Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 4)

Showing some love for ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas

Cards on the table: Angie Thomas is an acquaintance of mine from college–one of those right here in Jackson. I followed her nascent writing career on social media, and as things started to take off for her, I was rooting for her success, even before I saw any of her writing. The hype train for her first book, The Hate U Give, suddenly began to rollin a big way. But when I finally got an advance copy in my hands, I started to worry: what if I didn’t like it?

hate u give w/borderWell, I am happy to report that I liked it–a lot. Writing a novel about a topical political issue seems ambitious, especially for a first novel. But that is a strength of what Thomas does here with The Hate U Give: she takes the political and makes it personal.

The Hate U Give is the story of 16 year-old Starr Carter, who is hitching a ride home with her childhood friend, Khalil,  after a party, when they are pulled over by a police officer. Starr’s family has taught her to be cautious in this situation, but Khalil acts casually–which causes him to become a casualty.

When we hear about a police officer shooting a black person–often male, often young–we may recognize it as a shame for the names I hope we remember, but this tells the story of the ones left behind–of Starr, as the witness to Khalil’s killing, but also of their whole community of Garden Heights.

tupac thug lifeThe title of the book is a take on an acronym, or a backronym, of a tattoo that Tupac Shakur had: THUG LIFE–The Hate U Give Little Infants F***s Everybody. The racism that white people give to black people hurts black people, of course, but it’s also bad for everybody, including those who give it. This hate is poison. The acronym takes a term of derision, thug, and turns it around as a warning against this hate.

Ironically, though, if Starr, as a black person, is hurt by this hatred from other people, she also derives her strength from other people, as well. Her father gives her his principles, her friend Kenya reminds here where she’s from, her Uncle Carlos gives her strength, and her (white) boyfriend Chris supports and adores her. And that’s just a sample; part of what’s so great about this YA novel is its depiction of black family and community. One of the most well-defined characters is her father, Maverick Carter, a former gangbanger who is now a proud business owner of a store in the Heights.

Rich characterization is found everywhere from both Starr’s black world (the Heights) to her white one (where she goes to school at predominantly white Williamson Prep, and where her police officer Uncle Carlos lives). Starr explores her identity as a black person, but also as a female, and as a teenager. And as a teenager, she grows throughout the course of the book, from fear to courage, from passivity to action.

The Hate U Give is a well-told, engaging, often fun, sometimes harrowing young adult novel about black community, and the effects of police violence against black lives. It shows accessible humanity on the side of the story not often seen. It is a tremendous first novel that is enjoyable for both teenagers and adults, and I implore you to give The Hate U Give a chance.

Gifting the Perfect Book: For Grit Lit Aficionados

Ron Rash, man.  Ron.  Rash.

In a previous blog, I waxed poetic (or, maybe I approached giddy) about Ron Rash’s writing.  I’ve yet to encounter a writer who can shift gears so seamlessly between genres.  His short stories are perfect, his poetry is stunning, and his novels are exquisite.  His most recent foray into long-form fiction, The Risen, does not disappoint.  While it doesn’t quite have the punch that his previous novel, Above the Waterfall, does, it’s still a fantastic read.

risenLike all of Rash’s fiction, The Risen is set in North Carolina, and this place informs both the characters and plot.  Our narrator, Eugene, tells us two parallel stories: first, he recalls his youth, specifically the summer of 1969, in which his sixteen-year-old self and his older brother Bill meet Ligeia, a rebellious teenager spending the summer away from her native Daytona Beach.  Ligeia’s parents have shipped her to live with relatives in small-town North Carolina as a way of insulating her from the drug-fueled lifestyle she had created for herself.  Instead of detoxing, though, Ligeia uses her charms to pull Bill and Eugene into her world, causing a rift to emerge between both the brothers, and their domineering, manipulative Grandfather.

Second, Eugene also spends time in his present day, which is equally fraught. Bill has become a well-known and respected surgeon (following in Grandfather’s medical footsteps), while Eugene’s alcohol abuse has dried up his potential talent as both a novelist and English professor.  The two plotlines converge, however, when Eugene comes across a news report of the discovery of a body next to the creek at which he, Bill, and Ligeia would rendezvous for teenage mischief—namely, drug use (thanks to Bill and Eugene lifting painkillers from Grandfather’s clinic).  Eugene is convinced that the body is Ligeia’s and, after pressing Bill for the truth, ends up discovering some troubling truths about himself, his Grandfather, his brother, and his past.  He also makes some revelations to us, the readers, that were hinted at but never fully explained.

