Sunday, May 24, 2015

Boswell's Bright-Eyed Bestsellers for the Week Ending May 23, 2015: Here's What Our Customers Are Reading with Bonus Journal Sentinel Book Review Links.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. I Regret Nothing, by Jen Lancaster (signed copies available)
2. The Road to Character, by David Brooks
3. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
4. H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald
5. The Horror of it All, by Adam Rockoff
6. Earth, 2nd edition, from DK Publishing
7. Hold Still, by Sally Mann
8. Missoula, by Jon Krakauer
9. Milwaukee Wisconsin: A Photographic Portrait, by Anne Bingham
10. Small Victories, by Anne Lamott

Sally Mann continues to wow with her memoir, Hold Still. This profile from Maria Browning in the Knoxville News Sentinel offers lots of insight: "Hold Still is structured around a literal excavation of the past in the form of ancient boxes of family photographs and keepsakes. These artifacts serve to anchor the narrative, which covers the lives of Mann's parents and a couple of generations of their antecedents, as well as Mann's own story from infancy onward. Many of the photos and letters are reproduced and embedded in the text, accounting for a sizeable number of the 400-plus images in Hold Still."

Hardcover Fiction:
1. There's a Man with a Gun Over There, by R.M. Ryan
2. A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson
3. Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson (ticket link for Fri Jun 5)
4. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
5. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
6. Death at Gill's Rock, by Patricia Skalka (Event with James DeVita on Sun Jun 14, 3 pm)
7 The Green Road, by Anne Enright
8. The Book of Aron, by Jim Shepard (event Thu Jun 18, 7 pm)
9. The Bone Tree, by Greg Iles
10. The Scarlet Gospels, by Clive Barker

We were just having a conversation about the storied tradition of popular horror writing (may have been inspired by our visit from Adam Rockoff, author of The Horror of It All) and how publishers see the genre name as a dirty word. Much like mystery writers are rebranded as fiction so that mass merchants will buy the book, and romance writers, when they break out, shed their genre origins, horror is likewise de-genred, or sometimes renamed dark fantasy. And then I see the quote from Quentin Tarantino, for Clive Barker's The Scarlet Gospels which reads "To call Clive Barker a 'horror novelist' would be like calling the Beatles a 'garage band'" and I understand the effort to push the qualifier away. But whatever you call it, Barker has a dark vision of the world that seems in accordance with the traditions. For those who love Barker, or should, here's a very revealing interview with him by Sean T. Collins in Grantland.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
2. Essential, by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus
3. The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert
4. Elephant Company, by Vicki Croke
5. A Spy Among Friends, by Ben Macintyre
6. The Art of War Visualized, by Jessica Hagy
7. At the Table, by Elizabeth Crawford
8. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
9. So We Read On, by Maureen Corrigan
10. Sundown, by Judith Harway

So were just thinking we needed to order more books from the Minimalists, having had a wonderful event with them last year, and with their books continuing to sell after the event, and when contacted, they said, hey, you need to carry our new book too, which is why Essential is #2 on our bestseller list this week. Alas, the title is wrong on our website (I've asked Ingram to update the feed) but the basic idea is that it's their best essays collected.

Another paperback pop is Ben Macintyre's A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal. The book did very well in hardcover, thanks in part to great reviews, like this Washington Post review from David Ignatius. The columnist writes "Philby emerges from “A Spy Among Friends” as a supremely perverse antihero, remarkable for his sheer guts and tenacity in concealing for more than 30 years his treason against his country and class. He was arguably the most gifted liar in intelligence history, a man who, despite what sounds like almost constant drunkenness, never really cracked, even as the evidence against him became overwhelming."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Almost Crimson, by Dasha Kelly (signed copies available)
2. Euphoria, by Lily King (open book club discussion at Boswell, Mon Jun 1, 7 pm)
3. The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain
4. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
5. The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
6. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
7. Delicious, by Ruth Reichl
8. Lydia's Party, by Margaret Hawkins
9. Shotbun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler
10. Dry Bones in the Valley, by Tom Bouman

It never gets old pointing out how many of our bestsellers are former event authors. In the case of this week's fiction, we're at 6 of the top ten (and I should note, the same was the case for the nonfiction list above). The holdouts are Donna Tartt, Celeste Ng, Ruth Reichl, and Tom Bouman. Of course several authors came for previous books--Lily King was at Boswell for Father of the Rain, a wonderful novel that also won the New England Book Award for Fiction.

Speaking of awards, Dry Bones in the Valley won the Best First Novel Edgar but it's sustained sales at Boswell are much do to Anne McMahon's enthusiasm: "The sense of place is strong and wonderful. Bouman's characters are like people we might know--at once simple and complicated--as they struggle to cope without side influences that are changing a rural way of life which has existed for generations in northeastern Pennsylvania. "

Books for Kids:
1. Nerd Camp, by Elissa Brent Weissman
2. Nerd Camp 2.0, by Elissa Brent Weissman
3. Short Seller, by Elissa Brent Weissman
4. Standing for Socks, by Elissa Brent Weissman
5. Pete the Cat's Groovy Guide to Life, by James Dean
6. Cosmoe's Wiener Getaway, by Max Brallier
7. Oh, the Places You'll Go, by Dr. Seuss
8. I don't Like Koala, by Sean Ferrell
9. Listen, Slowly, by Thanhhà Lai
10. Ms. Rapscott's Girls, by Elise Primavera

Did you catch from our bestseller list that Elissa Brent Weissman was in Milwaukee, appearing at a local school? And while Elisa Primavera wasn't in town, Amie was showing me her beautiful note after meeting the author of Ms. Rapscott's Girls. The book is on the Kids' Indie Next list for Spring 2015. Here's Jessica Sweedler DeHart's recommendation from Bookpeople of Moscow, Idaho: "Finally, a book that pokes hilarious fun at the results of busy parents everywhere! Nestled inside a lighthouse, Great Rapscott School for the Daughters of Busy Parents is the perfect destination for readers who adore Amelia Bedelia, Mary Poppins, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Roald Dahl, and Pippi Longstocking. All will appreciate the irresistibly feisty spirit evident throughout this book which is sure to charm.”

