Category Archives: bookstore management

The Monday Book: THE RED ADDRESS BOOK by Sophia Lundberg

This week’s Monday Book is reviewed by Kate Belt

 

red addressMany recent novels have dealt in a comic way with the theme of older folks rebelling against the loss of independence and beating the system that infantalizes or abuses them. This is not that novel, though it is not without humor After Wendy recently reviewed one of those and didn’t love it, I suggested this book as a more satisfying read. That’s how I find myself writing this review.

 

After some medical incidents, 96 year-old Doris cannot return to her Stockholm apartment and mostly independent lifestyle, but resists being taken into care. Her beloved niece, her only living relative, comes from California to  support Doris in whatever comes next. She finds an address book in her aunt’s home with decades of entries. It is up to date. Many names are crossed out and noted as “dead.” She also finds a box of vignettes written about each person in the book. These shed light on Doris’ life history, spanning many decades from pre-WWII to the present.

 

After her dear father died, Doris’ mother sent her into service at age 11. Doris’ employer eventually moves to Paris taking her along. An agent from a top modeling house notices  the tall, beautiful, 13 year-old Doris. With her mistress’ blessing, she becomes a runway model, leading to adventures, travel, and opportunities far beyond the station to which she was born.

 

This novel has the common themes of ageism, life review, perserverance, courage, and family betrayal, . Lundt addresses them in a fresh and original narrative. It is almost equally atmospheric, character driven, and event driven. Lundberg’s story telling and writing are excellent. Character development goes deep. It held my attention from beginning to end. The one weakness in the novel is the niece’s relationship with her children and husband in California waiting for her return. That part of the narrative and its resolution  didn’t ring true for me, but they are a minor part of the story that could have been mostly omitted.  I still loved the book and recommend it because it kept my attention from beginning to end. If you love novels with historical context and strong women navigating life’s challenges, this is for you.

 

I believe this book would have strong appeal for anyone who loved Alyson Richman’s The Lost Wife or Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos. It might also be for fans of  Kathleen Rooney’s Lillian Boxfish Takes.a Walk, but with less comedy.

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Filed under book reviews, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: SIGNS AND WONDERS by Philip Gulley

Signs-Wonders-150x226-98x148I picked up this book because it had a cheerful cover and I’d spent the day finishing a big crochet project, watching Netflix documentaries on: cyberbullying, Dunblane and Sandy Hook, and sex trafficking in the US.

I wanted cheering up.

It worked; this is a charming wee collection of short stories, a la Lake Wobegon, about the sweet and sour lives of people in a small town. Mostly Quakers. A bit longer on description than dialogue, it is not a book I would normally have gravitated to, but if you want a little sweetness with a sprinkling of salt, this is your read.

Stories range from why the local spinster won’t settle to why the local pastor figured out he should go on vacation with his wife. My personal favorite was the son of an alcoholic father who spends two hours stuck with him on the top of a Ferris wheel, and rides that ride for life figuring out what kind of father he wants to be.

Sweetness and light this book carries in spades, although some of the stories (the spinster for instance) have sharp edges. Overall, if you need a break, pick up a Harmony novel. (This is the third in the Gulley series, but they don’t need to be read in sequence. I found this charming without knowing the deeper background on characters found in the first one.)

Two helium balloons up for SIGNS AND WONDERS. It offers a much-needed lift.

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Filed under book reviews, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

Elwyn (by James Ryan)

As reported earlier, the short story competition was a close run thing. James Ryan’s was the first entry to arrive –

“Ahhhhhhhhhh….free at last.” How many seasons have I been lying under that bush? I hope it’s been long enough so that damned cat is dead. I don’t mean to sound like an animal hater but, it’s hard not to hate someone who buries you under a bush after peeing in your face. Don’t laugh. It was not funny at all. I’m not sure how many seasons went by before the smell left. I suppose I should be thankful that he didn’t do the other thing on me. If he had, I would probably still be stinking. Yuck!

