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The Ordinary, Extraordinary Heroine

In a recent response to a need for better female protagonists, the "strong female character" trope quickly proliferated by the hundreds, if not thousands, in many books, particularly blossoming in young adult fiction targeted at teen women. But it seemed that almost as quickly, the tide turned on the movement, condemning many of the resulting characters as being unrealistic and flat, without nuance or emotion. What good was it to have a female lead who subverted stereotypes by showing her strength, if she seemed made of cardboard? Or if she was pushed so far in the other direction that she simply ended up in the male stereotype camp, violent and bloodthirsty?

It seems the perfect balance between emotional, mental, and physical strength and weakness can be difficult to pinpoint. Some authors known for their heroines have commented on the pressures felt to make their women "just right"-- hitting the "Goldilocks zone" of storytelling, if you will. Samantha Shannon, author of The Bone Season and The Mime Order (the first and second, respectively, in a planned seven book series, and both Staff Picks here at The Bookloft), once said that she sometimes still struggles letting her protagonist, Paige Mahoney, cry. And in an interview last year, she said, "Complicated women are still treated like they’re a curiosity. Joss Whedon spoke in 2006 about how often he was asked why he wrote strong women. His conclusion was 'because you’re still asking me that question'. Almost a decade later, writers are still being asked the same thing. Philip Pullman tweeted that he was being asked the same thing 20 years ago. We don’t keep marveling at 'strong male characters' – when will women no longer surprise us with their strength?"

Recently, Feminist Frequency, an organization dedicated to examining the portrayal of women in pop culture and in popular media like video games, movies, and books, launched a campaign to create an educational video series called "Ordinary Women: Daring to Defy History". Their intention is, in many ways, a response to Shannon's question. During Women's History Month (going on right now, by the way), accomplished women throughout history are lauded as extraordinary, as if the only cause for their success is because they were, possibly by some fluke, somehow superior to the average woman. By shining a spotlight on the ways everyday women have shaped and transformed our world throughout history, they will attempt to take the "surprise" factor out of women's accomplishments, and rescue them from the obscurity to which they are so often relegated.

Whether they're fictional characters, historic figures long gone, or your daughter, your wife, or the woman working the check-out line at your local grocery store, every ordinary woman is capable of extraordinary things. Or, to think of it in another way, in the words of Doreen Cronin, via her lovely new kid's book, Bloom“'They will never believe that an ordinary girl could do such an extraordinary thing,' Genevieve worried. 'What would I tell them?' 'Tell them there is no such thing as an ordinary girl,' said Bloom.”

Perhaps that might help authors take the guesswork out of creating great females characters. But, when in doubt, (step 1) think of a character, then (step 2) make them female. It really shouldn't be so hard.

 

Feeling inspired to find some great, balanced heroines? Stop by our Goodreads page and browse the books filed under our ever-growing list of "Recommended Female Protagonists". Or check out our latest newsletter, in which we tell you why some of these lovely ladies are our favorites.

Sweet Treats for your Sweetheart

Do you know what's almost as good as reading a really good book?

Eating a really good chocolate!

And there's definitely nothing better than doing both at the same time...

Not only do we have a huge assortment of wonderful books (as always!) to pick out from for your valentine(s) (or... yourself), but our ever popular stock of locally made Berkshire Bark has recently expanded too! They've developed even more maddeningly delicious chocolate bar flavors, like our new favorite, Peppermint Crush (just kidding, we still think you're number 1, Pretzological, our love).

Check out our favorite book/chocolate pairings and find your (and your loved ones') happy place.

 

CocoaNutz & The Forever Girl by Alexander McCall Smith

It may be cold and snowy out here, but in the pages of this novel by the bestselling author of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, you'll be swinging in a hammock, enjoying the sun, the breeze, the surf, and-- let's not forget the only thing that can truly make the scene complete-- a lovely tropical coconut! This chocolate, laden with sea salt, roasted almonds, both milk and dark Belgian chocolate, and coconut chunks and chips, will have you leaving this cold dark world behind-- and diving right into this good book!

