Eljay's Books can find your out-of-print or hard to find favorites!

Eljay's Books now offers a book search function to our customers. We're always happy to ship out of town (and shipping is often no additional charge!) To get started, just click HERE.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Phat ManDee Rocks the Holidaze

So technically this is not a book related post, but I'm plugging a friend of Eljay's so you'll have to let me slide a bit.

My awesomely talented friend Phat ManDee just released Merry ChristmaChannaKwanzaa Volume 1.1, featuring the runaway hit Pixburgh Xmas. I got to hear the CD today, and it's just dandy. I want to make sure everyone I know has a chance to check this awesome CD out, so you can stop into Eljay's to buy your own copy, or get it directly from Mandee here. And for those of you familiar with the fantastic work of local cartoonist Rob Rogers, yes, that's his work on the CD cover!

Monday, November 14, 2011

How Female-Friendly Is Your Cozy Mystery?

Cozies. I love them for a number of reasons, hate them for others. But what I find increasingly hard to ignore is the feeling that in reading some of these books, primarily written by females and read by females, I'm committing an act of anti-feminism.

Before I get ahead of myself let me give the uninitiated a quick break down of the Cozy Mystery genre. If you've seen Murder She Wrote you know exactly what they are. An amateur sleuth-  usually female, single and moderately wealthy, gets tangled up in the sleuthing of a murder (generally bloodless or at least fairly sedate) and solves the case when the police can't. She often has some kind of connection with the police officer on the case, and usually the first book in the series introduces a love interest (these may or not be the same person). There are a few other pretty firmly honored hallmarks of the genre. If you are interested, I recommend Cozy-Mystery.Com which covers all the bases and then some.

Cozies have a pretty tight formula, and they're meant to be...well, cozy. Things like politics and religion rarely gain more than a token mention. They take place in small towns where people are fairly traditional. The gender roles that play out in the stories tend to be very traditional (and heterosexual, but that's a whole different blog). Being a pretty non-traditional lady myself, I don't exactly see myself and my values reflected in the Cozies I compulsively read. Generally, this does not bother me.

What has been bugging me is the treatment of rape in two cozies I read. Rape is certainly not a cozy crime (and it's nice to be able to read a book where I generally know I don't have to read about sexual assault, abuse etc.) So in both cases I was surprised to even see the word pop up. The first mention was glancing: an elderly female character, upon finding out that someone broke into her house and stole books says, "Now I know how it must feel to be raped." Really? A door opened with a credit card and a few books stolen is akin to violent sexual assault? No, probably not.  But in this case I can see the argument that it's just an unfortunate bit of overdramatic writing on the author's part.

The other example is downright sickening to me. The pre-murder setup (which is as far in the book as I got) concerns the main character's friend. The woman calls her sleuthy friend and confesses that she was raped the night before. The sleuth encourages her friend to go to the police (+1 for pro-female behavior!!). The friend says she can't go to the police because the rapist is a man she accepted a drink from at the bar, in front of witnesses. The sleuth insists. The friend refuses. She is positive everyone will just think she was asking for it.  (As you may have guessed, I was already getting a weird feeling about where all of this was going) So the sleuth completely abandons the plan to get her friend medical or police attention.

 The sleuth also happens to be on her way out to the woods to lead a retreat of battered and sexually abused women (how convenient!) and she invites her friend to come along.  When the two ladies and their friends arrive at the retreat they find that the land is owned by none other than...the rapist.

Now stop reading for a moment and think about this scenario. What do you do? Call the cops? Rush the guy and beat the crap out of him? Point and scream "that guy's a rapist!"? I guarantee whatever your answer was, it does not match the sleuth's.

She tells the rapist that he should stay inside his house on the property and stay away from the group of females (those would be the battered and sexually abused women, to recap). The sleuth advises her friend to take long, refreshing walks on the land and generally try to avoid the rapist. She also has a touching scene where she begs her friend not to "run away" from the retreat weekend.

The book was in the trashcan before I found out what happened next.

