Thursday, 2 December 2010

Thanks For Your Input Into Our Packaging Debate!!

Our new business name has also meant new stationery and we've had lots of fun designing it!! We particularly wanted to mention our brand new packaging sticker. Following many thoughtful responses to an earlier Reading Habit post ("Book Packaging - Brand New or Recycled - Help Please!!") we decided to take your advice and stick with our recycled packaging policy. We also listened to suggestions from our blog fans as well as our customers across the twitter, facebook and Book Blog communities. Among these suggestions was the idea of creating a little sticker to go on our book parcels that would explain our use of recycled materials. We loved the idea and ran with it, the result being the sticker you see on your left, complete with a cute little verse. So a BIG THANKS from Reading Habit to all those who commented. Your feedback has been invaluable and we really appreciate it.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

New Giveaway - Blackout (by Connie Willis)

Refreshed from my brief sojourn in New Zealand, I return to Australia and the blogging universe in a generous mood. Up for grabs this month is a BRAND NEW copy of "Blackout" by Nebula and Hugo award-winning author, Connie Willis.

Set in 2060 "Blackout" is a science-fiction novel that involves time travel back into the heart of World War II England, and specifically the world of Oxford University historians. It has been a good eight years since Connie's last novel and this one promises to be just as entertaining, though I should warn that it's only the first installment in a two-part series that concludes with "All Clear".

To enter our book giveaway just leave a comment that includes a time in history that you'd most like to time-travel back to. Read the following information to see how you can earn bonus entries.

Bonus Entries
+1 Entry = Follow our Blog 
+1 Entry = Liking the Ambire Secondhand Books Page on Facebook (Click here to do so!!)
+1 Entry = Following us on Twitter (Click here to do so!!)
+2 Entries = Provide a Link to our Giveaway on Your Blog
NB: If you're eligible for bonus entries, make sure you let us know when you leave your comment!!

Entries are open until 5pm EST on Friday 3rd December. The competition is open to residents of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA and the UK. The winner of the competition will be announced on Wednesday 8th December. Good luck to everyone!!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Our New Business Name and Logo - Your Thoughts???

After 10 years operating as Ambire Secondhand Books, we've decided to spice things up a little and revamp our brand. As of November 2010 we will be trading under the new business name of Reading Habit with the short but sweet slogan 'Feed Yours'. We love our new look logo and slogan so much that we thought we'd get your thoughts on it early in this blog post. Let us know what you think!!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

New Giveaway - Mr Darcy, Vampyre - Amanda Grange

Mr Darcy a vampire??? I'm not sure how the concept sits with me, but following the recent vampire trend Amanda Grange has continued the classic tale of Pride and Prejudice in Mr Darcy, Vampyre and we're giving away a brand new softcover copy of the book. The book picks up exactly where Jane Austen left off, on the morning following Elizbeth and Darcy's marriage. From here on in.....things get pretty strange!!

To enter our book giveaway just leave a comment that includes your suggestion for what classic novel should next be turned over to the blood suckers. Read the following information to see how you can earn bonus entries.

Bonus Entries
+1 Entry = Follow our Blog 
+1 Entry = Liking the Ambire Secondhand Books Page on Facebook (Click here to do so!!)
+1 Entry = Following us on Twitter (Click here to do so!!)
+2 Entries = Provide a Link to our Giveaway on Your Blog
NB: If you're eligible for bonus entries, make sure you let us know when you leave your comment!!

Entries are open until 5pm EST on Tuesday 2nd November. The competition is open to residents of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA and the UK. The winner of the competition will be announced on Wednesday 3rd November. Good luck to everyone!! 

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Please Tell Me Chivalrous Males Aren't Just Romantic Fiction??

Yes this is a grotesque picture!! And you may be wondering what it has to do, if anything, with chivalry let alone books. I promise I'll get there. I was trawling through some old photos the other day and came across this beauty, taken long before I was ever blogging. Just looking at the picture had me seething because it reminded me all to vividly of what I can only describe as one of the worst book buying experiences I've ever had. So I thought I might share it with you.

I go out book buying to replenish stock for my online store about once a fortnight. Normally this involves going directly to peoples homes in my local area. Quite often I am purchasing large libraries of second hand books that require packing into boxes and transference into my van. I will acknowledge that for the most part the clientele I see are older men and women who I would never expect to help me with heavy lifting. What I do expect is for 30-something males, or females for that matter, to at least offer assistance. Given the following experience, I am clearly delusional.

Last year I frequented the home of a local male in his 30s who appeared to have all four of his limbs. His house was built on a very steep incline and after much wheel spinning I succumbed to the realisation that I was never going to get my van up the driveway. I went through the usual transaction process of buying books, packed them into boxes, and then proceeded to start carrying the books down to my van, wrongly assuming that said 30-something male would grab a box or two himself. For 30 minutes I lugged over 800 books up and down the driveway. It was hard yakka, including at least 30 steps, and a slippery driveaway on a 45 degree angle. Not once did said male offer a helping hand, but he graciously watched me, keeping up a running commentary that included me falling arse over tit down the driveway with a box full of books. The result = above photo.

