I’m in London, walking miles everyday, and with limited WiFi. Posts will resume when I return on July 1st!
Summer is here which means it is once again time for my annual Agatha Christie! This year it’s The Body in the Library, the second in her Miss Marple collection.
It’s seven in the morning. The Bantrys wake to find the body of a young woman in their library. She is wearing an evening dress and heavy makeup, which is now smeared across her cheeks. But who is she? How did she get there? And what is the connection with another dead girl, whose charred remains are later discovered in an abandoned quarry? The respectable Bantrys invite Miss Marple to solve the mystery… before tongues start to wag.
As this is my third Agatha Christie, and also the third detective/series I’ve sampled, I’ve come to the conclusion that my enjoyment of her work is not just a fluke as exemplified by my delight in Murder on the Orient Express and And Then There Were None. Now I just need a Tommy & Tuppence book and I’ll have read one of each of her series and a stand alone. Though I’ve been greatly struggling with The Secret Adversary so we’ll have to see if I’m a fan of the T&T series as well.
The Body in the Library follows a similar structure to Orient Express in that the crime is committed before the book even starts (as opposed to None) and the book is spent trying to solve the crime. Miss Marple is lovely and funny and charming, as are her friends who often enlist her help to solve crimes, as Mrs. Bantry does in The Body in the Library. As a character, despite not actually getting too much “page time,” readers get a sense of who she is and what she values.
Christie’s plot and pacing are masterful as ever, the twists abound, and while you may think you’ve solved the mystery as quickly as Miss Marple, I promise you there is always still one more twist lurking in the shadows that you probably missed. I recommend The Body in the Library just as highly as Murder on the Orient Express and And Then There Were None.
Rating: 8 out of 10 stars
Edition: Paperback • $13.99 (though Harper Collins are jacking up Christie prices with each reprint) • 9780062073617 • 224 pages • first published in 1942, this edition published April 2011 by William Morrow Paperbacks • average Goodreads rating 3.85 out of 5 • read in June 2018
It’s been a crazy week. I haven’t actually finished a book in over two weeks, and didn’t write my last two scheduled reviews… and I’m getting ready to leave for London on Tuesday to spend some quality time with my sister. Needless to say, my head is spinning a bit with everything that needs to be done both at work and at home before I go. But I just can’t stop thinking about how great it will be to actually take a trip in less than a week. So for that reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about my favorite UK based books. Some of my favorites (seven) are below, in no particular order, and all titles link to the review!
Basically, Will & Kate fanfiction, but an enjoyable read nonetheless.
Setting: Oxford & London
Could this list be complete without Harry Potter? No, I daresay, it could not.
Setting: Scotland, London, various countryside locations
While the first book in the series doesn’t take place in the UK, the entirety of the second and third books do so it is very worthy of inclusion on this list!
Setting: Primarily London, various countryside locations
Not only does the first book take place in Oxford in the present day, the second takes place in Elizabethan England!
Setting: Oxford, London, historical London, various countryside locations
Set in an idyllic Scottish town, The Bookshop on the Corner is one of my favorite books about books.
Setting: Rural Scotland
I cannot wait to see this movie, will it please hurry up and come to the US already?
Setting: Guernsey, London
A Darker Shade of Magic features not just one London, but three! The original London is set during the reign of mad King George, known to us colonials as the king we fought against for independence, the other two are parallel magical Londons with a third waiting in the wings.
Setting: Historical & Alternate Universe Londons
It’s been two and a half days since the world lost Anthony Bourdain and I still haven’t fully processed what this loss means not only to me (because that would be selfish), but to the world as a whole. I know it’s not my usual review for Sunday, but, well, it felt necessary for my grieving process.
It’s been 2 days since you ripped a hole in the world. Did you know how much you are loved? Did you know how much you were respected? Did you know just how big of an effect your passing would have on the entire world?
I don’t blame you. People do things for many reasons and often times they do things that they haven’t thought through. But your loss is one that will be felt worldwide, even by those who didn’t realize what an effect you had on them until the moment you were gone.
As a literary and cultural icon, and especially as a cultural ambassador for the US, we need you. We needed your voice to help everyone understand just how big the world really is, and yet similar we all are.
We miss you. We need you. We can’t contemplate a world without you and your unique voice offering a perspective that so many Americans need in their lives right now. I break out into tears every time they see your books sitting on my bookshelf, every time I walk past I think about your influence on the world and how we won’t have any new Anthony Bourdain books to look forward to. The literary world won’t be the same without your voice.
