Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book News Roundup: April 11, 2014


As a reader I'm always fascinated by book lists. This week, in The Week, author Emma Donoghue (Frog Music, Room) shares a list of six favorites--classic, contemporary, not yet published, and even audio. (P.S. On Donoghue's recommendation I've picked up The Bees by Laline Paull, which will be published next month. It's wild!)


Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago was banned in the Soviet Union and originally published in an Italian translation by an Italian publisher. Enter the CIA, which thought it a perfect propaganda tool. The Washington Post goes in-depth on the 1958 caper, and it reads like a spy novel in miniature.


The literary world lost a great soul last week. Peter Matthiessen, spy, activist, environmentalist, novelist, Buddhist, and the only winner of both a fiction and a nonfiction National Book Award, died at the age of 86 last week. There were many tributes and obituaries; this piece on NPR was a beautiful one.

Sue Townsend, author of the Adrain Mole series of comic novels, has died. She was 68, and her voice will be missed.

It's All Fun and Games Until Somebody Pisses Off The Hound

Jimmy Kimmel's team has made a Game of Thrones/KFC commercial which is sublime. Truly sublime. NSFW, certainly, but still, well, finger-lickin' good.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Book News Roundup: April 4, 2014

April Fool!

There were a number of good book-related April Fools' Day pranks this year, but far and away the best has to go to, which posted this about an upcoming new series from J.K. Rowling--to focus on the school experience of Colin Creevey, a minor character in the Harry Potter series. For just a moment my heart soared with joy...

National Poetry Month

April may be the cruellest month (to use T.S. Eliot's anglophilic spelling in The Waste Land), but it's also National Poetry Month. Knopf Doubleday's The Borzoi Reader is once again publishing a Poem-A-Day, right to your inbox. Click the link and enjoy poetry throughout the month!

The Death of the Independent Bookstore

has been greatly exaggerated, according to this article in Well, we're very happy to hear it.

Westeros is Hot

(Even if winter is coming.) This Sunday's premier of the fourth season of Game of Thrones--the best TV adaptation of a book series in the history of the medium--has engendered a spate of articles. Warning: some of the articles contain spoilers, so heed the warnings!
  • From Huffington Post Books, "The 7 Wildest Theories About Game of Thrones". I have yet to finish the series yet (just started A Clash of Kings, the second book), so I have absolutely no idea how far out or reasonable many of these are.
  • (definitely my favorite science fiction website) has had a spate of terrific articles. Here are a smattering: Bridget McGovern on GoT nicknamesa refresher of what's happened on the series, from Stubby the Rocket; Leigh Butler has been working through a Song of Ice and Fire reread

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Books We Love: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

As a reader and bookseller I've long been leery of what we in the business call "buzz books". Don't get me wrong--I don't believe that because something is popular doesn't mean it's no good. Far from it! But book buzz--like any other kind of hype--is generated as often as it's genuine, and I have very little interest in reading anything because a corporation tells me I should. On the other hand, if my fellow booksellers are to a person loving something I take notice.

By the time I received my advance reading copy of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, my interest had already been piqued. Yes, it seemed there was a degree of generated buzz; after all, the publisher's reps were pushing it pretty hard. But when it reached my hands, it seemed, a generated-to-genuine transition had occurred, so I decided to give it a try.

That The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a book about an independent bookstore owner certainly didn't hurt its case with me.

A.J. Fikry is in his late thirties. He owns Island Books, a small independent bookstore ("No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World" reads the faded sign over the porch) located in a Martha's Vineyard-esque island community. A.J. seems a bitter loner, and in our first encounter with him, in which he does his best to alienate a new publisher's rep making her first seasonal visit to his store, he also comes across as a bit of an ass.

Soon after this visit, in rapid succession, A.J. loses a very valuable book (a first edition of Poe's Tamerlane, published in a run of only fifty copies) to theft and finds an abandoned baby, two events that, along with the death of his wife, which happens before the action of the book begins, will define, nay, transform the rest of his life.