One would think that after incurring the above injury said male might come to my rescue. Wrong again!! He proceeded to watch as blood poured out of my hand and then handed me a dirty rag. Would you be shocked to know that despite still having 10 boxes to carry down to the van, said male still did nothing? By this time I wasn't. So me and my chundered finger stoically finished the job, eyes glazed over in fury, and drove home.....totally bemused. My only consoling thought was that I had the strength not to cry through the whole ordeal. My husband was horrified when I told him the story. I even considered taking him on a drive-by the clients house to demonstrate the sheer ludicrousness of that god-awful driveway. One year on, my finger has healed, and I now sport a scar reminiscent of a sailing boat that will forever remind me that chivalry, not to mention plain old good manners, are definitely taking a nose dive in the 21st century. Thank god I'm married to one of the good ones who still understands the concept.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Book Collecting 101 - Part 2 - Familiarising Yourself with Book Dealing Terminology

Before you even start searching for the books you've chosen to collect I advise you to familiarise yourself with the jargon of the book dealing community. It will certainly help you avoid the disappointment of receiving a book that doesn't meet your expectations. Most dealers in collectible books use standard terminology and abbreviations when describing the format and condition of the books they list and it can often seem like a foreign language to the virgin collector. I could provide you with a whole list of book collecting terminology right here, but it seems a little redundant reinventing the wheel, so I am going to recommend the Glossary of Book Terminology produced by the Independent Online Booksellers Association (IOBA). Please click on the link and take the time to have a look through. I guarantee it will be worth the time and effort.

If you'd rather purchase a hard copy reference on book terminology and book collecting in general, my recommendation for those just starting out is the ABC for Book Collectors by John Carter. This classic has long been a must have for beginner and experienced book collectors alike. Whilst a newer edition of the book is preferable, any edition would be useful as a start-off point. All entries are listed alphabetically making it super easy to use. I still use my copy quite frequently, so it will definitely be a good long-term investment.

What I will cover just briefly here is some book terminology standards in relation to book condition and book sizes. Please note that the book condition and sizing definitions listed here have been referenced from the ABE website.

BOOK SIZES

4to - up to 12 inches tall. Also referred to as a Quarto book.
8vo - up to 9.75 inches tall. Also referred to as an Octavo book. Most large softcovers fit into this book size category.
12mo - up to 7.75 inches tall. Also referred to as a Duodecimo book. Most small mass market paperbacks fit into this book size category.
16mo - up to 6.75 inches tall. Also referred to as a Sextodecimo book.
24mo - up to 5.75 inches tall.
32mo - up to 5 inches tall.
48mo - up to 4 inches tall.
64mo - up to 3 inches tall.
Folio - up to 15 inches tall.
Elephant Folio - up to 23 inches tall.
Atlas Folio - up to 25 inches tall.
Double Elephant Folio - up to 50 inches tall.

BOOK CONDITION

When book dealers list the condition of a book it is usually in the form of VG/VG, Fine/Good, VG/--, etc. The first part is the condition of the book, the second is the condition of the dust jacket. If a "/--" is present, it usually means that the dust jacket is missing or unavailable. If there is no second part at all this normally indicates the book was not issued with a dust jacket. As a guide, most book dealers use the following condition terms. The book condition definitions are meant as a guide only and buyers should be aware that all sellers will have slightly different interpretations. Good book descriptions should always include specific details on defects rather than just generic statements like "may show general wear and tear". The use of this kind of phrase with specific details is fine, but is bad practice when used in isolation. If you are ever unsure what a seller means by a term they are using to describe a book, we encourage you to ask them directly for clarification, or request that images of the book be sent.

New - A new book is unread, in print and in perfect condition with no missing or damaged pages.

As New - A book that is in the same immaculate condition to which it was published with no defects, no missing pages, no library stamps, etc., and the dust jacket must be perfect without any tears.

Fine (F or FN) - Approaches the condition of As New, but without being crisp. There must also be no defects and if the jacket has a small tear, or other defect, or looks worn, this should be noted.

Very Good (VG) - A book that does show some small signs of wear, but no tears, on either binding or paper.

Good (G) - Describes the average used worn book that has all pages or leaves present. Defects must be noted.

Fair - Worn book that has complete text pages (including those with maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, half-title, etc. (which must be noted). Binding, jacket (if any), etc., may also be worn. Defects must be noted.

Poor - A book that is sufficiently worn to the point that its only merit is as a reading copy. It should still have the complete text. Any missing maps or plates should still be noted. This copy may be soiled, scuffed, stained or spotted and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc.

This article is Part 2 of a series titled Book Collecting 101. Click on the following link for Part 1 of the series - Choosing What Books to Collect. Part 3 of the series - Sourcing Second Hand Books - will be coming soon.

Friday, 17 September 2010

New Giveaway - Mockingjay - Hunger Games Book 3

We've given away the other two books in this fantastic young adult series by Suzanne Collins, so it's only fair that we give away a brand new copy of the third and final instalment - Mockingjay!!

