Author: Hillary (Page 1 of 3)

Reel to Real: ‘Our Souls at Night’ is a tender elegy about love

Kent Haruf passed away of cancer in November of 2014, shortly thereafter his final novel Our Souls at Night was published.our souls at night pb Our Souls at Night is now a film on Netflix starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. But, I encourage you to read this great author’s last novel before seeing it. It’s beautifully written and it will only take you an afternoon.

Haruf wrote this novel during the time in his life that he knew he was dying. He chose to write about finding love in the last chapters of these characters’ lives in spite of his reality.

Louis and Addie are neighbors, they’ve know each other for awhile…but just as friends. Louis lost his wife about a year earlier and Addie has been widowed for some time now. Both are in their seventies and are a bit lonely, but getting by just fine on their own. Addie, who has trouble sleeping at night, makes a suggestion that they begin sleeping together. Just sleeping in the same bed, talking, staying with each other through the night…companionship.

As the nights go by, they learn about each of their histories; their past spouses, their children, their fears and what they both still want out of life at their age. They help one another in different ways: emotionally, mentally, and physically.  Addie’s son is having some issues with his own son, so her grandson Jamie comes to stay with her for the summer. Addie and Louis help Jamie through a tough time and we learn that love is needed during all stages of life.

They start to have outings together, and people begin to notice their fondness of one another. They deal with rumors about the two of them that run through their small town, but even still…grow closer.

It’s about love, and it’s about loneliness and loss; friendships young and old, family and non-family. This is a book for literally anyone that wants a few hours of pure joy. I laughed and I cried, all in one sitting. The love and friendship between Addie and Louis is so real, I could feel it. This is a short read, but oh….it is so perfect. Haruf knew what he wanted out of this book and it’s superb.

Lovers Defying Doubt in ‘White Fur’ by Jardine Libaire

white furWhite Fur by Jardine Libaire is a gritty, uncommon love story set in New York in the 80s between two very uncommon people.

Elise Perez is a girl from a broken home, a bad situation, a girl from the wrong side of town, whatever you want to say….she didn’t grow up easy. Her life has been filled with taking care of siblings when no one else was around to feed them, working dead end jobs just to pay the rent, and dropping out of high school to get away from it all. She’s made some bad decisions, cleaned herself up, fallen back down, but ultimately knows what she wants out of life.

Jamey Hyde is a junior at Yale, who grew up in a privileged family. He’s the heir to a family fortune, drives a fancy car, and has all intentions to graduate and follow in his father’s footsteps as an investment banker. Although it seems like it, he doesn’t have the “perfect” life everyone thinks.

The two come from very different worlds, yet you immediately feel the raw, desperate love between them when they meet one another. They’ve both been let down by so many others throughout their lives that when they’re together there’s a connection that’s hard to break. But, oh…others definitely try to break it. Jamey’s family desperately want things to end, while Elise has no family to really turn to. Relationships are ruined, bridges are burned, and love is pushed to its limits…several times.

I couldn’t stop reading about each character that Libaire introduced. Every time she established a new detail of Jamey or Elise, I could see it so clearly in my mind. She’s a great writer, and the attention that she shows with her characters and their personal relationships really shines through.

First Voyage with a John Grisham Book

I’m going to be real honest here: I’ve never read a John Grisham book and I had never really thought that I would. But when I found out that Camino Island, his newest book–released today–deals with a bookstore and stolen F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts, I became interested and wanted to get my hands on an advance copy.

Camino Island begins with an intense moment, right in the middle of a gang of thieves staging the heist of the F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from the Princeton library. In what I can only assume is Grisham’s typical thriller writing style, he is able to pull the reader in right away with this scene.

Bruce Cable, owner of an independent bookstore on Florida’s Camino Island, always has his hand in buying and selling rare first edition books in addition to his ordinary stock. Here’s where the true book nerds get hooked. There’s constant book talk, authors and book titles are dropped here and there throughout, and I’m pretty sure Bruce’s first edition rooms may or may not have come from our very own Lemuria. Grisham paints a pretty picture of Bruce Cables’ bookstore, Bay Books. As a book lover, it’s very fun to read about.

