A Veritable Smorgasbord

November 28, 2012

Here at The King’s English, booksellers have been gathering and devouring the new fall books like squirrels gorging on nuts in preparation for winter. In the process we’ve gathered some wonderfully hearty treats for you and those you love, whether what piques your interest is fine fiction or picture books, espionage, humor or history.

Well-written fiction for the middle reader that steers clear of young-adult content is rare, and an author that is as smart and funny as Rebecca Stead is rarer still. Stead’s new novel, Liar & Spy, one of our booksellers first recommendations this season, was an instant New York Times bestseller. Like the dazzling Newbery Medal book When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy will keep readers guessing until the end. Creepy, gritty, edgy, disgusting, and fascinating—all words that describe book two of Ilsa Bick’s Ashes trilogy, Shadows. Bick is laying the groundwork for book three, drawing a picture of a dark and scary world in which readers will not find redemption or resolution (at least not until later) but will be engrossed (or is it grossed out?) by this fast-paced monster-filled novel. Daniel Handler, who also writes under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket, has collaborated with acclaimed artist and designer Maira Kalman, to create an extraordinary book about an ordinary event: Why We Broke Up. In her new novel for middle readers, The Great Unexpectedby Sharon Creech, Lizzie and Naomi struggle to figure out their own relationship and how they fit into their families, into their community and Finn, a mysterious and charming boy, drops out of a tree and into their lives, while Mrs. Kavanaugh, who lives in the south of Ireland and loves a good murder, looks for revenge. Creech alternates these two seemingly disparate stories, throwing in a Dingle-Dangle Man, a crooked bridge, three mysterious trunks, and several rooks. Our list of picks for the middle readers and young adults wraps up with The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, and What Came From the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt.

And if amazing picture books are what you are in search of, look no further than This Is Not My Hat, by Jon Klassen. Visual humor swims to the fore as the bestselling Klassen follows his fabulous first book, I Want My Hat Back, with another seriously funny tale. We did not think that Doreen Rappaport could ever write a better picture book than Martin’s Big Words until we read Helen’s Big World! In 48 pages, the reader receives an unforgettable picture of this American icon as the authors mix Keller quotes with biography and compelling artwork. Helen Keller’s lifelong courage and tenacity are celebrated in this amazing book. In this gentle and joyous board book with an environmental theme, Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell, Jules proves a hug is the simplest–but kindest–gift we can give. The Christmas Quiet Book, written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Renata Liwska is a lovely little book that celebrates the hushed moments of a season that too often shouts. Like its bestselling companions The Quiet Book and The Loud Book, The Christmas Quiet Book is especially notable for its warm and lovely illustrations. (Plush toys available!)

And for the fiction-lover in your life, be prepared for treats beyond your wildest expectations. We are not exaggerating… Starting with a joyride of a read, Mrs. Queen Takes the Train follow the Queen, yes, of England, in current day, as she slips out of her royal residence in a hoodie and embarks on a truly entertaining excursion, bringing the reader along. And there’s a good reason The Round House, a novel by Louise Erdrich, won the National Book Award this year. Like all of Erdrich’s novels, The Round House taps into the history, the mythology, the collective wisdom of past generations, yet she is as concerned with the past’s connection to the present as she is with the tale’s action, and her lyrical investigations of life involve much more than immediate reality. Combine the ebullient erudition of Lawrence Norfolk’s Lempiere’s Dictionary with the sensory engagement and passion for food of John Lancaster’s infamous A Debt to Pleasure, stir in a soupçon of myth and history, and sprinkle liberally with the romance and narrative verve of The Night Circus and you’ll have some idea of Norfolk’s new confection of a novel, John Saturnall’s Feast. And Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan is a terrific read and a great reminder that books are here to stay…forever! Kevin Powers, a veteran of Iraq, has etched a powerful picture of reality in his new novel The Yellow Birds, and created a compelling awareness of what our military men and women have been subjected to for the past decade. And there are plenty of great novels published earlier in the year, including Canada by Richard Ford, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, and The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin, and new in paperback fiction including The Marriage Plot, Salvage the Bones, What It Is Like to Go to War, American Dervish, To Be Sung Underwater, We the Animals AND State of Wonder. A plethora of delights!

If you’re still not sure what you want for your Aunt Sally or your 10-year-old niece, or for that plane ride you’re not looking forward to, we have a host of knowledgeable booksellers on hand who will not only recommend the right book, but also wrap it, mail it, or, if you’re doing your shopping by phone or e-mail, deliver it—the same day!

Gearing up for The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

November 3, 2009
Pioneer Woman Cooks

The cookbook!!

