Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Stef's Favorite Books of 2012

Of course, I am only human (also I watch a lot of TV and have a job and stuff), so many, many awesome books went unread this year-- including but not limited to the following: Dear Life by Alice Munro, Arcadia by Lauren Groff (I'm reading it now and it is amazing), Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures by Emma Straub, The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, plus all those wonderful lesser-known books that must be discovered but which I did not happen to discover this year. Regardless, here are my favorites:

Big wonderful novels:

Shine, Shine, Shine by Lydia Netzer

Netzer's writing is so fresh it just snaps; it’s funny, poignant, and just unusual and lovely: pondering and pushing in a style like Annie Dillard’s. But the most impressive part is the way the story is unfolded; it grows to an emotional pitch that’s profound and clear, with nothing spilled before its perfect moment. She's a writer to watch.

Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple

I loooooove this book. It is wonderful and hilarious. Do not put it down, I repeat: do not put it down. What if you lose it? What if someone steals it? What if it spontaneously combusts? Trust me, you will be devastated. Keep it close.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis 

Mathis has a fantastic voice--reminiscent at times of Toni Morrison, at times Marilynne Robinson--both quiet & nuanced and fiercely powerful at the same time. Each chapter tells the story of one of Hattie's children, each affected by their family’s participation in the Great Migration and all shaped, for good or bad, by their mother's mistakes and her deep, tough love. The first chapter is one of the most powerful, unforgettable pieces of writing I've ever read. The whole thing is just remarkable.

Under the radar books totally worth the read:

We Sinners by Hanna Pylvainen

This is the story of Warren & Pirjo Rovaniemi and their 9 children, a family of Finnish fundamental Christians living in the Midwest. They don’t watch TV, go to movies, drink, or dance. They spend time together and go to church. This is their whole world. Each chapter is told from a different family member’s point of view, giving you a clear portrait of this family as they grow up and grow apart. I happen to have a particular interest in stories about fundamental Christians; but even if you don’t, this book is so well written, you’ll find yourself falling in love with the characters, and possibly, the author too. 

Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

This is a very special book, starting with the cover (which is why I bought the book in the first place-- I can't stress enough that good design matters!). R.D. Hendrix is a young girl growing up in a trailer park in Reno. She checks out the Girl Scout Handbook out of the library, and though she doesn't have a troop, she uses the Handbook to guide her. She's like a sweet little flower growing out of a garbage heap-- a bit stunted, with not very good odds, and startling in her beauty and bravery. Hassman's writing is electric. The way Rory's mother's doomed back story is threaded in, hints dropped like a bread crumb trail, actually reminded me of Faulkner-- that weight of secrets and baggage, how it always noses its way to the surface. Sad but triumphant.

Heft by Liz Moore (now out in paperback)

This is a wonderful novel about two people who could not be any more different: a high school boy named Kel, a killer baseball player with a hopeless, falling-apart mother, and Arthur Opp, a man who once befriended Kel’s mother and who now weighs 550 pounds and never leaves his home. As both of their lives change dramatically, their stories slowly begin to spin towards each other, until they touch. This is a lovely story from a gifted writer. Perfectly appropriate for an older teen too, this novel fascinated me from beginning to end and really stayed with me. 

Insanely good short story collections:

The News From Spain by Joan Wickersham

Each of these stories of love gone wrong or just gone is simply exquisite. The stories progress in intensity and complexity until the last one, which is so intense that the narrator, speaking of her stale marriage and improbable infidelity, has to drop out of her story and tell another love story, just to make it through.

Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman

This is a beautiful collection of stories by a talented new writer. Her writing is crisp and indelible, like Laurie Moore's: "My heart was subterraneous, a root crop, damp, hiding from the sun in shame."

Awesome novels with crossover YA appeal:

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Such a fantastic coming of age story about Julia, a girl growing up in a world where each day on earth is a few minutes longer than the day before. The concept is interesting enough, but Walker's writing is just inspired, the story handled with such a light touch. I loved Julia. I wanted to protect her, save her. 

