Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Puzzles? Yes, we have those too!

Picture Puzzle Piece
One picture puzzle piece
Lyin' on the sidewalk,
One picture puzzle piece
Soakin' in the rain.
It might be a button of blue
On the coat of the woman
Who lived in a shoe.
It might be a magical bean,
Or a fold in the red
Velvet robe of a queen.
It might be the one little bite
Of the apple her stepmother
Gave to Snow White.
It might be the veil of a bride
Or a bottle with some evil genie inside.
It might be a small tuft of hair
On the big bouncy belly
Of Bobo the Bear.
It might be a bit of the cloak
Of the Witch of the West
As she melted to smoke.
It might be a shadowy trace
Of a tear that runs down an angel's face.
Nothing has more possibilities
Than one old wet picture puzzle piece.
-- by Shel Silverstein
Oh, puzzles!  So great for keeping your hands busy when talking, or an intriguing indoor activity to do on your own.  We have a lot -- and even that is an understatement.  Puzzles aren't just for yucky-outdoor-and-I'm-stuck-indoor-kind-of-days.  Check'em out, we have some for all ages.  Some science-y, some cutsy, some with a more serious edge.  Others are made for travel, some for the floor, famous artwork, Boston and Red Sox too, and others that are just down right silly.  We also sell puzzle glue, if you would like to move your jigsaw masterpiece to the wall.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Beach Reads Aplenty on Cape Cod

I just spent a week on Cape Cod and while I was there I stopped by a few of my favorite independent bookstores. I was delighted to see that after an absence of three years all of the stores are a) still in business and b) were populated with people buying things. Hooray!

The Provincetown Bookstore right on Commercial Street is small and jam-packed with tons of great field guides and books of local interest, not to mention lots of books by local authors as well as the latest great reads on the various best-sellers lists. Right next door is Tim's Used Books, one of my favorite places to find something unexpected. This year I came away with a charming 1950's field guide to...all living things. Except insects.

I also visited the Brewster Book Store for the first time. What a cute little shop! And bustling with customers on the rainy afternoon that I was there. They also have a good selection of cards/gifts and toys/games, similar to what we sell here. I felt right at home.

I am obviously aware that the book selling business is difficult and changing, and some say it's "doomed" or whatever, but from what I saw in this one little part of the world, there is still a place for books and bookstores and book-lovers. I was SO glad to be able stop in and support all of them with the purchase of a book or two. I know people in other parts of the country are not as lucky as we are - to have a selection of stores to choose from. Despite the state of the economy and the e-book issue, I optimistically think a decent number of these treasures are here to stay.

Friday, June 24, 2011


It was recommended to me that the topic of this entry should be Whitey Bulger.

I don't know nothin'.

I did lose my wedding ring a few weeks ago.
It was up in Vermont.
I have three hopes for that beautiful silver ring:
I hope it is not just wedged deep in the crack of a couch, to gather sticky lollipop shards and cracker crumbs to itself, until it becomes a Thing, hiding its nicked and worn shine from the light beneath layers of lint and stuff.
I hope it is lying on the fertile ground somewhere near a barn, in a place where sun and shade and water will bring wildflowers to bloom through its opening.
Or I hope it is in a place on a slope where thaw and Spring rains will tumble it down in stages until it finds its way to a brook, to a river, to the sea.

Of course, that last way will take it away forever.
The second way may cause it to become a projectile, lifted up and flung at deadly speed from the rotors of a lawn mower.
The first way, though least romantic, may bring it back home to me.

I'm going to go upstairs to see if we sell a ring that can hold its place until.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Postcards from the Slough of Despond: how I kill vacationing right dead with my skills.

Thanks to the powers that be that I was born into a family of readers, and not doers, or worst of all, both. My Dad, stepmom and stepsis have been going to the same collection of cottages in the same part of Narragansett for nearing 10 years now. We read, we barbecue, and we go to the beach; that's it. The trip used to be a family reunion, but has dwindled down to just our core crew as the other familial groups got bored of the same rural town, year after year, and stopped going because there's nothing to do. The same reason, of course, for why we keep going back. Underachieving is an art and we treat it as such.

