Friday, May 18, 2018

Mystery to Me

Bookstore: Mystery to Me

Location: Near West Side of Madison, Wisconsin

Why I Love Them: Who ever thought that the murder mystery reader's paradise, Booked for Murder, would ever find new life as Mystery to Me? During Booked for Murder's years off University Avenue it felt like every time you went in there was a new owner. In fact at one time my mom really wanted to be the owner but thankfully we talked her out of it. Some of the owners were more adept at handling their customers and authors, I would be remiss if I didn't give a special shout-out to Terri Bischoff at this point, thanks to her I got to meet Charlaine Harris! But almost five years ago now the revolving door stopped on Joanne Berg who took the forward thinking approach of renaming the bookstore Mystery to Me (there were royalty payments with the old name that no one in their right mind should have paid) and moving the store onto Monroe Street, giving it a more community vibe. The first time I visited I was skeptical of the store's success, having seen so many owners come and go over the years I wasn't sold on the same stock in a new location and as for those bright green walls... Thankfully I have been proven wrong, and come to really like that shade of green. They are really committed to offering wonderful authors, last year I felt like I was there weekly. But more than that, it's just such a welcoming environment, they have become a part of the neighborhood in a way Booked for Murder never was. Here's to the next five years!

Best Buy: As for my best buy... this is a little different in that the event was not onsite and was run by the Wisconsin Book Festival with Mystery to Me selling books at the event. But it's TOO good a story to pass up... though my story about Tasha Alexander's event with Margaret George in the audience is a great one too and that one was onsite. Back to my initial story. So the big author for the Wisconsin Book Festival last year was Alexander McCall Smith. I was determined to go because years earlier I was sick when he came to speak at Borders so I missed him and since then my mom had christened his 44 Scotland Street series as the best book series ever written, a fact I made sure to mention to him. Therefore while he was there to promote the new book in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series I had one book I wanted to buy, the newest 44 Scotland Street book, The Bertie Project. So I went up to the Mystery to Me table and was warmly greeted, they'd been seeing me a lot over the course of the book festival, and picked up one of their two copies of The Bertie Project. Now as it happens, when Alexander McCall Smith took to the podium he asked if anyone in the audience had a copy of The Bertie Project because he wanted to read from it. I leapt from my seat and handed him my newly purchased book. At the end of the talk he asked me to step forward, once again in front of this huge crowd, and he signed my book to me. So while I may have many events to attend at Mystery to Me in the future, as well as many awesome books to buy, I literally can not believe a find from Independent Bookstore Day, THIS will be the memory I cherish most.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Barnes & Noble East

Bookstore: Barnes and Noble East

Location: East Side of Madison, Wisconsin

Why I Love Them: I'm not quite sure when the Barnes and Noble higher-ups decided that the east side of Madison needed some book love, probably around the same time the Waldenbooks in East Towne Mall closed, but in 2004 a new Barnes and Noble opened in Madison. Much smaller than it's west side counterpart and having the disadvantage of being attached to the food court of East Towne Mall, it has still found a place in my heart over the years. Beyond the parking lot nightmare, the echoing noises and smells from the food court, this Barnes and Noble has a different vibe. While the stock is condensed due to size restrictions, whomever is responsible for the culling has somehow curated sections better than the west side location despite them having more room. In particular the sales section and the science fiction and fantasy section are top notch. They almost always have exactly what you are looking for, and back when I was desperate to fill out my Terry Pratchett paperback collection I turned to this Barnes and Noble and was very successful. At this point my brother would say I am being remiss if I didn't mention their CDs and DVDs. Their selection is spot on, I seriously don't know if this store just has better buyers, but if there's something rare and unique you are looking for you are sure to find it here.    

