Saturday, December 29, 2012

Reading Challenge 2012, Goal of 75 Books Achieved

It appears that 75 was a good number for which to strive in my reading challenge 2012.  It seemed to me that my reading lagged a bit this year, but with the help of a cozy mystery series, I was able to hit the mark.  Favorites in adult fiction included Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks, Emma by Jane Austen, The Yard by Alex Grecian, The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney, The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley, The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny, Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King, Dead Scared by S.J. Bolton, Last to Die by Tess Gerritsen, and The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton.  I would be less than honest if I didn't also mention enjoying the Fifty Shades of  Gray series.  Young adult favorites included The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, Good Masters/Sweet Ladies by Laura Amy Schlitz, and the Sally Lockhart series (The Shadow in the North, The Tiger in the Well, and The Tin Princess) by Philip Pullman.  Some picture book favorites were Book Speak by Laura Purdie Salas and The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco.  In the cozy mystery series category, I have one more book to go in the Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton, a series that has been a pleasant one to go through in the same year.  I should finish the last one before January 1.  It has been a great reading year, even though there are some major titles, such as The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, that I have yet to read.



      2012 Reading Challenge


          2012 Reading Challenge


        Kathy has
            completed her goal of reading 75 books in 2012!





        78 of 75 (104%)


          view books



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Banned Books Week 2012

I hope that all book lovers are celebrating the freedom to read what we choose this week and every week.  What disturbs me most about book censorship is the magical world of imagination so many children are denied through the misguided intentions of their parents.  My reading life was never censored, a gift I credit to my mother who loved books and encouraged me to love them, too.

Some links on this subject that might prove of interest are as follows:  


Monday, October 1, 2012

Catching Up

I can hardly believe that it's been a month since my last posting.  It is shaping up to be a very busy fall indeed.  The National Book Festival in DC on September 22nd and 23rd was a blast!  It's always hard to choose between listening to the authors speak or obtaining signatures from your favorite authors.  I came away with fewer signatures than I wanted, but I heard some incredible talks by some amazing authors.  Patricia Polacco gave one of the best talks I've ever heard from an author.  I was literally moved to tears by the beauty of her words, and I don't cry easily.  I will post more about the authors and books from this fantastic festival later.

It is now October, and I have a backlog of newly published books to read and add to my already gargantuan list of TBR.  This week is an important one in the lives of readers, as it is Banned Books Week.  We give focus to our freedom to read what we choose and support the fight against book censorship.  I will be listing some links to Banned Books Week and sharing some of my favorite challenged/censored books. 

And then, it is the month of Halloween, my favorite time of year.  On top of all the newly published and other books waiting to be read by me, I need to pick out at least one Halloween read for this year.  I will probably do a short reread of a favorite like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and a new spooky read from my collection of ghostly tales.

My reading goal of 75 books for this year has taken a hit in September, as my reading time was minimal, much to my dismay.  So, I'm hoping October will be more reading friendly or certainly more conducive to my sitting in my favorite chair and losing myself in story.  Fingers crossed and books open to the ready. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Countdown to National Book Festival


It is 22 days until I attend the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.  To say that I'm excited is much understated.  In the past month, I have attempted to read some books by attending authors, and I will continue to do so up until the festival itself and after.  With every week now presenting new publications from favorite authors, it is rather a daunting task to fit in the books for the festival and those favorite authors.  However, there are some titles that overlap, as in the example of Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks, both a festival read and a favorite author.  I suspect that overlapping will be the norm.  Two books I've just finished are indeed both favorite author and festival choices, The Fault in Our Stars and, previously mentioned, Caleb's Crossing.  I'm including the reviews for both books below and also on my review page. 

Caleb's CrossingCaleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another "wow" from Geraldine Brooks!  There's a level of writing and storytelling that consistently sets the bar high, and Brooks sets this high bar with every stroke of the key.  She continues to find the obscure thread of history and create a story around it that completely enthralls the reader.  As with her previous novels, I became ensconced into the time, places, and people of this tale.  There is always a higher calling to the stories, a David vs. Goliath struggle that finds you passionately pulling for the underdog and exasperated with the ignorance and intolerance of those in power. 

