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Thursday, February 6,2014

Book reviews: Notes from Neil

The New Paperbacks

by Neil Rajala

Thursday, Feb. 6 — It used to be that paperbacks were a book's second life, so to speak. After the hardcover sales came and went, the publisher released the paperback in order to attract more readers with a lower price. These days we're seeing more and more "paperback originals" that skip the hardcover step completely. The idea is to make it easier for readers to take a chance on skilled writers the publisher wants to spotlight. I'm happy to help by pointing out two very fine examples released this week. Here's what we're reading:



ANNIHILATION
Jeff VanderMeer

This creepy and suspenseful book (did I mention creepy?) is a rule-breaker in a couple of ways. First, the paperback-only release; second, the fact that it's part one of a trilogy, with part two coming in May and the final book in September. Three volumes, without too long a wait in between, in an easier to afford (and carry around) format. If the series proves successful, and it's already looking like it will, this is a path other publishers may very well follow.

The story centers on Area X, a Florida-like section of the country that's been closed off and uninhabited for a few decades. Something is happening there, something eleven previous expeditions have failed to understand. The first eleven groups have vanished, killed themselves or each other, or succumbed to aggressive disease. A few members may or may not have returned to the outside world. Annihilation is the account of Expedition Twelve - four women, identified only by their occupations. A tunnel deep into the earth, occupied by baffling and possibly deadly life forms, and a lighthouse whose interior shows signs of violence and madness are the two focal points of a book that raises goosebumps more with an oppressive sense of paranoia and dread than violent action. It also raises so many more questions than it answers, May can't come soon enough. kobo eBook



THE FREE
Willy Vlautin

When you work with a group of passionate readers, the sad truth is there's just not enough time to get to everything that a fellow bookseller or a sales rep recommends. It took me until his fourth book to read Mr. Vlautin, and I'm very glad we finally crossed paths.

The storytelling is confident and satisfying. The book follows three somewhat interconnected characters who are each facing a crisis, not unlike the obstacles life throws in front of each of us. The author never flinches from the difficulty of their situations, but finds the ways in which they (and we) rise above and find hope in the midst of challenge. His clean and streamlined writing voice is just as impressive - one of those writers with the gift of being able to say a lot with few words. Now I have three more of his books to go back and catch up on - not a bad thing, really. kobo eBook



NOTES FROM NEIL

LIVE in the Schuler Studio!

Save the date, Grand Rapids:
Tuesday, February 25th at 7:00pm
in the 28th Street Schuler Studio.

Let's get together and talk about books in person for a change! I'll be your host for the evening and will be bringing along some books and publisher goodies to give away, some coffee and snacks, and a few other booksellers eager to join the discussion. You bring your opinions, questions, comments and love of reading, and we'll have everything we need for a fun evening of talking about the great books that are on their way this year. Hope to see you there!

I'm just a couple of days away from one of those monumental events in the life of an avid reader - the arrival of my new reading chair! It'll be parked in front of the fireplace and will no doubt see a lot of use while winter continues to do its best to keep me indoors. How about you, folks? Do you have a particular piece of furniture that helps you shut out the outside world and get lost in a book, or are you just not that fussy?

Until next week,

Neil

NeilNeil Rajala is Currently Director of Community & Business Services for Schuler Books, Neil's decade with the company has included the wearing of many different hats - and lots and lots of reading.

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