Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Fierce Radiance

Those of us who have grown up with antibiotics may have forgotten how recently it's been that small cuts could easily become severe and often fatal infections.

In Lauren Belfer's novel, A Fierce Radiance, Claire Shipley is a photographer for Life magazine. She is assigned a shoot where penicillin, a new and potentially miraculous drug is being tested. This assignment hits close to home for her, as her daughter died from a blood infection, which antibiotics almost certainly would have cured. She meets Dr. Jamie Stanton, and his sister, Tia, two doctors on the team, for whom the penicillin quest is also personal, as they had relatives die of infections. Claire and Jamie's relationship, Claire's family, the government and corporate interests in penicillin, a death (murder?), and World War II are all incorporated in this ambitious novel.

(Barnes and Noble)A Fierce Radiance: A Novel(Amazon)

Belfer has done her homework. On the cusp of finding an effective drug that would cure bacterial infections, World War II made the search more urgent. In war, infections from battlefield injuries resulted in huge loss of life. Penicillin was seen as a weapon of war.

The book opens in New York, three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Penicillin is being made in milk bottles and bedpans with mold, and still hadn't saved a person, mostly because they hadn't figured out how to make it quickly and in large quantities.

Everybody wants to know how to make this stuff. Pharmaceutical companies compete to produce penicillin and other antibacterial drugs. The military gets involved. Claire wants to document the progress as a photographer. There is a suspicious death. And there is government and corporate intrigue.

Sometimes I felt as though the book couldn't decide what it wanted to be - talking about the discovery of penicillin, a story about Claire and her family, a love story, a murder mystery, or maybe a thriller about government and corporate conspiracies. It tried hard to do it all.

The writing didn't always flow smoothly for me, perhaps going along with not always feeling as though the book knew where it was going.

Overall, however, the book worked for me. I really liked having historical context for the discovery and development of antibiotics, and liked how Belfer wove the fiction in with the history.


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The Bluest Eye

          The Bluest Eye          The Bluest Eye (Vintage International)

Pecola Breedlove feels ugly. Her family tells her she is ugly. As a young black girl in the 1940's, people at school and anyone she meets, anywhere, let her know she is ugly. She thinks that she will be beautiful, that her life will be better if she could only have blue eyes.

Toni Morrison includes much in this fairly slim volume, Claudia's perspective (another young black girl in the neighborhood), both of Pecola's parents' history, Pecola's longing for beauty, and for peace in her world and home. Each word in this book is a gift to the reader.

The Bluest Eye is a meditation on beauty, on self-worth, on what it means to be human, to be seen, truly seen, as a black girl in our culture. It is also about incest. Not a comfortable book, The Bluest Eye is exquisite and agonizing.

So many books are forgettable. Lovely, luminous, and haunting, I have a feeling this one will be with me for a long, long time.


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You can email me, Bibliophile, at 2of3Rs AT gmail DOT com.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Customers 10

Two women, in maybe their early 60's, both with spangles on their shirts, bleached hair, designer purses, came to the counter. One bought four books: Relationship Rescue by Phil McGraw, 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman, Contemplating Divorce by Susan Pease Gadoua, and Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, also by John Gottman.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert     Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last     Relationship Rescue: Exercises and Self-Tests to Help You Reconnect with Your Partner                              
Contemplating Divorce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go


Andre the Giant came into the store last night. Well, okay, it wasn't him (since he died in 1993), but it was someone who looked like him. With a Marine haircut. Even though the customer wasn't anywhere near Andre's 7'4" height, this guy looked so much like him, his voice even sounded like him, and his hands were the largest hands I've ever seen. Super nice. He bought the book Medal of Valor. And a large Playboy book in a box.

                    Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty


A dark haired man, early-mid 20's, scraggly beard, t-shirt, hat, with a 2 inch scar across the side of his neck bought the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook.

                    The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, Fourth Edition

Perhaps his phobia is related to knives.

You can contact me, Bibliophile, at 2of3Rs AT gamil DOT com.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Vampires Everywhere!

