Title: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Books about books and bookstores… it’s my achilles heel. It’s the thing I cannot live without. It’s absurd how these things find me.
A.J. Fikry soothed my soul when I was too tired to appreciate much in the world of anything involving humans or words or life… yet, the book is all about humans living with words. It’s lovely. After a depressive hiatus that resulted in me binge watching The Flash, A.J. Fiery got me reading again.
The romance of reading is simply one of my all time favorite topics. I suppose because it’s the only romance I truly trust. The books will not abandon you. Books are sturdy. And more than anything, they are one sided and require little from you to continue to exist and offer you their best. A book does not cease giving you all it has to offer just because you are in a bad mood – or emotionally unavailable. A book loves you back no matter what. A book won’t surprise you when it ends, you can feel it coming as it becomes more weighted in your left than your right. You know on the last page that it will not speak to you again unless you start over. And you always have the option to start over.
A.J. Fikry’s island bookstore is just what the emotional doctor ordered, I plan to repeat the experience often.
I have a cousin I’ve never met. She married my actual cousin that I grew up playing with on a good chunk of our weekends when we were kids – and special holidays – so she’s not really MY cousin, but I have a habit of adopting people that way. My family is weird, he’s the great grandson of my Grandfather’s sister, but I spent more time with their family than a lot of people spend with first cousins. Unfortunately, he flitted away out of state and I haven’t had a chance to spend time with his lovely bride.
She’s been a published author for quite awhile now, longer than I’ve been running this blog, but I had conveniently lodged that information into some lost corner of my brain – until recently, as he and I played Scrabble over Facebook.
Anjali Banerjee is the lovely woman my awesome cousin chose to spend the rest of his life with and I’m so pleased to finally read one of her books. While reading Haunting Jasmine, I felt like perhaps we were kindred spirits, as we have both written about bookstores, and clearly have a mutual passion for the written word.
She’s just way better at using those words than I am!
Author: Anjali Banerjee
Genre: Women’s Fiction
If you’re in the mood for a haunted bookshop, a fabulous Indian aunt, a god hanging out with Dr. Seuss, Jane Austen, Beatrix Potter, and a number of other ghosts – then you might need to find yourself a copy of Haunting Jasmine. Set in the north west, there’s a nice bit of ocean, some chilly weather, rain, hot tea, and a divorcee you might want to spend a day with in Seattle.
The writing is easy to get into, and she made lucky choice to use the word wafted – we all know how much I love that word, I think.
There’s a bit of a romance, but nothing too over the top to actually place it in the romance genre – it’s more about Jasmine and her journey to understanding herself and the nature of her aunt’s shop.
It’s definitely worth a bubble bath or day off, and I’m not just saying that because I’m biased. 🙂
The Bookshop Hotel has a new face! And back. And inside for that matter. It’s been re-edited and fine tuned and re-published by the marvelous Grey Gecko Press.
And right now, you may download this updated version for FREE: http://store.greygeckopress.com/products/the-bookshop-hotel
Sometimes a girl just feels the need to read some check-lit. I read two novels this week that I think fit the bill – one more Anne Tyler – esque and the other a little more Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus.
Title: A Scattered Life
Author: Karen McQuestion
Genre: Women’s Fiction
A Scattered Life embraces the art of telling a story from three different women’s viewpoints. When done well, this is a nice way to allow things to unfold like an onion but still maintain a linear storyline. McQuestion does it well. Time your reading to finish the book right before bed so you can sleep after, because you’ll feel like you’ve lived three lives all at once when you turn the last page; it won’t exhaust you, it’s just nice to immediately fall into a slumber after living so much. McQuestion writes for young adults as well, and I’m looking forward to see what she has to offer when she crosses genres.
