Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Then Again by Diane Keaton

Then Again is Diane Keaton's memoir about her Mother and herself.  If you know Diane Keaton only as the actress who starred in many memorable movies over the years (Annie Hall, the Godfather trilogy, Reds, etc.), this book will give you a glimpse into her family life and personal life.  Her mother was perhaps the most formidable influence in her life and Diane writes about their bond with great candor.  Her mother kept 85 journals (literally thousands of pages) in which she wrote about her marriage, her children, and herself and Diane has used these to paint a portrait of her mother that is unflinching in its honesty.  Diane's mother was an intellectual with restless and creative energy who struggled to find an outlet for her talents.  Diane wonders openly in the book what would have happened to her own dreams of being in the spotlight, if her mother's had been realized. 

Warm, funny, and self-deprecating, it's a marvelous little book about family--those people you love and who love you.

The Book Surgeon

Using knives, tweezers and surgical tools, Brian Dettmer carves one page at a time. Nothing inside the out-of-date encyclopedias, medical journals, illustration books, or dictionaries is relocated or implanted, only removed.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo

An Elephant in the Garden is inspired by historical fact (click here) and by the author's admiration for an animal he calls "the noblest and wisest, and most sensitive of all creatures."  It is a story that brings together an unlikely group of survivors whose faith in kindness and love proves the best weapon of all.

The bombing of Dresden looms and Lizzie's mother, a zookeeper, persuades the zoo director to allow Marlene, a young elephant that has bonded with Lizzie and her younger brother, Karl, to be kept safe in their garden.  Their home is destroyed when bombs are dropped, so the family and Marlene have no choice but to flee with thousands of others in the dead of winter.  This is the story of how they walked and kept themselves safe from approaching Russian soldiers.

It is a heartwarming narrative, with a calm and steady tone that engages the reader and builds in intensity as the story unfolds.  You will be drawn into this tale of survival and its thought provoking and poignant exploration of the terrible impact of war on both sides of the fighting.  Michael Morpurgo also wrote War Horse, which was made into a film Directed by Steven Spielberg being released on Christmas day.

And another inspiration for this lovely book was of course the elephants themselves.  If you love elephants (like I do), you may be interested in this link to another story about elephants during World War II--a very sad story indeed--and this link to one of my all time favorite books about elephants, that I discovered in a used bookstore in Chicago many years ago. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Future of Printed Books

Thanks to Wired, the next time someone asks me about ebooks killing off the print book, I've got my response all formulated.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Fifty-year-old Alice Howland, a Harvard professor of cognitive psychology, is at the top of her game.  Her kids are grown, her marriage secure, her career on fire, when--after mere months of forgetfulness--she finds herself in the rapidly downward spiral of early onset Alzheimer's disease.  With no cure or treatment, Alice struggles to find meaning and purpose in her everyday life as her concept of self slips away.  Without memory or hope, she is forced to live in the moment, which is in turns beautiful, terrifying, and maddening.

The author, Lisa Genova, is a first-time author who holds a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard University.  She is a member of the Dementia Advocacy, Support Network International and DementiaUSA and is an online columnist for the National Alzheimer's association. She lives with her husband and two children in Cape Cod.

This book was an uncomfortable read for me because my great grandmother had memory issues, my grandmother had them, and my mother (who just turned 80) is starting to experience some difficulty.  Apparently, this runs in the women in my family, so of course is of great concern to me.  Just because there is a strong genetic linkage, it doesn't mean that I will inherit the disorder, but obviously it is of concern to me.

This book is important for several reasons.  First and foremost, the glimpse we get into what it is like for the patient going through this long dark season (we see what it is like to literally lose your mind); and the differing points of view concerning what it is like to deal with a loved one who is deteriorating right in front of your eyes.  It is haunting, heartbreaking, and frightening.  Perhaps the scariest thing for me was losing your language capability.  That would be the hardest thing for me to bear in the whole horrible process.

There is a touching passage in the book where she talks about how she used to be..."I used to know how the mind handled language, and I could communicate what I knew.  I used to be someone who knew a lot.  No one asks for my opinion or advice anymore.  I miss that.  I used to be curious and independent and confident.  I miss being sure of things.  There's no peace in being unsure of everything all the time.  I miss doing everything easily.  I miss being a part of what's happening.  I miss feeling wanted.  I miss my life and my family.  I loved my life and family."

