New England, By The Book, Reading

New England, By The Book – Portsmouth Book and Bar, Portsmouth, NH

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Last fall I had the opportunity to (individually) catch up with two of my favorite ladies from Maine. Portsmouth, New Hampshire is roughly ‘half-way’ between us these days, and therefore we chose that as a meeting point. We spent hours poring over the months or years since we’d last been in the same space, and in both cases it was (as I prefer to feel most of my friendships are) as if we’d just sat down together the day before.

On the first outing, my fellow literary-obsessed friend Leslie and I also ventured into a couple of Portsmouth’s used book stores to check their offerings. In the first shop I came across a book I had just finished a few weeks before, The Bells, by Richard Harvell and one other book I had heard of but not yet read, The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain. Leslie purchased the former and I the latter.

After indulging in lunch at nearby RiRu, a converted bank turned eatery, Leslie and i were sitting outside on a bench, and I looked up information on any other book stores in the area and am thankful that I did.

Just down the street from where we sat lay an (for me) untapped venue – Portsmouth Book and Bar. Located in the former Custom House and Post Office, built in 1860, and home of several other businesses over the years, the Book and Bar is a worthwhile stop if you happen to venture to Portsmouth and have some time to kill.

Granted, the selection may not look as substantial as other places I’ve visited, but don’t be fooled by that. The neatly spaced and stacked shelving holds a world of treasures at very reasonable prices. Their fiction section (my immediate go-to) is extensive, and their non-fiction and children’s equally impressive.

Aside from the books accorded for sale, the venue boasts an enticing menu of sandwiches and small plate offerings, a decent selection of beer and wine, and of course coffee, tea, and soft drinks for those who choose to not imbibe. I have yet to eat or drink at this location, but the smiles on the faces of the patrons each time I have visited lead me to believe the food and beverages, like the book selection, do not disappoint.

The book store also offers live music to patrons, as well as comfy couches and cafe tables  on which to alight and enjoy the eclectic mix of musical styles performed regularly.

Located in the historic downtown district of a beautiful sea-side city, this is a locale I plan to visit again and again. Most recently I left the store with newly owned books by George Gissing, Orhan Pamuk, and Edmund White. There were other editions of interest that caught my eye – and hopefully they’ll be there for future perusal.

Portsmouth Book and Bar can be found at:

40 Pleasant St
Portsmouth, NH 03801
603.427.9197

OPEN 7 DAYS
SUN – THU : 10a–10p
FRI – SAT : 10a–midnight

http://www.bookandbar.com/index.html

Happy reading!

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New England, By The Book, Reading

New England, By The Book – The Montague Bookmill, Montague MA

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Books You Don’t Need, In A Place You Can’t Find is the tagline on the website for this gem of a bookstore.

But they were wrong, on both counts.

The Montague Bookmill claims residence in an 1842 Grist Mill in the little town of Montague, Mass. Bordering the Sawmill River, the Bookmill invites visitors to wile away a long afternoon perusing the shelves and stacks (don’t be fooled, it’s very organized) of books for sale – and then the multitude of other items for sale.

The property boasts not only their general and scholarly interest books, but a vinyl and cd shop, an artists collective, and a rustic restaurant all within steps of each other.

The Bookmill also invites musical artists to entertain, with reasonably priced seats, yet they entice audience hopefuls to arrive early for seats in their armchairs and couches for the best and most comfortable view of the musician playing.

Two summers ago I decided to make the two hour trek to Montague, which is west of me as the crow flies, to see what was in store for me. I was not disappointed. I left with, amongst others, a wonderful novel by a ‘forgotten’ author – The Stones Of Summer, by Dow Mossman (who might feature in a ‘Faded Pages’ blog post in the near future, even if this book was his only commercial output). It’s a delightful read, big and sprawling, taking place over decades, and a wonderful way to pass a summer week, or month, depending upon the pace you take with reading it.

In that respect, the book is much like the store from which I procured it. It’s a sizable property with much to offer. I spent a few peaceful hours strolling through the books, picking through the vinyl, and sampling a lunch offering from their cafe menu as I sat beside a window overlooking a sun-dappled stream below that carries water twenty-two miles from Lake Wyola to the Connecticut River as it carried me away to daydreams.

Worth an hour, an afternoon, or even an entire day, The Montague Bookmill is a hidden gem just beyond the mid part of the Commonwealth heading West to the New York state border. If you find yourself out that way, by happenstance, look the store up and spend some time there – you won’t be disappointed.

The store’s information is below. Happy reading!

