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Ode to an Indie

Unabridged Bookstore

Unabridged Bookstore in Chicago, IL

Indie Thursday came early this week.

For those of you who are unaware, Indie Thursday is a weekly Twitter event/meme/hashtag thingamajig started by friend of the blog Jenn.  Basically, it’s a way to share what books you purchase at independent bookstores each week, by tweeting about it with the hashtag #IndieThursday.  It comes a convenient 24 hours before Friday Reads, which is a similar method of sharing what you are reading every week.  #FridayReads promotes reading as a social experience; #IndieThursday builds off of its momentum and promotes buying your reading material from human beings who live and work in your community.  This blog strongly supports both.  Obviously.

More often than not, my #IndieThursday books are purchased from Unabridged Bookstore in Lakeview, a neighborhood in Chicago, both because I have to drive past it several times a week and because it’s a wonderful bookstore in just about every way possible.  I love bringing my nephew to the store after picking him up from daycare to let him choose a book to take home, and sometimes I splurge and get one for myself, too.  They also order books for me that aren’t in stock, and it’s always been a fast, pleasant experience.  I’m a fan.

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Posted by on December 7, 2011 in Bookstore Spotlight

 

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The Wikkeling by Steven Arntson, illustrated by Daniela J. Terrazzini

The Wikkeling

You can tell this book is unusual just by looking at it.  Its shape is a perfect square, it is bound in cloth with no dust jacket, and the cover art is strangely wonderful.  The contents do not disappoint – this is a tale of children living in a dystopia, looking for adventure and causing a bit of mischief.  It also defies a brief description or easy packaging, but I’ll try.

The world of The Wikkeling is really just an exaggerated version of the rapidly accelerating and expanding world we currently inhabit.  Schools are standardized to the point of homogeneity, with constant, instantaneous performance evaluations.  If any student or school falls behind, the consequences are dire.  Children are kept “safe” and “secure” through continuous monitoring to account for their movements throughout the day, an elaborate seat belt system on the bus, and even a camera trained on their beds to watch over them in sleep.  Old houses are destroyed to make way for plastic edifices and books are done away with completely in favor of computers.  Traffic never lets up, with near-total gridlock even in the middle of the night.  It all adds up to a scary, but not completely unbelievable, vision of the future.

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Party Wolves in My Skull by Michael Allen Rose

You probably haven’t heard of Bizarro Fiction. I know I hadn’t.

As an established genre, Bizarro is a relatively new concept, though the form and ideas have been around for a long time. As the official Bizarro website states, ‘Bizarro, simply put, is the genre of the weird.’ Combining logic of the absurd with twisted, occasionally pornographic, and always macabre themes, it brings to mind the writings of Christopher Moore, Franz Kafka, and even Lewis Carroll, just to name a few.

Since it is such a new genre, Bizarro is always looking to further the art form and release new talent on an unsuspecting world. One of the eight books released this year by the New Bizarro Author Series, Party Wolves in My Skull by Michael Allen Rose is a shining example of what it means to be shelved in the Bizarro section.

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The Burning Soul by John Connolly

The Burning Soul by John ConnollyWithout checking, I think I can safely say that John Connolly is the most-mentioned author on this blog.  But that’s for a very good reason – he’s one of my all-time favorite authors and people.  Plus he’s been kind enough to publish two books per year recently and still finds the time to tour and do interviews to talk about them.  So we, in turn, keep reviewing his books and posting his interviews.

Normally I don’t like to review books in a series, unless it’s the first title.  I’m the kind of person who has to start a series from the beginning, and unfortunately I often abandon some series because they have too many books and I too little time.  This being the 10th Charlie Parker PI novel that Connolly has put out, I can understand that it’s easy for people to feel overwhelmed if they haven’t read any of his previous mystery novels.

Have no fear.  You can start the series at the beginning, with Every Dead Thing, and enjoy your way up to the newest installment.  But The Burning Soul, more than any of the others in the series, I believe, can be read on its own without the preceding books.  Of course, once you’re done, I still recommend spending the next year reading the series from the beginning in anticipation of his next release, but hey – I’m biased.

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The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthyFirst of all, please don’t think I picked this book up because of the Oprah endorsement. I’m made of meatier things than can be swayed by an Empress. But when it comes to Viggo Mortensen, I’m JELLY. It might have something to do with his hair/face/body. Anyhoo, I remember seeing the cover of the book whilst shelving at the unnamed bookstore I worked for and thinking, “Oh, Viggo, when will we stop playing these games?” At around the same time my brother saw No Country for Old Men and was all, “I’m scared to sleep alone.” That movie being based on a McCarthy book paired with Viggo on the cover of THIS book slayed me. So I began the reading.

And let me tell you. It is not a happy read. Clinically depressed people and people prone to over-sympathizing, stay away. You will not have a happy thought for days. Not exaggerating.

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Richard Castle’s DEADLY STORM: A Derrick Storm Mystery

Deadly StormThe immortal Oscar Wilde said that “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” It’s all I can think about when I read a Castle book.

Castle is a show on ABC about a mystery writer, Richard Castle, who is on a perpetual ride-along with NYPD detective Kate Beckett.  Being a fan of the mystery genre and writers in general, this show appeals to me quite a bit.  It’s generally a good mix of drama, comedy, and good old-fashioned sleuthing (though I could do with a bit less drama at times).  It doesn’t hurt that Nathan Fillion (of Joss Whedon’s short-lived but much beloved Firefly) plays the title character.

