Friday, December 16, 2011

Heather's Young Adult Reading List

During this time of year we get all sorts of “help” requests—“help me find a book for my history loving father”, “I need a book about cute pigs for my sister”, “what’s the newest and best thriller for my husband”—you get the drift. Lately, possibly because of the location of my office, the most common question I’ve been hearing is regarding books for teenagers, namely, “what book do I get for my teenager for the holidays”. So, parents, aunts, uncles, friends, and grandparents—here’s your heads-up, a list of some of the newer and better teen* reads out there.

For lovers of The Hunger Games and all things dystopic:

Legend by Marie Lu: You can’t put this one down. It’s one of the few teen reads that has captivated readers of different genres. Dystopic, with alternating boy and girl chapters, this is fast paced and addictive. A must read.

Crossed by Ally Condie: This sequel to Matched still has the romance of its predecessor, but is equally filled with action and adventure. Its cliffhanger style ending is a little frustrating, but it is the middle book of a trilogy, so it goes with the territory. Solid series read.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis: Dystopia in space—that ought to draw you in alone! New in paperback, this is an interesting story revolving around a ship carrying frozen personnel as well as generations of ship workers, destined for a new Earth. Chaos begins when the lone teen boy on board awakes one of the frozen. The sequel, A Million Suns, arrives in January and is just as intriguing.

For those who dig zombies, creepy schools, and a touch of fantasy:

Dearly Departed by Lia Habel: Zombie armies, underground cities, and a modern America turned Victorian, all make for one heck of a surprising read. Don’t let the cover fool you on this one; it’s chapters alternate between multiple characters—boys, girls, army generals, and scientists—it’s for anyone who enjoys a good science fiction mystery (with a skosh of romance). Entertaining and original Dearly Departed is a definite pleaser.

Variant by Robison Wells: What do you do at a mysterious academy that’s surrounded by wire fences, monitored by video cameras, and ruled by three very specific cliques—trust no one! A great mystery with a slight sci-fi twist, Variant is the perfect guy read (girls will enjoy too) this holiday season.

Mastiff by Tamora Pierce: The last in the Beka Cooper series, Mastiff is a fun action-adventure fantasy. The series is a nice prequel to her other Tortall books, and Mastiff does a fantastic job of sucking you in—such a good job in fact that it led me to reread all of the other Tortall books upon finishing (that’s 14 books, 15 if you count the short stories).

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater: With the Shiver trilogy under her belt you can guarantee that Maggie Stiefvater will take a myth and turn it on it’s head in a remarkable way. In The Scorpio Races she takes the kelpie myth and turns it into a beautifully written story that follows a boy and a girl as they prepare for the gruesomely difficult Scorpio Race, a race that is stalked by death. This is an unusual tale, gripping for guys and girls, and very satisfying.

The one non-paranormal/dystopic/fantasy etc. on my list:

The Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John: New in paperback, this is a great all around teen read. It centers on Piper, a young deaf teen who takes up the challenge of managing a band. Filled with fantastic music references, a touch of romance, and enough angst to satisfy fans of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti, Five Flavors of Dumb, is a solid and engaging read for young adults.

Hopefully this list gives you some ideas for the holiday season; of course we have many fabulous booksellers who are filled with far more recommends than I could possibly list here. So, come in and talk to them, I promise you will learn about some amazing books.

*or the adult reader who just enjoys good fiction (hey, I’m one of them)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ed King: The Book Jim Stewart Couldn't Put Down

It's one of my goals to find a book that I just can't put down, that page-turner that is so captivating it takes precedent over any other form of entertainment. I have a running list of those books and now I can add Ed King by David Guterson.

Guterson is known from his earlier tome, Snow Falling on Cedars, which many of you may have read, or seen the movie. His writing about characters is so believable, whether or not the person is particularly likeable, that you want to know what is going to happen in the story for everyone involved.

I was thrilled to read Ed King and strongly recommend it. I know there is a lot of competition for what to read, and we all have lists of titles to enjoy (so at least we can tell people the book's “on my list,” whether or not it's read in the next few months...or years!). But you can't just put Ed King on a list. I'm limited in what I can say about the book without giving major plot points away. Suffice it to say that Ed is an orphan, left on a random doorstep in Portland, Oregon. He is adopted by the King family and, following the well-known path of boy to manhood, goes through excruciating adjustments. His time of madcap rebellion is a turning point in his life, showing how determined he is to be independent from any control. Nevertheless, he becomes an Internet magnate after creating an uber-successful search engine. Although he isn't aware of this until the very end of the story, his birth parents play a major role in his life. Those two plot points emerge as a life-changing experience for Ed. The story is a contemporary take on Sophocles' Oedipus the King. To know this plot development dissipates some of the story's tension. Despite this open secret (every book reviewer has uncovered this spoiler) it doesn't take away from your concern for Ed's life and its challenges.

I do want to hear others' responses to reading this book and look forward to hearing from you, so feel free to comment here, come into the store for a chat, or email me at

Jim is a bookseller at Warwick's.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Warwick's Staff Presents: The Best Books of 2011

It's once again that time of year for us to look back on all that we've read in 2011 and ponder our favorites. Booksellers love to revisit their year in books, debating with each other about their various merits, and which ones were the best. This year is no different. Our diverse group of readers has gotten together and named our favorite books of 2011 and here they are for your perusal.

Emily, bookseller: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. A truly fantastic read and easily my pick for this year. Julian Barnes delivers the most thought provoking book I have read in a long time.

John, bookseller/book buyer: Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal by James D. Hornfischer. 2011 has been a good year for World War II histories, among them Roberts' Storm of War, Hastings' Inferno, Toll's Pacific Crucible, and Symonds' Battle of Midway. Although I wholeheartedly recommend all of the aforementioned books, I would single out James Hornfischer's superb history of the naval actions at Guadalcanal, Neptune's Inferno. Hornfischer delivers a powerful and, at times, gut-wrenching account of the deadliest naval campaign of the War in the Pacific. He tacks perfectly among different perspectives -- from bluejackets to admirals -- and thereby offers a history that is at once sweeping and personal. Furthermore, Neptune's Inferno is, to the best of my knowledge, the first comprehensive history of the naval campaign at Guadalcanal since that offered by Samual Eliot Morison years ago. Not only was this book a great read, it also fundamentally transformed my understanding of the War in the Pacific.

Kim, Office Supply: Both my daughter and I poured over The Hugo Movie Companion by Brian Selznick, both before and after seeing the magical movie. It is a fascinating look at how the book (The Invention of Hugo Cabret) was transformed into a 3-D, sure to be family-favorite, film. A must read book and must see movie for children and adults.

Janet, bookseller: It's a hard choice, but I must say my favorite book of 2011 is The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman. Dramatic and compelling, the story of 4 women during the siege of the Masada swept me away to the ancient past. I couldn't put it down!

