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

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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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Why You Should Buy a Copy of Walking Home Right Now

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Eric Walters is a bestselling writer of books, ranging from picture books for the littlest to adventure novels for teens.  Kids are drawn to his books because he doesn’t hesitate to tackle major issues – 9/11, war, poverty – but he does it at their level.  He’s also a very cool guy.

He runs an orphanage in Kenya.  He covers all the administrative fees.  He is an elder in the Kumba tribe – as he puts it, “the whitest Kumba ever.”  And Walking Home is based on true events, and some of the kids he has gotten to know there.

In Walking Home, a brother and sister have been forced to move to a refugee camp, after political violence ended in their father’s death and the destruction of their home.  While in camp, their mother dies of malaria.  Rather than be separated into different orphanages, they make the decision to slip away from camp in the night, and try to find their maternal grandparents, who they have never met, in a town no one has ever heard of.  They have no money to speak of, so the journey of hundreds of kilometres will be on foot.

It is a moving story, and it’s enhanced by the fact that Walters walked the walk – literally.  He made the journey they did, and the text has symbols throughout the book where you can go to the book’s website and watch a video clip, or see a photo, or hear the sounds of Kenya.  It is an immersive experience – and listening to Walters talk about Kenya, his compassion for her people, his amazement at their strength – well, I dare you to stay unmoved.  I certainly was touched.

In fact, my whole bookstore was touched to the point where we decided we were going to sell as many copies as we could.  Since the publisher has committed to donating $1.30 from the sale of each copy of walking home to Walters’ charity, Creation of Hope ( creationofhope.com )   we found out from Walters that selling 77 copies of the book in store was enough to run the orphanage for a day.

At last count, we had sold almost enough for three days – more than 200 copies.  We received the following photo:

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So, help out.  Buy a great book, help a great cause.  You have nothing to lose, and they have everything to gain.

Christie

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Boundlessly Entertaining

 

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I am reading my (signed) copy of The Boundless right now.  You know those perfect stories?  Like Harry Potter, or The Princess Bride.  Those books where the story transcends age brackets, genres, and is just perfect?  This is that book.  Give it to everyone as a gift – they’ll thank you.  Would probably make an excellent chapter-a-night bedtime story with ages 9+.  Do not leave adults off your gift list with this one.  It has also won a few awards already, proving that my opinions on books are always right.

Christie

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Riyria Addiction

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Part David Eddings’ Elenium trilogy, part Princess Bride, all addictive.  Funny, gripping, edge of your seat adventure. I’m on book 3 of Michael J. Sullivan’s fantasy trilogy, and this is as much as I’m going to write so I can get back to it.  Almost called in sick to work.  Seriously.

Christie

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Beyond the Gates of Gomorrah

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Beyond the Gates of Gomorrah is the true story of a psychiatrist who is beginning a new job in the forensic unit of a mental health hospital in California (which he refers to as Gomorrah).  Every day he walks among rapists and murderers, all there because the justice system deemed them not responsible for their actions due to mental illness.  Despite being terrified to go to work, being the target of threats of and witnessing violent attacks he is able to see the humanity in his patients and even misses one of them when gone.

Dr. Seager also deals with several current issues, most notably proposed gun law changes after the Newtown, Connecticut shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school. To target those who have been treated for some kind of mental illness would do nothing to reduce mass shootings, he says.  Those who commit this type of crime are a specific, small subset of those afflicted with a mental illness: paranoid, but organized (are able to hold down a job, handle money, etc.).This type of person will refuse treatment and would be less likely to be picked up by a background check.  The assumption that the mentally ill are, as a whole, dangerous is false; they are more likely to be victims of crime, rather than the perpetrators.
I was drawn to this book because I did a co-op at a similar facility in Toronto when I was in school.  I could  relate to the duality of feeling that even knowing you are speaking with someone who has committed a terrible crime, in that moment you can still get past what they have done and relate to him.  Although some of the things he describes can come off as surreal (for example the staff vs. patients baseball game), it made me remember things like pick up soccer games in the courtyard during recreation periods.
In the book, Dr. Seager continually tries to figure out why he stays despite his fear. I remember the feeling of helping to care for people in the margins of society, of giving compassion to people who probably haven’t seen much compassion in their lives and I think I know why he stayed. The time I spent at my “Gomorrah” was an experience that really changed my mind about mental illness, crime and the law – and if this book is read with an open mind I think it too can make a difference.
Melissa

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