Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

“Don’t do it. Don’t go to that job you hate. Do something you love today. Ride a roller coaster… Go to the airport and get on the next flight to anywhere just for the fun of it… roll up your pant legs and walk into the sea. See a foreign film. Feed squirrels. Do anything! Something! Because you start a revolution one decision at a time, with each breath you take. Just don’t go back to that miserable place you go every day. Show me it’s possible to be an adult and also be happy.”

Senior, Leonard Peacock, is odd. His only real friend is his elderly neighbor, Walt, whom lives next door. Every day of school means facing Asher Beal – the classic bully who terrorizes Leonard. Every day of going home means loneliness since his mother decided to run off to the city to pursue her career as a fashion designer. So on Leonard’s eighteenth birthday, Leonard decides to take his grandfather’s P-38 and kill Asher Beal before killing himself.

Leonard Peacock resembles a modern Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye – a young man just not entirely sure of where he belongs in the world – hopeless and broken from the events that have brought him to this point in his life. It is a novel for all ages and for all the people in the world whoever asked if things are going to get better.

Author, Matthew Quick, who also wrote The Silver Linings Playbook, provides a glimpse into the world of a lonely soul who has lost all hope. Quick forces us to consider our lives and ask ourselves are we happy? If we could go back, would we change anything?

Review by, Leigh Rice

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.”

The night Jacob’s grandfather is brutally murdered in the woods outside his home, Jacob is left with the following phrase from his dying grandfather: “Go to the island. You’ll be safe there.” That night, Jacob encounters a terrifying creature that it seems only he can see. When Jacob tries to relay what he saw the night of the tragedy, his parents send him to a therapist. After all, creatures that Jacob saw do not exist – at least not for normal people.

Eventually, Jacob discovers artifacts from his grandfather’s life that lead him to an island and the old, crumbling orphanage in which Jacob’s grandfather was raised. As he ventures through the decaying home, he finds that maybe the children that had once lived there with his grandfather never left.

Ransom Riggs brings us an exciting page-turner of a novel. Just when you think you have things figured out, Riggs throws his readers into a plot twist that keeps you guessing until the last page.

The first of Miss Peregrine’s series, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a novel designed for the young reader.

Review by, Leigh Rice

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

“’People shouldn’t do a lot of things,’ says Connor. He knows they’re both right, but it doesn’t make a difference. In a perfect world mothers would all want their babies, and strangers would open up their homes to the unloved. In a perfect world everything would be either black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference. But this isn’t a perfect world. The problem is people who think it is.”

In this young adolescent novel, America has endured its second civil war. The result: abortion has been declared illegal; however, when a child reaches the age of thirteen, their parents can choose to have them unwound. As an “unwind” you are sent to a harvest camp in which your organs are taken and given to different donors – therefore, the life technically remains living.

For most kids, the law hardly affects them. It is common that one day your classmate from fifth period might just stop showing up to school. No worries though – there is comfort in that his or her life will help a minimum of thirteen other lives. But for trouble-maker, Connor, ward of the state, Risa, and tithe, Lev, it is the difference between remaining as a whole or scattered pieces of life.

Shusterman’s characters are carefully designed to make you question your beliefs – no matter what those beliefs are. Throughout the pages of Unwind, it becomes difficult to see the black and white of many of today’s political issues, but more gray than you’ve ever seen before. For any parent eager to push the limits of their teenagers’ critical thinking abilities, Shusterman’s story is the go-to. This enthralling young adult novel will keep you turning the pages until you’ve reached the end.

Review by, Leigh Rice

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

“It’s probably fair to say that in all the years of Hitler’s reign, no person was able to serve the Fuhrer as loyally as me. A human doesn’t have a heart like mine. The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.”

In a world where we are constantly told that there are good and bad people, Markus Zusak reminds us that there are also just people: capable of both good and bad actions. When Liesel Meminger arrives in front of her new foster parents’ home in a small town in Germany at the start of Nazi Germany, she is unaware of the pain, distrust, and panic that will lurk around the corners of every German neighborhood under the political party of Adolf Hitler. Instead, she is terrified of the ambiguity that exists in living in a new home with strangers.

As Liesel adapts to her new life, she finds friendship – one of them being with the Jewish man her foster parents are hiding in their basement. In a short time, Liesel grows to begin to question why rules are in place, why everyone is so determined to avoid showing any disloyalty to the Fuhrer, and how, in war, there are not necessarily good and bad sides, but rather just people doing what they’re told.