I know you’re wondering what and who I am. My name is Elwyn and I am a Sylvan. Sylvans are associated with trees and bushes. We can be found in any woodland of any size. Our job is to keep the forest in good working order. It was my misfortune to be caught by the cat that day. Normally, I stayed high enough in the trees not to be in any danger. That day I was on the ground straightening an oak seedling that had been stepped on by a large bear the night before. It was a tiring job and when I finished, I leaned against a rock to rest from my labors. The sun was warm and the leaves were so comfortable that I fell asleep almost immediately.

The next thing I knew I was in the cat’s mouth and being carried towards the house in the distance. Talk about being scared. I was sure I was going to be eaten alive. He carried me to the bush in the yard where he played with me as if I were a ball. He batted me around and every time I tried to get away, he would let me get far enough to get my hopes up, then he would pounce on me again. He finally grew tired and went to sleep. Unfortunately for me, he went to sleep with his paw on my chest. I was just glad he had stopped throwing me around. After a while I started thinking about getting free.

The problem was that his foot was rather large and heavy. And every time I tried to move, his claws would extend and keep me where I was. I’m not quite sure how long he lay there sleeping, but it must have been several hours. I didn’t really mind because it gave me time to rest and begin to feel better about the whole thing. So far, I wasn’t dead or crippled up beyond recovery. So, I spent the time thinking of ways to escape. However, as hard as I tried, nothing came to mind.

The cat suddenly sat up, yawned, picked me up and carried me further under the bush where he dug a hole threw me in it and pissed in my face. Then he covered me up and there I stayed until the lady found me.  NOW PUT ME BACK INTO THE WOODS!

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The Monday Book: THE HARDER THEY COME by TC Boyle

the harderThis week’s Monday Book comes from Paul Garrett.

When Sara, a part time substitute teacher and full-time anarchist, picks up a bedraggled hitchhiker near Willits, in northern California, she soon realizes his name is Adam and he is one of her former students.  Or no; not just a former student but the ne’er do well son of the principle of the school at which she taught.

She recruits him as a co-conspirator in a scheme to break in to the local humane society and “rescue” her dog which was impounded after biting a police officer during a traffic stop that went south after she informed the policeman that she was insusceptible to the laws of the state of California and the nation.

Though she is several years his senior (at one point a friend calls her a cougar, and she doesn’t deny it), they begin an affair, bound together by their mutual hatred of authority. The book unfolds in a kind of dance between Sara, Adam and, Stenson, Adam’s father, a troubled Vietnam vet, as Adam spins further and further into madness pulling the other two with him and eventually making Sara an unwilling accomplice in his own, much more sinister crime wave.

This happens against the backdrop of the beautiful but threatened landscape of Northern California’s Mendocino County

Anyone who has had a child with emotional difficulties can empathize with Stenson as he helplessly watches his son fall away into mental oblivion, all his efforts to save his son having been ineffectual.  Sara is hopelessly in love with the boy, and, though she tries to turn a blind eye to his lunacy, she must eventually face it head on.

The Harder They Come (Harper-Collins, 2015) is T. Coraghessan Boyle’s fifteenth novel and it is easy to see why he has won several awards for his previous work. Boyle is a pro.  His prose is right on target, making the characters come alive with all their strengths and weaknesses, assets and imperfections. He has a superlative eye for detail to the point that he sometimes gets lost in the minutia of a scene, as if he enjoys living in a state where recreational marijuana use is legal. His sardonic wit infuses his books with both absurdity and anguish and provides an exposition about the consequences of our decisions, both good and bad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Harder They Come

A Review

 

When Sara, a part time substitute teacher and full-time anarchist, picks up a bedraggled hitchhiker near Willits, in northern California, she soon realizes his name is Adam and he is one of her former students.  Or no; not just a former student but the ne’er do well son of the principle of the school at which she taught.

She recruits him as a co-conspirator in a scheme to break in to the local humane society and “rescue” her dog which was impounded after biting a police officer during a traffic stop that went south after she informed the policeman that she was insusceptible to the laws of the state of California and the nation.

Though she is several years his senior (at one point a friend calls her a cougar, and she doesn’t deny it), they begin an affair, bound together by their mutual hatred of authority. The book unfolds in a kind of dance between Sara, Adam and, Stenson, Adam’s father, a troubled Vietnam vet, as Adam spins further and further into madness pulling the other two with him and eventually making Sara an unwilling accomplice in his own, much more sinister crime wave.