Mercer Mann, a writer who has recently been laid off from her teaching gig at UNC and hasn’t written in months, spent her summers on Camino Island with her beloved grandmother Tessa, but hasn’t returned in years since her death. Mercer is approached by a woman who is working for a very mysterious company and is offered a large sum of money to move back to Camino Island and work undercover. Mercer’s mission consists of infiltrating Bruce Cable’s inner workings of his bookstore and first editions deals, as well as working her way into his circle of literary friends. Mercer has to get close enough to make sure Bruce hasn’t started to dip into the black market of stolen books, while also keeping his trust. Things begin to get pretty intense, but Grisham wraps everything up in perfect style.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This is not a legal thriller; it’s more of a crime novel. I think that new Grisham readers will find this book very entertaining and I think die-hard John Grisham fans will find this book refreshing. This book is going to give every book lover a new, and maybe first, look into the bookstore world. As a bookseller, I can definitely say that Grisham did a great job building this world in his writing and as a first time Grisham reader, I can definitely say he writes an entertaining and gripping novel.

If you’re going on vacation this summer, this is the beach read for you!

beach photo

Omnia Vincit Amor: ‘Exit West’ by Mohsin Hamid

Exit West is the first novel I’ve ever read by Mohsin Hamid, but it undoubtedly will not be the last! Hamid touches on relationships, religion, immigration, and social interactions, all with a beautiful style of magical realism that flowed so well I simply didn’t want to put it down.

In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her. For many days.

exit westThis is how the story of Nadia and Saeed begins, in a country teetering on the brink of a civil war. The dangerous country is never named, but it is obvious that it is somewhere in the Middle East. People are living here in constant fear, people are shot on their way to work, and sometimes even in their own homes.

Nadia is a fiercely independent women living alone, who wears a black robe from head to toe. She does not do this for religious purposes. In fact she never prays; she’s simply comfortable doing what she wants to do. Saeed is religious, lives at home with a loving family and prays almost daily, yet is much more unsure of himself. Both are very intrigued by one another and they begin a relationship amidst the growing war within their country. They start off as close friends and then slowly begin to realize how much of a physical, social, and intellectual connection they have with one another.

As the relationship between them begins to pick up, so does the war within their country. New curfews are put into place, and the government begins to cut electricity and cell phone services, making Nadia and Saeed fear for one another’s safety. Their country is becoming unlivable for them. They soon begin to hear about ‘doors’ throughout their city and country. These doors are rumored to transport people away from their terrible city and to a new location.  The tricky thing about these doors is that one cannot pick the location of their destination, and therefore they may end up in a new country as an unwanted immigrant. Nadia and Saeed decide to take the leap and pay for someone to find a door for them. They feel as if they have lost everything, and that they simply cannot have a life worth living in their country. They are willing to take the risk of being an immigrant or even refugee if it means that they can have a better life.


Moshin Hamid

Moshin Hamid

I know, this is a magical twist that may turn some people away…but I promise, the story is still just as powerful. You still see the stress and uncertainty that comes with a new relationship, even more so with one in a country at war with itself. You see family relationships at their best and at their worst. You also get a look into the life of refugees and how, even though they’re in the same situation, people can turn on one another quickly.  In our world today, refugees are often painted in a negative light. Hamid takes you into the mindset of a refugee and helps bring back the humanity that’s often lost in today’s world. Nadia and Saeed love one another, they love friends and family, they have relationships, they lose relationships, they’re people who are fighting to just make it out of a situation that they want no part of. They’re fighting for one another, they’re fighting for themselves, and they’re fighting for others around them. In the end, Hamid has written an extraordinary novel about love and loss in the mists of war.

I’m a fan. I can’t wait for more from Mohsin Hamid. Exit Westis fantastic.

Lone Wolf Learning: ‘History of Wolves’ by Emily Fridlund

Let me begin by saying this…

Emily Fridlund’s novel History of Wolves is not about the history of wolves. Yes, there is some wolf talk in the story, but you will not learn anything about the specific behavior of wolves. So, if wolves are your thing…this book may or may not be for you.

hillary history wolvesLinda is a fourteen-year-old girl who has a perplexing home life with her parents. They live in an abandoned cabin that used to be part of an old commune community in Northern Minnesota. She attends school, where she is an outsider. Her peers tend to either ignore her or make fun of her for being such a peculiar individual, often calling her a “freak”.