To enter our book giveaway just leave a comment that includes who you want Katniss to end up with - Peter or Gale? Read the following information to see how you can earn bonus entries.

Bonus Entries
+1 Entry = Follow our Blog 
+1 Entry = Liking the Ambire Secondhand Books Page on Facebook (Click here to do so!!)
+1 Entry = Following us on Twitter (Click here to do so!!)
+2 Entries = Provide a Link to our Giveaway on Your Blog
NB: If you're eligible for bonus entries, make sure you let us know when you leave your comment!!

Entries are open until 5pm EST on Friday 1st October. The competition is open to residents of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA and the UK. The winner of the competition will be announced on Tuesday 5th October. Good luck to everyone!! 

Monday, 6 September 2010

Booksellers Who Give Away the End of the Book Should be Shot!!

At the last meeting of my local book club, one of our members suggested that we read The Room by Emma Donoghue. After perusing the back of the book, we unanimously voted it in. However, it was the story behind the purchase of this book that has stayed with me since. Rhonda, the woman who bought the book, was appalled at the behaviour of the local bookstore owner who sold it to her. Turns out that the bookstore owner actually told her how the book ended as she was buying it. Call me crazy, but I thought this was bookseller 101 stuff - never tell the customer how the book ends unless they actually ask you to. Apparently not! Rhonda still read the book, and still enjoyed it for that matter, but it got me thinking - how often does this happen? Personally, I can't think of anything more frustrating, but I'd love to hear about any similar experiences you might have had.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Book Review - Portnoy's Complaint (by Philip Roth)

I can sum this book up in one word - hilarious!! It had me laughing out loud within the first few pages and I was still laughing as the book came to a close. Did it leave me feeling a little dirty? Yes!! Whilst reading Portnoy's various, and certainly creative, ways of spanking the monkey, I did question what might have attributed to the dog-eared, heavily creased, moisture marked copy of the book that I was forced to read (pictured left). What was the book all about? Well, I'm still not too sure, but I don't care because it was such an enjoyable ride.

Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint is the ramblings of Alexander Portnoy to his psychoanalyst Dr Speilvogel. Portnoy is afflicted with a condition that results in uncontrollable and often perverse sexual impulses. Over the course of the book Portnoy details his compulsion to masturbate as a teenager and various lewd sexual encounters as an adult in an attempt to discover what has caused his affliction. We learn that he feels trapped between his need to delve deeper into degradation in search of sexual enjoyment and his overiding sense of shame at his actions. Portnoy begs of Spielvogel: Is my condition the result of the orthodoxy of growing up in Jewish America? Can I attribute it to my obsessive relationship with my overbearing and repressive mother? Does my bowel-challenged father have something to do with it? Or, am I just a symptom of society - the American male of the times?

Written in the late 1960s, the books' heavy sexual content made it something of a scandal and in some parts of the world it was actually banned. With chapters titled 'Whacking Off', Roth makes no attempt to hide the main theme of his book. Though times have changed, I'd venture to say that some readers would still find the contents confronting and a little too sexually explicit. You've been warned!!

So, what is Portnoy's monologue all in aid of? As I said before, I'm still a little uncertain. Roth is obviously passing comment on society at the time, but Portnoy's Complaint is not so much a social commentary as it is one man's exploration of his own condition - an attempt at self-diagnosis, if you like. One criticism I have of the book is its' length. I think Roth could have achieved the same result in under 200 pages as he has in 300, but it's a minor flaw. The books strength for me is Roth's wit. I don't find many books laugh-out-loud funny, but this one had me roaring. (3.5 Stars)

Portnoy's Complaint is listed in the book 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. For your chance to win a copy of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die please see our Giveaway in our recent post.

Portnoy's Complaint was also recently the subject of discussion on the First Tuesday Book Club on ABC TV. To download what the experts had to say, or see a transcript of the show, just click here.

Friday, 27 August 2010

New Giveaway - 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

Another book giveaway is well overdue, so here it is!! This time we are giving away a secondhand copy of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die: A Comprehensive Reference Source, Chronicling the History of the Novel (edited by Peter Boxall). I have a well-used copy of this book on my shelf complete with labels marking the books I've read. I'm ashamed to say that despite my best intentions I have only read about 45 of the books listed. I better get a wriggle on if I have any hope of finishing the list before I kick the bucket.

To enter our book giveaway just leave a comment that includes the book you recommend everyone should read before they die. Read the following information to see how you can earn bonus entries.

Bonus Entries
+1 Entry = Follow our Blog 
+1 Entry = Liking the Ambire Secondhand Books Page on Facebook (Click here to do so!!)
+1 Entry = Following us on Twitter (Click here to do so!!)
+2 Entries = Provide a Link to our Giveaway on Your Blog
NB: If you're eligible for bonus entries, make sure you let us know when you leave your comment!!

Entries are open until 5pm EST on Friday 10th September. The competition is open to residents of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA and the UK. The winner of the competition will be announced on Monday 13th September. Good luck to everyone!!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

BOOK PACKAGING - Brand New or Recycled - Help Please!!

