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Posts Tagged ‘books’

I think where I buy books is even more important than the purchases that fill my bag. Shopping locally so that your hard earned cash stays within your community is a smart thing to do. We have also seen many small, independently owned bookshops go out of business trying to compete with supersized retailers. What The Big Guys make up for in volume is sorely lacking when it comes to knowledgeable staff and an inviting, cozy atmosphere. The good news is there are plenty of literature lovers who are working hard to keep alive the friendly neighborhood bookshop. From time to time I’ll feature an independent bookseller in the U.S. that is making a difference in their community. First on my great local bookshops list is Square One Books in Seattle, Washington. This is a rather nostalgic pick since Square One was our neighborhood bookstore when my husband and I lived in Seattle. The staff was always enthusiastic and eager to not only make recommendations, but to get to know me and my reading preferences. I fondly recall many happy discussions, and purchases, during my time frequenting Square One Books.

As this week’s titles find new spots on The New York Times Bestseller List, perhaps there’s a local shop in your neighborhood that would love to share their top picks with you. Go check them out!

Top Sellers in the U.S.

 1 The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, by Stieg Larsson

2 The Postcard Killers, by James Patterson and Liza Marklund        

3 Spider Bones, by Kathy Reichs

4 The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

5 Bearers of the Black Staff (LEGENDS OF SHANNARA), by Terry Brooks

Theresa Largusa

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The strong willed. Free thinkers. Healers, recluses, artists. Women and children. History has not always treated with fairness people who lack power and position, or who have walked away from a life of conformity. If the prevailing social climate is steeped in superstition and intolerance, speaking one’s truth can be dangerous. Salem in the spring of 1692 was a deadly place to question authority

 The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent is a fictionalized account of the witch trials held in colonial Massachusetts. The novel chronicles life in 17th-century New England, from frontier skirmishes with the native Wabanaki, to smallpox, and the religious fervor of the Puritans. The reader is introduced to this world through the eyes of Sarah Carrier, daughter of strict yet loving parents Martha and Thomas. This is a story about family. In fact, Kathleen Kent is a tenth-generation descendant of Martha Carrier. It’s the intense relationship between Sarah and Martha, however, which lends weight to the novel’s narrative. Cool and aloof is the manner in which Martha runs her household, yet no one is spared from her biting words and quick intellect. Martha Carrier is a force to be reckoned with and I fell in love with the character. My affinity toward this strong woman is in sharp contrast to the shame and anger Sarah feels about her mother’s outspoken nature. A child’s embarrassment of her mother is one thing. But when Martha stands up for her family refusing to be bullied by land-grabbing neighbors, the scorn of fellow villagers ignites a powder keg. The story takes a sickening turn as town folk make the only logical conclusion for Martha’s behavior. A woman of great passion and fearlessness is surely in league with the devil.

The book tells of a violent period in American history. The young nation was engaged in eradicating the indigenous population, English settlers were dying in droves from the bloody flux and the pox, and the ambitious said anything to gain stature in the emerging New England, no matter how ruthless. Kathleen Kent’s stunning prose captures the atmosphere of ignorance and hysteria that embodied the Salem witch trials. I was disgusted by the hate that clouded people’s judgment, especially the treatment of children as they were imprisoned for witchcraft. In spite of the persecution of the innocent, I was moved to tears by the love and courage that the Carrier’s gave to one another. There is one simple sentence in the novel that Sarah comes to know as her one, undeniable truth: “I am my mother’s daughter.” By reading the story of The Heretic’s Daughter, we all become Martha Carrier’s legacy.

The Wolves of Andover, Kathleen Kent’s new novel and prequel to The Heretic’s Daughter will be released on 8 November 2010.

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For fans of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, months of waiting paid off this week. The third and final installment in the series, Mockingjay, was unveiled at midnight release parties on Tuesday with favorable reviews rolling in soon thereafter.

Other winners for the week, and holding top spots on Publishers Weekly’s U.S. bestseller list for hardcover fiction are:

 1. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest Stieg Larsson, trans. from the Swedish by Reg Keeland

2. Tough Customer Sandra Brown

3. The Help Kathryn Stockett

4. Star Island Carl Hiaasen

5. Veil of Night Linda Howard

6. The Red Queen Philippa Gregory

 Speaking of book buzz, perhaps the biggest news in literary circles is the advanced praise for Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom. I’m going to venture a guess and say that we’ll be seeing Freedom at the top of bestseller lists for many, many weeks to come. The book will be released on 31 August.

Theresa Largusa

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I am a big Sci-Fi/Fantasy nerd. When it comes to reading, I can never go too long before delving into a mystical realm or off-planet adventure. Fairly recent literary twists, such as paranormal romance and urban fantasy are also finding their way into my bookcase. Having grabbed a paperback based on the premise of otherworldly creatures invading Ireland (and a large dose of Celtic mythology), I couldn’t resist the temptation. Darkfever is the first installment in the Fever Series by bestselling author Karen Marie Moning. Dark and lusty, the novel follows the trail of a murder mystery set against the backdrop of modern day, supernatural Dublin. Darkfever’s heroine, MacKayla Lane, is a small town Georgia girl with not a care in the world, until a frantic message is left on her cell phone. Hearing the fear in her sister’s voice, and a cryptic warning cut short, MacKayla falls headlong into a nightmare as she resolves to find the man responsible for destroying her family.

