Book-It List & Reviews

Searching Among the Stacks and Finding Florence

Posted by on Sep 30, 2015 in Book-It List & Reviews, In The News | 0 comments

This young woman’s wonderful essay captures the role indie bookstores play in defining communities around the world – and make us very proud to be part of what makes Frenchtown Frenchtown.   Searching Among the Stacks and Finding Florence by Cathryn Piwinski The conceptualization of Florence within American minds consists of two primary characteristics: packed with exceptional art and filled with delicious food. The American education system teaches its students that Italy, specifically Florence, was the creative hub of the European Renaissance, marking it as a city rich in towering architectural achievements, breath-taking statues, and meticulous frescos. Likewise, the love affair with appropriated Italian food – pasta, tomato sauce, pizza, olive oil, gelato – causes Americans to idealize Italy as the land of plenty, the land of delicious, delectable, and desirable food, the land whose menu all other nations should aspire to imitate. However, while these two aspects remain essential to Florentine culture, moving to Florence and witnessing firsthand how it operates daily has shown me that there are more intricacies within this city’s life than I had initially thought. The architectural accomplishment of the Duomo and the equally valued culinary accomplishment of a perfectly made cappuccino do indeed factor into daily life in Florence, but life is not limited to nearly that. After living in this city for nearly four weeks, I am still recognizing and learning to adapt to these other factors of Florence living through the use of a particular establishment that is in no short supply here: the bookstore. Adjusting to a new city, especially after fully adapting to life in the ever-active New York City, proved to be quite the challenge for me. I arrived in Florence with the anticipation that I would see every piece of art and eat every piece of food that the city had to offer – after all, those were the main characteristics I was raised to expect from Florence. After about a week of living here, however, I learned that I had been anticipating Florence as a tourist, not as an inhabitant. Living in this city for three and a half months meant experiencing smaller day-to-day moments at local cafes, stores, and piazzas, and carving out some moments of my own, which proved to be a challenge. To meet this challenge, a friend of mine who studied abroad in Berlin a few semesters prior advised that I search for local places that would obviously be new to me, but nonetheless recognizable and therefore eventually comfortable. The English major that I am inevitably settled on bookstores and bookshop cafés, which seem to be in no short supply in Florence and even connect with the art and the food that is so often praised in Italy. I began feverishly searching for places that met my conditions, which provided me with the newfound bravery to duck into any building that boasted hard covers and paperbacks in its windows. In this search, I found treasures and places of sanctuary, such as the Feltrinelli in the Piazza della Reppublica, the Paperback Exchange, and Todo Modo; but I also discovered the perfect way to begin connecting with life in Florence. Sitting back in the quiet atmosphere of a bookstore or library with my book let me observe and listen to Florentine exchanges and conversations. Ironically, in these places, a language I do not yet understand, in both the spoken and printed form, surrounds me, but it still seems that I am nonetheless able to connect with the city. Through my experiences within these bookstores, through the moments I have witnessed of Florentine life, I...

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Book Review on a great Summer Read

Posted by on Sep 4, 2015 in Book-It List & Reviews, In The News, Uncategorized | 0 comments

We at the Book Garden always like to know what our friends think about the books they read. This ‘report’ was given to us by Becca (age 14). I just finished Yvonne Prinz’s book “If you’re Lucky.” As soon as I started to read it, it became really hard to put down. The book has a great story line full of twists and turns and it had me on the edge of my seat! It’s a perfect story for someone who likes mystery and suspense. my guess is: she like it! tell us of your book experiences too

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Haruki Murakami ‘A Wild Sheep Chase.’

Posted by on Aug 1, 2014 in Book-It List & Reviews, In The News | 0 comments

Like sports teams, artists, vacation getaways and books … everyone seems to have a personal favorite. For our friend just across the street from the Book Garden (Megan Metz at Modern Love) her writer of choice is Haruki Murakami. Murakami is a contemporary Japanese writer whose work has been translated into more than 50 languages. Thankfully for us, English is one of them. His works of fiction and non-fiction have garnered critical acclaim and numerous awards, both in Japan and internationally including the Franz Kafka Prize in 2006 and the Jerusalem Prize in 2009. Recently Megan picked up a copy of ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’ (Haruki Murakami here is what she has to say about it: If ever i need a moment to escape my everyday, I pick up a Murakami novel. Recently, I read ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’ and it was just the dose of escape I needed. Morality and mortality mixed with the best descriptions of place (I devour his attention to detail!), Murakami delivered yet another perfectly complex exploration of the meaning of life versus the meaning of living. I am always so excited to pick up his novels because I know it will be such an imaginative journey! Thanks! Meg Modern Love Let us know what you’re reading this summer and … why. If you like it enough we can pass the word around and who knows, soon you may be starting a movement. The Book...

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Want Not by Jonathan Miles

Posted by on Mar 25, 2014 in Book-It List & Reviews, In The News | 0 comments

Community Reads March 12, 2014 Want Not by Jonathan Miles First, I have to say this; I am very opinionated and when I get in a room with others I like to lay down the law (as it holds court with my point of view). This usually works when discussing books but alas, during the last ‘Community Reads’ book club meeting the author showed up. So for the discussion centered on Jonathan Miles’s book (Want Not) I couldn’t bring my point of view front and center. In fact, my entire ego sank down to the level of my shoes as I heard first hand exactly what he meant when he wrote ‘What John Rye had done wrong, Micah would do right.’ Seriously; it was with extreme pleasure the ‘Community Reads’ book club was able to discuss Want Not with the author. And, I have to say, I really enjoyed the read (and the discussion). Want Not is different in its delivery from most books and that alone, the uniqueness, gave it value. It reminded me very much of an art-house movie where the theme is interconnected more than the characters themselves and, Jonathan Miles can write. “Want Not” has a message — the balance between ‘waste not / want not’ no longer seems to register with people. The entire concept of civilization in the throes of waste, decay and pollution, discarding items as soon as the label ‘possession’ is upon them is evident. And, by painting civilization as a whole begs the question, is there salvation? This brings us to the characters: An abandoned professor of dead languages (Dr. Elwin Cross), AND his neighbor’s wayward son, AND a young couple (Micah and Talmadge) living off the grid and off the detritus of super-consumers like Sara and Dave, AND Sara’s daughter Alexis. AND Elwin’s dying father (Dr. Cross, Senior), AND Matty, Talmadge’s old buddy, who crashes in on him and Micah (when he gets out of prison). It seems too much, too many, and as I mentioned above, there is very little interconnection. Jonathan alternates his delivery between the various characters, their current situations and, of course, their back stories until he is (what seems to me) to be almost three quarters through the book. I have to say, I worried a little, but the writing itself kept me glued. I actually appreciate the honest descriptions of people and how they interact and more importantly, why they interact so … I read on. What kept me going, the back stories, the paining of the lives which brings the people off the page and into the three dimensional space in which we live. For example, we follow Micah back through her strange and idyllic upbringing in Appalachia to her revelatory trip in India. Micah and all the others grow into, well into people and you can love ‘em or hate ‘em but either way you have to appreciate what the artist has constructed. After this, the character connections begin to emerge though, they are quick, very quick and very sharp. The young Alexis (high school student preparing for college) grapples with a personal struggle which she keeps to herself and all we can do is hope for the best because what people want is not always what they get especially if there is waste involved. Luckily, sometimes salvation is not understood and emerges from the least likely of places. The message to refrain from waste is brought home by Dr. Cross (junior) too. He is struggling through his divorce when an academic task comes floating his way. He is to help...

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The Shipping News (Book-It 2013)