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews Michael Perry's first novel for adults, The Jesus Cow, a frenetic tale about a small town in Wisconsin where a cow is born with the image of Christ noticeably depicted on the animal's skin. He writes: In the midst of this comedy, Perry does at least two serious things very well: He chronicles daily life in rural Wisconsin communities, and he writes knowledgeably and respectfully about the ways ordinary people experience, practice and question religious faith. The latter is not always easy to find in mainstream American fiction." The Journal Sentinel notes that Perry will be at Books and Company in Oconomoowoc on Thursday, June 11 (solo) and at Boswell along with Dean Bakopoulos, author of Summerlong, on Friday, June 19.

Mike Fischer reviews Kent Haruf's last novel, Our Souls at Night. He begins: "Set in 2014 in Holt — the small, fictional town on the eastern Colorado plains where most of Haruf's stories unfold — Our Souls at Night reads like a coda to Benediction, which revolves around...the dying owner of a hardware store looking back over his life." The theme, per Fischer, is "no matter how old we are, we always have the chance to begin anew." We have several fans on staff for this one; Jannis Mindel writes "This is a beautiful meditation on companionship, love, death and family. What a gift Kent Haruf has left us in this final posthumous novel! "

And finally, here's Gina Barton, criminal justice reporter at the Journal Sentinel, who won a Polk award for her coverage of Derek Williams. She reviews Jill Leovy's Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America. Here's a taste of her review: "Jill Leovy's Ghettoside is about homicide in the inner city of Los Angeles, but it could just as easily be about Milwaukee or any number of other American cities. Leovy, a police reporter at the Los Angeles Times, embedded with homicide detectives in one of the city's toughest neighborhoods and got to know the people whose lives are affected by murders there. In the vein of David Simon, longtime Baltimore police reporter and creator of The Wire, Leovy paints nuanced portraits of cops and victims, witnesses and perpetrators."

Saturday, May 23, 2015

What Did the Book Club Think of Phil Klay's "Redeployment"?

It had been a while since we'd read a collection of short stories for the In-store Lit Group, so when Phil Klay's Redeployment won the National Book Award, I immediately put the collection on our shortlist. The collection, Klay's first, is inspired by the author's tour of duty in the Iraq War, where he was a public affairs officer. We've actually read war fiction before, and even the Iraq War, in Ben Fountain's book, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, but we all agreed this was a very different story.

Klay (photo credit Hannah Dunphy) looks at being on the ground from lots of different perspectives. Some stories are from soldiers on ground patrols. One narrator works in the morgue. There's someone who is a chaplain and another who is a foreign service officer. There's a tension between the Marine code to protect their own and the outside demands to keep the area safe from insurgents without hurting civilians. That message turns out to be a bit muddy.

And the other tension is between these soldiers on duty in Iraq and how they adjust or don't adjust to being off duty, especially when they are back home. Some wounds are physical, others are psychological; there's a fair number of suicides. When one veteran moves to New York to be a lawyer, he finds himself surrounded by people who can't comprehend his experience. A number of these soldiers are mystified by the pallative response "Thank you for your service" thrown at them. It's probably a better option than the anger thrown at Vietnam War vets but it still seems to miss the mark.

Many people have seen Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, as a reference point for Redeployment. As Rob Kunzig said in the New Republic after Klay's award: "Both wars were fought over ideas masquerading as existential threats; both ended in something much less than victory." Klay captures the war experience from a number of perspectives of the fighters, though he probably doesn't give the most gung ho of the soldiers a voice to understanding. One gets the idea that this aggression just gets the troops into more trouble, particularly in the story  "Prayer in the Furnace", where the chaplain recounts Charlie Company's attempts to get their battle numbers up by attracting attention with doing jumping jacks naked on the rooftop. Yikes. 

I think that was one of my favorite stories. I also really liked "Money as a Weapons System," about the foreign service officer trying to get a water treatment plant up, while pooh poohing the other options of a women's health clinic and the ever popular bee-keeping-for-widows option, and out of left field, is given a mission to teach Iraqis baseball. I think this was the one reviewers were calling Joseph Heller-y. 

Just for a change of pace, it was nice to have a story like "Psychological Operations," of a vet in college confronted by a Muslim student reported for offensive talk. If I had a least favorite, it would probably be "OIF," which is the story told mostly in acronyms and soldier lingo. But when we were discussing the stories, L. called this one out as one she really liked, so see, effective is in the eye of the beholder.

