"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, September 5, 2013

5 Questions with Dolores DeLuce!

1. You have lived a remarkable and very public life. What motivated you to write your memoir?

My early writing sprang out of my performance days in 70s San Francisco where I wrote scenes collectively with White Trash Boom Boom. We were an all girl comedy troupe who wowed the boys in SF Gay Bars and performed for women behind bars.

When I moved back to LA to pursue more mainstream acting I found few opportunities to audition for legitimate work on stage or screen so I began to write auto-biographical one woman shows. After a decade of writing, producing, creating and sewing my costumes and sometimes even directing myself for several productions, my energy began to wane for live theatre. I moved on to writing screenplays, always including a comedic character bit part for myself in the story. I noticed that even my most fictitious stories were heavily influenced by own real life events.

I think I'm a story teller by nature and whenever I would share tidbits of my life with new friends, particularly younger people or straighter friends, I often witnessed their jaws dropping in reaction to these true stories. I was often told that my real life experiences were stranger than fiction. That encouraged me to start writing them down and then do readings about town. When the AIDS crises hit my theatrical community head on, the grief of losing so many of my closest friends almost buried me alive and at that point I joined a writers' group at APLA that helped me to write and process a lot of that loss.

I think this memoir was in the works long before I realized it but came out in the form of a screenplay first, titled Grace Happens that was a semi-finalist at the Austin Screen Writing Competition in the late 90's. It was optioned once but never made. The feedback was that it was too episodic and my story would be better served as a book.

It took me almost another decade to get over the idea that no one would read a memoir about someone who wasn't famous but by the time I was past 60 and post menopausal, I said who cares, I'm writing it anyway. If not now, when?

2. Favorite stop in LA?

My favorite spot is my own rent controlled apartment on a quite walk way in Venice Beach. I moved there in 1980 when the rent was about $450 for a two- bedroom, one bath, without parking and laundry. But it's on one of the most beautiful blocks that run into the ocean. When I moved into the second story of the duplex, I had a clear view of the ocean, beach and boardwalk because my building was surrounded by empty lots on both sides. In the decade to follow, million dollar condos filled in the sandy lots and a two story artist loft was built and designed by the same architect who did MOCA. When the original owner got bored with the neighborhood she sold it to Erick Clapton who was my neighbor for a few years. Besides the location, the miracle of my home is that it is still under LA city rent control and all the buildings surrounding it were built according to modern building codes which placed them several feet back from the front walkway leaving my apartment the only one that still has an ocean view.

3. You ran with drag queens before it was safe to do so. Tell us a bit about performing with the Cockettes.

I have written lots about this in the book so I'll keep this answer short. Doing my first show with the Cockettes on stage at the Palace Theatre in North Beach, San Francisco had the same force and impact on my life as the big quake of 1906 did on Jeannette Mac Donald in the movie San Francisco. It was a magic doorway into a wonderland that I had only glimpsed in my childhood dreams. It was a wake up call to the desires I had repressed as a child growing up in my working class Italian family in New Jersey. I think I'll leave it at that, since I intend to read the chapter about that first experience performing with the Cockettes at my Reading on Sunday at Book Soup.

4. Where can people see you perform & read your stories these days?

I have read several times at Tasty Words, produced by Wendy Hammers in Santa Monica over the last 9 years. In the past year I got up on stage at the Moth and about every other month or so I perform with my current writer's group, Queerwise directed by Michael Kearns. We are a gang of LGBT seniors from 50's to our oldest writer at 84 and all of us have a lot of life to share. Look up and Like Us on the Queerwise page on Facebook for our next show.

5. You write lovingly of your daughter Viva, and she is a singer/performer as well. How active are you in her career?

Well besides being her biggest fan and posting like a mad woman all over face book and twitter whenever and where ever she is performing, I tried to manage her over sees contracts for awhile. With her encouragement, I even started a Global Talent Agency http://divadot.com/ until I got too busy to keep it up. I booked some of her talented singer/musician friends as well at over sees venues in Vietnam and Thailand and Hong Kong. Viva stopped traveling over the past four years to stay close to home and build her career here but on the same day that I had my first book launch event in San Francisco last month; she flew off to Singapore for a four month contract to sing at a 5 star hotel. We Skype a lot and if I have any energy left after I end my book tour in November, I might go over and join her for her last few weeks in Asia. We both will need a well deserved spa retreat in Thailand. 