MONTAGUE BOOKMILL
Susan Shilliday
440 Greenfield Road, Montague, MA
(mail) Post Office Box 954, Montague, MA 01351
Phone: (413) 367-9206
Email: susan@montaguebookmill.com
web: www.montaguebookmill.com
Hours: 7 days, 10-6, and later seasonally

 

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New England, By The Book

New England, By The Book: Freeport Book Shoppe, Freeport ME

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Several years after I moved from Maine to Massachusetts I received a phone call from my mother where she was excited to share something with me that she’d found that day. It was a used book shop not far from where she lived, and she could not recall my ever mentioning having been there before to her.

She was quite correct. I quickly corrected this oversight and visit the store any and every chance I get to when I visit Maine.

Owner David Young is a self-taught antiquarian dealer in books, having spent years as a security guard and in the army reserve. Entering the shop (once you peruse the bargains set outside the door on the front porch), you typically find David sitting behind the low glass display case counter standing watch over his more valuable inventory. He offers a friendly hello and a ‘knowing’ smile, for he is aware (as you are about to find out), that ‘magic’ awaits you inside his store.

The room shown in the above photograph sits a few steps below the entrance, just beyond the signed editions and bargain closet where you will find just about anything culled from each and every section of the store’s inventory to make room for other items. The fiction (divided into mysteries, children’s, general fiction, and a very healthy section of classics) lines the perimeter of the floor space, with non-fiction (everything from arctic exploration to zebra appreciation) shelved on the spaces in between. Neatly stacked against the shelves are cartons of those items more recently obtained and are always worth digging into the boxes all the way to the bottom (where I have personally unearthed many books that I’ve purchased).

The store owner has been known to say to me, as I approached him with my selections, “Guess it was worth the drive.”, whereas I one day mentioned living out of state and always trying to put his store into my itinerary when I visited Maine. He’s quite knowledgeable about his inventory, and occasionally offers up his own experience with reading what I’ve selected to purchase for my own enjoyment. His friendly, no-pressure interaction with his customers (at least with me) always makes the conversation enjoyable, and he has even offered to try to find a book I might be looking for that he doesn’t happen to have and simply ‘set it aside’ for when I ‘come up again’.

I have yet to leave this store empty-handed, which to me always makes a stop there worthwhile. While I owe my successful shopping trips to the store in part to the two hour distance I live from the store and the fact that I (sadly) cannot visit it more often than I do, (therefore he always has plenty new for me to look at); it is also due in large part to the tremendous variety of books he carries, and the incredibly affordable pricing. While the shop does carry rare and antiquarian selections ranging in the hundreds of dollars in price; the average book will set you back only four to eight dollars apiece.

While I don’t necessarily subscribe to the theory that moms are always right – in this instance, Mom didn’t lead me astray.

Located at 176 U.S. Route 1 (locals refer to it as ‘Old Route 1’) in Freeport, ME, The Freeport Book Shoppe is a reader’s paradise just waiting for you to pay a call. Hours are (at present) listed as:

Open year-round: Hours tend to be a little more flexible in the winter months.

Summer Hours: Monday through Saturday 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Sundays: By chance, usually 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Winter Hours: Monday through Saturday 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Sundays: By chance, usually 10:00 AM- 4:00 PM

 

Happy Reading!

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New England, By The Book

New England, By The Book – Simon’s Winthrop Bookshop, Winthrop, MA

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One of the most attractive features of moving to the town I live in was that many people, even Massachusetts residents, reply ‘Where’s that?’ when they ask where I live and I answer them.

Despite being named after the second Governor of Massachusetts (who was amongst the founding fathers of Boston), the town enjoys relative obscurity (read this as not a whole lot of traffic or crowds). Once considered a ‘resort’ destination for those looking to escape city life and enjoy a salty summer breeze, at the tail end of a narrow gauge railroad branch that ran nearly to the ocean, which surrounds three sides of the town, and Winthrop Beach.

Nowadays people access Winthrop via bridge on Route 145 which is the one way into the town (from East Boston) and the same way out (via Revere), which is the one way out of town. I often tell people that Winthrop is like Pompeii – there’s one road in and one road out and if Vesuvius ever blows, we’re all screwed.

Sometimes people laugh at that.

Often not.

Winthrop is a small town. Also, to me, an attractive feature of living here. There’s a small grocery store, a couple of small pharmacies (one a chain, one not), small restaurants with small bars (though no businesses that are just bars, small or not), the requisite (small) ‘House Of Pizza’ no town seems complete without, small schools, a library (not really ‘small’, per se, but not as big as say Boston Public), small public safety buildings, and various and sundry other businesses, mostly contained in the (small) town center.

