Sunday, August 28, 2016

Book Review - Mystery of the Haunted Pool by Phyllis A Whitney

Like many of the reviewers I first read Ms. Whitney as a young adult and was happy to find this copy and pick it up for some leisurely summer reading. I do take a bit of umbrage at the reviewers who try to paint this book with the social brush of today. Any work is a product of its times and should be judged in that context. To that end this book, which won an Edgar Award for juvenile mystery, is smooth, pleasant read. Ms. Whitney develops her characters well and paints an enchanting setting. It does deal with gender roles, disability, financial hard times, and aging, all from the lens of a young girl. Although there are clear gender roles (the women do all the food preparation, for example), that was the norm in 1960 to set it otherwise would have made it difficult to relate to the intended audience. However, there is nothing the protagonist, Susan, does not do or is prohibited from because she is a girl. Also Gene's disability is treated, again inside the context of the time, with compassion and empathy and some amount of empowerment. I am still looking for a copy of the first Whitney mystery I read, Mystery on the Isle of Skye. Whitney writes well and this mild read was a welcome change from the much more "in your face" work of more contemporary writers. Recommended if you want a quiet nostalgic well-written read.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Book Review - Pan by K. R. Thompson

Before we get to the Promotional Stuff...

For a variety of reasons I was only able to read Pan. This was truly unfortunate because K. R. Thompson has done a superb job spinning the prequels to Barrie's children's classic. We are brought into the world through Tinkerbell's eyes and see the roots of Peter's character as well as some background on Neverland in an extremely well-written and seamlessly integrated way with the original. Why does Peter Pan flit between depression and manic joy? What is the origin of the lost boys? Ever wonder about the crocodile? And then there's Captain Hook and the merpeople. Thompson brings the backstory to life.  Five stars! Highly recommended! Read on!

by K.R. Thompson

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Fate of Paper Books

As you can probably tell from some of the information on this blog I am not exactly a Millenial. I grew up when telephones still had rotary dials and music was on vinyl. Books, all books, were printed on paper. I had (and still have) thousands of these relics.

Someone famously asked how will kids find new music artists, share with their parents or friends when there are no boxes of albums to thumb through, to explore kinesthetically, visually and then, finally, aurally? The same can be said of books. I still scan through the bookshelves when I go to parties or visit a friend. I love flipping through books at yard sales and charity sales.

The yard sales and charity sales, I see, as a vanishing event for written material. However, the physical book does not seem to be disappearing, just changing. Children's books are actually still strong, a hopeful sign for a literate future generation who can stay focused on one thing for more than a few seconds.

And I worry less now about the flipping through old albums scenario. You can do the same thing by flipping through the titles on my Kindle or my cloud library. Even if I'd rather hold the paper and smell the ink, the core of the book is still there in the electrons flitting about. The ideas, the adventure, the imagination, the knowledge is all still there. The form shows new options, without completely losing the old ones.

Each has its place as we move forward.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Review - Bowdrie by Louis L'Amour

This is an early collection of short stories all using the same protagonist, the eponymous Texas Ranger. L'Amour rooted his character in history and the stories play out in a fictionalized version several events from the early days of the Texas Rangers. All of these first appeared in pulps in the late 40's and are excellent. L'Amour tells a fast-paced, full-bodied story without some of the pedantry that crept into his later works.

There is a follow-on collection titled Bowdrie's Law. L'Amour's short stories were originally published in paperback by Bantam under multiple titles in the 1970s and 1980s. They have been republished as The Collected Short Stories in 8 volumes.

Wishing you good reading!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

John C Lewis' Self-Published Autobiography

This book was part of a nondescript pile of books unceremoniously donated to a charity book sale. I picked it up for the dollar they asked for hardcovers and was pleased and surprised to find inside a typescript letter expressing Christmas wishes from the author of the thin tome, in 1990, to an unnamed friend.

I have spent a few relatively fruitless hours searching for Mr. John C. Lewis. His autobiography, published when he was 50, is very short though it does show he enjoyed life and has some very nice black and white photos, most of children. Mr. Lewis was apparently a photographer of some notice. Born near St. Louis in 1900 he seems to have lived and worked in New York City.

I would be very interested to hear from anyone who might have known Mr. Lewis, who can fill in the 40 years between the book and the letter.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Book Ephemera?

In my thirteen years of selling books I have concentrated on learning about the books, the bindings, the authors, etc. I have not paid much attention to the things that have fallen out of the books when I flip through them, determining wear and value.

For example, the above small advertising insert would have ended in the circular file even a couple years ago but I would have spent hours finding out that Gautier had a very broad bibliography, being a prominent writer of the 19th century and that this book, a collection of six short stories, was published late in his life but were saucy and adventurous enough to spawn several vaudeville acts 40 years later on.

Now, having slowed down a bit, I am more interested in the story of these small bits. I've seen many of these small pieces of paper advertising a specific book from a specific publisher. Printed on "regular" paper, often in two colors, I am coming to question their efficacy, history, prominence, etc.

Unfortunately, the provenance of these advertising slips, and the larger bookmarks, seems to me much more difficult to ascertain. Perhaps because I do not know the terminology or where, really, to start.

Do you have any suggestions? Have you seen one of these that was particularly memorable? Comment or send me a note and let me know!