A.J. Fikry enters our acquaintance as a book snob and a pedant, even in his most emotionally draining moments ("If this were Raymond Carver," he says to the cop who's taking his statement at the hospital after the death of his wife in a car accident, "you'd offer me some meager comfort and darkness would set in and all this would be over. But feeling more like a novel to me after all. Emotionally, I mean. It will take me a while to get through it. Do you know?"). He has little patience for books that he's not interested in, but he has perfect memory for people's reading tastes, and, despite the snobbishness can make appropriate recommendations. And A.J. can--and does!--change and grow as a bookseller and as a reader. As a new father he finds himself becoming more a part of the community than he ever has been before, adding to his bookstore's inventory--he brings in books that local moms are interested in for their book clubs, he adds a kids section--and even reading books he never would have looked at before.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a book about love and loss and what we read. It's about community and family, and how the family we cobble together is just as important as the one we're biologically tied to. 

And, finally, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is about bookstores. You know how important bookstores are, so I'll just leave you with A.J.'s thoughts after his mother gives everyone in the family an e-reader for Christmas (the emphasis is mine).

A.J. has often reflected that, bit by bit, all the best things in the world are being carved away like fat from meat. First, it had been the record stores, and then the video stores, and then newspapers and magazines, and now even the big chain bookstores were disappearing everywhere you looked. From his point of view, the only thing worse than a world with big chain bookstores was a world with NO big chain bookstores. At least the big stores sell books and not pharmaceuticals or lumber! At least some of the people who work at those stores have degrees in English literature and know how to read and curate books for people! At least the big stores can sell ten thousand units of publisher's dreck so that Island gets to sell one hundred units of literary fiction!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New Releases November 5, 2013

Get Wimpy!
Here it is, your go-to gift for every kid on your list this season:Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard LuckTrust me, I'm a trained professional. But if you don't believe me, check out author Jeff Kinney's teaser here

History & Politics

Ooh, a couple of good ones this week. 

Pulitzer Prize winner Doris Kearns Goodwin (Team of Rivals) turns her sights on that rough rider Theodore Roosevelt's relationship with the press in The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of JournalismIt was the first book we sold yesterday...because Pete's been slavering over it since it arrived in the store last week.

In a vein that couldn't possibly be more different and still be considered the same subject, the authors of Game Change--the tell-all that took
us behind the scenes of the 2008 presidential race--bring us 
Double Down: Game Change 2012. Though according to reviews it's not likely to go down as an essential work of political history it is one of the juciest, buzziest books of the year.


It's been eight years since the publication of Amy Tan's last novel,Saving Fish From Drowning, so to say that this new one from the author of beloved The Joy Luck Club is much-anticipated is not to exaggerate. The Valley of Amazement examines one of Amy Tan's richest subjects, the deep relationship between mother and daughter, this time over a span of forty years, from the end of China's imperial age through World War II.

Can Diane Setterfield follow up the crazy success of her first novel, book club favorite The Thirteenth Tale, with another big success? Bellman & Black, Setterfield's second novel, begins with the impetuous killing of a rook by a young boy, an act which will have repercussions throughout his life. A ghost story, a gothic tale, a mystery; Bellman & Black is sure to please book-clubbers and thriller-readers alike.

And Don't Forget

All of the amazing books released earlier this fall:
  • House of Hades, fourth in the Heroes of Olympus series
  • Allegiant, the controversial finale to the Divergent trilogy
  • Bleeding Edge, National Book Award finalist from my favorite author, Thomas Pynchon
  • One Summer: America, 1927, another feather in Bill Bryson's polymath cap
  • The Rosie Project, a romance for non-romance readers...even guys (seriously)!
Come on in and let's talk books! If none of these appeal to you, we will find something that does.

The Book Frog is located on the second level of the Promenade on the Peninsula. 

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Link Roundup: Book-Themed Stuff!

Photo by Laura Frondorf

Scary book links from around the web

Goodnight Moon is not usually considered a scary book. In fact, it's a beloved fixture in most people's memories of early childhood. But check out this reading from Graywolf Press author Benjamin Percy (Red Moon, The Wilding). Chilling!

Ever wonder what your favorite horror and thriller writers do on Halloween? Well, Ron Charles--deputy editor of The Washington Post's book section--has checked in with Anne Rice, Peter Straub, Justin Cronin, and others to see how they'll be spending the most sacred day in the horror calendar.

Book Keeping, Farrar, Straus and Giroux's readers' community on Facebook, has been posting Halloween-themed spine poetry for the last few days. 