Caleb's Crossing is a tale inspired by the first Native American graduate of Harvard, Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, a member of the Wopanaak tribe from what is now Martha's Vineyard.  In 1665, he accomplished this extraordinary feat, having learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew in the process.  Brooks was able to take scant information about this amazing scholar and spin a plausible and intriguing story that vividly recreates the era of history in which Native Americans were usually referred to as salvages (savages) and women were routinely denied control of their destinies.  The narrator of the story is Bethia Mayfield, daughter of Great Harbor's, as part of the island was called then, minister.  Her grandfather had purchased the land from the Indians, attempting in his own way, a fair settlement.  Bethia and Caleb become friends at a young age, unbeknownst to their families and friends, and exude some influence over each other.  She teaches him English, and he teaches her his native tongue and the riches of the island's natural beauties.  Life is hard on the island, and indeed in the late 17th century America, and Bethia and Caleb must overcome many prejudices and tragedies to claim a piece of the budding new world for themselves.  Both clash with controlling family members, Bethia with her brother and Caleb with his uncle, and their relatives' ideas of what is best for them in contrast to what the two friends secretly covet.  The novel is as much about breaking free of the chains that bind one as it is about Caleb's rise to Harvard graduate.  The treatment of Native Americans and women had much in common in the 1660's age of white man's suppressive authority.  Some would allow that the struggle still continues.

As with her previous novel, People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks has given readers a fascinating historical fiction read in Caleb's Crossing.  Her writing is superb and her subjects are unparalleled in their captivating ability to transport the reader to another time and place.  Perhaps, Brooks' novels should more  accurately be listed under time travel.

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes, not nearly often enough, a book comes along that you must finish reading no matter what the time of night, or morning, and in spite of a full day facing you after your dearth of sleep.  I only halfheartedly tried to put the book down once last night/early this morning, and then I gave in to the power of the need to finish it.  I originally balked at reading this book, as I wasn't sure when I would ever be in the mood for a book about teens dealing with cancer.  All I can say now is, don't judge a book by what you think its subject matter is. Yes, Hazel and Augustus are two teen who struggle with cancer and all that entails, including loving parents who want so desperately to banish the evil monster that has imprisoned their children.  But, this gripping book is not about cancer; this book is about people, two people who are amazing.  As Augustus tells Hazel early on when he ask what her story is and she starts to remind him of her cancer diagnosis, "No, not your cancer story. Your story.  Interests, hobbies, passions, weird fetishes, etcetera." 

The first book I read by John Green was Looking For Alaska, and I was impressed by his ability to get inside the teenage mind, the one that is questioning the rules and wisdom of the ages, as teens should and actually do.  Then, when I read An Abundance of Katherines, I fell in love with Green's witty characters.  Wit is very much valued by me in writing, and Green is a master with it.  In The Fault in Our Stars, the wit is a continual feast of delight.  Yes, cancer kids can be wonderfully witty and passionate about life, just like, well, just like any kids. 

Don't misunderstand, there is the dreaded disease of cancer always there in this book.  How could it be otherwise?  It is treated by Green as it is, ugly and humiliating.  That teenagers can have fun, find love, and share favorite books while talking about death suits and last wishes is nothing short of miraculous, normalcy against all odds. 

I will probably at some point reread this moving book to embrace all the wit and wonder that it contains.  It's a book that you just know will maintain its power for the rest of your reading life. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Paperbacks, A Beginning

For those readers who have great patience and can stand to wait for a book to appear in paperback form, they can enjoy a great read that is more affordable and easier to carry.  There are even two sizes, the mass paperback (the smaller and uniform in size) and the trade paperback (the larger and not always the same size).  Some authors, who are particularly popular in general or with a specific title, are published in both the mass and the trade.  I much prefer the trade paperback (when I can wait and not demand the expediency of the hardback), as the print is larger and there is more white space between sentences.  It's partially an age-related preference, but I actually like the feel of the larger books, too.  My least favorite type of paperback in either mass or trade is the movie-cover paperback.  I like my reading served up with a little less direction and more imagination.  What steered me toward thinking about paperbacks is the article I read today on the origin of the paperback book.  Originally called pocket books, for obvious reasons, the mass paperback still follows that form.  Of course, the current trend of e-reading is analogous to the advent of the paperback, and it is mentioned in the article, too.  I am including the article from Mental Floss Magazine so that others may also enjoy a little history lesson in reading.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Polio, Terror and Panic in America

