Saturdays @ the South: On Reading Fairy Tales


Whenever someone discusses Fairy Tales, this is the quote that always jumps to my mind.  Last weekend, I read an interesting post on Book Riot that got me thinking about it again. In the post, Morgan Jerkins talked about sanitizing fairy tales and how vehicles like Disney and publishers often “clean up” a story to make it more palatable to young children. For example, there’s nothing in the Disney movies about how Cinderella’s stepsisters mutilated their feet to try and fit into the slipper or how the little mermaid was asked to murder her paramour in order to keep her legs when her original bargain with the sea witch didn’t pan out. When Jerkins talks about omissions like these, she mentions that the original stories weren’t designed to entertain children, but simultaneously seems to look down up on the Disney-fied versions that most kids are exposed to.

As someone who grew up with access to both the Disney versions of fairy tales and a collection of the less-sanitized versions I have to say that the childhood me vastly preferred the Disney versions. The original fairy tales were, no pun intended, quite grim, but while I think I was profoundly altered for having read them (as is any reader who reads something powerful or memorable), I don’t remember them horrifying me. I wasn’t terrified of cannibalism after the witch tried to cook Hansel and Gretel for dinner and I still loved wolves even after the huntsman cut one open to rescue Little Red Riding Hood and her grandma. I particularly remember reading Andersen’s The Little Mermaid well before the movie first came out. The imagery of the mermaid being turned into seafoam when her deals with the witch went awry was a powerful one that has stuck with me even into adulthood, but not one that overshadowed my enjoyment of watching Ariel and Sebastian sing underwater.

If you can get this image out of your mind, you’re a better one than I am…

Knowing fairy tales in any form can greatly enrich not only a reading experience, but the imaginative experience as well. Referring to Scheherazade may conjure up any or all of the stories from the 1001 Arabian Nights or it can refer to themes of magic and female heroism under pressure. Mentioning Cinderella may or may not make someone think of talking (and singing) mice, but it will most likely make them think of themes family discord. Snow White may or may not have a poisoned apple or glass coffin, but the themes of jealousy and innocence remain. As long as these tales remain embedded in our culture, the ideas that they bring forth in the mere mention of these stories can bring out new levels of understanding in any text. We owe it not only to our children, but to ourselves to perpetuate these stories in some form or other, if only to know what some other writers are talking about.


When I hear people talking about fairy tales, it’s often an either/or situation. One argument vilifies the sanitized versions for being too rosy or creating unrealistic expectations, particularly in young girls and believes that the original fairy tales will be lost,  to our culture’s detriment. The opposite argument feels the original stories are too violent or disturbing for young readers and children should be exposed to more uplifting tales. Each argument has its merits and detractions. As a librarian, what I’m most concerned with is allowing people to express themselves in whatever way they choose. If someone interprets a story in a particular way, we should recognize and respect that as an artistic choice.

Here are some books (including a few personal favorites) that not only refer to fairy tales, but are the authors’ artistic expressions and explorations of them, developing surprising stories for some favorite characters and defying expectations of what these stories can be.

3488974While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

In this hauntingly beautiful retelling of Sleeping Beauty puts a much more realistic spin on the tale. In a medieval town plagued by smallpox, a young maid learns the trials and tribulations of life at large while she is fascinated by the courtesans she serves and their seemingly charmed lives inside the grand palace walls. After hearing her great-granddaughter recounting the tale of a young princess in a tower being awakened by a handsome prince, the aging maid’s memories of her young life return, and she tells the real story behind the legend, one that sheds light on what it truly takes to achieve “happily ever after.”

3569291The Witch and other Tales Re-told by Jean Thompson

This collection of stories has been on my to-read list for a while, precisely because it seeks to illuminate alternate versions of commonly told, recognizable fairy tales. Focusing on the original tales’ abilities to capture our deeper, more primal fears, Thompson explores modern tales that “capture the magic and horror in everyday life” (

3437613Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This is the first in Meyer’s popular Lunar Chronicles series. It may not be for everyone, but this book is certainly a fascinating re-imagining on a traditional fairy tale. Cinder is a cyborg with a mysterious past and a stepmother who blames Cinder for her stepsister’s illness, but she may also be the only one who can save the humans and androids from a deadly plague that’s ravaging the earth. If you can’t get enough of the Lunar Chronicles, Meyer is obliging with more in the series continuing with Scarlett, then Cress and ending it with Winter, which will be out in November.

