Monday, April 4, 2016

Review: The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King


 I've just finished The Murder of Mary Russell.  Wow.  It's ... fantastic. I get nervous with Laurie R King's new books in her beloved Mary Russell - Sherlock Holmes series.  This is book 14 of the long running series.  Sure, I love some books of the series better than others ... but this book was marvelous and absolutely the follow up I needed (as a fan) after Dreaming Spies, Garment of Shadows, and (deep breath), The Pirate King.  
After a deadly confrontation, readers are drawn through the history of one of Sherlock Holmes's earliest cases and the true background of the fascinating Mrs Hudson(!), and the true nature of her relationship to Sherlock.   We even get a bit of King's take on a Sherlock Holmes not long before his arrival at Baker Street.  I know I could read a *lot* more in that vein.  Maybe someday King will give us a little more.  

About half-way through this latest of the series, I had an idea that though I was enjoying it, The Murder of Mary Russell would only appeal to the die-hard fans of Mary Russell and maybe those true completists of Sherlock pastichery.  And a few unbranded #histofic mavericks.  After all, we're delving deep --- real deep, into the supporting cast of the series, usually territory for only the most devout readers of fanfic and scholars of minutia.  However, after that half-way mark (or so), all that build up became more and more meaningful, reaching deep into the story of King's Sherlock, which incidentally, is among my favorite interpretations.

We're also (mostly) but not entirely back in London and Sussex for this tale.  If you're among the legions of King's readers who love the globe-trotting nature of Russell and Holmes's lives, you shouldn't feel too cooped up, after sojourns at sea and a bit of time in Australia during the days of Transportation and gold.  

So, a spoiler free review, given how little I can tell you, given that title.  Yikes.  Read The Murder of Mary Russell and see how the world of Sherlock and Mary Russell is changed forever.  



Disclosure: I received a free advance ebook copy for review.



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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Review: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

Book Review: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

"Reader, I murdered him...., A reimagining of Jane Eyre as a gutsy, heroic serial killer....”
With a lead-in like that, I had high expectations.  That and this is Lyndsay Faye we're talking about, the creator of the marvelous Timothy Wilde series, and the one who finally gave us a gripping account of Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper that frankly is better than anything Conan Doyle would have come up with.  
Jane Steele is a fun, action-filled homage to the Gothic triple deckers of the Victorian age.  It has the classic tropes:  Girl orphaned young, named Jane, abused by the wealthier kinfolk she lives with, sent away to horror-show school and becomes governess ...  I go into books labeled ‘reimaginings’ with gun-shy wariness.  Like satire, it can be a fine line between brilliant and obnoxious, too cute or cloying.  Steele is not a satire of the genre, but it is sly and winking, more like a quiet unspoken joke between old friends.   Jane Steele is even published as a triple decker --- thankfully under one cover.  It’s action-filled and just tons of fun with some great characters I deeply hope to see again.    
Steele, is also unflinching from the ugliness in ugly people, and hardships of the time.  Some of that ugliness is only hinted at in those classic Gothic novels we love, but here if someone is a sexual predator, it’s said/shown.    
Anyone shying away from the ‘serial killer’ tag -- I think it’s not used well here.  Jane Steele isn’t a serial killer.  More like a vigilante, or frankly just someone who lives in hard place during a hard time.  The violence is largely unflinching, but far from Tarantino-esque.  This isn’t a cozy knitting mystery, but I think the majority of readers won’t be put off by the violence.
Faye’s descriptions are gold, building tension then giving readers that pinching little twist of anticipation making payoffs that much sweeter.  Book to book, she just gets better and better.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Christmas List 2016 started

It’s not secret, 


really enjoyed the Blake & Avery series of historic thrillers by historian M.J. Carter last year. And my (not so) idle curiosity went ahead and tweeted the author herself when one could expect Blake & Avery 3 ----- 
It wasn’t entirely presumptuous on my part she was working on it, she’s tweeted before that the manuscript was underway.  
So, this is what I learned:

image
So, there we have it.  It will hopefully be a later 2016 release, and not need to be put off further still.  Until then, I hope M.J. Carter feels better!

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Review: The Infidel Stain by MJ Carter



One of my favorite books of 2015.

