Monday, February 1, 2016

How Dare You Challenge Me Sir (or Ma'am)!

Alright, January is over, and I think (hope) all of the reading challenge flags have been thrown. (God help me if they haven't). I know it's a January tradition - new year, new resolutions, new books - it just goes hand in hand. To most people it's fun and exciting. New goals, new authors (yadda' yadda' yadda'). But for someone with just the slightest tinge of OCD, those fun, cute little reading challenges hold a different weight.

I have a friend who doesn't like to be told what to do. No, I mean, she REALLY doesn't like to be told what to do. She'll ask you what you think she should do in a certain situation and turn right back around (tongue & cheek) with the most serious face and say "Don't tell me what to do." If you didn't know her, you'd think she was crazy and maybe she is, but no more than the usual amount. (She doesn't even like it when the GPS tells her where to turn).

I have to admit that I recognize more than a little bit of myself in her stubbornness. Something happens to me when I receive a challenge (we'll just insert "reading" in front of that). It's as if something snaps to inside of me. A white glove stinging my cheek and all of the sudden I'm standing erect, choosing my weapon and walking ten paces. I cannot refuse. It's like someone double-dog-daring me to do something and my 10-year-old self, with that unwavering 10-year-old logic emerges.

So, when the simplest of (reading) challenges / memes showed up in my Facebook feed, I did what most people do. I ignored it. The best way to stay out of a trap is to avoid it (Girl Scouts 101). I ignored it each time a friend shared it. All 13 times it showed up in my feed, until... "You've been invited to an event." I didn't even see the glove until it left that stinging sensation on my cheek. Damn.

"You've been invited to an Event" - Facebook's version of a double-dog-dare.

It should be said, that most events I'm invited to on Facebook are actual events, happening in the real world and the only challenge to overcome is scheduling. In this case, the event was more conceptual... A reading challenge. The same reading challenge I had been side stepping (successfully) for the entire week.

Now, the challenge itself, upon first glance, was a simple one. Read 12 books in a year. No Prob! So Easy. I can do this in a month! (okay, maybe two). And I have to say, it was going pretty well. I got a third of the listed challenges knocked out in a week. But here's the thing, one of the "challenges" was to read something that intimidated you. Intimidated. It's an interesting word. One that most people would take at face value. The problem? I am not most people.

What exactly does it mean, a book that intimidates you? Should I read a scary book, one that frightens me? A book that threatens me, threatens my way of thinking? A book that overpowers me in an emotional sense? Perhaps I should find and read the heaviest / largest book I can find, one that literally overpowers me? Or should I find one that is dense with language? (OH my literal mind!) - so many titles flashed through my head:

  • Scary: Communion (Whitley Strieber), The Collector (John Fowles), Cujo (Stephen King)
  • Threatening: Mein Kompf (Adolph Hitler), Crippled America (Donald Trump)
  • Emotionally overpowering: Requiem for a Dream (Hubert Selby, Jr.), Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway), A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Husseini), Was (Geoff Ryman)
  • Thick: The Instructions (Adam Levin), Infinite Jest (David Foster Wallace)
  • Dense with language: Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dante...

In the end, I chose to challenge myself (& my brain) with a language dense (& somewhat thick) 450 page Hindu poem made up of 24,000 verses (500 cantos). Valmiki Rámáyana is one of two popular stories told to children in India, Bali, Java, etc. As such, I figured it would be an easier read, but as I said before, my brain is quite literal, so reading rhyming verses that loop around themselves only to repeat the story told in the previous verses, well... this became the real challenge for me. I had to remind myself that, even though the length of the poem would suggest otherwise, this was indeed written for children.

I am still slogging through it, but I have been assured that once I get through book one, it becomes "much more engrossing. At this pace, however, it may take me the full 12 months to finish. Still, had it not been for the challenge, I would never have pressed myself to read something beyond the familiar.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Buzz Books Spring 2016

According to NetGalley, there are some fairly exciting debuts due out in early Spring (namely March).

First on their list is Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 8, 2016)

Winner of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature for 2015
Winner of the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year Award (Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards 2015)
Short-listed for the Costa First Novel Award
Long-listed for The Guardian First Book Award 2015, 
A Readers' ChoiceLong-listed for the Warwick Prize for Writing 2015
Long-listed for 2015 Edinburgh First Novel Award
Barnes & Noble Spring 2016 Discover Great New Writers 
March 2016 Indie Next Pick
2016 Winter/Spring Indies Introduce Pick

Synopsis: It is springtime, and two outcasts — a man ignored, even shunned by his village, and the one-eyed dog he takes into his quiet, tightly shuttered life — find each other, by accident or fate, and forge an unlikely connection. As their friendship grows, their small, seaside town suddenly takes note of them, falsely perceiving menace where there is only mishap; the unlikely duo must take to the road. 

