Wednesday, March 30, 2016

More on Ticketed Lauren Conrad Celebrate Signing at Boswell on Friday, April 1, 7 pm, Including a Link to Tickets.

We are very exciting about our ticketed signing for Lauren Conrad on Friday, April 1, 7 pm, at Boswell.  Lauren Conrad Celebrate went on sale yesterday, March 29, and has already been getting a lot of attention.

In this interview with Faith Cummings in Teen Vogue, Conrad talked about the book's inspiration: "[This guide has] been two years in the making. I was sharing a lot of photos of the parties I was throwing through my site and social media. We’d then get a ton of questions about how to achieve a similar look or how to do it with a smaller budget. We were also covering party etiquette and rules quite a bit, because I was finding that there are were so many unwritten rules when it comes to event planning. For instance: when to get a wedding gift, when an invitation should be sent, dealing with a plus one, and so many other situations. I’ve found that these kinds of guidelines make everything run smoothly because there’s a best practice for how to approach things. With this book, I was able to compile all of the basics, so that the process becomes less complicated and everyone can focus on what they’re there to celebrate — and on having fun."

Natalie Stone in The Hollywood Reporter also talked to Conrad about the book. One of her questions was if there was a party not in the book that she'd like to throw in the future: "I really love themed parties. My husband (William Tell) is actually born in the same week as me, so now we combine our birthdays. We combine our parties now, and he's the dude in that I would throw a theme — I used to do '20s or masquerade — and now we just do the same theme every year which is hoedown... We do that every year, which is really fun. But, I've always wanted to do a prom-themed birthday. You get a cover band and everybody goes to a second-hand store and gets the most obnoxious prom dress that they can find. It would be so fun! High school prom and everyone gets a corsage. I can't wait — I'm going to do it!"

We learned from the first event that there were way more walk ups than we were used to at one of our ticketed events. Due to the sheer size of the event at Bookends in New Jersey (a store that is no stranger to celebrity events - look at their roster!), we have increased the potential capacity for the tour by bringing in more books, but please note that to make sure you get to see Conrad and get a signed book, you really should buy your ticket now.  We are also not able to take signing requests before the event, but if you buy a ticket, you will get a signed book, even if you miss the event - we'll hold it for you after the event at our special order desk.

Don't forget, in order for us to make sure everyone gets a signed copy of Lauren Conrad Celebrate on Conrad's tight schedule, there are signing restrictions. She will not be able to sign memorabilia and there are no posed photos. We are also not able to schedule any interviews with the author; if you have a query, we will funnel it to her publicist.

I really should have asked Conrad to help us plan our 7th birthday party. As many of you may know, our soft opening was on April 3, 2009.

Monday, March 28, 2016

This Week's Boswell Events: Mary Pflum Peterson, Andy Mozina, Lil' Rev, Lauren Conrad.

Upcoming events!

Tuesday, March 29, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Mary Pflum Peterson, author of White Dresses: A Memoir of Love and Secrets, Mothers and Daughters.

Mary Pflum Peterson is a television producer in New York, a former reporter with CNN, a mom with four kids, and a writer. But she growing up, she faced the trauma of both parents struggling with mental health. Her father eventually came out as gay and her mother, a former nun, struggled with severe depression and an increasing tendency to hoard. She died in 2010, and White Dresses is the author's attempt to come to understand her mother's life.

Elfrieda Abbe writes explains the concept in the recent Journal Sentinel profile: "The book's title refers to the 'shared mother/daughter history' of wearing white dresses to commemorate special occasions — births, First Communions, graduations and marriages. The fashion dictum that except for special events, you didn't wear white dresses between Labor Day and Memorial Day had been passed down through the generations. For mother and daughter, who both remained faithful to the Catholic Church despite Anne's suffering at the convent, the white dresses represented an element of faith: 'of winter making way for spring,' said Peterson.

There are several great recommendations for White Dresses. Author Dorothea Benton Frank writes: "This stunning memoir takes us inside the secret lives of nuns, and teaches of the unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters. Mary Pflum Peterson rises as a new, bright shining star in the literary world. Her prose is as elegant as the white dresses about which she so lovingly writes." And from Martha McPhee: "Mary Pflum Peterson unveils the beautiful camouflage of significant white dresses to look at the disappointments of a life, releasing secrets and pain that she ultimately transforms to love."

Because we hosted an event at St. Monica Parish last week, we made a special bookmark to promote White Dresses, which we thought would be of interest to attendees. And I should note that there is another public event for Pflum Peterson tonight, March 28, at the University Club downtown. It's a meet-and-greet with refreshments and yes, we will be there selling books. Tickets to the Monday event do not include the book and are $30 for University Club members, $40 the general public.

The event at Boswell is Tuesday, March 29, 7 pm.

Wednesday, April 30, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Andy Mozina, author of Contrary Motion (Photo credit Katherine LeMoine).

This is Mozina's second visit to Boswell, and third to this space, as he read for his first short story collection at the Downer Schwartz. Like his protagonist, Matt Grzbc (it's pronounced Gerbik), he grew up in Milwaukee and now lives elsewhere. But unlike Mozina, who is a professor of English at Kalazmazoo College, his hero is a professional (well, semi-professional) harpist in Chicago, trying out for orchestras, and playing at hotel brunches and hospices.

In Contrary Motion, Matt's life has reached a fracture point, and I'm not referring to the damage that his harp received from a recent drop. His shares custody of his young daughter Audrey with his ex-wife Molina. She's seeing someone else and so is he, a lawyer named Cynthia, who is struggling with a complicated case made more complicated by sexual harassment from a partner. Matt likes her a lot, but things are not going as well in the bedroom, whereas the sexual tension is heightening again with his ex-wife. And this is all while he's still trying to come to terms with his father's recent death, and also struggling to get ready for a major audition with the St. Louis Symphony.

