Adventures of an Independent Bookseller

August 25, 2014 at 11:52 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

kings-englishTitle: The King’s English
Author: Betsy Burton
Publisher: Gibbs Smith
Genre: Books on Books
Length: 302 pages

In 1977, Betsy Burton opened a little independent bookstore in Salt Lake City, Utah. The rest is history, captured elegantly and passionately within the pages of The King’s English, a book named after the store it chronicles.

I love books about books and bookstores.  Burton’s passions speak of my own as she details the pleasures of getting the right book into the right hands at the right time.  She breaks up chapters with lists upon lists of must haves for people searching specific genres or moods.  She tells the tale of a store’s life blood, its employees, customers, and ultimately all the people who have made it the world renown establishment it has become.

The store has been molded by dreams, authors, legal battles, and the patrons who have kept walking through the doors.  The book industry, American history, and religious nuances of Utah have shaped what TKE has – through time – chosen to stand and fight for.  It’s been a beautiful life, and to this day it continues through politics, economics, and the ever changing publishing practices.

I loved every minute of it, every word, and I’m a little ashamed to say that a few other titles were put on the back burner for this reading whim when they deserved my full attention.  The experience has been fulfilling and the store has now been added to my places to visit before I die.  Even more fulfilling would be to see one of my own books perched on their shelves, knowing what great care they go into selecting their inventory.

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Now Available for Purchase!

October 22, 2013 at 2:33 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , )

Now Available for Purchase!

A dear friend of mine just got his first book published!

Teres by Gershom Wetzel

back cover Teres

Purchase Here!

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Lost in Morton

June 27, 2013 at 6:42 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

dISTANTTitle: The Distant Hours

Author: Kate Morton

Publisher: Washington Square Press

Length: 562 pages

Kate Morton writes my favorite general fiction sub-genre.  Did you grow up reading Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and the Mysteries of Udolpho? Just before your reading level allowed the immersion into those worlds were you held captive by The Secret Garden, gothic ghost stories, and possibly some Anne Shirley who was a hopeless book-nerd and romantic?  Kate Morton writes these tales, all grown up and contemporary.  And they put me out of commission from line one until completion.

I have loved every story I’ve read by Morton. They are each one incredible and amazing, riveting and beautiful.

The Distant Hours was no different.

Except I figured it out far too soon.

I spread a lot of work out by authors to keep this from happening.  I have a rule about Morton, that I must give at least a 12 month break between books (which works out well because she takes just the right amount of time to write them and makes this not only possible but necessary).  This rule also keeps my husband sane, as I get completely lost in Morton and am completely gone from this world until her stories have ended; and even when they end, I have a nostalgic resignation that is hard to kick.

Morton’s layers are deep and onion-like, piece after piece of the puzzle is laid out for you over the course of the book.  Always leading up to the moment when you are presented with the facts of the matter, revealed to you with a shudder of lovely understanding of everything all at once.

But I figured out The Distant Hours too soon, I think around the the two hundred page mark or so rather than the typical five hundred mark.  Of course, I still had to read every word after my realization to be sure I was correct.  I half expected her to shake me up a bit, and she tried! But in the end, I was right!

I still LOVED this book.  It is highly recommended to any gothic loving book fiend, or even World War II reader… if you love castles, are a British bibliophile, or just plain love a good story about people.  I recommend ALL Kate Morton books.  If I could write half as well, I’d consider myself a success!

I just also had to note that this being the third book I’ve read by her, I felt like I figured her out.  Still, looking forward to The Secret Keeper.

Kate Morton Blog Pic

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So Many Books

November 6, 2012 at 11:49 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Title: So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading

Author: Sara Nelson

Publisher: Putnam

Length: 242 pages

Ironically, when I find myself so overwhelmed by my mountainous TBR pile I become crippled and damn near illiterate, I find that the perfect cure is a book about books.  More specifically, a book with lots of lists and descriptions and lengthy lamenting of how many books there are in the world that are begging my attention.  So my latest reading slump (if anyone but me were keeping tabs, they’d see I only read two books – other than children’s books – in the whole of October) I picked up a copy of Sara Nelson’s quasi-memoir  detailing a year in the life of a professional book reviewer.