The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller
If you read the jacket copy, you might think this sounds crazy. And it is, a little bit, but the truth is that it all works. Miller juggles it all like a circus performer— you can’t stop watching, and you have no idea how she does it. Here’s one thing that is crazy: Miller’s writing. It’s crazy good. I just love main character Iris. Her dogged pursuit of the truth is the only thing that's keeping her hanging on as loneliness and confusion swirl around her. That pursuit is something in Iris that I really latched on to (and is something that I think a lot of young or not-so-young-anymore girls would, too). At times, Iris is floundering, treading water, just trying to keep her head above the waves. That she solves the mysteries of Mariana Academy in the end is almost beside the point; as a former young girl myself, I understand the chief importance of solving your own mysteries, and Iris does too by the end of this lovely debut novel.

Deservedly hyped:

The Round House by Louise Erdrich
This book is fantastic. I love all of Erdrich's books, but for the first time I felt a layer of suspense in the story that I hadn't in any of her other books. It's so cool to me that an amazing, accomplished writer like Louise Erdrich is still growing and evolving her writing style. While I turned the pages quickly to find out what would happen, I still found myself re-reading sentences and whole paragraphs, the way you do with a truly talented writer. 

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (now out in paperback)
In his Iraq War novel (among several this year), Fountain poignantly shows the way the American public alternately glorifies and ignores the military, to its detriment. He has created such vivid characters, managing to create a group of men that are emblematic without being cliché. You will love Billy. He is a sweetheart and a philosopher, sometimes a naïve 19 year old, sometimes a battle-weary cynic. This is a truly impressive novel, and important.


The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table  by Tracie McMillan
If you are a fan of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, and you care about where the food on your plate comes from and the fact that not everyone in this country is able to buy healthy food, then this book is for you. McMillan, a journalist covering issues of poverty in NYC, became inspired after writing about a cooking class for the underprivileged. She went  undercover, as a farm worker in CA, in the produce section of a Walmart in MI, and in the kitchen of an NYC Applebees. Her discoveries, about the conditions of farm workers and Walmart employees and issues surrounding food pricing, safety, and accessibility were simply fascinating. An important, well-written book.
Tiny Beautiful Things/Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Most people know how amazing Wild is, but if you haven't picked up TBT you're missing out. This is an amazing collection of advice columns from a website called The Rumpus. They were originally anonymously written by someone who called herself Sugar—Sugar ended up being Cheryl Strayed. Which is just awesome, because if you read Wild and want more, here is more. If you haven’t read Wild, and just want to be dazzled by the most wonderful, practical, compassionate, lovely advice columns (which are, honestly, just these fabulous love letters to humanity—the good, the bad, and the ugly), then this is your book. It’s the perfect     pick-me-up kind of book—you pick it up, read a few pages (or seriously even a few lines), and it’ll pick you up and bring you to a better, happier, more fair and loving world. Sugar is the best.

When Women Were Birds: 54 Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams
The cover image to the right absolutely does not do this book justice. It's gorgeous. The endpapers are stunning, too. If you buy books as objects, like I do, you'll appreciate the care taken with this one. On top of that, the book is wonderful of course. In many ways this reminded me of Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking--she's working through her mother's journals left to her after her death, journals that Williams found to be blank. It's meditative and profound.

Older stuff:

Use Me: Stories by Elissa Schappell
This is an astonishing collection of linked stories about two women, Evelyn and Mary Beth (but mostly Evelyn, who feels to me like she's Schappell's favorite character, just like Evelyn is her father's favorite daughter). I can't imagine Schappell writing these stories without having just lost her own father-- they're too raw and fresh and messy-- in a way that just has to be based on life. She writes about love, sex, desire, and regret, and the way life just seems to circle around those things when you're a young woman.
This Dark World (new title Higher Ground) by Carolyn Briggs
The movie Higher Ground is based on this memoir-- both the book and film totally knocked my socks off-- so powerful. Briggs' discoveries and the journey she took to becoming herself are told so well, pulled out of her little by little until she discovers that she is a completely different person from the one she was told to be. 
The Words of Every Song by Liz Moore
If you liked the connected story quality of A Visit From the Goon Squad, try this. I got totally sucked into each chapter's new characters, and when the chapter ended, I was always psyched to see where Moore would take the story next. So well done.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Our bestsellers of the year

Water Street Bookstore's Bestselling Books of 2012 (so far)

(It's a miracle! Our top selling book of the year ISN'T Fifty Shades! I mean, sure, it's number two, but small victories, people.) 

