Sunday, February 27, 2011

First Officer's Log No 31: March Looms, Spring Follows

It is that time of year again, the time of year where the ground is soggy, the trees are shivering in their leaflessness, and the snow keeps filtering in and out, as if it can't decide whether or not that rodent in Pennsylvania was bluffing. In the spirit of these days where we can't be sure what's what as far as the weather goes (this is Iowa, after all), it's time to start planning for a garden, if you have the opportunity to have such a thing. Or a family vacation, or a solitary get away, or something that gives you the opportunity to flee the formerly frigid frontier.

For gardening enthusiasts, we have a whole case of gardening and botany related books, everything from flowers to trees, how-to books on making ponds and tiered gardens, and even the odd professional thesis on the flowering plants of Iowa and what makes them grand. We have a great little Iowa-centric nature section back with the gardening books, as well. So if you're looking for good ideas for your own little piece of gardener's paradise, come on by and we'll see if we can give you some good insights.

For all of our vacation-itching friends out there, those who need books to take with them, we're chock full of recommendations this time of year. If you're planning a weekend getaway, a good mystery never hurts, and Arturo Perez-Reverte's The Club Dumas is a gem of a book, eerie, mysterious and smart. I confess I lost my copy years ago in France, leaving it in a hotel room. Mercifully, I had a back up book with me, which leads me to my next suggestion.

It's never too late to start with the classics, and JRR Tolkien's The Lords of the Rings is as classic as they come. Said book kept me company for two weeks in France and Spain, and I read it twice while traveling by bus and train, from place to place. It's a story with everything: a rich world, great characters, stories within the greater story, a phenomenal mythology, heroes, villains... it's the kind of story that becomes classic because it draws so much of itself from classic stories, like The Odyssey and the great world mythologies. If you've never read it, or if it's been awhile, there's something for everyone within this truly modern classic.

The Club Dumas and The Lord of the Rings. Two great stories for the eager reader, and two great stories that won't fade away any time soon. Check them out and start building your list for your vacation or your weekend getaway.

Until next week, fellow bibliophiles.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Check It Out! We Made the News!

Check out this article from the Daily Iowan's Ryan Cole about the shop. We're a favorite haunt!

Monday, February 21, 2011

First Officer's Log No 30: Spring-ish In the Air: Spring Reading Recommendations

So the season of spring is kind of in the air here in good old Iowa City, it's just a matter of waiting until all the snow melts and the ground regains its solid state, as opposed to its current existence of mud, slick mud, slippery mud and some mish-mash of mud and sand / salt residue. Needless to say, when True Spring is upon us, I shall be rejoicing.

Big changes are in store for the bookshop soon, along with some major moving around. Be not afraid, though, for if you come in and find your section of choice has moved, just ask one of us. We'll be happy to direct you to the section's new home.

In the meantime, some new suggestions for our book hungry audience:

** Kate Griffin's A Madness of Angels, or, The Resurrection of Matthew Swift is a dark(ish) fantasy novel set in modern day London about a sorcerer named Matthew Swift who abruptly wakes up in his old house, only to discover that he's been dead for two years, but is now mysteriously alive. After a harrowing venture into this new world, Swift discovers that not only are at least a half-dozen other sorcerers in London dead, murdered as brutally as he was, but that there is something else alive inside of him, and it wants out.

This is a marvelous story from the get-go, with twists and turns aplenty. Swift's speech shifts from 'I' to 'We' as he moves through the world, unnerving most people around him, while just confusing him. He's a great narrator, and Kate Griffin gives him an easy sense of humor. This is no John Constantine (Vertigo Comics' 'Hellblazer' for those not in the know) arrogant English magician with a punk rock past; Swift is more akin to someone whom Neil Gaiman might create, except that Kate Griffin beat Mr Gaiman to it, and gives him a run for his money on the great character creation train. A Madness of Angels is the first volume in this series, followed by The Midnight Mayor, and a third volume, out later this spring, The Neon Court.

