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August 2007 -- In her first novel, Sarah Addison Allen has written a tender, bewitching book told with captivating invention, peopled with characters to care about, and filled with the irresistible magic of dreams come true.

The women of the Waverley family—whether they like it or not—are heirs to an unusual legacy, one that grows in a fenced plot behind their Queen Anne home on Pendland Street in Bascom, North Carolina. There, an apple tree bearing fruit of magical properties looms over a garden filled with herbs and edible flowers that possess the power to affect in curious ways anyone who eats them.

For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother's unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town's constraints. Using her grandmother's mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business—and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life—upon the family's peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories. Garden Spells  reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire's routine existence upside down. With Sydney's homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire's own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways.

As the sisters reconnect and learn to support one another, each finds romance where she least expects it, while Sydney's child, Bay, discovers both the safe home she has longed for and her own surprising gifts. With the help of their elderly cousin Evanelle, endowed with her own uncanny skills, the Waverley women redeem the past, embrace the present, and take a joyful leap into the future.

Message Edited by PaulH on 04-07-2009 02:45 PM

Grace was attacked by wolves when she was eleven years old. Given her young age and the traumatic nature of it, her memories of the event are sketchy. But she knows there was a single wolf who saved her life that day. What she has always remembered is this: his yellow eyes. I thought I'd never see them again.

 

The wolf has also never forgotten seeing members of his pack tearing the life out of her while she just held his gaze, letting the other wolves mutilate her. I thought she was the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen, a tiny, bloody angel in the snow, and they were going to destroy her. So he stopped it.

 

Six years have passed, and Grace still feels a connection with her wolf. She watches him at the edge of the woods every winter when the earth is bitter with cold. She spends her summers mourning his absence. However, this peaceful seasonal pattern is interrupted when the wolves attack and kill a human. The community now feels threatened and a hunt ensues. When Grace realizes this, she does everything she can to stop it, lest her harmless wolf be slaughtered. She knows she may too late, though, as she's already heard many shots fired followed by the painful howls of wolves. A police officer forces her to go home that evening, and she is shocked by what she finds on her deck: her wolf, twisted and bloody...and human.

 

Here's the part where I must curb my compulsion to tell you every heartrending detail of this book (and there are so many!). But I will say that what follows is an exquisitely written story of discovery, love, and loss. This fairy tale unfolds offering ethereal delights and shocking revelations not just about our newly inseparable duo, but also the peculiar events that have been transpiring around them.

 

Shiver is easily the best Teen Fiction book released so far this year. A bold statement, I know, but I genuinely believe it. A must-read, especially for the Twilight-obsessed reader, any lover of paranormal romance, and those who just enjoy a well-written book.

 

It will make you shiver.

The Magicians

Status: Bookseller Picks

I have always loved fantasy novels. Growing up I loved to spend time in Narnia, Middle Earth, and Redwall, and even now as somewhat of a grown up, some of my favorite haunts can be found between the covers of a fantasy novel, And maybe that is why I fell in love with The Magicians so quickly. I could really relate to Quentin Coldwater, who even though he is near the end of high school he is still in love with the books of Fillory (think Chronicles of Narnia) even though they are much to young for him. Of course he knows that magic isn't real, that is, until he finds himself in upstate New York at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy.

 

This isn't just Harry Potter dressed in a new robe. Lev Grossman has created an original, engaging story that melds literary fiction with that of the fantasy genre while paying tribute to some of our favorite fantasy worlds. The narrative really zips along, and I found myself reading it at every opprotunity. Don't expect any "happily everafters" here though, as this one is certainly for the adult audience. Quentin and his friends often find themselves in darker and darker places, as growing up is never as clean and simple as we pretend it will be. 

 

If you are looking for that next fantastic place to escape to, you can't go wrong with The Magicians.  

 

 

 

A "cover" for a Canterbury pilgrimage

Status: Bookseller Picks

 

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;...

 

Whether we read in Middle English or Modern English, I'm sure teachers glossed over Chaucer's sly humor and more ribald jokes (mine did).  Instead of laughing over bickering tradesmen and hypocritical churchmen, Chaucer came off dry, boring and a little stodgy.

