and the lack of a real mystery) to establish a character in a first book then build the character in subsequent books where the language and story both improve. I would need to read a second book (if indeed, this is meant to be a series) and see the improvement before I were able to recommend this to others.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

And the winner is...

The national book awards were given out last night in New York City. The winners were:

Tree of SmokeFiction
Denis Johnson, Tree of Smoke

Legacy of AshesNonfiction
Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA

Time and MaterialsPoetry
Robert Hass, Time and Materials

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Young People’s Literature
Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

These all are amazing books and I encourage you to pick up at least one for a great read.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Nothing missing here

I have long been a fan of crime fiction, everything from hard-boiled detective stories, to mysteries, to legal thrillers. There always seems to be an element of excitement in reading about criminals that you grow to like who seem as if they are going to get away with the perfect crime. Or, the lawyer who, in court is being run over roughshod by their opponent, only to find the legal catch and is able to pull out the win.

Missing WitnessOf course, in the last two decades, the king of the legal thriller has been John Grisham. I began reading him from nearly the beginning and waited in anticipation for the next novel to arrive. But, when I read “The Street Lawyer” I had and immense letdown and I stopped reading Grisham novels for a number of years. Grisham novels rely on plot twists and turns and cliff hangers at the end of chapters which sometimes are not resolved until a chapter or two later. Most of his books are fast paced and drive the reader along with the characters through the stories.

Just yesterday I finished a novel, a legal mystery, which drove me through the book because of the characters rather than with them. “Missing Witness” by Gordon Campbell is an amazing legal mystery whose story is great, but whose characters carry the story from beginning to end.

The story is told by Doug McKenzie, a recent law school graduate who goes to work for a Phoenix, Arizona law firm, mainly because he wants to work with and learn from one of the great criminal defense lawyers of his day, Dan Morgan.

McKenzie and Morgan catch a murder case by request of the Ferris Eddington, a rich rancher whose son was killed. The problem is, Eddington wants his daughter-in-law Rita, who has been accused of the murder, defended. With reservations, Morgan and McKenzie take the case and find themselves in a legal brawl with Maximillian Hauser, the district attorney prosecuting the case.

Morgan is cocky and sure-footed, while McKenzie is learning that law school and law practice are two entirely different animals. The defense of Rita Eddington throws an ethical dilemma at the two defense attorneys and ultimately creates an even larger dilemma, one which Doug McKenzie finds he cannot cope with without relying on individuals whom he trusts more than Dan Morgan.

Halfway through the book, it appears that the story is ending as the trial of Rita Eddington concludes, but Campbell is just getting the story started. What is Morgan capable of doing in order to protect his client and what will McKenzie do to quiet his conscience and defend and innocent girl?

Highly readable, exceptionally well written, amazing story telling, while creating characters that ring true showing their strengths and their flaws. If you read legal mysteries you must give Missing Witness a try. If you don’t, read it anyway- you won’t be disappointed. Meanwhile, I will be waiting in anticipation for Gordon Campbell’s next book.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Just behave, would you?

God Behaving BadlyWhatever happened to the gods of Olympus? They seemed to be doing quite well 2500 years ago. Once the Roman’s co-opted them as part of their pantheon they still had a good run for hundreds of years more. But, once Constantine accepted Christianity, the Greek/Roman gods predominance was over. Christians has this awful tendency to be a monotheistic people (Father, Son and Holy Ghost as the triune God). Polytheism was dead in the west.

So, it might come as a surprise that Zeus, Hera and the gang are still around and just as much alive today as they were when Alexander the Great was conquering the world. Only, now, they are living together in a dumpy house in London and their immortal powers deteriorating. Apollo is a psychic on a daytime television show while Aphrodite makes a living as a phone-sex operator. Dionysus runs one of the hottest clubs in London, where of course, everyone dances and gets drunk on his wine. Artemis is a dog walker and Aphrodite’s son Eros, well, he’s converted to Christianity. Not quite the good old days.

Two mortals, Neil and Alice, who like each other terribly but can just never seem to admit it to one another, get caught in the middle of one of Aphrodite and Apollo’s fights. Things quickly go from bad to worse and Neil must not only confront the gods, but take a trip to the underworld to save Alice and the world.

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips is a funny take on what might happen if the Greek gods existed today and were living among us. For all we know, maybe they do. Just remember, the gods were always a little R-rated, and they haven’t changed much in this book.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Get along little doggie, get along

One of my favorite things to do is open boxes of books as they arrive at the store; its like Christmas everyday. As I dig, I find treasures that I’d forgotten I’d ordered. Others I’ve been waiting in anticipation for.

