Collecting Childhood Favorites

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Vintage Childhood Finds

I have always loved old books.  I do not see that every changing.  In my opinion there is nothing better than old books; childhood favorites especially sweeten the pot.  For someone who has always been a big reader I truly treasure the books that left an impression on me as a kid.  I will always get a warm and fuzzy feeling in my heart when I see a book that left an impact on me.  As I was mostly a library book reader I did not have personal copies of most of my favorites.   I did have some of the books pictured below.  Yes mom.  I know.  I told you to get rid of them.  Looking back on it now I should not have been so hasty in insisting that you just get rid of them.  It would have been great to have my own original copies but c’est la vie.

So let’s explore some of my favorites! 

The expected favorites such as Charlotte’s Web and Little House in the Big Woods are on there.  These are the stories that every child should read.  They have so much to offer and are completely timeless.  I was especially thrilled to find the hardcover copy of Little House in the Big Woods I have.  It is a 1953 hardcover edition with the Garth Williams illustrations.  The illustrations of the Ingalls family that Garth Williams drew for the reprints are how I visualize the books.  They are one in the same.  If I think of popular illustrators of my childhood….I honestly think of Garth Williams.  He did Little House and E.B. White’s books (Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little).

If I had to identify my favorite childhood book it would have to be Matilda. This means that I adore Roald Dahl’s very British writing style that he shared with children all over the world.  I own a few of his books.  I have very specific memories of reading most of them.  My dream book find is a very early edition of Matilda.  I have yet to find it but I know that it will happen some day.  I could easily seek one out online but where is the fun in that?  I did find a lovely 1972 edition Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.  I found this in one of my favorite independent bookstores Hyde Brothers in Fort Wayne Indiana.  Truthfully I hope to find my dream copy of Matilda at that book store.  It will happen someday.

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Copyright 1976

I think that it is safe to assume that Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell is a Newbery Award winner that most people have read.  It is such a classic.  I have memories of reading this in school.  Although I have no idea what grade I was in I do have those strong memories flash back when I see this book.  I remember being fascinated by this story of a girl surviving on her own.  As an adult now I am quick to note how rare it was at the time to be presented with a strong girl character.  The main thing that stands out to me is skinning seals and scavenging the shoreline for shellfish.  That entire concept of foraging for food was a novelty to me and to this day it still stands out to me.

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I am not going to deny that when I spotted this at a thrift store I snatched it up so quick…you would have thought The Flash stole it right off the shelf.  Off the top of my head I am not able to tell you what this book is about.  All I know is that I was absolutely obsessed with this cover.  It was creepy, involved ghosts, a stoic white cat and a terrifying doll.  When I was a kid I found weird and creepy things really appealed to me.  Let me put this in perspective….visual perspective…for you.  As a child I was obsessed with Tim Burton films (Beetlejuice and Michael Keaton as Batman) and I could not get enough of Ann Ramsey in Don’t Throw Mama from the Train.

So yea I may have been a weird child.  Here is the description for The Doll in the Garden.

“She had been warned never to go there but as a ten year old Ashley followed the beautiful white cat through a small opening in the hedge, she stepped into an enchanted place. A place where she might find the answers.  Who is the little girl with golden curls and huge sad eyes? Whose voice cries out in the dark of night? Why does the white cat cast no shadow in the moonlight? Who is the owner of the beautiful old doll found buried in the garden? And if Ashley discovers the truth, can she ever go back?”

Again, I have absolutely no recollection of that plot.  I do not even remember if I was pleased with the book.  I just remember the cover.  The cover is forever imprinted on my brain and a new to me copy resides on my shelf.

Lastly, book #1 of The Baby-sitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin.  Kristy’s Great Idea is where my connection with The Baby-Sitter’s Club all began.  When I was a little girl I was always excited for the gift that my Aunt Dawn would get me.  I would always get money…which meant I got to go to the bookstore in the mall and buy the next Baby-Sittter’s Club book.  Five dollars was just enough to buy a brand new paperback.  I associate The Baby-Sitter’s Club with being able to shop for my own books.  It was my money.  I got to go to the tall shelves filled with brand new books and  choose which book I wanted to take home with me.  It was a big decision that I took very seriously.  I treasure those book buying memories.

My Paperback Classics Collection

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I am a lover of books. There is no doubting this. One of my favorite things is thrift shopping for books. I love the “high” and thrill that I get when I find something amazing at a bargain. I have found many exciting treasures for under a buck. Some people probably wonder why I am buying (in the joking words of my husband) “crusty old books”. I buy and collect them because they are beautiful. They are something that I treasure. I have infinite appreciation for well-loved books. I am so glad that family members are choosing to donate their great-grandmother’s old, dusty books to thrift stores. This knowledge is what drives me to go on my “treasure hunts” because I never know what I am going to find.