Since opening my store in 2001, I have always packaged books for mail-out using recycled cardboard and bubble wrap. I make sure that whatever we use is clean and durable enough to protect the books on their journey through the post (which is often a bumpy one). My philosophy has always been that if we can use recycled packing material then we are not only reducing the end cost for the buyer, but also the environmental impact of our business. In almost 10 years of operation, we have received no complaints about this packaging method.

The only negative I see with using recycled materials is that upon opening their parcel the buyer is not presented with visually appealing packaging. Let's face it, recycled cardboard and bubble wrap can look a little scruffy. The only solution to this negative impression that I can come up with is to have a small sticker made to put on the packaging highlighting the environmental benefit of using recycled materials (and my logo of course).

After some web surfing, I've noticed that among my secondhand bookselling counterparts there are some pretty extreme views on packaging. Most believe that brand new packaging is best as it leaves the buyer with the best buying experience. However, I wonder whether in a climate change conscious world my little sticker might, in fact, pack more punch.

So I thought I'd ask your thoughts on the matter. What kind of impression would recycled packaging have on you if you opened such a parcel? Is my sticker idea a good one? All feedback, pro or con, is welcome and thanks in advance for helping me out.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Book Review - The Hand That First Held Mine (by Maggie O'Farrell)

I'm going to get straight to the point here and announce that I was pretty underwhelmed by The Hand That First Held Mine. After rave reviews by members of my book club of O'Farrell's earlier novel The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, I was really excited to sink my teeth into the work of a new author. This excitement soon dwindled as it took me six weeks to struggle through the books uninspiring 341 pages.

The book is at once the story of young Lexie Sinclair and her short but bright life in 1950s Soho with the flamboyant Innes Kent, and the story of present day couple, Elina and Ted, grappling with the birth of their first child. Right from the beginning we know that somehow these two stories are intertwined. We flit and float between these four characters and their support cast as O'Farrell gradually feeds us the clues that link these two stories together, until the bombshell is inevitably dropped at the end.

The story itself is relatively fluid, but I could sense the author working at trying to deceive us. For example, we never know what really happened to Elina when giving birth and I wonder whether the author only includes her post-partum depression to throw us off the scent. As a result, there are a few loose ends by the books conclusion.

But it's the blend of story and character that really made this book a chore for me. From the very beginning of the novel I felt detached from the characters, as if I was gazing on them from afar, with little concern or care. Maybe this was the author's intention as Lexie, Innes, Elina and Ted all become detached from the world and their loved ones in some way or another throughout the course of the book. But, if it was the author's intention, it certainly didn't endear me to them or the story. This detachment juxtaposed with the connections the book is trying to make between characters spread 50 years apart is a contradiction that left me feeling a little confused.

The predominant theme of the book is motherhood and it's this that links the stories of Elina and Lexie. O'Farrell uses the time settings to identify both the similarities and differences of motherhood over the generations. I read one review that described the book as an ode to motherhood and I'd have to agree. The one strength of the book is O'Farrells understanding of a mother's love in all it's guises and permutations. However, this doesn't save the book for me. The book explores motherhood among other common themes including love, betrayal, revenge and loss, but there's nothing new here, not even in the delivery. (2 Stars)

If you are a fan of Maggie O'Farrell's work and want to give The Hand That First Held Mine a try for yourself, you can purchase a secondhand copy from our website by clicking here - Buy Now!!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

We've Won a Versatile Blog Award - Yay!!

Feed Your Reading Habit has just won our first ever Versatile Blogger Award (actually it's our first blog award full stop....but there's no need to quibble). A big thanks to The Book Bee for bestowing us with this wonderful honour. The best thing about this award is that it exposes all of us in the wide world of blogging to new and previously undiscovered book blog treasures. The award requires the recipient to: thank and link back to the blog that granted you the award; share 7 interesting things about yourself; bequeath the award to another 15 deserved blogger's; and contact the award recipients to let them know of their achievement. Quite frankly it's just one big self-promotion masquerading as a warm and fuzzy moment, but I love it!! So here are 7 interesting things about me. You'll recognise I've stuck with the booky theme.
  1. I don't own an e-reader and don't want to, but I secretly want to try one out just so I can report how trully despicable they are from a well informed point of view.
  2. My favourite place to read is in the bath with a glass of wine and as my current bathroom renovation is denying me this pleasure I am suffering a reading drought.
  3. My secondhand bookstore is breeding Reader's Digest Condensed Books that no-one wants (even for 50 cents) so I am planning on making a coffee table out of them.
  4. My husband congratulated himself on buying me an early edition of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice for our 'Paper' wedding anniversary. I don't have the heart to tell him that his $150 investment is only Volume 1 of the set.
  5. My struggle with the Russian surnames in Anna Karenina have resulted in me trying to read this classic novel 5 times with no success. I am planning the next assault in a month or two.
  6. The book that I never fail to recommend to everyone is We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. It'll blow you away!!
  7. Last but not least I confess to being a book vandal. Shock, horror, gasp of disbelief!! I dog-ear them, fill them with notes and inscriptions, spill coffee over them, shove them carelessly in my bag, bend the spines back, and use them as coasters. As far as I'm concerned a book absorbs part of the reader and I make sure I leave my mark and give every one a character injection of my own.
Now that you know a little bit more about my reading quirks, here are a couple of blogs I am awarding my Versatile Blog Awards to (in no particular order). Check them out!!
  1. Suz's Space Blog
  2. Stuck In a Book
  3. The True Book Addict
  4. Miss Snark, the literary agent - (Miss Snark no longer posts, but it's still a great blog!!)
  5. LiteraryMinded
  6. Fly the Falcon
  7. BookHounds
  8. Bibliophile Bullpen
  9. The Book Bee
  10. for.theloveofbooks.com
  11. Terra On the Bookshelf
  12. The Book Buff
  13. The Mumpsimus
  14. LibraryThing
  15. BOOKSURFER
Enjoy perusing our award winners!!