This happens against the backdrop of the beautiful but threatened landscape of Northern California’s Mendocino County

Anyone who has had a child with emotional difficulties can empathize with Stenson as he helplessly watches his son fall away into mental oblivion, all his efforts to save his son having been ineffectual.  Sara is hopelessly in love with the boy, and, though she tries to turn a blind eye to his lunacy, she must eventually face it head on.

The Harder They Come (Harper-Collins, 2015) is T. Coraghessan Boyle’s fifteenth novel and it is easy to see why he has won several awards for his previous work. Boyle is a pro.  His prose is right on target, making the characters come alive with all their strengths and weaknesses, assets and imperfections. He has a superlative eye for detail to the point that he sometimes gets lost in the minutia of a scene, as if he enjoys living in a state where recreational marijuana use is legal. His sardonic wit infuses his books with both absurdity and anguish and provides an exposition about the consequences of our decisions, both good and bad.

 

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The Harder They Come

A Review

 

When Sara, a part time substitute teacher and full-time anarchist, picks up a bedraggled hitchhiker near Willits, in northern California, she soon realizes his name is Adam and he is one of her former students.  Or no; not just a former student but the ne’er do well son of the principle of the school at which she taught.

She recruits him as a co-conspirator in a scheme to break in to the local humane society and “rescue” her dog which was impounded after biting a police officer during a traffic stop that went south after she informed the policeman that she was insusceptible to the laws of the state of California and the nation.

Though she is several years his senior (at one point a friend calls her a cougar, and she doesn’t deny it), they begin an affair, bound together by their mutual hatred of authority. The book unfolds in a kind of dance between Sara, Adam and, Stenson, Adam’s father, a troubled Vietnam vet, as Adam spins further and further into madness pulling the other two with him and eventually making Sara an unwilling accomplice in his own, much more sinister crime wave.

This happens against the backdrop of the beautiful but threatened landscape of Northern California’s Mendocino County

Anyone who has had a child with emotional difficulties can empathize with Stenson as he helplessly watches his son fall away into mental oblivion, all his efforts to save his son having been ineffectual.  Sara is hopelessly in love with the boy, and, though she tries to turn a blind eye to his lunacy, she must eventually face it head on.

The Harder They Come (Harper-Collins, 2015) is T. Coraghessan Boyle’s fifteenth novel and it is easy to see why he has won several awards for his previous work. Boyle is a pro.  His prose is right on target, making the characters come alive with all their strengths and weaknesses, assets and imperfections. He has a superlative eye for detail to the point that he sometimes gets lost in the minutia of a scene, as if he enjoys living in a state where recreational marijuana use is legal. His sardonic wit infuses his books with both absurdity and anguish and provides an exposition about the consequences of our decisions, both good and bad.

 

#

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Harder They Come

A Review

 

When Sara, a part time substitute teacher and full-time anarchist, picks up a bedraggled hitchhiker near Willits, in northern California, she soon realizes his name is Adam and he is one of her former students.  Or no; not just a former student but the ne’er do well son of the principle of the school at which she taught.

She recruits him as a co-conspirator in a scheme to break in to the local humane society and “rescue” her dog which was impounded after biting a police officer during a traffic stop that went south after she informed the policeman that she was insusceptible to the laws of the state of California and the nation.

Though she is several years his senior (at one point a friend calls her a cougar, and she doesn’t deny it), they begin an affair, bound together by their mutual hatred of authority. The book unfolds in a kind of dance between Sara, Adam and, Stenson, Adam’s father, a troubled Vietnam vet, as Adam spins further and further into madness pulling the other two with him and eventually making Sara an unwilling accomplice in his own, much more sinister crime wave.

This happens against the backdrop of the beautiful but threatened landscape of Northern California’s Mendocino County

Anyone who has had a child with emotional difficulties can empathize with Stenson as he helplessly watches his son fall away into mental oblivion, all his efforts to save his son having been ineffectual.  Sara is hopelessly in love with the boy, and, though she tries to turn a blind eye to his lunacy, she must eventually face it head on.

