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Beths Book Blog 2017

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Beth’s Blog

Fredrik Backman, My grandmother sends her regards and apologises

In his debut, Fredrik Backman charmed his readers with a cantankerous character with a heart of gold.  The characters in My Grandmother sends her regards and apologises are similarly crusty on the surface.  Seven year old Elsa is brilliant and a loner without friends other than her eccentric – in fact, crazy – grandmother.  But the two of them escape into the Land of Almost Awake or the Kingdom of Miasmas where Granny’s gift for storytelling builds the fortress Elsa needs to face the world.  This is a many-layered novel of compassion and social consciousness which will delight and warm the reader.

Sally Vickers, Cousins

Long a favourite author of mine, Sally Vickers has had a strong word of mouth following since her debut in 2002 with Miss Garnet’s Angel. A critic from the Washington Post commented that Vickers is a “novelist in the great English tradition of moral seriousness. Her characters suffer, they struggle to be true to both themselves and the promptings of the human heart.”

Her tenth novel, Cousins, is a family epos following three generations of a family of English gentry in the rapidly changing 20th century.  Three of the women attempt to reconstruct the impact on the family of a dramatic accident which befalls two of the young men, Nat and much later Will, who fall while free-climbing the spire of King’s College Chapel in Cambridge. Tender, philosophical, complex and reflective, this is literature at its best.

Kieran Larwood, Podkin One Ear

A new saga for children in the tradition of Watership Down has been born! A traveling bard arrives in the grand hall of a rabbit’s burrow and recounts the legend of Podkin One-Ear, a fearsome warrior rabbit renowned for beating back the vicious iron-clad rabbit breed which has sought to take over the realms of other rabbit clans. This beautifully written and illustrated tale is already becoming a classic, with more promised from author Kieran Larwood.  Great storytelling!

 

 

Len Vlahos, Life in a Fishbowl

The new owner of one of my favourite bookstores, The Tattered Cover in Denver, Colorado, is also the author of several young Adult novels.  His most recent work, titled Life in a Fishbowl, is a quirky satire about Jared Stone, a politician in Oregon and the father of two daughters, who discovers that he has six weeks to live.  Afflicted with a brain tumor (which becomes a major character in the book), Jared decides to sell the rights to his story to a television network.  The ensuing reality TV programme pokes fun at the obsession of watchers with the tragedies of other people.  As the cameras intrude on the lives of the Stone family, the members begin to fight back.

Beth’s Blog, September and late Summer 2016

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The selection of books this summer has been terrific.  Unfortunately some of them are still in hardback or large paperbacks.  But do consider your local bookshop before you order the e-book version!!

My absolute favourite is Emma Cline’s The Girls, probably the best debut I have read in years.  The author is 27 and her prose is amazing.  Don’t be put off by the story line which is a new, fictionalized take on the Charles Manson murders in California in 1969.  Cline explores the human element of the various members of the Manson family, but rather than concentrating on the charisma of Charles, she examines the attraction young girls have for each other as they seek their peer group.  Beautifully recounted, the book was an extra shock for me as I felt teleported back to my childhood in California – I could feel the sun, smell the L’Air du Temps perfume from my youth and revel in the freedom of those long, slow summers.

Just out is Annie Proulx’s long awaited new novel Barkskins, an epos spanning three centuries and covering two young Frenchmen who seek their fortune in 17th century New France.  The stories of the two men who begin as barkskins or woodcutters are intertwined with the history or Canada and the early United States.  Proulx draws a brutal picture of wilderness life, of the effects of the devastation of the vast forests of the new continent on the native Americans and on the ecology of the country.  Billed as her greatest work, the author regales us with wild adventures anchored both in history and imagination.

Eowyn Ivey’s second book has been published and this is also a wilderness tale mixed with the magic realism of the Pacific Northwest.   Located in Alaska, where Ivey’s acclaimed debut The Snow Child took place, To the Bright Edge of the World recounts the 1885 mission of Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester to navigate the Wolverine River in a move to open up the newly acquired territory of Alaska. Forrester’s adventurous young wife, Sophie, is left behind at the military barracks to carve out her own destiny during her husband’s year long absence. Written as letters and journal entries, this is one of the most moving accounts of life’s challenges I have every read.  Ivey is well on her way to matching Proulx’s reputation as a genius of literature.

After postponing my reading of what some booksellers and critics call the best book of 2015, I finally picked up Hanya Yanagihara’s tome, A Little Life, and found myself drawn into its pages and hoping it would never end. Four friends who meet each other during university in New York City maintain a special friendship well into middle age. While its premise is tragic, this book is a moving testament to Yanigihara’s skill in detailing the lives, emotions and the tenderness of the bonds of this group of young men. Truly worth your time this summer – and I promise you, it will kidnap your heart.

Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, was a National Book Award finalist in 2015 and Obama phoned the author to tell her this was his favorite book. Reviews by the public are mixed depending on how much energy you are willing to put into a complex read.  It is a brilliantly written and structured tale of a marriage, its joys, its secrets, and what a couple really shares with each other.  The first half of the book shows the reader how the couple interacts – from the husband’s point of view; the second part reveals in brilliant twists just how complicated and remarkable the 24 year long marriage really is. Groff has been awarded many prizes over the years for the rich prose and creativity of her three novels.

For some real nitty gritty thinking about new strategies for approaching city planning and design, I can highly recommend the two books below, both written by Dutch authors who are working on the world scale.

A customer and old friend, Fred Bakker has just published The Smartest Places on Earth:Why Rustbelts are the Emerging Hotspots of Global Innovation. (Dutch title: Hier wordt de toekomst gebouwd). Authored by Bakker, the former editor of Het Financieele Dagblad and Antoine Van Agtmael, who during his tenure at the World Bank in the 1980s coined the term “emerging markets,” the book argues that depleted industrial centres in the US and Europe  are regenerating as “brainbelts” which will be capable of identifying strategies for addressing some of the world’s new issues. The book describes a recipe for turn-around – a sort of 266 page inspirational Ted talk for those pondering the future of cities. The bookstore would love to organize a reading or workshop on this topic if there is interest.

I had the privilege of participating in a stimulating book discussion at Springhouse, home for Radical Innovators on the Ruijterkade in Amsterdam.  Kees Dorst, Professor of Design Innovation at the University of Technology, Sydney, was visiting and discussed with a variety of design thinkers from around the world his new book, Frame Innovation: Create New thinking by Design. Dorst describes a new, innovation-centered form of design thinking to tackle problem-solving in organizations. He maps solutions that include rethinking a store layout so retail spaces encourage purchasing rather than stealing, applying the frame of a music festival to understand late-night problems of crime and congestion in a club district, and creative ways to attract young employees to a temporary staffing agency. This frame creation provides an inspiring guide which will help practitioners determine their own (bottom-up) ways of innovating.

A tip about a wonderful book translated from Dutch and brilliantly reviewed by both The Guardian and The New York Times. War and Turpentine, written by the award-winning Flemish poet and author, Stefan Hertmans, is a distillation of the musings of Hertmans’ grandfather on World War I. As Neel Mukherjee wrote in his review: War and Turpentine is the astonishing result of Hertmans’ reckoning with his grandfather’s diaries. It is a book that lies at the crossroads of novel, biography, autobiography and history, with inset essays, meditations, pictures. It seems to be aching to be called “Sebaldian”, and earns the epithet glowingly.”

Radio Girls, Sarah-Jan Stratford, 2016

At Townie Books in Crested Butte, Colorado, I picked up a sparkling novel which traces the history of women working at the BBC in its early 1920s broadcasting years. The atmosphere at the new company was electrifying – new technology, the chance to reach into the living rooms of people all over Great Britain, and the dynamism of Hilda Matheson, Director of the popular Talks programmes, who dreamed of expanding the knowledge base of all layers of British society. This is historical fiction at its best, giving us a believable picture of the new world after the end of the Great War.  An appealing and thoroughly enjoyable book!

Jay McInerney, Bright Precious Days.

Bright, Precious Days is the third in a Manhattan psychological trilogy, tracing the ups and downs of the lives of Corinne and Russell Calloway. Now in their 50s, the couple struggle with mid-life ennui and uncertain financial futures in a warm, well-drawn portrait of the times.  The book can be read alone.  On September 13, McInerney will speak at the John Adams Institute.

Young Adult books

I ran across a book from 2012 recently and was impressed by its treatment of teen issues of identity and sexuality. Written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (and also issued as an audiobook read by Lin-Manuel Miranda),  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has received an array of awards.  It recounts the summer of two loners – Aristotle, an angry sixteen year old with a brother in prison and Dante, a self-assured teen with his own way of looking at the world. Beautifully written from the perspective of the non-communicative Ari, it portrays the boys’ discovery of important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

My top young adult book of 2015 was All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.  This incredibly talented author dealt in an uplifting (!) manner with the issue of teen suicide.  In her latest novel, Holding Up the Universe, she tackles how teens attempt to fit in to their peer groups.  Jack, with his swagger and nonchalance, is a master of disguising the fact that he cannot recognize faces. Libby, in the face of vicious sneers about her overweight, is determined to move beyond what people think because she wants to be “the girl who can do anything.”  These two unforgettable characters take on their high school community and learn to see each other for who they are.  A strong and poignant book!

