Monday, June 30, 2014

You must be this tall to read The Fault in Our Stars.

This happened when The Hunger Games hit the big screen, too. When a popular YA novel becomes a
popular movie, kids who maybe aren't quite in the "young adult" age bracket yet start begging to read it. Because their classmates have read it and/or seen the movie, and the ads are everywhere, and come on, Mom! Here at the bookstore, we start getting a lot of questions along the lines of, "What age is this book for?"

Rather than giving a hard number, I usually respond by describing the book and mentioning anything I think parents would want to know about. The Fault in Our Stars is about teens who meet in a cancer support group and fall in love. For some parents, that information is enough to make a decision. Others are apprehensively okay with that, but are absolutely not okay with the presence of a neither graphic nor gratuitous sex scene (and by "not gratuitous," I mean "between two people in an unusual situation who know that waiting isn't much of an option and want to get what they can out of life").

I don't give a hard number because you know better than I what your kids already know, what they've already seen on TV, what they're ready to handle. That's true of the brief and really really not graphic sexual content, but I think it's even truer of the larger themes of terminal illness. This book is entertaining and even very funny in some places, and much of its value is in the big questions its characters consider about what makes a life meaningful. But it's also a book that might be upsetting to some readers - preteen, teen, or adult. As with any book, we'll share what we know about its content as honestly as we can. But you know your family and your family's experiences better than we do. So do your kids (and I've seen great, honest conversations between parents and kids who decided together to wait on a book).

If you or your kids do decide to read TFIOS, we'll be waiting with plenty of happy, escapist recommendations when you're ready to choose your next book.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Post-Keillor Roundup

Last night we hosted Garrison Keillor to a full and enthusiastic crowd. Months ago over a beer, I had promised Paul that he could do the introduction after he confessed how adamantly he loved A Prairie Home Companion. He did a magnificent job getting the audience amped and ready, and when Garrison Keillor took the mic we were all holding our breath because we couldn't quite believe that he was there, within arm's reach, leaning against the pole Rob Sheffield once danced around, breathing the same air we were while talking in that voice we knew so well. 

He spoke for about an hour and a half, telling stories, reciting a poem, and at one point walking so far into the audience that he unplugged the microphone by accident. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard and so consistently during an author event at the store ever, and when I looked around the room everyone was laughing as hard as I was, if not harder. He signed books, posed for pictures, and charmed the daylights out of everyone. At the end of a two+ hour signing line, he gamely posed for several photographs with booksellers. I had just gotten a haircut, and Garrison admitted that he wanted to ruffle my hair. I offered up my head, and he placed his giant hand upon my head and ruffled my hair a few times, much to all of our amusement. 

Shuchi, Garrison, Paul and I laughing about our "double date" pose
This was definitely one of my favorite author events, and I'm glad we were able to host him. The audience was delighted (and delightful!) and I'll sign out with my favorite photograph of the evening: 

Paul was really really starstruck.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Garrison Keillor TONIGHT

A few years ago I quit my job in publishing and my husband and I moved to Cape Cod so I could pursue writing. The house, which was more of a cottage, was really only meant to be lived in during the summer. It was set back from a road that led to a beach, the driveway lined by old unkempt trees that were choked up the trunks by vines. My husband would leave at 5am to commute to Boston every day and it was just the dog and I, alone in this house up on a hill. It sounds idyllic, I know, but early on I had no friends in the area, and didn't yet have a job. The first morning alone I sat down at my writing desk a bit stunned.

It was at this time, when I was feeling the most vulnerable and lonesome, that I began religiously reading The Writer's Almanac. It waited for me every morning, the first item in my inbox, the message in it simple: a reprint of a poem, a list of the birthdays and bios of writers and artists. I'd skim the birthdays first, taking comfort in the gnarled paths of famous writers, and then I would read the poem. After the first couple of emails I saw that I could click on listen instead, and so I did, and out from my email came Garrison Keillor's voice, syrupy and luxurious and patient, reading aloud to me. Those quiet mornings, Garrison Keillor's voice would echo throughout the house; sometimes, he'd be the only other voice I'd hear that day until late that night, when my husband came home from work. Garrison's storytelling voice would then follow me to the page, narrating the words I put down, letting me trick myself into believing that what I was writing was indeed a story. I owe many rough drafts to that voice. 