When I was younger, I pitied the child born to The Doers; dragged out across such and such country with a hot, sweaty family to see statues of long dead whomevers who did this and that. I saw a few family trips through, a bitter 11 year old in short shorts and a "Xena: Warrior Princess" t shirt, baking in the back seat of a similarly 11 year old Volkswagen that ran on prayer and desperation. No, I'm remembering it wrong: that was my mother's car, and when she got time off we usually flew home, to her home, St. Albans, England or to her dream home, Los Angeles, California. So it was someone else's car, usually; oversized minivans, taupe interiors with goldfish crackers hopelessly jammed into the seat cushions and somebodies younger sibling's baby seat poking into my side.

This all happened before we figured out that I have the delicate blood sugar of a diabetic hummingbird, and have to eat every few hours or I blossom into a hellbeast with a hideous disposition. Its similar to blackout alcoholism: I get angry and sad simultaneously, yell for no reason, then tell everybody just exactly what I think of them before passing out.

One summer, when I was in high school, we went to Washington DC and ended up having a stand off between my Dad and the rest of the family. Dad entered this manic apex of Dadness, wherein he felt some compulsion that we had to see every single thing DC had to offer, in the two or three days we were there. Of course, the heat, plus my delicacy, plus being 30 odd pounds overweight and not given to much walking, ended in me weeping in desperation at an outdoor cafe. These are the kind of dumb moments that happen during travel; expectations are high and personal care tends to run low, and before you know it, you're choking back tears under a parasol featuring the minimalist logo of some high-end smoothie operation. If anyone judges you for those moments, you have no choice but to cut them out of your life immediately. That's how I see it, anyway.

That night, once the heat had mellowed to an low-hanging buzz of humidity, Dad and I snuck out alone and drove into town. Some jazzy lady singer was growling a low croon out of the radio. I felt wild. No keys, no purse, no phone. I was wearing a pair of his hideous and hideously practical blue Crocs. Not even my own shoes. We went and saw all the badges of America; the tesseract brick of the Washington monument, lit by aptly placed lights, repeats and repeats upward into a smooth white-pink snakeskin until it disappears into the dark. The flashes of digital camera bulbs fluttering against Lincoln's bold cheekbones, not to mention everywhere the moving black shapes of people, tourists, but stripped of their tourist identifiers that we all recognize. No garish t-shirts, no dimpled white knees or mosquito net visors. No families yelling unnecessarily to and at one another. In the night time we were all quiet observers, taking careful steps around our own history.

That's how I'd like to see the world. Not forced by someone's urgent hand, not rushed and only semi enjoyed. I can't do it, I can't fake it. When we go, we'll go at my speed. It's slow, it gets up no earlier than 10 unless there's a plane to catch. It packs up the car and - oh, you're driving, sorry - needs to stop for coffee before we hit the road. It made up a play list last night, but you can skip whatever you're not into, it concedes that not all moments are "Abba" moments. It does not wear shoes in the car and it is going to need to pee roughly every three hours, so you're gonna wanna go ahead and plan for that.

I can't wait!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Best Book of the Year!

Have you ever finished a great book, such as Drowned Maiden's Hair, and think it's the best book you've read in a long while?  And that you almost don't want to pick up a new book right away because no book will be as good? ...And then it happens.  That next book completely blows the "great" book out of the water?
I highly recommend Ruta Sepetys' Between Shades of Gray.
So many World War 2 novels focus on prison camps pertaining to the Holocaust.  But there was so much more happening at this time.  Now comes the story of Lina, a young Lithuanian artist, and her family, trapped in the secret and horrific Russian genocide, 1939-1954.

I don't want to give away the amazing plots turns or gripping page turners, but one of my favorite parts was the mother.  Even when others around her became full of rage and trapped themselves in a world bitterness, she never stopped caring for them.  She knew that survival meant helping and caring for each other -- no matter the cost.
I stayed up late to finish each section. 
When done, I couldn't simply walk away. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Two Quick Things, I Promise to Keep It Short

Hi friends, I know it's Kate's blog day but she has plum run off to get all scholastic for a spell and I really wanted to let everyone know that we have Elna Baker's "The New York Regional Singles Halloween Dance" on remainder for the low, low sale price of $4.99 (provided you act now! Operators are standing by! Smoooooth operators, that is)

I read this book last fall and I loved it, in fact it was one of my staff recommendations at one point. It would make great light, funny summer reading and so you should come 'n' get it while it's embarrassingly cheap. Elna is a stand up comedian, author, and regular contributer to This American Life and The Moth on NPR.

