Tag Archives: books

Four THINGS I LOVE AND THINGS I HATE ABOUT BARNES & NOBLE on Friday

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I love bookstores.  I love the smell, I love the soothing music, and I love the books!!  Sadly, many great bookstores – Borders, Crown Books, Waldenbooks, and so on – are no longer around.  Independent bookstores are the best . . . if there is one local in your area.  Half-Price Books also has its merits but it just doesn’t have the “bookstore” feel I am looking for.  What’s left?  Barnes & Noble. 

I admit that I have a love/hate relationship with Barnes & Noble.  To their credit, a lot of these stores are located in a mall which creates a completely different ambiance.  There are a few, large two-story Barnes & Nobles; one of my favorites is in Burlington, Massachusetts, ACROSS the street from the Burlington Mall.  And so not to be a pessimist, I give you four things I LOVE about Barnes & Noble, and four things I HATE!

Four THINGS I LOVE AND HATE ABOUT BARNES & NOBLE on Friday

I love that Barnes & Noble is a bookstore!
As I mentioned, physical bookstores are few and far-between.  I am happy that I have a store that is relatively close, about 20 minutes, where I can get current new release books.

I hate the NOOK.
Now I am not going to get into an argument about eBooks versus physical books; to each their own.  My complaint is the amount of square footage of store space devoted to the Nook and its accessories and samples to play with and a special desk just for the Nook.  Have your display, but make it reasonably sized and provide space for the actual books.

I love the Member Rewards!
I’ve been a Barnes & Noble rewards member for almost 20 years; I love the added discounts, the bonus coupons, and the special member perks.  When I bring out my member card, the store clerks almost always comment that they haven’t seen a card that old in a long time!

I hate that they never have book 1 in a series.
Looking through the new releases, I love to discover a series that I have never read before.  If it isn’t the first in the series and the story looks promising, I search the shelves to find the first in the series and invariably the first one is never there.  Now I understand that they can’t have every book on the shelf, but shouldn’t the first one be there?

I love bargain books!
I consider the bargain books a “not included in the total number of books” I allow myself to purchase.  They are bonuses just asking to be taken home.  I pick up hardbacks that I wouldn’t usually purchase in hardcover, fluff stories that look like they might be a quick fun read, and quirky collections of facts about an English monarch or the Civil War.  Rarely more than $5-$10, these are books that may sit on my to-be-read pile for a while, but they are there just in case.

I hate the moving mysteries.
Now I know that mysteries aren’t everyone’s favorite genre, but it seems like this section always seems to get the short end of the location.  My local Barnes & Noble has shrunk down this section to a single side of a row.  I know that Young Adult Fiction is important, but seriously.  Take some of that Nook space!

I love Starbucks!
Ironically, I am not a coffee drinker; however, a cup of tea, a cinnamon coffee cake, and a good book . . . heaven.  I like to have a spot to peruse my pile, negotiate with myself about the purchases I will make and the books that will have to be returned to the shelves, and console my sadness of the lost books with something sweet.  Having a Starbucks, or any kind of refreshment area, helps to make a trip to the bookstore an experienckse.

I hate the extra “stuff.”
In the past, I have spent many an hour sitting in Barnes & Noble while my little ones played at the Thomas the Tank Engine table.  They would play, I would read.  When they got tired or the table got crowded, we would find a little corner to read together.  I love the complimentary book items; the cute journals, the stuffed Olivia pigs, the Harry Potter games and wands.  It’s the unrelated toys and extras that annoy me; it’s a book store, not a toy store.

And so if Barnes & Noble ever wanted my opinion, I would just ask that they focus on what they do best – books!

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The Bookshop on the Corner

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Title:  The Bookshop on the Corner
Author:  Jenny Coogan
Publisher:  William Morrow
Publication Date:  2016
ISBN:  978-0-06-246725-6

Book Summary:
In the current age of technology, social media, and financial cutbacks, the Birmingham library where Nina Redmond works finds itself without purpose and Nina, without a job.  At age twenty-nine, all Nina has ever known and loved are books.  Her roommate has finally hit her limit of all the lost and lonely books that Nina brings home and declares that Nina and her books must go.

Now, out of a job and a home, Nina searches for a new start.  In the transition program that is meant to help the displaced workers find that next step, Nina reveals her lifelong dream – to own a bookstore.  However, with limited means, Nina instead settles on a search for a book van and she finds one . . . in Scotland.

As so begins a grand adventure of negotiating the purchase of the van, finding a new place to live, figuring how to get her books to the van, learning how to drive the van, and endeavoring to make a living sharing her love of books with the readers she meets.