Dolores DeLuce discusses and signs My Life, a Four Letter Word: Confessions of a Counter Culture Diva at Book Soup on Sunday, September 8, 2013 at 2pm!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Book Soup presents Greg Sestero and The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made

The hilarious and inspiring story of how a mysterious misfit got past every roadblock in the Hollywood system to achieve success on his own terms: a $6 million cinematic catastrophe called "The Room."
Nineteen-year-old Greg Sestero met Tommy Wiseau at an acting school in San Francisco. Wiseau’s scenes were rivetingly wrong, yet Sestero, hypnotized by such uninhibited acting, thought, I have to do a scene with this guy. That impulse changed both of their lives. Wiseau seemed never to have read the rule book on interpersonal relationships (or the instructions on a bottle of black hair dye), yet he generously offered to put the aspiring actor up in his LA apartment. Sestero’s nascent acting career first sizzled, then fizzled, resulting in Wiseau’s last-second offer to Sestero of costarring with him in "The Room," a movie Wiseau wrote and planned to finance, produce, and direct in the parking lot of a Hollywood equipment-rental shop.   Wiseau spent $6 million of his own money on his film, but despite the efforts of the disbelieving (and frequently fired) crew and embarrassed (and frequently fired) actors, the movie made no sense. Nevertheless Wiseau rented a Hollywood billboard featuring his alarming headshot and staged a red carpet premiere. "The Room" made $1800 at the box office and closed after two weeks. One reviewer said that watching "The Room" was like getting stabbed in the head.   The Disaster Artist is Greg Sestero s laugh-out-loud funny account of how Tommy Wiseau defied every law of artistry, business, and friendship to make the "Citizen Kane" of bad movies ("Entertainment Weekly"), which is now an international phenomenon, with Wiseau himself beloved as an oddball celebrity. "The Disaster Artist" is an inspiring tour de force that reads like a page-turning novel, an open-hearted portrait of an enigmatic man who will improbably capture your heart. (Simon & Schuster)

This is event will include a screening of a behind the scenes documentary on the making of The Room complete with actor interviews - followed by a talk & book signing with author Greg Sestero and The Room mastermind, Tommy Wiseau.

This is event will be held at the New Beverly Cinema located at 7165 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles. $5 entry fee or free w/ purchase of book, at door.  Only books purchased from Book Soup will be signed after the screening & discussion.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Monday, August 5, 2013

5 Questions with Sam Halpern, author of A Far Piece to Canaan

1. How does an accomplished professor of nuclear medicine come to write fiction?

I’ve been writing since I was five. My first composition was in red crayon on the living room wall. My mother panned what I considered a brilliant piece of work. My interest in writing has continued all my life. Even as my medical career and family responsibilities increased, I continued to write, getting up before dawn to get in an hour or two before going to work. Eventually demands of career and family forced a hiatus in my writing, but when I retired from academia, I took up writing full time.

2. What is your favorite stop in Los Angeles?

That’s easy -- the home of Justin, Amanda and my grandson, Nathaniel.

3. Who are your literary influences?

First comes Mark Twain. Twain is the most important Southern writer and has had a huge influence on all American literature.  I think Huckleberry Finn initiated a new writing style when it was published; one so close to the people and places he wrote about that it invites you to appreciate the story with all five of your senses. Another writer who influenced me was John Steinbeck. I don’t know how many times I’ve read Of Mice and Men and his other short novels. Grapes of wrath, of course, helped change our nation.  Steinbeck was a great story teller, and readers remember his characters because they were so close to our own humanity. Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea taught me that a writer must know his characters so well they can enter their souls and put more than just their thoughts on paper.
4.You are perhaps infamous for your frank and colorful advice. What advice would you give to young writers?