Zusak’s The Book Thief tells a different side of Nazi Germany: the side that few of us have heard – in that sometimes good people make bad choices because it is all they know or they’re too afraid of the consequences that will come if their differing opinions are heard. More than that though, The Book Thief tells the story of heroes who are simple every day people and how their compassionate decisions can change the world if even in the smallest way.

Review by, Leigh Rice

Well Read’s Best Sellers of 2013

When we were preparing to open Well Read over 15 months ago, we had many discussions about what types of new books to carry. Since we are primarily a used bookstore with a relatively small portion of the shelf space committed to new inventory, we needed to select carefully. It was hard enough to determine which books we personally would choose, considering the overwhelming number of new releases each month, but choosing which books our customers would want to buy new involved quite a bit of speculation. We have definitely had some hits and misses, but over the months we have learned a lot about our customers and their preferences and continue to refine our selections.

So, now that 2013 has come to a close, we thought it would be interesting to share with you the Top 15 Best Selling New Books at Well Read in 2013! It is noteworthy that all but two of the titles have a strong local connection in author, subject matter or both, and that the two outliers are cat-related titles (Good work, JJ!).

1) Our Supreme Task: How Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech Defined the Cold War Alliance – Philip White
2) The Ruins of Us – Keija Parssinen
3) Celia, A Slave – Melton McLaurin
4) I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats – Francesco Marciuliano
5) King’s Row – Henry Bellamann
6) Stand on Your Own Two Feet: A Memoir – Patrick Horner
7) How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You – The Oatmeal
8) Target Churchill – Warren Adler
9) For the Love of Jack – Breanna Troesser
10) A Good American – Alex George
11) Backroad Legends of Callaway County – Wes Goff
12) Coastal Missouri – John Drake Robinson
13) Letters from Katherine – Kelly Keeney
14) St. Louis Cardinals ABC – Brad Epstein
15) Longer Than a Man’s Life in Missouri – Gert Goebel
We look forward to bringing you even more interesting new releases in 2014. And please let us know if there is anything you would like to see on the shelves at Well Read! Happy New Year!

Shopping Local Is Not Just the Right Thing to Do – It’s the Smart Thing to Do.

Humans have historically relied upon their local communities for everything, going all the way back to the dawn of civilization. Over the past couple of decades though, big-box retailers, large chains, and more recently e-commerce merchants, have come to dominate the nation’s retail landscape, changing the character of communities and the consumer’s relationship with local merchants. The days when shoppers and merchants knew one another were replaced with an impersonal sterility, and small, unique local shops replaced with cookie-cutter strip mall stores possessing all the charm of industrial warehouses. Beep, beep, beep — look out for that forklift!

Fortunately things are changing for the better, and the country is warming to the idea of shopping local again. Many Americans are growing weary of selecting gifts for their loved ones and accessories to beautify their homes just an aisle over from where they shop for toilet paper.

And there are some additional reasons to shop locally that have everything to do with cold hard economics. It turns out that for every $10 spent at a Fulton small business, $5.20 stays here in our community. Spend that same $10 at a chain retailer and just $1.30 stays in Fulton. On its own, that $3.90 might not seem like a lot, but spread out across town, over the course of time, we’re talking about big money. We have the potential to keep $390,000 for every $1,000,000 spent in Fulton’s retail stores IF we spend our money locally! How much better would Fulton’s economy be if we managed to keep that money from leaching out of the local economy? How many more jobs could the community produce with that additional investment? How much more would your property be worth? How much more could we invest in our schools, fire protection, police, and roads?

Now image the disservice you do to your community when you shop online. Aside from the few pennies your UPS guy makes to deliver packages to your door, ALL the money you spend online evaporates into thin air, relative to Fulton, Missouri.

The economic benefits of shopping local are plain. When you shop locally-owned, you enrich your community. When you choose to spend your money elsewhere, you make your community a little poorer.

As appeared in the print edition of the Fulton Sun on Dec 18, 2013

To learn more visit the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Art Exhibit: Jennifer Sain

Through January 31, the work of Jennifer Sain will be on display in the store. Jennifer’s work includes abstract and realistic watercolor paintings as well as collage graphics from a children’s book Jennifer contributed to.