Gallop!“Gallop!” is one of those books that I’ve been anticipating. Each time a box came from Workman Publishing, I’d dig through, hoping to find it and then being disappointed when it didn’t arrive.

Well, today “Gallop!” finally arrived!

This book is soooo cool! It is a book for kids and adults stuck in the high tech world of the Internet, video games, and movies. Warning: there are no batteries, no electrical cords, no LCD screens, or DVD’s. This is a picture book with moving pictures. You heard me- moving pictures!

“Gallop!” is a “Scanimation Picture Book.” What does that mean you ask? When you open the cover of the book and all succeeding pages, like a pop-up book, the opening of the page causes magic to happen. Looking at the front cover you seen a picture of a horse (see the cover above). When you open the cover, the horse begins to gallop- not just one move, but continuous movement. His legs move, his head moves, his body moves. Every animal in the book, from cats to monkeys, run, leap, fly or swing, amazing you with each page you turn.

A simple rhyme goes with each picture making this ideal for the smaller kids, but adults are going to play with this as well, asking themselves the entire time- how’d they do that?

Friday, November 2, 2007

I know it when I see it...

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said, in a case dealing with pornography, "I know it when I see it." Well, ol' Justice Stewart might get kind of confused (were he alive) had he heard the title of this little gift book, then opened it up for a peek.

Porn for Women by Cambridge Women's Pornography Cooperative is one of those books whose siren song title perks up the ears of those who hear it. "You're selling porn for who in your store?" one lady asks. "That's disgusting. Are you sure it's not for men?" asks someone else. "Take me to it," directed another. Once in their hands, the reaction is quite different, and yet, very similar.

"This is absolutely hilarious," they all gasp between fits of laughter while flipping the pages.

We all know what gets the guys excited, but have you ever thought (yes, guys, this means you) about what excites women? And, guys, it's not what you think. Picture this: A hot looking guy, perfectly shaved and manicured, wearing an expensive dress shirt that is completely unbuttoned, showing his rock hard chest and six-pack abs while looking a women deep in the eyes and saying "God, that's so interesting. Tell me more!"

Men who dust, get up in the night for the baby, and cook dinner while telling the women they love "Have some more chocolate cake; you're looking too thin." That's what women want and that is what this book is full of. Pictures of great looking guys, page after page of them, doing the laundry, vacuuming the house and running off to the store for groceries, all the while telling their wives and girlfriends, "Don't worry, I'll take care of that!"

This book is a gift-sized paperback, ideal for stuffing in a Christmas stocking or under a pillow. Women will love this book and guys might just get a clue from it.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Alcatraz ain't just a prison

No one, not even my wife, buys me books as gifts anymore. Sad, but true. I guess I have too many books and no one knows what it is I have or haven’t read yet. Since I’ve been reading like mad lately, I’m on the lookout for the books that are going to be the best gifts for the book lovers on your lists this year. And trust me, I’ve found some good ones!

One of my recent favorites is a children’s book. Other than Harry Potter, I hadn’t spent a lot of time with children’s books over the last few years, but I have recently rediscovered the amazing books that are being written for children and young adults.

Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson is one of those books that both children and adults can read and enjoy. When I received my copy, I sat down to read, got caught up in the story, and didn’t sleep, stand up, eat, or go to a library until I was done (I still haven’t gone back to a library- read it; you’ll understand why).

Alcatraz Smedry is a boy who has an amazing power- he breaks nearly anything he touches. His power has caused him to be bounced around from foster home to foster home his entire life. But, on his thirteenth birthday, everything changes. He receives a gift in the mail- a bag of sand, which is promptly stolen. Once he receives (and loses) this gift, nothing will ever be the same. He learns about his family, his powers, and about the cult of evil librarians who suppress truth and spread misinformation in an attempt to control the world.

Alcatraz must infiltrate a library and retrieve the bag of sand, which was stolen by the librarians, before they can use it to achieve world domination. It is up to Alcatraz and a crazily wonderful cast of characters to save the world.

I highly recommend this book for boys between 8 and 13 years old and even more highly to boys between 14 and 99. You can’t go wrong with Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians- just be sure to get it from a bookstore and avoid the library completely.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cold, Unrelenting Terror

Yesterday, I wrote about books that scare us, the stories woven by authors to make our skin crawl. Books that we read alone and wished we hadn’t. Stories that make us crawl deep under the covers in our bed at night.