So that's me, but the truth is, it was hard to participate in our book club conversation because I hadn't finished the collection by discussion time. This happened once before, and I was chided aggressively, but that person is no longer attending, and I happened to be meeting with an understanding bunch, plus I'd done my regular research of finding reviews and interviews and profiles we could draw from. But it's still a wee bit embarrassing. 

We already knew that at least one attendee did not like the book at all, as she'd read it the previous month and came to the discussion prepared to discuss it. I suppose that is the one drawback. One interesting thing to note is that several folks mentioned they were confused that the stories were not really connected. It took about three to four stories before they realized that it was not going be the same character or company; this was a traditional connection of unrelated tale, except of course they were connected setting and theme. But we are so used to so many collections being almost fragmented novels, and we've even discussed connected stories and novellas being marketed as novels, that there was a bit of surprise that this lauded and popular collection was just that, a collection.

J. liked it and thought it was well written. D. disliked the title story (which I keep remembering as"Operation Scooby", as it gets to the heart of the plotline) but found himself getting into it more after a few stories. He did feel that had very different styles and felt that Klay was still trying to find his voice. His critique recalls Edward Docx's in The Guardian: "I can't stand the clear-as-a-mountain-creek regular-guy style so beloved of faux-masculine, tough-but-vulnerable narrative. And for a page or two, Redeployment read to me as if it was written by a rogue Jack Daniels copywriter." But Docx changed his mind as he read on, and decided that the first voice was more an indication of the author's range.

To me, having finally finished the book, there really is a through line--focus on the characters and their immediate actions. There's very little description, very little bigger picture (something that's really out of bounds for Klay's narrators), and always from one perspective. Yes, it would have been fascinating to get inside the head of The Professor of "Money as a Weapon Systems," but I think that probably would have been a fail, and Klay made the right choice to understand him second hand. I am pretty sure that every story is a first person narrative, and while it might have given the collection more range to vary the story structures, I actually think it does bring the collection cohesion. I was curious whether Klay left out or adjusted some of his war-related stories (you've got to figure he's writing about other things too) when they didn't have that personal narrative format.

M. also liked Redeployment a lot. She thought Klay captured so much of the war in minuitiae, like the soldier who gets the request to take off his wedding band and put it on his dog tags in "Ten Kliks South." So much easier for the attendants when he comes back in a body bag. I found it interesting for the soldier who, despite his major burns, including a missing ear, he'd still had a system for picking up women.

As A. read the book, she kept thinking, "these guys are so young, while more than one time reading the stories, L thought, "are these people sane?"And C.'s perspective? "I felt despair; war is a tragedy."

We had some discussion about Klay's job in the military and why he didn't write a story from his own perspective as a public relations officer. In retrospect, I think he did this to keep a little distance from himself and the characters in the book. There was some talk about whether any of these stories could become a novel, and which character probably was most from Klay's perspective, but he always tried to give each character a twist so they were a bit like Klay, but also absolutlely not like him. I suppose that's the sort of thing authors have to do so their relatives don't complain that they were unfairly portrayed in a book.

The nice thing about a book winning the National Book Award is that there are lots of resources available. Of course you must read The New York Times Book Review piece from Dexter Filkins, if only because Filkins has such great credentials as a war reporter.  He brings home the feeling of isolation that characters feel in stories like "Unless It's a Sucking Chest Wound." Of the Iraq war, Filkins observes"Nearly all its burderns were endured by a tiny percentage of the population. There was no draft, no higher taxes. If you were in the military, you served - which meant you deployed, again and a again - while the rest of your countrymen carried on as though the nation were at peace."

And here's an interview with Klay by Matt Gallagher in the Paris Review. Klay talks about "the disconnect between the military and civilian America" which comes to the fore in his own homecoming. I thought it was a very good discussion and might have been even better had I finished the book on time. But in my opionion, how you can you not be part on top of our book culture and not have read Redeployment? By this logic, does this mean I have to read The Goldfinch? I think there's an exception for books longer than 800 pages. Speaking of long books...

On Monday, June 1, we'll be discussing Lily King's Euphoria. Our July meeting is moved on day, to Tuesday, July 7, so that I can help run our co-sponsored event with Daniel Silva at the JCC. The In-store Lit Group will meet Tuesday, July 7, and talk about Matthew Thomas's We Are Not Ourselves. And yes, Thomas is coming to Boswell on Monday, June 8. Get a feel for the book then, and then come discuss it with us in July!

Oh, and just because we know it already, the August discussion book is Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend, not because it's new, not because we're having the author, but just because everyone has been telling me I should read it and this is the only way it's going to get done.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Events this Week at Boswell: Jen Lancaster Tonight, R.N. (Rick) Ryan Tomorrow, Adam Rockoff Wednesday.

Monday, May 18, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jen Lancaster, author of I Regret Nothing: A Memoir
with an Introduction to Self-Defense by Local Martial Artist, Personal Trainer, and Special Guest Paul Boyajian

According to Lancaster, several cities in the I Regret Nothing tour had to be rescheduled, but Milwaukee is on track. But Jen, being in a cast, she might not be able to fend off attackers for our self-defense bucket list challenge. On the other hand, the fact that Lancaster can get to Milwaukee without flying was our saving grace. As you know, Lancaster is the author of ten previous memoirs and novels, from The Tao of Martha to Jeneration X. Here's a little more about her newest, I Regret Nothing.