It’s short and sweet, and has a lovely methodical layout.  Each chapter is dated, and dedicated to a week of time (I am assuming, as the whole purpose of the project was to read a book a week and write a bit on her life as she read said book, but I didn’t count the chapters and they are un-numbered).  It was a pleasant read, I enjoyed the simplicity and quickness of it.  But it also made me think, I found myself journaling after I finished every chapter.

She has a little segment on Then & Now, discussing the great reads of her adolescence and what she thought the first time she read it versus how she feels as a grown up and I found myself solidifying my plan to have my kiddo journal and document her own reading experiences throughout childhood to remember the titles and authors as well as her true feelings on the subject matter.  Of course, we’ll keep it age appropriate, at first she will only be able to summarize briefly, but then she’ll have proof of the process of change and growth as a literary being.  I’ve journaled my whole life, but not always with purpose.  Purpose is a delightful thing to have.  The ability to later compare your thoughts and feelings about literary ventures with such clarity would be such a treasure.

The chapter reminded me of my re-reading of The Great Gatsby earlier this year, and how much I truly enjoyed it.  It reminded me of a need to re-read Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, which I always hated, but feel I was just too immature and boisterous to care about a man fishing.  Typically, my Then & Nows are quite vague, but with all this recent documentation of my reading life, I’ll have a better view of my lit-brain when I’m 80.

But above all, the chapter reminded me that there is value in my re-reading.  Often, my TBR pile is so high, I feel guilty when compelled to read something I have already read.  Should I really be doing this? I wonder.  I know Persuasion nearly by heart, shouldn’t I be tackling Bauer’s Ancient History, a book I’ve been slowly pecking through, and loving it, for almost a year and a half now.  Shouldn’t I be immersed in George MacDonald’s Lilith, a book I’ve had for ages, but keep only relishing in the first chapter and never moving on – over and over again?  The list goes on.  And yes, there is a physical list in my own writing, with not nearly enough checked off titles because I continually pick up others.

Then Sara Nelson says, “If you want to make the book god laugh, show him your reading list.”  I nearly died.  YES!  However, every so many weeks, I find myself sitting down to write a new one anyway.  I find them therapeutic, refreshing, even mysterious as I tend to write them haphazardly allowing my subconscious to take over and just see what spilled out of the ink pen next.  What has been hiding in the recesses of my bookshelf that my brain remembers is calling my name?  I think that’s why book lovers revel in their lifestyle so much.  Whether they care a lick about the mystery genre, every book lover enjoys a good mystery.

Being a patron of libraries and used bookstores, I often find myself in the middle of a mystery.  Whether it be a random scribble in the margins: Secret meeting in the place at 8, password candles, or some such nonsense, highlighting or dog-eared pages, when a book shares owners all sorts of questions arise.  Most specifically, for me, I often find stashed bookmarks in the books I read.  Sometimes at the start of a chapter, or in the middle of randomness where someone either wanted to savor a line or simply gave up reading the book; sometimes it’s a receipt or a thank you note, birthday cards, and even checks… things people stashed and forgot about, or possibly the item just slid into the pages when the book was stashed into a purse or bag.  I often wonder which of these is the story for whatever scrap I find.

SMB,SLT had a small post-it stuck between pages 54 and 55, the beginning of February 27th, chapter: The Clean Plate Book Club.  Did they run out of time and have to turn a nearly over due book back into the library? Did they give up because they hated it? Or give up out of principle, because the chapter is about seasoned readers having the power to give up on a book if they aren’t interested in it, wanting to prove something to themselves?  Did they simply mark the chapter because the ideas within its pages spoke to them?  We may never know.  It keeps the mind reeling, though.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea that mature readers, seasoned readers, are the only ones who can give up on a book part way.  Nelson describes it as a reader’s rite of passage.

“Allowing yourself to stop reading a  book –  at page 25, 50, or even less frequently, a few chapters from the end – is […] the literary equivalent of a bar mitzvah or a communion, the moment at which you look at yourself and announce: Today I am an adult.  I can make my own decisions.”

Funny, I always thought of it as something slackers do in high school.  Post motherhood, I thought it was something I did because I killed brain cells while being pregnant and having a baby.  Quitting kills me every time, but there are times that I feel compelled to do it, mostly because I either plan to finish it when I’m in a different mood, or I discover the author is what Paul Collins would describe as someone who writes ‘unequivocal crap.’