But what made me really fall in love with the show is that they have been publishing the books that Castle is supposedly working on each season.  And they have become bestsellers, these books written by a fictional author.  (I always wonder if real, live mystery authors get upset about that.)  With so many shows and movies ripping their stories from books, or series of books, it’s a fun change to see the show itself producing an original series of books as a tie-in.

That series is the Nikki Heat series.  Book 3, Heat Rises, was released in September and is on my “currently reading” stack.  This year they went even further, however, and released two books.  Deadly Storm is a graphic novel interpretation of Richard Castle’s novel of the same title – the first in a series that supposedly shot him to fame and fortune.  Except the original novels don’t exist, making this “adaptation” yet another layer of fabrication.  Have we gotten stuck in a metacognitive loop yet?

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Posted by on November 1, 2011 in Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

 

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Guest Interview posted at Jenn’s Bookshelves

Murder, Monsters, MayhemWe’re proud to be participating in a month of Murder, Monsters, and Mayhem over at Jenn’s Bookshelves!  Our contribution has just been posted – another interview with blog favorite John Connolly.  This time we asked about the dark side of his writing.

See the guest interview here.

Read our previous interview with John here.

Thanks to Jenn for hosting us!

 
 

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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick NessA monster calls on Conor just after midnight in the shape of a yew tree looming over his bedroom window.  But Conor is not afraid.  “I’ve seen worse,” he says.  And he has – his waking life is filled with helping care for his mother during another round of cancer treatments, a father who has largely disappeared to be with his new family in America, a gang of bullies at school, and losing faith in his one true friend.  Amid all this turmoil, it is almost a relief to be visited by the yew tree at night.  Or at least it’s a nice change of pace from the monster in his other nightmare – the one that truly frightens him.

The idea for this book came from a Young Adult author named Siobhan Dowd, who unfortunately passed away from breast cancer in 2007.  (I am not familiar with Dowd’s work, but will certainly be looking it up now.)  Patrick Ness was called in to shape the idea into book form, along with illustrator Jim Kay, and the result is something special.  The language is simple but haunting, and Conor’s pain and uncertainty show in stark and heartrending ways.  The illustrations are dark, textured, and expressive, and add immeasurably to the overall atmosphere of the book.  Simply put, this is a beautiful volume in terms of story, prose, and presentation.

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A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt

You. Guys. This book! Just, okay. Before I place any value judgment on it, lemme ‘splain.

Jeff Greene comes home one day from second grade to find a note from his mom (Melody) saying she’s skipped out on him and his pops because she just wasn’t happy. Melody asks him to be brave and to not bother the Professor (the oh-so affectionate way Jeff and Melody refer to the father who is in fact a college teacher) and try to be as independent as possible. The hell, Melody? How is he supposed to mourn the loss of his mother if he can’t talk about it? He can’t. He internalizes all his pain and builds a relationship with his father based on muting his emotions, wants, and needs. And the father – being the academic Professor-type – assumes that his son just isn’t very emotional, like himself, and is handling the whole being abandoned thing just fine. Le sigh.

So it goes for years. Years, ya’ all. Jeff comes home, does his homework, make meals and goes to bed. Until one day Jeff wakes up sick and stays sick for days and then weeks. It’s not until the Professor and his friend (a monk who also teaches at the University) discover Jeff in an almost-coma that they take him to the hospital and discover he has pneumonia. That’s when the story really begins. The Professor is forced to contact Melody to get some much-needed medical information about Jeff. A few weeks later, when Jeff is almost completely well, he receives a letter from his Melody asking him to visit her in South Carolina for the summer.

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John Connolly and Stuart Neville at Centuries & Sleuths

Neville and Connolly

Stuart Neville and John Connolly with BwoB admin Rachel

As most of you know, we are huge John Connolly fans around these parts.  When we heard he was going to be in town with fellow Irish crime writer Stuart Neville, we were excited!  We got to spend some time with them during the day and live-tweeted during the event itself.  Here are some tweets and pictures for any of you who were not able to attend in person.

@BksellerExpats: What a beautiful day for a book signing in Chicago! We’ll have @jconnollybooks and @stuartneville updates all day – keep checking back.

@BksellerExpats: “What I realized is that, by and large, my readers would prefer it if I died, as opposed to Charlie Parker.” – @jconnollybooks

@BksellerExpats: (We are live-tweeting the @jconnollybooks@stuartneville event tonight, in case you forgot.)

@BksellerExpats: Ooh, @jconnollybooks is reading the first chapter of the next Parker novel! Nice.

@BksellerExpats: “I’m usually about a third of the way into a book before I find out what kind of shape it’s going to be.” – @stuartneville

@BksellerExpats: “I can’t even read in a car, and I don’t think Rachel wanted a car covered in vomit.” – @jconnollybooks on writing on tour

(NOTE: We have it on good authority that no, she did not.)

@BksellerExpats: “Art comes out of hacking away on all those days when you want to be doing anything else.” – @jconnollybooks on having a writing schedule

@BksellerExpats: “Sometimes you just need an alleyway. And then you think, as far as my books are concerned, I’m God.” – @jconnollybooks on fictional alleys

@BksellerExpats: “After you read a book, you’re never the same person. You just can’t be.” – @jconnollybooks

Connolly / Neville signing

Connolly / Neville signing

Connolly / Neville signing

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2011 in Events

 

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