Mistakes are one thing; regrets are another. After a girls’ weekend in Savannah makes Jen Lancaster realize that she is—yikes!—middle-aged (binge watching is so the new binge drinking), Jen decides to make a bucket list and seize the day, even if that means having her tattoo removed at one hundred times the cost of putting it on. From attempting a juice cleanse to studying Italian, from learning to ride a bike to starting a new business, and from sampling pasta in Rome to training for a 5K, in I Regret Nothing, Jen turns a mid-life crisis into a mid-life opportunity, sharing her sometimes bumpy—but always hilarious—attempts to better her life...again.

And here's a little more about Paul Boyajian. With over 30 years of martial arts experience, personal trainer and founder of Anthro EX Corrective Exercise & Functional Training Programs Paul Boyajian is skilled in Tae Kwon Do, Thai Boxing, Savate, Jeet Kune Do, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, to name a few. He is an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer and fitness nutritionist and a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified Corrective Exercise Specialist, and has taught and trained clients of all ages locally for many years in various disciplines, including a popular class on self-defense for women that he co-developed in the late 1980s. In the 90s, as a group-home manager, he designed and implemented new restraint and defense programs to reinforce the safety of residents and workers. For more information and to schedule your training session, visit Anthro EX on Facebook.

While Jen has previously appeared at Barnes and Noble and the now-gone Borders (where she had capacity crowds), this is her first time at Boswell. This event is not ticketed, though as always, we will close temporarily if we reach capacity.

Tuesday, May 19, 7 pm, at Boswell:
R.M. (Rick Ryan), author of There's a Man with a Gun Over There.

Former Milwaukeean Rick Ryan has been in the Bay area for many years, but he's back in conjunction with his novel, There's a Man with a Gun Over There. Based on Ryan’s military experiences as an antiwar activist and grad student turned translator and Military Police officer for the US Army, his new novel, per Publishers Weekly, "offers a side to Vietnam that most people don’t see."

Pop culture aficionados will recall Ryan's titular reference is from Buffalo Springfield's "For What it's Worth." While Stephen Sills' classic did find life as a antiwar protest song, it was originally inspired by an anti-noise curfew at a well-known Los Angeles music club, per this piece in the Los Angeles Times.

But you will not mistake Ryan's book for anything but the antiwar statement that it is. Per Publishers Weekly, "The book’s message is clear and repeated throughout the book: the Army is not a game, and no matter what you tell yourself to get through it, you are still a trained killer. Ryan offers a side to Vietnam that most people don’t see. He drives his points home about the dangers of the military and how it affects people."

Wednesday, May 20, 7 pm, at Boswell: Adam Rockoff, author of The Horror of It All: One Moviegoer’s Love Affair with Masked Maniacs, Frightened Virgins, and the Living Dead.

Pop culture history meets blood-soaked memoir as a horror film aficionado and screenwriter recalls a life spent watching blockbuster slasher films, cult classics, and everything in between. Horror films have simultaneously captivated and terrified audiences for generations, racking up billions of dollars at the box office and infusing our nightmares with unrelenting zombies, chainsaw-wielding madmen, and myriad incarnations of ghosts, ghouls, and the devil himself. Despite evolving modes of storytelling and the fluctuating popularity of other genres, horror endures. In The Horror of It All author Adam Rockoff traces the highs and lows of the horror genre through the lens of his own obsessive fandom, born in the aisles of his local video store and nurtured with a steady diet of cable.

Rockoff is the screenwriter of Wicked Lake, a film so depraved it caused Ron Jeremy to storm out of the theater in anger. However, his 2010 adaptation of the classic exploitation film, I Spit on Your Grave, received nearly unanimous praise from horror critics. Brent R. Oliver writes in Buzzy Magazine: "This book is for people who outright, wholeheartedly, unabashedly, freaking love horror movies. It’s an intelligent and heartfelt look at something that too often seems dumb and heartless. Scary movies are art, whether they’re seriously great or seriously terrible. Rockoff sees this and he’ll make you see it, too."

And as for next Monday, happy Memorial Day! Don't forget, we are open 10 am to 5 pm. I'll be working, so stop by and say hi.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Straight form Milwaukee, it's Boswell's Bestsellers for the Week Ending May 16, 2015, Featuring the Journal Sentinel Book Reviews.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Dream Lover, by Elizabeth Berg
2. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
3. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
4. A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson
5. Church of Marvels, by Leslie Parry
6. Pleasantville, by Attica Locke
7. The Green Road, by Anne Enright
8. My Struggle Volume 4, by Karl Ove Knausgaard
9. The Daylight Marriage, by Heidi Pitlor
10. The Book of Aron, by Jim Shepard (event Jun 18 at Boswell)

