Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Plaza

Guillermo Paxton contacted me and asked me to review his new book, THE PLAZAicon.


A fictionalized treatment of the drug and mafia situation in Juarez, Mexico, this didn't seem to be the kind of book I'd usually read.

But in the news recently, we heard about the 49 people who were beheaded and left in a town square as part of the mafia power struggles in Mexico.

So while THE PLAZAicon is fiction, what it depicts is not. It seemed a timely and important read.

Hard hitting, intense, and violent, THE PLAZAicon tells the story of two main factions trying to gain control over the drug trade in the city of Juarez and beyond. Saul is an idealistic journalist who is trying to shed light on the drug trade as well as the corruption within law enforcement; Juan and Felipe are players in opposing factions. Paxton keeps the story moving, even as the death toll mounts. I kept reading, eager to find out what happened, even if some parts were incredibly brutal and hard to read.

As I read I remembered the 49 people who were beheaded. The situation in Mexico is horrific. THE PLAZAicon is disturbing in its depiction of the situation in Juarez. This, however, I think is the point. We need to be disturbed. And Paxton did it well.

(Not to take away from the power of the book; but I could really see this book being made into a movie.)

Thank you to Mr. Paxton for bringing this book to my awareness and to my Nook. Clicking on the book cover will take you to Amazon's web page for the book. Clicking on the underlined title is supposed to take you to Barnes and Noble's web page for this book. At this time (30 May), the Barnes and Noble links do not seem to be working. I am trying to find out why. You can send email to us at: 2of3Rs(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Gone Girl

Bibliophile brought home a book for me. Not just any book, but an early release copy of Gillian Flynn's new novel, GONE GIRLicon, which is due out this June.


Let me just preface this with full disclosure.  I believe in comeuppance.   I believe in the underbelly.   I believe if you get "whacked" you violated a sacred code and probably deserved it.  I believe that Earl had to die.  I believe there is no wrong side of the tracks.  And most assuredly, I believe that Jon Cusack's role as a hit man in the movie Grosse Pointe Blank is a reasonable career choice and that flexible morality is a lifestyle choice.  Truly, as the Stones said, "you can't always get what you want"; what they left out is that you can usually find someone to get it for you if the price is right. 

My "discovery" of Gillian Flynn began about three years ago as I was prowling through Powell's in Portland. I reached for her first novel, SHARP OBJECTSicon, and ran my fingertips over the raised picture of a razor blade.  That's all it took.  Kismet.  I awaited Ms. Flynn's second novel, DARK PLACESicon with great anticipation and was equally pleased with her sophomore effort.  I gave both these books to friends who lean towards the darkness rather than the light.  They say much can be revealed by shining a light on it; Ms. Flynn shows us how very much more becomes illuminated in darkness.

I hesitate to say too much about her third novel, GONE GIRLicon, which has so many exquisite twists and turns that I ended up gloriously dizzy as I turned the pages, but I shall try to relate to you why I was so drunkenly satisfied.  The main protagonist in GONE GIRLicon is Amy.  Her parents have written a series of children's books featuring "Amazing Amy" so that is the identity through which the world has seen her.  Amy marries Nick Dunne and through a series of unfortunate events the two of them move from New York to Missouri.  Amy was not meant, destined, or designed to live in Missouri.  "There's something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold", Flynn writes, and as early as page seven we have a taste of both her fabulous prose as well as something being terribly wrong here.  Here meaning with Amy and Nick Dunne.  Here meaning Missouri and not New York.  Here meaning today, in this story, something has gone wrong.

There are so very many ways the story of Amy and Nick turns, backtracks, begins again, challenges your memory, your own ability to judge truth from fiction, as well as your own sense of right and wrong.  There are passages in the book that absolutely made me stop and read again.  Passages where as I read I called out to Bibliophile, "honey, come listen to this", and then would read them aloud to her because I had to share a sentence RIGHT NOW.  The book was filled with these moments for me.