Hidden on a side-street that runs from Winthrop’s Main Street all the way to the tip of the town’s peninsula is a (small) red building attached to an (equally small) cedar shingled house.  There is no sign out front – save for the faded ‘Books’ placard in the left-hand corner of the front window and the conspicuous plastic totes on the sidewalk under the picture window  (filled with books) – to advertise the business. There’s nothing visible from the street to tell you what hours they might be open, no ‘open’ or ‘closed’ sign hanging in the window, and no indication of what type of books they offer  for sale (new or used, fiction or non-fiction, etc.), or anything to otherwise beckon you inside to look around.

Similarly to the way people, when told I live in Winthrop, respond, ‘Where’s that?’ – Simon’s seems to beg a response of ‘What do they sell?’ from anyone who notices it in their travels – which really takes some work to notice it at all. It’s almost as if you have to already know where it is to find it and patronize it, rather than be a novice seeking it out for the first time.

Nevertheless, seek it out I did, and despite having to drive past it for months before I found it to be open (which I recognized solely by the fact that the inside door, behind the outer storm door, was open and a light was on inside on a gloomy, overcast afternoon). When I saw this, I immediately parked my vehicle (parking is limited to on-street availability), abandoned my plan to go to the grocery store, and went inside, despite my long-time belief that the entire place had to be some kind of literary witness protection program.

The books are plentiful, lined from floor to ceiling, and laying about in stacks here and there and everywhere as well. There are separate sections for fiction and non-fiction, and mystery novels even have their own segregated shelving from the fiction. There is a children’s area as well, and if you are curious enough to venture through the doorway that connects the bookshop to the attached ‘house’ you will even find an assortment of very recent releases – so recent they still qualify as ‘new’.

The contents of the store are a treasure trove. But entering the store to browse is not for the faint of heart. The building (once a neighborhood grocery, according to the shop owner, Lee, a lovely woman who often inquires what made me choose a particular novel or classic work that I have brought to her desk to purchase) holds a lot of books in a small area, and the shelves are very close together – so close in fact that in order to use the ‘reading’ section of my progressive bifocals to see the top shelf offerings I need to tilt my head all the way back, which results in rubbing my head on the shelf behind me. The floors are sloping (more so in some places than others) and the walking paths between the shelves and sections are not always clear of boxes of books waiting to find either space on the shelves or on the shelves of their new homes once purchased.

But don’t let any of that deter you. If you are hale of heart and hearty of a desire to find a good book at a great price (I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than four dollars for a used fiction selection), and if you can not let your joy of finding a good book deter you from paying at least some attention to the floor you are walking on and be mindful of your step, then this is a great place to go. It may not be the only game in town for used books in Winthrop, MA, but it certainly has the largest selection.

On a final note, the store does have a ‘website’, although the information there is as Spartan as the store’s exterior in terms of what it tells you. The hours are listed as 1pm to 10pm Monday through Thursday, 1pm to 6pm on Friday, and 10am to 6pm on Saturday.

But don’t quote me on that. I have driven past the store in the afternoon and found the door closed, the lights off, and the plastic bins in the front covered over with blue tarps (what I assume is the anti-theft system employed as the bins never leave the sidewalk) in hours they are supposedly open.

The website can be found at simonswinthropbooks.comcastbiz.net – but don’t quote me on that either, because I tried to copy the link and paste it, and could not.

Again – like a literary witness protection program.

But, like many other New England book stores, definitely worth the trip.

If you can find the town.

Happy Reading!

If you can find the store.

 

 

 

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New England, By The Book

New England, By The Book: The Lord Randall Bookshop in Marshfield, MA

 

One of my favorite ways to pass time is to visit a used book store. I’m an avid reader, always in search of a literary gem at a great price. While I’d love to keep the existence of many of them to myself to mine their offerings time and again to add to my own collection; I’ve decided to share my experiences in my New England (and sometimes beyond) book buying travels with others in an ongoing series of blog posts.

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I (unfortunately) do not have any photos of this first shop I’m listing, nor can I find one online, but will be sure to correct that in the future for additional posts. I’ve put a google maps location ‘photo’ above this first post in lieu of an actual photo.

This past Saturday I visited one of my favorite stores, The Lord Randall Bookshop at 22 Main Street, Marshfield, MA.

