Monday 25 June 2012

Great Book Buys On A Cold Winter's Day

Vintage 21st  anniversary copies. Love the colours

 It is currently 8 degrees (C) in Hobart at the moment and with the wind today it feels very chilly. That is 46 for the Fahrenheit people out there.
When a friend asked me to join her for a hot chocolate at my favourite indie book shop in Hobart (Fullers) I jumped at the chance. Also as the financial year is nearing its end,  all books in the store are 20% off. Hot chocolate and bargains. Can't ask for more than that.

I have had my eye on the series of Vintage 21st Anniversary books they have had for some time now. Vintage published 21 of these gorgeous coloured books. The actual reading pages are white. Not only are they pretty but the covers feel sensual to the touch. Almost a bit satiny. I chose three of the books I haven't yet read and at $12.98 each minus 20 % I thought it was a good deal. The hot chocolate was delicious as well.

I am such a sucker for great marketing and beautiful book covers.

I chose three authors whose work I am not at all familiar with. I simply read the back of the book and these three appealed to me. I'd love to know what others have thought of them.

Suite Francaise takes place during WWII in Paris when France fell to the Nazi's. The story is about the rural inhabitants of a small community and how they cope with the war.

The Road Home is about a character named Lev who is on his way home from Eastern Europe to Britain, seeking work. He has had a tragic history and he must cope with coming to London which holds the alluring possibility of friendship, sex, money and a new career. He is looking for a new sense of belonging.

My third choice was Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. I have heard so much of this author over the years and believe he is incredibly brave. I think it is about time I finally read something he has written.

Once I left Fullers Independent store I went to one of my favourite second hand book shops, Imperial. I have several favourite second hand book shops as Hobart seems to do well with books especially for our population.  Imperial books on Collins Street just up the road from Fullers is under new management since the previous owner passed away.
When I walk into this shop, the new owner always says "Hello, Penguin Pam" and begins to tell me what he has set aside for me.  There was a very large warehouse filled with books from the previous owner and the new owner did not hesitate to tell me about the Saturday book sales they are now holding nearby of all of these old books. He said he has quite a few Penguins and most books are only $2.00 each so I know what I will be doing this Saturday  morning and perhaps a few more.

He did have two lovely Penguin Poets books in stock for a very reasonable price. I have a friend in England who collects these and I began by searching out books for her that she continues to look for but they are all so beautiful that I am now keeping the ones (first published only) I find that she already has. Penguin produced some lovely covers for their Vintage Penguin Poets series.

D 25     Matthew Arnold   1st published 1954
D 71             Pushkin   1st published 1964

C 5     first published 1938
One of my favourite series that Allen Lane produced in his career are the Penguin Illustrated Classics.  It wasn't an extensive collection but the illustrations were completed with wood engravings.

I had not seen the 1938 copy of Robert Browning poems before and when I saw it on the shelf I immediately snatched it up.  It still has its dust jacket on it and the book is in a great condition. It is hard to believe this book is 78 years old.

I think they are a wonderful collection. I hope to find all of them eventually.

A wonderful day of books.
Happy page turning.
All in all I would say quite a successful day. Coffee with friends, wonderful book
shops with hot chocolate and heat. Lovely books at very reasonable prices. I love it when I can buy locally and support the industry at home.

Saturday 23 June 2012

A Day's Interlude of Dance

I am in the process of redoing the front room of our house to better organise the large collection of books we have. With visitors dropping by, animals to care for and taking things to auction to clear space I have not had much time to read or write. I should have a book posting up very soon (couple of days?). So I wish to leave people with this beautiful four minute clip of Swan Lake (click here) by the Great Chinese circus. The principal dancer is stunning and I can only begin to guess how many hours of practise these dancers have put into their art. I hope you enjoy it. See you in a few days with more Penguins and otherwise.

Be back soon.

Friday 15 June 2012

A Penguin in Florida?

Reunion in Florida by Tod Claymore
(Penguin green crime fiction- No. 1087 published 1955)

This was one of those books I started because I liked the title. Having lived in Florida for 14 years before I moved to Australia I thought it would be good to revisit it.