Along the way, she meets a host of characters: Edwin and Hugh, her pub buddies; Lennox, her cantankerous landlord, Marek, her mysterious and sexy book smuggler; and Ben and Ainslee, the children whose secrets tug at her heart.  But as Nina shares her passion for books and talent at perfectly matching reader to story, she must also decide which chapter of her own life she will follow and if she is willing to step out from behind the pages of the books that she is reading and face the world.

Book Commentary:
I loved this book.  Straightforward and simple, it had all my favorites – a nerdy heroine, a rakish hero, books, and Scotland.  Sigh.  As with the other Jenny Colgan books, for many they might be considered “chick lit,” but I really feel that her metaphors for life are spot on.  She comments that for Nina, whenever the grim, harsh, and unpleasant realities of life rear up, “she always turned to a book.”  I think a lot readers do this; find sanctuary and peace in stories that aren’t their own realities.

The author, however, through Nina does warn of the dangers of constantly escaping into a book and forgetting to live your life.  The constant imagery and metaphors of books and new chapters really resonate with the reader; the story is a delightful tale, but also a cautionary one.

The author comments that this book – her seventeenth – was written for her readers.  She expounds on her favorite reading spots and understands the spark of matching a perfect book to a wounded, expectant, or nervous soul.

As someone who has read a lot of books to children, I also appreciated the theory that “children were evolutionarily engineered to listen to stories, because it stopped them from wandering off in the woods and getting eaten by hairy mammoths.”  Makes sense!

Who might like this book:
This book is for book-lovers.  It will make you think a bit about why you read and how you read, but most all, it will make you smile.

I have read and loved two other Jenny Colgan books – Little Beach Street Bakery and Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery . . . and I might possibly have two more waiting in my to-be-read pile.

Queries and Conundrums: The Two-Timer

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Confession time.  I cheated.  And, it isn’t the first time nor will it be the last.  I started reading a book, got distracted, and started up a second book.

This is pretty typical for me; I will usually have at least three books going at once.  There is always a book in my purse that is easy to pick up or put down; one can never be too careful.  There could be a very long wait at the doctor’s office, or a zombie apocalypse.  Best to be prepared.  Next, I have my main book that I am currently reading.  That’s the one that is sitting on the kitchen counter, in the passenger seat of the car, or on my nightstand.  I grab that book when I head out somewhere as naturally as I take my car keys and phone.

And then, there’s that third book.  I call it my cheater book.  Sometimes it is a fluff book that requires little to no thought but provides a good laugh.  Sometimes it is a book that I am just not quite sure about; am I going to stick with the relationship and give it 50 more pages or is it time to break ties?  Sometimes it is a heavy book – tone not weight, although sometimes both – that I just need an emotional break from.  Sometimes, it is a book I’ve already read when I am feeling the need to revisit an old friend or feel the warmth of familiarity.

Not to digress too much, but there is something about rereading an old favorite.  There is the comfort of knowing what to expect; sometimes, especially with mysteries, there is a point when you don’t know what is going to happen and quite possibly something will happen that I won’t like.  I often need to psych myself up for this potential outcome and seek the ease and security of what I know.  That’s the time I pick up an old favorite that I know what the outcome will be and I know that I will be happy with it!

Anyway, I am always reading a number of books simultaneously.  My daughters are very split on this issue.  My younger daughter has at least as many books going on as I do.  She bounces back and forth between books and often will randomly pick up an additional one.  Every now and again, she becomes overwhelmed with the number of books that she is reading and will buckle down and finish a few before picking up another one.

My older daughter, however, is a one-book-at-a-time kind of girl.  Recently we were talking about a book that she was reading that I had also read.  It was part of a series that started out really good but kind of fell apart as it went along.  She felt that she had to finish it but wasn’t overly enthused about doing so.  She said that she had invested time and attention to the series and wanted to see it through; definitely commitment issues!  I suggested that she put the book aside and start another one to give herself a break.  The horrified look I received!!  Obviously she is committed reader!

So I am curious.  Do others read multiple books or just one at a time?  What constitutes the hierarchy of books to be read?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Four NEW YEAR READING RESOLUTIONS on Friday

Happy 2016

Happy New Year!!  No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth; just a very busy holiday season with my family.  The good news is that I have been reading a lot and looking forward to sharing many new book ideas with you.  I’ve also been working on a few other surprises to add into the mix.  But for now, in honor of 2016, I am going share my New Year Reading Resolutions.

Four NEW YEAR READING RESOLUTIONS on Friday

Read MORE
I know, I know.  I already read a lot!  However, if I seriously look at my day, I spend a fair amount of time wasted on my phone – checking Facebook, searching IMDB, and my biggest addiction, Solitaire!  I find that I will hear that sound – the notification of an email or text – and immediately grab for the phone.  After I delete the junk mail or respond to the text, I am sucked in by the ease and mindless activity of the phone.  My time, and my mind, could be much better served by reading.  I always have a book handy, so I vow to pick up the book, and not the phone, when I have a few spare moments.

