Sunday, March 31, 2013

Witness by Karen Hesse

This past week, I finished reading Witness by Karen Hesse and this marks the second children's book I've read by Karen Hesse. 

I enjoyed reading 'Witness' as much as I enjoyed reading Hesse's Newbery Medal award winning novel 'Out of the Dust'. 

'Witness' is a historical novel set in a small town in Vermont in 1924. 'Witness' was written as a series of free verse poems, which I found to be an engaging and novel way to write and advance the storyline in a book.

'Witness' is also set up in 5 acts and with several of the townsfolk sharing their point of view on the events taking place in their town. Because of the way in which 'Witness' was written, I felt that it reads almost like a series of monologues in a play.

The following is a book description of 'Witness' per Amazon:
Leanora Sutter. Esther Hirsh. Merlin Van Tornhout. Johnny Reeves . . .

These characters are among the unforgettable cast inhabiting a small Vermont town in 1924. A town that turns against its own when the Ku Klux Klan moves in. No one is safe, especially the two youngest, twelve-year-old Leanora, an African-American girl, and six-year-old Esther, who is Jewish.

In this story of a community on the brink of disaster, told through the haunting and impassioned voices of its inhabitants, Newbery Award winner Karen Hesse takes readers into the hearts and minds of those who bear witness.

I highly recommend reading 'Witness'. Until my next post, happy reading!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Slay It With Flowers by Kate Collins

Slay It With Flowers by Kate Collins is the second installment of the Flower Shop Mystery series and it's a cozy mystery novel.

I enjoyed reading 'Mum's the Word' earlier this month, which is the first cozy novel in the Flower Shop Mystery series. I must say though that 'Slay It With Flowers' is a much better read than 'Mum's the Word'.

In 'Slay It With Flowers', the storyline is a lot more interesting and so are the characters. I found myself drawn into the plot and who really committed the murder.

Here's a plot synopsis of  'Slay It With Flowers' from the author, Kate Collins's website:
Law school drop-out-turned-flower shop owner Abby Knight has been asked to be a bridesmaid by her cousin. But before the couple says "I do," a groomsman disappears-and another member of the wedding party is found dead. Abby has to hurry down an aisle of suspects to unveil the truth-and make sure the bride still gets to the church on time.
There are a few drawbacks/complaints I have about the first two books in this series and they are as follows:

1)  Abby Knight is the main character in the Flower Shop Mystery Series and her father is a retired police officer, yet she rarely seeks advice from her father on how to go about interviewing suspects or searching for evidence. I'd be running ideas by my dad and asking for help left and right.... So, why wouldn't she do so?? 

2) Abby's mother is an annoying character I'd like to read less about. 

3) Abby is frequently called a meddler by friends and co-workers, which I find annoying.... Abby likes to solve crimes, so what? 

4) Lastly, Abby does get herself in to some pretty sticky situations that could be deadly, but I guess she wouldn't be an amateur sleuth if she didn't, right? I just wish she'd have a little more common sense and not put herself in so much danger.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Library Hotel in New York, New York!

I think I found the perfect hotel for book lovers!! It's called The Library Hotel and it's a luxury boutique hotel in New York City within walking distance from the New York Public Library.

What makes The Library Hotel so unique? The hotel's design is inspired by the Dewey Decimal System. The following quoted information comes from The Library Hotel's website:
Each of the 10 guestroom floors honor one of the 10 categories of the Dewey Decimal System and each of the 60 rooms are uniquely adorned with a collection of books and art exploring a distinctive topic within the category it belongs to. Guests are invited to unwind from their urban adventures by enjoying the quiet exploration of over 6,000 books. 
In addition to The Library Hotel's 6,000+ books, their reading room offers a variety of delicious sounding snacks to enjoy while reading. In the evenings, there is a wine and cheese reception and a nightly turndown service, which includes Belgium chocolates.

The Library Hotel looks like a wonderful place to stay. If you're an avid reader like me, you may not want to ever leave the hotel itself during your stay in New York!

Until my next post, happy reading!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Bookstore Made from a Manure Tank??

I've heard of unique bookstores before, but a bookstore in Wisconsin made from an old manure tank certainly takes the cake! 

