The Top 5 Books I've Read in the Last Two Weeks:
The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine by Benjamin Wallace Nonfiction
I couldn't put this book down--I even lugged it, a hardcover, all the way to a book convention in L.A. where I knew I was going to acquire two suitcases full of books. Although it's nonfiction, it's a total page-turner. The book is about the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold, which was auctioned by Christie's in 1985 and sold to the Forbes family for $156,000. The bottle, and those it was found with, are surrounded by mystery--they allegedly belonged to Thomas Jefferson, but the authenticity of that claim and the wines themselves are called into question again and again. The book explores the world of the Christie's wine department, the business of fine wine dealing, and wine counterfeiting among other fascinating subjects. I highly recommend it, especially as a last-minute Father's Day pick. Even if you're not a wine person, Wallace's suspenseful writing sucks you in and doesn't let you leave until you've turned the last page.
The Spiritualist by Megan Chance Historical Fiction/Mystery
I don't think I would have picked this book up if our Random House rep hadn't sent it to me. It's about Evelyn Atherton, a formerly middle-class Londoner who married into the Upper Ten, London's wealthiest families. When her husband Peter, who has been regularly attending seances at the home of Dorothy Bennett, is found murdered, Evelyn is the chief suspect. Peter's family immediately turns against her and she is arrested. Dorothy Bennett posts bail and Evelyn finds herself caught up in an investigation to find the true murderer--whom she suspects is living under the same roof as herself and Dorothy. The book is full of surprises, including the fact that I suspected I knew who the murderer was but couldn't guess how the plot would play out.
The Little Book by Selden Edwards Fiction/Historical Fiction
This one doesn't come out until August 14th, but I want to tell everyone about it now so they pick it up before the publisher runs out. Which will happen--this book is awesome. The main character is Wheeler Burden, who finds himself walking down the Ringstrasse in Vienna almost 100 years before his last memory. It's not your average time-travel novel, though. Alternating between Wheeler's exploits in fin-de-siecle Vienna, flashbacks to his childhood in California and Boston, and the extraordinary lives of his predecessors, this book is constantly surprising and incredibly satisfying. Edwards spent almost 30 years writing it, and the end result is going to make a splash the minute it hits stores.
Amulet Book 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi Graphic novel
I was looking for a comic book to recommend to kids (other than Bone) and I came across this one at Comic Relief in Berkeley. It's totally great. The plot starts out a little bit like Spiderwick, with a single mother and her kids moving into a big creepy house, but it diverges fairly quickly when Emily, the daughter, finds an amulet and the children's mother is carried away by a giant spider. Emily and Navin go after her, discovering that their house is not what it seems and they have more family members than they realized. The crowning glory of the book, which makes everyone yell "AWESOME", is at the very end of the book. Keep an eye on this series, because Will Smith just bought the movie rights.
Too Many Toys by David Shannon Children's Hardcover
I have to admit, I'm a HUGE David Shannon fan. This new one is no exception--in fact, it just might be my favorite of his. It's about a little guy, Spencer, who has way too many toys. His parents keep stepping on them and tripping over them until finally it's time for them to go. Spencer's mother makes him choose a bunch to donate to less fortunate children, and when he's decided which ones to give away she loads them all in a box. When she comes upstairs to get the box, she finds all the toys dumped out on the ground and yells, "SPENCER!!!" She finds him in his room, playing with the box, which is really the best toy of them all. David Shannon has outdone himself with the illustrations in this one. I highly recommend it for kids age 3-5.
4 days ago