Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bone Clocks, Afterworlds, and other literary adventures...

Thanks to the move and spending all of our free time fixing up the house, we have not visited a bookstore in over TWO months. Unimaginable, I know, but true.

That streak was broken this weekend when, needing a break (like you do), we followed the path of least resistance to the Barnes & Noble, where I managed to do a little damage to my pocketbook.

Top on my list was (of course) David Mitchell's Bone Clocks (which I sat down and started reading before we ever left the store). Although, I have to say, I had a hard time finding a copy that wasn't mangled. All but a couple of books had pages that were folded, torn, or just out of shape - like they used that title as a doorstop. Which might explain why they were hidden in the back of a display (that, or someone there really doesn't like David Mitchell).

Next was Tana French's new title, The Secret Place (although I have yet to read her last book, so it goes in the 'To be read at a later date' pile).

Scott Westerfeld is on the top of my YA list with his latest, Afterworlds.

And then, I'm a little embarrassed to say, I bought the new John Twelve Hawks book, Spark. His writing is very reminiscent of Dan Brown's, not stellar, but there's something wonderfully escapist about his stories - sort of like going to see a Die Hard movie. The action is unrealistic, but MAN is it entertaining (you know, if you like that sort of thing, which clearly I do).

Now, of course, the problem is finding space on the bookshelves.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

This Week's Geocentric Reading List

The folks over at Brooklyn Magazine are at it once again. A couple of weeks ago they came up with a Literary Map of Brooklyn to give readers the best understanding of the neighborhoods that make up that borough. Now they've turned their literary spotlight to the states:
...we had seen other maps pairing books with states, but those maps tend to signify the fame level of the books rather than their literary merit; they also tend to be dominated by white men, most of them dead. And Margaret Mitchell. 
We wanted to come up with a list that was more than just a general reflection of a place, but rather paid attention to the specifics, even at the risk of the exclusion of the whole. No one book, after all, can completely capture the spirit of something so unwieldy as a state.
You can visit their Website for the full list of 53 books (yes, 53, New York got divided into State and City with NYC getting it's own title) - none of which, they say, are Gone with the Wind (thank you very much).

Some titles are are more evident than others (Into the Wild / Alaska, Lonesome Dove / Texas, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas / Nevada, The Descendants / Hawaii). Others, I can't help but think there might have been a better choice out there somewhere in the literary sphere (is Stephen King's Carrie really representative of Maine, or Truman Capote's In Cold Blood / Kansas - both well written, don't get me wrong), but those are personal preferences, and honestly, I've not read enough to be able to identify better titles. I just can't help but think they might be out there.

If you're looking for a themed reading list, this is a good one that will keep you busy for the next year (or two).

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fall, Small Presses, and Limited Editions

Hi all,

The move went well (Tracy and I bought a house last month) and the unpacking seems endless, but books are starting to find their way back to their shelves (albeit slowly). And as they do, it feels more and more like home. North Carolina weather is slowly giving way to fall and our new yard has plenty of trees to enjoy once the colors begin to change. Lots of trees also means lots of birds, which our cat is truly loving.

The fall semester is half way over. Midterms next week and then fall break, when I hope to regroup and start blogging more regularly (but first I have to get through 40 college papers written from the perspective of 19 year old geniuses - something we all claimed to be at one point).

At any rate, to tide you over, I thought I would point you to some of the small press offerings of late:

Enders Game, Orson Scott Card (Centipede Press)
Limited to 300 copies
Signed by Card, Brandon Mull (preface), & David Ho (illustrator)
Cloth bound in slipcase: $295

The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Centipede Press)
Limited to 300 copies
Signed by Kiernan, Elizabeth Hand (introduction), Matthew Jaffe (illustrator), Michael Zulli (illustrator)
Cloth bound, ribbon marker, slip-cased: $250

Max Ernst, Artist Portfolio (Centipede Press)
Ships in November
Currently no information, so keep your eyes peeled.

A Mountain Walked, S.T. Joshi ed. (Centipede Press)
Limited to 500 copies
Signed by 20 contributors
Cloth binding, ribbon marker, slip-cased: Sold Out

Keep your eyes on the secondary market (like Abebooks) for this one.

Interworld, Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves (Subterranean Press)
Limited to 500 copies
Lettered edition of 26 copies: Sold Out
hardback (cloth) binding: $60

There's no publishing date yet (most likely late 2014/early 2015). They're also publishing the sequel The Silver Dream.

Appointment on Sunset, Tim Powers (Charnel House)
Limited to 250 copies
Hand bound in handmade indigo paper: $150

This is a small text at 48 pages.
Charnel House also offers a lettered edition for $800

Saturday, July 26, 2014

2014 ManBooker Longlist Announced

More information at the Man Booker Website

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.

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