Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In The Post: Christie & Moran

I know it's been awhile, but I am still here... still reading.

It's been a tumultuous year - which happens. Earlier in the year we dealt with another bout of Cancer in our household, this time it was my partner who was diagnosed. Appendix Cancer. (I know, no one has ever heard of Appendix Cancer). It's rare. Her case especially so - rarest of the rare Appendix Cancers. The treatment is surgery... actually, two surgeries in her case. The good news is, after 16+ weeks of recovery she's doing fine and is back to work.  But that is the main reason why I've been away from my blog so long.

Now I'm back and hope to make a more regular appearance as things, once again, normalize. 

I received two advanced readers from HarperCollins this week - both debut novels, and both of which I'm excited to read. 

The first one, How To Build a Girl is written by the UK's version of Tina Fey (or so says the jacket cover). The tag line that got me was "Imagine The Bell Jar -- written by Rizzo from Grease." Okay, hooked.

(release date: 9/23/2014)

Book description:

What do you do in your teenage years when you realize what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes—and build yourself.
It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, fourteen, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde—fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer. She will save her poverty-stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer—like Jo in Little Women, or the Bröntes—but without the dying young bit.
By sixteen, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk and working for a music paper. She’s writing pornographic letters to rock-stars, having all the kinds of sex with all kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.
But what happens when Johanna realizes she’s built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters, and a head full of paperbacks, enough to build a girl after all?
Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease. How to Build a Girl is a funny, poignant, and heartbreakingly evocative story of self-discovery and invention, as only Caitlin Moran could tell it. [HarperCollins]

The second is written by a printmaker (so, you know I'm biased - having studied printmaking myself) and is getting a lot of buzz (including a starred review from Kirkus)

Gutenberg's Apprentice by Alix Christie. 
(release date: 9/23/2014)

Book description:

Youthful, ambitious Peter Schoeffer is on the verge of professional success as a scribe in Paris when his foster father, wealthy merchant and bookseller Johann Fust, summons him home to corrupt, feud-plagued Mainz to meet “a most amazing man.”
Johann Gutenberg, a driven and caustic inventor, has devised a revolutionary—and to some, blasphemous—method of bookmaking: a machine he calls a printing press. Fust is financing Gutenberg’s workshop and he orders Peter, his adopted son, to become Gutenberg’s apprentice. Resentful at having to abandon a prestigious career as a scribe, Peter begins his education in the “darkest art.”
As his skill grows, so, too, does his admiration for Gutenberg and his dedication to their daring venture: copies of the Holy Bible. But mechanical difficulties and the crushing power of the Catholic Church threaten their work. As outside forces align against them, Peter finds himself torn between two father figures: the generous Fust, who saved him from poverty after his mother died; and the brilliant, mercurial Gutenberg, who inspires Peter to achieve his own mastery.
Caught between the genius and the merchant, the old ways and the new, Peter and the men he admires must work together to prevail against overwhelming obstacles—a battle that will change history . . . and irrevocably transform them. [HarperCollins]

Monday, July 14, 2014

Another Autopen Signed Series?

Over the weekend I hit the used bookstore (like you do). We're getting ready for a move, which means it's time to purge some of my non-collectible titles, and what better place to purge (she says tongue-in-cheek) than the bookstore. While I waited to see which / how many of the titles the store would buy, I perused the shelves.

I didn't really find anything worth bringing home, although I did come across two books from Stephanie Meyer's "collectible" Twilight edition (published in 2008/2009). These titles were housed in a paper-covered slip case sans dust jacket.

I'm always curious when a book is housed in a slip case, so I pulled them off the shelf, slid them out of their cases, and took a look. First of all, the quality of the slipcase is pretty eh, if I can use that as a term. It's the same quality you see coming out of most mass-market publishing houses. The only value here is that in 10 years, most of the cases will have either been destroyed or so shelf worn that they'll have been thrown away. (So, in 10 years, if you find a copy with a pristine slip case, it might actually be of value).

I opened the books to the title page, and what should I see, but a beautifully rendered author signature. My heart would've skipped a beat, if not for the fact that the signature was a little too perfect. No wobbling lines, no pen bleeds, no imperfections what so ever.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the description of the books to see if they said anything about the signatures. Some descriptions (over on eBay) jumped on the "SIGNED" bandwagon and are trying to sell these "collectibles" for over $100 (which, by the way, is WAY too cheap for an *actual* Stephanie Meyer signature). Some state that it is an auto pen signature.

