Friday, September 18, 2015

The Joys of Being a Bookseller, The Master Magician by Charlie N Holmberg, A Window Opens by Elizabeth Egan and A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert

I love Lillis' words about what it means to be a bookseller. It is my dream to someday join the ranks of booksellers in my own bookstore.
In a tribute for Lori Ellison

an artist and bookseller who died August 1, Karen Lillis, a fellow artist and former bookseller at St. Mark's Bookshop, noted that Ellison was "congenitally a bookstore person" who aimed to work at every independent bookstore in New York City.

Writes Lillis: "The first thing to know about this is that working in a bookstore is like being paid to be yourself. You are an avid reader, you have many interests, the interests go into and come out of reading books, and someone pays you to interact with other readers without submerging who you are. There are some tasks you're getting wages for, but you don't have to shoe-horn yourself into some other persona during your work day in order to accomplish them. Your bosses and your coworkers celebrate your interests, or at least the fact that you have interests. In this sense, it goes very well with a life of expression.
The difficult thing is making it on a bookstore clerk's salary, which can be half of what the average office worker takes home. Bookstore people don't necessarily like the salary but generally would rather be themselves all day and will sacrifice much to remain employed in the book world."

"You'd look better with a book in your hand." Buzzfeed showcased "21 signs that prove booksellers are the absolute best http://www.shelf" 

I just finished reading A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert, and I'll admit that I am astonished that this half-non fiction/half-fiction novel was such a page turner that I couldn't put it down. Having read the Little House on the Prairie books back when I was a preteen, and having watched the TV series as well, I was shocked to learn that Laura Ingalls Wilder was not the sole author of her books, but that her daughter Rose, an accomplished journalist and author, was the ghost writer/editor who made the Little House books readable. Here's the blurb:
The Little House books, which chronicled the pioneer adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder, are among the most beloved books in the American literary canon. Lesser known is the secret, concealed for decades, of how they came to be. Now, bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert reimagines the fascinating story of Laura’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, an intrepid world traveler and writer who returned to her parents’ Ozark farm, Rocky Ridge, in 1928. There she began a collaboration with her mother on the pioneer stories that would captivate generations of readers around the world.
Despite the books’ success, Rose’s involvement would remain a secret long after both women died. A vivid account of a great literary deception, A Wilder Rose is a spellbinding tale of a complicated mother-daughter relationship set against the brutal backdrop of the Great Depression.