Boekhandel van Rossum has selected the following teen book for our monthly Forum van Rossum reading group.  Those who have read the book are welcome to join us for the discussion on 29 September at 8 p.m. in the bookstore. 

Kook by Chris Vick is a hard-hitting novel about a group of teens in the surfing sub-culture of Cornwall on the southern coast of England.  Sam, whose father drowned when Sam was four, has just moved from London back to his birthplace in Cornwall. At loose ends as he tries to settle in, he becomes fascinated by his neighbor Jade, a beautiful and fanatic surfer always looking for the Big Wave.  The storyline is powerful (no spoilers here) and portrays the characters realistically – from escapism in drugs and alcohol to the search for excellence in what one is passionate about – from science to survival tactics in deep water.  Superbly written, the book draws you into its story with amazing skill.  Do join us to share your views!

 

Beth’s Book Blog | Summer Reading 2016

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Summer Reading

161426Take some time this summer to read the Young Adult books of Meg Rosoff, recent winner of the most prestigious Children’s and Young Adult award,  the ALMA, a sort of Nobel prize for younger readers. Rosoff’s books are for ages 13+ and are highly regarded by adults as well.

Start with How I Live Now, her debut which was recently filmed.  Just in Case is also wry, sad and very funny as is Jonathan Unleashed about young people just starting their first jobs in New York. A quirky author like no one you’ve every read!


Fates and Furies
, Lauren Groff.  Obama phoned the author to tell her this was his favorite book.

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Little Life, 
Hanya Yanagihara – A sad but beautiful novel of friendship.  This is a long book to savour during your holiday.  Something very different and special.

 

Before We Met, Lucie Whitehouse – A terrific thriller that will have you guessing until the end.

The Improbability of Love, Hannah Rothschild – A dirty painting discovered by the lovelorn Annie McDee turns out to have an amazing historical background. A great summer read about art, food, and history – as well as daring to fall in love again.

 

5books

Beth Johnson is the owner of Boekhandel Van Rossum (Beethovenstraat 32 in Amsterdam). Beth writes about and sells a wide range of Dutch and English books for children, young adults and mature readers.

Beth would also be delighted to receive feedback about her book recommendations.
Send Beth a Feedback Email
Beth would love to hear feedback from you.

Beth’s Book Blog | June 2016

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Young Adult

9781101998298_Riverkeep_HC_CvLib.inddThe Scottish (Young Adult) fantasy Riverkeep by Martin Stewart is a debut inspired by the rivermen of Glasgow and has already been compared to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and Game of Thrones. Nearly sixteen, Wulliam is preparing to take on his father’s responsibilities as Riverkeep, tending the river and rescuing bodies from the watery deep.  But when his father’s body is invaded by a sinister spirit, Wull sets out on a dangerous quest to find the great sea-monster, the mormorach, which may be able to save his father. This is a terrific debut, and has the feel of a future classic.

 

we-all-looked-up-9781471124556_hrWe all Looked Up, the debut Young Adult novel by Tommy Wallach of Brooklyn, NY tackles teen issues in a world in which the asteroid Ardor is expected to collide with Earth within two months.  Four Seattle high school students try to determine the meaning of their lives in a society which begins to vacillate between anarchy and an emerging police state, between end-of-the-world partying and ethical dilemmas. Two months to discover what is really important in life.

lie_tree-xlarge_trans++Ecdmp8g_QXGoofzFP1iv1nbtwsyAseKiOxN7NjU1zMYThe prestigious British Da Costa Award of 2015 went to The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. This brilliant Victorian fantasy with a gothic darkness takes place ten years after Darwin has announced his theory of evolution, throwing both religion and the study of natural sciences into turmoil.  The  bright but underestimated daughter of an esteemed Anglican minister and scientist comes into her own when her father mysteriously dies and she investigates his death and his legacy, the chimerical Lie Tree.  An ingenious and exciting (young) adult thriller with supernatural elements.

24934065Part cowboy Western and part Arabian Nights, Rebel of the Sands is a thrill of a read with elements of dynastic conflict, romance and mythical djinns.  Alwyn Hamilton’s debut novel is terrific fun and it is, fortunately, the first in a planned series. Ideal adventure for 12+.

 

9780803739758_Forb1A0493D7The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler is the first in a children’s series (10 to 13) but most fantasy readers of all ages will love the premise of  Readers in the dangerous world of an extraordinary library.  Alice is sent to be an apprentice to Uncle Geryon and discovers that when she is drawn into a book she is literally living the story – and needing to develop skills to fight off the dangers she encounters.  The rip-roaring storytelling continues in the even faster-moving follow-up, The 91e2QyrnjcL-671x1024Mad Apprentice. And the author is far from finished with his tales!