According to NetGalley, this title was published first in the UK by a small press before being picked up by Random House UK then Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the U.S.

I found a signed First Edition (hardcover) published by Tramp Press, Dublin (2015), listing for $96. According to the product description only 100 hardcover copies were printed and signed by the author. Tramp press also printed a run in paperback (I'm assuming this is the "small press" NetGalley mentions and therefore the first printing).

I din't find any other print run numbers. At the time of this writing, Abebooks had about 50 copies (a lot of them shipping from Germany for some reason). Prices were generally pretty low (the highest being the signed hardcover).

Next is a literary suspense novel in the vein of Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told YouShelter by Jung Yun (Picador, March 15, 2016), is centered around family, high expectations, a horrible crime, and internal conflict that resolves with violence.
A Barnes & Noble Winter 2016 Discover Great New Writers selection.
Synopsis: Kyung Cho is a young father burdened by a house he can’t afford. For years, he and his wife, Gillian, have lived beyond their means. Now their debts and bad decisions are catching up with them, and Kyung is anxious for his family’s future. 
A few miles away, his parents, Jin and Mae, live in the town’s most exclusive neighborhood, surrounded by the material comforts that Kyung desires for his wife and son. Growing up, they gave him every possible advantage—private tutors, expensive hobbies—but they never showed him kindness. Kyung can hardly bear to see them now, much less ask for their help. Yet when an act of violence leaves Jin and Mae unable to live on their own, the dynamic suddenly changes, and he’s compelled to take them in. For the first time in years, the Chos find themselves living under the same roof. Tensions quickly mount as Kyung’s proximity to his parents forces old feelings of guilt and anger to the surface, along with a terrible and persistent question: how can he ever be a good husband, father, and son when he never knew affection as a child?
I only found, what I'm guessing are, ARC's listed over on Abebooks.
No mention of print run numbers on this one. (In general publisher's won't announce the print run if it's lower).
Stork Mountain by Miroslav Penkov (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 15, 2016)
Synopsis: In Stork Mountain, a young Bulgarian immigrant returns to the country of his birth in search of his grandfather, who suddenly and unexpectedly cut all contact with the family three years ago. The trail leads him to a village on the border with Turkey, a stone's throw away from Greece, high up in the Strandja Mountains − a place of pagan mysteries and black storks nesting in giant oaks; a place where every spring, possessed by Christian saints, men and women dance barefoot across live coals in search of rebirth. Here in the mountains, he gets drawn by his grandfather into a maze of half-truths. And here, he falls in love with an unobtainable Muslim girl. Old ghosts come back to life and forgotten conflicts blaze anew until the past surrenders its shameful secrets. 

A new Amy Einhorn selection, part of the new fiction line from Flatiron Books: An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Tao (March 15, 2016),  is a collection of interconnected stories that take place during the partition of India and Pakistan, Tao's book is in the tradition of Jhumpa Lahiri.
Winner of the 2014 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction.
Library Journal says she's "a writer to watch."
Synopsis: The twelve paired stories in Shobha Rao's An Unrestored Woman trace their origins to the formation of India and Pakistan in 1947, but they transcend that historical moment. A young woman in a crushingly loveless marriage seizes freedom in the only way left to her; a mother is forced to confront a chilling, unforgiveable crime she committed out of love; an ambitious servant seduces both master and mistress; a young prostitute quietly, inexorably plots revenge on the madam who holds her hostage; a husband and wife must forgive each other for the death of their child. Caught in extreme states of tension, in a world of shifting borders, of instability, Rao's characters must rely on their own wits.
No print run numbers on this one.

Journalist Nicholas Seeley's debut thriller Cambodia Noir (Scribner, March 15, 2016).
Synopsis: Phnom Penh, Cambodia: The end of the line. Lawless, drug-soaked, forgotten—it’s where bad journalists go to die. For once-great war photographer Will Keller, that’s kind of a mission statement: he spends his days floating from one score to the next, taking any job that pays; his nights are a haze of sex, drugs, booze, and brawling. But Will’s spiral toward oblivion is interrupted by Kara Saito, a beautiful young woman who shows up and begs Will to help find her sister, June, who disappeared during a stint as an intern at the local paper.
No print run numbers on this one either - I'm guessing not more than 30,000.
And, according to NetGalley, the most anticipated debut of the month comes later in March: Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's The Nest, bought by Ecco in a major deal in 2014. Being released March 22, 2016.
Synopsis: Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs' joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.
First print run: 150,000 [Library Journal]. Grab an early, signed copy if you can. She'll be on a 6 city book tour hitting Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle. Specific locations are listed on the book's HarperCollins page.