Friday, 23 July 2010

New Giveaway - The Hunger Games - Book 2 - Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins)

We had such a good response to our giveaway for the first Hunger Games book by Suzanne Collins that we've decided to giveaway a brand new copy of book two in the series - Catching Fire. Book two sees Katniss re-enter The Hunger Games game zone, but this time she has the whole of the Capitol against her.

Katniss is portrayed throughout the series as a steely teenaged action heroine. To win a brand new copy of Catching Fire just leave a comment telling us which female heroine in teenage fictional history most inspires you. A couple that come to my mind include Ellie from the Tomorrow When the War Began series and Elspeth Gordie from the Obernewtyn Chronicles. Entries are open until 5pm EST on Friday 6th August. The competition is open to residents of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA and the UK. The winner of the competition will be announced on Monday 9th August. Good luck to everyone!!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Rescue Me from My Reading Drought

It seems like only yesterday that I was reading the latest edition of Good Reading (GR) magazine and scoffing at the editor's column which revealed the editor was going through a reading drought. I couldn't believe that the editor of such a magazine had stopped reading. Surely reading was a requirement of her job. Hypocritically, I now find myself in a similar situation. I'm surrounded by books all day, but I'm seriously struggling to pick one up. The only difference I claim between myself and the GR editor is that I have genuine reasons - my bath tub is gone and it's freezing!!

Reading in the bath tub every second night of the week is my guilty pleasure. One month ago my precious, though dowdy, bath tub was ripped from its resting place and deposited on the nature strip of my home as a result of a much needed bathroom renovation. Said bathroom renovation is still underway and shows no sign of being completed within the next 3 months. Meanwhile, my new bath is hibernating in plastic teasing me every time I glance its way. Frustrating!!

But it's the bathroom renovation's partner in crime - winter - that has really fuelled my reading drought. By now most of you are familiar with my reading and walking habit. A habit that thrives in the summer months but seems a distant memory in the colder ones. It's just too damn cold to go walking and though I've tried hard to read in bed or on the couch, it just doesn't feel right. Does anyone else suffer as I do? Can anyone remedy my reading woes?

Monday, 12 July 2010

A Book Joke - Never Argue With A Woman

I'm not a big fan of jokes, but there aren't many book related ones out there, so when I came across this via my bookstore email and it tickled my fancy just a little, I thought I'd share!! Here goes!!

One morning, the husband returns the boat to their lakeside cottage after several hours of fishing and decides to take a nap. Although not familiar with the lake, the wife decides to take the boat out. She motors out a short distance, anchors, puts her feet up, and begins to read her book. The peace and solitude are magnificent.

Along comes a Fish and Game Warden in his boat. He pulls up alongside the woman and says, 'Good morning, Ma'am. What are you doing?' 

'Reading a book,' she replies, (thinking, 'Isn't that obvious?')

'You're in a Restricted Fishing Area,' he informs her.

'I'm sorry, officer, but I'm not fishing. I'm reading.'

'Yes, but I see you have all the equipment.
For all I know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up.'

'If you do that, I'll have to charge you with sexual assault,' says the woman.

'But I haven't even touched you,' says the Game Warden.

'That's true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment.'

'Have a nice day ma'am,' and he left.

MORAL: Never argue with a woman who reads. It's likely she can also think.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Join Our Multiple Sclerosis Novel Challenge Team!!

As you would be aware from my earlier post, I have signed up to raise money in the Multiple Sclerosis Novel Challenge. Originally I nominated to raise $500, but I've had such a great response and have already raised $385 so I've just raised my target to $750. I've also started up a team for the friends, family and colleagues of Ambire Secondhand Books. The beauty of a team is that we can work together to raise the money and share our success stories. So far, our team has three participants and we are looking for more people to join.

You can view our team page and our current list of team members by clicking on the following link -
http://register.thenovelchallenge.org.au/The-Novel-Challenge/Feed+Your+Reading+Habit/e. Click on this link to join us and you will be asked to register as part of our team. It's easy and will only take a few minutes of your time. Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system affecting more young adult Australians than any other neurological condition. There is no known cause or cure.

If you have any questions don't hesitate to contact me directly at ambire@optusnet.com.au.

Happy reading!!

