Ruby is Painfully Beautiful and Worth Every Minute

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Cynthia Bond has written about how terrible human beings are in the most beautiful way possible.  I never really needed to use the term “lush prose” until I read this book.  The words are fat, and gorgeous, and paint a picture that you wish was not quite so vivid because Ruby is full of horror and misery, and a tiny bit of loveliness.

The story of Ruby is the story of a young black woman who tried to outrun her past, and found that it wouldn’t stay in the past.  Mostly set around the time of the Washington Riots, a letter from a beloved friend reached Ruby, and she made the choice to return home to her small town.  Once home, she found small minds, judgement, and secrets waiting to tear her down, and Ruby’s descent into mental illness is met with smugness and derision, not compassion.  Many of the characters are just horrible, but Bond doesn’t let you have the satisfaction of completely despising them, because almost all of them have some horrible happening in their own past that twisted them – and it almost makes it worse, because they could maybe have been good people.  Maybe.

Some of the characters are truly evil.  I’m talking gag inducing, have to put the book down for a while evil.  This book has child abuse, sexual abuse, and rape in it, and you should be prepared for that.

If you can manage it, read it.  It is heart searing, dreadful, flashback prompting – beautiful.  And there is a little hope for humanity in there, I promise.

Don’t be surprised if this starts showing up as required reading for English Literature classes.  Wow.  One of the most powerful books I’ve read in a long time.

 

Christie

 

 

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Terry Pratchett & Bromeliads

Thanks to xkcd for this.

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The End of the Discworld – Terry Pratchett has Died

 

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It is with true sadness that I report the death of Sir Terry Pratchett, at the age of 66.  It is sadness for me, because I love his work beyond that of any other.  Because reading Thud! transported me to a wonderful world and a literary journey that will impact my life forever.  His barbed wit was apparent in novels for both children and adults, and I have loved them all.

I am happy for him, however, because I know he wanted nothing more than to escape his brain that was slowly being ravaged by Alzheimer’s, taking away that quick mind and sly humour.

Thank you, Sir Terry, for all of the joy you have given me.  May you rest in peace, and may the goddess Anoia watch over you.

Christie

 

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LGBT Picks?

Hi everyone,

Here in Toronto, Pride Week falls in June, and I love doing great displays for pride.  I want to not feature the same titles every year, so I am asking you guys if you have read anything with LGBTQ characters or themes, for all age ranges, that you thought were great.  I have some great YA picks, but I need more books for kids under twelve, and new books for adults.  I don’t just want romance – books that feature great characters who are gay, trans, asexual – I am perfectly happy for that not to be central to the story line.  In fact, that’s great, because I want there to be books where a person’s sexuality, gender identity, gender expression, is only a part of who they are, not the whole story.

I know I’m super-early, but the more time I have, the better the selection will be, and it gives me extra time to get hold of hard-to-get stuff.  Thanks for the help!

Christie

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I Will Ask Your Questions!

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Hey guys,  I am super excited that I am going to get to meet Kazuo Ishiguro, Linden MacIntyre, and John Boyne in the next little while.  How cool is that?  Not only meet them, but ask them questions – and I am willing to ask some on your behalf.  Post ‘em here, and I will bring back as many answers as I can.

Christie

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Something a Little Fishy With These Customers

fantasy-computer-goldfish-creative-art-wallpaper-1136x640_8bdd084536c156bd844e9f2316fc4c8d_raw A customer in the store yesterday was telling me about her goldfish, and how it had its own Facebook page.  This was moderately cute until I realized that she was telling me that her goldfish told her what to type, and that obviously it couldn’t do it itself without a waterproof computer.  Because clearly, that’s the only impediment to fishy bloggers – the lack of good waterproofing. Cue backing away slowly, as she is telling me about her plans to mic the aquarium and live stream (no pun intended) her talking fish… On a different note, I had a customer who told me he had no idea Nelson Mandela was a member of the Illuminati.  Why did they think he was a member of the Illuminati, you may ask? Because of the Coretta Scott King award on the cover of Kadir Nelson’s children’s book, Nelson Mandela.  Sigh. download

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Red Queen is Bloody Good

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If you love a good dystopian YA, Victoria Aveyard’s debut novel,  Red Queen is for you.  With a lot (and I mean a lot) of parallels to The Hunger Games & Divergent, the characters and plot twists make this read different enough to still be enjoyable, without feeling like you’re just reading on repeat. If you have read Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, this is like a weird parallel universe to that book.

Red Queen is a little more rooted in fantasy territory, and has a unique take on the dystopian theme.  The nobility of Red Queen‘s world is distinguished by their innate ability to channel fire or electricity, or possess extreme strength or psychic powers.  Their control over the lower class is absolute, who don’t possess any superhuman talents.  Imagine the uproar when Mare, a girl of perfectly common blood, suddenly displays her own power – and no one’s surprise is greater than Mare’s.