Write MORE
I really, really enjoy writing.  I find though that it is often hard to get myself started.  My son wrote for a website and would publish two to three articles a day, and I was always amazed at how easy it was for him.  I know that writing more makes a person a better writer and I need to commit time each day to dedicate to my writing.  I have found that as I read books, I am more aware of things that I want to mention in my commentary and that has also helped to jump start my writing.

Allow myself to break-up with some books . . . and writers
I am a 50-page reader; if the book doesn’t grab me in 50 pages, I will let it go.  I am usually really good by this rule except when I am reading books from a series in which I have read previous books.  Many times I find myself skimming to the end of the book just because I feel that I have an investment in the series.  Once I do that, I am frustrated that I wasted my time and I won’t write any commentary on a book that I finished half-heartedly.  So, if a series no longer holds my interest or hasn’t maintained a level of quality that I would like, I am allowing myself to break it off.

Stretch my reading genres
I love mysteries and I love young adult books, but this year, I want to challenge myself to consciously read more of a variety of genres.  I have read a number of biographies and really enjoy them; I am going to seek out more biographies and other non-fiction books.  I also love children’s literature; even though my own children are older, picture books are still enduring and fun.  I also want to revisit some of the classics.  As a former high school English teacher, I read and taught a lot of the classics, but I want to re-read them as a reader, not as someone who has to get 16-year-olds excited about them.  Hmmm . . . maybe a new take on “throwback Thursday?”

So now that I have put these down in writing, I expect you all to help hold me accountable!  Happy 2016!!  Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and book-filled new year!

Book Scavenger

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Title:  Book Scavenger
Author:  Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Publisher:  Henry Holt
Publication Date:  2015
ISBN:  978-1-62779-115-1

Book Summary:
Twelve-year-old Emily’s family is on a quest to live in 50 houses in 50 states.  Her mother is a blogger and writer and hoping to publish a book about their adventures.  Leaving New Mexico is hard for Emily but the excitement of moving to San Francisco is complimented by the fact that it is the home to Bayside Press, Garrison Griswold, and the home base for the Book Scavenger.

Book Scavenger is an online game where participants write clues that lead to books hidden all over the world.  The game is described as “a community of book lovers, puzzle lovers, and treasure hunters,” and Emily is just a few points away from the Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin level.  Mr. Griswold is about to reveal his newest and most exciting puzzle quest yet but is violently attacked before he can reveal the game.

As someone who has moved often, Emily struggles with friendships but is lucky that James lives just upstairs and loves puzzles as well.  When Emily and James visit the site of the Griswold attack, they find a copy of The Gold-Bug.  They quickly discover that this book isn’t part of the Book Scavengers game but may be a clue to Mr. Griswold’s big announcement.  They are not the only ones in search of The Gold-Bug however, and some of the other interested parties have old grudges and will go to great lengths to solve the puzzle.  Emily and James learn quickly that they cannot trust everyone and they must rely on their own wits and skills and each other as they decipher the clues and race to find the spectacular prize. If they aren’t able to solve the clues quickly, the end result may be something much more sinister.

Book Commentary:
What a completely fun book!!  I actually picked this up for my daughter and became totally engrossed in the story.  What a concept of solving puzzles and finding books!  The game itself is a wonderful creation and the story is just as engaging and exciting.  It reminds me a bit of The Westing Game, The 39 Clues series, and The Red Blazer Girls series; the puzzles help the story to progress and the reader becomes involved in solving the clues.  I only wish the game were real and I could play!

Emily and James are very likeable characters and Emily’s family provides great supporting action.  There is a lot of humor, coupled with the frustrations and trials of life as a middle schooler.

Who might like this book:
Although this is technically a young adult book, I truly think anyone who loves books, mysteries, or puzzle-solving will enjoy this adventure.  It is a well-written and engaging story. There is an obvious appreciation and love of books evident throughout the story.  Emily and James travel all over San Francisco on quite an adventure, but as a native to the city, James is very believable as a tour guide.  There are numerous references to famous landmarks and anyone familiar with the city will enjoy and recognize the sights and locales.

I highly recommend this book.  It would a great read for a middle school classroom and serve as a starting point in the study of codes and puzzles.  I hope the author writes more!