 

 

Beth in her bamboo garden

 

 

 

 

Beth Johnson is the owner of Boekhandel Van Rossum (Beethovenstraat 32 in Amsterdam). Beth writes about and sells a wide range of Dutch and English books for children, young adults and mature readers.

Beth would also be delighted to receive feedback about her book recommendations.
Send Beth a Feedback Email
Beth would love to hear feedback from you.

Beth’s Book Blog | May 2016

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On Wednesday, May 11th at 3 p.m. Meg will visit Boekhandel van Rossum, Amsterdam

All-books-leftBook-rightMeg Rosoff, the highly esteemed author of Young Adult novels such as How I Live Now, Just in Case, and The Bride’s Farewell, has just been awarded the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the most prestigious oeuvre prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature.  On Wednesday, May 11th at 3 p.m. Meg will visit Boekhandel van Rossum to discuss  her newly translated teen book, Picture Me Gone (Mij niet gezien), as well as her first adult novel Jonathan Unleashed, a hugely funny look at a quirky young man struggling to make it in his first job in New York City. In her work questions of body, identity, and gender, the confusions of falling in love, and the desire and sexuality of the young are addressed with clever humor.

Meg is an inspirational speaker who encourages young people to seek  a path in life which is not necessarily the one laid out for them by the adult world.

If you plan to attend the event on May 11th, please email us at winkel@boekhandelvanrossum or call 020 4707077.

Another very special event is the visit of holocaust survivor Eva Schloss to The Netherlands where she has been invited to meet the Dutch King in Amsterdam for the May 4th memorial day celebrations. Eva Schloss is a step-daughter of Otto Frank, the father of Anne Frank. She has written about her experiences during World War II in a book for children called The Promise and for adults in After Auschwitz.  She will speak at international schools in early May. 

In The Secret Chord, the latest book by Pulitizer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks (People of the Book), King David, the shepherd boy who slew the giant Goliath and became the unifier of the 12 tribes, is the central figure. The Secret Chord is a passionate reinterpretation of the Books of Samuel, where David is God’s anointed, warlord, minstrel, sensualist, trickster, covenanted friend. The prophet and scribe, Natan, reviews David’s life with a view to bequeathing to posterity a full record: “Not just the deeds. The man.”

Growing older is no one’s cup of tea but Cathleen Schine (The Three Weissmans) has taken a wry look at intergenerational views on an aging mother in They may not mean to but they do. Joy Bergman is not slipping into old age with the quiet grace her adult children would prefer. She won’t take their advice, and she won’t take an
antidepressant. This is a new type of coming-of-age book about the intrusion of old age into three generations of family life. Warm and very funny!

The International Man Booker Prize has now been combined with The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the winner of the 2016 award will be announced on 16 May.  One of the candidates is the Indonesian author Eka Kurniawan, whose novel Man Tiger has been widely praised for its colourful and richly textured depiction of village life.  Anwar Sadat, a charming womanizer and failed artist, has been murdered by the young Margio, a skilled hunter whose sweet personality belies the fact that he has “something inside him”.  That something is a white tiger. A lyrical and arresting book with an innovative structure. Another tip from the International Man Booker Prize is the lovely novella by  Robert Seethaler,  A Whole Life.

The Singapore based thriller author Shamini Flint is visiting international schools in the Low Lands in April to talk about her Inspector Singh series.  So I picked up her most recent book, Inspector Singh Investigates: A Frightfully English Execution, a tale tackling religion, terrorism, and a number of strands straight out of today’s headlines. Singh and his wife are terrific characters and the books are a delight to read if you are looking for a new twist on the traditional genre.

 

 

 

 

Beth Johnson is the owner of Boekhandel Van Rossum (Beethovenstraat 32 in Amsterdam). Beth writes about and sells a wide range of Dutch and English books for children, young adults and mature readers.

Beth would also be delighted to receive feedback about her book recommendations.
Send Beth a Feedback Email
Beth would love to hear feedback from you.

Beth’s Book Blog April 2016

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During my recent holiday in Colorado, I attended the American Booksellers Association Winter Institute with a number of Dutch book colleagues.  Two keynote addresses were particularly stimulating and I want to recommend the associated books.

small-data-the-tiny-clues-that-uncover-huge-trends-by-martin-lindstrom-1466892595Martin Lindstrom, an engaging and respected business analyst and international brand-building advisor, has written the bestseller Buyology and just published his new work Small Data. This book looks at the tiny clues which uncover big trends in a way which Big Data databases cannot hope to match.  Lindstrom interviews thousands of people in their homes, looking at those themes and things  which evoke emotion in consumers.  A vibrant, idiosyncratic and challenging book!