 

Enter Peter Ackroyd.  Known most recently for his geographic biographies, VeniceLondon, and Thames, as well as The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, Ackroyd gives the reader a prose translation of Chaucer's poem.  Not a line-by-line translation packed into paragraphs, with annotations and definitions, but a story that emphasizes the human characters that pout and whine, take offense, pontificate, and generally enjoy telling a naughty story or two.  Ackroyd's uses modern prose and sentence structure while keeping the original narrative structure, characters and setting of The Canterbury Tales intact.  This is a great introduction to Chaucer for those who might be hesitant to tackle the poem, to become familiar with the characters and the enjoy the stories without worrying over rhymes and poetic metaphor; on the other hand, those already familiar with Chaucer will appreciate Ackroyd's interpretation for the warmth and humor of the language without any loss of Chaucer's wit.

 

The Canterbury Tales  

 

Enter also Penguin USA.  Penguin has recently launched new paperback "packaging" of many classics and the paperback release of Ackroyd's The Canterbury Tales wasn't left behind (the original hardcover design is at the bottom of this post).  Designer Ted Steam created a cartoon cover showcasing all the pilgrims from Chaucer's tales as they pass by the reader on the cover.  It's a wrap-around design and worth every chuckle (I particularly like the richness of the Wife of Bath, the silliness of the three monks sharing a horse, and the student doggedly reading while on horseback).  It reminds me of old movie posters like that of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Animal House where the actors' characters are charicatured in the drawing. Steam also paneled out "The Man of Law's Tale" and "The Miller's Tale" on the interior flaps.  You can see an image of the entire cover at the Superpunch blog (The Canterbury Tales is the third set of images in the post; the whole post is a great overview of some of the new Penguin covers). 

 

Chaucer is a favorite of mine and I own a number of different editions but this one shines a little brighter for the warmth of its story and clever cover art.

 

The Canterbury Tales  

It's a Book.

Status: Bookseller Picks

 

 

Categories: ages 4-8, humor

Kafka on the Shore

Status: Bookseller Picks

Kafka on the Shore left me breathless.

 

After years of an unnamed but horrific abuse, 15-year-old Kafka Tamura deliberately plans an escape from his father, a man so evil that he steals souls. As Kafka seeks both his fortune and answers to his past in the seemingly random city of Takamatsu, he finds refuge in the stacks of a library, becoming close friends with the assistant and fantasizing that the head librarian is his lost mother.

 

Though the magic realism of this novel begins right away - and is at times complex and seemingly random - about a quarter of the way into the book the plot and characters burst into focus and harmony. The secondary plot (involving a mentally-damaged man who can talk to cats and is on his own quest) all of a sudden aligns with Kafka's life, and the entire story dramatically rises in a tornado of crazy events and emotions: murder, incest, and oedipal prophecy. 

 

The ending of this story was so beautiful that I couldn't read for a full day afterward from the emotional hangover. I can't wait to read more Murakami.

 

Categories: fiction & literature

 

 

Delirium  In Lauren Oliver's world of" Delirium "love is bad.  It makes kids act impulsively , recklessly and makes them sick.  It is a disease that must be treated by having an operation at 16 (read shock therapy) to cure you forever.

After the operation you pick your future spouse and live happily ever after without those annoying butterflies in your stomach and irrational behavior- right?  Lena hopes that her upcoming procedure will go well and that the stigma of her mother's suicide will be gone forever.  Until she ventures outside her comfort zone a bit with her friend and meets Alex.  Once she feels the effects of amor deliria nervosa there is no going back.  Delirium is a clever cross between the utopian society of "Matched" and the thrill of "Hunger Games".

I don't want to be a spoiler but this story will continue and I for one can't wait.

 

 

Matched

  

The Hunger Games (Hunger Games Series #1)

  

 

Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street, by Michael Davis

Status: Bookseller Picks

It's hard to believe Sesame Street is now 40 years old. When the show had its debut on NET (a predecessor to PBS) in the fall of 1969, it was a bold new experiment no one was quite sure would work. Over a generation later, it's an indelible part of America's cultural landscape. Veteran TV Guide scribe Michael Davis takes readers not just behind the scenes of this children's TV mainstay, but back to the beginning. He traces the roots of the show's core creative team — Joan Ganz Cooney, Jon Stone, Sam Gibbon, Dave Connell, and of course Jim Henson — as well as the evolution of educational children's TV, from Howdy Doody to Ding Dong School to Captain Kangaroo. The show's debut doesn't even occur until halfway through the book, but by taking this approach, the audience gets a clearer understanding of where Sesame Street came from, and the disparate paths that brought its creators together. 

