Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An Evening with the Warwick's Booksellers: 2012 Edition

On Tuesday, August 28th, we hosted our annual Evening with the Warwick's Booksellers - a fantastic event featuring four of our booksellers talking about some of the new books they are passionate about. Here's the full list of the books discussed - bookseller comments are in quotes & you can click on any of the titles to see the synopses on

Heather Christman, Marketing and Co-op Coordinator:
Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce: "Twenty years ago 15-year-old Tara Martin disappeared with little trace, until one Christmas morning when she appears out of the blue looking as though she were still a teenager, and claiming she was lured away by “the fairies”. Narrated by a mysterious and unknown figure with deep insight and untold answers, Some Kind of Fairy Tale is a spellbinding story that weaves itself between Tara’s unbelievable account, her family and friend’s attempts to cope and understand, and her therapist’s blunt analysis of her supposed delusion. Readers are kept on edge as they try to answer the question “Where has Tara been?” while navigating through a selection of eerie circumstances and secondary characters that enthrall with their blurred edges of reality and unusual perception. A mind-bending psychological narrative filled with mystery and beautifully written prose." 

Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer: "The Mann’s are an amazing couple-Maxon a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, is on his way to the moon, and Sunny is a heavily pregnant, seemingly perfect housewife who spends her days caring for her autistic son and maintaining her role of flawlessness within her social circle. When a freak accident exposes Sunny for what she really is--a bald, social mimic, with a penchant for exaggeration--she must decide whether to continue her efforts of conformity or embrace the differences that make her Sunny. Interspersed with the couple’s odd upbringings and courtship, Shine Shine Shine is a wonderfully funny, touching, and unique love story that charms readers with its quirks and intelligence."

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter: "Beautiful Ruins is told via a multiple third-person narrative that bounces not only between characters, but also through time, place, and narrative style. From 1962 Italy and the filming of Cleopatra, to current Hollywood, Walter’s unique style creates not only a touching story of a love that could have been, but also a deftly drawn portrait of the demise of the movie star as an untouchable god (pre extreme-paparazzi), and the transition from epic films to glamorless reality television. The novel adroitly shows the inner workings of film publicists and producers looking to exploit everything and anything to sell their products, the turmoil created by the desire to be famous, post-traumatic stress, and the general narcissism and technological dependence of the current generation. On the Hollywood front, actor Richard Burton takes a co-starring role—his actions literally spur the plot of the entire story—his drunken escapades, remarkable talent, and on-set affair with co-star Elizabeth Taylor are imaginatively recreated. The addition of an ill actress, an alcoholic former solider/writer, a canny and amoral publicity grunt, and a young Italian trying to save his dying hotel, help to create a setting that is almost film-like itself in its capture of drama. Walters also effectively uses secondary modern characters to bring together the threads of the story as it bounces between decades and characters. In all, Beautiful Ruins is intriguing, very stylized in its presentation, and a wonderful look at Hollywood’s transition from its Golden Age."

Where We Belong by Emily Giffin: "While I have typically tried to stay away from this genre of books--chick-lit, something about the premise of Where We Belong caught my interest. It wasn’t that the concept of an adopted daughter searching for her birth parents was new, it’s obviously not, but more how the story is told. Alternating between the voices of 18-year-old Kirby, and 36-year-old Marian, Where We Belong offers readers a glimpse into the minds of two very different people searching for their places in this world. This is a well-told narrative, interesting in its play out, with two characters who come across as quite real, and little more complex than your average “fluffy” book. This is instead a good novel that leaves you with the yearning to revisit these characters in a few years to see how they are doing. In all this was surprising pleasure, with no guilt attached."

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (Revisited--and the Flynn trifecta): With the success of Gone Girl it is apropos to revisit Gillian Flynn’s previous book, Dark Places and most importantly, her debut novel Sharp Objects. This novel is brilliant, shocking, and unforgettable. If you have read or have any interest in Gone Girl, you must delve into Sharp Objects. To give readers a better idea of my initial impression here is my original 2006 recommendation:

Flynn’s debut novel is chilling and often disturbing, but it contains the best use of words that I have seen in quite some time. Despite the moments I found myself cringing with discomfort, I found I was so amazed by the beauty of Gillian Flynn’s words that I could not stop reading. Sharp Objects is a book that will stay with you long after you’ve put it down. Fantastic!"

