Monday, March 29, 2010


Not a whole lot of new books coming this week - although there are a couple pretty big releases - but there are four events at Warwick's for you to attend!
  • Solar by Ian McEwan - a new book by the 2-time Booker Prize winner is always somewhat of a literary event. (Warwick's has signed copies available!)  A Nobel Prize-winning physicist halfheartedly works on a governmental global warming project as his marriage crumbles - can he salvage both? Alas, the early reviews are not great - it doesn't seem like Solar is Sir Ian's finest work, nor destined to earn him that 3rd Booker. Booklist: "readers are taxed to even care" about the characters & crises in this "draggy novel". PW: "The scientific material is absorbing, but the interpersonal portions are much less so. Troublesome, since McEwan seems to prefer the latter, making for an inconsistent novel that one finishes feeling unpleasantly glacial."  Sorry, I didn't mean to talk you out of reading it.
  • Pearl of China by Anchee Min - set amidst the turmoil of the dawn of the 20th century in China (Mao, the Boxer Rebellion, civil war), Min reimagines the early life of Pearl S. Buck and her friendship with young Willow Yee. Of course, Anchee will be at Warwick's for this book - Thursday, April 8th at 7:30 - plenty of time for you to read the book first.
  • Deception by Jonathan Kellerman - more "Alex Delaware" from the award-winning patriarch of the Kellerman empire.
  • Giada at Home: Family Recipes From Italy and California by Giada de Laurentiis - the new cookbook by the Food Network star. Like "cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in salty prosciutto, creamy risotto with the earthy and deep flavors of mushrooms and gorgonzola, and lamb chops basted with honey and balsamic vinegar."  I'm in.
  • About Face by Donna Leon comes out in paperback this week.
  • Jack Bowen, author of If You Can Read This: The Philosophy of Bumper Stickers on Monday night at 7:30. There's a short piece on Jack's book over on KPBS's Culture Lust blog - check it out.
  • Midge Raymond, author of Forgetting English, is hosting a Writing Workshop on Tuesday night at 7:00.
  • Karl Rove (sigh, yes, that Karl Rove) will be signing his new book, Courage and Consequence on Wednesday evening at 6:00. (Note: this is a ticketed event & only books purchased from Warwick's will be signed.)
  • Indu Sundaresan, author of Shadow Princess, the concluding novel in her Taj Trilogy, will be here on Thursday night at 7:30.
Happy Birthday Octavio Paz (1918-1998; March 31) and Hans Christen Anderson (1805-1875; April 2)!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Girl, Don't Play With That Fire!