It's been three years since Jeremiah Blake and bibliophile William Avery teamed up in India for what was one of the most enjoyable books I've read recently (The Strangler Vine) -- getting in on the ground floor as it were of a new series.  The Infidel Stain takes us to London in the early 1840s, into the orbit of publishers and pornographers, dissidents and rebels.  Oh, and of course, murder.  It's one of those novels that just oozes with atmosphere of dank and dark London, after a terrifying time in the dangerous jangals of India. Our heroes have become something of celebrities given their encounter with Xavier Mountstuart.  We learn a little more about the mysterious Jeremiah Blake's background in this novel, which was interesting to say the least.  We don't get much more of Avery, which I would have enjoyed.  Maybe the only thing I'd have expected was that ardent bibliophile William Avery, on a rare visit to The City would indulge himself in a visit to a bookshop.


Historically rich, and textured, a thriller that had me reading late in huge gulps.


Ok, an admission: I liked the first book better.  But with reports of Blake & Avery 3 well underway, I can't wait to see what happens next.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


READ THIS!  We read it aloud, and … wow.  My partner now wants to read more post-apocalyptic stuff (I recommended: Alas, Babylon).  We follow the intertwining strands of several people’s lives who experience a nearly extinction level pandemic in the near future.  I didn’t find it overly gruesome the way some books in the genre go, though there is death and injury, and other unsettling events, as anyone would expect.  The book does a lot of slipping and sliding in the timeline, but these shifts are handled deftly by Emily St John Mandel.  The post-apocalyptic chapters and scenes largely take place 20 years after the pandemic, which is very interesting.  If you’re at all interested, I know you’ll look at more reviews, and have probably already heard of this book.  I’m just adding my voice to the choir singing its praises.  It’s a creepy, beautiful, touching story about family, survival, and at its core: art.  I loved it.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: First Impressions by Charlie Lovett

If you're a follower of many bloggers, talkers, and reviewers in the bibliosphere, you've probably already heard about Charlie Lovett's new book, First Impressions.   I received a copy of Lovett's latest foray into bibliomysteries from his publisher.


It's good.

Ok, now that's out of the way ... I was a "Decide to read a book, finish it no matter what" reader for much of my life.  If I chose poorly, it was an act of contrition to the bibliogods to finish that crappy book.  But, I was beginning to feel like Life's Too Short for that kind of strict observance.  I started asking around what other readers did.  Some read to page 100, which seemed like a lot.  I was surprised how many were like me -- finish it no matter what.  Those who would drop a stinker didn't follow any guidelines, which should have been obvious with those that lead that kind of bohemian, free-wheeling lifestyle.

I wasn't sure what to think until I heard Nancy Pearl's good advice (like so much of her advice), to subtract your age from 100, and that's the number of pages you should give a book.  As you age, and your reading time on earth shortens, and you become a better judge of literature, you don't have to be quite so full of grace for books that don't quite deserve to take up precious reading time.

So, for me, that means 66 pages.

By page 40, Fred got his answer:


Yes.  Yes it is a kissing book.

And by page 66 (actually well before page 66 ...), I was hooked.  But it was good I had had adopted that guidance to give First Impressions a fair shake -- the opening is cheesier than the pick up lines borne bravely by our protagonist.  (An aside: I had a lot of terrible First Impression puns I've spared you. You're welcome.)  Not that I'm cheesy-opposed -- I'm a big fan of the Aubrey-Mauturin series, but when it comes to romance, I prefer it given a bit more straight. 

Anyway, back to the task at hand, I found myself drawn in by Sophie Collingwood, a bibliophile in modern London who inherits an amazing library and far more trouble than she ever wanted.  A curious bibliophile through and through, I was fascinated to tag along with her for a fun story, intertwined with a story about Jane Austen.  I'm no Jane-ite, so I'm definitely not the best one to tell you how accurate/ fulfilling/ uhhh..... Janey(?) that part of the story was, which I know is why many readers will pick this one up.  To be honest, I found myself frequently wanting to skip ahead to the modern side of the tale.  Not so much because the Jane side of the story was not interesting, but that I identified much more closely with Sophie and her side of the tale.  

In the end, it was a good story I'd recommend especially to anglophile bibliophiles, and I deeply hope it's a dandy for the Jane Austen fans out there.  After all, it's probably been at least a week since the Jane-ites had a new book to read, which can be wayyyyy too long for you people.  Also in the plus column, I'd rank it highly on "bibliofactor".  The book stuff was meaty and not at all the simple McGuffin some authors try to foist off on us, rather the only setting in which this story could be told.  Very good stuff.

