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"When I was a little boy, they called me a liar, but now that I am grown up, they call me a writer." - Isaac Beshevis Singer
Discovering New Authors
by Susan Elmore

I have always felt a little guilty that I wasn't a big fan of Margaret Atwood. I really, truly believe that as long as you read it doesn't matter what you read. Reading should be for enjoyment and we shouldn't judge what others find enjoyable or what their motivations are for reading what they read. As a book store owner with three floors to fill I feel really lucky that any reader can come to our store and find something to read.

So what does this have to do with Margaret Atwood? When we bought the store 8 years ago it was obvious the previous owner, Flora Faraci, was a huge Margaret Atwood fan and I had great respect for Flora and felt a desire to honor her by keeping the store alive and thriving. Also, all the women in my book club, who are fierce, love Margaret Atwood and so do the women I work with in the bookstore. For me, she was alright. I had read The Handmaid's Tale when it first came out and didn't really get into it. (The new Hulu series, on the other hand, is fabulous). I read all three in the Oryx and Crake series and although the story was good I didn't really enjoy the writing. (Often I like or don't like a book based on the tempo of the writing as much as any other element). I reluctantly and shamefully decided it was okay to not like her as an author even though she is someone I admire and would love to meet.

But then a book came across the desk that changed things. I do a lot of culling of books for the store and we try to never throw away books but instead donate them off to local charities. Sometimes we get books that are just falling apart, and I try to re-purpose those into art but sometimes they just aren't salvageable. If it's a book I would like to read I take it home and give it one last read before tossing it. This time it was Surfacing by Margaret Atwood, which she wrote in 1972. It seemed different than the other dystopian books I had read by her and thought I would give her another chance. It changed everything! Surfacing is about a woman breaking free of the bonds women were put into in the 70's and about "surfacing" from the identity put upon her into one she creates for herself. The tempo of the writing is completely different than I was accustomed to with Atwood and I loved it! I had just finished the book when I was in a new bookstore last year and saw her newest novel, Hag-Seed. I bought it and set it in the big piles of books "to read next" that we readers all have so we are never left without something to read. I just pulled it out  a week ago and I have to admit I was a little nervous because I had a tentative liking of Margaret Atwood and I didn't want to jinx it. I LOVED it! The tempo is perfect, the subject matter excellent and I immediately put it on my husband's pile of books I want him to read. If you love Shakespeare and you love Margaret Atwood, grab this book! I won't spoil it by telling you more.

So why am I sharing this? It really loops back to my feeling that whatever you read is okay -- just read! Don't feel you have to like certain authors or shun others but I do encourage you to constantly challenge what you like and find new authors or read more by someone you didn't think you liked.  You can be sure I will be keeping my eyes open for books by Atwood here and in all the stores I visit when traveling.

Books to consider

Fortunate Son by Walter Mosley

New York Times bestselling author Walter Mosley's novel about two boys, one ensconced in a life of privilege and the other in a life of hardship, explores the true meaning of fortune.In spite of remarkable differences, Eric and Tommy are as close as brothers. Eric, a Nordic Adonis, is graced by a seemingly endless supply of good fortune.Tommy is a lame black boy, cursed with health problems, yet he remains optimistic and strong. After tragedy rips their makeshift family apart, the lives of these boys diverge astonishingly: Eric, the golden youth, is given everything but trusts nothing; Tommy, motherless and impoverished, has nothing, but feels lucky every day of his life. In a riveting story of modern-day resilience and redemption, the two confront separate challenges, and when circumstances reunite them years later, they draw on their extraordinary natures to confront a common enemy and, ultimately, save their lives.

A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly
A lush and haunting novel of a city steeped in decadent pleasures...and of a man, proud and defiant, caught in a web of murder and betrayal.

It is 1833. In the midst of Mardi Gras, Benjamin January, a Creole physician and music teacher, is playing piano at the Salle d'Orleans when the evenings festivities are interrupted--by murder.

Ravishing Angelique Crozat, a notorious octoroon who travels in the city's finest company, has been strangled to death. With the authorities reluctant to become involved, Ben begins his own inquiry, which will take him through the seamy haunts of riverboatmen and into the huts of voodoo-worshipping slaves.

But soon the eyes of suspicion turn toward Ben-for, black as the slave who fathered him, this free man of color is still the perfect scapegoat....

The Man who Killed his Brother by Stephen R. Donaldson

A wounded hero must confront his own worst enemy: himself

Mick "Brew" Axbrewder was once a great P.I. That was before he accidentally shot and killed a cop --worse, a cop who happened to be his own brother. Now he only works off and on, as muscle for his old partner, Ginny Fistoulari. It's a living. And it provides an occasional opportunity for him to dry out.

But their latest case demands more than muscle. Brew's dead brother's daughter has disappeared. His brother's widow wants him and Ginny to investigate. And both of them seem to expect him to sober up. Because the darkness they're finding under the surface of Sunbelt city Puerto del Sol goes beyond one missing teenager.

Axbrewder will need all his talents to con-front that darkness. Most of all, he'll need to confront his own worst enemy -- himself.

Gunsights by Elmore Leonard
Brendan Early and Dana Moon have tracked renegade Apaches together and gunned down scalp hunters to become Arizona legends. But now they face each other from opposite sides of what newspapers are calling The Rincon Mountain War. Brendan and a gang of mining company gun thugs are dead set on running Dana and "the People of the Mountain" from their land. The characters are unforgettable, the plot packed with action and gunfights from beginning to end.


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