I originally discovered this small but highly rewarding shop while perusing the Massachusetts and Rhode Island Antiquarian Booksellers list (formerly MARIAB, now redirected to SNEAB (Southern New England Antiquarian Booksellers) at http://www.sneab.com.

Nestled into the walls between a centuries old home and the attached garage, this ‘barn’ space retains its pre-twentieth century charm and wooden planked walls and floor. Sparse rugs, certainly as care-worn as some of the book spines standing watch over them, lay on the floor gathering the dust that the book jackets are meant to repel. Stretching down from the ceiling a few cobwebs (with nary a spider in sight upon them), while they might initially be a bit off-putting to some, only enhance the charming atmosphere, occasionally waving in the air which itself is steeped in the scent of both modern and ancient book bindings.

The shelves of the shop are stocked ceiling to floor with both fiction and non-fiction offerings sure to capture the interest of any reader. Boating, travel, history, New England Lore, true crime, and architecture are just a few of the subjects to choose from.

The children’s section, along the wall to the left when you enter the shop, while you might not be likely to find a Potter or a Percy Jackson waiting for a new owner to dive into their pages, invites children to step back in time with The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and many other early- to mid-twentieth century tales.

The novels to be found in the shop are divided into two sections; fiction and literature (there is a difference). The literature section boasts offerings by James, Tolstoy,Thoreau, Wharton and the like; while the fiction shelves play host to Grisham, Ludlum, Le Carre, and many other ‘mass appeal’ authors of the past twenty to thirty years.

Pricing is fair, as I emerged from my most recent visit to the shop with two classics (King Solomon’s Mines and The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, in the Readers Digest ‘Worlds Best Reading’ series bindings), for $7.50 each, plus tax. Prices range from a few dollars less to hundreds more for rare and antiquarian books, which the shop carries in plentiful supply.

While you might not initially find anyone behind the desk in the shop when you enter, owner Gail and her trusty canine companion (a sweet dog who patrols the shop occasionally to sniff at your legs and check up on your progress, but was reluctant to give up his name) will eventually descend the few wooden steps from the attached residence and patiently sit behind her desk waiting for you to bring your finds to her for checkout. She will then hand-write your receipt, present you with your change, and wish you enjoyment from your newfound treasures before you depart.

There’s nothing flashy or extravagant about the Lord Randall, from the pale-green painted exterior to the gray, ashen floors and walls of the interior, but the worlds to be discovered with the books inside more than makes up for any flaws you might find in the decor.

Well worth the forty-five minute drive for me, this book shop is one I will likely visit again and again over the years. If you live too far away to make the trip, the shop has an online presence via the ABE Books website, and does offer shipping.

The listing from SNEAB is as follows:

LORD RANDALL BOOKSHOP
Gail Wills
22 Main Street (Route 3A & 139), Marshfield, MA 02050
Phone: (781) 837-1400
Email: lrbooks@aol.com
web: http://www.abebooks.com/home/lrdrndll
Hours: Wed + Fri 12-5; Thu + Sat 11-5; Closed at 4 in Winter (Nov-Mar)
General shop with Local History, Children’s, Art and Architecture, Literature, Travel

Happy Reading!

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Reading

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

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Over the past few months, I’ve read some really wonderful books. I’ve not posted anything in a while about what has captured my attention, so this is a list of several books that I’ve enjoyed recently.

James Rollins’ Sigma Force series continues to hold my interest. I have read two of the more ‘recent’ entries, The Devil Colony and Blood Line. To compare the two stories, Blood Line is stronger, and more ‘gripping’ of a read, involving a long-buried secret regarding the President Of The United States (in this fictional universe). Both books are entertaining, as the rest of the series has been, and I am continually grateful that my least favorite character of the series, that of ‘Omaha Dunn’ in the first novel Sandstorm, has never made a reappearance. A literary low-rent Indiana Jones (with a name mimicking Jones) came and went quickly, but the series continues to be highly enjoyable.

Simon Toyne’s ‘The Tower’ is the conclusion of the Sanctus Trilogy. All three books in the series, Sanctus, The Key, and The Tower were very clever and enticing to read. I chose to read The Tower (#3) not long after finishing The Key to round out the trilogy, and keep the events of book 2 fresh in my mind. Well worth a look.

Jeffrey Archer’s ‘Paths Of Glory’ was a more recent find in one of my favorite genres, that of isolation/exploration in frozen climates. Concerning early 20th century attempts to summit Everest, this story regards the Mallory expedition, and encompasses Mallory’s early life as a burgeoning explorer through his death. A wonderful read from a more recently (for me) discovered author that I look forward to investigating further.

