The Night Circus

Just before Halloween, I listened to a podcast of an episode of the Diane Rehm. On the show an author named Erin Morgenstern was talking about her first published book, The Night Circus. For me, whenever I hear the words ‘night’ or ‘circus’ my ears prick up to engage my interest.

It was a great interview, which you can listen to here, and so far it is a great book. The story is very different in both the tale and how it is written. It is, for lack of a better term, full of magic and wonder. For anyone who has enjoyed reading books like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell; Something Wicked This Way Comes; or The Graveyard Book, this is a book for you.

It is a young adult book, but it is one that adults can also enjoy, same as the stories mentioned above.

For more on this book here is an article from the Washington Post and one from the New York Times.

And if you are like me and want to read the book before watching the film, this book will soon be a movie. More about that here.

Happy Reading,



The Fang and the Endeavor

A while ago I posted an article about some new and exciting books that I learned about at the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA). Article here. This is what I thought of two of the books.

The Family Fang; by Kevin Wilson


This book was different, in a great and touching way. The story of a strange family of artists and the two children, Annie and Buster, who rebel against their parents and their parents strange art. This strange art is a more artistic version of what you might see on the shows, and movies, of the group known as Jackass. (Bare with me.) But, instead of having a thirty-year old man dress up as a ninety-year old man and pretend to give his pretend grandson liquor in public and recording how bystanders react; the parents, Caleb and Camille, have fake marriage proposals on airplane flights and hand out fake couples for a free chicken sandwich. They believe that real art is in the reaction of the people whom have no clue as to what is going on. Some of it is funny, and some of it is painful. But how does this weird art affect a family and the children who end up in the art a Child A and Child B? What happens with the children when they grow up and suddenly their parents disappear? Is it an act?

The story is very clever and well written. The characters are fun as well as deeply flawed. I would recommend this story to anyone who likes a good embarrassing laugh.


This Dark Endeavor; by Kenneth Oppel

I love Frankenstein and this book did not disappoint. Like the book Finn by Jon Clinch, I felt that this book not only stayed loyal to the original story, but it added to the world of the original. Victor Frankenstein is a strange man and though I never thought about it before, when I first heard about this book I did wonder about what kind of childhood a person like that would have.

It was an itched that needed scratching and Oppel made a great story that is fun for many ages or readers. Yes, it is a young adult novel, but it is fun to read as an adult who can see the hints of what is to come in the future of the tragic boy’s life.

What makes the book fun with interest is the balance of magic and science, the very balance that Frankenstein tries to walks and untilamtely fails.

Happy Reading




New in Fiction

I love looking at new books and here is what is new and interesting at the bookstore.

The Sense of an Ending; by Julian Barnes
In Barnes’s (Flaubert’s Parrot) latest, winner of the 2011 Man-Booker Prize, protagonist Tony Webster has lived an average life with an unremarkable career, a quiet divorce, and a calm middle age. Now in his mid-60s, his retirement is thrown into confusion when he’s bequeathed a journal that belonged to his brilliant school-friend, Adrian, who committed suicide 40 years earlier at age 22. Though he thought he understood the events of his youth, he’s forced to radically revise what he thought he knew about Adrian, his bitter parting with his mysterious first lover Veronica, and reflect on how he let life pass him by safely and predictably. Barnes’s spare and luminous prose splendidly evokes the sense of a life whose meaning (or meaninglessness) is inevitably defined by “the sense of an ending” which only death provides. Despite its focus on the blindness of youth and the passage of time, Barnes’s book is entirely unpretentious. From the haunting images of its first pages to the surprising and wrenching finale, the novel carries readers with sensitivity and wisdom through the agony of lost time.

The Most Dangerous Thing; by Laura Lippman (Maryland Writer)
Childhood friends, long since splintered off, uneasily reunite after the death of one of their own in Edgar-winner Lippman’s superbly unsettling tale of the consequences of long-buried secrets. Gordon “Go-Go” Halloran drives his car into a wall after a night of drinking, even though he’s been on the road to sobriety. On the brink of divorce, Gwen Robison returns home to care for her aging father and learns of Go-Go’s death from his older brother, Sean. With the eldest Halloran brother, Tim, and a scruffy, nature-loving neighborhood girl, Mickey Wickham, the five had come together in the spring of 1977. The group broke apart after a violent encounter in the woods, an event that was never spoken of again, but permeates each of their lives. Lippman (I’d Know You Anywhere) cleanly shifts between the past, following the band of kids through their adventures in the woods of their Baltimore suburb, and the present when Go-Go’s death draws them back together. Her series lead, Tess Monaghan, makes a brief appearance, but this stand-alone belongs to the children, their memories, and everything dangerous that lives in the woods.

