Between the Bookends: 5 Books We Read in August 2017

Reading Time: 6 minutes
Between the Bookends Header (c) Sophie Brown
Between the Bookends Header (c) Sophie Brown

In this month’s Between the Bookends, Sophie tackles two bookstore based books, Lisa travels the world from her armchair in search of the obscure, Rebecca Angel dives into the life of Amy Poehler, and Patricia finally finds time to take in a 1960s classic.

We hope you find something to enjoy in those blessed minutes of silence now the kids are all finally back at school.

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Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, Image Random House UK
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, Image Random House UK

Sophie is enjoying having more time to read now her son is back at school, and recently finished off Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan.

Lydia is a clerk at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, a small, independent store in Denver frequented by a number of lonely regulars known as the BookFrogs. Unbeknownst to many, she is also Little Lydia, the terrified ten-year-old survivor of an unsolved triple homicide which killed her friend Carol and Carol’s parents on the night of the girl’s sleepover, and whose photo made front pages across the country. Lydia has attempted to put her memories of the night she spent cowering beneath Carol’s sink from the Hammerman behind her, but one day a young BookFrog named Joey commits suicide in the store and leaves his possessions to Lydia, and her life quickly begins to unravel.

Sophie really enjoyed this book, although it does have some problems. She found that she had solved the mystery of the Hammerman’s identity early on in the story, and the other major reveal of the plot also felt rather forced, as if the author desperately wanted to tie everything together into one great big Lydia-centric knot. However, Joey’s coded messages to Lydia were clever, and his backstory–once fully revealed–was a true tragedy that no young man should ever suffer through. Sophie also particularly liked the central character of Lydia, who managed to come across as a survivor rather than a victim. She is a strong and determined character, yet the remains of past trauma are still there just as they would be for someone who went through such a traumatic event.

This is a story about victims, survivors, and the way people handle trauma. It is a book about people on the edge of society, and it is well worth your time.

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Bookstore Cats by Brandon Schultz

Bookstore Cats, Image: Glitterati Incorporated
Bookstore Cats, Image: Glitterati Incorporated

Sophie’s second book this month also heavily featured bookstores. Bookstore Cats by Brandon Schultz is a photo tour across 23 American bookstores, meeting the cats who live at each one and learning about them and their environment. Each cat is profiled in detail, giving readers a look both into each cat’s distinct personality and the circumstances which led to their living in a bookstore instead of a traditional home. These profiles are combined with beautiful photographs of each cat inside the bookstore they call home, and Sophie soon found that it was hard to resist the urge to start planning a road trip to visit them all.

In between the profiles are various extras about famous cats and cats in literature. An extract from Alice in Wonderland is included along with Edward Lear’s poem “The Owl and The Pussycat” and Emily Dickinson’s “She Sights a Bird – She Chuckles,” plus many other poems featuring cats. There are lists of the cats owned by various groups of celebrities such as famous novelists, poets, and modern day authors. There are also lists of cats who have starred in books from non-fiction to poetry to comics, and lists of legendary cats, cats from folklore, and cats from myths and fairy tales.

This is a beautiful book with far more content than Sophie initially expected, and one that would make an excellent gift for both cat lovers and literature lovers alike.

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Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton

Atlas Obscura, Image: Workman Publishing Company
Atlas Obscura, Image: Workman Publishing Company

Lisa has been tumbling down the rabbit hole of some of the planet’s less obvious travel destinations with Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton.

This compilation of more than 700 places, sites, and happenings worldwide that often don’t make the cut in mainstream visitor’s guides is inspired by the website of the same name. These range from single pieces of public art to full-scale festivals, historic locations, and natural wonders, as well as some spots that are just plain fun, such as London’s Longplayer at Trinity Wharf.

One thing she found interesting is that there were already places she has seen, read about, or had included on her own weird bucket list (New Zealand’s Hobbiton is mentioned, for instance). Not everything is “off-the-beaten-path,” and entries include directions for the best way to get there. There are several spots in the United States, Canada, and Mexico alone.

She would like to say she recommends the book for both active and armchair travelers, but in reality, even those with no interest in traveling will find this a fascinating read and conversation starter. It is a hefty book and works better on the coffee table than in a travel bag. Keep it out in the open when guests are over, then pick a random entry and start discussing. It’s amazing where the mind will travel, once given a properly weird and wild direction.

Lisa hasn’t yet finished this book, as she is purposely making herself ready only a couple of entries at a time. After all, no one ever wants a fantastic voyage to come to an end.

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Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please, Image: Dey Street Books
Yes Please, Image: Dey Street Books

Rebecca Angel picked up the audiobook Yes, Please by Amy Poehler on a whim at the library checkout counter. She listened to it on walks and errands. This meant that she was giggling out in public, sometimes to odd looks from strangers. Taking Poehler’s advice to heart, Rebecca doesn’t care.

There is a lot of advice in this book, and humor, and love of family and friends, and inside stories about the comedian’s time as a writer and actor in The Upright Citizens Brigade, Saturday Night Live, and Parks and Rec. Poehler isn’t a gifted prose writer, but her voice is sincere. The author read the audiobook, and she has an entertaining presence. The advice isn’t profound, but it’s always from the heart. The humor is there even in the darkest of stories.

When Poehler talks about her two boys, that is when she really shines. The Upright Citizens Brigade and SNL stories were fun since they involve famous actors and skits that Rebecca knew. Rebecca fast-forwarded the Parks and Rec chapters because she hasn’t seen the show, but fans will most likely enjoy those sections. Overall, it was an entertaining if light memoir by a talented star.

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A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange, Image: Penguin
A Clockwork Orange, Image: Penguin

Patricia has taken a break from the Del Rey Star Wars series to try something completely different. This month, she’s working on Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange for the first time. For those unfamiliar, it’s a unique reading experience because of Burgess’s Russian-influenced invented language, called Nadsat. Even though there are plenty of online glossaries and translators out there, Patricia is avoiding those “spoilers,” instead, attempting to use context and repeated words to figure out the language herself. She’s already pretty comfortable with many of the terms, such as “droog,” “devotchka” (she picked up on this one right away because she’s a fan of the band of the same name), “platties,” “viddys,” and “staja.” Considering Burgess wrote the book in a matter of weeks, the use of this language is fascinating.

The plot is pretty simple: Alex is a teenager in a dystopian England who runs around at night with his “droogs” causing trouble at every turn. At one point, Alex is caught in his violence, imprisoned, and is forced to undergo “aversion therapy” to break him of his violent tendencies. He is released early back into society where his attempts to lead a non-violent life are challenged over and over. I am trying to avoid spoilers beyond this level, but I do know that my borrowed copy of the book contains the controversial 21st chapter, which was omitted from the original American printings of the novel.

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GeekMom received some titles for review purposes.