All manner of events are cropping up on the calendar in October, including our Reading Group Book Night on October 18th. $10 paperbacks that evening only! We've also got Sharon and Julie Kramis on tap with their latest Cast Iron Skillet cookbook, and Kim Allison is in town with her new memoir.
We'd also like to remind you to sign up for our new eNewsletter, which is debuting this month. We respect your email privacy and hope to keep you updated on book news, store happenings, and our quirky tastes.
In even more high-tech news, we're now offering eBooks on our site. This is a very exciting development that lets you read anywhere you go on almost any platform, whether it's a desktop, smart phone, or dedicated reading device. You'll be surprised how easy they are to use, and how inexpensive they are. Find out more here.
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Araceli is the live-in maid in the Torres-Thompson household--one of three Mexican employees in a Spanish-style house with lovely views of the Pacific. She has been responsible strictly for the cooking and cleaning, but the recession has hit, and suddenly Araceli is the last Mexican standing--unless you count Scott Torres, though you'd never suspect he was half Mexican but for his last name and an old family photo with central L.A. in the background. The financial pressure is causing the kind of fights that even Araceli knows the children shouldn't hear, and then one morning, after a particularly dramatic fight, Araceli wakes to an empty house--except for the two Torres-Thompson boys, little aliens she's never had to interact with before. Their parents are unreachable, and the only family member she knows of is Senor Torres, the subject of that old family photo. So she does the only thing she can think of and heads to the bus stop to seek out their grandfather. It will be an adventure, she tells the boys. If she only knew . . . .
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called "Le Cirque des Reves," and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway--a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love--a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
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The "Ibis," loaded to its gunwales with a cargo of indentured servants, is in the grip of a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal; among the dozens flailing for survival are Neel, the pampered raja who has been convicted of embezzlement; Paulette, the French orphan masquerading as a deck-hand; and Deeti, the widowed poppy grower fleeing her homeland with her lover, Kalua. The storm also threatens the clipper ship "Anahita," groaning with the largest consignment of opium ever to leave India for Canton. And the "Redruth," a nursery ship, carries Frederick "Fitcher" Penrose, a horticulturist determined to track down the priceless treasures of China that are hidden in plain sight: its plants that have the power to heal, or beautify, or intoxicate. All will converge in Canton's Fanqui-town, or Foreign Enclave: a tumultuous world unto itself where civilizations clash and sometimes fuse. It is a powder keg awaiting a spark to ignite the Opium Wars. Spectacular coincidences, startling reversals of fortune, and tender love stories abound. But this is much more than an irresistible page-turner. The blind quest for money, the primacy of the drug trade, the concealment of base impulses behind the rhetoric of freedom: in River of Smoke the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries converge, and the result is a consuming historical novel with powerful contemporary resonance.
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At the heart of this novel are two equally compelling men, poised for a showdown. Real estate developer Dharmen Shah rose from nothing to create an empire and hopes to seal his legacy with a building named the Shanghai, which promises to be one of the city's most elite addresses. Larger-than-life Shah is a dangerous man to refuse. But he meets his match in a retired schoolteacher called Masterji. Shah offers Masterji and his neighbors--the residents of Vishram Society's Tower A, a once respectable, now crumbling apartment building on whose site Shah's luxury high-rise would be built--a generous buyout. They can't believe their good fortune. Except, that is, for Masterji, who refuses to abandon the building he has long called home. As the demolition deadline looms, desires mount; neighbors become enemies, and acquaintances turn into conspirators who risk losing their humanity to score their payday.