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  • Nicole Hill 4:00 pm on 2019/04/26 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , love medicine series, , , , thank you mom, , the house of the spirits, , the reading life,   

    The 10 Best Moms in Fiction 

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    There are lots of lists out there about literature’s worst mothers. The Mrs. Bennets of the world seem to suck up all the oxygen. (Something with which Elizabeth Bennet likely would agree.) But what of fiction’s fine motherly figures? What of those who try their best to do right by their children—whether they gave birth to them or not? The following ten characters, while never perfect, prove the virtues of motherhood in all its messy, complicated, astounding glory.

    Molly Weasley
    Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling

    Where else to start but with the harried matriarch of the unruly Weasley brood? A mother of seven and the wife of a moony Muggle enthusiast, Molly keeps her household running and her children awash in fine knitwear—and she still takes time to lavish the same maternal affection (and sometimes consternation) on her children’s wayward friends. She’s the unsung hero of the Order of the Phoenix whose bravery caused me (and all of you) to cheer aloud when she faced off with Bellatrix Lestrange.

    Mrs. Murry
    A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle

    Mr. Murry often gets the credit for being brilliant, but Katherine Murry is an accomplished microbiologist whose professional accomplishments do not get her sucked through the space-time continuum. With her husband gone missing for years, Mrs. Murry keeps her family together, even the strange genius who is her youngest son. Meg leaves her mother behind as she goes on her tesseract adventures, but my secret hope always has been there’s an unwritten epilogue out there where Kate Murry gets to go on a vacation.

    Lulu Nanapush
    Love Medicine series, by Louise Erdrich

    Lulu is not a perfect woman or mother, but life hasn’t exactly treated her, or the Ojibwe reservation she calls home, with the utmost kindness. She encapsulates the challenges of both mother- and womanhood. We’re introduced to her in Love Medicine, in which she’s entangled in a decades-long love triangle with the man she’s always loved and the woman he married. In a story, and series, that spans generations, we see Lulu move on to other relationships and amass a family of nine children in the process. All the while, she’s remarkably unabashed in her strength and independence.

    Lisa Carter
    The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

    The Carters are a modern fictional family, and Lisa is the glue that holds them together. Lisa got pregnant as a teenager and dealt with her mother’s rejection. A nurse, she raised her children, Starr and Sekani, to be strong and well-aware of the racial injustice of their neighborhood and the world they live in. She’s forged a strong marriage despite her husband’s incarceration and affair, and she treats Seven, the product of that affair, with love. The Hate U Give is a story of strength in the face of adversity, and Lisa is one of the strongest characters in Garden Heights.

    Margaret March
    Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

    Raising four daughters on your own in the middle of the Civil War and your own dire financial situation would be enough to crumple anybody’s spirits. But Marmee not only carries on, she does so with aplomb. The anti-Mrs. Bennet, Marmee puts her focus on treating her daughters with love and kindness and providing an example of how they should apply those same qualities to their own interactions with others. She’s no shallow perfect character either; her charity and compassion ring true, even 150 years later.

    Miss Honey
    Matilda, by Roald Dahl

    Look, mothers come in all packages, and Jennifer Honey proves to be more of a mom to whiz-kid Matilda than her biological mother ever was. As Matilda’s teacher, she’s the first person truly to recognize the unbelievable talents of a small, neglected girl. Not only does she encourage her, Miss Honey fights for her, too. (And Matilda returns the favor in spades thanks to her telekinesis, the oldest trick in the book.) Their shared happy ending makes them an adoptive family, but Miss Honey was a mother to Matilda way before those final pages.

    Suyuan Woo, An-Mei Hsu, Lindo Jong, and Ying-Ying St. Clair
    The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan

    The relationships between mothers and daughters are never simple and rarely conflict-free. The beauty is in the way those bonds, when strong, are able to mend any tear. The four Chinese immigrants who get together each week to play mahjong in this novel, and the four daughters they raise, are perfect examples of this simultaneous tenderness and turbulence. In a story spanning 40 years, we see it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly. And still there is mahjong, and gossip, and storytelling, and the stitching together of generations.