Title: Vanity Fare
Book references, pastries, coffee… umm, yeah that’s right up my alley. Except there’s definitely a romance novel chronology to the book that distracted me from my book envy, pastry drooling, and coffee binging. (Ironic, I know, as I am the author of The Bookshop Hotel and the characters totally tried to get romancey on me while I put them to paper.) All in all, good stuff. It’s something I will definitely recommend to lit-snobs who need a break from heavy reading and chronic romance readers who are looking for something less pornographic that will gently encourage them to dip into the classics.
This weekend I had three book signings in San Antonio. Each signing was at a Half Price Books location.
When I wasn’t haunting Half Price Books stores selling and signing my own books, however, I found myself being a tourist and stumbled into quiet places like Cheever Books.
So here’s the scoop on Cheever Books…
You might want to spend hours here. Don’t come for a quick peek. Things aren’t organized well, but the experience is magical. If you have the time to go on a treasure hunt you’re bound to find Gabriel Garcia Marquez in three different places within the M’s as opposed to one place in the G’s.
The poetry wall is extensive – and full of short story anthologies. There’s a lot along this wall you won’t find anywhere else though.
If I had had enough money, I would have bought this book. It isn’t common. It was in good condition. It looks exciting.
However, I settled on something more affordable.
I found these hiding underneath a stack of Horatio Hornblower books that I already own. I couldn’t get the whole set, they were roughly $10 a piece, but I did get the one on the far left and I hope to find the others again one day.
Upon any visit you are bound to find three things: a magical gem over priced, a magical gem appropriately priced, and a great book that is neither magical nor appropriately priced. Relish the ambiance and the appropriately priced gem, don’t allow your rose colored lenses to be clouded by the rest. In a book hunter’s world, it is still a marvelous visit.
There’s a review about the owner being “creepy,” but I met two out of the what I believe to be three employees for the company, and both were pleasant. I enjoyed my time in Cheever Books and would readily visit again with cash in hand to spend.
It’s not as clean and easy a shopping experience as what you will have at Good Books in the Woods (where you will find similar treasures at more affordable prices), but it is most excellent. That is not to say it’s dirty either. By “not as clean” I mean that you will find books piled in your path, much of the inventory is peppered along the floors. There are a few dust bunnies, but not nearly what you would expect among such a haphazard collection of books.
So, San Antonio residents who adore Cheever Books – when you visit Houston and you need your book fix, your store is Good Books in the Woods. Houstonians who love Good Books, when in San Antonio, the stores on Broadway are for you. (The Broadway HPB gives our Kirby location a run for its money in the awesome department.)
Title: The Secret of Lost Things
Author: Sheridan Hay
Length: 354 pages
I have a shelf in my house dedicated to what I’d like to call “bookish books.” On this shelf are the likes of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind and first edition copies of Basbanes’ A Gentle Madness and Patience and Fortitude. On this unit Umberto Eco, author of The Name of the Rose, has an entire shelf dedicated only to him. Everything Paul Collins, author of Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books, resides here. This is the corner of my house I go to when I need inspiration, to write, to read, to research and exist in the world I have built for myself. Of course, when I purchased Sheridan Hay’s The Secret of Lost Things, this corner of my house is precisely what I was thinking of, knowing one day this title would fill a void in my academic and readerly drive.
The Secret of Lost Things is a book written in the spirit of A.S. Byatt’s Possession, filled with dark library corners, clues in letters, and missing manuscripts. The difference is, most books of this nature romanticize secrets, portraying the keeping of them as a means to grow closer to others. Hay, on the other hand, presents a scenario closer to the truth: when all is said and done, these secrets cause heartbreak and drive people apart.
I find the character of Rosemary endearing. Instead of being a master secret keeper, like many heroines thrown in the this kind of novel, she is awful at it. Keeping a secret is her kryptonite, but not because she’s a chatty Cathy, just because it is not in her nature to be deceptive or to omit information from people she calls friends. It’s a refreshing take on an often visited theme.