Amy has a very hard time in the novel living up to and being,  in some ways how she was expected to be, Amazing Amy. Her parents have largely shown their love for her through these books and made her a symbol of sorts.  Gillian writes, "Don't screw up, you are Amazing Amy.  Our only one.  There is an unfair responsibility that comes with being an only child--you grow up knowing you aren't allowed to disappoint, you're not even allowed to die.  There isn't a replacement toddling around; you're it.  It makes you desperate to be flawless, and it also makes you drunk with power.  In such ways are despots made.  These are the many "hints" that Gillian spins throughout the novel that tell us that things may not be what they seem, there may indeed be a soft underbelly here that is being implied but not defined.  Ms. Flynn has a writing style that gives away only what you are willing to believe, suspect, intuit, and pull from your own beliefs and expectations of people and their relationships.  You no doubt will see yourself at some point in Ms. Flynn's writing; the question that will remain is whether you like what you see or if anyone knows this about you.

Because you can't be in love as we were and not have it invade your bone marrow.  Our kind of love can go into remission, but it's always waiting to return.  Like the world's sweetest cancer.  And so it was with Amy and Nick and this is their journey through marriage.  It might not be as many of us pictured it but it is alluring nonetheless.

Not without humor,  Ms. Flynn does poke some fun at the midwest.  The rug says:  All Are Friends Who Enter Here.  It is from Costco.  I have learned about bulk shopping in my four weeks as a Mississippi River resident.  Republicans go to Sam's Club, Democrats go to Costco.  But everyone buys bulk because - unlike Manhattanites - they all have space to store twenty-four jars of sweet pickles.  And - unlike Manhattanites - they all have uses for twenty-four jars of sweet pickles.  (No gathering is complete without a lazy-Susan full of pickles and Spanish olives right from the jar.  And a salt lick.)

My favorite part of Ms. Flynn's new novel is that it is longer than both her previous efforts and I found myself not wanting the book to end.  That being said, she wrote one of the most perfect endings I have read in a very long time.  Color me satisfied.

Both at home and at work I have people who take on the role of my moral compass.  I give them that role freely because I'm not sure my own points to true north, but more likely points to true self.  These people in my life know a lot about what lurks in my nooks and crannies and they love me anyway.  I'm thinking one of the things that makes Ms. Flynn's novels so legendary to me is that her writing makes you question and shine light on your own individual DARK PLACESicon and ask yourself very hard questions.  But that's just me.  Therapist.  Maybe some people just read it as an outlandish tale that never would happen. The absolute guts and glory of this writing is that I think most of you will visit places in your heart and mind that often lie silent and private.

One pet peeve that I will announce here is that I noticed someone called Ms. Flynn a "crime writer".  Seriously?  If she wants that label I will not argue with her, largely because I don't have the opportunity.  I would posit to you, her readers, that Ms. Flynn is writing novels that are thrillers of our subconscious.  Mysteries of our souls.  So far beyond the term, "Crime Writer".

I have purposefully not said a lot about the actual bones of the plot.  To do so would be to rob each of you of the experience as it unfolds, a delightful journey that I hope many of you will take.  I will leave you with a quote from Ms. Flynn's second novel.  It was in the acknowledgements at the end and said,  "Finally, thanks to my brilliant, funny, giant-hearted, super-hot husband, Brett Nolan. What do I say to a man who knows how I think and still sleeps next to me with the lights off."   Since reading that I have often thought that of Bibliophile.  To know and be known, that is a true love story, and that is the story you will find in GONE GIRLicon.


Thanks for stopping by the blog! Clicking on the underlined book title takes you to Barnes and Noble's web page for that item. Clicking on the book cover takes you to Amazon's web page for that item.

Monday, May 21, 2012

An Open Letter to Authors


You have written a most excellent book. You would like the world to become aware of this most amazing book.

To this end, you scour the internet, looking for blogs or other book related sites on which to post information about your book. You brand yourself, trying to make yourself stand out from the crowd.

I get this. It's hard to get your book noticed. While digital publishing has made it easier (in some ways) to get your book published, the fact is that with so many more books in circulation, it's hard to get your book noticed. Unless a book is picked up by a major publishing house and gets early buzz from the publisher or a large book selling entity, or is featured on television (as is the case with the recently hyperpopular FIFTY SHADES OF GREY), it can get lost in oblivion.

This means that self-promotion is the name of the game.

