Friday, June 22, 2018

Myopic Bookstore

Bookstore: Myopic Bookstore

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Why I Love Them: Whenever I go somewhere I try to find a bookstore nearby to visit. One November I was headed to the Chicago area to go to a Lauren Willig event and the whole day would oddly, aside from Lauren, have been a book bust if not for the Borders on Michigan Avenue having a going out of business sale. Because earlier in the day I had decided to take a chance on a bookstore that everyone raved about but that left me oddly cold. You might be wondering why I would profile a store that didn't bowl me over... well truthfully, I just want to say my two cents on a store that so many people rave about and secondly, all bookstores deserve a second chance and I haven't been there a second time and everyone in this day and age needs to support brick and mortar stores. Let's get to the point, I'm talking about Myopic Bookstore. Myopic looks exactly like what you'd expect a used bookstore in Chicago to look like. The "L" is right behind the store and creates that clackity whooshing sound that is the lifeblood of the city. The building is old and the top two stories have a wonderful bay window. But inside the store feels tenuous. Some landings feel as if they'd collapse with too much weight on them. Ceilings are occasionally really low as you look through old crates that have been lashed together to create shelving. As for the basement? The least said the better, although it could easily have been in The Silence of the Lambs. But for all that, they had great marketing graphics, and for that I'm willing to forgive a lot.

Best Buy: For all it's rickety and temporary feel, some sections felt homey, like there was a glow about them, most likely from the 80s desk lamps strapped to shelves so you could see. It was in one of these comfortable nooks that I found my best buy: a few Angela Thirkell books. Now most people probably don't know her, but to those of use who crave things to be even more British in our lives, she is a comfort read. Anthony Trollope wrote a series of books set in Barsetshire. They were famous, loved, and memorable, and not just because of the miniseries starring Alan Rickman. Though Alan Rickman is sheer perfection so you should check out The Barchester Chronicles as soon as you can. In the 1930s, almost fifty years after Trollope's death, Thirkell started to write books set in Barsetshire. They were contemporary, much like Trollope was in his day. They were funny and satiric, and just lovely, making it no surprise why Virago Press finally got around to republishing many of these classics. This book buying excursion was before Virago got involved. At this time the only editions were pricey copies published by Moyer Bell, the same publishers as Helene Hanff if you're into those kinds of weird facts. In fact many of the editions I found that day at Myopic were never released and don't appear to be in the pipeline at Virago, no matter how many times I email them! So this proves that even in the most odd of stores I can still find a best buy... but in truth, I can always find an excuse to buy a new or new to me book.    

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Amaranth Books

Bookstore: Amaranth Books

Location: Evanston, Illinois

Why I Love Them: Amaranth Books is a bookstore I found by accident. I had headed to Evanston for a book signing at the local Barnes and Noble but what really drew me to the area was Bookman's Alley. This labyrinthine bookstore was mentioned in Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife and was, to me, the most memorable part of that book. So I made the pilgrimage and as I looked through the shelves and stepped over the piles of books I heard the owner, Roger Carlson, talking about the time Frank Sinatra hit on his wife. After I went into sensory overload from the sheer number of rooms and artifacts I decided to wander around the neighborhood and saw a Red Mango frozen yogurt shop. My friend Jess had recommended them to me so I went in for a post book binge treat and as I sat eating my pomegranate infused dessert I noticed a small storefront that said Amaranth Books: Used and Rare. I HAD to check it out. The store is very small, only a few aisles wide and not that deep. But for how small they are they have an amazing collection, especially of British authors that are rather hard to find stateside. There's something to be said for small stores that are well curated. Amaranth might not have had the lure of Bookman's Alley, but for all that, I bought more books at Amaranth...     

