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Monday, December 31, 2007

Gone and Back Again - Jonathon Scott Fuqua

Caley's parents are divorced. His father changes personalities like Mr. Rogers does sweater vests, and his mother has lost her attachment to Caley and his siblings after marrying an unsympathetic man. Gone and Back Again by Jonathon Scott Fuqua is a book that pulls at your heart with all too real scenes of life in a dysfunctional home.

Gone and Back Again, published by Soft Skull Press, shows the progression of Caley's family over a couple of years, and is cleverly written from the viewpoint of a growing boy. The story begins in the voice of an 11-year-old and subtly transforms to that of a preteen. Engaging dialogue, well-formed characters, and references to the time period of the '80s made this book worth the read.

Jonathon Scott Fuqua has written four young adult novels before publishing this adult novel. This would also be interesting to teens as well, even though there is some drug and alcohol use present in the book. But the subject matter is something that many kids have gone through and can relate too; ultimately, they may be able to gain some strength from Caley's story as he learns to deal with the depression and rebellion that often surfaces when a child is raised in difficult circumstances.

Overall, I felt the book got even stronger as it progressed, and I'll definitely be on the lookout for more Fuqua in the future.

Rio San Pedro Book Winner

And the winner of a free copy of Rio San Pedro is... Ms. Troxy! Congratulations to you.

A new giveaway will be announced within the next couple of days, so keep your eyes peeled. In the meantime, Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

"Rio San Pedro" by Henry Hollenbaugh (Book Giveaway)

"Rio San Pedro", published by Alondra Press, is the adventurous memoir of an American alligator hunter living in the Guatemalan rain forests during the 1950's. Henry Hollenbaugh finds himself illegally hunting the "alligator" (Central American crocodile) to support himself while living in the remote jungles surrounding the San Pedro River. The book takes you along on dangerous hunting excursions down the treacherous river and shows the difficulties of living as the only foreigner among villagers who have never left their surroundings.

Arquimides, Hollenbaugh's oarsman and companion during alligator hunting season, is an endearing character who shares interesting local folklore and gossip. These portions, along with the explanations of alligator hunting and daily life in the Guatemalan jungle, are among the best parts of the book. While the writing style is a bit heavy on punctuation, and the writer displays a bitterness towards many villagers and women in general, the adventures and the unique location of the story kept me turning the pages until I'd finished the book in just a couple of days.

If you love adventure and travel or you enjoy a good hunting story with lots of atmosphere, you're sure to find satisfaction in reading "Rio San Pedro".

If you'd like to enter to win your own copy of "Rio San Pedro", simply subscribe to my newsletter in the upper left-hand corner of this blog. As long as you remain subscribed, you're entered to win every book giveaway featured on this blog!

Once you're subscribed, if you want to have your name entered into the drawing twice, leave a comment on this post telling me what interests you most about this book.

The drawing for this book will be held on December 31st, 2007, by noon EST.

"Tales of the Out and the Gone" by Amiri Baraka

Amiri Baraka is a controversial author and poet who has been a literary revolutionary for decades. His latest work, a collection of shorts called "Tales of the Out and the Gone" published by Akashic Books, spans almost 40 years of writing. Most of the stories in this book have never been published before.

In the introduction, Baraka explains the tales of the "Out" are stories out of the ordinary, whereas the tales of the "Gone" are even farther "Out", wilder, crazier deeper. Reading through the book, it is easy to follow the tide of his writings over the years, beginning with a more overtly political bent, flowing through to stories of suspense, some almost sci-fi. The tales taken from more recent years gave me a real brain stretch trying to digest sentences like, "Your songs stain your skin like the future candle of No." Much of the fascination I have in this book is the seeming oneness of all the stories together, while each one can stand alone easily with its own unique voice.

Overall, "The Tales of the Out and the Gone" is a collection of exquisite, rhythmic storytelling. If you're looking for an out of the ordinary reading experience, Amiri Baraka will give it to you, out and gone.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

"The Shadow of the Shadows" by Paco Ignacio Taibo II

First published in Spanish as "Sombra de la Sombra", Paco Ignacio Taibo II's "The Shadow of the Shadow" was a book I knew I'd like from the first page. Published by Cinco Puntos Press, "The Shadow of the Shadow" is not your average mystery novel. With chapter titles such as "Death of a Trombonist" and "Look in His Socks", you know the book isn't short on humor. Set in lawless 1920's postrevolutionary Mexico City, this tall tale has you believing every impossible minute of it. The four main characters, avid domino players and best friends, find threads from a mystery continuously dropped in their laps, and eventually they must solve the series of crimes or lose their lives.