Though we are still basking in the glow of an absolutely lovely lunch with Elizabeth Berg (and yes, we're now #1 for The Dream Lover on Above the Treeline), It's time to move on, right? But not before noting that we even got one of George Sand's books, the story collection, What Flowers Say, into our top ten paperbacks. But there's lots of other interesting things going on this week, like a first week pop into the top ten for Jim Shepard's The Book of Aron, coming to Milwaukee on June 18, co-sponsored by the UWM Stahl Center for Jewish Studies, which Ron Charles called "a masterpiece" in the Washington Post. And Sharon's pick, Heidi Pitlor's The Daylight Marriage, which got a nice review by Nick Romeo on The Boston Globe, who praises its "taut suspense and subtle characterization." And look, there's Attica Locke's Pleasantville, her follow-up to the terrific Black Water Rising. Isabel Berwick in The Financial Times uses the adverb "brilliantly" to describe what Locke takes on. Read this review for context; you won't be disappointed.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Children of the Stone, by Sandy Tolan
2. Elsie De Wolfe's Paris, by Charlie Scheips
3. Hold Still, by Sally Mann
4. A Lucky Life Interrupted, by Tom Brokaw
5. The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough
6. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Condo
7. H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald
8. The Art of Forgery, by Noah Charney
9. Believer, by David Axelrod (signing at Marquette Jun 2, 1:15 pm following sold out talk)
10. It's a Long Story, by Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson's back! I thought he said it all in Roll Me Up and Smoke me Till I Die, but It's a Long Story is, per Nathan Whitlock in The Globe and Mail, "a piece of work that is soulful, goofy, profane, heartfelt, tossed off, a little sloppy around the edges and deeply idiosyncratic." The big pop for the week, though, was Sally Mann's Hold Still. Lots of advance holds on this one, and that was before her featured turn on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Oh, and Tom Brokaw was featured on Fresh Air too for his memoir, A Lucky life Interrupted.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Almost Crimson, by Dasha Kelly
2. Rise from the River, by Kathie Giorgio
3. Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler
4. Euphoria, by Lily King
5. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
6. Far from the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy
7. The Illusion of Separateness, by Simon Van Booy
8. Colorless Tuskuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami
9. What Flowers Say, by George Sand
10. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng

After a strong hardcover run nationally, Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You pops into our top ten on its paperback run. Here's The New York Times review from Alexander Chee. And yes, Far From the Madding Crowd opened at the Downer Theater on Friday. It's playing at 4, 7, and 9:50. How can one not link to a review (the New Orleans Advocate) that calls it "masterpiece cinema" Amusingly enough, basic searches still bring up the 1968 version.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Emotional Life of Your Brain, by Richard J. Davidson
2. At the Table: by Elizabeth Crawford
3. Mindset, by Carol Dweck
4. Isaac's Storm, by Erik Larson
5. Escaping Into the Open, by Elizabeth Berg
6. How to Be Interesting, by Jessica Hagy
7. Growing in the Midwest, by Edward Lyon
8. Abominable Science, by Daniel Loxton
9. Strength for the Struggle, by Joseph Ellwanger
10. The Third Plate, by Dan Barber

Congratulations to The Third Plate's Dan Barber, who just received the James Beard award for food writing. Many books received honors, but cookbook of the year came from University of Texas Press, which published David Sterling's Yucatan. And of course our local food writer, Elizabeth Crawford, continues to sell at Boswell. Here's Nancy Stoh's story on At the Table in the Journal Sentinel.

Books for Kids:
1. Galactic Hot Dogs V1: Cosmoe's Wiener Getaway, by Max Brallier
2. Nightsiders V1 The Orphan Army, by Jonathan Maberry
3. Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens V1, by Julie Mata
4. Kate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug Man v2, by Julie Mata
5. Pieces and Players, by Blue Balliett
6. Oh, the Places You'll Go, by Dr. Seuss
7. An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir
8. Home, by Carson Ellis
9. Rot and Ruin V1, by Jonathan Maberry
10. I am a Bunny, by Ole Risom with illustrations by Richard Scarr

It's almost the last of our school visits (Andy Rash and Elissa Brent Weissman should still have sales pops in the coming week) and we celebrate with no less than 7 of the top 10 being from authors who did events with Boswell. Max Brallier celebrated the release of his middle grade series Galactic Hot Dogs: Cosmoe's Wiener Getaway with mini dogs from Dr. Dawg at the North Shore Library. I wanted to serve something for Jonathan Maberry's The Nightsiders: The Orphan Army but what? Candy guts? It can be hard to do public events for first-timers, and while both Brallier and Maberry are seasoned authors, this was their first time targeting the 8-12 crowd. Come to think of it, we had a lot of first-time middle grade authors in school year 2014-2015. It appears to be the sweet spot for school tours.

Wow! Neal Stephenson is profiled by Jim Higgins in the Journal Sentinel for his new novel, Seveneves. We're hosting a ticketed event with Stephenson on Friday, June 5, 7 pm. $36 includes admission and the book. On the origin of the story: "Going way back, there's a subgenre of science-fiction books about the end of the world, people getting on an ark and going into space. I read some of those when I was a kid. On some level, I always thought it would be cool to write one of those. But I didn't really act on it until recently."

And here's Carole Barrowman's round up of her mystery picks for May.
--Ripped from the Pages, by Kate Carlisle, is "a charming story highlighting Brooklyn's passions as a book restorer and bibliophile"
--On the Wales-set Slated for Death, by Elizabeth Duncan: " this charming mystery is as tasty as a slice of Bara brith (a cake bread with raisins or currants)"
--Charlotte Chanter's The Well is "speculative, suspenseful and deliberately unsettling (think Margaret Atwood in style and tone)"
--The "completely unnerving and wickedly perverse" Luckiest Girl Alive from Jessica Knoll is "the book you insist all your friends read this summer."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Events Tuesday Through Monday--Dasha Kelly, Kathie Giorgio, Max Brallier at North Shore Library, Jonathan Maberry at West Allis Library, Leslie Parry, plus Jen Lancaster next Monday.

