Well, April is Poetry Month, and April is almost over. All month, we've been getting staff and customers to write poems on cardboard raindrops and we've been hanging them in the kids' section at the Colfax store.
The winners of the inaugural Indies Choice Book Award were announced this week. Formerly the Booksense Book of the Year Award, these new awards offer a wider range of awards. The awards were chosen by bookstore staff at independent bookstores across the nation.
Here are some recommendations for books coming out this month:
Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife by Nava Atlas This little book, done up in 1950's cookbook style, is hilarious. It includes recipes such as "Control Freak Cookies", "Bean and Weenies of Sexual Tension" and "Hypercritical Cinnamon Rolls" among many others, with instructions to let things marinate with lost dreams and repressed rage, or offers the option to spice with cinnamon or cyanide, cook's choice. There are a few happy recipes in there too (her editor made her add them), but this is truly just a giggle for those of us whose rose colored glasses got lost a long time ago, about the same time as our tired souls turned a deep shade of jade.
The Household Guide To Dying by Debra Adelaide Don't let the title fool you, or at least read the whole title, which continues: "a novel about life". Because that's certainly what it is. The main character, Delia, is an advice columnist for domestic stuff, as well as a writer of several books based on a modern and cheeky interpretation of the 1861 classic "Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management". She also happens to be a mother with a loving husband, two young daughters, and end-stage cancer. She figures that her final book should be, in fact, how to manage a household dealing with death. She's flippant, upbeat, well read and extremely funny while dealing with enormous issues head-on (mostly) and unflinchingly. The book moves around in time a bit, back and forth between 17-year-old Delia who was making her way in the world as an unwed teenage mother in a small town and the current organized, irreverent, dying-in-as-practical-way-as-she-can Delia. The scope and generosity of her story is difficult to pull away from--there are quiet insights throughout the book that sneak up on you in unexpected ways but hit you like a hammer. It's a charming and ultimately hopeful story that I sincerely gets a lot of attention--it deserves it.
Jane Hamilton, author of the emotionally wrenching "A Map of the World" and "The Book of Ruth", is trying her hand at humor this spring in this tale of two marriages and four profoundly disassociated people.
Laura and Charlie Rider are childless and the proprietors of a grand and successful plant nursery where Laura does the designs and Charlie does the hard work (including the quiet work of fixing Laura's designs). Laura is bold, bright, ambitious, completely self centered and just as completely uninterested in Charlie anymore. Charlie is an immature, simple, pleasant guy who prides himself mostly for being great in bed despite most of the town being convinced he's gay. They run the business together and make up stories about their 4 cats to give them something to talk about with each other.
Jenna Faroli is the town celebrity, hosting a syndicated radio talk show that brings in all the stars, hot authors and politicos. She is married to Frank who is a judge, Rhodes Scholar and budding amateur chef 15 years her senior and still in love with his college sweetheart who married his best friend. Jenna and Frank's marriage has been basically passionless since the complicated birth of their daughter 20-some years ago (an emotionally troubled and clingy young woman prone to multiple frantic calls to her mother every day). Theirs is a marriage of intellects more than anything.
Things change when Charlie and Jenna meet by accident just about the time that Laura decides that she wants to write romance novels. Trying to figure out a plot, she begins to experiment on Charlie and Jenna, with Charlie's knowledge, establishing an email relationship between the two (that she partially ghost writes) until an actual affair begins. That's when things begin to get out of control for everybody.
This is a darkly hilarious novel that I would categorized as "suburban Machiavellian chic lit with a slight literary twist". It's also an extremely quick read--I knocked it out in a matter of a few hours. While it doesn't resonate like Hamilton's previous work, it's definitely worth the read for it's creativity and wicked humor.
Ahern , queen of the "soul mates will find each other" chic lit fairy tales, has another winner on her hands. There's always a bit of magic involved in her tales, but this one has the biggest dose yet. Protagonist Joyce takes a tumble down some stairs, losing her baby (and ultimately her marriage) and needing a blood transfusion. While still in the hospital, she discovers she has all sorts of new knowledge-- architectural , artistic, historic, a grasp of languages--that she had no actual way of having gained. And then the memory flashes begin--of a woman on a picnic blanket, a tow headed little girl she's never met, and a life she has never lived. She's getting intimate glimpses of someone else's past, and she becomes obsessed with figuring out whose. A couple of chance meetings with a tall man set sparks flying and the comedic dance of trying to get two strangers who are meant to be together ACTUALLY together begins. It's a fun, light read coming out just in time for Spring Break.