The first thing you need to do is read one book that covers such things as person, point of view, arc, etc. then throw the son of a bitch away and don’t look in another one. Read good literature by accomplished authors and see how they used the rules of writing. Then stop screwing around, sit your ass down and write. Don’t write about molecular biology if you think a base pair is a piece of bad fruit. Write what you know. Get a writing group together, people who read good literature and are serious about writing. Don’t have more than six people in the group and five is optimal. Check your ego at the door and listen to the criticism of what you read.  Evaluate every critique when you get home and take time to consider it.  I have a rule. If one person thinks something needs changing and no one else does, I give it serious thought, but if two people think it needs changing, I make changes. Finally, if you want to write for publication and keep getting rejection letters from agents, do not stop writing! Remember, if you slam your guts against a door long enough people will open it, if for no other reason than to get rid of the noise.

5. What was it like to watch William Shatner play you on a television program?

It was funny. Many years ago some magazine voted Shatner one of the sexiest men in America. I’ve been homely as a mud fence all my life. I laughed for months about Shatner playing me.    

Friday, July 19, 2013

Don't forget, Corey Taylor is at Book Soup tonight!

Sunset Strip Music Festival Saturday, Agust 3rd

Don't forget about the Sunset Strip Music Festival which takes place again on Saturday, August 3rd just down the street from us on Sunset between San Vicente Boulevard and Doheney Drive.  This year's bill features Wale, Asher Roth, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and headliners Linkin Park.  And while you are in the neighborhood stop in at Book Soup to peruse the best music books selection on this or any coast!

A few of our favorites:

Rock 'N' Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip by Robert Landau

Landau was born & raised in Los Angeles and steeped in the urban landscape, particularly the Sunset Strip which he has photographed extensively since the seventies.  This is essentially viewing for classic rock fans!

Wonderland Avenue: Tales of Glamour and Excess by Danny Sugarman 

Embraced by rock & roll at a very young age, Sugerman escaped a troubled family life to the only world he could ever imagine living in.  He followed The Doors closely, first as a fan, then a kind of roadie, and eventual manager.  He pushed it to the limit too, throwing himself into the rock & roll lifestyle with all he had.  This book recounts a remarkable journey and offers a backstage look at a tender Jim Morrson and wild Iggy Pop.

The Art of Punk by Russ Bestley & Alex Ogg

Starving artists forging a new sound with no rules and no idea what they would do after the next gig.  Captured brilliantly by Bestley & Ogg, this book lovingly illustrates the histories of iconic bands from homemade gig flyers to major and indie record label deals.

between San Vicente Boulevard and Doheny Drive
between San Vicente Boulevard and Doheny Drive

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

5 Questions with Matthew Specktor, author of American Dream Machine

1. You are a founding editor of LA Review of Books.  Tell us how that came about.
As you know, Los Angeles is one of the largest book markets in the country. All of us were a little surprised there wasn't a Los Angeles Review of Books already. (After all, New York has one, London has one . . . ) Tom Lutz, LARB's editor in chief, had a strong belief that books coverage was declining in many traditional venues--newspapers cutting or shrinking their Sunday book review supplements and so on--but that readership, and interest in books, hasn't declined in the slightest. As it happens, he was absolutely correct. But we saw a need for it, for an expansive site that would provide essays and cultural commentary of all sorts, including thoughtful, provocative pieces about books. Between the five of us (the original founding editors of LARB: Tom, myself, Evan Kindley, Julie Cline, and Lisa Jane Persky), we knew a lot of writers we felt might be willing to contribute to such a site, if it existed. And so we started working the phones, so to speak. It was that simple.

2. Favorite stop in LA?

Besides Book Soup? Well, I have to give a certain amount of credit to King's Road Cafe, since I wrote most of American Dream Machine there at a corner table, under the influence of their astonishingly strong coffee. I'm partial to Musso & Frank, when I want to old school it. Pizzeria Mozza when I'm feeling flush.

3. Who are your literary influences?

Too many to mention. Writers to whom I return often include Philip Roth, Wallace Stevens, Henry James, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Denis Johnson, Nabokov, Saul Bellow, James Salter, Pynchon. Contemporaries I love would include Jonathan Lethem, Dana Spiotta, Maggie Nelson, John Jeremiah Sullivan. Right now I'm reading the first volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard's "My Struggle" and it's thrilling me to bits.