I highly recommend this book.  Even if you are lucky enough to have never been touched by this dread disease, you will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the toll it exacts.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I absolutely loved this book, and highly recommend it.  It is an unflinchingly dark, funny and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.

At seven minutes past midnight, 13 year old Conor wakes up to find a monster outside his bedroom window.  But it isn't the monster he's been expecting--the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments.  The monster in his backyard is different.  It's ancient, and wild.  And it wants something from Conor--something terrible and dangerous.  It wants the truth.

This book stems from the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd (whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself).  It is a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

Profoundly moving and expertly crafted, the tale is enhanced by atmospheric and ominous illustrations that surround the text--softly caressing it in quiet moments, and in others rushing toward the viewer with a nightmarish intensity.  It draws on elements of classic horror stories to delve into the terrifying terrain of loss.  It tackles the toughest of subjects by refusing to flinch, meeting the ugly truth of life head-on with compassion, bravery, and insight. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bookshop at the End of the World

Arizona Public Media profiled Winifred Bundy's Singing Wind Bookshop, a 37-year-old, windswept "book lover's haven [that] sits on a ranch with no paved road or parking lot, no website, no advertisements--and no shortage of customers," largely because of its "expansive and eclectic collection, much of which is about the Southwest." 

"It's mostly subjective--whatever I like," Bundy said. "Over the door is finance, and I truly believe all of that is fiction... and here's women's experiences in the West, which aren't fiction, I promise. Here's Hillerman hardcover, Hillerman softcover. Indians in the Southwest, Indians outside the Southwest... the Jewish Western experience--that's extremely important... short Californians--that's the size of the books, not the people--and tall Californians... bad men and bad ladies, shoot-'em-ups... and the Mormons are up over the window."

Bundy, now 81, observed that the "people I meet are more important than anything else. They could be your neighbor, or a Japanese tourist. Honestly, I think I get more out of this than anyone else."

Oprah of the Piney Woods

The Houston Press, in an interview and profile, has called her the Oprah of the Piney Woods.  Kathy Patrick owns Beauty and the Book, is founder of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club, author of The Pulpwood Queen's Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life, organizer of the Girlfriend Weekend, and is a popular speaker at dozens of book festivals.  Okay, I admit it, she is pretty darn cool.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Make Take Murder by Joanna Campbell Slan

Scrapbooking is really big in my area.  Our library is going to have an upcoming holiday scrapbooking program that I'm sure people will really love, and scrapbooking retreats are planned once a year at our local state park.  With this in mind, I picked up the fourth book in Joanna Campbell Slan's Scrap n Craft mystery series the other day and I must say that I really enjoyed it. 

Joanna Campbell Slan is an international authority in the scrapbooking community. She is the author of over ten books on the subject, and her work has appeared in all of the industry's top magazines.  Joanna is one of the early Chicken Soup for the Soul authors, and in 2007, she co-founded Sisters in Crime's Forensic University of St. Louis.

This is a cozy mystery with a mix of humor and suspense.  When Kiki Lowenstein is dumpster diving for her lost paycheck she finds a severed leg.  She finds out that the leg belonged to Cindy Gambrowski, a customer with an abusive and violent husband.  As Kiki tries to discover who the killer is we meet an interesting mix of characters who are well developed and the writing keeps you interested and on the edge of your seat following the action.  The book includes holiday-themed projects and recipes too.  A darn good read with a surprise ending.  I highly recommend it.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Inheritance, November 8, 2011

He was 15 years old when he wrote Eragon, and now this home schooled prodigy is releasing Book 4, Inheritance.  Look for it.

Following Atticus by Tom Ryan

When a close friend dies of cancer, Tom Ryan and his miniature schnauzer Atticus, decide to pay tribute to her by attempting to climb all 48 of New Hampshire's 4,000 foot peaks twice in one winter while raising money for charity.  This is their story...the story of a middle aged, overweight, acrophobic newspaperman and a dog of singular character.  It is a book about a remarkable journey and an extraordinary relationship that began when a 5-pound puppy pierced the heart of a tough-as-nails newspaperman opening his eyes to the beauty and possibility in the world.  This is an inspiring story about love, loss, and the resilience of the human and animal bond.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Last Words of 25 Famous Dead Writers

When you've dedicated your life to words, it is important to go out eloquently.  This list from BuzzFeed is pretty interesting.  My favorite, of course, is from Edgar Allan Poe.