2., I'm having my next driving lesson this wednesday. All readers in the Mills/Sherborn area are advised to stay in your homes and off the roads.

That'll be all.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Gifting from the hip

If you had read the post I just deleted, you'd be e-thanking me right now.
Something better came up just a moment ago.

A couple come to the register to purchase a gift bag and two (delicious) Taza chocolates. At the last moment, the woman switches out the chocolates for an Emergency Bowtie. I joke with her, asking if she is absolutely sure, before I finalize the sale, whether she really wants to change the dynamics of this gift so drastically. We laugh about it and she goes away with her man.

Fifteen minutes later they return, she's carrying the Emergency Bowtie and her receipt in one hand, and a keychain which is also an alcohol breath tester in the other. "I'd like to switch, if I may." I really laugh this time, and say "Oh, let's just get him chocolate. Wait, no, he's goofy, let's get him this tie, he'll appreciate the gag.............OK, let's face it, he's a drunk."

That they were the sort of folks that I could mess around with like that is enough to make my day. But then they squinted at the wall behind me and asked to see the WANTED sign, the one with the blurry security camera images of the @*#&$%$@%^$ who has stolen ridiculous amounts of jewelry from our card & gift room. They really wanted to be able to nab this fool, and it made me looooooove them.

My day was already going great, too!

Oh, my previous post was about how someone should make a website where you can put in keywords that describe a book cover, and it will find the book for you. Whatever, we don't need it, we can find anything. Today, Liz T. found a book that "was blue, with a cupcake on it." even though it turned out that the cupcake was actually a sundae.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Some open correspondence corresponding to my past few days here on Planet Earth.

Open Letter to The Stop Sign I Hit During My Driving Lesson On Tuesday,

Okay so. Looks like you can't take a 90 degree turn doing 45 mph. I knew that, but did you have make me learn it the hard way? Shoving my nose in it like a shameful basset hound to an ill-timed bowel movement on the carpet. My Dad said "we're going to be taking this sharp right, but its sharp so get ready." But this is my third time behind the wheel over a span of about 3 years; I'm not ready for sharp rights. So we took a kamikaze right, plowing into a flower bed and ripping you right out of the ground and dragging you several feet. Dogs barked in the distance. I almost threw up. I did cry a little. My Dad found it oddly humorous and seemed rather invigorated. Basically my Dad is an adrenaline junkie and I hate signage, and you taught me that, stop sign. Thanks ever so. PS I hate your stupid face.

Open Letter to Wolverine,

Dear Wolverine, specifically Hugh Jackman playing the part of Wolverine. I saw the new X Men movie last night, which prompted me to go home and rewatch the first X Men movie and now I am obsessed with you. I don't know, maybe its the chops, the adamantium, your devil-may-care attitude and tough exterior but I want in. I think we could be intensely happy together. Picture it: lazy sunday morning, you're making eggs and bacon, I'm sticking refrigerator magnets onto your skin and swilling mimosas before our afternoon romp. I honestly see no bad here. Plus I'd never need to buy another can opener again. NEXT STOP: MATRIMONY.

Open Letter to Anybody Who Likes Really Gross Books as Their Summer Reading,

Guys, I've been peddling this book for weeks but if this title applies to you you HAVE to read this:

Pedophiles, 12 year old ancient blood devouring monsters, a kid who wets himself compulsively, some gross murders, bodies showing up in the lake, general swedish angst, guys with melty faces that only have one eye, THE LIST GOES ON AND ON. It's incredible. If you don't mind reading about viscera while eating than this novel is for YOU, my friend.