Tonight Garrison Keillor will be at the store, on tour for his new book The Keillor Reader. I imagine many will have a similar story that they'll want to share with Garrison when they get to meet him in the signing line. That is the power of oral storytelling, of radio, really. Books are portable, your imagination's physical companion, but radio voices become part of your family, sharing the space of your home or car. Tonight his reading will be hooked up to speakers throughout the store. I'm helping out with the event but I know I'll be tempted to go upstairs and quietly shelve some books in my section, in my home away from home, as I listen to the voice that kept me company so long ago. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

The same only different

First, I want to apologize for my absence two weeks ago. I was in the great Land of Cleve (in Ohio) spending time with the family who spend much of the year positively bereft in my absence (they don't always admit it but they miss me quite terribly, I am certain).

Second, three exciting books!

1. Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
The finale! It's here!

2.North Star by Peter Reynolds
This is easily my favorite Peter Reynolds book and an awesome graduation gift!

3. Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
There's a big push for more diversity in literature and this is the book the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement has been backing. It has a great ensemble cast and is just a lot of fun.

Now, on to the regularly scheduled nonsense.

I am always intrigued by the idea of different points of view. How does an event change when viewed by different people? We're all so influenced by our background that it's pretty much impossible to have the same experience as someone else even while experiencing the same event.

In reworking the current draft of my own novel, I tossed around the idea of rewriting it from another character's point of view. I wasn't sure if it was something I wanted to do as a separate project or just as a personal exercise to get a better grasp of both sides of certain scenes. But it felt like something important to do because I feel like my two characters are experiencing two very different things in the same moment.

But where is the line where you cross from telling two different but parallel stories and just telling the same thing with different words? Is it just reader interest? Which is to say, do you have to have a built in audience to even bother? Or do the characters have to be so different that you couldn't possibly be telling the same story? Does there have to be a mystery surrounding one of them, that makes it worth writing/reading?

I remember when Stephanie Meyer said she was writing Midnight Sun, Twilight from Edward's point of view. As a fan, I was interested. Objectively, I didn't really think it was necessary. We knew enough about him that I didn't see how the story would be all that different from what we already had. I don't feel like there's enough of  a new story but the audience was definitely there.

Similarly, on her website, Cassandra Clare offers a variety of extra scenes and letters and things of that nature. Sometimes these scenes show us other characters doing things that didn't fit into the book. Or original edits of scenes. Other times they're scenes from an alternate perspective. I think the alternate perspective scenes are a lot of fun but I never really felt the need to read The Mortal Instruments from Jace's point of view.
Let's be serious, if she wrote it I would read it but I don't really have a burning desire. We know him. He's tortured and snarky as a defense and I love that but I usually feel like I have a pretty good sense of what he's thinking. I would so much rather have new stories from her.

Veronica Roth has a collection coming out next month called Four. As you might have guessed, it's a selection of stories from Four's point of view. Some of them take place before Divergent starts, some of them during the series. I am incredibly interested in the prequel stories and if this were pre-Allegiant I'd be dying for the others as well. But in Allegiant we were in Four's head so I have a better sense of him now. That isn't to say I am not going to devour and love every second of the book. I will. Believe me, I will be all over that. It just doesn't feel as necessary.

Alternating point of views per chapter can often serve to do the same thing, give the same sense of another character but if you have a mystery can you do that without ruining it? If the point of changing point of view is to highlight the difference in the characters' experiences is the mystery important? Can you have both?

So, is there a place for alternate point of view stories? Does it only work in short story form? What makes something like that worth reading?

Would you read the same story from two different points of view?