 

 

Jumpin' Java & Dancers Among Us by Jordan Matter

What's more everyday than a shot of caffeine and a burst of energy? Channel your inner dancer with this revitalizing chocolate while perusing Jordan Matter's gorgeous and inspirational photographs and stories of the dancers among us.

 

Tropical Heat & Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

Hoffman fills the pages of her newest work with an island's magic and color in this stunning tale of what it means to walk the tightrope between tradition and independence, love and logic. This scrumptiously spicy chocolate will pair perfectly with this book's island setting and unforgettable love story.

 

White Lightning & Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Picture this: Grey skies pouring sheets of rain down upon the Scottish moors; horses, their riders pursued, pounding through the heather, sounding like rolling thunder; a flash of lightning illuminating, just for a second, tall, immovable, ancient standing stones; a gut-wrenching jolt and you appear... in the eighteenth century. Sound like fun? You'll feel positively wealthy being able to munch on some luxuriously white chocolate studded with lemon, cashew, and ginger while you read about Jamie and Claire's trials and tribulations during the  the second Scottish uprising.

 

Midnight Harvest & A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Get ready for a delicious witching hour with Deborah Harness' bestseller and this melt-in-your-mouth dark, rich chocolate treat.

 

Peppermint Crush & These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

This classy heroine is as cool as peppermint to her companion-- but can she really be blamed? After crash-landing on a mysterious planet and finding herself stuck there with just one taciturn guy for company, their quest for a way back to civilization (if they survive at all) is plagued by their haltingly evolving relationship. You'll need this Peppermint Crush as sustenance for this thought-provoking page-turner!

 

Mocha Buzz & The New York Times Presents Coffee Shop Crosswords

What could be more satisfying than sitting down with your morning hot mug of coffee, a great crossword puzzle, and a bite of coffee-infused chocolate on the side? Talk about a GOOD MORNING!

 

Kickn Nutz & Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Self explanatory. (Sorry, we couldn't resist.)

 

For the Birds & Birds of Pandemonium by Michele Raffin

​Michele Raffin's story of rescuing exotic and endangered birds by turning her own home into an impromptu shelter (now markedly less impromptu as her project has evolved into a full-fledged organization) will feel all the sweeter for keeping this seed-filled chocolate to hand as you read. You won't sprout wings by the end of them, but you'll certainly walk away feeling, not only deliciously full and healthy to boot, but also enthralled by these incredible creatures. Don't miss out on Pandemonium Aviaries' live stream where you can see the breath-taking birds strutting about in all their multi-colored opalescence.

 

Pretzelogical & Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

There's something so compelling about a good Sherlock Holmes story, with it's twisty plot turns and the rich, sweet satisfaction of a mystery solved (and the desperate yearning for more, of course). Pair it with the most popular Berkshire Bark of them all, featuring salted pretzel and caramel in milk chocolate, and you'll never want to stop reading (or eating) again.

 

Sampler Box &  The Best American Short Stories of 2016 edited by Lorrie Moore

For those who can't make up their mind, try a gift sampler pack which include four of our bestsellers: Midnight Harvest, Tropical Heat, White Lightning, and Pretzological. Pair it with the definitive short story sampler and you'll have a choice of flavors for every story!

Read It Before You Watch it!

Every year, dozens of movies based on books are released, and 2016 is certainly no different. Of course the quality of the adaptations always vary (we like to say that you should never judge a book by its movie!), but here are a few books that we're especially hoping will be well-adapted when they hit the big screens this year. In the mean time, let's keep our fingers crossed and if you haven't read any of these yet... now is the time!

If you liked Divergent (speaking of which, it's third and final installment, Allegiant, will also be premiering this year), and the whole slew of young adult dystopian books/movies that have become so popular in the wake of The Hunger Games, here's another one for you. For some, that may not be your go-to genre, but this was actually Staff Picked by co-owner Ev, who was surprised to find how much she liked it: "Because I avoid post-apocalyptic fiction like, well, like the plague, I had no intention of reading The 5th Wave. It wasn't even on my reading radar. That is, until I started noticing rave reviews and a publisher sales rep gave it an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Well, I thought, as a respectable bookseller, I should at least flip through it to see what all the hoopla's about... and I was hooked at the prologue! The 5th Wave may not be a literary masterpiece, but it's one terrifically engaging, heart-pounding page-turner! Unsettling, thought-provoking, unexpectedly touching at times... I finished it in one 5 hour reading frenzy (and cannot wait for the sequel)!"