1. The Art of Hearing Hearbeats by Jan-Phillip Sendker
2. Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James
3. Fifty Shades Darker by EL James
4. Fifty Shades Freed by EL James

Non-fiction (also known as books with colons in their titles):
1. Following Atticus: Forty Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
2. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
3. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
4. Divergent by Veronica Roth
5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid #7 The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gorgeous Fall Covers

I'm a book lover, so I'm all about the words on the page, but I'm also an object lover, a collector (my husband might say hoarder, but he would be wrong, obviously). That's why I care so deeply about cover art. Some people think it doesn't matter, and some publishers clearly (or apparently) don't think it matters as much as it does. But it does! The cover of a book sets the tone for the whole damn thing. It's very often people's first impression of the book, and sometimes only impression. Cover art that is beautiful, interesting, unique, and well executed makes the book a piece of art, a possession to be possessed. Here are a few of my favorites from this fall.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Too Good Tuesday: 8/21/12

Newwwww books!

New in hardcover:
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks
One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper
We Sinners by Hanna Pylvainen (post coming soon--I looooved this book)
Lionel Asbo: State of England by Martin Amis
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace by Michael Perry
The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Winter Journal by Paul Auster

Now in paperback:
The Talk Funny Girl by Roland Merullo
A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer Dubois
The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food by Adam Gopnik

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

summer reading when you read for a living

I like to say that I read for a living, because it sounds better than "I sell things for a living." And it is basically true. As a bookseller, I get advanced review copies of books 3-6 months before they come out, and if I don't read them, I feel kind of like a fraud trying to sell them. "Here's this book! Some people say it's the next great American novel! They might be right!" Just not my style. So I am basically always reading ARCs, constantly reading months ahead in a way that makes me sometimes forget what month it actually is. Add to that friendly and helpful sales reps who are always pressing books into my hands, saying that I simply must read this, and oh by the way, can I send them a quick write-up when I'm done? It sounds a bit like homework, but if it is, it's the fun kind of homework that I always liked having to do anyway (like sheets and sheets of long division and vocabulary words, which I swear, I actually loved). But once a year, I like to stop running in place with ARCs, and read a few books I've always meant to read. I plan these books out all year, and have them packed and ready for my week at the lake. 

Last year I read The Secret History by Donna Tartt, My Life in France by Julia Child, and the story collection The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro. I loved that I finally understood why people are obsessed with The Secret History (and with Julia Child). And the Alice Munro just validated my belief that she's our greatest living short story writer, and a treasure. 

This year I have a growing list: The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal, The Perks of Being a Wallflower (I know! I never read it!) by Stephen Chbosky, Prodigal Summer and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, something by Jane Gardam, and Anna Karenina. 

I know, I know. Reading Anna Karenina in a week is a stretch. But I hope to get to a few of them. The rest I'll just have to roll on to next year's list.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Too Good Tuesday: 6/5/12

I know I say this every time, but there are really a lot of good books out today. No joke.

New Hardcovers

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (so many great reviews)
The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani 

The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death by Jill Lepore
Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power by David E. Sanger
Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iverson

Now in Paperback

The Map of Time by Felix Palma (three of our booksellers totally LOVE this book)
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War by Andrew Roberts
The Eighty Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Meg Mitchell Moore answers our Top Five

Meg Mitchell Moore is the author of the novels The Arrivals and So Far Away.  She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and their three children. She will be reading at Water Street Bookstore tomorrow night (Wednesday, May 30th) at 7pm. Until then, you can find her @mmitchmoore.

