Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Renovations update!

Renovations are well underway, and we have more new paint up on the walls than not! It's looking pretty cheery. Feel free to stop on by and take a look!

One of the new colors, you might recognize it downstairs in our fiction section.

This paint reminds me of melted cheese... Man I could go for some nachos!

Macaroni and Cheese colored walls!

The three colors coming together.

The painters are still putting up the final coats of paint, and afterward we still have new carpet to put in, but all in all they are doing an awesome job!

Hope you are enjoying good weather, and if not a good book this summer's day!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pardon our mess!

The Odyssey is getting remodeled upstairs! This includes a new carpet (the current one has lasted much longer than the 10 years it was originally intended for), and a new paint job.

The whole process should be done shortly after the 4th of July, but it is still a process. With the exception of the 4th of July we will be open during this time. We will still be servicing your nonfiction needs!

We will be keeping tabs on this exciting venture, and hope that y'all can visit us during, and after the renovation to see the end results!

Have a great summer day!

Monday, June 21, 2010

"The World Cup blog post" or "Golllll!!!"

I've been so consumed with watching World Cup games that I haven't taken the time to blog about it. With good reason of course; It has been more exciting than a pinata at a party! After all who doesn't like waking up and watching a rousing game of soccer?

I grew up on the Texas/Mexico border so soccer was a pretty big part of daily life, and I was lucky enough to have been in several leagues growing up. Currently my roommate is from Germany and if there is somebody who understands the power, beauty and fun that is sports spectator-ship for a world tournament, it is her. We joke about what would happen if Germany met up against Mexico, even though we both know Germany will go much farther than Mexico. Even so I keep my fingers crossed.

Soccer is a sport that has much controversy behind it, from France's team Coach Domenech's consulting astrologists to help form a better team, to promising children athletes who are sold into slavery. Futbol, as the rest of the world knows it, is multifaceted.

Below are some books that better explain the sport, the passion and the politics. Click on any of the books or titles to see more information about that particular book, and to order your copy from the Odyssey!

How Soccer Explains the World
By Franklin Foer

Soccer Against the Enemy
by Simon Kuper
Nation Books

Kabul Girls Soccer Club
By Awista Ayub

Africa United
By Steve Bloomfield

The Boys from Little Mexico
By Steve Wilson
Beacon Press
A Beautiful Game
By Tom Watt

Best of luck to all teams in the out rounds. I hope you get a chance to watch some of the games, as some really good matches are taking place. I really think that it is going to come down to Brazil, Argentina, England, and possibly Spain (if they manage to shrink their egos). What about you?



Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rainy Day? No Problem!

So tomorrow they are predicting another rainy afternoon. Come on really!? Rain in June! (Sigh)...

If you are a bookworm like most of us at the Odyssey, then a rainy day is just a great excuse to curl up in a window seat with a good book.

But if a rainy day means you are going to be stuck indoors with kids who just want to run around then of course this can be the pits! Fortunately for all of us there are some great alternatives to the Internet, television, and video games! Here are a few suggestions below!

Art with Anything

MaryAnn F. Kohl

Gryphon House


My new favorite art activity book is Art with Anything, by MaryAnn Kohl . This is a great addition to either classroom or home library. It is a great book to give both child and adults something to do! Plus with the many different projects the book offers and variety of materials needed, there will be plenty to do for both the artistically competent and the more artistically challenged!

New Holland Publishers
Then of course you are going to have kids who don't necessarily want to sit down for an art project and that if just fine. For them I would most definitely recommend Spectacular Science, by Christ Smith and Dave Ansell. The beauty of this book is that it will not only show you how to make an experiment, but explain to you why and how it works. The multitude of projects will keep you busy until the sun comes out!
I hope you are enjoying your sunny summer afternoon, and remember don't fret when the rain clouds appear!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Watercolor & Gouache Illustrations

This week's selection of hardcover picture books all have watercolor or gouache illustrations. Gouache, for those who don't know, is a kind of paint similar to watercolor. It comes in little tubes and when you mix the paint with water to a pudding consistency it can be applied to paper in areas that dry matte and flat. If you mix additional water in, the gouache will look exactly the same as watercolor. Gouache is often used for concept art for animations. Mary Blair, who did development artwork for Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, used gouache in her paintings for the Disney movies. Some of these paintings have been collected into books: Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland by Scieszka and Walt Disney's Peter Pan by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson. Now that we've had a media lesson, on to some picture books.

