Friday, July 20, 2018

Books of Wonder

Bookstore: Books of Wonder

Location: New York, New York

Why I Love Them: Initially I only knew Books of Wonder as a publisher of books, mainly reprints of old titles in beautiful new editions. Therefore I was really excited when I was planning a trip in 2000 to visit New York for a David Bowie concert to learn that Books of Wonder wasn't just a publisher but a bookstore as well! In fact it was the bookstore that was the basis for Meg Ryan's "The Shop Around the Corner" in You've Got Mail. I remember taking a cab downtown and how busy the street was, just like in a movie. I couldn't wait for this small independent bookstore to take me far away from reality with it's cuteness. I think perhaps I needed to remember that movies and reality are two totally different things. Because the bookstore wasn't anything like I imagined. I don't know if it was undergoing renovations or what, but the inside was cordoned off and really small with very few books on white bookshelves that were movable. Seeing as there were few shelves I don't know what they would have done with more books. The whole store felt sparse and temporary. Where was the original artwork they were known to display? Where was the space for their epic signings? It felt too awkward to ask the clerk why their store was so disappointing so instead I looked over their shelves to find something to buy. As most of their self-published books I already owned I picked up a copy of The Princess and the Goblin for my mother and a new Redwall book for myself. But one day I will go back and solve this disappointing mystery!   

Best Buy: When I really started getting into collecting special editions of books the Books of Wonder reprints of L. Frank Baum's Oz books were something I really looked forward to finding. They'd release them on a schedule unknown to me but every time I'd go to Borders I'd check to see if the next Oz book had been republished and do a dance of joy if there was a new one on the shelf. So while I technically didn't buy them at the store I'm still making them my best buy. They did had a lovely window display that I took a really bad picture of if you want some proof! If you force me to choose, the favorite of the Oz books would be Ozma of Oz with The Emerald City of Oz as a close second. Ozma of Oz because it's the book that the movie Return to Oz is heavily based on, though there is no shock treatment in the book, and The Emerald City of Oz for the amazing glitter spot varnish, it's so pretty! What's interesting to me about the Oz books is that I've never finished reading the whole series. They start so strong and keep tapering off in quality until you kind of just tune out. The main problem I have is that L. Frank Baum is so bitter about these being his only popular books. His introductions are not even slightly veiled hostility but outright rage at everyone making him write Oz books. His hatred leaks into the narrative and he writes in a very condescending tone so that once you leave behind the books with the unique spines and move onto the standardized design, which I admit does look nice on a bookshelf, you just kind of stop reading. In fact I feel an attempt to finish coming on again... let's see how far I get this time!  

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Strand Bookstore

Bookstore: Strand Bookstore

Location: New York, New York

Why I Love Them: The Strand is like Mecca for book lovers who journey to New York. In fact, if you ask someone about bookstores in New York the only store they're likely to mention by name is the Strand. It took me several trips to New York, including one trip where I ate lunch ACROSS THE STREET, before I was finally able to sneak away from friends, family, and other obligations to take in all this store has to offer. What's odd is when I walked through those doors I was simultaneously overwhelmed and unimpressed. Yes, they supposedly have eighteen miles of books but I will tell you any day, a better curated store is worth more than a store that has everything. In fact I'd go so far as to say I really prefer my local stores to this much lauded one. You'd think the New York Times would be a little more careful giving away the title of "the undisputed king of the city’s independent bookstores" but then again, I've been known to disagree with that publication occasionally. The three areas of interest to me were the basement, the labyrinth of review copies, the rare books floor, aka those you dare not touch, and a lovely display right near the entrance of leather bound limited editions and signed books. Yes, the main floor with it's shelves and shelves offered me nothing really to latch onto, I only saw books that were already adorning my shelves. The books in the basement were in bad shape. The books on the rare floor were too few and too precious, being up there made me nervous that I'd sneeze and owe someone a million dollars. The only section I really spent any time with was that display near the entrance...  