Best Buy: While I have only been able to get to the store a few times, my first visit was a true book buying success story. I adore P.G. Wodehouse. More than that I adore Overlook Press' amazing hardcover re-releases with the vintage style covers and the stripped endpaper. The problem is they are rather pricey, coupled with how prolific Wodehouse was as a writer, and this can put a serious dent in your wallet. Therefore, aside from the Jeeves and Wooster series which was worth any price, I have attempted to find all the rest of the books at used bookstores. I sometimes am successful, occasionally I have been very successful, but more often than not I strike out. That first day in Amaranth, oh, they had SO MANY of the Wodehouse books I just wanted them all. I NEEDED them all. But I was trying to be good. So I bought only the first Blandings story, Something Fresh, and then went to my book signing and then went home and stewed. I felt that I had just missed a big opportunity. I should have bought all the books they had, but I didn't. I held out hope that when I returned in the future they would still be there. But I knew, in my heart of hearts, they wouldn't be. Ironically when I did return for a book buying spree it was at Bookman's Alley and a local Half Price Books where I found more Wodehouse, because of course Amaranth had sold theirs. But I know that whenever I get the chance to return they will surely have something I need to buy.  

Monday, June 18, 2018

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Long-Lost Home by Maryrose Wood
Published by: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: June 19th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"For fans of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society, here comes the final book in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, the acclaimed and hilarious Victorian mystery series by Maryrose Wood.

Unhappy Penelope Lumley is trapped in unhappy Plinkst! Even the beets for which Plinkst is inexplicably famous fail to grow in this utterly miserable Russian village. Penelope anxiously counts the days and wonders how she will ever get back to England in time to save all the Ashtons—who, she now knows, include herself and the Incorrigible children, although their precise location on the family tree is still a mystery—from their accursèd fate.

Her daring scheme to escape sends her on a wildly unexpected journey. But time is running out, and the not-really-dead Edward Ashton is still on the loose. His mad obsession with the wolfish curse on the Ashtons puts Penelope and the Incorrigibles in dire peril. As Penelope fights her way back to her beloved pupils, the three brave Incorrigibles endure their gloomy new tutor and worriedly prepare for the arrival of Lady Constance’s baby. Little do they know the danger they’re in!

In this action-packed conclusion to the acclaimed series, mysteries are solved and long-lost answers are found. Only one question remains: Will Penelope and the Incorrigibles find a way to undo the family curse in time, or will the next full moon be their last?"

I'm sure there are other books out this week, it's just that none of them caught my eye... or perhaps I have severe tunnel vision because it's finally the last story of the Incorrigibles! Cassa-woof!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Anderson's Bookshop

Bookstore: Anderson's Bookshop

Location: Downers Grove, Illinois

Why I Love Them: Anderson's Bookshop is the Midwest mecca for book buyers wanting to support independent bookstores. The West Coast has Powell's, the South has Murder by the Book, but Illinois, and therefore the Midwest has Anderson's. I only wish it was a tad closer, but then I'd always be broke because they literally have events every night that I want to attend. I believe the first time Anderson's got on my radar was back in 2009 when Philippa Gregory was on tour promoting The White Queen. Why I hadn't heard of them prior is probably because 2009 is when my book addiction really started to go into overdrive and resulted in my starting this blog and as a result I started stalking authors. And stalking authors, I mean supporting them by going to events, means sooner or later you're going to end up at Anderson's Bookshop. They have three locations in the suburbs of Chicago, a new location I have yet to visit in La Grange, an intimate store in Downers Grove where most of the events take place in the Tivoli Theater across the street, and their flagship store that's in Naperville. If you're going to visit their store and not a specific event totally go to the Naperville location, the town is charming and has a lovely river walk. While the store with it's cape code shingles might look like your quintessential small town bookstore, the sheer number of signed volumes inside will make you realize this isn't your normal bookstore.  