Beaver is Lost
by Elisha Cooper
Random House, $17.99
This story is told entirely in watercolor illustrations, a bit like David Wiesner's Tuesday, though Cooper's illustrations are much looser and more fluid than the intricacies of Wiesner's.
A little beaver floats away from his family on a log. He ends up at the dock of a lumber company where he is chased by a dog, he goes through a swimming pool, around a zoo, through a pond, through the streets, and finally swims hope after his adventure. the looseness of the paintings give the book an almost dream-like quality. A few of my coworkers looked through the book, commenting on beaver's adventure as they went; I am sure children will do the same, reading the illustrations as they go. Those familiar with the skyline of Chicago will be able to pick out the specific location of each scene.

Biblioburro: A True Story from Columbia (9781416997788)
by Jeanette Winter
Simon & Schuster, $16.99
This picture book is based on a true story and features vibrant gouache illustrations.
Luis' house is so full of books there is barely room for him! So he loads the books on two burros and sets out to bring the books to people in other villages. On the way he meet s a bandit. Having no silver, Luis gives the bandit a book and continues on. In the village he reads a book and passes around books to all the children before continuing home. This simple book celebrates the act of sharing books and reading. Winter's illustrations are bright and colorful and the texture of the watercolor paper she used comes through to make them almost appear as fabric collages. This book is great for even the youngest book lover.

Little Blue Truck (9780152056612)
by Alice Schertle illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Harcourt, $16.00
This story is told entirely in rhyme with watercolor and gouache illustrations. A little blue truck drives down the road, beeping at the different animals it passes. When a yellow dump truck barrels by and gets stuck ion the mud, everyone goes to help out, from the blue truck to a frog. Children will help out by chiming in on the sound effects, a job made easier as each onomatopoeic word is written in large type and color-coded. Additionally, this book delivers a message of helping people, even if they might not do the same for you at first (do unto others).


Monday, June 14, 2010

You've got to pick a memoir or two...

The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: An American Journalist in Yemen by Jennifer Steil, published by Broadway Books. What starts as a 3-week course teaching journalism to a group of greenhorn reporters in Yemen quickly evolves into a year-long stint as editor-in-chief of the English language newspaper, The Yemen Observer. Bewildered and smitten in equal measure with her new surroundings, Steil faces obstacles as varied as stampedes, kidnapings, and suicide bombings. But what intrigues this intrepid journalist the most is her status as "third gender" -- as a Westerner, she is free to mingle with either men or women in a country where the sexes are still strictly segregated (even at wedding ceremonies, the bride and groom are not permitted to be with each other). This memoir is both instructive and engaging, teaching this reader, at least, much about Yemeni food, culture, customs and government as Steil encounters them for the first time. A fascinating read.

The Spice Necklace: My Adventures in Caribbean Cooking, Eating, and Island Life by Ann Vanderhoof, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Everybody who knows me knows that reading, travel, and eating are my three greatest passions, and I can’t recall the last time reading a book made me as happy as this one did, as it fed all three. Unlike many travel & food writers who never stray beyond the glossy tourist areas, Vanderhoof is the real deal, seeking out and sharing the best, most authentic, down-home island recipes and experiences—whether it’s scampering after thyme-grazing goats on a Dominican mountainside, or pounding out conch with Grenadian fishermen, or learning how to “whine & shuffle” her way through a Trinidadian Carnival covered in mud, paint and sweat (and possibly other bodily fluids). I swear, you’ll scent the nutmeg wafting on the breeze as you read this book, the next best thing to sailing the West Indies yourself!