Best Buy: Because all good bookstores are smart to put leather bound books near entrances, because these are books that proclaim they are books. They are what we long to fill our libraries. They are the evolutionary end of books. You start with a manuscript, work your way up through paperbacks, hit hardcovers, and finally reach leather bound loveliness. And yes, I agree that it's odd that it's almost the complete reverse of how books are released, but that's just the way it is. They had Franklin Library and Easton Press limited editions, so many books that I just wanted to hold. But there was one book that stood out. My family has always been a huge Masterpiece No Longer Theatre Family. Even before I was born this was my parents favorite show, so I guess it makes sense that they indoctrinated me when I was young. Alistair Cooke and Russell Baker were icons in my family. Their introductions brought depth and human interest to the shows that followed. I will still never understand why PBS did away with these introductions and closing remarks, they MADE the show. But then again, they edit for time now, so suck it PBS. Now back to that book that caught my eye, it was Alistair Cooke's The Patient Has the Floor. And it was signed. This book is a collection of talks Cooke had given over the years and I thought my father would just love to have it. Oddly enough this might be the only "best buy" that no longer is with me. Or my father for that matter. While it was a great gift at the time, the truth is we love Russell Baker more and an Alister Cooke signed book resells quite well... so yes, sometimes books I once loved go away to make room and provide money for other books. Such is life.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Tuesday Tomorrow

Competence by Gail Carriger
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: July 17th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Accidentally abandoned!

All alone in Singapore, proper Miss Primrose Tunstell must steal helium to save her airship, the Spotted Custard, in a scheme involving a lovesick werecat and a fake fish tail.

When she uncovers rumors of a new kind of vampire, Prim and the Custard crew embark on a mission to Peru. There, they encounter airship pirates and strange atmospheric phenomena, and are mistaken for representatives of the Spanish Inquisition. Forced into extreme subterfuge (and some rather ridiculous outfits) Prim must also answer three of life's most challenging questions:

Can the perfect book club give a man back his soul?
Will her brother ever stop wearing his idiotic velvet fez?
And can the amount of lard in Christmas pudding save an entire species?"

I do think the perfect book club could restore a soul...

Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Published by: Del Rey
Publication Date: July 17th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, a hero, the Chosen One, was born . . . and so begins every fairy tale ever told.

This is not that fairy tale.

There is a Chosen One, but he is unlike any One who has ever been Chosened.

And there is a faraway kingdom, but you have never been to a magical world quite like the land of Pell.

There, a plucky farm boy will find more than he’s bargained for on his quest to awaken the sleeping princess in her cursed tower. First there’s the Dark Lord, who wishes for the boy’s untimely death . . . and also very fine cheese. Then there’s a bard without a song in her heart but with a very adorable and fuzzy tail, an assassin who fears not the night but is terrified of chickens, and a mighty fighter more frightened of her sword than of her chain-mail bikini. This journey will lead to sinister umlauts, a trash-talking goat, the Dread Necromancer Steve, and a strange and wondrous journey to the most peculiar “happily ever after” that ever once-upon-a-timed."

Is this farm boy poor and perfect? You'll just have to read to find out!

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown by Seanan McQuire
Published by: DAW
Publication Date: July 17th, 2018
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Once and twice and thrice around,
Put your heart into the ground.
Four and five and six tears shed,
Give your love unto the dead.
Seven shadows on the wall,
Eight have come to watch your fall:
One’s for the gargoyle, one’s for the grave,
And the last is for the one you’ll never save.
For Rose Marshall, death has long since become the only life she really knows. She’s been sweet sixteen for more than sixty years, hitchhiking her way along the highways and byways of America, sometimes seen as an avenging angel, sometimes seen as a killer in her own right, but always Rose, the Phantom Prom Date, the Girl in the Green Silk Gown.

The man who killed her is still out there, thanks to a crossroads bargain that won’t let him die, and he’s looking for the one who got away. When Bobby Cross comes back into the picture, there’s going to be hell to pay—possibly literally.

Rose has worked for decades to make a place for herself in the twilight. Can she defend it, when Bobby Cross comes to take her down? Can she find a way to navigate the worlds of the living and the dead, and make it home before her hitchhiker’s luck runs out?

There’s only one way to know for sure.

Nine will let you count the cost:
All you had and all you lost.
Ten is more than time can tell,
Cut the cord and ring the bell.
Count eleven, twelve, and then,
Thirteen takes you home again.
One’s for the shadow, one’s for the tree,
And the last is for the blessing of Persephone."

How does Seanan put out SO MANY books in a year without the James Patterson tag-team gig?