If you are of a certain age in the United States, you will remember at least some of the rampant fear caused by the disease poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis.  Born in 1954, the year a vaccine was discovered by Dr. Jonus Salk (followed the year after by Dr. Albert Sabin), I can still remember it being a major concern of my parents when I was a very young child.  Parents were still warning their children against public swimming pools and drinking fountains in the carefree days of summer.  It was a worrisome time for parents, as polio most often struck the young.  Dr. Salk's vaccine dealt with a dead virus.  Dr. Sabin's dealt with a live virus.  The Sabin vaccine given on a sugar cube was the norm when I received my dosage.  I remember being in a school in a long line and going up on the stage to receive it.  Summer and early fall seemed to be the time for the worst outbreaks of this notorious predator of youth, and the most dreaded kind of polio was the paralytic polio, which could rob one of the use of one or all of their limbs.  As if there could be an even more feared outcome, the virus would sometimes paralyze group muscles in the chest that controlled breathing, in which case the patient would be encased in an iron lung ( ).  Too often, death followed this severe stage.  I viewed the "Whatever Happened to Polio" exhibit at The Smithsonian National Museum of American History during its 2005/2006 tour, and I was able to examine an actual iron lung, an daunting apparatus indeed.  Of course, many students have learned of this disease through their history books, where one of the most famous polio victims, 32nd President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who contracted poliomyelitis in 1921 at age 39, an age considered well past the prime age target of the disease, is acknowledged for his vast contributions to our country's past and future.  FDR was aslo a major force in the research and treatment of polio.  There was and is no cure for polio, only convalescent care and supporting therapies.  My only real up close and personal experience with a polio victim was the acquaintance of a neighborhood girl, who was three years older than I.  I can still picture the braces on her legs and her difficulty in maneuvering her environment.  It was so amazing what a few years meant in the danger of polio and the vaccine to combat it.  "In the immediate pre-vaccine era (i.e., early 1950s), between 13,000 and 20,000 paralytic cases were reported each year.  After the development of the inactivated (Salk) injectable vaccine in 1955 and the live (Sabin) oral vaccine in 1961, the number of polio cases dropped dramatically.  In 1960, there were 2,525 paralytic cases reported, but by 1965 this number had fallen to 61.  Due to a concentrated effort to eradicate polio from the world, there have been no cases of 'wild' (i.e., natural) polio acquired in the United States since 1979, and no cases of wild polio acquired in the entire Western Hemisphere since 1991." (

The following site, fueled by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and based on their 2005/2006 exhibit, is an excellent one from which to learn about polio in the United States: 

“The fear of polio was a fear of something you had no defense against, something that hit without logic or reason. Yesterday, it was the man down the block. Today it could be you or your children.”
—Larry Alexander, 1954

The above information provides only a modicum of background in relation to the two books I recently read about polio.  I am including my reviews of the books, one non-fiction and one fiction, below.  Also, I'm including the cover of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in history, Polio: An Americana Story, written by David M. Oshinsky.  I have read bits and parts of this much acclaimed book while reading the two reviewed books.  I, of course, plan on completing such an important historical account.

Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR's Polio HavenWarm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR's Polio Haven by Susan Richards Shreve

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first reason that I read this book is because the author, Susan Richards Shreve, is to be an attending author at the 2012 National Book Festival in D.C., which I also plan to attend.  While the author has many fiction titles unrelated to polio from which to choose, I wanted to read her non-fiction account of her struggles with polio and her time spent at FDR's famous Warm Springs.  I have only known one person in a personal sense who was struck with polio, but it has always piqued my curiosity.  I was a child born in 1954, when the polio vaccine was brand new, and I remember the sugar cubes we received coated with the vaccine.  I have found that in most non-fictional accounts, which are usually memoirs, which I have read about polio that I learn a little something new and different with each book.  Such was the case with Ms. Shreve's book. I enjoyed reading about FDR's history with Warm Springs and its subsequent use as a polio haven.  Susan Richards was 11 years old when she arrived at Warm Springs and stayed for two years.  In writing the book, Shreve helped to refresh her memory by referring to an account of her stay written in her youth entitled Wooden and Wicker.  She states that it was a huge help in refreshing what her 11-year-old/12-year-old self thought and felt at that time, and I think her access to this account helped lend an authenticity to the book otherwise unattainable.  Don't read this book expecting to obtain an all-encompassing history or view of polio in the 1940's and 1950's.  As I have already stated, reading different memoirs and some fictional accounts each give you important insight upon which to build a knowledge and understanding of the dreaded disease of polio, which struck so much fear into the parents of young children in America.  For more comprehensive reading, I would suggest Polio: An American Story by David M. Oshinsky, a history from which Ms. Shreve drew information for her book and which I have read in bits and parts, too.  So, read Warm Springs for a glimpse into the world of polio and add it to your collection of sources on the subject.  

