Reviews

This is for an in-depth review of a book, this is not to be confused with the staff recommendations page.

Crowds and Mud, Maidens and Monsters: Anna Freeman's THE FAIR FIGHT

The Fair Fight Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9781594633294
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Riverhead Books - April 14th, 2015

The Hare with Amber Eyes (Edmund de Waal)

As a bookseller, you’re not always the one giving the recommendations. You’re just as often receiving them. During my time at Brazos, I’ve heard so many people rave about Edmund de Waal’s THE HARE WITH AMBER EYES (from regulars to strangers to friends), that I was compelled to include the book as a choice for Brazos’ monthly book club. I’m glad that I heeded those endorsements, because THE HARE WITH AMBER EYES is a moving and astonishing book, unlike anything I’ve read before.

The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780312569372
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Picador - August 2nd, 2011

The Great Beanie Baby Bubble (Zac Bissonnette)

I received my first Beanie Baby on December 1, 1997. It was my 8th birthday and I was home sick from school, so my dad had flowers delivered to our house. Nestled in the bouquet? Quackers the Duck. If the speculative hype of the following year were correct, I would now be independently wealthy due to the great fortune I amassed chasing beanie plush investment glory. Considering that I work in a bookstore and Quackers now lives in a box in my mom's attic, the Beanie bubble, like the concurrent Internet bubble, burst in the most spectacular way possible. 

 

Thankfully, my parents didn't put all their send-me-to-college eggs in the same Beanie basket, but that's not the case for many crazed collectors. Stories of total financial ruin are certainly one of the most voyeristically intriguing parts of THE GREAT BEANIE BABY BUBBLE, but perhaps even more compelling is the biographical portrait of the obsessive creator of the toys, Ty Warner. An egomaniacal, abusive control freak with a plastic surgery addiction and traumatic childhood isn't perhaps what you'd expect from a stuffed animal tycoon...then again, nothing about Beanie Babies was what anyone expected. How did sales of $5 stuffed animals total $1.4 billion in a single year? How were thousands of people convinced that items produced in quantities of millions were rare? Why did women keep dating Ty Warner? You may have these questions and more when you travel back to that mysterious time when Y2K was looming, the World Wide Web was the new frontier, and understuffed royal blue elephant bean bags were bought and sold for $10,000.

The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9781591846024
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Portfolio - March 3rd, 2015

The Art of Flight (Sergio Pitol)

I don't have a lot to say about THE ART OF FLIGHT because my exuberance and passion for its existence leaves me somewhat speechless. I don't have a lot to say because I have too much to say. Sometimes zeal foils language, and this is one such case. 

 

Sergio Pitol is a celebrated name in his native Mexico, a winner of the prestigious Cervantes Prize. He has lived in Warsaw, Rome, Barcelona, Beijing, Paris and Moscow, both as a translator and a diplomat but, I think most importantly, as a reader. I emphasize reader, because THE ART OF FLIGHT is a book about reading. It is a multi-genre hybrid, described as a memoir on a "life lived through reading." It is a memoir and yet, it is so much more. An entire library is contained within its pages. Reflections on the architecture of Venice can lead to a chapter on translating the Hungarian great Gombrowicz. Meditations on Joseph Conrad to Anton Chekhov to Jorge Luis Borges. The heady politics of 1960’s Mexico crop up, as does the construction of the Berlin Wall. The simultaneous existence of living and reading in the 20th century cohabitate brilliantly in this book.

 

If you are one of those who believes the experience must be lived to be true, that Alice and the Cheshire Cat are merely words on a page, that Ahab’s biblical diatribes are just hyperbole from the brow of Melville, and that these in themselves do not count as experience--if you are one who does not believe in the transportive and life-affirming nature of literature, than this book is not for you.

 

That being said, this book is for everyone else. Dallas-based publisher Deep Vellum has the bragging rights for being the first publisher to bring Pitol into English, with more Pitol books on the way.Translator George Henson does an incredible job translating Pitol’s style into beautifully rendered English.  A few years ago, author Valeria Luiselli was asked which writer should be translated into English that hadn’t yet been, and her unequivocal answer was Sergio Pitol. Lucky for us, that is no longer true. The art of flight, indeed.

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The Art of Flight Cover Image
By Sergio Pitol, George Henson (Translator), Enrique Vila-Matas (Introduction by)
$15.95
ISBN: 9781941920060
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Deep Vellum Publishing - March 17th, 2015

Letter to a Future Lover (Ander Monson)

Ander Monson knows how to mess with our idea of what the word “book” means. LETTER TO A FUTURE LOVER is a series of essays that analyze the notion of the library. As such, Monson printed a limited number of copies of his book in boxes, each page printed on a separate card in random order, with a place for borrowers’ names and due dates to be stamped at the end. How’s that for “book?”

 

If that sounds too complicated, we’ve got bound versions of LETTER TO A FUTURE LOVER at Brazos, and there’s nothing like settling into Monson’s brainy, observant, sometimes hallucinatory voice. Example: “When we listen to laugh-track laughter we listen to the dead.” And: “You too, bleached- blond forty-something DWF reading DFW in a major Texas airport, with fake boobs and too-tight tank. What are your needs?” Monson meets mine.