Monday, June 9, 2014

Introducing the Kidsmith Reviewers

A group of our local and most avid readers, we meet twice a month to talk about books, write about books, and share our latest favorites. Keep your eyes open for the recommendations in the kids section and discover what our local kids are crazy about!


Title: Walking Dead Series
Author: Robert Kirkman

A series straight out of your worst nightmares. Amazing!

Title: Dragonball
Author: Akira Toriyama

A hilarious manga full of explosions and all out ka-me-ha-me-has. A must read!


Title: Skink No Surrender
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Pub Date:  Sept. 23 2014

This book will leave you in suspense and you will never know what is coming next. The characters are great, fun, and you can easily put yourself in their shoes.


Title: Skink No Surrender
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Pub Date: Sept. 23 2014

I really enjoyed Skink No Surrender because the characters were really silly and the plot is awesome!


Title: Loki’s Wolves: Blackwell Pages book 1
Author: K L Armstrong and M A Marr

Like Percy Jackson reborn, mythology meets modern day and a teenage boy must stop the end of the world. Full of action and humor.

Title: Half Bad
Author: Sally Green

If you like fantasy this is the book for you. It can be dark at times so its not for the faint hearted. Imagine your dad was Voldemort and your mom is Glinda, would you be respected? Would you be treated like your dad or your mom? The answers are in Half Bad.


Title: Dreamwood
Author: Heather Mackey
Pub Date: June 6 2014

Set in the past where they can barely afford electrical lamps...
Just Read It!

Title: I Am Number Four
Author: Pittacus Lore

Exciting aliens vs. aliens fantasy in the modern world. I can’t wait until August when the fifth book comes out!


Title: The Drowned Cities
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi

The half man from Shipbreaker teams up with a lost orphan looking for her friend. After this the Drowned Cities will never be the same.


Title: The Thickety: A Path Begins
Author: J A White
LIke a combination of the Lord of the Rings and The Witch of Blackbird Pond, this book draws you in and doesn’t let you out until you have made it to the ending; and then you are just waiting for the sequel to come out.

Title: Wildwood
Author: Colin Meloy

Similar to the Golden Compass and Narnia, this novel takes you and doesn’t let you out of its word filled embrace until you have read from the beginning of the first book through the 1500 pages of the whole story.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Destination of the Month: Svalbard

When I was 12 and reading The Golden Compass for the very first time, I really liked the idea of a mythical frozen land in the north inhabited by armored polar bears. It was not until many years later that I discovered that in fact Svalbard--the locale of some grisly happenings in Pullman's meisterwerk--is a real place, and I want to go to there.

It's the smack-dab middle of the year, which means on some parts of the globe it's sunny times all night which is the perfect time to go on your own epic voyage to the frozen north, which is a little less frozen, and has more hours in the day for partying with polar bears.

So I've chosen Svalbard as our destination of the month. Check out our neat display and read The Golden Compass as you sip a beer on a sunny Allston patio and immediately transport yourself, or if you have a few extra kroner in your pocket grab a Norwegian phrasebook and hop on a plane and go party all day(night), but SEND PICS.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ocean's Eleven Meets High School Musical. (In middle school.)

What would you do if your student council election was rigged?

Let me rephrase that: what would you do if your student council election were rigged in favor of someone really spoiled, and you kinda sorta maybe wanted to be more than friends with the person who really deserved to win, and you were Jackson Greene, master caper-puller-offer?

You'd pull off a caper, that's what you'd do.

This book has a great ensemble cast. It's well-plotted. It's funny. And it has fallen into the hands of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement, which has set out to prove that a book with a diverse cast on the cover can sell and that it is in the industry's interest to publish more such books.

We're competing with lots of other independent bookstores in The Great Greene Challenge. Do I especially care if we end up being the store that sells the most copies in the first month? Nah. Do I think it's awesome that we're all motivating each other to help make the book a bestseller? Heck yes.

Know a reader somewhere around middle school age? Have we got a book for you!