 

The show's early years are tumultuous, with numerous cast changes and character tweaks (in the first year, Big Bird was quite literally stupid, and Oscar was a sort of rusty orange color) as they fine-tune the format, not to mention behind-the-scenes battles to maintain the show's federal and corporate funding. Later years are marked by numerous departures, including the heartbreaking loss of Will Lee (Mr. Hooper), the painful downward spiral of Northern Calloway (David), and the untimely deaths of Jim Henson, songwriter Joe Raposo, and Muppet performer Richard Hunt. And then, there's Elmo. While I still can't stand the character, Street Gang certainly gave me a greater appreciation for his performer, Kevin Clash, who has taken up Henson's mantle as one of the guiding creative forces behind the show today.

 

Davis' love for his subject manages to seep from every page without the book coming across as fawning or a puff piece. He certainly doesn't shy away from things unpleasant (as his material on Northern Calloway clearly shows). Street Gang is a fast, entertaining read, and one that will deepen your appreciation for the show which made education fun.

 

(A chapter on actor Roscoe Orman, the third and longest-running Gordon, is available on the book's website, and will be included in the upcoming trade paperback edition of Street Gang.)

Message Edited by JL_Garner on 08-17-2009 03:12 PM
Categories: entertainment

Missing Hunger Games? Enter the World of Divergent

Status: Bookseller Picks

Divergent   Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Matched, Delirium and now Divergent- young adult dystopia at it's best!  Imagine a world where everyone is split up into five groups -Abdignation (selfless), Candor (truth seekers), Dauntless (fearless warriors), Amity (party people) or Erudite (scholars).  You are sixteen and must make a choice but remember that if you leave the group your family is from you will not see them often and their point of view will not match yours.  Now, imagine that you are split between two or more of these groups- divergent. You must keep this a secret because to be different or a hybrid is not allowed and could mean your death.  Beatrice (Tris) is one of these people and is trying to settle into her new life at Dauntless but other factors keep getting in the way and her feelings are not so black and white. The plot moves as quickly as Hunger Games or Maze Runner and has that screwed up world that we all crave.  I would guess that this will be the first of three and I could see a movie deal coming out of this as well.  Violence is a big part of the book but I would recommend it to anyone who wants more after the end of Hunger Games.

Captivating Account of History & Destinies

Status: Bookseller Picks

Tatiana de Rosnay takes the reader on two journies simultaneously.  One is of Sarah, a young Jewish girl in 1942 France who find herself thrust into the horrors of the Jewish Vel’ d’Hiv’  roundup in Paris by French soliders under Nazi orders.  The other is Julia, an American journalist who married a Frenchman and has lived in France for the past 25 years.  Julia is given the task of reporting on the Vel’ d’Hiv’ rounup for the upcoming 60 year anniversary.  She finds a country that has just about forgotten about this shameful time and an intersection bewteen her's and Sarah's lives.

 

The book is truly difficult to put down.  The characters instantly draw you in.  The stories are captivating, educational, and definitely leave you thinking deeper.  A great book for discussion groups.    

Categories: fiction & literature

 

Being an ardent Jane Austen enthusiast, I was nonplussed when the news hit the Internet about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, combining Jane Austen's classic novel with bone-crunching zombie mayhem! What? Did two genre's ever seem more incompatible? Even though it did not appeal to my genteel sensibilities, I was intrigued and thought it worth a look. The co-author Seth Grahame-Smith had taken about 85% of Austen's original text and interwoven a zombie subplot. I have to admit that the first line had me smiling. "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." What follows is quite a surprise. He has changed feisty Elizabeth Bennet and the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy into ninja warriors, ready to spar in the ball room as well as the battlefield against the sorry stricken who they delicately call unmentionables. It appears that anyone who is not a ninja warrior is a target for zombie destruction, so if there is a character from the original plot ripe for reproach, then it is sure to happen. Brains and gore abound, so the delicately minded take heed. If you enjoy a good ribald parody, the play between the original text and the new storyline is hysterical. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is sure to please those who live  to make sport for their neighbors, and laugh at them in their turn! Read my complete review at my literary blog Austenprose.

 

Cheers, Laurel Ann, Austenprose

The Host

Status: Bookseller Picks

 

How does memory constitute identity?  What is it to be human?  Such immense questions underlie much of the gripping drama in Stephanie Meyer's latest novel, The Host.  Melanie, a protagonist of this psychological thriller, guides her other part using memories and her internal voice.  She helps her other part to adapt to new challenging emotions, pains, and relationships.  Trapped between two societies, they find themselves on a quest to find loved ones and learn who can be trusted.  If you did not find any interest to read Meyer's Twilight series, than perhaps you were waiting for her to exhibit her talent in this science fiction novel that is likely to be the premiere of a new exciting series.