The Harder They Come (Harper-Collins, 2015) is T. Coraghessan Boyle’s fifteenth novel and it is easy to see why he has won several awards for his previous work. Boyle is a pro.  His prose is right on target, making the characters come alive with all their strengths and weaknesses, assets and imperfections. He has a superlative eye for detail to the point that he sometimes gets lost in the minutia of a scene, as if he enjoys living in a state where recreational marijuana use is legal. His sardonic wit infuses his books with both absurdity and anguish and provides an exposition about the consequences of our decisions, both good and bad.

 

#

 

 

 

 

The Harder They Come

A Review

 

When Sara, a part time substitute teacher and full-time anarchist, picks up a bedraggled hitchhiker near Willits, in northern California, she soon realizes his name is Adam and he is one of her former students.  Or no; not just a former student but the ne’er do well son of the principle of the school at which she taught.

She recruits him as a co-conspirator in a scheme to break in to the local humane society and “rescue” her dog which was impounded after biting a police officer during a traffic stop that went south after she informed the policeman that she was insusceptible to the laws of the state of California and the nation.

Though she is several years his senior (at one point a friend calls her a cougar, and she doesn’t deny it), they begin an affair, bound together by their mutual hatred of authority. The book unfolds in a kind of dance between Sara, Adam and, Stenson, Adam’s father, a troubled Vietnam vet, as Adam spins further and further into madness pulling the other two with him and eventually making Sara an unwilling accomplice in his own, much more sinister crime wave.

This happens against the backdrop of the beautiful but threatened landscape of Northern California’s Mendocino County

Anyone who has had a child with emotional difficulties can empathize with Stenson as he helplessly watches his son fall away into mental oblivion, all his efforts to save his son having been ineffectual.  Sara is hopelessly in love with the boy, and, though she tries to turn a blind eye to his lunacy, she must eventually face it head on.

The Harder They Come (Harper-Collins, 2015) is T. Coraghessan Boyle’s fifteenth novel and it is easy to see why he has won several awards for his previous work. Boyle is a pro.  His prose is right on target, making the characters come alive with all their strengths and weaknesses, assets and imperfections. He has a superlative eye for detail to the point that he sometimes gets lost in the minutia of a scene, as if he enjoys living in a state where recreational marijuana use is legal. His sardonic wit infuses his books with both absurdity and anguish and provides an exposition about the consequences of our decisions, both good and bad.

 

#

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East, West, Hame’s Best!

550 tazewell

Jack gets his Wednesday guest post out on Wednesday for once – –

I’ve written earlier about how much I hate moving!

It’s partly just the hassle but also the fear of the unknown. We mainly moved for strategic reasons to do with Wendy’s job and didn’t really know much about Wytheville at all.

But I needn’t have worried. The first thing was that we were taken in hand by Jim and Pattie who were friends of the previous owner of the house. They have kept an eye on the house and our cats while we’ve been away nights and ‘lent’ us the wonderful Paul, who has already built us a turning bay in the driveway and trimmed the bushes that were cutting out the light.

The first day we were here we found that a used-book store had just opened (so we don’t need to), and the owners, Randy and Lisa turned out to be real nice folk too!

The upshot is that we ended up with a houseful of folk last Saturday for our housewarming party. Five from Big Stone, one from Blacksburg, two from NC, Jim and Pattie and their friends plus Randy and Lisa.

The house dealt with the incursion well and I felt like I was at home.

Of course, we’re still dealing with the complications of address and bank changes, but I feel we’ve arrived finally.

As an added bonus, the party proved that we’re not so far away that old friends can’t get here fairly easily.

Meanwhile Haley is running the bookstore back in Big Stone and has all sorts of innovative ideas for it. So we’re pleased that it will continue, and the changes she is introducing make it more hers and less ours, which is good for her, for us and for Big Stone Gap!

 

 

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THE MONDAY BOOK: Snap, a British Mystery Novel by Belinda Bauer

 

snapToday’s reviewer is Kate Belt, joyfully retired, whose current passions are reading and managing culture shock after a move from Portland, OR to Omaha, NE two years ago.

