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Monday, September 29, 2014

New Release Tuesday

OK, I know I always say that there are tons of amazing new books coming out. But this time I am serious. Lena Dunham! Meg Wolitzer?!!?! Garth Stein!??!?! AND Pete the Cat?!!? It's a pretty big day.

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned" by Lena Dunham

For readers of Nora Ephron, Tina Fey, and David Sedaris, this hilarious, poignant, and extremely frank collection of personal essays confirms Lena Dunham—the acclaimed creator, producer, and star of HBO’s Girls—as one of the brightest and most original writers working today.

“If I could take what I’ve learned and make one menial job easier for you, or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine was worthwhile. I’m already predicting my future shame at thinking I had anything to offer you, but also my future glory in having stopped you from trying an expensive juice cleanse or thinking that it was your fault when the person you are dating suddenly backs away, intimidated by the clarity of your personal mission here on earth. No, I am not a sexpert, a psychologist, or a dietician. I am not a mother of three or the owner of a successful hosiery franchise. But I am a girl with a keen interest in having it all, and what follows are hopeful dispatches from the frontlines of that struggle.”

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

There’s a place where the lost go to be found. 

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks. She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, signed up for an exclusive, supposedly life-changing class called Special Topics in English that focuses—only and entirely—on the works of Sylvia Plath. But life isn’t fair.

Reeve has been gone for almost a year and Jam is still mourning. When a journal-writing assignment leads Jam into a mysterious other world she and her classmates call Belzhar, she discovers a realm where the untainted past is restored, and she can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again.

But, as the pages of her journal begin to fill up, Jam must to confront hidden truths and ultimately decide what she’s willing to sacrifice to reclaim her loss. From New York Times bestselling author Meg Wolitzer comes a breathtaking and surprising story about first love, deep sorrow, and the power of acceptance.

A Boat, a Whale, and a Walrus: Menus and Stories by Renee Erickson, Jess Thomson, and Jim Henkens

One of the country's most acclaimed chefs, Renee Erickson is a James-Beard nominated chef and the owner of several Seattle restaurants: The Whale Wins, Boat Street Café, The Walrus and the Carpenter, and Barnacle. This luscious cookbook is perfect for anyone who loves the fresh seasonal food of the Pacific Northwest. Defined by the bounty of the Puget Sound region, as well as by French cuisine, this cookbook is filled with seasonal, personal menus like Renee’s Fourth of July Crab Feast, Wild Foods Dinner, and a fall pickling party. Home cooks will cherish Erickson’s simple yet elegant recipes such as Roasted Chicken with Fried Capers and Preserved Lemons, Harissa-Rubbed Roasted Lamb, and Molasses Spice Cake. Renee Erickson's food, casual style, and appreciation of simple beauty is an inspiration to readers and eaters in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein

When a boy tries to save his parents' marriage, he uncovers a legacy of family secrets in a coming-of-age ghost story by the author of the internationally bestselling phenomenon, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant, whole trees, and is set on a huge estate overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor's bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch Grandpa Samuel--who is flickering in and out of dementia--to a graduated living facility, sell off the house and property for development into "tract housing for millionaires," divide up the profits, and live happily ever after.

But Trevor soon discovers there's someone else living in Riddell House: a ghost with an agenda of his own. For while the land holds tremendous value, it is also burdened by the final wishes of the family patriarch, Elijah, who mandated it be allowed to return to untamed forestland as a penance for the millions of trees harvested over the decades by the Riddell Timber company. The ghost will not rest until Elijah's wish is fulfilled, and Trevor's willingness to face the past holds the key to his family's future.

Bolano: A Biography in Conversations by Monica Maristain

How to know the man behind works of fiction so prone to extravagance? In the first biography of Chilean novelist and poet Roberto Bolaño, journalist Mónica Maristain tracks Bolaño from his childhood in Chile to his youth in Mexico and his early infatuation with literature, to his beginnings as a poet, and to the stardom that came with the publication of the novels The Savage Detectives and 2666.

Throughout the book, Maristain present an image far removed from the stereotypes that have been created over the years to introduce a writer whose works grabbed readers worldwide. Maristain writes as a journalist and admirer, impressed with the power of Bolaño’s prose and the cool irony with which he faced the literary world.

Pete the Cat and the Bad Banana by James Dean

Join Pete the Cat in New York Times bestselling author James Dean's I Can Read beginning reader Pete the Cat and the Bad Banana. In this hilarious new title, Pete the Cat bites into a bad banana and decides that he never, ever wants to eat bananas again. But Pete really likes bananas Will a rotten bite ruin Pete's love for this tasty fruit? Pete the Cat and the Bad Banana is a My First I Can Read book, which means it's perfect for shared reading with a child. Fans of Pete the Cat will delight in this I Can Read tale featuring the grooviest cat, Pete.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Joseph O'Neill Luncheon

After an exciting luncheon with Diane Ackerman, we are pleased to welcome Netherland author Joseph O'Neill and his highly anticipated new novel, The Dog.