Best Buy: But what I feel really sets this Barnes and Noble apart from it's west side counterpart is their signed books. I don't know how they get so many in! I know that Barnes and Noble as an organization has been trying to get more customers through signed edition but these are usually only available online so to find them in-store, to just stumble across them, it makes my book loving heart pitter-patter with glee. They always have a plethora of Patrick Rothfuss, seeing as he lives up in Stevens Point and this Barnes and Noble is right off the interstate north it makes sense. But he isn't my best buy, that would be Blood and Beauty: A Novel About the Borgias signed by the author, Sarah Dunant. While I will wax lyrical later on about my love of Sarah Dunant and another Barnes and Noble in New York City, I still must provide a little context as to why this is my best buy. Back in 2005 I read Sarah Dunant's The Birth of Venus and something inside me clicked. I had always liked the concept of historical fiction, but I had never found a book that I instantly loved, until The Birth of Venus. If not for this book I would have probably given up on the genre and never found my favorite authors, from Lauren Willig to Tasha Alexander. I had been needing to buy Dunant's newest book, Blood and Beauty for awhile, and months after it's release I felt really bad about not supporting a favorite author, and then, there in Barnes and Noble was a signed copy. The reasons for dragging my feet were clear, I was meant to find this signed edition and add it to my library! Thank you Barnes and Noble! 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Tuesday Tomorrow

Fall of Angels by Barbara Cleverly
Published by: Soho Crime
Publication Date: May 15th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Barbara Cleverly, bestselling author of the Joe Sandilands series, introduces an ingenious new sleuth who navigates 1920s Cambridge, a European intellectual capital on the cusp of dramatic change.

England 1923: Detective Inspector John Redfyre is a godsend to the Cambridge CID. The ancient university city is at war with itself: town versus gown, male versus female, press versus the police force and everyone versus the undergraduates. Redfyre, young, handsome and capable, is a survivor of the Great War. Born and raised among the city’s colleges, he has access to the educated √©lite who run these institutions, a society previously deemed impenetrable by local law enforcement.

When Redfyre’s Aunt Hetty hands him a front-row ticket to the year’s St. Barnabas College Christmas concert, he is looking forward to a right merrie yuletide noyse from a trumpet soloist, accompanied by the organ. He is intrigued to find that the trumpet player is—scandalously—a young woman. And Juno Proudfoot is a beautiful and talented one at that. Such choice of a performer is unacceptable in conservative academic circles.

Redfyre finds himself anxious throughout a performance in which Juno charms and captivates her audience, and his unease proves well founded when she tumbles headlong down a staircase after curtainfall. He finds evidence that someone carefully planned her death. Has her showing provoked a dangerous, vengeful woman-hater to take action?

When more Cambridge women are murdered, Redfyre realizes that some of his dearest friends and his family may become targets, and—equally alarmingly—that the killer might be within his own close circle."

Yeah, yeah, a new Barbara Cleverly... personally I'm all in this for 20s England!

The Plastic Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
Published by: 47North
Publication Date: May 15th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 236 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Alvie Brechenmacher has arrived in London to begin her training in Polymaking—the magical discipline of bespelling plastic. Polymaking is the newest form of magic, and in a field where there is so much left to learn, every Polymaker dreams of making the next big discovery.

Even though she is only an apprentice, Alvie is an inventor at heart, and she is determined to make as many discoveries—in as short a time frame—as she can. Luckily for her, she’s studying under the world-renowned magician Marion Praff, who is just as dedicated as Alvie is.

Alvie’s enthusiasm reinvigorates her mentor’s work, and together they create a device that could forever change Polymaking—and the world. But when a rival learns of their plans, he conspires to steal their invention and take the credit for it himself.

To thwart him, Alvie will need to think one step ahead. For in the high-stakes world of magical discovery, not everyone plays fair..."

I need to fill the void left my The Magicians... I hope this does the trick!

The Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall
Published by: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 15th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The finale you've all been waiting for: The Penderwicks at Last is the final, flawless installment in the modern classic series from National Book Award winner and New York Times bestselling author Jeanne Birdsall!

Nine years, five older siblings, a few beloved dogs, and an endless array of adventures--these are the things that have shaped Lydia's journey since readers first met her in The Penderwicks in Spring.

Now it's summertime, and eleven-year-old Lydia is dancing at the bus stop, waiting for big sister Batty to get home from college.

This is a very important dance and a very important wait because the two youngest sisters are about to arrive home to find out that the Penderwicks will all be returning to Arundel this summer, the place where it all began. And better still is the occasion: a good old-fashioned, homemade-by-Penderwicks wedding.

Bursting with heart and brimming with charm, this is a joyful, hilarious ode to the family we love best. And oh my MOPS--Meeting of Penderwick Siblings--does Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks at Last crescendo to one perfect Penderwick finale."