The most engaging elements of this book are its witty, clever voice and quirky characters. Even the background characters who drop in and out are people you wish you really knew (except for the gun-toting ones). The snappy banter between the four friends and their interaction with one another zings back and forth and keeps the pages turning. Add to that some old fashioned shotgun shootouts, and you've got yourself a book that's impossible to put down.

My favorite line from "The Shadow of the Shadows": "My only regret is that you were unconscious the last time we met." I'd love to quote that in casual conversation, but I hesitate to imagine an appropriate circumstance.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Independent Bookseller - Reasons to Love Them

I remember several years ago when I'd asked my husband for a dictionary for Christmas. A real, 30-pound dictionary that could also be used to hold down papers on my desk when the windows were open. He went to one of the major U.S. booksellers and asked the sales clerk for an unabridged dictionary. She looked confused and typed it into her computer. "We don't have that," she said. "How can you not have a dictionary?" he asked. My husband looked over her shoulder at the computer screen where the clerk had typed in "on a bridge dictionary". This is when we realized we needed to stick with our local independent booksellers.

Whenever we visit our local bookstore, we can ask questions much more complicated than "Do you have a dictionary?" and we get an informed answer. The magazine shelves are filled with hard-to-find publications, and the bookshelves house much more than the usual mass market selections. We can still get a great cup of coffee, and if we want to hear a bluegrass band on a Friday night or learn Italian on Thursdays, that's available too. And the staff is working there not just to cover the rising cost of beer and tuition, but because they love books, they're obsessed with books, and they want to share their love and obsession with the community.

There are numerous reasons to support your local bookseller. During the holiday season find yours, go hang out, ask lots of questions. That's what these people live for - they want to talk about books as much as you do, and I'll bet you won't find a single one that will send you looking for a dictionary on a bridge.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What is a Small Press?

Since carp(e) libris is focusing on small presses, I thought it would be helpful to give you a little overview of what a small press actually is. You can call them small presses, independent presses, indie publishers - any of these terms are correct. But one thing a small press shouldn't be confused with is the vanity press, which is a publisher that will print and sell any book as long as the writer is willing to pay. A small press receives submissions and chooses which books they wish to represent, the same as the mainstream presses. But what I find so interesting about the small press is that they tend to publish books out of a sense of love for the subject and a devotion to the book and the author. Oftentimes profits are moved to the back seat in favor of creating a labor of love.

Because of this drive, you will find some amazing pieces of writing. First-time authors are often taken on by the small press. In the large mainstream presses, wonderful writers are often bypassed because they've not yet been published, or the subject matter doesn't seem to appeal to a wide enough audience. But a small press isn't afraid to take on a book that caters to a niche market.

This quick description reveals why I choose to cover the small presses. A true lover of books is able to feed their reading habit with fantastic fiction, nonfiction, multicultural and other genres by taking a good look at this literary goldmine.

Monday, December 17, 2007

In the Beginning... Welcome to carp(e) libris

Welcome to carp(e) libris, the blog dedicated to small presses, independent booksellers, and the readers who love them.

On carp(e) libris, I'll be reviewing books published by small presses. I'll also do postings featuring independent booksellers across the U.S. and even around the globe.

If you're a reader looking for unique literary fiction, literary nonfiction, memoir, travel and more, this is the place to be! I'll be doing some serious digging, reading, and reviewing to bring you fantastic books you won't find in the checkout line at your grocery store or displayed in the airport shops. Small presses fill a void not covered by the larger publishers, and believe me, there are some real treasures waiting for us to discover. I'll also host book giveaways as publishers permit, and there's nothing better than a free book!

If you're a small press who publishes in these genres and you'd like your book reviewed, you can email me at themommyspot (at) gmail (dot) com. And if you're an independent bookseller anywhere in the world and you'd like to be featured on carp(e) libris, please do email me as well.