Jim Stewart, bookseller:
The American Bible by Stephen Prothero: "Stephen Prothero has brought together over 40 major documents and writings that have impacted US history. Choice commentary provides background and historical context about everything from the Star Spangled Banner and Pledge of Allegiance to speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy."

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty:  "This historic fiction places the reader in the midst of 1920’s New York . Famous silent film star Louise Brooks makes her first foray into New York, accompanied by a woman with her own agenda."

The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty:  "Hypnotherapist Ellen O’Farrell falls in love with Patrick, who has a former girlfriend, that has been following him everywhere since they broke up several years before."

Gold by Chris Cleave: "Timely for the recent Olympics, Cleave tells the story of Zoe and Kate, who first met during the 2004 games. They are track racers with a rocky friendship and readers will wonder why they are still friends, which is explained later with a surprise twist."

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen:  "Danish police detective Carl Morck is so disliked that they give him an office in the basement where he and his Syrian assistant, Assad, are tasked with trying to solve all the cold cases in Copenhagen".

Camilla Johnston, bookseller:
Sutton by J.R. Moehringer:   "We are so excited to be hosting J.R. Moehringer on October 17th, for his new novel Sutton. Departing from his usual memoir or biography, Moehringer writes about a fictional interview of infamous bank robber Willie Sutton upon his release from prison. Moehringer manages to make Sutton entirely likeable, despite topping the FBI’s most wanted list. Truly an interesting read." (To be released on 9/25/12)

Monkey Mind by Daniel Smith: "Neuroses are plaguing everyday life for author Daniel Smith as he writes this biography. Smith explains the way that neuroses can be both developed as well as inherited. Portions of the book are painful to read, as life seems so unmanageable for Smith. It is a quick read, but an unforgettable one."

The Black Count by Tom Reiss: "The same author as The Orientalist, this book follows the life of Alexander Dumas. Half-Haitin slave, Dumas managed to make his way to France and rise in the ranks of the military, despite his skin color. Similar to his previous book, Reiss illustrates the change that one person can make in themselves and their lives if given the opportunity and choice." (To be released on 9/18/12)

Death in the City of Light by David King: "If you enjoyed Devil in the White City, you will surely enjoy Death in the City of Light. This book is truly a stranger than fiction period of history, as a French doctor became a serial killer during the Nazi Occupation. Using the police dossiers and local newspapers, King shows the terror that was being created by one man, in a truly terrifying time. King also wrote Vienna 1814 and Finding Atlantis."

Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace by Kate Summerscale: "A true life Madame Bovary, this private diary from the Victorian Era is an eye opening account of women’s rights during the time. At this point divorce was new concept, and only two had been granted by Parliament previous to Mrs. Robinson. Since divorce is so common today, one forgets that it was not long ago, that it could only be act of Parliament."

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway: "While Hemingway is likely rolling in his grave due to this release, this is a great book! 47 alternate endings, and early drafts are included, as well as the final version of A Farewell to Arms. This is perfect gift book for any fan of American literature! Purists may shun the idea, but it is very interesting to see the stream of consciousness in Hemingway’s mind that led to the final product."

John Hughes, Book Buyer/bookseller:
The Candidate: What It Takes to Win — And Hold — The White House by Samuel L. Popkin

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre

The Lost Prince and The Little Book by Selden Edwards

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

Thursday, August 16, 2012

To Read or Not Read "The Iliad"

