Tuesday, December 15, 2009

When The End Isn't The End But It Isn't A Great Sequel Either


I am a hater you know that. Want to know one of the things I hate the most? Reader's Guides in books.
Pa-Leese! I would like them gone. I find them idiotic and sad. Idiotic because of their juvenile observations and  boring discussion points and sad because they used my recylced  pizza boxes for this?. But don't listen to me.  Go over to The Guardian and read Imogen's blog. She and I have much in common.

Happy to share

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rebecca Stott Hurry Up And Write Faster, OK?

Hello Flower!

As someone who does judge a book by it's cover let me say that I love this cover. The palatte is lovely. The perspective is perfect. It's as though you are trying to see around something but you aren't quite able to.  There is a slightly femine or romantic feel to the cover that you could argue might discourage some sales (from men) and that is not good but I still love it.

The Ghostwalk also gets an A+. It made me read that book. It's a first rate example of a mystery cover that can appeal to both sexes. It also sets the book up very well. No question with that cover that you are in for suspence, intrigue and danger.

The book of the day today--another snowy day by the way-- is The Coral Thief . It's book number 2 from Rebecca Stott. Her first book, Ghostwalk came out a couple years ago and did very well. Ghostwalk is a back and forth in time mystery surrounding Issac Newton's real life ventures in alchemy. It was very interesting and had fabulous atmosphere. Do you remember it?

I finished The Coral Thief over the weekend and I must say Ms Stott can write. I was glued to Coral. It's 1815 and Danial's mysterious adventure in Paris as Napoleon is being shipped to Saint Helena is beginning. Danial is an anatomy student looking to buck the family plan and become a naturalist. He's traveling to Paris with letters of introduction, rare coral specimens in trusted to him by his professor and a priceless manuscript in hopes of capturing the attention of a famous naturalist. Unfortunately he has discovered that the beautiful woman who shared his stagecoach, Lucienne, has stolen his treasures.

And so the cat and mouse of it all begins.

Daniel's chase after his missing valuables and credentials takes him from the highest to the lowest in Paris and here is where Stott really shines. The intricate plot and the pace of the novel is dead on, but it is the sense of place that the author creates that is completely outstanding. You are there. 1815 Paris is real. You feel the weight of every locked door, smell every dank place and tense up with each pounding foot step.

This is an entirely successful historical mystery. I think you'd like it, Lily. It is thrilling, engaging, surprising and educational. But don't worry about the educational part you won't even know that it's happening.


P.S. In case you don't remember these 2 bokks and many thousands of others are available at your fabo local independent bookstore.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Snow and Movies and Books and my Mom


Today was our first snow. The snow wasn't just a couple flakes. It snowed most of the day and evening but with almost no accumulation. It was chubby, wet snow falling onto not yet frozen ground. It was beautiful. I spent most of the day watching it fall, drinking tea and reading in a very comfy seat. It was a not my real life kind of day, but it was so delightful and something everyone should get a chance to do.

The day made me think a lot about my Mom. First snow was one of the random things she insisted be wished upon. Others included: the first bale of hay you see in the fall, brightly colored sunsets, the first day of the month, etc. The list is long and I am sure I don't remember them all. She did also include all the regular things like birthday candles and stars. I never asked her about the wish-ability of all these things. I accepted that the wishing was to be done and that was that.

It's a perfect cap to the day that her favorite movie is on tv right now. It's Random Harvest made in 1942 starring Ronald Coleman and Greer Garson and directed by Mervyn LeRoy. It is a wonderful movie. It's romantic and gorgeous looking and sounding. Of course it's one my favs too. If you have never seen it, it is worth your going out of your way to see. It's the kind of fantastic movie that transports you and reminds you how unappealing most movies made today are.

I love my Mom,

P.S.  The movie Random Harvest is based on the novel of the same name by James Hilton. It's is a very good novel and different from the movie in unusual and interesting ways. Too sad though it is out of print. ~~~sigh~~~ Another good book for publishers to revive. Oh well.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thanks Magoo!

Good Afternoon Flower!  

You know I think it was the year after year delight of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol throughout my childhood that first brought Charles Dickens to my attention. It wasn't until years later that I read any Dickens but it was certainly the charming Magoo that paved the way, planted the spark and whetted the appetite.

Who can forget or surpass Quincey Magoo's Scrooge? No actor I've ever seen. It is a dynamic play within a play musical version of the most famous Christmas story since The Nativity. Razzelberry Dressing anyone? It makes one weep.

Charles Dickens is my favorite, favorite writer. I have other favorite writers, but Charles is my only favorite, favorite writer. I heart him. I fell into full Dickens worship at 13 with Bleak House. As usual I picked it for the cover. It was the old NAL mass market edition with a black boarder around a painting of a waiting room. They still use the same painting in the currently available, but the boarder color has changed to a much brighter hue.

What was unusual for me was that I also choose it for the title. Bleak House. I had no idea at the time what Dickens meant by that title but to me it was catnip. I had it in my head that this was going to be a novel about a prison. Not psychological prisons I was too young for that but real bars on the windows prisons. And why was that interesting to me? No clue. At 13 it was probably the exotic-ness of it all.

When the reading started I forgot my expectations and succomed to the power of the Dicken's pen. Here was the best storytelling ever, unforgettable characters with names that have become common parlance for all sorts of things and writing that made me devour the books. I couldn't read Dickens fast enough.

Thanks to you Mr. Magoo!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Whither Thou Taylor Caldwell?

Flower, my little friend!  

Did you read Taylor Caldwell back in the day? I am a touch too young to have enjoyed her heyday, but hers were some of the books that floated around the house when I was growing up. Great big, chubby mass markets with floating head covers of people in emotional disarray and titles done in curvy typography. They had a lot of allure for me.

The books also belong to that era when publishers used color or the page edges. Do you remember that? Do you know what that was called? I liked it then and I like it now. I wonder why publishers don't do that anymore. You would think that in the last 25 years some popular enough author would have requested colored page edges.

I remember reading The Captains and The Kings (and seeing the mini-series), Pillar of Iron, This Side of Innocence and probably others I cannot put a title to. I loved them. They were juicy page turners jammed to the tip top with generations of back stabbers, the righteous, takeovers, adulterers, all sorts of out of wedlock shenanigans, and closets filled with secrets. ~~~sigh~~~ Heaven.

When you work in a bookstore you sometimes get asked for books that turn out to be out of print. In my bookstore the most consistently asked for author whose books turn out to be out of print is Taylor Caldwell. Caldwell wrote bestselling novels from 1938 to 1980. Real bestsellers. I do not use the word bestselling lightly. Caldwell's books were genuine, actual on best selling lists, people plucking done hard earned money for bestsellers. So why aren't they in print?  

Well, her most famous family saga novel The Captains and The Kings is available from a major publishers and one of her religious novels, Dear and Glorious Physician, is available from Ignatius Press the country's leading Catholic press. And? That's it. After 42 years of books clamored for and beloved, two are still in print and available as new. I haven't investigated what the second hand market for Caldwell is like.

Why the fall from publisher's grace? I don't really know. It's been my experience that publishers are delighted to be reminded of past successes that can be repackaged and reintroduced into the retail world. I have often told sales reps that customers ask for Caldwell and I have no doubt that those messages are passed on. Maybe it's an estate/rights issue? Maybe publishers don't believe there is an audience for Caldwell books? If that's the reason I think it's a bad call.