Joe, General Manager: My favorite  book of 2011 was We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen. It dashed any hopes of me being seaworthy with a wondrous, brutal, and sometimes too real portrait of life in and by the sea. I loved how it went on from person to person and generation to generation.

Margie, Office Supply: With the many books I've read in 2011, The Vault by Boyd Morrison is still my #1 pick. Mr. Morrison's works never lack in the thrill and excitement departments. There is no disappointment in this gripping tale of King Midas' lost treasure and the consequences of it falling into the wrong hands. I honestly could not put this one down!

Jan, Children's Book Buyer: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. A story told through illustrations and another told with words are woven together in a masterful way in this incredible book. Children and adults both will be wrapped up in the magical, intriguing unfolding of the story and truly feel the "wonder" when finished.

Adriana, bookseller: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. Equal parts Capote & Fitzgerald, and just as brilliantly written, Rules of Civility will have you reading through the night but ultimately wishing you’d savored it just a little bit more. This is definitely my pick for book of the year.

Adrian, Book Buyer: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. I loved this remarkable, thoroughly researched novel about Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife and possibly his greatest love. And despite the fact that we know how the story ends, what comes before is a fascinating, engrossing read. From the early penny-pinching heady days of first love, to their friendships with the literati of Jazz Age Paris--the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, the Pounds, the Murphys, and many more--this story reveals a Hemingway who, while uncertain of his writing ability, is fiercely determined to be a successful author. From the adrenaline driven days in Pamplona watching the famed bullfights to the snowy ski slopes of the Alps, the reader is drawn into their love story…one that begins so hopefully but ends in heartbreak. This novel would spark a great book group discussion.

... and one more (because she is our Head Book Buyer)...

Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer Holland. Opposites really do attract! You cannot look at this book without smiling! The perfect book for animal lovers.

Rob, bookseller, Office Supplies, Cheese Concierge: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. A novel that is beautifully written and to me to 1930's New York City.

The book The Night Circus by Erin Morgestern was without a doubt one of the staff's most talked about novels, and this year for the first time, several members of the staff were unable to name any other book as 2011's best.

James, bookseller: With it's truly unique imagery and blending of genres, my favorite book of the year is Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. You can truly tell I love a book if I take the chance to give my copy away. As of now, I have no idea where my dog-eared advanced reader's copy might be. Every time a friend or colleague would return the book to me, I would send it on its way again. By now, I am sure it is well read and well loved.

Julie, Director of Events: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I wish I could re-read this book for the first time again.

Heather, Marketing Coordinator: The Night Circus is quite simply, compelling. Unfurling itself layer by layer, it is a labyrinth of a tale that one must wander through, much like the characters must wander through the circus discovering new tents and delights with every turn—never fully capable of exploring every crook and cranny no matter how many times they visit. This is a novel whose secrets and hidden depths will never cease to amaze, no matter how many time it is read.

Phoebe, Office Supply: One of my favorite reads this year was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I was anxious to read it because of the enthusiasm of my co workers. Even the book jacket got my attention with it’s mysterious and whimsical artwork. Then you open the book and enter a magical world. The ego of two old magicians up against each other to prove themselves. The circus is the stage of the conflict, but it becomes more than that to the characters in the book. I wish to be a reveur and follow a magical circus around the world.

Jim, bookseller: A perfect combination of fantasy with memorable characters. Magicians conjour a circus in cities around the world with two magicians unknowingly in a contest.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Seasons Readings from Algonquin's Director of Marketing Craig Popelars

This week Craig Popelars, the brilliant Director of Marketing for Algonquin Books, has graciously allowed us to reprint a Christmas anecdote on the joy of receiving books:

Christmas morning 1972. There I am with my sister and her new Dressy Bessy doll. What you don't see in this picture is the one present that I received that Christmas and still have: a hardcover of A Family Treasury of Little Golden Books. On the inside front cover was inscribed, in mom's perfect cursive, "To Craig, Merry Christmas 1972, Love Mom & Dad."

I can't tell you what ever happened to the countless Christmas presents that I received over the years--my Evel Knieval action figure with scramble van, Stretch Armstrong (OK, we gutted old Stretch to get at the toxic steroid goo inside), the Rockem Sockem Robots. What never ended up at the garage sale or tossed out were the books that mom and dad gave me each Christmas. There's Richard Scarry's Busy, Busy Town; Hear Ye of Philadelphia by Polly Curren; O.J. Simpson by Bill Gutman; the works of Ruth Chew; The Wrinkle in Time Trilogy Boxed Set; a slew of Hardy Boys hardcovers; and countless others. And while the pages have yellowed, the bindings have cracked, and the covers have faded, I'll never ever part with these treasured gifts.

Betsy Burton, owner of The King's English Bookshop told me that the most memorable Christmas gift she ever received was Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James. She said, "after reading it at age seven, I played horse during recess for the next two years, kicking and whinnying like a rodeo bronco, much to the consternation of my classmates." A good book can inspire you in the kitchen or garden. They can tempt you into updating your passport and taking that dream trip to Borneo, and they can make a toddler smile with delight. Books can bring you a little closer to celebrated art or to the far corners of the solar system. They can make you laugh out loud, and they can engage and entertain. And, yes, sometimes a good book can make you look a little foolish on the playground.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

And the Winner is...

Last night (November 16th) the 2011 National Book Award winners were announced and the Warwick's staff is delighted to see two favorites standing in the winners circle. Winning the award for Fiction was Jesmyn Ward for her novel Salvage the Bones, which Bloomsbury's George Gibson reviewed (and raved about) in The Warwick's Blog last month as our special guest blogger. Stephen Greenblatt, a renowned literary scholar, whose work is much loved by our staffers, won the Non-Fiction award for The Swerve: How the World Became Modern.

Other winners were poet Nikky Finney for Head Off & Split and Thanhha Lai for her tween novel Inside Out and Back Again.

Check out the video of the Awards Dinner below:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Classic Holmes

There are some things that I enjoy more thoroughly when they are in their natural state. I prefer a single malt scotch with a splash of spring water. If I have a Coke, I will seek out the Mexican brand that still uses cane sugar instead the high fructose corn crap. And when it comes to Sherlock Holmes, give me the one that Arthur Conan Doyle created.

Don’t misunderstand, I enjoy the latter year Holmes chronicled by Laurie King. Additionally, I have to admit to even enjoying the BBC’s complete modern re-imagining of Sherlock with the lead played by Benedict Cumberbatch (great Dickensian name that). By no means am I a Canon purist who puts every new incarnation of the great Baker Street detective through a literary inquisition where any deviation from Doyle’s original “Sacred 60” is hissed at with derision.

Still, nothing can transport me to the fog slicked cobblestone alleys of Victorian London quite like the original Holmes stories. I don’t mean it has to be Doyle’s actual words. However, it does have to be his voice. The master’s voice is unmistakable and rarely imitated successfully. Then, along comes Anthony Horowitz with The House of Silk.