1. What's on your nightstand right now?
Lamp. Remote control for ceiling fan. One copy of the galley of So Far Away (that's embarrassing! I don't sit around reading it, I think I have it there to give to someone). Lotion. Kindle. The following books: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Catching Fire (read the first and have been meaning to get to this), Left Neglected, and book of letters from Emily Dickinson to Susan Huntington Dickinson. The last item makes me look a bit more cerebral than I actually am. My 9-year-old and recently took a trip together to Amherst for a project she was working on, I bought this book, thinking I would read a little each night and get back in touch with my grad school self. Haven't read a single letter. But I want to!

2. How do you write?

If I have a whole day (which happens twice a week, I still have a preschooler) it goes like this: workout (early a.m. if possible), then kids off, then writing, then other tasks or errands. Like most parents, I am too dependent on other people’s schedules to wing it. I always write to music, always. So Far Away required a lot of Mumford & Sons and Josh Ritter. My work in progress is more of Bruce Springsteen/The Avett Brothers. I often use Pandora.

3.  Name the first time or moment you realized you were a writer. 

Seventh grade, one hundred and eighty years ago. Can't remember the teacher's name but I remember the classroom. We had to write some sort of story, I don't remember the assignment, and then read them aloud. I wrote some terrible macabre thing about a hit-and-run accident on Halloween, I have no idea why. But I do remember reading it aloud and having people respond to it. I remember the pride I felt in that. I remember thinking, "Hey, I think I'm actually good at this!"

4.  What are you working on now?

It's tentatively titled The Captain’s Daughter, and in it the daughter of a lobsterman from a small fishing village in Maine returns to the town she thought she escaped when her father’s boat goes missing, and confronts her past as well as some uncomfortable truths about her present.

5.  Favorite recent find? 

I am very recently addicted to Downtown Abbey. Really addicted. I think about it a lot when I'm not watching it. Also, the book The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, and a Japanese restaurant in Walnut Creek, California, where my family and I were a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How much do I love The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller?


Let me start by saying that summarizing this book makes it sound like a crazy soap opera. Okay, here it is quick, dirty, and not at all sufficient to judge the book by: daughter whisked away to private school, stumbles onto secret society, gets embroiled in a mystery involving her science teacher, the woman from the local historical society who mysteriously confides in her, and the girl who used to live in the bedroom she is currently living in, who oh by the way was the headmaster's albino daughter.  So while that all sounds a little crazy, it's not. To be sure, there's a lot going on, but Miller juggles it all like a circus performer--you can't stop watching and you have no idea how she does it. And here's one thing that really is crazy: Miller's writing. It's crazy good.

Read the first paragraph of the book (you'll see): 

The days were already growing shorter, prodding us toward summer's end, when my mother and I left Boston for the sequestered town of Nye. She hummed to the radio and I sat strapped into the passenger seat, like a convict being shuttled between prisons. In the last six months, my Beacon Hill neighborhood had shrunk to the size of a single room: Dr. Patrick's office, with its greasy magazines and hieroglyphic water stains. The vast landscape that opened before us now wasn't any more comforting. The mountainous peaks resembled teeth. The road stretched between them like a black tongue. And here we were, in our small vehicle, speeding toward that awful mouth. 

Good right? Iris Dupont is in some ways your typical 14 year old, drawn like a magnet to hyperbole and her own inner monologue and just as fiercely away from the cloying presence of her parents. But she also has an imaginary friend. He's kind of her only friend. And he's famed journalist Edward R. Murrow. She talks to him. And he talks back. 

It was easy to conjure Murrow. I thought about him for a minute and then there he was, standing on Lily's pink carpet in a Savile Row suit and his signature red suspenders. The glowing eye of his cigarette pierced the dark. It winked at me like it knew something I didn't.
"Iris." Murrow's face hovered in the dark, close enough for me to smell his cigarette breath. "I know you're unhappy about being here. But think of Nye as a challenge. Have you ever known me to rest on my laurels?" 

Even Edward R. Murrow sometimes spoke in cliches, which only proves how ubiquitous and insidious they are.  

