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  • Dell Villa 3:30 pm on 2014/09/23 Permalink
    Tags: alyson richman, , , , , , , , , the B&N bookshelf, the storied life of a.j. fikry   

    What Your Book Club Should Be Reading This Month 

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    September book club books

    It’s back-to-school season, so the time is nigh for you to reinvigorate your book club’s reading list. To help, we’ve handpicked a selection of some of this fall’s best fiction. Dissected over wine, coffee, or chamomile tea, the stories below are bound to stir up some great discussions.

    The Garden of Letters, by Alyson Richman
    In World War II–era Italy, Fascists endeavor to control every aspect of daily life, threatening anyone in their path to power—even ordinary people like cellist Elodie Bertolotti and Dr. Angelo Rossilli. In such a tumultuous world, courageous, defiant acts begin to define people and their futures, and love is considered an impossibility. Or is it? Curl up with this engrossing historical novel, and see what your friends have to say about it. We suspect they’ll be as dazzled as you are!

    The Children Act, by Ian McEwan
    McEwan—a master of piercing prose that seeps unapologetically into our moral consciousness—has constructed yet another beautiful story that tackles the uneasy relationship between religion and the legal system. Fiona Maye is a family court judge who, while known for her precision and farsightedness in the court, presides over a turbulent domestic life. When a case involving a critically ill teenager refusing treatment for religious reasons arrives in Fiona’s court, her personal struggles are brought to the forefront. A stimulating, necessary conversation will ensue when you and your friends reach the complex conclusion of this brilliant novel.

    The Perfect Witness, by Iris Johansen
    As a young girl, Teresa Casali discovered her unique ability to read people’s memories, but, exploited by her mob boss father in his corrupt business dealings, she eventually came to regard the gift as more of a curse. Unprotected and on the run from her family and enemies, Teresa encounters a man who is willing to save her, but who wants something in return. Filled with betrayals and spellbinding twists, this novel will grip you and your fellow bookworms until the very last page.

    The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin
    Because we can’t imagine a better way to energize your book club than to introduce a novel that celebrates a life of books, Zevin’s latest page-turner makes our list. A.J. Fikry, the cantankerous owner of Island Books, has had a protracted run of bad luck. About to give up on all that motivates him—including the very books that have defined his career (and life!)—Fikry is faced with important decisions, and an opportunity for redemption.

    Some Luck, by Jane Smiley
    From Pulitzer Prize–winning, Iowa-loving Jane Smiley comes Some Luck, an enormous gift for book clubbers everywhere. The first in a trilogy that will span the most stormy periods in the last century, Smiley’s richly imagined epic begins at the end of World War I, and, broken into chapters that each focus on one year, tells of several decade in the life of a quintessentially Midwestern family that loves, fights, deceives, and demands our unwavering attention.

    What book would you bring to a book club?

  • Melissa Albert 3:30 pm on 2014/09/16 Permalink
    Tags: , , amy zhang, , , , , , , , , the B&N bookshelf, ,   

    5 Reasons September Is an Amazing Month for YA 

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    September 2014 YA

    I know, I know, EVERY month is an amazing month for YA, but this one is especially bursting with red-letter release days, of heart-wracking love stories, a backstage pass into YA heaven, a gripping meditation on bullying and suicide, and one book that will have you snort laughing in public then reading every other line out loud to anyone who comes near you. Here is your sexy, hilarious, heartbreaking, brilliant month in new young adult reads:

    I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
    Twins Jude and Noah were once as close as could be, she a fearless surfer girl, he a passionate artist who sees in technicolor—and is falling helplessly in love with the boy next door. But their mother’s sudden death rips them apart, leaving Jude a shuttered shell of herself and Noah in denial of both his sexuality and his art. Three years later, a new mentor and a damaged boy enter Jude’s life, blowing open her creativity and loosening the latches on her self-hatred. You’ll hold your breath at the beauty of her journey back to Noah and herself.