Open Letter to Whoever Scheduled Me For Register Duty While This Free Beer Event is Happening At 7 PM Today,

Oh, touche, my good madam. Touche.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

3rd place in our flash poetry contest, Liz Witte!!!

(of the booksmith:)

"With a place
like this---

who needs

Ms. Witte submitted an adage, that caused our judges to compromise their bladders... because, let's face is kinda true.

Elizabeth Witte was born and raised in and around St. Louis, MO and currently resides in Somerville, MA.

Friday, June 10, 2011

endings haunt me

Today my four-and-a-half year old son graduated from his, um, second out of three years of pre-school. I'm aware that the graduation ceremony is more for the parents than the kids. (If I hadn't been before, I would have been as soon as I realized that, instead of playing the guaranteed-to-make-a-room-full-of-adults-weep "Pomp & Circumstance", the teachers had chosen a meek version of "God Bless America". Approximately 90 percent of Jack's schoolmates are sons or daughters of first responders. Firefighter and police families really dig that sort of thing. I can appreciate that.)
Seventeen little folk proceed to their seats, caps askew and gowns fluttering around their syncopating feet, and then there's number eighteen, my boy, with NO CAP thank you very much.
Surprised, am I? Noooooo.

I didn't feel pride, exactly. I am not foolish enough to think that he was making some sort of principled stand against uniforms, conformity, or the (delightful and appropriate) pomp and circumstance of a graduation ceremony for four-year-olds. If he were four or five years older, it would have been respect that I felt. But he's so little (and yet so big. If you have had children growing up in your home, you might know how a person can seem both so so tiny and so so huge at the same time.), I know that he was just doing the thing that he does. Not much more to it than that. It's not as if he felt oppressed by the authority who was trying to force a mortarboard on him.
He just doesn't wear a hat.
Nobody puts a hat on Jackson.

It's like me with ties. Unless you're getting married and you need me to wear a tuxedo, get that pretty noose away from my neck. Never again, I tell you, never again.

So now it's the little snacks-and-goodbyes party in the classroom afterwards. For me, there are memories of endings, and of new schools, new people; mysteries looming. These are teachers and parents and kids that I have known from pick-up and drop-off time for two years. But now we live in another town, and in September Jack, and later Lib will be going to school closer to home. It's bittersweet. Miss Sheila picks up Jack in a big hug and doesn't want to let go. Menisci of tears are to be found in the eyes of teachers, most moms and at least this one dad.

Jack is ready to go. It's just another day of school. In our embraces, he waits patiently for the car, where there is usually a snack for the long ride home.

When does that start for children? The missing things before they are gone? Is it a predictable stage of mental development? Or is it triggered by an event, different for each of us?
Is it something you have to experience before you can learn how to stop doing it?
I mourn the loss of innocence in the world. My children have not lost it.
I mourn the loss of playfulness in the world. My children play.
I mourn the loss of the natural world. I will walk home under trees, I will remove my shoes and walk in a field at night, and in the morning when I walk outside a spiderweb will tickle and tug across my brow.

I mourn the loss of our democracy. I vote.
I mourn the loss of the printed book. I am reading one.
I mourn the death of honest communication. I trust you.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

You're giving me that look again.

That look that says that 2 o'clock on a thursday afternoon is no time to drink the dregs of leftover tequila ruminating in your ice box. I know, I knew you'd be dissapointed. It's not my fault, though. Its 90 degrees outside, and up here on the fourth floor in Allston, its probably close to 100. It's already psychadelic, I can see the walls melting and feel myself slipping backwards through time. Yes time! It's spring cleaning, don't you know? Which can only be done in the sweaty armpit of summer, one of those months that start with a "j" when even the high schoolers have been freed and the dirty concrete of Allston sizzles with every footstep. The college students that didn't retreat back to their midwestern existence sleep all day in borrowed, low-thread count sheets and emerge, braless and with exposed toes, only at night to drink pitchers down at the Sil and talk to townies.