So what do I collect? I will be discussing the books I seek in future posts. For this post I am discussing my recent obsession with collecting vintage paperbacks. What is it about my attraction to them? I cannot really say. I love that they are small and compact. I love the artwork on the covers. I find the cover art to be incredibly appealing and unique. I was at one of my favorite local thrift stores when I saw this stack of paperback Agatha Christie. They were priced at a quarter to fifty cents. I could not and would not say no to those deals.

NOTE: Click and hover over images for copyright information

Agatha Christie was a genius. I have purposely not read all of her work because I do not want to live in a world in which I no longer have anymore Christie to read. When I saw the copy of Roger Ackroyd I nearly jumped for joy (I saved that for when I got home and reviewed my haul). I am so glad that I was able to scoop these up as they will always remain in my collection…until my family members likely decide to throw them in the garbage upon my departure from this world. I now proudly own Ruth Bradley’s copy of 13 for Luck. It has green tinted pages, a slight tear on the back cover, looks like it was read once and resided on a shelf until I found it in a thrift store.

Once I realized that lovely little treasures could be found amongst the paperback stacks in thrift stores I kept my eyes peeled for what else was waiting for me to discover. I have had some great luck recently!

Have I ever read Jack London? No. Do I have other books by him living on my shelves? Yes I do. Will I ever read him? Time will tell but let’s be honest….the chances are very slim. Why do I add Jack London to my collection? I add his work because I can appreciate his contribution to literature. When I picked up that copy of Frankenstein at my local Goodwill I was very surprised when I saw the cover art. That was not what I was expecting a cover of Frankenstein to look like. I read the book in college and really liked it. Since I know that what is between the cover art of this particular copy it makes me question what the publisher was thinking. I would not pick that up at a bookstore and be thrilled to read it. Frankenstein is a standard classic. The cover art screams “forced reading”. At second glance, I appreciate the gothic scene. The contemplative stance of who can only be Dr. Victor Frankenstein on the moors. The cover art provides a subtle intrigue that would only be possible on a small paperback.

The old paperbacks are usually the books that are overlooked in second hand stores. I used to be one of them. Then I discovered the beauty and intrigue that they posses. They are small and compact, stack beautifully on my shelves and are meant to be treasured.

Jar of Hearts: A Review

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This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

MacMillian Press was kind enough to surprise me with a free advance galley of this new thriller. Here is my honest review!

Before receiving Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier in the mail I had heard nothing about it. Aside from knowing that it was thriller I truly had no idea what the plot was or anything else. Several popular thriller writers gave their stamp of approval—-Lisa Unger, Lisa Gardner and Riley Sager. I believe that with all of that early support I cannot go wrong….right?

Correct. If you are a reader of all things thriller then you really need to pick this one up. I already foresee this being in the hands of sunbathers at the beach. It will be all over the summer must-read displays in bookstores. It has all the right ingredients for an addictive summer read. Everyone is saying that Aimee Molloy’s The Perfect Mother is going to be the must-read of the summer. While The Perfect Mother is a great read I would recommend Jar of Hearts over Molloy’s book. Click here for my review of The Perfect Mother.

I must admit that since I knew nothing about this book before I received it, the title alone had me building a completely different plot in my head. When I started reading it I was surprised to realize that I was very wrong about the story. Once I reached the point where the reason for the title is shown I become obsessed. I will not state where the title comes from but I will state that the title is absolutely perfect for this thriller.

Any thriller with a serial killer at its core I am here for. True crime is a fascinating subject area for me in general so I am always down for it. However, the standard recipe for thrillers always run the risk of being cliche when all is said and done. After all , how many different ways are there for spinning similar plots? Thankfully, Jar of Hearts does not fall victim to coming off as cliche.

My favorite element of this thriller is the way in which Hillier allowed the story to unfold. The further you get more pieces are revealed. Each piece adds to the plot but more importantly it reveals more about the main character Geo. The gradual reveal of more information to the murder of Geo’s best friend’s murder causes you to alter your opinion of Geo. I loved how much my opinion of her changed because it made me not know what to believe. Should I feel sorry for her? Was five years in prison too little or not enough? What is Calvin’s fascination with Geo? Is Kaiser a good cop or a bad cop? Should Geo be forgiven?

It is always difficult for me to review a thriller because it is hard to share my thoughts on the book without giving too much away. Like I have already mentioned, I knew very little about Jar of Hearts going into it. That certainly made all the difference in my opinion. I had no expectations so I could not be disappointed! I do not want to give away any of the minor details of this book because it all adds up in the end. I had many emotions when I reached the end of the story. The story did not end the way I anticipated but that is the very thing that makes it a great thriller.

