Archive for Jonathan Stroud

Wisecracks

Posted in Children's, New release with tags , , , on February 22, 2011 by jaclemens

The wisecracking djinn Bartimaeus is back, this time to match wits with the wisest of the wise, King Solomon! It may be more precise to say the readers are back in time, witnessing one of the litany of exploits of the irrepressible Bartimaeus of Uruk. Not even the epic conclusion of the Bartimaeus Trilogy could keep him in the Other Place for long! It’s understandable that Jonathan Stroud would find it almost impossible to retire such a sensational character as Bartimaeus. The question is what novel tales can yet be told? The illustrious past of this distinguished djinn has already been lauded in the footnotes of the trilogy; which events were significant enough to be told in full, yet not noteworthy enough to be mentioned in an aside, thus giving away the ending?

Personally I’d like to read more about Gilgamesh and Uruk, but that may be played out already. Instead Stroud transports us to Jerusalem in 950 BCE. It is the height of Solomon’s reign, a height achieved and maintained (Stroud would have us believe) through magical might. By selecting a historical character and a common object of power, Stroud also selected some time-honored tropes. Admittedly I’m not a member of the targeted audience for these books, but most young adult readers should be able to associate Solomon with at least two words: wise and wives. That does not make Solomon less interesting as a character, but he does lose some of the mutability that has been the hallmark of the characters in Stroud’s previous books. Because this book precedes the trilogy there is an inherent loss of tension as well; ultimately Bartimaeus will live to crack wise another day.

Even with these self-imposed limitations the book is still a success. Bartimaeus is always entertaining, the drastic change of scenery is revitalizing, and the story is spellbinding. Earlier today it was announced as a 2010 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist in the Young Adult Literature category. That is one measure of its success, but the true measure will be how well it is embraced by the legions of Bartimaeus fans clamoring for another book.

Infernal Reading

Posted in Reading List with tags , on August 27, 2009 by jaclemens

Golem's EyeI’ve been on a major deal-with-a-demon reading kick lately – from new release The Angel’s Game to the book that defined the genre, Goethe’s Faust, to the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. I’m on the second book, The Golem’s Eye, and so far I like it better than the first book, The Amulet of Samarkand.

Heroes of the Valley review

Posted in Children's, New release, Recommendations with tags , , on March 16, 2009 by jaclemens

heroes-of-the-valley Without the recognizable name of Jonathan Stroud one might overlook Heroes of the Valley.  The title and the cover are not especially engaging, which belies the story within.  This is The Sagas of Icelanders written for young readers looking to escape the confines of typical hero stories, much like the main character.  Halli Sveinsson belongs to the House of Svein and believes all of the legends of that great hero, which makes his life as a second son all the more mundane.  Halli yearns to be a hero like Svein but doesn’t know where to begin, as the peaceful rule of law in the valley has rendered swords obsolete.  In true Norse fashion, Halli occupies his time with pranks instead.  When one of his pranks goes terribly awry Halli gets the chance to learn the truth behind the legends and what it means to be a hero.  The ho-hum title also takes on more meaning as Halli uncovers the history behind the legends.  Readers familiar with Stroud know to expect the unexpected and will still be caught off guard by the hazard Halli braves and the revelation that results!

Winter Institute 2009

Posted in Events with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2009 by jaclemens

wi4_smOne of the highlights of my burgeoning book buying career took place right here in Salt Lake City on January 30th & 31st: the ABA’s Winter Institute.  Thanks to the ABA’s recognition of smaller markets (next year’s meetings will be in San Jose) I was able to attend along with hundreds of booksellers from across the country.  The ABA’s fourth annual Winter Institute (WI4) was my debut into the wide world of independent bookstores, and the experience was thrilling and enriching!

The programming was excellent, from the keynote address with Roxanne Coady (R.J. Julia) moderating a panel consisting of publishing executives Morgan Entrekin (Grove/Atlantic), Nan Graham (Scribner), and Bob Miller (HarperStudio) in a discussion of the state of the book industry to the presentations on using multimedia marketing (I lost count of how many times “every store should have a blog” was said) and taking your co-op to the next level.  The education provided by the ABA and the panelists was pertinent and permanent.  My manager and I attended separate sessions in order to soak up as much instruction as possible.

The divide and conquer strategy did not avail us at the author reception, however; not when we were outnumbered 38 to 2!  The quantity and the quality of the writers present was somewhat daunting!  I was hard pressed to meet all of the authors I hoped to, and did not manage to speak to our local standouts Shannon Hale (The Actor and the Housewife) and Brandon Sanderson (Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones).  I was rather pleased to meet Joseph O’Neill (Netherland), Joanna Smith Rakoff (A Fortunate Age), Jonathan Stroud (Heroes of the Valley), and Carlos Ruiz Zafón (The Angel’s Game).  I reminisced about the glory days of Hall of Famer Bruce Smith and the Buffalo Bills with Greg Ames (Buffalo Lockjaw),  and held up the line while speaking with Katherine Howe (The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane).  I was already an admirer of her outstanding book, and now that I’ve met her I am an ardent advocate!

In previous posts I wrote of my anticipation of meeting Katherine Howe as well as my mild apprehension of attending a dinner with Mehmet Murat Somer (The Kiss Murder).  Howe met all of my expectations, but I didn’t know what to expect from Somer.  His book was translated into English by a person who originally hailed from Salt Lake City, so there was a chance that he would be accompanied by his translator.  He wasn’t; not only did Somer speak impeccable English, he had memorized the names of the dinner guests in alphabetical order!  He was a cosmopolitan gentleman, holding the door open for the rest of the party, witty and amiable.  Somer crosses continents and cultures with a first class deportment.

The valuable training and the opportunity to meet such esteemed authors are two wonderful parts of Winter Institute, but the true worth of attending is interacting with fellow booksellers.  We are independent by nature, yet surprisingly co-operative.  After meeting so many creative and open booksellers from across the country (and one from far off Sydney, Australia) I was left with a strong desire to roam from state to state, visiting as many independent bookstores as I could!  One store owner was particularly helpful to me, which stands to reason since she was on the panel that discussed customer service!  At the conclusion of the session I approached Kelly Justice, owner of the Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia.  I introduced myself and told her that I would like to visit her store when I come to Richmond to research the novel I am writing, which is set in Virginia.  She asked me if I had any contacts in Richmond and I said that I did not.  Kelly said “You do now!” and handed me a business card.  She inquired further about why my story was set in Virginia and in which time period.  When I told her that Grandpa Art is set in the near future she plucked her card from my hand and wrote The Watch by Dennis Danvers on the back of it.  Kelly recommended it to me because it is also set in Richmond in the future and Danvers, a Richmond resident, nailed the ethos of the city.  I have not yet located a copy, but I will continue to search.  Even if it takes me on a cross-country trek to every independent bookstore along the way!