** Christopher Rice's Light Before Day is a harrowing, oftentimes disturbing look at the destructive nature of the methamphetamine trade in southern California, and the effect that drugs have on the small, tightly knit gay communities in Los Angeles. The star of this novel is Adam Murphy, an alcoholic journalist, whose lover mysteriously goes missing on the same night that a military serviceman on leave commits suicide via helicopter crash, taking three other servicemen with him. Adam's investigation into the crash leads him to James Wilton, a mystery novelist who needs a new bestseller, and who might be able to help Adam get what he wants. Along the way, they deal with the drug trade and other sordid activities, eventually revealing a mysterious kidnapping ring that links to the explosion of a meth lab.

It's an all over the place novel, but a good one from Rice, whose first two books A Density of Souls and The Snow Garden easily rank among my favorite books. While his prose can border on the silly at times, Rice is growing as a novelist, and Adam is a great narrator, funny and sarcastic, but also well aware of his own flaws, presenting an refreshingly honest character to mystery fiction. While Rice doesn't play with series, he writes good mysteries with (sometimes) uncomfortable themes, forcing readers to go on deeper into his world, even when sense says they should back off. In that regard, Adam represents the audience, as his sense of self preservation often tries to get the better of him, and usually fails. A strong offering for fans of the more intense mystery genre.

Until next week, fellow bibliophiles.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Anna: "I can't make it fit, Captain!"
Ali: "I'm not the Captain."
Anna: "But you're the ranking officer on the bridge!"
Ali: "I have an alien lifeform growing in my head, I'm not in charge."
Anna: "... Wait! Does that mean I'm ranking officer? AAGH!"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

For Your Notificiation: Borders Files Chapter 11 - Be Afeared

There's a big bookstore chain in a bit of trouble right now.

On a personal note from Ali: I can't say this is a surprise, as I worked for Waldenbooks for 4.5 years, and Waldens was owned by Borders. It's mind-boggling, though, when you look at how much money Borders owes to publishers. Looking at those numbers should make you concerned about your neighborhood independent store. When big chains like Borders aren't paying their bills, the indie stores end up paying for it.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why you need at least two Magnetic Personalities.

"They're finger puppets and they're magnets. ...I could play with these for years."
"Um, yes, you could."
"Imagine the arguments you could make them have. Like, Tesla against Washington."
"...or Frida Kahlo?"
"Or Galileo and Blackbeard."
"Why would you pitch Galileo against Blackbeard?"
"Because Galileo needs pillaging sometimes."

Unemployed Philosopher's Guild Magnetic Personalities.
Like an anachronistic debate club, on your fingers or on your fridge.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"I am a delicate flower, in a sort of Venus flytrap way." - Ali

Sunday, February 6, 2011

First Officer's Log No 29: Something's In the Air...

It's probably snow. A lot of snow. Per my experience yesterday, everybody has some form of story regarding the Snowpocalypse or Snowmageddon of 2011. All I can say? The walk outside the shop got shoveled by our fearless Captain. That is all.

Also, it's that time of year when the endless amounts of promotions for Valentine's Day appear. Not being that big of a fan of the concept of setting aside one day out of the year where people feel an obligation to proclaim their affection or adoration for their significant others, as opposed to a genuine feeling on all those other days of the year, still, I do sometimes hear people asking for books to give as gifts, or tokens of affection. Poetry is big this time of year, as are puppets and small toys, like train letters to spell out your beloved's name, or a classic boardgame.

Our clientele tend to be romantic bunch, with strong inclinations towards the goofy and the silly, and nothing says romance like a garden snail puppet (see the image above. We call him Sir Alistair Hornsby).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"I will just lie here and make winsome bread noises!" - Nialle

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ali : Anna, why do you have a teeny tiny purse-sized crowbar?
Nialle: [wearing a 'what did I just walk into' face'] A teeny-tiny purse sized crowbar?
Anna: See? [shows Nialle a teeny tiny purse-sized crowbar]
Ali: See, it was a legitimate question.