Below are some highlights from the show:

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Jennifer’s illustrations appear in the book D.W. (Don’t Worry) by Mary M. Hill, which is available in the store.

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Jennifer is also the gallery director at William Woods University’s Mildred M. Cox Gallery.

Short Story from Tim O’Mara

One of our favorite authors with local ties is Tim O’Mara, author of Sacrifice Fly and the newly released follow-up book Crooked Numbers. CNJacket_WebShadow225We had the pleasure of meeting Tim this summer when he visited the store for a reading event, and got to know him a little better when he then stopped in several more times while he was in town. We’re so excited to read the second book in the Raymond Donne series, which came out on October 15.

To give you a taste for Tim O’Mara’s writing style, we are pleased to be able to share with you one of his short stories!  The story is called Character Study. If you have read Sacrifice Fly, you’ll find that this story has a similar feel. If you haven’t yet read either of his books, this will give you a taste of what you can expect. Enjoy!

CHARACTER STUDY

by Tim O’Mara

“I knew it,” he said aloud to no one as he examined what used to be the rear passenger-side window of his car and looked at the broken glass littering the empty seat that had earlier held his laptop. “Leave something out in the open like that and it’s just a matter of time.”

He removed his cell phone from his jacket pocket, found the GPS app, and turned it on. Within thirty seconds, the GPS had locked onto the device he’d installed on his laptop for just this occasion. Whoever had it, was moving west—a blue dot—towards the Hudson River, a few avenues away from where he’d parked on a Hell’s Kitchen side street. As he walked passed the Midtown North precinct, he caught himself smiling. Sure, it would be easy enough to go inside, explain to the uniform working the front desk what had happened, and sometime within the next hour or so one of the bored cops might head over to the river and look into the matter. By that time, the laptop thief would be long gone, as would his laptop.

No, this was something he needed to take care of by himself. After all, he was the one who’d left the damn thing right out in the open. Like he’d been asking for it. He zipped up his jacket, put a glove on the hand that held the cell phone and put the other hand in his pocket.

******

A wintry breeze was coming off the Hudson making the already chilly air feel about ten degrees colder. The tiny park he had entered was officially called Clinton Cove, but nobody called it that. It was usually just referred to as the Hell’s Kitchen Pier. There was a group—a gaggle, he remembered—of geese hanging out on the lawn eating what was left of the brown grass and crapping all over the “No Dogs Allowed” area. Come springtime, the grass would be green again, benefitting from all that free fertilizer.

The Circle of Life.

Sitting on a bench facing the water, was a solitary figure: the blue dot was now humanized. As he got nearer, he saw it was a guy in a hoodless winter jacket. Both the guy and the jacket had seen better days. He went over to a bench about twenty yards away and sat down, slipping both hands into his pockets. He looked over after a while and saw that the guy had a bulge under his jacket. If the GPS on his phone was right, the bulge was his laptop. He took in a couple of deep breaths from the cool Hudson River air and stood up.

He walked over to the guy and took a seat on the bench next to him, careful to keep the metal armrest between them. No reason to be stupid about this. The guy didn’t acknowledge his presence or even take his eyes off the river. He seemed to be in some sort of trance. High, probably. Even in the breeze, the smell of smoke could be detected coming off the guy and it wasn’t from Marlboro Country.

“Pretty cold day to be sitting along the river, huh?” the man said. He waited thirty seconds for a response, and when none came he said, “Feels good, though. Makes you feel more alive.”

The guy slowly turned his head, careful to keep his hands in his pockets protecting the bulge. He whispered something that sounded like “Duck Soup,” but probably wasn’t. The man smiled. That was good.

“What do you got there, friend?” he asked. “Under the jacket.”

The guy blinked three times and turned back to look at the river.

“How much you get for something like that?”

“Like what?” the guy said.

“Like that.” The man motioned with his head at the bulge. “Couple of hundred?”

The guy moved his head slightly and said, “Whatta you know about it?”

“I know I just had my car broken into and my laptop was taken. It’s not a great laptop, about five years old, but it’s got some stuff on it that’s important to me.”

The guy smiled. His adult teeth were not all present and those that were needed some serious whitening. “Not sure what you’re talking about, Mister, but why would you leave something important in the backseat of your car?”

Now it was the man’s turn to smile. His teeth were perfect. “Who said it was in the backseat?”