84, Charing Cross Road

Title:  84 Charing Cross Road
Author:  Helene Hanff
Publisher:  Avon Books
Publication Date:  1970
ISBN:  0-380-00122-5

Book Summary:
Helene Hanff is a sarcastic New Yorker; a self-described “poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books.”  A chance discovery of an advertisement of a bookseller in England who specializes in out-of-print books sparks a 25-year transatlantic correspondence with prim and proper English bookseller, Frank Doel.  Helene writes perky and sometime impertinent letters requesting a variety of books and Frank responds with stoic charm and tact.  Over the years, the customer relationship evolves into true friendship, and during the course of the letters, Helene is introduced to Frank’s wife and children, the other employees at Marks & Co. Booksellers, and even Frank’s Irish neighbor.  Helene is sends eggs, meats, and nylons and other items unavailable during the war to her friends.  They in turn send her distinctive books to add to her library. The true story is one of friendship, a love of books, and old-fashioned kindness.

The entire novel is written as the series of letters between New York and 84, Charing Cross Road, London.  A 1987 film of the book stars Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins.

Book Commentary
You know those books you have on your shelf and just pick back up randomly and reread over and over?  This is one of mine.  This is a rare case where I saw the film first – I know, gasp!  I loved the story, found the book, and it is one of my all-time favorites.  It is a beautiful love story – a love affair with books and a love affair with England, two of my own loves!  The story of Frank and Helene is not a romantic one but one of deep affection and just a bit of consternation.

At less than 100 pages, it is a quick read and one I highly recommend.  If you need a smile or pick-me-up, find a cozy chair, a cup of tea, and spend an afternoon with two people who love books.

Who might like this book:
Love England?  Love books?  Love letter writing . . . with real paper?  Love humor and warmth and friendship?  This book is for you!  It is perfect for all ages; I gave this book to my then 92-year-old grandmother and she loved it, but it is perfect for young adults as well.  It is nostalgic of a bygone era and time when although the world was complex, life was a little simpler.

Four on Friday: READING NECESSITIES

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So . . . to mix things up a little, every Friday I will make a list of four things. Hope you enjoy and let me know your thoughts.

Four READING NECESSITIES on Friday
Of course, I can and will read any way, any how, and any where . . . in the carpool line, in line at the grocery store, in the bathroom while drying my hair, at the stove while cooking . . . you get the idea. BUT, if I were pick an ideal environment, well . . .

A comfy spot
Where to read? I enjoy reading in bed but I often struggle with getting comfortable. Can I balance the book on the pillow? Do I have enough back support? Is the light bright enough? Can I stay awake? The answer most often, especially for the last question, is no. I often read at the kitchen table while eating lunch or a snack. This can be dangerous because I will sit and read and eat without thinking; a dangerous binge practice!!

I think the perfect place for me is a large comfortable, but not too comfortable, chair with a strong arm for book balancing. I’m not very tall so I want a chair to curl up in; my feet never are able to reach the floor anyway!

An appropriate beverage
What to drink? This is a loaded question! A cup of tea? A glass of wine? Coke in a glass bottle? All three are enjoyable but it truly does depend on what I’m reading. Tea and wine tend to relax me, which is nice, but I don’t want to fall asleep! Don’t you hate it when you want to keep reading and your eyes just won’t stay open! I have a weakness for soda; I know it’s bad but can’t I have one vice . . . besides spending too much money on books. Caught you there – there is never a reason not to purchase books! The problem with drinking soda is then you have to use the bathroom. Don’t you hate interrupting a book to pee!

So, tea is perfect for me if the weather is cold. I like herbal tea in a hearty mug. Mid-day, a soda works to keep me going. In the evening, as long as the book is exciting, a nice Chardonnay.

A kitty . . . or two
When I am reading, I want a cat curled up on my lap or by my side. There is something so soothing and calming about a cat purring and it really seems to add to the experience. I have two cats – Merlin and Arthur – who enjoy helping me read. When my youngest was learning to read, she would read aloud to Merlin who would curl up in her lap. I still catch her now at almost 13 reading aloud to him. I think he finds her reading voice as soothing as she finds his purring. I must say though that my cats can get very bent out of shape if I laugh or gasp out loud at my reading. I try to explain to them about the story but I usually get an upturned nose or a tail in my face. You know cats!

Ambiance
I think the setting to read a book is sometimes just as important as the setting of the book itself. I love to read while lying on a beach chair with a fruity drink in my hand, listening to the sound of the surf, smelling the sea air; however, I also find this kind of setting can be sometimes distracting. I know, tough life.

Truly, the perfect atmosphere for me to read is next to a cozy fire with some kind of weather outside. A strong rain, gently falling snow, dark skies and wind gusts all add to the atmosphere of what I’m reading. When the weather has personality, it is not a time for laundry or housework — I feel guilty not reading!!

I love sitting down — with an atmospheric mood, in a comfortable chair, with an appropriate beverage, and a snuggling kitty — to read a much anticipated book . . . when I have the laundry done, dinner in the oven, the children entertained, the house cleaned, and all the paperwork done . . . well, I do read fiction.