As I looked through my library, I found a book I read recently that gave me chills for a whole different set of reasons. The setting is different than most horror novels, no haunted house, no forest, no graveyard, no ghosts and ghouls. There is very little blood and gore. What is terrifying about this novel is the horrible isolation, the chilling climate, and the unknown nightmare that stalks the characters relentlessly

The Terror by Dan Simmons is a novel retelling of an actual arctic expedition that was lost in the late 1840’s while searching for the fabled Northwest Passage. In reality, the expedition disappeared and was never heard from again. Simmons takes it from the point at which the two ships were last seen and creates a story that is terrifyingly believable.

As the first winter sets in the northern arctic waters, the ocean freezes around the ships, locking them in the ice. The expeditions leadership expected this and had come prepared with extra fuel and food. What they did not expect was the ice remaining throughout the arctic summer, locking them in for multiple winters, depleting the extra stores they brought. As the men ration their supplies, an unknown, unseen beast begins to ravage the ships crews, one man at a time.

As the situation becomes more desperate, the men must abandon the ships, attempt an escape to a low lying island, while defending themselves against the unknown killer that stalks them.

Simmons is an incredible writer whose description is so vivid the deep cold of the arctic can be felt while you read. You feel the isolation and desperation of the men, and ultimately the fear of the survivors is palpable.

This is an amazing novel, founded on historical fact, constructed on a fascinating conjecture, and capped by a touch of horrific fantasy. The Terror is perfectly described by its own title.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The depths of fear

The yellow, fall moon is out, not quite full. Fallen leaves cover the ground and scrape and grind beneath your feet. The air is chill, the night is dark and branches of the newly naked trees scrape the sides of the house when the wind blows. Get a fire going, turn the lights down low (but not too low) and pull out that book- you know the one. The book that sends chills down your spine, that makes you jump at every creak of the house, the one that makes you pull the covers up over your head when you crawl into bed after reading.

I believe that reading a scary book is much worse than watching a scary movie. Reading is such a solitary endeavor. You, and you alone, are in there with monsters, ghosts, and all the other horrors that crawl from the pages of books. Your imagination is better than any movie screen at creating what scares you the most. The branch scraping the window late at night now becomes the fingernail on the hand of the living dead looking for a way in. The reflection in that same window may be yours or is it a deranged murderer staring in at you?

I love books that give me the chills. An author who can do that has done their job well. Some of my favorites are Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Pit and the Pendulum.” Poe was a master of the Gothic horror story. Of course, Stephen King has scared me once or twice over the last 25 or 30 years, but the book I read once and will never go back and read is “It.” I still hate clowns. King is also the master of the scary short story. “Graveyard Shift” made me avoid basements and other dark underground places for years afterwards, and “The Man in the Black Suit” was an amazing story that scares any of us who believe we are approaching our ultimate end. Those are a few of the stories that have scared me, but are by no means all the books that have made me cringe, hide, shake, and break into cold sweats.

Is there a book that plumbs the depths of your fear?

Which Are You? A Dummy or an Idiot.

This week at the Campus Store is “Which Are You?” week. Are you a Dummy? Or, are you an Idiot? No, I’m not trying to insult your intelligence, I’m simply asking which reference series do you like the most? Is it the “for Dummies” or the “Complete Idiot’s” books, both of which are very popular reference series that teach us how to do something when we know nothing about the subject (or, at least very little about it).

Dummies ChessI remember running into these series a number of years ago and picking one up for a subject which I thought I knew a little bit about- chess. OK, so I knew very little about chess and to prove it, I got beat quite often. Usually by 10 year olds who had just learned the game (I personally think they were child prodigies, but how many chess prodigies do you normally find in one place at one time?).Idiot’s Chess

The book helped me understand opening moves, how to most efficiently use pawns (even when you lose them), and how to carry out a series of moves to checkmate a king when you only have two pieces left on the board.

I have purchased a number of “Dummies” and “Idiot’s” books over the years and found most to be quite helpful in bringing me up to speed on subjects I knew next to nothing about. Even subjects I was familiar with, these books gave me tips and tricks that were very useful and cut down on time I spent trying to, learn the harmonica for example.

This week is a great time to bone up on an old familiar subject or try something completely new, as all the “Dummies” and “Idiot’s” guides are on sale. You can even drop your name in the box for some seriously cool schwag. Even if you don’t win anything the books are still a great deal and you might just learn something.

