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  • Remembering Christmas: A Gift of the Magi fanfiction

    Della sat back on her heels and surveyed the tree. The servants had found an enormous one this year. Its candle-laden boughs nearly brushed the ceiling of the foyer.

    She stood, sighing. How different Christmas had become since that first one in their little flat, when Jim hadn't had a pair of gloves and they cried together over their useless, heartfelt gifts. Della gently touched the tortoiseshell combs on her hair. They were still her favorite.

    Her hair had grown long again, just as she had promised Jim it would. With his first windfall, she had bought him another watch, this one with his name engraved along the side -- his full name for extra grandeur: James Dillingham Young.

    They had never expected the second windfall, or the third, or the others that catapulted him solidly into the upper class of New York society.

    The threadbare flat was long gone, replaced by an expensive townhouse with a full staff of servants. Della's old brown hat and coat were now an expensive mink set that she wore with pride, especially each month when Jim took her to the opera. Little Ellen loved that mink, watching with glowing eyes and a softly sagging mouth when Della went up to the nursery to say goodnight.

    "Spin around, Mama," she would crow, then gasp with soft delight. "You're so beautiful!"

    In her cradle, Baby Harriet grinned a drooly grin.

    The Christmas tree was stacked high with gifts for the girls. Della knew she was spoiling them, but she couldn't help herself. After so many years in poverty, she loved to indulge her babies.

    And Jim. A new watch had replaced the one he'd sold. A shinier chain had replaced the old one, grown dull and tarnished. Last year she had even toyed with the idea of buying him a new automobile, but that seemed a little excessive. In the meantime, he spent months planning the jewelry and clothes she would find waiting for her on Christmas morning.

    Their Christmas dinner would include ten courses and twenty guests. How different from the meager dinner they'd had that first year, when they could barely afford meat, much less chicken a la reine.

    And yet Della felt oddly deflated as she looked at the glowing Christmas tree with its heaps of gifts. Somehow, no Christmas, no matter how festively opulent, could come close to the happiness of that first impoverished December of their marriage.

    Jim's arms softly encircled her shoulders. "Are you all right?"

    "I just sometimes feel lonely around Christmas. I miss our little flat." Della smiled. "Is that ridiculous?"

    He paused.

    "No," he said. "I just hope you're happy."

    "I am happy now." She sighed. "I was happy then. It's not that Christmas isn't happy anymore."

    "No," said Jim. "There's just more in the way."

    And he brushed her long hair over her shoulder as they stared up at the candlelight of the tree.


  • Lydia’s Perspective: A Pride and Prejudice Fanfiction

    Lydia stared out the window. The London street below was bustling, but she saw none of it.

    Her hands, folded in her lap, twitched almost imperceptibly with growing panic.

    It had been two days since George came home, two days in which every drunken yell that flew down the street made her fly to the window. She knew where he was. Or at least, she knew vaguely where he was: in one of the hundreds of seedy establishments that littered London, drinking their money away.

    She longed for him to come home. She hoped he'd stay away.

    What on earth am I supposed to do?

                The very thought of reaching out to her parents to ask for help made her shrivel with shame. Lizzie would only make fun of her, and Lydia didn't think she could bear that. What was more, Lizzie would insist on meeting her in London. Lydia looked around their bare room with its smoke-besmirched windows, and thought of Pemberley's grandeur.

    The sound of hooves made her look up. The carriage was a fine one, with a crest that vaguely stirred her memory. Suddenly, Lydia was on her feet.

    "Bingley," she whispered, then shouted, "Bingley!"

    Her brother-in-law looked up at the sound of her voice. She had rarely seen him unsmiling, but he wasn't smiling as he scanned the front of the building.

    "Matilda!" Lydia shouted. "Answer the door; Mr. Bingley is here!"

    Her sallow-faced housekeeper looked up in surprise; she was rarely required to move from her seat by the door. She heaved herself to her feet and shuffled to the door just as the bell clanged outside.

    "Bingley," Lydia said, quickly arranging a smile, "how wonderful to see you! I didn't know you were coming, or the house wouldn't be in such disarray."