More likely than not, this is probably a "facsimile signature" (which means it's actually printed when the book is printed - or sometimes it's stamped). Facsimile signatures are more of a design element. They aren't actual signatures. (Although some are so well printed that you can't always tell immediately).

I have a couple of auto pen signed books, and even these have what I'll term "ink flaws." The pen doesn't always lift up at the end of a stroke, leaving bleed marks - or the surface on which the paper sat, moved causing a shift in the ink, etc.

These Stephanie Meyer signatures did not have any of those indicators. There was no bleed through on the back of the page. More importantly, when I slid my hand over both the front and back of the page, there was no impression/indention from the pen. In fact, they looked printed.

Most listings for this edition price the books between $8 and $20 (depending on condition), which is probably a fair price. I've seen a few that are "still wrapped in plastic," these might be worth $40 on the high end. eventually. if you never unwrap them.

Bias Alert! (warning, warning) Not being a huge fan of this series, the only way I'd have one of these titles in my collection is if it was a true first, signed by the author. These self proclaimed "collectors editions" are cute - and I've been known to, on occasion, buy one or two (Hello, Harry Potter), but they are more about marketing to a fan base rather than adding value to actual book collections.

But hey, if it makes you happy, why not?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Many Covers of Joe Hill's Heart Shaped Box

As a brief introduction, Joe Hill (son of Stephen King) is the author of the widely popular Locke and Key graphic novel series, as well as  a writer of horror novels. His debut novel, Heart Shaped Box (__, February 13, 2007) is essentially the story of an aging rockstar who collects rather odd, if not morbid, items. Newest to his collection of oddities is a haunted suit that once belonged, unbeknownst to him, to the (step)father of a groupie that the now retired rockstar once dated (and who later killed herself).

I got an email recently asking about a first, signed edition of Heart Shaped Box with a "rare" dust jacket (being sold on eBay for $2,000 - you'll have to scroll down the page for the description and images).

Apart from the mainstream printing, there were a couple of signed, limited editions of this title that came out in 2007 as well. (I am, of course, focusing on English language, first printings, and hard covers)

William Morrow, New York, 2007

There are no printing numbers on the first U.S. printing, although Joe Hill did do a signing tour, so there are a few signed first editions out there.

Abe Books is listing these for up to $320.

There appear to be two covers from this publisher: one shows the background behind the author's name as black, the other shows it as green. There doesn't appear to be a difference in listing prices between the two.



Gollancz / Orion, 2007 (UK)

Gollancz did a regular (trade) edition, and a signed, limited edition of 1300 slipcased copies.

The Trade edition appears to have a couple of slightly different dust jacket versions. Most dust jackets feature a review blurb by Neil Gaiman above the title. It's not clear how many "plain" dust jackets were actually released, or if this was the pre-publication reviewer's image (approved for book reviews posted online).

These are listing for up to $130 signed.

The eBay listing mentioned above appears to display the cover with the Neil Gaiman blurb on the front. According to the description, however, the first state dust jacket displays a price of £9.99, with a blurb on the back flap by Ramsey Campbell. According to the seller, in the 2d state dust jacket, this was replaced by a blurb from James Rollins and the price was bumped to £12.99.

None of the other listings I've come across mention any of this, so it may very well be a rare jacket. As for whether it warrants the $2,000 price tag -- well, that can only be determined by the beholder. If you think it's worth it, then it's worth it. I will say this though, that particular "signed" copy is actually a bookplate signed by the author and affixed to the title page by the publisher -- there are collectors out there who deem this style of signed copies to be of lesser value than those books that are actually handled and signed by the author. Just something to think about.


The Limited edition has the same basic cover design with embossed elements and a"Limited Signed Edition" statement above the title. This is a slip-cased edition of 1300.

Listings over on Abe Books range from $100 to $350 (watch the product descriptions to make sure they list the slip-case). These listings don't usually tell you the number out of 1300 -- although the better listings will mention that it is from the limited edition of 1300. Also watch for the "Limited Signed Edition" printed above the title, if there is a seller image.



Subterranean Press, 2007 (US)

The Sub Press edition was divided into:

Limited signed edition of 300 clothbound copies (numbered 201-500). This lists between $300 and $550 over on Abe Books.