I just love Iris. Her dogged pursuit of the truth is the only thing that's keeping her hanging on as loneliness and confusion swirl around her. That pursuit is something in Iris that I really latched on to (and is something that I think a lot of young or not-so-young-anymore girls would, too). At times, Iris is floundering, treading water, just trying to keep her head above the waves. That she solves the mysteries of Mariana Academy in the end is almost beside the point; as a former young girl myself, I understand the chief importance of solving your own mysteries, and Iris does too by the end of Gadfly.  

Don't miss Jennifer Miller's appearance at Water Street Bookstore on Thursday, May 10th at 7pm.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Too-Good Tuesday 5/1/12

We're all doing a little happy dance for new books over here (though to be perfectly honest, I'm more of an internal, mental happy dance-doer than a physical happy dance-doer, but trust me, it's getting crazy up in there). Here are a few of the new ones that are getting us psyched:

New in hardcover: 

The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger (I loved this novel! Jhumpa Lahiri for the next generation!)
An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer (see Ms. Percer here this Thursday 5/3)
Insurgent by Veronica Roth (follow-up to YA/crossover fave Divergent)
Trapeze by Simon Mawer (remember his last novel, The Glass Room?) 
The Passage of Power: The Years of LBJ by Robert
End This Depression Now! by Paul Krugman

Now in Paperback:

Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobsen
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson
The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore (see Ms. Moore at WSB 5/30)
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

Friday, April 27, 2012

And now for a new edition of Mark Your Dang Calendar

Mark Your Dang Calendar, people:

My favorite book of the year so far, Shine, Shine, Shine by  Lydia Netzer, will be hitting bookshelves everywhere (including here and here) on TUESDAY, JULY 17TH. It's a few months from now, so trust me, just mark your calendar.

There is just so much to love in this impressive, unforgettable novel about Sunny Mann, a woman acting the way she thinks she's supposed to act in a family and a world that just won't allow it. Her husband, a Nobel Prize winning scientist, is in space on a mission to drop self-reproducing robots on the moon. Her son, quickly becoming a clone of his father, brilliant but without a social bone in his body, is a constant puzzle and disappointment to Sunny. (Though really she's just disappointed in herself for treating him like a problem that needs to be solved.) On top of that, she's bald and no one outside her family knows it, her mother is dying, and she's about to have another baby. She's a tea kettle about to boil.
The most impressive part of this book, besides the lovely, curious use of language (pondering and pushing in a style like Annie Dillard's), is the way the story is unfolded-- it grows steadily to an emotional pitch so profound and clear, with nothing spilled before its perfect moment, that you'll be shocked to hear this is Netzer's first novel. Totally first rate. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Too-Good Tuesday 4/24/12

It's Tuesday again and that means shiny new books. Well, actually, most days mean shiny new books when you work at a bookstore, but Tuesday's books are definitely the shiniest. 

Here are a few of the new books that are now sitting sparkling on our shelves:

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen*

Farther Away: Essays by Jonathan Franzen*

The Elizabethans by A.N. Wilson*

Afterwards by Rosamund Lipton* 

The Right Hand Shore by Christopher Tilghman

Now in paperback:

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West  by Dorothy Wickendon

Seal Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy Seal Sniper by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin

The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life's Work at 72 by Molly Peacock

*One of our 20-20-20 membership books. Become a member and get 20% off this title and more every month.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Jennifer Miller answers our TOP FIVE.

Jennifer Miller is the Brooklyn-based author of the novel The Year of the Gadfly (which I totally loved, review TK), coming May 8th from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. We'll be hosting her at the bookstore on Thursday, May 10th at 7pm.

1. What's on your nightstand right now?

The New York Times Sunday Style Magazine, New York Magazine, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, You Remind Me of Me by Dan Chaon, and Rosebud Lip Balm. There is also quite a bit of dust, because it is impossible to keep a New York apartment clean no matter how many times a week I swiffer.