Yesterday I had two options--send out the email newsletter to 10,000 people or send out the event blog to, well, a lot fewer people. I went with option A, which means that today I'm following up with B. You can read the email newsletter here, though I should note that there are a few events that have suspiciously similar copy. That said, we do have very nice recs posted for Medicine Walk, Housebreaking, and The Book of Aron. 

Here are our event options for this week and into next!

Tuesday, May 12, 6:30 pm, at the North Shore Library, 6800 N. Port Washington Road:
Max Brallier, author of Galactic Hot Dogs: Cosmoe's Wiener Getaway.

A number of years ago, a feature appeared on a website called Funbrain entitled "Diary of a Wimpy Kid." It has proven quite successful. So while kids' authors don't always tour for their first book in a series (though surprisingly, many of them do), it can be an uphill battle, as kids are as brand concious as adults, and just saying that a story is really great or an author is fun is not enough to convince them.

Due to the web component, we're hoping many kids' area already aware of the series. So in addition to Max Brallier's school visit, we're also hosting an event at the North Shore Library tonight at 6:30 pm. We picked that location because it is down the block from Dr. Dawg, because of course we are serving hot dogs. I spoke to Dave, Dr. Dawg himself, who gave me some guidelines--close to 90% of kids want plain dogs with ketchup (not mustard). No Chicago style dogs for these pups.

And the book itself? Well our kids' buyer's daughter read Cosmoe's Wiener Getaway twice and gave it two thumbs up. And Kirkus Reviews says "This highly illustrated story has something for every demographic, offering robots, zombies, hot dogs, a princess, video games and wrestlers...The book is so frenetic that some readers will need caffeine to get through it, but in the end, that turns out to be an advantage: If a joke doesn't work, or if readers get bored, all they have to do is turn the page."

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
Tuesday, May 12, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Dasha Kelly, author of Almost Crimson. (Photo credit Catina Cole)

At Boswell, we've carried Dasha Kelly's poetry and worked with her on a writing program, and we're very excited to be hosting this event for her long-awaited novel, Almost Crimson.

This event is co-sponsored by the Milwaukee Public Library. A representative will be on hand to sign you up for, and issue you a library card on site. Doesn't your wallet seem a little empty without one?

Read Jim Higgins' review in the Journal Sentinel. It begins: "Dasha Kelly's novel Almost Crimson isn't set in New York, but it kept bringing to mind what Aretha Franklin sang about a rose in black and Spanish Harlem: 'It is a special one / It never sees the sun.'"

"For much of the story, both conditions apply, figuratively, to Crimson (CeCe) Weathers. CeCe grows up not only poor and black but also as the only child of a mother with depression so paralyzing that her little girl has to make sure the bills are paid and their underwear is washed."

From Kirkus Reviews: "Shifting between past and present, Kelly deftly weaves a narrative extending from Carla's college days during the civil rights movement through Cece's girlhood and present adulthood. But it's Cece's vibrant, personable voice that carries us through the novel. A multilayered exploration of the intricate nature of family ties in defining who we are-and how, ultimately, we can choose who we want to become."

Here's Jenni Herrick in The Shepherd Express: "Milwaukee author Dasha Kelly’s second novel Almost Crimson is a true work of art. It is a multi-layered story of hope and perseverance in the face of huge obstacles. Crimson (CeCe) is raised surrounded by inner-city single-parent poverty with a severely depressed mother. Forced to grow up too early, CeCe comes of age paying the family bills, caring for her mother and navigating life on her own. As she struggles with her own changing self of self, this brave protagonist shows a grim determination toward a better future."

Wednesday, May 13, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Kathie Giorgio, author of Rise from the River.

This event will benefit Milwaukee's Sojourner Family Peace Center, established in 1975 and dedicated to the mission of transforming lives impacted by domestic violence. More on the Journal Sentinel book page.

Young single mother Rainey Milbright's life has been shattered by a violent assault, witnessed by her young daughter Tish. With compassion and unflinching honesty, Giorgio chronicles the way a night of violence reverberates through Rainey's life, the life of her young daughter Tish, and this family's emotional journey to healing.

Writer Mary Grimm offers this praise: "Say that Kathie Giorgio's new novel, Rise from the River, is an assault on the senses, a torrent of feeling. Say that it is a manifesto for independent choices, a primer on women's issues taken to their extreme. That it is funny and awful and poignant and that you will be unable to put it down. It's all these things, but most of all it's about Rainey, to whom the unthinkable happens, and who then has to make one of a woman's most difficult choices..."

Several of you have come in, telling us of working with Kathie Giorgio at All Writers Workplace and Workshop in Waukesha. More about this program, which offers both online and on-site programs and classes, here.

Thursday, May 14, 6:30 pm, at at the West Allis Public Library, 7491 West National Avenue: Jonathan Maberry, author of many books for adults and teens, and his new middle grade book, The Nightsiders: The Orphan Army.

From Publishers Weekly: "In this opening installment of the Nightsiders series, Maberry mixes genres to admirable effect. Six years after the alien Swarm invaded Earth, the remaining free humans exist as nomadic refugees and rebels, scavenging to survive while plotting ways to fight back. Eleven-year-old Milo Silk belongs to one such group. Troubled by recurring dreams in which the so-called Witch of the World exhorts him to become the hero Earth needs, Milo is astounded to discover that creatures of myth and legend--werewolves, faeries, spirits of wood and stone--exist and are also fighting the Swarm. ..It's a strong start to what looks to be a highly entertaining story line."