3617831The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

This new title from Forsyth tells of a young woman, Dortchen Wild, in love. The person she’s in love with just happens to be Wilhelm Grimm. Amidst the tyranny of Napoleon Buonaparte who is trying to take over Europe, including the small German town in which she and Grimm live, Dortchen will tell Grimm wild tales that he’ll ultimately collect and will fuel his and his brother’s book of collected tales. This isn’t Forsyth’s first take on fairy tales, either. If you enjoy this book, you may also want to take a look at her take on Rapunzel in Bitter Greens.

15858Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Maguire

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention at least one book by Gregory Maguire here, as he’s made a delightful career out of re-telling well-known tales, as he did in Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. In this novel Maguire weaves historical details and actual locations into fairy tales, while retaining some of the magic that the original tales possess. Set in the rolling hills of Tuscany during the height of the de Medici reign, a young Bianca de Nevada must seek refuge, and possibly salvation in the forests, away from her once-happy home. The lush, poetic prose in this book only makes me even more eager to see what his take will be on Wonderland in After Alice, which is due out this October.

Till next week, dear readers, I leave you in the capable hands of Albert Einstein:


Five Book Friday!

Could someone please explain to me how it is the last week in August already?  I think we all agree to make the most of our last official days of summer…which, naturally, means reading as many fun, witty, delicious, and engrossing books that we possibly can.  Preferably in a place filled with sunshine.  Wherever this weekend finds you, beloved patrons, I hope it is a good one, and that you come back with plenty of good stories to share!


Here are five books that appeared on our shelves this week for your reading pleasure:


3654399Luck Be  LadyMeredith Duran is one of best historical romance writers out there today, and while her books tend to fly just under the radar, they are always a sure-fire hit, featuring unconventional characters in refreshingly original situations.  At heart of each of them though, is a romance that will knock your socks off.  In this fourth installment of her Rules for the Reckless series, Catherine Everleigh is determined to win back the auction house that was to be her birthright, and nothing will stand in her way.  But when Nicholas O’Shea, and infamous crime lord, offers her a marriage of convenience to help them both obtain their goals, she finds that her once-broken heart may be the one factor she never considered in her plans.

3634615The Book Of SpeculationThis book has been garnering attention and positive reviews even in pre-publication, which is usually a good sign, but when you hear that the main character of Erika Swyler’s debut is a librarian, I know you are all going to run to check out this book.  When Simon Watson receives a mysterious book from an antiquarian book dealer, inscribed with the name of his grandmother, he uncovers a family curse that may have already cost him more than he knows.  While I can appreciate that not everyone get excited about books about people researching historic things, to me, this book sounds like a slice of happiness.  My favorite review thus far as come from the Star Telegram, which said “A good book is magical. A piece of our heart stays tucked inside its lines when we return the book to its place on our shelf. Good novels about good books can be even more special, doubling the fun with two tomes to love. And when the book within the book is actually magical, as it is – or may be – in Erika Swyler’s The Book of Speculation, well, let the wild read start.”

3629482Last Bus To Wisdom: This is another novel that has been making waves lately, blending the best parts of a coming-of-age tale with a classic American road trip in a way that the San Francisco Chronicle called “a rambunctious adventure packed with color, vitality and characters worth rooting for”.  Set in 1951, the story follows young Donal Cameron, who has been raised by his aunt in the Montana Rockies.  But when she needs an operation, Donal finds himself shipped to his aunt’s sister, a mean-spirited woman who has no time or room for Donal.  So he and his great-uncle, Herman the German embark on a cross-country adventure in a bus, meeting a whole host of unexpected and unforgettable characters along their way.  Their Sadly, author Ivan Doig, chronicler of Montana, passed away in April, but this book seems a fitting legacy of a man whose writing was a love letter to the place he called home.

