Saturday, February 27, 2010

Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann is the winner of the National Book Award... It was also chosen by the American Library Association as one of the top ten notable novels of 2009 (and we all know that librarians have exquisite taste)... It has received a ton of praise from all your typical review sources and other award-winning authors... But all of that does not magically make it a good read. Which is why I'm here... to tell you that I think it's a pretty safe bet that you will, indeed, not just like, but love this book.

The arc of the novel follows a handful of characters whose lives intersect in one way or another on a fateful morning in 1974 when a man strings up a tightrope between the Twin Towers and dances his way across. Though it is not clear right away how all the characters will come to be involved in one another's lives (one of my favorite parts was trying to figure it out as I read), McCann deftly draws on the universals of humanity in his portrayal so that we can all relate in some way to his charges. There is Corrigan the Irish monk (of sorts) who lives in squalor among the prostitutes in Brooklyn and allows them to feel human if only for a moment. There is Tillie the prostitute who works the line with her daughter. There is the tight rope walker himself (based on Pilippe Petit) who trains for years to pull off one of the greatest outsider art stunts in the history of the world. There are, too, a host of other characters McCann gives voice to who you will remember long after finishing the book.

All of this is to say, believe me, you will love this book.

Yummy Organic Chocolate - New Flavors!

New flavors of yummy organic chocolate in the store!!! Mmmmmmm. We've got dark chocolate with toasted coconut, dark chocolate with spice chile (it packs a punch!), milk chocolate with salted almonds, and -- our current bestseller in chocolate land -- dark chocolate with cherry & almond. They're likely to go fast, so don't delay! Oh, and did I mention we have great books too??

Friday, February 26, 2010

David Sedaris and Ian Falconer Together!

Two of our favorite book folks are joining forces!! The next book from one of our favorite humorists, David Sedaris, will contain artwork by one of our favorite children's book authors, Ian Falconer. The book of animal fables, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, will be published by Little, Brown in October 2010.

David Sedaris is the author of several books, including Barrel Fever, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and -- the one I'm listening to right now -- When You Are Engulfed in Flames (it's hysterical, and the experience is especially wonderful when you have Mr. Sedaris himself doing the reading). The most recent item from Sedaris is a CD of five live performances entitled Live for Your Listening Pleasure (and no, that's not David on the front of the CD).

Ian Falconer is an illustrator, children's book author, and theater costume/set designer -- in fact, in 1996 he designed the sets of The Atlantic Theater's production of The Santaland Diaries, the play based on one of Sedaris's essays. Falconer is best known, however, for his wonderful children's book series featuring Olivia, an outspoken and unique little pig. Falconer won the Caldecott award for the first Olivia book. There are now several Olivia books, including the original translated into Latin and audio recordings of the Olivia books by Dame Edna Everage. He has also done the cover art for 30 New Yorker magazines.

This is a book I'm definitely looking forward to seeing!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Meg Mullins to Read Friday Night

We hope you can join us tomorrow night to hear Meg Mullins read from her recently published second novel, Dear Strangers. The novel tells the story of the Finley family in 1982, awaiting the arrival of the baby boy they're due to adopt. Oliver, just seven, is eager for another playmate to join him and his sister, Mary, in their idyll of swimming pools, climbing trees, and playing tag. But the father dies suddenly and everything changes. Mrs. Finley, newly widowed, decides she cannot proceed with the adoption alone.

Twenty-one years later, Oliver believes he has finally found the brother his family was meant to adopt. Along the way, he also finds Miranda, an eccentric, charming photographer whose subjects are consenting strangers in their own homes after dark. Oliver and Miranda's love story collides with catastrophe when their worlds intersect in ways they could never have predicted.

A luminous, moving portrait of grief and atone­ment, romance and longing, Dear Strangers unearths the possibilities of hope and renewal in the unexpected bonds forged with family and strangers alike.

As she was writing this book, Mullins lost both her father and her brother. "Personally, I was sorting through a lot of issues of family and loss and obviously it seeped into the book. Writing is a job in which it's particularly unrealistic to leave your personal life behind."