    She waved at the haphazard parlor with its threadbare table and solitary armchair; the fire had shrunken to a smoking murmur.

    "Matilda, stoke the fire and get some tea for Mr. Bingley," she said quickly. The housekeeper trundled off, muttering under her breath.

    Bingley stood stiffly, his hat under his arm.

    "Please sit down," said Lydia. He nodded and sat. She stood before him. She realized she was screwing her skirt around both hands and quickly dropped it.

    "I'm afraid you've missed Mr. Wickham," she said awkwardly. "He is away."

    Bingley looked up at her, clearing his throat.

    "I know," he said after a moment. "His exploits came to my attention. I've been in the city for the past week attending to some business matters. I knew you would be alone."

    "Did Jane send you?"

    "No. She hasn't a clue that I've come." His eyes wandered uneasily to the floor. "I trust that you haven't heard from Wickham in several days."

    Lydia paused. "No."

    "The truth is, I haven't the faintest idea how to tell you tell you this without it being a terrible blow."

    She had the sudden feeling of floating, as though her body had fallen away. In that moment, Lydia knew exactly what Bingley was going to say.

    "He was killed yesterday, Lydia."

    She said nothing. She felt nothing.

    She asked, "How?"

    Bingley raised his eyes to her. "In a fight. He was challenged by a man who accused him of dishonoring his wife."

    She nodded quietly.

    "This must be a terrible shock," he said. She paused.

    "No," she said. "I expected something like this."

    She felt him watching her, in an agony of discomfort. Lydia didn't stir.

    "I will ask your housekeeper to pack your things," Bingley said, rising. "You must come back to Netherfield."

    "What awaits me there? Nothing but scandal and shame." She shook her head. "No, I can't."

    "What will you do?"

    "I've asked you for money so many times," she said slowly. "Please let me beg from you once more. I'll leave England and go to America - or the continent."

    "And do what, away from all your family?"

    The door opened, saucers rattling as Matilda adjusted the tea tray.

    Lydia smiled. "Start again."


  • Identifying First Editions

    There are tons of reasons that people are drawn to secondhand bookstores - you never know, after all, what you might find among the shelves. At BookMarx, sometimes this means running across a first edition of a favorite story.

    Identifying first editions isn't always straightforward. If you're lucky, you'll find the words "first edition" printed on the inside cover page, but it can be vastly more complex. Here are a few ways to identify first editions the next time you're in the store!

    If the book was published within the last eighty years or so, you'll find a number line printed within the first few pages. This is a string of numbers that can appear in any order. However, the lowest number present generally refers to the edition or printing of the book. Therefore, 3 9 7 8 7 4 4 6 1 would designate that the book in question is a first edition.

    Another way of spotting a first edition is to note whether the inner page mentions multiple printings, even if it doesn't necessarily denote your book as a first printing.

    One last way to tell whether your book is a first edition is to note whether the dates that refer to copyright and printing are the same. This isn't a foolproof one, as there are cases when these dates won't be the same, but usually, if they are identical, your book is a first edition.

    There's plenty more that goes into identifying first editions, and the criteria change with older books. However, these rules are a general guideline for identifying if you've got your hands on a first edition.

    Check out our collection of first editions at BookMarx.


  • Author Profile: Angel M.

    BookMarx is proud to introduce our customers to local author Angel M.! 

    Angel's Works

    Pawper to Pedigree - The hilarious adventure of Marnie, a dog groomer who can hear what dogs are thinking. Along with her flamboyant cosmetologist and her cop boyfriend (who just happens to be the one who arrested her previous boyfriend), Marnie discovers a deeper purpose for her dog whisperer gift.

    The Keeper - The Maze Series, Book One

    The Keeper is the story of a hiker who wanders into an ancient maze that transports him to another world, where he is forced to do the thing he abhors in order to survive.

    Underwater City - The Maze Series, Book Two

    The characters find themselves in the underwater city of Jeritza, where they become immersed in the intrigue of the city and the fight against an army of cruel sea creatures who have one goal - to enslave human beings.