Now days, I’m even comfortable playing chess with 12 year olds.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Sacred Shelf of 10

In my personal library, I have a shelf- the Sacred Shelf of 10. This is the shelf that holds the books that are my ten favorite at any given time. There can only be ten. When I find a book that I highly enjoy, I consider putting it on the sacred shelf. But, if one goes on, then one comes off- no exceptions (this is what I think they ought to do in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but that’s a discussion for another time).

The rule of ten makes me consider, really, truly consider which of my books deserve to be on this shelf. Why the scrutiny? These ten are the only books I’ll go back and reread (while they remain on the shelf). There’s too little time and too many books to reread more than that. The books on my shelf are chosen because I simply enjoy reading them, not because they do or do not have redeeming literary value. They may or may not have won an award, other than the award of sitting on the Sacred Shelf of 10.

Here they are, in no particular order:

* Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
* The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
* Booked to Die by John Dunning
* The Meaning of Night: A Confession by Michael Cox
* Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
* Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder
* Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
* The Bookman’s Wake by John Dunning
* An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears
* On Writing by Stephen King

Those are the books on the sacred shelf in my library. Some have been on the list for a while, some have only recently been added. Now, I can hear some screams of dismay and several of you saying, “huh?” But regardless, those are my favorites. Now the question is- what is on your Sacred Shelf of 10?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In a pile of catalogs I just received from a publisher (name withheld to protect the guilty) I found one which billed itself as a listing of “new” classic literature. I opened the catalog to browse and got quite confused. I consider myself a well read individual. Yet, not one of the books in this catalog was familiar- not a title, not an author. Did I pull a Rip Van Winkle, sleeping through a hundred years of literature to wake and find myself completely unfamiliar with what is now considered a “classic?”

The question then, is “What is classic literature?” Is there a literary star chamber determining this? Or, to quote a classic film (or is it a classic?) is there a secret society “known as The Pentavirate, who run everything in the world, including the newspapers, and meet tri-annually at a secret country mansion in Colorado, known as The Meadows?” Who in Dante’s Inferno is in charge of this list?

Perhaps a book hits classic status when a majority of high school English classes across the country incorporate it into their curriculum. Although I read quite a few books in high school, most classic literature sections of bookstores, including my own, have far more books than I had the time or patience to read when I was in my late teens.

To Kill A Mockingbird Does a book become classic when an author dies? If that’s the case, what becomes of all those Harlequin romances when the authors die? As I write this, Harper Lee is still living. Is To Kill a Mockingbird not a classic?

Maybe a book is “classic” because the book has fallen into the realm of public domain and the publisher no longer has to pay a royalty to the author who is dead (thus fulfilling one of our previous requirements). But then, explain 1984 by George Orwell. His estate still controls the copyright and receives royalties.

Perhaps when the book is refurbished with a new translation, or forward, or epilogue and is given a shiny new coat in the form of brand new cover art. Could that make it a classic?

Regardless of who labels a book “classic,” there’s one thing I know when I browse these supposed catalogs of classic literature- (to paraphrase a classic line from a politician), “I have known a lot of classic literature, and those sir, are not classic literature.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My Guilty Conscience

In the past, whenever I started reading a book I felt a compunction to finish. Even when I discovered by the second or third page a book was horribly written, I still felt compelled to slog through. Maybe it’s the fact I felt the writer slaved over a computer (or a typewriter- you remember those?) to get all those words on the page. The least I could do is acceptingly read what they wrote. Maybe the book gods were watching over my shoulder, spurring me on to the finish. Perhaps it was a reciprocal thing- someday if I ever wrote a book, I hoped when someone starts, they’d be forced to finish like I did- even if it’s really bad.

Now days, my guilty conscience has been assuaged. I realize there are so many books to read (all you need to do is look at the piles of books on my nightstand), I would need to be locked in solitary confinement doing nothing but reading all day and night just to make it through one-tenth of one percent of all the books I could possibly get my ink smudged fingers onto. I don’t have that kind of time, and I suppose, neither do you. So, when a book is bad I’ve learned to toss it aside and move on. No guilt.

Then comes the book that is so seemingly bad it is like the horrible wreck at a busy intersection- you slow down, bob your head to get a better view, see the carnage, and yet, you can’t look away. I recently picked up a book which not only made me slow down on the drive-by, but I made a U-turn and came back for more.

Him Her Him Again The End of HimAs I started reading Him Her Him Again The End of Him by Patricia Marx I nearly put the book down and moved on to the next book in the pile. But, I couldn’t. I desperately wanted to pick up the next book with glowing pre-publication reviews but my hands wouldn’t let go. The wreck was just too gory to be missed. But I soon discovered, it wasn’t the book that was a wreck, it was the characters- and what a wonderfully bloody wreck they were.