I took awhile to get involved in this book. I kept getting distracted with other activities that were non book related as well as picking up and browsing through library items.

Finally after two false starts I sat down and seriously began it. I have read somewhere recently that one should never begin a book unless they can be assured of a good 60 to 90 minutes of uninterrupted time. After that amount of time one should be sufficiently into the book that they can easily pick it up again and remember who the characters are and what is happening.

As far as mysteries go I thought this was a trifle bit lame. It was entertaining enough most of the time though the setting didn't matter. Much of the time I kept thinking it was in England then I'd see the words 'orange blossoms' and 'heat' and I'd remember, "Oh no, this is in Florida."

This book was rather like a good Friday night crime show on the telly when I have a bit of a cold and am in my warmest flannels on a cold winters night with a big mug of hot chocolate.  This book was kind of like the marshmallow.

Hugh Clevely  wrote as
"Tod Claymore"
Tod Claymore was the pseudonym of  Hugh Clevely.  Mr. Clevely was also friends with another author, Edgar Jepson and both of them shared the writer's name of Tod Claymore at times.

It was hard to find much information about him except that he was born 1 January 1898 and died on his birthday, 1 January 1964.  (As I recently heard that 18 % of people supposedly die on their birthdays I took a mental note of this.)

While looking on the Good Reads website I found some additional information about his life:
 He was educated by his uncle, a vicar, and spent his early life in the vicarage. He obtained a pilot's license before the last war, was active in the RAF and finished the war as wing-commander. 

Clevely was one of the dozens of authors who wrote for the story paper The Thriller in the 1930s, a paper that made famous The Saint by Charteris, Leslie, The Toff and The Baron by John Creasy and the Norman Conquest novels of Berkeley Gray. But in addition to many authors nearly unknown today The Thriller published stories by Edgar Wallace, Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, (also published by Penguin books and on my shelves). 

Clevely wrote more than thirty titles for this influential paper and in addition several novels with serial characters, among them John Martinson “the Gang-Smasher" and Inspector Williams of Scotland Yard. As Tod Claymore, he wrote another nine mysteries, all with a series character named Tod Claymore. After the war Clevely contributed about a dozen titles to the hugely popular Sexton Blake series. 

I assume that people living in the U.K. may be more familiar with this author but he is very  new to me.

The setting of the book is on a large plantation property amongst orange groves in mid Florida, about 20 to 30 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico.  The smell of orange blossoms and Florida's heat are mentioned quite a bit.
Tod (Claymore) the protagonist and narrator has a young daughter Sarah and their lifestyle is a bit nomadic since Sarah's mother died years earlier.  The book opens with them leaving their rented apartment in New York to go to Florida at the invitation of an old family friend, Poppy Laleham who lives in a large mansion. 

Tod doesn't particularly like Poppy and his descriptions of her are quite comical but he knows it will be good for Sarah and they need to vacate the apartment so they agree to go.

There will be school, horse riding and swimming for Sarah and lots of tennis for him.  Other guests have also been invited and without his knowledge his former love Sabrina is there with her husband Stewart.

The mystery revolves around Sabrina, Stewart and Stewart's brother James who it turns out has been blackmailing Stewart for quite awhile now. There is a shooting, a house fire and a body in the fire that turns out to be Stewart.  Sabrina and Tod still care a great deal for each other and Sarah dotes on Sabrina. It is only because Stewart interfered with the post that Tod and Sabrina stopped seeing each other due to severe misunderstandings. 

There are an assortment of personalities staying in the area from young to old, quite lovely to absolutely rotten and boring and  as expected much gossip and speculations goes  on between everyone.  Everyone believes Tod is guilty of murdering Stewart because it is known he loves Sabrina.  But of course the reader knows that is much too obvious.  

Towards the end Tod is going to solve the murder once and for all, mainly to prove his own innocence. He has varying amounts of help from the others who often quite annoy him.

I have not read any other books by this author but I am sure there are other books that are probably more riveting than this one.  I did care about several of the characters but I know I will forget them before long. Sarah is quite precocious as the daughter spending a great deal of time wanting people to say good night to her in the evenings once she is tucked up in bed. 