Mozina's first novel is a sort of near Jonathan Tropper, but I also saw him writing into a similar angsty funny abyss that consumes Lauren Fox. And because there's a decent amount of Milwaukee detail (and even more Chicago color), that also led me in a Fox direction. Because Mozina has previously had two collections of stories published and goes a little crazy on his blog, you can see that he channeled his absurdist sensibilities a bit for the novel. It would be interesting to see him go crazy in a future novel, in more of a Simon Rich-Mark Leyner kind of way, while still making the characters as realistic as Matt and friends in Contrary Motion, sympathetic in spite of their foibles.

Mozina has received a lot of praise from Boswell event alums Mark Wisniewski, Jaimy Gordon, Ann Patchett, and Jonathan Lethem. But for those who don't like to link, let me just include this quote from Bonnie Jo Campbell: "This brilliant debut novel zigzags across Chicago’s neighborhoods exploring the obsession a striving artist must have for his craft, as he also makes a living and nourishes those near him, especially his eccentric and precocious six-year-old daughter. Contrary Motion is a wonderful story—beautifully written, hilarious, tortured, and filled with heavenly music."

Our event with Mozina is Wednesday, March 30, 7 pm.

Thursday, March 31, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Lil' Rev, author of Essential Strums and Strokes for Ukulele: A Treasury of Strum-Hand Techniques.

Our event with Lil' Rev, an evening of ukulele thoughts and music, in conjunction with the release of his new book from Milwaukee's Hal Leonard Publishing, was originally scheduled for last December. We're very sad about the circumstances that led to the cancellation but we're grateful that the our evening could be rescheduled.

For those of you who have taken up the ukulele, and there are many of you, there is apparently a point where you fall into a rut. Lil' Rev's new book and video pack details a variety of strumming techniques that might not be in your repertoire, from clawhammer to the zig-zag stroke to punk rock strums and beyond. The accompanying video lessons feature Lil' Rev's demonstrations of every technique in the book and the publisher says it is great for both the beginning and the advanced player.

As I've mentioned before, if you're in the market for a ukulele, there's a great selection at our local independent, Brass Bell in Glendale on Silver Spring Drive. We just replaced our microphone stand there. And if you're not able to see Lil' Rev on Thursday, either because you're busy or live too far away, he'll be doing a lunch gig at Bay View's Anodyne on April 5 (11:30, why not treat yourself for voting?) and at concerts in Waukesha, Neenah, Traverse City, Baraboo, Madison, and Beaver Dam (which is where Mary Pflum Peterson grew up). Here's the complete schedule, including our event on Thursday, March 31, 7 pm.

Friday, April 1, 7 pm, at Boswell:
A ticketed signing with Lauren Conrad, author of Lauren Conrad Celebrate (photo credit Steve Erle).

"Lifestyle and fashion icon Lauren Conrad #1 bestselling author of Lauren Conrad Style and Lauren Conrad Beauty (as well as a series of six novels for young adults) has made a career of inspiring women to look and feel their best. And now that she's gotten us all dressed up and looking our most beautiful, she gives us somewhere to go in this lavishly illustrated, elegant, and essential guide to entertaining.

"Showcasing an array of parties that span the calendar, Lauren Conrad Celebrate demonstrates how easy it is to throw a fantastic party for any occasion, from a charming baby shower to a casual midsummer clambake to a festive holiday soiree. Along with her creative ideas and budget-friendly lifestyle tips, Conrad offers advice about party-planning basics to make hosting any type of event a breeze, including suggestions for the perfect invitations, food, drinks, decorations, gifts and even the perfect outfit. Throughout are inspiring color photos and stories from Conrad's life, recounting her housewarming party, bridal shower, and wedding."

Please note that while this is publisher copy, I changed references to "Lauren" to "Conrad." I think it's not polite to refer to people by their first name only when I don't know them well. And of course the last time she came, I didn't throw the best party - the power went off in the middle. That said, in the words of Tim Gunn, we made it work! Tickets are $30 and include a copy of Lauren Conrad Celebrate. We're going to have a complete blog post donated to the event tomorrow.

Next week event preview:
Tuesday, April 5, at MIAD: Barry Schwabsky, author of The Perpetual Guest: Art in the Unfinished Present. This event is free and open to the public. MIAD is located on 273 E. Erie St. in the Third Ward.

Tuesday, April 5, 6:30 pm, at Alverno College: Ellen Bravo, author of Again and Again. This event is free and open to the public. The event is being held at Alumnae Hall.

Wednesday, April 6, 6:30 pm, at North Shore Library, 6800 N Port Washington Rd: Jesse Andrews, author of The Haters and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

Thursday April 7, 7 pm, at the Riverside Theater: Nick Offerman, author of Gumption. Tickets still available for this event. Please note: a very, very long signing will follow the presentation. We are not able to take signed copy requests in advance of this event.

Friday, April 8, 7 pm, at Boswell: John Nichols and Robert McChesney, author of People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Boswell Annotated Weekly Bestsellers for the Period Ending March 26, 2016.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Two If By Sea, by Jacquelyn Mitchard
2. Fool Me Once, by Harlan Coben
3. Patience, by Daniel Clowes
4. All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
5. The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
6. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
7. Spill Simmer Falter Wither, by Sara Baume
8. The Swimmer, by John Koethe
9. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
10. At the Edge of the Orchard, by Tracy Cheavlier

With so many novels, you'd think that Harlan Coben, master of reversals, would run out of new ways to fool his readers. But in Fool Me Once (and yes, this title is just asking for it), Coben tries again, for the 29th time, more or less. Jackie K. Cooper in The Huffington Post says the newest is about a helicopter pilot who upon returning to the United States, finds out that her husband's murder might not be what it appeared.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Listen, Liberal, by Thomas Frank
2. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
3. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
4. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
5. Liar, by Rob Roberge
6. I Suck at Relationships, so You Don't Have to, by Bethenny Frankel
7. In Other Words, by Jhumpa Lahiri
8. Dead Presidents, by Brady Carlson
9. Sven Brief Lessons on Physics, by Carlo Rovelli
10. Streetfight, by Janette Sadik-Khan

New Hampshire Public Radio host Brady Carlson (wonder if Bonnie North knows him?) has penned Dead Presidents: An American Adventure Into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation's Leaders, which offers surprising stories about dead presidents, wrapped around field trips, a la Sarah Vowell. Kate Tuttle in The Boston Globe writes: " The book blends wry humor with thought-provoking analysis. What should we make, for instance, of Grover Norquist (himself named for a dead president) and his quest to put Ronald Reagan’s name on at least one thing in every county in the nation?"