    Lilith Iyapo
    Dawn, by Octavia Butler

    Lilith did have a biological son before the start of this novel, but her place on this list is because of a slightly different role she’s tasked with playing: mother to a new species. You see, Lilith is one of the few survivors of an Earth apocalypse, one human saved from extinction by an alien species. For centuries, Lilith and the other remaining humans have been asleep and their rescuers have worked to rehab Earth. Now, the Oankali, a, let’s say, tentacle-forward race, are ready to repopulate the planet … together … with humans. (You know.)

    Clara del Valle Trueba
    The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende

    In a sweeping story of family history, Clara is an otherworldly focal point. Her innate clairvoyance blossoms into broader abilities as she matures, abilities intimately tied to the fate of her family through the decades. In a story aswirl with chaos and trauma, Clara is a calming center, protective of her children, particularly when it comes to her volatile husband. Her presence imbues every aspect of the life of the Truebas, even after her death. Sometimes her powers make her dreamy and distanced, but her heart’s in the right place and she grows into her starring role.

    The Aunts
    Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic, by Alice Hoffman

    Again, circumstances beyond biology can forge some of the greatest mothers. The Owens family is decidedly non-traditional: two aunts raising two nieces, all witches. Also, there’s that whole family curse that spells doom for the unfortunate man who might fall in love with any Owens woman. While the hijinks that occur in Practical Magic may make you wonder about supervision Sally and Gillian’s aunts provide, their enduring encouragement to embrace the weird and witchy—and to give zero flips about what anyone else thinks—is an inspiration.

    The post The 10 Best Moms in Fiction appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 7:30 pm on 2017/12/12 Permalink
    Tags: , the reading life, what it says on the tin   

    How to Judge a Book by Its Cover 

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    You’re not supposed to do it, but judging a book by its cover is a skill we all employ from time to time; whether we’re standing in a busy Barnes & Noble or squinting at a screen full of thumbnails, a book’s cover is often all you have time to peruse. Sure, in a perfect world you’d linger over every book, smelling the paper and reading copious swaths of the text in order to figure out if it was written just for you. But in reality, we often don’t have the time.  Therefore, being able to parse a cover to deduce the kind of book you’re dealing with—and judge whether it’s what you need in your life—is a vital skill.

    Here are our helpful guidelines for judging books by their covers.

    Cover Design Element: All Text—whether it’s just the title and author’s name or a few sentences of type, the cover is 95percent words.

    What It Means: Whatever the genre, the publisher considers this book to be a prestigious work. This cover design can cross genres—it’s sometimes used in non-fiction, often in literary fiction, and can even be found now and then in other genres. No matter what the subject matter of the book, a cover of all-text means you’re supposed to be prepared for some life-changing stuff.

    Example: I Can’t Breathe, by Matt Taibbi; Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison.

    Cover Design Element: Silhouette of Man with Gun—there might be other elements on the cover, but the primary focus is a faceless man holding a gun.

    What It Means: It’s a thriller, it’s action packed, and the characters may not be the most unique or interesting because their main function will be to kick a lot of butt while saving the world. Something about the “silhouette man with gun” just screams determination and heroism to graphic designers for some reason.

    Example: Manhunt, by James Patterson and James O. Born.

    Cover Design Element: Man in Hooded Cloak with Staff—standing either in the midst of an ancient forest, a huge hall in a castle, or possible floating in the air.

    What It Means: This is an epic fantasy, and there is an ancient wizard involved. This is a little different from the next item on this list, in that the focus on the wizard instead of a warrior means this is probably more of an old-school fantasy with a focus on ancient magic and lore rather than a grimdark focus on “gritty” fantasy realism.

    Example: Wishsong of Shannara, by Terry Brooks.

