The Struggles

I'm gonna start this blog post with an apology. Not that I think anyone has noticed but Finch Books has been largely absent on the social media scene for a while now, not to mention on this blog. It's not that I don't want to post on instagram and facebook and twitter every single day, it's just that it's difficult. As the sole employee and owner of this beautiful establishment, I do it all. I come in everyday and make coffee, put out pastries, clean, put out the various displays, fill out the shelves with new books and try to come up with a creative, new, interesting social media post. It's tough. This is also not mentioning everything I do before, during, and after work for my family. I work six days a week by myself and I still have to find time to do laundry, feed my toddler and dogs, clean the house, do dishes, put away toys (both the kid's and the dogs') and go to bed at a reasonable hour so I'm not a zombie when I have to go to work and do it all over again. If it weren't for my husband, my life would literally fall apart. I honestly don't know how single parents do it all on their own. 

I've been at this for nearly three months now and about 90% of the time I feel like I'm losing my mind. The struggles, while small compared to those of others, are real to me. Sales are not where I'd like them to be. I went from spending literally 100% of my time with my beautiful baby girl and now I get to see her for an hour before work and a few hours after work before it's time to put her to bed. I'm, in all likelihood, not going to be able to visit my grandparents this year. I haven't even paid myself a salary, so all this work, stress, and sacrifice seems to have less and less of a point each day. I've also been dealing with a resurgence of my depression and anxiety symptoms since rejoining the workforce. This is something I've dealt with since I was a kid and it's probably something I'll have to deal with, on and off, for the rest of my life. It's not a dangerous situation for me (and never has been) but it does make day-to-day life feel like I'm walking through quicksand. But everytime someone comes into my store and is pleasantly surprised by the cyprus tree seeming to grow through the ceiling or marvels at the black walnut countertop my husband crafted for me or sits down on our comfy, orange, leather sofa and reads a book with their coffee, it fills me with such a sense of accomplishment it makes it all worth it.

The point of this blog has been (and hopefully will continue to be) to show the inner workings of owning a small buisness (specifically a book store) but I also want this place to be a place I can show my true colors. A place I can vent about my problems and boast about my accomplishments. A place I can be funny and serious, or sad and angry. I want to talk about issues I care about and books I love. I want this blog to be a reflection of me and while I may try to act perfect sometimes, I am, like nearly everyone else, far from perfect. So to end this rambling, complain-y blog I'd just like to say this: If you come into the store and you see me behind the counter please understand if my hair is up in a messy bun, I have no makeup on and the bags under my eyes are dark purple. This just means that I'm putting my infant buisness ahead of myself right now and that's the way it has to be. 

Book Review: Born to be Killers

In addition to blogging about my life and the book store, I am also going to post book reviews for books which are available in the store (until they've been bought that is). This is a review for Born to be Killers, the first book I read since opening my store. (I'm working on my fourth book since opening so there's plenty more reviews to come.)

I am a huge true crime fan. I love reading about historical crimes, serial killers, financial crimes, mob bosses and unsolved mysteries. When I've got free time my default channel to watch is Investigation Discovery. So when I was choosing a book to read from my brand new library of hundreds of books I never would have thought to read, I came across a true crime book I hadn't heard of before. To be honest, I don't even know how I came across this book. I've personally (and painstakingly) collected every book in my store myself and I could tell you with near certainty whether I got any particular book from a yard sale off of Rosemont or a library sale in Glen Allen. This book just seemed to appear in my collection, so it stood out to me. 

Born to be Killers is a hardback book of 576 pages with a red dust jacket. Oddly enough on no page does it have an author listed. All it says at the bottom of the title page and on the spine of the dust jacket is "A Time Warner Book". The book is separated into four sections: Children Who Kill, Men Who Kill, Women Who Kill and Couples Who Kill. Now I will say if you're not quite as depraved as it seems I would be you're probably gonna read that list of sections in this book and decide this book's not for me. I would have to agree. The first section (Children Who Kill) is particularly disturbing. 

