Wednesday, January 30, 2008
The Dewey Divas will also be doing two separate sessions, talking about the upcoming books of the Spring season, one focused on adult books (session #311 at 9:05, Thursday, 31st) and one on children's books (session #1028, at 9:05 Friday, Feb. 1st). Hope to see you there!
For those out west, we'll also be hitting Calgary, Edmonton and the Alberta Library Conference in April, and a few of us will also be at BCLA and CLA.
Despite the closures of so many independents over the last few years, there still are many success stories. One of these is Crockett and Powell, also in London, also with a great blog. It was at their blog that I first heard of one of their employees, Marie Phillips; her very funny, first book, Gods Behaving Badly, we subsequently ended up publishing. They were also where I first heard of Catherine O'Flynn's wonderful first novel, What Was Lost which we'll be publishing in June. These booksellers were so enthusiastic about it. Support your independent bookstores, both in your own neighbourhood and when you travel: we'd truly be lost without them.
And - just after posting this, I discovered via their fortnightly online letter that Persephone Books is opening another store, this time in Notting Hill. Hooray! You can read about it here, where there is also a lovely photo of the interior of their shop in the Bloomsbury area. I never go to London without stopping by - it' s truly delightful.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
The first is B.C. native Linda L. Richards' Death Was the Other Woman. Dexter J. Theroux is a hard-drinking P.I. in Depression-era Los Angeles, with a lot of personal demons and not a lot of clients. Kitty Pangborn is his secretary: born to a wealthy family that lost it all in the stock market crash of 1929, she now needs Dex’s pay check in order to survive. So when her boss hits the bottle a little too hard and isn’t in any shape to drive to tail their (only) client’s lover, she acts as chauffeur to get the job done. But when the lover is murdered on their watch and his corpse later disappears, what at first looked to be a simple job is just the beginning of a complex web of betrayals, schemes, and double-crosses that keep you guessing until the end. You've got all of the familiar conventions of the genre (femme fatales, gangsters, speakeasies etc.) but the story is made fresh and unique by telling it from Kitty's perspective. Kitty not only helps Dex with his investigations but also does some snooping on her own, and I like that she's not the type of heroine who clumsily stumbles upon the killer. She's smart, intuitive and is more practical than romantic. Each character in the book, from Kitty to Dex, to the mysterious Mustard and glamorous Brucie are complex and interesting, and I missed them all when I finished the book. The descriptions of 1930’s L.A. are so evocative, you’ll feel as though you are right there with the characters. I hope the author has a sequel in the works!
Completely different, but no less fun to read is A. Lee Martinez's The Automatic Detective. Mack Megatron is a bot (automated citizen) living in the futuristic, heavily polluted Empire City. He was originally built for world domination, but when he spontaneously developed self awareness he decided he'd rather be a productive member of society. Turning in his evil creator to the authorities, he has applied for citizenship and is on probation until the city officials are convinced he won't regress and level the city. When the story begins, Mac is trying to make ends meet by driving a cab: a bot needs a LOT of electricity to recharge, after all, and electricity doesn't come cheap. He also needs to keep out of trouble as officials are just looking for an excuse to send him to the scrap heap. He has befriended Julie in the apartment next door who fixes his uniform tie each morning, as his hands are not really designed for such delicate work. But this morning, she's not her usual friendly self when he knocks on her door and when she and her family later disappear without a trace, he deduces that something very bad has happened. Deciding their friendship to be worth risking his chance for citizenship, he borrows a trenchcoat and fedora from his friend Jung (a Jane-Austen-loving, sentient gorilla), who also is the only person Mack knows with clothes that might fit him, and sets off to find Julie and her family. The search takes Mack all over Empire city from its dive bars and back alleys to the fanciest skyscraper and government offices. Along the way, he meets a brainy biological dame who is very easy on the optical sensors, a six-armed mutant lowlife, a little green mob boss, a few aliens, almost gets blown up a few times, and uncovers a secret conspiracy at the heart of the city. Fans of hard-boiled PI mysteries or science fiction readers will both get a kick out of this story. It is very witty, very smart, and is a highly entertaining way to spend a weekend afternoon.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Monday, January 21, 2008
Which makes me wonder - has the great figure skating novel been written? Does anyone have a nomination? I can only think of that great scene in Virginia Woolf's Orlando - Orlando and Sasha skating down the frozen Thames:
It was an evening of astonishing beauty. As the sun sank, all the domes, spires, turrets, and pinnacles of London rose in inky blackness against the furious red sunset clouds. Here was the fretted cross at Charing; there the dome of St Paul's; there the massy square of the Tower buildings; there like a grove of trees stripped of all leaves save a knob at the end were the heads on the pikes at Temple Bar. Now the Abbey windows were lit up and burnt like a heavenly, many-coloured shield (in Orlando's fancy); now all the west seemed a golden window with troops of angels (in Orlando's fancy again) passing up and down the heavenly stairs perpetually. All the time they seemed to be skating in fathomless depths of air, so blue the ice had become; and so glassy smooth was it that they sped quicker and quicker to the city with the white gulls circling about them, and cutting in the air with their wings the very same sweeps that they cut on the ice with their skates.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Sickening it may be, but simple it is not. As Martens writes his version of events, we follow his downward trajectory from simple police cop to becoming a member of the Corps, a secret police organization responsible for more political and sinister activities leading to torture and murder. But Martens has also obtained Enrique's diary and liberally inserts sections of it into his narrative, so that we also get the story of a spoiled idealist whose naivety leads to tragedy. There is a wonderfully sustained suspense throughout this universal story about bad choices and their inevitable consequences.
