Monday, December 8, 2014


Oh, WINTER. We may only have been having the cold then kind of warm then cold again and almost snowing? but actually just RAINING FOREVER kind of winter so far, but in the glorious world of fiction, winter has real snow, new friends, book shops, birdwatching, and decades-old mysteries. In Heather Vogel Frederick's new book Absolutely Truly, Truly is struggling with some big changes. Her dad has changed since he lost an arm in Afghanistan, and her family has just packed up and moved from Texas to extremely tiny Pumpkin Falls, New Hampshire. But with a bookstore to save from going under, a mystery that starts with a first edition of Charlotte's Web, and a couple of classmates who would love to help her solve it, Truly might just be okay.

When you're done reading about Truly, check out...

Five Great Intermediate Mysteries

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet -- Art theft, two clever kids, and an air of the paranormal.

The Westing Game (A Puzzle Mystery) by Ellen Raskin -- A dead millionaire leaves behind a will that names the 16 residents of Sunset Towers Apartments his heirs...but one of them is the murderer, and only one will walk away with the money. (This one is a Newbery Medal winning classic, and one of my all-time favorites.)

All The Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket-- So far there are three books in this quirky sleuth series by the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events. A little bit of comedy, a little bit of noir.

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage -- Moses LeBeau may have washed ashore in a hurricane, but the family that found her is the family that matters most. But an unsolved murder puts that at risk, and Moses will have to solve that murder if she's going to protect the ones she loves...

So B. It  by Sarah Weeks -- Heidi's mentally disabled mother only speaks a handful of words, but one of them might hold a world of meaning: soof. Heidi is off across the country in search of the meaning of this one word--the what or the who--which might explain how her unusual, wonderful family came to be.

Five More if You Like Absolutely Truly

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer -- Foster and her mother may have trouble in their past, but they're determined to make it work in their new town. With Foster's baking and her mother's beautiful voice, they soon find a place. The question is, will they be ready when the past shows up to test them?

The Mother-Daughter Book Club series by Heather Vogel Frederick -- For more of Heather Frederick, more about family, more about books, and more about smart, curious girl protagonists.

Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson -- Ginny's fly-by-night aunt dies before Ginny even knows she's sick. But before she can even grieve, Ginny gets her inheritance: a little blue envelope that will start her on a journey across Europe, to find adventure, love, and strength in herself.

Savvy by Ingrid Law -- Everyone in Mibs's family has a savvy--a sort of magic power. Mibs's power is just waking up...and her father is in the hospital after a car crash. She needs to get to him, because she knows her power can save his life...but it's a long way, she can't drive, and the new preacher in town might be a little too interested in what her family is up to.

A Long Way From Chicago and A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck -- For a dash of historical fiction, take a couple of city kids from the 1930s and throw them into the small-town countryside to stay with their grandmother for deliciously old-fashioned, funny adventures. 

And that's what I suggest for you this fortnight. Happy reading!

Monday, December 1, 2014

What Being in A Book Would Really Be Like

I like to think I would be wonderful and cool in every situation but really, I wouldn't handle a lot of things as gracefully as book characters do. And Juliet put up with a lot from Romeo. Who has the patience for that?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

National Book Awards

So, this might be a little late. It's been a long week. Anyway...

A couple of years ago I didn't pay much attention to who was winning what awards (aside from the Chime/Shine debacle which caused a stir in the blogging world). I would take a minor note of the winners, probably months after they announced it and continue on with my life.

It was when a book I really loved, Where Things Come Back, won both the Printz and the Morris awards and Maggie Stiefvater's Scorpio Races was also nominated for the Printz that I started to take note. It was also that year that I started working in a bookstore so as my enthusiasm about these awards grew so did the number people around me who were also excited.

Which is how I found myself obsessively following the @NationalBook twitter feed last Wednesday night as the winners were announced. WTCB's author John Corey Whaley was shortlisted for his new book Noggin and I needed to know if he won.

I do wish I could have live streamed it, but the twitter feed did a wonderful job of highlighting the important parts of each speech.

Now think what you want about Daniel Handler as a presenter, that wasn't what I took away from what I've seen and read from the awards. There will always be a controversy, as sad as that is.

What stuck with me the most from the awards was the amazing overall love for literature as an art. I feel like so many of the big stories that are published now highlight the publishing world as a business. I'm not saying it's not a business, or that some authors don't write to make money.

The thing is, no one chooses writing as a career unless it is something they love doing. It's not exactly a well paying, get rich quick job. It's something that you have to care about to do well and I think when people get all wrapped up in the business of it, when they do nothing but talk about how this book didn't sell as well as that book so it must not be as good, that they lose sight of the fact that writing is a labor of love.

Wednesday night's ceremony was such a reminder of the importance of story and not sales. That books are an art, no matter what genre they're in.

Plenty of people walked away talking about scandal but what I saw most commented on, and rightfully, was Ursula Le Guin's speech after she was presented with the medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Her speech was everything that I wanted and everything I feel whenever someone talks about the worth of a book being in the sales alone. If you haven't had the chance to watch it see it below.