Harvard professor Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk (Watch it!!) on “power poses” has inspired tens of millions of viewers who are shown how to use their body language to unlock their own confidence.  41V8x8JjSDL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Her new book Presence: Bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges  shows us the science behind Cuddy’s  technique – not “Fake it ‘til you make it” but “Fake it ‘til you become it.”  Presence is a manifesto for students and managers facing intimidating challenges, for young girls who need to bolster their self-esteem – in short, for all of us who need to get our minds and bodies working together to promote our ideas. Cuddy shared a personal anecdote with me about a son who spent five minutes every morning striking a power pose with his father and rediscovered for a brief moment the man he had lost to dementia.  A fabulous concept, a great read.  Watch our website for an announcement of Cuddy’s visit to Amsterdam.  We are working on it!!

9781770894143_edacd8ca-0aef-45b1-a5d6-aaa327c8278bThe Canadian author Patrick DeWitt, whose Booker short-listed Sisters Brothers brilliantly parodied the traditional Western, plays with the “folk tale noir” in the recently released comic novel Under Majordomo Minor.  The puny Lucien Minor, aka Lucy, leaves his Middle European village to seek his fortune in the gothic castle of an absent baron.  The story proceeds from one quirky scene of train pickpockets to a party of debauched aristocrats and a shakily satisfying tale of young love.  DeWitt writes with marvellous absurdity and strictly on his own terms.  Enjoy but expect the unexpected.

41Mqr37ywTL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Stefan Zweig, a prolific and popular Austrian writer (1882-1942) is perhaps best known now for his autobiography, The World of Yesterday. Penguin has just issued in its Modern Classics series a new translation of Ungeduld des Herzens which originally appeared as Beware of Pity and has been renamed Impatience of the Heart. This is a fabulously dramatic tale of a gallant and naive soldier who, with the best of intentions, lets his pity for  a young crippled aristocrat entangle him in a complex relationship in interbellum Europe. Zweig is a master craftsman and a great storyteller.

23209927At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen recounts the rather unlikely story of spoiled American upper class socialites who head to Scotland, determined to prove the existence of the Loch Ness monster – and this in the midst of the WWII U-boat attacks on the High Seas.  While the plot is predictable – (the bored young wife, Maddie, learns about real life), Gruen’s skills as an author (Water for Elephants) manifest themselves and this turns out to be a page-turner.  Certainly the perfect airplane read!

All American Boys, a compelling and highlyUnknown acclaimed Young Adult novel by authors Jason Reynold and Brendan Kiely, erupts with a shocking incident of police brutality against the young African-American high school student Rashad.  Reynolds is the voice of Rashad and Kriely portrays the white teen Quinn who witnesses the attack and wants nothing more than to have life return to normal.  This exploration of racism focuses on the role each of us plays in building walls instead of bridges between our communities.  See the detailed review by the New York Times.

For teachers, read this in parallel with Ralph Ellison’s classic The Invisible Man and Ta-Nehisi Coates memoir of his father, The Beautiful World and his letter to his young son, Between the World and Me.

Beth Johnson is the owner of Boekhandel Van Rossum (Beethovenstraat 32 in Amsterdam). Beth writes about and sells a wide range of Dutch and English books for children, young adults and mature readers.

Beth would also be delighted to receive feedback about her book recommendations.
Send Beth a Feedback Email
Beth would love to hear feedback from you.

Beth’s Book Blog March 2016

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During my recent holiday in Colorado, I attended the American Booksellers Association Winter Institute with a number of Dutch book colleagues.  Two keynote addresses were particularly stimulating and I want to recommend the associated books.

small-data-the-tiny-clues-that-uncover-huge-trends-by-martin-lindstrom-1466892595Martin Lindstrom, an engaging and respected business analyst and international brand-building advisor, has written the bestseller Buyology and just published his new work Small Data. This book looks at the tiny clues which uncover big trends in a way which Big Data databases cannot hope to match.  Lindstrom interviews thousands of people in their homes, looking at those themes and things  which evoke emotion in consumers.  A vibrant, idiosyncratic and challenging book!

Harvard professor Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk (Watch it!!) on “power poses” has inspired tens of millions of viewers who are shown how to use their body language to unlock their own confidence.  41V8x8JjSDL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Her new book Presence: Bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges  shows us the science behind Cuddy’s  technique – not “Fake it ‘til you make it” but “Fake it ‘til you become it.”  Presence is a manifesto for students and managers facing intimidating challenges, for young girls who need to bolster their self-esteem – in short, for all of us who need to get our minds and bodies working together to promote our ideas. Cuddy shared a personal anecdote with me about a son who spent five minutes every morning striking a power pose with his father and rediscovered for a brief moment the man he had lost to dementia.  A fabulous concept, a great read.  Watch our website for an announcement of Cuddy’s visit to Amsterdam.  We are working on it!!

