Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Philippa Gregory Update

Fans of Philippa Gregory will be happy to hear that Gregory will be publishing 3 books that cover the period of the War of Roses. The White Queen will be published in 2010, followed by The White Princess and The Red Queen. Gregory is well-known for her historical fiction, especially her series featuring the Tudor women.

Don't Be Scared of Science Fiction

In an effort to be a better Reader's Advisor, I am on a mission to familiarize myself with more science fiction books. I’ve always steered away from reading science fiction. I’m not sure why, because I’ve always loved science fiction movies like Star Wars, the Matrix, and the Fifth Element. So, I decided to start with a well-known science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov. Yes, it's true-I've never read any of his books. I read I, Robot which is a series of stories about the development of robot technology. I also read The Caves of Steel, which is part of Asimov’s Robot series and features Elijah Baley, a police detective, who is partnered with a robot to solve the murder of a scientist. I have to admit, I really liked them both. The plot moves along quickly in both books and the story line kept me hooked. What I liked most about Asimov's books were that they have a believable element to them. Some science fiction plots are so out there and are just so unbelievable to me that it doesn't hold my interest. Asimov's books paint a picture of the future that does not seem so far-fetched. Although, it's not always a pretty future. In The Caves of Steel, he shows humans living together in huge indoor cities, never having contact with the air, eating strange, tasteless foods, using communal bathrooms. Not my idea of a good time. Nonetheless, it is a picture that seems possible. I definitely enjoyed these books and will certainly read more of his works.

Stay tuned for more updates on my science fiction mission....

Monday, July 30, 2007

Comfy Chairs at your library

Major bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders are reducing their "soft seating" aka comfy chairs. They have found that the chairs encourage people to stay for hours without necessarily buying anything. They also had problems with people falling asleep, spilling coffee, and leaving food trash. I can see their point, but one Barnes & Noble I visited recently required that you purchase something from the cafe, in order to sit in that area. I thought that was a little extreme, especially considering I had just purchased 3 books from their store. The thing about libraries? We want you to come and sit for hours. We won't make you purchase anything. True, most libraries don't allow food, but we have comfy chairs!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Moving On after Harry Potter

Since I spent most of the summer eagerly waiting for the Harry Potter book, now that it has come, I feel like "now what?" What am I going to read now? I realize it's time to move on. Although the level of excitement I felt waiting for the Harry Potter book will probably never be equaled, here are a few books that I'm looking forward to reading this fall:

John Grisham's latest novel, Playing for Pizza will be out on 9/24. This will not be one of his typical legal thrillers. In this novel, a third-string American quarterback tries his luck playing starting quarterback for an Italian football team. I'm not really a fan of sports, which is why I avoided his football-themed book Bleachers, but the Italian setting is enough to get me excited about this one.

Irene Nemirovsky is famous for her book Suite Francaise, which begins in Paris on the eve of Nazi occupation in 1940. Nemirovsky was arrested and sent to Auschwitz in 1942, where she died. Her novel remained hidden for 64 years until her daughter found and published it. Another one of her books, Fire in the Blood, will be released on 9/25.

Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report has his first book I Am America (And So Can You!) coming out on 10/2. He is absolutely hilarious and I cannot wait to read this book.

Ken Follett's sequel to Pillars of the Earth, World Without End, will be released on 10/7.

Alice Sebold’s Almost Moon will be released on 10/16. Sebold is famous for her best-selling novel Lovely Bones, so this is sure to be a hit.

Donald McCaig’s Rhett Butler’s People comes out on 11/2. This novel has been "authorized" by the Margaret Mitchell estate, and parallels Gone With the Wind, but told from Rhett Butler's point of view. The last "authorized" sequel to Gone With the Wind was Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley, came out in 1992. Since I couldn't get enough of Gone With the Wind, I loved Scarlett. Granted, I was about 16 when I read it, so if I read it today I may not feel the same, but I'm really looking forward to this new one.

