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The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell

TheBookshopBookThere are readers. There are library people and there are bookstore people and while they aren’t mutually exclusive, they aren’t necessarily the same. Someone I know only likes libraries because of their neatness and order and can’t even abide the used book sale shelves we have in the library. Others love the unexpected you can find in a bookstore, especially a used book store…the clutter in the midst of which you find that book you didn’t know you were looking for.

The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell is primarily for the used book store lovers, although Ms. Campbell does mention several modern, pristine looking bookstores, as well. Segmented by geographic area, she picks out the unusual, the odd, the bookstore that will attract bookstore lovers. There is the bookstore that is on a 60 foot narrowboat that runs up and down the canals in Lichfield, UK, “…where there’s tea and biscuits and a sneaky glass of wine…there are sofas to sit on, and refreshments to be had…” Makes you want to go there, huh?

Or how about Wigtown, the National Book Town of Scotland where you will find The Bookshop. For a small fee, you can join the Random Book Club, in which they will send (anywhere in the world) you a random second hand book every month. I joined and Susan just received her first book. She can’t wait to read it. You MUST watch the video on their website.

There is Tell a Story in Portugal whose goal is to “…promote Portuguese literature by selling English translations of its works to British tourists from a bookshop van that tours the country.” The Libraria Acqua Alta in Venice which overlooks the canal. I can’t imagine the moisture in those book pages.

Fjaerland Book Town in Norway has a wonderful view of snow covered mountains. The Biblioburro in Colombia, South America is a man on his burro making sure people in the outskirts have material to read.

I could go on an on. There are famous bookstores, like the Strand in New York and unknown bookstores. The book includes comments by bookstore owners, many of whom had always wanted to own a bookstore but wouldn’t take the chance until retirement age. Ms. Campbell includes Bookish Facts, and Some Wonderful Things scattered throughout, as well as comments by authors, again both famous and somewhat less so. She covers six of the seven continents…no bookstores in Antarctica, I gather.

I found this to be a charming book and one I will consult as we plan our next trip, both here and abroad. Do yuou love bookstores? If so, go to your nearest one and pick up a copy of The Bookshop Book.

 

It is five days before Christmas when Alex’s younger brother, Ty, TheLastTimeWeSayGoodbyecommits suicide: a shotgun blast to his chest. He had stayed home from school, ran certain errands and, it seems, carefully planned the day.  Her mother is coping by going to work, coming home, having a glass or three of wine and crying. Her parents divorced several years ago and, while Alex sees her father weekly for dinner, the time is taken up with idle conversation, so his emotions barely play a role in this book. Alex is barely coping herself.

Alex’s therapist has suggested antidepressants to which Alex is vehemently opposed. So, instead he recommends that she keep a journal as an outlet for her emotions. Possibly direct the entries to someone in particular, and describe firsts and lasts.

Both Alex and her mother often seem to find themselves in Ty’s basement bedroom. On one such visit Alex thinks she smells his cologne and sees him leaning against the wall. On another visit she finds a letter in a desk drawer addressed to Ashley, his former girlfriend. She and her neighbor (and former best friend), Sadie, debate the merits of giving the letter to Ashley. Sadie is addicted to shows about mediums and thinks Ty’s appearances are due to unfinished business which Alex must complete.

For some reason I feel like I’ve read a similar book recently but I can’t remember the title. In it as well as  The Last Time We Say Goodbye there is a letter to a former girlfriend left by the suicide. (If you have any ideas, let me know.) Of course the letter has a cathartic impact on the recipient.

As I imagine is the case in most suicides several people feel they could have prevented Ty’s actions, when truth be known, most of the time those last actions would have been too late. That is a hard lesson to learn and accept. Additionally, everyone reacts differently to loss of a loved one, which is evident in The Last Time We Say Goodbye.  As the book jumps back and forth between Alex’s journal, present day and recollection, it concentrates on the survivors, and less so on why Ty did what he did. There are vague hints, but nothing that over time would suggest suicide as being inevitable. This might have put everything in a better perspective for the reader.

Having said all of this, I found The Last Time We Say Goodbye a good read. I liked the characters, although, as I said, you don’t get much of a feel for Ty. The emotions seemed real. The interaction between Alex and her friends and family is understandable. And hey, it has as happy an ending as a book about suicide can have.

I must be in my ‘reading suicide’ phase because I just started AllTheBrightPlacesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, which starts off with a teen thinking of suicide. So, I think after this, I’ll move on to a happy book. Any suggestions?

 

 

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

OpenRoadSummer

I can’t believe that I never published this post.