And that's why, gentle reader, I got up this morning, went to the gym and came home and made myself a drink. This post constitutes my one-hour break. So far I've gotten to bookshelves and cabinets and the re-arranging thereof, but my vanity, desk, and carpet have yet to feel the pain of their inevitable de-lousing. Begone, salt and sand begotten from long, snowy walks and T-rides home! I drive thee out! Let us not speak of the closet, the living room, nay, the bathroom; the twilight of their filth draws nigh, and soon they shall know the bright sting of my all-natural witch hazel disinfectant I bought from Trader Joe's. And lo, the dust bunnies shall weep; weep, and having wept, perish.

Here at chez Hyde we are somewhat lax about our cleanliness. It doesn't bother me too much; we'd be a cleaner bunch if only my roommate and I weren't both full time students with part time jobs and the occasional social engagement. There simply aren't enough hours in the day, sweet reader, for me to make sure my tub is consistently mold-free. "There will be time for that later" I say to myself, throwing one backward glance to the alarming tinge of discoloration that's happening around the sink faucet.

That time has come.

Take what weapons you have. For me, its booze, a tank top, a headband, and Led Zepplin. I can't explain now, time is of the essence. Now is the hour of sorting, filing; the box of polaroids from high school, the reams of stickers, the abandoned knitting. To your cabinets, all of you.

OH and sidebar. The hat I'm wearing in that photo is, as almost all of my accessories always are, in our Card and Gift room. We had them last year and I secretly wanted one but was too shy to bust out a giant sunhat. Thank god that little phase is over. This hat is all mine, and I suggest you buy one too; they can fold up for travel. They'd be perfect for a luxury yacht. Any available millionaires out there in need of a trophy wife? You know where to find me. And its under this pile of backdated 'Bon Apetit' issues as I battle my way to the surface. Victory will be mine!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Seuss-y Prediction?

I've played around with a few e-reader devices, and I must say they are not for me.  It was no shocker, really.  I like feeling the book and seeing how far its come and how much is left.  Plus it's weird -- weirder than I anticipated --  to read little tiny letters on a condensed page on a screen.  But I did give it a try (if you are the e-reader type please click here for a variety of titles to peruse for your little book-on-a-screen).  Reading without an e-reader is worth finding new creative ways to shelf my books on a limited budget.  And carrying them around, too.

While we are on the subject, a while ago, one of our booksellers brought this to my attention:
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss

"But a Nook can't read."  So, what do you have to say about that?  Poor (B&N) Nook.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

You know you need a beach read.

It's no secret that there are obstacles facing independent bookstores these days. There are things we can offer that Amazon and its ilk can't or don't; we'll spend twenty minutes helping you find the right book for your loved one, we'll bring you Tim Wakefield, we'll remember your dog... But all the same, sad news does happen for bookstores in our community, and it reminds us how much we appreciate the customers who try us first, the ones who are trying us for the first time, and the ones who have been coming for thirty years.

Speaking of community, it's great to see someone from another segment of the book business--a literary agent--caring enough to start a campaign to Save Bookstores. Here are Kelly Sonnack's words:

I’ve gotten sick of reading the bookstore obituaries in the publishing news, so I’m starting a viral campaign to get people, on 1 day, to go buy books from their local bookstore. Might not end up changing the tides, but it’s something small I can do to make a difference and I’m getting a great response so far – people are excited to be a part of this. Here are the details for you to pass on to your friends/family/fellow booklovers:

Who: You and all the book-lovers in your life
When: June 25th, the first Saturday of Summer!
Where: Your local bookstore (and if you don’t have one near you, Powell’s ships
[as do we]
Why: Because bookstores are dropping like flies and we want them to stay alive

Thanks for passing this along to whomever you think would want to get on board. And blog about it, tweet about it (#SaveBookstores), FB about it, too.

The Season of wilting. Rescue-reading for summer-haytaz.

I have no business staying in New England when the heat comes a-creepin down from the backsa' my knees. No business. It's this time of year I'm without fail-RELIEVED to walk into work everyday. Even without AC it is cooler here. Most people get all sad and mopey in the winter, but for me (and I imagine some other Nordic-types), this is the season for sadness. The season for sunburn, high- happiness expectations, baroque displays from mother nature, (that 80's tart) and a complete reminder that we are in fact sitting in meat cages. Oppressive, oppressive meat cages.