David Baldacci's latest in the Camel Club series, Stone Cold, will be released on 11/7. The Camel Club was a great book, and I look forward to reading more about those characters.

This ought to keep me busy for a little while. What are you looking forward to reading this fall?

Why didn't I think of that??

How many times have you seen some nifty invention that you know made the inventor millions and thought "why didn't I think of that?" Well, a 13-year old in Downer's Grove didn't really make millions on her invention, but it was a good idea nonetheless. She created 200 pairs of pins for the Harry Potter release. One pin read "I'm Finished, Let's Discuss" or "I'm Not Finished-No Spoilers Please!" Her local Anerson's Bookshop began selling pairs for $1 the week before the book release and were all sold out by Friday night. Not a bad idea.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

No Chance for Evanovich

So Janet Evanovich and Stephen J. Cannell co-authored a new book "No Chance" which was supposed to be the first of a new series. Originally scheduled to be released in October, it has been put on hold indefinitely. Her website says that there was a "scheduling conflict with the release date." Sorry fans. While you are waiting, go to her website to enter the contest to name her fourteenth book. The deadline is August 31st. The winner gets a signed advance copy of the book and an acknowledgment in the book.

What is the What

When I first heard about Dave Eggers' What is the What, I was certain I would enjoy this book. It has gotten great reviews and the Guardian has an interesting article about Dave Eggers' attempts to write this story. I recently read Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, and thought it was great. Yes, I know that was in Sierra Leone and this is in Sudan, but they are both stories of children in Africa caught up in terrible violence and civil war. What is the What is the story of Valentino Achak Deng, a Sudanese refugee, who was driven from his home when he was a boy, and walked thousands of miles with other children to Ethiopia to escape the violence of his country. After living in a refugee camp for several years, he was finally brought to the U.S. For some reason though, I couldn't seem to get beyond 200 pages (out of 475). I really wanted to like this book. I wanted to be moved by this book. I wanted to be outraged. But for some reason, I wasn't. I hate to say it, but I was a little bored with it. Maybe reading Beah's book steeled me for the terrible things I would read. Maybe it was because at the beginning of the book we know Achak gets out ok, so I wasn't worried for him. Or maybe I was just in a reading funk. Has anyone else had this problem with this book? What are your thoughts?

In any case, I'm going to try They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys From Sudan by Alphonsion Deng. Maybe this one will grab me. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Peony in Love

I saw Lisa See talk last week about her latest book, Peony in Love. The book is based on an actual opera, The Peony Pavilion, that was written in China in the late sixteenth century. In a nutshell, the opera tells of a young girl who has a love affair with a man in her dreams. Upon waking, she becomes lovesick and dies of a broken heart. Later, the man from her dream sees a picture of the young girl, falls in love with her and brings her back to life. In China, young girls would read this opera, and actually become lovesick and die. They were known as lovesick maidens. Peony in Love tells the story of one lovesick maiden. Peony, the main character, is about to enter into an arranged marriage. Shortly before her wedding, she attends a performance of her favorite opera, the Peony Pavilion. On that same night, she meets a young man who she falls in love with. Believing that she will never experience this kind of love in her marriage, she becomes lovesick, wastes away and dies. The rest of the novel is told by Peony's ghost. See brings the story to life with her descriptions of China, Chinese customs and beliefs surrounding death, and women's lives. While the idea of dying from love sickness was a little hard for me to grasp, See really gets across how little value the women had and how they truly had no choices or control over their own lives. Although I didn't like this one as much as her last book, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, it is still a great read.

If you haven't read her non-fiction book, On Gold Mountain, I highly recommend it. She tells the story of her great-great grandfather who came to the Gold Mountain (America) from China in the late 1800's, and the subsequent generations that followed. The story of her great-grandfather is quite interesting. He managed to build a business in California during a time when Chinese immigrants were despised and tough laws were passed preventing their immigration. He also married a Caucasian woman, which was absolutely unheard of at the time, as well as illegal. Incidentally, his first business was selling "fancy underwear to fancy women" (aka crotchless underwear to prostitutes)! A very fascinating story, which reads like fiction.