2. How do you write?

I write full time and split my day between fiction and journalism. I try to get in about five hours of writing time a day, but if I'm in the middle of a revision I'll end up sitting at my desk until eight or nine pm. I often need to get out of the house in order to motivate, so I'll circulate through a handful of coffee shops in my neighborhood. Being around other people who are also working helps keep me focused. There are two pitfalls in working away from home. First: I generally eat my way through the day (also to keep myself motivated!) and coffee shops get expensive. Second: people don't seem to realize that a coffee shop is NOT an actual office and when they take extended business calls, I have to start giving them the stink eye.

3. Name the first time or moment you realized you were a writer.

Probably when I was in the third grade and I wrote a book of poetry with my best friend. One of our poems was about purple underwear. So, basically, I was a child writing prodigy.

4. What are you working on now?

I'm writing a second novel about a young woman who runs away from her fiance when he returns from Iraq with PTSD. She ends up on a cross-country motorcycle trip with her Vietnam Veteran father. The book was inspired by reporting I did for The New York Times on motorcycle-riding vets in 2005.

5. Favorite recent find?

I'd love to recommend the book Missing by Lindsay Harrison. It's a gripping memoir. Also, the Lincoln Memorial, and specifically, Lincoln's second inaugural address, (which is on the wall at the Memorial) and is one of the most moving and powerful pieces of writing I've ever encountered.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jean-Paul's Picks for April 2012

  1. Second Person Singular by Sayed Kashua - 04/03/12

    Sayed Kashua brings us a satirical story of two Arabs, a well to do lawyer and a social worker just starting his career. When the lawyer finds in a second hand book a love note, written by his wife to a certain Jonathan, he starts an investigation and soon he gets more and more enraged as his pride and culture take over all logical thinking.
    Captivating story of how two cultures are bound to live together, about inferiority and poverty, and about "much ado about nothing."

  2. The Coldest Night by Robert Olmstead - 04/03/12

    Henry and his girlfriend Mercy ran away from home and had the time of their life until Mercy's father and brother find them, take Mercy home, and threaten Henry's life.
    Henry, desperate and heartbroken, joins the Marines and is been sent straight away to the Korean War, just at the time when the tides of war are turning against the Americans. Lew, a grim WW II veteran, takes Henry under his wings. Together they suffer going through a living but freezing hell of atrocities and brutal never ending attacks.
    Only Olmstead has the magic to describe what those veterans must have endured; you'll feel the impact of the guns while you're shivering in their foxholes.

  3. Strange Flesh by Michael Olson - 04/03/12

    James, a super hacker for a security company, gets a special assignment. He has to find the step brother of his extremely rich old college friends (brother and sister). His investigation leads him deep into a virtual world of sex, sadism, and crime.
    It took me while to get into the story as there was way too much technical computer jargon, but once through that I got compelled by the story, and the plot is unexpected and breathtaking.
    For me there is not any similarity between this book and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (except for the sexual abuse.) "Strange Flesh" is a good but oversexed story and James' reality is over fantasized.

  4. Caring is Creepy by David Zimmerman - 04/03/12

    When 15 year old girls experiment on the internet things can go wrong. When Lynn finds a date who fits her fantasy, she goes for it. She keeps him hidden in a small attic. What starts as an adolescent dream turns slowly into a nightmare.
    The story is being told in the words of a fifteen year old girl, which makes this book even more creepier.

  5. Viral by James Lilliefors - 04/10/12

    Absolutely captivating mystery. Charles Mallory, private contractor and a former CIA operative, is investigating a spread of a deadly flu virus that is killing thousands in remote parts of Africe. He discovers terrifying scheme to create a "new perfect technological world" by first eliminating teh whole empoverished, sick, and less usefull population. But who's behind all of this? Bio terrorists? Misguided humanitarian projects? Greedy bussiness? Whoever it is, it is a very dangerous, deadly, and smart opponent who is able to use a maximum of technological potential.
    Captivating, frightening, a perfect thriller!