The name of this bookstore is called Happy Tales Bookstore and is located in Markesan, Wisconsin. Happy Tales Bookstore is open June though September on Saturdays according to the information I found online.

Happy Tales Bookstores was begun by Lenore & Lloyd Dickman. They've created several unique bookstore inside buildings on their farm. See the following YouTube video below with host Bill Geist for more details about this unique bookstore!

I liked the above video. The Dickman's seem like wonderful people and I like their heartwarming story. I hope to visit the Happy Tales Bookstore some day.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford by Ron Hansen

Abridged Audio CD
Last weekend, I finished listening to the abridged audio version of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford by Ron Hansen

This was my first exposure to Ron Hansen's writing. I'd heard positive things about his novels from other readers. So, when the opportunity presented itself, I took the time to listen to 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' on audio compact disc sent to me by another avid audio listener.

I really enjoyed the way in which this novel was read by Sam Freed. He seemed to have the right voice for reading this novel and a nice way of reading the story.

I enjoyed Ron Hansen's vivid storytelling. At the start of 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford', one hears a very detailed description of Jesse James. I felt as if I'd recognize Jesse James immediately if I saw him walking down the street and came face to face with him. 

Other scenes of  'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' were also very well told and one felt as if they were in the room witnessing the action as it happened. I especially liked the way the story picked up and was told from the time Robert Ford killed Jesse James through the end of the novel.

Occasionally, if truth be told, I did find myself tuning out the story of Jesse James. Not because it wasn't entertaining or well told, but due more to the fact that I am not a huge 'western' fan. Stories about the wild west, gunslingers, or with historical figures like Jesse James, Wyatt Earp, and so on, just normally aren't my thing. 

The fact that I actually finished listening to 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' is testament to Ron Hansen's entertaining and engaging storytelling. I look forward to reading other works of fiction published by Mr. Hansen.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Chinua Achebe, Author of "Things Fall Apart", Dies at 82

I just read a New York Times article titled Chinua Achebe, African Literary Titan, Dies at 82 by Jonathan Kandell. In Chinua Achebe, African Literary Titan, Dies at 82, Mr. Kendall wrote:
Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian author and towering man of letters whose internationally acclaimed fiction sought to revive African literature and rewrite the story of the continent that had long been told by Western voices, died on Thursday in Boston. He was 82.  

His agent in London said he died after a brief illness. Mr. Achebe had been using a wheelchair since a car accident in Nigeria in 1990 left him paralyzed from the waist down. 

Mr. Achebe caught the world’s attention with his first novel, “Things Fall Apart.” Published in 1958, when he was 28, the story would become a classic of world literature and required reading in university courses, selling more than 10 million copies in 45 languages.

Mr. Kandell goes on to write about Chinua Achebe's life and literary career in more detail in his three page online article for The New York Times. 

I personally learned a wealth of new information about Chinua Achebe's life, as my knowledge was limited to the fact that he originally hailed from Nigeria and had written “Things Fall Apart".

I'm saddened to learn about the loss of such a literary giant! 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Vidya Books --- The book, as reimagined by video game makers.

I came across an article on the Polygon website titled Vidya Books seek to make reading interactive with help of Kickstarter by Samit Sarkar. In the above mentioned article, Samit Sarkar writes the following:
The creators of Vidya Books, a project that seeks to reimagine books for the 21st century on iPad and iPhone, have taken to Kickstarter to try to raise the final $10,000 they need to launch the app.

The Vidya Books app contains interactive books that resemble Choose Your Own Adventure books, with the reader being able to change the story as the words appear by touching the screen and manipulating the device in other ways.

Vidya Books is a project from a company named Vidya Gamer. Its founder, Joe Booth, has 25 years of experience in game development, and he created Vidya Books because he wanted something that could help older children learn to read.
There is also an awesome video with the founder of Vidya Gamer, Joe Booth, that really nails what Vidya Books is all about! 

Joe Booth's message personally inspired me to contribute a nominal amount of money through Kickstarter in order to help Vidya Gamer, LLC reach their financial goal. The money raised through Kickstarter will "help to cover the final costs to finish writing and programming, and then publish our first book."

When the first Vidya Book is released, I'll be receiving a copy of it for my iPad. I'm really excited to see how this interactive book turns out.