If you are looking for a plot that will slowly reveal itself into a something you were not expecting then this is what you are looking for. Your thoughts and opinions of the characters are going to change many times. You do not know who to feel compassion for. You will be left analyzing the actions of the characters. What would you do in that situation? What are you capable of? Do you see what you want to see?

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier will be released on June 12th.

Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces: A Review

Michael Chabon wrote a piece about accompanying his son Abraham Chabon, then thirteen, to Paris Men’s Fashion Week. Possessed with a precocious sense of style, Abe was in his element chatting with designers he idolized and turning a critical eye to the freshest runway looks of the season; Chabon Sr., whose interest in clothing stops at “thrift-shopping for vintage western shirts or Hermès neckties,” sat idly by, staving off yawns and fighting the impulse that the whole thing was a massive waste of time. Despite his own indifference, however, what gradually emerged as Chabon ferried his son to and from fashion shows was a deep respect for his son’s passion. The piece quickly became a viral sensation.

With the GQ story as its centerpiece, and featuring six additional essays plus an introduction, Pops illuminates the meaning, magic, and mysteries of fatherhood as only Michael Chabon can.

Michael Chabon has always been on my TBR.  I have always been extremely curious about his writing yet I always pass up reading his books.  The ever present excuse of “I can read that anytime” always trumps my picking up a book.  When I was presented with the opportunity of reading his upcoming essay collection I jumped at the chance.  I knew that this would be a great way to gain a sense of his writing style.

Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces is showcases various insights into Chabon’s life as a father.  He shares observations that he has made in his life.  I must say that it is actually a very insightful method of sharing the experiences of fatherhood.  I would happily recommend this to any fathers out there who are searching for other perspectives of fatherhood; for anyone who wishes to champion the uniqueness of their children.

Chabon enthusiastically champions the uniqueness of his children.  He remarks on the pleasure it gives him to be able to raise them in an environment that nurtures the odd.  He is happy to recognize that a break with societal traditions and allowing  your children to be who they are is by fair the most important duty you have as a father.

This is a very short collection of essays.  It can be read in one sitting.  It is also something that you can go back to and pick out new things from the essays Chabon writes.  All of the essays work brilliantly together.  Thank you Harper Books for providing a galley!

Pops will be released on May 15th. 

The Perfect Mother: A Review

They call themselves the May Mothers—a collection of new moms who gave birth in the same month. Twice a week, with strollers in tow, they get together in Prospect Park, seeking refuge from the isolation of new motherhood; sharing the fears, joys, and anxieties of their new child-centered lives.

When the group’s members agree to meet for drinks at a hip local bar, they have in mind a casual evening of fun, a brief break from their daily routine. But on this sultry Fourth of July night during the hottest summer in Brooklyn’s history, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is abducted from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but the May Mothers insisted that everything would be fine. Now Midas is missing, the police are asking disturbing questions, and Winnie’s very private life has become fodder for a ravenous media.

Though none of the other members in the group are close to the reserved Winnie, three of them will go to increasingly risky lengths to help her find her son. As the police bungle the investigation and the media scrutinize the mothers in the days that follow, damaging secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are formed and fractured.

Vanity Fair magazine is calling The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy one of the most highly anticipated thriller of the summer. This is a valid declaration as it has already been optioned for a film starring Kerry Washington. I was fortunate to receive an early copy by Harper Books in exchange for an honest review.

Let me begin by saying that I had been tracking this book before receiving it. I have started reading a ton of thrillers in recent months. Nothing beats the fast pace of a plot in which direction it is heading is unknown. Sometimes thrillers all blend together especially when many have been read in recent months. I am pleased to relay that The Perfect Mother stands apart from the rest. Once I started reading it I did not want to stop. As is true with all thrillers, this read very fast but the examination of the way motherhood affects each of the May Mothers absorbed me. Truthfully it read like a sociological examination of new motherhood. The title “the perfect mother” speaks to each female character. They are simply trying to figure out how to be the best mother that they can when their worst nightmare is realized. What should have been a fun free night out quickly went wrong when Winnie’s son is taken from his crib.

I am not a mother so I cannot attest that the presentation of the struggle to adjust to motherhood is done correctly but I believe that it is. Each of the May Mothers are struggling with their own issues. One is a single mother. One is struggling financially while her husband’s business struggles. One is a mother because of IVF but she is struggling to be a mom. One cannot imagine leaving her baby when she has to go back to work. One is struggling to balance her writing career and motherhood. One has the answers to everything when it comes to being a mother. These are elements that I can foresee being problematic when it comes to motherhood. Seeing these issues unfold along with the kidnapping make for an engrossing read. While I was reading my mind kept going back and forth. I was searching for clues. I thought I knew who to trust but then I began question their character. I instinctively began hating one character but I kept changing my mind. My mind was all over the place. I am glad this was the case because I would have been extremely disappointed otherwise. A crappy and predictable thriller is an obnoxious bookish problem to have.