9781770894143_edacd8ca-0aef-45b1-a5d6-aaa327c8278bThe Canadian author Patrick DeWitt, whose Booker short-listed Sisters Brothers brilliantly parodied the traditional Western, plays with the “folk tale noir” in the recently released comic novel Under Majordomo Minor.  The puny Lucien Minor, aka Lucy, leaves his Middle European village to seek his fortune in the gothic castle of an absent baron.  The story proceeds from one quirky scene of train pickpockets to a party of debauched aristocrats and a shakily satisfying tale of young love.  DeWitt writes with marvellous absurdity and strictly on his own terms.  Enjoy but expect the unexpected.

41Mqr37ywTL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Stefan Zweig, a prolific and popular Austrian writer (1882-1942) is perhaps best known now for his autobiography, The World of Yesterday. Penguin has just issued in its Modern Classics series a new translation of Ungeduld des Herzens which originally appeared as Beware of Pity and has been renamed Impatience of the Heart. This is a fabulously dramatic tale of a gallant and naive soldier who, with the best of intentions, lets his pity for  a young crippled aristocrat entangle him in a complex relationship in interbellum Europe. Zweig is a master craftsman and a great storyteller.

23209927At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen recounts the rather unlikely story of spoiled American upper class socialites who head to Scotland, determined to prove the existence of the Loch Ness monster – and this in the midst of the WWII U-boat attacks on the High Seas.  While the plot is predictable – (the bored young wife, Maddie, learns about real life), Gruen’s skills as an author (Water for Elephants) manifest themselves and this turns out to be a page-turner.  Certainly the perfect airplane read!

All American Boys, a compelling and highlyUnknown acclaimed Young Adult novel by authors Jason Reynold and Brendan Kiely, erupts with a shocking incident of police brutality against the young African-American high school student Rashad.  Reynolds is the voice of Rashad and Kriely portrays the white teen Quinn who witnesses the attack and wants nothing more than to have life return to normal.  This exploration of racism focuses on the role each of us plays in building walls instead of bridges between our communities.  See the detailed review by the New York Times.

For teachers, read this in parallel with Ralph Ellison’s classic The Invisible Man and Ta-Nehisi Coates memoir of his father, The Beautiful World and his letter to his young son, Between the World and Me.

 

Beth Johnson is the owner of Boekhandel Van Rossum (Beethovenstraat 32 in Amsterdam). Beth writes about and sells a wide range of Dutch and English books for children, young adults and mature readers.

Beth would also be delighted to receive feedback about her book recommendations.
Send Beth a Feedback Email
Beth would love to hear feedback from you.

 

Beth’s Book Blog Feb 2016

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Beth in her bamboo garden0812998685.01._SY300_SCLZZZZZZZ_

By Beth Johnson,  Boekhandel Van Rossum

 

When compared to the complexity and size of Bone Clocks, David Mitchell’s new book Slade House is a slim and accessible ghost story. This makes it an excellent introduction to the work of this skilled and many-facetted British author – one of the best of our day.  There is something mysterious about the beautiful garden and home concealed between a high wall in a dilapidated town outside of London.  Every nine years someone disappears at the end of October in the vicinity of this house.  Don’t be surprised if you recognize characters from other works and other worlds of Mitchell.  The master spins his web of storytelling craftily and draws us into his spheres of good and evil.  Another masterpiece!  A fan writes that is feels like  “a board-game designed by M C Escher on a bender and Stephen King in a fever.”

 

strangler-vineThe Strangler Vine was recommended to me by a bookseller from Daunt Books, a shop I haunt when I am in London.  Miranda Carter, author of an award-winning biography of Anthony Blunt and wife of the economic  journalist and fiction writer John Lanchester, has launched herself into literary thriller writing with an adventure in colonial India in the 19th century.  The hapless young Ensign William Avery, always British, ever in uniform, is paired with the intelligence agent gone native, Jeremiah Blake, and sent off to track down a British author who has gone missing in a jungle where Kali-worshipping Thugs are undermining British rule. This is a romp of a read which includes a tiger hunt and high adventure. The sequel, Infidel Stain, reunites the detectives in Victorian London where a series of murders in Drury Lane requires investigation.

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Many authors explore memory but Debra Dean’s The Madonnas of Leningrad is a brilliantly told story of an aging Russian woman now living in America who cannot hold on to the events of her present, such as the approaching wedding of a grandchild, but who relives her experiences working in The Hermitage Museum in Leningrad during the gruelling, three year long siege of that city in World War II.  As the artworks are packed up and removed for safekeeping, Marina creates a memory palace of each painting as she wanders, starving, through the rooms of the museum, gazing at the empty frames left hanging on the walls.  A lovely, moving work first published in 2006.

