Ellen Stimson was married to the father of her first born son for about fifteen minutes. It takes a special person to embrace an ex-husband as not only a dear friend but as a much-beloved member of the family, and it takes a special memoirist to write about his sudden and premature death with such uproarious humor. Stimson tells the story of her big, exuberant ex-husband, and of the triumphs and mishaps in her small Vermont village with her adoring husband, three lively children, and menagerie of pets, with such poignancy, love, and humor that I long to be invited over for dinner to join the fun.
The much-anticipated film version of Gillian Flynn's book Gone Girl - a long-time staff pick, incidentally - has spurred an interest in those who haven't already read the book. For those who have, I'm offering a book review version of our display 'If You Liked Gone Girl, Then Try The Silent Wife.'
Jodi and Todd have been married for twenty years and Jodi works hard to maintain a serene and well-ordered, although not wildly happy, life. She lives in oblivious denial though, and is completely caught off guard by Todd's infidelities and unwillingness to give up his pregnant girlfriend. A murder forces their lives to spiral out of control in this intriguing 'he said - she said' story told in alternating voices, and it is a page-turner right until the very last word.
This is a lovely edition of Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tales, but the really cool thing about this volume is the step-by-step instructions in folding the pages to make a beautiful snowflake sculpture right in the book. Think origami in book form - in one evening you can fold your way to a keepsake sculpture. Artfolds publishes several titles - we also carry Christmas Memories, which folds into a Christmas tree in about an hour. I love these unique books - and they'll make terrific holiday gifts.
I've found that one can find book holders everywhere. The problem is finding one that actually works well, and this is the one. Book Hugs are well-designed and hold a small paperback or a large hardcover equally well. Compact in size but very sturdy, they are perfect in the kitchen, office, or at the craft table. Or, if I must be honest, for holding my book while I eat. Book Hugs come in two colors - silver/black and purple/violet - and their terrific price of $13.95 means that everyone on my holiday gift list might just get one...
This fun book is subtitled, The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests, and this edition has been expanded and updated for the show's fortieth season (Forty? Really? Because I started sneaking downstairs to watch after my parents went to bed, and that was from the very beginning...yikes!). This was written completely in the interviewee's own words from the show's conception until now, and is a fascinating, funny, and honest view of the show that has kept us on our toes from the start. Fun fact - the show was put on the air because Johnny Carson wanted more time off, and didn't want his reruns shown on the weekends so that he could substitute them in during his vacations. Photos and year-by-year cast lists add to the fun.
Oh my goodness - such drama over one book! Agatha Christie websites have been arguing for months over this new Hercule Poirot mystery. I too, have been in love with Mr. Poirot since junior high, and I too, tend to have disdain for new stories about old characters, but (as I've posted on the aforementioned websites several times) give it a chance anyway. This early case starts at a London coffee shop where a terrified young woman confides to Poirot that she is about to be murdered, and that when she is, justice will be done. Her connection to a triple murder at a fashionable hotel - each victim having a monogrammed cuff link in his mouth - sets the famous detective into one of his most twisty cases. Controversy aside, Sophie Hannah is a very good writer, and our beloved Poirot is in capable hands in this charming story.
Etta Mae Wiggins is clean, well-groomed, ambitious, and hard-working as a Handy Home Helper. She owns her own single-wide, prides herself on her organizational skills, and never dates a married man. She just can't escape the stigma of her family's no-good name, so when the town's richest widower becomes her patient (and takes a shine to her assets despite being half-incapacitated by a stroke) Etta Mae sets about getting what even money can't buy - the respectability that comes with the name Mrs. Howard Connard, Sr. The rest is a wild-goose chase of ex-husbands, lottery tickets, dumb thugs, her big-mouth boss Lurline, Mrs. Julia Springer (whom we've met many times before in her own books), and no end of roadblocks to love - all faced with Etta Mae's kindness, incorrigible spirit, big blonde hair, and fierce best dress from Walmart's Kathie Lee collection
Days away from her twelfth birthday and fresh from her beloved father's fatal bike accident, Liberty Bell's mother Vidrine drove her from Olympia, Washington, to New Orleans and unceremoniously dropped her off in front of her grandmother's decrepit mansion. Ibby had never seen a black person before, nor felt such culture shock, and she quickly learned that her grandmother Fannie, while kind and well-meaning, is incapable of revisiting her own sorrowful past in a healthy fashion. Fortunately, Fannie's kindhearted cook Queenie tucked Ibby under her motherly wing, and she and her sassy daughter Dollbaby help guide Ibby through family secrets and the tumultuous racial relations of New Orleans in the 1960s. I loved this book. McNeal paints a wonderful picture of New Orleans with all its pride and quirks, and Ibby's new-found family and friends are delightful.