Crossbones; by Nuruddin Farah (Who actually visited Washington College four years ago as part of the PEN World Voices.)
Somali-born Farah (Knots) completes his Past Imperfect trilogy with an insightful portrait of his African country imploding so furiously that neither well-educated citizens nor well-meaning exiles who return can alter the trajectory. Farah’s novel centers on the visit to Mogadiscio of Jeebleh, a Somali-born Minnesota literature professor traveling with his journalist son-in-law, Malik. Ahl, Malik’s older brother, comes too, fearing he’ll find his runaway stepson in a region known for youthful pirates. Giving a human dimension to the tragedy of a failed nation-state, Farah interweaves points of view, the most chilling being that of a boy called YoungThing sent on a murderous mission by the Shabaab, one of several political-religious factions jockeying for control. Though YoungThing gets lost along the way, he doggedly persists, determined to complete his mission. Layer by layer, the novel digs into its sad subject as Malik conducts interviews, Ahl hunts rumors, and Jeebleh reconnects with old friends. Farah has become the voice of the Somalian diaspora, telling stories of political, religious, and family conflict without sentimentality. He sheds light on current events, but is a portraitist, not a polemicist. He shows independent women and well-meaning Americans caught in Somalia’s implacable cycle of tyranny, destruction, and revenge. Like Conrad, Farah proves a master of his adopted language, enhancing his narratives with proverbs and instances of institutionalized irrationality.
Review and interview on NPR

Happy Reading


Stan Salett – At the Compleat Bookseller

This Friday, November 4th, Stan Salett shall be our guest speaker at the Compleat Bookseller beginning at 6 p.m. Come hear him talk about his new book, The Edge of Poitics: Stories from the Civil Rights Movement, the War of Poverty and the Challenges of School Reform. Stan is a regular visitor to Chestertown, a quick drive from his home in Washington D.C.

In his book he writes about his life in politics and education reform.

Stan was recently interviewed in the Chestertown Spy and talked about his book and the importance of education reform in the American system. For more on the interview, you can find it here.

We hope to see you at the The Compleat Bookseller.

Happy Halloween from the Bookstore

Hello book and Halloween lovers. With Halloween approaching the bookstore is preparing.

 We have many great books to put the spook into your night. We have classics such as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to Call of the monstrous tales of Call of the Cthulhu by Lovecraft.

We have recently published stories such as The Last Werewolf, Zone One, and This Dark Endeavor.

We even have local ghost stories right from Kent County.


But that is not all . . . 

For the child inside of you or for your own child we have a great selection or children’s Halloween stories.

Learn about the story of Jack O’Lantern, the Irish legend of the Banshee or the after Halloween celebration of The Day of the Dead.


What ever it is, We hope to scare you soon.

The Invention of Hugh Cabret

Several weeks ago while ordering a book from my local library I met a good friend of mine who asked me what I had been reading lately. It was such a natural question and conversation for a library. Though I forget what my answer to him was I do remember this. He asked me if I had ever read a book titled The Invention of Hugo Cabret. (Hint for the link, you do not need a key.) I had not so we did what anyone would do. We looked it up and learned that the library’s copy was checked out. So I asked to have it put on hold upon its return. Then last week it came in. The timing was perfect since I was just about to finished another book.

I began reading the book on a lovely late afternoon that I think was a Wednesday and by Thursday night, the story was told and the ending was over. It is a wonderful read and unlike any other book I have ever read. Though it is not considered a graphic novel, it does incorporate the use of pictures and drawing by the writer, Brian Selznick. When I began turning the pages the pictures introduce me to the story of a boy living in the train station in Paris during the silent film era. Throughout the story the pictures are used in a wonderful way that at first gave me the feeling of something familiar.

It was not until I read about the author that I learned he was influenced by silent films and wanted to use that affect in this story. He executed his trick with wonderful talent. I would recommend this book as a great read for the coming cooler months. It is gracefully told.