She is an only child and seems to be completely oblivious to any form of social skills with other individuals, whether they be students or even teahers. Her understanding of the world seems to come only from her experiences with the people around her. She’s intrigued by a girl named Lily, who often ignores her, and a new history teacher, Mr. Grierson, who takes an interest in her.
Mr. Grierson sets up a “History Odyssey” (a tournament/science fair or sorts) and invites Linda to be a part of it. Linda spends time outside of class with Mr. Grierson and decides to do her speech on “The History of Wolves.”

wolfWe soon find out that the teacher has a past dealing with child pornography and Lily has accused him of behaving inappropriately with her.  The implications of the teacher’s arrest deeply affect Linda and her perspective on human relationships. She retreats to her home and works with the family dogs during the summer months.

During her second year of high school, a new family, the Gardners, moves into a large home across the lake from Linda’s house. At first, it’s just the mother and her son (Patra and Paul)— the father/husband is away for work. Linda becomes close to Patra and Paul, and babysits Paul almost daily. She finds this “normal” family refreshing and innocent. When Leo, Patra’s husband, does come to stay, Linda realizes that the family has a secret that they are hiding. If Linda tells the truth, she may risk losing the only few human relationships that she has been able to make. But, if she doesn’t….something terrible might happen.

Emily Fridlund has a masterful way with words, no doubt, her writing is beautiful.

“Winter collapsed on us that year. It knelt down, exhausted, and stayed.”

From the very beginning I could literally feel the anticipation building. I just knew something was going to happen, yet the shock factor was still there when it did. This is a eloquently written debut novel with a fascinating story.

Looking for Love: ‘Always Happy Hour’ by Mary Miller

always happy hourWith Always Happy Hour, Mary Miller has written a collection of short stories that pulled me in immediately. Each story had me wanting more and some were hard to shake. She really nails it with these stories, so much so that I found myself highlighting sentences over and over again.

Her stories are about women; women who could be me, you, or the girl that lives next to you in your apartment complex. They are all from different walks of life: some are teachers, some are in college, divorced, etc.–all wanting to find love. Some think they’ve found it, but can’t decide if they want to keep it. Some only want to give it. Others don’t think they’ll ever find it, because they’ve been hurt or because they’ve made poor decisions. In one of the stories Miller writes, “She thinks about the things that have hurt her and she thinks about beauty and how little of it she sees in even beautiful things. She wonders if people who’ve been hurt more see more beauty. She wonders how a few strung-together words can seem so meaningful when she doesn’t believe them at all.” Miller has a way with words, she writes these women’s thoughts out right and honest–it’s refreshing.

Miller’s stories are sometimes heavy, gritty, and disturbing. One that was particularly difficult to read was “Big Bad Love” about a young woman working at a shelter for abused children. This women is taking care of children that have seen things, felt things, and know things far beyond what they should. She’s close to one child in particular and states at the end that she just hopes the child will remember that someone, at sometime in her life, loved her.

One of my other favorites is called “At One Time This Was The Longest Covered Walkway In The World.” It’s about a young woman in a relationship with a divorced father of a four-year old boy. There are points in the story where she seems to adore the child, and then there are times where she wishes he wasn’t in the middle of her relationship with this man. While looking at the young boy’s brown eyes, she thinks to herself, “My boyfriend’s eyes are blue. I want to ask my boyfriend what color his ex-wife’s eyes are because if they’re blue, then the boy isn’t his and we could be spending our nights alone.” She seems selfish, but I think she’s just trying to figure out how to love someone who already has to share his love, and who has already created a family without her.

Miller’s stories are deep, funny, bitter, ugly, beautiful.

Tom Franklin had this to say about Always Happy Hour: “I adore Mary Miller’s stories, and you will too. Read this book and then read her others. Like, now.”

I agree. I’m off to read more of Mary Miller’s work.

Mary Miller will serve as a panelist on the “Stories from the South” discussion at the Mississippi Book Festival on Saturday, August 19 at 10:45 a.m. at the State Capitol in Room 201A.

Staff Nonfiction Favorites from 2016

Last month, we showed you our favorite fiction books from 2016. This time, we’re back to tell you what our favorite nonfiction books were. From Churchill to Hitler, from art to music, from the frontier to the boudoir,  our picks were all over the place, but they all have a place on your shelf in 2017. Come to the store and ask us about our favorites–we’ll tell you all about them!

  • John Evans, bookstore owner – Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard
  • Kelly, general manager – Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
  • Austen, operations manager – Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939 by Volker Ullrich
  • Lisa, first editions manager – Absolutely on Music by Haruki Murakami
  • Hillary, front desk supervisor – Trials of the Earth by Mary Mann Hamilton
  • hillary-trialsFor what small amount of education she had during her life, Hamilton has created a beautifully written book about her time as a pioneer women in the Mississippi Delta.  Throughout this time in her life, she encounters a flood that completely washes away her home and the family’s logging camp, buries children, and deals with her husband’s secretive life and drinking problem. Hamilton is a fierce woman that I found absolutely fascinating.