Mullins lives in New Mexico with her husband and two children. Dear Strangers is her second novel. Her first novel, The Rug Merchant, was based on a story that appeared in The Best American Stories 2002. It tells the story of the unlikely romance between an Iranian immigrant and an American college student in New York City, after a chance encounter at JFK airport.

Chance meetings play a big role in both of these novels. Mullins says, "I am a big believer in chance. I love and fear the possibilities of chance. This globe is full of people who might be unknown to us now, but in an hour or a month or a year, may turn out to be the person who changes our life forever."

One of the things she learned from Jonathan Franzen while studying at Columbia was the "mundane yet profound" notion that "if you're not having any fun writing it, nobody's going to have any fun reading it."

Please join us Friday night at 7 to hear Meg Mullins read from and talk about her new novel, Dear Strangers.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The End of the Winter Olympics

I don't know about you guys, but I'll be sad to see the Olympics end. All that excitement and great athleticism and cool human interest stories. But I must admit I'll feel a certain amount of relief, as well, as all this TV viewing has severely interfered with my reading. Oh sure, I say I'm going to read and just keep the TV on mute and check in from time to time. Like that's going to work. And I won't miss staying up late (yes, I'm officially old, because midnight is now "late" in my book) because NBC has to delay everything, despite the fact that the events are taking place in our very same time zone. And I definitely won't miss those cow bells!!

New Novel from John Banville

Are you a John Banville fan? I have this weird thing about not reading Irish writers (except I love nonfiction written by Nuala O'Faolain, if I'm listening to her read it). But I think Mr. Banville is going to be the one to put a stop to that foolishness with his latest novel, The Infinities, which he describes as an attempt to blend Greek drama with Shakespearean burlesque.

In 2005 Banville won the Booker Prize for The Sea, which I came very close to reading -- in fact I bought it. (I'm telling you, it's just weird this Irish thing I have. Something about potato famine overload. But it's time for it to end.) In all he's written seventeen other books, although three are crime novels written under the pen name Benjamin Black (Christine Falls, The Silver Swan, and Elegy for April - the latter to be published in April, appropriately enough).

But I think Banville's new novel, just published this week, is going to woo me in. The Infinities tells the story of Adam Godley, a word-class mathematician who is dying, with his family gathered around him. Also gathered around him are several Greek gods, meddling in the family's goings-on.

To some extent, Banville's new book is a gloss on the German Romantic playwright Heinrich von Kleist's retelling of the story of Amphitryon. But since I'm not familiar with either Kleist or Amphitryon on any respectable level (it pains me to admit this), that's not the big draw. Here's a fuller description of the book:

"On a languid midsummer’s day in the countryside, old Adam Godley, a renowned theoretical mathematician, is dying. His family gathers at his bedside: his son, young Adam, struggling to maintain his marriage to a radiantly beautiful actress [Helen]; his nineteen-year-old daughter, Petra, filled with voices and visions as she waits for the inevitable; their stepmother, Ursula, whose relations with the Godley children are strained at best; and Petra’s “young man”—very likely more interested in the father than the daughter—who has arrived for a superbly ill-timed visit.

"But the Godley family is not alone in their vigil. Around them hovers a family of mischievous immortals—among them, Zeus, who has his eye on young Adam’s wife; Pan, who has taken the doughy, perspiring form of an old unwelcome acquaintance; and Hermes, who is the genial and omniscient narrator: 'We too are petty and vindictive,' he tells us, 'just like you, when we are put to it.' As old Adam’s days on earth run down, these unearthly beings start to stir up trouble, to sometimes wildly unintended effect. . . .

"Blissfully inventive and playful, rich in psychological insight and sensual detail, The Infinities is at once a gloriously earthy romp and a wise look at the terrible, wonderful plight of being human—a dazzling novel from one of the most widely admired and acclaimed writers at work today."

Today I read an interview with John Banville by Anne K. Yoder, on The Millions. It was fascinating. She asked him "Why is there such a focus on death in a novel concerned with the infinite?" And he responded thusly:

"Well first of all, all of the science is just what we call cod science here. It’s fake. And the book is not really concerned with quantum physics and those things, which is very frightening for all of us. It’s a human comedy. We may be amused and fascinated and enthralled by scientific theories but we have to live through our days in the world, and we have to face death, and death is what gives life it’s flavor. I’m absolutely convinced of this. I mean, most of the philosophers have recognized that. Spinoza says the wise man thinks only of death but all of his meditations are a meditation upon life. Which is true. Death is not the point. Life is the point. But death is the beginning of what gives life its point....Life at its simplest is very simple. We spin the most extraordinary intellectual conceits and emotional conceits but in the end, it’s quite simple. We want to be happy. We want to be delighted."

Here are some other comments by Banville from the interview with Yoder:

"Constantly in my work is the tension between the life of the mind and life in the world—the physical life, the life that we want to lead, the Helen side of things, that wonderful, erotic (and I mean erotic in the whitest sense of the word), that sensual sense of being in the world, as against the desire to speculate and to think and to make theories. Old Adam professes to have this dismissive attitude toward his son, but he’s sort of puzzled by his son because his son is the one who is living in the world. And the son, of course, is the one who believes in the possibility of good and the possibility of the simplistic and the possibility that the simple life might be as valuable, and perhaps even more valuable, than the life of the mind, the great thinker. It is a comedy."

"There’s no message. I constantly say one of my absolute mottos is from Kafka, where he says the artist is the man who has nothing to say. I have nothing to say. I have no opinions about anything. I don’t care about physical, moral, social issues of the day. I just want to recreate the sense of what life feels like, what it tastes like, what it smells like. That’s what art should do. I feel it should be absolutely gloriously useless."

"It’s the old argument which I’ve been writing, I suppose, all my life—which is more important, or are they equally important, the life of the mind or life in the world?"

"If I’m anything I’m a post-humanist. I don’t see human beings as the absolute center of the universe. I think one of our tragedies and maybe our central tragedy is that we imagined that at some point in evolution we reached a plateau where we were no longer animal. That we had left the animal world and became pure spirit unfortunately tied to this physical body that we have to carry around. This seems to me a very bad mistake. We should admit our physicality. We have lost contact with the animals, which I think is a disaster. I think we should realize we are immensely intricate animals, but we are animals still and we should not lose sight of that."

"Even in my darkest books, my characters are trying to live as well as they can, and to live as rich a life as is possible. That’s what art is for—it’s to say to people, look, the world is an extraordinarily rich place. Look at this extraordinary place we’ve been put into, this world."

And, finally, this comment, which I found absolutely enchanting: "Once you have the names, all the characters right, then you’ve got the book. And in my other life, as a book reviewer, I always know a book is flawed when the names don’t suit the characters. There’s no science to this, there’s no way of saying why a character is suited to a certain name, or vice versa, but it’s simply true....You can tell when a novelist is not comfortable with the material if he gets the names wrong. But that’s the mystical thing, because I don’t know how it works."

I don't know about you, but I'm stoked to read The Infinities. And then I'm going to go back and read The Sea. Really. I mean it. And this all has nothing to do with my Scottish ancestry. Really. I mean it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Five books published in 2009 have been selected as finalists for the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, America's largest peer-juried fiction prize. The judges considered almost 350 novels and short story collections submitted from more than 90 publishing houses. The winner will be announced on March 23 and will be feted, along with the other four nominees, in a ceremony on May 8th in Washington, DC. Here are the five finalists:

  • Sherman Alexie, for War Dances (Grove Press)
  • Barbara Kingsolver, for The Lacuna (Harper)
  • Lorraine M. Lopez, for Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories (BkMk Press)
  • Lorrie Moore, for A Gate at the Stairs (Knopf)
  • Colson Whitehead, for Sag Harbor (Doubleday)

Some of my favorite authors are on this list!