You might post information about your most excellent book on this blog's facebook page (NOT the New York Times Book Review). These posts are welcomed.

You might also post or message and ask for a review of your book. This can be a boon for us. It is delightful to discover a heretofore unknown book that we read and enjoy. (See my post on THE PRANKicon by Adam Black here: http://notthenewyorktimesbookreview.blogspot.com/2011/11/prank-by-adam-black.html).

But here's the deal. You can ask for a review. And we (there are two of us here) may or may not accept your request. We are selective about what we read, and read what we want to read.

Yours may very well be a most excellent book, it just may not be the most excellent book for us. Or it may not be the most excellent book for us at this time.

We appreciate those of you who take the time to send a private message with your request (or an email, using the email address below).

So authors and publishers? Go ahead and post. And email. And good luck with your book.

Thank you for reading the blog! You can send email to: 2of3Rs(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Native American Novels?

A woman with a leathery face, dark green fleece jacket, and light blue eye shadow came up to the counter. She was holding three copies of a bargain book about Abraham Lincoln.

"I'd like to see any more books you have on Lincoln, where would they be?" she asked.

"Well, Lincoln is one of those who has books about him in our History section as well as our Biography section. I'll show you where those sections are," I said.

"That would be great," she said.

"Anything on Lincoln in History would be in U.S. History. Unfortunately it is alphabetical by author, so it's harder to find books on a specific topic or person because they aren't usually together. Biography is over here," I said, as we walked toward the Biography section. "This section is arranged by who it's about, so all the books on Lincoln are together."

"Okay, that's great. Now I know where they are. I have another question," she said.

"Sure," I said.

"My husband hasn't been much of a reader, but he's starting to want to read. I want to get him something he'll like. He wants to read fiction. Do you have anything on Native American history in fiction?"

Racking my brain, I'm thinking and talking..."Well, there is THE SHADOW CATCHER by Marianne Wiggins...though that is more about Edward Curtis who took photographs of Native Americans than the Native Americans themselves. Sherman Alexie is Native American and he's written some novels, though they aren't necessarily historical, though they are from the Native American point of view." The woman didn't seem all that interested.

I continue, "Um, there is Tony Hillerman, who wrote a series of mysteries with a Native American detective." We walk toward the Mystery section, where we have about two dozen Hillerman titles. I picked up one of the books and read out loud that the detective is Navajo.

"Are they all Navajo? There aren't any about the Cherokee?"

"I'm pretty sure all of Hillerman's books are with the Navajo detective," I said.

"Well, there should be more fiction about Cherokee. My husband is part Cherokee, so he has an interest there."

"I don't know of any novels that have to do with Cherokee history," I said, "I can look on the computer and see if anything comes up."

She seemed disapointed. "No, that's all right. This will be fine. I'll see what I can find on Lincoln. Thanks anyway."

When she came up to the register a half an hour later, she didn't have any of the novels I'd suggested. "I think someone should write some novels about the Cherokee."

"Yes," I agreed. "That would be good."

Thank you for stopping by the blog! You can send email to us: 2of3Rs(AT)gmail(DOT)com. You can also "like" us on our facebook page, NOT the New York Times Book Review.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Alone Together...redux

I just came across this article in the New York Times written by Sherry Turkle, author of ALONE TOGETHERicon.

She clearly articulates some of the problems and challenges we face in our relationships because of technology. I wrote a blog post about her excellent and insightful book, ALONE TOGETHERicon in September, 2011.

In the article (and the book!) she offers a compelling exploration of what she believes are some issues we face as technology becomes more and more a part of our daily lives and we rely on it more and more to communicate with others.


I found it fascinating. Maybe you will too!

Here is a link to the New York Times article...

Here is the link to the blog post...

Thank you for stopping by the blog!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day Question

"Twyla" was at the information desk. A woman came up and handed her a note. We get this fairly often, people who are deaf will write us notes with their book questions.

Her note said...

"I feel free to ask you one question. My daughter-in-law is pregnant in 6 weeks. Should I give her flower for Mother's Day?"

"Twyla" wrote on the paper, "It's the thought that counts. What a sweet gesture!"

The woman wrote back, "Thank you for helping."