 

Abraham Lincoln & Vampires? Who'd a Thunk It

Status: Bookseller Picks

 

 

Abraham Lincoln 

 

A few weeks ago I was browsing through new books coming out and had to do a double-take when I saw "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter".  After rubbing my eyes and refreshing the screen I saw that the title was correct.  I was intrigued to say the least and wanted to know more.  After reading the synopsis I knew this was a book I wanted to read.  Needless to say, I was eagerly waiting for this book to come out.  On the day of it's release, I scooped up a copy and immediately found myself captivated.    

Seth Grahame-Smith does it again with another unique twist after his best-seller "Pride And Prejudice And Zombies".  Historians always speculated that there was a secret diary written by Abraham Lincoln, and they were right.  The journal reveals a background of the man and history we never knew.  Intertwined with actual historical events and characters, Seth Grahame-Smith takes the reader on a fast-paced riveting account of the life of Abraham Lincoln and his secret mission to rid the world of vampires who took his Mother and family members from him.  Weaved in with actual historical accounts, we find another agenda and motive behind the man and his decisions.

 

This is a great, fun read.  But be forewarned, it's difficult to put down once you start and definitely leaves you wondering "What if . . .?"

Before I Fall

Status: Bookseller Picks

 

I hated the main character of this book when I started it. Samantha Kingston is one of the most popular people in her school, but she is spoiled and mean and I didn't think I could read chapter after chapter about how awful she was to her classmates and family. But...then she died and that's when I realized this was not your normal story about a stuck up high school girl.

 

 

Sam ends up reliving the last day of her life seven times as she tries to figure out what happened and why. Lauren Oliver writes a beautiful and heart-breaking story (or, stories). I was worried that each time Sam woke up on 12 February I would be bored by the same details of her day as she went through it, but even if some things didn't change, Oliver made it seem new. I ended up finishing this novel in a fervor as I just had to get through Sam's last few tries along with her. Like her, I desperately wanted to figure out the mystery surrounding her death and began to see the beauty she was missing in her life.Before I Fall touches on many different emotions and has depth that is not always seen in teen novels.

 

  

 

 

 

A long loved adult author has made her way into teen fiction with the recent Darkest Powers series. Kelley Armstrong (Women of the Otherworld series), shows she can impact all age groups with heroine Chloe Saunders.

 

The Darkest Powers series, The Summoning, The Awakening, and the newest installment The Reckoning, follows a group of supernatural teens as they battle to survive.  Armstrong incorporates several supernatural elements including werewolves, witches, sorcerers, and necromancers.

 

It is a great follow-up series to anyone who is having difficulty finding something to read after finishing the addicting Twilight series (you know what I mean!). It features exciting characters with twists and turns all the way through.

The Summoning (Darkest Powers Series #1)

  

The Awakening (Darkest Powers Series #2)

  

The Reckoning (Darkest Powers Series #3)

  

 

 

In this quick and hysterical read you will meet all of the customers that you love to hate.  It will also remind you why you love to work in retail.  Despite the crazy hours and the angry customers, working in retail is an addiction.  Freeman will make you laugh out loud and want to read passages to your coworkers.    

Freeman worked at Nordstrom's in the handbag(never the purse) department for years.  He tells you about all of his regulars- the good, the bad, and the ugly.  He recalls the people that made his job the best and worst thing that ever happened to him.  

If you like the writing that Jen Lancaster brought to the table you will love Retail Hell.

Categories: biography, humor

A Treasure For The Book Lover

Status: Bookseller Picks

I adore this book. It's incredibly well written, taking the best styles of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and blending them into a seamless tapestry of literary wonder. It is delightful to read and I found myself throughout my days at work looking forward to when I could get home and crack it open. This book is subtle and doesn't pander. There aren't huge emotional moments or action scenes, so casual readers will probably not enjoy it, but in my opinion that's the beauty of this book- the strength is in each page, not the climax or the ending. Susanna Clarke has pulled off a masterpiece her first time out, and has done it spectacularly!