Some reading to go with that thought:

The Cow, by Ariana Reines. We have this one in the store, it is the most profound collection of poems on the human diet, the human body, the self. This collection is a syntactical mind-f#$k. I keep thinking about this book. POETS.....READ THIS, POETRY APATHISTS: READ THIS.


The Room, by Emma Donoghue If you didn't read it in hardcover, worry not. It is in paperback. You will want to kiss me on the mouth (hard) and do my dishes after you read this gripping, beautiful intense read. here it is in :ebook form: I cannot overemphasize enough, if you read one book this summer, make it thissun.

For parent with non-sleepin' kiddoz:

For reasons you will soon understand, no pictures will be offered. Trust the link it.

And finally from our Card& Gift room: This adorable med-lugging tin box. (other designs as well, but today, yes today this one just feels so right. So so right.

Last thought of this depressing post comes form Wow. This is where we live.

For real last thought,

It's cool in here. We have water outside, and cookies inside for you dogs, and a crazy selection of everything for you. Come by and cheer me up.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tim Wakefield, aka Our Tim

I always enjoy sharing "a day in the life" stuff on Blogsmith. Let's go back to March. That's when we began promoting Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield's appearance here to sign his new book, Knuckler. I won't go into all the details of his amazing career and stats here. Let me just say we were thrilled to be able to have him sign at our store. We knew we'd have a gigantic crowd.

The beginning of the Sox' season was pretty shaky. As things progressed, Our Tim went back into the regular pitching rotation and did very well. Even better for our upcoming event with him, thought we! Now let's go to May 19. Remember Our Tim was to be here signing May 22. Guess who is chosen to pitch on May 22? Yup, Our Tim. So begins the mad, complicated scramble to inform the public of the situation. That would include not knowing when the signing would be rescheduled. First, the Sox have to be in town. Second, Our Tim can't be pitching. Third, he has to be in the bullpen for every game whether he's pitching or not. Did I mention that we are sitting on hundreds and hundreds of copies of his book? As well as about 100 prepaid orders for folks who live too far away to attend the signing whenever it occurs. But hey, we're nothing if not flexible. And hopeful.

Now let's go to last Wed., June 1st. Our Tim's long-suffering publicist at his publisher calls me. The event can occur...Sat., June 4th, after the day game which has been moved from a night game to accomodate the Bruins, in finals for Stanley Cup for the first time in decades. So he'll get here around 4:30 and sign from 5-6. I thought, well, who knows when we'd get him again and before Father's Day would be great, so...okay, we'll do it! Mad scramble ensues once more to get the word out. Extra staff signed up to help. Go Sox.

Game day arrives and is gorgeous. That's good for the long line we know we'll have outside the store and around the block. We let abutting merchants know what's going on. Many, many copies of Knuckler are unpacked and "flapped". That's bookspeak for opening to the title page, where authors usually sign, and tucking the book jacket flap there. This makes long signing lines go more quickly. Since the author today can only stay for an hour, there will be no personalization. That's bookspeak for "to my Aunt Mary who's maiden name was Wakefield who also loves baseball" and so on. That also makes long signing lines go more quickly. Diet Coke is in the fridge, as requested. Bottled water, too.

We are ready. The first people get in line at 3:00. At 4:00 a rep from the entertainment agency arrives to provide support. At 4:30 an editor from the publisher arrives for same. We happily listen to the game which seems almost over and we're winning. Then it ties up. Then it goes for 14 innings. I keep asking, "Why can't he just leave, if he's not pitching?". I get pitying looks. So we wait. Until 7:00. A local pizza place, Naked Pizza, brings free pizza for our long line of patient fans. Some folks have to leave and entrust their books to us for signing and saving.

At last, Our Tim is here, parking in our driveway and rushing in our back door. He goes immediately to the signing table and gets going. He's charming, humble, apologetic. He looks like a grown up little boy, slicked hair, freckles, tan, cute smile. He employs a great blue-eyed wink as he thanks each person for waiting. While he's signing a couple of us check out his car out back. See below.

At the end of this day, it was all worth it. We sold a ton of books. Attendees were thrilled. And WE...LOVE...HIM.