Maddy, Barbara, Rachel, and Melinda were brought together by their medical school husbands, and they kept their bond strong with an annual trip to an oceanfront house - a different beach every time, but always during the month of August. Grief over Melinda's sudden and tragic death in a car accident lead them to drift apart, but Melinda's widower's new marriage prompts them to try again on a remote island off the coast of South Carolina. Unfortunately, the much younger Baby tries everyone's patience with her childlike antics until a storm hits the barrier island and they have no choice but to draw together. The characters - and trials - of these women are well-developed and the summer house and setting are beautifully drawn. This book took me on a little vacation right along with The Girls, and made me think all the more fondly of my own barrier island trips with my girlfriends.
Actually, this delightful novel adds together a whole lot more than one plus one. Imagine a tech millionaire under investigation for insider trading, the single mother who cleans his vacation home, her sensitive Goth stepson and mathematically brilliant young daughter, and a big flatulent dog named Norman on a slow-moving car trip to the Maths Olympiad in Scotland. You'll have a kind of Bridget Jones meets a National Lampoon vacation road trip, which adds up to the perfect summer indulgence. I really liked all of Moyes' smart, funny, sensitive characters, and even my non-romantic self routed for a happy ending.
Mary Byrd Thornton was living an idyllic life in Oxford, Mississippi, with her lovely home, solid husband, and two children, when she received a phone call from a cold case detective in her hometown in Virginia. He is reopening the case of the abduction and murder of her nine-year-old stepbrother, and while they always thought the killer was the weird kid down the street, there was not enough evidence to convict.
This is Lisa Howorth's first book. She is the owner of the award-winning independent bookstore Square Books in Oxford, and she lived through a similar situation in her own life. Flying Shoes has a little suspense, a lot of kooky characters, a wonderful depiction of the New South, and a sharp wit. Indeed, I fell in love with Howorth's writing from her description of some fraternity brothers on page two...
A 10-pack of Chihuahuas + a 1-eyed crazed Russian assassin + a 300 pound roof-sitting naked guy = Top Secret Twenty-One, the latest Stephanie Plum adventure, of course.
Our favorite Trenton bounty hunter is trying to catch Jimmy Poletti, who's selling more than used cars out of his back room. She's trying to save Ranger from a terrorist bent on poisoning New Jersey with polonium. And she's trying to keep annoying Randy Briggs alive before she kills him herself. Sidekick Lula and Grandma Mazur are as determined as always to assist, and I love the fact that Evanovich's books release in June, because they are such fun to read on a lazy summer afternoon.
What's a girl to do when she catches her husband cheating on her with her young assistant in the front seat of his Audi convertible? Drive his beloved car into their pool, of course. Said act lands Grace Stanton locked out of her beautiful home and successful lifestyle blog, and locked into a divorce battle with both her husband Ben and the misogynist judge Cedric Stackpole, who has sentenced her to six weeks of group therapy with a questionable divorce coach. Thus begins Ladies' Night, when the group – which includes one lone man – meets after the sessions at Grace's mother's bar The Sandbox. There are a lot of subplots in this book, but Andrews links them well in this light and fun story.
E. Forbes Smiley III was one of the most knowledgeable and respected map dealers in the world. He had spent his life studying, collecting, and selling old and rare maps, and was trusted by both librarians and his clients. The intimate world of collectors and historians was shocked when he was arrested for stealing millions of dollars worth of the very items he spent a lifetime preserving - by carefully cutting them from atlases and slipping them out of books. Blanding intersperses Forbes' story with the competitive - sometimes cutthroat - history of map-making, which has traditionally been considered an art as well as a science. Fascinating!
Adam Resnick unabashedly avoids change, social interaction, and anything he doesn't want to do, and he explains why in this memoir-in-essays. He seems born with a love for all things anti-social, but credits an Easter party at age six – and a disturbing photo hidden in the host's desk – with real beginnings of his trauma. Resnick is an Emmy Award winning writer for Late Night With David Letterman, and it's easy to see why. Fortunately, he saved his best, most irreverent, disturbing, and funny stories for this book.