Cozies aren't generally written to make grand statements on society, and I don't think it is the author's job to do so. Cozies are escapist and I enjoy that aspect of the genre. At the same time, I am horrified that a female author would write a situation so utterly unrealistic and painting females as such push-overs. (for the record, the rapist is the victim of the book so someone is not a pushover).

I wish I could end my blog with a conclusive statement of some kind. I enjoy this author's work in general, I will continue to read her books. I feel like not reading the rest of that book satisfied my personal need to act.  At the same time it's made me pay more attention to the messages on womanhood in my beloved cozies, and as always, I look forward to your comments on this.

Coming up in the next few posts: reviews on a few fantastic cozies I picked up in my Thanksgiving travels and notes on some LOVELY Indie bookstores I visited in Vermont and New York as well!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Some Adult Reading

Dear Mom & Dad,

I know you are two of the only people who faithfully read my blog so I just want to warn you and any other readers who are not fans of *ahem* adult content to skip this post. Or rather, the links in this post. I'm not planning on writing a particularly racy blog.


And for the rest of my readers (all two of them) let me tell you about the very sexy zine published by Tia Tormen.

If you check out her site you can see all kinds of need stuff, from photography to her Villainous Vixens series:

There are current three magazine style books in this series, all available on Tia's website or at Eljay's Books in Dormont. The format is part photo, part comic and definitely displays as much sense of humor as it does skin.

As always, thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

An Interview with Lawrence C Connolly

Where did you get started with Horror and Dark Fantasy as reader? Who are your favorite authors and stories?
For a long time I preferred science fiction to horror and dark fantasy. Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury were among my favorites, still are, actually. Clarke taught me how to keep readers turning the pages by appealing to their sense of wonder, while Bradbury clued me in to the power of place.  I like to think that those things still influence my writing today.
It was Stephen King who first got me interested in horror and dark fantasy. His collection Night Shift had a tremendous influence, particularly in the way it merged the uncanny and the mundane.
Today I am reading a lot of Cormack McCarthy. The Road is a masterpiece.

Can you tell us a little about your Veins series? How about This Way To Egress?
The title Veins refers to geologic formations that are sometimes called "veins of coal." These are horizontal deposits pressed between layers of rock. In western Pennsylvania, where Veins is set, these formations are frequently exposed on hillsides that have been cutaway to make room for roads and buildings. They are also laid bare during surface mining, and it is that process that lies at the heart of the Veins Cycle. The narrative takes place in and around an abandoned surface mine in western Pennsylvania.
The title also relates to life and blood. The Veins Cycle presents the earth as a living thing, an organism capable of being wounded beyond healing. That's the crux of the story, and the title gives us that.
I’m working on the third Veins book now. When it’s finished, the three books – Veins,Vipers, and Vortex – will form a cycle rather than a series or a trilogy. The result will be something fairly unique, a set of three linked supernatural thrillers that curve and intertwine as well as follow in sequence.  That’s all I’m willing to give away at the moment. All will be revealed when the third book is released in late 2012.
This Way to Egress collects my horror stories from the past 30 years, reprinting tales from Amazing StoriesTwilight ZoneCemetery DanceYear’s Best Horror, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It also features an essay titled “Ingress,” which talks about how the stories came to be.  The book is available from Ash-Tree Press – a Canadian publisher known for uncompromising quality. It’s a beautiful edition.

You also composed a soundtrack for the series, how long have you been writing music? How is music part of your writing process? Every aspiring writer reading this will also want to know: which gets you more chicks: writing or being a musician?
Terrific questions. I’ll take each in order.
I started writing and performing music in high school, got serious about it in college, and have more or less stuck with it ever since, although lately my writing deadlines are keeping me from doing much in the way of live performances.
Not long ago, music was a big part of my writing process. For years I played a mix of German techno, new-age jazz, club and classical music while writing my stories, but I stopped doing that around the time that Fantasist Enterprises commissioned Veins: The Soundtrack (the CD of instrumental tracks inspired by the novel).  I still listen to a lot of music, but these days I prefer writing to the music in my head.
As for the last question. Writing or music? Definitely music.