Deluxe Limited signed edition of 200 copies (numbered 1-200), also bound in cloth, although a different color than the Limited edition. I found 1 listing on Abe Books (for #194): $750.

Lettered edition of 15 leather-bound copies (lettered A-O), housed in a tray case. You probably won't see any of these on the market any time soon, but you can bet they'll be listing in the thousands.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Need Some Reading Recommendations?

Denver's Tattered Cover bookstore has got your back. Actually, most indie bookstores have your back. Go into any one of them and you're sure to find employee recommendations galore. As for the Tattered Cover, they put together a V.I.B. (Very Impressive Book) selection & it's a good place to start perusing (they also have one for "kids" books):


Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler (March 11, 2014)


Welcome to Little Wing.

It’s a place like hundreds of others, nothing special, really. But for four friendsall born and raised in this small Wisconsin townit is home. And now they are men, coming into their own, or struggling to do so.

One of them never left, still working the family farm that has been tilled for generations. But others felt the need to move on, with varying degrees of success. One trades commodities, another took to the rodeo circuit, and one of them even hit it big as a rock star. And then there’s Beth, a woman who has meant something special in each of their lives.

Now all four are brought together for a wedding. Little Wing seems even smaller than before. While lifelong bonds are still strong, there are stressesbetween the friends, between husbands and wives. There will be heartbreak, but there will also be hope, healing, even heroism as these memorable people learn the true meaning of adult friendship and love.

Seldom has the American heartland been so richly and accurately portrayed. Though the town may have changed, the one thing that hasn’t is the beauty of the Wisconsin farmland, the lure of which, in Nickolas Butler’s hands, emerges as a vibrant character in the story. Shotgun Lovesongs is that rare work of fiction that evokes a specific time and place yet movingly describes the universal human condition. It is, in short, a truly remarkable booka novel that once read will never be forgotten. [Book Description]

Why you should get it: 



The Painter by Peter Heller (May 6, 2014)

Jim Stegner has seen his share of violence and loss. Years ago he shot a man in a bar. His marriage disintegrated. He grieved the one thing he loved. In the wake of tragedy, Jim, a well-known expressionist painter, abandoned the art scene of Santa Fe to start fresh in the valleys of rural Colorado. Now he spends his days painting and fly-fishing, trying to find a way to live with the dark impulses that sometimes overtake him. He works with a lovely model. His paintings fetch excellent prices. But one afternoon, on a dirt road, Jim comes across a man beating a small horse, and a brutal encounter rips his quiet life wide open. Fleeing Colorado, chased by men set on retribution, Jim returns to New Mexico, tormented by his own relentless conscience.

A stunning, savage novel of art and violence, love and grief, The Painter is the story of a man who longs to transcend the shadows in his heart, a man intent on using the losses he has suffered to create a meaningful life. [Book description]

*Note: the publisher sent me an ARC of this title - it's next up on my 'to-be-read' pile, so *hopefully* I'll have a review for you sometime soon.

Why you should get it:
  • Publishers Weekly starred review
  • Booklist starred review
  • Tattered Cover May 2014 V.I.B. pick
  • From the author of The Dog Stars


The Swan Gondola: A Novel by Timothy Schaffert (February 6, 2014)


On the eve of the 1898 Omaha World’s Fair, Ferret Skerritt, ventriloquist by trade, con man by birth, isn’t quite sure how it will change him or his city. Omaha still has the marks of a filthy Wild West town, even as it attempts to achieve the grandeur and respectability of nearby Chicago. But when he crosses paths with the beautiful and enigmatic Cecily, his whole purpose shifts and the fair becomes the backdrop to their love affair.

One of a traveling troupe of actors that has descended on the city, Cecily works in the Midway’s Chamber of Horrors, where she loses her head hourly on a guillotine playing Marie Antoinette. And after closing, she rushes off, clinging protectively to a mysterious carpetbag, never giving Ferret a second glance. But a moonlit ride on the swan gondola, a boat on the lagoon of the New White City, changes everything, and the fair’s magic begins to take its effect.