3645849Voracious : A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great BooksEvery once in a while a book comes up that makes you stop, shake your fist towards the indifferent sky and cry out “why didn’t I think of that?!”.  This is one of those books.  Cara Nicoletti grew up reading in her grandfather’s butcher shop, watching how food and stories both fed people’s souls and kept them going.  Thus, her book is a tribute to both food and books, with recipes and essays that celebrate food in books (like Jane Austen’s perfect poached eggs) and the readers who make food delicious.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this a starred review, saying it is “As inviting as a bowl of homemade chocolate pudding. . . . Nicoletti turns both reading and cooking into eagerly anticipated visceral experiences.”

3641281True Yankees : The South Seas And The Discovery Of American IdentityDane A. Morrison’s newest book is a complex and fascinating study that traces the lives and exploits of five American seamen in the years just after the American Revolution, mostly in the South Seas and Pacific.  Morrison (who teaches at Salem State University) looks at these men (and women!) not just as intrepid explorers, but considers how they conducted business in foreign cultures, how they understand the world, their place in it, and came home from these far-flung islands with a new concept of what it meant to be American.  This is an overlooked portion of American history, and a place that few consider when looking at the early years of the American experience, but plenty of reviewers have been praising Professor Morrison’s narrative voice and research acumen, making this book sound like a winner for fans of history and travel alike.


Happy Friday, and happy reading!

Footnotes in books…A bibliographic If/Then…


As an historian, I love good, detailed footnotes; the kind that not only tell you where an author came across a piece of information, but offers anecdotes, qualifies the point in some way, or generally just feels like you have been privy to some kind of secret insider information–like the author has taken you aside for a little chat in the middle of the book.   Such footnotes often provide space in the text for the author to bring in pieces of fun information that just didn’t fit into the main body of the piece, but are just too good to pass up.  There have been books where the best bits were found in the footnotes, rather than the primary text.

But what about footnotes in fiction?

There are any number of authors who look to enhance the world of their (fiction) story with footnotes, such as Douglas Adam’s incomparable  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which offers brilliant little asides and incidental information as a way to familiarize the reader with the vast incomprehensibility of the world he is describing, and also to get the reader as familiar as possible with the main characters.  Additionally Susanna Clarke uses footnotes in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell as a place to familiarize readers with fairy folklore, the history of English magic, and the various texts that her characters study.  This feels like genius when you’re reading the text, for if Clarke had tried to jam these facts and tales into her already beautifully detailed story, it would jam-up the narrative flow irrevocably.  Instead, readers have the chance to pause, seek out another tale in the footnotes, and return to the text at their own pace, their knowledge and familiarity with the scholarship of Strange and Norrell immeasurably enhanced (I am told that the e-version of the book makes this process even simpler still by allowing readers to toggle between the text and the footnotes at their leisure).

But there are other books that take the notion of the footnote further still, not only using them to enhance the fictional world of the text, but to create a new kind of reality altogether.  They use our acceptance of the footnote against us, disguising fiction in the guise of provable fact.  Personally, I adore these kind of texts, and revel in the the games that they play; I know they aren’t for everyone–among other things, having to switch from text to footnote can be physically taxing on the eyes, not to mention distracting from a good story.  But, if done properly, these kinds of footnotes can make the world of a good book that much more unforgettable, and make the reading experience that much more exciting.  So if, like me, you think footnotes in fiction are a great idea, then be sure to check out…

3553458The Supernatural Enhancements: We’ve discussed this book previously, but it deserves to be talked about a good deal more.  By turns thoroughly creepy, marvelously engrossing, disarmingly sweet, and genuinely surprising, this is a book that builds on a number of tropes (haunted houses, secret cabals, hidden histories), but feels nothing except utterly original.  When A. inherits a house from a relative he didn’t know existed, he and his odd companion find a mystery waiting for them hidden in cyphers, codes, and ancient rituals.  Edgar Cantero uses the footnotes as a way to explore the different cyphers at work in his text, offering actual, useful information while at the same time enhancing the eerie atmosphere of the story by layering it with other mysteries and secrets.