A couple of these (Kerr and Judt) released on March 18th (Thursday is an odd day for new releases), while the rest are out on Tuesday this week. The biggest book in this post: the much-anticipated paperback release of Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played with Fire happens on Tuesday. Part three of the late Larsson's massively successful trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, releases on May 25th.
  • If the Dead Rise Not by Philip Kerr - Kerr's sixth novel featuring WWII-era Berlin private detective, Bernie Gunther. The early books – now packaged as a trilogy know as "Berlin Noir" - were great, but more in a classic, "Hey, dollface", Chandler-esque gumshoe style. Once Kerr revisited the series in 2003, after a decade away from Bernie, the characters and plots have had a much grittier taste to them and really pulsate with great historical nuances and blazing dialogue. Dead alternates between a seasoned, bitter, & exiled Bernie living in the political volatility of Cuba 1954 and the relative innocence of 1934's Berlin Bernie, just beginning to suspect the path his homeland is on. For fans, it’s great to see pre-war Bernie again – and newcomers can jump right in, as Kerr is writing the best stuff of his career.
  • Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt - critically acclaimed historian Judt, author of Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten 20th Century and Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, returns with his treatise on where we as a society have gone wrong in the last 60 years. The title is from Oliver Goldsmith's poem of nostagia, The Deserted Village:  "Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates, and men decay."
  • Caught by Harlan Coben - a new thriller by the bestselling author.
  • Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes - Marlantes spent the last 30 years perfecting his intensely personal novel of the Vietnam War and has been getting some stellar early reviews. PW called it "a grand, distinctive accomplishment" and Warwick's own John Hughes has been raving about it. Come down & meet the author on Monday, April 19th.
  • Known to Evil by Walter Mosley - continuing the "Leonid McGill" series of mysteries.
  • Bite Me by Christopher Moore - I'll give you the first sentence of the publisher's blurb & let you decide: "The city of San Francisco is being stalked by a huge shaved vampyre cat named Chet, and only I, Abby Normal, emergency backup mistress of the Greater Bay Area night, and my manga-haired love monkey, Foo Dog, stand between the ravenous monster and a bloody massacre of the general public."
  • 1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die by Adrian Tierney-Jones - just too funny to not make a note of. I plan on trying them all, even if it kills me.
  • Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child
  • The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
Happenings: a busy week.
  • Stephen J. Cannell, The Pallbearers - Tuesday at 7:30.
  • Annabelle Gurwitch & Jeff Kahn, You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up - Wednesday night at 6:30 at Isabel's Cantina. (This is a ticketed dinner event - you can check or call for details.)
  • Springtime Children's Party - Thursday afternoon at 4:30.
  • Frances Mayes, Every Day in Tuscany - Thursday night at 7:30. A follow up to her bestsellers, Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany.
  • Cherie Currie, Neon Angel - a "signing only" event on Saturday afternoon at 4:00. Currie was the lead singer for Joan Jett's band The Runaways in the 80's - you know, "Ch-ch-ch-ch-cherrybomb!"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Upcoming Paranormalities

by Heather
Zombies, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, fairies and dystopic societies - they have all been markedly present in my reading material as of late. Perhaps it’s because these topics seem to be so prevalent in current popular culture or maybe it’s just that I have been making an effort to catch up on my paranormal reading because my desk was starting to overflow with reading copies. I’ve read countless paranormal novels over the last several months, some that are currently out and others which will be released between now and this summer. As I’ve waded my way through the lackluster, uninspired ridiculousness, I greatly feared that I would never come across a new novel worth recommending. Who knew there could be that many horrid writers being published? Fortunately, after much toil, boredom, and hair pulling, I finally came across a few notable new novels in the genre.

Soulless by Gail Carriger, has been out since October, but since it’s sequel, Changeless is due out in May it would be remiss of me not to mention it. This is that book that you pick-up, start to read, and then just can’t put down. It’s that novel that causes a smirk to cross your lips and your chest to tighten with a mixture of anticipation and downright enjoyment. Soulless, the first in a new series by Gail Carriger is that book. The perfect blend of paranormal, romance, comedy, alternative history, and steam punk, Soulless manages to reach beyond the genres with it’s wonderful prose, witty dialogue, and unforgettable characters.

Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien, which will be released at the end this month, is a tremendously dystopic novel that faintly echoes themes from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. This is a teen novel, but one that’s premise will be appreciated by adults. The writer, a high school English teacher, does an incredible job of creating characters full of complexities and an environment that is both fantastic and harshly real in its depiction.

The Passage by Justin Cronin is a highly anticipated and much touted new novel out of Random House. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen so much hype for a science fiction novel. Usually, I’m turned off by excessive amounts of plugging because the novels rarely live up to the praise, but this is one book that paid off. The Passage is one of those books that is completely intimidating at first sight because of it's immense size, but once you've read the first few pages you discover an immersing story that sucks you in and refuses to let go. A perfect mixture of classic Michael Crichton meets Resident Evil, this is a novel capable of appealing to science fiction and more mainstream fiction readers, while still maintaining a uniqueness of it’s own. A perfect summer blockbuster that frustrated me to no ends because after nearly 1,000 pages I was loathe to see the end, and am now yearning for a sequel, even though this first book has yet to be released (June 8, 2010).