The Children Who Kill section is comprised of 14 sub-sections. The first describes the types of reasons and causes that typically occur for children to go from innocents to murderers. These reasons, as explained in the book, can include abuse, neglect, drugs and alcohol and neurological disorders. It does briefly mention the influence of violent television and other media. I would say that while this book is a good resource for case facts, take the analysis with a grain of salt as you read. This book is a bit outdated (originally published in 2004) and I know for a fact that they're have been multiple papers published since then that show violence in television and video games has shown to not have a negative effect on a child's behavior and some have even shown a positive effect, allowing the adolescent to act out violent impulses in a safe setting. Although I'm sure other studies have shown the opposite. The book doesn't cite any sources for their information which makes it seem more opinion based (although who's opinion? since an author is not listed). 

After this brief introduction the book goes into the case histories which include a pair of eleven-year-old girls who killed two toddlers in 1968, a teenager who convinced her classmate to kill her abusive father, and the infamous West-Memphis-Three case, one in which consumed the country with it's viciousness, satanist twist and apparent injustice. The stories in this section are particularly graphic and disturbing, even more so because the perpetrators and most of the victims are children. Even for someone who is always interested in the darkness of humanity, I found many of these stories hard to read, with the worst of them staying with me long after I've closed the book (just look up Job Venables and Robert Thompson...it will give you chills). 

The next section is about Men who Kill and include some of the most infamously frightening killers in history. The introduction to this section is titled "Are These Men Monsters?" and goes on to introduce several types of killers. These categories include the serial killer, the disorganized killer and the mass murderer. The Men who Kill section includes the stories of Ted Bundy, Jack the Ripper, the Boston Strangler, Ed Gein and Vlad the Impaler. As you can tell (if you're familiar with you historical criminology) these stories range from 20th century murderers to crimes dating back centuries. It also includes more unknown cases like Thomas Wainewright and Dr.Harold Shipman. This section is the largest in the book and takes up nearly half the text. 

The next section is Women who Kill. The introduction to this section includes a list of 16 different reasons why a woman might resort to murder. These reasons range from self-defense and psychopathy to monetary gain and revenge. While I would agree with these all being possible reasons a woman might commit murder, I would also say that each/any of these reasons could be applied to a man, a child or even a couple or group. Although it does make the distinction that for women, more common reasons are revenge or profit while men are more likely to be "sexually driven" to murder. Looking through the case studies it appears as though the majority of these women killers are killers of children, often their own children. This section was particularly hard to read as a mother of a small child. I can not even imagine the amount of depravity someone would have to possess to commit such an act. The only really well known female killer included in this text was Lizzie Borden. Interestingly enough, she was technically found not guilty even though her reputation never recovered. 

Finally the last section is about Couples who Kill. This section is the smallest with only five case histories. These mostly included couples who killed for money or convenience. Most of these cases involved a male/female team with many of them having a sexual component. One was a pair of sisters who mysteriously out of nowhere killed their employers in a very bizarre case. Another seemed like it could have been the inspiration for the movie Natural Born Killers

Overall this book provided me with hours of entertaining, WTF reading. I would recommend this book to anyone who gets absorbed in serial killer biopics and has to catch the newest episode of Killer Next Door on ID. I will say this book is not expertly written and it seemed like there was a typo on every single page. For a Grammar Nazi, this irked me like nails on a chalkboard every time I saw it (my favorite was when a mom called her daughter her "little angle" , but eventually I just got over it. The book seems to be well organized and well researched despite the lack of grammar proof-reading. 
 

 

Born to be Killers  is still available here at Finch Books for $9.99. If you mention this blog post I'll give you 10% off. Remember there is only one copy available so first come, first serve. 

Born to be Killers is still available here at Finch Books for $9.99. If you mention this blog post I'll give you 10% off. Remember there is only one copy available so first come, first serve. 