I didn’t know you, but I will miss you. I will miss you every time I try a new food, explore a new country, meet a new person. I will miss you. Those who loved you will certainly miss you. We will all miss you. And we can only hope that you have found some peace.
In the last few months I’ve been incredibly lucky to meet some spectacular authors and I can happily report that they were all spectacularly down to earth human beings. Below is an ode to four amazing women.
Years ago, Ben, my husband, found a book at the indie bookstore I now work at called City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte, handed it to me and said he thought it’d be perfect for me. I loved it – it’s one of my all-time favorite books (and probably one of the moments that confirmed that he totally “gets” me). Flash forward quite a few years to last week when I’m running an author event with Christina Lynch at the bookstore and low and behold, she mentions that she’s one of the two authors who wrote the book under the pen name Magnus Flyte. I proceeded to freak out, called Ben and he, in true spectacular husband form, found the books on the shelf (no small feat) and braved First Friday traffic in our town to bring them over to the store and make my reading life complete. Christina could not have been kinder and more gracious and thanked me for recommending her books (even if I didn’t realize it at the time!)
One of my pen pals, Sophie, and I read Deborah Harkness’ All Souls trilogy when each book came out together. So when our event coordinator at the store told me that Deb was coming to the store, well, let’s just say I freaked out a bit. She’s an absolutely delightful human being and I can’t wait to run into her again in August when I run the All Souls Con 5K!
If you don’t already follow L. E. on WordPress, you should (her name is the link above). She is not only a wonderful YA author and the top selling debut author at the Towne Book Center, but an amazingly strong and inspiring woman. Every time she agrees to stop by the store and help me out with a project, plan her book launch party, or volunteer her time with our young writers, it makes my heart sing. Traveler was one of my favorite reads of 2017 and L. E.’s voice is a fresh addition to the YA fantasy realm.
Continuing the theme of remarkably sweet and kind authors who are generous with their time, Laini Taylor! My coworker Jennifer and I have both read the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy and while we were wandering around BEA last week, we spotted her chilling in her publisher’s booth and, not wanting to take up too much of her time, but still wanting to say something, I simply thanked her for writing her books. She then proceeded to talk books with us for over 5 minutes (which in that setting is an eternity) and even agreed to a picture. An amazing lady she certainly is.
This book is about pirates. I have been fascinated by pirates for a very long time. In conclusion, pirates. Read it. Just kidding – full review below!
The passion and violence of the age of exploration and empire come to vivid life in this story of the legendary pirate who took on the greatest military power on earth with a ragtag bunch of renegades. Awash with bloody battles, political intrigues, natural disaster, and a cast of characters more compelling, bizarre, and memorable than any found in a Hollywood swashbuckler, Empire of Blue Water brilliantly re-creates the life and times of Henry Morgan and the real pirates of the Caribbean.
Seriously, pirates. I don’t know when, where or how my love of them began, maybe all little kids are born with a fascination of the pirate’s life. From Peter Pan’s arch-nemesis Captain Hook to Will Turner in the first Pirates of the Caribbean to Alvilda, the protagonist of my current writing project who is based on the Viking pirate princess Alfhild, my love runs deep. When a coworker first told me about Cinnamon & Gunpowder, I jumped at the chance to read it for the sole reason that it featured a female pirate! Everywhere that I’ve traveled from the Outer Banks in North Carolina to Nassau in the Bahamas, I have visited each locale’s respective pirate attractions and museums.
In addition to pirates, I also love a good non-fiction book that can be affectionately referred to as “novelistic nonfiction” as exemplified by Erik Larson, among other authors. Talty’s prose also falls into the subgenre of nonfiction. I find that, as a bookseller, when I recommend nonfiction to primarily fiction readers, this trait is ideal. The pages turn quickly, the action moves at a good clip and the book holds the readers interest. Gone are the days of nonfiction being judged as dry and without character – half the time when reading I have to remind myself that the people in Empire of Blue Water are/were real people – not characters. Though when referencing Henry Morgan, the myths about him are hard to ignore.
Additionally, Empire of Blue Water is not just about Henry Morgan, but about a great many other pirates who lived and raided around the same time, as well as the political culture of the colonies in the Caribbean, South, Central & North America. It is a fascinating and compelling read, and, of course, PIRATES!
Rating: 8 out of 10 stars
Edition: Paperback • $16.00 • 9780307236616 • 332 pages • first published April 2007, this edition published April 2008 by Broadway Books • average Goodreads rating 3.86 out of 5 stars • read in June 2018
Unicorns are a pretty hot topic these days so I figured it was time to honor someone who led the charge for unicorns before the train even left the station.