2nd person writing is not something a lot of people do well, but I thought Aberrations was nice creepy piece. What made you decide to use second person?
“Aberrations,” the lead story in my collection Visions, is inspired by the openings of the classic television shows The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. The collection is kind of a tribute to both of those, as is evidenced by the television on the book’s cover.
“Aberrations” is also a bit of an homage to the Bob Leman story  “Instructions,” which first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and has since been reprinted in Bob’s retrospective collection Feasters in the Lake. The book is currently out of print, but I recently saw a copy available on Amazon for $225.00. Worth every cent!
Bob was a Pittsburgh writer. He lived for many years in the South Hills, and I finally got to meet him after I had been following his work for many years. The resulting friendship continued until his death in 2004.
 I write about Bob in my forthcoming book Voices, which will be a collection of stories and memoirs. Very excited about that book.

There's always a lot of talk about how horror as a genre is on the upswing or the downswing in terms of both sales and quality. Where do you feel the genre is in terms of the quality of writing? Who is pushing the boundaries of the genre in your opinion?
I have never worried about trends, or whether the market is shrinking or booming. I just write what I want, and fortunately I have never had a problem selling my work to publishers.
Where is the genre in terms of quality? Well, if we’re talking about professionally written and edited material (versus the glut of unedited self-published books that seem to be flooding the market), the quality is pretty much where it has always been.
People today like to talk about pushing boundaries, and I suppose that’s good. Art is all about experimentation, trying new things, seeing what works – but the pushingisn’t as important as the breaking through. There’s no glory in trying and failing. But trying and succeeding, setting out to do something and actually pulling it off? That’s what matters.
Who’s doing that today? Cormac McCarthy, to be sure. And James Morrow, too. His books are really something special.  Go back ten years, and I’d point to Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, an intriguing blend of form and content.

This weekend you were on a panel about making your readers squirm, and there were definitely a few scenes in Vipers that were squirm-worthy! Where do you think the line is, for you as a writer, that you won't cross? Do you think the rising focus on extreme violence in horror movies has changed where horror writers draw that line?
Yes, that panel was at GenCon in Indianapolis. What a convention! Over 30,000 people. Very exciting!
At the panel, I shared highlights from the opening essay in my forthcoming collection Voices. The essay is title “The Haunted Attic: 1961,” and it deals in part with why I prefer dramatic tension to overt violence.  I plan on sharing those same highlights from Voices when I visit Eljay’s next month.
As for horror films, the ones that really work for me are the ones that avoid extreme violence. I think that David Slade’s Hard Candy is a masterpiece.  Talk about squirm inducing!

Finally, the best interview question I was ever asked for a bookstore job: How long should a book be?
Long enough to resolve the plot, but short enough to keep the reader wanting more.

Lawrence C Connolly will be signing his works and discussing the craft of writing at Eljay's Books in Dormont on Saturday, September 24th at 3pm. For more information you can email Chris at eljaysbks@gmail.com or call the store at 412-344-7444.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Some thought on the fact that it took the death of Borders for people to notice what was happening to bookstores and get upset.

This post requires a bit of context, so please follow this link first and read the article http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/books-without-borders/Content?oid=9322294

A point you may remember coming up a few times in the above article was the negative effect of hiring  staff- especially managers- with no book experience or interest.  Booksellers measure success by the number of books sold, and by the quality of the experience for the customer.  Quality takes time and conversation. Executives like to bring in manager from places like the Gap and various grocery stores where "product" is moved in volume and the key to everything is as few people as possible working as quickly as possible. This is an environment that fosters absolutely no good customer service habits, but it saves a good bit of money. So does hiring kids at minimum wage instead of paying a fair rate to a bookseller who has spent ten years learning the craft. That saved money is one of the many ways the chains and Amazon (the mother of payroll savers) can afford to discount a book below the cover price.*

 There are a lot of things you can sell with out being emotionally involved with them. Not books. You can put things in alphabetical order, you can find them on the shelf for a customer, you can locate them in the computer to order them, but you can't sell them. To sell a book you have to form, at some level, a connection to your customer. You need to understand the feeling of reading something really, really good and then being a little afraid to break the spell by reading something else. You need to understand the weird, intricate ways that people classify the types of books they enjoy, generally by being one of those people yourself. When customers ask you "What are you reading?" you have to have an answer that is both genuine and leading toward a sale. You can't fake it. Mandatory title pushes are the antithesis of what a good bookseller does. The greatest booksellers I have ever met are the consummate match makers, mating reader with book over and over. Each individual customer paired with their own individual perfect book.