Beth McKenzie is thrilled when her first customers check into the Dixie Dew, her grandmother's-mansion-turned-bed-and-breakfast. She is not thrilled when Miss Lavinia Lovingood goes to bed alive and wakes up dead. She is horrified to find out Miss Lovingood was murdered, and determined to find the killer – along with sidekick Ida Plum Duckett and handsome handyman Scott Smith – before the Dixie Dew closes in the face of bad reviews and canceled reservations.
This is author Moose's first in a new cozy mystery series, and she does a fine job of taking us to small town North Carolina.
The title of this book is so straightforward that it hardly needs more comment, but I purchased it one day in a fit of whiny annoyance over yet another day of crummy weather, with the thought that if even one of the ideas worked it was well worth its price. Each chapter has a theme and a checklist of little things that may bring more (for instance) vitality, wonder, comfort, or other desirable 'happy capture' into one's day, on the premise that one finds real ongoing happiness in the little things. Some may not appeal as much as others – for example, living in a 'beautiful mess' would make me edgy and uncomfortable, not happy, but that's okay. With 654 ideas, some are bound to elevate your happiness level.
I have realized that my favorite authors share writing techniques that I admire: perfectly chosen and placed words, the omission of extraneous information, and the ability to tell sometimes wildly different stories with a style that is true to both the author and the story itself. Maggie Shipstead does all of those things quite brilliantly. Astonish Me is her second novel, and as I immediately permanently staff picked Seating Arrangements, I cynically thought it couldn't possibly be as good. I was very, very wrong. Shipstead enters the competitive world of professional ballet as easily as she moved through that of preppy old money. Joan was a young American ballerina who helped Arslan Rusakov, Russia's greatest dancer, defect, but during the affair that followed, she realizes that while she loves the ballet, she'll never be talented enough to move past the corps. Instead of admitting her limitations, however, she becomes pregnant and marries Jacob, who has always loved her, and begins a new life in California with the son she hopes will have the career she lacked. This book is beautiful, and had the rare ability to stay with me long after I reluctantly read the last word.
Nora Hamilton woke up late and uncharacteristically groggy one winter morning to stumble across the body of her police officer husband, Brendan, who had apparently committed suicide in the night. He has left no warning, no reason, and no suicide note. And since his best friend, fellow officers, and even his mother are resistant to finding the truth, Nora is left to unravel the increasingly complex secrets of their idyllic small town in the Adirondack Mountains.
Milchman crafted her mystery well – it certainly was a twisted roller-coaster puzzle – but it was her setting of a deep cold, almost claustrophobic snow globe of a town that sets her story apart.
Arthur Winthrop was born to become headmaster at Lancaster, an elite Vermont prep school. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were Yale graduates and Lancaster headmasters, and Arthur expected his son to continue the family legacy, too. Ethan, however, had different plans. And after Arthur is arrested for wandering naked through Central Park and his explanation to the police unfolds, he tries to make sense of conflicting memories of his life, choices, and family.
Greene's novel was riveting – I had to stop and catch my breath after Part 1 – and beautifully written – think Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, Seating Arrangements, or The Starboard Sea.
A.J. Fikry is a curmudgeon. He has really only loved two things – his wife, now dead, and books – some of them – if they fall within a very narrow standard of literary brilliance. His bookstore is having the worst year ever, and his treasured, valuable, and rare copy of Tamerlane is missing. And the combined efforts of his sister-in-law, a kindly town police officer, and a sprightly, enthusiastic, and persistent publisher's rep are not quite enough to pull Fikry out of his slump. It takes an abandoned baby girl carrying a note with the explicit hope of her mother that the baby be raised around books, and a lot of help from the people he reluctantly befriends to show Fikry the life he should lead. I loved this book. The author could have easily become saccharine and overly sentimental, but did not. Her writing is as straightforward as Fikry himself, and she is able to leave out every detail that doesn't readily pertain to the story. And (for those of you that wonder what it's like, and as a bookseller myself) she really nails the book business in a realistic way.
In this crisply constructed story of small town mid west America, Butler tells the tale of a group of friends – those who have stayed in the dying town of Little Wing, those who have left and returned, and one whose Indie rocker fame took him away, but who still uses his old farm and old friends as a touchstone and reality check. I am excited about this book – my first permanent staff pick of the year. Butler's sense of place and character is very well-done, especially as the chapters unfold in Hank, Beth, Lee, and Donny's distinct and personal voices, and I easily imagined myself in rural Wisconsin, sitting around the campfire along with them.