In her talk, See mentioned that she will begin writing her next book soon. It is tentatively titled Shanghai Girls, and will tell the story of two sisters who come to L.A. in 1937 in arranged marriages.

Monday, July 23, 2007

No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency on the Big Screen

Alexander McCall Smith's popular mystery series, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, set in Botswana and featuring Precious Ramotswe, will be made into a movie. The Washington Post reports that the movie will be released in theaters by Christmas.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Yiddish Policeman's Union

Michael Chabon’s recent book The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is an alternate history of the Jews since WWII. The republic of Israel collapsed in 1948 and the United States allowed a temporary settlement for the displaced Jews in Sitka, Alaska. Now the U.S. government has decided to retract Sitka and will evict all Jews without proper papers. In the midst of this nightmare, police detective Meyer Landsman is called to investigate a murder. The victim turns out to be a heroin-addicted chess prodigy, who is the son of Sitka’s most powerful rabbi. Landsman’s attempts to solve the case almost get him killed, but he manages to uncover a terrorist conspiracy involving Orthodox Jewish gangsters. Like Sitka, the story is bleak and dreary. Landsman is an alcoholic who can’t seem to come to grips with his demons. But Chabon makes him a character that you care about and root for. The plot seems somewhat far-fetched, but Chabon’s talent for storytelling will keep readers turning the pages.

Chabon will be releasing his next novel, Gentlemen of the Road in November. The novel originally appeared in 15 installments in the New York Times Magazine from January to May of 2007. The book is a historical adventure novel, set in 950 A.D. A pair of wandering adventurers, and African and a Jew, get caught up in the schemes and battles that follow a bloody coup in the great medieval Jewish empire of the Khazars. According to Publisher’s Weekly, Chabon has also signed a two book deal with Harper Collins. The first book will be non-fiction, scheduled for release in the Spring of 2009. The second book, scheduled for release in 2011, will be a contemporary novel set in the Bay area.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Author Visit!

Best-selling author Lisa See will be visiting the Warren Newport Public Library in Gurnee, IL on Friday, July 20th to discuss and sign her new novel Peony in Love. Everyone is welcome to attend.

See is probably best known for her last novel, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Set in 19th century China, Snow Flower tells the story of two lifelong friends, Snow Flower and Lily, as they come of age, are married out, and have children of their own. It is a beautiful story, and See does a wonderful job of describing the lives of women during this time. Her detailed description of the footbinding process is somewhat gruesome, but also captivating. Peony in Love is also a historical novel of China and focuses on the lives and roles of women. Although it was her first novel to get such attention, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was not See's first novel. See has also written a crime series set in China, starting with The Flower Net, The Interior and Dragon Bones. In addition, she also wrote a non-fiction book called On Gold Mountain, which is the story of her family's immigration from China to America.

Check back next Monday for a more detailed review of Peony in Love and highlights from her talk.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Barbara Kingsolver is well-known for her fiction writing, including The Bean Trees, Prodigal Summer, etc. But her latest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an account of her family’s experience “eating locally.” Concerned with the consumption of the fossil fuels required to transport out of season fruits and vegetables, Kingsolver and her family leave their home in Phoenix and move to a farm in Appalachia. Here, they decide that for one year, they will eat only items that they grow themselves or that they can buy from local farmers. They create a large garden with every vegetable imaginable and acquire a flock of turkeys and chickens. During the summer, they eat fresh fruits and vegetables, make their own bread and cheese, slaughter their own chickens and turkeys and make their own sausage. They also can copious amounts of tomatoes and other vegetables to sustain them through the winter.