Horowitz knows British period mysteries. You may have seen his pen at work if you have ever watched the WWII themed PBS Mystery Series, Foyle’s War. Obviously, he knows Britain’s Victorian period quite well too since the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate has officially approved of his new addition to the Holmes collection.

Most importantly, Horowitz knows Sherlock Holmes. He knows him so well that he trusts the voice of Doyle to continue to tell the story of 221b Baker Street’s most famous resident.

After a brief introduction where an aging Dr. Watson takes up his pen again after Holmes has passed beyond these mortal mists, we are taken back to the glorious heyday of the Sherlock Holmes and John Watson adventures. Where has this lost tale been? Watson tells us that the tale is so monstrous and dangerous that he will leave it safely with his solicitors with the express instruction that it cannot be printed until 100 years after his death.

It is just as we remembered it all. Close your eyes and you can smell the shag tobacco of Holmes’ church warden pipe as he sorts through clues to a series of murders that all have the same clue- a white silk ribbon. All of your favorite characters are here. Sherlock’s corpulent brother Mycroft, the rat-faced Inspector Lestrade, Wiggins and the Baker Street Irregulars, even Moriarty, they are all here again in glorious gas lamp lit color.

Horowitz truly pulls off the wonderful illusion that Arthur Conan Doyle has left us one last tale. One could easily imagine Anthony using one of Doyle’s psychic mediums to receive inspiration from beyond the veil.

In short, buy this book. Turn off the television for an evening. Turn out all of the house lights, save one. Brew yourself a pot of tea (don’t forget the cozy). Then sit back and lose yourself to the tale. For, the game is afoot.

James Jensen is a bookseller at Warwick's

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Salvage the Bones: Fresh & Original Fiction

This week we are honored to have a special guest blogger, George Gibson, Publishing Director of Bloomsbury USA. Here he will discuss a book that has already captivated the minds of booksellers here at Warwick's, and after hearing George's words it is sure to captivate you too.
"I have to confess that, though I am the publisher of Bloomsbury in the U.S., and Bloomsbury publishes a lot of fiction, I have never edited a novel in my life. I'm comfortable editing any kind of non-fiction, even if I don't know the subject; but I wouldn't trust myself to project into a novelist's mind, to be able to see when something isn't working and suggest solutions. That said, I love to read fiction, and experience the same thrill seasoned fiction editors enjoy when discovering a fresh voice, someone who expresses her/himself in a seemingly original way. That's the feeling I got from the first sentence of Jesmyn Ward's novel Salvage the Bones, which Bloomsbury has recently published. It is set in a small, poor town on the Mississippi Gulf coast, in the 11 days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. The narrator, Esch, 14 years old, is pregnant; her mother has died; he father is an alcoholic; her brothers dream impossible dreams; and despite the tensions between them, they manage to hold onto each other, even as the devastating storm strikes. But while the characters are utterly memorable, especially Esch, it is Jesmyn Ward's voice, her skill with language, descriptive and conversational, that pulls one in and keeps the pages turning. I have to say her description of the storm, as Esch's family scrambles to survive it, is better than anything I have read elsewhere about Katrina. All great tragedies have their literature, and now with Dave Eggers' nonfiction Zeitoun, and Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones, Katrina has a literature."

"And now, to top it off, Salvage the Bones has named one of five finalists for the National Book Award, the winner to be announced on November 16th. It is so gratifying when someone you feel has enormous skills and deserves to be discovered by readers everywhere is recognized for that talent."

"It is also enormously gratifying to collaborate with Warwick's. I know this is the store's web site, and I'm therefore preaching to the choir, but it deserves to be said: There simply isn't a better bookstore anywhere in the country. At a tumultuous time in the book industry, one thing is very clear: Our culture absolutely needs independent bookstores to survive and thrive, for without them our communities would lose an irreplaceable anchor. I don't need to tell you how terrific Warwick's is. This holiday season, I would urge you to buy one or two extra books there than you might ordinarily purchase, and give them to someone deserving. The world will be a little better place for that."

-George Gibson, Publishing Director, Bloomsbury USA

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Falling in Love with The Night Circus

There has been much talk around the store on the proper way to describe Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. Morgenstern herself has commented on her blog about the misrepresentations regarding her novel (someone, please tell the WSJ that it’s NOT Harry Potter). With reviewers glomming onto this stellar debut like booksellers to free books, I questioned my own attempts to discuss it in writing. Yet, despite the fact that I know I just cannot do it justice, I have found that I must make some effort to mention this novel, if only to get its title into the minds of my readers, so that they too can be transported by this magical tale.

I use the word magical, not because, as was mentioned previously, this novel is full of people performing magical tasks, although manipulation and illusion are a basis to the plot, but because the storytelling itself is magical in that it utterly bewitches the reader. It is easy to become enchanted by the characters and their stories, but easier so, to become enchanted by the writing itself. It’s quite simply compelling. Unfurling itself layer by layer, a labyrinth of a tale that one must wander through, much like the characters must wander through the circus discovering new tents and delights with every turn—never fully capable of exploring every crook and cranny no matter how many times they visit.

I hesitate to describe the plot, I can’t do it justice, I can only say that at this base of this novel are a man and women, bound together in a competition. The circus, Le Cirque des Rêves, is the venue. The rules are unclear, the outcome unknown, but their actions will set the course for the impossible to happen. The circus is not just a location or thing; it is a full-blown character, wholly fleshed, a living breathing intricate part of this novel. All things are possible in the world of Le Cirque des Rêves and thus, for the reader of the The Night Circus, the possibilities of this novel and the places it can transport are limitless. The human characters are just as gripping, their stories intricately entwined with the circus and the battle in which they have been caught. These people live and breath for the reader, their actions mysterious, yet oddly familiar by the novel’s close. Morgenstern creates them so that in the end the possibilities for their futures are infinite.

I can say no more, I don’t have the skill, not for such a complex, yet dream-like feat of imagination. I can only praise an author who has made me want to revel in the depths of her pages, visiting them again and again, never tiring of the familiar or ceasing to be amazed by newly revealed treasures. This is a novel whose secrets and hidden depths will never run out. I leave readers then with this quote from the novel; it far better explains the spellbinding qualities and enormity of The Night Circus, as Friedrick Thiessen, describes the captivating allure of Le Cirque des Rêves.

“I find I think of myself not as a writer so much as someone who provides a gateway, a tangential route for readers to reach the circus. To visit the circus again, if only in their minds, when they are unable to attend it physically. I relay it through printed words on crumpled newsprint, words that they can read again and again, returning to the circus whenever they wish, regardless if time of day or physical location. Transporting them at will.”

“When put that way, it sounds rather like magic, doesn’t it?” (The Night Circus, Part V, Divination)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rules of Civility = Awesome

You may have heard - either by visiting the store, our website, our Facebook page, or our Twitter feed - that Warwick's has just started a new program called the Signed First Editions Club. This is a program that, as book people & readers, we're really excited about. There's no gimmick, no extra fees or nonsense - here's how it works: sign up, leave your credit card info with us (we've been trustworthy booksellers since 1896), and every month we get you signed, first editions of brand new books. Every month will feature something new & enticing - authors we're excited about, books we've been lucky to read in advance, titles from award-winning authors, and noteworthy debuts. (Check out for more details on billing, shipping, etc.)

