Saturday, August 16, 2014

Amazon's kerfuffle, Taxi bookstore, RIP Lauren Bacall and Robin Williams, and The Secret of Everything by Barbara O'Neal, An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd and Dirty Magic by Jaye Wells

 There's been a huge kerfuffle between authors, Amazon and Hachette that seems to be causing nothing but trouble all around. I like it when someone makes something humorous out of something unpleasant.

"But I, Jeff Bezos, also clearly see that we are going to have fewer
great books and writers discovered in the coming years if there are
fewer curators with the financial wherewithal to nurture them. And, no
way around it, fewer publishing houses equals fewer curators. It's not a
money thing, it's a diversity-of-perspective thing. One company--no
matter how high-minded and cleverly structured it is--will offer fewer
perspectives than many companies will.

"I, Jeff Bezos, was a physics student at one point and I assure you I
understand principles this basic.

"So, starting today, I am going to deal with publishers fairly and
openly. No more punishing them with delayed shipments of books we could
have ordered. No more taking down of buy and pre-order buttons, knowing
that Amazon can withstand the revenue dip far better than they can."

--James Patterson in a CNN Opinion piece headlined "If I Were Amazon's

I adored Lauren Bacall, and I was shaken this past week when I learned that she had passed on nearly the same day that comedian and actor Robin Williams took his own life by hanging. So it is with a heavy heart full of grief at the loss of these two legends that I post the obits below. Rest in peace, Lauren and Robin. 

Legendary actress Lauren Bacall
who, as Jacket Copy put it, "decided to tell her own story in not one
but three memoirs"--By Myself in 1978, Now in 1994 and By Myself and
Then Some in 2005--died Tuesday. She was 89.

"Writing a book is the most complete experience I've ever had," she told
the Los Angeles Times regarding By Myself. During a book signing at
Pickwick Books, "Bacall put aside people who wanted her to sign
memorabilia so that she could get to everyone who had a book. After
signing close to 500, she had to move on to her next event, but some
readers were still waiting--so she arranged to have books brought to her
hotel where she could sign them later," Jacket Copy noted.

Tom Campbell, owner of the Regulator Bookshop, Durham, N.C., remembered
a brief brush with Bacall,
writing, "It was a slow Saturday afternoon, back in the late 1980s or
early 1990s. Only one customer in the store. A woman, browsing the
biography section. Susan, who was working the counter with me, put her
hand over her mouth and whispered, 'I think that's Lauren Bacall!'

" 'Really?' I answered skeptically. But glancing at the profile of the
woman's face, I had to admit that she could indeed be Lauren Bacall. But
how were we going to know for sure? I mean, you just don't walk up to
someone and ask them if they are Lauren Bacall. And bookstore policy has
always been that we leave people alone so they can browse without being

"Luckily, Ms Bacall helped us out. She turned toward Susan and me and
asked a question. And as soon as we heard that deep, smoky voice, there
was no question. This was Lauren Bacall, browsing in the Regulator.

"As I recall, we had the book she was looking for, and she bought it.
Susan and I stayed cool, no screaming, no asking for an autograph. But
of course we were excited. So much so that I have no memory of what the
book was that Lauren Bacall bought. But I think she had a pleasant,
quiet time, browsing in our bookstore that day.

"Thanks for the memories, Ms. Bacall."

Image of the Day: Remembering Robin Williams

The Books, Inc. in Alameda, Calif.,set up this display in honor of the late Robin Williams, who lived in
Tiburon. Buyer Rachel Walther wrote, "For many of us on staff who have
worked in the Bay Area for some time we've had occasion to meet him in
our shops or around town. I was struck by how shy and polite he was in
person. We consider his passing a deep loss to our neighborhood, and it
was with a heavy heart that we collected these books."

What a great idea, to bring books to people riding in taxicabs, bored or anxious. Nothing soothes so well as good reading material!

Cool Idea of the Day: Taxi/Bookstore 
The Wall Street Journal has a long profile of the Iranian
husband-and-wife team Mehdi Yazdany and Sarvenaz Heraner, whose
wonderful creation is "a mobile reading room and taxi service
complete with chauffeur-librarian." They call the mobile bookstore
"Ketabraneh," which translates as Books on Wheels.
the past five years, the pair, who met working in a bookstore, have
driven around Tehran like any other taxi, but their cab has "more than
40 titles, 130 volumes in all [that] are stacked behind the back,
shelved on racks over the passenger window, cluttering the dashboard,
crammed into side pockets and stuffed in the trunk. When you pay the
fare, you can buy a book."
Titles are a mix of translated international bestsellers and Iranian
classics and include Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, Charles Bukowski's
Pulp and works by Iranians such as Nader Ebrahimi, Zoya Pirzad and
Sohrab Sepehri. They sell 30 books a day on average, and sometimes give
books for free to poor riders.