Bram Stoker started it. Anne Rice got it going. Stephanie Meyer hit a nerve. Charlaine Harris is working it in books and on the small screen. It seems as though everyone is jumping on the vampire bandwagon.

     Interview with the Vampire     Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1)     Dead Until Dark (Original MM Art) (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood)

Evidently, it hasn't been enough for vampires to have their own books and plotlines. Lately writers have wanted to augment books that are already written. Augment, that is, with vampires, and other fiendish creatures. Seth Grahame-Smith started with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Grahame-Smith's qualifications are delightfully impeccable. From the back cover of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies...

"Jane Austen is the author of Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and other masterpieces of English literature. Seth Grahame-Smith once took a class in English literature. He lives in Los Angeles."

     Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!      Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters     Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Today the latest literary incarnation of vampires arrived at the store...a lovely hardcover...

                         Dick and Jane and Vampires

Using the original text from the Dick and Jane books, as well as the characters - Dick, Jane, Sally, Puff, Spot, Mother, and Father, the stories are the same, Sally plays hide-and-seek, etc,...however, in this book, a vampire is an added playmate.

No blood and gore here, these are preschool vampires, with just enough of a scare factor to get early readers interested in vampires, so they'll keep reading about them for the rest. of. their. lives.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

In Our Control...Contraception

I just requested In Our Control: The Complete Guide to Contraceptive Choices for Women by Laura Edridge from librarything.com. (librarything has advance reader copies of books that they send out, though of course they have more people requesting books than can receive them, so sometimes we get lucky and sometimes we don't.)

In Our Control: The Complete Guide to Contraceptive Choices for Women

I am (thankfully) beyond the age and am in a relationship where contraception is not an issue for me. It is, however, something about which I am passionate.

In the 1960's, my dad, an ob/gyn, volunteered for Planned Parenthood. In high school, when I did a paper on abortion, I used my dad as a source for my research. I closed the paper with a quote from him, "I'm not pro-abortion, I'm pro-contraception."

I am a firm believer that sex ed, knowing about our bodies, knowing about sex and sexuality, knowing how babies are made and how to prevent pregnancy, are vital for our young people. Okay, I think that knowledge is vital for everyone.

When I worked in social services, there were women who would not take their birth control pills when their husbands were out of town, figuring that if there husbands weren't there and they weren't having sex, they wouldn't get pregnant. They, of course, were wrong. There were young women, who thought that you could not get pregnant the first time you had sex (one woman I worked with had sex once and had twins 9 months later. Her cousin had told her that you can't get pregnant the first time.) These are issues of ignorance, of not having correct information.

My dad made sure I knew that you CAN get pregnant the first time, and even using birth control isn't always 100% effective (most often because people don't use it correctly). Many people use abortion AS birth control, which frustrated him. This was one reason he volunteered at the clinic where they distributed free contraceptives.

Most of the families that I worked with in social services wanted to use contraception, but they were on public assistance, and it was frustrating that drugs like viagra were paid for, but birth control pills, or Depo Provera patches were not. Families with small incomes often had to choose, food? or birth control? It didn't seem fair.

George W. Bush's administration promoted a sex ed program (and I use that term loosely) that consisted of not being allowed to talk about ANY methods of birth control except abstention. And while abstaining from sex does work to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, it isn't very practical to think that telling kids to abstain will in fact result in them never having sex.

I'm thrilled that Laura Eldridge has written this book. Knowledge is power. Knowledge is strength and helps people make strong choices for their own lives. If I am lucky enough to receive this book from librarything, I want to have as many people as possible see it.


I wrote the above several weeks ago, when I did not know if I would receive In Our Control. I have since been informed that I was not lucky this time, so will not be receiving it. Too bad! I will, however, be on the lookout for it in the store, and will shortlist it so we have some on hand.

The comment below was sent in by "Anonymous". Just so you know, any book on this blog can be ordered through Amazon just by clicking the the book cover. Takes you right to the amazon page for that book!

You can contact me, Bibliophile, at 2of3rs AT gmail DOT com (no spaces).