As this is a thriller I am not going to reveal any of the plot. After all readers those are not the sort of reviews I write. This is a thriller after all. I would never dream of revealing spoilers or clues to you. I will stress again how absorbed I was by the focus on societal expectations for new mothers. Aimee Molloy expertly wove that focus along with a thrilling plot so well. If you are a fan of thrillers then you must read this one. I think this has excellent potential to make a great film. It certainly has a strong plot and great characters. However I rarely enjoy adaptations so I am extremely skeptical that it will be as good as the book. I am hardly ever ahead of the book to film reading so I am just glad to finally be ahead for a change!

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy will be available on May 1st!

Peaceful Reading Spots

I am a typical bookworm.  Just give me a good book,  cozy reading spot, a reasonable amount of quiet and a delicious cup of coffee… you have the exact recipe for Jamie’s serenity.  No matter where I am living I will always quickly identify my preferred reading destinations.  Show me the direction of the library and the location of a quaint coffee shop because those are the important destinations for me.  I clearly have my priorities.

 

I have two favorite places in my current home town.  My first is Ana’s Bread which is pictured above.  What I love about this place is the pastries, the rustic yet modern vibe, the wood-fire oven and the peaceful atmosphere.  There is a larger coffee shop in this area but it is so loud and crowded.  I am also not a big fan of their coffee.  It is not my first choice to visit for those reasons.  It still has a great coffee shop vibe but I love the simplicity that Ana’s Bread offers.  Plus….did I mention the bread and pastries?

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When I first saw this chair I knew that I had to sit in it.  It was just calling out to me “Jamie!  Come sit and read on me while you drink your cafe au lait.”  I silently replied, “Of course I will!”  So this is my chair at my other favorite coffee shop.  When I walk inside I always look to make sure that it is available.  Is it sad that I want to immediately turn around and leave if someone is sitting in it? While it is tempting to do so I never do.  I need my coffee after all. However I do give the person…who has the nerve to sit in my chair… a severe glare and intense side eye.  This chair is incredibly comfortable.  It swallows you up in the best way.  If I could get away with it I would absolutely carry it out with me after finishing my coffee.

Aside from my intense chair crush this place is the perfect little coffee shop.  Not too big.  Not too crowded.  Wonderfully friendly baristas.  I am always glad to be there.  I enjoy my time there peacefully reading, drinking my coffee and loving my quality time with MY CHAIR.

Please share your favorite reading spots in the comments!  I would love to know your favorite bookish places.

 

You Should Read “Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World”

Penelope Bagieu profiles the lives of feisty female role models, some world famous, some little known. From Nellie Bly to Mae Jemison or Josephine Baker to Naziq al-Abid, the stories in this comic biography are sure to inspire the next generation of rebel ladies.

It is my opinion that this book is absolute perfection. This post will never be able to convey just how much I loved this book. I was first introduced to Penelope Bagieu when I stumbled upon a graphic novel formatted biography called California Dreamin: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas and the Papas. Click her for the post on California Dreamin. After loving that I, of course, sought out other graphic novels by Bagieu. I came across Brazen and learned that it was going to be published in just a few weeks. Oh happy day! Once I got my hands on it I knew I was going to enjoy it. After reading a few of the rebel ladies’ stories I knew that I already loved it. This is the sort of book that I would love to be able to put into the hands of every single teenager because each person has their own unique story of perserverance, tenacity and ambition.

I was so appreciative to learn about women I had never heard of before. Some include Nzinga, Queen of Ndongo and Matamba, Leymah Gbowee, social worker and Annette Kellerman, mermaid. Particularly with this batch their achievements are very much a mixed bag. Nzinga came into power under suspicious circumstances; mainly killing male family members. Leymah found herself in an abusive marriage, later became a social worker and found herself advising abused women. They inspired her to escape her own situation. While Annette Kellerman was first known for her triumphant swimming abilities her lasting influence rests with introducing practical swimwear to women.

I was thrilled to learn more about other women I was familiar with such as “terrifying actress Margaret Hamilton, astronaut Mae Jemison, Frances Glessner Lee and Peggy Guggenheim

I cannot rave enough about this book. I am telling everyone to seek it out. I share how much I love it with others that I see reading it in the Instagram bookish community. It has been wonderful bonding with those who have read it. We all rave about it and adore it. It is just such an inspiring collection of women told in a fantastic method.