Like Never and Always by Ann Aguirre
Published by: Tor Teen
Publication Date: July 17th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Liv Burnham thinks nobody knows Morgan Frost like she does, but a terrible accident pushes her down the rabbit hole where Morgan's secrets hide and she'll be lucky to make it out alive....

On a hot summer night, Liv, Morgan, Clay and Nathan are on the way home from a party in Clay's convertible. Best friends dating brothers? It doesn't get better than that. But the joyride ends in sudden impact, a screech of brakes, and shattering glass. On that lonely country road, four lives change forever.

Liv wakes in the hospital. At first she's confused when they call her Morgan, but she assumes it's a case of mistaken identity. Yet when the bandages come off, it's not her face in the mirror anymore. It's Morgan's.

Morgan always seemed to have the perfect life. But as Liv tries to fit herself into Morgan's world, she discovers endlessly disturbing secrets of the criminal and murderous variety and a dark task to finish...if she doesn't lose her mind first.

Forced to confront the disturbing truths that Morgan kept hidden in life, Liv must navigate a world of long-buried murder, a dangerous love affair―and a romance that feels like a betrayal."

This sounds like something Wes Craven would make into a film... 

The Art of Inheriting Secrets by Barbara O'Neal
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: July 17th, 2018
Format: Paperback, 364 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"When Olivia Shaw’s mother dies, the sophisticated food editor is astonished to learn she’s inherited a centuries-old English estate—and a title to go with it. Raw with grief and reeling from the knowledge that her reserved mother hid something so momentous, Olivia leaves San Francisco and crosses the pond to unravel the mystery of a lifetime.

One glance at the breathtaking Rosemere Priory and Olivia understands why the manor, magnificent even in disrepair, was the subject of her mother’s exquisite paintings. What she doesn’t understand is why her mother never mentioned it to her. As Olivia begins digging into her mother’s past, she discovers that the peeling wallpaper, debris-laden halls, and ceiling-high Elizabethan windows covered in lush green vines hide unimaginable secrets.

Although personal problems and her life back home beckon, Olivia finds herself falling for the charming English village and its residents. But before she can decide what Rosemere’s and her own future hold, Olivia must first untangle the secrets of her past."

Just take book, add English estate, and I'm sold...

Friday, July 13, 2018

Book Review - Rebecca Rosenberg's The Secret Life of Mrs. London

The Secret Life of Mrs. London by Rebecca Rosenberg
ARC Provided by the Publisher
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: January 30th, 2018
Format: Paperback, 348 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Charmain London loves her husband Jack, the famous author, but sometimes their marriage feels like a boxing match both literally and figuratively. He longs to be surrounded by his comrades and friends while he holds court at his agrarian utopia, Beauty Ranch, while Charmain, his Mate-Woman, longs to be alone with him. She longs to share the same bed, feel his arms around her, but instead he uses his mate as he sees fit, even if it's fodder for his new book, The Little Lady of the Big House. He seems to be pushing her into the arms of their friend Lawrence all for his narrative needs. But when Charmain finally succumbs their world comes crashing down. Because that's the night that she not only betrayed her husband, but the night Wolf House, Jack's dream home, the monument to his success, what they had scrimped and saved and slaved for for years burned to the ground. Did Jack set the fire himself realizing what he drove his wife to? Or did Lawrence set the fire because he knew Charmain would never be his for more than a few moments? All this and more hangs over the couple when someone new enters their life. One night they go to see Houdini perform in San Francisco and Charmain is brought on stage to assist Houdini and his with Bess with their "Metamorphosis" act. Afterwards the two couples go out for dinner and Charmain and Bessie form a friendship over the struggles of loving men who are larger than life. Their friendship just begun must soon be tried as Jack's ill health returns and Charmain decides to take him to Hawaii, where they were happiest. Hopefully the magic will return to their marriage. Only she can't help thinking of another magic man... Houdini has worked his way into her heart and he will be there for her when she needs him most. But is it right to fall for her friend's husband? And who is she without Jack?