2928695House of Leaves: I think Mark Danielowski may have re-invented the book when he composed this mind-bending novel.  Ostensibly, it is the record of a family who bought a house that turned out to be bigger on the inside than on the outside…and kept on growing.  But there is nothing at all straightforward about this story.  It is a text-within-a-text-within-a-text, and the various stories compete for space across the page and, particularly, in the footnotes, where the reader often hears from film critics (Regarding a documentary about the house that may or may not have ever been screened), the blind hermit who collected the stories about the house, and the increasingly mad rantings of the young man who collected the hermit’s ramblings.  The whole thing is deeply unsettling, especially as the text begins to change color and wend its way across the page–upside down, sideways, tripping and falling into the margins….but also spectacularly engrossing.  I can’t remember a book that made me so aware of the act of reading the same way that this one did.

3630870The Ghost Network: This is a bizarre little text, but one that is so startlingly unique that it’s worth a read.  Author Catie Disabato poses as the editor of a “found manuscript” documenting the search for doomed pop-superstar Molly Metropolis.  According to the premise of this book, all that Disabato knows is that her mentor has vanished while searching for Molly, leaving only these notes.  Thus, the footnotes in the text not only cite books, both real and imaginary, that the characters used to learn about the obscure cult that Molly Metropolis joined (a real-life group, though Disabato uses their history as a springboard for her own story), but they also discuss her own ‘history’ with the characters and the interactions she had with them during her own quest.    This is a book that plays around with fact and fiction in a way that is partly genius and partly bizarre, but it is certainly a breath of fresh air for those looking for a change of pace.

2260048Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell: Because along with informative footnotes, there are also citations to the works of ancient magicians, as well as texts by the characters themselves.  And even though people tell me this is a work of fiction, seeing John Segundus’ or Jonathan Strange’s name as the author of a text allows me to believe a little longer that they are, in fact, real in a world outside my head.

Postcard from London: On hometowns and homes

I might be a long way from home for a bit longer, but, as that odd, old song goes, “there’s always something there to remind me…” of home (and good luck getting that out of your head for the rest of the day, beloved readers).  It’s more than just the occasional glimpses of Red Sox hats, or that one guy on the Tube today wearing a Free Brady shirt, which gave me a hearty chuckle.  It’s being in a place that not only knows how to pronounce your hometown, but why the name of your hometown is so impressive.

ImageGenIf you’ve told someone from outside the metro-Boston area where you live, their first reaction is usually bafflement; apparently, the vast majority of the country would call our city Peeeee-BODY, as opposed to running all the consonants together like you’re chocking on overheated alphabet soup, as we tend to do.  But here in London, George Peabody’s adoptive home, his name is pronounced correctly with ease…and it is spoken with pride.

As many of you might know, George Peabody was born in what is now Peabody, but visited London beginning in 1827  in order to raise capital for American engineering and infrastructure projects, finally organizing “George Peabody & Co.” and settling in London permanently a decade later.  But it’s what he did after this that is truly important.  Having seen the devastation, anger and resentment churned up by the Civil War, and particularly the plight of the lower classes in the South firsthand, Peabody decided to go out and change the world.

In April 1862, Peabody founded the Peabody Donation Fund, which established quality, affordable housing for the “artisans and labouring poor” of London, and the first of these buildings opened in Spitalfields in 1864.  These houses were–and, frankly, still are–remarkable, because they were built on the premise that the lower classes deserved to live in a safe, clean, and modern environment, and that, in so doing, they would be more able to contribute to society in whatever way they chose to do.  These houses were among the first to have electricity, elevators, and indoor plumbing in the city.  They were run like a community, with classes being offered to residents about money-management, personal finances, and home care for first-time home owners.  They were warm, centrally located, and within the financial reach of a number of people who would otherwise be forced to live in the slums made notorious by Dickens, or in tales of Jack the Ripper.


And do you know what?  Those houses still exist today.  You can read about them here, on the Peabody Housing Authority website.  From that one building in Spitalfiends, Peabody’s vision has now become 31 housing estates, offering shelter, employment opportunities, and a sense of belonging to some 70,000 people.  And before you start thinking if this whole sense of niceness is overblown, I am here to tell you that it isn’t.  As I was walking back from the London Metropolitan Archives in Clerkenwell (an area of London very close to the financial heart of the City), I came upon the Peabody Estates of Clerkenwell, which were built in place of a slum in 1884.