Categories: fiction & literature

Fall into some great teen sequels plus changes in the stores

Status: Bookseller Picks

 

Behemoth

  

The Scorch Trials

 

 

Beautiful Darkness                        Look for some excitement in teens! First ,the look of the teens department will be changing in October.  It will be much easier for everyone to find a great new book based on the genre you are looking for.  Fantasy/Adventure, Paranormal Romance and Teen Fiction signs will grace the teen shelves as well as sections that feature the very newest titles you love.  Here is just a taste of some of the great sequels that are hot off the presses.  Book number two in the great steampunk alternate history Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld - Behemoth.  It takes us where Leviathan left off with Alek and Deryn working together to avoid World War I and keep Alek away from those who would like to see him disposed of.  Will Deryn's secret remain a secret?  Read and find out in this action packed thriller that includes some wonderful illustrations.  One of my all time favorites last year was The Maze Runner by James Dashner.  The sequel will take up where we left off with the kids escaping the compound but entering into what? This is a great pick for those teens who loved the Hunger Games.  Last but not least is Kami Garcia's sequel to Beautiful Creatures- Beautiful Darkness.  We left Ethan and his new witch girlfriend Lena in their small southern town jam packed with witches both good and bad.

Will their high school life get any easier?  October is shaping up to be a great read !

Leviathan

  

The Maze Runner

  

Beautiful Creatures

  

 

Come and dance the macabray...

Status: Bookseller Picks

 

Gaiman's book is perfect for getting into the Halloween mood. This Newbery Award winner is an amazing book for young readers and adults. The book tells the coming-of-age story of Nobody Owens (Bod), whose family was murdered when he was just a baby. Baby Bod managed to escape by toddling out of his crib, up the street, and into the local graveyard, whose ghostly residents took him in to save his life. They grant him the Protection of the Graveyard, which allows him to learn how to disappear into shadow, slide through solid objects, and even haunt peoples' dreams. As Bod grows up, however, the residents of the graveyard stay as they are, and Bod realizes that he does not truly belong among either the dead or the living.

 

The Graveyard Book was inspired partially by Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book  -- both tell the stories of young boys cast out of human societies and raised by others, and both Bod and Mowgli struggle to find their places in the world. But The Graveyard Book is about more than just a quest for identity: it is also about friendship, and taking risks, and learning from your mistakes, and yes, about death. However, since Bod was raised in a graveyard by a family of ghosts, death is not scary for him. When his caretaker, Silas, tries to convince Bod that he must start attending school with the living, Bod remarks, "But everyone I know is dead." This familiarity with death takes away the scariness of it, and may be useful in opening a dialogue about a difficult subject between parents and children.

 

I heartily recommend The Graveyard Book for adults and children alike. (The 8-12 age group should be able to handle the themes and the few "scary" scenes.) Author Neil Gaiman's strengths are creating enchanting new worlds and engaging, memorable characters, and his skill in these areas is what will draw all readers in. Even a graveyard becomes a home full of eccentric family members from various historical eras, and even a boy raised among the dead learns to embrace life. The Graveyard Book is not a book you want to miss!

Categories: all children's books

Halo  by Alexandra Adornetto

 

In a teen market overcrowded with dark, brooding supernatural novels,
"Halo" stands out as something different. If the bright, liquid-gold light beckoning from the cover doesn't pull your eyes away from the black, angsty covers surrounding it, its premise will surely grab the attention of the reader looking for something "different." The novel initially caught my attention due to the fact that even though it was dealing with the supernatural theme of angels currently being made popular by smash hits such as Becca Fitzpatrick's "Hush, Hush" and Lauren Kate's "Fallen," the angels in "Halo" are still messengers of God.

 

The book revolves around Bethany, a young angel visiting Earth for the first time, her brother Gabriel, an Arch Angel, and sister Ivy, a seraphim. The three messengers have descended in human form in order to combat the forces of evil infiltrating mankind. It takes a lot of time for them to adjust to life as "humans," especially Bethany, who is experiencing everything anew. She is more "human" than the other angels and is able to share their emotions, which leads her into trouble when she falls for a mortal boy at her new school.

 

"Halo" is full of rich, vibrant detail that paints an image in the reader's mind. It's easy to envision the kind of world the angels came from and to see our own society through their eyes. The way Bethany viewed Earth felt very natural, like something an angel would think. Alexandra Adornetto masterfully wove words together to create such a cohesive point of view that never felt forced the way some other novels do.

 

Readers looking for a romantic focus with a lighter form of the supernatural thrown into the mix will find themselves intrigued by the latest novel to enter the teen market. It's different from anything out there and might very well pave the way for other such stories. It's also nice to see books coming out this fall where it is the female main character who is a supernatural being and that the male she winds up falling for is mortal and not necessarily a brooding bad boy, first with Sophie Jordan's "Firelight" and now with "Halo."

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