I would like to end this by taking the time to acknowledge a few of the sequels that are currently or about to be released. Darklight by Lesley Livingston (Wondrous Strange) and Hourglass by Claudia Gray (Evernight) are available now. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater (Shiver); The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan (The Forest of Hands and Teeth), and Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink (Prophecy of the Sisters) are all out this summer. I have read each of these titles and they are all fantastic, but pay close attention to Guardian of the Gate, which is by far the best of the group.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Big Short Week

Well, since last Tuesday was such a massive book release day, this week is of course, a little lighter. Not to mention that March Madness begins this week - reports say that the brackets could cost employers $1.8 billion in unproductive wages this year, based on the amount of time we all watch basketball on the clock. Personally, I think this statistic is ridiculous - I would never watch basketball at work. (If you need a bracket though, you can email me at Still, there're a handful of books to note:
  • The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis - hot on the heels of Sandra Bullock's Oscar win for her role in The Blind Side (written by Lewis), comes his book on the collapse of the American economy. From the publisher:  "Truth really is stranger than fiction. Who better than (Lewis) to explain how the event we were told was impossible - the free fall of the American economy - finally occurred; how the things that we wanted, like ridiculously easy money and greatly expanded home ownership, were vehicles for that crash; and how shareholder demand for profit forced investment executives to eat the forbidden fruit of toxic derivatives. (Lewis) proves yet again that he is the finest and funniest chronicler of our times."
  • Think Twice by Lisa Scottoline - lawyer's evil twin sister gets mixed up in drug-running & tries to impersonate her. Sweet!
  • The Pallbearers by Stephen J. Cannell - the bestselling author and creator of every super-cool TV show from the late-70's and early-80's (The A-Team, 21 Jump Street, The Greatest American Hero, The Rockford Files) returns with another in his series of Shane Scully novels. Meet the man himself, at Warwick's on Tuesday, March 23rd at 7:30.
  • Dimiter by William Peter Blatty - it's been awhile, but I know you remember him - this is the new novel from the author of The Exorcist. PW gave it a surprising starred review, calling it "a beautifully written, haunting tale of vengeance, spiritual searching, loss, and love."

  • Tuesday, March 16th - Anil Ananathswamy, author of The Edge of Physics: A Journey to Earth's Extremes to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe. From the pub: "In this timely and original book, science writer Anil Ananthaswamy sets out in search of the world's most audacious physics experiments: the telescopes and detectors that promise to shed new light on things like dark matter, dark energy, and the phenomenon of quantum gravity (which string theory tries to explain). He soon finds himself at the ends of the earth - in cold and remote and sometimes dangerous places. As it turns out, extreme physics requires extreme environments."  
  • Thursday, March 18th - Chang-rae Lee, author of The Surrendered. Reviews have already been calling this "masterful", "haunting", "engrossing", "harrowing", "heartbreaking", & "breathtaking".
Birthdays are fun to know!  The late Douglas Adams (1952-2001), author of the Hitchhickers Guide to the Galaxy series was born on March 11. Penelope Lively, author of the Booker Prize-winning Moon Tiger (as well as over 40 other books for both kids and adults), was born in Cairo on St. Patrick's Day in 1933.  The late John Updike, winner of virtually every major literary prize out there, was born on March 18, 1932. And Philip Roth's 77th birthday is March 19 - so send him a card.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Are You Seth? vol.8

The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbo - on sale Tuesday!
In all honesty, most of the fallible detective types in these crime novels I read all sort of blend together after awhile. "Wasn't that alcoholic, Scandinavian cop in that other book by that other guy?" This is by no means a knock on the authors or their books, just maybe a criticism directed at me, who can't seem to space these books out enough so that I can tell these characters apart. Anyway, the point is that none of this applies to Norwegian author Jo Nesbo and his unfortunately named, brilliant, alcoholic Oslo police detective, Harry Hole. The Devil's Star is the third of Nesbo's books to be translated into English and, I think, the finest in the series to date.