A Book Older then the United States?

A couple weeks ago, a lovely woman came into my store. She tells me that her and her husband had been collectors of old books and they were looking to downsize their collection. She asked if I were interested in purchasing them because she wanted them to end up with a good home. I completely understood as about a quarter of my current book inventory came from my home (there are about six books left in my house now). She brought them in and left them with us so we could do our research and come up with an offer. Once i opened up the box and began to look at these books I knew I had found something special.   Within this large box were some of the oldest books I have ever seen outside of a museum. Now this isn't saying a whole lot. I've always been a collector of brand new books and of books that I wandered across in whichever bookstore I happened to be in at the time. I was never a person to search out rare or valuable books on my own. Occasionally at a thrift store or a flea market my husband or I would find a book from the 40's or 50's. These books weren't valuable, we just bought them because we thought they were cool or about a subject that interested us. I never thought I'd be the proud owner of a book I'm pretty sure is older then this country.   The book I'm speaking of is  Charity and Truth  and it appears as if it was printed in 1728. I can't be entirely sure of this until I do a bit more research or contact an antique book appraiser but the only date printed in this book is 1728 or the year of the lord MDCCXXVIII which of course is 1728. The funny thing about old books is finding accurate information about books written and printed before our first president was even born. The details are difficult to find to say the least.  To accurately date a book without a clear publication date (as most books written before the 19th century lack) you have to look at a variety of factors and even then it might not always be clear.   One way you can get information on a book is to check the author's bibliography. If your book is a first edition, seeing the first year a particular author's book is published will tell you how old your book is. This can still be tricky with older books. For instance I believe my copy of  Charity and Truth  is a first edition, however, the author is listed as H.E. After a bit of research it appears the author is Edward Hawarden. After a bit more research it appears as though Hawarden wrote at least four books between 1714 and 1729 with  Charity and Truth  being published in 1728. If my copy is indeed a first edition as I believe, that would mean it is nearly 300 years old.   Another way you can date a book is looking into the publisher's background information. For instance learning when a publishing house started and what they called themselves over the years can give you valuable information into when a book was published. Unfortunately in this case there doesn't appear to be a publisher listed in the book (perhaps because in the 18th century that wasn't as common a practice as it is today. Here's the first page of the book (where publishing information would normally be). 

A couple weeks ago, a lovely woman came into my store. She tells me that her and her husband had been collectors of old books and they were looking to downsize their collection. She asked if I were interested in purchasing them because she wanted them to end up with a good home. I completely understood as about a quarter of my current book inventory came from my home (there are about six books left in my house now). She brought them in and left them with us so we could do our research and come up with an offer. Once i opened up the box and began to look at these books I knew I had found something special. 

Within this large box were some of the oldest books I have ever seen outside of a museum. Now this isn't saying a whole lot. I've always been a collector of brand new books and of books that I wandered across in whichever bookstore I happened to be in at the time. I was never a person to search out rare or valuable books on my own. Occasionally at a thrift store or a flea market my husband or I would find a book from the 40's or 50's. These books weren't valuable, we just bought them because we thought they were cool or about a subject that interested us. I never thought I'd be the proud owner of a book I'm pretty sure is older then this country. 

The book I'm speaking of is Charity and Truth and it appears as if it was printed in 1728. I can't be entirely sure of this until I do a bit more research or contact an antique book appraiser but the only date printed in this book is 1728 or the year of the lord MDCCXXVIII which of course is 1728. The funny thing about old books is finding accurate information about books written and printed before our first president was even born. The details are difficult to find to say the least.  To accurately date a book without a clear publication date (as most books written before the 19th century lack) you have to look at a variety of factors and even then it might not always be clear. 