    Angel lives in Ohio with her "hubster" and their schnauzer, Cracker. Come in today and get acquainted with this versatile writer's works! You can find out more on Angel's website or her Facebook page.


  • Black History Month at BookMarx

    February is Black History Month, a time for us to acknowledge and thank the great members of the African-American community who have influenced our history.

    Some were political leaders. Others fought courageously during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

    Our black history section at BookMarx is newly organized and features some great books for February!

    Before Freedom, when I Just Can Remember, by Belinda Hurmence

    This amazing book of interviews is full of hand-picked information from the Federal Writers' Project of the 1930s, wherein thousands of former slaves told their stories. The book, which was stored in the Library of Congress, served as a foundation stone for Belinda Hurmence's adaptation. Before Freedom, When I Just Can Remember contains twenty-seven of the original interviews. The men and women, once slaves in South Carolina, tell stories of what life was like under white masters, including memories of the Civil War and the Ku Klux Klan.

    The Ever-After Bird, by Ann Rinaldi

    This novel is set during the days of the Underground Railroad, when slaves secretly made their way to freedom in the North. Rinaldi tells the tale of CeCe McGill, a young girl traveling with her uncle to Georgia. He tells her they're searching for a rare scarlet bird, but what CeCe doesn't know is that the journey has another purpose: to help slaves find their way to freedom.

    Killing the Dream: James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., by Gerald Posner

    Killing the Dream takes a look back at the tragic day on which Martin Luther King, Jr., was gunned down in Memphis. With newly-discovered interviews and other records, Posner examines the case, trying to unlock the mystery of who may have been working with Ray in the time just before the assassination. With conjectures about government and mafia involvement, Killing the Dream is a challenge to the report of what really happened on April 4, 1968.

    Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin

    Black Like Me is the real account of John Howard Griffin, a white man who underwent a skin-darkening process in the 1960s to experience what life might be like as an African-American man. He traveled through the American South, documenting his experiences as a "black" man during the era of racial segregation.

    Blood for Dignity, by David P. Colley


    Blood for Dignity tells the story of the 5th Platoon of K Company of the 394th Regiment, the first unit of African-American soldiers permitted to fight alongside whites since the time of the Revolution. With World War II in full swing, the American army was in desperate need of more boots on the ground. African-American men were finally allowed to enlist, and at last joined the war effort at Remagen Bridgehead in 1945. Their story broke through centuries of prejudice.

    Black Popular Music in America, by Arnold Shaw

    If there's one place where the African-American presence has been felt, it's in the development of American music. From the Jazz Age to modern rock 'n' roll, black musicians have revolutionized the music scene in the United States. Black Popular Music in America is a look at how they did it.

    Chappie: The Life and Times of Daniel James, Jr., by J. Alfred Phelps

    This is the story of Daniel "Chappie" James, the last of seventeen children in a Florida family, who made his way through the battles of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam as well as the battles for racial equality within the military. Fiercely patriotic, James helped fight the anti-war effort during the Vietnam War, speaking to college students about the benefits of the military. He eventually rose to become the first African-American four-star general.

    These great books are available in-store and on the BookMarx website!


  • Blind Date with a Book and Stepping Out of Your Favorite Genre

    There's no doubt that many of us have done it. We read a certain book, and it refreshes, excites, and motivates. It's only natural that we move on to another book by the same author, or at least in the same genre. And before we know it, we're stuck in one genre.

    Adults seem to have this problem more than children, who tend to be willing to explore and wrestle with new topics. It's easy to fall into the safety of a familiar setting - sci fi, mystery, memoir - and there's nothing wrong with that. But don't forget that books offer us an enormous range of topics to explore.

    So if you're on your fourteenth Reagan memoir or going cross-eyed reading Agatha Christie for the tenth time, try some of these tips to jump into a new genre.

     

    1. Don't give up if it doesn't immediately excite you. 

    We stick with one genre for a number of reasons. Ultimately, it's because it speaks to us. But not every book is able to capture interest on the first page. Try reading for twenty-five pages. Then read fifty. If the book hasn't pulled you in by page 100, feel free to put it aside, but it's rare to get that far without wanting to know more.