The King’s English is gearing up for our Pioneer Woman Cooks event—we’re less than 24 hours away from “Pioneer Woman” Ree Drummond’s only appearance in Utah! It’s also one of her few appearances out West, so don’t miss it! Ree has charmed her way into hearts across the country with her insanely popular blog and website, recently named one of Time Magazine’s top 25 of 2009! In her brand new book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, Ree not only shares recipes for her incredibly homey, hearty, and delicious food, she also shares her unique experience as a rancher’s wife, mother of four children, photographer, and homemaker. Trust us, this is one event you don’t want to miss!

And if cookbook and food events are your thing, save the dates now for our friend and author Ann Byrn, the wildly popular “Cake Mix Doctor” as she brings her new book The Cake Mix Doctor Returns to The King’s English on November 18th, and also Everyday Food Magazine editor and author of Mad Hungry Lucinda Scala Quinn who’s coming to visit on December 4th!

Driving Andre Dubus III

June 17, 2009

What could possibly be better than hosting author Andre Dubus III in your bookstore? Getting to drive him around all day!

Let me just tell you, people, that if you weren’t there at his reading last night for Garden of Last Days, you wish you were. Not only is he one of the most articulate and well-read authors I’ve encountered, but he’s an absolute riot — funny, down to earth, and incredibly genuine. This is a man who said to everyone who brought a book to be signed, “Tell me your life story,” and meant it! He’s also the kind of person that makes you want to tell them things that are probably better off untold.

I should know — I spent pretty much the whole day with him, from the airport up to Park City, back to Salt Lake to the reading and then to his hotel afterwards — and let’s just say that some of the stuff we talked about? Yeah, you will never hear those stories. Unless he puts them in writing, in which case those aren’t about me.

You can get a little taste of what he’s like by listening to his interview with Doug Fabrizio on KUER’s Radio West or reading my interview with him. If you were at the event, share your favorite moments/thoughts in the comments!

Hope, Choice and Loss: an Interview with Andre Dubus III

May 26, 2009

Someone once told me that you can tell a lot about readers by the way they prioritize three elements of a book: plot, characters, and style. I’ve since tested this theory out on customers and colleagues, with impressive results. Figuring out which are most important to you tells me not only which books you’ll like, but which you won’t. For me, it’s always been characters first and foremost, so it’s no surprise that I’ve been caught, hook, line and sinker, by the work of Andre Dubus III. Coming from a talented lineage (not only is his father Andre Dubus, but his cousin is James Lee Burke), it’s no surprise that Dubus III is as good as he is. With a keen eye for humanity’s follies and triumphs, Dubus explores the many dimensions of circumstance and choice in his novels. House of Sand and Fog, first a National Book Award Finalist and later a movie, brought him into the limelight; Garden of Last Days showcases his writing, introduces the reader to unforgettable characters, and is one of the best novels on the September 11 tragedy that I’ve read. Dubus’ reading at TKE on June 16 is one you won’t want to miss.- Jenn Northington

JENN NORTHINGTON: Garden of Last Days takes place in the days leading up to 9/11, but revolves around a child going missing. For me, this small tragedy offset the greater impending horror in a strange way–at the moment I felt the greatest sense of relief in the novel the towers came down, leaving me emotionally torn. Was this juxtaposition a conscious decision on your part?

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Event Update | Red Wagon Read-a-thon

October 13, 2008

This past Saturday, October 11th, was our Red Wagon Read-a-thon. I gotta tell you, October is giving any other month in my memory a run for its money as the Best Month of Events Ever. Fantastic authors like Jon Scieszka and Nikki Giovanni (I’ve never been so thrilled to hold someone’s microphone) with even more to come, and now this. A reading marathon, you say? What’s that about? How long can anyone read for, really?

Well, I’ll tell you. We had, throughout the course of our eight hours camped out in the Children’s Room, about 10 readers, ranging from a first-grader to a mom and her fifth-grader reading together. We broke it up every hour with yoga and trivia games (which were enthusiastically declared “the best!” by contestants) and had pretzels, bananas (we are healthy! or at least, we tried) and candy corn on hand for snacking. And all told, our winner for Most Time Spent Reading read for a grand total of five hours. Fantastic!

We were reading for fun, but also for a good cause. Every read-a-thon participant raised at least (and often more than) $20 as their entry fee, and customers and participants alike brought in big donations of books, for local charity the Book Wagon, which provides books to children (ages 5 – 12) at nine low-income housing projects in Salt Lake County. All told, we raised $650 in monetary and book donations for them, and we continue to get calls about books. Talk about successful! It felt a little bit like Christmas come early, to tell you the truth.

One mom asked me when our next one would be. We definitely have to have another one, there’s no doubt about it. I’m envisioning next spring, when the weather is nice and the patio is open (snow kept us inside this weekend). Who knows, maybe we’ll try for a full day, open to close, instead of just eight hours!

For the Birds

August 29, 2008

I’m sure someone somewhere knows exactly how often it is that a debut novelist makes it to number one on any list. I am also sure that it is probably statistically more likely to happen on a list compiled by booksellers than on any other book list, though I’m betting that the chances are still pretty small. Enter Joyce Hinnefeld!