 

Euphoria by Lily King coverLily King’s book Euphoria was one of the New York Times’ top ten for 2014. It is the feverish, scintillating tale of three anthropologists  striving to come to grips with the culture and societies of various tribes in the bush of New Guinea. Loosely based on a 1933 field trip to the Sepik River made by Margaret Mead, her then husband, and her future husband, it is a taut tale of new ideas in understanding other cultures – and a love triangle.  Mead was a highly emancipated thinker with a personalized approach to studying groups of people and King has written a brilliant novel about a part of her life.18089902

 

The Hotel on Place Vendome is popular history at its best, impeccably researched and full of  anecdotes about the people who colour our views of the past.  Written by Tilar Mazzeo, a professor at Colby College in Maine, this is the history come to life of The Hotel Ritz in Paris. From its establishment in 1898 through the risqué 1920s to the war years when Joseph Goebbels declared that The Ritz would be the only luxury hotel in occupied France, it became the watering hole of royalty, glamorous film stars, the writers of the Lost Generation.  French ministers, English leaders, Nazi officers, the crème de la crème of French fashion in the form of Coco Chanel who seems to have played on both sides of the war, spies and double spies, Ernest Hemingway who took over “his” hotel and in boorish fashion hauled the best wines out of the cellars to celebrate the Allied victory….. this is larger than life history, drawing on international sources.

Beth Johnson is the owner of Boekhandel Van Rossum (Beethovenstraat 32 in Amsterdam). Beth writes about and sells a wide range of Dutch and English books for children, young adults and mature readers.

Beth would also be delighted to receive feedback about her book recommendations.
Send Beth a Feedback Email
Beth would love to hear feedback from you.

Beth’s Book Blog Nov 2015

Categories: Beth's Books, Books
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Beth in her bamboo garden

By Beth Johnson,  Boekhandel Van Rossum

 

Garth-Risk-Hallberg-BOOK

City on Fire, Garth Risk Hallberg

Garth Risk Hallberg has produced the most hyped, latest attempt at the great New York City novel – and although I have yet to finish its 900 pages, the book offers the reader an ambitious and impressive picture of the bleak yet vibrant 1970s city. With Dickensian detail and terrific story lines for each of its many characters, we are reminded of the cycles of poverty contrasted with the fin-de-siecle glamour and glitz of the super wealthy of the Big Apple.  Reviewers have criticized the length of the book but if you are looking for a good holiday read by an author who is already being compared to Don de Lillo and Tom Wolfe (and I would add Ayn Rand), this is the book for you.  An author who is already making good on his $ 2 million advance.

Trigger Mortis, Anthony Horowitz

51mI9KcsUhL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Several authors have taken a stab at re-creating Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, but none is better suited for that job than Anthony Horowitz whose Alex Rider series for teens portrays the young Bond who is rocketed into work as a spy.  Trigger Mortis makes use of original Ian Fleming material from a never-produced TV series in a wild chase scene at the Nürburgring racetrack which rectifies the somewhat slow start to this adventure. A satisfying episode which feature the return of Pussy Galore, Miss Moneypenny and Bond’s old adversary Smersh, all known from early Fleming films.

Dictator, Robert Harris

The long-awaited third book in the Cicero trilogy is a resounding tribute to the ability of Robert Harris to bring the famous lawyer and orator of ancient 9780091752101Rome alive, based on meticulous research and a lively pen.  Although at the bookshop we shelve all of Harris’ books in the thriller section, his oeuvre is actually an animation or  reconstruction of history –  as in The Officer and the Spy where the banning of Dreyfuss to Devil’s Island is examined with an eye to determining who the real culprit may have been. If you haven’t read the Roman series, start with Pompeii, where Pliny the Elder recounts the build-up to the eruption of the great volcano Vesuvius – not a whodunit but a whenwillit as one reviewer calls this jewel of a recreation.

The three books on Marcus Tullius Cicero date from 2003 when Imperium was published to great acclaim. The first book recounts, through the eyes of Cicero’s slave and assistant Tiro, the rise of the young orator and lawyer to consul of Rome in the period 79 to 64 B.C. Published in 2009, Lustrum is a fast-paced depiction of the power struggles among the elite of Rome as Cicero manoeuvres between Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompey, the scheming Catalina and others to save his beloved Rome. The culminating book, Dictator, just out, starts soberly with Cicero’s banishment from Rome, his volatile return and ends with a rocketing climax as this honourable consul strives to salvage his republic from the threats of Marcus Antonius.  Read all three during your holidays!

