Saturday, April 17, 2021

Rare Book Cafe - Guest Appearance


I was a guest this morning on the Rare Book Cafe, a video podcast hosted by Portland rare books dealer Ed Markiewicz. I met Ed through Instagram because we are both here in Portland and both love books. I'm not a rare book collector, by any means, but I've bought some collectable editions from Ed's Montgomery Rare Books, and think he's a delightful guy.

I had a terrific time chitchatting with Ed and artist Mary Kay Watson about books, favorite authors, book blogging, and bookstagramming. We had a lively discussion! We dug down a bit into how traditional blogging differs from bookstagramming and the visual focus of Instagram. 

We also mused about whether bookstagram makes people more creative and if, as a digital platform, it is contributing to the death of the paper book. What do you think?

Click to watch the video. Follow the Rare Book Cafe on Facebook for more bookish conversations.

Mary Kay went on to discuss James Audubon and his bird paintings. That may seem like a 180-degree switch! But Audubon's bird paintings were originally made to order and delivered to subscribers who came to love his beautiful and informative pictures of birds. He went on to inspire Audubon Societies for the preservation of birds and their habitats. That is not unlike bookstagrammers who inspire their followers with beautiful pictures of books!

Mary Kay is the creator of the Tangled Shakespeare series, a retelling of Shakespeare plays in gorgeous illustrations. Check out her work!


Rare Book Cafe a weekly live-streamed program about antiquarian books, ephemera, and related materials, and the people to collect, curate, and sell them. The producers describe it as "the book lovers' rendezvous."

Usual topics include antiquarian books, rare books, collectible books, unusual books, vintage photographs, antique maps, rare prints, and ephemera. Guests typically include antiquarian booksellers, authors, collectors, and anyone else with an interest in these topics. 

Rare Book Cafe is live streamed every Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Facebook. You can find replays on YouTube and on the Rare Book Cafe page on Facebook.

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Real Hergé: The Inspiration Behind Tintin by Sian Lye -- BOOK BEGINNINGS



It is a gorgeous spring week here in Portland, but a crazy busy one for me, work-wise. I'm off to my first face-to-face office meeting in a long time. Thanks to the lovely weather, we can meet outside. And I can walk to the meeting. All in all, a terrific way to spend the day. I hope yours is as nice!

Before I head out, here is my belated Book Beginning post. Sorry I didn't get it up last evening. 

Here on Book Beginnings on Fridays, participants share the first sentence (or so) of the book they are reading or want to highlight this week. Leave a link to your blog or social media post in the Linky box below. Use the hashtag #bookbeginnings is you share on social media. 


Hergé, otherwise known as Georges Prosper Remi, is one of the best-loved authors in history, yet also one of the most controversial.

-- The Real Hergé: The Inspiration Behind Tintin by Sian Lye. I admit I didn't read Tin Tin books as a kid, although I saw the charm in them as I grew older. But this new biography of the popular Belgian author caught my eye. His life sound interesting and I want to read more. 


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Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.

Hergé denied any accusations of anti-Semitism or bias towards the Nazis, and it was thirty years after the book was published that he would admit that part of The Shooting Star concerned the rivalry for progress between Europe in the United States. 

At the point the comic strip was published, Hergé's brother was still imprisoned in Germany, and according to one of Paul Remi's classmates, Albert Dellicour, who was imprisoned with him, Hergé's depictions in Le Soir caused a great deal of anger in the prison camp.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Anglophile's Notebook by Sunday Taylor -- BOOK REVIEW



by Sunday Tayor (2020, Spuyten Duyvil)

Towards the end of my freshman year of college, I went through a glum patch. It was a combination of homesickness and Tacoma. I made plans to transfer. But instead of choosing a school close to my home in Portland – a logical cure for homesickness – I latched on to the idea that, as an English lit major, I wanted to study English literature in England.

That is how I ended up spending my sophomore year in Oxford, England in a program for international students. I joined the Oxford Union so I could watch the debates and study in the library, went crazy driving a stick shift on the left side of the road, lived in a bedsit with a dotty landlady named Mrs. Mumford, and did, indeed, study English literature in one-on-one tutorials with Oxford dons.

I also spent weeks at a time in London, returning to Oxford on the train only for classes Tuesdays through Thursdays, thanks to a classmate with an aunt and uncle “on safari” for several months. With unimaginable hospitality and trust, they turned over their Hammersmith townhouse to three of us, giving me a chance to explore London’s museums, parks, churches, and Harrod’s. Mostly Harrod’s.