One way you can get information on a book is to check the author's bibliography. If your book is a first edition, seeing the first year a particular author's book is published will tell you how old your book is. This can still be tricky with older books. For instance I believe my copy of Charity and Truth is a first edition, however, the author is listed as H.E. After a bit of research it appears the author is Edward Hawarden. After a bit more research it appears as though Hawarden wrote at least four books between 1714 and 1729 with Charity and Truth being published in 1728. If my copy is indeed a first edition as I believe, that would mean it is nearly 300 years old. 

Another way you can date a book is looking into the publisher's background information. For instance learning when a publishing house started and what they called themselves over the years can give you valuable information into when a book was published. Unfortunately in this case there doesn't appear to be a publisher listed in the book (perhaps because in the 18th century that wasn't as common a practice as it is today. Here's the first page of the book (where publishing information would normally be). 

As you can see the title is actually  Charity and Truth: or, Catholicks not uncharitable in laying, that none are fav'd out of Catholick Communion Becaufe The Rule is not univerfal.  It appears are though the F's in the title are supposed to stand in for lowercase S's. it's also rife with Olde English spellings like the word Catholicks and sav'd. A very interesting page but providing no publishing information what-so-ever.   To date a book you can also look for design details like gilded page edges or lettering, leather covers, dust jacket design, illustrations etc. to figure out which edition you possess and thus how old it is.  You might be able to glean some insight into you're book's age by scanning the text for any important dates or if the book has ads in the back as some books in the early 20th century and later had.   Lastly you can look into outside sources for appropriate information about your book. Looking on bookselling websites like abebooks.com or bookfinder.com, even Amazon or eBay might get you a little information on not just your book's publication date but also it's price. Another resource includes libraries. A librarian will most likely be able to search for your book in a program called WorldCat which will show every library who has a copy of the book you're interested in. You can then contact the library and have them give you any information they have on the book.   Finally, the last resort is to contact an antiquities or book dealer for appraisal and information. They will in all likelihood charge for their services (the amount of which I have no idea). This is the route I will be using for this book. Even though, through my research, I am pretty sure this book is as old as it appears to be, I have no idea about the history, rarity, or price of a book like this. I will eventually be contacting an expert who can help me price and maybe even sell this and other apparently rare or immensely old books. So if you know anyone...      For transparencies sake I got most of my information when I googled how determine a book's age and stumbled upon a website called Emptymirrorbooks.com. I clicked through their website and it seems they have a wealth of information on book collecting, poetry, literature and more. So hop on over there (when you're all done reading this blog of course).

As you can see the title is actually Charity and Truth: or, Catholicks not uncharitable in laying, that none are fav'd out of Catholick Communion Becaufe The Rule is not univerfal. It appears are though the F's in the title are supposed to stand in for lowercase S's. it's also rife with Olde English spellings like the word Catholicks and sav'd. A very interesting page but providing no publishing information what-so-ever. 

To date a book you can also look for design details like gilded page edges or lettering, leather covers, dust jacket design, illustrations etc. to figure out which edition you possess and thus how old it is.  You might be able to glean some insight into you're book's age by scanning the text for any important dates or if the book has ads in the back as some books in the early 20th century and later had. 

Lastly you can look into outside sources for appropriate information about your book. Looking on bookselling websites like abebooks.com or bookfinder.com, even Amazon or eBay might get you a little information on not just your book's publication date but also it's price. Another resource includes libraries. A librarian will most likely be able to search for your book in a program called WorldCat which will show every library who has a copy of the book you're interested in. You can then contact the library and have them give you any information they have on the book. 

Finally, the last resort is to contact an antiquities or book dealer for appraisal and information. They will in all likelihood charge for their services (the amount of which I have no idea). This is the route I will be using for this book. Even though, through my research, I am pretty sure this book is as old as it appears to be, I have no idea about the history, rarity, or price of a book like this. I will eventually be contacting an expert who can help me price and maybe even sell this and other apparently rare or immensely old books. So if you know anyone...