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy (in store lit group May 2, 7 pm)
2. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
3. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman (event May 14, 2 pm)
4. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
5. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
6. Nora Webster, by Colm Tóibín
7. Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín
8. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald (event May 19, 7 pm)
9. The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
10. Reader I Married Him, edited by Tracy Cheavlier

The National Book Critics Circle award pops Paul Beatty's The Sellout onto our bestseller list this week. The NBCC is generally the one award where you can say with certainty that the winner appeared on many best-of-the-year lists, being that the winner is picked by the same critics who compile those yearend lists. Michael Schaub wrote on the NPR website: "Post-racial America or not, it's hard to see how anything funny could come out of slavery, police violence, gangs and racial discrimination, all subjects Beatty tackles in his fourth novel. It's the equivalent to an improv comedy troupe dedicating an entire performance to abortion. But somehow, The Sellout isn't just one of the most hilarious American novels in years, it also might be the first truly great satirical novel of the century."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Unmeasured Strength, by Lauren Manning
2. Bringing Nature Home, by Douglas Tallamy
3. A Place of Yes, by Bethenny Frankel
4. Skinnygirl Solutions, by Bethenny Frankel
5. I Suck at Relationships, so You Won't Have to, by Bethenny Frankel
6. Pocketful of Mojo, by Debi Silber
7. Skinnygirl Cocktails, by Bethenny Frankel
8. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
9. H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald
10. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda

You can probably tell from this list that this week was the Women's Leadership Conference at the Pfister. But Doug Tallamy's sales pop is for an upcoming event at the Urban Ecology Center. I was speaking with Kim, who said that Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants is one of her favorite books. In this profile by Anne Raver in The New York Times, she noted: "They are struggling to plant the native species that are needed for insects and animals to flourish. As exotic ornamentals leap the garden fence and out-compete the native plants, many creatures are starving to death because they did not evolve with the exotics and simply can’t eat them. 'I’m not trying to recreate the ancient ecosystem,' said Mr. Tallamy, who is chairman of the department of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware. 'That is gone. I’m trying to create biodiversity.'"

Books for Kids:
1. Will Wilder #1: The Relic of Perilous Falls, by Raymond Arroyo
2. Seven Wonders #1: Colossus Rises, by Peter Lerangis
3. Seven Wonders #2: Lost in Babylon, by Peter Lerangis
4. Seven Wonders #5: Legend of the Rift, by Peter Lerangis
5. Seven Wonders #3: Tomb of Shadows, by Peter Lerangis
6. I Survived the Hindenburg Disaster, by Lauren Tarshis
7. Seven Wonders #4: Curse of the King, by Peter Lerangis
8. I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom with illustrations by Richard Scarry
9. I Survived True Stories: Five Epic Disasters, by Lauren Tarshis
10. I Survived True Stories #2: Nature Attacks, by Lauren Tarshis
11. When Spring Comes, by Kevin Henkes, with illustrations by Laura Dronzek
12. Pax, by Sara Pennypacker, with illustrations by Jon Klassen
13. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
14. A Is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagara
15. The Book Thief Anniversary Edition (cloth), by Markus Zusak

Raymond Arroyo and Peter Lerangis were both in town doing events with Boswell - two schools and a public event for the former and three schools for the latter, as we the store was already booked and we took on his project too late to host at a library. We were a good add on for Lerangis as the former city had a lot of schools on break, but in the Milwaukee area this year, just about every district except for a few private schools did breaks the week after Easter, not before. So anyway, Arroyo and Lerangis ran into each other at their hotel, and being that this is Arroyo's first book for kids and it has been compared to Lerangis's current series, they had a lot to chat about. Legend of the Rift is the fifth of the Seven Wonder Books,  In this one, they head to several Wonders, including the Temple of Artemis and The Lighthouse at Alexandria.

At Arroyo's events, he notes publicly what we discovered doing research on the books, that Will Wilder was originally named Kerman Derman. The publisher made him change and it's all for the good - Will is a good indicator of his hero's strength and Wilder is a person who tames wild creatures, and yes, there are some beasts in The Relic of Perilous Falls. 

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Elfrieda Abbe profiles Mary Pflum Peterson author of the new memoir White Dresses: A Memoir of Love and Secrets, Mothers and Daughters. Abbe notes the story's origin: "A 'crazy workload' as a producer for Good Morning America, the birth of her fourth child and the responsibility of taking care of her mother's affairs after her unexpected death didn't keep Mary Pflum Peterson from enrolling in a writing class to 'polish off a novel. I was pretty much on a hamster wheel, she said during a phone interview. But instead of finishing a novel, Peterson wrote her debut nonfiction book White Dresses. The change of plan came when as a class assignment she wrote an essay about her family's tangled history."

At the Women's Leadership Conference, I ran in Friend-of-Boswell Peter, the concierge, while carrying books into a session. "I see you're hosting Mary next week," he said. Confused, I asked "But how do you know her?" and of course the obvious reply: "She was married at the Pfister!" Of course. Our event is Tuesday, March 29, and there is also an author mix-and-mingle at the University Club on Monday, March 28. Details here.