Every time people chose price over service, service-oriented stores take a hit. I'm not suggesting that anyone stop using Amazon. I'm suggesting that those who value service oriented stores and want to keep them around need to put their money where their mouth is. As Paul pointed out, the guy who "revolutionized" Borders by making it massivly profitable also killed it's culture and ultimately the entire company. He got to make all those horrible decisions because he proved that people have no problem sacrificing service for price. If you want to shop cheap, shop cheap. Just don't complain when cheap is the only option.

Stepping off my soap box now and dedicating this angry little rant to the 11,000 Borders employees who are unemployed or soon to be. My thought are with you.

*for those of you who don't know how this works, the cover price is the price the store will sell the book at if they want to make a 40% profit. That is, by the way, one of the lowest margins in retail. And that 40% needs to go to shipping the book to the store, putting a sticker on it, staffing the store so someone can help you find the book and sell it to you....so it comes out to a lot less than 40% ultimately. That is why indie stores sell everything at cover price for the most part. They simply can't afford to discount very much.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Confluence 2011 - a con review

Sorry for the long break between posts. The sad reality is that when you read and craft as much as I do it's hard to remember to put everything down and write about all of it! I promise I'll do better in the future...

Confluence is the annual science-fiction/ fantasy writers and readers convention in western PA, organized by members of Parsec, the area's sci-fi/fantasy organization. The event features panel discussions, readings, signings, concerts among other offerings. It's one of the smaller (and more enduring) conventions in the genre, but it is also highly praised by the author guests for it's friendly atmosphere. Parsec members present a play each year, as well as organizing an art show and sale, there is a yearly writing contest and special sessions for members of Alpha, the young writers development program coached by authors affiliated with Parsec. (And bravo to them for the Alpha program!!)

This year's fiction theme "Last Contact" was developed into a winning story by Matthew James, who detailed an encounter between an invader from the ocean and an everyday guy trying to save his species. Next year's theme is "The Morning After", and I'll be happy to pass entry information on to any interested writers.

The brightest points were, of course, the authors. I don't want to neglect any of these lovely, lovely, wonderful people but I can't cover everyone so here are a few notes on the brightest stars:

Lawrence C Connolly was a sharp panelist and moderator, I ended up sitting in a few panels I was iffy on because he was speaking. I liked what he talked about enough to buy the second book in his Veins Cycle. I'd like to review it here, but I feel like I will be doing a disservice to the book if I don't go back and read the first book in the cycle so I can figure out the plot. For now I promise he's a writer that horror readers will love. He's also wordsmith, and aspiring writers will benefit from studying his crisp style.

Geoffrey Landis and Mary Turzillo were the heart of the Vogon poetry writing session, and Mary hunted me down after the session broke up to get me a copy of the poem in the correct format for my computer. Geoffrey is another of those speakers who endlessly fascinates me and draws me into otherwise boring panels. Geoffrey and Mary both write science fiction and poetry and both are award winners (Nebula, Hugo...the big ones)

John Alfred Taylor is just super. I don't know how to explain it, he's funny, he's weird, he's got a fantastic t-shirt collection. Go to Pseudopod.com and listen to one of his short horror stories.

Michael Swanwick is a science fiction fantasy author whom I am sad to say I haven't read. (I'm working on it!!) He was the only speaker I took notes on. Brilliant.

Finally, the entire crew at Fortress Publishing Inc deserves both my acclaim and a big hug. Brian Koscienski and Chris Pisano write themselves into science fiction and horror stories, their reading had me laughing so hard I was tearing up. Soon, they will be signing at Eljay's, so stay tuned for more on that as it develops! For now you'll have to content yourself by buying a copy of their book at Eljay's.