Best Buy: Getting to meet so many of my favorite authors over the years, in particular Robin LaFevers who is an all time favorite, means that picking a best buy is extremely hard. But then, in the end, like most things, it's really easy, because I met Jason Segel! I met Jason Freakin' Segel!!! Yes, Marshall from How I Met Your Mother, Nick from Freaks and Geeks, so many of my favorite roles have been brought to life by Jason Segel and I got to meet him! Why? Because he co-wrote a kids book, Nightmares! and was on tour promoting it! He was warm, funny, he even sang! I seriously loved this man from afar so much and meeting him in person made my crush even worse. Because on the darkest night of my life, he was there for me. My cat of 22 years died and I was destroyed. I just sat in front of the TV blankly staring until Jason caught my eye. I watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall and my pain was slightly lessened. I knew my hell wouldn't last forever, much like the hell Jason's character was going through. Who knows, at the end there might even be vampire puppets... I told this story to Jason and he was so kind, and he listened, and seemed to genuinely care, and that made me realize how truly awesome he is. Here's someone who is a star and he cares about his fans, he made sure to not overlook the children in the audience with questions, which so many authors do. Your book Nightmares! isn't just a best buy, it's a cherished memory Jason.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Boswell Book Company

Bookstore: Boswell Book Company

Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Why I Love Them: Back in 2009 when Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops announced they were closing after 82 years many people saw it as the end of an era. I viewed it as an opportunity to get as many books as I could at a discount, hitting up the two locations that were closing in one day. I was actually a little sad that the flagship store on Downer Avenue wasn't liquidating as well... I have since been very glad they didn't. Daniel Goldin who was the general manager of Schwartz bought the Downer Avenue location and inspired by the old Boswell logo for Schwartz renamed the store Boswell Book Company. Next year it will be ten years since the birth of Boswell and the store run by the charismatic if slightly daffy Daniel. He has steered his store through lean times in the book industry and has taken the initiative to bring in authors not just to the store, but to venues throughout the Milwaukee area, as well as local schools. The store's vibe is that of the best in independent bookstores, shelves crammed with books with employee recommendations that you'd never have heard of and are soon to become favorites. Knick-knacks for the literary inclined cover almost every surface. And if you get to an event early you might be lucky enough to sit on one of the coveted couches or upholstered chairs. You will never realize how bad folding chairs at other book signings are until you experience a signing in the lap of luxury. In fact there's an event I'm hoping to go to at Boswell tomorrow, better make sure to get there early!     

Best Buy: While I have had many wonderful buys from different events at Boswell Book Company over the years I have decided to go with an author who not only had an amazing presentation but also was unbelievably personable in the signing line. It's rare that this combination happens with an author, sometimes they just can't handle talking in front of a group or are fine talking in front of people but are rather rude one-on-one, I've had a whole gamut of experiences from the nerve-wracking to the downright bizarre, and I will say that Boswell did win on the bizarre front! But that's a story for another time. Today I want to talk about how awesome Tony DiTerlizzi is. He's an amazing artist, illustrator, and writer. He captures in his work the sensibilities of the golden age of illustration but coupled with the magic of someone raised on a diet of Star Wars and Dungeons and Dragons. But why mention Star Wars? Because in his wonderful and hilarious PowerPoint (he was prepared enough to have a PowerPoint!) he mentioned what a geek he was and how Star Wars really formed him. What impressed me most though was that my friend Janice, who is uber talented and makes these amazing felt creations, was coerced by me to bring one for him. He was over the moon. He thrust his phone at me and asked if I could take a picture with him and Janice, which I did gladly, he then even did an amazing drawing in her book. If that doesn't say class act I don't know what does? Best buy, 100%.   

Monday, June 11, 2018

Tuesday Tomorrow

Broken Ice by Matt Goldman
Published by: Forge Books
Publication Date: June 12th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In the words of Lee Child on Gone to Dust, “I want more of Nils Shapiro.” Emmy-award winning author Matt Goldman happily obliges by bringing the Minneapolis private detective back for another thrilling, standalone adventure in Broken Ice.

Nils Shapiro has been hired to find missing Linnea Engstrom, a teenager from the small northern hockey town of Warroad, MN. Most of Warroad is in Minneapolis for the state high school hockey tournament, and Linnea never returned from last night’s game. Linnea’s friend Haley Housch is also missing―and soon found dead.

