Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Okay For Now

Okay for Now
by Gary Schmidt
2011 Clarion Books
Rating: 5/5

     While I enjoy reading some Young Adult titles, I rarely read Intermediate children's books unless the author is J.K. Rowling or Carl Hiaasen. A blurb in Entertainment Weekly pointed me towards this book and I decided to give it a try. I am glad that I did, it is neck and neck with "The Sisters Brothers" for my favorite book of the year.
     It is 1968 and Doug has just moved to a small New York town with his abusive father, meek mother, and his always in trouble brother. He goes to the local library and discovers a folio edition of James Audubon's "Birds of America". A helpful librarian, a new female friend, and a new job help Doug to deal with several misfortunes his family has to deal with. Gary Schmidt obviously has a love of baseball, art, and the 1960s, as they are all major parts of this book and "The Wednesday Wars", which this is a very loose sequel to.
     "Okay For Now" does not feel like a children's book and some of the things that it deals with may be over their heads, but it is an amazingly well written book. I was shocked at how moved I was by passages in this, as well as how often I laughed out loud. Schmidt has written two previous books that were Newberry Honor titles, i would love to see this be the book that actually wins the award.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Night Circus - Bestseller!

     "The Night Circus" debuts at #1 on the Indie Best Seller list in its first week on sale. The word going around is that it will appear at #2 on the New York Times Best Seller list of October 2!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers
by Patrick DeWitt
2011 HarperCollins
Rating: 5/5

     I read a starred review of this title in Publisher's Weekly around the beginning of the year and added it to my list of books to read. I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy a short time later. If this does not end up being my favorite fiction title of the year, it will certainly be near the top.
     "The Sisters Brothers" is an excellent Western novel featuring two professional gunmen named Eli & Charlie Sisters. They do the dirty work for a man known only as the Commodore. They are sent on a quest to track down someone in San Francisco who crossed the Commodore. The book was both touching and laugh out loud funny, it felt more like a Coen Brothers film then anything else I can think of. The story is narrated by Eli, who seems to be somewhat of a buffoon to start out with, but grew to be someone I really liked and cared about. I was genuinely sorry when this was over. The Washington Post said “Weirdly funny, startlingly violent and steeped in sadness… It’s all rendered irresistible by Eli Sisters, who narrates with a mixture of melancholy and thoughtfulness.” It is no wonder to me that this wonderful novel has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


by Karen Russell
2010  Alfred F. Knopf
Rating: 4/5

     The main reason I picked up "Swamplandia" is that Stephen King said in an early review; "Brilliant, funny, original . . . This book will not leave my mind.” Then the book came out and the other reviews were not as glowing, so it sat on my To Be Read shelf for several months. I am so glad that I finally got around to it. This is another fabulous debut.
     "Swamplandia" is the story of thirteen-year-old Ava Bigtree and her journey to save her family and their island home/gator-wrestling theme park. After her mother dies and a new big money theme park opens nearby, the family struggles to keep Swamplandia going. Ava's father leaves temporarily for another job, her brother runs off to work for the other park, and her sister disappears into the swamp with her ghostly boyfriend. Ava meets a local who tells her he will help her find her sister and they set off into the swamp. Ava is a wonderful character and you really root for things to work out for her, but there seems to be little chance of that happening. The story takes a very dark twist deep into the book that I wasn't expecting, but that helped explain things that up to that point had not really rung true to me. It is not an easy book to read. but it is definitely rewarding if you do.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Night Circus

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
2011 Doubleday
Rating: 4/5

      "The Night Circus" is a wonderful debut novel by Erin Morgenstern. This is a beautifully crafted book with wonderful characters. The Night Circus itself immediately joined the list of fictional places I would love to visit. The book is something of a slow starter, and with all of the jumping back and forth between timeframes and characters, it takes a little while to get into the rhythm. But once you fall into the book, you will not want to escape.
     The beginning of the book reminds me of Ray Bradbury's fantasy:
"The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen. No color at all save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black and white stripes on grey sky; countless tents of varying shapes and sizes, with an elaborate wrought-iron fence encasing them in a colorless world. Even what little ground is visible from outside is black or white, painted or powdered, or treated with some other circus trick. But it is not open for business. Not just yet."
     This is the kind of magical novel that has your mind working overtime to keep up in imagining what the circus and it's attractions would look like. If I have any complaint about the book, it is that the story is not as strong as the images and characters. I think that it could have been a bit more complex. But I do highly recommend this book, it is a title that I would love to handsell to my customers.

New Beginnings

     The bookstore for which I have worked at for the last 14 years (on & off) just closed it's doors for the last time. At least for the time being, I am not going to be able to talk books with people as much as I am used to. I have had friends and customers ask if I had a blog, so I am going to give it a try. I am not a writer, so please forgive me it this is a bit rough at times.
     My plan is to post a mix of current books as I finish them and some of my favorites from the last several years. I do still occasionally get advance reading copies from publishers and will let you know if I am reviewing a book that has been sent to me. I look forwarding to hearing your comments about my reviews and the books I read, whether you agree with me or not. It's going to be pretty boring here if you like every single book I mention.