Top 10 Cities in the U.S. for Book Lovers

Here's the list from livability.com.  And no, one cannot live on books alone. That's why the cities picked offer a great quality of life, plenty of entertainment and awesome outdoor activities. After all, there's nothing worse than reading an inspiring novel and having nothing to do after closing the cover.

1.  Portland, OR
2.  Kansas City, MO
3.  San Jose, CA
4.  Charlottesville, VA
5.  Iowa City, IA
6.  Traverse City, MI
7.  Pueblo, CO
8.  Coral Gables, FL
9.  Spokane, WA
10.  Charlotte, NC

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Baby Shower Invitation

Possibly the cutest idea I've seen for a baby shower in a long time.  I just love it!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Smell of a Book

So many people claim to love the smell of books.  Here's an article that attempts to explain why.

Literary Pets

Hemingway and friend

Since I love all things literary, and I'm a pet lover too, this seemed to be a nice fit (courtesy of 50watt.com)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

I loved this book!  It was such a fast fun read.  I recommend it highly.

The Waverlys are a family of women who reside in Bascom, North Carolina.  All the Waverley women have reputations for having certain gifts.  Claire Waverley is a successful caterer, who prepares dishes made with the plants from her garden, which mysteriously blooms year round.  She has an apple tree with prophetic fruit, edible flowers that imbue people with special powers, and she's eccentric, reclusive, and an enigma.  Claire's distant relative Evanelle gives people things.  It is not always clear why she is supposed to give them something, but invariably some time after the gift is made a purpose is revealed.  Claire's sister Sydney, who ran away from Bascom the moment she could, returns suddenly one day and Claire's quiet and carefully tended life spins completely out of control.

This book is about so much more than two sisters reconnecting after many years.  It is full of magic and enchantment, and flower lore, and just plain joie de vivre.  Sarah Addison Allen, the author, was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, a place Rolling Stone magazine once called "America's New Freak Capital."  She has a B.A. in Literature because she thought it would be amazing to get a diploma for reading fiction.  She thought it was like being able to major in eating chocolate (a girl after my own heart).

Read this book.  Prepare to be delighted.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Demon's Parchment by Jeri Westerson

This is book three in Jeri Westerson's medieval noir series.   Westerson's main character is Crispin Guest, a sort of medieval Sam Spade, who lives in the Shambles area of 14th century London and uses his intelligence and keen eye for detail as the "Tracker".  He is approached by a Jewish physician, Jacob of Provencal, who wants him to find stolen parchments which someone might have used to bring forth a demon.  These same parchments might be behind a series of grusome murders of young boys.  With the help of his apprentice, Jack Tucker, Crispin must unravel all the mysteries and try to stop the murders.

It is a wild notion to write about a medieval serial killer who murders and defiles children, but in fact this novel is based on a retelling of a very real and strange tale of a 15th century serial killer, Gilles de Rais.  There is even another character in the book who is based on a real person, but I won't give away the surprise by telling you who here.  Just read the book and be surprised and delighted.

Westerson is a skillfull writer who knows her subject.  She has an uncanny knack for making you feel like you are right there in 14th century London experiencing these things along with Crispin.  She has a great eye for historical detail, and her writing is superb.

"Troubled Bones", the latest installment in this series comes out in October.  In the meantime, go here and check out Crispin Guest's Journal, or here and check out Jeri Westerson's webpage.

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

Rose Grandee is a texas housewife.  She has a mother who departed her life early on leaving her with a pile of books and at the mercy of her Daddy's abusive fists.  Rose Grandee endures the physical abuse of her husband.  After all, it is pretty much all she has known over the course of her life.

But, underneath the surface of Rose Grandee, lies Rose Mae Lolly, a teen age hellion and heartbreaker from Alabama who is a crack shot with a pistol.  When the tarot cards of a gypsy fortune teller predict that Rose's husband is going to kill her unless she kills him first, Rose Mae Lolly rares her head.