Jules Verne’s ‘The Lighthouse At The End Of The World’ – One of Verne’s lesser known works that was published posthumously by his son Michael, and even revised and reworked by Michael received a 21st century restoration to Verne’s original tale. Regarding shipwrecks, pirates, and a fight to stay alive against all odds, this brief, fast-paced story ranks up with many of my favorite Verne tales.

The Amazing Absorbing Boy – Another author I’d not heard of, Rabindranath Maharaj, concerns a boy who, upon his mother’s death, is sent to live with his unknown and long decamped father in Canada. There he finds a man very reluctant to take up his duty to his son, and an even stranger cast of characters in this very foreign land. A very engrossing read as this young man strives to find himself in relation to his father, his adopted country, and the world itself.

The Map Of Chaos – Having read the first two books by Felix Palma in his trilogy that re-works well known tales of H.G. Wells, I couldn’t imagine where the story might go to reach its conclusion. Palma borrows ‘The Invisible Man’ as the main antagonist in this book, and works characters from the prior two books into the story as well. As Wells and his wife Jane leap through time trying to save humanity and avoid the Invisible Man who has come to life and intends to stop their attempts to save the world, the story itself leaps back and forth between multiple universes as Wells and Jane, watchers of an infinite number of ‘twins’ in parallel multiverses, attempt to stop the spread of a virus unleashed by Wells. Only a mathematical tome, authored by Wells, called ‘The Map Of Chaos’ can bring a halt to the destruction of life as we know it. A very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

Finally, ‘The Fall’ by Bethany Griffin. The third work by the author to expand upon a universe created by Edgar Allan Poe, this pastiche work tells the ‘backstory’ that leads up to The Fall Of The House Of Usher, examining and uncovering Madeline and Roderick’s family curse and how it plagues them, as well as ‘The House’ haunting them and breathing madness into Madeline as she grows to young womanhood. Billed as a ‘young adult’ novel, and a very easy read, there is still a lot to be found here for fans of Poe’s original wanting to know more about the Usher twins and what led to their demise in the original. Fascinating, and set up so that a sequel is entirely possible for the author to produce.

So there you have it, the past few months of what I’ve read. All very entertaining, none in the least bit disappointing.

Happy Reading.

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Reading

A Few Places I Find Some Of The Books I Read

For me nothing will ever take the place of that giddy, ‘butterflies in the stomach’ feeling that I get upon finding a well-stocked used book store. I do not own an e-reader personally, and don’t know that I ever will. I love the feel and smell of a book too much to give it up.  I’m happy to see that technology makes A TON of free literature available to others who might not have the means to get to a store regularly or have (insert horrified gasp here) any book stores in their area (which would be to me a ring of Hell so low I cannot possibly imagine it), or not a lot of money to spare for literature. To each their own…we all have our reasons for how we obtain our reading material, just as much as for what we choose to read.  I love the classics, and novels from 40, 50, and 60 years ago.  Finding a hardback copy of a ‘gem’ in a used bookstore is for me what I suppose finding a pair of shoes that matches your favorite outfit EXACTLY is like.

That said, there is also some excellent new fiction that I don’t want to miss out on as well.  Those I could get on an e-reader, but for my take on that, please see above. It’s just not for me. For this indulgence, I take to the internet, rather than visit large chain stores (which I do, occasionally, do) regularly and find ‘popular’ fiction taking up most of the shelf space and walking out empty handed.  I look for things that interest me, and if I can support a local store, I will…if not, I’ll order it online.

I love good historical fiction. Therefore, I’m always on the lookout for something to add to my collection.  I find Amazon gives me ‘stuff that other people buy’, and I have to filter out the non-historical fiction from these lists of ‘recommendations’…and therefore go to other sources where it’s purely a list of forthcoming (and past release) historical fiction novels.  There is some ability to categorize what you are looking for on these sites – but overall they are a treasure trove of suggested reading where it’s not limited to what’s ‘hot’, who has the biggest advertising budget, what some website ‘thinks’ you might like to read.

http://historicalnovelsociety.org/guides/forthcoming-historical-novels/My number one stop when I’m looking to see what’s coming for release that I might like to read.  

http://bippityboppitybook.blogspot.com/p/upcoming-historical-fiction-mar-aug-2013.htmlA blog, but a really good blog about upcoming books and past releases.

http://www.bookbrowse.com/browse/index.cfm?category_number=39Another great place to find books with descriptions, reviews, etc. 

Hopefully others find one or more of these sites helpful in finding their next great read.

Happy hunting!

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