Sunday, April 06, 2014

New Bookstore in Phinney Ridge, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, In The Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters and The Mermaid Garden By Santa Montefiore

I adored the Harry Potter series of books and movies, as did millions of others across the globe, so I am thrilled to see that a second series of movies is planned in the next few years.

Movies: Rowling's Fantastic Beasts to Be a Trilogy

"Three megamovies are planned" for the adaptation of J.K. Rowling's
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Harry Potter's Hogwarts textbooks. In a profile of Warner Bros. CEO
the New York Times reported that the "main character will be a
'magizoologist' named Newt Scamander. The stories, neither prequels or
sequels, will start in New York about seven decades before the arrival
of Mr. Potter and his pals."

"When I say he made Fantastic Beasts happen, it isn't PR-speak but the
literal truth," Rowling observed. "We had one dinner, a follow-up
telephone call, and then I got out the rough draft that I'd thought was
going to be an interesting bit of memorabilia for my kids and started
I can't imagine why Seattle isn't on this list, but I am elated to notice that Portland, Oregon is, so at least the very literary Pacific NW is represented.
Highbrow Magazine's 'Top Literary Cities in the U.S.'

Independent booksellers received some love as Highbrow magazine featured
its picks for "Top Literary Cities in the U.S.
"a literary city is a blend of the historical, cultural and modern parts
of literature, encouraging and inspiring future generations to
appreciate and take part in the literary world."

The choices included Washington, D.C. ("The city boasts multiple
bookstores--Politics & Prose being the most famous..."), San Francisco,
Calif. ("the anchor of the literary scene in S.F. is still City Lights
Bookstore"), Boston, Mass. (Grolier Poetry Book Shop and Lame Duck
Books) and Portland, Ore. (Powell's City of Books).

My husband and I lived in Phinney Ridge (on 71st and Greenwood) for about 5 years, and I don't remember this bookstore, though it might have been one that was farther down the street than I am thinking of. But whatever the reason, I am glad that someone has purchased the store and is keeping it going. I was a frequent client of the Couth Buzzard New and Used books, which had to move from across the street from the GreenTree Apartments to nearly at the end of Greenwood Ave.
This is from Shelf Awareness:

Jeopardy! Champ Buys Seattle's Santoro's Books
Carol Santoro, owner of Santoro's Books
in the Phinney Ridge/Greenwood area of Seattle, Wash., is selling the
store to Tom Nissley, an author, former Amazon books editor and
eight-time champion on Jeopardy! The sale is effective in early May, and
Nissley plans to close the store and reopen it under the name Phinney
Books in early June. Santoro is keeping the Santoro's Books name for her
wholesale business providing books for schools and libraries.
"I couldn't have hoped for a better buyer or a better outcome for the
bookstore," Santoro said in an announcement about the sale. "After nine
years owning Santoro's Books and 29 years in the bookselling business,
it's time for me to make a change. I feel completely confident that Tom
will take the bookstore in an interesting new direction. He's extremely
knowledgeable and well-connected in the bookselling world--it's a
perfect fit. My customers are ecstatic that this will live on as Phinney

For his part, Nissley said, "After recommending books online for 10
years, and then in the pages of my own book, I'm looking forward to
putting good books directly in readers' hands for a change. And I'm
excited to be doing so just eight blocks from my house, at a store that
Carol has built into a neighborhood institution."

He called the Kindle "an excellent machine, but so is the book. We're
living in a digital age, but it's become clear in the past couple of
years that many readers still want to read physical books and want to
buy them at local, independent bookstores, which are thriving in

Nissley plans to continue the 1,200-square-foot store's general-interest
emphasis and also offer a selection of other items, including custom
book-themed paper goods and the sparkly vinyl handbags made by
Glittersweet, his wife Laura Silverstein's company.

Santoro began her bookselling career in 1985 when she opened Second
Story Bookstore in Wallingford Center in Seattle. After 10 years, she
sold the store, and with a partner started an online bookselling
business, Books on Call. (Coincidentally, another person in Seattle had
a similar idea around the same time.) Then she joined Fremont Place Book
Company as a partner in 1997. Five years later, she repurchased Second
Story Bookstore, where she sold new and used books with Marla
Vandewater, former owner of Vandewater Books. In 2005, Santoro opened
Santoro's Books.

Nissley received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington in
1999 and was an editor for Microsoft's Encarta encyclopedias for two
years before joining Amazon as a books editor. Between 2000 and 2011, he
founded Omnivoracious, the Amazon books blog, managed the Best Books of
the Year and Best Books of the Month programs and interviewed dozens of

