25 June 2007

Books Read Since June 12

• America Celebrates, Ideals
This hardback compilation covers all holidays. The photography and essays are especially nice.

• Shamus in the Green Room, Susan Kandel
The third Cece Caruso mystery finds our heroine conducting a crash-course in the life and personality of mystery great Dashiell Hammett with a popular actor who will play "Dash" in a film. Cece is with the actor when he identifies a dead body of that of his ex-lover and of course then gets embroiled in "whodunit." More of Cece's odd friends, her growing relationship with the police detective, and an interesting mystery, but nothing truly outstanding.

• The Essential Dave Allen, Graham McCann
This isn't a biography, but some biographical data interspersed with a collection of Dave Allen's best stories. Allen's voice is very clear in this almagam taken from "Dave Allen...On Life" and his sessions on the stool from Dave Allen at Large, and, despite knowing his spoofs of the Catholic church, a surprising amount of hostility to his religious upbringing. Dave, we hardly knew ye.

• The Best Years of Our Lives, Good Old Days
Postwar memories, from returning soldiers to the baby boom. Another oversize hardback, this from the publisher of Good Old Days magazine. Many stories of doing-without-but-still-happy postwar marriages.

• Re-Read: Misty of Chincoteague, Marguerite Henry
This is still a lovely, haunting book about two children willing to work to earn the horse of their dreams, the Phantom, a wily mare who has escaped the annual "Pony Penning" event on Chincoteague Island off the coast of Virginia for the past two years. This edition includes Wesley Dennis' memorable illustrations—not just of the horses, but the ones that capture the essense of the characters: Paul and Maureen on the beach, Grandma hanging the laundry, the children and the "pully bone," plus the breathtaking sketches of wild Assateague Island.

• The Pawprints of History, Stanley Coren
Did dogs influence the course of history? Stanley Coren's book contains different episodes in history in which dogs played a part in either a good—the origial tale of Gelert; Freud's use of the original "therapy dogs"—and bad—the Spanish use of huge mastiffs to subjugate the Native population of the Americas. There are fascinating chapters about Napoleon's battles with Josephine's spoilt dogs, the development of the Pekinese as a royal Chinese symbol and how the breed survived a final massacre, Washington's hounds, Lincoln's dog Fido and more.

• Curse of the Narrows, Laura M. MacDonald
During World War I, the once moribund port of Halifax became a boom town again shipping war supplies. Just before Christmas in 1917, two ships, one carrying highly flammable explosives, collided in the harbor directly before the city. The volatile cargo exploded near a wharf, laying waste to the city and causing death and horrible injuries, plus a shock-wave engendered tsunami that destroyed and killed hundreds more. Medical crews and Red Cross representatives from Boston and other points south raced to the city, hampered by a blizzard that arose the evening of the explosion. Absolutely riveting account of the events and aftermath of this now little-known episode in North American history.

• First Friend, Katharine M. Rogers
This book can be a companion to Pawprints [above], also the history of the dog, from his shadowy domestication to the development of breeds, to his use in literature and art, and from working animal to family pet. Several of the events Rogers talks about are expanded in chapters in the Coren book, such as development of the Pekinese.

• Remembering Walt, Amy Boothe Green and Howard E. Green
If you are looking for a bio of Walt Disney, try Gabler or the others; this is mainly a photo memory book of Walt Disney, with comments by the people who knew him, from his wife and brother to the actors and animators who worked with him. The photos, some from private collections, are a delight; most I had never seen before.

18 June 2007

Book (sellers) in Review

The first wonderful thing I found out about the internet was that is was a marvelous place to buy books. I started out by finding a nearly pristine copy of Kate Seredy's The Open Gate, as well as other books I'd loved in the past, like The Green Poodles and the Windy Foot and Anne H. White novels. E-Bay was the source of most of my bound issues of St. Nicholas magazine, and I have also partaken freely of that most evil of sites, bookfinder.com and Amazon marketplace. I've bought old favorites, Christmas and other holiday books, even biographies and classics.

Today two of the three books I ordered from Amazon Marketplace last Wednesday (the other, according to an e-mail from the seller, was put into the mail today) arrived. Both of these were hardback, one in pristine condition and one with a minor amount of dustjacket wear. The two of them cost me less than $10 with the postage (in both cases the postage was more than the price of the book). The one coming in the mail is another hardback, not sure of the condition, for only 99 cents (minus the postage).

It's a funny thing about used books in that most cases suddenly the hardbacks cost less than the trade paperback or paperback published later. For instance, the 99 cent book is Puleo's Dark Tide, about the Boston molasses disaster, which I have been wanting for ages. I've been fascinated with this event since an article about its 50th anniversary appeared in the Providence Journal. [The story here.] I have checked out Marketplace copies of this book for a while. Since I want a cheap price for a good book from a seller with a good rating (I try not to buy from anyone with a rating under 98 percent), finding a good combination takes time. This time I found the paperback version for no less than $4.95. However, the cheapest hardback was at fifty cents; I opted for the one that cost a little more with a better-rated seller.

Of the two books I got today, First Friend, Katharine Rogers' book about the history of man's association with the dog, was one I have wanted since it was published, but $25 seemed a bit much. It's now out of print and did not look as if it were heading for a trade paper version, hence the Marketplace buy. The other book is called The Curse of the Narrows, another fascinating nonfiction book, this time about the 1917 disaster in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where munitions headed overseas for use in "the Great War" exploded in the harbor, killing an appalling number of people. I saw this as a special on the History Channel some time ago and figured that for $1.25, I could "read all about it."

I have to say that I wish people would do better reviews on both Amazon Marketplace and on e-Bay. "As described" and "ok" tell me nothing. I always try to give as much detail as possible and praise to the seller if really good.

The reviews that annoy me the most are the ones that give the seller a bad rating because they didn't like what was sold to them! I have seen so many of these that it's actually pathetic. It's not the seller's fault if the story on the DVD turned out to be stupid or you didn't like the book! Review their service, not the product!!! (Conversely, I also find it irritating when people review books, etc. on Amazon.com by telling everyone how fast the service was and how they would order from Amazon again. Sometimes I am unfamiliar with a product and want to read reviews of it, not reviews of Amazon's service. I guess they can't tell the difference.)