Rising country star seventeen-year-old Lilah (Dee) Montgomery is on her summer tour and takes her best friend, bad-girl Reagan O’Neill with her. Reagan, coming off bad relationships, has resolved to reform beginning this summer. When the tabloids print a photo of Lilah and her ex-boyfriend with hints of her pregnancy, her good-girl image is tarnished. Her publicist signs Matt Finch as an opening act, replacing the local area talents, hoping to divert media attention with speculation that Lilah and Matt are a couple. Matt, in a brother band, the Finch Four, several years earlier, is currently under the radar. His good looks and squeaky clean image are enough to start new rumors. The only problem: no matter how much Reagan tries not to, she’s falling for Matt and vice versa. Can she have a relationship with a ‘good’ guy? If the media finds out, how will that impact Lilah?
Open Road Summer, Lord’s debut novel, is truly fun ‘chick-lit’. Lilah, Reagan and Matt are characters readers will immediately like. Lilah’s pain at leaving her ex-boyfriend, who let her go to follow her dream, will pain readers. Reagan’s uncertainty about life and love will resonate with teenage girls, whether ‘good girls’ or ‘bad girls’. Readers will want Matt’s and Reagan’s relationship to thrive. Lord also provides a realistic look at the lengths paparazzi and the media will go to invade a star’s privacy.

Open Road Summer, published last April, is a well written beach read. And since much of the country is under mounds of snow, tack a picture of the ocean and palm trees on your wall, put some logs in the fireplace to heat up the room and pretend you’re lying on a beach somewhere.

By the way, Emery Lord has a new book coming out in March 2015, The Start of Me. I’m ready to give it a go.

IllMeetYouThereAlex and Josh are lost souls for two very different reasons. Josh just returned from Afghanistan minus a leg. The all American boy, good at sports and getting girls, is not quite what he used to be. That’s before you consider the nightmares and how he stiffens when he hears loud noises, such as fireworks.

Alex, on the other hand, lost her father five years earlier and her mother has been on a steady decline ever since. Now, having lost her job, her mother has taken to staying in their trailer and is seeing a total sleazeball who encourages her to drink. Alex is wondering whether she’ll have to be the family’s total support and be forced to turn down her full scholarship to San Francisco State.

Somehow, though, at Josh’s ‘welcome home’ party in July, the two seem to connect. What a contrast, Alex the ‘good girl’ never drinking (because her father died in an auto accident when driving while intoxicated) and Josh, who will chug a beer and crush the can.

Alex, for some reason, brings out Josh’s softer side and Josh makes her feel safe.PurpleHeart

In I’ll Meet You There, readers will feel the complexity of Josh and Alex’s relationship and the insecurity each feels. Alex, having never had a boyfriend and Josh, needing to shed his image of chasing everything in a skirt, are unsure both of their feelings and how to act upon them.

ThingsABrotherKnowsDemetrios touches on the PTSD that Josh faces after returning from the war zone. Although it is not the premise of the book, it certainly plays a role in Josh’s (and Alex’s) life. A more pointed and wonderful book dealing with PTSD is Patricia McCormick’s Purple Heart. Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt is also worth reading.

I’ll Meet You There is a poignant story bound to, at different times, bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your face.

Valentine’s Day Reading

For those of you who haven’t become jaded regarding Valentine’s Day or those of you who want vicarious romance, here are a few good teen romance authors.

There are the old standbys like Sarah Dessen, Julie Anne Peters and Jennifer E. Smith. But there are a few new authors on the horizon. Morgan Matson, Sara Farizan, Emory Lord and Nina LaCour. Here are some books from the newer authors for you..books you might not have heard of

TellMeAgainTell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan – Leila, an Iranian American teen, attends a private high school, where her parents have high expectations for her future. She has made it to her junior year without romance complicating her life, and that’s just fine with her. Leila would just as soon not have everyone find out that she likes girls. But when beautiful, confident, worldly Saskia breezes into the narrator’s life, everything turns upside down.

LastForeverThe Last Forever by Deb Caletti – After a trying bout with cancer, Tess’s mother has died, but she’s left behind a one-of-a-kind pixiebell plant. When her impulsive, pot-smoking, less-than-dependable father takes her on an extended road trip to the Grand Canyon, Tess brings the plant with her, but keeping it alive during their journey through the desert is a struggle. Unexpectedly, Tess’s father brings her to the home of his mother, an artist Tess barely remembers. Tess is in for some life-changing lessons about old family grudges and secrets held by new acquaintances, including a boy who makes it his mission to help Tess save the withering pixiebell, and wins her heart in the process.

SecondChanceSummerSecond Chance Summer by Morgan Matson – Seventeen-year-old Taylor and her family-her mother, father, older brother, and younger sister-are off to the Poconos for the summer, whether everyone wants to or not. Taylor falls in the latter category. Returning to their lake house after a five-year absence fills her with dread: she’ll have to face her estranged best friend as well as the boy she left without saying goodbye.