Forget everything you ever knew about unicorns…
Astrid Llewelyn has always scoffed at her eccentric mother’s stories about killer unicorns. But when one attacks her boyfriend – ruining any chance of him taking her to prom – Astrid finds herself headed to Rome to train as a unicorn hunter at the ancient Cloisters the hunters have used for centuries.
However, all is not what it seems at the Cloisters. Outside, unicorns wait to attack. And within, Astrid faces other, unexpected threats: from bone-covered walls that vibrate with terrible power to the hidden agendas of her fellow hunters to her growing attraction to a handsome art student… an attraction that could jeopardize everything.
Imagine a world where unicorns are not only real, but the antithesis of the cuddly, soul saving, pointy-horned creatures fantastical literature has made them out to be. Usually, when I give the basic premise of the series to my fellow readers, I get a raised eyebrow and a skeptical expression. To which I always answer, “Just trust me, you’ll love it.” And thus far, I’m pleased to report that has, overwhelmingly, been the case.
Astrid just wants to be a regular teenage girl, but her mother, a descendant of Alexander the Great, knows Astrid’s destiny is far superior to ordinary high school life – she’s one of the few who can protect the world from the five races or unicorns who seek to destroy humanity. So Astrid is shipped off to a ramshackle training facility in the heart of Rome to begin her education in world saving. But fewer and fewer young women can join her in her quest against the unicorns as there is a clause in the world saving rules that keeps many eligible youngsters from being able to fulfill their noble destiny: they have to be virgins. And someone, out in the world, outside of their cloistered training ground (or possibly within it), is trying to make sure that the number of unicorn killers is kept to a minimum by taking advantage of this clause. Astrid must decide if she truly wants the life of a unicorn killer and if she’s willing to give up a budding romance with a delicious Italian in order to fulfil her destiny.
I know, that’s full of clichés about a teenage girl finding herself. It is Diana Peterfreund’s prose that makes the story impossible to let go of and ridiculously hard to put down. Astrid’s voice is firm and clear, she’s her own person and her character development is flawless. Like Amy before her, Astrid is an inspiration and role model for those looking to stand on their own two feet and fight for themselves.
Rating: 8 out of 10 stars
Edition: Paperback • $8.99 • 9780061490040 • 432 pages • first published September 2009, this edition published August 2010 by HarperTeen • average Goodreads rating 3.53 out of 5 • read July 2012
Every spring my boss sends the children’s buyer, Jennifer, and I on an adventure to New York City for Book Expo. Here are some highlights from the 2018 iteration!
Reasons for Attending Book Expo
The reasons for wanting to attend Book Expo are wide ranged and varied, for booksellers, like myself and the two colleagues who joined me, they are as follows:
- Meet authors! This one is pretty much a given, for my fangirling over Leigh Bardugo last year, see my meeting authors post here.
- Get exclusive ARCs/Galleys – this one is less important for booksellers and more of a highlight for librarians and bloggers who primarily attend BookCon held immediately after Book Expo. As booksellers, we just email our reps afterwards and ask them to send us the ones we saw/heard about at Book Expo.
- Sidelines – while Book Expo isn’t nearly as big as the Gift Show, it does give us bookstore buyers some neat opportunities to look into different sideline items to bring into the store.
- Meeting other booksellers – the ABA (American Booksellers Association) is a pretty tight group and most of us get to know each other within just a few years of entering the world of Indie Bookstores.
Highlights from This Year
Within 10 minutes of walking into the Javits Center in NYC, we were standing in front of Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman trying not to completely freak out. Nick called my coworker Mary a Book Expo virgin when she mentioned it was her first time at Book Expo and then he exclaimed he was happy to take her Book Expo virginity – what a fun pair of authors! We thanked them for coming out to NYC to visit with us and he thanked us for selling his books and recommending them to readers!
Bumping into Laini Taylor, author of the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy while she was chilling in the Hachette booth – she was spectacularly delightful and took time to talk with us about her books and bookseller life!
The sheer scope and size of Book Expo was remarkable less overwhelming this year for what I perceived to be one very marked difference. The vast majority of attendees were educators and booksellers – not book bloggers and members of the general public (booksellers who are also bloggers, like me, fall into the first category for these purposes) – meaning tomorrow and Sunday will surely by crazy for BookCon. I attended BookCon only once, back in 2015, and I will never do so again. Book Expo, on the other hand, was far more organized and enjoyable this year than it was last year.