Friday, January 29, 2016

In the Post: H is for Hawk

A week ago, it hit me that I'd failed to find a copy of H is for Hawk, our book club choice for February. It wasn't for lack of trying, I prowled through all the used bookstores in town (well, most of them. Okay, one of them). I checked online at Abebooks, Powell's, and even did an Indie Bookstore search for the title. I finally came to the realization that if I was at all interested in getting the book in time to read for February's book club, I would have to look to Amazon.

Now, I know, there are plenty of used copies out there (I hear you, I do), but I was looking (nay hoping) for a first printing that wasn't going to cost me $50+.

There are, I know in my heart, still people out there who do not collect books. They are readers, who have the means to buy a book when it first comes out and don't feel the need to hold on to it once they've read it. It may be a little bit of a fantasy on my part, but I believe these people just want to pass it on. Sure, they'll ask a nominal sum for their troubles, but it's the sharing of the stories that holds the greater value. (What? They might be real).

And, a week ago, I thought I found such a person. An independent book dealer (listing on Amazon) whose description of H is for Hawk stated "Pristine First Edition - Full Number Line... Satisfaction is Guaranteed!" And the price was only $15!

And besides, look how exuberant they were. Everything is CAPS and exclamation points. How could you not be excited? I was excited! (don't judge).

Anyway, my copy arrived yesterday, and I have to say it is absolutely pristine, very tight binding, a little wear to the lower cover but overall in Very Good condition. I was really impressed, because it came in a little bubble mailer via the USPS. I mean, don't get me wrong, I LOVE the Post Office, but sometimes they're not so careful with the packages. 

I opened the book to check that it was indeed a First Edition, and instead of hearing the triumphant horns (you know, like the ones that announce the King in those old movies about medieval knights? right, well), what I heard was "wah wah waahhhh." (Yeah, you probably saw that coming). It turns out the copy that I was sent was, in fact, a 7th printing. The number line reads:

 15 16 17 18   7  
TEACHING MOMENT! The first set of numbers (15 16 17 18) indicates the publishing year (the lowest number of which indicates that it was published in 2015). This is followed by a lone number (7) indicating the print run. And nowhere on the copyright page does it state "First Edition."

Also, in doing a little research after-the-fact, I've noticed that an actual first printing (U.S. version, not U.K.) will have only a gold medallion on the cover (stating "WINNER of the Samuel Johnson Prize"). Apparently, the yellow "New York Times Bestseller" and red "Costa Book of the Year 2014" medallions didn't appear until the 2nd U.S. printing.

Cover for a first U.S. printing
Now, I'm hoping the fact that I was sent a 7th printing was just an error, because let's face it mistakes happen. And at this point it's not a big deal, but I'm really hoping beyond hope that buymeimcheap actually has several copies sitting on their shelves and while having a rousing conversation about the aesthetics and implications of Dadaism in the early 20th century, they just pulled down the wrong copy & sent it out. I sent them a nice little email asking if maybe I could just exchange the one they sent for the correct copy, although I did neglect to ask about their conclusions regarding the DaDaists. We will see what they say (fingers crossed).

That said, it's still a very lovely book and discounted well below the cover price - a good deal whether a 1st printing or a 7th. It's just, I'd rather have the first printing if it's still available, as it is what was listed in the product description.

[Addendum] - Tina from buymeimcheap did get in contact, indeed it was a mistake. It'd been a long day of listing First Editions and by the time she got to the H is for Hawk listing she simply forgot to delete the 'First Edition' statement. She very nicely offered to refund my money and apologized for the confusion.  I told her no worries (like I said, it's in beautiful condition & a fair price no matter what printing it is) & that if she ever did come across a first printing to give me a shout. So, my search continues & in the mean time I have a beautiful 7th printing to add to my reading pile.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Have You Seen These: Visions in Poetry Series?

I know, I said I was staying away from publisher sites (and perhaps not said, but implied, also attempting to stay away from Amazon). BUT... I was looking up the price of a non-book item (I swear) and for some reason in the 'also purchased by' section was an image of a rather captivating book cover for Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky. The cover was so intriguing I HAD to check it out (HAD to), and what I stumbled onto was an illustrated children's series published by Kids Can Press, Ltd.

7 titles, all classic poems, illustrated by contemporary (Canadian?) illustrators, published between 2004 & 2010. At the time of this writing, only had two listings for first editions (still priced near the original asking price). Amazon has lots of used copies, although very few actually state that they are first editions / first printings - so you may need to do a little leg work if you want to cobble together titles in "like new" condition. Prices at Amazon are constantly being adjusted, but I'm betting you can find each of these titles for about half of the original price (used).