After finishing the book I was told that Brian Selznick’s next book, Wonder Struck had just been published. Told in the same fashion as Hugo Cabret, I hope the story is as magical.

If you have read either of these books or anything else by Brian Selznick, please tell us your story.

Happy Reading,


NAIBA 2011







Recently The Compleat Bookseller took a trip to Atlantic City to attend the 2011 New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association. When there are thousands of books around it is impossible to not have a good time. At the conference we were exposed to books, theirs authors, their publishers and their distributers. I myself came home with more than thirty books to add to my endless to-read-pile and at this risk of lengthening your own to-read-pile I would like to share with you some of the hot books of 2011.

First, lets start with a book about zombies from an author you may have heard of, but did not know that he wrote a book about zombies.

Colson Whitehead is the author of The Colossus of New York, The Intuitionist, and Apex Hides the Hurt which was the book that Washington College assigned as its First Year book in 2008 and actually brought Whitehead to Chestertown. Yes, this is a book about the zombie apocalypse, but from what I am hearing from many reviews and from the author himself, this is not a typical post apocalyptic world. Publishers weekly described it:

As we follow New Yorker and perpetual B-student “Mark Spitz” over three harrowing days, Whitehead dumpster dives genre tropes, using what he wants and leaving the rest to rot, turning what could have been another zombie-pocalypse gore-fest into the kind of smart, funny, pop culture–filled tale that would make George Romero proud.

I plan on reading this very soon since this is the season to be reading such literature and I shall let you know what I think. If you want to learn more visit here, and here, but beware of spoiler alerts.


Next, The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson.

This book came recommended to me from a very nice employee at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington. As she began to describe it to me my head became a little lost with all the different titles of books I discovered during the day, but I quickly caught on board and picked up a copy with ever intention of reading it soon.

Wilson’s bizarre, mirthful debut novel (after his collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth) traces the genesis of the Fang family, art world darlings who make “strange and memorable things.” That is, they instigate and record public chaos. In one piece, “The Portrait of a Lady, 1988,” fragile nine-year-old Buster Fang dons a wig and sequined gown to undermine the Little Miss Crimson Clover beauty pageant, though he secretly desires the crown himself. In “A Modest Proposal, July 1988,” Buster and his older sister, Annie, watch their father, Caleb, propose to mother, Camille, over an airliner’s intercom and get turned down (“[A] plane crash would have been welcomed to avoid the embarrassment of what had happened”). Over the years, more projects consume Child A and Child B–what art lovers (and their parents) call the children–but it is not until the parents disappear from an interstate rest stop that the lines separating art and life dissolve.

~ Publishers Weekly

For more about this novel visit here, and here.

Third, Dead End, by Jack Gantos

One of the highlights of this conference was getting to hear Jack Gantos speak and tell us about his new book, Dead End in Norvelt. Norvelt is the town where Jack grew up and it is named after Eleanor Roosevelt. See what they did there?

A bit of autobiography works its way into all of Gantos’s work, but he one-ups himself in this wildly entertaining meld of truth and fiction by naming the main character… Jackie Gantos. Like the author, Jackie lives for a time in Norvelt, a real Pennsylvania town created during the Great Depression and based on the socialist idea of community farming. Presumably (hopefully?) the truth mostly ends there, because Jackie’s summer of 1962 begins badly: plagued by frequent and explosive nosebleeds, Jackie is assigned to take dictation for the arthritic obituary writer, Miss Volker, and kept alarmingly busy by elderly residents dying in rapid succession. Then the Hells Angels roll in. Gore is a Gantos hallmark but the squeamish are forewarned that Jackie spends much of the book with blood pouring down his face and has a run-in with home cauterization. Gradually, Jackie learns to face death and his fears straight on while absorbing Miss Volker’s theories about the importance of knowing history. “The reason you remind yourself of the stupid stuff you’ve done in the past is so you don’t do it again.” ~ Publisher Weekly

When I read this it will be my first book by Jack Gantos and from what I have heard it will not be my last since I love creative nonfiction and books for young adults. For more visit here and here.