    Cover Design Element: Swords—pile of Corpses Optional.

    What It Means: This isn’t your grandfather’s fantasy; this is a brutal slaughter-fest in which the forces of darkness are really dark. There might be magic and elves, but there will also be blood, buckets of it, as well as lingering descriptions of realistic details of war. You can practically hear the Black Metal soundtrack this book rocks to.

    Example: Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence.

    Cover Design Element: Lady in a Dress.

    What It Means: Depends a bit on the dress, and if the lady is alone. If there’s a buff-looking gentleman with her, it’s probably considered a romance. If it’s an old-fashioned dress that nevertheless anachronistically shows a lot of cleavage, it’s also probably a romance. On the other hand, if the lady is facing away from the camera and is dressed in a very demure manner or is wearing a simple white cult-like dress, it’s probably a work of straight ahead fiction with a female-centric vibe and a soapy thriller or mystery aspect. Or possibly a romance.

    Example: The Duchess, by Daneille Steel.

    Cover Design Element: Shirtless Dude.

    What It Means: Romance. A steamy slab of beefcake-lovin’ romance. There’s a 10 percent chance it’s an urban fantasy about werewolves; see color codes below.

    Example: Heart Sight, by Robin Owens.

    Cover Design Element: Vintage Photo.

    What It Means: Likely a memoir or biography of someone who lived long ago. 10 percent  chance it’s a work of historical fiction. If it’s a photo of a child, the story will be heartbreakingly sad. If it’s a celebrity, they’re more than likely dead.

    Example: Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt.

    Cover Design Element: Photo of a Child, with a Childlike Font.

    What It Means: This book was written from the get-go to be the saddest damn thing ever. The kid on the cover has a 50 percent chance of dying at the climax.

    Example: Literally anything by Cathy Glass.

    Cover Design Element: Spaceships, Monsters, Aliens, People with Glowing Stuff Around Them.

    What It Means: We don’t need to explain sci-fi and fantasy to you, do we? Here’s your quick-reference decoder ring:

    SPACESHIP—Probably military sci-fi. ASTRONOMY IMAGE—Hard sci-fi. ALIEN CREATURE—Big-idea sci-fi. WOMAN IN LEATHER PANTS WITH SWORD—Urban fantasy.

    Example: Leviathan Wakes, by James S.A. Corey, Dante Valentine Series, by Lili Saintcrow, or Artemis, by Andy Weir.

    Cover Design Element: Color Coding.

    What It Means: If you’re really in a rush, you can often tell what kind of book you’re dealing with simply by the overall color palette of the cover (there are always exceptions; these rules are more like guidelines). Here’s your decoder ring: BLACK/RED—Urban fantasy. BLUE/ORANGE—Mainstream fiction. YELLOW—Historical fiction. PINK/PURPLE—Women-oriented fiction. BLACK/WHITE: Serious literchure. BLACK/WHITE/RED—Serious sci-fi, fantasy, or horror.

    Examples: A Conjuring of Light, by V.E. Schwab, All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, A Column of Fire, by Ken Follett, , by , and A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara.

    These aren’t hard and fast rules If you grab a blue book from the shelf and it turns out to be a space opera, well, don’t say we didn’t warn you. But if you’re in too much of a hurry to read back cover copy, you’ll do pretty well judging books by these cover guidelines.

    The post How to Judge a Book by Its Cover appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 7:00 pm on 2017/11/20 Permalink
    Tags: most popular reading day of the year, national reading day, pre-gaming, survey, thanksgiving day, thanksgiving eve, the reading life   

    Thanksgiving Eve Is the Busiest Reading Day of the Year, and We Know Why 

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    Being the world’s largest retail bookseller is a heavy responsibility—and Barnes and Noble takes this stuff seriously. We’re always trying to learn more about books, reading, and readers. To that end, we recently commissioned a national independent survey concerning reading habits around the holiday season, which proved beyond any doubt the biggest reading day of the year—a day that shall forever more be known as Reading Day—is Thanksgiving Eve. Seventy-seven percent of respondents reported that they read at least one book on that day; 60 percent said they pack or purchase reading materials specifically for pre-holiday reading.