 

For transparencies sake I got most of my information when I googled how determine a book's age and stumbled upon a website called Emptymirrorbooks.com. I clicked through their website and it seems they have a wealth of information on book collecting, poetry, literature and more. So hop on over there (when you're all done reading this blog of course).

Source: emptymirrorbooks.com

Opening A Bookshop

It's been a little over a month since my store (the one whose website you are on right now, might I add) opened it's doors and it has been a whirlwind to say the least. In some ways it has been exactly as I expected. In other ways I've encountered unbelievable frustrations and disheartening realities. No better place to start then the beginning, I suppose. 

I've always wanted a sanctuary. Since I was a child I would watch various tv shows and movies and it seemed the characters always had a regular place to be at home when they weren't at home. The coffee shop in Friends, the diner in Seinfeld, the bar in True Blood, the bar in How I Met Your Mother, the bar in Cheers. I've been a reader since I could read and I always imagined having a place that as an adult I could come to and relax, be myself with a select few close friends, enjoy a hot cup of tea on a cold day. In my head this place was almost always a book store or a coffee shop (one that also served tea as I personally despise coffee, I know, I'm crazy right?). This place in my head never manifested. The book stores near me were crowded bleak stores full of books but lacking character and tea and really any comfortable place to relax. Either that or they were Barnes & Nobles. The coffee shops tended to be small or crowded or both. My sanctuary never manifested. 

As time went on, I grew up. I got married in 2011. By the end of 2012, I became a mother. That year I also became a stay-at-home mom, mainly because it was actually cheaper then putting our infant in daycare and getting a (low-paying) job. By 2013 most of my friends had moved on with their lives (both of our faults, they were busy with school and work, I was busy with a bouncing little girl who took up about 120% of my time). We would talk occasionally, see each other even more rarely and soon enough birthdays were forgotten and Christmas consisted of a text. Getting married and having children young was one of the best things I have ever done. I love my family and our home and what we've made it together but there always seemed to be something missing. The lack of friendship, the monotony of everyday (breakfast, playtime/laundry, lunch, naptime/dishes, movietime/more laundry) and the lack of money for our growing family convinced me something needed to change. I searched for a job that at the very least would have paid for daycare. The pickings were slim. I could work some jobs at night and get to spend the day with my kid but never get to tuck her in at night again. I could work during the day and get paid peanuts (peanuts not quite being enough to pay for daycare) or I could go back to school to hopefully one day earn enough money to help my family in the way we needed. The latter option being the most expensive but also the most practical option in the long run. I decided I would go back to school and get some business or finance or accounting degree. It would be the most boring year and a half of my life but in the end I would be educated enough to at least qualify for a higher starting salary. 

I started looking at classes at ODU (my former school...before I dropped out) and TCC. I would need to take about 3 semesters of classes to complete my degree. That meant that even with night and weekend classes I would still need to find daycare for my child 3 or 4 days a week. It would be more affordable then full-time daycare but it would still be out of our reach if we wanted to remain above water. Getting frustrated with my lack of options and money, I bitched to my mom about how hard it was to get anywhere with these limitations. My mom, who was no stranger to these problems, completely understood. She was a young mom too and while she did have a college degree and was actually able to bring me to work when I was a baby, it was still challenging for her. My mom offered to help us out and to pay for my college classes. I totaled up what it would cost of all 3 semesters and realized that was quite a lot of money. When I told my mom how much it would be, I said something along the lines of "I wish I could take this money and open a store, maybe a book store." 

This suggestion wasn't completely out of thin air. I had always talked about wanting a store. I had fantasized about moving to the country (where living expenses were dirt cheap) and opening up my little mom and pop bookstore. I even discussed opening up a bookstore/cafe with my sister the year prior because we both felt stuck and needed a change. She ultimately decided she needed the secure paycheck more then she needed her freedom. I held on to the idea because to me a bookstore represented that sanctuary I had been searching for my entire life. 

