Monday, March 9, 2020

3 books King Stan Lee recommends

Meow meow! His Royal Majesty King Stan Lee here with 3 books I recommend you buy from the bookstore.
I gave Discouraging at Best by John Edward Lawson 4 paws up. I liked it because he's awesome, just like me. John and his wife are almost as awesome as I am. Also, he gives me head scratches when he visits the bookstore, and I need all the head scratches because I'm the most awesome furry god. This book is a collection of 5 horror stories that are related.
I gave The Witches Dance by Erin Eileen Almond four paws up. It's cat-tastic, but I'm not going to tell you why it was cat-tastic. Read it yourself. All I'm going to tell you is that it's about a modern day musician who thinks he's the reincarnation of Niccolo Paganini, a composer and musician from the 18th and 19th centuries, and a girl who believes him.
I liked Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu. The human liked it, too. It's about a teenager fighting mysogny at her high school with zines, and makes a new friend in the process.

4 books from independent publishers we're loving

A couple years ago, my friend Wendy, who used to co-own a bookstore with her husband Jack, introduced me to the joys of books from small, independent publishers. They often publish books that are just as good as ones from bigger publishers, and frequently take risks on books that bigger publishers aren't interested in, which results in literary fiction I love, rather than  commercial fiction. (Not that there's anything wrong with commercial fiction; it's just not my cup of tea.) Here are 4 books from small, independent publishers I love.
Stan Lee liked The Quelling by Barbara Barrow because the main characters, sisters Addie and Dorian, are clever like him. I liked it because of the portrayal of mental illness in the book. It was published by Lanternfish Press, which is one of my favorite publishers. Addie and Dorian have spent most of their lives in a locked psych ward, diagnosed with a rare psychiatric disorder called Reactive Attachment Disorder. Now that they're a little older, Addie wants to start a family of her own, ostensibly to replace the one she lost as a kid. The girls' psychiatrist, Dr. Lark, wants to try a therapy that is controversial and potentially dangerous, especially for pregnant women like Addie.

Awhile back, I was nosing around on the Facebook page for Zumaya Publications, and came across a book they published titled No More Goddesses by Kim Baccellia. Zumya Publications is a fun independent publisher, made more fun because of the feline co-owner, Pip. It, along with the sequel, Goddesses Can Wait, looked like something Stan Lee would like a lot, since he insists he's a feline god. I ordered a couple copies of No More Goddesses, and I was right: Stan Lee loved it and couldn't stop stop laying on it.
When Jordan Lake discovers a bracelet that her favorite actress, Audrey Hepburn, wore in a movie while visiting her grandma's house, she becomes obsessed with it and has to have it. What Jordan isn't counting on is the bracelet releasing Hathor, the ancient Egyptian goddess of love, who then proceeds to torment Jordan and mess with her high school.
Stan Lee also loved Stolen Away, by Kristin Dearborn, and couldn't keep his paws off it. I loved it, too. Stan Lee refused to divulge why he liked it, but I liked it because of the urban fantasy part. This one was published by Raw Dog Screaming Press, which is a quirky independent publisher based in Bowie, Maryland.
Trisha doesn't have much going for her, and she's made a couple mistakes, but she loves her kids, even if it's hard being a single mother to a toddler and an infant. When she wakes up to find baby Jayden is missing and her daughter insisting he's been kidnapped by a monster, she has to face the truth. The one-night stand that produced Jayden was with a creature that wasn't human. Trisha and her ex, Joel, have to hunt DEMON down to reclaim her son, while also dealing with the Russian mafia, who are claiming Joel owes them $1 million.

Stan Lee and I both liked The Crows of Beara by Julie Christine Johnson. It was published by Ashland Creek Press, which is another awesome indie publisher. They're definitely one of the coolest publishers to work with, partly because of the handwritten thank you notes regularly included in the boxes of books from them and partly because of their super handsome cats. Stan Lee was too busy with important cat shit (mainly napping and demanding attention from minions) to tell everyone why he liked this book. I liked it because it's set in Ireland, and I like reading books set in other countries because I get to experience them from the comfort of my couch.
Annie's PR career is hanging by a thread when she travels from Seattle to the small Irish village of Beara. She's supposed to be touting the supposed benefits of a mine there, but ends up falling in love with the brother of the woman spearheading the opposition instead.