After trying to kill her husband (before he kills her), and botching it, she and her dog fat Gretel, leave on a journey where she uncovers long buried truths about her family.  That journey results in a harrowing depiction of how far a mother will go to right a wrong and how far a daughter will run to escape forgiveness. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Forbes Highest Paid Authors List

  • James Patterson ($84 million)

  • Danielle Steel ($35 million)

  • Stephen King ($28 million)

  • Janet Evanovich ($22 million)

  • Stephenie Meyer ($21 million)

  • Rick Riordan ($21 million)

  • Dean Koontz ($19 million)

  • John Grisham ($18 million)

  • Jeff Kinney ($17 million)

  • Nicholas Sparks ($16 million)

  • Ken Follett ($14 million)

  • Suzanne Collins ($10 million)

  • J.K. Rowling ($5 million)

  • A Bookshelf that gently goads you into reading

    Now this is wild. . .to help you keep the balance between read and unread books!

    Literary Shoes etc.

    In my search for all things book related, I came across these.  Now why didn't they have things like this when I was young?

    Making Room for Readers

    This very interesting article from The Millions makes some excellent points about readers and reading.

    Sunday, August 7, 2011

    Neil Gaiman purse

    One of the interesting vendors I met at the recent ALA meeting in New Orleans was Caitlin Phillips from Rebound Designs, which she bills as a second chance for well-loved books".  She transforms old and unwanted literature into one of a kind Book Purses and Paperback Wallets.  Have a favorite book? She's got you covered.  Check her out here.  The picture above is the purse she did for me using the leatherbound tenth anniversary issue of Neil Gaiman's "American Gods".  I think it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. 

    Saturday, August 6, 2011

    Five Architecturally Impressive Libraries

    As this site says, until each and every book is cataloged on the internet for consumption on a Kindle we're going to need libraries, so they might as well look good.

    Friday, August 5, 2011

    Little Free Library

    Now this is really a quite charming idea

    A Backstage Pass to the World of Charlaine Harris

    If you are a fan of the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, you might enjoy this video interview with Harris (in two parts).  Charlaine talks about the books, her take on True Blood, and what's next for Sookie Stackhouse.

    10 Action Librarians

    Love this that I found over at themarysue.com

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    The next Harry Potter

    For years people have been predicting what would be the next Harry Potter.  With the final movie from the franchise in theaters now, here's a look at some of the series that have been called its successor--and whether they have lived up to the hype (courtesy of Atlantic magazine).

    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    Why Librarians 'Need to Be More Like Lady Gaga'

    Gwyneth Anne Jones, a teacher-librarian in Laurel, Md., who writes the Daring Librarian Blog, says that librarians need to be more like Lady Gaga than Lady Bird Johnson.  We need to establish a clear, pervasive, vibrant, and involved presence in our community, and on the web. The more visible librarians are the less likely that they’ll be taken away.  Good point.  

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    American Library Association Meeting, New Orleans

    As you can see from the photos, I had a great time in New Orleans at the ALA Meeting. It was wonderful to get a chance to meet some folks face to face whose books I've enjoyed reading for years and to get to know some new authors.  New Orleans was an attraction itself, the Scholarship Bash held at the World War II Museum was a rousing good time, and the Newbery, Caldecot, Wilder Award Banquet was a glittering affair.   

    Me with Daniel Handler, aka, Lemony Snicket
    He's signing a copy of his new Young Adult book for me "Why We Broke Up"

    Me with Kate DiCamillo, Alison McGhee, and Tony Fucile
    Kate's book that she signed for me is "Bink & Gollie"

    Me and Harlan Coben
    He's signing his new YA book "Shelter"

    Jeff Kinney, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" author, gave a nice presentation

    Cassandra Clare, author of the hot YA trilogy "Mortal Instruments"

    Mary Kay Andrews, author of Little Bitty Lies, Hissy Fit, and Savannah Blues

    Authors Brandon Sanderson and Nnedi Okorafor
    Brandon signed copies of his book "The Way of Kings" (he is also completing Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series); Nnedi signed copies of her books "Akata Witch" and "Who Fears Death".

    Steve Hamilton, author of Edgar Award Winner for Best Novel of the Year for his YA book "The Lock Artist"

    Alden Bell, author of "The Reapers are the Angels"

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