Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Jim's Playlist

This week we are featuring Jim's Playlist. Jim, a Warwick's bookseller since 2002, is an incredible reader--mixing fiction, non-fiction, and an array of children's books into his busy schedule. Here are his go-to books.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Many readers agree that this is one of the best books on our personal top 10 lists. Warwicks has sold almost 1,500 copies, just in paperback, since 2005 and it continues to be a bestseller. Shantaram is based on a true story: a prisoner escapes and leaves Australia for Bombay of the '60s. He lives in a slum, becomes a medic, joins the mafia, and fights against Russia for the Afghans. When he describes the slum fires, the Standing Babbas, and his life-changing travels, you know it had to be the author's first-hand experience. It's described too perfectly to be otherwise. Shantaram is an incredible story.

1001 Inventions that Changed the World by Jack Challoner
Just the right amount of text and packed with incredible photos, this is perfect for anyone with a love for nonfiction and history. Every page features a different invention, everything from Cuneiform writing to cell phones. This is an amazing array of creations with each one detailing its effect on world history. This is a dynamic and entertaining collection.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Two folk tales converge on the streets of New York at the turn of the 20th century, A clay golem, created in Europe for a man who could not find a suitable wife, is brought to life while sailing to America. Her master dies, so when she arrives a rabbi becomes her mentor. The jinni is released in a silversmith's shop while a bottle is being polished. Adapting to living with humans is an intriguing immigrant’s tale. The mystical plot twists will keep you guessing. An excellent read!

Our Dumb World by The Onion
Published by the hilarious Onion newspaper, this "atlas" pokes fun of every country in the world. Geography, world events and history are typical of the satire from its online counterpart, This is very funny book with a look at the world you've never seen.

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
To get Detective Morck from continuing to irritate other police (he solves all his cases, actually) he is assigned all the cold cases in Copenhagen and throughout Denmark. His new office for Dept. Q is in the basement. An unsolved missing persons case is his first challenge. Crimes he investigate often have a current implication, ensuring he’s not forgotten.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Reading Jasper Fforde gave me a new appreciation for the term “back story.” Thursday Next is a special operative in Literary Detection, which monitors book plots, and characters in this surreal Great Britain. Fforde has created a world in which crime occurs and a police presence is needed. In the first of this wildly fun series Jane Eyre is kidnapped. Thursday is sent into the book to find the perpetrator. In this world time travel is a normal occurrence and dodos are pets. Who would have thought that chapters were created to give characters a much needed rest?

Mission to Paris by Alan Furst
While movie star Fredric Stahl is in 1938 Paris he is asked to serve as emcee for the Reich's film festival. Little do the Nazi organizers know that Stahl is part of a secret spy service. This is a perfect place to start Alan Furst’s riveting WWII series.

Ghostman by Roger Hobbes
The anonymous "Jack" is hired by professional criminals to “clean up” a casino heist that went horribly wrong. Although the money was stolen, the ringleader never sees that cash. Jack help is needed so his boss gets the missing money and isn’t implicated in this messy crime. He has 48 hours to finish this assignment without anyone knowing who he is or what he's done, a true “ghost man.”

History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason
Piet Barol's goal is to be accepted as one of Holland's upper class, although he is born into poverty. He has practiced the manners and conventions of the rich and is prepared to be a tutor to a young man at a country estate. This first story in a planned series, Mason’s tome has been described as “Downtown Abbey with sex.” Barol fits in, almost too well, as he tries to work with a boy overwhelmed with OCD. (On YouTube the author plays the piece the boy insists on repeating.)

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Never List

The Never List is a frighteningly real psychological suspense, from debut author Koethi Zan sure to appeal to fans of Gillian Flynn and Chelsea Cain.

The basic plot of The Never List follows a young woman, who a decade ago escaped a man who held her and three other young women captive for several years. Sarah and Jennifer were college freshmen, hyper-aware of the dangers the world can offer—having survived a near fatal accident that took the life of Jennifer’s mother—and always prepared for any possible outcome; yet despite their manic preparedness the girls are kidnapped on a cab ride home from a college party. Held chained and naked in a basement, Sarah, along with two other girls, Tracy and Christine endure psychological and physical torture on par with the psychosis seen in Saw films, from a sadist of the highest ilk who also happens to be a professor of Psychology at an Oregon University. All the while Jennifer is nowhere to be seen, stuffed in a coffin-like box, unable to communicate with the others. When Jennifer is presumed dead Sarah makes a daring escape, but ten years on, with the chance of their frighteningly brilliant captor facing the possibility of parole, Sarah and Tracy go on a quest to find answers and face their demons once and for all.