While Kingsolver presents a good argument for eating locally, it’s hard to imagine never eating bananas (since they aren’t grown locally her family did not eat them) and only eating asparagus during the couple of weeks in June when it is in season. It's also hard to imagine keeping up with a garden that size while working a 9 to 5 job, or keeping a flock of chickens when you live in the suburbs. Nevertheless, Kingsolver's passion for her farm and their lifestyle is inspiring. Her tales of her family's experiences planting, weeding, picking, pulling, canning, cooking and eating bring the quiet little farm to life in the reader's mind. She provides interesting information about the food industry and examples of easy changes we can all make to eat food that is healthier for ourselves and the planet. She also includes recipes and an illuminating chapter on turkey mating. Seriously.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

When a successful first novelist comes out with his or her second book, there is always the worry that it won’t succeed as well as the first. That is definitely not the case with Khaled Hosseini’s second novel A Thousand Splendid Suns. His first novel, The Kite Runner, came out in 2003 with great reviews. I put off reading it for quite some time, because I knew there were some difficult scenes in it. But when I did finally read it, it became one of my favorite books. I was worried that Splendid Suns wouldn’t measure up, but after reading it, I actually think I like it better than The Kite Runner.

Like the Kite Runner, this novel is set in Afghanistan. Unlike the Kite Runner, this novel focuses on two women. Mariam is the illegitimate child of a servant and a businessman. When her mother dies, her father’s wives marry her off at the age of 15 to Rasheed. When Mariam is unable to bear Rasheed a son, he becomes increasingly violent towards her. Meanwhile, just after Mariam is just married to Rasheed, Laila is born next door. The daughter of liberal parents, Laila grows up well educated. When Laila is fourteen, Kabul is in the midst of a civil war and her house is bombed. Laila is badly injured and her parents are killed. Rasheed and Mariam take Laila in and nurse her back to health. Rasheed soon wants to take Laila as a wife. Believing she has no other options, Laila agrees. After Laila bears a daughter, she too becomes the victim of Rasheed’s violence. Mariam and Laila form a strong bond that sustains them through their suffering.

I won’t give away any more about the story, but let me just say that it’s good. The thing I like about Hosseini’s writing is that his characters are so well developed that you really care about them. And their stories bring up so many emotions. This is definitely one you shouldn't miss!

I listened to both of Hosseini's books on CD, and was disappointed to hear that he would not be narrating A Thousand Splendid Suns, as he had for The Kite Runner. However Atossa Leoni does a wonderful job. Incidentally, Leoni will be playing the lead female character, Soraya, in the movie version of The Kite Runner, scheduled to be released on November 2nd.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Grisham goes to Italy

After taking a break from fiction writing, John Grisham will be releasing his next fiction book in September. The book, Playing for Pizza, is the story of an American quarterback trying his luck in Italy. Like A Painted House and Skipping Christmas, this book will be a departure from his typical legal thriller. His next legal thriller is scheduled for release in the Spring of 2008.

If you can't wait for the next legal thriller, check out his last book The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town, which came out in October of 2006. This was Grisham's first work of non-fiction. In 1982, a young woman was brutally raped and murdered. For five years, police were unable to solve the crime. Finally, in 1987, Ron Williamson was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death for the crime. He was convicted and sentenced without a shred of evidence. After sitting on death row for several years, DNA evidence finally exonerated Williamson. At times, it's hard to believe that what you are reading actually happened. I know this is not an uncommon occurrence in this country, but I was still outraged at the complete failure of the justice system. Even though this is a work of non-fiction, it reads almost like one of Grisham's legal thrillers. It was fast-paced and captivating and I was hooked from page 1.

Bad Dog

John Grogan, the author of the hugely successful Marley & Me, is displeased with the publication of Bad Dogs Have More Fun: Selected Writings on Animals, Family and Life by John Grogan for the Philadelphia Inquirer due to be released in September. The book will pull together pieces that Grogan wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Apparently the publisher, Vanguard, struck a deal with the Inquirer without giving any notice to Grogan. As a result, Grogan is distancing himself from the book and will not be promoting or supporting it in anyway.
Check out the article from Publisher’s Weekly for more…

Can I have some more please?