According to Mike Fischer in the Journal Sentinel, Edna O'Brien's new novel, The Little Red Chairs, begins as one would expect: "A remote town in western Ireland, filled with lonely souls and limited opportunities. Until opportunity knocks, in the form of a handsome stranger hailing from Montenegro and calling himself Dr. Vladimir Dragan. When he shows up advertising his services as a practitioner of alternative medicine, the women fall hard." But then the story shifts to London, and focuses on the plight of Bosnian refugees. He's not a fan of the second half, but understands how the story ties into O'Brien's oeuvre.

And for the third Journal Sentinel book piece, Paul Kritzer writes about Apprehensions and Convictions: Confessions of a Fifty-Year-Old Rookie Cop. Kritzer writes: "Johnson delights the reader with confessions of his foibles and insights into the mind of law enforcement officers. He goes out on solo nighttime stakeouts. He often answers potentially dangerous calls without waiting for a backup partner." Johnson will appear at Martha Merrell's on Thursday, March 31, 6:30 pm, at 231 Main Street. For more info, call (262) 547-1060 or visit their website.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Saturday Gift Post: Umbrellas

Though Jen is now buying just about all our gift items except for loose greeting cards, we're still
working pretty closely, and got to travel to the New York gift show. Most of our lines are pretty standard - boxed cards and journals, office accessories, plush and games, and various impulse items, there are several categories that we can half fun with at the right time. We have a nice sale (if modest) sale on Eastery stuff for kids (and I should note here that we'll be open on Easter from 10 to 5, and if you want to say hi to me, I'll be there). We have a decent sale on lunch totes and thermoses for back to school in July and August (though we're less successful with backpacks - too much competition), and for the last few years, we've been doing one umbrella order to arrive in March.

We started with umbrellas for kids, working our way through several lines - Melissa and Doug, Toysmith, and Vilac (also known as Magic Forest). When we looked at the Shedrain line last year, we noticed that that they had nice umbrellas for adults too, and more than that, they solved a problem that I in particular have had in windy Wisconsin storms - they have vents to let the wind pass through. So last year we brought in about four designs for adults, and the sell through was very good. It appears there is a market, if limited, for a nice umbrella. So this year we expanded the selection a bit, with Jen bringing in some of these vented compact umbrellas in four designs, traditional stick umbrellas, and a restocking of some of the kid designs.

I of course wanted one and was torn between the gentlemanly Metro Houndstooth, and the slightly flashier Norma, which is either a small buffalo check or a giant gingham. I went with the latter, but might still get the former as a backup. The problem is that not only do I break umbreallas on windy days, I also lose them. Perhaps the next step is umbrellas with GPS or radio frequency trackers. Please note I am not asking for this.

I tested our umbrella on the day of rain this week and it worked fine. Sharon has been using the Zot, a polka dot model we brought in last year, and has been quite happy with it.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Ticketed Event with Sally Mann at Boswell on Independent Bookstore Day, April 30, 7 pm. A Presentation is Followed by a Conversation with Liam Callanan.

We're so excited about Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, April 30. Yes, we've bought all the limited edition items that bookstores will be selling. No, we will not have enough Neil Gaiman coloring books. No, you cannot place holds on these items - you must show up at Boswell and wait in line. And yes, some of these items will be limited. In particular, for the first hour, it's one Neil Gaiman coloring book per person in line.

At 11 am (tentative), we'll be hosting our favorite musicians for kids, Fox and Branch, for a concert.

At 2 pm, we'll be doing a replay of our popular Boswell Quiz Bowl. Think you know a lot about books? You just might be able to play on a team and get a Boswell gift card prize.

At 5:30 pm, we'll be closing to the general public for a ticketed event with Sally Mann, visiting Milwaukee for the paperback tour of her acclaimed memoir, Hold Still. Her presentation will be followed by a conversation with Milwaukee's Liam Callanan, beloved author of the novels The Cloud Atlas and All Saints, and the recent collection Listen and Other Stories.

Tickets are $20, and include a paperback copy of Hold Still. For those who already have the book, and for couples who don't have a gift recipient picked out for their second copy (Mother's Day, Father's Day, and graduation are coming up, and it's always someone's birthday), a $14 Boswell gift card is available on the night of the event only. And yes, if you can't attend, we will get a copy signed for you. And yes, you must buy a ticket to attend. Tickets are available on Brown Paper Tickets, event #2522156. You can also call them at 800-838-3006. (Photo credit of author is Liz Liguori.)

Here's a little more about Hold Still from her publisher.

"In this groundbreaking book, a unique interplay of narrative and image, Mann's preoccupation with family, race, mortality, and the storied landscape of the American South are revealed as almost genetically predetermined, written into her DNA by the family history that precedes her.

"Sorting through boxes of family papers and yellowed photographs she finds more than she bargained for: "deceit and scandal, alcohol, domestic abuse, car crashes, bogeymen, clandestine affairs, dearly loved and disputed family land . . . racial complications, vast sums of money made and lost, the return of the prodigal son, and maybe even bloody murder."

In lyrical prose and startlingly revealing photographs, she crafts a totally original form of personal history that has the page-turning drama of a great novel but is firmly rooted in the fertile soil of her own life."

From Dwight Garner, in The New York Times: "I held (Walker) Evans’s writing in mind while reading Hold Still, the photographer Sally Mann’s weird, intense and uncommonly beautiful new memoir. Ms. Mann has got Evans’s gift for fine and offbeat declaration. She’s also led a big Southern-bohemian life, rich with incident. Or maybe it only seems rich with incident because of an old maxim that still holds: Stories happen only to people who can tell them."

Emily Rapp Black writes in the Los Angeles Times: "Mann is not just a visual artist but, it turns out, an earnest and energetic storyteller. In prose that is as lyrical and surprising as her photographs, she offers a spirited account of her early formative experiences of horseback riding and rebellion in the Southern landscapes that deeply informed her childhood. In one particularly beautiful scene, Mann recalls her early rapture in a dark room when she realizes that "something mediocre is better than nothing": a wonderfully generous ethos for any creative artist to adopt, regardless of medium." (At left, "Sally Mann and Honey in car, courtesy of the author and Little, Brown).