I love anthologies with stories about fascinating women. I’ve reviewed many before, most of which can be found here. I Know a Woman is definitely worthy of inclusion into that great pantheon.
How much would Emmeline Pankhurst have achieved without her army of suffragettes? Would the name Audrey Hepburn mean anything without Colette’s discovery? What did it mean for Mae Jemison to see Nichelle Nichols take the skies?
I Know a Woman is a collection of 84 illustrated portraits that celebrate female collaboration. Whether that is encouraging a leader, a colleague or friend; inspiring another to follow in their footsteps, or perhaps fostering a friendship that spans decades and oceans.
In telling the stories of these women’s lives and achievements – whether it is in science or politics, arts or sports, fashion or aviation – Kate Hodges exposes the fascinating web of connections that have enabled each one to take a new step forward. Some names will be familiar, some might not, but all are equally important.
I kind of hate when the back cover gives a review more than a synopsis. That is the biggest holdup I had in picking up and actually reading I Know a Woman when there are so many others. And when I say so many others, I’m not kidding. We made a whole section of them at the store. And I might scream at the next person who tells me that Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls is something revolutionary. It started eons ago with Krull & Hewitt’s Lives of Extraordinary Women and so many others. So why am I reading more? Why am I continuing to read the same vignettes about the same women over and over?
Because they are still inspiring. And Hodges pulls them all together in ways that haven’t been before. Can you draw a map of influence from Ada Lovelace to Beyonce? Kate Hodges can. The unique structure of I Know a Woman focuses on the connections between these inspiration and how they influenced each other. No one lives in a vacuum, and strong women have to stand behind and next to each other. So therefore, read it, learn more about Gloria Steinem and Emma Watson’s friendship, Meryl Streep’s awesomeness and how Audrey Hepburn rebelled against her mother’s fascism.
Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
Edition: Hardcover • $27.00 • 9781781317365 • 192 pages • published February 2018 by Aurum Press • average Goodreads rating 3.92 out of 5 stars • read in June 2018
I’m not a big post-it note person when it comes to reading, but just in the introduction to this book, I put 6 notes. The content is so unbelievable, it just can’t be made up.
The Unwomanly Face of War is the long-awaited English translation of Svetlana Alexievich’s first book, a groundbreaking oral history of women in World War II across Europe and Russia. Alexievich chronicles the experiences of the Soviet women who fought on the front lines, on the home front, and in the occupied territories These women – more than a million in total – were nurses and doctors, pilots, tank drivers, machine-gunners, and snipers. They battled alongside men, and yet, after the victory, their sacrifices were forgotten. Alexievich traveled thousands of miles and visited more than a hundred towns to record these women’s stories. Together, this symphony of voices reveals a different aspect of the war – the everyday details of life in combat left out of the official histories.
Recently I saw a question asked on a Goodreads forum about whether or not a book was “another Holocaust book.” The asked wanted to know because she was sick of reading that narrative. The population of the internet, being the internet, set about roasting her alive. How, they asked could she be so callus and cold? And no one was forcing her to read such books, etc, etc. She later clarified that she simply wanted a different perspective on the war, a different take, a different story. And to that, I could relate.
Given my present nonfiction binge, added to my fascination with the women’s role in WWII (also the topic of Laura’s masters thesis), I began reading both The Unwomanly Face of War and The Women Who Flew for Hitler. And I’ve now convinced Laura to read them, but that’s a bit besides the point. There are two predominant WWII narratives, the harrowing narrative of the Jews, such as the narrative of Anne Frank, and the narratives of the battles, such as Dunkirk, with some political intrigue thrown in (Churchill, Roosevelt, etc.). The narratives of individual servicemen and women are often overlooked in favor of the larger narrative. The narrative of war is collective, suffering individual.
Many of the women Alexievich interviewed were a bit shocked that she wanted to hear their stories and their husbands were incredibly shocked that their wives were sharing such stories. Because they are far from pretty. They are far from decent. Their descriptions of what life was like in the Soviet military are absolutely shocking. And most importantly, their narratives deserve to be heard. Take the time to read this atypical WWII narrative I you will not be disappointed, I promise.
Rating: 10 out of 10 stars
Edition: Paperback • $18.00 • 9780399588747 • 384 pages • originally published in English in July 2017, this edition published April 2018 by Random House Trade • original Russian publication 1985 • average Goodreads rating 4.52 out of 5 • read June 2018