Anyway, don't forget you can find me all over the web: Twitter, Tumblr, and .... places.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

2014 Lincoln Public Libraries Book Sale






Hooray for books!  Hooray for libraries!!  And hooray for Lincoln, Nebraska.  I've missed you.  This annual autumn sale is one I grew up attending.  Every year (when Mom remembered) we'd go.  And over the years, I started remembering myself to ensure we got there to fill a couple grocery bags with treasures.  It's moved a couple times over the years, and I was looking forward to attending once more.

Ok, so it was a busy weekend, but I managed to slip over for the FINAL HOUR of the annual Lincoln Public Libraries book sale. Posted prices were a little higher than normal for FOL book sales in the region, but by Sunday afternoon it was "Fill a goodly sized box for $5!!"  I managed to nearly fill said goodly sized box, and gladly paid the $5 asked.  Lots of misc. from the "literary criticism" part of the world I love so much (author letters, essays, etc.) even some old bound editions of The Dial.

I only had about an hour, so I didn't get much through the fiction section ... requires to much browsing to find good candidates.  For me, nonfiction is a much higher ratio of serendipity and success.

The sale for 2014 was held at the "new" Lancaster Event Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.  I say "new" because it really isn't very new any more.  But it is to me, the Exile who has wandered far from home and has returned to his hometown for a sojourn, I think.  Not permanent.  I think.  Why?  Life's funny, that's why.  But books are constant.

Points of note for anyone in the future looking: plenty of free parking, there were concessions available for purchase on site, and things were pretty well organized and kept tidy ... at least in the final hour!  Which tells me it was probably kept pretty tidy and well organized all along.

One thing that wasn't posted was that it was fill a box for $5 Sunday afternoon.  In fact, I think they still had the Friday prices posted -- I guessed it was something along the lines of "fill a box," but waited until it was announced over the P.A. to really start loading up.  You make different choices when it's $1 or $2 per book than you do at "fill a box" time.  Right?


Monday, May 5, 2014

New Bibliomystery by Charlie Lovett coming

Charlie Lovett's second foray into bibliomysteries is coming this fall (October it sounds like).

Last year I really enjoyed The Bookman's Tale, which delves into Shakespeare, art, book collecting, and plenty of mystery and suspense.  And a little romance, but not too much.  I can be a bit like Fred Savage in The Princess Bride when it comes to the romance sections ... Not that I don't *like* kissing, I do!! It's just sometimes in mysteries it can feel awkward, or somehow the author felt it was obligatory and characters go through passionless motions, or many other unfortunate experiences mirrored in my own life now now that I'm dating again and ...  Wow, I am derailed. Anyway....

The Bookman's Tale was a good read, and includes a satisfying amount of biblio-ness (and art too!).  It's rooted around Shakespeare, which for me is honestly a strike against a bibliomystery (especially a new author!).  There have been lots of real mysteries surrounding Shakespeare and his works, and some really exceptional fictional ones too.  But, Bookman's Tale holds up which isn't surprising once I learned Lovett has a deep passion for rare books, and has spent time doing the necessary research to meet a bibliophile's critical eye.

It wasn't that books and the book world were merely the McGuffin to keep the plot plodding along, or that the main character's employment tangentially involved books -- so there's a few scenes in a library (or the moon for all it matters) -- NOT SO!  Peter Byerly (the main character) is a rare book dealer who has lost his wife ... with lots of flashing back to their early years together (which informs the mystery), which undoubtedly a devoted husband would do at such a time.  It was good, not sappy, and certainly not a story that just happens to include a book or two to tell the *real* story of a man and woman falling in love.  NOT HERE!  The bibliofactor is on the same level of importance as the characters and the setting, which is what I look for in bibliomysteries.  So, The Bookman's Tale is a recommended read from me if you haven't read it yet.  Then you can join me looking forward to First Impressions.

First Impressions, coming out this fall, will also delve into authorship, Jane Austen, and more old books.  And being rooted in Jane Austen, I bet there'll be some kissing and I'll like it.

From the publisher:

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen (Viking; October 16, 2014; 978-0-525-42724-7)

Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield. Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.

In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth—while choosing between two suitors—and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.





Sunday, April 27, 2014

Montana Bouquiniste


This post was never published, and that was a mistake.  And since I'm now planning to leave Montana, I thought I'd better post it while I was still here.  The Book Farm may come back once I get settled in Nebraska ... it was a lot of fun.  So, cast your minds back to December 2011 ----


The snow is piling up this beautifully today, which means the tea kettle has been gurgling away and I've been reading.  Time for a little break, and also a small realization.  I was going to share something with you, dear readers, at the end of the summer, but forgot, and now it's been months---  You know how it is.