4. American Dream Machine is about many things, but very much an LA book.  Do you have a favorite book about Los Angeles or the film industry in particular?

Again, there are so many. It really varies according to mood. Ones I've enjoyed (or re-enjoyed) recently include Robert Stone's Children of Light and Steve Erickson's Rubicon Beach, though I guess the former is more an "industry novel" than a "Los Angeles" one. I just started David Freeman's A Hollywood Education, which I'm told is quite wonderful as well.

5. You wrote a book about George Roy Hill's 1973 film The Sting. Any chance you will publish more film criticism?

I certainly hope so. I love writing criticism, whether of film, literature, music. Really I don't distinguish terribly between fiction and criticism. Writing of any kind is essentially reader-response. I'm talking back to the texts that have made me. Criticism is just a little more direct in doing this, is all. I loved writing about The Sting, which delights me every bit as much today as it did when I was a kid (and I've surely seen it more than twenty times, by now. At least). I'd love to write at length about Altman, or about Hal Ashby . . .

Matthew Specktor discusses & signs his novel American Dream Machine at Book Soup on Wednesday, July 10th at 7pm.

Monday, June 24, 2013

5 Questions with Iris Smyles!

Iris Smyles discusses & signs her novel Iris Has Free Time Monday, June 24th at 7pm.

1. Are you a fan of Colt 45?
 “It works every time.” Who am I to argue with Billy Dee Williams?

2. Favorite stop in LA?
The museum of Jurassic Technology and The Griffith Observatory are devoted respectively to my two favorite things: fiction masquerading as truth, and space!

3. Who are your literary influences?
Proust is a big one. Like me, he was a dilettante partier until he was 30 when he decided, seemingly out of nowhere, to retire from social life, retreat to his bedroom, and essentially stay there until he’d completed the semi-autobiographical novels comprising, In Search of Lost Time. A roman a clef, my novel is modeled in part after his; certainly Proust is its patron saint as Iris Has Free Time is about lost time, too.

4. Fictional character you love to hate and/or least admire.
 Larry Darrell is still the worst thing about young people today.

5. Describe your book in a tweet (140 characters or less)
Youth in its twilight.

Friday, June 14, 2013

5 Questions with Kathy Ebel, author of Claudia Silver to the Rescue

Kathy Ebel is a screenwriter, essayist, blogger and native New Yorker.  Claudia Silver to the Rescue is her debut novel and we are delighted to host her on Wednesday, June 19th at 7pm for her book launch.  She was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

1. Fictional character you admire?
Daisy Summerfield, the eponymous main character in the YA novel Daisy Summerfield's Style by M.B. Goffstein, that I devoured regularly in the early 1980's.  Daisy heads to NYC in 1959 with matching Samsonite luggage, meets a bohemian girl on the train, switches luggage tags, and reinvents herself as a Greenwich Village sculptress in no time.  Instead of an engagement ring, the happy ending is gallery representation.

2. Favorite LA destination?
It's a 3-way: the cove at the southern tip of Point Dume beach, Din Tai Fung restaurant, Pasquale Shoe Repair.
3. Who are your literary influences?
 Edith Wharton, Dawn Powell ("The Powell," the tell-tale Greenwich Village apartment building in Claudia Silver to the Rescue, is named in her honor), Joan Didion, Lore Segal, Michael Chabon, Nora Ephron and Stephen Sondheim.  The paintings of Florine Stettheimer, Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and films of Wes Anderson have also been major.

 4. Your desert island book?
 The Kidpower Hour.  That's the novel I'm writing now.  I hope my island has WiFi.

5. Describe your book in a tweet (140 characters or less)
 In early ‘90s NYC, the biggest mistake Claudia Silver ever makes is the best thing that ever happened to her.  With a beat you can dance to.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kathy Ebel discusses & signs Claudia Silver to the Rescue on Wednesday, June 19th

Here's a handy chart to help you make sense of the complicated life of Claudia Silver, the heroine of Kathy Ebel's debute novel.  Ms. Ebel is a screenwriter ("Cold Case" & "Law & Order: SVU"), poet and blogger (Fatherland) and we are excited to host her on Wednesday, June 19th at 7pm!