    2. Choose a topic that makes you nervous. 

    Maybe you're intimidated by that thousand-page Russian novel or the thought of reading a novel that tackles a difficult subject, like war or mental illness. Challenge yourself to expand by deliberately choosing a book that takes you out of your comfort zone.

    3. ...or one that you have no experience with.

    Maybe history wasn't your strongest subject in school. Or you've never traveled outside your home state and don't have the faintest idea what life in Italy is like. Choosing a book about a topic that's new to you is a great way to expand your reading life and learn about the world.

    4. ...or something radically different from what you'd normally pick. 

    If you're a passionate devotee of historical fiction, pick up a sci fi novel. Or try some YA literature if you've read exclusively non-fiction for years. You may not think you'll enjoy the exploits of outer space robots or the tangled love lives of dystopian teenagers, and maybe you won't. But maybe you will. If that's the case, a whole new chapter - pun intended - of reading is open to you.

    In the spirit of expanding your reading list, BookMarx is hosting its annual Blind Date with a Book. You can pick the genre...but no more! Our book "blind dates" are gift-wrapped with genre labels like thriller, romance, and historical fiction, so your story is a total surprise. If you want to stumble on a great new book, stop by for a Valentine's book date.

     


  • Spoiling Spoilers

    Most readers have one thing in common: they can't stand spoilers. For some, having a plot twist revealed or a mystery solved is a deal breaker that sends the book straight back to the shelf. Other readers, however, actually enjoy having a book spoiled. There's even the odd friend who goes out of his or her way to seek spoilers out, searching book plots on Wikipedia or hitting up Australian-based chat rooms to get the scoop on the new Star Wars a day early.

    Most people, however, aren't into that level of spoilage.

    We've all had a book spoiled. Your sister drops a careless line about a character who died, or a coworker says she couldn't believe that X was the murderer the whole time, or you see an online blurb about the wise mentor turning out to be the main character's long-lost father.

    Some spoilers are simply unavoidable. This is usually the case with classics. There's just no avoiding knowing about the serendipitous meeting at Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice or the unexpected Carton-and-Darnay switch in A Tale of Two Cities. Expecting not to have spoilers about books that have been read thousands of times will only lead to frustration. And yes, this goes for Harry Potter - if you haven't read the books by now, overhearing a spoiler or two is just your luck.

    So what do you do if a book has been spoiled for you - utterly, completely, irretrievably ruined?

    Unfortunately, luck is on the side of the spoiler-lovers in this case. There are only a couple things to do: try to forget, or roll with the punches.

    If you're blessed with a not-so-retentive memory, this first option may work for you! You can always put the book back on your shelf for a couple years, hoping that you'll forget that dastardly spoiler. Some people find that they forget the plot after a time, or at least, forget enough significant details to restore spoiler-free integrity.

    But there is some good news: one study showed that far from ruining a book, spoilers might actually help readers enjoy a book more. Why? One reason, scientists speculated, was that by knowing a key plot twist that was coming, readers were able to relax a little and delve more deeply into the story. They weren't focusing on the stress of ever-heightening plot tension; they were paying attention to the interactions of the characters and the world of the book.

    Knowing how a story ends doesn't necessarily mean that everything in the book is predictable. After all, stories are odysseys. They have much more than a beginning and an end. Even if you know the fate of a character or where they end up on the last page, it doesn't mean you won't enjoy watching them live their tale.

    There's no doubt spoilers can be frustrating, but there's no reason why they have to ruin a book. Next time you find out who dies in the new YA fantasy series, take a leap and read it anyway - you might even enjoy the journey more.

     


  • Reasons to Return

    Some people define themselves as "re-readers", always finding reasons to come back to the same stories again and again. Others just don't see the point. However, there may be a number of reasons why re-reading an old favorite might make for a better reading experience.

    1. They make for a comfortable read. 

    Books can be challenging, thought-provoking, troubling, hilarious - but let's face it, sometimes you just want a comfortable journey into a familiar story. Like talking with a good friend, returning to an old story can be a retreat into a happy world, and that's sometimes exactly what you need.