And Sebastian Smee notes in The Boston Globe: "Hold Still, subtitled A Memoir with Photographs (there are photographs, and not just by Mann, on almost every page), arrives four years after Mann delivered the Massey Lectures in the History of American Civilization at Harvard University. I was lucky to attend these talks, which ranged confidently over personal history, the South, race, art, and death. Read aloud, with accompanying slides, they were intelligent, heartfelt, hilarious, disarming. All these qualities, I’m happy to report, have arrived intact in the memoir. Mann has a wordy, headlong style that can feel breathlessly over-the-top one minute and as earthily matter-of-fact as pillow talk the next. Her book is divided into four parts, but it flows like wine-fueled gossip."

We could add 25 more links to similarly enthusiastic reviews, but we'll save those for later!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

One of My Favorite Books of Spring, "The Nest" Leaves the Nest to Conquer Whatever Books Are Supposed to Conquer.

Two of my favorite books of the season are coming out for the April publishing season* and one of them arrives today. But like many novels that have high expectations from publishers, Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's The Nest. crossed my desk a long time ago.

In this case, it was last June, when publishers, authors, booksellers, agents, and fans gathered in New York for Book Expo America. The American Booksellers Association started a program where booksellers could meet with editors and hear more about the editorial process. I was scheduled for HarperCollins, and listened to folks from Harper, Morrow, and Ecco. They discussed the making of one of their current books and then made a pitch for something off in the future.

For Ecco, the presenter was Megan Lynch. The previous year she had moved over from Riverhead to become editorial director. When I read the article in Publishers Weekly, saying that "her authors include, among others, Sarah Waters, Dinaw Mengestu, Emma Straub, Daniel Alarcón and Meghan O’Rourke," I thought, "Hey, I've read and enjoyed all those authors except for Meghan O'Rourke and now I'm feeling like I should have read her too."

So when she made a pitch for The Nest, I was already predisposed to be interested. And when Lynch promised a multiple perspective comic novel about a family's disinheritance, I was raring to go. But there was only one problem - it is like pulling teeth getting me to read books that early. For one thing, I am not a buyer, who has to make such early decisions. For another, more than half the books I read are from our event programming, and the odds of us getting to host a first-novelist without any Milwaukee ties was pretty slim. (Lynch at left, photo courtesy of HarperCollins)

But somehow, it rose to the top of the pile. And I fell in love with it. I was a bit confused, because Sweeney had clearly written it just for me, and here she was getting a large advance and Ecco and HarperCollins was running around trying to get everyone to read it, review it, and promote it. What the heck was that about? But of course I am not privy to such insider doings - I suppose that other people will like The Nest as well. And that said, this is just a long-winded introduction to my staff rec.

And here that recommendation for The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney is: "Many years ago, Leonard Plumb made his fortune and then got all Warren Buffett on his family; he decided to keep his bequeaths to his children in a trust, not to be distributed until the youngest reached 40. But now three of the Plumb siblings have a dilemma; in the midst of eldest Leo’s messy divorce caused by an even messier car accident with a young waitress, their unpleasant mother has seen fit to liquidate the fund to pay off the aggrieved. The only problem is that Jack and Melody were counting on that money and will do just about anything to get it back. Bea, the peacemaker, only wants everyone to be happy, but can she win back the heart of Leo? Seems unlikely – for Leo is a wee bit of a user. The family relationships are deliciously dysfunctional and the situations are a high-wire act of hilarity. Subplots include Jack’s discovery of a missing sculpture from 9-11, Melody’s wayward daughters, twins who find they are not exactly identical after all, and Bea’s new manuscript after years of writer’s block, inspired, as always, by Leo. While the characters are a bit messy, few tip over into outright unpleasantness, except for Leo of course. He is a complete nightmare, and that helps make The Nest a fabulous addition to The Encyclopedia of Cad Literature." (Daniel Goldin)

I can already see that the book is going to be judge a bit on its advance, while of course when I was reading it, I didn't really know about its publishing backstory, For example, Carol Memmott in the Minneapolis Star Tribune said it was good, but expected more, based on the advance. And Entertainment Weekly gave it an A-, as advances don't phase a magazine that doesn't necessarily see the world in dollar signs, but certainly is more focused on the business of entertainment. (Photo credit for Sweeney at right by Lisa Whiteman.) New York Magazine's Vulture ran a profile on the unusual nature of a woman author breaking out in her fifties.

But honestly, all that is academic to me. What I can tell you financially, is that The Nest is Boswell's Best (20% off) for at least the next two weeks.  And now back to reading the book that I need to finish by tomorrow. And I should note that The Encyclopedia of Cad Literature is a work in progress.

*The other one comes out April 5. I will talk about it later. And I should note this is in the Boswell-not-having-an-event category.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Events This Week: Thomas Frank, Raymond Arroyo, Rob Rob Roberge, Stan Soocher.

Tuesday, March 22, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Thomas Frank, author of Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?, Pity the Billionaire, and The Wrecking Crew.

Much has been said of the Republican Party wooing working class voters with social issues and then governing against their interest with a focus on economic issues. This is the thesis of What's the Matter With Kansas. But Thomas Frank's Listen, Liberal notes that the Democratic Party has done much the same thing, aligning with wealthy tech companies (the creative class) at the expense of their working class constituency.

In this recent article for The Guardian, Frank discusses the appeal of Donald Trump, and while must pundits think it's racism driving voters, Frank says that Trump's continuing complaints about free trade is the issue with momentum. In a sense, Frank is saying that the Democratic Party, much like the Republican Party, has been carrying a voting bloc that it has not been catering to, and Trump is the response. Frank goes on to say: "The chance that he will actually do so, of course, is small. He appears to be a hypocrite on this issue as well as so many other things. But at least Trump is saying this stuff."

