Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Visiting Book Shops in SoCal (and a little giveaway)

Hello, readers! I spent much of last week in a whirlwind. First, I was in trial Monday through Wednesday. I left the office as soon as trial was over Wednesday and headed to the airport and jetted off to California for the 75th National Lawyers Guild Convention. Of course, I ended up getting sick somewhere in there, and I'm still feeling the effects, but hey, whatever.

Anyways, I knew that the convention would be super packed full of activities and panels and talking to people, so I only brought one book with me. Ha! I read the entire thing on the plane ride. Going to CA.  Not having anything to read on the plane was stressing me out - how would I make it through four more days without a book?

My California book haul
Well, Thursday morning I made my way from West Hollywood to Pasadena. On the way, I took a nice little walk over to sunset Boulevard and had an amazingly delicious iced coffee from Rockpaper Coffee. (Why doesn't anyone near me sell cold brewed iced coffee?) While I sat there, I desperately was googling on my phone to find a bookstore near where I needed to pick up the Metro.

The best option was Larry Edmunds Cinema and Theatre Bookshop, over on Hollywood Boulevard. I started walking. Once I arrived, I spent the next half hour or so poking all around this little shop. It was small, and crammed full of books, but well organized, with high ceilings and lots of light that kept it from feeling oppressively cramped. It was full of biographies of movie stars, film theory, screenplays, and more. There was even a selection of paper doll books featuring classic Hollywood starlets. I bought two books, The Alcestiad, a play by Thorton Wilder, and Censored Hollywood, by Frank Miller.

When I got to the hotel, my room wasn't ready, but they offered to let me check my bags. I did so, then went for a bit of a walk to get some lunch. Of course, I left my new books with my checked bags. But no worries! There were more bookstores to be visited!

I made my way towards Vroman's, daydreaming and distractedly wondering how to pronounce it (V - Romans? Vvvvroman's Just Roman's, maybe with a silent V?), I noticed I was walking by a little hole in the wall place with a ton of old National Geographic magazines out front. Looking more closely, I realized it was a book store, with old neon in the window clearly telling me "Books, Books, Books." And thus I found Cliff's Books. It is one of those old school used book stores, cramped and creaky and maybe a little smelly, but super fun to explore. The guy at the front had to be Cliff - a little old white guy with a fun sense of humor, definitely a book lover. I bought Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog. He had a huge selection of books from old Hardy Boys to selections in Russian and large coffee table art books. Disorganized as it sometimes seemed, there were big, clear section markers to guide me along.

After I left, I realized I was only a couple blocks from Vroman's. Walking in there was a completely different world than Cliff's. It was like a Barnes and Noble, if BN was your neighborhood bookstore. Beautiful, clean, bright, with an attached cafe that sells a really good Italian soda (raspberry for me). It also felt a little...soulless. I was hating myself for liking it as much as I did, with all its silly displays of mass-produced carved Buddhas next to incense burners, across the aisle from a display of Moleskine notebooks. But it was so pretty! And everything was so neatly laid out and ready for you to find exactly what you came looking for! No wandering required. Which was kinda sad, actually.
Bookmarks from Vroman's

I shouldn't be so down on Vroman's, though (especially since I really did like it). In today's economy, I know bookstores have to diversify and sell other stuff. And honestly, I find a lot of the gift items in  bookstores are really nice - things that I'd love to give or receive as gifts. Clearly, book lovers have good taste ;-)

While I was there, I picked up a copy of Rebecca, which I am supposed to be reading for the Back to the Classics challenge. They had one with a pretty cover, which is kinda important in this case because I need all the encouragement to read this that I can get. I was thinking I'd read it in October. Seems like a good time of the year for it.

I also picked up these two cute bookmarks. They were the winning designs from area school children. The "Blast off with a Good Book" is from K-3 grade winner Aaron Ky-Riesenbach, and the "Buzz into a Book" is from Andrea Linares, the 4-6 grade winner.