Women and Happiness

Do you know what makes you happy? Let's see....I'm happy when I feel the sun on my face, especially after many cloudy/rainy days in a row. When I get to about page ten of a new book and realize I've got a delicious winner on my hands. When I'm laughing with a friend or friends and enjoying time together. When I wake up at night and feel my partner snuggled up close to me. When I have a happy purring kitty in my lap or by my side. When I see the waves rolling on shore at the Oregon Coast and smell the wonderful ocean air. When I successfully hook someone up with "the perfect book." So, if I know what makes me happy, why aren't I happy all the time?

In her latest book, Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness, Ariel Gore conducts an exploration into the history, science, and experience of women's happiness. As part of that study, she kept a journal in which she recorded the happiest moments of each day, and she asked other women to do the same.

She was prompted to embark on this study in part becaused she noticed a growing disconnect between the things she imagined would make her happy and the things that actually did. She also began to notice that the vast majority of people conducting happiness studies were men.

"We are told what will make us happy, as if we were all the same woman, as if we all share a single heart, as if we can't all be right when we realize our disparate desires."

She found that a lot of women are resistant to focusing on their own happiness. "As women, we have been taught that thinking of ourselves is intrinsically selfish." But as the women kept their journals, they found that focusing on their own happiness and recording moments of joy can be very powerful. Just paying attention to happiness every day can increase it.
And just what is "happiness," anyway? According to Ariel, happiness isn't the same as pleasure, or the fake cheerfulness of Madison Avenue; it's more complex than that. The opposite of happiness isn't unhappiness or depression, it's anxiety. A big part of happiness is about the ability to rejoice in the midst of suffering

Did you know that the ancient Greeks attributed happiness to being favored by the gods? "Their fatalism is captured in our language: the English words for happiness, happenstance, haphazard, and hapless all derive from the same root -- the Old Norse happ, meaning 'luck' or 'chance.'" I had no idea!

Come learn more about women and the psychology of happiness when Ariel Gore reads from her new book tonight at Broadway Books at 7 pm. The event is free, and you just might find yourself happier when you leave -- especially if you leave with a great new book or two!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Christopher Moore is No Fool!

One of my favorite books from last year has just appeared in paperback: Fool, by Christopher Moore. The book is a Christopher-Mooreian take on Shakespeare's King Lear, with all that you might imagine that entails. I wrote about it briefly before it came out last year. Moore is the author of eleven other novels, including Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, The Island of the Sequined Love Nun, and Bite Me: A Love Story (which will be published in hardcover next month).

If you're looking for something to take the edge off of winter, something that will make you laugh until tears are streaming down your face, Fool is the book for you! "Grand wit and belly-busting mirth." "A wickedly good time." "Exuberantly, tirelessly, brazenly profane." "A cheeky and ribald romp." How can you resist? I couldn't. And I'm glad I didn't!

Former NE Portland Resident Returns with New Book!

Recently I had the opportunity to meet a most delightful new author, who just happened to grow up in Northeast Portland! Heidi Durrow, who attended Harriet Tubman Middle School and Jefferson High School, is in town this week talking about her new novel, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky.

The book tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black GI, who finds herself living in Portland, struggling with issues of grief and identity. Living with her African American grandmother, Rachel finds herself for the first time in a mostly black community, after being raised by her mother to think of herself as white. In her book, Durrow tackles issues of racial polarization, gender, family, identiy, and loss, all presented in an incredibly moving and original voice.

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky was named a winner of the Bellwether Prize for Fiction, a biennial award given to a previously unpublished work of fiction, written by a US citizen, that addresses issues of social justice. The Bellwether Prize was established by Barbara Kingsolver. The previous winner of the Bellwether Prize was Mudbound, by Hilary Jordan.

Durrow, who is also the daughter of a white Danish mother and an African American Air Force father, is a graduate of Stanford University, Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, and Yale Law School. She co-hosts a weekly podcast, Mixed Chicks Chat, about being racially and culturally mixed and is the co-founder and co-producer of the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival, an annual free public event that celebrates stories of the Mixed experience.