Similarly, in this New York Times column, Frank discusses why Bernie Sanders has become a force to be reckoned with in Democratic Primaries. "The real story here is the breakdown of the ideology pursued for decades by the Democratic Party’s dominant faction," he writes. Unlike in his argument with Trump, he calls Sanders "a fine politician," but nonetheless notes that much of his support is coming from a similar place. More of Frank's argument on his website.

In The Washington Post, Carlos Lozada reviews Listen, Liberal and Bill Press's Buyer's Remorse.

Tuesday, March 22, 7 pm, at St. Monica Parish, 160 E. Silver Spring Dr: Raymond Arroyo, author of Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls.

EWTN anchor and news editor Raymond Arroyo has penned his first book for kids. It's the story of a young boy who gets into trouble when he takes a relic from the town's Museum of Antiquities. And yes, it turns out to be a bone from St. Thomas the Apostle. As Mr. Arroyo noted in American Catholic magazine: "As a journalist I have always been fascinated by relics and the reaction they provoke in people. The question arose in my mind: What if these relics had supernatural powers? What i f they were collected by Will’s great grandfather from all over the world and housed in a single museum of antiquities...?"

Regarding the Catholic imagery that appears in the story: "Being from New Orleans, Catholicism is like air. You breathe it in so often you almost forget it is there—but it is. I’m certain that it had an influence on the book, though I would be hard pressed to deconstruct the Catholic elements from the secular or fantastical elements. My job is to tell an entertaining tale, situate it in a coherent moral universe and stay true to the characters I have created. Like the work of Graham Greene or Tolkien, it is Catholic in the sense that it is accessible to all audiences. I will leave the critical analysis to someone else." I would probably also add C.S. Lewis to that list, wouldn't you?

An early trade review in Booklist noted: "With shades of Indiana Jones and Percy Jackson, Will Wilder's antics are sure to appeal to middle-grade readers looking for the next great adventure." This event is at St. Monica Parish, located on the corner of Silver Spring and Santa Monica. Parking is available behind the church.

Wednesday, March 23, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Rob Roberge, author of Liar: A Memoir.

Rob Roberge is on the faculty of UCR/Palm Desert’s MFA in writing program and, he has taught at a number of other universities. He also plays guitar and sings in LA’s The Urinals. His life has been a series of challenges, addictions, and concussions. And when he finds out that he is slowly losing his memory, he decides to piece it all together.

Here's my recommendation: "When Rob Roberge’s memory starts to go from all the drugs and alcohol and psychotic episodes and five or more concussions that have led to lasting brain damage, including my favorite (can you have a favorite?) when a big can of fudge fell on his head while working at an ice cream shop, can you blame him for trying to furiously write down his memories, from the age of five onward, with the results being a little random? But no, they are not random at all! For in that jumbled order, they convey the dislocation of a man who’s been through just about everything, the poster boy for sex (all over the map) and drugs (varied, including lots of alcohol) and rock and roll (mostly punk). Liar is an edgy tale with a lot of impact!" (Daniel Goldin)

Steve Appleford writes in the Los Angeles Times: "The words are blunt and elegant as he leaps across these stages of his life. Roberge uses the example of Titanic survivors testifying with wildly divergent details at odds with the facts: who was aboard the final lifeboat launched, whether the ship broke in half as it sank, the ratio of men to women and children who escaped (versus the far less chivalrous actual number)."And I should note that there's a good amount of sex and drugs in the book, though not as much rock and roll as you would expect from a musician. But I think Roberge is saving that for another book.

Thursday, March 24, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Stan Soocher, author of Baby You're a Rich Man: Suing the Beatles for Fun and Profit.

Associate professor of music and entertainment industry studies at the University of Colorado’s Denver Campus, attorney and a journalist Stan Soocher has contributed articles on rock and the law to many magazines. He is the founding editor of Entertainment Law and Finance. So it makes perfect sense that his new book on the Beatles is about the legal travails of these music legends. Library Journal notes: "Chapters devoted to famous battles such as Paul McCartney's lawsuit to dissolve the Beatles partnership and the copyright infringement litigations over John Lennon's classic 'Come Together' and George Harrison's post-Beatles hit 'My Sweet Lord' offer a detailed rehash of stories familiar to many of the group's fans." But there are many lesser-known legal hassles chronicled in the story.

As Martin James writes in Times Higher Education, " this latest addition to the canon offers perspective on the band that is as interesting as it is infuriating. Interesting because it considers some of the major legal spats involving the band in their lifetime; infuriating because time after time in Stan Soocher’s obsessively detailed book, one is left with the feeling that as songwriters the Beatles may have had rare talent, but as businessmen they were naive to the point of stupidity."

With chapters such as "You Say You Want a Revelation" and "Here Comes the Summons," this book is fascinating reading for both Beatle fans and legal geeks, and for the intersection of those two groups, it's close to bliss.

After our Easter break, we've got these events coming up:
--Tuesday, March 29, 7 pm, at Boswell: Mary Pflum Peterson, author of White Dresses: A Memoir.
--Wednesday, March 30 7 pm, at Boswell: Andy Mozina, author of Contrary Motions, novel.
--Thursday, March 31, 7 pm, at Boswell: Lil' Rev, author of Essential Strums and Strokes for Ukulele.
--Friday, April 1, 7 pm, at Boswell: a ticketed signing with Lauren Conrad, author of Lauren Conrad Celebrate.
Details on our upcoming events page.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Boswell's Annotated Bestsellers for the Week Ending March 19, 2016, Plus Journal Sentinel Book Links.

Here's our bestsellers for the week.

Hardcover Fiction (and Poetry):
1. The Swimmer, by John Koethe
2. Spill Simmer Falter Wither, by Sara Baume
3. My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout
4. Two if By Sea, by Jacquelyn Mitchard (event today at 3 pm!)
5. The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie
6. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, by Stephen King
7. A Doubter's Almanac, by Ethan Canin
8. Noonday, by Pat Barker
9. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
10. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

We've had a particularly good post-sale week for Sara Baume's Spill Simmer Falter Wither, perhaps due to St. Patrick's Day publicity for an Irish author. Here's Lynn Neary talking to Baume on NPR's Morning Edition.