NemesisNemesis by Philip Roth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had just finished reading a non-fiction, memoir account of a polio victim, and I came across, to my surprise, a fictional book dealing with polio by Philip Roth.  I was curious how it would stack up to the recent and other non-fiction books about polio that I'd read.  Well, as with much historical-fiction, I feel as if I learned a great deal about the scourge that was polio and its affect on communities.  Roth's protagonist, Bucky Cantor, is a 23-year-old college graduate who is a PE teacher and summertime playground director at Chancellor Avenue School in Newark, New Jersey.  Bucky had a rough start in life, but he was fortunate to be raised by his hard-working, honest grandparents who believed Bucky could succeed.  His poor eyesight kept him out of WWII, but his athleticism allowed him to be a leader for the boys on his playground that summer of 1944, the summer that Newark would suffer a terrifying polio outbreak.  Bucky's best attribute is his devotion to helping others; his worst attribute is his taking responsibility for the blameless.  His decision on whether to join his girlfriend in the Poconos as a summer camp counselor and leave the ravaged streets of Newark and his boys is a crisis of faith for Bucky.  The fallout from that decision will determine the paths of many.  As with the non-fiction titles about polio that I've read, I came away from Roth's slim novel with new and intriguing information about polio.  Roth's masterful power of description greatly enhanced the experience of learning.  My only real complaint about the novel is the narration format.  It's not that I minded another character, other than Bucky, being the narrator, but that the character was alluded to in a rather thinly veiled reference early in the book and not clearly revealed until the last of the book.  I would have preferred that the book opened up with an undisguised narrator.  Having said that, I do think that Roth created an excellent venue to tell not only of the fear and horror of that summer of polio, but he created a character that revealed a struggle with perfection in an imperfect world.  


Sunday, August 5, 2012

50th Anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's Death

To mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Marilyn Monroe, this past week I read one fiction and one non-fiction work dealing with the subject matter.  This death has puzzled and fascinated the American public for five decades now, and it's doubtful whether we will ever have all the answers.  However, I was most satisfied with the Jay Margolis non-fiction read, which answered many of my own questions.  I'm including reviews for the Margolis book, entitled Marilyn Monroe: A Case for Murder and the fiction book, too, which is entitled The Empty Glass by J.I. Baker.

Marilyn Monroe: A Case for MurderMarilyn Monroe: A Case for Murder by Jay Margolis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are so many books about Marilyn Monroe and Marilyn Monroe's death that it can make you dizzy trying to decide which one to read.  Not only are there serious researchers who have dissected and examined Marilyn's life and death, but anyone who remotely knew her has written a book, too.  So, why did I read Jay Margolis' book?  First off, it was recent, published in 2011, which appealed to me in the far from the heat of the moment publications.  Secondly, Margolis researched the subject for five years, a respectable amount of time to sift through the facts and fiction.  Last of all, the presentation of the information or format of the book suited my reading style, especially with non-fiction.   Information is presented in short bursts, pertinent to detailed subject headings.  There is a concise, clear timeline of Marilyn's last day and her death.  Also included is an extensive bibliography and intricate footnotes.  Jay Margolis puts forth the facts in a fully readable fashion, and they fall in place into a most probable case for murder indeed.  The inconsistencies and lies, of which there were many, are examined and explained.  Who had what to gain and what to lose is pulled loose from the quagmire, and the tragic truth rises to the top of the pile.  Marilyn Monroe was a casualty in the careers of the politically powerful, a sustainable loss in the bid to be great.  A talented and beautiful actress, she could not save herself from a fate into which she dangerously wandered.     