I sold books here and there online several years ago, it's been a hard habit to break.  I've heard book selling gets into your blood, and I think it's true.

As a book lover in a far flung place without any bookstores, I get out to the garage sales, farm auctions, thrift stores, etc. when I can because that's where the books are.  Pickins ain't great, but every so often I find something surprising.  That's why we all do it-- Anything can be Anywhere.

I'd often find good books cheap -- not collectible stuff, or even books I want to add to my shelves, but books that deserved a better home than the burn barrel.  (We still burn garbage in Montana).  Like the stack of decent hardback Cormac McCarthy for a dime each.  I already have what I want of his, but these are books that need a home, and without a used bookshop in the area, there was nowhere to buy from, or take them.  Not really.

This summer I also bought a book by Alan Armstrong called Off in Zora, about packing up a VW bus and setting up with his dog (Jefe) and his buddy Tom on the side of the road and sell books all over New England, but further afield too.  Not just any books make it into the rolling bookshop.  Books he believed in.  Books they could talk about.  Books worth passing on.

This appealed to me deeply.  I also admit, I was jealous of all the good bookish talk along the way.  Being pretty new still in my remote Montana community I've not met a lot of bookish people, or have many good book-centric conversations.  That's how Armstrong sold books -- through conversation.
"I've learned from Tom that people need to be sold books.  It's a mistake to think that folks know what they want.  Most readers are willing to have their susceptibility tried and even stretched a little.  So we swell and puff like Falstaff to share enthusiasms and mind each other's business, or what's the passion for?  Real booksellers at work glow like musicians when they're making music."
And it works.  While reading Zora, I found myself with book in one hand and my phone in the other, buying obscure, unheard of books online from Armstrong's descriptions.  Just wonderful.  It also occurred to me, that if this method of selling books worked on me as a reader, perhaps I could make it work in person.

The problem is that I'm gainfully employed, and unable to sit at the side of a road somewhere, set up and wait for traffic.  Where I live, that could mean 5 cars all day.

So, The Book Farm was born. In northern Montana, we have a pretty short gardening season, and an even shorter term for our local farmer's market.  It doesn't open until mid- to late August and closes down at the first freeze, which is usually early October.  So, maybe 8 Friday mornings, from 7:30 AM until noon where farm wives and widows come to town with pickups and SUVs full of produce, jams, and bread.  I thought, this is where I could sell some books.

So, I slapped together a few wooden flats from scrap I had laying around from a few yard projects, and voila!  I put a couple shelves up in the garden shed to house my stock and hit the garage sales hard.  I only had a couple weeks, and had enough boxes to offer maybe 150 books.  As any veteran bookseller will tell you, the trouble isn't selling books, it's finding books to sell.

But, fortune favored the bold -- I started out with a little over 100 books that first Friday-- and every one of them I could vouch for in some way.  I tried to have something I could recommend to most readers, but I also wanted to be able to say -- there is no junk here.

That's enough for now... More to follow.  I need to get back to my book.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bookworm ripples

We learned earlier this week on Book Patrol, the long-time bibliophile favorite painting known as The Bookworm by Carl Spitzweg is coming up for sale.  Maybe.  Apparently there are three versions of the painting by Spitzweg.  The one potentially coming up for sale is currently held by the Milwaukee Public Library.  They have *not* come out and said they were definitely selling, just that it was something they were considering.

I wondered if this one was the one that hung at Leary's Book Store in Philadelphia.  Leary's is remembered fondly and well by throngs of bibliophiles, and many remembrances can be found online.  It closed in 1968 after operating for "nearly 100 years" and the building was torn down.   The quotes are because no one is quite 100% sure when Leary's was founded, but their history as a book selling operation certainly goes back well over 100 years.

Leary's has a long history, and its archives are preserved at Temple University.  I had no experience at Leary's being born a decade after it closed, very, very far from Philadelphia, but sounds like a place I would have loved to visit.  500,000 books?  Road trip worthy!

1893, Leary, Stuart & Co.
So I dug into my question about the painting, remembering it from Leary's related ephemera.  A cursory search online revealed (to me, and maybe I'm wrong!!), that Leary's didn't actually own a copy of the painting, but rather appropriated the image.  They had a stained glass window created for the store interior, and incorporated the image as a huge sign on the exterior of the building.  The sign, when sold at auction was acquired by the Gale Research Company where it went to Detroit.  I wonder if its still there.  Or with whoever owns Gale Research now.