Here's another Staff Pick, this time from Ellyne, who calls this satirical novel "an eye-opener"-- and all the critics agree! The San Francisco Chronicle calls it "a bracing, fearless and uproarious satire of how contemporary war is waged and sold to the American public"; the New York Times, an "inspired, blistering war novel…Though it covers only a few hours, the book is a gripping, eloquent provocation.” And The Washington Post chimes in on a similarly exultant note too: “A masterful echo of ‘Catch-22,’ with war in Iraq at the center. …a gut-punch of a debut novel…There’s hardly a false note, or even a slightly off-pitch one, in Fountain’s sympathetic, damning and structurally ambitious novel.”

The movie will have an all-star cast that includes Vin Diesel, but you're definitely going to want to read the book first!

 

Our in-house Harry Potter fan, Zazu, along with millions more around the world of course, is looking forward to this one. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, based on a book on Hogwarts students' reading list, will take place 70 years before Harry Potter reads the book in school and will focus on the adventures of it's author, Newt Scamander, in the magical world within New York City. Thankfully, the screenplay was written by J.K. Rowling, so we're not too worried.

 

 

 

This movie, due out October 7th, stars Emily Blunt and is being compared to the wildly successful Gone Girl. Ev Staff Picked this "deftly plotted, un-put-down-able, hold-your-breath-with-dizzying-dread novel of riveting psychological suspense. Intending to read 'just a few more pages' at bedtime one recent sub-zero January evening, I ended up finishing the book at 2:30 A.M. (At that point my hands had been freezing for hours, but I hadn't been able to stop reading long enough to go turn up the heat!)"

 

 

 

Roald Dahl's film adaptations have a pretty decent track record, with good movies based on Matilda, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, James and the Giant Peach, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, so this excellent story will hopefully be joining their ranks when it comes out this summer. Directed by Stephen Spielberg and produced by Disney, the movie will tell the tale of a girl introduced to the wonders and perils of Giant Country.

 

 

 

 

Through the Looking-Glass will star the same cast (which includes Johnny Depp and Anne Hathaway) as the most recent remake of the classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and looks to have the same wacky humor and vibrant environment, too. We have several different editions of these two companion books, and it seems like there's always more coming out, from Zazu's Staff Picked edition perfect for "younger children with its picture book format" and whimsical illustrations to this inredible new one illustrated entirely by Slavador Dali-- what a perfect combination!

 

 

 

 

A Special Announcement

When Eric opened The Bookloft in May 1974, we were both fresh out of college. Watership Down topped the NYT Fiction Bestseller List, the House Judiciary Committee had just opened impeachment hearings against Richard Nixon, and we’d all been blithely singing along for years with the Beatles’ When I’m 64. The lyrics were sweet, the likelihood of our actually being 64 someday, pretty unimaginable.

But here we are. Eric has seen 64 come and go, and it’s fast approaching for Ev. So, with our kids far-flung and our first grandchild on the way, with enormous gratitude for 42 rewarding years of bookselling, and with many life dreams still unrealized (many of them involving the reading, writing, creating and selling of books), we’ve decided to sell The Bookloft. Hence, this letter.

Our bittersweet decision comes at an especially propitious time in the world of independent bookselling in the U.S. The American Booksellers Association reports that the number of independent bookstores has increased by 20 percent in the past five years. Sales of both e-readers and e-books continue to decline as early converts rediscover the essential place of “real” books in their lives.

A September 23, 2015 New York Times article observed that “independent bookstores, which were battered by the recession and competition from Amazon are showing strong signs of resurgence. The American Booksellers Association counted 1,712 member stores in 2,227 locations in 2015, up from 1,410 in 1,660 locations five years ago.”