The Empty GlassThe Empty Glass by J.I. Baker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel is in the format of a noir film and told from the perspective of Deputy Coroner Ben Fitzgerald, who quickly surmises that the facts just aren't adding up to the story being put out to the public about Marilyn Monroe's death.  One of the first on the scene when the death is reported, Ben observes that there is no water in the room with which pills could have been taken and that Marilyn's body appears to have been moved.  The scene had not yet been staged to reflect the public story.  When the coroner's report shows no trace of pills or residue in Marilyn's stomach, Ben's suspicions cannot be contained within his delegated role.  The story that Ben is telling is being told to a "doctor," but the reader doesn't know who this doctor is until the end of the story.  With the suspense and danger of Ben's discoveries and the uncertain setting of his summary of this events leads to a highly engaging read where fiction does reveal much truth.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fahrenheit 451 Discussion

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is in my top 5 favorite books of all my reading thus far.  I came across this discussion initiated by the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, and I thought it something I'd like to promote here on my blog.  I'm way overdue for a reread of this favorite.  Book censorship or the prevention of it is a subject I consider important to keep in the forefront of our thinking.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bookmobiles Continued

In conjunction with yesterday's posting about bookmobiles, I thought it would be nice to have an accompanying list of books about these wonderful conveyers of reading.  The links are to the Peninsula Library System and the list was compiled by Vaughn H. of the Half Moon Library.  There is a mixture of children's, YA, and adult.  I've added one more children's at the bottom of this list, linked to Amazon.

  • The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton. A novel based on the real camel bookmobile service in rural Kenya, in which the road to hell is traveled by a well-meaning American relief worker.
  • That Book Woman by Heather Henson. A picture book for the youngest readers with a story about an imaginary pack horse librarian and a boy who learns to read despite himself.
  • The Book Stops Here: A Mobile Library Mystery  by Ian Sansom.Israel Armstrong travels back to his native England with the bookmobile, and finds that the sceptered isle is not all he had dreamed of. But don't stop here-- keep reading. 
  • The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams. A novel for young adults about a teen-age girl living with her family in a polygamous community in the desert, whose world is expanded when she begins to check out books from the bookmobile.
  • Hannah's Bookmobile Christmas by Sally Derby.  A picture book in which Mary and her young friend Hannah may have to spend the night in the bookmobile, if they can't make it home through the snow on Christmas Eve.

     Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile by Gloria Houston 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dead ScaredDead Scared by S.J. Bolton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

S.J. Bolton is an author on which I can always count to provide me with one of my favorite reads of the year.  Such consistency is readers' heaven to book addicts such as myself.  In her latest thriller, Bolton returns to the characters of her previous book, Now You See Me--Lacey Flint, the young detective constable with a secret past, and DI Mark Joesbury, the man she can't forget and who can't forget her.  Featuring return characters is something new for Bolton, and as I enjoy these two characters so much, I'm hoping she will make these books the beginning of a series, although I still want more stand-alones, too.  Yes, I ask too much, but S.J. Bolton is fully capable of delivering it.  The common thread in all of Bolton's novels is the psychological suspense which builds throughout a brilliant plot.  In Dead Scared, DI Joesbury enlists the aid of DC Lacey Flint when a rash of suicides at Cambridge University seems to indicate underlying interference.  Lacey is to pose as a student and observe campus life close to the latest victim.  Of course, Lacey Flint never just observes, and she soon finds herself embroiled in a tangled web of dangerous mind games where her troubled past threatens to make her a perfect target.  Mark Joesbury must deal with feelings he would rather not have for Lacey and trying to conduct a complex investigation.  The sinister forces behind the suicides threaten to destroy them all.  I enjoyed every page of this edge-of-your-seat novel and now must deal with my morning after grief of it being over.  Ah, the life of a reader is such an emotional roller coaster.    