    Afterworlds, by Scott Westerfeld
    Teenaged Darcy Patel writes a paranormal romance novel in a 30-day haze of inspired speed-writing, and rapidly finds first an agent then a publisher. The story of her entrance into the New York publishing world—rewrites, overpriced apartments, first love, meeting her idols, figuring out how to write the elusive sequel, hanging out with a thinly veiled fictional version of John Green—is told in alternating chapters with her novel, which opens with a crackerjack scene of terrorism and semi-death at an airport, and jumps between the real world and an eerie Afterworld from there. It bursts with cleverness and a free-fall love of writing (and reading) that will send you straight back to the languishing manuscript draft on your own laptop.

    How to Build a Girl, by Caitlin Moran
    Johanna Morrigan is an overweight, sex-obsessed virgin living in a British council estate with four siblings, a wrung-out mum, and an expansive alcoholic dad. Her journey from unkissed schoolgirl to Dolly Wilde, a hard-drinking, sexually dynamic rock journalist is the funniest ride you’ll take all year. Based loosely on Moran’s teenaged self, Johanna/Dolly is the funniest, most smashingly shameless heroine you’ll ever meet. Every page of this book is filled with hilarious lines you’ll want to read out loud, and you’ll be recommending it to everyone before you’ve gotten halfway through.

    Falling Into Place, by Amy Zhang
    Author Zhang is herself a high-school student, and her gorgeous debut novel takes an utterly fresh look at the strangling effects of bullying—from the perspective of the bully. Liz is her school’s queen bee, the kind of girl who can explode someone’s reputation between lunch and English without breaking a sweat…but that ability has all but killed off her will to live. When she drives her car into a tree on an icy road, it’s an event carefully engineered to look like an accident. The book jumps around between the days before and after the crash, as her life goes to shreds, then her body battles to cling to it. It’s sad without being maudlin, and life-affirming without being treacly. Readers still riding high off the month of If I Stay should pick this up posthaste.

    100 Sideways Miles, by Andrew Smith
    Finn Easton is an epileptic kid whose novelist father wrote him into a controversial sci-fi book, one that Finn’s not sure he’ll ever really escape. Cade Hernandez is his foul-mouthed, magical best friend. Julia Bishop is the complicated dream girl who moves to town and becomes Finn’s first love. In trying to get out of the book, and become more than just an epileptic his parents can’t set free, Finn visits with ghosts, buys condoms, tries to untangle his feelings toward Julia, and finally hits the road, becoming, unexpectedly, a hero. He measures time in miles and strives for self-understanding, and his story unfolds at a mellow pace that makes every incident feel gilded with emotional importance. And he’s funny: Smith does teen boy dialogue better than anyone.

    What new releases are you reading this month?

  • Ellen Wehle 3:30 pm on 2014/09/09 Permalink
    Tags: a sudden light, , , garth stein, , , , , nora webster, sagas, , the B&N bookshelf,   

    4 Sweeping Sagas to Lose Yourself In 

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    Matthew Thomas's We Are Not OurselvesOn rainy days in fall, there’s nothing better than curling up with a hefty book. Family sagas promise us book lovers a special kind of comfort: a nice, leisurely read that won’t end too soon. So make yourself some hot tea, pull up the comfy chair, and sink into one of these epic, heartfelt tales:

    Some Luck, by Jane Smiley
    Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jane Smiley returns to the fictional town of Denby, Iowa, to follow the lives of the Langdon family. The first book of a projected trilogy that will span 100 years, Some Luck opens in 1920, as Walter and Rosanna Langdon give birth to their first child and battle to keep their farm going through the Great Depression. Though life is hard, they’re bolstered by their commitment to the land and a time-honored set of values. As their five children—Frank, Joe, Lillian, Henry, and Claire—grow up and for the most part reject farm life, scattering across the country, we see the large-scale changes sweeping across America itself. Whether it’s the nitty-gritty details of plowing a field or the finer points of family relationships, Smiley writes with great empathy and wisdom.