    2. There's a reason you first connected with the book.

    There's a reason the story first stuck with you, whether it was the evocative language, a particularly gripping character, or a provoking message. Returning to a book that stirred you can reawaken the meaning the story first had. It may be that the meaning has faded over time and doesn't speak to you in quite the same way anymore, but if it does, you know that it's a winner - a story that endures through your own personal changes and still manages to touch your heart or stir your mind.

    3. You notice things that went over your head before.

    Stories are complicated things, with plenty of details and patterns that aren't always immediately obvious to first-time readers. Returning to a book whose story you already know gives you the chance to look at the plot with a more discerning eye. Re-reading an Agatha Christie novel, for example, can offer an opportunity to notice the author's clues - even though you already know the ending. It's a chance to notice more details and find meaning in them, like getting a subtle wink from the writer.

    4. It's an opportunity to look around and soak in more of the story. 

    Sometimes, reading a book for the first time is about processing text and getting through the story. It's like staring out the window of a moving train, focusing on going forward and pressing on to the end of the journey. A second reading can be an opportunity to look around and really take in your surroundings, soaking in the world of the story instead of just comprehending text.

    5. Sometimes, you just didn't get it the first time. 

    Stories are complex beasts, and authors have a message that they want to send. Complicated themes weave through books, and sometimes, we're just not at a point where we get it. It might be a matter of youth - try explaining the agony of Mercutio's death speech to a twelve-year-old - or maybe, in the interim, we've had some experiences that give us more insight into what the author is trying to say. Regardless, a second reading can offer a better look into the real meaning of the story.

    6. As we change, stories change for us. 

    There's no doubt that people change through their lives. At times, we may not even feel like the same person we were ten, five, or even two years ago. We might read a book twice in a fifteen-year period and find different meaning in it each time. Sometimes a change in life experience or worldview affects how we read a story. Sometimes it speaks to us in a different way because we've shared experiences with the characters, like love, sickness, or heartbreak.

    What are some reasons that you return to old favorites?


  • Cat-ercize

    After a difficult start, the pounds are at last falling away. Now that I've shaved a couple off with a strict diet regimen, I'm feeling fitter and friskier and ready to run.

    Around the bookstore, there are a couple of different routines I follow.

    First, I jump into the window and knock the decorations down, making sure to leave destruction in my wake.

    Then I run around, biting feet and hiding in shelves.

    I jump at strings, throw in a couple of toe-touches, and clamber on top of the office printer to crush any important papers that might be resting on top.

    After all that, it's important to hydrate and reward oneself with a nap on a favorite book, preferably crushing the pages for ultimate cushioning. It's good to be a slimmer, trimmer cat.


  • Studying Green at BookMarx

    One of the great things we at BookMarx get to experience is being host to Franciscan students come to write papers, study for exams, or go through class notes. We love to provide them with a comfortable environment to do their schoolwork, because we know how important it is to have a good place to study.

    Something that may be just as helpful for your concentration as that cup of coffee, though, are the plants around the store.

    What's the connection? Some studies have shown that having plants around increases attentiveness, memory ability, and productivity, and can even make it easier to avoid mistakes. Plants have physical benefits as well, such as lowering blood pressure and decreasing stress.

    It's all about how people perceive their surroundings. Plants make a space more engaging and even reduce distracting noise, making a more interactive and serene environment.

    According to The Scientific Americanone reason plants may help us concentrate is because they allow us to use undirected attention, in which our concentration can wander freely from point to point. This is the opposite of directed attention, in which we focus exclusively on one thing -- the sort of attention we need for studying. Having plants around gives that directed attention a much-needed break from time to time!

    In case you're wondering how to improve your own study environment, here's a list of some great indoor plants:

    Aloe

    Ferns

    Lilies

    Cacti

    Mother-in-law's tongue

    Rabbit's ear

    Alternatively, stop by BookMarx for a cup of coffee, a quiet corner, and plants galore!



 

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