View all my reviews

Monday, June 18, 2012

Just Read and Loved! The Yard by Alex Grecian

This debut novel by Alex Grecian is exactly my cup of tea, Victorian England tea that is.  "The Yard," of course, refers to Scotland Yard and takes place in the year 1889, with the Jack the Ripper murders still fresh in the minds of London inhabitants and those who failed to catch the monster, the monster who introduced a new sort of murder to the city, serial murder with unrelated victims subjected to a depravity beyond the normal murders of acquaintances and kin.  As a result of the Ripper murders, a new squad has been formed at the Yard called the Murder Squad, a force of 12 detectives assigned the escalating murders of London.  Inspector Detective Walter Day is new to the squad and has been assigned the murder of one of their own, a member of the elite Murder Squad.  The advent of criminology as a scientific method of gathering evidence and solving crimes is introduced through the character of Dr. Bernard Kingsley, coroner and meticulous investigator himself.  These two dedicated crime solvers, along with a brilliantly created cast of support characters, must see their way through the fog (yes, I did) of clues and distractions to find a killer who is becoming all too comfortable with murder.  Grecian's writing is so strong in so many areas--characterization, plot, setting, dialogue--that the phrase "page turner" is an easy assignation.  The novel is rich with historic detail and references that blend effortlessly into the story.  I was delighted to learn that this book is the first in a series that will be providing readers with what we always want after reading an especially good book, which is more, more, more. 
 My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I am a person who loves to make lists, so making reading lists is one of my favorite reading activities, outside of the actual reading itself.  I always keep a running list of what I intend (good intentions are the pathway to reading remorse, not hell) to read for each year, highlighting a book when I've finished it.  Yes, I get all giddy when I highlight a title.  Although we are well into the summer season, I am now ready to post my summer reading list.  Remember the good intentions and all.  The one guaranteed consistency about my reading lists is the constant alteration of them, but I do hope to read many of the following titles.  If I fail to accomplish reading any this summer, they will undoubtedly make it onto my fall or winter reading lists.  The addition of children's or teen titles is quite likely to this summer list.  I've included a few YA titles, but I haven't conferred with my 11-year-old granddaughter yet as to any buddy reads.  So for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness or in health, I vow to read as many of the titles on my Summer Reading List for 2012 as possible.

Summer Reading List 2012

Dead Scared by S.J. Bolton
The Yard: A Novel by Alex Grecian
Perla by Carolina De Robertis
Canada by Richard Ford
The Technologists by Matthew Pearl
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
All About Emily by Connie Willis
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake: A Memoir by Anna Quindlen
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
Night Watch by Linda Fairstein
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
Last to Die by Tess Gerritsen
UnWholly by Neal Schusterman
100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson
Dandelion Fire: Book 2 of the 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson
Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival by Dean King
Cemetery Girl by David Bell
The Reckoning by Alma Katsu
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
 Istanbul Passage: A Novel by Joseph Kanon


Friday, June 8, 2012

Armchair BEA, Day Five:  Ask the Experts

I consider myself a newbie blogger, even though the blog has been somewhat set up for a few years.  It's only recently that I decided that I need to get off the fence about my reading blog, and, well, blog.  I'm learning a lot of new tricks, but sometimes I still feel lost.  I'm hoping that it will all get easier with time.  I only have one bit of advice so far, and that is you have to be committed to your blog if you want to have any success with it.  Reaching out to other bloggers and finding ones that inspire you to improvement are essential, too.

I have so many questions for the experts, but I will limit them to five here.
1.  I am having trouble with feedburner, trying to establish a feed for my blog.  It has something to do with my web address, but it works fine everywhere else.  I really want to add the option of email subscriptions, but I'm unable to.  Any suggestions?
2.   Any preferences for a blog provider?  I'm using eblog by Google, but I'm wondering if Wordpress is better?
3.  Is a blog designer worth the price?
4.  Is there such a thing as a blog mentor?  If so, where would I find one?
5.  Is there a blog template site that caters to books and reading?

I so hope that I receive some replies to these questions.  I need all the advice that I can get! 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Armchair BEA, Day Four:  Beyond Your Blog

"Has blogging opened up opportunities for you beyond getting free, advance copies of new books? Has it helped you get offers to write or review elsewhere (maybe even for pay)? Have you gotten invites to special events or places you might not have been to otherwise? Today, we'd like you to talk about those opportunities in you own posts, and later this morning, we'll have a guest post from one of our own Armchair BEA team members, about her freelancing experiences."

Actually, I would love to receive free, advance copies of new books, and I would consider that a step forward in my blogging.  I'm really trying to get more into the swing of things in the blogging world, especially the world of book blogging.  And, yes, I would love to do some freelance writing, have my reviews posted elsewhere, and get invited to events due to my blogging.  I would do it for free, although being paid is always a nice dream.  Today will be a real learning experience for me as I read others' thoughts on what they are involved in and how to get there.  I do post reviews on, which connects me to a wide variety of readers and where the comments are most encouraging.  If I could connect to a publication and have reviews published, it would definitely be a dream come true.  Now, I need to listen to all of the Armchair BEA voices of experience and take notes.

