Sunday, October 28, 2012

New This Week

Elsewhere by Richard Russo (Knopf)
Presents a personal account of the author's youth, his parents, and the 1950's upstate New York town they struggled to escape, recounting the encroaching poverty and illness that challenged everyday life and the dreams his mother instilled that inspired his career.     

Both Flesh and Not: Essays by David Foster Wallace (Little Brown)
Beloved for his epic agony, brilliantly discerning eye, and hilarious and constantly self-questioning tone, David Foster Wallace was heralded by both critics and fans as the voice of a generation. Both Flesh and Not gathers 15 essays never published in book form, including "Federer Both Flesh and Not," considered by many to be his nonfiction masterpiece; "The (As it Were) Seminal Importance of Terminator 2 ," which deftly dissects James Cameron's blockbuster; and "Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young," an examination of television's effect on a new generation of writers.

Astray: Stories by Emma Donoghue (Little Brown)
A collection of short stories features a cross-section of society including runaways, drifters, gold miners, counterfeiters, attorneys, and slaves from Puritan Massachusetts and revolutionary New Jersey to antebellum Louisiana.     

The Giving Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini (Dutton)
When the creative residents of Elm Creek gather the week after Thanksgiving to work on quilts for Project Linus, they respond to Sylvia's provocative questions to alleviate respective personal challenges and learn helpful lessons about the strength of human connections.   

A Winter Dream by Richard Paul Evans (Simon & Schuster)
A holiday tale inspired by the biblical story of Joseph and the coat of many colors follows the modern story of Joe, who after being forced out of the family business by jealous siblings becomes the chief adviser to the CEO of another company and his own family's savior in the face of a troubled economy.

The Lands of Fire and Ice by George R.R. Martin (Bantam Dell)
George R. R. Martin’s beloved Song of Ice and Fire series, which started with A Game of Thrones, is bursting with a variety and richness of landscape from bitter tundra to arid wasteland and everything in between that provide a sense of scale unrivaled in contemporary fantasy. Now this dazzling set of maps, featuring original artwork from illustrator and cartographer Jonathan Roberts, transforms Martin’s epic saga into a world as fully realized as the one around us.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Just Jennifer

How to Love Wine: A Memoir and Manifesto by Eric Asimov (William Morrow, October 2012)

In this love story to wine, New York Times columnist and wine critic Eric Asimov dispels many myths about wine and tries to lessen wine anxiety, talking about how easy wine can be and how the love for it can slowly creep up until you find yourself pontificating about the bouquet of a wine of the mouth feel and top notes of berry.  Asimov gives sound advice to novices and experts alike, suggesting to start drinking what you can afford and slowly learn more about each varietal, offering notes on grapes and terroir (the climate, environment and soil in which grapes are grown).  Asimov talks not only about his love of wine and his time as a wine critic, but about his journey in journalism, including anecdotes about his earlier career.  As he tries to demystify the wine culture, he keeps in mind that wine is many times a subjective thing and you should drink what you like, critics be damned.  A fascinating, and personal look into one man’s love affair with wine. 

Just Jennifer

Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos (William Morrow)

There are friends from our school years that we keep with us all our lives.  There are others from whom we thought we’d never be separated that we lose track of more quickly that every imagined.  Pen, Will and Cat were inseparable during college, but once over, Pen never heard from Will or Cat for almost six years until she receives a text from Cat asking Pen to meet her at their college reunion, as she is in need of help.   Will has also received a similar message and the two arrive at the reunion only to learn that it was Cat’s husband who sent the message; that Cat has disappeared and he thinks that only her college friends can help him locate Cat.  De los Santos explores the bonds of present friendship and the friendships that we hold in the background, able to pick up where we left off once we are reunited.  De los Santos also shows how true, deep friendships can sometimes be fractured and pulled apart only to be put back together once time had done its magic.  

Just Jennifer

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo by F.G.  Haghenbeck (Atria Books, September 2012)

After Mexican painter Frida Kahlo’s death at the age of 47, several still unpublished notebooks of hers were found.  Author Haghenbeck uses another, imagined notebook full of recipes and recollections of celebrations, especially for the Day of the Dead.  These recipes are woven into the story of Kahlo’s life, including the polio and bus accident that rendered her spine injured for life, her two marriages to fellow painter Diego Rivera, her struggle to have children and her many lovers over the years.  Kahlo used her painting as a sort of pain management tool after her accident and readers are able to see how her physical and mental pains translate into her colorful paintings.  Told with a mix of mysticism with a strong basis in fact, the narrative often times is as surreal as Kahlo’s colorful paintings. The Day of the Dead becomes the unifying factor as Haghenbeck tells the colorful life story, short as it was of this most intriguing artist.  