So, would you like a bookmark? Just tell me what you like in an independent bookstore, and which bookmark you'd prefer. Make sure to leave you leave your email address so I can contact you if you win. Good luck!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Child's Life: Graphic Novel

A Child's Life
A Child's Life and Other Stories
Phoebe Gloeckner

This is one graphic novel that certainly lives up to its name. I'm glad I wasn't reading it in public when I turned the page and saw the panel depicting two young girls peeping in through a broken bathroom window and catching their stepfather in a *ahem* private moment. (Granted, there were far more disturbing scenes, but that was the first one that I recall being particularly explicit.)

I came across this title when I was looking for graphic novels written and illustrated by women. It seems like a lot of the well known books in this medium are by men, and if you've read my blog at all you probably know I like reading female authors. (And yes, I read male authors and yes I like them and yes Maus I & II are amazing).

The characters in A Child's Life and Other Stories are clearly based on Gloeckner's self and family and friends. It was a little odd to get used to at first, as she often changed the main character's name from story to story. It's understandable that she would want to put some distance between herself and some of these incredibly painful experiences. The stories are in rough chronological order, grouped as child years, to teen, to adult. They were not all completed at the same time, so there are very noticeable differences in drawing styles. This isn't a bad thing - in fact, the differences lend interesting visual variety.

This is not a book to willy-nilly recommend to your friends. It is intense. The subject matter is dark - excessive drug and alcohol abuse, pedophilia, rape, child abuse.

Unlike Maus, there is no attempt to depict the atrocities in anything other than minute detail. All the horrors are present for perusal, which can make you feel a bit like a creepy voyeur. What does this mean? What is the purpose of these artistic choices? Perhaps it's to force the readers' heads point at these acts, force them to watch and acknowledge they exist. Because unfortunately, there are too many children who know about them first hand.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere is set in London - both London Above and London Below. Wait - you thought London was London? Then clearly you are a member of London Above.

The inhabitants of London Below are nearly invisible to their Above counterparts. Richard, a twentyish Scot businessman, is on his way to an important dinner with his fiancee when she merely steps over the bleeding body of a young girl, Door. When Richard stops to help her, his fiancee doesn't understand why he is bothering. It's as if somehow only Richard can fully see Door. This encounter leads to Richard fading from the view of people in his life.

When his apartment is being rented out from beneath his feet, his office belongings packed up and stored somewhere, Richard decides to do what he can and reclaim his life. London Below is revealed.

This is your typical quest book. Door wants to find out who's responsible for the murder of her parents. Hunter is after the next big kill. Richard wants to get back to his normal, safe, boring London Above life. Will they find what they're looking for?

The descriptions are incredibly vivid - from the ghostly Metro to to nightmare Night's Bridge. It makes sense that this book is actually the novelization of a BBC miniseries. London Below is often dark, dank, dirty, foggy - but then again, as Door points out, so is London above. In fact, I learned a bit about killer fog from reading Neverwhere. See? Books make you smarter!

Overall, I did really enjoy the book. I'm sorry it took me so long to read one of Gaiman's full length works. My only other experience had been with one of his short stories. As I was reading, I kept wishing I've visited London so as to get more of the references, but it's certainly not necessary to appreciate the book. This is a perfect October read, so if you haven't read it yet, go get yourself a copy!

Monday, October 1, 2012

September in Review

Ah, September, end of summer, cool nip in the air, leaves beginning to change... Wait, where am I again? Oh, right, still stuck in 90 degrees with 98% humidity and daily rainshowers. Ahhh, Florida.

Well! I may not be posting much, but at least I'm reading. I knocked off eight books in September, not August's eleven, but not a bad number.

I said last month that I wanted to read come classics, and I did do that. Fahrenheit 451, The Age of Innocence, and The Remains of the Day all count towards classics reading challenges. Both The Age of Innocence and The Remains of the Day were very, very, good. Fahrenheit 451...well, my reaction was more mixed. I'll have to actually write a review and explain.

Here's my September breakdown:
8 books total
7 fiction                88%
1 nonfiction          13%
4 female authors  50%
0 translated           0%
Again, nothing translated. I wonder what's going on with my reading. It seems like I used to read a good number of translated books without trying. Now, I have to make an effort to include them.