The narrative, while primarily in the now, does bounce around in time, with snippets of the girls’ abduction, captivity, and escape dribbled out through the text; giving just enough to whet the appetite and fill in the holes, but not enough to completely tell the reader all that happened during the girls imprisonment. The violence is surprisingly slim, but the hints and possibilities that are leaked through words and images are enough to have even the bravest of women white knuckled. In some ways The Never List is a form of psychological manipulation; exposing the horrors, highlighting the monsters, but not quite giving all the details, which leads to imagination, which leads readers to visualize horrors that no one wants dancing around their heads. In that way, the book and writing are brilliant, what better way to get the true impact of a psychological thriller than to leave the worst of it to the readers’ own bit of psychosis? Unfortunately, the plot itself suffers a bit from an overabundance of foreshadowing and clue leaving; which makes it a bit too easy to figure out. In writing suspense it’s good to leave a clue here and there, a reader should be able to reach the novel’s conclusion and then be able to look back and find the bits and pieces that were left like little breadcrumbs leading to the eventual outcome. The writer should not spell out the conclusion—it makes for a poor twist and a groan from the readers. Debut writer Zan does the latter, the twists and outcome are a little too predictable. Fortunately, the predictability of the plot and resolution does not detract from the well-developed tension of the heroine, and ultimate horror of the acts and lifestyle perpetrated by the villains of the novel. The sheer terror evoked by their deeds is enough to have readers gripping the edge of the book in a weird amalgamation of discomfort and curiosity, both repelled by the concepts and addicted to the possible outcomes. Because the author wisely leaves out the more ghastly details the reader is not subjected to an outright description of the atrocities, making the tension one of the mind, and not of the eyes—meaning it’s not like watching a film like Saw or Hostel that leaves nothing to the imagination, showing torture for the sake of showing gratuitous violence and nothing more—the book is not apt to make one squeamish, or deeply disturbed, if anything it makes readers subtly more aware of their surroundings and the people within them.

In all, The Never List is a worthy read for psychological suspense and thriller fans. It is well constructed, frightening, and at times close enough to reality to make a reader want to check the doors and avoid cab rides. Despite the plot loopholes and predictability, the book creates a wonderful sort of edge-of-the-seat tension that can consume a reader, and lurk about long after the last pages of text are a distant memory. For a first book Koethi Zan has proved herself adept at handling a very real and scary subject, she can only get better from here, and I for one am eager to see what she does next.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tami's Playlist

This month we are featuring a selection of recommended reads from one of our newest staff members, Tami. While Tami may be new to Warwick's, she is actually one of the most experienced booksellers on staff, with over 16 years of experience in the book world. Tami is an avid reader, with an array of reading tastes and styles (and she's a member of a book club, so ask her about suggestions!). Here's what is on her playlist this month:

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Once again Hosseini transports us from Afghanistan and beyond, to Paris, San Francisco and the Greek Isles. Filled with memorable characters, we feel what it is to be human, the need to be connected, and the nature of family. In poetic prose, and epic in scope we see the ripple effect our choices make through generations to come. Beautifully told, complex and thought provoking. His best book to date and one not to be missed.

Doc by Mary Doria Russell
The history of the west comes to life with the flowing prose of Doria Russell. The well born classically trained and educated John Henry Holliday, Doc, moves to the Texas frontier to combat the effects of consumption. The refined dentist turned professional gambler partners with Kate Harony and Dodge City is forever changed. Meet the Earp brothers, Bat Masterson and a cast of colorful characters and live life before the O.K. corral.

Transatlantic by Colum McCann
A master at developing disparate stories and weaving them together, McCann has done it again. Ireland is the common thread as we witness the first flight from Newfoundland to Ireland, the life changing trip of Frederick Douglas and the brokering of a peace agreement by U.S. Senator Mitchell. Four generations of strong women characters are the fabric of this exquisitely written tale. Definitely one of the top literary books of 2013. Highly recommended.

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
Another strong story of the dysfunction of family and how love overcomes all. Liz and Bean are 15 and 12 respectively when their disillusioned mother Charlotte, who is still trying to “find herself” takes off for too long. The sisters decide to journey to Mom’s home town in Virginia and visit Uncle Tinsley where a host of past history comes to the forefront. Both heartbreaking and filled with the flaws of family, Walls paints a portrait of love overcoming all, even with the help of a couple of errant emus!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My favorite summer read of 2012. Step into a world of enchantment at the turn of the Century. A duel between two young competitive magicians, but beyond the black and white striped circus tents a love match is in the making. Ethereal, whimsical and utterly transporting you will want to join the night circus and cheer for Celia and Marco. This debut novel is mesmerizing in both imagination and beautiful prose. Enjoy!