Just Jennifer

Blood Line by Lynda La Plante (Harper, September 2012)

Detective Anna Travis is still dealing with the death of her fiancĂ©, prison official Ken Hudson, and is glad to have her job, the murder bureau’s Detective Chief Inspector to keep her mind off of her personal troubles.  Her colleagues are doing their best to help Anna through this difficult time, including Detective Chief Superintendent James Langton, Anna’s one time lover, now occasional friend.  The son of a court employee has gone missing without a trace.  As a favor to the father, Langton asks Anna to look into Alan Rawlins’s disappearance.  Alan, according to his father Edward, was a good son who would never go longer than a week without speaking to his father or his mother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  The missing persons squad has not found any evidence of foul play in Alan’s case, but it also doesn’t look like he has up and gone of his own volition, as his credit cards have not been used, nor has a large sum of money disappeared from the account he shares with his fiancĂ© Tina Brooks.  Anna agrees to interview the family and Tina and while she too doesn’t find any evidence of foul play, she comes away from the interview with Tina that something definitely wasn’t right in the pair’s relationship and from the interview with Alan’s parents that she too would consider wanting sometime away from the doting, overbearing father and the mother now a prisoner of her own mind.  As Anna begins to focus on the minutia of the case, as she has nothing else, her colleagues, including Langton, begin to suspect that Anna is using her obsession with the investigation to cover the pain of her loss.  This carefully written mystery unfolds slowly, allowing only glimpses of what might have or could have happened and is full of conjecture and supposition, leading readers slowly down the winding path to the surprising conclusion.  The characterization is well done and the atmosphere moody and sad, a perfect backdrop for unveiling Alan’s fate and the events in his life leading up to it.

Just Jennifer

Harvest: an Adventure into the Heart of America's Family Farm by Richard Horan (William Morrow, September 2012)

The author of Seeds, a book that traced Horan’s quest to collect and plant the seeds of trees found at famous authors’ homes, visits ten America farms in an attempt to explore modern farming.  Horan assists in the harvest of many varied crops from wheat in Kansas to potatoes in Main, cranberries in Massachusetts, blueberries in New York and California grapes.  He describes each farm in great detail along with the uniqueness of the harvest of the varied crops, both of which are very interesting and will give pause to the next grape popped into your mouth or that quivering mass of ruby cranberries on the table this November.  Horan seems to have a love of detail and is a skilled observer wishing to impart every little detail he learned to the reader.  Horan’s opinions on immigrant field workers and possible prisoner rehabilitation as field hands are very strongly set forth and may be off-putting enough as to mar the enjoyment of the rest of the book.  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Books about Books...

What could be better than a book about books?  Try one of these…

My Ideal Bookshelf by Thessaly La Force and Jane Mount (Little Brown, November)

The books that we choose to keep-let alone read-can say a lot about who we are and how we see ourselves. In The Ideal Bookshelf dozens of leading cultural figures share the books that matter to them most-books that define their dreams and ambitions andin many cases helped them find their way in the world. With colorful and endearingly hand-rendered images of book spines by Jane Mount, and first-person commentary from all the contributors, this is a perfect gift for avid readers, writers, and all who have known the influence of a great book.

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book by Wendy Welch (St. Martin’s Press)

An inspiring true story about losing your place, finding your purpose, and building a community one book at a time. Wendy Welch and her husband had always dreamed of owning a bookstore, so when they left their high-octane jobs for a simpler life in an Appalachian coal town, they seized an unexpected opportunity to pursue thier dream. The only problems? A declining U.S. economy, a small town with no industry, and the advent of the e-book. They also had no idea how to run a bookstore. Against all odds, but with optimism, the help of their Virginian mountain community, and an abiding love for books, they succeeded in establishing more than a thriving business - they built a community. The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap is the little bookstore that could: how two people, two cats, two dogs, and thirty-eight thousand books helped a small town find its heart. It is a story about people and books, and how together they create community.

Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet (Overlook Press)

The enthralling memoir on the art of living with books Phantoms on the Bookshelves considers how our personal libraries reveal our true natures: far more than merely crowded shelves, they are living labyrinths of our innermost feelings. The author, a lifelong accumulator of books ancient and modern, lives in a house large enough to accommodate his many thousands of volumes, as well as overspill from the libraries of his friends. While his musings on the habits of collectors from the earliest known libraries are learned, amusing, and instructive, his advice on cataloguing may even save lives. Phantoms on the Bookshelves ranges from classical Greece to contemporary Iceland, from Balzac to Moby-Dick and Google. Rich in wit and wisdom, it will be a lasting delight for all who treasure books.

Read this! Handpicked Favorites from America's Indie Bookstores (Coffee House Press)

"There is no greater joy for a bookseller than introducing a reader to a book they will love for the rest of their lives. Those of us in this business are, after all, matchmakers at heart. So consider this little book you now hold in your hands a sort of catalog of matchmakers."-Ann Patchett "If I were still a bookseller, I'd be thrilled to share this wealth with my customers. As a reader, I'm deeply intrigued by the range of selections. . . . Do yourself a favor. Add Micawber's Top 50 project to your must-read list."-Robert Gray, Shelf Awareness This book offers lists of favorites that have flown under the radar, but off of bookstore shelves. First published on Hans Weyandt's blog for Micawber's Books, each list includes a bookseller's top fifty books, anecdotes, and interviews about the life of being a bookseller, reader, and engaged citizen. All proceeds will go to American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE). 

