Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An Evening with the Warwick’s Booksellers


On Tuesday, August 24 Warwick’s (only the best Independent Book Store around) hosted its annual Reading Group Recommends Night. This is typically an evening where 100 or so book lovers congregate to hear all about the best reading group geared books available. The Warwick’s staff has been doing this presentation for several years, each year more successful (much larger attendance and sales) thanks to the diverse group of presenting readers with very eclectic taste. Done in a lecture format, with each bookseller presenting at a podium for 10-15 minutes, this is the perfect chance to sit back, take notes, and hear enthusiastic reviews from extraordinarily well-read booksellers. This was my fourth year as a presenter, my first as a sort of moderator/introducer. My picks are listed below with brief explanations of why these books are so good. To see a full listing of the books discussed click here. I urge you to do so as the books that are mentioned here are not only unusual to many reading group circles, but they all have the distinction of being remarkably well-written, literary pieces, that not only offer mental stimulation, but also provide some wonderful entertainment.


Still Missing
By Chevy Stevens
Centered around an escaped kidnap victim and detailing her capture, incarceration, escape, and ongoing recovery, Still Missing is an engrossing read. It possesses wit that engages, suspense that thrills, and a twist, which will rock readers.

Deeply psychological, it has an interesting introspective feel to it thanks to a first person narrative. This stylization helps to bring the reader more fully and emotionally into the story creating a unique bond between the reader and the character. I highly recommend this novel to fans of Gillian Flynn, Chelsea Cain, and Lisa Unger, or for anyone who loves a well-written psychological study, that also happens to be a thriller.


Juliet
By Anne Fortier
(Released today, August 24)
Juliet is the story of Julie Jacobs, a young woman who is drawn into the mysterious and very real world of Shakespeare’s most famous warring families. Yes, I’m talking about the actual tale of Romeo and Juliet, or as this novel poses it, Romeo and Giulietta, who lived and died in medieval Siena (not Verona) and were the unfortunate pawns of power-hungry families.

This was a fast-paced, intriguing story, which brought to mind other fabulous tales that intertwined two time periods and stories to make for one excellent novel, namely The Thirteenth Tale, The Eight, and Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth. I liked the complexity of the characters, the clever plot, and the wonderful historical research that Fortier put into her story. Juliet is a delightful and engaging new book perfect for reading groups who like to juxtapose two texts or with an interest in classic books (or plays in this case). I highly recommend reacquainting oneself with Shakespeare’s version first though, as it helps to fill-in the background of this creative tale, making just that much better.


Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
By Beth Hoffman
(paperback ed. Out 10/26/10)
This wonderfully delightful novel absolutely grabbed me. The author, Beth Hoffman, has this smooth prose that captures the idiosyncrasies and nuances of southern life and style. The cast of characters is vivid in personality, feminine intelligence, and southern charm. Hoffman also manages to convey a hard core of strength and determination beneath her sweetly loving and exuberant female characters. This seemingly simple story of a newly motherless girl taken in by her great aunt is truly superb. It is both laugh out loud, and cry in the dark, a multi-dimensional story wrapped in the fa├žade of a light and easy read. This is one of those books that you put down, and then pick right back up because you must find someone else to read it and enjoy it with you.


Special Mention:

Revolution
By Jennifer Donnelly
Release Date: October 12, 2010
Revolution is one of those books that sucks you in emotionally and rivets with its dramatic prose and utterly fantastic plot. The narrative switches between Andi, a modern day teen and the voice of Alexandrine Paradis, a young performer and companion to young Prince Louis XVII Charles, smoothly building just enough intrigue to capture the reader’s interest and keep it locked in for the entire novel. The characters are brilliantly depicted and the research that went into describing the atmosphere and the horrors of the French Revolution is thorough and impressive. I cannot praise this novel enough. After I finished it I was loathe to read anything else, wanting to relish the superb storytelling and character development of Donnelly. What an amazing read for both adults and older teens.

If you would like to hear a podcast of the evening click here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It’s a Book Jackass


In an age where people read things on their cell phones, ipads, Kindles, and computers it is not so amazing that someone might see a book and ask the question “What is that?”. Lane Smith tackles this concept in his new picture book, aptly titled It’s a Book.

This brilliant satirical book is simple in its presentation (after all, it is a book), yet oddly deep in nature as it cleverly tackles the ebook debate without ever criticizing ebooks or other technological breakthroughs (or hindrances, depending on your take).

While the book is in picture book format, suggesting at first glance that it is meant for children, this book is a far better read for adults. Please don’t discount the younger set though, I may be giving small children more perception than they have, but I think many little kids (maybe 5 & up) will actually get the premise, especially as children as young as kindergarten are using computers or handheld devises (maybe this is just the kids I know?). My only suggestion, and this actually gives me twinges, is to censor the last sentence of the book “It’s a BOOK Jackass”, unless you don’t mind your little ones calling each other jackass (and they will).

Simply put It’s a Book is the Book of the year and if you don’t check it out you’re probably an illiterate, or just not in touch with you intellect. Remember, books don’t get plugged in, charged, lit up, or scroll, they simply, and brilliantly open up a world of knowledge and imagination, if what you’re reading doesn’t do that, well then, it’s not a book jackass.