As you can see, these buildings are still lovely, and still really quite affordable, all things considered.  And, unlike a number of estates, they have windows, and walls thick enough to hold in heat and keep out street- and neighbor-noises.  Also, for those who think this all looks a little familiar, these buildings were used in the film The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, because, according to director Terry Gilliam, they offered the most quintessentially “perfect London atmosphere”.  You can read a bit more about these buildings here.IMG_0541

Many of you may have seen photos of George Peabody’s statue in London (see below, too!).  It stand near the Royal Exchange, and was unveiled by the Prince of Wales in 1869.  George himself was too ill to attend, and when he died, some four months later, Queen Victoria permitted him temporary burial at Westminster Cathedral until arrangements could be made to send him to his final rest at home (for those who appreciate trivia, news of his funerals in London and Massachusetts were among the first news shared along the Transatlantic Telegraph Cables).

The statue is not only meant to commemorate Peabody’s impressive business acumen, which was considerable, but because he was, truly, the first modern philanthropist in history.  The Carnegies and the Gettys and the Gates of this world may receive more public credit, but, in this lifetime, George Peabody gave over $8 million (by his contemporary financial standards) in order to benefit people he would never meet.  People like him, who wanted more out of life–who wanted to learn and to create, and the chance to grow up and share what they learned with the world.  The fact that his memory is still so revered, on both sides of the Atlantic speaks to how successful he was in that endeavor.  And has made me pretty proud to tell people where I’m from, I can tell you that.

The man himself, sitting in the rain.
The man himself, sitting in the rain.

PS: For those of us who study the First World War, there’s a whole section on the Peabody Housing Authority’s website about Peabody and World War One.  I know I’m not the only one who finds this fascinating.

Staff Recommendations (Again)!

Near my flat in Stoke Newington is this adorable crunchy-granola, tree-hugging, insanely-delicious, surprisingly affordable all-natural food store (the actual name of the store is shorter, but my name is more descriptive…).  Anyways, one of the perks of working there, apparently, is free snacks for employees, and because the employees (and, happily, the customers) are all very nice people, that means that those employees tend to share their snacks.  Today, for example, while picking out tea and bread, I got to have some of Joel’s Korean-spiced rice puffs, and some of Caroline’s chocolate truffles.  Both of them told me that these products were some of their favorites, and though I never would have tried them without their recommendations, it turns out they were both pretty delicious.

Which got me to thinking…that’s kind of what happens at the Library sometimes (this is a torturous analogy, I know…bear with me here…).  We, obviously, get to read the books on the shelves, and sometimes we have the chance to share our particular favorites with our patrons, and they with us.  And we are both better for it, in the end.  So here are a few more savory staff selections for your delectation.  We hope they expand your reading palate a bit this week….

From the Children’s Room:

3562382Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

This book is a haunting, beautiful, and chilling depiction of all those fears from childhood that you keep telling yourself that you’ve already overcome…monsters in the forest, voices in the shadows…all filtered through the imagination of award-winning cartoonist Emily Carroll.  The Irish Times raved “Carroll has a mainline to the reader’s psychic pressure points, the kind of fears and phobias that go all the way back to the cave. She also has the confidence to let her images do the work when it best serves the story … It’s a beautiful artefact, confidently written and lavishly designed. Just don’t bring it to bed.”

From the Circulation Desk: 

3521491I just finished reading The Bellweather Rhapsody, which was an unexpected joy of a book.  Part thriller, part mystery, part star-crossed romance, this story is told from the point of view of a number of different characters all stuck in an antiquated, dilapidated hotel for a statewide student orchestra conference–and trapped by an enormous snowstorm.  Fifteen years ago, a terrible crime cast a shadow over the Bellweather, and now it seems that same darkness has returned…but who is responsible?  And why now?  Kate Racculia keeps the tone light, but she has a magical way with words that will capture your heart and your imagination within a matter of paragraphs.

From the Director’s Desk:

I love a story that is witty and humane.  By that I mean that you get a great dose of humor, but the characters are portrayed as human, with funny weaknesses and character flaws that we recognize as universal.  Two examples of this are: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole  (heartbreaking and outrageously funny) and Empire Falls by Richard Russo.







Book Riot recently posted some selections from Stephen King’s Twitter feed that I thought would be fun to share here, as well….Maybe one day we’ll get him to write a guest post for us….Dream big, right?