Several established authors have been doing well with their new books, including Pat Barker's Noonday. Noonday follows Life Class and Toby's Room in Barker's World War II trilogy, following three students in the Slade School of Art. Elaine Kanner in the Miami Herald writes: "Barker may be exhibiting battle fatigue, but as ever, her depiction of war is searing and spot-on. She grounds Noonday with historical fact and offers telling physical detail, from the 'mean, sneaky smell' of a gas leak to Elinor noticing — and drawing — the weeds pushing up through the ruins of her bombed-out city. There is 'no crack so narrow, no fissure so apparently barren, it couldn’t support . . . life.' Glimmering moments like these make fans look forward to what Barker will write next."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
2. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
3. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
4. All the Ways We Kill and Die, by Brian Caster
5. The Violet Hour, by Katie Roiphe
6. Listen, Liberal, by Thomas Frank (event at Boswell, Tue 3/22, 7 pm)
7. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paula Kalanithi
8. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
9. The Making of Milwaukee, by John Gurda
10. The Legends Club, by John Feinstein

Just in time for March Madness, John Feinstein is back with The Legends Club: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and an Epic College Basketball Rivalry. It's about three coaches from North Carolina's Research Triangle, a basketball hotbed. Ed Sherman in the Chicago Tribune writes: "Feinstein's relationship with all three coaches gave him the intimate details that form the backbone of the book. One story leads quickly to another story in this fast-moving account of a memorable era in college basketball."

Paperback Fiction (and Poetry):
1. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
2. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald
3. Dark Sparkler, by Amber Tamblyn
4. The Knife, by Ross Richell
5. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
6. Planetfall, by Emma Newman
7. The Fold, by Peter Clines
8. A Hard and Heavy Thing, by Matthew Hefti
9. Euphoria, by Lily King
10. Sisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld (ticketed MPL lit lunch, 5/3)

Swedes rule this week's list and should be selling well for weeks to come. National bestseller of A Man Called Ove Fredrik Backman is at Boswell on May 14 (2 pm) for his new novel, Britt-Marie Was Here, while Katarina Bivald will be at Boswell on May 19 (7 pm) during her American tour. We also had a pop in backlist sale for Curtis Sittenfeld, who is the featured speaker at the Milwaukee Public Library Literary Lunch for her new novel, Eligible, the Pride and Prejudice entry in the Jane Austen Project. Buy lunch tickets here.

Boswell's science fiction book club met this week, which means that Planetfall, their May 9 selection, had a nice pop in sales. Emma Newman's book had a starred Publishers Weekly review: "Newman (The Split Worlds) begins with the high stakes of a new colony and raises the risk to every human life as events unfold. She carefully manages her pacing until events make each revelation as inevitable as it is destructive." Oy, the perils of space colonies.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
2. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stephenson
3. Cream City, by John Gurda
4. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
5. H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald (ticketed event 4/12 at Schlitz Audubon)
6. Boost Your Brain, by Majid Fotuhi
7. Coloring for Contemplation, by Amber Hatch
8. World War II Milwaukee, by Meg Jones
9. Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
10. White Dresses, by Mary Pflum Peterson (event Tue 3/29, 7 pm, at Boswell)

John Gurda's got three titles in our top tens this week! The Shepherd Express featured the paperback edition of Cream City Chronicles, originally published in 2007. David Luhrssen remarks, on these Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columns: "Many of the articles were originally timely, giving historical context to the news of the day, but Gurda revised them with an eye toward extending their shelf life. He excels at telling stories about the city’s early years, its people, businesses, festivals and changing seasons."

Books for Kids:
1. Whose Hands Are These?, by Miranda Paul
2. Tru and Nelle, by G. Neri
3. Water is Water, by Miranda Paul
4. Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter, by Beth Fantaskey
5. Far From Fair, by Elana Arnold
6. One Plastic Bag, by Miranda Paul
7. Will Wilder: Relic of Perilous Fall, by Raymond Arroyo (event 3/22, 7 pm, at St. Monica Parish)
8. The Book Thief Tenth Anniersary Edition, by Markus Zusak
9. I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry
10. When Spring Comes, by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek

This was a big event-driven week but two school visits from the Middle Grade Mania authors were not able to have a public event. The authors all have signed copies at the store. Here is a little bit about each book:
--G. Neri's Tru and Nelle is a fictional take on the friendship between Harper Lee and Truman Capote
--Beth Fantaskey's Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter is a historical mystery about a newsie in 1920s Chicago who wants to be a reporter
--Elana Arnold's Far from Fair, a young girl's life is upended when her family decides to take off in an RV. We've got signed copies of all three books.

Over in the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, Ken Liu's new collection of stories from Saga Press, the new science fiction imprint of Simon and Schuster. He writes: "To call his book one of the best collections of speculative fiction I've ever read is simply to begin my praise. Other sci-fi/fantasy story collections in my personal hall of fame, such as Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles and Cordwainer Smith's The Rediscovery of Man are made up largely of brilliant stories written in a single style or mode. Liu's book compiles brilliant stories written in several different, overlapping modes, a technically dazzling collection of compulsively readable narratives, presenting characters with agonizing moral dilemmas and never forgetting the heart."

Also at the Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews Syria Burning: A Short History of a Catastrophe. His take: "Like so much writing about the Middle East, Glass's book is nostalgic; he's not shy about stating outright that Syrians were better off under the Ottomans — or even under the pre-2011 Assad regime. He has no illusions about who Assad is. But he also seconds the view expressed by a Syrian friend: "I don't like the dictatorship. But these people are showing themselves worse." These people" are the Islamic fundamentalists who hijacked an initially peaceful revolution, transforming another hopeful iteration of the Arab Spring into this never-ending Syrian winter. Glass runs the numbers: more than 300,000 dead and 11 million refugees or displaced persons — more than half of Syria's prewar population of 22 million." And I should note that Glass was taken hostage by Shi'a militants in Beirut in 1987.