Poppy, the old dowager fits her role quite well and frankly if the book wasn't so humorous at times I probably would have put it down.  

I am a great fan of the first paragraph of any book. For me it can really make or break an introductory chapter. I liked this one and I did want to keep reading.

"     I'm all alone in the house except for the servants. My head aches, and my arm hurts me. Things are looking bad, and that's putting it mildly. I don't understand what has been happening, and I hate to think what's likely to happen.
      And I don't think I like the Sheriff. I don't like his attitude. He  makes me feel uneasy. He looks sleepy, but he isn't sleepy. He's fat. His moustache looks like something you'd expect to find hanging from an aged sea lion."

Poppy's introduction starts with
" all began with a letter from Poppy Laleham. A good many people have held very strong opinions about Poppy, few of them favourable, and I should like to state here and now that my vote goes unhesitatingly with the majority. I regard that old beldame as a triple distilled menace. When she arrives in a place all peaceful citizens would be well advised to pack their things hastily and leave by the first available train, bus, aeroplane, ship or mule cart."

He continues, "Personally I have an indolent, peaceful nature; I dislike conflict and harsh words. Poppy revels in them. She likes to be in the middle of a sort of storm centre, with fur and feathers and skin and blood flying in all directions."

"A touch of tennis anyone? "
Travellin' Penguin in Florida
I think if I had read this book in a single sitting I would have enjoyed it more than I did.  It was because I ended up reading it in fits and starts I was looking forward to simply getting on with it.  I really enjoyed the author's writing. I liked his descriptions, especially of people and I could easily visualise everyone. As I said I did enjoy most of them but the story itself bogged down a couple of times. The plot was similar to so many mysteries written during this time. Lots of people gathered in a house, an obvious motive and suspect but of course we know that is not to be.

It would be a good read on a plane trip or a train however  or a single sitting. It is a book that should be released into a cafe for another reader once finished and not left for posterity on the shelf. But this one will  stay on the shelf because it is one of my vintage penguins and I don't leave them on seats in cafes.

This book counts for The Century of Reading challenge - 1955.

Saturday 9 June 2012

Serendipitous Sydney Penguin Hunting

I have just returned from a few days in Sydney where a friend and I saw Les Liaison's Dangereuse with Hugo Weaving, Justine Clark and Pamela Rabe at the Sydney Theatre Company.  The play was brilliant beyond my expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story was saucy, the acting tremendous and the theatre itself is beautiful. We felt as though we were a part of the play due to the arrangement of the audience.

View from the Japanese Restaurant
 We also enjoyed some window shopping in the Queen Vic Building along with a wonderful Bento box in their third floor Japanese restaurant and a chat to Claudia from the ABC's recently discontinued Collector's Show.  She is lovely and was trying out some fashion in her wonderful shop she runs with her mother.

As depressing as it can sometimes be to be surrounded by beautiful items far above one's budget the second-hand book shopping in Sydney did not disappoint.  I had three lovely experiences in as many days looking for books amongst other fun activities.

We spent one day on Oxford Street visiting Ariel which is a new books shop with lovely stationery and new best sellers. We then went across the street to Berkelouw's books which has two floors of second hand books.

There is another second hand book shop Ampersand Cafe and Book Store also on Oxford Rd that has a small cafe that is part of a large house, all the rooms being filled with quality second hand books. 

The following day we walked from our George Street Hotel to Glebe Point Road where we visited Glee Books second hand book shop and then back to Glee Books new book shop. This shop is reportedly Sydney's largest Independent book shop.  Another very interesting second hand shop is Cornflower books across the road from Glee Books. There is a wonderful second hand bookshop next door to Glee's second hand called Sapho but prices seemed very high so I walked out immediately before I fell in love with something and spent more than my budget allowed.

Stunning covers
I found vintage Penguin books at all of the shops mentioned (second hand shops) but something else happened that lifted my spirits even higher.  I have carried a little black book with me that has my Penguin Book collection documented in it.