So, our first title, selected for the month of August 2011, is a debut novel called Rules of Civility, written by Amor Towles. If you've ever set foot inside Warwick's, you know that we pride ourselves on having a very well-read staff who are skilled in the timeless art of book recommendation. We'd never knowingly steer you wrong - what would be the point of that? That said, our booksellers Julie, Adrian, Seth, Janet, Emily, and Barbara have all read and truly loved Rules of Civility. As if that weren't enough of an endorsement, our Penguin Putnam sales rep, Tom Benton (a one-time Publisher's Weekly Rep of the Year) has offered his plug as well. Tom is the bookseller's bookseller, essentially, and he always knows if a certain title will work for one of our booksellers. (Personally, Tom was very persistant in getting me to read Ron Carlson's Five Skies back in 2007, sending me multiple copies with hand-written notes. The book ultimately turned out to be one of the best books I've ever read in my life & Carlson is now one of my favorite living writers. I have never doubted Tom again.) Tom wrote the following little piece about the book for us:
First, let me introduce myself. I sell the hardcover books for the Penguin Group, and it is a great honor to be able to introduce Rules of Civility. My favorite part of the job is the discovery of a talented new writer. When a debut novel blows me away, so accomplished that I can't believe it is a first novel, there is nothing more exciting than telling everyone I know about the book - booksellers around my territory, my wife, even the parents at my kids' school. When I love a book, I want to get it into as many hands as possible. If I'm lucky, I have this feeling once or twice a year. I knew as soon as I began reading Rules of Civility that it would be one of those books.
The opening pages set the scene as Katey, our main character, comes across a portrait of Tinker Gray, an old friend, in the Museum of Modern Art. It's 1966 and the sight of Tinker transports her back 30 years to New Year's Eve 1937. Amor Towles does a masterful job recreating the Manhattan of that period. Seeing this world of high society through her eyes is completely captivating - the music, the nightlife, even the bygone world of magazine and book publishing. If readers are anything like me, they crave books that take them into another world, another time, and Rules of Civility does this beautifully. It is smart, witty and a pure pleasure to read - the perfect summer book. I rarely underline memorable lines in books, but I found myself doing it repeatedly throughout this book.
So I hope Rules transports you as it did me. I envy you the discovery. I can't wait to hear what Warwick's customers think - feel free to let me know at I write this with great pride and excitement, knowing that Warwick's has chosen Rules of Civility as the book to inaugurate the store's new Signed First Editions Club. As much as I love this first selection, I can't wait to see what Warwick's chooses next! I know that I - and you - won't be disappointed.
We hope you won't be disappointed either! September's selection is The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh and October's is Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks. Sign up today!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Down the Blood Red Road

It’s young adult time. In the months since I last wrote about a young adult title we have seen a marked upsurge in YA book sales to adults, thanks primarily to the epic that is The Hunger Games. So, I thought that this would be the perfect time to tell you all about a new book (like Hunger Games, already optioned as a film, to be directed by Ridley Scott) sure to excite fans of the genre.

Moira Young’s debut young adult novel Blood Red Road, is a searing adventure that follows Saba, an eighteen-year-old girl searching for her kidnapped twin as she travels throughout a desolate and what can only be assumed to be post-apocalyptic world. The first-person prose is unique in that it is told in a dialect rather reminiscent of an uneducated “hill person”, with spelling to match. Grammar has been thrown by the wayside by Young, with words written as they sound; understands becoming “unnerstands”, distinctly becoming “distinckly” and an abundance of “yers”, “ain’ts”, “gits” and “whaddayas”. Punctuation hardly exists here. The text flows, one sentence into another, speakers not differentiated by quotations, thoughts running into each other. In other words, exactly what it would look like if an uneducated eighteen-year-old’s thoughts were mapped out into text. At first I have to admit I found this distracting, but after a few chapters I got used to the cadence of Saba’s speech, and found myself sucked into an utterly captivating story of survival, filial devotion, desolation, and love.

It could be said that Blood Red Road is a nice mash-up of Mad Max, Dune, and The Hunger Games. This is not a sweet world that Saba lives in. It is desert. It is sand storms that constantly suck away or reveal the vestiges of  “Wrecker” life, or as we come to discover, the world that we the readers come from. This place is primitive. The people living without the written word, technology, or education, and suffering under the influence of a mind-numbing drug called chaal and a tyrannical leader who either enslaves his people or throws them into a cage, where they fight gladiator style for the amusement of the rabid hordes of chaal-addicted citizens.  The few outside of the drug’s influence form their own alliances, living on the outskirts of what could be deemed ”civilization” acting as highway robbers, and eventually revolutionaries.

Saba’s journey is a nice blend of coming-of-age and bloody survival in a world that has lost all bearings of sanity and decency. Young does a fine job of creating a unique cast. The band of characters that surround her on this journey are mysterious enough to keep you in the dark about their histories and personal motivations, but at the same time fully formed and endearing. Saba herself is a nice blend of insecurity, leadership, and warrior as she starts to learn who she is without her twin brother.

In the age of trilogies and never-ending series, what struck me most, aside from the wonderful storytelling, is that, while this is to be the first in a series, the book can easily be read on its own. The main story is tied nicely together, no hanging storylines to frustrate the reader, forcing them to come back to the next book just to find out what happens next. Instead, the reader will come back for the sheer enjoyment of the world and it’s characters, not to mention there are enough hints and unsolved little plot twists to keep the reader completely checked-in for the next installment

I picked up this book and literally did not put it down. I thoroughly enjoyed it and cannot wait to hear the responses of other readers.

Heather Christman is a bookseller & the Marketing & Co-op Coordinator at Warwick's.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Evening with the Warwick's Booksellers, 2011 edition

On Tuesday, June 14th, we hosted our annual Evening with the Warwick's Booksellers - a blockbuster event featuring six of our booksellers talking about some of the recent books that they're passionate about. Here's the full run down of what was discussed - bookseller comments are in quotes & you can click on any of the titles to see the synopses on

Julie Slavinsky, Director of Events & Community Relations:
The Bells by Richard Harvell - "A truly magnificent debut novel. Set in the 18th-century Swiss Alps, this hauntingly beautiful story of a young boy, brutally separated from his mother, raised and betrayed by the monks who swore to protect him, and his ultimate rise as a musico. As compelling as the story is, Harnell's descriptions have you feeling every sound. If you loved Suskind's Perfume, you won't want to miss this. A story that will stay with you long after the last note is sung."
Perfume by Patrick Suskind
An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh - on sale August 23, 2011.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - on sale September 13, 2011

Jim Stewart, bookseller:
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson - by the author of the bestselling Devil in the White City.
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough - latest by the 2-time Pulitzer winner (Truman, John Adams)
New York by Edward Rutherfurd - "New York history is beautifully described, using generations of families to carry the reader from event to event. Rutherfurd details incredible experiences by a variety of characters and families. The book is entertaining and will please lovers of history and historical fiction."
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht - also strongly recommended by Julie, John, and Seth. One of our favorite books this year, as a staff.
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan - winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award. A finalist for the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award. Named one of the Best Books of 2010 by the New York Times.