The con had a few weirdly lined-up panels and some less than enthusiastic moderators (and one panel that was a string of little arguments between two panelists....including one on the validity of dowsing) but overall the speakers were so smart and interesting that even the panels that wandered entirely off topic had something interesting to offer.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Live From New York!

So I was really late to the party on this one, but thankfully my mom saved me (Thanks Mom!) when she suggested I read it.

The book is written based on hours and hours of interviews with the producers, executives, writers, stars and guest hosts of the show from the very beginning through the 2002 season. While there is a lot of often-tread material on some aspects of the show (surprise! Chis Farley idolized Jim Belushi) there is far more that will be a complete surprise to the reader. Breakdowns of the actually process by which the show comes together (or doesn't) every week, a certain amount of dishy detail on certain stars and guests (you'll likely either dislike Chevy Chase by the end of this book or just feel very sorry for him) and finally the candid details of Lorne Michaels' departure and return to the show.  Only Eddie Murphy refused to be interviewed for the book (which is its own interesting set of stories.)

The writers, who act more as curators, step back and really let the stories be told with a minimum of editorial guidance. Often three perspectives on the same situation are offered in one page, all conflicting somewhat. This is one of the best things about this book. Reading it is like being at a giant, multi-generational family reunion where all the cousins are trying to tell you the same story, all contributing little bits of it, filling in gaps in the narrative left by others, and talking all at once. The interviewees are candid too, elevating the book above the level of a sentimental retrospective.

While I found the book absolutely absorbing, the part I found the most enjoyable was the final section of the book, entirely concerned with Lorne Michaels. Almost every story is in the book is about his in some way, but in the final section the interviewees really bring home the point that without this one person , SNL could never have existed.

This book is not for readers who don't like SNL to begin with, but an absolute must-read for everyone else.

Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by its Stars, Writers and Guests by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller, Hachette, 2002

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent is a futuristic fantasy adventure in the style of Hunger Games, written for teens (but definitely a great choice for adult readers as well.) Beatrice is a 16 year old girl who lives in Abnegation. Like the other factions of the giant, closed city she lives in Abnegation is a group comprised of people who live their entire lives in service to a concept. The groups are Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Erudite (the intelligent), Candor (the honest) and Amity (the peaceful).   The world Tris lives in is closed off with fences (policed only by the Dauntless) and as a member of Abnegation (the only faction that is allowed to hold governmental power) it would be selfish of her to even wonder at what lies beyond the fences. Members of Abnegation (known to some of he other faction as Stiffs) also do not look in mirrors, wear jewelry, show an inappropriate (read: any) amount of skin or ask questions unless being spoken to. At the age of 16 two important things happen to every citizen: they are tested to see which group they most belong with, and they chose for themselves which group they will spend the rest of their lives with. Of course I can't tell you what group Beatrice chooses but you can probably guess that this is the starting point of her adventures.

Beatrice (or Tris as she becomes known) is a wonderfully strong female character, and this is where the inevitable Hunger Games comparisons come from. She and Katniss would be great friends if their paths ever crossed. (Or they would beat the heck out of each other) She is, like Katniss, very physical and willing to rely on her own instincts when she is in new situations. At the same time, she is not a Katniss clone. She is more physical and less cerebral, although she is by no means stupid. She is definitely a little more level-headed when it comes to love. Tris is also honestly possessing of a little bit of a death wish. I felt like that recklessness propelled her story line almost as much as her conscious decisions about her life.  And of course Tris is going through a philosophical coming-of-age, which all teens do, albeit not in the context of a back-and-white ideological framework.  Not wanting to give away too much information about the plot, I still think it's safe to point out that a lot of the conflict in the book comes from the friction between philosophies (and the natural friction between groups in any society) and that Tris ends up having to carefully examine everything she was taught and everything she believes, with very real and final consequences to her decisions. There is a lesson about absolutism, and the end of the book (the first in a trilogy) hints at a much wider world opening up in the next book. (My hope is that the second book will begin outside the fences) And, of course, there is a romance (sweet and dramatic) and hints at a much richer family history that Beatrice imagined at the start of the story.

