Thursday, December 20, 2012

It comes to me that I must say 'adieu' from my blogging days at University Book Store. I have had some great times here, and have been allowed to put my opinions to print which has been one of the more rewarding aspects of my employment. Thanks for taking me in to your homes and making me one of your booksellers.

Over the past four years I have read more than 150 books, most of which I liked, some of which I loved. So, I take this final opportunity to give you my top 10 picks for books (from those books read in the past four years.) Is that even possible? Well, I will do what I can.

Top books should come to mind effortlessly ... and they should be books that you can easily see yourself reading over and over again, hence an actual physical copy is called for, demanded in fact.

The list that follows is not in any order of top to bottom.

1. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
my all-time favorite vampire novel! ... wish there was a sequel or sequels, but the author hasn't conceded ... not yet ... I do understand about not wanting to be pigeon-holed.

2. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
poetic, prophetic (?), dark and dire ...

3. Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin ... a new voice in scifi/fantasy who is already rockin' the house ... I will be reading more of her books ... she seems ready and poised to be a major literary contender.

4. The Reapers are the Angels or is it the Angels are the Reapers, by Alden Bell. I always get confused on this title, not because I don't love it, rather because I am thinking too darned much. I love-love-loved the heroine in this somewhat short in length award winner. It spans readership from young adult to adult, with the Alex award.

5. Bad Monkeys, by Matt Ruff, a local author. Don't know why it took me soooooooo long to stumble upon this great-funtastic-read?! I won't spoil this for you in any way ... hence end of spiel, except to say that you will be glad to be on the side of those who have read this splendidly unique tale.

6. The Unit, by Ninni Holmqvist, translation by Marlaine Delargy. Set in a future where society mandates that those without biological families submit themselves for random medical testing and requisite organ donation. I would be housed here--in the Unit--if this future existed ... to my eventual sad end. Great characters and believable futuristic setting.

7. Engines of the Broken World*, by Jason Vanhee ... keep on the alert for a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g by this to-date self-published author! A fresh voice in speculative fiction and a dynamite co-worker to boot. May $ucce$$ follow you wherever you go Jason!!! Buy this book!

8. Brief History of the Dead, by Kevin Brockmeier. I loved the cover art on this book of the empty overcoat ... & I am a sucker for good cover art. What happens to us when life ends? This book takes us to the precipice and beyond.

9. The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. Who cannot love this book?!! The author, Patrick Rothfuss, has been to University Book Store on three occasions that I know of and each time he brings such a lovely, welcoming energy to his fans and loyal readers. Thank you Mr. Rothfuss! We love you Patrick! And now all you have to do is to complete your trilogy ... that's all. lol.

And, drum roll, number ten!

10. Baking with Julia, by Julia Child. I bought this as a remainder at University Book Store, so it sold for under $20**!!! Remainders or bargain books are a large stock in trade at UBS, and the lovely Miss Nicole can be found on the floor sorting through a plethora of great titles. Come and browse and see what bargains abound!

So, that's it ... were there any surprises? Are you going to buy with the intention to read, any of these titles? I hope so. And I hope you swing by to say goodbye to me. Waaah!

"Read a book, it's a game changer!"
~Jan O.Book seller for four years at University Book Store.

*For purchase information on this book, call University Book Store and ask for the used book sellers desk.

**To see if there are any remainders of this book available, you will need to call UBS and ask for the book information desk.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

'Tis the season...

This first pick is especially important to me as we consider "shopping local" during the holidays and throughout the year. Independent bookstores appreciate your business, and so do small presses. Bender is out from Washington's own Copper Canyon Press, a nonprofit publisher with offices in Port Townsend and Seattle. Small presses work hard to put out quality literature, so keep an eye out for their books!


“...Toothpicked samples
at the farmer's market, every melon,
plum, I come undone, undone.”

Unusual, dense, funny and brilliant—these poems are full of surprises. Try one. There is beauty on every page.---Sarina


Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson
Fascinating essays by a quirky Brit on subjects ranging from the oddball guy next door to Stanley Kubrick, from credit card debt to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Offbeat and entertaining.---Judith

 Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina is about a young woman caught between two worlds, hiding her true identity and suppressing her amazing talent for music. Delve into this world of court intrigue, family secrets and civil unrest. Seraphina shines!---Morgaine

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Even More Holiday Staff Picks!

Here are some more of our favorite books this holiday season:
Tigress of Forli by Elizabeth Lev
Known in her time as the Italian Boudica, Caterina Sforza took on some of the most powerful men in the Renaissance. In doing so, she was able to wield power during an era where women had very little.---M. 

Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen

Cohen proves without a doubt that personal style only gets better with age---M.

My Ideal Bookshelf by Thessaly La Force

How lucky we are to be able to peak inside the minds and onto the bookshelves of over 100 of today's cultural figures! A gorgeously illustrated ode to books and reading.---Anna

Sunday, December 16, 2012

More Staff Picks for the Holidays

More staff recommendations to help you with your holiday shopping. This post features an eclectic mix of coffee, comics, and the periodic table.

 Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee: Growing, Roasting and Drinking with Recipes by James Freeman
Coffee: You might be doing it wrong, but these authors are here to help, with tips and insights for everyone from coffee novices to industry professionals. Photos, recipes, and anecdotes complement the information presented in each section.---Brendan

Marvel Comics: the Untold Story by Sean Howe 

 The first unauthorized book to tell the behind-the-scenes story of the greatest comic book company ever—Marvel Comics! 'Nuff said! IT'S CLOBBERIN' TIME!!!---Ian

  Wonderful Life of the Elements by Bunpei Yorifuji

'Cute' and 'quirky' are words that usually make me look elsewhere. But here it's a refreshing and entertaining way to look at chemistry and the periodic table---Geoff


Friday, December 14, 2012

Our Staff Picks for the Holidays

At a recent staff meeting, Terri brought two wonderful, locally-inspired cookbooks to share with us (as well as a delicious squash bundt cake to taste!). Here are her holiday recommendations for the foodie, chef and gardener in your life:

Dishing Up: Washington by Jess Thomson

There are many good reasons why Seattle and Washington State have countless cookbooks paying homage to the local foods—we have such an abundance of seafood, fruits and vegetables. Jess Thomson is also the author of Pike Place Market Recipes. Dishing Up Washington includes the histories of local farmers, cheesemakers, fishermen...and recipes from our local chefs who benefit from these producers. The recipes (with enticing photos) are creatively unusual, while using familiar and exceptional ingredients. 

Grow Cook Eat by Willi Galloway

It would be great to have Willi Galloway as a next-door neighbor. A Master Gardener and former editor for Organic Gardening, Galloway writes in a friendly and encouraging way. She finds joy in the amazing tastes of thinned sprouts and offers all the information one needs to grow and sustain herbs, veggies, greens and anything that can grow in the Pacific Northwest. Exceptional recipes follow in each chapter to complete one's thrill in growing their own food. If I had to choose only one book for the kitchen and garden, Grow Cook Eat would be my first choice.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving from University Book Store!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Get Cozy with Winter Books

I'm so, so excited to tell you about the last two books I finished, The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon and Something Red by Douglas Nicholas. Somehow (the endless coincidences of life) I managed to read my two favorite books this year back to back. Both are mysterious, suspenseful historical fiction, driven equally by complex characters and ideas.  And I love them both because I can recommend them without my familiar fear of offending more delicate sensibilities with my usual literary taste. 

 The Colour of Milk (out in January) will seem strange at first. It's written in the stiff-sounding voice of a barely-literate fifteen year-old farm girl. Within the first few pages, she tells you the year (1830s) the setting (a rural farm somewhere in England) and who she is (Mary). By the time you've adjusted to this stilted but meticulous prose, you will be trapped, and it's likely you will finish this book in less than two days, like I did. This is the dark side of all our beloved, bucolic Regency classics; what Wide Sargasso Sea is to Jane Eyre, but with no dreaminess to soften the blow. Like Mary's infallible, blunt bullshit detector, this book speaks loud and plain truth to power and history. 
Mary and her three sisters are relentlessly worked and abused as chattel on their father's farm. Never is a thought given to higher goals of education, pleasure, travel or art. What Nell Leyshon does most effectively is give us a window into the mind of a girl raised in such conditions. She harbors no aspirations of rebellion or justice because she has no time in her day for abstraction. She understands the brutal cause and effect of her world: work done for survival's sake, crops grown for one more year of life, cows milked for one more day. The trouble comes when the adults in Mary's life start to manipulate her, and I will not give anything more away. This is a devastating book, but it feels so true to its time that the devastation will feel like a very old injury, maybe one that we've almost forgotten. The experience of reading a character this strong and singular is worth the heartbreak.