The author of the best-selling and award-winning Netherland now gives us his eagerly awaited, stunningly different new novel: a tale of alienation and heartbreak in Dubai.

Distraught by a breakup with his long-term girlfriend, our unnamed hero leaves New York to take an unusual job in a strange desert metropolis. In Dubai at the height of its self-invention as a futuristic Shangri-la, he struggles with his new position as the “family officer” of the capricious and very rich Batros family. And he struggles, even more helplessly, with the “doghouse,” a seemingly inescapable condition of culpability in which he feels himself constantly trapped—even if he’s just going to the bathroom, or reading e-mail, or scuba diving. A comic and philosophically profound exploration of what has become of humankind’s moral progress, The Dog is told with Joseph O’Neill’s hallmark eloquence, empathy, and storytelling mastery. It is a brilliantly original, achingly funny fable for our globalized times.

Lawrence Osborne for the New York Times says:
With a consummate elegance, “The Dog” turns in on itself in imitation of the dreadful circling and futility of consciousness itself. Its subplots go nowhere, as in life. But, unlike life, its wit and brio keep us temporarily more alive than we usually allow ourselves to be.
Joseph O'Neill  will be at our Ravenna location on Wednesday, October 1st, at 1:00 PM. The luncheon series takes place in the warm and inviting Third Place Pub. The Pub provides a private, intimate setting for authors to read, speak, and answer questions from a small audience limited to about 40 people. It's a wonderful alternative to the larger format readings that many authors and readers are traditionally used to.

A ticket is required in order to attend. Tickets are $40 and include a copy of the book, as well as a delicious lunch provided by Vios. Seating is limited for this exciting event. Call the Ravenna location for more information and ticket purchases. 206-525-2347.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Read This Book: Current Events Edition

This one might cause a bit of an uproar among the Twelfth Man. But it's a hot topic and given the controversies hounding the National Football League lately, many people have begun to rethink their support and interest. For those interested, Mark at the Ravenna store suggests Against Football by Steve Almond

Steve Almond covers all the reasons that fans should question their devotion to the game of football. First and foremost is the debilitating effects that the repeated crushing blows have on these athletes, especially head injuries. It's not just the frequent concussions that football players suffer, but the accumulated effects of hundreds of small hits every game and practice session. Fans are watching players seriously injure themselves for their entertainment. 

Almond wrote this book before the most recent football scandals, including the spousal abuse charge against Ray Rice. Football has a long history of sexism, and hyper-masculinity. Almond even covers the bullying scandal of a few years back (Miami Dolphins' Jonathan Martin,) and the expected media hoopla over the first openly gay NFL player (Michael Sam.) 

One of the issues covered that particularly interests me is the way public taxes are used to build these extravagant arenas, only to have the team owners benefit, often moving the team to another city when it suits their financial fancy. I guess they figure it works like the trickle down theory of economics. In other words, it's just another way for the rich to stay rich and get richer. 

This is a well-thought out diatribe, with humor, insight and empathy. I recommend this piece of social criticism for fans and non-fans alike.

Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto by Steve Almond

“Powerful...an important read." —Publishers Weekly

Steve Almond details why, after forty years as a fan, he can no longer watch the game he still loves. Using a synthesis of memoir, reportage, and cultural critique, Almond asks a series of provocative questions:

     • Does our addiction to football foster a tolerance for violence, greed, racism, and homophobia?
     • What does it mean that our society has transmuted the intuitive physical joys of childhood—run,
        leap, throw, tackle—into a billion-dollar industry?
     • How did a sport that causes brain damage become such an important emblem for our institutions
       of higher learning?

There has never been a book that exposes the dark underside of America’s favorite game with such searing candor.

Friday, September 19, 2014


Get ready to take your shoes off and free those Hobbit feet, it's Tolkien week! And September 22nd is Hobbit Day!

Hobbit Day was first celebrated in 1978 to commemorate the birthdays of everyone's favorite hobbits, Biblo and Frodo. Annie at Lake Forest Park is super excited and advises that any festivities "should include many, many fireworks (possibly dragony in nature), eating cake, and lots of dancing." And in all your revelry, she begs you not to forget, "elevensies, the most important meal of the day! Except for, of course, breakfast, second breakfast, dinner, and supper." Head over to the American Tolkien Society's site for more history and lore on Hobbit Day.