Friday, August 20, 2010

Just for Fun

A customer was asking for one of the Would You Rather books. One of the staff wanted to recommend a different book but we didn't have it in the store. Barguments presents all sorts of (vitally important) arguments that often happen in bars, such as, who would win in a fight, a pirate or a ninja? I think we need to have that book in the store.


There are lots and lots of craft books. Lately there have been some craft books that perhaps might be appealing to the younger set. Zombie Felties, Creepy Cute Crochet: Zombies, Ninjas', Robots, are a few...

Zombie Felties: How to Raise 16 Gruesome Felt Creatures from the Undead          Creepy Cute Crochet: Zombies, Ninjas, Robots, and More!

A mom was browsing the craft books, which are close to the cash register. Her two kids, a boy and a girl, about ages 4 and 5 were playing fairly quietly around her. After about 45 minutes, she came to the register with her purchases. I hadn't noticed before, but the little boy had ape gloves on. The fingers and palms were a thinnish brown cloth. The rest of the gloves, all the way up to the elbows, were thick, shaggy, brown 'fur'. Ape gloves. I love it.

And an update. Remember the woman who wanted to know the rules about genies? She'd ordered the book, The Encyclopedia of Spirits, which had come in and we'd been holding for her. She never came in to get it. Maybe she found the genie rules somewhere else.


You can contact me, Bibliophile, at 2of3rsATgmailDOTcom

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Staff Recommendations

I have recently begun to be in charge of staff recommendations. This involves gathering everyone's recommendations and comments about the book(s) they recommend.

I had the idea to have a theme for the staff recs. This month (and this was thought up by three of us on the Fourth of July, probably THE slowest day of the year for bookstores), we had the idea that the recommendation had to have an author that was born in August, OR a character in the book whose birthday is in August. For instance, the Harry Potter books worked, while Harry and JK Rowling share a July 31 birthday, which wouldn't qualify, Percy and Ginny Weasley both have birthdays in August.
Some August author birthdays are:

Leo Tolstoy
Orson Scott Card
Charles Bukowski
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Herman Melville
James Baldwin
Leon Uris
Percy Shelley
Knut Hamsun
Alex Haley
P.L. Travers
Edith Hamilton
Jonathan Franzen
Annie Proulx
Dorothy Parker
A.S. Byatt
Mary Shelley
Stieg Larsson
Alexander McCall Smith
Garrison Keillor

The staff seems to like having a theme. When this month's theme was announced, many of the staff did research of their own to find an author they could get behind who was born in August.

Someone suggested then we should have to choose an author who shared OUR birthday, but that would be pretty narrow. (I, however, would have Agatha Christie, which isn't too bad!)

The staff are already asking about next month's theme. One suggestion was to have to recommend the first in a series. I like that idea, it gets the staff to think of perhaps lesser known series.

My thought was to have a book that has to do with school. It can have "School" (or college or university or kindergarten) in the title, OR have some of the book set in a school, or any of the characters can go to school. This seems broad enough that it should be fairly easy to find a book they like that fits.

My goal is just to get people (staff and customers) thinking about books. Something a little bit fun and different.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Coming Soon!

There are some books we are eagerly anticipating in the next few months...in addition to Mark Twain's autobiography (yes, really, he wrote it with the condition that it not be published until 100 years after his death. Volume 1 is coming out this November...)

         Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1


Sara Gruen has a new one coming out September 7, Ape House.

         Ape House: A Novel         Water for Elephants: A Novel

A lab that studies bonobo ape communication is bombed, the apes are traumatized, one of the scientists is injured, and the story proceeds from there. We can hope that it will be as good as Water for Elephants.


Terry McMillan has a new one coming out, also on September 7, Getting To Happy.

Getting to Happy                  Waiting to Exhale

In it, she follows the characters from Waiting to Exhale, 15 years later...


David Sedaris has a new one coming out too...Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, which will be released September 28.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary         When You Are Engulfed in Flames :        Me Talk Pretty One Day

I hope it will be as good as Me Talk Pretty One Day or When You Are Engulfed in Flames, two of my Sedaris favorites.

Stay tuned for more news about new releases!

And note that you can purchase any of these books by clicking on the book cover...so handy!