From the critically acclaimed author of The Coffins of Little HopeThe Swan Gondola is a transporting read, reminiscent of Water for Elephants or The Night Circus. [Book description]

Why you should get it:

The Kept by James Scott (January 7, 2014)

Set in rural New York state at the turn of the twentieth century, superb new talent James Scott makes his literary debut with The Kept—a propulsive novel reminiscent of the works of Michael Ondaatje, Cormac McCarthy, and Bonnie Jo Campbell, in which a mother and her young son embark on a quest to avenge a terrible and violent tragedy that has shattered their secluded family.
In the winter of 1897, a trio of killers descends upon an isolated farm in upstate New York. Midwife Elspeth Howell returns home to the carnage: her husband, and four of her children, murdered. Before she can discover her remaining son Caleb, alive and hiding in the kitchen pantry, another shot rings out over the snow-covered valley. Twelve-year-old Caleb must tend to his mother until she recovers enough for them to take to the frozen wilderness in search of the men responsible.
A scorching portrait of a merciless world—of guilt and lost innocence, atonement and retribution, resilience and sacrifice, pregnant obsession and primal adolescence—The Kept introduces an old-beyond-his-years protagonist as indelible and heartbreaking as Mattie Ross of True Grit or Jimmy Blevins of All the Pretty Horses, as well as a shape-shifting mother as enigmatic and mysterious as a character drawn by Russell Banks or Marilynne Robinson.  [Book description].

Why you should get it:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

In The Post: Bland, Prose, and Updike

This week's front stoop find is a bevy of books courtesy of Kathryn over at Harper Books.

First is Updike, a literary biography by Adam Begley (due out April 8, 2014).

From the product description: "With a sharp critical sensibility that lends depth and originality to his analysis, Begley probes Updike’s best-loved works—from Pigeon Feathers to The Witches of Eastwick to the Rabbittetralogy—and reveals a surprising and deeply complex character fraught with contradictions: a kind man with a vicious wit, a gregarious charmer who was ruthlessly competitive, a private person compelled to spill his secrets on the printed page. Updike offers an admiring yet balanced look at this national treasure, a master whose writing continues to resonate like no one else’s."


Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose (April 22, 2014)

(Kirkus, Booklist)

From the cover: A richly imagined and stunningly inventive literary masterpiece of love, art, and betrayal, exploring the genesis of evil, the unforeseen consequences of love, and the ultimate unreliability of storytelling itself.


Paris in the 1920s. It is a city of intoxicating ambition, passion, art, and discontent, where louche jazz venues like the Chameleon Club draw expats, artists, libertines, and parvenus looking to indulge their true selves. It is at the Chameleon where the striking Lou Villars, an extraordinary athlete and scandalous cross-dressing lesbian, finds refuge among the club's loyal denizens, including the rising photographer Gabor Tsenyi, the socialite and art patron Baroness Lily de Rossignol, and the caustic American writer Lionel Maine.
As the years pass, their fortunes—and the world itself—evolve. Lou falls in love and finds success as a race car driver. Gabor builds his reputation with vivid and imaginative photographs, including a haunting portrait of Lou and her lover, which will resonate through all their lives. As the exuberant twenties give way to darker times, Lou experiences another metamorphosis that will warp her earnest desire for love and approval into something far more sinister: collaboration with the Nazis.
Told in a kaleidoscope of voices, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 evokes this incandescent city with brio, humor, and intimacy. A brilliant work of fiction and a mesmerizing read, it is Francine Prose's finest novel yet.

The Disease Delusion, Conquering the Causes of Chronic Illness for a Healthier, Longer, and Happier Life by Dr. Jeffrey S. Bland (April 22, 2014).
Book description: For decades, Dr. Jeffrey Bland has been on the cutting edge of Functional Medicine, which seeks to pinpoint and prevent the cause of illness, rather than treat its symptoms. Managing chronic diseases accounts for three quarters of our total healthcare costs, because we’re masking these illnesses with pills and temporary treatments, rather than addressing their underlying causes, he argues. Worse, only treating symptoms leads us down the path of further illness.
In The Disease Delusion, Dr. Bland explains what Functional Medicine is and what it can do for you. While advances in modern science have nearly doubled our lifespans in only four generations, our quality of life has not reached its full potential. Outlining the reasons why we suffer chronic diseases from asthma and diabetes to obesity, arthritis and cancer to a host of other ailments, Dr. Bland offers achievable, science-based solutions that can alleviate these common conditions and offers a roadmap for a lifetime of wellness.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Bookstore Finds

As mentioned in a previous post, my book club met at Scuppernong Books, our newest community bookstore here in Greensboro. The store, like many in our downtown, is an old converted brick building featuring hardwood floors, 20 foot ceilings, and exposed brick walls (at one time plastered with concrete).