I love reading these kinds of books because they always give me lists of things to tackle, information to seek out, as well as reminders of things I have already enjoyed. In this title alone, I am reminded of The Book of Imaginary Beings. I found mention of this title nostalgic, as it is one of Rosemary’s early purchases from the new bookstore where she works; likewise, I purchased and read this book the first year I worked for Half Price Books. It was a book I carried to lunch breaks at the lingerie store where I was still picking up shifts until I had the heart to break up with the boutique altogether.
After reading this novel I am also inspired to tackle more Melville titles. I have read Moby Dick twice now, but I have Typee, Omoo, and Mardi on the shelf, as well as a biography I have passed over far too many times to read other biographies first. It is virtually impossible to read Hay’s Secret of Lost Things and not want to immediately dive into a Melville binge. If you doubt me, I dare you to try. Come talk to me when you’re done reading.
Exchanges like these are what really do it for me:
“We’re looking for something that’s lost,” he said. “A book that was lost.”
“Well, if it’s lost, and people don’t know it’s lost, what am I supposed to notice?”
“Here, read this book of letters. Just read and tell me when you find something interesting. It’s called research. The idea is that you don’t know what you’ll find until you find it,” he added irritated.
At one point, the character Pearl gives Rosemary a copy of Ovid’s Metamorphosis, a title that repeatedly haunts me in everything I read. Seriously, will every author I love mention this title in every book that moves me until the end of time? I think so. I have a beautiful hardback waiting for me on my coffee table. It has been there for months. It will be there for months still, but I am one step closer to diving in than I was before I read Hay.
So yes, Sheridan Hay’s book is appropriately dubbed one of my bookish books. I have loved it, it shall join it’s literary cousins on my shelf. One day I will take the time to read it again; it is that good. In the mean time, I have research projects to tackle.
Aside from it’s bookish-ness, The Secret of Lost Things is exceptionally well written. I don’t read the backs of books before I read them. That’s especially rewarding when reading books like this where the sensation of experiencing a story the way you do a boat ride occurs… on waves of unexpected tales in motion with the lulls of the story you thought you would get. It’s beautiful and pleasant and especially appropriate in a novel where the author of Moby Dick stands in the forefront. What is equally lovely is that I had this sensation of being on a ship a mere ten pages before the narrator expresses the same sentiment about the setting of the bookshop.
What Rosemary likes about the Arcade is the same thing I first remember liking about Half Price Books when I was hired in 2007. On page 139 Rosemary says, “Well, the Arcade is like the ship to me. You know, people from everywhere, on a great adventure.” When I think of the Arcade, I imagine it to look and feel more like Good Books in the Woods of The Woodlands or The Recycled Bookstore in Denton than my Half Price Books location, but the sentiment is the same.
Note: People who enjoyed Kate Morton‘s The Forgotten Garden and Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale will probably also like this book. They are bookish books that belong on that shelf, but have been squeezed into my general fiction section for lack of space.
If you don’t already, you should really follow Bookshelf Porn on Facebook. Click the image they shared today (Valentine’s 2013) to visit their page.
This summer has been peppered with all sorts of amazing things at Half Price Books in Humble. Temara Moore kicked off our summer with doing a reading and signing of Bloop! Bloop! Goes the Poop! M.G. King came and read and signed copies of The Librarian on the Roof! Fireman Ricky Meehan from the local fire department came to our kick off party – in gear! We had a photography raffle for brides, a martial arts raffle for sports fans and health gurus, and a southern fiction gift basket raffle when Melinda McGuire came to town for her book signing. We were also graced with the presence of Delaney Rhodes and Rhonda Dennis. Last, but certainly not least, Archie has been rocking the acoustic guitar every Friday night all summer.
But as our parents told us and their parents told them, all good things must pass. With August 1st here, the hottest month of the year doesn’t urge on the spirit of summer, but does quite the opposite – it reminds us that Fall is just around the corner. Which means: there are only a few performances left from Archie, and all our summery events are bound to begin to morph into more cozy weather activities.
