Friday, July 30, 2010

Justin's summer reads

Almost the end of summer and I finally have a few days between summer camps and the new school year to catch up on my reading! Despite just two months of summer, I've delved into some good books.

Obviously, having just finished a week of The Name of This Camp is Secret, or, affectionately, Secret Camp, I've also just finished rereading the books of the Secret Series: The Name of This Book is Secret, If You're Reading This, It's Too Late, and This Book Is Not Good For You. This is a fun series full of mystery, magic tricks, circus folk, secret societies and, well, I can't tell you any more, because it's secret!

I'm a big fan of mysteries, and I haven't read any solidly pulpy paperback mysteries in awhile. I recently came across a copy of Kiss Her Goodbye by Allan Guthrie, published by Hard Case Crime. This publisher is awesome--for half a dozen years they've been bringing back some classics of hard-boiled pulp mysteries, as well as publish new mysteries of a similar vein. If you dig the kind of two-fisted pot-boiler mysteries written by the likes of Max Allen Collins, Lawrence Block, and Earl Stanley Gardner, then you'd enjoy just about any of the titles in this distinctive line of books.

Another series of mysteries I read this summer are by my new favorite author, Mac Barnett. Barnett has written a trifecta of awesomeness with his recent onslaught of picture books (Guess Again!, Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, and Oh No!: Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World), but his new chapter book series is a whole new kind of fantastic. The first book in the series establishes Steve Brixton as the newest boy super-sleuth in kidslit fiction, taking his place alongside such stalwarts as Encyclopedia Brown and the Hardy Boys. But what makes Brixton stand out is the absurdity and humor--Brixton is a big fan of a classic boy detective series (a thinly veiled Hardy Boys), and goes about his detective work using those books as a blueprint for how to solve mysteries. There's a simultaneous satire of those old series and a genuine, earnest mystery. The characters are great and the writing is super fun. The first book, The Case of the Case of of Mistaken Identity, is out now. The second book, The Ghostwriter Secret, will be out in October!

Paul Auster may be best known for existential mysteries like his New York Trilogy, but his newest novel, Sunset Park, due out in November, isn't so much mystery as contemporary American fiction. Nuanced, rich with characters and great writing, Sunset Park is Paul Auster in full form. Circumstance and coincidence bring together various characters, each on the brink of falling apart, each desperate to connect to the people around them. Check this book out when it arrives in November.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

We're Celebrating Tonight!

Little Shop of Stories, the best children's bookstore in the observable universe, is celebrating its 5th anniversary tonight from 7 to 9 p.m.

Please stop by. We'll have live music. We'll have cake! We'll have drinks. And if you want to share any of your favorite Little Shop moments, come prepared.

See you tonight!

Friday, July 23, 2010

SHHH! Secret Camp Shenanigans...

Thank you P.B. for this note! Luckily our campers at this week's camp (the name of the camp is secret!) saw your note in time and stopped the evil twin of Justin from getting the Secret to the Midnight Sun!

PS--If you have no idea what we're talking about, by all means, don't read the Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch--it answers too many questions!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Guest Review: The Goats

Here's a guest review from Danielle, who was nice enough to drop off this and another review last week. I, too, recently read The Goats and found it awesome! --Justin

If Lord of the Flies was written by Lauren Myracle, it might end up something like this. The Goats is like Lord of the Flies from the point of view of the scapegoats, and it addresses human nature in a much more understandable way than the original classic.

When two children at summer camp are stripped and left overnight on an island together as 'goats', they decide that instead of just sitting around until morning, they are going to leave. So they embark on a journey off the island, and spend the next several days travelling around together.

This book is a sit-down-and-read-it-all-at-once book, with cliff-hanger chapters that leave you gnawing at your nails and wondering what is going to happen next.

As an avid hater of Lord of the Flies, I thought The Goats was a fabulous alternative that seemed similar in the fact that human nature was still addressed as a major topic, but that the more modern interpretation makes the book so much more enjoyable and interesting. I would strongly recommend it to anyone interested in classics, but wishing a more readable version.

Attention, Guys Who Read!

The Guys Who Read book group meeting will be on Thursday, July 22, not Thursday the 15th. They are reading the Maltese Falcon this month, and as usual, will meet at 7pm at the shop before heading to the Brick Store for their discussion.

Also, next month's book, The Hippopotamus, is not available through Little Shop, but all the other books through the end of the year are.  We still have some hardback copies of the Hunger Games for those of you who are already planning your September reading.

See you in a few weeks!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Little Shop of Stories' 5th Birthday Party!