 Armchair BEA, Day 3:  Networking

First, I must apologize for being a day late on this posting.  My excuse is that I was gone all day spoiling my grandchildren, another passion of mine.  The topic for day 3 was networking, how we are "involved offline and in real life, establishing connections with local bookstores or libraries or even beyond."  It also includes "partnerships with the local literary scene, attending author events and signings, or getting together with blogger in your area."  I was afraid that I wouldn't have much to say on this topic, as I haven't tried to connect my blog to places or events outside of the Internet, but then I started thinking about what bookish things I do outside of my online involvement and how I might even start to connect blogging with those events.  I can only thank Armchair BEA for broadening my horizons and encouraging such thinking (one of the main reasons I wanted to do Armchair BEA).

For quite a few years now, I have attended author signings when possible and one particular book festival.  Author signings, which include the opportunity to hear the author speak and meet said author, are always so much fun and are such a powerful connector to that particular author and his/her works.  It definitely makes reading "real."  Some of the authors whom I have been privileged to meet in this way include Diana Gabaldon, Sena Jeter Naslund, Tess Gerritsen, Azar Nafisi, and Silas House.  An author signing is such an intimate affair, even when heavily attended.  I still seem to be dazzled by the down-to-earthiness of each author, the awareness that this wonderfully talented person actually exits on the same planet as I do.  The events lend themselves to some memorable experiences outside of meeting the author, too.  I will someday soon share the harrowing experience of my friend and I as we tried to get back to the lovely Shakertown Inn after the awesomeness of Diana Gabaldon, creator of our dreamy Scottish lad named Jamie.  It literally was a dark and stormy night!  I'm thinking that perhaps I can make some connections with these authors to my blog in the future.

Book festivals are the epitome of a book lover's lust realized.  All that talent, all those books!  I am drooling just remembering.  The largest such gathering I've attended is The National Book Festival held in Washington, D.C. every September.  It's been a few years since I had the adventure of a lifetime there (well, actually 2, as I attended two different years), but it was the stuff dreams (for book lovers anyway) are made of.  There is much standing in line at this event, but we bookies don't mind, as we can always read a book or talk to a fellow book lover.  A few of the wonderful authors that I met at this fantastic festival were Neil Gaiman (been there, done that, and have the picture to prove it), Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Peck, Katherine Patterson, Floyd Cooper, and Kate DiCamilo.  My greatest regret about the 2004 festival is that Connie Willis was there, and I didn't start reading and falling in love with her writing until later.

A more local book festival that I attend every year is the Southern Kentucky Book Festival (SOKY) held in April in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  As it is a smaller gathering than the National Book Festival, it is more the atmosphere of the intimate book signings.  I get so excited when I think about past festivals and authors I've met, that my mind flies ahead of my fingers on the keys.  There are so many of my favorite authors that I've been able to hear speak and converse with at this festival, and all of it within an hour of my house.  The authors that have particularly been special to me at SOKY are Kathleen Kent (spent an evening talking to this beautiful, articulate, talented lady), Pat Conroy, Harlan Coben, Scot Turow,  Deana Raybourn, Carl Hiassen, and Ellen Hopkins.  I just know I've left someone wonderful out of this list.  Will kick myself later.  What has amazed me as I hear authors speak is that they are as interesting in person as on paper, and they seem to have a sense of humor about themselves and their works, not a sense of entitlement.  My ole gray matter has been mulling over a book bloggers' connection to the SOKY for next year.  Hmm, turn wheels, turn!

So, while I don't consider myself to really network outside of my blog, I actually do, but I must now make an effort to connect the off-line with the online.  Of course, with all the experienced bloggers and networkers I'm being exposed to here on Armchair BEA, that process should be easier than before I landed here among their wisdom.    


Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Armchair BEA, Day 2:  Best of 2012, So Far

Welcome back to day 2 of the Armchair BEA!  Today's topic is our picks for the best of what we've read so far in 2012 and what books we are looking forward to reading the rest of the year.  So, without further adieu, here are my choices for best of what I've read so far.  Please take a look at my reviews for these books by clicking my review tab.  Also, to read what books I'm most looking forward to in new publications, click on "read more" after my best so far picks.

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney  
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley 
Emma by Jane Austen

The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman

Monday, June 4, 2012

Armchair BEA 2012, Day 1: An Introduction

Today begins BookExpo America (BEA) in New York City, and for those of us who are unable to attend "in person," there is .  The first event we armchair participants will experience is the introduction to ourselves and our blogs.  I
hope that the following questions provided by the Armchair BEA will help to acclimate people to my blog and encourage you wonderful fellow readers to become a follower and participant on my blog.  I know I'm already finding fantastic new blogs through these introductions.