Which is the backstory for why The Anglophile’s Notebook jumped out at me as soon as I saw it. This is the book I would write if I had the talent to write a novel. It’s the story about an English lit lover who impulsively moves to England. I get it! I understand why the protagonist, Claire Easton, would do something a little goofy like head off on an extended work trip to England at the same time her marriage was hitting the rocks. And why, when her marriage falls apart, she decides to stay.

Claire is a 40-year old writer and magazine editor who goes to London on assignment for her travel magazine and with a plan to research a book on her favorite author, Charlotte Brontë. A couple of lucky breaks put her on the trail of a Brontë discovery and a new romance. When Claire’s friend sets her up with a collector of Brontë memorabilia to help him organize his collection, Claire starts traveling between her new boyfriend in London and Phillip’s stately home in Yorkshire, near Hawarth Parsonage, the Brontë family home. Like in the Victorian novels Claire loves, she may find more in Yorkshire than she anticipates.

The story takes place over Claire’s first year in England, during which she goes through a divorce, falls in love, turns her career in an exciting new direction, meets new friends, faces adversity, and starts to put down roots in her new home. This all unfolds against the backdrop of a cozy, literary England of independent bookshops, homey flats, chats in small museums, lunches in Covent Garden cafes, ancient pubs, and charming villages. Don’t come to this book looking for trauma and anguish. The Anglophile’s Notebook is all about the romantic ideal of starting over at 40 and having all the pieces tumble into place.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

March Wrap Up - My March Books



March was a good reading month for me. I didn't have a clunker in the bunch. I continued to climb Mt. TBR, as seven of the ten books I read had been on my shelf before the year started. Some have been around a long, long time! 

Two of these were books for my TBR 21 in '21 Challenge (Old Filth and The Library Book). The other five TBR books count toward my Mt. TBR Challenge goal of 60 total off my TBR shelves. Otherwise, I made no progress on my 2021 reading challenges.

Here is the list, in the order I read them, not the order in the picture:

The Lighthouse by P. D. James. This is the penultimate book in the Adam Dalgliesh mystery series. This may be my favorite of all mystery series, so I hate to see it end, although I plan to read the last book, The Private Patient, this year. I don't usually keep mystery books after I finish them, but I keep all my P. D. James books because I can see myself rereading all of them one day.  🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹

The Anglophile's Notebook by Sunday Taylor. This was a charming romance with a literary theme and a bit of a mystery. This was one of the three new books I read last month. I got a review copy and my review is on it's way! 🌹🌹🌹🌹
The Midnight Line by Lee Child. I was a diehard Reacher Creature, and this one was pretty good, but after 22 books, I think I’m fading on the series. I read that Lee Child decided to retire and is turning the series over to his brother, who is also an author. There are two more books after Midnight Line written by Lee Child, then two written by Lee Child and his brother Andrew Child (both pen names, by the way). I plan to read the last two Lee-only book and call it quits. I'll retire along with Lee. 🌹🌹🌹🌹
The Library Book by Susan Orlean, which is a history of the Los Angeles Public Library using the devastating 1986 fire at the central, downtown branch as the organizing feature. This was a fascinating book. It makes me want to read more of Orlean's books, many of which are on my TBR shelves. 🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹
A Visual Life: Scrapbooks, Collages, and Inspirations by Charlotte Moss. I loved this gorgeous book, which I read as part of my project to read all my coffee table books. I'm trying to read one a month. 🌹🌹🌹🌹
Missing Joseph by Elizabeth George, book six in her Inspector Linley series, another fave of mine. I read this one with my ears, even though the book book was on my shelves. Focusing my audiobook borrowing on my existing TBR shelf is one of my reading resolutions for 2021. 🌹🌹🌹🌹
On The Wealth of Nations: Books That Changed the World by P. J. O’Rourke, which I read to bone up on an Adam Smith study group I’m in this year. 🌹🌹🌹🌹
Old Filth by Jane Gardam. I finally read this and loved it! I've already raced through the other two books in the trilogy, which will show up in my April wrap up. What a wonderful story of marriage, friendship, and the legal profession! 🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹
One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters, book two in her Brother Cadfael series. This was the second new (to me) book I read. It was not on my shelf and I borrowed the audiobook from the library. I’m not sure I will stick with this series. I have so many others I prefer, including her George Felse series. This one just isn't grabbing me as much as it does other people. Am I wrong? 🌹🌹🌹
Mystery Man by Colin Bateman. Oh my! I laughed so much when I listened to this!  I looked like a mad woman, walking around my neighborhood park, snorting with laughter. This was a new to me book and author my law partner insisted I read with my ears. She gifted me the audiobook from Audible. Why have I never found his books before? I loved the narrator's Irish accent and now I can't wait to listen to the other three books in this hilarious mystery series. 🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Blue Desert by Celia Jeffries & When in Venuatu by Nicki Chan -- BOOK BEGINNINGS