Tonight, April 7, at 7:30, award-winning journalist Dave Cullen will discuss and sign his timely new book Columbine. Cullen began covering the story of the Columbine massacre on the day the terrible events bagan unfolding. In this gripping narrative of exactly what happened and why, Cullen explains that what most people think they know about Columbine is actually false. With painstaking research, the author approaches his subjects with unrivaled care and insight, getting at the heart of Columbine's significance.
Again, Dave Cullen will be speaking at the Tattered Cover Lower Downtown at 7:30 tonight.
This is a charming and disarming book written in the voice of a 12-year old autistic boy. Jason writes wonderful stories on a website called Storyboard because that is the one place that he can make himself be understood. The rest of the time,especially since he's been mainstreamed into the public school system, he can't make himself heard or understood by the "neurotypical" folks, even his own family. A young girl also on Storyboard writes back to him with emails getting away from stories and more just friendly chatter. This is a new and treasured thing for Jason--a friend who sees him as talented and interesting instead of "different". But when a chance comes along for Jason and his correspondent to meet, his world is thrown into panic as he struggles with who he is and who he'd like to be. This is truly a wonderful book, designed for ages 10-14, but I was enthralled with it and I'm a rather high multiple of those ages.
Therese Fowler's sophomore book shows that she just keeps getting better and better. Reunion tells the story of Blue Reynolds, a nationally popular talk show host with a past that she's hidden for years--a short time in her heartbroken youth that led her to partying, doing drugs and ultimately giving a baby up for adoption. She discretely begins to search for that child 20 years later, ironically at the same time her career leads her to the same man who broke her heart back then. Past and present collide in many ways for Blue, making this a very interesting read indeed with a satisfying but teasing ending. Fowler is very good a creating multi-dimensional characters that stay with you long after the last page is turned.
Molly Wizenberg is a food writer with a monthly column in Bon Appetit and a popular blog called Orangette ( http://orangette.blogspot.com/ ), as well as being a contributor in several other publications as well as NPR and PBS. "A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table" is her first book, made up mostly of past entries on Orangette. It's a biography told in recipes--amazingly accessible recipes that made my mouth water and my feet itch to get into the kitchen and start experimenting myself. This book (and the blog, on which I am now hooked) is extremely personable and personal--she talks about food solidly in the context that is has in her life. Her father's french toast, a recipe for Tarte Tatin in which the memory of a young heartbreak in Paris is a silent but important ingredient, Dutch Baby pancakes made for her by one of her friend Rebecca's husbands (Rebecca says everyone needs two husbands: for her one is straight-- John, the cook-- and one is gay-- Jimmy, the baker-- and all three have successfully lived together for years). This book reads very much like a chat at the table over coffee with your best friend--one who is a fanatic about food and has been known to experiment with recipes for years before finally being satisfied. I read the advanced copy, so I don't know about the finished book illustrations, though there is a note that they willbe in black and white, which is disappointing after seeing the stunning photography used in the blog. That will not, however, keep me from recommending this fabulous book to every foodie (or wannabe foodie) in my sphere of influence.
The Lost Quilter by Jennifer Chiaverini The winds of March are bringing in an eagerly awaited treat--the next book in Jennifer Chiaverini's extremely popular Elm Creek Quilts series. The Lost Quilter once again visits slave times, continuing the story of Joanna begun in The Runaway Quilt (2003) . Even if you haven't read the first book, this one will grip you from beginning to end with her plight as a captured run-away slave who eventually helps fight the Civil War by spying in Charleston just before it burns. This story, for all of it's horror and brutal truths about life as a slave, is incredibly uplifting and inspiring.
Chiaverini has done it again!
Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult I haven't read anything by Picoult in a few years, and I had forgotten how brilliant she is at blending multiple voices throughout a hefty, impressively researched novel. This book grabbed me hard and didn't let me go (sleep was lost, bus stops missed, etc). The personal, ethical, moral and social issues contained in this book will keep bookclubs talking for weeks.
The story, in a nutshell, is a mother of a precocious but severely disabled child decides, in order to get the cash necessary to keep up with her medical bills and special needs, to sue her obstetrician for "wrongful birth". This means that she must swear under oath that she should have been given all the facts about her daughter's illness in time to have an abortion. The same child that she adores, who is old enough and smart enough to understand what her mother is saying, but not why she is saying it.. Add to that the fact that her best friend is the doctor she is suing. In a small town. As you can see, the scenario is fraught with dramas and dilemmas even without side stories about her lawyer and her other daughter running throughout. There is a twist, at the very end, that will knock the breath out of you (I'm still stunned by so bold a plot turn myself).
One thing I disliked about the book is the recipes running throughout it--Charlotte, the main character, was a pastry chef before Willow's problems forced her into being a stay home mom, so they aren't completely out of place, but I felt like they did more to disrupt the flow of the book than add dimension to it. Still, I give it 5 stars with no hesitation.