It is our intention to find a new owner who will not only carry on with all that’s made The Bookloft a beloved literary destination in the Berkshires, but who will also bring to it new energy, experience and ideas. The essential building blocks for success are already in place: a loyal customer base, a smart, experienced, dedicated staff, the technology tools that allow us to remain current and relevant, and a warm, welcoming environment. In addition, we’re willing to work with new owners to ensure a smooth transition.

All it will take is someone who is passionate about books and all that they represent, someone who genuinely enjoys interacting with people and wants to see their literary needs well-served, someone with enough good judgement and business sense to lead a team of top-notch booksellers.

We’re contacting you directly because we know that you appreciate The Bookloft’s place in your life and its role in our community. Perhaps you or someone you know might be interested in leading it into the future. If so, please contact our friends and colleagues at The Bookstore Training Group of Paz & Associates at (904) 277-2664 or by email at MKaufman@PazBookBiz.com. They’ll be happy to tell you more about our business and its potential, and to provide you with the necessary training and education to succeed as a bookstore owner.

Thank you so much for your continued support and for your interest in ensuring that The Bookloft will be here to serve generations of readers for years to come.

 

Warm regards,

Eric and Ev Wilska

 

READ ABOUT THE OPENING OF THE BOOKLOFT... OVER 40 YEARS AGO!

Perfect Pairings

 

Peter May's trilogy evokes the stark beauty of the Hebrides; so much so, that the landscape almost seems to be another character.

After reading this great mystery, you'll love diving into this gorgeous coffee table book filled with Peter May's research on the area and, best of all, large, full-color photographs.

 

 

 

The Cozy Cookbook contains dozens of delicious recipes from your favorite cozy mysteries including the Candy Holiday Murder Mystery series from our very own local author duo writing as B. B. Haywood. Solving crime is hungry work!

 

 

 

 

Donna Leon's famous mystery series set in Venice star a main character that's always eating. And what better way of emulating him than with Marcella Hazan's mouth-watering Italian recipes? Hazan is as authoritative as it gets in classic Italian cookery, so these two books are a match made in... Venice!

 

 

Simenon is an iconic French mystery writer who gave us one of the best known detectives in the world, Inspector Maigret. He was incredibly prolific, producing over 200 novels (and hundreds more novellas, stories, and autobiographical works), 75 of which were Inspector Maigret mysteries. Anyone interested in more iconic French personas would do well to pick up Painting the Modern Garden, a collection of paintings by the most iconic French painters.

 

 

The Longmire series by Craig Johnson includes one of those sad/funny plot themes that comes up periodically about the main character's unfinished cabin. Hey, maybe he should consume some Cabin Porn as inspiration to finish his own!

 

 

 

 

Anne Hillerman has done a fantastic job of taking over this beloved mystery series from her father, Tony Hillerman. To get a bit more of an educational background on the setting of these excellent books, take a look at this incredible 3 volume set on the history of native americans.

 

 

 

 

Edward Steichen was one of the preeminent photographers of the twentieth century and, after reading J.K. Rowling's Cuckoo's Calling, in which a fashion model is murdered, his collection of fashion photography will help lighten your view of fashion with these stunning (not murderous!) shots.

Complimentary Jam with Local Cooks / Authors

We're fortunate to live in the same beautiful area as the three incredibly talented writers and cooks, Ruth Reichl, Darra Goldstein, and Alana Chernila. To help celebrate their wonderful newly released cookbooks, we're happy to offer  1 free 4oz jar of jam (you pick from a large assortment of flavors) from SideHill Farm Jams (a part of The Bookloft family!) with every one of their new cookbooks you buy!

So stop by to pick up a SIGNED copy... and your choice of delicious jam! Then... to the kitchen! 

 

 

Happy Halloween!

OUR FAVORITE CREEPY TALES

 
 
 

THE SHINING

HALF BROKEN THINGS

RIVERS

 
 
 

FEVRE DREAM

THE ROAD

DRACULA

 
 
 

THE GASHLYCRUMB TINIES

THE TURN OF THE SCREW

THE TELL-TALE HEART

 
 
 

IT'S HALLOWEEN

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK

DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY

 
 
 

SHUTTER ISLAND

THE BLOODY CHAMBER; AND OTHER STORIES

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY

NEW HORROR

Every October, publishers release a few new, appropriately twisted and spooky stories, collections, and related nonfiction for the season.

