The Compulsive Reader: Shelf Discovery

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Shelf Discovery

I've been working at a fabulous independent bookstore in my hometown for about a month or so, and I absolutely love it. The ins and outs of working in a small bookstore are very interesting, and of course being around all those books is a lot of fun too. One of the best parts about it is that I am forced to know what is in stock all over the store, so I've been exposed to a lot of great-sounding books that are totally outside the YA genre, which has been a fun experience.

There are always too many things to read and too little time (as one co-worker says, the in-box will never be empty), so even though I can't read everything that I see that looks good, I can at least tell you, my lovely readers, what is out there. And seeing as you're reading this blog, I'm guessing we have similar tastes, so I hope that you may be interested in some of the books I discover as well.

So, this will start a new feature here on the blog, Shelf Discovery, in which I will highlight one book each week that I have discovered while prowling the shelves at the store, that I hope you will find interesting as well. They most likely won't be YA, but some diversity is good, and I hope that you will find them interesting!

First up is The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch. I first discovered it when unpacking a shipment from our distributor. We were quite busy and all of the employees were going every which way, so I caught a glimpse of it on the invoice and thought, "Interesting title," and then didn't see it again until it was ready to be shelved.

When I say "interesting title," what I probably really meant was, "Okay, the hangman part is interesting, but oh my word, why does every other book need to be about the daughter of someone?" It's a slight pet peeve of mine, and it always irks me to see books like that, because unless the parent of whoever this daughter is is significant in the book, why name your book that? And most of the books with those titles don't have those interesting parents.

In all honesty, I probably wouldn't have looked at this book any more if a co-worker, whose opinion I greatly respect, hadn't mentioned it again. So, when I got around to shelving it, I looked at it to see what it was all about, and my opinion changed...I think that this sounds like a book that is worthy of its title. Here's the official summary:

"Magdalena, the clever and headstrong daughter of Bavarian hangman Jakob Kuisl, lives with her father outside the village walls and is destined to be married off to another hangman’s son—except that the town physician’s son is hopelessly in love with her. And her father’s wisdom and empathy are as unusual as his despised profession. It is 1659, the Thirty Years’ War has finally ended, and there hasn’t been a witchcraft mania in decades. But now, a drowning and gruesomely injured boy, tattooed with the mark of a witch, is pulled from a river and the villagers suspect the local midwife, Martha Stechlin.

Jakob Kuisl is charged with extracting a confession from her and torturing her until he gets one. Convinced she is innocent, he, Magdalena, and her would-be suitor to race against the clock to find the true killer. Approaching Walpurgisnacht, when witches are believed to dance in the forest and mate with the devil, another tattooed orphan is found dead and the town becomes frenzied. More than one person has spotted what looks like the devil—a man with a hand made only of bones. The hangman, his daughter, and the doctor’s son face a terrifying and very real enemy.

Taking us back in history to a place where autopsies were blasphemous, coffee was an exotic drink, dried toads were the recommended remedy for the plague, and the devil was as real as anything, The Hangman’s Daughter brings to cinematic life the sights, sounds, and smells of seventeenth-century Bavaria, telling the engrossing story of a compassionate hangman who will live on in readers’ imaginations long after they’ve put down the novel."

I think this sounds fabulous, and it now has the very enviable position on the Staff Picks shelve, so I hope that someone will buy it and love it! And I hope that I can find time one day to pick it up! Plus, isn't that cover awesome? It actually reminds me of something I'd find on a YA cover. I think it's very interesting and fun, and I probably would review this on the blog as it seems to have a lot of crossover appeal! Maybe one day...

What do you think?


ZoeRainDasherBenji said...

New feature! I guess that way you'd highlight books that would otherwise slip our attention.

The Hangman's Daughter sounds like a really good supernatural adventure.

Christina T said...

I am glad you featured this one. I've seen it in my Shelf Awareness newsletter and in book review publications but I didn't really pay attention to it till now. It sounds like a fantastic historical fiction novel. I am trying to read more fiction for adults (since I am one and my job title is "adult services librarian"). I will be adding this to my TBR list!

I don't think I'd ever be able to work in a bookstore (though I'd love it)-too much temptation to buy books. That's why I work in a library instead :) Of course, half the time I check out a book and decide I like it enough to buy it anyway!

Dawn said...

Nice post! I know exactly how you feel about Titles about daughters. Both daughters and apprentices have become very popular!

This cover feels familiar. I think I may have looked at it in a bookstore once, but I fear I must have had the same knee-jerk reaction that you did and walked away from it. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Actually this is funny becuse I help at my local library and someone was checking this book out I didn't even know we had this book and I'm normally good on the up and up of what YA books we have (unless it wasn't YA in which case that makes sense)

The Compulsive Reader said...

Christina: The library is my best friend right now, believe me.