 I enjoyed reading about Rose's life, and I completely understood her difficulties with her overbearing and proud/vain mother who cares way too much what others think or say about her own life and her daughter's life. I also empathized with Rose being energized and enjoying having a bustling household full of people who care about her and needed her, and her generosity in raising and caring for several young boys when their own parents didn't or couldn't care for them during the depression. Rose worked her fingers to the bone writing to bring in what she called "cash cash cash" to feed and clothe and house not only her parents, but also several other couples and friends and the aforementioned adopted sons. The one thing that wasn't clear about this amazing story was whether or not Rose was sexually involved with her friend Trouble, or Troub as they called her. She undoubtedly loved Troub, and the two were close enough to cuddle up, but Rose had married and divorced a man and then in later years had another affair with a man, so it was not clear if she was bisexual or not. Other than that, I've got very few complaints about this extraordinary book. The prose glistens with passion, the plot is militantly straightforward and the stories within the story are fascinating. A well deserved A, with a recommendation to all who grew up reading the Little House books and want to know how they really came about.
A Window Opens by Elizabeth Egan was a book I was sure I would love, about a young book lover whose husband leaves his job at a huge law firm and strikes out on his own, while insisting that his wife (and mother of three) step up and get a full time job to support the family. Alice has been employed part time at a magazine as the books editor while raising her children, a job I deeply covet. Here's the blurb:
Fans of I Don’t Know How She Does It and Where’d You Go, Bernadette will cheer at this “fresh, funny take on the age-old struggle to have it all” (People) about what happens when a wife and mother of three leaps at the chance to fulfill her professional destiny—only to learn every opportunity comes at a price.
In A Window Opens, beloved books editor at Glamour magazine Elisabeth Egan brings us Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age. Like her fictional forebears Kate Reddy and Bridget Jones, Alice plays many roles (which she never refers to as “wearing many hats” and wishes you wouldn’t, either). She is a mostly-happily married mother of three, an attentive daughter, an ambivalent dog-owner, a part-time editor, a loyal neighbor and a Zen commuter. She is not: a cook, a craftswoman, a decorator, an active PTA member, a natural caretaker or the breadwinner. But when her husband makes a radical career change, Alice is ready to lean in—and she knows exactly how lucky she is to land a job at Scroll, a hip young start-up which promises to be the future of reading, with its chain of chic literary lounges and dedication to beloved classics. The Holy Grail of working mothers―an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life―seems suddenly within reach.
Despite the disapproval of her best friend, who owns the local bookstore, Alice is proud of her new “balancing act” (which is more like a three-ring circus) until her dad gets sick, her marriage flounders, her babysitter gets fed up, her kids start to grow up and her work takes an unexpected turn. Readers will cheer as Alice realizes the question is not whether it’s possible to have it all, but what does she―Alice Pearse―really want? 
I must admit that I was expecting Alice to be a wonderful person, and I was taken aback by how shallow and mean she seemed to be. She doesn't want to be around her father once it is clear that he's dying of cancer because death is scary but also because she can't seem to deal with any real emotions, or get beyond her own selfishness to see that her father needs her love and attention on his final passage to death. She also seems to be an indifferent mom to her daughters, but not to her son, of course, whom she dotes on, though he's obviously something of a spoiled brat. It comes as no surprise, then, that her husband is also an immature and selfish jerk, who deals with every little setback in setting up his own business by drinking more and more and unrealistically stopping cold turkey when he fails to pick up his sick child at school because he is passed out on the couch, drunk. Newsflash, it doesn't work like that with most alcoholics. They need a program of some type to keep them from falling back on the wagon. Still, the thinly-disguised Amazon clone called "Scroll" was accurately represented in how they treat their workers and the highly-stressful office environment where employees are expected to devote every waking moment to their jobs. Alice is also something of a snob about books, preferring novels that are Literature with a capital L. True bibliophiles don't turn their noses up at genre fiction, and most know that a lot of what currently passes for Literature is mostly narcissicist's whinging about their boring lives under the guise of fictional characters. The ending wraps up a bit too fast and is, again, somewhat unrealistic. Because I didn't like the protagonists, or in fact most of the characters (the au pair/nanny was the only interesting and responsible person in the whole book), I'd give this book a C+, and recommend it to anyone who actually liked "I Don't Know How She Does It" and "Where'd You Go, Bernadette." I didn't like either novel, finding them just as whiny and superficial as this novel.

The Master Magician by Charlie N Holmberg is the third and final novel in this trilogy, which began with the fascinating The Paper Magician and moved to The Glass Magician.Though this series is published through Amazon's POD publishing arm, I was delighted to discover that each book was well written, edited and gilded with inspired characters and excellent storytelling. Here's the blurb:
Throughout her studies, Ceony Twill has harbored a secret, one she’s kept from even her mentor, Emery Thane. She’s discovered how to practice forms of magic other than her own—an ability long thought impossible.
While all seems set for Ceony to complete her apprenticeship and pass her upcoming final magician’s exam, life quickly becomes complicated. To avoid favoritism, Emery sends her to another paper magician for testing, a Folder who despises Emery and cares even less for his apprentice. To make matters worse, a murderous criminal from Ceony’s past escapes imprisonment. Now she must track the power-hungry convict across England before he can take his revenge. With her life and loved ones hanging in the balance, Ceony must face a criminal who wields the one magic that she does not, and it may prove more powerful than all her skills combined.
The whimsical and captivating follow-up to The Paper Magician and The Glass Magician, The Master Magician will enchant readers of all ages.

This third book in the series was full of twists and turns in the plot that kept me on the edge of my seat. I was still irritated that Ceony can't seem to stay out of danger and keep her promises to do so, but this clever young woman had only saving her family and the man she loves on her mind while chasing down the terrifying excisioner who killed her friends. The only other complaint that I have about the novel is that Ceony can't seem to fire a gun or kill the bad guys/gals, though she always believes that it is her right and responsibility to do so and has no qualms until she's actually facing them, when she suddenly becomes a wilting lily and can't come through. Still, a thrilling plot and juicy prose make this a winner of a fantasy, one that will make fans of Harry Potter or Devon Monk's steampunk books very happy. An A, with a recommendation to the aforementioned fantasy fans.

No comments: