Thursday, October 27, 2011

Get in the Halloween Spirit with "Ashes"

In the spirit of Halloween, I wanted to write a blog about Ilsa Bick's new YA horror novel Ashes. Liesl, who buys our children's and teen titles, has been going on about it for a month, so naturally I'm intrigued. Then, at our event with Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke & Bone) a few weeks ago, I met Katie, the wonderful reviewer behind Katie's Book Blog, and she told me how much she wanted to read Ashes, too. I've been wanting to partner more with local bloggers for some time, and this struck me as the perfect opportunity to feature a Guest Blogger. To my delight, Katie also thought this was a great idea, and has written an awesome review for a creepy book for us to feature this week. So, without further ado, I give you a Guest Blog, straight from Katie's Book Blog!:

Ashes is a dark and gritty tale of a world gone mad. Ilsa Bick does not shy away from anything and while at times it seems overwhelming, in the end it all adds up to one fabulous book.
Ashes packs a punch from the very beginning. It is full of action, suspense, and tons of terrifying revelations about what happens when there aren’t enough resources for everyone. It is full of death, destruction, and quite a few gory surprises. The scariest thing about Ashes is how realistic it is. It really makes you think that this could happen sometime in the very near future.

Every character, even the ones with the smallest roles, is three-dimensional and wonderfully well-rounded. Alex, the main character, is full of spunk, fight, and quite a few snarky comments. Ellie, one of the first characters we meet after Alex, is a breath of fresh air in the gloomy atmosphere of post-EMP United States. Even through the toughest times she lightens the moods and brings out Alex’s sweeter side. Tom is my favorite character because I think everyone can relate to him in some way. He is very real and steady. No matter what, I think everyone can find someone to relate to in Ashes.

Overall, Ashes is one of the most gripping stories that I have read in a long time. This trilogy is one to watch out for. It holds a lot of potential. If the following books are anything like this one, Ilsa Bick can expect to have a lot of engrossed fans. While it may be a little too gory and intense for some younger readers, I think older YA readers will really appreciate it.

Thanks, Katie! Here's to the start of a beautiful friendship.
Check out for other great reviews of YA novels.

Monday, October 17, 2011

We the BBS Staff love "We the Animals"

One of the things I love about our staff here at BBS is our eclectic taste in books. Some of us are poetry nerds, others love sci-fi and fantasy, some are hard-core literary fiction fans. We've even got readers of romance, zombie novels, and the occasional zombie romance novel. With so many varied readers on staff, I always pay attention when I discover that half the staff are reading same book. A few years back, that book was The Hunger Games. Last year, it was Room. Now, it seems like everyone around here is reading We the Animals, a new novel from Justin Torres.

I asked around for some comments on the book from our booksellers, and here's what they said:

Justin Torres writes in images, emotions, and fragments of childhood disguised as prose. His manner is effortless yet heavy. His scenes are equal parts lovely and painful. And his stories hold a truth that sinks into your stomach and buries itself there. We the Animals is a beautiful, heart-wrenching recollection of hopeless poverty and youthful exuberance that can only be described as brilliant.

We the Animals is a lyrical and captivating account of man's childhood, liberally seasoned with desperate nostalgia and universal appeal with a hint of urban tragedy. Torres delivers some of the most beautiful and heartfelt prose to grace a book cover in years. If you are looking for the next great American novella, this is it.

A thought-provoking portrayal of the dysfunctional family, We the Animals by Justin Torres will pull you in with the poetry of its language and hold you in a world that is as uncomfortable as it is beautiful. It's the kind of novel we all should read and has left me questioning my own understandings of love, support, and family.

The shock of Justin Torres' poetic novella about three young boys growing up in an impoverished family isn't the beatings, the abandonment, or the drunkenness, but the moments of tender love. It's the unbreakable bond between brothers that shines through the day-to-day horror of belonging to two people who became parents at fourteen. It's the stolen caress after the father's battering violence. It's the magnificent flow of Torres' language as he renders each painful scene in riveting detail. Finally, it's the sensitivity of a young boy living in home that has done everything to deaden tender feelings. This book is important as a testament of how love can endure in even the most impossible situations. Torres has captured the emotional heart of a wrung-out family in this jewel of a novella.

With deliberate style and delicate poetics, Torres invests a trio of young brothers with a worldliness steeling them against outside forces promising harm, yet leaving them ill-prepared against corruption from within. Sketching a complicated family trapped by heritage and class, Torres provides glimpses of the primal kind of love that binds them together and promises ultimate tragedy when it all falls apart.