The lesser of the smiles disappeared and was followed by those two words that were definitely not “Duck Soup.”

“So, really,” the man said. “Whatta you hope to get? Two hundred? Three?”

The guy with the bulge under his jacket made a move to stand up. The man next to him reached out and grabbed him by the wrist.

“We’re just talking here, pal,” he said. “Shooting the breeze.” The double meaning of that made the man smiled harder. Good stuff.

“You don’t wanna be touching me, man,” the guy said.

The man laughed. “What are you going to do? Call the cops?”

“Maybe.”

“With what?” the man said. “You can’t possibly have a cell phone. You broke into my car and stole a laptop from me. People like you don’t have cell phones.”

The guy shook the man’s hand off, squinted into the man’s face and said, “People like me? The hell you know about people like me?”

“I know you’ll take fifty bucks for what’s under your jacket. You’d probably take twenty, but I’m in a good mood.”

“What even makes you think it’s yours?” the guy said. “I mean, if I do have a laptop under my jacket?”

The man took his phone out, showed the map on the GPS to the guy and pointed to the blue dot. The guy looked at it as if it were the designs for a nuclear submarine. He squinted again.

“Take it out,” the man said. “I’ll show you. It’s got a short story I’m working on.”

The guy gave the man the same confused look he had just given the map on the phone. “You a writer?” He sounded close to impressed.

“Yep. Almost done with this piece. I needed a little more research.”

“Writers do research? About what?”

The man leaned back and folded his arms across his chest. “In my case, about what kind of scumbag breaks into someone’s car and steals a laptop. I mean, seriously, you gotta have pretty low morals to pull something like that, right?”

“I got morals.”

“We all have morals,” the man said. “Yours are just lower than most.”

The guy wiped a wind-driven tear from his eye and said, “Just ’cause I need money don’t mean I don’t got no morals, man. It means I don’t got no money.”

“And I’m sure that’s someone else’s fault right. Not a result of any decisions you’ve made over the last few years?”

“I take what I need. No more.”

“You got healthcare?”

“Huh?”

“What do you do when you get sick?” the man asked slowly.

The guy laughed like that was the stupidest question he’d ever heard. “I go to the doctor, man. Plant my ass in the ER ’til someone comes to look at me.”

“And who do you think pays for that?”

“I don’t know. Jesus?”

“Me. The taxpayer pays for that. That’s just as bad as you breaking into my car and stealing what’s mine.”

The guy thought about that for a bit, looking for something to say. What he came up with was, “My parents pay taxes, so I’m just taking my inheritance early.”

That was good, too. “When’s the last time you were in jail?” the man asked.

“Hey, Mister. I do drugs, not time. I shoot junk, not bullets.”

The man smiled. This guy was great. “Okay if I steal that from you?”

“For one of your stories?”

“For this story.”

Confusion once again took over the guy’s face and he went back to squinting. “This ain’t no story, man.”

“Sure it is. I had something you wanted. Now you have something I want. The fact that it’s the same thing connects us.” He did that back and forth thing people do with their index fingers to signal making a connection. “That’s what makes this a story. Our wants are not only the same they’re in conflict. It’s beautiful.”

The guy thought about that and then allowed the laptop to slide out from under his jacket. “That mean you gonna give me two hundred for this?”

The man laughed. “I said fifty.”

“You also said you had important stuff on here.”

For a junkie, this guy was a good listener.

“Let’s make it a hundred then.” Bargaining. As if he had any real intention of paying this guy anything. The man pulled out the five twenties he had in his jacket, fanned them out, and let them flap in the breeze.

The guy was mesmerized by the five bills waving back and forth, and handed over the laptop. When he reached for the money, the man pulled it back.

The guy stood up on wobbly legs, listed slightly in the breeze and mumbled something that sounded like “Gimme the duck and money.”

The man stood also. “You’re kidding, right? You think I’d actually pay for something that’s already mine? That’s your view of how the world works?”

“You said you would. You said this was a conflict. I was helping you with your story. That’s worth something, right?”

The man nodded. “It is.” He looked around—there was no one else in the park except him and the guy—and pulled something out of his other pocket. “It’s worth this.”

The guy looked at it and said, “What’s that? A comb?”

“Hardly.” The man pressed a button and a blade appeared. “I know it’s a bit old school— always reminds me of Twelve Angry Men —but still a useful tool.”