Quick note: It appears that the last two titles were published in paperback only (for some that may be a deal breaker).

Regardless, it's a sweet little set, although I don't know what the long term collectibility of these titles will actually be. Short term, they're valued at about the cover price - assuming they are in Fine condition. I couldn't find any print run numbers, but I'm guessing that has less of an effect on these. This series is more likely to be propelled by emotional attachment (both to the illustrations and the poems).

Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll
Illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
Published August 1, 2004
Orig. price: $16.95 USD
# of pages: 40

The Highway Man, Alfred Noyes
Illustrated by Murray Kimber
Published April 1, 2005
Orig. price: $17.95 USD
# of pages: 48

The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe
Illustrated by Ryan Price
Published August 1, 2006
Orig. price: $17.95 USD
# of pages: 48

The Owl and the Pussycat, Edward Lear
Illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
Published September 1, 2007
Orig. price: $17.95 USD
# of pages: 48

My Letter to the World and Other Poems, Emily Dickinson
Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Published September 8, 2008
Orig. price: $17.95 USD
# of pages: 48

The Lady of Shallot, Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Illustrated by Geneviève Côté
Published September 1, 2009
Orig. price: $9.95 USD (Paperback only)
# of pages: 48

Casey at the Bat, Ernest L. Thayer
Illustrated by Joe Morse
Published March 1, 2010
Orig. price: $9.95 USD (Paperback only)
# of pages: 48

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sorry, I've Been Reading

You know those times that you crave hibernation?  When life keeps throwing curveball after curveball and you realize you have the option of stepping away from the plate for a while and saying, "screw it, I'm going to bed to read." That's where I've been for the past month. Reading. Mostly in bed. Sometimes on the couch. Occasionally while waiting somewhere for something or someone.

Before the holidays, we did our "oh my god, people are coming over" blitz-clean. Which usually means "where are we going to put all of these books?!?" (Answer: stacked behind the guest room door until I can get more shelves up). Actually, it lead to me culling some of my collection and boxing it up to take to the used bookstore. As I was rearranging and reshelving my books (with the aid of my lovely spouse), the question that was asked repeatedly was "Oh, have you read this?" And much to my embarrassment, about half of the time I'd noted that the book was on my 'to-read' list but that I'd not yet gotten to it. 

Overwhelmed with the amount of books I'd not yet read, I decided to do the math and figured out that if I read one book a week (or 50 - 52 books a year - I'm by no means a speed reader), it would still take me 11 years to finish reading all the books in my collection. Well, shit, I thought, I'd better get started.

This year for Christmas, we did not go overboard. We (both of us readers) gave each other one book, and we spent most of the day reading. Occasionally getting up to stretch our legs and gnosh on something. Over the course of that weekend, I finished one book then went to my shelves and pulled down another on my well-intentioned 'to-read' list. I had decided that I needed to read a minimum of 50 pages a night to keep myself on track. Over the next 3 weeks, I'd knocked out 6 books! Huzzah!

But as happens when I have a manic reading phase, my brain needs a respite - so for the past week, instead of reading my 50 pages a night, I've been playing Candy Crush.

For my own mental health, I've been staying away from the publisher Websites and book blogs - it's just too easy to get excited about the new batch of books coming out and start procuring titles to add to my 11-year-long to-read list. Instead, I've been shopping at home.

So far, this year, I've read:

he Cuckoo's Calling, Robert Galbraith (Mulholland, April 2013) :: I  have to say J.K. Rowling has come a long way since the first Harry Potter book. She writes compelling and deeply flawed characters better than most. If you've not read her Comoran Strike series, I'd recommend it.

The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith (Mulholland, June 2014)::  2nd in the Cormoran Strike series and not a disappointment.

The Enchanted, Rene Denfeld (Harper, March 2014) :: This is Denfeld's debut novel. It's short in stature and in breadth (237 pages). The story centers on the people who live and work on death row. The narrator's perspective is that of someone who has keen observations while at the same time creating a reality that helps him cope with the turns his life has made. Partly poetic, somewhat resigned and at the same time hopeful. It's a good read.

The Door, Andy Marino (Scholastic, April 2014) :: Also a debut novel (I believe), it will most likely be a part of a YA fantasy series. Parts of it reminded me of Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey - in that we're thrust into an alternate universe where the rules are just different enough to feel both surreal and completely normal. This is another quick read and has an interesting take on death and the afterlife. The hero is a young (12 year old) girl, so would be good for that age range.