    While we’re proud to celebrate the first annual Reading Day (plans for parades are in the works), our work is never done. It’s up to us to figure out just what is it about Turkey Day that inspires people to read. Here are our top theories.

    THEORY ONE: The Horrors of Travel
    Thanksgiving is the busiest travel event of the year. More than any other holiday, people tend to go home for Thanksgiving—and that means a lot of people flying, driving, and training across vast distances, racing to make it to their destination by Thursday’s big meal. And let’s face it: travel in the modern day is pretty awful. Even if you manage to get to where you’re going without being dragged violently off the plane, it’s a miserable experience. So it’s not surprising that the B&N survey revealed 73 percent of people think reading makes travel more relaxing. Whether you’re mashed in the middle seat of an exit row or in the backseat of an Uber creeping through metro traffic, having a good book on hand is a relief. Our suggestion: The Midnight Line by Lee Child is the perfect travel book: a tightly-written thriller that’ll get your aggressions out before you have to deal with your relatives.

    THEORY TWO: Reading Reduces the Murder Rate
    Speaking of those relatives, 28 percent of the respondents to our survey mentioned that a book is a good way to avoid uncomfortable conversations with your drunk aunts and uncles members of your extended family. Book nerds have long known the power of having your nose in a book to stave off unwanted conversations, and it’s a trick that can be employed anywhere—but maybe especially around Thanksgiving, whenever someone starts a sentence with “I’m not usually political, but…” Our suggestion: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders—it’s a beautiful story that’ll transport you out of any room.

    THEORY THREE: Stress Relief
    The travel, the unwanted arguments with family, the old wounds reopened when you find you’re still at the kid’s table, despite being a full-grown adult—Thanksgiving is stressful. If you’re not traveling, you’re likely hosting and cooking, which is a whole other ball of mashed potatoes. So color us unsurprised that 53 percent of survey respondents mentioned reading a book as a great way to relax—because it is. Any time you feel stress coming on, crack open a great book and escape to a universe in which you’re not staying up half the night making handcrafted stuffing. Our suggestion: Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks. The beloved actor’s short stories are the perfect escapist reading.

    THEORY FOUR: Time Management
    Unsurprisingly, our survey revealed that 56 percent of people asked think reading is perfect for travel delays, and 47 percent intended to catch up on their reading over the holiday. Most people want to read more books, but life gets in the way. Even if your travel itinerary isn’t too crazy, you’re bound to suffer some down time in airport lounges, slow-moving traffic, or train stations. Instead of staring at a wall or watching local news with the sound off, why not crack open a book? Our suggestion: Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. Reading about this genius will make you feel even less accomplished than when your parents dote on your older siblings, but there’s so much fascinating stuff in here, your time will be well spent.

    THEORY FIVE: Self-Improvement
    The holiday season in general is a time for contemplation—most obviously at New Year’s when we start making lists of resolutions for the coming year, but also at Thanksgiving, a time when we explicitly think about what we’re thankful for. No wonder 46 percent of those who answered our survey said they like to read on Thanksgiving Eve because it gives them a chance to learn something new. Improving your understanding of the world is a great way to kick off the holidays, and that boost in self-esteem from newfound knowledge will come in handy when your pants no longer fit come December. Our suggestion: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Nothing boosts the ego more than feeling like you understand how the universe works when your dad doesn’t even understand how Snapchat works.

    Thanksgiving is a time to gather, give thanks, and, as we all just learned, to read. When packing for your annual pilgrimage home, make sure you’ve got enough books to get you through the big dinner.