Sunday, March 1, 2020

3 historical fiction novels we love

I blame American Girl. If I hadn't gotten their magazine as a kid and been introduced to their historical fiction series for the 8-12 set, I probably wouldn't be as obsessed with historical fiction as I am today. Here are three historical fiction novels I read and loved that are currently available at the bookstore.
I read The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte after one of my Goodreads groups, the Historical Fictionistas, picked it as their book of the month a couple years ago. Betsy Patterson is a socialite in a prominent Baltimore family when she meets Napoleon Bonaparte's brother Jerome and falls in love. Napoleon, however, isn't as enchanted with Betsy as his brother is, and forces Jerome to annul the marriage and marry a woman he picked out. I found Betsy spoiled and a bit hard to like, but I still liked the book a lot. It was neat reading about Baltimore as it would have been about 200 years ago and a prominent local family whose patriarch had a park named after him. I give it five paws up for the writing and the fresh perspective on Napoleon Bonaparte's writing and Baltimore of 1812.
Interesting fact: the author of The Heretic's Daughter, Kathleen Kent, is a descendant of Martha and Sarah Carrier, the main characters in the book. The book is narrated by Sarah Carrier, the daughter of Martha Carrier, one of the women who were accused, tried, and hanged in the Salem witch trials. Sarah and her family moved to Martha's mother's farm in Andover to try to escape the smallpox. Of course, back then, nobody understood the smallpox and thought it was caused by witches. While the book was a bit disturbing and sad, I also found it fascinating. Sararh, while a bit curmudgeonly, was also charming. I chalked up Sarah's grouchiness to living in poverty, the smallpox outbreak, her religion since Puritans generally aren't known for being cheerful, and being expected to help raise her younger siblings and do lots of chores.
About six years ago, I picked up Lily of the Nile after hearing the owner of the now-defunct Constellation Books rave about the author, Stephanie Dray. Isis worshippers in ancient Egypt considered Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios to be the embodiment of the gods. They were also the children of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. After the twins' parents committed suicide, they, along with their younger brother, were taken captive by Octavian, who would later become Caesar of Rome.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Interview with Stan Lee

Stan Lee with The Quelling
Stan Lee is the furry, dark, and handsome feline co-owner and attention hog at Carpe Librum. Stan Lee is the only cat to name himself co-owner of a bookstore in the state of Maryland; he would have made himself sole owner, but it's kind of hard to pay the rent when you don't have opposable thumbs, so he agreed to a human to sign the rent checks. He agreed to an interview in exchange for catnip treats and lots of attention, head scratches, and compliments on how handsome he is.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about your history, Your Majesty?
A. Mommy got me from Charm City Animal Rescue. They sprung me from a kill shelter, where they were about to euthanize me because I hate dogs and have black fur. After the rescue got me out, I was living with one of their foster families before coming to live with Mommy. She thinks I got my name from my foster family; they had an 8-year-old boy who looked like he'd be into comic books, and I share a name with a famous comic book creator. She also suspects I was living on the streets before being rescued; I'm eartipped and have FIV.
Stan Lee with The Eldritch Heart
  Q. We hear your preferred method of reading is to lay on books and absorb the text of the books you're reading. Can you recommend some good ones, Your Majesty?
A. The Quelling by Barbara Barrow was Cat-tastic. I liked it because the main characters, Dorian and Addie, are clever, like me. I liked the Eldritch Heart by Matthew S. Cox because the author is a cat man, and everyone knows cat people make the best authors. I liked No More Goddesses because there are goddesses in it, and I'm a god. I liked Discouraging at Best by John Edward Lawson. I'm not going to tell you why I liked it. Read it yourself and find out. My new favorite book is Hello, Darling, by Christine Higgins. I'm not going to tell you why I liked it, either.

Q. What's your favorite part about being a bookstore cat and co-owner of the bookstore, Your Majesty?
A. All the attention and catnip treats I get. Sometimes, I act coy with customers, to get them to entice me over with treats. Then I get lots of attention and head scratches. I also like it because Mommy tries to make me happy by buying me new toys periodically, and she brought my electric blanket to the bookstore.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

3 books for the armchair traveler

A couple months ago, I read Cairo in White by Kelly Ann Jacobson. It’s mostly set in Cairo, and the book alternates between the stories of Zahra, a closeted Egyptian, and her daughter, Aisha.

About five years ago, I read Bolivar by Marie Arana. It’s the dramatic true story of Simon Bolivar, the South American version of George Washington. He freed several countries from Spanish rule and even had one named after him.

Awhile back, I read The Island House by Posie Graeme-Evans. Both Stan Lee, the senior ranking staff cat at the bookstore, and I liked it. He kept laying on it every time I tried to read it. The Island House is set for the most part in Scotland. I’d describe it as Goosebumps for adults, since there’s a slightly creepy factor and a budding romance.