There are certain shared experiences that everyone connects to. A historical event you remember, a book you read, a movie you saw. These events make up our collective unconscious. Let's take The Call of the Wild. Every schoolkid growing up in America has in all likelihood read Jack London's The Call of the Wild or White Fang. In fact they're probably the only books your teachers made you read that you rather enjoyed. For me it was The Call of the Wild in seventh grade and I can still remember Buck's journey as being an escape from the drudgery and crippling amount of schoolwork. We all have Jack London's second wife and subject of this book, Charmain London, to thank for championing him after his death and making sure he became a part of our collective unconscious. Though for most of us it's been years, perhaps decades since we read these books and therefore the power of Jack London's writing is forgotten amongst his narrative. Recently I was rewatching Northern Exposure and I was reliving my main obsession with the show, which was my love of the ex-con DJ Chris Stevens, when I had the delightful surprise of Chris reading from The Call of the Wild. During the season three episode, "The Three Amigos," the words of Jack London served as a counterpoint to Maurice and Holling journeying out into the wilderness to bury their friend. But what struck me was the lyricism and power of London's writing. Sometimes just reading a book doesn't give you the full experience, you have to hear it aloud to fully appreciate it.

This new appreciation of London's writing was one of the reasons I was drawn to The Secret Life of Mrs. London and signed up for this blog tour. Rebecca Rosenberg's book deepened my admiration of London as she has begun each chapter in the first two parts with a quote from London's writing, whether novel or letter. It's a bold choice for a first time author. Because no matter what, the reader is going to compare her writing to London's, whether that was the intent or not. Whether her writing holds up... that's another question. Rosenberg tells her story plainly and interestingly, but she never reaches the lyricism of London. Yet this works in her favor. London's writing, while beautiful, can be a bit inaccessible. Sometimes it's so dense that it takes several readings to understand what he's getting at. Whereas Rosenberg's writing is accessible. She never hides her story behind verbose verbiage. This helps to mirror and bring home to the reader the loving yet somewhat antagonistic relationship between Charmain and Jack. Charmain is so relatable and Jack is a bit enigmatic, his motives even questioned by his wife, so that as a reader you can't help but root for Charmain. She is our heroine. Whatever happens, wherever she goes, whatever decisions she makes, both sound and slightly insane, by using London's own words against him we modern readers will always side with Charmain. She is our avatar to this world of literary wonders and she's able to make it real in a way London's writing doesn't for today's audience. No matter how much he was trying to capture the real on the page.

While reading The Secret Life of Mrs. London one can't help but think of 2016's much talked about and lauded book about Beryl Markham by Paula McLain, Circling the Sun. These are both women who were true originals, they were free spirits that didn't quite feel of their time. Adventurers that broke with conventions. What I find interesting is that many great writers live within these bubbles that are out of sync with their times and embrace free love. While Kenya was the haven for this kind of bed-hopping behavior, any community of artists would come under this kind of scrutiny and notoriety. They were known for standing out from the crowd and throwing convention to the wind. Rosenberg does a good job though in grounding Charmain within this lifestyle. This solid footing makes Charmain far more sympathetic and her actions understandable, not a betrayal to her husband. Being raised by her Aunt Netta she was exposed to a lifestyle that was fluid when it came to love, as Netta had two men in her life. Therefore when Charmain became London's lover and subsequently his second wife she understood that he was liable to wander. Being a very sexual being herself she understood this, but her dalliance that commences the book almost seems indulged in because it's what Jack wanted. He was playing a game with his wife for his own literary means. Yet she heavily feels her betrayal and when he betrays her in return it's just pain heaped on pain. They are by no means a functional couple, but they have a symbiotic relationship. They need each other, but at the same time they need more.

What Charmain ends up needing is Houdini, her Magic Man. What is so interesting about The Secret Life of Mrs. London is that it shows how truly messy love is. Jack is everything to Charmain, her home was where he was, and yet, despite him saying that she was his everything in return, it was clear through his infidelities that she wasn't. You can spout free love, but the truth of it was, Charmain wanted to remain loyal to her husband but her heart and her needs took her elsewhere. I don't know if the same could be said of her husband. Because she was willing to give him all the he got elsewhere, yet he never compromised and gave her what she needed. I couldn't help thinking about Hamilton while reading this book. Their wives, despite not having perfect husbands, are the ones who carried on their legacies, told their stories. Would London and Hamilton be this well remembered to this day if not for their beleaguered spouses? To an extent even Bessie Houdini carried on her husband's torch, holding a seance for him yearly after his death, just as he requested. All this is so interesting to me in that it's all about these women whose lives were in the shadows, yet were remarkable in their own right. History is putting them rightly back in their places and examining what their impact was. Charmain was Jack's editor and typist for years, her thoughts, her ideas, spun into his stories, and yet she is only remembered as Mrs. London. Living her life through these great men while never really living a life of her own. The end of the book gives you hope, but at the same time, she still, to this day, is only known as Mrs. London. Hopefully this book will help redress this wrong.