Though it is marketed and sold as "fiction", Torres' story feels more like truth than the world outside the pages. In an observant and poetic voice, it is a telling of the classic story of three sons, narrated by the youngest. It's a book about brotherhood, coming of age, and the inevitable realization that our parents are people too. Lit by love and shadowed by pain, it is the true story of the human condition.


I think I know which book is next on my "to read" list...

Friday, October 7, 2011

What We're Reading

So I'm sitting at my desk, thinking about what to pick up this weekend (it's supposed to be pretty cold, so I plan on snuggling up indoors with a book and either apple cider or hot chocolate). I decided to use the best resources I have at my disposal -- coworkers. So I called around the store and asked booksellers, "What are you reading?"

Here's what they told me:

Patrick -- Lightning Rods by Helen DeWitt
What he likes about it - "I love the writing. It's probably the funniest book I've read in a couple of months. It's a satire of something I didn't think could be satirized: sexual harassment."
Brief Plot Synopsis - A man finds success in a creative solution to sexual harassment in the workplace.

Christian -- Sabbath's Theatre by Philip Roth
What he likes about it - "I love it. I like that [Roth] can take such difficult and scandalous subject matter and still keep literary and artistic integrity while writing about it."
Brief Plot Synopsis- "A guy named Sabbath who is a puppeteer on trial for obscenity. He's a disgusting, dirty old man, but he brings up a lot of philosophical questions about society."

Ashanti -- The Stand by Stephen King
What she likes about it - "It's awesome. It's a really realistic rendition of an apocalyptic kind of end-of-the-world scenario and there's some really interesting magical realism among the survivors. King always has such realistic characters, it's probably his best quality as a writer."
Brief Plot Synopsis - "Despite bans on German warfare, a government experiment of a superflu gets spread among the populous and wipes out 99% of the human race."

Nicole (our newbie!)-- Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
What she likes about it - "I really like the idea that the story is shaped around these pictures."
Brief Plot Synopsis - "A young boy discovers something strange about his grandfather's past."

Jorden -- Hark a Vagrant by Kate Beaton and Deer Hunting with Jesus by Joe Bageant
What she likes about them - [HV] "It's hilarious. It's both history and good social commentary" DHWJ - "It's really sad but also funny, and just really sobering, I guess."
Brief Plot Synopses - "HV is Kate Beaton's second collection of comics and DHWJ is about how America is poor and keeps screwing themselves by voting Republican."

Ria -- Poems by Elizabeth Bishop
What she likes about it - [Ria had some difficulty putting her feelings for Elizabeth Bishops poems into sentences that would do them literary justice] "They're beautiful and...they're just awesome. They're awesome and amazing and wonderful and she's incredible."
Brief summary of the poems as a whole - "They're mildly humorous and honest without being overly confessional."

Stephanie -- Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (who will be here on Monday!)
What she likes about it - "There's a good lead character. It's intriguing, and leaves you with a bit of a cliffhanger. I don't like that I have to wait for the next one though."
Brief Plot Synopsis - "Mysterious teen artist in Prague leads a secret second life and discovers who she really is."

Tracy -- The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins and David McKean
What she likes about it - "The whole reason I picked it up was because of David McKean. He did The Sandman and his art is just really awesome. I love him. So far, the science is described in a way that is helpful for people like me who don't have science-y backgrounds."
Brief Plot Synopsis - "It's about evolution. Which, I know the basics of it, but the way they're describing some of the concepts are really interesting and different."

Arsen -- Contents May Have Shifted by Pam Houston and When She Woke by Hilary Jordan
What he likes about them - [CMHS] "The writing's good and she's telling her story in a very interesting, unique way." [WSW] "It’s kind of creepy. It makes me want to make sure that Rick Perry doesn’t get to be president. "
Brief Plot Synopsis - "Futuristic tale where a woman wakes up dyed red because she has been convicted of the murder of her unborn child."

Laina -- All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen
What she likes about it - "I picked it up because it’s written by someone I went to college with. It’s a little bit along the lines of Alana – it’s a twin story (though not for middle readers!) it’s gender-bending, it’s doing this ‘what is the right path for you despite social convention,’ thing, it’s science, it’s invention, and I’m finding it’s really different to read books by people you know.”
Brief Plot Synopsis - "It's a new Victorian steampunk novel. A scientifically-inclined girl goes to exclusive all boys educational institution without anyone knowing who she really is."

...and so that's what folks around the store. What are you reading?