Seth Marko, Web Coordinator/Book Buyer:
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin - "The dialogue! Pitch-perfect, down-home, rural Mississippi, without being at all condescending or hokey. And I know this is one of those clichéd things we always say, but the characters (esp. Silas and Larry) are just so vividly rendered, they all seem just like people that you’re positive you’ve met somewhere in your life, but just can’t quite remember when or where. Larry has lived a hard life in his hometown, under the weight of the presumption that he kidnapped & murdered someone as a teenager. His one-time friend Silas has recently returned to town as a police constable, only to encounter another possible murder case at Larry’s doorstep. Ah, but all is not as it seems with these folks in little Chabot, Mississippi & the resulting story that unfolds is a fascinating character study wrapped up in one of the most compelling murder mysteries I’ve ever read. Just a fantastic novel."

Galore by Michael Crummey - "Galore is filled with weird little vignettes about the people of Paradise Deep, Newfoundland - all imbued with a magical spark and a folkloric vibrancy that sucks the reader into its undertow and deposits them for the duration amongst the bizarre folk populate the town. The family Devine and the family Sellers are the integral cogs in the machinations here, driving the story forward with their slights, feuds, disagreements, illicit love affairs, snubs, fistfights, and secret children. Inextricably linked together, they are Paradise Deep, in the end, whether they like it or not. The story arcs over the course of 100 years or so in this tiny town, tracing familial lineages as they intersect and merge to create a beautifully complicated family tree. Always hovering amongst the branches of that tree is the mysterious Judah, pale, mute, ageless, literally pulled from the belly of a whale, yet infinitely more complicated, magical, and brilliant than anyone gives him credit for. He's the star of the show, the white whale always alluded to but never caught, as his significance manages to slip through our fingers until the last glimpse of him vanishes behind a wave in the final act."

The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart - "Debut novelist Machart writes with a sparse, raw style reminiscent of early Cormac McCarthy, right down to the dusty, early-20th century Texas roads, the silent, brooding ranchers, and the tobacco smells of darkened saloons. As compelling as the saga of the emotionally-stunted, broken Skala family is, (and believe me, it is) the imagery is what really struck me: the gasoline-driven arson of a horse barn, the twisted necks of the Skala boys, the splashing mud of a high stakes horse race wager in the driving rain. Pretty great."

Citrus County by John Brandon - "A powerful, funny, bizarre little novel of adolescent longing, loss, and general, everyday misery that creaks along down the darkened halls of narrative with a resounding reality and clarity of prose unlike most current fiction I have seen. 30 pages in, 14-year-old punk, Toby commits a deplorable, unforgivable, indefensible act that becomes the central pillar of this weird little book. As hard as it is for us to understand what Toby has done, it’s even harder for him – the resulting story is funny, scary, dark, oddly heartwarming, & unlike anything else you see around you right now. Definite next-step reading for fans of other up-and-comers Wells Tower, Philipp Meyer (American Rust), & the like. Loved it."

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles - on sale July 26, 2011. "Set in the Gatsby-ish world of 1938 New York, this follows a pivotal year in the life of Katey Kontent as she buzzes through the upper echelons of NY society. Far more interesting than just that, Towles has a remarkable gift for character, dialogue, and sense of place. A truly transportative debut." Also recommended by Julie.

Rhonda Jenson, bookseller:
Yellow Leaves by Frederick Buechner
My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe
Heart of the City by Ariel Sabar - "Inspired by his research during the writing of his book (My Father’s Paradise) about his parents’ love story with each other and New York City, Sabar decided to write about other couples. All of these couples had one thing in common; they had all met and fallen in love in New York City. Each chapter is dedicated to one couple, and each couple is different in background and time period. The reader also learns about the sociology and history of New York City as well. It is a love story primarily of that magical city."

John Hughes, Book Buyer/bookseller:
Doc by Mary Doria Russell - "Russell’s second foray into historical fiction delivers a more moving, more humorous, and more authentic tale of Dr. John Henry “Doc” Holliday than has ever been seen on the screen or the printed page. Set in Dodge City, before the legendary shootout at the OK Corral, Doc captivates with its fascinating characters — especially Doc’s brilliant and high-strong Hungarian companion, Kate, and his taciturn best friend, Wyatt Earp — and its perfectly rendered depiction of the Old West. The best book I’ve read set in the Old West since Lonesome Dove."

Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff - "Zuckoff tells the story of a WWII plane crash in a valley in the isolated mountains of New Guinea. Of the 24 G.I.s and WACs (Women’s Army Corp) aboard the plane, only three survive — a beautiful WAC and two G.I.s. Surrounded by warrior tribes that had never seen such people and trapped in an inaccessible valley, this fascinating book tells of cultural interactions and misunderstandings as well as the remarkable story of these soldiers’ rescue."

Moby Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them by Donovan Hohn - "The title says it all. Hahn’s story is at once an adventure tale, science narrative, and cautionary environmental tale. It is also, at times, laugh-out-loud funny."

The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips - "It is our great and good fortune that Arthur Phillips’ father, on his deathbed, gave to his son an undiscovered play of William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Arthur. Maybe not such good fortune: the play is preceded by a lengthy introduction in which Arthur Phillips tells his own twisty personal story in an effort to get us to accept that this play is not a play of Shakespeare’s. Phillip’s brilliant novel is ironic, inventive, and thought-provoking."

Heather Christman, Marketing & Co-op Coordinator:
Bent Road by Lori Roy - "This new novel brilliantly captures the small town aura of 1960's Kansas. Flitting between the 3rd person narratives of four characters - Celia, her two youngest children Daniel and Eve-ee, and her sister-in-law Ruth, the novel manages to be both literary in its encapsulation of small town life and prejudice and intriguing in its presentation of two mystery subplots, the unexplained death of Eve (Celia's sister-in-law) decades before, and the sudden disappearance of a young girl. It is easy to become sucked in to the world of these characters, to feel sorrow with them, dear for them, and to be angered by their actions. The ability of Roy to elicit this response from a reader as a first time novelist says a lot about her writing prowess. I would highly recommend this new novel to lovers of solid character-driven fiction."

The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes - "This story of ill-fated lovers, which switches back and forth throughout several years, and then again decades, is bittersweet and captivating in its telling. Using multiple narratives over a forty-year span, Moyes engages readers with the fragility of her characters, and then takes our breath away with their ultimate emotional courage. This is one of those weekend reads that tugs at the heartstrings and reminds us of why An Affair to Remember is still such a popular film."