Buzzfeed gets in the spirit with 18 Literary Pumpkins for a Bookish Halloween. We wanted to choose a favorite, but they're all so beautiful!

Bookish on literary Halloween costumes, scariest books, and more.

Here's hoping your Halloween reading is truly terrifying.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

New Releases: October 29, 2013

Winter is Coming 

But never fear: George R.R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons is finally available in paperback! For the Song of Ice & Fire fan in your life--maybe you?--we've also got Lands of Ice and Firecontaining maps of all the known world, from the lands of the Seven Kingdoms to the lands across the Narrow Sea. As if that's not enough, this week sees the release of The Wit and Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister. Who, in all of the Seven Kindgoms, is more quotable than the Imp?

Other Exciting New Releases

The late and greatly lamented Nora Ephron's publisher has released a gorgeous omnibus of her work, The Most of Nora Ephron. It includes essays, screenplays, her novel Heartburn, and her final, previously unpublished play.

Pat Conroy examines his tumultuous relationship with his father--the source material for his novel The Great Santini--in his new memoir, The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son.

The fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is rapidly
approaching. In addition to recent new releases commemorating and examining JFK, his administration, and his assassination--Camelot's Court: Inside the Kennedy White House, by Robert Dallek and JFK, Conservative, by Ira Stoll, among others--this week sees the release of The Letters of John F. Kennedy, edited by Martin W. Sandler and A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination, by Philip Shenon. Look for more Kennedy titles .in the next few weeks.

Ben Schott, the author of browser's delight Schott's Original
Miscellany, turns his unique eye to language. Schottenfreude is Schott's collection of "new German words for the human condition." It's truly awesome. Click here for an excerpt recently published in The New York Times.

Elizabeth David (1919-1992) revolutionized British cooking from the fifties through
the seventies by introducing fresh ingredients and other elements from Mediterranean cooking. The new collection of recipes, Elizabeth David On Vegetables, collects all of her vegecentric recipes. It's gorgeous!

New in Young Adult

Altered, by Gennifer Albin, is the second in the Crewel World trilogy, in which gifted women weave the very fabric of existence.

Another second-in-a-series, the marvelously named Necromancing the Stone (following Hold Me Closer, Necromancer) by Lish McBride releases in paperback. Werewolves and fey hounds populate this popular urban fantasy series.

None of these tickle your fancy? Come in and talk to me or any of our booksellers--we'll hook you up with exactly the book you need.

The Book Frog
Promenade on the Peninsula
550 Deep Valley Dr. #273
Rolling Hills Estates


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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Five(ish) Questions With the Author: Edward Humes

 2013's One Book, One Peninsula title is Edward Humes' Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash. Mr. Humes will be speaking at the Peninsula Library on September 28th at 2 p.m. (for details check out the One Book, One Peninsula Facebook page). A journalist and author of thirteen nonfiction books, Edward Humes has received the Pulitzer Prize for his newspaper coverage of the military and a PEN Center USA Award for No Matter How Loud I Shout: A Year In the Life of Juvenile Court. His latest book is Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash, part of his eco-trilogy that also includes Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of WalMart's Green Revolution and Eco Barons. Humes, who previously worked as a reporter for the Orange County Register, has also written for Los Angeles MagazineSierra, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications. He lives in Seal Beach with his wife, two children and three rescue greyhounds. Find Edward Humes online at

BF: Your introduction to Garbology opens with a truly horrifying anecdote about hoarding. Why in the world should the average reader care about this exhibition of excess?

EH: This scene involved an elderly Chicago couple who had hoarded so much trash and junk that they had been buried alive in their own house, until they finally were discovered near death and had to be rescued as if from a collapsed mine.

The debris had accumulated for years until every surface of the house was covered by layers of old newspapers, empty plastic jars, pieces of broken furniture, worn-out coolers, splintered garden rakes, thousands of soda bottles, cans of every size, clothing old and new, broken lamps, dusty catalogs, mountains of junk mail and garbage bags filled with the detritus of daily life. All of this, and much more, had been kept for reasons no one could coherently explain, not even the Gastons, until the junk and trash reached the level of the highest kitchen cupboards, the ones that held the good china. A broken refrigerator lay in the kitchen, half buried and resting on its side, as if buoyed up by the sea of bottles, cans, cartons and sacks engulfing it. No room in the house could be called usable or even safely navigable; the stairs were blocked, the furniture buried, the garage packed floor to ceiling. The disordered accumulation looked as if it had been swept in by a tidal wave.