Ordinary Grace, William Kent Krueger (Atria, March 2013) :: This won Krueger an Anthony and Edgar award. It's part coming of age, part flash back (a la Stephen King's The Body), and part mystery. I enjoyed it thoroughly although it's not a book that is propelled by action. This is a great choice for anyone who loves character development. That said, most of the female characters tend to be less fleshed-out, but considering the narrator is a 13 year old boy, it's fitting with the story.

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, June 2009) :: Fun and quirky with an air of mystery and magic. Parts remind me a little of Christopher Moore (sans the sex) - but that might just be because it's set in San Francisco and celebrates the clash of cultures there. I highly enjoyed it.

Last night, tired of Candy Crush, I picked up one of the books on my bedside table, The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard and started reading again. I got to page 37 before I had to put it down and go to sleep.

I try not to make a list of my to-read titles because it's just too overwhelming. I have a stack of books by the bed - about 10 high. When I'm done with one, I'll reach for another. Some, I will start to read and have to put down (I'm looking at you Girl in the Spider's Web), others I'll read little bits at a time (Spiral Jetta, Genius in the Design). Right now, the books in that stack include:

  • Hold Still, Sally Mann
  • Genius in the Design, Jake Morrissey
  • The Swimmer, Joakim Zander
  • Winter, Marissa Meyer
  • Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith
  • Carry On, Rainbow Rowell
  • Spiral Jetta, Erin Hogan
  • M Train, Patti Smith
  • The Girl in the Spider's Web, David Lagercrantz
  • Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
  • Gutenberg's Apprentice, Alex Christie

Oh, and not in the pile (as I've not acquired it yet) is my February book club selection: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.

So, that pretty much is my reading list through April 1st. I hope. Knock on wood.

What is on your reading list this winter?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Signed Limited Editions from Faber & Faber UK

Each month Faber & Faber UK offers a signed limited edition of one of their titles. Membership is free (and garners you a 15% discount at, although you can become a Faber "Collector" for £500 ($750 USD) / year (about $63 USD per title). For that price, you get 12 collectible editions a year sent to you plus a 25% discount on other Faber & Faber titles. If you live in the UK, you get other relevant discounts & access to exclusive Faber author events.

The collectible editions are traditionally printed (on an old Heidelberg press) and hand sewn and bound in cloth. They come sans dust jacket, in a slip-case.

Print Runs: 
Editions are generally quite small, in the 100-400 copy range.

Prices range from £40 ($60 USD) to £100 ($150 USD).

If your pockets can bear the initial cost, these editions will generally jump in value to at least twice the original price. Most of the listings over on Abebooks are in the $200 - $600 range (although some listings can still be found for the cover price equivalent). Again, that's value and not what the market might bear.

A few of their offerings:

Edna O'Brien
Signed Limited Edition

'The kind of masterpiece that reminds you why you read books in the first place.'
Julie Myerson, Observer Books of the Year

  • A beautifully produced slipcased edition 
  • Each of the 100 copies is numbered and signed by the author
  • Individually wrapped in brown paper and numbered label attached

Orhan Pamuk
Signed Limited Edition

  • Signed by the author and with just 200 copies printed
  • Features a selection of image plates, hand-selected by Orhan Pamuk
  • Printed on a small press and bound by hand in the UK

Simon Armitage 
Only 9 left IN STOCK
Discover one of the earliest great stories of English literature in this beautiful, signed Collectors’ Edition.

The Buried Giant

Kazuo Ishiguro 
£50.00 ($75 USD)
Made exclusively for Faber Members, with a first impression of 400 copies, our inaugural Collectors' Edition is Kazuo Ishiguro's new 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Black Friday / Cyber Monday Deals

Alright guys, for as much as I stayed in this weekend, avoiding crowds and traffic, I still got creamed - traveling to see fam for a late Thanksgiving, we got side swiped by a car that was exiting the highway too fast. It could've been worse, no one was hurt, but man, not the weekend experience I was hoping for. So apologies for being a little absent.

Fourth Estate is giving away copies of a signed limited edition, black-covered Purity by Jonathan Franzen. Sign up here. You can also buy their signed, limited white-covered edition here (Price: £20 / $30 USD).

HarperCollins is offering 15% off their signed editions.

Barnes and Noble has ended their Buy One Get One 50% off for their Leather-bound Classics, and is now running a 30% off select titles deal. And for those who were clambering for the Moby Dick, it appears it's back in stock online.

B&N is also offering a 2 for $30 on select hardcovers, and 2 for $15 on select teen titles.

Amazon is offering 30% off one title.

If you come across any other deals, post 'em in the comments.

xo all,

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