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Letter to a Future Lover: Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries Cover Image
$22.00
ISBN: 9781555977061
Availability: Backordered
Published: Graywolf Press - February 3rd, 2015

The Magician's Lie (Greer Macallister)

Magicians lie by trade—illusion, fantasy, carefully drawn  scenarios with precisely chosen words—so I’ll admit: I really only picked up this book to see how redundant the title was. I need to thank my bitter skepticism for leading me to this fabulous historical fiction-mystery-romance. THE MAGICIAN’S LIE is the story of The Amazing Arden, caught and interrogated by a young policeman on the night her husband is murdered: murdered, they think, during the Halved Man trick of her act. As she spills out her story to Virgil, it’s hard not to get caught up in the illusion, too—but the question hangs: what’s true? Her story screams for sympathy—a young woman hurt by self-absorbed parents, by sexual violence, by a world with no time for her—and as she becomes sure of herself, learning her trade and becoming her own person, I was ready to fight to the death for her. But the question remains—where’s the lie? You’ll race to find out like I did, led along by Arden’s vibrant voice and sharply-etched imagery as memorable as a stage illusionist should be.

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The Magician's Lie Cover Image
Unavailable from Brazos Bookstore
ISBN: 9781402298684
Availability: Out of Print - Not Available for Order
Published: Sourcebooks Landmark - January 13th, 2015

Conversion (Katherine Howe)

NEW OBSESSION ALERT: Katherine Howe has crafted a YA masterpiece! Set mostly in 2012 Massachusettes with interludes in 1706 Salem Village, this book is breathtaking, heartstopping, and juicy, in the best possible way. Girls at St. Joan’s Academy are falling ill with a “Mystery Illness” which includes a series of odd symptoms and behaviors. No one can explain it, there’s a media frenzy, and you never know who it will strike next. This is a perfect example of YA with major adult crossover appeal. Read it. Have your kids read it. Have your grandparents read it.

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Conversion Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780399167775
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers - July 1st, 2014

Get in Trouble: Stories (Kelly Link)

There are short stories, and then there’s Kelly Link. In GET IN TROUBLE, she dares her characters (and readers!) to cough up the deep stuff. And I’m not talking about your long-lost love. I’m talking about lust, shame—you know, the things you hide from your Facebook feed. Take this one: a fifteen-year-old girl pretends to be her older sister so she can go on a blind date with a man old enough to be her father. But rather than expose characters to persecute them, Link reminds us that we all have secrets—and that’s okay.

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Get in Trouble: Stories Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9780804179683
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Random House - February 3rd, 2015

Without You, There Is No Us (Suki Kim)

When Suki Kim seizes the opportunity to travel to North Korea with a group of evangelical Christian missionaries (despite not being one herself), she has no idea how hard her next six months will be. Kim works teaching English to the sons of North Korea’s elite, and instantly becomes one of the country’s most-monitored and carefully-minded foreign visitors. Though Kim grows close to her students, it’s impossible to escape the government’s guard on her daily life. Everything she teaches must be approved; she has to constantly watch what she says, while her emails are monitored; even her students lie constantly for no reason, about something as small as a classmate’s absence. Kim’s memoir is a deeply interesting look at life under the watchful eye of the North Korean regime.

Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite Cover Image
$24.00
ISBN: 9780307720658
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Crown Publishing Group (NY) - October 14th, 2014

Bartleby & Co. (Enrique Vila-Matas)

BARTLEBY & CO. is Spanish author Enrique Vila-Matas’ strange and unconventional novel about writers who can’t (or don’t) write, tackling silence in literature. In a series of footnotes (part anecdote, part philosophical) he explores the history of writers who were “artists of refusal,” that is, writers who refused to write, or writers who wrote once and stopped—or perhaps wrote, but only for themselves. Erudite, wistful and immensely readable, BARTLEBY & CO. explores phantom books and invisible texts; it ponders projects abandoned and confidence usurped. Vila-Matas’ protagonist writes that a book knocks at our door, and “when we go receive them, they disappear; we open the door and they are no longer there. It was undoubtedly a great book, the great book that was inside us, the one we were really destined to write, our book, the very book we shall never be able to write or read now. But that book, let it be clear, exists.” 

 

What do Franz Kafka, J.D. Salinger, Arthur Rimbaud and more have in common? Mainly they were all “writers of the no” - authors who by choice or chance, bad luck or the times in which they lived, resolved to stop writing. The novel’s namesake has much in common with his creator, for Herman Melville, as in Bartleby’s famous line, ‘I would prefer not to,’ spent the second half of his life in almost total publishing silence. For anyone interested in the writers who existed between the margins or didn’t find (or chase) success or were abandoned by fate, this is the book for you. As our narrator tells is, “there are as many writers as ways of abandoning literature.”

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Bartleby & Co. Cover Image
By Enrique Vila-Matas, Jonathan Dunne (Translated by)
$15.95
ISBN: 9780811216982
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions - May 23rd, 2007

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