~Emily Crowe

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Sunday Question

Who is your favorite dad in literature (literature to be widely interpreted)?

Since next Sunday is Father's Day, I thought I'd ask the above question, to get us all in the mood. And also to jog everyone's memory. Father's Day somehow doesn't get anywhere near the hype that Mother's Day does, and is apt to be forgotten until the day before, or even the day itself, prompting everyone to rush around to the malls for the ubiquitous cologne or tie (does anyone, other than politicians, even wear ties anymore?).

In any case, some of our favorite dads in literature are:

Nieves: The dad in the Berenstain Bears books.

I got quite a few Homer Simpson responses. See image above.

My own personal faves are:

1) Atticus Finch, the mild-mannered, principled, gun-toting lawyer dad
in To Kill A Mockingbird, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

2) The usually beseiged, foul-mouthed but generally kind-hearted da in Roddy Doyle's Barrytown Trilogy, which includes The Committments, The Snapper, and The Van, all of which were made into pretty brilliant films, directed by Stephen Frears, with the wonderful Colm Meaney playing Jimmy Rabbitte Sr., the patriarch of the Rabbitte clan on the northside of Dublin.

I had another totally smashing pick, but have for the moment forgotten it, so let us know yours.

And if you're casting about for gift ideas for dad, forget the useless tie and stop by the Odyssey for a whole host of bookish ideas.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Packing for summer vacation

Packing for summer vacation is no easy feat for me. Oh, the clothes aren't really an issue. We go to the Caribbean, so two pairs of capris, four bathing suits and some sarongs or coverups, snorkel gear, some tops to mix & match, and a couple of pairs of sandals are all I need. If I'm feeling fancy, I'll toss in a sundress, too. Before the days of the shoe bomber, we even got away with doing carry-on only, even for a two week vacation, but these days we generally check an additional bag with our various liquids and unguents, namely sunscreen.

No, the hard part of packing for me is screening the books that I take with me. Last year I set a personal best of reading 19 books over 15 days. I don't think I'll necessarily match that this year, but I intend to pack at least 16 books for the same amount of time. And since I like having these things planned well in advance, today is the day I've dedicated to reading the first few pages or first chapter of a couple dozen books to determine which ones make the cut. The only thing worse than running out of books on summer vacation is being stuck with duds.

I try to bring at least one non-fiction title, but then my fiction really runs the gamut. I'll take short stories and novels, big thick tomes and slender volumes, typical beach reads and books so dark that the only place to read them in comfort is in the dazzling tropical sunlight. It's also a time for me to both catch up on backlist (previously published) reading and read ahead, courtesy of advance reader's copies, for the books that are coming out in the fall. This is also the first year that I'm lucky enough to have a Sony e-Reader. I don't know how easy it will be to read its non-backlit screen in the bright sunlight, especially whilst wearing my polarized shades, but we'll give it the ol' college try.

On my list of definites (at least so far):

The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall
Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Great House by Nicole Krauss
The Tower, the Zoo & the Tortoise by Julia Stuart
Tinkers by Paul Harding
The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass
Jellicoe Road by Marlina Marchetta (for young adults)
Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
The Woman with the Bouquet by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
Help Me, Jacques Cousteau by Gil Adamson
Legend of a Suicide by David Vann
Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

I still need a nonfiction book to take with me. Any recommendations?

~Emily Crowe

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Romeo!

Last week we celebrated Romeo Grenier's 100th birthday. Romeo, the Odyssey's founder, passed away in 1997 but his legacy of bringing great people and great books together lives on. To read his full autobiography and some Odyssey history click on the link!

On Saturday, May 29th, we had a birthday tea, that included scones, and beautiful miniature cupcakes made and served by some wonderful friends of the Odyssey. It was also a reunion weekend so we were able to celebrate with some alumna as well as many familiar faces!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to Celebrate what would have been Romeo's centennial!

It was great to see so many friendly faces.



Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Guest blog from author Emily St. John Mandel

In honor of her reading at the Odyssey on Wednesday, June 9, at 7:00 , Emily St. John Mandel has graciously written a guest blog for us this week. Her first book, Last Night in Montreal, was the Odyssey's First Editions Club selection for J une 2009, and her new novel, The Singer's Gun, is o ur BreakOut Fiction selection for June 2010--it was also the #1 IndieBound selection for May, chosen by independent booksellers nationwide. Mandel is one of the most exciting young writers out there today, and we hope you enjoy her musings as much as we've enjoyed reading her fiction!


I was on a panel at a book festival recently. There were four of us behind a table in a windowless room, novelists all, and one of the first questions from the audience was, “How would you define literary fiction?” It was a fair question—the title of the panel contained the phrase “Writers of Literary Fiction”—but all four of us responded with variations on “I don’t know.”

I think everyone’s a little confused about this. A few days before I took the train to Albany to sit on a literary fiction panel, I’d received the happy news that my first novel, Last Night in Montreal, is among the finalists for ForeWord Magazine’s 2009 Book of the Year in the General Fiction category. They also have a Literary Fiction category, which I’m not in.

I was puzzled by what the difference is between literary and general fiction, and a Google query got me practically nowhere. One website defined general fiction as follows: “The story must be readable—it must have a traditional plot arc and be relatively plot- and character-driven. Controversy is welcome, but it is not presented in as nuanced a way as in literary fiction.” Which is insulting to both literary fiction writers (by implication unreadable) and general fiction writers (who aren’t, apparently, particularly nuanced.)

So I turned, as I often do in moments of doubt, to Twitter. (I’ll confess that this is a questionable strategy, but I find that Twitter’s good for crowd-sourcing.) “Can anyone,” I asked my two thousand or so followers, “give me a good definition of the difference between Literary and General fiction?”

No one really could. Half of my followers are either automated spambots or people who are just trying to sell me something, but a great many of them are very intelligent and interesting people who talk about books all day, so I was surprised by this. A few people misread “general” as “genre” and patronizingly explained what genre fiction is. A couple of people told me that general fiction is genre fiction that doesn’t fit into a genre, which is confusing—because if it doesn’t fit into a genre, then how is it genre fiction? Unless it’s somehow multi-genre fiction, like maybe a YA detective story/historical romance/western with zombies, set in outer space? When we say that general fiction is genre fiction that doesn’t fit into a genre, are we really just saying that it’s literary fiction, but with a stronger emphasis on plot? This seems unfair to the books that are habitually categorized as literary fiction, many of which are very tightly plotted.

But back to Albany, and the awkward quiet that followed the “How would you define literary fiction?” question. After a moment one of my fellow panelists took the mike and offered a thoughtful response about literary fiction perhaps being defined as fiction in which language itself is the most important thing, which I thought was as good a definition as any, but at moments like that I’m always reminded me of a particular Academy Awards presentation I saw a few years back. Some actor was presenting the award for film editing. “All audiences really care about,” he said, and I’m paraphrasing, “is what comes next.”

Plot, in other words, if we transpose that idea into fiction. I don’t think that plot is all readers care about, just to be clear, but I think it’s important. I think that the most beautiful text ever written will go absolutely nowhere without an engine to drive it. What I want is to write fiction as literary and as nuanced as anything out there, but to do it with the strongest possible plotting and narrative drive.


It took some time to sell my first novel, Last Night in Montreal. I don’t think my agent likes it when I mention this, but it’s no reflection on her abilities—it just happens that it’s a very difficult market for first novels, especially first novels by completely unknown writers whose entire previous publishing history consists of a single poem published in a British Columbia anthology in the mid-90’s, and it wasn’t the easiest book to sell. Last Night in Montreal is difficult to categorize: it’s something of a criminal mystery, but it’s also a love story, and it’s also about dead languages, circuses, Quebec’s language politics, and the fragility of family. Several rejection letters alluded to this: “It would be difficult,” an editor wrote, “to find a way to market fiction that attempts to straddle both the literary and genre markets.”

