Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tis the Season by Lorna Landvik

This is a quick easy read from an author who's twin passions when she was growing up were writing and theater.

Heiress Caroline Dixon has managed to alienate nearly everyone in her life with her alcoholic escapades that became the fodder for tabloids and gossip hungry readers. As she tries to turn over a new leaf and start atoning for past misdeeds, she reaches out to two people who used to be in her life, a former nanny now living in Norway, and a dude ranch owner. In a series of email exchanges we learn more about the depth of Caroline's pain and how she tried to hide it. And the nanny and the cowboy share their own stories. The correspondence leads to the promise of a reunion, just in time for Christmas. And like all holiday stories worth their salt, there are unexpected revelations and redemption and forgiveness.

A lovely Christmas read from a woman the Minneapolis Star Tribune calls a national treasure.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bone Black by bell hooks

I had to read this book as part of the Western Kentucky Literature class I'm taking. I must admit that I was not familiar with bell hooks before the class. She is currently teaching at Berea College and is a well known feminist and social activist. She has published over 30 books and numerous scholarly articles. She addresses race, class, and gender in education, art, history, and the mass media. This book is a chronicle of her girlhood memories growing up in western Kentucky, her little corner of the south. She was a strong-spirited child who does not fit in and finds comfort in solitude and the company of books. It is ultimately in the world of stories and poems that she finds home and belonging.

This is a book with emotional resonance and lyrical language. Here is a small sample from one of the chapters to show the raw honesty of what she writes: "She wants to express herself--to speak her mind. To them it is just talking back. Each time she opens her mouth she risks punishment. They punish her so often she feels they persecute her. When she learns the word scapegoat in vocabulary lesson, she is sure it accurately describes her lot in life. Her wilderness, unlike the one the goat is led into, is a wilderness of spirit. They abandon her there to get on with the fun things of life. She lies in her bed upstairs after being punished yet again. She can hear the sound of their laughter, their talk. No one hears her crying. Even though she is young she comes to understand the meaning of exile and loss. They say that she is really not a young girl but an old woman born again in a young girl's body. They do not know how to speak the old woman's language so they are afraid of her."

Though some of her writing can be a bit strident, I think she is at her best when she is talking about the personal and being passionately honest. This book will stay with you long after you have finished it. Those are the best kind.

Monday, November 17, 2008

This book is a strangely fascinating look at all things weird in the state of Kentucky. As the book jacket says, who knew My Old Kentucky Home could be so weird? Most people when they think of Kentucky probably think of the Derby and Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken. But Kentucky is so much more than that. As this book shows, the state is full of local legends and unusual sights, some supernatural, some odd, and some just plain weird. This is a brand new entry in the Weird U.S. series, and it's packed with all that great stuff you won't get anywhere else. The graphics and pictures are wonderfully displayed and this book is just pure fun to delve into shallow or deep. Check out the cave mummies found in Kentucky caves, the mysterious mounds of Wickliffe, the legend of the blue people in the bluegrass state, the strange doings at the Seelbach hotel, Murray's vampire clan, the Stanford UFO abduction, and many, many more.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This book was our November selection for the Book Club, and we had to wait almost a year to get it in the large print kits that come from the state, but I must say it was worth the wait.

I have always been enamored of elephants and think they are amazing creatures. Elephants have one of the longest lifespans in the animal kingdom and live almost as long as human beings. They are the largest land animals and use infrasound (a low sound inaudible to humans) to communicate with each other over distances of several miles. Elephants have the best sense of smell of the world's animals and the tip of an elephants trunk contains the most sensitive tissue ever studied. And elephants grieve for dead companions, something that is virtually unknown in other animals.

This book is about the world of the circus, but it is so much more than that. Sara Gruen introduces us to a world of freaks and misfits and a struggling second rate circus that is trying to stay alive in the midst of the Great Depression. She draws vivid characters into a superb plot full of gritty historical detail and concisely brings this lost world to life in her fast paced story. She manages to humanize the midgets, drunks and freaks who populate her story and even manages to give us an amazing glimpse at what it's like to grow old.

Jacob Jankowski, a veterinary student who has almost earned his degree, is suddenly orphaned, jumps onto a passing train, and finds himself hired on as the vet for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. There he meets and falls in love with the beautiful Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, who unfortunately happenes to be married to the charismatic but darkly twisted August, the animal trainer. And then of course there is Rosie, an elephant they manage to pick up along the way from another circus that has gone under and seems untrainable until a way is discovered to reach her.

This is a beautifully written lovely and mesmerizing book. It is a compelling journey, not only into the heart of the circus, but also a book that tells us much about what animals can teach people about love.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Amazon's Best Books of 2008

Out of the thousands of new releases, this is Amazon's Top Ten Editors' Picks

The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher
Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg
Nixonland by Rick Perlstein
The Forever War by Dexter Filkins
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
The Likeness by Tana French
Serena by Ron Rash
The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon

Top Ten Amazon Customer Favorites:

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by by David Wroblewski
The Appeal by John Grisham
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
The Revolution by Ron Paul
The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Top Amazon Sellers in October

The Snowball by Alice Schroeder
Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
The Shack by William P. Young
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
The Love Dare by Stephen Kendrick
The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
The Limits of Power by Andrew J. Bacevich
  • They have lots of other interesting categories you may want to check out: Best in Audio, Cooking, Art and Photography, and Teens, to name a few. Check it out here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ghosts of Russell County

Aron Houdini and the guillotine that once belonged to Houdini

Ghosts of Russell County was held at the Star Theater on October 23rd. Roberta Simpson Brown and her husband Lonnie Brown are usually part of the program, telling their ghostly tales. This year they were unable to participate in the program due to emergency bypass surgery that Lonnie had to undergo. Lynwood Montell (author of Ghosts Across Kentucky and Ghosts Along the Cumberland) usually participates as well, but this year had a prior commitment and was unable to take part.

So this year we had to do things a little bit different. We had several guest readers who read selections from Roberta Simpson Brown and Lynwood Montell's books. We also had Nash Black (the husband and wife writing team of Ford Nashett and Irene Black) with us and they brought along their new book Haints and treated us to a few stories from it.

Cody York reading "A Father's Faith" from Haints

Elizabeth Wright reading "The Touch" by Roberta Simpson Brown

Renee Daffron reading "Flower Girl" by Roberta Simpson Brown

Lea Turner reading "Don't Go There" by Nash Black

David Smith reading death lore from Montell's book, Ghosts Along the Cumberland

Benjamin Foster and I singing acapella version of "Oh Death"

Ford Nashett reading "Death Mines" from Haints

And then to close out the show we had a young man who bills himself as "The World's Only Living Houdini", Aron Houdini. Aron, who is a master of magic and illusion treated us to a few feats of magic and then gave a presentation with slides about his experience in the Death Tunnel at Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville.
  • For those of you interested in finding out more about the Waverly Hills Sanatorium, please click here. Another good site is
And if you are REALLY interested in ghosts
And one last site I can't help but mention, because it has to do with haunted libraries.
  • Check this one out here.
See you all next year at Ghosts of Russell County!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...