I recently had the pleasure of talking to Heidi at the Winter Institute, a meeting for booksellers, and filmed a short clip of Heidi talking about why Portlanders will enjoy this book. We've already sold several copies of her novel, and she'll be stopping by to sign copies while she's here. I always enjoy reading books that are set in Portland and recognizing various landmarks -- a little bonus to a good read! You can also listen to an interview with Heidi by Dmae Roberts on KBOO.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thinking about Your Garden??

Doesn't all this fantastic weather make you want to get out in your yard and get things in shape? Ok, me neither. Then again, I wouldn't know my way around my garden even if I woke up one morning with two bright green thumbs. But I know that many of you do know your way around the garden, and the sunshine and blue skies we've been blessed with this week must be getting those gardening wheels spinning. (Do gardens have wheels, and can they spin?? I think they have wheelbarrows....)

In gleeful anticipation of spring's arrival (no matter what that darned groundhog thinks), we've recently expanded our gardening section and have some wonderful books to guide you in the garden, both gardening classics and new books, to educate and inspire you as you make your gardening dreams come true. Big yard, small yard, shade or sun, flowers or veggies, and even chickens -- we've got you covered!

Schott & Hughes Read at Broadway Books

Did you miss the wonderful poetry reading at Broadway Books on Tuesday? That's a shame, because we heard some great poetry, and it seems that a good time was had by all. Much talk of fish and sex, but I think you had to be there to understand. All is not lost, however, if you weren't, because here is a little video clip of the event. Please understand that we are still finding our way, both as videographers and as filmmakers. But we're making progress! And we have our own channel on You Tube of all of our videos thus far, along with some of our favorites that others have made. You can check out all of the videos at I'll post here the video of Penelope Scambly Schott and Henry Hughes from Tuesday night. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

30 Books in 30 Days

The National Book Critics Circle is blogging about the finalists for its 2009 awards, focusing on a different finalist each day until the award ceremony in New York City on March 11th. You can check out the NBCC blog here, and you can the list of finalists -- including local author Debra Gwartney, a finalist in the autobiography category -- here. Today's posting features poetry finalist Rachel Zucker and her book Museum of Accidents.

New Fiction from Henning Mankell

Swedish detective fiction is hot! New on our shelves today: the latest from Henning Mankell: The Man from Beijing. Mankell has already made a name for himself as the internationally acclaimed author of the Kurt Wallander series. [The BBC series starring Kenneth Branagh as Kurt Wallander, which I wrote about earlier, was a big hit. The second series of three books, starting with Faceless Killers and again starring Branagh, began airing on the BBC last month.]

The Man from Beijing has all the excitement of Mankell's other books but is a brilliant new departure: an explosive, stand-alone mystery of international scope. It opens with the death of nineteen people in the Swedish hamlet of Hesj√∂vallen — a red ribbon found at the scene is the only clue. The ensuing investigation leads to the highest echelons of power in present-day Beijing, and to Zimbabwe and Mozambique. I've heard from fans of Mankell's Wallander books that this is Mankell's best book yet, so I hope you'll give it a try.

Award-Winning Poets to Read Tonight

Please join us tonight at 7 pm to hear two terrific Oregon poets -- and Oregon Book Award winners -- read from their latest works. Reading tonight are Penelope Scambly Schott and Henry Hughes.

Penelope has worked as a donut maker in a cider mill, a home health aide, and an artist's model. For several years she was an English professor at Rutgers University and Raritan Valley Community College, until moving to Oregon, where she teaches poetry workshops, writes, paints, hikes, and grades papers. Penelope won the 2008 Oregon Book Award for Poetry for her book A is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth, published by Turning Point. She has received many awards and fellowships throughout her career, two of the most recent being the 2009 Ronald Wardall Prize, which resulted in the publication of the chapbook Under Taos Mountain, The Terrible Quagmire of Magpie and Tia, by Rain Mountain Press, and the 2009 Sarah Lantz Poetry Book Prize, by Calyx Press, which will result in the October publication of Crow Mercies. Penelope also participates in The Cool Women Poets group of New Jersey, a themed poetry performance group that has produced four anthologies and, most recently, a CD entitled "Cool Women Collect Themselves."