 

EverythingLeadsToYouEverything Leads to You by Nina LaCour – Eighteen-year-old production design intern Emi is getting over her first love and trying to establish her place in the Los Angeles film industry. Set during the summer before her freshman year of college, Emi spends days designing sets for a blockbuster, and, later, a low-budget indie film (complicated by the presence of her ex, also working on both films). When she and her best friend Charlotte find a letter hidden in the possessions of a recently deceased Hollywood film legend at an estate sale, they begin searching for its intended recipient. Eventually that leads to Ava, a beautiful teen to whom Emi is immediately attracted.

OpenRoadSummerOpen Road Summer by Emery Lord – Reagan joins her best friend Delilah’s summer concert tour to escape some poor decisions and break some bad habits, finding romance and complication instead.

 

 

 

 

Knishes

KnishYesterday, I was flipping through a book I was cataloging called KnishBookKnish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food by Laura Silver. As I was looking for familiar names I began to realize that the simple knish had come to signify distinct parts of my life.

As I read about Mrs. Stahl’s Knish store having closed almost a decade ago, I remembered visits to my grandparents in Brighton Beach and the quick stop on the way home to Long Island at Mrs. Stahl’s. My dad would run out leaving me and my mother in the car (because parking under the El was impossible) while he bought knishes (typically round potato or kasha). Mrs. Stahl’s signifies my childhood until my early or mid-teens when we moved grandma to Bayside to be closer to us. MrsStahlsAnd while I hadn’t been back to Mrs. Stahl’s since the move, I will always remember it, the screeching of the wheels of the elevated line, walking down the gritty, crowded Brighton Beach Avenue and the good times had in Brighton Beach. It also brought back the sad memory that I never went to shul with my grandfather, something he always wanted me to do…to show off his grandson.
KnishNosh

Then came Knish Nosh on Queens Blvd in Rego Park (excuse me…Forest Hills). Knish Nosh signifies freedom, independence, a new life because I got married and my first apartment was in Rego Park. A one bedroom with a raised dining area for a whopping $260 a month, it was just a short walk to Knish Nosh. We weren’t frequent visitors but every now and then the urge struck. Whenever I pass it on Queens Blvd, I do think back to those days…my house and car being vandalized, fun walks along Austin Street, a quick subway ride into work, eating pizza on the floor the first day we moved in.

And now, in the later years, there’s Ben’s Deli in the Wheatley Plaza Shopping Center.Bens Susan and I are reasonably frequent take out customers, splitting a pastrami on rye (mustard on the side), a round potato knish (never square), pickles and, a recent addition, a hot dog. It’s way too much for one person, although I’ll admit the sandwiches are getting a little skimpier. Sitting in my kitchen, talking and laughing and scarfing down (me), eating slower (Susan), it is a reminder of the good things that aging still has to offer…love and romance, friendship, comfort and contentment.

KatzBy the way, the restaurants seem to have become more modern. Mrs. Stahl’s and Knish Nosh remind me more of Katz’ Deli on the Lower East Side (which you must try…Susan and I were there about 2 years ago and it hasn’t changed since I was there as a kid). Ben’s is definitely more upscale.

While other comfort foods bring back memories, none of them conjure up distinct segments of my life. I’ll bet there are different foods that do the same thing for you. Let me know.

GirlDefectiveThe Martin children are named after birds: fifteen year old Skylark (Sky) and eleven year old Seagull (Gully). Their mother left them when Sky was 10 to become a performance artist…in Japan. She has little contact with her former family. Their father never moved past the 1970s, owning a record shop that won’t stock anything past 1980, won’t stock CDs and won’t sell on the internet. He spends most days on the verge of drunkenness.

Unfortunately these circumstances leave Sky with primary responsibility for Gully who is autistic. He wears a pig snout most of the time which, as you can imagine, doesn’t endear him to his schoolmates. He fancies himself a detective and when a brick is thrown through the store window, he makes it his business to track down the perpetrator. She also helps out at the record store, which doesn’t get much traffic.

Sky’s only friend is a world-wise nineteen year old, Nancy. It must be true that opposites attract because Nancy is everything that Sky isn’t.

When Mr. Martin hires Luke Casey to work at the store for the Christmas season, Sky is miffed. When it turns out that Luke’s younger sister drowned after drinking and posters of her keep cropping up all over town, Sky is intrigued. The fact that Luke is cute doesn’t hurt.

Girl Defective by Simmone Howell is a story about growing up, both teens and adults. Sky must learn what the world is all about (on her own and through Nancy) and her father has to move into the new century and take on his fatherly responsibilities. Howell’s characters are good, although at times I’d like to hammer Mr. Martin for foisting Gully on Sky all the time, and her writing is descriptive, at some points exceptional (“Night fell soft as a shrug. Even the palm trees looked tired, like showgirls standing around waiting for their pay.”). Any story rooted in music is a plus, especially 70s and 80s music. Of course, since this takes place in Australia, I don’t know some of the musical references, but that’s OK.

All in all, Girl Defective is a fun book.

 

 

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