 It has all of the Penguin numbers 1 - 3000 listed where I have ticked off the books I own. I mainly collect first published Penguins unless I really love the cover of a reprint then I will pick that up as well.
Everything is recorded in this small book before transferred to The Library Thing website.

I inadvertently dropped my little black book somewhere in the street but didn't realise it until I read the text message on my mobile after the theatre from Adrian.

He kindly left a message on my voicemail that he found a little black book that looked as though it would be very important to someone. I received this message very late Thursday night and I was to fly back to Hobart early Friday morning. He left both his email address and phone number. I immediately emailed him and he is going to post it out to me this next week so I should get it back.

I have written panicky details at the front of the book and this is now the second time this book is being returned to me. The first time I left it in a back pocket in a pair of jeans on the back of a hotel room bathroom door in Cradle Mountain in Tassie.  Australia truly is the home of the boomerang.  I am looking forward to seeing it again.

Another happy moment was when I discovered a pile of the now defunct British Book and Magazine Collector magazine in a back room of Cornflower Bookshop.

I noticed the April 2006, No 267 edition lying on the pile. This particular issue is devoted mainly to Penguin book collecting and has 26 wonderful pages devoted to collecting vintage Penguins, Pelicans, Porpoises, Puffins and other information related to the days of Allen Lane's publishing empire.  I see much of the article is attributed to our Penguin VIP from the Penguin Collector's Society whom Karyn and I met on our trip to England this year.
(KR  apenguinaweek  I will photocopy the pages and send them to you.)

Now I am home again with my head filled with the world of literature and theatre it is time to get back to work on caring for the books, reading them and continuing correspondence about them.  It was one of the busiest trips I have had in such a short time frame and  I am happily exhausted.  There is nothing I love more than finding more old Penguin books, riding the busses to Bondi only to get on the wrong bus and end up at Bronte, another beautiful beach, meeting wonderful people and then returning home to my happy family of T. and the creatures.
Love the Penguin Science Fiction Cover Fifth Planet

 A new Muriel Spark book and another by Graham Greene

Things to do in Sydney in 3 days-

  • visit the above book shops mentioned. Be sure to go into the small cafe/bakery next door to Glee second hand books. Beautiful food and a lovely man who takes care of the elderly in the community. 
  • Walk down Oxford Street to see vintage fashion and browse the second hand book shops
  • take the bus to Bondi where there are more second hand bookshops that we unfortunately missed this trip.  
  • Plan your trip around a performance at the Sydney Theatre Co to see some brilliant Australian acting and enjoy views of Sydney Harbour and the quirky lights of Luna Park across the way. 
  • Don't forget the Queen Victoria Building, 
  • the Strand Arcade and 
  • Kinokuniya Book shop across from the QVB and browse the large collection of everything under the sun (new books) including an extensive Japanese range of items.

Sunday 3 June 2012

Les Liaisons Dangereuses in Sydney

I am taking a week long break from the blog not because I really want to but because I am flying up to Sydney without my computer tomorrow for a girl's week out.  I have a good friend who lives in Northern New South Wales and once a year we meet up for a week of shopping and theatre.

We plan on hitting the shops, including any book shop we happen to fall upon. I particularly like Glee Books (an independent book shop) that includes their second hand shop a few doors down the street. I have found quite reasonably priced Penguins previously though that may have changed in a year's time. If so they will stay on the shelf. There are also a couple of book shops I enjoy on Oxford Street on the way to Bondi Beach by bus.

Pamela Rabe and Hugo Weaving

The highlight of our trip is a visit on Thursday night to the Sydney Theatre Company on Sydney Harbour to see  Les Liaisons Dangereuses  with Hugo Weaving, Pamela Rabe and Justine Clarke.  It should be a wonderful break for a few days and then I will be back with the Penguins again ready to settle into my winter plans of continuing to organise my newly acquired ones, getting them catalogued onto Library Thing and blogging again.

I have decided that every other book I read shall be a Penguin book in some form and as I have so many I am looking forward to the variety as well as reading the many TBR books I have acquired before I devoted so much to my Penguin collection.

I find a journey away from home whether it be long or short always inspires me to think creatively and gives me the motivation to do everything  I want with more energy and enthusiasm!