5 questions with Ken Paves

We are starting a new program whereby we ask authors who will be appearing at Book Soup to answer a few questions about themselves to introduce them to our readers. Mr. Paves has been kind enough to participate and help us launch what we hope will be a fun and informative questionnaire. Enjoy!

 1. Fictional character you admire? Mickey Mouse. He's just cool. He has timeless style, he's always relevant, he's got a lot of friends, brings people together, a cool park and he's very philanthropic!!!

2. Favorite L.A. Destination? The Tree People! A 45 acre environmental edupark at the top of Beverly Hills atop the 100 + acres of nature that make up Fryman Canyon and 600 + acres that make up Franklin Canyon.

3. What was your favorite book as a kid? Walt Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Come on…the Mouse and magic!! What kid doesn't love that!!! My wand is now my comb!

4. Your desert island book? The Butterfly's Daughter by Alice Monroe. My mother gave it to me after my Grandmother passed away- she loved butterflies. It reminds me of her, but it is also a story of family, tradition, belief, love, honor, determination and hopes and dreams!!!

5. Describe your book in a tweet (140 characters or less.) You Are Beautiful is a guide to help ALL women understand,appreciate&celebrate their own unique beauty; filled w tips to look&feel her best!

Monday, April 29, 2013

David reviews the new Joe Hill novel NOS4A2

There's a place for your children in Christmasland. And for all those worried parents and pesky adults, there's a place for you too, in the House of Sleep. Charlie Talent Manx is a monster of sorts, somewhere between a vampire and something else entirely. He travels the back roads of the mind taking children in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith to a fantastically horrible place called Christmasland. A place shaped by his warped imagination. Along the way the children that he takes are slowly transformed into cold wretched creatures with mouths full of sharp hooked teeth, and a giddy innocent desire to do the most horrible things to those that don't belong in the land of never ending Christmas carols.

Charlie enlists the help of an unbalanced and deranged man name Bing Partridge in his quest to populate Christmasland with children. Bing, also known as the Gas Mask Man, drugs the children so they're nice and pliable for the metamorphic ride. Parents and anyone else that get in the way become victims of the Gas Mask Man in the House of Sleep. If your a woman it's doubly worse as your road to an ugly death is paved with rape.

Like Charlie Manx, Victoria McQueen also has the ability to travel the unseen roads of thought an imagination by way of a bike and a covered bridge called the Shorter Way. It is through this bridge Vic is able to locate things that are "lost." It acts as much as an escape from things unpleasant as it does a doorway to others. Eventually these two travelers of the hidden back roads of thought and imagination find each other, and that's when Victoria's real nightmare begins...

NOS4A2 is a strange beast of a novel. While it definitely has its feet firmly planted in the horror genre, it has a lot of other ideas on its mind. Lengthy stretches of the novel delve into the exploration of abuse, be it familial, drug, or mental. It is here that Joe Hill separates himself from other authors of the genre. He takes his time building his characters and their world which, for some, could make for a taxing read if you're in the mood for a quick and to the point blood and guts rush. The story is quite episodic, starting in Vic McQueen's child and spanning though her adulthood. However, for the patient reader, the book eventually rewards. Hill paints a disturbing world where fractured, damaged individuals make up the hero roster, and chilling soulless creatures their antagonists. The battles that the hero's must fight and the pain and violence they must endure is just as much internal as it is external. While Hill's writing style shows flourishes of his father's, his stories and his storytelling are very much his own.

Fans of Hills work will undoubtedly scoop this up and devour it. Others who are unfamiliar with Hill's writing style may be a little more perplexed. As the novel clocks in at 686 pages, it might prove to be too lengthy a read for the uninitiated. For those who are on the fence about diving in to Joe Hills oeuvre, I would recommend Heart Shaped Box, Horns, or 20th Century Ghost to see if he's your cup of tea. That being said, while the novel is fairly lengthy, it's a bloody good read that will change the way you feel about hearing Christmas carols.