I'm looking forward to the next two books in the series, and highly recommend the first book to any teen lit fans (I'd suggest this one for ages 13 and up because of a few moderately violent scenes and some graphic imagery.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Potterverse Expands again?

No one is sure what the big announcement is going to be, but JK Rowling launched a countdown site on YouTube ( http://www.youtube.com/JKRowlingAnnounces ) and at the same time the site was touted by two audiobook websites. The audio versions of the books are already out there, and Jim Dale is pretty universally recognized as a narration master, so what could it be?

I'm curious to hear your predictions on this...The owls are gathering.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Who is your literary BFF?

Check out this post: Pick Your Literary BFF , and then come back and tell me in the comments who you would want to pal around with.

Here's my list:

Lisbeth Salander (Millennium Trilogy)
Schmendrik the Magician (The Last Unicorn)
Death (Sandman)
Vin (Mistborn)
Encyclopedia Brown

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg

Nerd Do Well [Book]

Simon Pegg's Nerd Do Well is a humorous (of course) memoir of his formative years and the events and artists that influence his work to this day. While it's easy for a memoir written by a professional writer to feel forced, Pegg uses the same wink-and-nod at the audience techniques that he often employs in his TV and movie work to make the readers feel that while they may be experiencing a performance rather than a confession, the performance is to an audience of one.

Pegg clearly knows that he is very lucky to be a grown-up working with the people he idolized as a child, and of course there is a decent amount of "can you believe I'm really here?" sentiment as he recounts working with George Romero or walking on to the set of Star Trek as the new incarnation of Scotty. It's the memoir of a fellow fan as much as it is the story of a successful artist, and this is what makes this book so infectiously joyful. Pegg is clearly satisfied in the extreme over how everything has turned out and wants to both share that joy and show how fate conspired to repeatedly help him find the people he needed in his life.

Before you start to think this is the touchy-feely memoir of the year, I have to mention the story interspersed between memoir chapters. It's sci-fi meets Bond flick and it features one Simon Pegg, international man of sexy, sexy mystery and also of guns and space ships. Assisted by his trusty robot butler sidekick, Pegg wrights wrongs, aims inside jokes at readers and references his own memoir in humorous ways. I found it to be a bid disruptive of the flow of the memoir, but read at the end all in one go it was perfect.  Other highlights of the book include a shot-by-shot breakdown of the opening title of Starsky & Hutch (demonstrating the heterosexual man-love balance the show maintained) and a short and hilarious script written for Yoda, Obi-Wan and others after the death of Annakin and the birth of Darth Vadar. 

Nerd Do Well will be available in July of 2011.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The Magicians & The Magician King by Lev Grossman

First, since it's a favorite of mine, I want to talk a little bit about The Magicians by Lev Grossman:

Viking Adult, August 2009  ISBN 9780670020553
It's hard not to write a massive post on this book alone (and I should know because I just deleted four  paragraphs) so without giving away too much here is the short synopsis:

Boy loves escapist fantasy, especially books about the world of Fillory (think Narnia). Boy is recruited to join magical academy of learning (think Harry Potter) because, surprise!, magic is real. Boy finds that magic doesn't make a person happier in their own skin and that while magic might be real, you still can't just hop into a cupboard and head off to an imaginary place to have historical-type adventures on horseback. Boy also discovers that when you can use magic to make or take what you need the drive to be a contributing member of society is nil. Then comes the twist (two-thirds of the way into the book proving that Grossman is as patient as he is wise) and a wry story about what really happens when people get a taste of power turns into something of a horror tale for fantasy readers. I want desperately to tell you more (and you'll pick some of it up just in reading any review for the next book) but let me just close by saying READ IT. Well, first brace your inner child and then read it.

And now, onward...