I love going to the theater. It’s my first love. I mean I love books and reading and everything that goes with that, but when push comes to shove theater will get my immediate attention. This might sound odd coming from someone who makes their living from books, someone who on a weekly basis writes on this blog about books and authors, but what many people don’t know is that my background is in theater, and having had the privilege to work, perform in, and study theater for many years I find myself feeling a little lonesome without it in my life on a daily basis. One might ask what a book blogger is doing speaking about theater when she should be discussing The Dog Stars by Peter Heller or some other newer title, but bear with me—I’ll get to the correlation.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to see La Jolla Playhouse’s An Iliad, a re-imagining of Homer’s epic poem The Iliad (the Robert Fagles translation) at the Mandell Weiss Forum. The performance is done in one act (approx. 110 minutes) as a single, yet captivating monologue. The only addition to its storyteller, known simply as “the Poet”, is a musician who interacts musically using a double bass, the metal staircase, and a variety of other small instruments and tools. The musician never speaks, but the power of his music, particularly the double bass, interweaves perfectly with the storytelling, at times overwhelming the audience with its low, occasionally violent sounds that perfectly emulate the hardships of war as described by the Poet. For his turn, the Poet, as played by actor Henry Woronicz, is an intriguing figure, alternating from a hobo-like man pacing about a sparse utilitarian set speaking to the audience as though they were sitting beside him in a way station (there is no fourth wall in this production), to this eloquent poet with a visible and visceral connection to the men within this story that he is compelled to keep repeating to the world. Woronicz and musician Brian Ellingsen perform their material beautifully, bringing the right touches of humor, drama, and horror to this epic retelling. The only fault of the play is the text itself—not that great epic poem The Iliad, or even some of the modern comparisons used to create a better picture for the audience, but in the addition of dialogue that instead of adding to the underlying “horrors of war” theme, rather took audience members out of the tale and into a bit of clock watching. It seemed as though this dialogue, lists really, would just go on and on, destined to bore the audience, despite the excellent delivery by Woronicz. For example, at one point the Poet lists off every war since the Trojan War-every war. At first I was impressed at the research that was done to give the audience a chronological listing of so many wars, many I had no recollection of hearing about in my history classes, but after what felt like several minutes I found myself just waiting to hear the end so the play could go on already. I looked at my watch a couple of times here. Now maybe I’m missing the point, perhaps the director/writer wanted to desensitize the audience in much the same way our culture has become desensitized to war and violence—in which case they succeeded with me—but overall that and a few more stanzas like it, took me and those people around me right out of tale and into time tables and thoughts that perhaps 80 minutes would have been a more ideal time. Whatever my thoughts, this small criticism certainly does not detract from the fantastic performances of the actor and musician, and the brilliance of their natural and captivating storytelling skills.

So, how do I possible connect a mini-theater review to make it relevant to a book blog? Let me try.

I don’t really remember much about reading The Iliad. I know it was in 7th grade and we followed it up with Beowulf. I remember more about the mythology; Paris, the apple, Helen, Achilles and his heel, but the nuts and bolts have left me. I’m far more familiar with its follow-up The Odyssey, both because I read it at an older age, and because a fellow student and I took key scenes and rewrote them in modern tongue for a performance back in college (see I can be a dramaturge too). But The Iliad, that was one I never did revisit. Having seen this production—hearing the parts of the epic poem as it was meant to be presented—orally, I couldn’t help, but be curious about the text itself. Enter the Fagles translation. This is a translation I have sold, ordered, and found for countless high school students. I haven’t read it, I haven’t really had an interest, but I know that it’s the preferred edition of teachers in La Jolla and after witnessing it in performance, I just might go back and peruse its depths, and then again, I might not. In some ways I’m hesitant to reread this work—I’m not shying away from the text itself, I’m not a 16 year old student any longer and certainly don’t balk at ancient texts, but after hearing and seeing Henry Woronicz’s performance I am reminded that much like Shakespeare, these works were not meant to be read to one’s self, like one would read Dickens, but they are meant to be performed, the words given life by an actor, poet, or musician; no longer merely a book, but a reenacting, a personal experience; which is far more cathartic that any words on print.

Now I’ve gone and hurt myself by basically telling readers to watch, not read. Please don’t take this to mean that in the future you should see the movie (or in this case, the play), and just forgo the book! Instead what I recommend is to see this wonderful performance, and take all of the actor’s despair, anger, humor, humanity; tuck it into a small corner of your soul and then pick-up this epic poem, allowing yourself to resurrect those feelings when reading of the friendship of Achilles and Patroclus, the death of Hector, and the fall of Troy. I think you will find it will move you beyond a reading experience, into a whole new understanding of an ancient text that still bears so much weight in the affairs of today.

It is my hope that those of you reading this will do two things—see the play and read the book. Not to sound too much like an advertisement, but I think it will change the way you see the text and to top it off (advertisement here) the La Jolla Playhouse has graciously offered to host discussions for book clubs after the performance, even going so far as to offer discounts to reading groups over 10 people, just contact Alex Goodman at For groups looking to gain more insight into Homer’s tale I highly suggest this method—it’s entertaining and enlightening.