Normally, I wouldn't hesitate in steering a reader towards a book set later in a series if I really felt that the order to the books wasn't vital to understanding the plot - Henning Mankell's Wallander series, for example, doesn't really need to be read in order (especially as they were not published in the States in the correct order.) You do need to read Jo Nesbo's books in order, however, to better appreciate the political morass that is the Oslo police department and the tense undercurrent of hate flowing between Harry and his co-worker, Tom Waaler. In The Redbreast, Harry begins to suspect that Waaler isn't exactly Oslo's most honest cop, but the tension doesn't go farther than angry conversations and some bad blood. In Nemesis, Waaler is the title reference, as Harry begins to suspect that he has had a role in the death of a colleague and has elaborately set Harry up to take the fall. Everything comes to a head in The Devil's Star, as Harry is reluctantly paired with Waaler on his latest case, but can't let on that he has suspicions as to Waaler's corruption.

Without sacrificing plot for character, Nesbo manages to perfectly work this cranked-up tension between cops into this labyrinth of a crime novel. Harry is, like I said, a flawed man - by the events in TDS, he has managed to mangle his once-healthy relationship with his girlfriend, ostracize himself from most of his co-workers, and is steadlily drinking himself into oblivion. Ah, but he's still a great cop! When a girl's body turns up, missing an index finger and sporting a 5-pointed red diamond under her eyelid, Harry works through his hatred of Waaler to try and solve the case. He soon realizes that there is a pattern between this and several other Oslo murders - could a serial killer be at work? Coupled with the political tension, this novel crackles with intrigue, mystery, and psychological complexities - a great read for fans of Henning Mankell, Ken Bruen, Karen Fossum, Olen Steinhauer, Ian Rankin...the list goes on.


Lots of new books this week -
  • The Silent Sea by Clive Cussler (part of Clive's "Oregon Files" series of adventure novels. This one involves the discovery of a wrecked WWII-era blimp in the jungle of Argentina.)
  • Bone Fire by Mark Spragg (the new novel by the acclaimed author of An Unfinished Life. There are some amazingly mixed reviews on this one so far: Library Journal called it "a gleaming tale" in which "not one word is out of place...each and every character is well drawn and intensely believable" while PW saw more of "a dry and unsatisfying contemporary western" that "lacks narrative momentum and a sense of purpose."  Ouch. You be the judge.)
  • A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks (a novel of intesecting lives in modern London by the author of Birdsong and Charlotte Gray)
  • The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley (the author's second novel featuring 11-year old sleuth, Flavia de Luce. Book 1, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, was a 2009 favorite of Janet & Vicki.)
  • The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee (this new novel by the acclaimed author of Aloft is getting some great early reviews. Lee worked on The Surrendered for the better part of a decade, never able to finish due to the intense personal nature of the storyline - “I wouldn't be here if there hadn't been a war (in Korea). In a way, that's why I didn't want to write this book” he told PW. You can meet him at Warwick's on Thursday, March 18th at 7:30pm.)
  • Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler (the new memoir by the comedienne & host of late night's "Chelsea Lately". Also an upcoming event at Warwick's - she'll be here on Saturday, May 8th at 3:00pm for a signing only. Stay tuned to for more info.)
  • Every Day in Tuscany by Frances Mayes (yet another upcoming Warwick's event - Ms. Mayes returns to the W on March 25th for this follow-up to her bestsellers, Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany. In 2005 we had around 200 people here for her event, so get in early, I say.)
  • The Devil and Sherlock Holmes by David Grann (a collection of journalism pieces & essays by the author of last year's staff favorite, The Lost City of Z. I've read this already & while it's not nearly as compelling as a whole, as Lost City, it does have some fascinating pieces within. My favorite has to be "City of Water" which chronicles the lives of the men who've been toiling under the streets of New York for the last 30 years to complete the construction of City Tunnel #3 - the conduit for the 1.3 billion gallons of water used by the city's residents every day. Come by for Coffee with a Bookseller on Tuesday & I'll tell you more.)