  • Clara, Oz manager – Mad Enchantment by Ross King
  • Abbie, fiction supervisor – Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
  • Julia, First Editions Club supervisor – You Will Not Have My Hate by Antone Leiris
  • Andrew, blog supervisor – Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
  • Ellen, bookseller – The Voyeur’s Motel by Gay Talese
  • ellen voyeursThe Voyeur’s Motel is an amazing work of narrative journalism which I could not put down. The majority of this book is from the titular voyeur Gerald Foos’ actual journals and notes, which were extremely fascinating. Basically, Foos spent the majority of his time writing down any and everything that he watched from his voyeuristic “observation deck” and shared those thoughts with Gay Talese. Fascinating read.

  • Katie, bookseller – Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
  • katie-shrillLindy West is an outspoken, confident, intriguing woman in our world today. Shrill tells the story of Lindy’s life, her accomplishments and failures, and her highs and her lows. Her story is insanely inspiring and relatable, touching on the many struggles that women are still facing today. Lindy is a role model to me and many others, and I know she could be one to you, too.

  • Jamie, bookseller – March by John Lewis
  • Matt K., bookseller – The Voyeur’s Motel by Gay Talese
  • Alex, bookseller – The Fire This Time edited by Jesmyn Ward
  • James, bookseller – Trials of the Earth by Mary Mann Hamilton
  • Diane, Oz bookseller – The Journey That Saved Curious George by Louise Borden

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Gifting the Perfect Book: Staff Fiction Favorites for 2016

Are you in a crunch for Christmas gifts?! Can’t find that perfect book for the one you love? Let our staff give you some GREAT recommendations! Here is a list of some of our FAVORITE FICTION books from the year 2016! Hurry by and we’ll wrap one for you just in time to stick under the tree!

  • John Evans, bookstore owner – Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo
  • Kelly, general manager – Bright Precious Days by Jay McInerney
  • Austen, operations manager – The Nix by Nathan Hill
  • Lisa, first editions manager – Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
  • Hillary, front desk supervisor – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • Clara, Oz manager – The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner
  • Abbie, fiction supervisor – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • abbie-homegoing“Homegoing is  about the families of two sisters, one of whom marries a slaver, and one who is taken into slavery. It is a story that spans generations that is for every generation. You’ll fall in love with every character. Gyasi weaves together a compelling and beautiful tale. ” – Abbie

  • Julia, First Editions Club supervisor – by Graham Swift
  • julia-mothering-sundayMothering Sunday is a short and fabulous book about
    forbidden love and class division. I would read it 100 times over; it was so good. – Julia

  • Andrew, blog supervisor – The Nix by Nathan Hill
  • andrew-nixThe Nix is a spectacular debut novel about a writer searching for the truth about the mother who abandoned him, only to make headline news decades later. The tone alternates between comic and serious, and and it expertly captures the zeitgeist of both the 2010s and the 1960s. Hill does such a good job writing from multiple perspetives. – Andrew

  • Ellen, bookseller – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • Katie, bookseller – Nicotine by Nell Zink
  • Jamie, bookseller – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • Maggie Smith, bookseller – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • Matt K., bookseller – Mischling by Affinity Konar
  • Aimee, bookseller – The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer
  • Alex, bookseller – Nutshell by Ian McEwan
  • James, bookseller – El Paso by Winston Groom
  • Erica, Oz bookseller – Scythe by Neal Shusterman
  • Diane, Oz bookseller – Pax by Sara Pennypacker
  • Polly, Oz bookseller – Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum


Her Hardest Hue to Hold: ‘The Gold Seer Trilogy’ by Rae Carson

like-a-river-gloriousI’ve been in a reading funk for a little bit. Yep, it even happens to us booksellers. I just couldn’t get into any of the books I was picking up lately. So, I did what I always do to get out of said “funk”…I went to our young adult section and asked Clara to just go nuts and hand me books. Because, hey…..that section is just plain fun. Sure enough, she handed me an advance copy of the second book in Rae Carson’s The Gold Seer Trilogy, Like A River Glorious! I read the first book in the trilogy when it came out last September and loved it, so I was pretty excited to get back into the world that Carson has created.

walk-on-earth-a-strangerThe Gold Seer Trilogy begins with the first book, Walk on Earth a Stranger, which was long-listed for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature last year. I’m just going to write an overview of both books, because I don’t want to spoil anything if you haven’t even started the series. Which, you obviously should. Like, now.