The Tweedy Man beside me on the bus was reading this today, so you don’t just have to take Mr. King’s word that Sarah Lotz’s Day Four is good reading.  But I would.

It’s a New England love-fest with this recommendation of Dennis Lehane’s World Gone Bythe third book in his Coughlin series.

Don Winslow’s two Art Keller novels: The Power of the Dog and The Cartel

Saturdays @ the South: The Book is Dead; Long Live the Book!


It seems nearly everyone has an opinion about the state of books and whether or not the book is dead. It also seemsthat very few people agree on what that state is. As some insist that the book is going the way of the dodo, others consider the book is as vibrant, lively and worthy of attention as it ever was. This debate is often carried over into libraries as libraries are, by some, thought of as book storehouses and if the book is dying than libraries must be as well. But as modern libraries are demonstrating that their true focus is community and that we’ll go wherever the community takes us, be it into books, movies, computers, project creation and more, the book is also demonstrating its adaptation to the world at large.

Readers are still out there. Seth Meyers, taking up the torch from Jon Stewart, is showing book love with his Late Show Literary Salons that highlight, not always the latest book on the press junket, but some of his personal favorites or books that he’s really passionate about. Book Riot, one of my favorite bookish-blogs written by readers and writers alike, is constantly discussing books of all types and in different forms: as reading material, as status symbols, as art, as social commentary and more. Quirk Books is another of my favorites that trends towards nostalgia, but also features some great articles on fascinating reads. Much like this blog strives to do, these and other fantastic blogs are written by readers who love to talk about the ways books have impacted their lives, reading habits or just gush about something they feel very strongly about.

Ebooks versus Printed BooksOnce can’t talk about the supposed death of the book without talking about the death of the physical book. The e-book (or digital book or Kindle book, etc.) is often decried as he modern death knell for the traditional form of printed book. Many seemed to panic when PriceWaterhouse Coopers declared that e-books will overtake print books by 2018. Scientific American considered the idea that reading in a digital age might be altering the way we read a text and possibly be a less enriching experience because text is presented differently on-screen than on-page. Could the paper book really be on its way out, our reading habits forever altered and disrupted? Probably not. The BBC published an article last week that had some interesting statistics. Granted these statistics are taken from the British point of view, but I found it to be an interesting read, nonetheless. It seems that digital book sales have stabilized and print books are even making a bit of a comeback.

I’m not going to go into a long diatribe about one version or the other. I like both print and digital books; each have their own sway over me for different reasons and I’m often happy to read in whatever format is more comfortable or convenient to the setting. If the text is all there, I’m pretty much a happy camper.  Honestly, I don’t see print versus digital as an either/or issue. Reading a book on a computer or tablet doesn’t make the person consuming the text any less of a reader. Reading a hard copy doesn’t necessarily present the best option for some readers (I can think of many suitcases that have been significantly lightened with the option of digital reading) or, despite what Scientific American says, make someone a better reader.

Here at the library, we like to present our patrons with options and information, rather than pushing opinions or a one-sided idea on them. That’s why we have a fairly extensive and ever-growing collection of e-books, while we still purchase hard copies of books for our collections. As we have with superheroes, book preferences and women authors, we encourage you to take part in the conversation and decide where your own opinions lie. We’ll still be here whatever you decide.

To entice you further, here are some books that we have in both print and digital copies. Why choose? Feel free to read in both formats!

3248464The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I’ve recommended in the past beginning the Neil Gaiman canon with Neverwhere, but this book is also a worthy introduction to his magical works. Gaiman’s prose is gorgeous and this book has a hint of an Alice in Wonderland flair to it. If you enjoy being taken into a world that’s like our own, but in which things are not quite what they seem, time with this book will be time well spent.

2683441Still Alice by Lisa Genova

While the movie may have taken on much of the publicity, this book is well worth reading, whether or not you know someone who has been affected by Alzheimer’s disease. The heart-wrenching chronicle of the failing mind of a woman who was an exceptional intellectual is almost as sure to inspire curiosity and compassion as it is tears.

3246953We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

This is a recent pick by one of the South Branch’s reading groups. It had a decidedly mixed reaction but the premise is entrancing. A girl and a chimpanzee are raised together as siblings as a sort of social experiment. This book describes how such an unusual upbringing affected everyone in the family.