1902, Leary, Stuart & Co.
I know I can't afford the Milwaukee library painting's auction estimate of $400,000 (and I wouldn't be surprised if it went for more), but nearly anyone can afford cool Leary's ephemera from their good-ol-days featuring the work!  
1955 postcard featuring The Bookworm
hung from mezzanine
On an unrelated note, I hope this post didn't frighten anyone thinking I was long gone.  I won't get into gory details (this is a book collecting blog!), but shortly after the last post in Dec. 2012 my life exploded, what remained imploded, and then flipped upside down.  I've been rebuilding since, wandering in exile.  I'll be landing in Lincoln, Nebraska (my hometown) this July, and hope to get settled in quickly, and maybe even get to posting here again on occasion!  I'd like that.



The Bookworm sign on the exterior of Leary's in 1920.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Mystery of Cloomber - A Conan Doyle

It's *pouring* snow here in my little corner of Montana this morning.  Was only supposed to be a skiff of snow, but it's at least 4" of heavy stuff and still pouring down.  It's a good day to take a minute and find my next read.  Like many bibliophiles, I can't help but turn to British "classics" in winter.  I'm not sure what it is. Some sense of nostalgia for a place and time I've never experienced first-hand must have something to do with it.  No matter, I don't have to understand it to enjoy it.  Personally, it's not Dickens at Christmastime, but Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, and PG Wodehouse that usually accompany me before my winter's naps.  A recent find was this unknown to me book The Mystery of Cloomber.  I know nothing except a man (Santa?) is horrified by what he hears.  I also happen to know this copy was once in West Virginia.  
This copy includes a great book trade label from Bluefield Book & Stationery Company in Bluefield, West Virginia.  Like many book stores approaching the 20th Century, they also sold other goods, like cut glass, china, office equipment, stationery along with "All The Latest Books."  I also wonder if this book was in a subscription library of some kind with the contemporary numbered label in the upper corner.  Now, where did I put that list?
  






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Monday, June 4, 2012

Happy 100th Loeb Classical Library!

The Loeb Classical Library has been around for 100 years this year.  You can read all about the history of this monumental series over at Wikipedia.  But even better, you can start reading the classics themselves thanks to a cool site that has streamlined digital access to these wonderful books.

Also, you can share your love of Loebs in a new-ish Flickr group for folks who love the series.

There is lots of amazing work going on all the time to preserve and share these ancient texts-- and more discoveries to be made!  Here is William Noel from the Walters Museum of Art in a recent TED Talk about revealing Archimedes.  PS, thanks TED people for getting a recording out shortly after it was actually made!



Friday, June 1, 2012

Ralph Ellison speaks.


I was catching up on some podcast listening this week, and heard the folks at Bookrageous talk about "one hit wonder" authors.  One of my favorites is Ralph Ellison.  A fascinating interview with Ralph Ellison has been digitized from the archives of my old work place, the Oklahoma Historical Society, and as of this writing has about 10 views. Thanks OHS for making this available to everyone to see.

You can browse Ralph Ellison's personal library on Library Thing's Legacy Library project.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

While you were out...

So, you understand I wasn't just sitting around all winter waiting for the blog to unfreeze, I was up to a few things, and now I can finally share.

I started using Tumblr for things that don't quite fit the format here.  The first is like the Exile Bibliophile blog but on tumblr, just like the blog only less wordy: http://exilebibliophile.tumblr.com/. Also, I should note completely different content than the blog.  Tumblr also makes it easy to run audio content, which is something I've wanted to do with Exile Bibliophile for a while -- a podcast.  I know it's very 2007 of me, but I can't help it.  If I ever get one "in the can" as they say in the "biz", I'll be the first to tell you so.

I also started a Tumblr dedicated to library ink stamps --  http://libraryinkstamps.tumblr.com/, which has been surprisingly popular and features daily posts.   I've also started another dedicated entirely to errata slips http://fixedinprint.tumblr.com/ -- this one is a little slower going, but is picking up steam.  The errata slip tumblr was created in response to a conversation on twitter and then it got out of hand.  You know how it is.

Of course, you can find me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BLClark

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

FINALLY!

After battling Google over a snafu with 2-step verification, I'm back!  Egads.  I'll have a few old posts that never went up because of the lock-out, and updates too.

I have several updates in the hopper, but I'm hitting the road tomorrow for what will be a great time in Great Falls, Montana to be one of the speakers for their Festival of the Book series.  So, briefly, if you can catch me, please do at the Great Falls Public Library this Saturday at 2 pm.  They've also got some other good stuff lined up on other Saturdays, so check it all out.  More to follow.