As a hopeless Jane Austen fan, I am constantly on the lookout for a good read a-like. If I hear the words “Jane Austen” in conjunction with any book, I’ll read it. Imagine my delight when I discovered Pamela Aidan’s Fitzwilliam Darcy trilogy. The series mirrors Pride and Prejudice, but is told from Darcy’s perspective. The first volume, An Assembly Such as This, consists of Darcy’s stay at Netherfield. Initially he disdains the local society, but after meeting Elizabeth, begins to develop feelings for her against his better judgment. The second volume, Duty and Desire, begins just after Darcy’s departure from Netherfield. Darcy is resolved to dissuade his friend Bingley from his attachment to Elizabeth’s sister, Jane. Also determined to put Elizabeth out of his mind, he visits an old classmate at his estate and is embroiled in a mystery. The third volume, These Three Remain, begins with Darcy’s visit to his aunt, Lady Catherine and his proposal to Elizabeth. After her rejection, he resolves to become a better man. With the exception of the mystery that is thrown in the second installment (Darcy needed something to do during the months he was away from Elizabeth), fans will know the story, but this series gives new insight into Darcy’s feelings, his life and his past. Fans of Pride and Prejudice will get their fix with this one.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Home includes 3 bdrms, 2 baths and...a book club?

Book clubs are more popular than ever these days, but keeping a club going can be challenging. A home owner in England found a way to keep the members of her book club coming back. According to the Guardian, a home in Dorset that is on the market for 700,000 pounds, has a stipulation that the new owner must allow a book club to continue meeting there. The book club has met at the house for more than a decade. When the owner decided to move, members of the club were worried the club would not survive. The owner had a clause added to the deed that the new owner had to continue to host the club on the third Thursday of each month.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Harry Potter Countdown

In less than 10 days, the final installment of the Harry Potter series will finally be in my hands. Like so many others, I have been anxiously awaiting both the movie and the book. The security and secrecy surrounding the book just add to the excitement. Speculations about which character will die in the last book are everywhere. Many people think it's going to be Harry, Daniel Radcliffe included, but I hope not.

Although I am itching to get my hands on that book, part of me is a little sad that it will all be over soon. I have come to love the characters and their magical world, and will be sad they won't continue. Also, it's so much fun when this many people get so excited about a book. I'm not sure we will ever see this level of excitement over a book again. So many people are upset about the ending of the series that British bookseller Waterstone's has started a petition to save Harry, stating "We, the undersigned, petition J K Rowling to write more new adventures for Harry Potter and his friends no matter what happens at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." I will be signing that petition, for sure. At least we have two more movies to look forward to.

J.K. Rowling will be giving her only TV interview with NBC's Meredith Vieira. The interview will air on NBC's Today Show on Thursday, July 26th and Friday, July 27th, and in a one-hour special on NBC's Dateline on Sunday, July 29th.


Welcome to Running With Books, the Deerfield Public Library’s new blog. My intention with this blog is to provide you with the latest news on books and authors, reviews of fiction and non-fiction books, and general musings on books and reading.

To give you an idea of who I am and my own reading tastes....

Who I am: Melissa Stoeger, Readers' Services Librarian

What I'm reading now: What is the What by Dave Eggers and On Gold Mountain by Lisa See

In my Cassette/CD/MP3 player: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Favorite book as a child: The Hobbit and the Nancy Drew series

Favorite authors: Tracy Chevalier, Jane Austen, Anchee Min, John Grisham

Book I’ve faked reading: Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I was supposed to read this in high school, but never did. Somehow I managed to pass the book report though.

Books I re-read: Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter series

Book I bought for the cover: Goodbye Jimmy Choo. It had pictures of shoes on the front. What can I say? I’m a sucker for shoes. I don’t really remember what the book was about.

Favorite line from a book: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Favorite new writer: Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns)

I hope to convince the other members of our fabulous Readers' Services department to share their answers as well, so you can get to know us.

Please check back here daily for all the latest on books. Thanks for reading!