Tonight Penelope will read from Under Taos Mountain and Six Lips, her newest collection (Mayapple Press). Colette Inez says the writing in Six Lips is "insightful, sure footed, possessed of an unerring ear for the music of language," going on to say "This is the work of a poet writing in full stride. Praise be."

Henry Hughes, an associate professor of English at Western Oregon University, won the 2004 Oregon Book Award for his first book, Men Holding Eggs (Mammoth Books), which was praised by poet Li-Young Lee for its gorgeous, masterful writing. Henry grew up on Long Island, received his PhD in English from Purdue, and moved to Oregon in 2002. Before teaching at WOU, he also taught at Hofstra University and the Beijing Foreign Studies University.

Besides his writing, teaching, and literary criticism, Henry is an avid traveler and fisherman, and he has his open water SCUBA certification. Tonight Henry will read from his recently published collection Moist Meridian, published by Mammoth Books.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New Book on China from Peter Hessler

Several years ago I read a wonderful book about China called River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, by Peter Hessler, the first book in his trilogy about the human side of the economic revolution in China. Hessler came to China as a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching English and American literature at a local college. River Town was named a NY Times Notable book and won the Kiriyama Book Prize.

From 2000 to 2007, he served as the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, during which time he wrote the second book in the trilogy, Oracle Bones, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. In 2008 he won the National Magazine Award for excellence in reporting. Now serving as a staff writer for The New Yorker, as well as a contributing writer for National Geographic, Hessler has written the third and final book in the trilogy: Country Driving: A Journey through China from Farm to Factory.

In the summer of 2001, Hessler acquired his Chinese driver's license. For the next seven years he traveled the country, tracking how the automobile and improved roads were transforming China, journeys he chronicles in Country Driving. The book opens with his 7000-mile trip across northern China, following the Great Wall, from the East China Sea to the Tibetan plateau. Hessler has a keen eye for detail and for contradiction and an ability to present the effect of sweeping changes in personal, human-scale stories, enabling readers to understand more clearly the changes taking place in this oft-misunderstood country.

I read an excerpt from Country Driving in The New Yorker, and I am eager to read the new book, which was just published this week. Hessler writes with compassion and empathy, knowledge, and a sense of humor, making his books a delight to read.

The Glass Room is Terrific!

I don't usually blog about a book I haven't finished reading yet, but the one I'm reading now is SO bloody good it just seems downright mean to wait any longer to let you in on it, if you don't already know about it. The Glass Room, by Simon Mawer (not to be confused with the memoir The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls) offers beautiful rich meaty chewy storytelling. I'm torn between not wanting to stop reading because it's so good (last night I stayed up 'til almost 2 am, telling myself "just one more chapter," and then "just one more chapter," and then again, until my eyes finally gave out) and not wanting to finish it because I know I will be so sad when there's no more of it to read. Frankly, the book could go completely in the toilet in the second half (which I don't expect, given what I've been told by people who have read all the way, not to mention the public accolades), and I would STILL feel comfortable recommending this book, because what I've read so far is just that good.

Here's a brief synopsis: The honeymooning Landauers are filled with the vibrant optimism of central Europe of the 1920s when they meet the modernist architect who builds their dream home for them in Czechoslovakia, a futuristic home made of chrome, glass, and steel. As Viktor, a rich Jewish mogul, and Liesel, a thoughtful, modern gentile, build their life together, their marriage starts to show signs of strain. The radiant honesty and idealism of 1930 quickly evaporate beneath the approaching storm clouds of WWII and the encroaching Nazi troops. The description on the book jacket sums it up nicely: "Brimming with barely contained passion and cruelty, the precision of science, the wild variance of lust, the catharsis of confession, and the fear of failure -- the Glass Room [the book and the room] contains it all."