It's the kind of store that you walk into and feel immediately at home.

After our book club meeting split up, we each lingered to peruse the shelves. Tracy found the poetry section. I wandered to the back of the store where the used books are shelved.

Surprisingly, the used book section had a few collectibles interspersed with a variety of reading copies.  (Tracy ended up wandering back to the used books and immediately found a poetry book, Imagine Inventing Yellow by M.C. Richards, which was signed by the author).

While I found nothing signed, I did snag a couple of China Miéville titles that I don't yet have (The Scar and Un Lun Dun) - reading copies, both.

My big score, however, was a first edition of The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (hard cover), a title that's been on my White Whale (aka 'must procure') list since I first saw it on a trip to Hawaii five years ago. (Not wanting to carry another item home on the plane, I opted not to buy a copy. By the time I got to the bookstore at home, they'd completely sold out). The cover has seen some wear, but the book block is tight and in Very Good condition with no markings or turned down pages.

This title is so rare, that it's hard to find similar copies for sale online - to pin down a value. At the time of this blog post, Abebooks had a total of 7 "First Edition" listings, one of which is actually a 2d printing, another is a 4th printing, and a third is the softcover edition (listing for $99, btw).

Unsigned copies list in the realm of $100 to $200+ depending on condition. (The book listing for $100 apparently had some moisture damage - if this gives you any indication how rare first/firsts are).

Signed, first edition/first printing copies list from $295 (with missing dj) to $950+



Subterranean Press did a signed, limited edition of 500 copies of this title in 2011. Numbers 1-200 comprised the Deluxe Limited Edition (housed in a slip-case), Numbers 201-500 comprised the Limited Edition (no slip-case) - I was fortunate enough to snag a Deluxe copy ( #2/500).

The Limited Edition (#201-500) lists for $125 to $250+
The Deluxe Limited Edition (#1-200) lists for $285 to $360+.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

February Book Club

It's not necessarily a stretch to call what we have a "book club," even though most months only one or two of us have read the assigned title. Admittedly, what we have is more like an excuse to get together and catch up with everyone's lives & eat food, something akin to a southern quilting circle, except none of us really sews and we do, earnestly, try to read each month's book selection. 

Not every one in our group makes every meeting, and this month's meeting was a little bitter sweet since we recently lost a long-time (& sometimes vociferous) member to gall bladder cancer, and Tracy (my spouse) is in the midst of appendix cancer treatment. So, it's been a bit rough and tumble for us the past few months.

With an emotional weariness, we decided to get back into our monthly routine, reading Patti Digh's (pronounced "dye") Life is a Verb. (If you've not heard of it or her, you really should check out her Website). Patti's work falls under the category of  self-help, although it's really just a book full of wonderful stories. She shares encounters with strangers, family members, nature... all of which illustrate a way in which we can live more intentionally. An idea that quite a few of us are finding more and more compelling as we get older.

From the book description: "In October 2003, Patti Digh’s stepfather was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died 37 days later. The timeframe made an impression on her. What emerged was a commitment to ask herself every morning: What would I be doing today if I had only 37 days left to live? The answers changed her life and led to this new kind of book. Part meditation, part how-to guide, part memoir, Life is a Verb is all heart."

We had the luxury of meeting at the back table at our local community bookstore, the newly opened Scuppernong Books, where we had the opportunity to Skype with Patti. She answered questions, talked about Life is a Verb, and read us a story from her newest book The Geography of Loss. We laughed a lot, as each of us connected with some aspect of her stories. There's something about that connection that allows you to be more open with one another.

I can't speak for others, but I left feeling both invigorated and drained (in a good way).

(full disclosure: We heart Patti so much in our family that she was the officiant at our wedding.)


Next Month's Selection: 

So, this will tell you a little about how organized and democratic our book club is: In a store, surrounded by books, we couldn't really come up with a title for next month's selection (although as I'm writing this, I can easily think of about 15). Instead, each of us will choose a different book to read, then do a little synopsis for the rest of the group... our own little symposium. Should be interesting.

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