The end, sniff sniff. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Barnes & Noble West

Bookstore: Barnes and Noble West

Location: West Side of Madison, Wisconsin

Why I Love Them: While Borders had opened in Madison four years earlier, RIP Borders, the opening of Barnes and Noble seemed like a far bigger deal. Or maybe because 1996 was when I officially came out of my cocoon emerging as the a book worm I was destined to be and therefore I greeted this store's opening with outstretched arms waiting to be filled with all they had to offer. There were literally weeks of events leading up to the official opening and because my mother was a school librarian I was lucky enough to tag along with her before the store actually opened to the public. The size of the store was mind-boggling to me. I'd never been in a bookstore before with TWO levels. There was so much my mind couldn't take it all in, I didn't know where to even start. But over the years since then I have spent so many delightful hours in the company of friends in this store, both real and those found between the pages of a book. As for all the Harry Potter midnight releases? Cherished memories! I still have my original and battered Barnes and Noble membership from the very first month they started the program in 2001. While you might think that supporting a chain is not as noble as supporting an independent store, keep in mind, these stores are in just as much jeopardy and in my mind, there's plenty of book buying I need to do in my life so I'm happy to spread it around.  

Best Buy: And as for my best buy... now this is a VERY unique one. For as long as I can remember EVERYONE in my family has been a fan of Edward Gorey. Whether it was because of his intricately detailed sets from Mystery! to his darkly humorous books we have always loved his work. Even to the point that I was personally willing to wear white t-shirts because they had his work on it, and it takes a lot for a girl to be willing to wear white, let me tell you! When Barnes and Noble had their big opening they had some unique limited edition items for sale. While I was initially drawn to everything Michael Crichton, from hardcovers to a very fetching omnibus, my gaze finally landed on this rather large box that claimed to be Dracula: The Definitive Edition Signed by Edward Gorey. As it turns out Barnes and Noble had partnered with Gorey to take his designs from the 1977 stage adaptation of Dracula starring Frank Langella as the Count and made a very nice edition of the book. Though of these editions 750 were signed by Gorey. This was one of them! This was signed by EDWARD GOREY! Yes, at $100 it was rather pricey, but to me it was and is priceless. All I knew was that I would have something he had touched and that filled me with glee. I didn't notice until I got it home that the gorgeous black tray that could be tied shut with an equally black ribbon didn't include just the book. There was also a signed lithograph! Mina looking like she'd just stepped out of the opening credits of Mystery! One day I will have to get that lithograph framed, until then I will covet it with the tenacity of a dragon with her treasure.  

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Half Price Books East

Bookstore: Half Price Books East

Location: East Side of Madison, Wisconsin

Why I Love Them: The Half Price Books on the East side of Madison has an entirely different vibe from the West side location. Yes, it has the same brown shelving and the plethora of odd British editions that occasionally filter into these stores, but it has something that the West location doesn't have, proximity to Maple Bluff. If you're a local you are probably nodding your head sagely and realizing that I speak the truth, but if you aren't you're asking yourself what is Maple Bluff and why would that impact a bookstore? Maple Bluff is a tiny little village on the shores of Lake Mendota that is a suburb of Madison. But it is a tony suburb. All the houses on the lakefront are millions of dollars. It's where the Govenor's mansion is, where Chris Farley grew up, and the chichi country club is located. In other words, it's the place where when you're little your parents drive you around to show you the really big houses you will probably never set foot in. These houses are peopled with individuals who subscribe to Easton Press and The Folio Society, and then, when they don't need or want these beautiful editions, they sell them, to the nearest Half Price Books. Oh, the limited editions you can find there. The times I've drooled over books so special they are behind glass. In fact most books that would be behind glass at other stores are just out in the open here, because that's the inventory they stock. Writing this is making me realize I haven't been there since January and who knows what might have come in! In fact, I think I might go there today!