The book was a finalist for the 2009 Man Booker Prize and was named a Best Book of 2009 by The Economist, The Observer, The Financial Times, and, among others. Mawer, who was born in England and spent his childhood there and in Cyprus and Malta, now lives in Italy where he teaches at St. George's British International School. His previous novels include The Fall, The Gospel of Judas, and Mendel's Dwarf (long-listed for the Booker).

I can't say it strongly enough: READ THIS BOOK! And now I must go, so I can return to reading my yummy book.

Freshly Baked Cookies on their Way!

Head's up: I'm coming to the store at 2:30 pm today, and I'm bringing a freshly baked batch of my chocolate chip cookies with me. What a deal! Buy a great new book, and get a yummy (in my humble opinion) homemade cookie still warm with melty chocolate goodness -- for free! No nuts were used in the baking of these cookies, with the possible exception of the baker.

New Maisie Dobbs Book Coming Soon

In April we will be blessed with the seventh book in the wonderful Maisie Dobbs mystery series by Jacqueline Winspear, The Mapping of Love and Death. In the newest novel, Maisie is hired by the parents of a young man listed as "missing" in 1916 during WWI in England to find the woman who wrote him a series of love letters later found among his belongings. While searching for this woman, identified only as "The English Nurse," Maisie wrestles with her own memories of serving as a nurse in "the war to end all wars."

Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in the county of Kent, England. After higher education at the University of London's Institute of Education, she worked in academic publishing, first in the UK and later, after she emigrated to the United States in 1990, in the US. This is where our paths first crossed, in the Bay Area, where she lives now.

In my past life I managed all of the West Coast reps for a major higher-education publisher, and Jacqueline was, for a short time, one of our key reps in the Bay Area. Following a very bad spill from a horse, which necessitated a long recovery time, she embarked on her life-long dream to become a writer. And boy has she been successful in that endeavor!

Jacqueline's grandfather was severely wounded and shell-shocked at The Battle of The Somme in 1916 during WWI, and, even as a youngster, she became deeply interested in this war and its long-lasting effects. She continues to conduct extensive research into the time period. In fact, I remember once at a meeting I asked her what she was reading and she mentioned something about a text on British nurses in WWI, and I remember thinking "how odd." Little did I know!

Her first novel, Maisie Dobbs, was a New York Times Notable Book 2003 and was nominated for seven awards, including the Edgar for Best Novel -- only the second time a debut novel had been nominated in that category. She subsequently won the prestigious Agatha Award for Best First novel, the Macavity Award for Best First Novel; and the Alex Award, which is presented annually by the American Library Association in conjunction with the Margaret Alexander Edwards Trust.

Her sixth novel, Among the Mad, has recently been released in paperback. I ran into Jackie at a bookseller meeting in San Jose last weekend, and she wanted to say "hi" to her readers in Portland. If you haven't read any of the books in this mystery series, I strongly recommend them, and you can really start anywhere, but starting with the first is always a reasonable idea. They are well written and well supported with background information and they feature a wonderfully strong and enjoyable female lead character.

Book Three in The Hunger Games Trilogy!

Book Three in the compelling YA dystopic trilogy by Suzanne Collins will be released August 24th. Mockingjay follows the bestselling books The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, which tell the story of a futuristic North America that has become Panem, a TV-dominated dictatorship run from a city called the Capitol, exploring the idea "What happens if we choose entertainment over humanity?"

The Hunger Games are an annual fight-to-the-death for young combatants from each of the 12 districts in Panem -- think "Survivor" only with teenagers and instead of getting kicked off the island you get killed. The books feature intense action, love stories, a wry sense of humor, the exploration of big ideas, and a main character with the not-so-mellifluous name Katniss (sometimes called "catnip"). In Catching Fire, the air of rebellion is spreading through Panem, and Katniss finds that personal acts can affect others and create unintended consequences she is powerless to stop. One reviewer described Catching Fire as "Stephen King meets Dr. Zhivago." I wrote about the first two books earlier.