    The post Thanksgiving Eve Is the Busiest Reading Day of the Year, and We Know Why appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 7:30 pm on 2017/10/24 Permalink
    Tags: bookception, the reading life   

    5 Incredibly Self-Referential Books About Books 

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    A lot of people say they love books, the way some people will say they understand quantum physics. But like Neil DeGrasse Tyson knows from black holes, true book devotees know there’s a huge difference between casually reading a book or two every month, and being obsessed with books. For many book nerds who dig print, book aren’t just about the words, but the physical experience of reading—which is where these five meta books come in. Each offers a deep dive into the sensual pleasures of reading—why we enjoy the act, and why the book is an object of joy.

    Bookshelf, by Alex Johnson
    You’ve heard the term “house proud.” Book nerds are “bookshelf proud.” Whether it’s your standard IKEA Billy or a custom-designed, handmade beauty, book nerds love to examine bookshelves wherever they go, to snap “shelfies,” and to lust over innovative and clever bookshelf designs on Pinterest. In this fab book, clever, beautiful, and efficient bookshelves are highlighted, celebrating designs that make book storage prettier, deeper, and more fun. Whether you’re looking for a great idea for a small space, or a grand idea for a grand space, there’s a bookshelf in this book you’re going to covet.

    The Book, by Keith Houston
    A complete history of the book and its component parts, Houston’s fantastic work will remind you that every book is the end result of centuries of technological, artistic, and intellectual development. Houston traces the paper, glue, ink, and other materials that make up every book ever printed, and dives into the history behind each ingredient, while offering up tactile examples and gorgeous illustrations. When you’re done, you’ll see your books from a whole new perspective.

    Nabokov’s Favorite Word was Mauve, by Ben Blatt
    We love print books, but the digital age has given us plenty of blessings, among them the ability to apply big data to the world’s body of literature. Instead of an artistic review of great writers and their famous works, Blatt and his team have analyzed countless books to find patterns, to reveal secrets of composition and blueprints of creativity. They suss out which writers fall back on clichés, which break their own writing advice most often, which have the most limited or largest vocabularies, and more. This sort of data is fascinating to a book nerd, because it quantifies aspects of literature that are instinctive. Why do we enjoy some writers and not others? The answers might be in this incredibly meta book.

    Printer’s Error, by Rebecca Romney
    One of the upsides of digital publishing is the ability to fix an error with a push of a button, silently updating millions of downloaded books without fuss. But that’s also a downside for book nerds who revel in the mistakes, the errors, and the unintentionally evocative screw-ups that launched a million theories on what the author meant—when, in fact, it was just a mistake. Romney starts at the beginning of the printed word and recounts some of the best stories of publishing incompetence ever told.

    Codex Serpahinianus, by Luigi Serafini
    Finally, the experience of reading a book can come to be second-nature, and thus unremarkable, if you spend a lot of time with your nose in a book. Long forgotten is the amazement we experienced when we first learned to read, first discovered fictional worlds and factual compilations we could access at any time. The genius of Serafini’s book—written in an artificial language that has so far eluded linguists, describing things that don’t actually exist—is in how it replicates the way children must feel when they first encounter a book before they know how to read. There’s an instinctual understanding that the markings mean something, a beautiful order to everything that implies meaning, even if that meaning is obscured. It’s a wonderful feeling for a book nerd to be able to simply appreciate the form and beauty of a book without the hope of being able to understand a lick of what’s on the page.

    The post 5 Incredibly Self-Referential Books About Books appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Sarah Skilton 3:00 pm on 2017/10/18 Permalink
    Tags: adam langer, andrew sean greer, bestseller, , cherise wolas, , , less, lucia graves, olivia goldsmith, the angel's game, the reading life, the resurrection of joan ashby, the right time, the thieves of manhattan,   

    6 Novel Novels About Novelists 

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    Films-within-films (Tropic ThunderSingin’ in the Rain), plays-within-plays (Shakespeare does this a lot), and songs referencing songs (“You probably think this song is about you…”) provide entertainment while also poking fun at the business side of art. Naturally, novels are the perfect medium with which to tackle the publishing industry. Not only are these authors positioned to pull back the curtain on the lives of agents, publishers, and editors, but they’re eminently qualified to share the agonies and ecstasies of writing itself. Using humor, irony, and grace, whether they’re hot off the presses or set within the last century, these books bring special meaning to the adage “Write what you know.”