Best Buy: But there will always be one day I will forever hold in my memory as magical. A day on which I had thankfully just been paid because I literally spent my entire paycheck. I was on the east side with my friend Matt. We'd often hit the restaurants on that side of town for dinner because the franchises are different than on the west side due to interstate traffic. It was an unwritten rule that no matter where we ate we ALWAYS went to the bookstore afterward. A few years earlier The New York Public Library had issued these beautiful hardcover collector's editions that I coveted. I remember seeing them at Borders and being jealous when my friend Huyen bought their copy of Mansfield Park. Eventually I noticed that you didn't see them anywhere anymore and I worried that I had missed my chance. But that only meant my hunt moved onto used bookstores. I remember the thrill as I spotted Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre that evening after dinner. My eyes quickly scanned to the left and there was Mansfield Park! I couldn't believe my luck. But then my mind started reeling... if they had two might they have more? By this point I had memorized all the books in the set and I scrambled through the fiction section. They had Alcott, Cather, Chekhov, Conrad, Dickens, Dickinson, Drieser, Hardy, de Laclos, Lawrence, and Wharton! As I jumped from C to D to H, all within sight of each other my arms became more and more burdened. But it was a burden of joy. Matt came over and saw me and rolled his eyes. He knew me too well to try to interrupt such a book buying experience. The ONLY downside is that they didn't have Frankenstein... but I still look and one day I WILL find. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Tuesday Tomorrow

The World of All Souls by Deborah Harkness
Published by: Viking
Publication Date: May 8th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 496 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A Discovery of Witches introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. Shadow of Night and The Book of Life carried Deborah Harkness's series to its spellbinding conclusion.

In The World of All Souls, Harkness shares the rich sources of inspiration behind her bewitching novels. She draws together synopses, character bios, maps, recipes, and even the science behind creatures, magic, and alchemy--all with her signature historian's touch. Bursting with fascinating facts and dazzling artwork, this essential handbook is a must-have for longtime fans and eager newcomers alike."

It's called Deborah Harkness is going all Outlander on us!

Lumberjanes: The Moon is Up by Mariko Tamaki
Published by: Amulet Books
Publication Date: May 8th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 208 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Welcome to Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. The five scouts of Roanoke cabin—Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley—love their summers at camp. They get to hang out with their best friends, earn Lumberjane scout badges, annoy their no-nonsense counselor Jen...and go on supernatural adventures. That last one? A pretty normal occurrence at Miss Qiunzella’s, where the woods contain endless mysteries.

As the camp gears up for the big Galaxy Wars competition, Jo and the gang get some help from an unexpected visitor—a Moon Pirate!

Book Two will focus on Jo, the ingenious inventor of the group who also happens to be trans."

Does anyone else find the labeling of Jo a little against the vibe of the comics. They are what they are and that's why we love them... perhaps it was the marketing department trying to be woke. 

On the Road and Off the Record with Leonard Bernstein by Charlie Harmon
Published by: Imagine
Publication Date: May 8th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A celebratory, intimate, and detailed look at the public and private life of Leonard Bernstein written by his former assistant. Foreword by Broadway legend Harold Prince.

Leonard Bernstein reeked of cheap cologne and obviously hadn't showered, shaved, or slept in a while. Was he drunk to boot? He greeted his new assistant with "What are you drinking?" Yes, he was drunk.

Charlie Harmon was hired to manage the day-to-day parts of Bernstein's life. There was one additional responsibility: make sure Bernstein met the deadline for an opera commission. But things kept getting in the way: the centenary of Igor Stravinsky, intestinal parasites picked up in Mexico, teaching all summer in Los Angeles, a baker's dozen of young men, plus depression, exhaustion, insomnia, and cut-throat games of anagrams. Did the opera get written?

For four years, Charlie saw Bernstein every day, as his social director, gatekeeper, valet, music copyist, and itinerant orchestra librarian. He packed (and unpacked) Bernstein's umpteen pieces of luggage, got the Maestro to his concerts, kept him occupied changing planes in Zurich, Anchorage, Tokyo, or Madrid, and learned how to make small talk with mayors, ambassadors, a chancellor, a queen, and a Hollywood legend or two. How could anyone absorb all those people and places? Because there was music: late-night piano duets, or the Maestro's command to accompany an audition, or, by the way, the greatest orchestras in the world. Charlie did it, and this is what it was like, told for the first time."