By our supervisor David.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mundo Cruel

I just started reading this book and I can't put it down!  It's a small book but the stories open up in big ways.  I am definitely looking forward to meeting Mr. Negron and the book's translator Suzanne Jill Levine when they make a stop on their book tour with us.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Another Round of Blues

I recently finished reading Shawn Colvin's rollicking memoir Diamond in the Rough ahead of a concert I attended in Kansas City.  Ms. Colvin was performing with her good friend Mary Chapin Carpenter and I'm a big fan of both artists.  It was a great show with both ladies trading back and forth acoustic versions of their best songs and some stirring covers of the Beatles, Steve Earle and Crowded House.

I had seen Ms.Colvin in concert before so I was prepared for some witty banter and funny stories, and she offered plenty.  There is more of the same in her memoir too, including stories of exacting revenge on an ex-husband, her first European tour (as a back up singer for Suzanne Vega) and one very dangerous act of ritual cleansing involving a fireplace, an ex-lovers belongings, a match, and a closed chimney!  Along the way Ms. Colvin is quite honest about her marriages, her struggles with anxiety, depression, and motherhood.

And there's the music too. Ms. Colvin discusses the making of her albums  in great detail which is a real treat for fans.  Steady On was her big shot and her first album with producer John Leventhal.  It was a rocky arrangement with great results. Other great albums would follow including A Few Small Repairs which would earn Ms. Colvin critical praise,  sales, and two more Grammy awards. 

That was 1998 and in the years since then the big record labels have toppled and lots of music artists (including Ms. Colvin) have been let go, pushed aside and ignored by radio, record labels, retailers, you name it. It's a grind these days and musicians struggle to eek out a living, especially female singer-songwriters like Ms. Colvin (see also Cyndi Lauper's new memoir.) It means you spend most of the year on the road touring.  That's tough work if you can get it, and Ms. Colvin's frank memoir is not without heartache and great humor.  She's up to the task.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Darryl Shelly at Book Soup on 3/27/13

Check out this video for Darryl Shelly's erotic thriller the Hobbyist!  Join us on Wednesday, March 27th at 7pm when Darryl Shelly discusses & signs his book. 


Thursday, March 7, 2013

An essay by Allison Hill, President of Vroman's, originally published on Huffington Post

I was working in the bookstore late one evening when a customer asked for me. "I'm looking for a book," he said, "and I saw your staff picks around the store and thought you might be able to help me." I asked him what kind of book he was looking for. He paused for a moment, then his voice caught and it seemed like he might start crying: "I'm looking for a book that will change my life."
In 20 years of bookselling, I've had customers share surprisingly intimate details of their lives with me. A woman in her late 50s asked me for books on relationships, but after I walked her to the section, she started crying and confided the story of her daughter's marriage to an abusive man, and how she needed a book that could save her. A well-dressed couple, him in a suit and her in a wrap dress, came in over the holidays and asked me for books to give a friend who was just diagnosed with terminal cancer. They had tried searching on Amazon, but the titles that came up were about the mechanics of how to survive, not the particular poetry of living with dying. More than once someone has asked me for a good novel, "something that will make me laugh," only to admit once I'd found a book for them, that they needed something funny to distract them from some trauma or drama that they then proceeded to share with me. A hipster asked me for books on personal finances; she was determined to begin the long crawl out of a deep debt. A famous actor admitted his stage fright and asked for a copy of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. A young woman asked me for books on recovering from loss; she had recently lost a child...
In the wake of Internet competition, bookstores have been feeling like publisher showcases and promoting ourselves as literary curators. But our true value may be as basic as this: often people come to us simply to talk to another human being. In a world that is more and more automated, computerized, web-based, sometimes, someone just wants to tell their story to another human being, feel like someone heard them, and take away hope that things will change -- hope in the form of a book.
I walked with the customer downstairs and we went through my staff picks that he had seen earlier: Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart, A Woman's Worth, The Gift of Fear. At various points these books had all shifted my perspective, changed my way of thinking, even saved my life one could say. Diet for a Small Planet inspired my conversion to vegetarianism when I was 18. The Comfort Trap helped me bring necessary closure to my 10-year marriage. Wherever You Go, There You Are introduced me to meditation and a new mindful approach to my life. As Thoreau wrote, "How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book."
These recent years have marked a new era for all of us, one full of changes. And for many people, those changes felt dramatic and alarmingly sudden. But they were years in the making, the results of hundreds of decisions we all made every single day: who we voted for, who we trusted, where we shopped, where we didn't shop, what we chose to not pay attention to, and so on. I'm not saying the global economic meltdown is our fault, but I am suggesting that perhaps right now we are making choices every day that will influence our future. A decision to save $6.00 on Amazon, multiplied by thousands of customers every day, means that your local bookstore, the place where you hang out, meet friends, met your partner, or found the book that changed your life, may not be there next year...
But for now, many of us brick and mortar booksellers are still here, committed to what I believe is a noble pursuit: putting the right book in the right person's hands. Tonight when I left work there were 30 people lined up for the grilled cheese food truck in our parking lot. There were another 40 people in our event space to hear a first-time author read. There were 10 members of a book club discussing a new novel, and another dozen folks in our coffee shop, most of them reading or writing. A family in the children's department was reading picture books together, and another 15 people quietly browsed the bookshelves. It is in these moments that I am awed by the role a bookstore plays in a community, a feeling made even more awesome by the realization that today we sold 1,087 books, any one of which could change someone's life.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