I won’t get too deeply into the plot  and spoil it, but there are some great twists, a little romance, lots of intrigue. Lots, and lots, of intrigue.  Like baby Game of Thrones.  If you have a teen who is looking for an entry to more sophisticated story lines, this is a good place for them to start.

This is clearly the start of a series – it should be a fun ride.

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As far as Flavia De Luce is concerned, Having a skeleton in the closet (or chimney) is a good thing.

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I love Flavia.  She is one of my favorite characters – Alan Bradley has done such a good job with her I can imagine sitting together and making sarcastic assessments of passers-by.  Accordingly, I snapped up As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust almost before it hit the shelf, the latest in the mystery series that has won pretty much every big mystery award out there.  Flavia is a brilliant, mouthy twelve-year-old who loves chemistry, particularly the poisonous kind.  She is almost always far smarter than the adults around her, possesses no tact whatsoever – and has the habit of stumbling over dead bodies.  In this book, she has been “banished” to a boarding school in Canada, which may or not be a front for a secret spy training facility.  Things start looking up when a dead body falls out of the chimney in her room.

I was fortunate enough to join Alan Bradley for high tea at Toronto’s Windsor Arms along with other booksellers and some representatives of Penguin Random House.   Firstly, I highly recommend having high tea there.  If you don’t have your own fancy hat, they have ones you can use for a small donation to charity, and the food and tea was amazing (I indulged in lapsang souchong, which is the most wonderful tea for winter).  Also, I got to wear my own fancy hat. I was seated next to Alan, who I would happily have tea with on a weekly basis.  Originally from Ontario, Alan now resides in England, and is such an excellent source of British television and film recommendations that we started taking notes.

He spoke about fond memories of family book readings, where adults took turns reading aloud, and the children were allowed to stay up until the story was over.   I thought this sounded like a wonderful idea, and we discussed the impact of reading aloud to children, and favorite read-aloud books (I mentioned Narnia, and Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately the Milk).  This series would actually be a wonderful one for that purpose, because it would be entirely appropriate to read to children, but has a sly subtext for adults.

Some of the booksellers spoke about having books you saved for reading when you needed a treat, or to be cheered up, or to make up for the other book you had to read because it won an award likely due to the judges panel being drunk (this seems to happen frequently).  Alan Bradley is our reading reward, our book dessert.  Flavia is delicious, and not to be missed.

 

Christie

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Fairyland Isn’t Just for Kids

FairylandbyCatherynneValente

One of the most magical things in the world is a book that transcends age and era.  Although this brings to mind for most people classics like The Hobbit, or Treasure Island, people are in fact still writing these books.  Catherynne M. Valente is one of those people.

Her Fairyland series captured my eye with its first title, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.  Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is a title.  A title to make you dream, to entice… where you feel like the only proper place to read it is in a blanket fort, with a flashlight, immediately.

My nine-year-old daughter adores it, and so do I.  The writing is just beautiful; whimsical and perfect.  You will fall in love with the characters, with the story, with the author.  You will want to get your friends together for an adventure in your tree fort (if you don’t have adult friends who are willing to have adventures in tree forts, find new friends). This, along with The Boundless, makes me remember why I have loved books for as long as I can remember.

Indulge yourself.  Pick up this book series.  Go home and make a blanket fort, grab a flashlight, and read (it’s a grown-up blanket fort, so feel free to make it fancy and include wine).

If your kids are really well behaved, maybe you’ll let them borrow it.

 

Christie

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The Bulletproof Diet is Full of Holes

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I think most diet books are bullshit,  but Dave Asprey’s The Bulletproof Diet stinks more than most.  At this time of year, a lot of people are coming into the bookstore for diet and exercise books, self help, “new year, new you” stuff.  I had heard of Asprey’s “Bulletproof coffee with butter” (another one of his diet tips that helps you achieve “mental clarity”), and decided to have a look at what he was putting in the book – curious to see if it could possibly be as dumb as his coffee.  It can.

The first page I flipped open to contained a weird rant about how garlic and onions are “Suspect” (the capitalization is his).  He claims you need look no further for evidence of their evil than the fact that in the Koran, garlic and onions sprang from the cloven footprints of Satan.  Yep, that’s right, the scientific reasoning is that obviously these are Satanic plants, so they will make you fat.  He ranks all foods on his pseudo-scientific scale of toxic to bulletproof.  Apparently he’s not a veggie person, and hey, raisins are toxic.  Who knew?

He also wants you to skip breakfast, despite the many, many scientist who share an opposing view, because obviously he knows more than some “scientist” who went to “school.”

He has a handy-dandy line up of Bulletproof branded products that are even more expensive then the stuff at Whole Foods, so they must be extra good at weight loss!  Of course he is only making these products out of the goodness of his heart, to help you lose weight!  There is no profit-based motive here at all!

As far as I can tell, The Bulletproof Diet is your personal guide to malnutrition for you, and enrichment for Asprey.  What a sleaze.

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