Friday, 25 June 2010

The MS-Readathon Grows Up - Help Us Raise $500 for Multiple Sclerosis

If you grew up in Australia then you'll remember the MS-Readathon in school. It's a classic fund-raising event that linked children's reading with furthering research into Multiple Sclerosis and providing assistance to sufferers. As a kid, I took part in the MS-Readathon nearly every year and always got a buzz out of how many books I could finish in 30 days. The MS-Readathon is still around, but now there's an adult version called the MS Novel Challenge. And I've just signed up!! My goal is to raise $500 within 30 days for the cause. I've opened my account with a donation and hope that you can help me reach my target. The beauty of the challenge is that it's all online. You can make a donation securely online, get a receipt and watch my progress through my very own MS Novel Challenge page - http://register.thenovelchallenge.org.au/The-Novel-Challenge/AmbireBooks. Any donations go directly to the charity so it's all completely above board. You might even want to sign up for the challenge yourself, and if you do we'd love to hear about your progress and throw a dollar or two your way - just leave a link to your page in the comments!!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

New Giveaway - The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

With the third and final instalment of Suzanne Collins bestselling Hunger Games series titled 'Mockinjay' due out on 25th August 2010, I thought I'd take you back to where it all began. Here's your chance to win a brand new copy of the first book in the series simply titled 'The Hunger Games'. This thrilling series aimed at young adults takes the reader into the very near future and a reality TV show called the Hunger Games where teenagers must fight against each other for their own survival. Kill or be killed is the motto!!

To win a brand new copy of the first book in the series just leave a comment telling us what your favourite young adult action/adventure series is. Mine is John Marsden's Tomorrow When the War Began series and I'm really looking forward to the blockbuster movie interpretation due out soon. Entries are open until 5pm EST on Friday 2nd July. The competition is open to residents of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA and the UK. The winner of the competition will be announced on Tuesday 6th July. Good luck to everyone!!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The Share-A-Book Program - Aust. Literacy & Numeracy Foundation

I've been looking ferociously on the internet for places I can donate some of our excess stock to and it's actually been harder than I thought. Most of the organisations are based overseas, so postage is a nightmare, and they often only take brand new books. The predominant ones within Australia are your major op-shops like the Salvos or St Vinnies. Whilst these charities are great, I was hoping to donate to an organisation that was focusing on literacy and getting books to those most in need.

After some searching I stumbled upon The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation website (http://www.alnf.org/programs/share-a-book.php) and a program they have titled Share-A-Book. The program is focused on providing new and quality second hand books and magazines to indigenous, refugee and marginalised communities and is exactly what I was looking for. Their focus is on children and teens so books must be age appropriate and as such I have parceled up a box of pre-loved young adult titles for donation. They are in the mail this afternoon and it feels great to give!!

For more information on the Share-A-Book program just visit this website link - http://www.alnf.org/programs/share-a-book.php. Or if you want to donate books you can mail them to: Share-A-Book, 208 New South Head Road, Edgecliff NSW 2027. Reading should be accessible to everyone so let's share the love of books.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Reading Experiment 1 - Georgette Heyer - The Verdict

The verdict is in!! I can now officially say that I have read my first Georgette Heyer novel. I can also officially announce that unless held at gun point this will be the last Georgette Heyer novel I will ever read. The three words that immediately come to mind are 'Mills and Boon'. Sure, Venetia is set in the English regency period, but other than that it reads like a Harlequin romance. Of course, in saying this I am admiting to having read such a book, but I was 15 at the time and I haven't picked one up since.

If I had to put my finger on some of the main problems I had with the book I'd have to start with the shallowness of the characters. I really struggled with their one dimensionality. The book also rests heavily on the witty repartee between Venetia and Dameral, but their constant verbal to-ing and fro-ing increasingly annoyed me. The death knell was in the romance itself. I don't know if I missed something, but I honestly didn't believe the two main characters were in love. It was all too frivolous. This may be palatable to a large portion of the global population and I give them leave to enjoy Heyer's novels, each to their own and all that, but they don't do anything for me.

Whilst this hasn't been a particularly positive reading experiment, I am determined to continue, so any suggestions about where I might test the waters next would be appreciated.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Book Giveaway - Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

I just received a brand new copy of the first book in the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead and have decided to use it as the first ever book giveaway on this blog. The truth is that I am all "vampired" out and don't have any desire to read another slightly tweaked version of an age old story. I'm sure there's someone out there still riding high on the twilight phenomenom who would appreciate it, so here's how you can enter. We had Harry Potter and wizards, now we've got Twilight and vampires. We want to know what you think the next craze will be? Just leave us a comment and you'll be entered into our random draw. The giveaway is open to any persons residing in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA or the UK. You have until Friday 11th June to get your entry in and the winner will be notified on Monday 14th June. Good luck!!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Reading Experiment 1 - Georgette Heyer

As a the owner/operator of a second hand bookstore there is a general assumption that I have read everything in stock. How anyone could think that I have read over 30,000 books is beyond me, but it seems to be the case. Though I read widely and often, there are many popular authors I've never gotten around to reading. However, in the interests of being able to recommend books to my clientele with authority, I have decided to read at least 1 book every month that is outside my normal range. Whether I like the book or not, at least I will have an opinion!