1.  Please tell us a little bit about yourself:  Who are you?  How long have you been blogging?  Why did you get into blogging?

My name is Kathy, and I'm in my fabulous fifties, which most days really do seem like the new 30s, well ok, 40s.  It's a great time in my life, with my two children being grown and having two granddaughters to spoil.  As it so happens, they both love books and reading, so I'm having the time of my life with that.  My 11-year-old granddaughter calls me up to talk about what she's reading, and we sometimes read the same book.  My 2 1/2-year-old granddaughter wants me to read to her or she (pretend) read to me every time we see each other.  I live in the western part of Kentucky on the Ohio River.  I am no longer working outside the home, having worked in my husband's retail business, taught, and substitute taught.  So, I have plenty of time (but could always use more, lol) to read, which is my passion outside my family.  I obtained my Masters in Library Media a few years ago and would love to use it by working in a library, but that hasn't happened yet.  I actually started this blog a few years back, but I've just become active in keeping it updated recently.  I am still learning a few things and hope that I can make it one other book lovers will frequently visit and enjoy.  I got into the blogging because I just can't stop talking about books, and I thought the blogging forum would allow me to do that, sharing my reading experiences and reading about others' experiences.

2.  What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2012?

 I love mystery series reading, and I have just started the Aunt Dimity books by Nancy Atherton, currently reading Aunt Dimity and the Good DeedAfter that will probably be S.J. Bolton's new book that comes out tomorrow,  Dead Scared, or Matthew Pearl's latest, The Technologists.  My favorite read thus far in 2012 is a tie between The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney, Emma by Jane Austen, and Stormy Weather by Carl Hiassen.  It's just to hard to pick one when they are all so different.  I read a lot of young adult and children's books, too, so I pick my favorites there as Unwind by Neal Schusterman and The London Eye by Siobhan Dowd.  Books that somewhat fall inbetween adult and young adult that I thoroughly enjoyed were Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart mystery series.

3.  Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you.

I secretly want to get a tattoo and probably will for my 60th birthday, as I feel that I should plan something bold and daring for that milestone.  It may not be completely non-book-related, as I have found a wonderful little book tattoo in which I might indulge.  Of course, it might still be a little mermaid, as that is what I've always thought I would get.  As I am a bit shy about it (probably the only thing I'm shy about), it would be somewhere on my body that could be covered if I want.  Then again, I might just not care by 60 if it shows or not. 


4.  If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why?

It is just impossible for me to choose one favorite book or one favorite author or one favorite character with which to dine and converse.  So, here is my solution.  Picking only one author, it would be Karen Maitland, author of favorite books of mine, Company of Liars, The Owl Killers, and The Gallows Curse.  Her historic fiction is so well-written and researched, it has been one of my most delightful discoveries in the past few years.  Also, Ms. Maitland is a first rate person, who not only sent me an autographed copy of her latest book when I couldn't find it in the United States, but she also sent me a postcard depicting her hometown of Lincoln and a personal note on it.  She appreciates her fans.  I do, also, have a fondness for British fiction.  The second part of my answer (my, how I do go on) is that I would love to have a group dinner with the following authors--Alan Bradley, Neil Gaiman, Maggie Steifvater, Paul Jennings, Pat Conroy, Anna Quindlen, and Carl Hiassen.  The reason is that these authors have some of the best senses of humor I've ever encountered, and most of them are quirky, which I value very highly.  

5.  What literary location would you most like to visit?  Why?

I have long wanted to go to England and Scotland and visit quite a few literary locations.  However, the one location to which I dream of most is the wild and wooly moors of Devonshire from The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  I adore books in which the setting becomes a living, breathing character, and nobody did that better than Arthur Conan Doyle in this gripping tale.  I have to read this book every so often and ensconce myself in that atmosphere of fog and hills, ever careful of the Grimpen Mire.

6.  Have your reading tastes changed since you started blogging?  How?

My tastes have not really changed, but I have discovered so many wonderful new titles and authors in the genres which I enjoy most.  I usually pride myself in being aware of a wide variety of authors and titles, but I definitely had to put that pride in check after reading different blogs with access to informative reviews and introductions to titles that I may have missed or did miss.  Each blog is like a treasure chest that when opened astounds me with the riches therein.  Of course, when I read about a book that a fellow blogger loves and adores, I take a closer look at it, and it usually moves up on my TBR list.