Posted by on Jan 28, 2014 in Book-It List & Reviews, In The News | 0 comments

The Shipping News Late again but, as always, I have an excuse.  The year ended almost a month ago and I have still not, until now, posted my Book-It list final review.   In fact, I never posted for November either (no excuse and so I am sorry about that one).   There is a reason I didn’t post for December in December, two reasons really.  The first is, I didn’t read The Fault in Our Stars (John Green) so I could not have reviewed this one.  Why, you ask?  Because I was sidetrack by an old book that came my way.  I picked up this tome and it, figuratively, called to me.  The book that called was The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx. At the Book Garden we are blessed with a fast growing horde of ‘previously loved’ books and many times those which cross my desk I have not yet read.  For these I make a note and try to find a way to schedule them in.  Unfortunately, those higher up on my list tend to be high on our customer lists as well.  In other words; they don’t stay in the store long.  This is why when I heard the sirens singing of boats in Newfoundland I not only placed The Shipping News at the top of my list, I took it home with me and placed it in front of my December Book-It entry. Glad I did.  Annie Proulx’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Shipping News was published in 1993.  I am not sure how I would have taken to it if I read it way back then.  Now, simple put, I loved it. One of the hardest things to do, and what every writer strives for, is to bring the reader into the world they are creating.  In a sense, allow the reader to relocate for a while to the locations within the story.  Ms. Proulx does this very well.  The Shipping News is like an encyclopedia of information starting with the local vernacular (slang) which she uses to post a treatise (or two) on the anthropology of those living (lore) in her designed world.  The way her Newfoundlanders talk, the most factual accounts seem like everyday gossip, of course it is usually over a supper of snow crab, cod cheeks, lobster salad and seal-flipper stew. The protagonist is Quoyle.  Quoyle is Joe average, or possible, a bit lower down on the scale.  He doesn’t seem to fit in where competition is the norm.  He is described as being heavy and his facial features never seem to draw positive attention “head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair” and “features as bunched as kissed fingertips.”  He grows up in New York State and by luck or by accident he marries Petal Bear which leads to a month of fiery happiness followed by six years of suffering. When his two-timing wife dies in a terrible car accident (shortly after she tries to sell their two children) Quoyle is a mess.  He now is left with two young daughters, Bunny and Sunshine and no real sense of self.   Bunny is plagued with nightmares (of a snarling white dog) that match in intensity Quoyle’s hallucinatory re-enactments of Petal’s grisly death.  Life seems stripped of hope until Aunt Agnis arrives and persuades him to travel back to their ancestral home in Newfoundland.  The aunt, as she is often referred to, regales Quoyle with stories of their Newfoundland ancestors; Like the tale of his grandfather who had drowned at age 12 after having already sired Quoyle’s father.  The stories...

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The Cuckoo’s Calling

Posted by on Jan 2, 2014 in Book-It List & Reviews, In The News | 0 comments

I know I am way behind in posting my November Book-It (The Psychopath Test; Jon Ronson).  The only way I can wiggle out of that commitment is to mention how busy the Garden has been all throughout November and December (thanks to all patrons).  I have also been busy rewriting (again) one of my own efforts (the editor still doesn’t like it) and this is driving me further down the path where I will no longer need to read The Psychopath Test, I will be the one tested instead. But there is good news.  A customer (Jan) recently purchased a copy of The Cuckoo’s Calling (Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling).  She sent along her take on the book which I am sharing below.  I am happy to talk about Rowling b/c my hat is always off to her.  I feel she has done more than anyone else in the last few decades to bring reading enjoyment back to our children. If anyone else wants to share their take on books, send me a letter like Jan did.   Robert, A few weeks ago, I came into your store with my boyfriend and bought The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (i.e. J.K. Rowling). You asked me to email you and let you know what I thought about it. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I flew through the book, no pun intended. I really enjoyed it. It’s a suicide/murder mystery. It has her usual very long list of characters, each with their own complicated lives; you never know which one is important and which one’s life will interact with the victim’s (Lula Landry, a famous model). She portrays the main characters as gritty with messy lives; in other words, real and interesting. She starts off with Robin, a minor character, who helps solve the crime but who has very little to do with the main storyline. Robin brings you into contact with Cormoran Strike, the private investigator who is hired by the Lula’s adopted brother. He investigates Lula’s death and brings you to all the other major and minor characters. Some have a direct impact on the victim’s life and death, some don’t. There’s the adopted brother, John Bristow. He was reviewing a contract for his sister and came to return it to her the night she died. There’s Uncle Ted who hated his niece and nephew. There’s Lula and John’s mother who’s dying, or is she? Could she be faking to deflect suspicion?  The Bestigui’s who live in the flat underneath Lula. She’s a coke addict and he’s a film producer with a crush on Lula. Rochelle, who Lula met in rehab. Did she feel indebted to Lula for all that Lula gave her, or was she jealous of Lula’s success?  Evan Duffield, the drug addicted on-again off-again boyfriend.  And what about Lula’s biological family who she was secretly searching for. Did she find them? Who really are these people? And the list goes on and on… I never guessed who the culprit really was, although I never do (I’m bad at that). I don’t want to tell you too much in case you want to read it yourself but if you want more details so you can tell other customers who come into the store, let me know and I’ll give you a much more detailed synopsis. Jan...

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