For my brother!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Half Price Books West

Bookstore: Half Price Books West

Location: Near West Side of Madison, Wisconsin

Why I Love Them: Half Price Books, despite being a chain, has this aura about it that makes each store feel unique. Even though they use the same building blocks from store to store for shelving and layout they all have a distinct personality. In fact for the stores farther afield in the Chicagoland area I actually gave them all nicknames, and yes, they are named after my favorite finds there or the quality of books... there's one I just call "swanky" because of this gorgeous reading area usually filled with Folio Society Editions. But the two locations in Madison are my hometown favorites, and, if I had to choose my favorite of the two, the location on the West side would win. It's not just that it's closer! Best bookstores are never chosen by convenience they have to earn that right! So why is the West location better? They have a faster turnover rate, getting new books in almost daily, their collectible books at the front of the store have drool worthy editions that I covet, and the random British editions are a delight whenever I find them. Also with the addition of new releases being available starting a few years ago there is almost no reason to go to other bookstores. Though I will note that which most people do not know, authors don't get royalties on used sales, so please, buy new when you can because we need to support our authors. For me what I look for at used bookstores are specific editions that are out of print or authors who are hard to find stateside, and for that, nothing can beat my Half Price Books. 

Best Buy: As for my best buy? A little history if you will indulge me... when I was younger I read and fell in love with Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca. It instantly became one of my most favorite books ever. I even used it on that recent seven days seven books meme that was going around Facebook. Obviously I wanted to read more of her work but stateside all I could find was copy of Jamaica Inn with an amazingly tacky purple cover at B. Dalton Booksellers, Westgate Mall FYI. Though in fairness it was A LOT better than the tacky red cover of Rebecca with it's "R" in a really bad font. A few years went past and I found a copy of My Cousin Rachel and I could find no more. Therefore I assumed that she only wrote three books. People in the United States NEED TO KNOW that Daphne Du Maurier DID NOT write only three books! She wrote twenty-eight fiction and nine nonfiction books and new editions of her short stories are coming out all the time because previously unknown stories keep getting discovered! So that makes A TON of books that I didn't know about when I walked into Half Price Books one day. This was before their recent reorganization so fiction wasn't in the back of the store but right in the front on your right as you entered. And there, properly shelved under the "D's" were all these books by Daphne Du Maurier. I couldn't believe she had written so many! I grabbed the lot and when I got home and showed my mom she too couldn't believe that she had written so many and that I had found them. Over the years at other Half Price locations I have found the few missing Virago editions that I've needed. I still have eleven to go, but I'm sure they'll one day join the twenty I already have!   

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Frugal Muse

Bookstore: Frugal Muse

Location: Far West Side of Madison, Wisconsin

Why I Love Them: Frugal Muse is the store that made me fall in love with bookstores. Not the generic gridded out box stores like a Barnes and Noble or a Borders, but a store with nooks and crannies, where at any turn you might find yourself transported to another world. The original location was a converted video store and felt like it went back for miles and miles. There was a lovely shortcut from the biographies to the mysteries that created a blind spot and you felt yourself lost to the outside world. Round about the history section there was another lovely nook that you could tuck yourself away in for hours. When my mother, Marian the librarian, was in the process of expanding the library for the school she worked for not a week went by without us stopping in to see what new books had arrived. Frugal Muse has always gotten a handful of new books to put on display near the front of the store, but it's the hunting of rare used books that really warms the cockles of my heart. A few years back now they moved to a newer location which is less magical, but if you look you can still find areas to hide it, I particularly like the mystery section, and who knew the magical nook in the history section was movable? Because, there it still is. In a different place, but just as wonderful. 

Best Buy: As for my "best buy" I realized it was actually an easy answer, my Penguin Numbered Trollopes! Back in the early oughts there were two wonderful Anthony Trollope miniseries produced, The Way We Live Now and He Knew He Was Right, which lead me down a rabbit hole to The Pallisers and so much more. The problem with Trollope as a writer was that stateside his books weren't easy to find. I remember watching an episode of Black Books and Manny just calling up their distributor and asking for the complete set of Trollope. If only it was that easy! I couldn't call anyone to get these books and therefore when I discovered their existence the hunt began. The Penguin Numbered Trollope consists of fifty-two books, of which I'm still missing twelve (2, 4, 6, 7, 17, 18, 22, 30, 32, 37, 43, and 45 if you're interested.) But a large chunk of these came from a one day purchase at Frugal Muse. I came into their old location and wandered back to the fiction section near the bathrooms and right there on the shelf were ALL these Trollope books, beautiful and orange and numbered. I cumbersomely took them up to the register and one of the two owners, who are just wonderful by the way, gave me an extra 15% off because I was taking the whole set off their hands. I LONG for a book buying high like I achieved that day to happen again and there's every chance that it will be at Frugal Muse.

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