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Winner Best Literary Fiction Blog - 2008
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Longlisted for Best Literary Fiction Blog - 2011 Shortlisted Best Written Book Blog - 2010

Booktopia – Day One

Tonight I’m writing from beautiful Santa Cruz, California. I traveled to Marin County last night and spent the night with friends before setting off this morning for Booktopia. It has been a long time since I’ve been in Santa Cruz and the day was a perfect 75 degrees and sunny. After checking into the Adobe B&B on Green Street (an awesome retreat a short walk to downtown with a soaker tub and comfy queen bed with an antique quilt), I headed over to the Bookshop Santa Cruz. This is a fabulous independent bookstore which I look forward to exploring more of in the days ahead. And I promise I’ll have some photos for tomorrow’s post.

I signed up for the Bookseller’s Speed Dating at 3:00 pm which was great. We watched a book printed and bound in less than 10 minutes on the Espresso Book Machine (pretty amazing, really!), and then spent time with bookstore employees who shared their favorite reads in a variety of genres. Here are just a few which piqued my interest…

Literary Fiction:

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (Dial Press) is a recent debut release. Told through the point of view of fourteen year old June, the novel deals with AIDS and the “sharp beauty that comes with the discovery of how to live truly and honestly.” A book about growing up, love, grief, renewal and courage, this one sounds fantastic. I have to admit, I had already picked it up and been drawn to it even before the Booksellers Speed Dating, so it was an easy sell!

This Side of Brightness by Colum McCann introduces a character named Walker living in the early 1900s. Hired to help build a train tunnel to connect Manhattan and Booklyn, Walker experiences something profound and luminescent.  Walker’s story is paralleled with that of Treefrog  – a homeless man living in contemporary New York’s forgotten tunnels. I read Let The Great World Spin by this author in 2010 and loved it (read my review), soI think it is well past the time I should pick up another novel by McCann.

Science Fiction/Fantasy:

This is not a genre I typically read, so I think it speaks well of the bookseller who shared these titles that I found myself tempted to make more than one purchase.

Devices and Desires by K. J. Parker is the first book in a trilogy which was described as “dark and intricate.” This is the story of a humble engineer who seeks revenge against his home city through political manipulation. There are multiple characters, all intertwined, who betray and manipulate each other. No character is all good or all bad, each has their own agenda, and the plots they weave are complex and clever. This one sounds like such a good story that I think I could easily fall into it.

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig is also first in a trilogy and is also described as dark – only this time the main character is a woman named Miriam who is a sort of futuristic ambulance chaser. Specifically, Miriam has the ability to foresee another’s death and she uses this “gift” to gain access to their money. All seems to be going well for her until one day she meets a trucker whose death is preceded by him speaking one word before he dies: Miriam’s name. Will this change Miriam? I guess you’ll have to read the book to see! I think I may just have to buy this one to find out….


Carte Blance by Carlo Cuscarelli is the first in a trilogy which has been published by Europa Editions. I have read plenty of Europa’s literary fiction, and somehow missed that they also publish mysteries. This book looks great. Set in Italy in 1945, the novel centers around Commissario DeLuca who is an ordinary policeman whose past is linked with dubious characters of the crumbling regime. Solving a murder may be more difficult than it seems – especially when those in power may not want it solved.

Following the Booksellers Speed Dating, we headed over to another venue to participate in a good ole’ Yankee Swap. I brought my gently used copy of Swamplandia by Karen Russell. The book I chose was one I’ve read (Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran), so I traded for a copy of Kindred by Octavia E. Butler which looks exceptional.

Perhaps the best part of the day was the informal gathering at The Center Street Grill where we were treated some great appetizers and got to mingle with other participants and meet a couple of the featured authors.

I was SO excited to speak with Tayari Jones whose book, Silver Sparrow, I just read. I loved her book (watch for a review of it soon) and also enjoyed watching a webcast with her and Judy Blume at the Algonquin Books website.  Being able to speak with her in person was really wonderful.

Tomorrow is all about the authors and their books…and I can’t wait. Stay tuned for photos and updates!



  1. October 19, 2012    

    Blackbirds does sound very dark, but fascinating – and that cover is awesome!

  2. October 20, 2012    

    I didn’t know you were going to Booktopia! How fun – I’m sure you’ll have a blast! Most of the books you highlighted are new to me.

  3. October 20, 2012    

    In January of this year, your comment on my review of Kindred was “Looks interesting!” I rated it 9 of 10. Hope you enjoy it. Here’s my review:


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