They also play a collection of "Eastern and Western classical music
designed to create a peaceful mood and compete with Tehran's noisy

The couple's next project is opening a coffeeshop/bookstore/reading
I just finished reading Barbara O'Neal's The Secret Of Everything and, as it was packaged like your average "chick lit" trade paperback, and I found it at the library book sale, I was totally surprised and enchanted at the depth of the novel itself. 
Here's the blurb:
At thirty-seven, Tessa Harlow is still working her way down her list of goals to “fall in love and have a family.” A self-described rolling stone, Tessa leads hiking tours for adventurous vacationers–it’s a job that’s taken her around the world but never a step closer to home. Then a freak injury during a trip already marred by tragedy forces her to begin her greatest adventure of all.
Located high in the New Mexico mountains, Las Ladronas has become a magnet for the very wealthy and very hip, but once upon a time it was the setting of a childhood trauma Tessa can only half remember. Now, as she rediscovers both her old hometown and her past, Tessa is drawn to search-and-rescue worker Vince Grasso. The handsome widower isn’t her type. No more inclined to settle down than Tessa, Vince is the father of three, including an eight-year-old girl as lost as Tessa herself. But Tessa and Vince are both drawn to the town’s most beloved eatery–100 Breakfasts–and to each other. For Tessa, the restaurant is not only the key to the mystery that has haunted her life but a chance to find the home and the family she’s never known.
Although the publishers try to sell the book as a romance, it's really more about finding yourself and learning to deal with grief and pain by making what amends that you can and then letting go.  Both Tessa and her lover Vince's daughter Natalie are suffering from losing someone that they cared about, and they also feel set adrift by memories of past trauma, in Tessa's case splintered memories of being the child of a commune leader and a crazy mother who tried to kill her and her twin when they were children. I found Tess's journey very compelling, and I found the character of Natalie equally fascinating, because I could understand her need to steal things, to somehow have something that was her own, because the pain of losing her mother was so inexpressible.  The book had an HEA ending and yet it had more gravitas than most of the other books of this type. The sweetness and sorrow and all the recipes mingled to create a real sensory experience for me. Certainly worth an A, and I'd recommend it to those who love Jennie Shortridge's books, or Erica Bauermeister's fine works. 
Dirty Magic was the first book I've read by Jaye Wells, and it was on the recommendation of Kevin Hearne, author of the wonderful Iron Druid Chronicles, that I bought the book in the first place. The book takes place in what I am assuming is a future dystopian America, where magic is okay only if one pays for "clean magic" and works within the proscribed guidelines of the government. Unfortunately, "dirty magic" abounds, of course, since it's off-book and illegal, and people have become addicted to potions that tend to kill them slowly and in horrifying ways. Enter cop Kate Prospero, daughter of one of the dirtiest wizards around, who has vowed never to use magic again now that she's a cop and raising her little brother Danny. Here's the blurb:
The Magical Enforcement Agency keeps dirty magic off the streets, but there's a new blend out there that's as deadly as it is elusive. When patrol cop Kate Prospero shoots the lead snitch in this crucial case, she's brought in to explain herself. But the more she learns about the investigation, the more she realizes she must secure a spot on the MEA task force.
Especially when she discovers that their lead suspect is the man she walked away from ten years earlier - on the same day she swore she'd given up dirty magic for good. Kate Prospero's about to learn the hard way that crossing a wizard will always get you burned, and that when it comes to magic, you should never say never.
I felt for Kate, who gets herself into a situation where she must use magic to save her idiot teenage brother (who seemed like a huge douchebag during the entire book, so I had very little sympathy for him) but I couldn't understand why she was unable to control herself around John, who has now become a corporate scumbag, the antithesis of the kind of person she claims to want to get involved with again. Kate seemed strong in so many important ways, but then she'd just get stupid, weak-kneed and girly when it came to her ex, or to disciplining her brother. Other than those moments, though, I loved Kate's general kick-arse attitude, and smarts and her ability to think under fire. The only other thing I didn't like about the book was the constant stream of invective, which took away from the otherwise decent prose. I don't mind a few well-placed swear words or curses, mind, but when it is every other word of dialog it gets old, fast. Still, this book gets a B+, and I would recommend it to those who are fans of Laurel Hamilton, Kvein Hearne, Mercedes Lackey and Tanya Huff. 
An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd is the 4th book of the Bess Crawford series that I've read. Because of my adoration of the Maisie Dobbs mysteries, written by Jacqueline Winspear, I've become interested in the world of WW1 England, and the lives of the nursing sisters who worked under hellish conditions to try and save an entire generation of Englishmen. Here's the blurb:
World War I nurse Bess Crawford, introduced in A Duty to the Dead, returns in an exciting new mystery in which a murder draws her inexorably into the sights of a cunning killer
It is the early summer of 1917. Bess Crawford has returned to England from the trenches of France with a convoy of severely wounded men. One of her patients is a young pilot who has been burned beyond recognition, and who clings to life and the photo of his wife that is pinned to his tunic.
While passing through a London train station, Bess notices a woman bidding an emotional farewell to an officer, her grief heart-wrenching. And then Bess realizes that she seems familiar. In fact, she's the woman in the pilot's photo, but the man she is seeing off is not her husband.
Back on duty in France, Bess discovers a newspaper with a drawing of the woman's face on the front page. Accompanying the drawing is a plea from Scotland Yard seeking information from anyone who has seen her. For it appears that the woman was murdered on the very day Bess encountered her at the station.
Granted leave to speak with Scotland Yard, Bess becomes entangled in the case. Though an arrest is made, she must delve into the depths of her very soul to decide if the police will hang an innocent man or a vicious killer. Exposing the truth is dangerous—and will put her own life on the line.
Bess is so calm and deals with the rather vicious characters in this book that I was surprised to find myself getting to the end of the book within a day. I suppose that I just fell into the mystery and into the internal rythmn of the prose and plot, as I often do with compelling stories.  Though its a mother-son team writing these books, the prose is seamless, and if you didn't know that two people were writing it together, you'd never know. I gather this is what they mean by "cozy mysteries" or books that are easy for the reader to digest. Still, the book held my interest and deserves a B, and I would recommend it to Great War buffs and cozy mystery lovers.

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