Darkfever hits the ground running and it doesn’t take long for the reader to realize that Dublin, the place where the mystery begins, is not the city depicted in travel guides. Something old and wicked is threatening humankind, and the last bastion of defense (maybe?) is an eclectic bookstore hovering on the fringes of the Temple Bar District.

I’m hooked. After reading the last page of Darkfever, with its suspenseful turn of fate, I had to find out more about MacKayla (Mac for short) and the characters she encounters. Who can she trust, and who is out for her blood? I’m very happy to catch up on the story thus far, and will be eagerly awaiting the 5th book in the series, Shadowfever, scheduled to go on sale 18 January 2011.

Theresa Largusa

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The Prince of Mist is Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s debut novel published in 1993. An English translation was released in the U.S. in May of this year. Intended as a work of fiction for young adults, The Prince of Mist is a coming-of-age story filled with magic, mystery, and mayhem. It’s wartime and Max Carver’s family is packing up and starting a new life in a sleepy village by the sea. Max must say goodbye to his friends and to the only home he’s ever known…on the day he’s turning 13. Not having forgotten his son’s birthday, Mr. Carver gives him a pocket watch with the words MAX’S TIME MACHINE engraved on the case. Max wishes his father’s gift really could stop time.

Upon moving into the family’s new home, a series of unexplainable occurrences forces Max to realize his family has left the evils of war behind only to face a more insidious and ancient enemy. The Prince of Mist is a thrilling adventure that will hold readers spellbound. In spite of the malice that rises from the deep, dark places, The Prince of Mist is written with warmth and sensitivity. The language is beautiful and resonant while the rhythm rolls on at a brisk, steady clip. I was in awe of Max’s bravery and resourcefulness, especially when all the things of which I’m fearful make chilling appearances throughout the novel. Without giving too much away, I’m keeping a close eye on any and all clocks, wardrobes, and stray animals.

The Prince of Mist shifts from good-natured fun to terror, sometimes all within the same page. The story has a unique timelessness (or perhaps a sense of being outside of time) that lends a startling realism to the eerie sequence of events. When one reaches the end of this tale, there is the suggestion that life is returning to normal for the Carver family. However, I turned the last page with the distinct feeling that the story was by no means over. This should prove a good thing for those who can’t get enough of the secrets Zafón has hidden in the mist. 

Theresa

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I am a fan of an author whose novels I’ve never read.

 Say again?

 Spring 2010 marked the release of Anne Lamott’s latest title, Imperfect Birds. I have not read it. However, her brilliant how-to guide, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, has taught me invaluable lessons in getting ideas down on paper with minimal pain and suffering. Anne has said it herself, “Writing is hard.” Over the years, I have also enjoyed her columns at Salon.com. Lamott is witty, raw, vulnerable, a keen social commentator, a woman of deep faith, and a recovering addict. In light of Imperfect Birds having been recently published, I’ve had to ask myself one simple question: How is it I haven’t read Anne Lamott’s novels, especially when her writing instruction is so insightful? To be honest, I’ve always been uncomfortable with themes of addiction and recovery. Imperfect Birds follows one family’s chaotic journey through teenage drug abuse. Denial, flippant banter, and a mother struggling with her own sobriety combine to make a terrible situation even more insurmountable. This is an oft-told tale, but it certainly doesn’t diminish the fact that losing a child to drugs and alcohol is every parent’s nightmare.

 It may take time before I’m in the right frame of mind to read Imperfect Birds. The story hits a little too close to home for me. Once I get over my uneasiness regarding the subject matter, I’ll revisit this topic and share my thoughts on the book.

Theresa Largusa

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Imagine a friend saying this about one of your favorite books:

 “It was boring. My nine year old can write better than that!”

Do you still remain friends? Hopefully the answer is yes, so that the two of you can have lively discussions of what literature is. I tend to think of literature as the crafting of a good story by using language in unique and innovative ways. A great example of this, and also one of my favorite books, is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Sparse and economical in style, bare bones sentences mimic the barren wasteland through which the main characters, referred to as simply the man and the boy, must navigate. In the wake of a cataclysmic event, even names become excess baggage when moving means survival. The subject matter is dark and frightening (a post-apocalyptic world where the good guys are few and the bad guys are cannibals.) However, the narrative and dialogue between father and son is some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever read. Or, according to my friend, some of the worst writing she’s ever read.

The Road is a quick and easy read. It’s very cinematic in its set up and imagery. It’s the winner of a Pulitzer Prize and a book that a lot of people think is all hype and utter crap (don’t forget boring.) I recommend The Road  every chance I get because it moved me to tears. But I am also fascinated with the “love it or hate it” reaction this book elicits from people. I have yet to find someone who thought the novel was just o.k. I picked up The Road because my husband Michael called it poetry. That was all the endorsement I needed.

Theresa Largusa

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