The entire time I am reading (and now enjoying) this book, I am screaming at narrator (who remains unnamed throughout) to give up her obsession with Eugene Obello, a narcissistic teaching fellow she meets while attending school at Cambridge who has a gift for using, or thoroughly misusing the English language. Though he uses her, marries another women, comes back to her for an affair, uses her some more, ignores her, and uses her once again, she cannot move beyond this ultimate cad- or can she? Everyone she knows can see Eugene for what he really is and tells her as much, but she doesn’t believe they know him as she does. I laughed, I didn’t cry, I laughed again and finished the book- my conscience only guilty with pleasure.

The book is currently out in hardcover with the paperback coming out in February 2008.

Monday, October 22, 2007

He who controls the information...

Just yesterday I stated that I am not a fan of bestseller lists. And today, here is an article in the New York Times about their own bestseller list- which really doesn’t do a whole lot to clear up some of the questions of how the list is compiled.

Bestseller lists can be made subjective, simply by what the compiler chooses to include or exclude. Not to mention, including sales from a publisher to chain stores (who buy large amounts) or to book distributors (who buy huge amounts). Some lists are more open about how they compile the list, who sends the sales information to them and how the rankings work. If you are someone who reads the bestsellers, choose a list that is open about how it is created.

Once again, my plug is for the Booksense Bestseller List- compiled from sales at independent stores around the country, not chains, not distributors. The list is a real indicator of what readers are buying, and therefore (hopefully), reading.

Is there a "Meaning of Night?"

The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox has arrived in the store in paperback! I’m excited to share this book with people who love historical mysteries. I received an advance reading copy about a year ago, just before the hardcover was released, read the nearly 800 pages in a matter of days, and told everyone in the store about it. They probably wish I’d shut up about it already, but now that it’s out in paper that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.
Can you really like a character who confesses to the murder of a man in the first sentence of the book, and commits the murder for no other reason than to prove to himself he can do it?

Edward Glyver, the narrator, is a complex character who is not just telling the story, but is confessing the acts that led him to the state of guilty anxiety in which he finds himself from the first page forward. What drives Edward is a sense of self, which he finds was stolen from him at birth and he determines to regain it. Should he lie, steal, cheat or murder, it’s all in the name of regaining his place in the world.

Can you like a man who commits murder to prove to himself he can? In the beginning you may dislike Edward Glyver as I did, but by the last page, even if the end doesn’t necessarily justify the means, I’ll wager that you’ll feel for his struggle and maybe even like him- just a little.

This is historical mystery at its best- described by someone as Victorian noire, I simply describe it as one of the best books I’ve read in a decade.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The “Twilight” of Bestsellers

Several months ago I was in my office meeting with my sales rep from Hachette. As we looked through the catalogs, selecting books to buy for the store, we came to Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer, the third book of her series. I hadn't read the other two, although I had seen them on the bestseller lists.

Problem is I've never been a fan of bestseller lists. First, they are too easily manipulated. Second, many lists are so last week (or the week before that), literally. Lastly, just because everyone else is reading these books, does that mean I should pick one up and follow the crowd? I've a huge pile of books to read anyway, and very few, if any are on the bestseller lists.

This doesn't mean I don't pay attention to bestsellers. I personally like the books on the Booksense list. I purchase books on the bestseller lists for the store- because they sell, because people like to read them. I just don't read a many of them.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer was one of those books I avoided because it was on the bestseller list. And, it was billed as a "young adult romance." I like YA. I'm just not a reader of romances. I'd sold a fair number of copies of both Twilight and New Moon, so when Randy, my sales rep showed me Eclipse, I ordered 10 copies.

Two weeks before the release of Eclipse, I figured I should read Twilight and New Moon before Eclipse came out, so I got Twilight and took it home. Two days later, I bought New Moon to take on a trip. I was done with it before I stepped off the airplane. I couldn't wait for Eclipse to come out. It was then that I realized- ten copies of Eclipse weren't going to be enough. Turned out, I was right.

Those who've read the three books understand what a darkly fun series it is. Stephanie Meyer writes her story well, making you believe the unbelievable. Even more than the story, the characters are fascinating and keep you reading even when the story slows. There are a lot of girls and women who I've spoken with who are in love with Edward. There are even a few boys who've admitted they really like Bella (boys don't like to use the word love). Me? I've got a crush on Edward's sister, Alice. Just don't tell my wife.