So this month I have decided on Georgette Heyer, the alleged queen of Regency Romance. Romance in general is a no-go zone for me, but her books sell well in my store and there are millions of hard-core Heyer fans out there (particularly online) who would have me believe that she is a true genius. After a little bit of googling to determine which book to start with, I trudged down to my bookshed and pulled Venetia off the shelves. I am now over a third of the way through the book and ..........well I've decided to keep you in suspense. Stay tuned for the review!!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Staging a Book Club Coup

Is it ever OK to stage a coup within your own book club? And, if yes, how does one go about it with stealth? Let me set the scene. I joined my local book club about two years ago. Up until then I was a book club virgin, so I had little experience with how such a club should function. For the first 6 months or so I seemed to really enjoy myself. The fact that we talked more about ourselves than the actual books we’d read didn’t appear to bother me. On reflection I think this was only because I was getting to know my fellow book club members. Well, that combined with a perceived duty of politeness. I was the newcomer. Who was I to question how the book club operated? Two years down the track and the meaningless gossip is starting to drive me mad. So much so, that I’ve actually missed the last two meetings with no legitimate excuse. It’s a book club. We’re supposed to talk about books!

I’m not the only one in the club feeling the stress of it all. In fact, I think a good 50% of the club are in total agreement with me. Outside of the book club meetings, we’ve often mused over how we think the book club should be run and why it doesn’t seem to work. What we all know for sure is that it’s a leadership issue. The original group broke in two about 4 years ago due to a drunken episode complete with racial slurs at a restaurant held book club meeting. A new organiser for the group was required and when no-one else put their hand up our current leader came to the rescue. But she never reads the book! Yes, I know how ridiculous it sounds, but it’s true. The organiser reads about 3 of the 12 books we choose every year. Do you know how frustrating that is? Arghhhhhhhhhhhhh…..no wonder we only talk about books for 10 minutes.

But it’s not just the fact that the organiser doesn’t read the book that bugs me. It’s the fact that there is never any guide to our book discussion. There are generally three or four conversations operating at once, so everyone is talking over the top of one another. And discussion questions - you’d think no-one had ever heard of them. Plus, there is never any clear communication about what book we’re reading next or what the next date for the club is. One month it’s a Wednesday night, the next it’s a Monday night. I can’t keep up!! I mean, what happened to planning, people?

Enough is enough. I have a few fellow members on my side and we are going in with purpose to the next book club meeting. Any tips you might have would be useful. Wish me luck.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Twitter Finally Comes Through

It was with hesitation that I opened my account on Twitter some 12 months ago. Skeptical is the word that comes to mind. But buoyed by the encouragement of a fellow small business owner, I decided to embrace this new social networking craze. After all it could turn out to be an interesting, and hopefully lucrative, way to promote my second hand bookstore. I started out enthusiastically building my list of followers, but my eagerness fizzled as the weeks rolled by with little Twitter action despite lots of effort. Over time, the annoying tweet noise from TweetDeck served only to remind me that another seemingly useless piece of information was heading my way. One year on and I was well and truly jaded. Sure, I got the occasional tasty morsel of information, and as far as networking with like-minded people in the trade it proved handy, but on the whole it was a dud. Yesterday, I decided to pull the plug and end the misery!!

And I almost did! One last visit to TweetDeck proved it's saviour. After months of fruitlessly searching for a book titled 'Little Dream' by Cynthia Leonetti for a new client with no success, Twitter finally came through for me. One of my esteemed followers located a copy, and the next thing I know I had completed a transaction and the book was on its' way to my client. The profit for me was very little, but the buzz I got out of actually locating this hard-to-find kids book was definitely worth it. Whilst, this one transaction hardly makes up for the effort I've put into Twitter it has reminded me of the value of keeping your feelers out there. Second hand bookselling is often a tough business and locating rare books can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. It's fun, but frustrating at the same time and without a good network of contacts it's almost impossible. So, whilst I am not exactly pro-Twitter I do acknowledge that it won't hurt to keep my presence out there.....even if it only helps me please one customer every twelve months.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Have you Heard About Atmospheric Reading?

The act of reading itself has always been a great joy to me. No matter where I am or where I’m going I always have a book with me because you never know when you might get an opportunity to flick open the pages. I read on the beach, in the bath, whilst walking, in bed, in TV ad-breaks, on public transport, you name it I read there. Inspired by a recent article I read about the lost art of reading aloud, I decided to push the boundaries of my reading habits even further and embark on an experimental journey into the world of what I’d like to call ‘atmospheric reading’.

Eager to discover whether manipulating the environment in which a book was read enhanced, detracted or had no effect on the overall reading experience, I needed to find a suitable place to start and, where better than with a classic! Critics claim ‘The Turn of the Screw’ by Henry James is one of the best psychological, gothic thrillers of all time. As such, it has long been on my list of must read books, but I’d never felt a strong enough desire to actual pick it up. Until now!! It seemed to me that one of the easiest and most distinct atmospheres to create was a creepy one, so I set about scaring the living daylights out of myself.