But now I must nitpick... Writing historical fiction that actually includes real historical figures as your leads is tricky. You are fictionalizing their life, to an extent. You have to get in their head and tell the story you want to tell but within the framework of their life, and I'm not convinced that Rebecca Rosenberg fully succeeds. The biggest problem I have is moving the burning down of Wolf House, Jack London's dream domicile, two years into the future so that it happens at the same time as the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. You can not do that! These are very specific set events! It's like saying, hey can we just move the start of World War I so that it fits my narrative better? Your narrative has to fit events not the other way around. Rosenberg admits that she condensed the timeline to be two instead of five years, but from my point of view she really didn't need to do this. The narrative could have easily spanned more time. The only reason I can see that this was done was in order for Charmain to think she was pregnant, father unknown, when she met the Houdinis. Which was, in my mind, unnecessary. But I'm sure Rosenberg would justify this with comparing the once fertile Charmain with the childlike Bessie... But back to my main point, Rosenberg has lots of weird time anomalies, some of which, such as the burning down of Wolf House I previously mentioned, I'm pretty sure she's aware of, as well as certain Houdini stunts that were shifted, while others are "words from the future." Yes, she uses words that are anachronistic to the time. Guess what? Pheromones didn't exist as a word until 1959, four years after Charmain died. A good editor should have flagged this... but editors, and good ones, are a dying breed. So authors, if you don't want your audience being temporarily taken out of the narrative, double and triple check everything.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Dickson Street Bookshop

Bookstore: Dickson Street Bookshop

Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas

Why I Love Them: So, to recap for those who didn't read last Friday's post, I was still on my road trip for my friend Sarah's wedding and now we'd reached Arkansas, the final destination state. The wedding itself was taking place in Eureka Springs, a quaint yet odd town full of dichotomies, bikers surrounded by prosperous frontier town opulence with a religious bent. But my friend Matt and I arrived early and went to Sarah's home in Fayetteville. Knowing we were there a day early in order to help and then haul whatever needed hauling to Eureka Springs I didn't do any prep in advance as to sightseeing in Fayetteville. Yet Sarah knows we well, in fact she's known me since I was fourteen so she took me straight to a bookstore. Ah, the Dickson Street Bookshop, a bookstore that knows what a bookstore should be, stretching farther and farther back, steps up into other buildings, shelves precariously packed, and aisles you could barely squeeze through. The gauntlet that every book lover hopes to run. I could have spent days in there and not discovered everything. There was even a side annex that just had science fiction laid out on tables. Tables and tables of cheap paperbacks, it was almost too much to hope for! If I had had more time who knows how much money I would have spent! But as it turns out, this wouldn't be where I spent most of my money, that honor was reserved for the gift shop at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum that we stumbled upon in Missouri. But I still found something... one can never leave a bookshop without finding something!

Best Buy: Sometimes before really digging into a bookstore I do a quick sweep. I basically name-check all my favorite authors and if the store has them then I know it's worthwhile to dig in deep. Mitfords, check, Durrells, check, I knew I'd find something here! So a bit of history. Ever since I was younger I've been collecting the Everyman's Library Children's Classic Series. It started with Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan and has expanded as often as I can stumble on the editions. My copy of Little Women was even bought at Orchard House! In fact on a few recent outings I added three new volumes, two in one day, and I couldn't believe my luck. The problem is that the website list that Penguin Random House has posted is incomplete! It omits editions that have gone out of print, such as Little Men. So while they say there are 58 volumes in the series, and I have 37, there are certainly more than 21 volumes I need to still find... which is why my trip to the Dickson Street Bookshop was so fortuitous. I had scoured the store. All the back rooms, all the weird nooks with history books, and I'd even gone through some of the science fiction. My friend Sarah even offered to help because if my traveling companion Matt doesn't eat on time he becomes obstreperous and it was dinnertime. So my time looking for books was coming to a close even with Sarah's help. As I was about to give up I was right near the counter, heading for the door and I saw this "special edition" section. It was rather small but there were two books from the Everyman's Library Children's Classic Series! Two! One of them was The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Do you think the book was trying to tell me something?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Tuesday Tomorrow

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Published by: Del Rey
Publication Date: July 10th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 480 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A fresh and imaginative retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale from the bestselling author of Uprooted, which was hailed as “a very enjoyable fantasy with the air of a modern classic” by The New York Times Book Review.