The beauty of so much of Rash’s work is the music in his language—his prose is flowing and gorgeous.  Above the Waterfall was  a slow, dense read because of Rash’s poetic wording.  The Risen is still beautiful, but reads at a much quicker clip.  Unlike most of Rash’s other writing, The Risen’s use of parallel plots adds a touch of complexity to the work.  Don’t worry, though: this isn’t indecipherable  (I’m looking at you, William Faulkner).  Eugene’s narration is clear and the reader is never confused whether we’re following him in the past or the present.

The Risen would make a fantastic gift for someone who needs an enjoyable read, or as a gift to yourself as a break from the hustle of the season.

Ron Rash will serve as a panelist on the “Larry Brown, the South, and the Modern Novel” discussion at the Mississippi Book Festival on Saturday, August 19 at 1:30 p.m. at the State Capitol in Room 113.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch

Today is the sixth day in the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas. To celebrate, we’re running Clara’s Clarion-Ledger article about the ever-popular children’s book, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. Enjoy!

JacketThe Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski is not a new Christmas story, but it is one that I would like to revisit as it has been recently published in a new 20th anniversary edition.

Illustrations by P.J. Lynch have made this book the miraculous wonder that it is, and Lynch says the challenge of painting this story was “not to do with costumes or tools; it was to try to match, in my pictures, the deep emotional core of Susan’s story, to try to somehow show that might be going on inside a character’s head, or inside his heart.”

In what looks like Appalachia, Jonathan Toomey is the best wood carver in the valley. However, he doesn’t speak to anyone, and the village children call him “Mr. Gloomy.” He spends his days bent over his work, carving “beautiful shapes from blocks of pine and hickory and chestnut wood.” The reason for his gloom, the narrator tells us, is that some years ago, he lost his wife and child to sickness.

“So Jonathan Toomey had packed his belongings into a wagon and traveled till his tears stopped. He settled into a tiny house at the edge of a village to do his woodcarving.”

When the widow McDowell and her son Thomas knock on his door, asking Jonathan Toomey to carve them a nativity scene, he shuts the door, grumbling, “Christmas is pish­posh.”

After a week, the widow McDowell and Thomas return to see what progress has been made on their manger scene, and Thomas sits at Mr. Toomey’s side, since he, too, wishes to be a woodcarver some day. However, he interrupts Mr. Toomey to tell him that he is carving the sheep wrong, that his sheep are happy sheep. “’That’s pish­posh,’” said Mr. Toomey. ‘Sheep are sheep. They cannot look happy.’” To which Thomas replies, “Mine did…they knew they were with the Baby Jesus, so they were happy.”

With each visit to Mr. Toomey’s, and with each subsequent character being carved to fill the manger scene, Thomas continues to tell Mr. Toomey the right way to carve his figures: the cow is proud that the baby Jesus chose to be born in its barn, the angel looks like one of God’s most important angels because it was sent down to baby Jesus, the wise men are wearing their most wonderful robes, and Joseph leans over the baby Jesus protectively.

When Mr. Toomey asks Thomas how Mary and the baby Jesus should be carved, he says, “They were the most special of all…Jesus was smiling and reaching up to his mother, and Mary looked like she loved him very much.”

Jonathan Toomey completes his carvings on Christmas Day, and it is indeed a Christmas miracle. The widow McDowell and Thomas gave him a miracle by asking him to carve the nativity scene. Twenty years later, the deep human experience and the power of the Christmas story lives on in this book.

“And that day in the churchyard the village children saw Jonathan throw back his head, showing his eyes as clear blue as an August sky, and laugh. No one ever called him Mr. Gloomy again.”

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Garden and Gun’s Christmas Release: “The Southerner’s Cookbook”

Jacket (2)The Southerner’s Cookbook has a little something for everybody: the
traditional southern cook looking for inspiration from seasoned chefs, new cooks looking to capture the flavor of the south, and readers seeking wisdom and humor from some of their favorite food and culture writers like Julia Reed, Roy Blount, Jr., and the Lee Brothers.

For those watching their diet, one might have to pick and choose among the mouth-watering recipes in The Southerner’s Cookbook. A little indulgence now and again never hurts though, and John T. Edge advises at the opening of the cookbook: “As anyone who grew up on the food can attest, life without a little South in your mouth at least once in a while is a bland and dreary prospect.”

While the cookbook is comprehensive, from appetizers and meats, to baked
goods and cocktails, some of my favorite recipes were in the healthy bean
category: Butter Bean Succotash, Smoky Soup Beans, Hoppin’ John, Spicy
Black-Eyed Pea Jambalaya. The Southerner’s Cookbook will definitely get
your mouth watering and get you or someone you love back into the kitchen.