So, moral of the blog—do the opposite of what your teacher told you to do. See the play, read the poem, get a whole new outlook on Homer. And maybe I’ll pick-up that Fagles edition and give it another whorl.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Funny you should ask…

Several customers have recently been asking for humorous or lighthearted books for themselves or friends. Well written, engaging books with humor can be hard to find. Meanwhile these are some of the titles and authors that I have found. Please feel free to add to the list.

Skinny Dip is a perfect way to begin reading Carl Hiaasen’s crazy stories that take place in southern Florida. This title has a husband pushing his wife over the ship’s railing, hoping to collect the life insurance, but forgetting that she was the captain of her college swim team.

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz features a wacky detective agency where parents run background checks on the adult daughter’s boyfriends.

Foreskin’s Lament by Shalom Auslander is a hilarious true story of an orthodox, but rather unruly, Jewish kid.

Me Talk Pretty One Day is my favorite book by David Sedaris. He is a satirist who milks his life for unbelievable (but true) tales.

Jennifer Government describes an America where everything has been privatized, including the government. Max Barry’s books are well written and devilishly funny.

Thank you for Smoking was written by Christopher Buckley, son of the late conservative impresario William F. Buckley. This title became a hit Hollywood adaptation about truth in advertising.

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich starts the Stephanie Plum series featuring a female New Jersey bounty hunter with an erratic love life. You’ll find all the sequels to be equally entertaining.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, tells the story of a young woman visiting her eccentric aunt living in the South. (i.e. While the mayor lustily chases a neighbor in the backyard next door, a brassiere is tossed over the hedge in front of CeeCee)

A Visit from the Goon Squad, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has Bennie as the music producer (with a talented assistant who is also a kleptomaniac.)

In the far reaches of satire are, of course, Jon Stewart’s Earth, which teaches aliens all they need to know about humans. Anything by The Onion is funny. Our Dumb Century is a great place to start, with its fictional descriptions and pictures from every country.

There are dozens more that can be added to the list, and I would enjoy seeing your additions. Meanwhile these can get you started on a humor junket.

Jim is a bookseller at Warwick's

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Note from Samantha: Enjoy Your Last Summer!

Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel, The Age of Miracles, has been passed around the Warwick’s staff. To date, upwards of eight staff members have finished the book – very unique for a single novel and our diverse staff. If you have yet to hear about The Age of Miracles, let me fill you in. The story takes place in suburban San Diego (Del Mar if you want to be precise), and follows the life of an eleven-year-old girl named Julia. One day, Julia and her family, along with the rest of the world, wake up to learn that the rotation of the earth has slowed down. “The slowing” affects everything – gravity, the magnetic field, plants and animals. As much about “the slowing” as it is about it affects Julia, her family, and her friendships, The Age of Miracles is my favorite book of this summer.

Back to the point. I hate to call The Age of Miracles an ‘apocalyptic’ novel, but there is no denying that “the slowing” changes everything about life as we know it (assuming we were living in Karen Thompson Walker’s fictional world). I hesitate to call it apocalyptic because to many people that kind of story is a turn-off; when they hear “apocalypse” they imagine an asteroid on an inevitable track towards earth, or a widespread outbreak of some contagious, incurable disease. They might even imagine something more recent like last summer’s fictitious Rapture or this year’s coming end to the Mayan calendar. As more and more of my coworkers finished The Age of Miracles, the more we began talking about our favorite end-of-the-world novel. Since the end of the Mayan calendar is the latest and greatest world-ending phenomenon people are buying into, here is a selection of books we recommend so you can “enjoy your last summer!” From a “Maya 2012” travel guide that will take you through Mayan Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras to Tom Perrotta’s rapture-like novel The Leftovers, you have until December 21, 2012 to get through this list. Or maybe not… I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Pure by Julianne Baggott
Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch
The Passage by Justin Cronin
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
Blindness by Jose Saragamo
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson
World War Z by Max Brooks
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
2012 by Daniel Pinchbeck
Maya 2012 published by Moon
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
Now Panic & Freak Out published by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Children of Men by PD James
City of Bohane by Kevin Barry
Alas Babylon by Pat Frank

Samantha is a bookseller at Warwick's