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf - "Some stories build upon themselves slowly pulling the reader in, others suck you in from page one and don't let go until the final words. This is how These Things Hidden hit me. Told in alternating first person narratives, These Things Hidden delves into the story of Allison Glenn and how her actions 5 years ago set forth into motion a series of events that would alter the lives forever of three other women. Told through the voices of Allison; 22, former golden girl, and recently released from prison; Brynn, her troubled younger sister; Charm, a young woman struggling with the eminent death of her stepfather; and Claire, the adoptive mother of a young boy. Gudenkauf slowly reveals the events which led to Allison's imprisonment as a 16-year old girl. Brilliant in its measured unfurling of events and secrets, this is a scintillating tale of suspense and tragedy sure to intrigue and enthrall its readers."

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson - "The subject if memory, or the lack thereof, is the premise of this debut psychological suspense. Christine wakes up every morning shocked by her surroundings. Sometimes she is a small child, at others a 20-something university student, but never is she the middle-aged woman that appears in the mirror. Christine suffers from a form of amnesia - every every time she falls asleep, she loses her memories and must rely on the man claiming to be her husband to fill in the missing pieces of her life. Watson weaves an interesting tale - he deftly handles the horror of Christine's situation, sucking the reader into her fears, and the panic and utter terror of life without a past. An impressive debut, one sure to hook readers quickly and successfully."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Before I Go to Sleep

The subject of memory, or the lack there of, is the premise of debut psychological suspense Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson. Christine wakes up every morning shocked by her surroundings. Sometimes she is a small child, at others a twenty-something university student, but never is she the middle-aged woman that appears in the mirror. Christine suffers from a form of amnesia slightly similar to that made famous in the film Memento; every time she falls asleep she loses her memories; an affliction that has haunted her (although she does not know it) for twenty years. Her life and memories rest within the hands of her husband Ben, a man she has no memory of.

We are all liars. We change the past in our minds to save ourselves the pain and humiliation of past deeds and events. We alter the good and make it better to heighten our sense of euphoria. We dampen the bad on occasion, but sometimes we blow it up, making it far worse than it was in reality. We are the masters of our own minds, memories, and thoughts - at least we think we are, but sometimes we are fooled by our own psyches, tricked into believing the fantasies we’ve created, and never able to draw the truth from beneath the layers of deceits and half truths we have fed ourselves. This concept is one which makes the premise of Before I Go to Sleep so compelling. Christine cannot discern what her truths are, she has no memory, only brief snippets from her life, rarely the same each day, to guide her. When she begins, at the behest of her doctor, to record her thoughts and snippets of remembrance in a journal, the question for both her and the reader becomes, “how much can you trust yourself not to manipulate the truth”.

As Christine, with the aid of her journal, begins to “remember” more she must choose who she can trust - herself, her friend, husband, or doctor - because parts of her memory are returning and someone is willing to kill her to ensure her memory never awakens again.

The thrill of this novel is that the reader only ever knows as much as the narrator. Christine’s life unfolds for us as the pages of her journal, Watson keeps us just as much in the dark confusing world of Christine’s memories as he does with Christine herself. I do have to say that I figured a few elements out rather early, but Watson did enough misleading, to lead me on a few different paths, none of which were remotely close to the final outcome. Watson weaves an interesting tale, he deftly handles the horror of Christine’s situation, sucking the reader into her fears, and the panic and utter terror that we would all feel in her situation. An impressive debut, one sure to hook readers quickly and successfully.

**Find out how to win a free copy of Before I Go to Sleep:!**

Heather Christman is a bookseller & the Marketing & Co-op Coordinator at Warwick's.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Dispatches From Beyond the Books

Jan Carson's "Japanese Maple"
Warwick's is about so much more than books, as you may have noticed upon visiting 7812 Girard Avenue. In fact, books only make up about half of what we offer - there's a whole half to the store that sells office supplies, gifts, pens, fine leather goods, stationery... so much great stuff! How did you miss all that?! 

Anyway, in an effort to highlight some of the spectacular & unique items that we stock, our General Manager, Mr. Joe Porteous will be periodically offering blog posts on some of the products that our crack team of buyers have found that you'll not see in other stores.  

Some of the most unique products in Warwick’s are not even on the sales floor. You might not even notice that we have over 40 mobiles hanging from our “sales ceiling”.

One of our new additions is from Moon-Lily Silk Mobiles, by the artist Jan R. Carson. Carson describes her work as “snapshots of nature in motion.” She makes her mobiles in Colorado using only hand tools with lightly starched silk and fine gauge stainless wire. The lightweight materials and perfect balance make the mobiles dance around the room with the slightest breeze. I put the Stylized Leaf Mobile over my bed. I think it’s why I sleep like a baby.

The Japanese Maple sells for $247.95, and the Stylized Leaf is $187.95, but go to her website if you want to see her whole collection (, and let us know which mobile you want Jan to make for you. You can find out more about the artist at

Don Jose Fabiola de Sevilla or "The Matador"
Another mobile artist team I want to mention is Michael Hatton and Gabriel Stoner. Working out of their studio in Kansas, they use brilliant-colored, sturdy, anodized aluminum, wire and sheeting to create their mobile art. My personal favorite is “Don Jose Fabiola de Sevilla”, or “The Matador.” (I promise that no bulls where harmed in the making of this mobile.) Designer Hatton suggests reading James Michener's Iberia to complement this spectacular mobile, by the way. “The Matador” sells for $225.00, and to see the whole Stoner/Hatton collection, go to

In addition to the featured artists, we also carry mobiles from Flensted (, Hotchkiss (, and Authentic Models ( Our selection starts at around $30, so we have a mobile to fit any budget.

***From Friday May 27th through Sunday June 3rd, mention this blog and receive 10% off any of our mobiles.***

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Are You Seth? vol.13 (Rainy Day Noir Edition)

Since it's such a rare rainy day in May here in San Diego (usually we just have the May Gray mornings without the water coming down) I thought I'd recommend a handful of good, new rainy-day noir books to read.

First of all, you should definitely be checking out the brand new San Diego Noir collection from Akashic Books, edited by Mysterious Galaxy's own Maryelizabeth Hart. This latest in the series of city-oriented noir fiction features stories by SoCal greats T. Jefferson Parker, Don Winslow, and Debra Ginsberg - and even better, you can meet Jeff, Don, & Debra, along with fellow contributors Gabe Barillas and Cameron Pierce Hughes on Wednesday night this week, the 18th of May at 7:30, right here at Warwick's. While, yes, this bit reads like a plug for our event, this is the perfect rainy read, don't you think? Visions of the seedy underbelly of America's Finest City go well with heavy cloud cover and misting Southern California rains, I think. Come to the event, as it's sure to be an interesting "discussion" with these five.