    We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas
    Eileen Tumulty is the only child of alcoholic parents, first-generation Irish immigrants who will never have more than what they have now: grueling blue-collar work and an apartment in Queens. When Eileen’s father pawns her mother’s ring to bet on the horses, her mother warns her, “Don’t ever love anyone…. All you’ll do is break your own heart.” But Eileen is determined not to make her parents’ mistakes. She falls in love with and marries Ed, a neuroscientist, and sets her sights on a home in upscale Westchester County. When Ed has other priorities, preferring pure research over well-paid corporate jobs, it’s just the first in a series of blows to Eileen’s ambition. Over the course of six decades she struggles heroically to lead the life she wants, rather than the life she was given.

    A Sudden Light, by Garth Stein
    Part ghost story, part coming-of-age, A Sudden Light centers around a family that made their fortune ravaging the land. Fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell’s ancestor, Elijah, was a timber baron who oversaw the destruction of huge swaths of forest and, as his legacy, built a mansion overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor’s soon-to-be-divorced parents care little for history: they plan to send his grandfather to a nursing home, sell Riddell House, and divide the profits. But as Trevor soon discovers, Riddell House is a magical place imbued with the spirit of the trees and of his ancestors. If he can face the secrets of his family’s past, he just may be able to save their future.

    Nora Webster, by Colm Toibin
    Toibin excels at creating prickly, independent female characters, and Nora Webster is one of his most memorable yet. Nora is forty years old and has four children to provide for when her husband dies of an illness. The tight-knit community of Wexford, Ireland, quickly gathers round her, but their well-meaning interference isn’t what she needs. Rather than sympathy, she’d like some no-nonsense advice on how to pay her bills and carry on now that she’s a widow—exactly the sort of thing no one talks about. That Nora is flawed and makes mistakes, especially when handling her grief-stricken sons, only adds to her humanity. In the end, hers is a story of quiet triumph as she slowly and surely rediscovers herself.

    What good, long books have you been losing yourself in lately?

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 3:30 pm on 2014/09/02 Permalink
    Tags: back channel, , douglas brinkley, john w. dean, luke nichter, , , , , ronald kessler, stephen l. carter, the B&N bookshelf,   

    4 New Books that Take You Behind the Scenes 

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    The Nixon TapesIt’s rare these days to catch a public servant in even a moment of spontaneity; their events and appearances are too carefully choreographed. (Even so-called “reality” shows featuring private citizens are often scripted to the point where unrehearsed moments are few and far between.) At least books are coming to the rescue, as usual! Here are 4 great new reads that peel back the curtain and show us a little bit of what’s going on behind the scenes in the lives of some of our most interesting public figures:

    The Nixon Tapes, by Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter
    Although it’s well known that President Nixon installed voice-activated recording equipment throughout the Oval Office and other key rooms in the White House, less than 5 percent of the contents of those tapes (3,700 hours in all) has ever been transcribed and published—until now. Nichter’s transcriptions and digitized recordings give readers and historians an unprecedented glimpse into the life and mind of a highly complex and polarizing figure in American history. Finally we can read and hear Nixon’s own words, and from them, gain new insight into his actions during one of the most politically tumultuous periods of history.

    The Nixon Defense, by John W. Dean
    Former White House Counsel Dean takes the Nixon tapes a step further by using them, along with transcripts of nearly a thousand conversations of his own, and countless documents in the National Archives and the Nixon Library, to put together a captivating and convincing analysis of Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal. The Nixon Defense offers a sound and well-argued answer to the enormous question of what Nixon knew, and when. It is crucial to learn as much as possible about the past in order to avoid repeating it, and Dean’s deeply fascinating and disturbing account of one of the worst political scandals in American history will shed new light on the actions of all involved, particularly those of former President Nixon.