It seems, then, I am a late bloomer in, yes, even reading.  I thought at least I had escaped that title in one thing in life, having been a very early reader.  But apparently not.

The most interesting chapter for me, though, where I might leave a small post-it myself, is March 15th: Eating Crows.  It’s all about recommending books to friends and how it can possibly damage the friendship.  What if one likes it and the other doesn’t? What does this say about each person? How does this new information you have gathered about your so-called friend change the friend dynamic.

This is where I found myself saying, ‘Oh, hell.’  I’ve been around book nerds, book people, bookstore staff, customers, friends, family, the whole shebang, and this is the first I’ve heard about this dilemma.  I recommend books to people all day, every day.  It’s my favorite thing to do.  If I recommend a book it is because I either liked it, or I truly think you may like it.  May is a big word in this sentence.  If you don’t like it, that’s your own business, but I’d love to discuss why and learn more about the world around me.  It isn’t going to make me not want to be friends with you, that’s just shallow and dumb… even though I may secretly think that what you read is shallow and dumb, I know that somewhere someone is thinking the same thing about what I read – so why should it matter?

The next chapter about borrowing or loaning books is also silly to me.  I don’t loan it if I’m not ok with not getting it back – usually.  If that’s not the case, then I’ll tell you PLEASE PLEASE GET THIS BACK TO ME one day, and that only happens with someone who has already established a good track record.  If I don’t say that, you may bring it back, or just consider it a gift if you fall in love with it.  I don’t care.  I have plenty of books, and multiple copies of some of my favorites.  A book will not ruin our friendship unless you write one about me that is awful, spilling the beans that you’ve actually hated me all these years but haven’t said so because… Then, we might have issues.  That hasn’t happened to me, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.  And no, I don’t have anyone in mind, I’m just used to being surprised by what people think of me.

All in all, Nelson you served your purpose.  I have a new list of titles to tackle, nothing you mentioned in your book because we have entirely different reading tastes.  That’s not true.  They are similar in the way a Venn diagram is similar.  Not a Venn diagram, more like if there are four quadrants of reading (I, II, III, and IV), and I & II are two different kinds of book snobs and III & IV are polar opposites of I & II who read varying kinds of ‘unequivocal crap’, we are readers I & II.  Still, we may not have the same, identical tastes, and in real life you would probably never want to be my friend, but I enjoyed your book and it has made me voracious for the piles and piles on my own shelves again.

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On Writing, a Review (of King’s Craft)

December 14, 2011 at 3:42 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Title: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Author: Stephen King

Paperback Publisher: Pocket Books

Genre: Non-fiction, Memoirs, Writing Guides

Length: 291 pages

My mother saw me reading Stephen King’s On Writing and scowled at me.  “That man is so weird, I don’t know why you would want to read any of his crap.”  Says the woman who may or may not have read one of his books.  Admittedly, I don’t read much of his stuff.  I couldn’t really get into Gunslinger, but I loved Low Men in Yellow Coats from Hearts in Atlantis.  I have no desire to read most things published in the horror genre, but On Writing isn’t horror, its not even fiction, it’s an amazing memoir and guidebook to how The King’s mind really works.

On Writing is solid advice from a successful writer to anyone who has ever dreamed of being a storyteller.  King is entertaining, down to earth, and extremely informative.  He is passionate about his work, and despite many blunt criticisms about typical writing flaws, he offers sound wisdom to budding authors.

I found reading On Writing highly motivating.  I’ve always been an avid reader, and I’ve always loved to journal and write tidbits of stories that come to me.  But reading this really got me in a dedicated routine.  I’d start my day off with a little advice from the master of fiction, write the recommended 2000 words for the day, and then pick up some handy little piece of fiction that took my fancy and read until my daughter woke up from her nap.

Since reading On Writing, I’ve got myself on a more solid path to finishing a complete draft of my novel than ever.  King doesn’t offer any kind of magic fix for suddenly getting published; he just reminds you that you already have the tools to do the job.  He gives you the confidence to press on and keep writing because you love it, not because someone told you to try to make some money at it once upon a time.

King encourages every writer to keep what he calls a writer’s toolbox.  In that box he includes the Elements of Style by Strunk, but I think you’d be remiss not to include On Writing in that toolbox as well.

Buy Here: http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=anakawhims-20&o=1&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&ref=ss_til&asins=1439156816

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