The Gastons simply grew unable to part with their trash. This hoarding compulsion gripped them gradually, a slow evolution, a piece at a time, then a bag here and there, then whole boxes of trash until, finally, the Gaston home became a one-way depository, the garbage version of the Eagles’ famous “Hotel California”: stuff checked in, but it could never leave. They hoarded until goods and trash consumed their home and almost their lives.
Why include this anecdote? Because the amount of junk, trash and waste that hoarders generate is perfectly, horrifyingly normal. It’s just that most of us hoard it in landfills instead of living rooms, so we never see the truly epic quantities of stuff that we all discard. But make no mistake: The two or three years it took the Gastons to fill their house with five to six tons of trash is typical for the average American couple. The rest of us are just better at hiding - mostly from ourselves – the 1.3 tons a year of trash each American wastes every year, 102 tons across the average lifetime. 

EH: The most surprising part of the story is just how wasteful we are without really knowing it -- the true numbers are much worse than the official line. I’m using the word wasteful, rather than trashy, deliberately. The fact is, our trash – something hoarders, however pathological their reaction, understand – has enormous value. It’s actually treasure squandered, which is why our leading export to China and other countries is our trash and scrap. 

Almost as surprising: Being less wasteful is liberating, timesaving, and wealth-creating – for families, communities and businesses big and small. Waste is one of the few big societal, economic and environmental problems anyone can do something about.  

BF: What trash item do you generate that you've found it most difficult to give up? For example, I'm sure you don't drink bottled water, but is there some pre-packaged item you just haven't found a good "naked" substitute for?
EH: Yes, I’ve stopped relying on bottled water, paper towels, plates and napkins, plastic grocery bags, etc. Those are easy to switch to reusable or less wasteful options. Tougher are the personal care items: deodorant, toothpaste and such. I’ve switched to an old fashioned razor, but have been stymied when traveling, because you can’t carry razor blades on the plane (disposable razors are okay). 

BF: When you're not reading about environmental subjects, what do you like to read? What's your "escape" genre? Favorite book? 

EH: I can’t single out a favorite book, but authors I admire and have read and re-read include John Steinbeck, Norman Mailer, Tracy Kidder, Raymond Chandler, Harper Lee, John McPhee and Tom Wolfe. My escape genres have lately been sci-fi/fantasy. I just powered through George R.R. Martin’s entire Song of Ice and Fire collection, then discovered Peter V. Brett’s excellent Warded Man series. And from that genre, Frank Herbert’s Dune ought to be on anyone’s list of favorite books. 

BF: Are you working on a new project? What can you tell us about it?

EH: My next book comes out October 22, my first biography, and my first foray into the fascinating world of winemaking: A Man and His Mountain. It’s the unlikely and inspiring story of the accidental winemaker, Jess Jackson, a former cop, fashion model, lumberjack and lawyer who started a little mountain vineyard as a hobby and ended up quite literally putting Chardonnay on America’s tables. His Kendall-Jackson Winery made him a billionaire, and for more than 20 years, has bottled the most popular premium Chardonnay in the world. 

BF: Finally, what's the single most important change of habit the average American can make to help reign in the problem of too much waste?

EH: Rethinking how and what we consume – and therefore what we throw away – is key. There’s no one strategy, but there are five first steps anyone can take:

1.  Refuse. From unwanted mail-order catalogs to grossly over-packaged produce, just refuse them. Say no to promotional key chains and tchotchkes that come free at conferences and fundraisers. You know it’s junk, and accepting it just encourages more. Refuse.
2.  Buy Used and Refurbished. Keep resources out of the waste stream, save money.
3.  Stop Buying Bottled Water. It's a waste and a fraud.
4.  No Plastic Grocery Bags. One-use bags are the gateway drug of waste. Go reusable.
5.  Buy Wisely, Buy Less. The disposable economy wants you to think about the price at the cash register, not what it costs to own in the long run. That’s how we end up with cheapo DVD players that got trashed in a year and clothes that fade and wear out after a few washes. Saving up for fewer products that are more durable, efficient and higher quality costs less over time and radically reduces waste.