Elsewhere, there's the latest novel from Philip Kerr, Field Gray - the latest in a series of 1940's crime noir that I've been championing for years. Kerr originally wrote three novels about Bernhard Gunther in the early 1990's (now collectively known as Berlin Noir) which chronicled the detective's life as a pre-WWII Berlin hotel detective and just after the war as a private-eye of sorts. Bernie is a throwback to the Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett type of protagonist - a surly, smart, sharp-tongued, ladies man, he smokes & drinks his way among both the bottom dwellers and the upper crust of Berlin society as he attempts to right the wrongs of the world he lives in. This is no small task in Nazi Germany, of course, and his path has taken him into the belly of the beast in books past, leading him to exile in South America. Just as Field Gray begins, Bernie is picked up in a boat off the coast of Cuba in 1954 by American operatives, who proceed to try and get him to fill in some intelligence gaps to avoid being tried for war crimes. Bernie's recollections fill in a lot of the gaps left open by the previous six books, bringing his story full circle back to Berlin 1933, his reluctant donning of the field gray uniform of the SS in 1941, and life in a Russian gulag after Stalingrad in 1945. Of course, Bernie doesn't like to cooperate with any government or their operatives, so he's always working his mouth toward an exit strategy. The best part is that you don't have to have read the previous books, as this stands alone as a brilliant crime noir, much like Alan Furst, if that's your thing.

Since Scandinavian crime novels seem to be the genre du jour these days, I'm hoping you've at least heard of Jo Nesbo from Norway, but I'm guessing not. (You may have seen the Vanity Fair bit on him in April.) Personally, after having read all of Henning Mankell and enough of Stieg Larrson, I can unequivocally state that Nesbo is a far, far better writer than they. His previous three novels to be translated for the American market - The Redbreast, Nemesis, and The Devil's Star - have featured Oslo detective Harry Hole (I'm told that his last name is pronounced "hoo-luh," thankfully) a hard-drinking, Doc-Maarten-wearing, chain-smoking hardass. I loved the previous three books - involving Norway's dark secrets from WWII (Redbreast), a less-than-reliable narrator/murder suspect in Harry (Nemesis), and an underlying thread of violence and mistrust at the hands of one of Harry's fellow detectives which runs through all three. The Snowman, the latest translation to hit our shores, is actually the 7th book in the series, as Nesbo recently switched American publishers, thus skipping the 6th book, at least for the time being. While readers of the previous books may be annoyed by some finer plot points as this one gets going, The Snowman is actually a great starting point for new readers as it remains unattached to the previous books. This centers not so much on Harry's life outside his world of detecting, at least as much as it doesn't intersect with the crimes he's investigating. There appears to be a serial killer at work in Oslo, pretty much a historical impossibility - Norway has never had a documented serial killer. Someone seems to be brutally murdering women around town, leaving a creepy signature snowman nearby each time. Harry thinks the crimes are related, of course, but he has a hard time connecting the dots as the killer stays several steps ahead of him the whole time. The relentless Norwegian press wants answers, putting tremendous pressure on Harry to find the killer, which leads to a huge political mess and even more murdering. I read a lot of crime fiction, as you can tell, and the climactic sequence in this one had even jaded ol' me on the proverbial "edge of my seat," as they say. Good, dark fun.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Do you know "Where She Went"?

A couple of years ago I read a book that stuck with me. It was one of those teen novels that an adult can pick up and devour, one which I’ve seen more adults love than teens. I loved this book, spoke about it often, wrote about it, and even spoke about it at the 2009 Warwick’s Reading Group Recommends Night. Here’s a brief snippet of what I had to say:
“Mia is a promising cellist living a fulfilling life with her parents, young brother, and boyfriend, when in the blink of an eye her entire world is taken away. As she sees her past and the promise of an uncertain and painful future Mia must make a heart wrenching choice: let go of her tenuous hold on life, or stay, live without all that she holds dear. If I Stay by Gayle Forman is the most compelling book I’ve read this year, and surprisingly enough it is a teen novel. This is an amazing debut novel that pulls you in and does not let go.”
It’s true, this book stayed with me, and two years on I still remember the visceral effect this book had on my emotions. It is one of the few books I had to sit and contemplate upon finishing, rather than hop directly onto the next book. I even downloaded the music mentioned in it - and have become a fan of many of the songs - because I wanted those unique feelings to last.

Where She Went, the sequel to this amazing debut came out on the first Tuesday in April. Taking place three years after the horrific accident that destroyed Mia’s family, this book is told from the point of view of Adam, Mia’s former boyfriend, the person who made Mia stay in this world, when it would have been so easy to let go. Adam, now a famous musician, is barely holding it together mentally, emotionally, and socially when a chance encounter with Mia, a rising star in the classical world, sets off a night of remembrance that will finally give him the answer to where she went and why she stayed.

I don’t know how she does it, but Gayle Forman manages to tap into your emotions in a way few authors can. You feel not only for the characters, but also with them. If I Stay was such an emotional roller coaster, dealing with the pain of loss and question of living with that pain or leaving it all behind, and Where She Went is equally brilliant emotionally, but here it is the anger of being left (physically and metaphysically) behind that rolls over the reader like a tidal wave. Her use of music and lyrics are inspired - truly tapping into the importance of music within the lives of Mia and Adam, but also how much we, the readers rely on music and its cathartic powers in our everyday lives. It’s as though she has this brilliant score running beneath the text, not so noticeable that it detracts, but just enough to add to our understanding of the plot and character development. She moves us with music without us ever hearing a single chord. I don’t know how she does it, but I want more.

If every book could this good, more people would be reading. I don’t know how to put it more succinctly than that. There are “must reads” and there are “read this nows”. Read this set of books now, you will crave more.

- Heather

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rep Pick Night 2011

On the evening of Monday, February 28th, Warwick's hosted seven representatives from some of the best publishing houses around for a Rep Pick Night, where the reps selected some of their favorite recent and forthcoming titles to tell our customers about. We had a packed house, chips & salsa were eaten, wine was drunk, and free books were given away - not to mention that everyone in attendance received an extra discount on every book purchased. Here's a sampling of the evening's picks with a video included:

Wade Lucas, Random House:
Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
The Sriracha Cookbook by Randy Clemens
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
The Land of Painted Caves by Jean Auel

Sandy Pollack, Random House
I Was a Dancer by Jacques d' Amboise
House of Prayer No.2 by Mark Richard
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson
The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

Andrea Tetrick, PGW/Perseus Book Group:
Eden Hunter by Skip Horack
Granta 113
The Still Point by Amy Sackville
Towards the Setting Sun: John Ross, the Cherokees and the Trail of Tears by Brian Hicks
The Veganist by Kathy Freston

Tom Benton & Amy Comito, Penguin/Putnam:
You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
When the Killing's Done by T.C. Boyle
The Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Mike Slack, Macmillan:
Tiger Tiger by Margaux Fragoso
Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
20 Under 40

Gabe Barillas, HarperCollins:
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
She Wolves by Helen Castor
Caribou Island by David Vann
Wench by Dolores Perkins
Clockwork Universe by Edward Dolnick

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bent Road by Lori Roy (review)

In a season of remarkable debuts it is often difficult to choose which new novel to pick-up. Do I want a thriller? A tear-jerker? A literary tour de force? It can prove to be nearly impossible to choose the “right” debut. As a lover of the dark and edgy I tend toward the debuts that are a little less literary and a little grittier, but despite my love of the sinister, I found myself pulled into debut novelist Lori Roy’s Bent Road.