For two consecutive evenings I became a lone reader taking a long hot bath, listening to the rain drizzling onto the window with only a few dim candles lighting the page and not a soul nor sound in the house. The experience did not disappoint. I won’t give away the storyline of the book itself, but I will describe how it made me feel. For every curious noise that leapt off the page of Henry James’ masterpiece, I heard another three as my house betrayed its’ own ghostly mutterings. The strange apparitions seen by the governess had me darting my eyes in suspicion towards dark shadowy corners of my bathroom. The flickering candlelight at once charming and beautiful was in another instant evil and sinister, just like the young boy Miles. Sensory overload made the silence unbearable, chilling. After I had read the final page and closed the book I could still feel it all around me and it took me quite a while to come back to reality.

Later, I realised that I hadn’t just read the story. I had been physically a part of it. I often feel emotionally connected with a book, but I rarely feel that kind of physicality. The sensation was new and bought a fresh dimension to the escapism normally sort for in the reading of a book. Having never read ‘The Turn of the Screw’ before, I can’t claim that I wouldn’t have felt the same way without the artificial atmosphere. What I do know is that I am keen to start on my next atmospheric reading adventure – maybe Tim Winton’s ‘Breath’ on the beach…….your thoughts???

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Walking & Reading - At the Same Time Mind You!

Is it weird that I walk and read at the same time? I love reading, but I run my own business and have quite a hectic lifestyle. Finding time to keep physically active and feed my reading habit is a struggle. So I’ve learnt how to read and walk simultaneously. You would think this skill would take some time to develop, but I have to say that I mastered the art pretty quickly. Sure, there’s been the odd stumble complete with the frantic glance around to make sure nobody saw it happen, but all in all I’m a pro.

This odd reading style has made me something of a local celebrity. I often combine walking and reading with a trip to the corner shops to pick up some groceries. My sojourns always include friendly, and often humorous, comments from locals the most common of which is ‘Must be a good book’. To my delight these off-hand comments sometimes lead to an in-depth conversation about the book I’m reading or books in general.

What has become most clear from the comments I receive is that most people are astonished that I can actually achieve this feat. Is there anyone else out there like me or am I really a reading and walking freak?

Monday, 15 March 2010

An Evening with Author, Elizabeth Kostova

Cynically I am famous for saying that “I never ever win anything”, but my glass is half full friends are always quick to remind me “That’s because you never enter anything”. They are right! So when Good Reading Magazine started promoting Free February on their Facebook Fan Page, I decided it was time to put the clich├ęd got to be in it to win it mentality to the test. The result is in – I was in it and I did win it! My prize, an evening with best-selling author Elizabeth Kostova.

For those of you who don’t know Kostova she is most renowned for her debut novel ‘The Historian’, a part fact, part fiction story based on the legend of Vlad the Impaler, or Dracula, as he is more commonly known. Kostova was in Australia for the various writer’s festivals around the country promoting her new book ‘The Swan Thieves’, and Good Reading Magazine was lucky enough to host an evening with her in Sydney on Thursday 4th March.

Despite my ten years as a bookseller this was my first experience meeting an author. The cosy attic bar of The Arthouse Hotel was the perfect setting for an intimate Q & A with an author whose obvious love for writing seems only equalled by her love of art and history. As a whole the evening did not disappoint. Kostova spoke well and I found out much about her background and childhood, which were all clearly reflected in her writing. However, I did find that the generally dull questions, stumbled over by the interviewer, led to a generic merry-go-round of responses that left little to discern much about Kostova’s real personality.

After the staged interview, Kostova opened the floor to questions and was met with what I assume is the customary nervous silence, before some brave soul had the courage to raise their hand. Alas, this brave soul was not me. I was a little tongue-tied if the truth be told. Despite, or maybe because of, my eager criticism of the interviewer, I was fearful of asking the world’s stupidest question. What followed from the audience was a series of rather predictable questions and a little too much gushing by adoring fans. The Q & A session was saved a by a young man who dared to ask a question outside the box – ‘Do you ever get the feeling that you were born in the wrong era, and if so, when do you think you should have been born?” What followed was a lively and amusing few minutes of banter between the young man and Kostova. The crowd giggled gaily, whilst they learnt the young man would have preferred to be born in the 50s, and Kostova admitted to sometimes feeling largely out of place. When the interviewer called a halt to questions I found myself wishing the young man had asked his question first rather than last as the ensuing Q & A session might have been a more revealing and authentic experience.

As I joined the queue to get my copies of her books signed, I found myself rifling through different questions I could ask when my brief moment with Kostova arrived. I was amazed that the interviewer had not asked Kostova what she was working on next, and thought I might be able to get an exclusive tid-bit of information. I learnt that Kostova had indeed been working on a new project since October, but she was reluctant to give up details. Her only promise was that she intended on finishing the book more quickly than her previous two, and was exploring writing in something other than the first person. I walked away with a smile on my face, two signed books in hand.

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