As of this writing, Vidya Books has raised over $11,000!! There is still 25 days left through Kickstarter to help fund Vidya Books.
To learn more, click on links above.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Rita Moreno's Favorite Books

I came across an article titled Rita Moreno's 6 Favorite Books on The Week website. It's always interesting to see which books celebrities call their favorites!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Literary Graffiti

I'm not condoning graffiti by any means, but I happened upon an article on BuzzFeed titled 20 Awesome Examples Of Literary Graffiti with some impressive photographs of literary graffiti!

My favorite literary graffiti of the bunch? Antoine de Saint-Exupery's 'The Little Prince'. Which one did you like the most?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Kane & Abel by Jeffrey Archer

Abridged Audio CD
Kane & Abel is the first novel  by Jeffery Archer that I've ever read or listened to in this case. I really enjoyed listening to the abridged version of 'Kane & Abel' over the weekend.

I enjoyed the storyline and characters in 'Kane & Abel', even if the story was a tad predictable at times. 

One of the best features of this audiobook was a short interview of Jeffrey Archer at the end of the novel. I enjoy hearing what authors have to say about their books, how they began writing and any writing advice that they share with their listeners.

I'd also like to mention that Jeff Harding did a wonderful job reading 'Kane & Abel'. The reader of an audiobook really makes all the difference in the world. I won't listen to audiobooks if I don't like a reader's voice or the dramatic reading of a novel.

After listening to 'Kane & Abel', I decided to purchased the audio cd edition of Jeffery Archer's 'The Prodigal Daughter', as it is the follow up novel to Archer's 'Kane & Abel'.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sellevision by Augusten Burroughs

Audio Book on CD Version
Earlier today, I finished listening to the unabridged audiobook version of Sellevision by Augusten Burroughs on compact disc. 

Prior to listening to 'Sellevision', I'd heard of Augusten Burroughs name before and was familiar with many of his book titles, but 'Sellevision' is the first book by Mr. Burroughs that I've actually read... Or rather listened to in this case. 

I truly enjoyed listening to this audiobook as it was wildly entertaining and well read by Robin Miles. 

Mr. Burroughs is an excellent writer and he created an interesting cast of characters and engaging storyline that had me captivated from start to finish.... Ms. Miles did a marvelous job bringing life into the dysfunctional cast of characters in 'Sellevison' and making this novel's quirky storyline really stand out.

If you love dark humor, satires, and quirky novels filled with dysfunctional characters, then 'Sellevison' may be your next great read!

The following is the product overview of 'Sellevision', which I discovered on the Barnes & Noble website:

Darkly funny and gleefully mean-spirited, Sellevision explores greed, obsession and third tier celebrity, in the world of a fictional home shopping network.

Welcome to the troubled world of Sellevision, America's premier retail broadcasting network. When Max Andrews, the much-loved and handsome (lonely and gay) host of "Slumber Sunday Sundown" accidentally exposes himself in front of twenty million kids and their parents during a "Toys for Tots" segment, Sellevision faces its first big scandal. As Max fails to find a job in television, another host, the popular and perky Peggy Jean Smythe is receiving sinister emails about her appearance from a stalker. Popping pills and drinking heavily, she fails to notice that her husband is spending a lot of time with the very young babysitter who lives next door. Then there's Leigh, whose affair with Sellevision boss Howard Toast is going nowhere, until she exposes him on air; and Bebe, Sellevision's star host, who finds Mr. Right through the Internet—if she can just stop her shopping addiction from taking over.
I look forward to reading other books by Augusten Burroughs in the future. Until my next post, happy reading!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Book Recommendations For Dog Lovers!!

I love all animals, but especially dogs!! 

There are two dogs in my life that have captured my heart.... Koko and Roxy, two very sweet and loving Pomeranian dogs. They bring an abundance of joy and love into this world and to all who know them. 

So, if you are a dog lover like me, then you may enjoy the following article I discovered on titled 17 Books For Dog Lovers!! I discovered 16 new book titles about dogs that I look forward to exploring further.

So, which books about dogs have you read and would recommend to other readers? 

I enjoyed reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein earlier this year and LOVED this novel! I highly recommend reading this book if you haven't read it already.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Search for Meaning in a Medical Life with Abraham Verghese, M.D.