To celebrate Hobbit Day, The EMP will be displaying some awesome Hobbit and Lord of the Rings artifacts.  They'll be unveiling Sting, the dagger used by Bilbo and Frodo, as well as Aragorn's sword and Gimli's axe. Click here for more info.

In my "research" for this post, I was checking out Wikipedia's page on the Middle Earth Calendar. It is mind blowing. Bet you've never thought much about Shire-reckoning. Maybe you should start. I also stumbled on to The One Ring, and its Today in Middle Earth calendar. It's really astounding how much time and effort fans have put in to the upkeep of this website. Just for kicks, I checked out what happened in Middle Earth on my birthday:

When :March 4, 3019
Where: Helm's Deep
Description: Gandalf returns. (not from the appendices)
 "There suddenly upon a ridge appeared a rider, clad in white, shining in the rising sun. Over the low hills the horns were sounding."
Very cool.

Here are a few of Annie's hand-picked, favorite, hobbity books:

The Art of the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull

This beautiful book was released a few years ago to celebrate the 75th anniversary of The Hobbit's publication. I'm so glad it was! Tolkien was not only a talented author, but also a brilliant artist. This book is stuffed full of sketches, paintings, doodles, maps, and plans, as well as the complete Hobbit illustrations. Hammond and Scull lead the reader through Tolkien's work, some of which had never been published before this book was released. It's an easy and wonderful way for Hobbit and Lord of the Rings fans to get to know another side of the beloved author who created Middle Earth.

The Hobbit illustrated by Alan Lee

Though I love The Hobbit with Tolkien's original illustrations, this breathtaking edition with Alan Lee's beautiful drawings really is my favorite edition. He captures Middle Earth with such clarity and accuracy, I find myself falling into the Shire with every turn of the page. Smaug is devastating in all his dragon glory, Beorn's bear is glorious and terrifying, and I wish I could burrow myself into Bag End. A must have for even the smallest Hobbit fan.

And here's a trailer for that movie that's coming out soon...

So there you go. Raise up a buttered scone or perhaps some mushrooms, and enjoy a most festive Hobbit Day, and a merry Tolkien Week!

Friday, September 12, 2014

I've Got That John Franklin Fever

I'm in the grips of a certain mania; dealing with a severe bout of Sir John Franklin Fever. Don't ask, I just really dig polar explorations, and mysterious disappearances, and quests for lost ships. So you can imagine my excitement, glee really at this week's news.

Some Canadians think they've found one of Franklin's lost ships on the bottom of the sea. It's been missing for over 160 years, and they found it! Scientists are saying it's the greatest archaeological discovery since finding King Tut's tomb. Franklin's ships, Terror and Erebus vanished on the ice along with all 129 crew members in 1845. They were searching for the fabled Northwest Passage, which incidentally is no longer fabled, thanks to melting polar ice.
So, in honor of my weird Franklin obsession, here are some books you must check out:

The Terror by Dan Simmons
Obviously, you have to read this. It's awesome. This book was recommended to me by a customer. And I LOVED it!

This fantastical re-imagining of Sir John Franklin's ill-fated final search for the Northwest Passage reads pretty accurately based on the little I know. It uses the same dates, locations, names, even down to the wording of real-life messages recovered by rescue efforts. Yeah, it's pretty dead on...


That's right, a vicious monster haunts the ice where Franklin and his men are trapped. Killing and maiming with abandon. But as the novel and the expedition spiral into disarray, the sailors have a lot more to worry about than one itty-bitty monster. Disease and starvation, crushing ice, brutal blizzards, endless night, and ultimately their own shipmates. But surprisingly, there is a lot more to this epic. Mysticism, hope, adventure, loyalty.

I know you're thinking, "how ridiculous, a monster." But in the end it makes so much sense. Trust me, just suspend your disbelief and push on. It's worth it. It also sports one of the most perfectly developed characters I've encountered in a long time.

I had one awful nightmare while reading this book. I also almost vomited on the bus while reading about the effects of scurvy (I actually had to skip a few paragraphs...I've never done that). But I also had one peaceful dream about solitude and the Northern Lights (I actually had that dream the night after I finished the book). I was more than a little preoccupied with this one.

This next one isn't actually about Franklin, or even the Arctic, but it is the book that started my interest in polar exploration.

The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander

In August 1914, days before the outbreak of the First World War, the renowned explorer Ernest Shackleton and a crew of twenty-seven set sail for the South Atlantic in pursuit of the last unclaimed prize in the history of exploration: the first crossing on foot of the Antarctic continent. Weaving a treacherous path through the freezing Weddell Sea, they had come within eighty-five miles of their destination when their ship, Endurance, was trapped fast in the ice pack. Soon the ship was crushed like matchwood, leaving the crew stranded on the floes. Their ordeal would last for twenty months, and they would make two near-fatal attempts to escape by open boat before their final rescue. 