Weird Things Customers Say in a Bookstore by Jen Campbell (Overlook Press)

"What is your biggest pet peeve?" This simple Twitter question posed by John Cleese inspired bookseller Jen Campbell to start a blog collecting all the ridiculous conversations overheard in her bookstore, everything from "Did Beatrix Potter ever write a book about dinosaurs?" to "Did Charles Dickens ever write anything fun?" Anyone who has ever worked in retail will nod knowingly at requests like "I've forgotten my glasses, can you read me the first chapter?" Or the absurdity of questions like "Excuse me . . . is this book edible?" Filled with fun and quirky illustrations by the award-winning Brothers McLeod and featuring contributions from booksellers across the United States and Canada, as well as the author's native UK, Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores is a celebration of bookstores, large and small, and of the brilliant booksellers who toil in those literary fields, as well as the myriad of colorful characters that walk through the doors everyday. This irresistible collection is proof positive that booksellers everywhere are heroes

Judging a Book by Its Lover: A Field Guide to the Hearts and Minds of Readers Everywhere by Lauren Leto (Harper Collins)

Want to impress the hot stranger at the bar who asks for your take on Infinite Jest ? Dying to shut up the blowhard in front of you who's pontificating on Cormac McCarthy's ?recurring road narratives? Having difficulty keeping Francine Prose and Annie Proulx straight? For all those overwhelmed readers who need to get a firm grip on the relentless onslaught of must-read books to stay on top of the inevitable conversations that swirl around them, Lauren Leto's Judging a Book by Its Lover is manna from literary heaven! A hilarious send-up of'and inspired homage to'the passionate and peculiar world of book culture, this guide to literary debate leaves no reader or author unscathed, at once adoring and skewering everyone from Jonathan Franzen to Ayn Rand to Dostoyevsky and the people who read them.

New this Week....

NYPD Red by James Patterson (Grand Central)

It's the start of Hollywood on Hudson, and New York City is swept up in the glamour. Every night, the red carpet rolls out for movie stars arriving at premieres in limos; the most exclusive restaurants close for private parties for wealthy producers and preeminent directors; and thousands of fans gather with the paparazzi, hoping to catch a glimpse of the most famous and beautiful faces in the world. With this many celebrities in town, special task force NYPD Red is on high alert-and they can't afford to make a single mistake. Then a world-renowned producer fatally collapses at his power breakfast, and top NYPD Red Detective Zach Jordan is the first one on the scene. Zach works with his beautiful new partner, Detective Kylie MacDonald-who also happens to be his ex-girlfriend-to discover who the murderer might be. But this is only the beginning: the most brutal, public, and horrifyingly spectacular crimes they've ever encountered are about to send all of New York into chaos, putting NYPD Red on the ropes. Zach and Kylie know there's no way of telling what a killer this deranged will do next. With the whole world watching, they have to find a way to stop a psychopath who has scripted his finale down to the last explosive detail. 

Hello Gorgeous: Becoming Barbara Streisand by William Mann (Harcourt Houghton Mifflin)

Traces the formative years of the actress and singer, discussing such topics as her relationship with her mother, her marriage to Elliott Gould, and the making of "Funny Girl" against a backdrop of the birth of off-off-Broadway.

Just Jennifer

When It Happens to You by Molly Ringwald (IT Books, September 2012)

In a series of interconnected stories with the marriage of Phillip and Greta, first time novelist Ringwald explores the intricacies of family life:  of relationships between husband and wife, father and daughter, mother and daughter as child, mother and adult daughter.  She also lets the reader see what happens when things start to fall apart, as inevitably they will, and how the people closest to the situation react to it and how others in their lives react to things as they learn what is below the surface.  Ringwald introduces and brings to the forefront the stories of characters that might otherwise have been relegated to the background.  In “My Olivia” the mother of one of Charlotte’s (Phillip and Greta’s daughter) classmates, struggles with her young’s son convictions that he is really a girl and wishes to dress and act the part.  In “The Little One”, readers get an insider’s glimpse of the elderly woman who lives next door to, now only Greta and Charlotte.  These stores are emotionally detailed and slowly wind their way around, slipping in and out of each other with a silent grace.  While there is much sadness and regret throughout these stories, in the end, there is also a great deal of hope for the future.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Just Jennifer

The Burning House: What Would You Take? By Foster Huntington (IT Books, September 2012)

It’s two in the morning and the smoke detector is blaring.  You rush to get yourself, your family and pets out of the house.  If there’s time, what else do you grab?  What do you think you won’t be able to live without or to replace?  Would you be practical? Sentimental? Or grab what you think has the most monetary value?  This question came up at a dinner party the author attended once, and the website was born.  In these photographic essays, people from all over the world pose what they have decided they would most hope to grab in the event of a fire.  The entries range from children to older adults; the entries represent North and South America, Australia, Africa, Asia and Europe.  Many of the journalers are artists, musicians or writers, quite a few self-under, or not at all employed.  The essays are thoughtful and the treasures artfully arranged and photographed.  Two blank pages represent people who have been through fires, each reacting in different ways.  The amalgamations are personal and meaningful, glimpses into a part of the human condition rarely thought of or seen.