Monday, January 14, 2008
- Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems: 2008 Caldecott Honor Book
- First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger: 2008 Caldecott Honor Book, 2008 Geisel Honor Book
- There is a Bird On Your Head by Mo Willems: 2008 Geisel Award Winner for the most distinguished book for beginning readers.
- Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre, Illustrated by Steve Jenkins 2008 Geisel Honor Book
- Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby: Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award (Teen Category Ages 13-18) for books that embody the artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.
- Orson Scott Card is the recipient of the 2008 Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults honoring his outstanding lifetime contribution to writing for teens for his novels “Ender's Game” and “Ender's Shadow.”
- The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Sean Qualls is the 2008 Pura Belpré Author Award recipient. This award honors Latino authors and illustrators whose work best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in children's books.
- Yuyi Morales, illustrator of Los Gatos Black on Halloween is the winner of the 2008 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award. Los Gatos Black on Halloween, written by Marisa Montes, is also a 2008 Pura Belpré Honor Book
- Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis: Winner of the Coretta Scott King Book Award, Newbery Honor book
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick: Winner of the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children.
- Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Ellen Levine was named a Caldecott Honor Book
- Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones was given the Alex Award as one of the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
You can test your de Beauvoir knowledge at the Guardian's quiz.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Monday, January 7, 2008
I have to admit that mysteries often fall way down to the bottom of my to-be-read piles or wait for the airport. Which is absolutely ridiculous given how much I enjoy reading them and how well they sell in the library market particularly. I suppose since I can sell a "brand" mystery writer easily without having read the book, I feel guilty indulging. But I'm definitely going to rectify this in the future - thank God Rebus has retired!
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Those who've heard me booktalk know that I adore British writers and none more so than Jonathan Coe, so a year with a new book by him bodes well for my universe at large. And even though his latest, The Rain Before it Falls is completely different from his previous work, I loved it for its narrative twists, its wonderful female characters, its desperate portrayal of generational pain, its affectionate nod to women writers like Rosamond Lehmann, and of course for its beautiful writing. It even partially takes place in two Canadian settings - Toronto and Saskatoon. What more could a reader want? It came out in England in the fall and I can't see how it didn't wind up on multiple award lists. My second favourite book is Louis de Berniere's The Partisan's Daughter. Also very different from some of his previous work, this is set in London in 1970 and involves an odd but incredibly engaging relationship between two unlikely people who meet in a very unexpected way. Their stories unfold to each other over a series of coffee meetings, but it's what is held back that makes this novel so intriguing. Adam Thorpe is another of my British literary boyfriends. We have two new books from him this year - I've just started Between Each Breath, which is literally taking my breath away. It's about a happily married, yet childless composer, whose brief affair while on a trip to Estonia comes back to haunt him. Later in the year, we'll be publishing The Standing Pool, about two Oxford academics who take a sabbatical with their young family in France, where all is not as idyllic as it seems. Jeanette Winterson's latest, The Stone Gods is a funny, eco-feminist satire coupled with a strange love story. I also expect laughs from David Lodge's latest novel, Deaf Sentence. And do NOT miss picking up this new debut novel, The Outcast by Sadie Jones. This story of an unhappy teen trying to get over his mother's death and to reconnect with his father and society after a stint in jail, has all the emotional intensity of something like Ian McEwan's Atonement and is my pick for best first novel of 2008. Okay, tied with Catherine O'Flynn's What Was Lost. I originally read the British edition last fall and then found out to my delight that we were going to be her Canadian publisher. I've already blogged my thoughts on this wonderful novel here. And of course, the big British book will be Sebastian Faulks writing as James Bond. Devil May Care comes out in May. Can't wait.
Where to start? Bernhard Schlink's new novel Homecoming, translated by Michael Henry Heim, is a masterful, modern reworking (in part) of Homer's Odyssey; a novel that constantly changes in tone and narrative style following a man who spends a lifetime trying to understand what type of man his father - who never came back from the war - truly was. Swiss writer Peter Stamm's new novel, On A Day Like This, translated by Michael Hoffman, also looks to the past as a man tries to come to terms with his own life choices. Chilean writer Elizabeth Subercaseaux's A Week in October , translated by Marina Harass, is a delicious book of revenge that draws the reader into the heart of a marriage as a dying woman leaves behind a notebook for her husband, detailing her affair with another man. Of course all doesn't go quite as planned. An early finished copy of Peter Carey's His Illegal Self just dropped on my desk; it takes place in a hippie commune. I'm a hundred pages into Ma Jian's huge new novel Beijing Coma, translated by Flora Drew, which looks at the changes in China since Tiananmen, seen through the eyes of a man who has been in a coma for a decade. I'm also looking forward to Imre Kertesz's Detective Story, translated by Tim Wilkinson, Linn Ullman's A Blessed Child, translated by Sarah Death, Binu and the Great Wall by Su Tong, translated by Howard Goldblatt, Julien Parme by Florian Zeller, translated by William Rodamor and The Painter of Battles by Arturo Perez-Reverte, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.