So many new books come out this time of year that I have another twofer this week for Book Beginnings on Fridays! I'm not complaining! Who doesn't love new books?

Please share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are highlighting this week. Add the link to your blog or social media post in the Linky box below. No blog? No problem! You can always play along by leaving a comment right here with your opening sentence. Just please remember to tell us the name of the book and the author.


From Blue Desert by Celia Jeffries:

"I wish for once the post would land upright in the box."

Blue Desert comes out April 20 from Rootstock Publishing and is available for pre-order now from many sources. See Celia Jeffries' website for more information.

Alice George lived in the Sahara desert with the nomadic Tuarig tribe during the years of World War I. 60 years later, she gets a telegram telling her that her former lover from her time in the Sahara has died. The story braids the two narratives of Alice's time spent with Abu in the desert and 1970s London, during the week she tells her secrets to her husband for the first time. If you like historical fiction with a feminist bent, Blue Desert is the book for you.

From When in Vanuatu by Nicki Chen:

Diana was high on hope that morning.

When in Venuatu launches April 27 from She Writes Press and is available for pre-order from many sources. See Nicki Chen's website for more information.

Nicki Chen's new novel, When in Venuatu is the page-turning story of expats Diane and Jay, living in Manila when, for various reasons, they decide to move to the South Pacific island of Vanuata. Although Vanuata is the beautiful tropical island where James Mitchener wrote Tales of the South Pacific, their new home is not the idyllic paradise it first appears. While Diane and Jay become part of a captivating international community, the couple faces disappointments that test their marriage and lead to Diane's personal transformation.


Please link to your Book Beginnings post not your homepage. If you post or link on social media, please use the hashtag #bookbeginnings, with an S.

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Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.


From Blue Desert:

I don't want to keep these secrets anymore. They're heavy and bite my neck and constrict my throat and maybe I was wrong in thinking I would lose Edith if I told her the truth.

From When in Vanuatu:

She didn't ask how he could complete a mission that was supposed to take ten days in three or four. This time, when he insisted she stay inside and be careful, she didn't roll her eyes.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Q&A with Arlana Crane, Author of Mordecai's Ashes -- AUTHOR INTERVIEW


Author Arlana Crane lives in Calgary, Canada but her earlier years on Vancouver Island in British Columbia inspire her fiction. Mordecai's Ashes is the first book in her Larsson Investigation series, set in Victoria, B.C.

Arlana talked with Rose City Reader about Mordecai's Ashes, her favorite authors, and more:

How did you come to write Mordecai's Ashes?

The idea of a younger man inheriting a detective agency and trying to be a detective with no formal training came to me years ago, and I started a story along those lines, only to get very stuck over the central case in the plot. When I revisited the idea a couple years ago, I decided to make the main character more like someone I might know and suddenly it all came to life again. The idea for the main crime at the middle of the story was actually my younger brother’s, as it happens.

What part does the Vancouver Island setting play in your story?

It’s a major point in the plot, the fact that it’s an island and that so much of it is very sparsely inhabited lent itself nicely to a drug running concept, and it provided a nice, atmospheric background for the story as well.

Mordecai's Ashes is described as Book 1 of the Larsson Investigations series. Will we see Karl Larsson and his sidekick Kelsey again?

Oh yes, I’m working on the sequel now, and hope to have it out by the end of the year.

What did you learn from writing this mystery – either about the subject of the book or the writing process – that most surprised you?

I think just how difficult it can be to get a story out of your head and onto paper. I think the most apt analogy for the drafting process was the idea that it felt like a cat trying to hack up a hairball. Annoying, massively uncomfortable, but so satisfying when you actually manage to do it.

Did you start with the end of the mystery in mind and work backwards? Or did the ending come to you as you wrote the story?