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
A cowboy noir, think Cohen brothers. Eli and Charlie Sisters are bountry hunters, but Eli is considering an alternate career path. At times violent but alternatively so laugh out loud funny it is often times hard to remember they are bad guys. Take a rollicking ride through the gold mining country of Northern California as the brothers track the mysterious Hermann Kermit Warm, who happens to have a secret formula for detecting gold. Refreshingly different and imaginatively written. For the reader who loves the offbeat.

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
The best coming of age saga you will ever read. Set in South Africa during the beginning of apartheid we see both the beauty and brutality through the eyes of a young English boy, Peekay. One of the most memorable characters of fiction, Peekay overcomes impossible odds to realize his dreams: to become a winner. Captivating, inspiring, magnificent, brilliantly written. A must read!

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
Coplin’s novel depicts a powerful new voice in describing the landscape of the Pacific Northwest, as you feel the beauty and solitude of the land. The author has populated the story with a wide range of characters who have been scarred by the harshness of life. Talmadge seeks redemption at all costs to himself, Della mindlessly tests herself, the environment and cultural mores in her focus on revenge and the assuage of guilt, Angelene forging the only life and sense of family she has known. Told in often spare but beautiful prose, the elements of the plot brings up many questions of our humanity and what motivates us. A fantastic Book Club selection. You won’t stop talking about this one.

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen
Summer is not complete without the hilarity of a Hiaasen romp. He consistently creates over the top eccentric characters, who do the improbable, and is always set in Florida where apparently anything can, and does, happen. Always showing the results of greed, avarice and capricious human behavior in the most outlandish way, yes there is even a monkey in this exploit. Grab your favorite summer drink, a shady comfy hammock, and enjoy an afternoon delight.

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
An unreliable narrator is at the forefront of a psychological suspense page turner set in the Gatsby era of New York. Rose is a typist who receives confessions from criminals to record their crimes for the NYPD, Odalie is the glamorous new girl in the typing pool who possess an air of mystery and is ready for everything the Roaring 20’s has to offer. Rose cannot help falling under Odalie’s spell… This one will have you wondering until the final pages.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Sarah Butler's "Ten Things I've Learnt About Love"

Alice is a bit of a mess. She’s a chronic runner—restless in school as a child, flitting from job to job, escaping to far off places when things get tough— Alice isn’t one to face life’s problems head on, or even in the same country.

Daniel is a wanderer. Some might call him a tramp, a vagabond, others a bum or vagrant, but Daniel is searching; walking the streets searching the faces of Londoners for a glimpse of the daughter he’s never met.

When Alice’s father’s health takes a turn for the worst she must return to the home she fled. Thrown back into the midst of family and relationship problems; seeking answers to her mother’s death over two decades before, her father’s seeming distance, and the complicated lives of her older sisters, Alice must find the strength to face not only the issues of her life, but her future.

An encounter between Daniel and Alice has the possibility of opening both of their eyes to a world that’s
beyond their private fears and lives.

Told in first person, with chapters alternating between the perspectives of both Daniel and Alice, Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love is a beautifully inventive story. Unfolding slowly, with only snippets of the past being revealed through both the narrative and top ten lists that appear at the beginning of each chapter, author Sarah Butler is able to take a small piece of a much larger story and make it seem whole and perfect. Her two main characters are infinitely flawed, but they are also endearing in their total humanness—failings and triumphs—as they meander their ways through life, both running in some way from the hurts that life can dole out. I loved how this novel is really just a glimpse into their life stories. The reader only gets pieces of the larger past, and to an extent, not everything is tied up neatly at the story’s conclusion, but nonetheless there is still a sense of satisfaction in what the reader does get from the narrators, and the eventual end, which signifies that while this part of the story has concluded, it is in fact not the end. As in reality; life goes on when a chapter closes, and anything is possible.

Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love is a wonderful glimpse at two lives. It shows how all of our choices have an impact somewhere and on someone, but that in the end they are our choices to make. It’s about love and its many incarnations; familial, paternal, romantic, friendly, and how it can change our lives in an infinite number of ways. A layered, well-written debut, I can’t recommend it enough for book clubs or those who enjoy an intimate look into the age old question “where do I belong”. If you read carefully, Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love just might give you a lesson or two.

Want to read Ten Things I've Learnt About Love with your Book Club? Download the Book Club Kit here