But even Ursula Le Guin was introduced by Neil Gaiman who practically gushed on stage over her. He talked about starting to write how much her writing meant to him;
 "Other writers I would copy. I would copy their style. I loved C.S. Lewis. I loved G,K, Chesterton. I would look at how they did it and try to copy it. Ursula, I couldn't figure out how she did it because her style was so clean, her words so precise and well chosen."

And it came down to how her writing impacted him, not how well she sold. In his speech she is never called a bestseller. Instead she is a "giant of literature" because of how much her writing impacted other writers.

If you haven't already watched their speeches watch them now!

Neil Gaiman presents lifetime achievement award to Ursula K. Le Guin at 2014 National Book Awards from National Book Foundation on Vimeo.

Most of the books aren't these mega blockbuster books. If I didn't work in a bookstore I might not even have known some of the titles or the authors but it's not the sales that are driving the awards it's the writing and that's what I think we need.

Who cares what the bestsellers are! Look for the books with medals. Look for the books that a friend gushed about because it made them feel something really spectacular. Ask someone who works in the store what the last book that they read that really mattered to them was.

I am not saying buying books doesn't matter (please, please buy books) but also please please remember that there is so much more to a book than whether it was on the New York Times Bestseller list. If you love every book on the bestseller list great but step out of that comfort zone and that guide and try something else.

There is so much to read in the world and so many different things and what matters about all of them is the writing and how much blood, sweat, and tears went into them and whether they can find one person to make an impact on.

So check out one of the NBA winners (John Corey Whaley didn't win but Woodson's book is stunning) and, of course, congratulations to those who did win!

Young People's Literature: Jacqueline Woodson for Brown Girl Dreaming
Poetry: Louise Glück for Faithful and Virtuous Night
Nonfiction: Evan Osnos for Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China
Fiction: Phil Klay for Redeployment

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Today I'm reading BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson, which just won the National Book Award and deserved it a dozen times over. Every perfectly chosen word carries its weight in this book. You feel like you are stepping right into how she sees her own life. It's poetic, it's inspired, you will cry. I promise.

And if after that you still want to feel strongly emotional, try these...


Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi -- A striking two volume graphic novel autobiography of a girl growing up in Iran amidst political unrest. 12+

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz -- Aristotle and Dante are best friends, but there's always a distance between them, coming from Ari's side. This is a novel about friendship, love, and fear of yourself. It's about secrets, heroism, identity, and opening up. It's wonderful. 13+

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan -- Precocious Willow Chance only feels at home with her loving parents and her impressive garden. But an accident takes those things away. Willow is left to learn in her achingly precise and perfect language how to find love and understanding among different people, and how to build a new life from what she's lost. 11+

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin -- Rose Howard has a hard time fitting in with people because of her Asperger's syndrome, but her dog Rain understands her perfectly. When she loses Rain in a hurricane, Rose searches everywhere for her. When Rain does come back, Rose learns something about her dog that she doesn't want to know. Suddenly the happy reunion is a hard choice. [Disclaimer: NO DOG DIES IN THIS BOOK.] 9+

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie -- Junior is a disabled kid from the reservation. He wants to be a cartoonist, but that probably won't ever happen as long as he stays put. So he does the worst thing a rez kid can do, and goes to the white school in the next town. Alexie knows about humor, anger, loss, and the impossibly choice between loyalty to the people you love and wanting something better. 13+

Enjoy the extremely fulfilling tears you will cry as you read these perfect books.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Jeff Kinney at Brookline Booksmith!

Last sunday, if you have been walking through Coolidge Corner, you no doubt would have noticed the gargantuan Enterprise truck that was parked outside of our store, and the large cardboard cutouts that sufficiently bundled gentlemen were hastening to unload from it.

This would have been for our event with Jeff Kinney, author of popular "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series. This, however, was no usual event. This was a Jeff Kinney experience, complete with stations, games, photo ops, and finally, a signed copy of your favorite Wimpy Kid books and a handshake with Jeff Kinney himself. It was like nothing Booksmith has ever done before, and frankly, after seeing how sucessful it was, I think we should probably start holding such events for adult books, too!

Another day at the book store, complete with large fake pig

We were really worried you didn't have all the Wimpy Kid books....

In no time at all, folks started lining up and moving through the store. They visited all the booths, got to play 'Plinko', got a chance to guess the weight of a large paper mache pig. There was even a booth I didn't get to see in action, but consisted of a large table filled with old shoes. Curiosities were abundant! After interacting with, and having their picture taken by, numerous book store workers and event staff alike (some dressed up in top hats, coats and tails), event attendees found themselves outside Card and Gift, at the front of aisle 4. There, they got their books signed by Jeff Kinney, who was warm, welcoming, and engaging.

Clarissa and Zoe mug by one of the photo backdrops
This event was a great success! We are looking forward to what other crazy events the kids book world can send our way! Old shoes, fake pigs, and lake backdrops, oh my!!

You can follow our events series by checking out our events website,  which is kept painstakingly up to date. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates on our upcoming events. Special thanks to Jeff Kinney and his team for making this incredible evening in our very own book store!