While our school events really tried to focus on the new book, and thus were targeted towards 3rd through 6th graders (maybe 7th), for the public event, we're happy to get fans of any age who read all the different things Maberry writes--horror novels for adults, his various Marvel comic books (Punisher, Marvel Zombies, Captain America), the teen Rot and Ruin sf/horror series, the Joe Ledger mystery/thriller/horror hybrid series, the Pine Deep horror series, an upcoming mystery series for teens, and many, many nonfiction books. This guy knows a lot about everything creepy; read more here.

Friday, May 15, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Leslie Parry, author of Church of Marvels. (photo credit Adam Farabee)

Chicago writer Leslie Parry has already gotten a lot of great buzz for her first novel, Church of Marvels, but I want to particularly congratulate her on being one of the Indies Introduce titles for spring 2015. You may have seen our display at the front of Boswell, highlighting books for both kids and adults. These are all debut works,with a panel of booksellers plowing through many, many books to find ones they can all stand behind.

Here's the official Indie Next recommendation, from fellow bookseller Cathy Langer at The Tattered Cover: "In this page-turner of a debut very little is what it first appears to be. Set in Coney Island and Manhattan at the end of the 19th century, Church of Marvels is populated with carnival folk and others living on the edge of society with either much to hide or much to discover. The characters are richly drawn and their circumstances exceptionally intriguing as they seek and find the complicated truths of their lives in the dark underbelly of New York."

Here's more about the program. Another author who was picked for spring who is coming on June 10 is Emma Hooper, author of Etta and Otto and Russell and James.

Steve Nathans-Kelly's review in Paste magazine starts out by saying that to really capture city life in late 19th, early 20th century America, you need to "make the city feel real", capturing the squalor, but do it your own way. He continues: “Backhanded compliment though it may seem, that’s precisely what Leslie Parry has accomplished in Church of Marvels, a mesmerizing new novel of 1895 New York, situated squarely in the city’s rankest, dankest back alleys, flophouses, brothels, prison cells and opium dens. From the book’s opening pages, which concern a crew of night-soilers harvesting the feces from tenement privies for delivery to a riverside fertilizer factory, the novel reeks of authenticity. The only way to come up for air is to close the book, made increasingly difficult by Parry’s eye-popping prose as the story digs in."

Monday, May 18, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jen Lancaster, author of I Regret Nothing: A Memoir.

This event features a headstart to one of the items on Jen Lancaster's bucket list, an introduction to self-defense by a very special guest: local martial artist, personal trainer, and founder of Anthro EX, Paul Boyajian.

So for this event, our first with Jen Lancaster, we were given a challenge by the publisher. Come up with an event that ties in to an item on Jen's bucket list. I asked around to my project Jen team (that's a fancy way of saying Sharon, Phoebe, and Carly, who were working with me that day) and we decided that the self-defense intro would be the most interesting thing to put together. So after checking in with Mel, who knew a lot more about self defense than I first imagined, she connected us with Paul Boyajian.

With over 30 years of martial arts experience, personal trainer and founder of Anthro EX Corrective Exercise Functional Training Programs Paul Boyajian is skilled in Tae Kwon Do, Thai Boxing, Savate, Jeet Kune Do, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He is an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer and fitness nutritionist and a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified Corrective Exercise Specialist, and has taught and trained clients of all ages locally for many years in various disciplines, including a popular class on self-defense for women. Here's his profile on Sage Arts Unlimited.

Boswellian Sharon Nagel says that I Regret Nothing shows the author in top form. She writes: "For many years I have been a fan of Jen Lancaster and her hilarious memoirs. Her latest does not disappoint. Coming to terms with the fact that she is of a certain age, Jen decides to complete as many items as possible on her bucket list, that compilation we all have of experiences we want to have before we die. A few of the items on Jen's list are: starting a business, traveling alone to Italy, and learning a new language. She tackles these goals with her usual enthusiasm and the support, mostly, of her husband, Fletch, and the dogs, Hambone and Loki. You might even be inspired to start your own bucket list.

And of course Jen Lancaster is the bestselling author of ten previous books, including Bitter is the New Black. She has appeared on a whole mess of shows, and resides in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and their ever-expanding menagerie of ill-behaved pets.

I know that she's only a car ride away, but it would really suck if our events did not measure up to her sold-out ticketed events in other cities. If you fans in Boston couldn't get into Lancaster's event, I should note that is nonstop service on Southwest. Heck, make a week of it.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Boswell Bestseller Blast Off: What Wowed Our Customers for the Week Ending May 9, 2015

Hardcover Fiction:
1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (Pulitzer pop!)
2. A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson
3. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
4. God Help the Child, by Toni Morrison
5. Beneath the Bonfire, by Nickolas Butler
6. We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas (event at Boswell Mon 6/8)
7. The Dream LoveR, by Elizabeth Berg (MPL lunch is Thu 6/4, see below)
8. The Fall, by John Lescroart
9. Falling in Love, by Donna Leon
10. The Fifth Gospel, by Ian Caldwell