With the Nebula Award–winning Uprooted, Naomi Novik opened a brilliant new chapter in an already acclaimed career, delving into the magic of fairy tales to craft a love story that was both timeless and utterly of the now. Spinning Silver draws readers deeper into this glittering realm of fantasy, where the boundary between wonder and terror is thinner than a breath, and safety can be stolen as quickly as a kiss.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty—until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.

When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk—grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh—Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.

But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.

Channeling the vibrant heart of myth and fairy tale, Spinning Silver weaves a multilayered, magical tapestry that readers will want to return to again and again."

I've always been a sucker for a fairy tale retelling!

Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys
Published by: Tor.com
Publication Date: July 10th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Ruthanna Emrys’ Innsmouth Legacy, which began with Winter Tide and continues with Deep Roots, confronts H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos head-on, boldly upturning his fear of the unknown with a heart-warming story of found family, acceptance, and perseverance in the face of human cruelty and the cosmic apathy of the universe. Emrys brings together a family of outsiders, bridging the gaps between the many people marginalized by the homogenizing pressure of 1940s America.

Aphra Marsh, descendant of the People of the Water, has survived Deep One internment camps and made a grudging peace with the government that destroyed her home and exterminated her people on land. Deep Rootscontinues Aphra’s journey to rebuild her life and family on land, as she tracks down long-lost relatives. She must repopulate Innsmouth or risk seeing it torn down by greedy developers, but as she searches she discovers that people have been going missing. She will have to unravel the mystery, or risk seeing her way of life slip away."

Yes for a more direct Cthulhu continuation! 

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss
Published by: Saga Press
Publication Date: July 10th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 720 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In the sequel to the critically acclaimed The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, Mary Jekyll and the rest of the daughters of literature’s mad scientists embark on a madcap adventure across Europe to rescue another monstrous girl and stop the Alchemical Society’s nefarious plans once and for all.

Mary Jekyll’s life has been peaceful since she helped Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve the Whitechapel Murders. Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein, and Mary’s sister Diana Hyde have settled into the Jekyll household in London, and although they sometimes quarrel, the members of the Athena Club get along as well as any five young women with very different personalities. At least they can always rely on Mrs. Poole.

But when Mary receives a telegram that Lucinda Van Helsing has been kidnapped, the Athena Club must travel to the Austro-Hungarian Empire to rescue yet another young woman who has been subjected to horrific experimentation. Where is Lucinda, and what has Professor Van Helsing been doing to his daughter? Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, and Justine reach her in time?

Racing against the clock to save Lucinda from certain doom, the Athena Club embarks on a madcap journey across Europe. From Paris to Vienna to Budapest, Mary and her friends must make new allies, face old enemies, and finally confront the fearsome, secretive Alchemical Society. It’s time for these monstrous gentlewomen to overcome the past and create their own destinies."

Just like I'm a sucker for fairy tale retellings, so may it be said for interesting continuations of horror classics.

Murmuration by Robert Lock
Published by: Legend Press
Publication Date: July 10th, 2018
Format: Kindle, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"'Murmuration is a magically woven tale of human connectivity, frailty, and the hold the past can have over the present. My promise of just one more page was constantly broken' Laura Parish, Novel Kicks.

The starlings dance in mesmerising patterns. In and out they fold. Up and down. Below them a Victorian pier has stood the test of time, carrying each generation over a cold and relentless sea.

As the birds dance they watch the lives of those who pass beneath. Two scandalous comedians born a century apart; a seemingly ageless deckchair attendant; the fortune-teller who believes no one can see the future. And in this seaside town one man knows the only way to stop history repeating itself is to solve a mystery as old as the pier."

I've always wondered what life would be life viewed from the collective unconscious of a bird... 

Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: July 10th, 2018
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Hamish DeLuca has spent most of his life trying to hide the anxiety that appears at the most inopportune times -- including during his first real court case as a new lawyer. Determined to rise above his father’s expectations, Hamish runs away to Boston where his cousin, Luca Valari, is opening a fashionable nightclub in Scollay Square. When he meets his cousin's “right hand man,” Reggie, Hamish wonders if his dreams for a more normal life might be at hand.

Regina “Reggie” Van Buren, heir to a New Haven fortune, has fled fine china, small talk, and the man her parents expect her to marry. Determined to make a life as the self-sufficient city girl she’s seen in her favorite Jean Arthur and Katharine Hepburn pictures, Reggie runs away to Boston, where she finds an easy secretarial job with the suave Luca Valari. But as she and Hamish work together in Luca’s glittering world, they discover a darker side to the smashing Flamingo nightclub.

When a corpse is discovered at the Flamingo, Reggie and Hamish quickly learn there is a vast chasm between the haves and the have-nots in 1937 Boston—and that there’s an underworld that feeds on them both. As Hamish is forced to choose between his conscience and loyalty to his beloved cousin, the unlikely sleuthing duo work to expose a murder before the darkness destroys everything they’ve worked to build."

Ah, the bygone eras of crime solving, why are they always so much more glamorous? 

Plaster Sinners by Colin Watson
Published by: Farrago
Publication Date: July 10th, 2018
Format: Kindle, 160 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Sergeant Love is a sucker for a picturesque country cottage.

But he finds himself quite literally knocked out by the little bas-relief plaster cottage that’s on display at Flaxborough’s antiques auction. This pretty but rather crudely painted trinket mysteriously sells for hundreds of pounds having sparked a heated bidding war, while the Sergeant gets floored by a would-be cottage thief.

So DI Purbright, teamed up with a world-weary brother officer down from London, must dig deep into the dubious past of the local gentry, the laconic Moldhams, in their crumbling stately pile, to find out how the little plaster picture leads to a tale of heirlooms and murder.

Witty and a little wicked, Colin Watson’s tales offer a mordantly entertaining cast of characters and laugh-out-loud wordplay."

The thing I love most about Kindles are they keep bringing back forgotten classics! 

Hope Never Dies  by Andrew Shaffer
Published by: Quirk Books
Publication Date: July 10th, 2018
Format: Paperback, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"This mystery thriller reunites Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama for a political mashup full of suspense, intrigue, and laugh out loud bromance.

Vice President Joe Biden is fresh out of the Obama White House and feeling adrift when his favorite railroad conductor dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues. To unravel the mystery, "Amtrak Joe" re-teams with the only man he's ever fully trusted--the 44th president of the United States. Together they'll plumb the darkest corners of Delaware, traveling from cheap motels to biker bars and beyond, as they uncover the sinister forces advancing America's opioid epidemic.

Part noir thriller and part bromance novel, Hope Never Dies is essentially the first published work of Obama/Biden fanfiction--and a cathartic read for anyone distressed by the current state of affairs."

I need an escape from the currents state of affairs... 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Left Bank Books

Bookstore: Left Bank Books

Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Why I Love Them: Back in 2010 my friend Sarah was getting married in Arkansas and that meant a road trip was in order! My friend Matt is from St. Louis so on the way to and from Arkansas we stopped for a few days in his hometown. With his family obligations and going to his favorite haunts it felt a little like pulling teeth to get a bookstore on the itinerary. But I prevailed! I wasn't going to go to St. Louis and NOT visit Left Bank Books. For years I'd heard of them because some publishers view the only stop in the Midwest worth sending their authors to is St. Louis. Hello, you've heard of Chicago right? It's a FAR EASIER drive for someone from Wisconsin, in that it's not over six hours one way! But enough about my gripes, because I finally got to pass through the hallowed doors of Left Bank Books and was surprisingly a little let down. The neighborhood is cute, lots of old brick buildings and mature trees. Inside though it's smaller than I imagined, not that that's a bad thing. I just couldn't picture how they had these massive signings on site, I now realize they probably were all offsite... But more than anything it was really open and bright and didn't have much stock. No signed editions laying about, no carefully curated specialty editions of books. Instead it seemed space was desired over books, and I personally can never approve that kind of stylistic choice, especially in a bookstore! Yet my issues do not indicate that I was unable to find something special... because there was one part of the store I loved. The basement!    