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

All the Bones?

One of our regular customers came in today, with short neat grey hair, wearing jeans, a white button-up shirt and a salmon colored sweater. I asked if I could help her find something.

"Yes you can," she replied, looking at a piece of paper she'd brought. "I'm looking for a new book called ALL THE BONES, and it's by a Phyllis or a Penelope or something. I can't read my own writing." She laughed a little.

"Hmm, okay, I'll see what I can find," I said as I started searching the computer. I didn't find any book with that specific title, never mind one with that title and a Penelope or Phyllis as an author. "I'm not finding any book with that exact title," I told her. "There are lots of titles with the word 'bones' in it..."

"Well, let me see," she said, looking at her paper again. "It's about Thomas Cromwell. And it's called ALL THE BONES."

While she was talking, I was continuing to search our system, using key words and exact title and title words (I just skipped the author part). "I'm not finding anything. Let me search the internet and see what I can find." I searched and found that Hilary Mantel has written two books about Thomas Cromwell.

"Is it BRINGING UP THE BODIES by Hilary Mantel?", I asked.

"That's it! Well, I was kind of close, with Phyllis or Penelope and the word 'bones', wasn't I?", she joked.

"Yep, pretty close!", I agreed. I walked over to the shelf, took a copy of the book and handed it to her. She was thrilled.

Thanks for stopping by the blog! You can send email to us: 2of3Rs(AT)gmail(DOT)com. You can also "like" us on our facebook page, NOT the New York Times Book Review.

Friday, May 4, 2012

This Was a First

A woman came to the counter with about seven large hardcover bargain books. She had short, stylish, dark hair, was wearing jeans and a black sweater. One of the books was THE ATLAS OF WORLD HISTORY, Another was TIME'S GREAT DISCOVERIES, another was NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S EXPLORATION EXPERIENCE. Several of the books had pictures of antique maps on them. One had a lovely scenic picture on it.


"I need to know your return policy," the woman said. "These are for my bookshelves and if they don't look right on the shelves, then I'd like to bring them back." As she was speaking, she gestured with her hands as if she were putting the books on a shelf facing outwards. "You know, if the colors aren't right for my living room, or if the books aren't just the right size for the shelves."

"Um, sure," I said. I told her that she could return the books with a receipt within two weeks.

"Oh, good," she said. "I just need something that looks nice on the shelves. I think these will work, but I won't really know until I get them home. And I got books that maybe even my kids might use someday."

"Right. Well, I hope they work out for you, but if not, you can bring them back," I said.

She bought all of the books.

Thanks for stopping by the blog! You can "like" us on our facebook page, NOT the New York Times Book Review. You can also send email to us: 2of3Rs(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I answered the phone at the bookstore where I work. "Do you have the April issue of PCGamer magazine? It has a beta game. The April issue."

"Let me check," I said. After walking over to the newsstand, I looked at the current issue of PCGamer. "No, I'm sorry, I don't. I have the May issue. As soon as the new issues come in, the old ones go out. We don't have any back copies of magazines."

"Are you sure it's not the April issue?" she asked again. "There's a game in there that my son really wants."

"I'm holding it in my hand, and it is the May issue," I said.

"Well that sucks," she spat. "My son really wanted that game."

"I'm sorry," I said. "We don't all get our shipments on the same day. You could try calling another bookstore and see if maybe they still have the April issue."

"Fine. I guess I'll have to do that then." And she hung up.

Another phone call had a young woman calling and asking if we had a specific textbook in stock at the store.

"We don't usually carry textbooks, and we don't have that one in stock" I told her.


"Ah, we can order it for you, or you can order it online if you'd like," I offered.

"No. never mind," she said right before she hung up.

A third call came from a man. He wanted me to order a book for him. I was having a hard time hearing him and had to ask him to repeat things several times. I asked if he'd like to be notified by email when the book would be shipped and he said he would. He stumbled several times over his email address, and I had to ask for clarification on some of the letters. "F" can sound like "S" over the phone, "B" can sound like "P", and so on. Evidently I asked for clarification one too many times for him and he said "GODDAMNIT" pretty loudly. We did ultimately get through the call with his order complete.


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