Happy Birthday to us!
We turned five this month, and we want you to come celebrate five years of storytimes, author visits, camps, special events, and great books with us! We'll read some of our favorite books, mingle with our favorite customers (yes, that means you!), listen to live music and eat (what else?) Birthday cake!

We'll have an open mic time where you can share some of your favorite Little Shop moments and memories. So be thinking of some good ones.

We'll also toast to our success, and to all of you, who have helped to keep us around these past five years. We are so thankful for your enthusiasm and support!

The party will take place Thursday, July 29 at 7 pm here at the shop!
And by now you should know that we throw a good party. So bring your whole family and come on out for the celebration!

Portugal Reads!

The people of Portugal, or at least the city of Lisbon, read.  Apparently a lot.  I've never seen so many bookstores.  There are fewer than 600,000 people in the city and less than 3 million in the metro area, but bookstores galore.  There is a large branch of Spain's big department store, El Corte Inglês, in Lisbon that has a substantial book department.  (Think of Macy's with a whole lot of books.)  There are large entertainment stores with major book sections.  (Think of Best Buys with about 25% of the floor space devoted to books.)  And there are lots and lots of independent bookstores.

In addition, people in Portugal read serious stuff.  Each store I saw had prominent sections devoted to heavy topics like philosophy and political science.

While I never ran across a children's bookstore, each of the independents that I ventured into had great kids sections.

Diário de um Banana, the Portuguese version of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.  From the best I can figure, "banana" in Portuguese is the same word as our banana, but it also means "wimp."  The Portuguese version of the book has a really cool website.  Check it out!

- Dave

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Julie Andrews Came to Little Shop!

What a special evening!

It was quite an honor for us to host her for the signing of
The Very Fairy Princess.
We hope all of you who had the opportunity
to meet Ms. Andrews had a magical time.

Please Read

Below is a link to Thursday's column by David Brooks of the New York Times on the importance of summer reading.

I am aware of the irony of using a blog you are reading on a computer to have you access an electronic version of a print article about the importance of books.  Nonetheless, the research that is cited is more than noteworthy.

The bottom line is that students who read books over the summer had -- and I'm quoting Brooks here -- "significantly higher reading scores than other students. These students were less affected by the “summer slide” — the decline that especially afflicts lower-income students during the vacation months. In fact, just having those 12 books seemed to have as much positive effect as attending summer school."

- Dave

Thursday, July 8, 2010

LeBron James Selects Books & Books!

By Elvis Persons
Greenwich, Connecticut
July 8, 2010 - LeBron James, formerly of Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cleveland, has accepted a new position.  "This fall, I'm going to take my talents to Miami Beach and join Books & Books."

James, who performed storytimes for seven years at the venerable Ohio store, was a sought-after bookseller.  Among the stores who attempted to recruit James were Books of Wonder in New York, Women & Children First in Chicago, and Little Shop of Stories in Decatur.

"I think I was attracted to a lot of cities, and that's why I brought the six stores in that I was attracted to most," James said.  "It came down to where I felt I could sell the most children's books.  It's hard to explain. But at the same time my heart and the seven years I gave to Joseph-Beth Booksellers and that city was everything.  I never wanted to leave Cleveland, and my heart will always be around that area, but I also feel like this is the greatest challenge for me, to move on."

LeBron working a birthday party.  The man could do it all.

Dave Shallenberger, co-owner of Little Shop, reportedly had opened up a little more room under the store's salary cap in an effort to woo James.  "We threw everything at him," said Shallenberger.  "A superb supporting cast, our great location on the Square, The Pannell Award thing ... you name it.  Heck, we even told him he could meet Julie Andrews when she visits our store tomorrow.  In the end, it wasn't enough."

Dave's Summer Reading

This year's summer reading list began with Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, the 2001 National Book Award winner.  Franzen is this year's keynote speaker at the AJC Decatur Book Festival, and I wanted to start getting into the groove.  Freedom, his new novel, will be published just days before his appearance here.  I'm very much looking forward to both the book and the talk.  The Corrections deals with the Lamberts, a rather typical family: a retired Midwestern couple and three adult children who have each fled to the east coast.  They're a somewhat dysfunctional family, but that's what makes it similar to most.  Franzen takes his time in narrating the lives of all five and intertwining their stories up to the present.

Since then, I've kicked in to travel mode.  When I'm traveling, I enjoy travel writing.