If you haven't read the first two books in The Hunger Games Trilogy yet, I strongly recommend them. They are interesting and entertaining, thought-provoking and well written. You can get the first two done in time to read Book Three when it hits the store in August!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Books that Keep You Awake at Night

Dark Scribe Magazine has just announced the winners of the Third Annual Black Quill Awards. Among the winners this year are Dark Places by Gillian Flynn and Drood by Dan Simmons for Dark Genre Novel. Dark Scribe is a web-based magazine about "the books that keep you up at night." Previous winners in this category include Stephen King for Duma Key and Joe Hill for Heart-Shaped Box. (Did you know that they are father and son?) I'm not a big reader of books that scare me enough to keep me awake at night -- life is scary enough for me -- but I know a lot of people are, and I've heard great things about both of this year's winners.

Dark Places is Flynn's second crime thriller, following her debut novel Sharp Objects. Seven-year-old Libby Day's mother and two sisters are murdered, and her brother is convicted of the crimes. Twenty-five years later, the truth doesn't seem so straightforward after all.

Drood, narrated by Wilkie Collins, imagines a frightening sequence of events that prompts Collins's friend and fellow author, Charles Dickens, to write The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Dickens's last, uncompleted novel. Simmons's next novel, Black Hills, comes out near the end of this month and tells the story of a Lakota Sioux and General Custer.

Send a Little Love Your Way

While you're out shopping for Valentine's Day goodies, don't forget to share a little love with yourself! There are so many wonderful new books just hot off the presses, as well as the "oldies but goodies." Whether you're looking for an intellectual challenge, a new world to escape into, or just some light reading to pass the time, we've got you covered!

A Good-Feel Story

As promised, here is a video story of our team effort to update the library at Sitton Elementary School, right here in Portland. It's a first effort (the video, not the book donation), so please pardon the gaffes (such as too-small type). I promise we'll get better at this!

Thank you's From Sitton

Valentine's Day is just around the corner (Sunday, in fact). We invite you to come see all of the delightful (and in fact delicious, in some cases) options at Broadway Books to bestow upon your sweetie(s)! While you're here, be sure to check out the two fabulous Valentine thank-you posters in our windows created by the appreciative students at Sitton Elementary School.

In December, Broadway Books and our wonderfully generous customers (yes, that's you!) teamed up to give students at Sitton a wonderful collection of new books for their school library, as well as a shopping spree for Sitton's librarian, Diane Newton-Prior, to fill in the gaps. We were delighted to receive from the happy kids these two gorgeous heart-felt AND heart-filled posters, and we quickly put them up on our windows for all to view.

Until you can make it down to the store in person, here's a couple of snapshots to give you a taste. And watch the blog for a soon-to-launch video......

Thank you to all who helped make this gift to Sitton such a generous one! Instilling a love of reading in kids and giving them great books to read feels great, doesn't it?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Do You Feel the Love?

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and we've got some goodies for you! Nothing says "you rock my world" like a wonderful new book, or a Broadway Books Gift Certificate (in our humble opinion). At least we love to give and get books. And if you add a little yummy organic chocolate (check out our new flavors: ginger rose dark chocolate and pink peppercorn milk chocolate) to your package, all the better! If you really want to score some love points, stop by one of our neighbors along NE Broadway to add some champagne, or flowers, or maybe even a little bling to your gift of books. We're here for you, right up til the final minute! Come on in so we can share a little love with you. Happy Valentine's to you all!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Students from Grant Reading Tonight

I bet you're in the mood to listen to some talented young local writers tonight, right? If so, please join us at 7 tonight as students from Grant High School who have been working with writers Karen Karbo and Ryan Blackletter in Literary Arts' Writers in the Schools Program read from their work. This amazing program, which pairs professional and student writers for several weeks at a time is one of our favorite pieces of Portland's literary quilt. We hope you can join us to hear some of the best young talent around. Always a fun night!