My mother has always been supportive but I never expected her to take this suggestion (was it even a suggestion or was it just a fleeting fantasy spoken aloud) and run with it. She encouraged me and by May of 2016 I had a business license, a signed lease, and a bank account with the money earmarked for college courses sitting in it. At first I was afraid to spend any money. It was so precious and was the only thing standing between my dreams and utter failure. I didn't know where to begin but slowly, I began to get my head above water. First I started collecting, cataloging and pricing books. I would scour the internet and classified ads for anything that might be useful. I traveled two hours to a library sale outside of Richmond. I went to about 50 yard sales buying every book I saw. I collected books from my friends and family. I went through my own collection of books and donated all but a handful to my store. I ended up with an empty white box of a store stacked with over a thousand books. Now that I had the books, I had to get the store in order. 

The stores construction and remodel took the majority of my money and time. I had to deal with "contractors/handymen" who would show up once a week for half a day. I had to deal with having to completely replace each light fixture and many electrical outlets in the entire store. My husband, nicely enough, donated his time and skills and made all of my book shelves as well as the beautiful wood bar in the front of our store. Since he works full time that meant that he could only work on the bookstore after hours plus his two days off. Basically for three months he worked about 18 hours a day, seven days a week. I don't think I could ever say thank you enough to him. Memorial day passed. Fourth of July came and went. Finally towards the end of July, after painting and decorating, it looked like we might be ready to open. At this point my store was beautiful and exactly what I had pictured in my head. Warm rugs adorned the floors. A comfy orange couch was flanked by two tv trays with matching brass lamps upon them. The shelves were stained a dark walnut and wrapped around the store. The walls were a tranquil blue and green accented by the wood paneling across from the front door. I affixed tin letters painted white to spell out Finch. Every time I walked through the door and saw the name of my store, it filled me with such a warm loving feeling. 

The store was done, as perfect as it would ever be. The books were priced and on the shelves, with hundreds more still in the back, unable to be crammed into the already over-filled shelves (we are in the process of adding some more shelves...as soon as my husband has time to build me more of them). The coffee maker was installed and after a minor hiccup was now functioning perfectly. We had our pastry case and an agreement with Sugar Plum Bakery (a favorite from when I was a kid) to sell their pastries. I could not be happier, until opening day. 

The ugly reality is "if you build it, they will come" is a lovely line in a movie but under no circumstances should you apply this logic to opening a business without some further analysis. I figured being on the beach, with so much pedestrian traffic going by, I was bound to get in a good amount of walk-ins. I also figured with the new apartments opening up directly across from my shopping center, I would get some neighbors stopping in. I was pretty incorrect on both of those counts. The only thing I've heard from across the street is one woman calling me to say she doesn't like my sign and that I should change it (literally as they are installing it, while I have the bill in my hand). The walk-ins still make up a majority of my customers but at a much lower rate than I anticipated. Business has been hard and it's been stressful. If I'm successful that stress will be neverending. I've still not made enough money to pay myself a salary (which I won't do until I repay my mother's generous loan). I'm here at 8 am everyday (except Mondays) until 5 or 5:30 pm. After work I pick up my daughter from daycare, go home and then try to do all the chores I used to have all day for in the span of a couple hours. Then it's dinnertime, bedtime and back to the store the next day. Every time I sell someone a book they've been looking forward to reading I'm overjoyed. Whenever I sell someone a book I've already read (and loved) I smile to myself, knowing that if they're anything like me they're gonna have a blast. I have a job that while frustrating is the most rewarding job I could have ever dreamed up. I finally after years of trying to find what I was meant to do and feeling like I never fit in anywhere, have a place all to my own. This book store is a different kind of sanctuary that what I dreamed of. It's not really a place I can relax and enjoy but it's a place that makes me feel complete and gives me a reason to get dressed in the morning. My only hope is that this store will be the kind of sanctuary I envisioned for someone else. If you're reading this I hope this can be your sanctuary, your home when you're not home. Your coffee shop, your diner, your bar, or your bar or your bar.