Shot through the arm with an arrow at the Haley Housch crime scene, only the quick work of medical examiner Char Northagen saves Nil’s life.

Nils should be in the hospital recovering from his near fatal injury, but he knows that the clock is ticking. Linnea could be anywhere, and someone doesn’t want her found. Is Linnea a victim, or is she playing a dangerous game? As bodies start piling up, the clues lead Nils and Ellegaard north to Warroad, a small, quiet town with many secrets to hide."

I got to meet Matt Goldman when he was touring to promote his first Nils Shapiro book, so be sure to see if he's coming to a town near you! Don't miss it!

The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier by Rosalind Brackenbury
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: June 12th, 2018
Format: Paperback, 318 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"What do you do when you’ve lost the love of your life?

Seb Fowler has arrived in Paris to research his literary idol, Henri Fournier. It begins with an interview granted by a woman whose affair with the celebrated writer trails back to World War I. The enchanting Pauline is fragile, but her memories are alive—those of an illicit passion, of the chances she took and never regretted, and of the twists of fate that defined her unforgettable love story.

Through Pauline’s love letters, her secrets, and a lost Fournier manuscript, Seb will come to learn so much more—about Pauline, Henri, and himself. For Seb, every moment of Pauline’s past proves to be more inspiring than he could have imagined. She’s given him the courage to grab hold of whatever life offers, to cherish each risk, and to pursue love in his life.

Intimately epic, The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier spans generations to explore every beautiful mystery of falling in love, being in love, and losing a love—and, most important, daring to love again and discovering just how resilient the human heart can be."

I love mysteries in the past and stories of lost love!

House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg
Published by: Candlewick
Publication Date: June 12th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"An affecting biography of the author of Anne of Green Gables is the first for young readers to include revelations about her last days and to encompass the complexity of a brilliant and sometimes troubled life.

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Maud who adored stories. When she was fourteen years old, Maud wrote in her journal, “I love books. I hope when I grow up to be able to have lots of them.” Not only did Maud grow up to own lots of books, she wrote twenty-four of them herself as L. M. Montgomery, the world-renowned author of Anne of Green Gables. For many years, not a great deal was known about Maud’s personal life. Her childhood was spent with strict, undemonstrative grandparents, and her reflections on writing, her lifelong struggles with anxiety and depression, her “year of mad passion,” and her difficult married life remained locked away, buried deep within her unpublished personal journals. Through this revealing and deeply moving biography, kindred spirits of all ages who, like Maud, never gave up “the substance of things hoped for” will be captivated anew by the words of this remarkable woman."

Yes, yes, Anne of Green Gables, but will you look at that cover! 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Half Price Books Bookfield

Bookstore: Half Price Books Brookfield

Location: Brookfield, Wisconsin

Why I Love Them: While there are many Half Price Books that I have visited on my book buying excursions, the Milwaukee area used to have a Half Price trifecta. It was a triple crown winner if we're going with a metaphor that is very important with what is happening tomorrow. The three stores covered the three income brackets of the city, there were the lower, middle, and upper class stores. In the recent past it shouldn't come as a surprise that the store catering to those of a lower income closed. The middle class location remains unchanged and it's still the first Half Price location I ever went to requiring a key to use the bathroom. But the upper class store in Brookfield, which is to Milwaukee what Maple Bluff is to Madison, has just gotten better over time. Their rise to be the cream of the crop coincided with the downfall of another local chain. In 2009 Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops announced that they were closing after 82 years in business. Two of their locations were being liquidated (a sale from which I got much plunder) while one would reemerge as Boswell Book Company. The reason this is important is that the rather small and unassuming Half Price Books in Brookfield moved across the boulevard into the old Harry W. Schwartz location and their Renaissance began. They started having more books behind glass and more Folio Society editions. Harry W. Schwartz no longer had a stranglehold on the neighborhood and Half Price Books used this to soar to new heights.