    Back Channel, by Stephen L. Carter
    When America was on the brink of nuclear war in the fall of 1962, open negotiations between Kennedy and Khrushchev, who were locked in a deadly face-off, were all but impossible—necessitating the creation of a “back channel” through which clandestine communications could be carried out. Carter’s audacious fictionalized, “what if?” version of events involves a nail-biting undercover mission to Russia by a clever 19-year-old college student and a young chess champion. A masterful blend of fact and fiction, this enthralling, suspense-filled retelling of the Cuban Missile Crisis manages to keep you on the edge of your seat, even though it involves an historical incident with a known outcome—which is an impressive feat in itself.

    The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents, by Ronald Kessler
    The author of the bestselling book In the President’s Secret Service is back with an even more intimate look at the lives of our public officials, as observed by those serving closest to them. After all, when you get down to it, who would know more about you than your Secret Service agents? This is one of the many reasons why I, personally, don’t have any. Kessler’s new book even goes beyond the White House, following the lives of past presidents and their families after they’ve left office and are out of the spotlight, giving readers an even more authentic glimpse into the real personalities (and proclivities) of our leaders.

    What famous figures would you like to know more about?

  • Melissa Albert 3:30 pm on 2014/08/26 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , royals, , the B&N bookshelf, , ,   

    No Time Machine? Try One of These New Works of Historical Fiction Instead 

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    The MiniaturistIf you’ve been watching the new TV adaptation of Outlander, you may recently have found yourself yearning for the chance to step back in time. And assuming your neighborhood is low on standing stones and ancient Druidic magic, your best bet may be journeying back in the pages of a book. If you can give up on the idea of a shirtless Jamie Fraser as your new-world guide, you’ll love those four new and forthcoming titles, which take you from 17th-century Amsterdam to an English villa in the years after World War II, from the Hapsburg Court to that of the famously volatile King Henry VIII. Here’s the historical fiction you should be reading this month:

    The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton
    When young Nella Oortman travels to Amsterdam to join her new husband, celebrated trader Johannes Brandt, she finds herself more houseguest than wife. Her precarious acceptance of her new life shifts when the distant Johannes presents her with a cabinet-sized replica of their home, built by an elusive miniaturist. As the skilled miniaturist sends her package after package of tiny dolls and pieces of furniture, Nella finds that the items mirror her concerns and the secret life of her home with eerie prescience. This book beautifully captures a time and lush place and the loneliness of a stranger in an unfamiliar land.

    The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters (out September 16)
    In South London in the 1920s, a genteelly impoverished widow and her unmarried daughter, Frances, are forced to take lodgers into their home: Leonard and Lilian Barber, whose progressive ideas, lower social status, and hidden rift help speed the story to a crisis. The book takes place in the volatile social landscape of the post-World War II years, and Frances, especially, is a creature of her time and place, unable to enjoy either life as a modern woman or the life of gentle breeding she was born for. Waters effortlessly spins a tightening tale of such psychological suspense you may need to take breaks between chapters (but you’ll be turning pages too quickly to bother).

    The King’s Curse, by Philippa Gregory
    In the concluding volume of the Cousins’ War series, Gregory focuses her considerable powers on bringing to life Margaret Pole, a lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon, first wife to King Henry VIII. As a Plantagenet princess, Margaret has her own claim to the throne, a dangerous blessing that she seeks to hide—especially in light of her brother’s execution by those who would keep him from attempting any claim to the throne. As her mistress’s place at court becomes increasingly rocky with the ascendance of Anne Boleyn, this Tudor-era survivor must once again attempt to find her footing in a time of great upheaval.

    Fortune Hunter, by Daisy Goodwin
    A tragic 19th-century beauty with a way of slaying hearts. A doomed attraction between an empress and a cavalry captain, with potentially disastrous consequences. A lushly realized world of royalty, courtiers, and breathtaking wealth. Oh, did you need a plot? Fine: Captain Bay Middleton finds himself falling for both Charlotte, the orphaned heir to a large fortune, and Elizabeth, the reluctant Empress of Austria and wife to a dullard husband. Over the course of one long English hunting season, he must choose which, if either, to devote himself to.

    What historical fiction have you been reading lately?

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