    The Right Time, by Danielle Steel

    A bright, precociously successful writer of complex thrillers, novelist Alexandra Winslow was told during her formative years that men will only read her genre of books if they’re written by other men. The warning stayed with her, and as a result, she decided to pursue her passion under a male pseudonym. Having overcome more heartache than most by her teen years, including an absent mother and the death of her beloved father (who shared his love of mysteries with her), Alex’s latest difficulties are compounded as she realizes the double life she’s living is slowly destroying her. Will she find the strength to reveal her true self to the rest of the world? Will the time ever be right for her to step out of her own shadow?

    The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, by Cherise Wolas
    Joan Ashby’s writing career is off to dazzling start. Adored by critics and readers alike for her dark prose, she’s poised to become a lifelong literary star. Children were never in the picture—until Joan’s husband Martin changes the rule they agreed to and urges her to succumb to motherhood. Raising her two boys isn’t easy, and her creative ambitions struggle against “the consumptive nature of love.” Wolas’ powerhouse debut novel promises to take readers on an emotional ride, while tackling questions about the ways in which women are sometimes forced to choose between love of family and self-actualization.

    Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

    “Minor novelist” Arthur Less is about to turn 50, and his younger, former lover Freddy is getting married. Down and out, and determined to escape the torturous nuptials—while not appearing as though he’s escaping—Less decides to accept every ham-fisted, bizarre invitation he’s received for the year. His writerly itinerary, which will take him from NYC to Paris, Berlin, and Morocco, includes teaching a class, attending an award ceremony (in which high schoolers are the judges), and interviewing a more successful author. A surprise narrator (whose identity is kept secret until the end) adds poignancy and tenderness to this lovely and comedic story.

    The Angel’s Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (translated by Lucia Graves)

    “A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story…A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price.” So begins a haunting, gothic love story set in 1920s Barcelona. Orphaned pulp novelist David Martin leaves his newspaper job behind when he receives a mysterious publishing offer that may prove to be a Faustian bargain, especially when people begin dying and David suspects that the crumbling, abandoned house he’s living in holds terrifying secrets.

    The Thieves of Manhattan, by Adam Langer

    A biting, genre-bending satire of the publishing industry, with hilarious literary in-jokes and slang aplenty (a “frazier” is a large advance for a book, a la Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain; an “atwood” is “a mane of curls sported by the author Margaret Atwood”; and a “tolstoy” is a large pile of manuscripts), Thieves depicts a down-on-his-luck writer who agrees to put his name on an absurd novel and pretend it’s true, so he can take advantage of the misery-memoir trend. “I wasn’t sure if I felt more frightened by the thought that his scheme would work or the thought that it wouldn’t, that I would ruin whatever reputation and self-respect I might have had for nothing, or that lying would make me…successful.”

    Bestseller, by Olivia Goldsmith
    As a bestseller herself, Goldsmith (The First Wives’ Club and many more) knows the heartaches and triumphs of the publishing world, and she recreates it here with intimate aplomb. Five authors whose books were selected by powerful publishing house Davis & Dash vie for the coveted number-one slot on the fall list. But the writers aren’t the only ones desperate to climb the ladder of success. Up-and-coming editors and their shady mentors, back-stabbing agents, brokenhearted parents, struggling indie bookstore owners, and midlist ghostwriters abound in this scandalous tale. There’s even a husband-and-wife writing team that splits up when one of them pretends the work was a solo effort. Enjoy!

    What novels about novels would you recommend?

    The post 6 Novel Novels About Novelists appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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