Written by Lisa Newman

Originally published in Well-Being Magazine 

 

Give the Gift of First Editions!

Looking for the perfect gift to give your fellow book lovers this Christmas? Good news! You can gift a subscription of Lemuria’s First Editions Club! Here’s how it works:

We select one new book (sometimes two) every month. With few exceptions, each book is signed in the store. We want to meet the authors of our favorite books, and we want to give you a chance to meet them, too. When preparing the books for shipment, we first protect the book’s dust jacket with an archival mylar cover to help maintain its value. Then we wrap the book in butcher paper, and pack it carefully in a box ‐ never in an envelope. We’ve selected the most pristine copies of the book for the club, and we want them to be delivered to you in the same pristine condition. The best part? The cost of the club each month is simply the cost of the book we’ve selected, no one-time fee!

The First Editions Club is a great way to build a collectible library of contemporary books that will not only accrue in value, but that you will want to pull off the shelf and read. Every month we hand-select a first edition that we believe is worth more than the paper it’s printed on. We especially look for collectible southern authors, debut authors’ first novels, and books that knock us out of our chairs. Over the last two decades, we have had the privilege of selecting novels that have gained national and international praise. Adam Johnson’s debut novel, The Orphan Master’s Son, our January 2012 pick, went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. And in 1997, Charles Frazier’s then obscure novel, Cold Mountain, was awarded the National Book Award. After its author was plucked from anonymity, a signed first edition of Cold Mountain is now worth over $300.

If you’d like to give a gift subscription or to sign up for yourself (because you deserve a treat), call us at 601.366.7619. Want to know more about how our First Editions Club works? Click here!

And now, for your viewing pleasure-  2015 First Editions Club in review:

39160-2January- The Up-Down by Barry Gifford

39764-2February- The Big Seven by Jim Harrison

FES0399169526-239189-2                             March- My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh and Soil by Jamie Kornegay

WFES062311115-2April- The Bone Tree by Greg Iles

AR-AJ096_HAUSFR_DV_20150311132450May- Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

40936-2June- A Slant of Light by Jeffrey Lent

WFES804137256-2July- Armada  by Ernest Cline

24724581August- The Scribe by Matthew Guinn

61X4KnqQS4L._SY344_September- Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

42156-242712-2October- City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg and Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham

WFES062284129-2November- A Free State by Tom Piazza

WFES804176583-2December- Devotion by Adam Makos

Gifting the Perfect Book: Intergalactic Young Adults

JacketCinder is an exciting sci fi/magical young adult novel, which is part of a larger series called The Lunar Chronicles. I read Cinder a few years ago when it first came out and I loved it. Ever since then,The Lunar Chronicles has continued to be one of my favorite series. I just recently finished Winter; the final book in the series. Cinder was definitely my favorite if I had to choose, but I loved them all. I listened to the first three (CinderScarlet, and Cress) on audio and I have already gone back and re-listened to all three multiple times just this year.

Cinder is a retelling of a classic fairy tale. You could say, “been there! Done that”!  All I’ll say to that: give it a chance and you won’t be disappointed. This story is not a typical retelling. Meyer uses the framework of classic fairytales to build a unique and exciting new story in a fascinating world. In Cinder, she uses the bones of the Cinderella fairytale to build a foundation for a larger plot that sets up the rest of the series. Yes, there is a mean stepmother and two stepsisters, and of course, there is a prince. Would it be a fairy tale without one? Of course not! However, the story of Cinder is the beginning of so much more than just another Cinderella story.

So the basic gist of the plot is this: Cinder is a cyborg and the best mechanic around (No wonder! She has a computer in her head)! Her best friend is an android with a messed up personality chip. As a cyborg, Cinder has no more rights in her stepmother’s house than a pair of shoes. She has no memory of her life before the age of eleven (after her cyborg surgery). But Cinder is not the only one with struggles. All of Earth is dealing with a deadly illness that kills quickly and has no cure. On top of that tragedy, the alien colony on the moon (Luna) has been engaged in an intergalactic struggle with Earth for many decades.

Cinder is forced into the world of intergalactic conflict when Prince Kai asks her to fix his favorite android, and at the same time, her stepsister (Peony) catches Earth’s deadly illness. Cinder is thrown into a world of medical testing, evil mind-controlling queens, and interplanetary political relationships. In the midst of it all, she also has to deal with the inconvenient fact that she likes Prince Kai. Unfortunately, Prince Kai is in the middle of trying to arrange a peace treaty with Luna, without having to marry their Queen Levana. Cinder must discover truths about her past, and make the difficult choice between duty and the freedom she so desperately wants.