While I would hesitate to call Bent Road a psychological suspense or even a dedicated mystery, I can say that it is an engrossing read. This new novel brilliantly captures the small town aura of 1960’s Kansas. Flitting between the 3rd person narratives of four characters; Celia, her two youngest children Daniel and Eve-ee, and her sister-in-law Ruth, the novel manages to be both literary in its encapsulation of small town life and prejudice and intriguing in it’s presentation of two mystery subplots, the unexplained death of Eve (Celia’s sister-in-law) decades before, and the sudden disappearance of a young girl. I say subplots because while both are essentially the blood in the veins of this story, their strength in terms of plot falls in comparison to the infinitely more interesting character study that this novel becomes. It is easy to become sucked into the world of these characters, to feel sorrow with them, fear for them, and to be angered by their actions. One becomes far more concerned with the thoughts and actions of these individuals than the (to my mind) less interesting mystery-plot. The ability of Roy to elicit this response from a reader as a first time novelist says a lot about her writing prowess. In this period of phenomenal debuts, I would highly recommend this new novel to lovers of solid character-driven fiction.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Are You Seth? vol.12

Alright, so it's been awhile since I posted a review of any kind on the Warwick's blog - in fact, the last volume of "Are You Seth?" was posted in July 2010 and was for Anthony Doerr's Memory Wall. I mention this because Doerr just recently won the 2011 Story Prize for that very same collection - clearly I was on to something! So, in an effort to breathe new life into the blog - which we think could really use a better name & are open to suggestions - here are 2 new books that I think you should read.

Wait, no, you HAVE to read these.

We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen
First of all, feast your eyes on that beautiful jacket art. (Illustrated by Joe McLaren, jacket design by Susanne Dean, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.) If this isn't reason enough to keep books in a physical format, I don't know what is. (The artwork is definitely the reason I picked this up in the first place.) I really have nothing against eBooks, but this is the sort of thing we lose when we go all-digital. I'm just sayin'.

Even better, it's a gorgeous novel on the inside as well. Originally published in Danish in 2006, it won the highest literary prize in Denmark and was picked as the best Danish novel of the last 25 years by the readers of the country's largest newspaper. Spanning the years & generations from 1848 to 1945, We follows the sailors of Marstal - a tiny island town & the center of Danish seafaring pride - as they travel the oceans of the world - from Samoa to Newfoundland, Australia to London, Casablanca to Dakar, Murmansk to Greenland, and back home to Marstal. Always back to Marstal, where the women wait, worry, and grieve.

Through the years, as Marstal's place in the world evolves, a different narrator escorts us across the globe and back to Denmark again. As each narrative voice moves on, another from their life picks up the tale & makes it their own. When on dry land, the people of Marstal tell the story in a collective “we” – a narrative device that Jensen wields with majestic clarity & grace. Funny & poignant, heartwarming & powerful, yet dark & foreboding in a way that only the events of our own world can actually be. After 674 pages, I was still blown away by the final, heart-rending page. One of the best books I've ever read.

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht
This is already turning into the hot book of the year, so forgive me if you've already heard about it. (Seriously, it's huge right now - Random House has already gone back to press at least three times, even though it's only been on sale for a week.) Last summer, Obreht - at the tender age of 24! - was named one of the New Yorker's 20 Under 40 and this is her subsequent stellar debut novel. She had this to say to the New York Times this week about her new fame:
"I still haven’t taken it all in. It already seems like such a long time from the moment when I said to myself, ‘Somebody likes it, somebody bought it, and it’s going to have a cover!’ The other evening I gave a reading, and someone came up to me afterwards and said, ‘The Deathless Man is my favorite character.’ My immediate reaction was: how do you know about the Deathless Man? When you’re writing, you’re working on this private world that becomes more and more real to you, but it’s still your own. And then to discover that suddenly other people can access it - in a way that really shocks me."
The rundown: Natalia is a young doctor on a diplomatic mission across the border of her war torn Balkan homeland to deliver vaccines to an orphanage. While there, she learns that her beloved grandfather has died in a remote village far from his home. Knowing that he was gravely ill & never would never have travelled without a reason, she becomes convinced that he was in search of "the deathless man" - a longstanding, mysterious figure from the stories he told her as a child. As Natalia sets out to uncover the mystery of her grandfather's final days, she learns more about herself, her family's past, and her country than she ever though possible and finds that all the answers she seeks lie within the stories of her grandfather.

Obreht mixes together Natalia's contemporary story of life in her ravaged homeland (she was born in the former Yugoslavia, herself) with her grandfather's incredible stories of "the deathless man" and "the tiger's wife," to create a fantastical world grounded in the harsh reality of a region recovering from decades of war.  Foreign, yet familiar; impossible, yet true; unsentimental, yet emotional - the elements that she has managed to cull together here are melded absolutely perfectly. A stunning, stunning debut, and one that will stick in your head for long after you've turned that final page, I guarantee it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Weird Sisters

“I dreamt last night of three weird sisters…”

Told in the collective voice ala the original “weird sisters” of Macbeth fame, The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown is a wonderful new novel which follows the three Andreas sisters - young women brought up by their Shakespearean professor father to speak in verse and find life’s answers between the pages of a book. When their mother’s breast cancer draws them all home, the three sisters are inexplicably forced to deal with each other’s disappointments and face their own personal failures and fears.
“See, we love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much.”
What I loved about this book is the wonderful contradiction between the feelings of the sisters, who live by the concept of loving each other because they must, but are unable to find joy within the bitterness that they feel toward each other, and the fact that these three women who are so separate are telling their story as one being. "I" is never used in this novel, it is always we, or our, or us. This is a group of women, who although they strive to be separate from each other (to the point of alienation), cannot stop being a group, are literally not whole unless together. This contradiction between plot and the narrative is inventive and compelling, a rather original use of storytelling by the author.

Also, Brown’s depiction of the strange and often bitter relationship between sisters is so smoothly and heart-wrenchingly drawn that I found myself nodding along recognizing if not actual events, but themes from my own life as a sister and my observations of sisters over the years. She does not hold back in creating a picture of the brutality of words and actions that only a sister can use to cut apart her sibling, and also the comfort and insight that only a sister can bring to a painful situation. No one can quite hurt you or comfort you like a sister and Brown captures that feeling intelligently and emotionally.

The Weird Sisters is deceptive in that at first glance it appears light, almost chick-lit, but after close reading is far more insightful than one would ever think. This is a touching and creative novel sure to bring laughter, tears, happiness, and at times, anger to even the most casual of readers.