Tickets sales have closed for the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library Literary Lunch on Thursday, Mary 14 with Elizabeth Berg. That said, you can still get a copy of The Dream Lover signed. Ask your friendly bookseller. Many of the novels of George Sand (Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, Baroness Dudevant) are only available in academic and contract-published editions, if at all, but we've got two available for purchase. Indiana is probably her best known novel and What Flowers Say is a collection of her stories.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The China Mirage, by James Bradley
2. The Power Playbook, by La La Anthony
3. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
4. The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough
5. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
6. The Road to Character, by David Brooks
7. Missoula, by Jon Krakauer
8. On the Move, by Oliver Sacks 9. Listen to Your Mother, edited by Ann Imig
10. Between You and Me, by Mary Norris

By coming in right before Mother's Day, David McCullough does triple duty by being a great gift for moms, dads, and grads. The Wright Brothers is getting a lot of review attention, including this piece from Reeve Lindbergh (Charles's daughter) in The Washington Post. She writes: "The detailed glimpses of the Wright family revealed in the first pages of David McCullough’s superb new book, The Wright Brothers, give more personal information than most of us can claim to know about aviation pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright." The Associated Press's Hillel Italie (reprinted in the Journal Sentinel) offers a profile. And here's a piece from the (I think it was originally Bridgeport) Connecticut Post where they report that McCullough dismisses Gustave Whitehead's claim that he flew before the Wrights.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Into the Realm of Time, by Scott Douglas Prill
2. The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain
3. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
4. Listen and Other Stories, by Liam Callanan
5. The Doors You Mark are Your Own, by Okla Elliott and Raul Clement
6. The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
7. Euphoria, by Lily King
8. Meet Me Halfway, by Jennifer Morales (event Sat 6/6 2 pm at Washington Park Library)
9. The Husband's Secret, by Liane Moriarty
10. Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler

When a book sells in hardcover for a really long time, one wonders whether it will have life in paperback. Usually the movie release is the thing that's needed for that next pop, and while there will be a film version most likely (the rights were acquired by Oprah's Harpo Films, Sue Monk Kidd's The Invention of Wings is not one of those books where they were forced to release the paperback because the film was imminent, and really, it's only about 15 months past the hardcover release. We've gotten so used to these 6-8 months paperback cycles that when something takes a year, it feels like a delay.

We had several nice launches this week, including Silvia Acevedo's for God Awful Loser and Scott Douglas Prill for Into the Realm of Time. Congratulations to both authors.

 Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Other Wes Moore, by Wes Moore
2. Dotcom Secrets, by Russell Brunson
3. The Boys on the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
4. Flags of Our Fathers, by James Bradley
5. How to Be a Heroine, by Samantha Ellis
6. At the Table, by Elizabeth Crawford
7. Enchanted Forest, by Johanna Basford
8. Milwaukee Mafia, by Gavin Schmitt (event at MPL Central Mon 7/13)
9. The Lady in Gold, by Anne Marie O'Connor
10. Glitter and Glue, by Kelly Corrigan

For the last three years, we've been invited to the Ozaukee Family Services breakfast fundraiser, featuring Barbara Rinella, and it's a great chance for us to chat about books with the attendees, both before and after the talk (plus Rinella makes a lot of book recommendations too). This year we asked Boswellian Jane Glaser to get involved, and of course she saw a lot of old friends from Schwartz and Next Chapter. How to be a Heroine was of course a huge hit for her, and I had fun helping folks discover The Red Notebook. One book she suggested bringing was Kelly Corrigan's Glitter and Glue.

Books for Kids:
1. Pieces and Players, by Blue Balliett
2. Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett
3. God Awful Loser, by Silvia Acevedo
4. Geronimo Stilton #1: The Lost Treasure of Emerald Eye, from Scholastic
5. Pete the Cat and the Bad Banana, by James Dean
6. If You Were a Dog, by Jamie A. Swenson, with illustrations by Chris Raschka
7. The Adventures of Beekle, by Dan Santat
8. Wringer, by Jerry Spinelli
9. I Love Dogs, by Sue Stainton, with illustrations by Bob Staake
10. Saint Anything, by Sarah Dessen

Happy National Children's Book Week, with 40% of the bestseller list being titles that were featured in our programming. Jamie Swenson's books involve a lot of sounds (onomatopoeia, which I probably would not have spelled correctly without some sort of dictionary) with her previous book using the noises of a truck and a thunderstorm. For her newest book, If You Were a Dog, she was inspired by a boy who came into her library (she's a librarian!) and woofed at her. A very nice woman explained to her that on this day, her grandson was a dog. At storytime, said dog convinced other kids that they were also animals. I have completely paraphrased this story and apologize for any details i got wrong. We've already used If You were a Dog at storytime, and boy, is it great to read aloud!

In the  Journal Sentinel Jim Higgins reviews Dasha Kelly's Almost Crimson. He writes: "While Almost Crimson is not a YA book per se, the scenes of CeCe's childhood, coping with her mother's condition, with social workers and with school conflicts, are so compelling I would want to put this novel in the hands of teens like CeCe with a depressed parent. Portions of the novel about her adult life deal, tastefully and with humor, with her virginity and what she might do about that, so parents, librarians and teachers will want to consider that. I would have been fine with either of my teens reading Almost Crimson. Our event with Dasha Kelly is Tuesday, May 12, 7 pm, at Boswell.

Also reviewed by Jim Higgins is The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The Mostly True Story of the First Computer. He's a fan: "Sydney Padua's The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage has so many things going for it, I could go on and on, the way that Ada Lovelace did in her famous footnotes. But for the sake of readers in a hurry, here's the takeaway: It will make you laugh, and it will make you smarter." As Higgins notes, it grew out of a webcomic.