Cinder is strong willed, smart and loyal. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching her develop throughout the whole series. Meyer does a fantastic job of creating and managing a large cast of characters; each one is strong and independent, and she does not reuse character types. With each book, she ties in new, unique characters that seamlessly join together with those of the previous books. Ultimately, they all come together to tell a beautiful intricate story. This series is built on the bones of fairy tales, but at the end of the day, it can stand on its own two feet.

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This month, the fourth installment in the Lunar Chronicles was released! Click here for a copy of  Winter. 

Get to know Kelly

How long have you worked at Lemuria? Seven years and I’m still learning.

What do you do at Lemuria? I coordinate our employee schedules. Daily, I am the one who makes sure we get through each day with all the puzzle pieces falling into place. I also do a little buying and take care of the cooking section. And I scour the globe for copies of out of print books for folks who wish they weren’t out of print.

Talk to us what you’re reading right now. I’m in the middle of several books, which is nothing unusual; Avenue of Mysteries, the new novel by John Irving, Walk on Earth a Stranger, the new young adult novel by Rae Carson (longlisted for the National Book Award); a couple of graphic novels, Wytches vol. 1 and Saga vol. 5; and an older nonfiction book, Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief. And I just finished Jackson native Katy Simpson Smith’s new book, Free Men, which comes out in February. It was phenomenal.

What’s currently on your bedside table (book purgatory)? I’ve been wanting to read Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series for a long time. I recently took home a paperback copy of book one and then realized I had an earlier edition paperback (from before book two was released) already in my to-read stack! That sort of thing happens all the time to booksellers, and I know it happens to quite a few of our book-obsessed customers, too. It’s a consequence of taking in books faster than you can read them; you surprise yourself with how consistently you are attracted to the same books!

How many books do you usually read at a time? It varies; anywhere from one to five or six. Of course the more I begin at once the greater chance I’ll never finish some of them, so I try to keep it manageable. I’m usually juggling a mix of current/future fiction, something older I always meant to read, graphic novels, and occasional nonfiction (mostly essays/creative nonfiction).

I know it’s difficult, but give us your current top five books.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Cider House Rules by John Irving

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

(Yes, I do realize I listed only four. Be glad I stopped there because if I gave you ONE MORE the list would spontaneously combust. I don’t know why. It just would.)

What did you do before you worked at Lemuria? I worked at another bookstore in Vero Beach, Florida. Believe it or not, they used the same DOS-based inventory system as we do. IBID rules.

Why do you like working at Lemuria? Simplest answer? For the books and the chaos.

If we could have any living author visit the store and do a reading, who would you want to come? JOHN IRVING, PLEASE COME TO LEMURIA!!!!

If you had the ability to teleport, where would you go first? I can apparate?! Now I’m not so devastated that Southwest quit flying out of Jackson. Um, honestly? I think I’d pop home (to Vero) to say hi to my family. I guess I’m getting old and losing my adventurous spirit.

Bragg’s ‘South’ a cornucopia of tales of Southern life

By Jim Ewing. Special to The Clarion-Ledger

51YkJtJ7DSL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_Wonderful tales beckon with Rick Bragg’s My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South. The language is sublime, the sentiments range from tragic to funny to thoughtful to biting.

Why people who live in the South like it is encapsulated in Bragg’s opening salvo, titled “Down Here.” It’s a place of lightning bugs and sawmills, buck dancing to bluegrass, biscuits and sausage gravy, recipes handed down from “the Yankee war.”

We buff our beloved ancestors till they are smooth of sin,” Bragg writes, “and give our scoundrels a hard shake, though sometimes we cannot remember which is who.”

We talk as if we’re tasting something.”

Some of the stories, like “Pretty Girl,” about his mother and brother saving a dog from death, will break your heart. They teach lessons that no soul is worth overlooking and the value of second chances.

Others are good for a belly laugh, like “Time for the Year’s Best Nap,” about Thanksgiving, when people “unburden themselves of all the fine gossip they have been holding onto since September, like money.”

Some provide poignant reverie, like “Endless Summer,” about a child and a mudhole during summer vacation “when time came in big buckets,” seemingly eternal, long gone.

Then, there are deadly serious topics, like “What Stands in a Storm,” about the deadly tornadoes that raked the South April 27, 2011, when “church sanctuaries, built on the Rock of Ages, tumbled into random piles of brick.”

