Book Review: The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

The Bookman's Tale

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

Pub Date: May 28, 2013
Rating: 5/5


Every once in a while you find a book that so perfectly explores your interests that you’re overwhelmed; the kind of book that upon reading the description any one who knows you is bound to remark “Oh that’s a book for Alexandra.” The Bookman’s Tale is that book for me.

Peter Byerly is an antiquarian book dealer who has just lost his wife, the heiress Amanda. When Peter picks up and moves to England to escape his grief he finds himself in the middle of a centuries old quest for proof of Shakespeare’s authorship. Along the way Lovett gives glimpses into Elizabethan England, 18th century auctions and the book repair trade.

I’ve been interested in Shakespeare for a long time. I remember the first night I went to visit what would become my high school: there was an illustrious English teacher who spoke about Shakespearean authorship. Though I would quickly learn that Oxfordians are in the minority, it rocked my world to think that Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare. I think that I went into an English degree partly because of that ten-minute talk!

Though it’s no surprise a librarian-in-training likes books about books, it wasn’t until I was putting together a list of read-a-like books that I realized I have quite the little obsession going. Here are a few books and movies that share an obsession with books:


The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Possession by A.S. Byatt
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl


Shakespeare in Love
A Midsummer Night’s Dream

If you’re anything like me, after reading The Bookman’s tale you’ll be yearning for more information about antiquarian books. Here’s a few that caught my eye:

A Degree of Mastery: A Journey through Book Arts Apprenticeship by Annie Tremmel Wilcox
Contested Will by James Shapiro
The English Country House by Mary Miers
Shakespeare by Bill Bryson
The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
Pandosto by Robert Greene
Books on the Move: Tracking Copies Through Collections and the Book Trade by Robin Myers

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley. The opinions expressed above are my own.

Book Review: Someday, Someday Maybe

Someday, Someday Maybe

Someday, Someday Maybe

I fell head over heels for Lauren Graham way back in 2000. She was playing the quirky Lorelei on Gilmore Girls and she stole the show. Since then I’ve followed her career through  Evan Almighty and Parenthood, loving every minute of it.

Though I wasn’t necessarily surprised to see such a smart woman writing a novel, I was pleasantly surprised to see how well it turned out. Unlike the tragic efforts of many actors-turned-writers (ahem, James Franco), Graham’s book is accessible, wonderful and perfect for its genre.

Franny Banks is a twenty-something aspiring actress waiting for her big break. The city life has lost its allure and late-night waitressing shifts are taking their toll. Rather than give up all together, Franny chooses to give acting one last shot.

Though Ballantine has marketed the book as “women’s fiction,” it strikes me as a perfect example of “new adult” These books concentrate on a character who is transitioning from college life to adulthood — a grown up The Catcher in the Rye if you will.

Overall, I really liked this book. It’s a good weekend read, nothing too heavy or too fluffy.

Rating: 3/5

The Great Gatsby

The 20s have always been a source of wonder and excitement — Ziegfield Follies, flappers, gin rickeys… All of the nostalgia has reached new heights with the release of Baz Lurhmann‘s take on The Great Gatsby. With typical Lurhmann spectacle, the movie is an event not to be missed. That being said, it’s certainly not for everyone. Fans of the Redford version will be sorely disappointed  gone are the jazz beats and floaty dresses. Lurhmann has interpreted the story in a way that is simultaneously closer to Fitzgerald’s original and strangely modern. The music throughout is a source of great contention — NPR’s take here. Rather than sticking to typically jazz age music the movie is laced with rap beats and indie tracks. At times the effect is jarring; Gatsby’s great parties seem an ill fit for Beyoncé. The great exception is Lana del Rey’s Young and Beautiful. Appearing several times throughout the film it perfectly captures the haunting romance between Daisy & Gatsby and Myrtle & Tom. Without further ado, here’s Young and Beautiful:

Just in case you need more enticement to see the film, here’s my favorite trailer:

If you’re looking for even more 1920s immersion, check out these books. I’m partial to Tender is the Night myself but all of them come with my highest recommendations.

  • Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald: One of Fitzgerald’s later novels, this book is delicious! Filled with affairs, flappers and movie stars it’s a great beach read.
  • Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: How could I not include one of the books Rory read on Gilmore Girls?! This is a bit more serious with less story and more historical discussion but it’s still a fun read.
  • The Portable Dorothy Parker: This gem of a book is constantly in my reading rotation — I just can’t get enough of Parker’s short stories and hilarious poems.
  • Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald: The latest addition to my collection, Z is shaping up to be a favorite. I highly recommend the audio version for a true “Zelda Sayer” experience.

Book Review: Once a Witch and Always a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Once a Witch Always a Witch

Once a Witch and Always a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Looking for a light-hearted read with a little supernatural flare? Look no further than Carolyn MacCullough. Her characters are lovable and her plot is quick and easy. I read both in the course of an afternoon, and was completely absorbed in the story.

Tamsin Greene is the odd one out in her family of Talented people –she’s dreadfully normal. When a stranger asks for help believing she is her Talented sister Rowena, Tamsin starts off on an adventure that takes her to the past and back. Along the way she experiences power, love, and friendship greater than she thought possible.

Rating: 3/5

Sarah Dessen Book Tour

I’ve been a Sarah Dessen fan for most of my reading life. Sure, I loved running through Avonlea with Anne and frolicking in Mary Lennox’s secret garden but the real fun came when I discovered the town of Colby. Dessen’s fictional town is filled with lovable characters you wish were real — and now that I live in Chapel Hill, they are!

At the reading Dessen talked about how most of Colby is based on sights around Chapel Hill, just renamed. She let us know that she’d originally tried writing books set in the real Chapel Hill but her writing workshop quibbled over her sense of geography saying, “It takes longer to get from Southern Season to UNC!” or “There’s not a gas station on that part of US-15.” Good tip to file away for future novel writing adventures!

The audience was a mix of teenagers, who’d been enchanted with Dessen’s latest offering What Happened to Goodbye, and those of us who grew up with Hailey, Colie, and Haven. To me this speaks to her ability to write books that stand up even after the home lines mentioned in them have long gone —

I went back and reread Keeping the Moon this week and found it every bit as lovely as I did 13 years ago.