This series is very much historical fiction, as it is set during the Gold Rush-era in America; but, in true Carson form, there is also magic throughout. Lee Westfall, the protagonist, has a strong, loving family. She has a home that she loves and a loyal longtime friend, Jefferson—who might want to be something more than friends. She also has a secret which only her family, including her awful uncle, knows: she can sense gold in the world around her…small nuggets in a stream, veins deep within the earth, even gold dust under her fingernails.

And y’all….she is a badass. She basically loses everything due to her special ability and her terrifying uncle. She begins a very long and hard journey westward to California disguised as a boy to not only hide from her uncle, but also to keep herself safe from others and to be seen as an equal to all other traveling men. Lee swears to herself that she will never marry, because then she and anything she does will become the property of her husband. Jefferson heads west as well to get away from his own abusive home life and the two meet up in Missouri. On their journey, they face sickness and exhaustion, greedy gold seekers sent by Lee’s uncle, and stampedes of buffalo. Once in California, Lee and Jefferson finally have a new group of people to call their family and with Lee’s ability, they set up their homestead on plots of land rich with gold. But, with gold….comes more trouble.


Carson does such a great job balancing the magic with all of the historical aspects. She also makes Lee Westfall an awesome, strong female lead. This is a great series for girls ages 14 and up.  If you haven’t read any Rae Carson, go to Lemuria, find me (I’m usually at the front desk) and then treat yourself to about three or four of her books. This is Carson’s second book series, her first is The Girl of Fire and Thorns series. READ IT. It is awesome as well.

Happy Reading!

Freaky Friday: ‘The Voyeur’s Motel’ by Gay Talese

voyeurs-motelBefore I just dive right into my thoughts on this book, let me share with you a piece from the cover flap of Gay Talese’s book The Voyeur’s Motel:

“On January 7, 1980, in the run-up to the publication of his landmark bestseller Thy Neighbor’s Wife, Gay Talese received an anonymous letter from a man in Colorado. “Since learning of your long awaited study of coast-to-coast sex in America,” the letter began, “I feel I have important information that I could contribute to its contents or to contents of a future book.”

This anonymous letter was written by Gerald Foos, a motel owner in Denver, Colorado. What Foos went on to explain to Talese was pretty astonishing: Foos had purchased this motel to satisfy his voyeuristic desires and had built an “observation platform” underneath the roof of his motel. He installed “vents” near the foot of the bed into motel rooms in order to watch and listen to his guests. Foos writes, “The advantageous placement of the vent will permit an excellent opportunity to viewing and also hearing discussions of the individual subjects.”

Gerald Foos kept journals for around 15 years (between 1960-1980) and included almost every detail that he found important or interesting. Yes, there is quite a bit of detailed information dealing with sexual encounters of Foos’s unknowing guests. But, Foos really seemed to think of himself as a researcher of American society and sexuality.

He gathered statistics on different matters, such as the effects of the Vietnam War on sexual relationships, or relationships in general. The motel was located near a type of “half-way house” for men who had just arrived back injured from Vietnam. There were a few occasions when Foos witnessed and recorded men who were either paralyzed or had lost a limb in the war, and that injury’s effects on their sexual encounters with either wives or lovers.

Foos recorded the effects of the desegregation of American society in these relationships, as well. He noted that, before the late 60s and early 70s, white women would wait in the car for their African American counterpart to just grab the keys, and would not go inside together. Later, both subjects would enter together and go to the front desk to check in.

I wish I could tell you more about some of the encounters Gerald Foos recorded in his journals…but I don’t think they are very appropriate for this blog. What I will say is that Gerald seemed to think that the movie Deep Throat had to do with the rise in his guests participating in one particular sex act and that men of the 1960s foos-filesweren’t great at sex, and could really care less if their wives were satisfied–gender roles at their finest.

The Voyeur’s Motel is an amazing work of narrative journalism which I could not put down. The majority of this book is from Foos’ actual journals and notes which were extremely fascinating. But….what a freak…right? Right? I can’t decide. Everyone is curious, but Gerald Foos took it to the extreme, and I thank him for it.

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