The look on the guy’s face as he stared at the blade was one of confusion: Move forward or backward? He chose the first, as did the man with the knife. They met each other halfway and the blade sliced through the guy’s coat and entered his stomach. There was no more confusion on the guy’s face anymore. The look was now one of certainty. And dull pain.

The man twisted the knife, held it for a three count, and then pulled it out. He looked around again and found the park still empty except for the gaggle of geese and the guy. The guy fell to his knees and looked up at the man.

“Why?” the guy whispered.

The man looked down and smiled. “No, I’m done with motivation,” he said. “I just needed your help with character. The dialogue was a nice surprise. Thanks.” He took a few steps toward the railing, closed up the knife and flung it twenty feet into the Hudson River. When he turned back, the guy was lying on his side, trying desperately to stop the blood flowing out from under his coat onto the white pathway. Nice imagery.

This was good stuff.

_________

Crooked Numbers is available at Well Read! Tim will be back in Central Missouri around Christmastime, so we will try to get him in the store for a meet and greet. Watch for more details!

 

Book Review: David and Goliath

malcolm gladwell's David and GoliathBestselling author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell has been on a roll since the publication of his hugely successful book “The Tipping Point” in 2000. In the intervening years, he’s published three more books, all of them international best sellers, and Gladwell has become a fixture on the international lecture circuit. In his books, Gladwell has mastered the art of exploring provocative theses through the personal stories of those he interviews and solid empirical data from leading researchers.

Gladwell’s latest book is titled “David and Goliath,” and as you might expect, is about the ways in which underdogs succeed in defeating the powerful. Throughout, Gladwell illustrates what he calls the “Advantages of Disadvantage” and “The Theory of Desirable Difficulty” with examples like: the undersized and totally inexperienced girls youth basketball team in California that routinely rolled over its taller, more athletic and much more experienced competitors by turning the way basketball is played on its head; how the rogue British military commander Lawrence of Arabia managed to lead a band of untrained and under-equipped Bedouins to victory against the modern, well-trained and well-armed Turkish army; and the case of Wyatt Walker, who as a civil rights activist working alongside Martin Luther King Jr., used the arrogance of Birmingham, Alabama’s, notorious public safety commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor to his advantage.

Dr. King and the civil rights leadership had just come from a deeply discouraging campaign in Albany, Georgia, where they’d failed to convince large numbers of the city’s black population to join in mass peaceful demonstrations. As they also discovered later in Birmingham, the black population of Albany had been so thoroughly cowed by the forces of racial segregation that they were afraid to join demonstrations — afraid specifically that their white employers would fire them if they were seen participating in demonstrations. As the campaign in Birmingham stalled, Walker, whose job was to stir things up, got a break one day when white reporters mistakenly over-reported the number of marchers who showed up to demonstrate. The truth is that not many more than a dozen people came to march, but the streets were lined with more than a thousand spectators. The reporters didn’t bother to confirm who was who, so what should have been a disappointing turnout was reported far differently. The “big” crowds got the attention of the racist Bull Connor. He threatened to meet the next march with a show of force, playing right into Walker’s hand. What Walker needed was for the nation’s media to see peaceful protesters being bullied and harassed by thuggish police.

Walker next invited black students from the city’s high schools to join in a service at a local Baptist church, and they showed up in droves. Bull Connor’s police were stumped. They were expecting adults and didn’t feel comfortable arresting kids, but Connor ordered his men to make arrests. Soon, the city’s jails were full to several times past capacity, meaning Connor could no longer use arrest as a threat. His next blunder would ignite the spark that burned segregation in the South to the ground. With his jails full, Connor vowed to control the assembled crowds and block their movement.  For help, he called on the fire department and police K-9 units. The next day, newspapers across the nation ran front-page photos of peaceful young people being attacked by German shepherds and sprayed with water cannon. To the rest of the nation, the forces of segregation began to look more like Nazis, than the good old law and order Southerners they made themselves out to be. The pressure to change finally overwhelmed the segregationists and the next year, the Civil Rights Act was passed.

“David and Goliath – Underdogs Misfits and The Art of Battling Giants” is a fascinating read, filled with interesting anecdotes and hard data that ought to encourage underdogs to think differently about how they take on their own Goliaths. “David and Goliath” is due for release on October 1.