Drawing upon previously unavailable sources, Caroline Alexander gives us a riveting account of Shackleton's expedition--one of history's greatest epics of survival. And she presents the astonishing work of Frank Hurley, the Australian photographer whose visual record of the adventure has never before been published comprehensively. Together, text and image re-create the terrible beauty of Antarctica, the awful destruction of the ship, and the crew's heroic daily struggle to stay alive, a miracle achieved largely through Shackleton's inspiring leadership.
And speaking of Shackleton, there is a new, beautiful graphic novel based on the expedition that you really can't miss.

And last but not least, this fascinating and gripping nonfiction account of Britain's obsession with the Northwest Passage.

The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage by Anthony Brandt

After the triumphant end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the British took it upon themselves to complete something they had been trying to do since the sixteenth century: find the fabled Northwest Passage. For the next thirty-five years the British Admiralty sent out expedition after expedition to probe the ice-bound waters of the Canadian Arctic in search of a route, and then, after 1845, to find Sir John Franklin, the Royal Navy hero who led the last of these Admiralty expeditions. Enthralling and often harrowing, The Man Who Ate His Boots captures the glory and the folly of this ultimately tragic enterprise.

That should be enough reading for you to really nerd out on polar exploration and Franklin. Here's more on the finding of the ship if you are interested.

Monday, September 8, 2014

New Release Tuesday!

New Hardcovers

IT'S HERE! We are all so excited for this one!
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. 

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them. 

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave. 

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking) by Christian Rudder

An audacious, irreverent investigation of human behavior—and a first look at a revolution in the making 

Our personal data has been used to spy on us, hire and fire us, and sell us stuff we don’t need. In Dataclysm, Christian Rudder uses it to show us who we truly are. For centuries, we’ve relied on polling or small-scale lab experiments to study human behavior. Today, a new approach is possible. As we live more of our lives online, researchers can finally observe us directly, in vast numbers, and without filters. Data scientists have become the new demographers. 

In this daring and original book, Rudder explains how Facebook "likes" can predict, with surprising accuracy, a person’s sexual orientation and even intelligence; how attractive women receive exponentially more interview requests; and why you must have haters to be hot. He charts the rise and fall of America’s most reviled word through Google Search and examines the new dynamics of collaborative rage on Twitter. He shows how people express themselves, both privately and publicly. What is the least Asian thing you can say? Do people bathe more in Vermont or New Jersey? What do black women think about Simon & Garfunkel? (Hint: they don’t think about Simon & Garfunkel.) Rudder also traces human migration over time, showing how groups of people move from certain small towns to the same big cities across the globe. And he grapples with the challenge of maintaining privacy in a world where these explorations are possible. 

Visually arresting and full of wit and insight, Dataclysm is a new way of seeing ourselves—a brilliant alchemy, in which math is made human and numbers become the narrative of our time.

The Children Act by Ian McEwan

Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge who presides over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude, and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now her marriage of thirty years is in crisis. 

At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: Adam, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, is refusing for religious reasons the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents echo his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely expressed faith? In the course of reaching a decision, Fiona visits Adam in the hospital—an encounter that stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both. 

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why it Happens by Benedict Carey
In the tradition of The Power of Habit and Thinking, Fast and Slow comes a practical, playful, and endlessly fascinating guide to what we really know about learning and memory today—and how we can apply it to our own lives. 

From an early age, it is drilled into our heads: Restlessness, distraction, and ignorance are the enemies of success. We’re told that learning is all self-discipline, that we must confine ourselves to designated study areas, turn off the music, and maintain a strict ritual if we want to ace that test, memorize that presentation, or nail that piano recital. But what if almost everything we were told about learning is wrong? And what if there was a way to achieve more with less effort? 

In How We Learn, award-winning science reporter Benedict Carey sifts through decades of education research and landmark studies to uncover the truth about how our brains absorb and retain information. What he discovers is that, from the moment we are born, we are all learning quickly, efficiently, and automatically; but in our zeal to systematize the process we have ignored valuable, naturally enjoyable learning tools like forgetting, sleeping, and daydreaming. Is a dedicated desk in a quiet room really the best way to study? Can altering your routine improve your recall? Are there times when distraction is good? Is repetition necessary? Carey’s search for answers to these questions yields a wealth of strategies that make learning more a part of our everyday lives—and less of a chore.

New Paperbacks

Salinger by David Sheilds & Shane Salerno