 

My Monday Book recommend offers an enjoyable, escapist, fast moving, story with characters who capture the heart. I’m not a murder mystery fan. I follow only one writer from this genre, Louise Penney, but will give a passing glance to any major award nominee.  That’s how I came to read Snap by Belinda Bauer, long-listed for the 2018 Man Booker Prize.   When I do read mysteries, I couldn’t care less about who did it or how it was done. Working out the puzzle doesn’t interest me. I gotta love the characters, the setting, the descriptions, all that stuff same as any other novel.

 

We meet 11-year old Jack on the road to find his mother after she’d left him and his two sisters in their broken-down car, while searching for a phone to call for help. A few days later, she turns up near the area, stabbed to death. Then the dad walks out of the house and never comes back. After that, the worst that could happen is social services finding them alone and placing the children “into care,” what we call foster care in the U.S. Jack is a resourceful child and sustains his little family, though barely, by burglarizing vacant houses with guidance from a young adult mentor, for whom he also babysits.  Skinny Jack is adept at getting himself in and out of small spaces. The storyline switches between Jack at age 11 and two years later when he finds a possible clue to his mother’s murderer. Detectives assigned to the case are not quite bumbling, but far from brilliantly competent. The book is more character driven than plot driven.

 

In full disclosure, I didn’t read this story. I listened to the well-performed Audible audio version, Fast paced and easy to follow, it’s a wonderful choice for an audiobook and would also make an excellent airplane read. Some critical reviewers might have difficulty with the structure. Sometimes the characters strain credibility, but I loved the kids and had to keep rooting for all to turn out ok for them. Did it? Read Snap and find out.

 

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The Monday Book: WALKING ON MY GRAVE by Carolyn Hart

50065987_583494335446320_9215025291901009920_nThis week’s Monday book comes from Martha Evans Wiley, a fellow cat rescuer and margarita drinker. Here’s her review of Walking on My Grave by Carolyn Hart (actually a look at the whole series).

2017 Berkley Prime Crime

One of my great guilty pleasures is hunkering down with a new Carolyn Hart book, more specifically one in her Death on Demand series.  Hart’s written 26 cozies in this series, almost half of the more than 60 novels she has penned in her long career.

What I find most charming about this series is Hart’s gift for establishing a sense of place; set on Broward’s Rock, a wonderful island off the coast of South Carolina, each new book feels like coming home. Hart’s two protagonists, Annie and Max Darling, are transplants to the island having moved there when Annie inherited her uncle’s bookstore upon his mysterious death. Annie is compassionate to a fault –  her endless capacity to believe in the good in people balances well with her husband’s proclivity to be a little cynical. Her wonderful bookstore, the eponymous Death on Demand – “the finest mystery bookstore east of Atlanta” – gives Hart plenty of opportunity to show off her mystery knowledge, throwing loads of references to authors and their work, both past and present.

The latest installment, Walking on My Grave, follows much of the same successful formula that Hart has stuck with over the years. She is a master of the red herring, and it’s always fun to watch an enthusiastic Annie go head-long into impulsive schemes while Max tries to keep up with her. This time the story revolves around a rich older woman whose many heirs all have reasons to kill her – not the most original plot, but again, it’s the characters and setting that makes Hart’s work so much fun to read. She always includes a very handy guide to who’s who in the beginning, and often sprinkles sketches in the narrative to ensure that the reader isn’t left behind.

It’s not necessary to read  the series in order to enjoy it, but if you want to start at the very beginning, pick up “Death on Demand,” which sets up the setting and main characters. If you want to read just one, I recommend “The Christie Caper,” a heftier read than most of the others and a real treat for any Agatha Christie fan, or “Southern Ghost,” set in Beaufort, SC,  a wonderful trip to the old south with its dripping Spanish moss and antebellum houses.

As with any long-running series, there are some tropes – for a small island, there’s no end of people being introduced who are then murdered. Annie, Max and the gang don’t age at all, and they are curiously unaffected by any hurricanes or other weather events. But reality isn’t something I search for in a mystery, and I’m never disappointed in the adventures of Annie and Max. I’m already looking forward to my next trip to the island of Broward’s Rock.

50065987_583494335446320_9215025291901009920_n

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