Going back some 30 years, Paul Theroux has been one of my favorite authors.  We share a certain kinship.  The Great Railway Bazaar, The Patagonean Express, The Kingdom by the Sea (in which Theroux walks the shores and borders of the UK; I think it's his best), Riding the Iron Rooster, and The Happy Isles of Oceania are just a few of his titles that I've really, really enjoyed.  (I am also a fan of his fiction.)

At a conference in May I briefly met Ian Frazier and received an advance copy of Travels in Siberia, which is due out in October.  I read enough of it to know I wasn't terribly interested in Siberia, but enough to appreciate Frazier's writing.  So I picked up a copy of his Great Plains from 2001.  His journeys in a van are interspersed with tales of history and geography.  Frazier particularly has an interest in Plains Indian tribes.  While Theroux is more linear in his writing and in his traveling, Frazier appears happy to meander.  It works for him.  Very good writing.  Enjoyable reading.

(I'll pass along Travels in Siberia to the first person who requests it.  And if your name is Dave, you can tell people he personalized it to you!)

My next stop was in Oelwein, Iowa as chronicled in Nick Reding's Methland: Death and Life of an American Small Town.  No, it's not a travel book, though it did take me back to a part of the country in which I once lived but no longer often visit.  Reding chronicles the relentless debilitation of methamphetamine amid the relentlessly declining economic base in our heartland, and of Oelwein's efforts to turn things around.

I am generally not a fan of science fiction.  Or fantasy.  Or anything to do with werewolves, zombies, vampires, etc.  I also have trouble with a lot of YA.  So I journeyed to The Discomfort Zone and began reading Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, also to be published in October.  This is a first novel by Lish McBride who rather daringly weaves two stories together -- one told in the first person and one in the third person and both with flair and humor.  She has an impressive voice, and I'm feeling that she has a substantial career ahead of her.

Books of short stories are great to read while traveling where ten or fifteen pages without interruption is often all you get.  Simon Van Booy's The Secret Lives of People in Love is filled with dark, life-affirming tales in which death tends to play a major role.  (His wife died from Marfan Syndrome a couple of years ago.)  Van Booy's style is sparse but evocative and his characters are pure.  It is wonderful writing.

I really enjoyed Dennis Lehane's last novel, The Given Day, a 700+ page work of historical fiction.  He's back this year with Moonlight Mile, which brings back private investigators Patrich McKenzie and Angie Gennaro.  Three short chapters in and I'm hooked.  Lehane can shift so successfully between genres because he has a great ear and is such a superb storyteller.  Moonlight Mile comes out in November.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Happy Birthday to ...


Ringo Starr turns 70 years old today!!!

Ringo joined the Beatles in August 1962 shortly after the band signed its first recording contract.  Their producer, George Martin, insisted that the group's drummer (Pete Best) be replaced.  This was a tough situation for a new guy; John, Paul, and George had been performing together since 1958.  But as a musician and as a bandmate, Ringo was a perfect fit.

One can argue that Ringo Starr was a great drummer who joined a great band -- or that Ringo was an extremely good drummer who joined an extremely good band which combined to make a great band.  I'm inclined to prefer the later.

Each Beatles song has a distinct flavor and, to a great extent, I find Ringo's drumming the single greatest factor in creating this variety.  He never tried to duplicate a previous recording.  He was always fresh.

The quality of Ringo's percussion work can now be heard better than ever.  The remastered Beatles CDs released last year bring out the quality of the band's rhythm section.  Textures never before heard on Paul's bass and Ringo's drums are amazingly clear.  (The same can be said of the texture of John's vocals.)

Ringo was lesser known for his vocal contributions to the Beatles.  While he lacked the range of the others, his voice is quite good.  Most notable are Honey Don't, Yellow Submarine, and With A Little Help from My Friends.  He also sang on his two compositions: Don't Pass Me By (from the album the Beatles) and Octopus's Garden (Abbey Road).  Video was an important part of the Beatles.  The quality of Ringo's acting certainly surpassed his bandmates, particularly in A Hard Day's Night.

Post-Beatles, Ringo went on to a successful solo career.  His son, Zak Starkey, is also a superb drummer best known for his work with the Who.

So here's to Ringo.

And Ringo, if you are ever looking for a ghost writer for an autobiography or someone to write an authorized biography, please contact me.  I'm ready.

- Dave

Friday, July 2, 2010

Preorder Mockingjay today!

Hungry for more about Katniss? Mockingjay, the third and final book in the completely addictive Hunger Games trilogy, will be released on August 24, and everybody here at Little Shop of Stories is SO. EXCITED. Place your pre-order today to make sure you get your copy! And drop by the shop for free bookmarks and Mockingjay temporary tattoos.