He puts it into perspective, that despite all the destruction, lost lives and livelihoods, “as Southerners, we know that a man with a chainsaw is worth 10 with a clipboard, that there is no hurt in this world, even in the storm of the century, that cannot be comforted with a casserole.”

The book is divided into sections — Home, Table, Place, Craft, Spirit. There are 55 pages about food that will set any true Southerner’s mouth watering and stomach growling.

Bragg details how the South has changed and been besieged by social media, bizarre fashions, video games and other invasives infecting the rest of the country, but has endured and will endure as a separate region.

The South,” Bragg writes, “like chiggers and divinity candy, is everlasting. It will always be, though it will not always be as we remember.”

For a writer, reading Bragg yields two thoughts simultaneously: to give up because Bragg can’t be beat; or, two, to keep writing and hope someday to write as well.

For readers, Bragg is a cornucopia of pure joy.

Jim Ewing, a former writer and editor at The Clarion-Ledger, is the author of seven books including Redefining Manhood: A Guide for Men and Those Who Love Them, now in bookstores.

Join us on Monday, September 21 at 5:00 for a signing and reading by Rick Bragg!

 

The Godfather made me fat

22034Earlier this month I took a vacation to see some friends in my old hometown of Nashville, TN; and I knew before I left that I had to find the perfect audio book to see me through the 12 hour round trip.  I settled on Mario Puza’s classic The GodfatherI’m not sure why I was drawn to this title, but there it sat– nestled between several Neil Gaiman books read by the Brit himself, one or two celebrity memoirs (which I admit are a guilty audio book pleasure of mine), and some new fantasy titles.

The Godfather. I don’t know what stars aligned in order for me to choose this book, but I’m glad that they did, because for the next two weeks it was all I could think about. I slept, ate, and breathed The Godfather. I cooked SO much spaghetti, inspired by fat Peter Clemenza’s constant home over a hot stove, shoveling pounds and pounds of pasta into the waiting mouths of the button men waiting in the Corleone kitchen for instructions from the Godfather. I gained a few pounds. I caught myself using lingo from the book, casually dropping into conversation phrases like “make his bones” and titles like “caporegime”. My friends were baffled. I was smitten.

If you spend enough time with this book, the rules of life as explained by the Corleone family don’t just start to seem logical, you find yourself vehemently hating who they hate and loving who they love. Vito Corleone becomes a man of character, an upright, understanding, and generous benefactor. Those who oppose his regime are devils in pinstripes, and you forget that both sides are carrying “cold”, untraceable weapons, ready to murder whoever gets in the way of business.

Because that’s all it is: business. Several times in the novel, cruel acts are explained away to murder victim’s families as “not personal”, and the mourners sadly nod in agreement. They know that it is just business that gunned down their sons, fathers, and friends; that they just didn’t play their cards correctly and these were the consequences.

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The code of conduct that dictated the way the Sicilian mob families interacted with one another, how the family “businesses” were run, and what merited murder was based coldly on respect and favors returned. Puzo goes into great detail to describe the pyramid structure of the organized crime, the chain of command, and the legal and political ins and outs of keeping criminals out of prison (so many judges in so many pockets that Don Corleone must have been wearing cargo pants). With so much insider knowledge, I assumed that Puza had firsthand experience with organized crime, but as it turns out, that was not the case. He said, “‘I’m ashamed to admit that I wrote ‘The Godfather’ entirely from research. I never met a real honest-to-God gangster. I knew the gambling world pretty good, but that’s all.” [source]

Regardless of the source, the story is almost flawless. Spanning a full 15 hours on audio book, I was still in the meat of the book by the time I returned to Jackson; so my lunch breaks, evenings, and laundry time were consumed with the saga. When it ended, I shuddered with joy and sadness, wishing with all of my heart that I could stay forever.

 

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[Sidebar: the movie is almost as good as the book. This is rare.]

Pre-Order YARD WAR by TAYLOR KITCHINGS, coming AUGUST 18!

Jacket (6)We are thrilled to announce that our own Jackson native, Taylor Kitchings, has written his debut middle-grade novel, to be published AUGUST 18 by Wendy Lamb Books/Random House in the U.S. and Canada.

Set in Jackson in 1964, Yard War tells the story of 12-year-old Trip Westbrook and the summer that football and a forbidden friendship changed everything in his town.

Pre-order your signed copy here or call 601.366.7619, and be sure to join us for a signing on August 18 at 5:00!

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