The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness continues to prove himself a young adult author with a creative pen and a varied register. His Chaos Walking Trilogy won the Guardian Fiction Children’s Prize, de Da Costa Award and the Carnegie Medal. More Than This is apocalyptic science fiction at its darkest. His most recent book, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is peopled with radioactive deer, super teens in the margins fighting the mysterious Immortals, and ordinary, flawed teens struggling with OCD, anorexia, growing up in general but who have tremendous loyalty for each other. This is one of the funniest and most tender books Ness has written, with a message about getting on with life despite its adversities. For adults, I recommend his novel The Crane Wife.

 

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Kingdom by the Sea, Mark Zegeling

The blue and white Delft houses and Dutch national monuments produced for KLM since the 1950s (one a year on the date that KLM was founded in 1919) Little_kingdom_by_the_sea_mark_zegeling-188x300have become a status symbol in the international travel world. Mark Zegeling brings us the stories behind these houses several versions of  The Kindgom by the Sea.  The first is a small format walking guide (€ 18,95) with a map of the famous houses of Amsterdam, Delft and Leiden with the locations of more than one hundred monuments which have been the inspiration for the KLM houses.  There is also a list of the 15 oldest cafes of Amsterdam, (dating from 1550 to 1786) should you wish to undertake an historical pub crawl!

Cover porseleinTwo other versions have since been produced, a luxury coffee table book for € 69,95 with stories about the original owners of the houses such as Rembrandt, Anne Frank, the Dutch Marco Polo and other pioneers of Dutch history. A splendid limited edition of this book with a thin porcelain cover of infinite beauty (€ 240 with a certificate of authenticity)MarkPersfoto has recently been produced and can be seen at Boekhandel van Rossum along with a video of the production process.  Perfect for someone leaving  the Netherlands after many years – but I snapped one up for my Dutch husband and we are both delighted!

 

 

 

The Holiday Season!

Boekhandel van Rossum newsletter available next week
With extensive list of reading suggestions for the holiday period. If you do not receive our emails, please sign up to receive this helpful checklist. If you mail us an order, we will wrap and label each gift and have it ready for you in a box. This will give you a chance to visit the shop as well

 

Beth Johnson is the owner of Boekhandel Van Rossum (Beethovenstraat 32 in Amsterdam). Beth writes about and sells a wide range of Dutch and English books for children, young adults and mature readers.

Beth would also be delighted to receive feedback about her book recommendations.
Send Beth a Feedback Email
Beth would love to hear feedback from you.

 

 

Footprints in the snow

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By Maggie Holman

The book is a Christmas story with a spooky moment at the end, for children aged 8-11. It tells the story of ten-year-old Jamie, a shy London boy who goes to stay with his grandfather in the Forest of Dean, where he discovers local people searching for an elusive panther and meets traveller children who talk to animals. Jamie thinks he knows the forest well, but he gets lost in the snow after he sets off alone.The question is, who will be able to find him?

When I first wrote the book, I asked a primary teacher colleague if she would read it and see if it worked for this age group. She loved the book, said the students would love it too and asked if she could read it to her class. The students stopped me around school to tell me how much they were enjoying the story, and they also sent me a collection of letters and pictures when their reading was finished. Because of this response at school, I decided to register as a small publisher and printed a first paperback run, all of which have sold.

Here are some examples of the reviews the book has received:

‘As I read aloud, every student was incredibly focussed and I swear you could hear a pin drop. This is an absolutely beautiful story and I feel lucky to have had the privilege to read it aloud to my class.’ (Lyndsay Gregory, primary school teacher)

‘I read the story and there are some really great elements; the characters are warm and engaging, the locations are great and the interaction between the travellers and non-travellers feels rounded and real.’ (David Collier, children’s television producer)

‘Being from the Forest of Dean myself, I really thought that you captured the magic of it. It was very uplifting, engaging and a pleasure to read.’ (Suzanne Phillips, the Winston’s Wish Charity)

And from children:

‘I loved your story so much. My favourite part of the story is when Caro talked to the stag. I just wish I could do that! It might even be one of my favourite books. It was just so exciting!’ (Lola)

‘Your story was really cool and fun to read. I thought the idea of the panther was awesome.’ (Elliot)

‘The more the teacher read, the more I couldn’t stop thinking of it.’ (Lucie)

‘Footprints in the Snow’ has a new ISBN and a professionally-designed cover from the Book Beaver design company. There is an organised launch of the book between now and Christmas, which includes a reading and Q&A in the AICS library, a Goodreads Giveaway starting on 17th November, a dedicated page on my website and promotion via my Facebook, Twitter and Amazon pages. Kindle version here.

The price of the book is 7.50.

The book is soon available at the new Scheltema store in Rokin and the van Rossum bookstore in Beethovenstraat.

 
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