In 2010 Nissley won eight games and $235,400 on Jeopardy!, the
fourth-highest regular-game total in the history of the show. He won
another $100,000 as the runner-up in the 2011 Jeopardy! Tournament of
Champions, and appeared again on the show this past Monday as part of
the 30th anniversary Battle of the Decades.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is nothing less than a work of art. Art, whether it be an Emily Carr painting of a dark forest or a beautiful song full of truth sung by a choir or an individual, or a play or film performed exquisitely by well trained talented actors always sends my heart racing, makes me cry, fills my spirit and soothes and enriches my mind. Most of the books that I read are good, some are even great, but few truly move me as a work of art.
The Fault in Our Stars moved me not just because it is a tragic story about two teenagers with cancer, but because it was written in elegant prose and with deceptively simple style that lures the reader into the book and the character's lives and sends them on a journey with the swift, clean plot that is surprisingly hard to predict. Yet the surprises seem natural, and the story doesn't jar the reader at all, allowing them to feel as if they're living each moment with Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters. Powerful and poignant as the Fault in Our Stars is, the book is riddled with deliciously dry wit and gallows humor that isn't black enough to depress but real enough to give one a shiver as they laugh. While it's somewhat Romeo and Juliette-esque, I didn't get as impatient with the teenagers and their falling in love, sparring with words and longing looks as I usually do, but I would guess that is because both characters are so ill that we spend a decent amount of time in hospital rooms with both or one of them at the edge of death. Yet even the grim march of cancer and cancer-fighting drug's side effects, which are often worse than the disease, can dim the shine of miraculous love that pours forth from this novel. My book group is reading this book in August, and I am thinking of switching it around on the schedule and moving it up to June, because I loved FIOS so much that I can hardly wait to discuss it with the ladies in the group. I can't really tell too much about the plot without spoiling it, so I will just say that it is well worth the time to read it and worth any price you might have to pay to secure a copy. I find myself moved to watch more Mental Floss videos on the internet just so I can listen to the voice of John Green and dream of telling him one day that I loved this book with all that is in me, and I sincerely hope that he continues to write, because word art and artists are all too rare a creature in this day and age. An A+, of course, and I recommend this book to any and all who believe in true love, the beauty of the human soul, life, the universe and everything.

In The Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters wasn't a book that I was expecting to become so engrossed in that I couldn't put it down, but that's exactly what happened when I picked it up this morning, and just finished reading it about an hour ago.
It's the story of a plucky young woman named after the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley Black, who is 16 in 1918 and has been sent to her aunt's home in San Diego to try and escape the Influenza epidemic and the embarrassment of her father's imprisonment for protesting the war.
She had fallen in love earlier with a young man in her aunt's neighborhood, Stephen, and is dismayed  when he reveals that he has signed up to fight in WW1. He has a half brother, Julius, who is a brute and a cheat, and has turned their father's photography business into a "Spiritualist" photography business by taking photos of people and exposing the film enough to have background photos appear ghostlike in the original photo. This, in addition to his opium addiction, makes Julius a menacing presence throughout the novel. In addition to the deaths from the war, the Spanish flu has laid low nearly everyone around Mary Shelley, and the constant use of masks, poultices, onions and garlic to ward off the virus are woven throughout the novel. My grandmother was a child of around 9 or 10 during this era, and I am always amazed at her descriptions of how many people she noticed dying, even in Iowa, during that time. It's like listening to someone who survived the bubonic plague describing the world around them falling apart. Horrific. Yet the central mystery of Mary Shelley's ability to hear the spirit of her beloved speak to her after she'd been hit by lightening, and how she solves his murder helps keep the plot from becoming mired in horror and death. There's a distinct Steampunk flavor to this book that is enhanced by the art deco font used for titles and the creepy photos that dot each chapter and remind the reader of Ransome Rigg's "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children." Though I gather it's something of a YA novel, I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves odd stories of the WW1 era. It deserves an A for it's smooth prose and swift plot.

The Mermaid Garden by Santa Montefiore wasn't a joy to read, like the two books mentioned above. The POV and passive construction, which didn't show so much as tell the reader what to feel, see and expect made me irritable from the first chapter on. Then there was the annoying teenage step-daughter, Clementine, who just hated everything in her privileged life, and was miserable and snotty throughout the book. "Clemmie" was especially obnoxious to her stepmother, Marina, for no other reason than she married Clementine's father, Grey. I could barely restrain myself from shouting "seriously, GROW UP" every time we had to listen to more of Clementine's whining. The story is told in two eras, 1966 and 2009, and it appears, at first, that we are reading about two different people. It becomes apparent to any reader with half a brain, however, that the skinny poor child of the town drunk in 1966, Floriana, is the grown up woman Marina of the modern-day chapters. So when Marina hires a handsome young man to be the painter in residence at her Bed and Breakfast in England, again, it's a forgone conclusion that he's the baby she gave away in the 1970s.
Though I understand the characters were supposed to be charming and fascinating, they all seemed rather shallow and vain, and the women especially seemed weak and whiny and hysterical or over-emotional, when they weren't being man-hunting sluts. The men were all stereotypes of men (ie the loutish evil drunk, the young man so handsome he's irresistible to all the women he meets, regardless of age, the older gentleman who is a supportive, fatherly figure) and their ridiculous behavior, along with the mystery that wasn't really a mystery, made the plot trudge along like a tired old friar. The prose was makeshift, with too much passive construction and redundancy, and I found that since I didn't really like any of the characters, I could hardly wait for the book to end. I'd give it a D, and only recommend it to those who don't really like to think too much while reading.

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