In the Paging Through Mysteries column, Carole E. Barrowman recommends four new titles.

The Big Rewind, by Libby Cudmore, is "a witty riff on the '80s and '90s told from the delightfully damaged, self-deprecating point of view of Jett Bennett. Set in present-day Brooklyn, Bennett's close-knit hipster neighborhood is a 'paradise of art-house baristas, record store clerks' and social vampires — 'sympathy sucking leeches living everyday like it's their own private reality show.' Despite her sociological scoffing, these are Jett's people. Barrowman sees it as a female High Fidelity that also channels Jane Austen.

The Watcher in the Wall by Owen Laukkanen is his newest thriller featuring Minnesota FBI agents Carla Windermere and Kirk Stevens. "From Minnesota to Florida, Indiana to Kentucky, the agents race to catch a killer soliciting vulnerable teenagers to commit suicide." Starred Kirkus for this one, which they called "a fast-paced thriller" with a strong African American female co-protagonist.

Goodbye to the Dead is the latest by former Boswell author Brian Freeman, the latest in his Duluth series. From Barrowman: "Stride's mean streets may be Superior, Lake and Canal, but with his heightened moral code, he remains one of my favorite fictional detectives time has not mellowed." Booklist gave this a starred review: "Freeman skillfully weaves together diverse story lines, from the old murder to a sex-slavery operation, with twists that build suspense, in this fine, character-driven addition to a strong series. It sure is a different Duluth than the one I read about in Lucy Amundsen's Locally Laid.

And finally, there is Fiona Barton's The Widow, the story of a hairdresser whose banker husband is killed after standing trial. Barrowman writes: "Set in the UK, Barton explores the crime and its punishment from intersecting points of view, including Jean's, a reporter's, and the police detective in charge of the original investigation." AV Club gave this an A+, calling it "right out of the Lifetime movie playbook...but Barton executes her trashy concept with style, producing a highly compelling guilty read."

On the front page of Tap, I was excited to see a roundup of some great spring author events! We knew it was a good list worth sharing.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Ten Things You Need to Know About Felicia Day's Event at Boswell. Make That Four Things About the Event and Six People Saying Nice Things About the Author.

1. The date is Monday, April 25. The time is 7 pm. That is actually two things, but they are related.

2. George R.R. Martin writes: "It's hard to keep up with Felicia Day. She's an actress, a gamer, a screenwriter, a songwriter, a director, a webmaster, a costumer, and queen of the geek girls> It's hard to imagine where such a prodigy could have come from. Wonder no longer. Felicia tells all...well, most...well, her new book. Reading this is like sitting down and having dinner with her, and hearing the story of her life between the clam chowder and cheesecake.

Interest Fact #2A: George R.R. Martin was in Janis Ian's wedding party. You know, the singer who sang "Society's Child" and "At 17" and other good songs that you probably don't know.

3. The signing is for the paperback edition of You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). Tickets are $17, which is just about the cost of the book, includes all taxes and fees, and can be purchase on Brown Paper Tickets. And because we're talking about Felicia Day, please don't call and tell us you're afraid to purchase tickets on the internet. But if you do, you can call Brown Paper Tickets 800-838-3006.

4. Ernie Cline, author of Ready Player One, writes: "At last, the secret origin story of everyone's favorite geek superheroine! Felicia Day's memoir is honest, hopeful, and hysterical. It's the story of a girl who grew up lost and lonely - then became a self-made internet rock star. Reading it will make you feel like you can take on the whole Empire yourself."

Interesting fact #4A: Ernie Cline actually visited Boswell for the hardcover of Ready Player One, but you probably did not attend because you probably didnt' know what the book was yet--we had 38 people, which at that time was considered a good showing. Next time, listen to us! Also, he drove here in his DeLorean.

5. Here are the fun-filled signing restrictions. It's actually not very restictive. Ticket-holders will get their book signed plus one other thing, and yes, that can include a piece of memorabilia. Day will also pose for a photo. We're going to be up pretty late, but I kind of love when authors reward their fans like this.

Interesting fact #5A: We were at the library until 12:30 AM for Markus Zusak. Everyone had a great time.

6. Cory Doctorow, coeditor of Boing Boing writes: "I came for the delightful snark, I stayed for the disarming frankness and the hard-won insights about the internet - Felicia Day uses the internet to distribute entertainment, but she understands that it's really there to be the nervous system of the twenty-first century."

Interesting fact #6A: Cory Doctorow has never come to Boswell, but, he visited the Mequon Schwartz for his YA novel Little Brother, and both Jason and I attended (and I read the book, and I wasn't even doing the events or the kids books yet).

7. From Jenny Lawson, another Boswell guest, just last fall: "Reading Felicia Day's memoir is like going on a road trip with an old friend you never knew you had. This is the perfect book to prove you aren't the only misfit in the world and to remind you that that's a very good thing."

Interesting fact #7A: Somebody bought Jenny Larson raccoon cupcakes at her event for Furiously Happy. They were incredible. That was also a long event. Everyone was super nice and people still talk to me about how great it was.

8. Lev Grossman: "Smart, brave, emotionally raw, and hysterically funny." Yes, he visited Boswell, for the paperback of The Magician King.

9. John Sclazi: "Smart, funny, endearing, nerdy, and maybe also a little bit brave - in other words, very much like its author." Yes, he visited Boswell for Red Shirts. And brave, yes! Did you read the #Gamergate chapter?

10. In addition to playing Vi on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Day has appeared in numerous other television shows, films, web series, and even video games. And she's won a number of Streamy Awards. Who knew there was such a thing?

If you're excited about this, you have very likely seen most if not all of Felicia Day's videos. But it's possibly you just want to get a handle on the whole thing. I think this video is a good introduction, where Day talks about Comicon and fan conventions.

I'm also going to give you the ticket link one last time. And here's a link to this week's email newsletter.