I love cozy weather activities. Wearing sweaters and boots, hunkering down with a hot cup of joe… sigh.
Needless to say, I am stoked about Fall and the wonderful things we are planning. Stay posted to see what awesome things of Fall will replace our good things from summer; I will keep my blog updated and you can always check out the store’s website.
P.S. If you are a Houston area musician looking for some troubadour experience, shoot me a message.
Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world at various times in Spring to, obviously, honor one’s mother. In the United States, Anna Jarvis founded the day we know now that is celebrated on the second Sunday of May, in 1908. By 1914 it was made a National Holiday. By Jarvis’ death, she was renouncing her own holiday as having become too commercialized.
It is too commercialized. But, who wants to abolish a holiday that celebrates ones mom? No one. Its not like Valentines when you can commit to showing your partner you love them every day of the year. A lot of children (especially adults) don’t live anywhere near their mothers, and this is a good day to (of all days) let them know that you’re still thinking of them even from afar.
My proposal? Untraditional gifts. Token mother’s day gifts come in the form of Hallmark Cards and flowers. That’s all well and good, and if your mother loves those things, by all means, get them for her. But get her something more as well.
Always, I’m a fan of books, afterall I write a book blog. There’s always something special to be found at a bookstore. Whether its the latest and greatest of a beloved series, a funny gift book, a sappy gift book, a history book on a topic of interest that you both share, music, movies, or just a gift card so she can go have some time to herself and pick out something of her own choosing, there’s something for everyone at a bookstore.
For Dads helping small children, a newer (but not too new) overlooked title is Tomie DePaola’s My Mother Is So Smart. DePaola has been an award winning children’s author for years, but even I didn’t know this 2010 publication existed until I stumbled across in the library the other day. Its beautiful, as are all his books, and celebrates the love and awe he had for his mother as a child. Its sweet, and perfect for a young mother to read to her toddler… although I did notice how many things I’ve neglected to master as a mom, like the perfect cookie recipe, and the uncanny ability to always know why my child is crying.
Great Gift #2: I dream of having a cleaning service come through my house once a year. I keep a fairly clean house. I actually enjoy cleaning, when I find the time and energy to clean up blocks and toys that have been strewn everywhere for the 300th time that day. But the idea of having a cleaning crew come in every Spring and scrub my base boards, toilets, showers, and maybe also have my AC ducts cleaned out – that would be the BEST mother’s day gift EVER. (Aside from someone purchasing and installing all my hardwood floors over night without any assistance from me… that would be even better, but a little less practical as a mother’s day gift.) If this awesome treat proved unobtainable, I might settle for lawn fairies to come weed my gardens in the middle of the night.
Great Gift #3: After books and a laziness enabler, I choose Scentsy products. I love candles and fabulous smells, but the wickless candle deal with mood lighting has proven to be the best choice when a toddler is running all over the place. When (I say when NOT if) your kid decides to lather themselves in hot candle wax and try to put every blessed thing you own under wax treatment, you want it to be low heat, no flame, I promise. My favorite spring scents available this year are Pixie and Cerise. The Just Breathe is also quite excellent and one of my year round favorites of all time. But you know your Mom and/or Wife, get what she likes.
Great Gift #4: Reloadable Starbucks gift cards. Who doesn’t practically live at Starbucks, or would if they could? Its become an American staple. Cliche, over-rated, over-priced, I agree, but hey, its pretty darn good coffee available on every street corner, I’ll take it. The reloadable gift cards are pretty sweet. Reload them a few times and you are an upgraded customer with free birthday drinks, free syrup add ons, free cups of coffee with your bean purchases, the list goes on. Buy the mother in your life a gift card and take the time to reload it for her a few times before the year is up and BAM! she is one happy caffeined lady.
Whatever you do, be sure to enjoy the day. Sundays should be lovely days anyway, but I hope one day Ayla will love to spend a lazy Sunday with me, reading, having coffee, or maybe picnicing in the sun if the weather is nice.