Finally, This Dark Endeavor, by Kenneth Oppel

I confess, I have never before heard of Kenneth Oppel, but now that I do I want to read this book and will read it before the other books mentioned above. I first read Frankenstein about eight years ago and love it. Then I read The Casework of Victor Frankenstein by Peter Ackroyd two years ago and found it to be so powerful and moving I felt that the book could stand on its own. Then I heard Kenneth Oppel talk about his new book, This Dark Endeavor, and I must add it to the rest. Here is why:

In this stylish gothic tale, first in a planned series, teenage Victor Frankenstein makes a desperate attempt to create the forbidden alchemical Elixir of Life, in order to save his beloved twin brother, Konrad, from an untimely death. Aided by his steadfast friend Henry and his adopted sister, Elizabeth, who both twins love to distraction, Victor sets out to acquire the necessary ingredients, scales the tallest tree in the Sturmwald during a lightning storm to acquire a rare and poisonous lichen, later descending into a dangerous Swiss cave in search of the equally rare and even deadlier coelacanth. Victor, already a mad scientist in training, is passionate and easily angered, and Elizabeth makes for a fiery love interest. Written in a readable approximation of early 19th-century style, Oppel’s (Half Brother) tale is melodramatic, exciting, disquieting, and intentionally over the top. ~ Publishers Weekly

This book will be made into a film in the not too distant future and I hope the book is great so that I can look forward to a possibly good film. For more about this book visit here and here.

If you have read any of these stories or if you have heard someone talk about them please share with us you thoughts and opinions.

Happy Reading,



Banned Books

As far as I am concerned the only books that deserved to be banned are books that are poorly written and not very interesting. Books with characters that are flat, boring, one dimensional; books that have a predictable plot and a series of events that are cliche and atrocious. These are the books that should be kept out of schools because there are far too many good books to read.

Sadly there are many places that ban books on content, not talent and originality. I shall not point fingers at the banners, but I shall ask you that in celebration of Banned Book Week, which actually is this week (sorry for the late notice), please read a banned book. I plan on reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

For more about the fight against banning books visit this site and more about Banned Book Week click here.


Happy Reading

South Florida Mysteries

John D. MacDonald

I am an unapologetic mystery fan. From the moment I picked up my first Bobbsey Twins book,I was hooked. I eventually moved onto Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and Agatha Christie but excitement never pounded through my veins until I picked up my first Travis McGee by John D. MacDonald.

I was home literally, I grew up in South Florida. MacDonald understood the possible fate that was awaiting Florida with its runaway development and disregard for nature but he wrapped these themes in compelling mystery novels that raised the hairs on your arms.

Many terrific writers have emerged since those early days especially now that mysteries are no longer considered a sub genre, some still think so and will never admit to enjoying a good page turning mystery.

This link here is a fairly comprehensive list of some of the great Florida writers that can meet all tastes and interests. In the long list so do not let Carl Haissen get away as he is one of the true greats.

What Looks Good and New

A Geography of Secrets
by: Frederick Reuss

“A Geography of Secrets” has the texture and snap of a modern-day Graham Greene novel, painting a world in which even the smallest choices have devastating consequences — and where, as one character tells us, “Secrets don’t keep, they putrefy.”

~ Washington Post

Staff Pick

Montana 1948
by: Larry Watson

A stark tragedy unfolds in Watson’s taut, memorable novel, the winner of the publisher’s National Fiction Prize. During the summer of 1948, a solid, middle-class family in a small Montana town is wrenched apart by scandal, murder and suicide. Narrator David Hayden tells the story as an adult looking back at the traumatic events that scarred yet matured him when he was 12. His pious Lutheran mother informs his father, Wesley, the county sheriff, that David’s uncle Frank, a doctor, has been molesting and raping Native American girls during routine medical exams. Uncle Frank’s latest victim is Marie Little Soldier, the Haydens’ Sioux housekeeper. When Marie dies, presumably of pneumonia, David provides key evidence that implicates his uncle in her murder. Frank is arrested by his brother, who locks the confessed sexual abuser in the basement to save him from the embarrassment of jail. David confronts his uncle’s racism and the evasions and denials his family has constructed to cover up the affair. In crisp, restrained prose, Watson ( In a Dark Time ) indelibly portrays the moral dilemma of a family torn between justice and loyalty; by implication, he also illuminates some dark corners of our national history.

~ Publishers Weekly