The Magician King: A Novel
Viking Adult, August 9, 2011 ISBN:  9780670022311
Quentin Coldwater is finally a king of Fillory. Along with two Brakebill's classmates and a childhood friend named Julia, he rules the magical land from a gorgeous throne, hunts and celebrates and generally lives a good life. Having apparently not learned quite enough from the last series of adventures, he allows his boredom with jewel-encrusted monarchical living to drive him into a dangerous quest that ends when he and Julia are abruptly expelled from Fillory and dumped in Quentin's parent's neighborhood.  Interspersed with the story of their down-and-dirty attempts to get back into Fillory through the world of unsanctioned magic is Julia's tragic back story. Julia didn't make it into Brakebill's, but also didn't succumb to masking spells designed to keep her from remembering that a parallel magical world exists.  The knowledge that the world holds real magic that she is not allowed to access drives her almost mad and shapes her into a powerful anti-hero and foil for Quentin's faith in the system (be it Brakebill's, Fillory or the magical world at large) This is one of the book's recurring messages : power corrupts, not overtly  but subtly, like a malignancy. Quentin and his friends are corrupted by the ease of a magically-propelled life. The magical world is corrupted by it's self-absorption and ennui, evidenced by it's rejection of Julia (and later of Quentin). Julia is corrupted before she even gets to her power, in just the act of reaching into the magical world she is driven off-kilter.  

On another level, this is the ultimate horror-scenario for the escapist fantasy reader. Grossman delights in repeatedly yanking the chair out from under the reader (to be fair, it's not egregious and in this grim context it works) who has just comfortably settled in for a read about wish-fulfillment. Fantasy writing generally has a certain rhythm. Part of that rhythm is the happy (or mostly happy) ending. Grossman has created something that will disturb readers on a more fundamental level that gore or megalomaniacal evil could ever achieve.  To paraphrase comments from another horror writer (I can't attribute right now, but will look it up and get back to you): horror isn't the blood and the gore or the spooky noises and a creepy wind. It's taking something utterly familiar and making it unrecognizable. 

Grossman's latest book is a slight let-down in that while the first book felt like a complete story, the second feels more like a bridge book. It seems to both start and end slightly off the ground, hopefully indicating that a third book will be added to the story arc before Grossman turns his attention to something else. But that's the worst thing I can say about this dark, layered, funny, heartbreaking fantasy. Lev Grossman could change the face of the genre if he keeps it up.

Recommended for readers of: Peter Beagle, Neil Gaiman, CS Lewis, JK Rowling.
Not recommended for young readers (under 16)  because of language, content etc.
This book will be released on August 9th, 2011. Please click here to hook up with Indiebound.org and pre-order this book from your local Indie bookstore. (You can also pick up the first book while you're shopping!)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

This seems to be a book blog

So this is where it all started...I has this job, as many of you may know, at a giant indie bookstore called Joseph-Beth Booksellers.  Jo-Beth, for a variety of reasons, closed this and several other locations.  I was left jobless.  Having spent my life as a voracious reader, I found myself in some kind of book junkie withdrawal.  Plenty to read, no one to talk books with. Correction: no steady stream of impressionable strangers to press books upon, to hunt down obscure titles for, to mercilessly market my latest favorite to. No drop by visits from authors, no hot and cold running books...

It was like being exiled to some cold, cold place.

And then I realized that out there are dozens, nay dozens and an extra handful of people out there who actually want to read other people's opinions about books.  I am rife with opinions about books.  And thusly is a blog born. Please, please, please if you read something and you feel one way or the other about it tell me in the comments.  This is my way of connecting to a bunch of bookstore people (something I also have the extreme pleasure of doing two days a week at Eljay's Books in Dormont.  If you haven't seen the new store yet please, stop by!!! www.eljaysbks.com )

A few things you should know before we begin:

I rarely bother finishing books I don't like at least a lot. I will be reading all kinds of stuff, but only bothering to complete and talk about something I really think is worth spending more time on.  I read a lot of new stuff but I'll be going back to re-read some books I haven't gotten back to in years and when I do, I will talk about them too. I also did a lot of mini-reviews for the shelves at JB and I will probably get around to posting a bunch of that as well.

One more thing: if you read my blog and feel a sudden and violent desire to monetarily encourage all this madness head over to www.perfectfishdesigns.com and buy yourself something nice. It's better than donating money to me and getting nothing but a warm feeling. I spend a lot of my free time crocheting cute things and tatting lace and then when I have too much I sell something.