Abraham Verghese, M.D.
Last night, my husband and I heard Abraham Verghese, M.D. give a lecture at UCSB's Campbell Hall titled 'The Search for Meaning in a Medical Life' as part of the Speaking of Health lecture series.  

From the UCSB Arts & Lectures website, comes the following description of Abraham Verghese's lecture last night:
Where does meaning reside in our lives? Abraham Verghese has a unique perspective on the age-old question. After a career as a distinguished physician, Stanford University professor and memoirist, Verghese became a best-selling novelist with the release of his wildly popular Cutting for Stone. A sleuth of the human heart, he has written poignant books weaving issues of identity, personal reflection and medicine. In an intimate and compelling talk, Verghese will share his experiences of taking care of patients with HIV in the mid-1980s in rural Tennessee and the significant life lessons imparted by them.

Abraham Verghese's lecture last night was wildly popular within in the community and many people attended this event. I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Verghese's lecture last night. It was captivating. He's very engaging speaker.

I enjoyed the question and answer session after Dr. Verghese's lecture, where audience members were able to ask questions.

The following You Tube video is of Abraham Verghese, M.D. speaking at TED Talks called A Patient's Touch. This video shows how captivating Dr. Verghese is as a speaker.

Abraham Verghese, M.D. is also the acclaimed author of Cutting For Stone. After the lecture, he signed copies of his novel. I had my copy autographed as well! My husband took a picture of me with Abraham Verghese, M.D.

Now I'll have to read 'Cutting For Stone' as it sounds delightful!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Jane Austen Stamps Go On Sale in the UK!!

Calling all Jane Austen Fans!! The Guardian recently published an article titled Jane Austen Stamps Go On Sale. In the article, it states the following:
A set of stamps featuring illustrations of Jane Austen novels goes on sale today, including newly-commissioned artwork depicting scenes from her books.

All six published novels are included in the new stamps, which are being issued to mark the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice.
I'm not a stamp collector, nor have I ever read any of Jane Austen's novels. However, I still think it's pretty cool that postage stamps have been created to mark the 200th anniversary of Austen's novel 'Pride and Prejudice'.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mum's the Word by Kate Collins

Mum's the Word by Kate Collins is the 1st cozy mystery novel in The Flower Shop Mystery Series.

I'm am an avid fan of cozy mystery novels. I recently enjoyed reading 'Mum's the Word' by Kate Collins. It wasn't an excellent read, but a good read nonetheless. I liked the lead character, Abby Knight, and other cast of characters along with the entertaining storyline.

The following is the book description of 'Mum's the Word' from the author's website:
Abby Knight is the proud owner of her hometown flower shop, but a new low-cost competitor is killing her profits-and a black SUV just rammed her vintage Corvette in a hit-and-run. She's determined to track down the driver, but when the trail turns deadly, the next flower arrangement might be for her own funeral.
Also read an excerpt of 'Mum's the Word' on the author's website, Kate Collins, as well.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold

Yesterday evening, I finished listening to the unabridged, audiobook version of The Almost Moon written by Alice Sebold and read by actress Joan Allen. This is the first novel I've read (or listened to rather) by Alice Sebold.

I had no idea what to expect when I first began listening to 'The Almost Moon'. I'd wondered what Alice Sebold's writing style would be like and how Joan Allen would read the novel.
I really enjoyed listening to this novel. I thought that Joan Allen did an amazing job of reading 'The Almost Moon' and I'm not sure anyone could have done a better job of doing so.

I think Alice Sebold is an excellent storyteller and writes quite a cast of complex characters.

What a dysfunctional family to the extreme when it comes to Helen and her parents. The twisted dynamic between mother-daughter in a real love-hate relationship. I can't say that I really loved any of the main characters of this novel as they were so dark and unlikeable, but Alice Sebold did a fabulous job of creating realistic characters and telling their story in a credible, believable way.

I was surprised that the ending of this novel ended the way in which it did. I can only presume that the lead character followed through with her intended plan. Perhaps it doesn't really matter that we are left to leave the details to our own imagination.

I happened to read some of the reviews of  'The Almost Moon' on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I was surprised that the overall rating on both websites for 'The Almost Moon' was 2.5 stars out of 5. I guess not many people enjoyed reading this book!