It was a maddening letter, in the way that all “I loved it, but…” rejection letters are somewhat maddening, and at the time I would’ve vastly preferred a publishing contract. But even so, it made me a little happy. I felt that I’d succeeded in what I was trying to do. Last Night in Montreal has a private detective in it, but that doesn’t seem to me like a good reason for it to be anything less than literary.

On websites that sell books I’ve seen Last Night in Montreal logged under a baffling array of categories—Women’s Fiction, Literary Fiction, Thrillers, and Suspense. I think it’s probably all of the above. My second novel, The Singer’s Gun, walks a similar line. It’s a very different story, although some of the themes—immigration, love, betrayal, the contortions of family—are similar. The Singer’s Gun is a story about a man trying to lead an honorable life; his family is corrupt and his prospects limited, until he forges a Harvard diploma and reinvents himself as a successful water systems consultant. But a life built on a lie is terribly vulnerable, and as the book opens, it’s beginning to come undone.

I’ve seen it catalogued variously as Literary Fiction, Crime Fiction, Suspense, and World Literature (which I think just alludes to the fact that I hold citizenship in two countries.) The confusion of categories raises an interesting question: can books wherein language is of the utmost importance (in other words, the books we call literary fiction) still be driven by plot? I think they can. I think they probably should.

Monday, June 7, 2010

This is why I love being a bookseller!

Last week, Kate DiCamillo was awarded the "Most Engaging Author" by Independent booksellers. She gave a wonderful speech that was a great tribute to booksellers everywhere.

Kate's speech reminded me of why I love helping people find a good book. Putting the perfect book into a reader's hands is second only to having that person come back into the Odyssey and talk about the book you helped them pick out. It is also discovering great authors and sharing them with readers that make this job a treat!

Books do change the way we think and the way we look at the world! Being part of that process is rather great.


Read Kate DiCamillo's acceptance speech below:

Kate's "Most Engaging Author" Acceptance Speech - May 26, 2010

"When I was in second grade, I fell in love with Abraham Lincoln.
The Clermont Elementary School library had a series of books called Notable Young Americans. And in this way, through these books, I met George Washington and Helen Keller, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, Amelia Earhart and Booker T. Washington. I met them and I liked them. But it wasn't until Abraham Lincoln that I fell in love.
Something about his story (the poverty, the death of his mother, his love of words and books) resonated with me, moved me. I came home from school and told my mother everything that I had learned about the young Abraham Lincoln. I told her that I wanted to learn more.
My mother took me to the Cooper Memorial Library in downtown Clermont. They had there many books about Honest Abe, but there was nothing for a reader my age. And so my mother checked out a thick volume on the life of Abraham Lincoln written for adults. The text was impenetrable. After a few pages, I gave up on it and contented myself with looking at photographs of the man, his sad and hopeful face.
That year, for my eighth birthday, my mother gave me a hardcover biography of Lincoln called Meet Abraham Lincoln by Barbara Cary. It was written at my reading level. There were wonderful illustrations, and I was smitten with the man anew.
Where had my mother found that book? At Porter's Stationery and Gifts in Eustis, Florida. Eustis was the next town over from Clermont, thirty miles away. At Porter's, they had looked for a book about Lincoln that was at my reading level and they had special-ordered it for my mother, for me.
Also, they had told my mother that there was another book I might like. It was called The Cricket in Times Square. And so, in addition to a book about a poor, lonely boy who went on to be come president of the United States, I also received the story of a small cricket who loves music, a cricket who sings so beautifully that people stop to listen.
Who was that bookseller who thought, "Here is an almost-eight-year-old girl who loves Abraham Lincoln. What other book will she love? Oh, yes. This book about a cricket."?
There was nothing logical about that decision. It was a leap of faith.
Those two books changed me.
Together, they cemented an idea in my eight-year-old heart. That idea was this: It doesn't matter how small, how lonely, how broken or sad or poor you are. There is a way to make yourself heard. There is a way to sing.
A bookseller put those books into my mother's hands, and my mother put them into mine.
Sometimes we forget that this simple, physical gesture can change lives.
I want to remind you that it does.
I want to thank you because it did."