David reviews Cogan's Trade

Cogan's Trade by George V. Higgins

"There's all kinds of reasons for things," Cogan said. "Guys get whacked for doing things, guys get whacked for not doing things, it don't matter. The only thing that matters is if you're the guy that's gonna get whacked. That's the only fuckin' thing."

                                                                                                                                                              -- Jackie Cogan

And that right there sums up this book. This criminal world surfaces through the characters that inhabit it and how they perceive the violent events that surround them. The entire plot hovers at the edge of the story, revealed piece by piece through the various character interactions. It can be a little disorienting at first. Pages and pages of one character talking can go by that, at first glance, seem totally irrelevant to what's happening. But there in lies the beauty of the novel. The actual plot is extremely straight forward. A couple of lowlife hoods knock over a mob run card game and mob enforcer Jackie Cogan is called in to make things right. It's through the richly drawn, and vile, characters this world is seen through that makes it so much more interesting. The structure gives you a ground level view of what transpires letting you see only what the characters see, adding an unknowable danger. Just like the characters in the story, you have no idea who's around the next corner. Gritty, propulsive, and wickedly funny, Cogan's Trade is a fantastic read. Highly Recommended to fans of Elmore Leonard, James Elroy, Don Winslow, and Quentin Tarantino.   

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

David reviews Kings of Cool

Kings of Cool by Don Winslow
Don Winslow pulls off a neat trick with The Kings of Cool. We see how Ben, Chon, and O come together, and all the pieces for Savages are set up. Within in that twisty plot we're treated to some surprise walk-on's by characters from some of his other novels, bring the Winslow universe that much closer together. I won't say who, not because it ruins anything plot-wise, but it was a nice surprise as a reader, and feel it should be left as such. A nice bit of gravity is given to each of the main characters as we learn about their pasts, and what a past they have.

The prose is terse, muscular, and engaging. The story isn't quite as tight as Savages, which worried me in the beginning. But as the conclusion draws near it all comes together. It made me want to revisit Savages just to see it all the way through to the bloody, brutal end.

Monday, February 25, 2013

David reviews Packing For Mars

Packing For Mars by Marry Roach.

I always wanted to travel into space. After reading this, I'm seriously rethinking that dream. The thought of being encased in, essentially a tin can that smells like a Porta Potty, eating food that gets re-hydrated as you chew it, while contemplating my ever decreasing bone mass just seems...enormously challenging. Needless to say, Packing For Mars is anything but. Fascinating, hilarious, and completely engrossing, Mary Roach digs into the many facets that accompany life in the freezing killer vacuum of space. I'll put it this way. Star Trek this ain't. Space travel, as it stands, is more akin to the frontier life of the early settlers; uncomfortable, dangerous, and smelly.