I did have the twist ending in mind before I had even decided on the central theme of the book, but I originally ended the main "case" of the book much earlier than in the published version, only I wasn’t satisfied with the way it felt. I was complaining to my brother that I would never be able to write a really exciting novel, like some of the authors we both enjoy, and he said that all I needed to do was “add more explosions” to my story, which is exactly what I ended up doing!

What is your work background and how did you transition to writing fiction?

I’ve worked in administrative office jobs for most of my adult life, which I have to admit, aren’t the most conducive to create pursuits, but they do provide a certain amount of "daydream time" in the course of average work day, and writing in my spare time has become my way of keeping myself from losing my mind in the day to day grind.

Who are your three (or four or five) favorite authors? Is your own writing influenced by the authors you read?

That’s a hard one. I grew up loving all the "Queen’s of Crime" -- Christie, Sayers, and the like. I’ve always been a big fan of Jane Austen and I love most of J.K. Rawling’s work. But I think my writing is probably most influenced by authors like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. I love the way they handle the English language. If there were any author I wish I could emulate it’d be one of those two.

What are you reading now?

I’m currently in the middle of both The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, and the Discovery of Witches series by Deborah Harkness. Don’t ask my how I managed to start two series at the same time, it just happens. I have no control over it.

You have a terrific website and are active on social media, like twitter and Instagram. From an author's perspective, how important are social networking sites and other internet resources to promote your book? 

A website seems to be a must for any author and I enjoyed the process of putting mine, Arlana Writes, together as an opportunity to get some of my short fiction out into the world, as well as touting my novel.

As for social media, I’ve found it very useful, not only for reaching potential readers, but also for connecting with other writers and just having that chance to share ideas and encourage each other. Twitter is really great for that. My Twitter handle is ArlanaCrane. I highly recommend following the #WritingCommunity hashtag to any new authors on that platform. My Facebook and Instagram accounts, @ArlanaCraneCrimeWriter and @Arlanawrites respectively, are more about letting anyone who is interested see a more personal side of me.

Do you have any events coming up to promote your book?

Sadly, events are difficult at the moment, however Mordecai’s Ashes is up for the Crime Writer’s of Canada award for first time crime writers, which is pretty exciting!

What’s next? What are you working on now?

My big focus at the moment is getting book two in the Larsson Investigations series written. It’s a bit of a quirky plot, but I think readers who enjoyed book one should find book two just as much fun.



Thursday, April 1, 2021

Blood and Oranges by James Oliver Goldsborough & Princes of the Renaissance by Mary Hollingsworth - BOOK BEGINNINGS


Thank you for joining me once again for Book Beginnings on Fridays! I have two books this week just for a change of pace.

Please share the first sentence (or so) of the book that has captured your attention this week. Add the link to your BBOF blog or social media post in the Linky box below. Please use the #bookbeginnings hashtag if you post or share on social media.


book cover of Blood and Oranges: The Story of Los Angeles

It began on an ordinary morning at the rancho, of which there been too many lately.

This fast-paced historical novel tells the story of Los Angeles from the roaring twenties to the uproarious nineties. Goldsborough brings the research skills of his nonfiction writing and the crisp style of his years in journalism to this tale of tale of urban glamour, corruption, crime, beauty, glitz, and grime that is as sprawling and fascinating as Los Angeles itself. 

Blood and Oranges launched in March from City Point Press.  and available for pre-order

The sea was calm on 5 August 1435 when Alfonso V of Aragon set sail along the southern Italian coast in search of a small Genoese fleet which, according to his spies, was in the area.

-- from Chapter I, "Usurpers: Alfonso of Aragon & Francesco Sforza," in Princes of the Renaissance: The Hidden Power Behind an Artistic Revolution by Mary Hollingsworth (Pegasus Books). 

Hollingsworth's new nonfiction book also came out in March. It tells the history of the patrons of the art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance, during the tumultuous period of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. 

Princes of the Renaissance is a beautiful book, filled with photographs of the places and color pictures of the art described.


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Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.


From Blood and Oranges:

Sadness was a big part of Willie's life. What could there be in this pretty young girl's life that brought sadness?

From Princess of the Renaissance:

However, Alphonso I was no longer the political force he had once been. In the summer of 1449 he had become infatuated with a nineteen-year-old Lucrecia d'Alagno, and she was now his publicly acknowledged mistress, treated as his queen and seated at his side to celebrate court festivities.

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