Something Red by Douglas Nicholas is pure reading pleasure. If you've been craving beautiful sentences like I was, Nicholas' writing will melt over your brain and trickle down into your heart. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that this is one of the most perfectly balanced novels I've encountered in years; no detail, character, tangent, bit of foreshadowing or iota of atmosphere is wasted. Nicholas employs great economy and restraint in dealing with vaguely supernatural elements, and my enjoyment of this book rested heavily on not knowing how far down the fantasy rabbit hole we were about to fall.
The story is set at a crucial turning point in world history: the rise of Christianity and the fall of Paganism in the British Isles, when monotheism wielded a strange combination of immaturity and power. A band of four travelers, who you will grow to love, are journeying across England, through forests reminiscent of those in Algernon Blackwood's The Wendigo. Nature looms alternately as friend and foe, and through the trees, barely glimpsed by the party, but certainly felt, something is prowling. You will want to discover every brilliant, imaginative, thrilling detail in this book for yourself. Be patient, the slow build of the first 200 pages or so will make the impact of the last 100 totally worth it. When I read the last paragraph, I felt that old twinge, so familiar to book lovers, of leaving before I was ready to go.

So there you go, my two best Winter picks! Enjoy!


Monday, October 29, 2012

How much do categories matter?

Having just read Pod, Stephen Wallenfels' exciting first novel, I find myself having a conversation with myself about shelving categories and how much they matter. To me, this book and its protagonists Megs and Josh - 12 and 15 years old respectively - are more suited to the young adult (YA for short) book shelves than science fiction. Both understandable and no doubt admirable, Ace books has something else in mind for this writer. Still my job is to make sure the reader and the book meet in that place that Rumi speaks of:

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there."
Essential Rumi,translated by Coleman Barks
A few days ago I had the pleasure of conversing with Michael (son of Stephen) - who works as our community outreach/events person for University Book Store, and is a gifted musician and artist in his own right - about this and he showed me a another* cover that has been released in Germany, for the German language edition of Pod.

This particular cover makes a lot more sense to me, if it were being released as a YA book here. It features two kids back-to-back, as if in a stand-off, with a blue stream of energy coming from one of the pods (Pearls Of Destruction) hovering in the sky. And while Megs and Josh don't meet - not in this book at least - they both experience the alien invasion and the changes that brings to the world.

I heartily recommend this book to both teen and adult readers who like novels that are character-driven and have a challenging set of circumstances for those characters to work through, and I have the sneaking suspicion that this could be a story that continues in later works by Mr. Wallenfels.

So, did I answer my own question? I'm not sure, but I had some fun and I hope that you did too.

book seller
aka calendar girl

 *There could be many more, but I am limiting the discussion to these two.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Top 13 Scariest Books EVER, as Voted by UBS Booksellers

Did you guess any of our top 13 picks?  From the top, they are: 1. Tales of Edgar Allen Poe; 2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelly; 3. The Shining by Stephen King; 4. Dracula by Bram Stoker; 5. Tales of H. P. Lovecraft; 6. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson; 7. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James; 8. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood; 9. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier; 10. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty; 11. Tales of Algernon Blackwood; 12. Coraline by Neil Gaiman; and 13. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman.

Here's a Lovecraft quote that I like: "We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far."  Some of us though, Lovecraft certainly included, have a nagging urge to sail out onto those black seas.  Some of us want to be scared.  Once we get a taste of darkness, we can't remain on the island.  I credit horror, in both literature and film, as a driving force behind my love of fiction.  Just as so many people start the freefall into full-blown book addiction with science fiction,  fantasy or young adult lit, it was horror that got me going; R. L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Stephen King, then Clive Barker and Lovecraft and Blackwood... I was obsessed.  And when I feel like nothing is scary enough anymore, I revisit some of the classics on this list, and also some of the wild cards.  Pick up The Shining and The Handmaid's Tale; I think you'll be terrified by both for utterly different reasons.  
Happy Reading, and Happy Halloween!!!


*Extra thanks and bonus street cred points go to the screamingly talented Brad, Jan and Michael, who made these truly chilling cards for my display.  Thanks guys!

Friday, October 05, 2012

* LOVE Quick Bread Baking Fall Days !!! *

It all started with this lovely book ... it was a bargain at only $6.98. I do like cookbooks ... and it is time to start baking y'all:

Everything easily fit onto my very small dining room table.

 Takes very little time to roast these raw sunflower seeds in the oven.

 Doubled the amount of sunflower seeds and golden raisins.

 Looks done but the knife came out wet, back in it goes with foil on the top to keep it from burning.

 And voila! A perfect bundt bread.

 milk optional (lol)

*** THE END. ***

~Jan, cookbook shelver
aka calendar girl

Please note: We have a limited supply of this particular book, as it is one of our bargain offerings ... please call the store (206.634.3400) if you want us to pull one aside for you!

tell all your friends!