2703273Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel

If you’re dying to read what everyone is talking about, or if you’d just like to figure out what precisely was going on in the PBS miniseries with minimal dialog, now is your chance to pick up the Man Booker Prize-winning novel.

3393286One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

Not the riotous romp of his travel memoirs, but still entertaining and engaging. A great deal happened in the U.S. in the summer of 1927, and Bryson chronicles much of it with insights into how it affected the country later on. Expect more of his dry wit intermingled with the insights.

Till next week, dear readers, remember that reading, and books, are in the eye of the beholder. Books, be they print, digital, hybrid or some new format we haven’t yet conceived of, can’t die as long as there are people to enjoy them. And to that I say: Long live the reader!


Five Book Friday!


I’ll be honest, between the time difference and the different publishing schedule in the UK, today’s list of new releases came as quite a bewildering surprise to me.  Which may speak to precisely how exciting an existence, I lead, but nevertheless, I hope this list brings you the same level of wonder and excitement it brought me.  Here in London, it looks like 50% of this weekend will be bright and sunny, but the other half will be perfect reading weather.  I can only hope, wherever you might be this weekend, the weather is ideal for enjoying all that you want, and reading all you desire.  And now, without further ado…here are some of the highlights from our shelves this week:

3643268Hostage Taker: You may know Pintoff better from her historical mystery series featuring the wonderfully human Detective Simon Ziele, but in this contemporary thriller, Pintoff to New York in the 21st century with ease, crafting a story that is rooted in those deep, dark secrets that we will kill to protect.  When a hostage-taker demands five witnesses and the presence of FBI Agent Eve Rossi, the stage is set for a harrowing day of conniving, deception, truth and lies that builds towards a taut, surprising conclusion.  Though something of a new direction, it seems that Pintoff has another hit on her hands with this novel, which Kirkus calls “addictive” and author Lee Child says is “The perfect blend: an urban thriller as modern as tomorrow’s New York Times, driven by a two-hundred-year-old idea, with a main character to die for.”

3652372The House Of Shattered Wings: This book has been getting a surprising amount of advanced praise from a range of reviewers and websites.  Author Tim Powers says that this book is “wildly imaginative and completely convincing, this novel will haunt you long after you’ve put it down.”  Set in Paris after a Great War between the ruling arcane powers, an alchemist, a magician, and a fallen angel must join forces to save their house and their city–or wreak its ultimate downfall.  Aliette De Bodard’s imagination seems quite the fascinating place, and this debut is well on its way to being the hit of the autumn.


3594945The Little Paris Bookshop: This book has graced the New York Times bestseller list for a number of weeks now, and it is at last available on our shelves.  Like The House of Shattered Wings, this novel is set in Paris, but a very, very different Paris entirely.  Here, Monsieur Perdu runs a floating bookshop on the Seine where he offers stories to heal others’ heartbreaks…but there seems to be no way to heal his own, following the disappearance of his one true love.  Plenty of reviewers sang songs of tribute to Nina George’s book, with the Hamburger Morgenpost calling is “One of those books that gets you thinking about whom you need to give it to as a gift even while you’re still reading it, because it makes you happy and should be part of any well-stocked apothecary”.

3636964Truly Madly Pizza: One Incredibly Easy crust, Countless Inspired Combinations & Other Tidbits to Make Pizza A Nightly Affair:  It’s a book.  About pizza.


….Oh, I’m sorry, did you need more reason to check out this book?  Ok.  There are lots of pictures of pizza that you can make.  And eat.

3639885Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey: And what better way to follow it up?  With a history of bourbon and it’s resurgence in the United States.  This is a surprisingly complex story that touches on every location and time period of modern America, from the Wild West to the heady days of bootleggers and gangsters, from the heights of Madison Avenue to the shady political back-door deals.  Reid Mitenbuler’s tone seems to be hitting all the right notes, as well, with Library Journal  noting that his “abundant and even surprising detail is bundled with sharp writing that doesn’t hesitate to criticize.”  This definitely seems like a book that will entertain even as it educates, and is sure to make you into a hit at your next cocktail party.

And there you have it, beloved patrons!  Have a sensational weekend and happy reading!

PS: Jonathan Strange has arrived!


"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." ~Frederick Douglass