Best Buy: As for my best buy... this is going to be a sad story. A story of the one that got away... Easily one of my favorite books of all time is William Goldman's The Princess Bride. From the first time I read this classic I knew I could never have enough editions of it. I have my original paperback edition, the movie tie-in edition, the standard British trade edition, the 25th Anniversary hardcover edition, the 30th Anniversary American trade edition, the audiobook read by Rob Reiner, the American trade edition with the couple dressed like Westley and Buttercup from the movie though there's totally something wrong with his mask, an old hardcover book club edition, the swanky Folio Society edition, and lastly the Easton Press special edition. But you will notice the one thing I lack, the one thing I long for: a first edition. Back in 1996 I passed on a first edition because at the time I was still convinced that the book existed in some form other than "the good parts version" by William Goldman. Yeah, I still can't fully explain why I thought this was the case, but my own ignorance let a first edition slip through my fingers. Many many years later the Half Price Books in Brookfield had a first edition. I remember it was quite pricey for it's condition, which means I'm guessing it was $250 or so. I pressed my face up against the glass and time and time again whenever I went to Milwaukee I would see if the book was still there. Finally one day I had a 40% off coupon and was determined to buy it. But I was too late. Now they go for at least double up to ten times what I thought was too pricey... But I live in hope...

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Books & Company

Bookstore: Books and Company

Location: Oconomowoc, Wisconsin

Why I Love Them: Because of Books and Company's tendency to hold their bigger events offsite at the local High School I had attended many events before I actually entered their store. But you can actually tell a lot about a bookstore by how they manage an event and their sales when away from their brick and mortar. The most obvious observation was that they were willing to cater to my crazy. And here I'd like to give a special shout out to all stores who've catered to my crazy over the years, it hasn't gone unnoticed and I thank you greatly. I was at an event with two of my friends and I noticed my copy of the book wasn't a true first. I've had it happen when even on release day you're not going to get a true first with that number line intact. But one of my two friends DID have a true first, so I took my copy back to their little stall in front of the auditorium and not only did they understand, they helped me look through the books to find what I was looking for AND made sure that it was in good enough condition to live up to a true book collector's standard. Seriously, thank you for that. When I finally went to their store for a stop on the Fierce Reads tour (Marissa Meyer, Ann Aguirre, Lish McBride, and Elizabeth Fama if you must know and I hope your curiosity has made you jealous) I really liked the store. It's not that big, but Oconomowoc isn't that big a town. With the carpeted floors and big upholstered furniture it reminded me of the kind of bookstore you'd stumble on when on holiday up north and then go back to repeatedly just to be surrounded by books and get away from your family.    

Best Buy: Not only does my best buy qualify as a best buy, it qualifies as the cherry on top of one of those perfect days you hope to but never can recapture. Erin Morgenstern was on tour promoting her book The Night Circus. It was a beautiful day with a crisp early fall blue sky and the trees were just starting to change color. I picked my two friends (yes the two friends from above) up from their respective workplaces and we drove to Oconomowoc. We had dinner on the back deck of this restaurant that was right on the water. There was brie and honey and so much goodness. But then there was Erin Morgenstern. She read from the very beginning of The Night Circus, a daring second person narration, and I was instantly hooked. Sitting in the rehearsal space for the local high school all I wanted to do was have this day, this reading, go on forever. I was first in line for the signing and eagerly drove home through the night, waiting for the moment that I could sink into bed and begin the book. First there was much news that night, Steve Jobs had died, but the book transported me away. I went to a place where you could sit with your friends and enjoy the crisp fall beauty all year long. Now I will be the first to admit that The Night Circus is a polarizing book. You either love it or you loath it, a fact born out when I re-read it with my book club. But for me it will always be a perfect book, a perfect day, brought to me by a perfect bookstore. Thank you Books and Company for this memory, it totally makes me forgive you for the time I broke out in hives in your store (which had nothing to do with you.)  

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