- Kate DiCamillo
May 26, 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Sunday Question

Which book (or CD, or film) most evokes summer for you?

The corn is up. The hay is down. To me, that means summer has arrived, no matter what the actual date. My reading usually corresponds in some measure to the weather. I can never somehow read a book that's set in the dead of winter when it's sweltering outside. When I'm lazing in a hammock by the river in my mind, I don't want to be reminded of the possibility of snow, ice, or wool worn against the skin. So I'm always on the lookout for the perfect summer book.

Hence this summer starter question: which book (etc.) do you think most evocative of summer?

In my pre-Sunday Question poll, I received quite a few musical responses. Emily Crowe says Ry Cooder's collaboration with Malian guitarist Ali Farka Toure, Talking Timbuktu, is the perfect music for sitting on the porch in the broil, drinking cold beer and telling tall tales.

Eric says anything by the Grateful Dead puts him instantly in mind of all the summers of his youth.

Marika says her favorite evocation of summer is Mr. Rabbit by Charlotte Zolotow, with gorgeous watercolor illustrations by Maurice Sendak.

My endless summer reading usually involves a sojourn with one or two of our great Southern writers. My absolute favorite summer book is Eudora Welty's Losing Battles, set in rural Mississippi on the first Sunday in August, when four generations of Vaughns get together for Granny Vaughn's 90th birthday, sit around on the porch and tell tall tales (summer just seems to require porches and tall tales), while the prodigal son gets himself home.

Let us know your fave summery artistic evocation.
~ Chrysler

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


There are quite a few of us on staff who have a slight obsession with the television series Glee.

In case you are one of the unfortunate few who have not caught onto the Tuesday night phenomenon, it is a musical fun-fest set in high school. A struggling glee club attempts to get their act together and win against other high school glee clubs. Of course there are many obstacles they must overcome, teen angst, rival glee squads, school bullies, etc., etc., But the biggest obstacle comes in the form of the school's cheer leading coach, Sue Sylvester. The way "Sue sees it," a school glee club threatens her cheer squad by taking funds away from her budget. So of course she must disband the glee club and destroy Will Schuster, the plucky Spanish teacher/glee adviser. If you like musicals, and feeling good on a weekly basis, then this show is for you.

This past weekend, Jane Lynch, who plays Sue Sylvester the domineering arch-nemesis and coach of the high school cheer leading team the cheerios on Glee was seen around Western Mass. She was in the area to marry, her long time girlfriend, and Smith alum Dr. Lara Embry.

To pay homage to Lynch, whose acting chops include other hilarious and wonderful roles the Odyssey is going to look at some books that reflect her thus far successful career. Based on three favorite shows/movies here are the following books.

Before it was a televised sensation, glee clubs were steadily gaining momentum in colleges across the nation. Pitch Perfect, by Mickey Rapkin, is a behind the scenes exploration of the bizarre and inspiring world of college A Capella groups.

Pitch Perfect
Mickey Rapkin
Gotham Books

One of Lynch's break out roles was as Christy Cummings, the dog trainer in the funny mockumentary Best in Show.

Jon Katz's newly released in paperback Soul of a Dog. This book is a perfect companion piece because like the cast of Best in Show, Katz reveals how dogs are not only awesome but are soulful companions.

Do animals have souls? With his signature wisdom, humor, and clarity, Katz relates the stories of the animals he lives with on Bedlam Farm and finds remarkable kinships at every turn. ~From the Publisher's website.

Soul of a Dog

by Jon Katz
Random House

I honestly did a double take when I saw Jane Lynch in Julie and Julia! She played Julia's charming sister, Dorothy McWilliams, who falls in love with a more, shall we say "vertically challenged," man.

Lynch was, in my opinion, in the better half of that movie. Gone was the prankster comedienne. She was truly as elegant as Child's biography My life in France.

My Life in France
by Julia Child
Random House

Congratulations Jane and Lara! Come and stop buy the Odyssey the next time you are in the Pioneer Valley!