There's also a new set coming out this week of those beautiful Penguin hardback classics designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith: Emma, Treasure Island, Lady Chatterley's Lover, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and The Odyssey.

  • Coffee with a Bookseller, March Edition on Tuesday morning at 10am - featuring, yours truly.
  • Gabrielle Burton, author of Impatient with Desire - a novel of Tamsen Donner of the ill-fated Donner Party - on Thursday the 11th at 7:30.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Are You Seth? vol.7

Warwick's has been a chaotic, exhausting place this week - we've been having beautiful new carpeting put in storewide, which entails moving everything off of the floor so that the old carpet can be torn out and the new can be laid down. This makes for long days for booksellers. But I'm still managing to get some reading done - over on my other site, The Book Catapult, you can read about the ten books I've read so far in 2010. Or, we can talk about books in person, as there's another edition of "Coffee with a Bookseller" coming this Tuesday morning at 10AM, where you and I can rap about what's new & good for you in books.

To tide you over, let's talk about journalist Ted Conover's new book, The Routes of Man: How Roads Are Changing the World and the Way We Live Today.

As a reader of maybe 98% fiction, I tend to not be able to read through nonfiction books at one go and I need to break them up with novels for some reason. I've been chipping away at this one for the better part of a month, but I'm going to commit a bit of bookseller taboo and recommend it anyway. Conover is the author of three previous books that I've loved: the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Newjack (when he was denied entry into Sing Sing prison for a story, he got a job as a prison guard there instead), Rolling Nowhere (he spent a season literally riding the rails with the last of America's hobos), and Coyotes (this should be required reading for anyone living in Southern California, as Conover repeatedly crosses the Mexican border, dodging the INS with illegal migrant workers). Routes (his first book in over a decade) is a series of six loosely linked essays about the culture of the road across the globe - how those roads connect us, divide us, and alter our world, for good or for ill. In his typical fashion, Conover doesn't just report on a story, researching from afar - he fully immerses himself in the issue, no matter the circumstances or discomforts. The first essay here is my favorite - "Forest Primeval to Park Avenue" - in which Conover travels the hard route taken by Peruvian mahogany as it is cut (often illegally) and taken overland through the mountains and jungles to be processed and sold as furniture, crown moldings, and cabinet doors in the United States. (My father was a cabinet maker, so I've always been curious, but I never really thought about all of the logistics involved.) From there Conover travels to India's Zanskar Valley ("Slipping From Shangri-La") to trek a footpath across the Himalayas only accessible when the river freezes, which literally frees the local teenagers to be able to walk out into the world at large. Then to the overland trucking route across East Africa ("The Road is Very Unfair") that has been the superhighway for the AIDS virus to spread across the globe. And on to the series of highways dotted with Israeli checkpoints across the whole of the borderland between Israel & Palestine ("A War You Can Commute To"). (That's as far as I've gotten, but the other 2 parts are about the burgeoning car culture in China, reminiscent of the 1950's in the US, and traveling the harrowing highways of Lagos, Nigeria in an ambulance.)

Conover has an unparalleled skill at giving the reader the sense of total immersion - really, due to his own personal immersion in the subject matter. This is not pedestrian journalism here - more in the vein of Sebastian Junger or Jon Krakauer - and his life is often as in danger as you would imagine it to be in such rough corners of our world. The reviews I have read (a couple have run in the New York Times, which is always a good sign) have all been positive, but have mildly complained about the overall cohesiveness of this book - Conover struggles to link all the narratives into his greater theme - but even the slightly negative press has recognized Conover's skill at writing the adventure/travelogue, which is what attracted me in the first place. Maybe he shouldn't have tried to link everything together thematically & just stuck with his real strength - straight-up, hardcore journalism, of which he has few peers.  Most definitely worth checking out.