And every year newly minted Penguin Classics are a particular treat! This year's writers include a multiple Bram Stoker Award-winner, an acclaimed king of modern Gothic writing, and a famed Twilight Zone writer.

 
 
 

GHOSTLY

MURDER BY CANDLELIGHT

THE RIM OF MORNING

 
 
 

SONGS OF A DEAD DREAMER; & GRIMSCRIBE

THE CASE AGAINST SATAN

PERCHANCE TO DREAM

AND SOME EXTRA GOODIES

 
 
 

REUSABLE CHICO BAGS

HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN CALENDARS - 40% OFF!

HALLOWEEN GREETING CARDS

 
 
 

BOOKMARKS

KIDS' HALLOWEEN BOOKS

KIDS STICKER AND ACTIVITY BOOKS

Alana Chernila & Ruth Reichl

We're fortunate to live in the same beautiful area as the two incredibly talented writers and cooks, Ruth Reichl and Alana Chernila.

Ruth Reichl was a restaurant critic of both The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, later the longtime editor in chief of Gourmet magazine and now bestselling author of critically-acclaimed food-centric memoirs such as Comfort Me with Apples and Tender at the Bone which have been translated into 18 languages and are all Staff Picks here. In 2014 she published her first novel: Delicious!

Her newest work is called My Kitchen Year, 136 Recipes that Saved my Life and is the result of her year spent cooking and thinking after the fall of 2009, when the food world was rocked when Gourmet magazine was abruptly shuttered by its parent company. No one was more stunned by this unexpected turn of events than its beloved editor in chief, Ruth Reichl, who suddenly faced an uncertain professional future. As she struggled to process what had seemed unthinkable, Reichl turned to the one place that had always provided sanctuary. “I did what I always do when I’m confused, lonely, or frightened,” she writes. “I disappeared into the kitchen.”

Alana Chernila is a Berkshirite who, among other things, sells fresh veggies and teaches cheese making and is a farm and food blogger on Eating from the Ground Up. Her first cookbook, The Homemade Pantry, has been our MOST sold cookbook since its release! And for good reason— her collected recipes for everyday staples are practical, delicious, nutritious and convincingly easy!

But besides both of these authors being local, they also share a book release date! Our world has been made just a little yummier starting October 6th with the publication of their new cookbooks with both include wonderful recipes (that, thank goodness, don't require 5 hours and 600 ingredients) and short personal writings to go along with each dish, making these so much more than just cookbooks.

We're also happy to be able to offer 1 free 4oz jar of jam from SideHill Farm Jams (a part of The Bookloft family!) with every one of their new cookbooks you buy!

So stop by to pick up a SIGNED copy... and your choice of delicious jam! Then... to the kitchen!

(Or, join us at The Homemade Kitchen's book launch celebration at No. Six Depot Cafe!)

 

Books as Art

Phone books aren’t generally reading material, unless you’re an author in search of names for the characters you’re creating. They’re not usually a medium for sculpture either unless you are Long-Bin Chen whose phone-book works can be seen in Immortal Asia:  Art and East Asia at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield.  Don’t miss the chance to see them, and the other Asian art and artifacts in this rich show, open through September 7.  You’ll be surprised to find that so many of the pieces come from the Museum’s own collection.  And you’ll never again think of phone books as, well, just phone books!

Speaking of of using books (of any kind!) as the raw material for art, here's a book about book art that you won't want to miss.  Ellyne, who Staff Picked it, says, "Don't miss this treat!" citing some of her favorite works collected in this volume as "Dylan's chess pieces, Jennifer Collier's shoes (yes, shoes), works by Anonymous, and by ALL the others."  Of course, we generally advise our customers to treat their books well... but as long as they're being put to such beautiful use, we can't help but approve!

    Photo courtesy of Berkshire Museum

 

    

 

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