In Hovering Flight is lovely, just lovely. Hinnefeld clearly grasps and delicately illuminates the ways in which our families and our geographic surroundings shape our lives. With such complex and heartfelt characters, I’m hard-pressed to think of any reader who wouldn’t find something that pulls them in. A quietly moving book, one can almost hear the songs of the birds that weave their way in and out of the plot, sometimes symbolic, sometimes characters in their own right, but always reminders of what it is that we have, and what we stand to lose.

In Hovering Flight is number one on the September Indie Next list, and it couldn’t have happened to a better book.

How We Rocked National Poetry Month

May 8, 2008

*This is a “reprint”, as it were, of a piece I wrote for Shelf Awareness 05/08/08. For pictures of our PōM Night, click on the picture below!

April was looking sparse, and there’s nothing worse for PoM Night at TKEan events manager. What to do? I thought: Well, it’s April. It’s National Poetry Month. Why not have our very own slam? I wasn’t really sure what a poetry slam was, but it sounded like fun. We could even give it a fancy title, call it the First Annual Thingy, and start a new tradition. At this point, I envisioned maybe 10 poets, 20 chairs (but only 15 of them filled) and a quiet night in the store. What I got was 70 people, only 60 of whom had chairs to sit in, and two rounds of 20 plus poets each, slamming, declaiming and generally having a poetically fantastic time.

Sound like fun? You, too, can put on a poetry event. Here are three easy steps:

1. Seek help. Immediately.

As I mentioned, I wasn’t really sure what a poetry slam was. It sounded like more fun than a simple open mic night. So, like any good twenty-something, I went online to Wikipedia. Turns out, there is a LOT to a slam, and I knew right away that I would need help. Help as in experienced-people help–experienced people who also like poetry. I began e-mailing the published poets we’d had readings for over the past few months, asking them if they’d like to “host”–a code word that translates to “help me organize, publicize and fraternize with the poetry community.” One by one they turned me down, each with a different reason: vacation, prior engagements, ill health. One, however, who also teaches at the University of Utah, offered to put me in touch with some of his graduate students.

2. Don’t call it a slam.

Next thing I knew, I was sitting at a cafe table with three graduate students, all poets, some of whom also taught creative writing. It was starting to look like maybe this wasn’t going to happen, after all.

“You want to do a slam? I don’t know if I’d be comfortable helping with one of those . . . ” We talked in circles for a while before I realized what was going on.

It turns out that in Salt Lake, there are rival poetry gangs. The University scene is focused on the art of crafting a poem. Then there is the spoken word scene, which itself is split into different groups. There are the official slams, which are deadly serious about performance, points earned and involve national competitions; then there is the Ruckus, a spoken word group that doesn’t have points, doesn’t compete, but puts on shows every month, with music and performances, that gather hundreds of onlookers and dozens of participants. How to get them all together? The answer is to call it anything you want, so long as you don’t call it a slam.

Once I accepted that I would have to change the name and format of the evening I’d already started marketing as a slam, things started to go swimmingly. My new collaborators got excited and came up with brilliant ideas: prizes! judges! judges from each rival gang! the Utah Poet Laureate as a judge! flyers! extra credit for students who participated! And on and on, until my head was spinning and I had three pages of notes.

3) Get excited!

There is nothing as energizing as working with enthusiastic people, and I was lucky enough to have the three graduate students in addition to the energetic support of the bookstore staff. With their help, I secured three amazing judges: the Utah Poet Laureate Kate Coles; Jesse Parent, a Salt City Slam organizer; and Joel Long, a local teacher and City Arts organizer. We distributed flyers, teachers offered extra credit for students to participate, I sent out press releases and e-postcards to the store’s mailing list, and then sat back and crossed my fingers.

On the day of the event, at 5 p.m. I came out of my office to see if anyone was there to sign up to read and saw a line of 10 people waiting at the registers. Half an hour later, I had signed up 20 people for our First Round, in which participants could read either their own work or another poet’s, and 30 in the Second Round, for original work only; some even signed up for both! Our staff was busy setting up extra chairs for the many participants and their friends and family.

Poets ranged from the published, to the aspiring, to the nine-year-old girl who not only held her own but was so inspiring that we made an extra prize just for her: a $15 gift certificate for the Youngest Poet Present. In both rounds there was a winner who received $25 gift certificates for the store. Every performance, some as short as 30 seconds and some as long as three minutes, was greeted with wild cheers from the audience, and our two winners (one from each round) walked away with their $25 Gift Certificates and enormous smiles on their faces.

As for me, I’m still smiling, and I’m dreaming of next year. I may even add a monthly Open Mic night to our events roster to keep our poets in practice and ready for next year’s competition!