Best Buy: The basement of Left Bank Books is what a bookstore should be so it's rightfully where I found my best buy. It was jammed with shelves and shelves of used, remainder, overstock, all the goodness that I love. Here was the carefully curated sections that the first floor had eschewed. Here was a place where I could spend hours. Though I didn't have hours with a family dinner looming, I was able to take advantage of it's labyrinthine structure to get "lost" for awhile. Yes. I hid. Amongst the books. On purpose. There's never a better place to get lost. Plus, on a side note, we really didn't need to hurry as the dinner prep hadn't even started by the time we arrived. I could have stayed with the books longer! But no matter how long I stayed at the store I had already found my best buy, so time was now irrelevant. As I remember it I found a first edition of George Mann's The Affinity Bridge surrounded by light as there was this large window right next to the science fiction section with a white brick ledge. But I know this can't be so, we were underground! Looking on Google Earth there's no convenient pit or egress, so where did this light come from? Perhaps it was just the book. It knew it had to be mine because I'd heard such good things about it and as it turned out in just over a year I would meet George at TeslaCon. He has easily become one of my favorite writers, and I consider him a friend. All of this goes back to that bookstore and the light from a window that couldn't have been.      

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Barnes & Noble Oakbrook Center

Bookstore: Barnes and Noble Oakbrook Center

Location: Oak Brook, Illinois

Why I Love Them: The Barnes and Noble at the Oakbrook Center is a pretty typical Barnes and Noble for it's kind. Meaning for a Barnes and Noble attached to a shopping mall and having an outdoor entrance leading to the parking lot and an indoor entrance leading to the mall. It's pretty cookie cutter; two stories, rather narrow, and could be a Barnes and Noble basically anywhere. In fact it really looks like the one outside Milwaukee. Not that there's anything wrong with that! Sometimes it's nice to go to a foreign town and be surrounded by the familiar. Why do you think that when you're traveling so many of the restaurants you see along the road are ones you could find in your own backyard? To some it's depressing, to others it's comforting. For me, it is how it is and it's nice to know that I can at least count on the layout and the signing protocols to be the same. Because let's face it, there's only a few reasons I stop at a Barnes and Noble while traveling, I'm there for a signing, there's something particular I'm picking up, or I'm going from point A to point B and I know I can be assured a restroom and a Starbucks. So thank you Barnes and Noble for your events and for a safe space to pee. What is so nice about this particular Barnes and Noble is that right around the mall is a restaurant, Mon Ami Gabi. The restaurant is basically your mall version of a French Bistro, but somehow, unlike Barnes and Noble, it doesn't feel like a chain. There's lovely crunchy warm bread with jam to spread on it! Scallops that are to die for. And just so much food that I want to order that I wish there was one in Wisconsin! Perhaps one day...  

Best Buy: As for why I trekked south to a Barnes and Noble in Illinois? Well that's all due to my best buy, Patricia Briggs's Frost Burned. Patricia Briggs rarely comes to the Midwest. In fact, since I've been a fan of hers I think this is the ONLY time she has set foot within a few states radius of me, and believe me this is something I pay attention to. For years I had relied on Murder by the Book with a few outlier bookstores, Mysterious Galaxy, and The Bookworm, for signed editions, but I finally had a chance to get one signed in person! Patricia Briggs might just be my favorite Urban Fantasy author out there... or at least a solid tie with Charlaine Harris, because I really love Charlaine and her books were my gateway drug into this genre. I think I'd have to meet Patricia a second time, because I've meet Charlaine twice, so she does have a competitive edge... But what I loved so much about seeing Patricia Briggs is that she really knows her readers. She knows they are shy introverts for the most part and when you get up to see her in the signing line she asks you what color pen you'd like your book signed in. She told me it's a way to get the ball rolling, because color choice is a very personal decision, notice my pink? After that the conversation flowed more easily and I got to tell her about my all time favorite creature in the Mercyverse, the Otterkin, who appear in River Marked. She then told me the inspiration for those evil water dwellers and how it oddly tied into the Chicago area. This just made me love those evil Otterkin even more, if becoming even more wary of Otters! 

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