  6. What do you want to do before you die? by "The Buried Life" - 04/15/12

    Four young guys take on a trip to accomplish a list of a hundred things to do before they die. Some are just nice, some are crazy, but all of them are so human. Once started, they kept on going. Now they are world famous and they accomplished #18, "write a bestselling book."
    Filled with their own thoughts and experiences, filled with dreams from people all over the world, this is a really inspirational book that teaches us that nothing is impossible, you just have to go for it.
    Easy, fun, great read. And now, I have to write my book!

  7. Quaranteen by Thomas Lex - 04/24/12

    Another captivating story in the style of "The Hunger Games". A high school is hit by a virus infection that will kill every adult or young child. The school is under quarantine, no one comes in, no one gets out. The meager supplies (dropped by helis) are stolen or grabbed by the strongest. The only way to survive is being member of a gang; however some loners manage that on their own.
    Gripping and captivating but very cruel and bloody descriptions, not for the faint of heart.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Highlights from Grodstein/King

Lauren Grodstein talked with Stephen King about her novel A Friend of the Family, as part of the Algonquin Book Club on Saturday, March 3rd. They had the genuine chemistry of writers who respect and admire each other. It was really wonderful to watch (and they're both hilarious!). If you missed it, check out the archived video here.

"I just liked to make stuff up and it blew my mind when people believed me."

"I can't believe that someone who isn't my mother is reading this stuff."

Audience question: "Where do your ideas come from?"
Lauren: "The alchemy that created the novel remains mysterious, and I'm pleased about that."

"I woke up one morning and there was the voice of a doctor and he had done something bad."

Audience question: "How did you make your characters so multi-faceted?"
Lauren: "I believed that they were real."

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lauren Grodstein answers our five questions

Lauren Grodstein is the author of A Friend of the Family (Algonquin) and will be interviewed by Stephen King this Saturday as part of the Algonquin Book Club, live and in person at the Cooperative Middle School in Stratham, and streaming online at

1. What's on your nightstand right now?

There’s always lots on my nightstand: a few toddler books (lately Good Night, San Francisco and Harry the Dirty Dog), four or five old New York Times Magazines with the crosswords half-filled in, my Lonely Planet Guide to Vancouver, which is as close to Ambien as a book can be, my grandmother’s copy of Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions, and lately, for serious no-bones-about-it reading, Russell Banks’s The Lost Memory of Skin.

2. How do you write?

Writing is about half my job (directing the MFA program at Rutgers-Camden is another half, as is taking care of my three year old son, as is folding laundry and doing dishes and buying groceries, but I have nothing too interesting to say about women’s work, so I guess I’ll stop there…) The best time for me to write is in the morning – say 5:30 or 6:00. This is mostly because I’m a morning person, but I also write early because neither child nor student is likely to bother me at that ridiculous hour, and I feel positive and excited about what the day might bring. By three o’clock in the afternoon I’m usually shot and good only for folding laundry, buying groceries, etc.

3. Name the first time or moment you realized you were a writer.

I always knew I liked to tell stories – when I was a little kid, before I could even spell, I would take sheets of my mom’s sketch paper (she’s a painter, so we always had art supplies in the house) and lie on my stomach in my bedroom and draw characters and tell their stories out loud. So I’ve been creating fiction, in a way, since before I was even able to write. But as for feeling like a professional writer – I don’t know. I think I will always feel like a bit of a fraud, like I can’t believe people are really willing to read the stuff I make up. Maybe I shouldn’t say that? But it’s true – I’m always amazed, and always so grateful.

4. What are you working on now?

I’m editing a novel that remains nameless – I’m pretty bad at titles. It’s about a fight over evolution on a college campus.

5. Favorite recent find?

Okay, this might seem ridiculous, but lately I’ve been in love with a small internet framing company called I’m sure this is symptomatic of early motherhood, but bear with me – you can order a print of your kid, pick out the mat, pick out the frame, and have it delivered to your doorstep all assembled and ready to hang. It’s kind of addictive, mixing and matching photos of your adorable toddler with a series of adorable frames. So there’s that, and Words With Friends, and a British sitcom called Peep Show I can stream on Netflix. Throw in a half bottle of red wine and I’ve basically got my best possible Saturday night.