Category Archives: publishing

The Monday Book: Death with all the Trimmings by Lucy Burdette

burdetteLucy mailed this book to me so I could blog it. I like cozy mysteries, and this one is food-based. It is set in Key West with her recurring detective Haley Snow, a food writer. Hayley has been assigned to interview Edel Waugh, chef/owner of Key West’s hottest new restaurant. But off the record, Edel reveals someone’s sabotaging her kitchen and asks Hayley to investigate.

It all goes downhill from there, with some funny bits about ex-husbands and love interests. This is a great beach read, seeing as it takes place over Christmas and at a beach. The dialogue is quick, the action straightforward and the humor cute. If you happen to be a foodie (I’m not) you will have extra special fun with some of the humor and descriptions. Since I was reading it on a plane while starving over their $8 cheese plate (two slices of cheddar and half an apple) some of the funnier bits may have been lost on me.

Context is everything.

Death with All the Trimmings is part of a series, and since there is some character development based on prior relationships, you may want to start at the beginning. Check out Lucy’s web page for the books in order: http://www.cozy-mystery.com/Lucy-Burdette.html

And have fun!

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Sarah Nelson, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

The Monday Book: A SMALL FURRY PRAYER by Steve Kotler

I got this book because my agent recommended it. (We have somewhat similar reading tastes.)

Kotler fell in love with a woman who rescued dogs, and he liked dogs, so he became a dog rescuer. And dog philosopher, because this book is chock full of ethnographic and philosophical divergences into how dogs see the world, and how humans think dogs see the world. Those were pretty interesting.

The story is less a story than journalism, because Kotler is a research journalist. If you’re looking for “this puppy was SOOOOOO cute,” this isn’t the rescue book you’re looking for. It’s got a lot of depth to its analysis of why people rescue, but even more on why dogs (and all animals) matter. When you get to the part about Kotler getting in the cage with a mountain lion, you know you’ve having fun.

I wouldn’t say this is a book only animal lovers will love. Actually, Kotler’s love for his wife, which drove him to move to New Mexico and run a household dog rescue, is the unexamined force behind all the research he does into why dogs matter. And his observations of what it takes out of her to do this work are very astute. I’d almost recommend this book as a spousal manual for those who love rescuers, rather than rescuers themselves.

Still, it’s a wide ranging read, and New Mexico itself is an interesting (perhaps hysterical) character in the plot overall. The plumber won’t come on Thursday because the earth energy forces are bad. That kind of thing.

I was entertained, informed, and moved by this book – a rare triple crown. If you’re driven by stories, maybe this won’t interest you so much, but if you like journalistic storytelling, you’re gonna love it.

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

Happy Families

Jack’s weekly guest blog is on a happy subject this week: family reunions!

vickiMy niece Vicki and her daughter Elle are here for a week’s vacation from Aberdeenshire in Scotland, continuing in the footsteps of Scottish friends who have availed themselves of our guest-room over the last few years.

 

It’s always good fun introducing them to our friends, to the town and to the area. This time is a bit different, though because it’s family! When you are separated by thousands of miles from your family, then a visit like this is very special (when I do my annual Scotland tour I rarely have time for family visits).

vickiSince they’re only here for a week it’s been hard to decide what try to fit in, but we are definitely including a visit to a local drive-in movie theater and the famous tour of the coal camps and mining areas conducted by our good friend Gary. Last night we took them along the riverside greenbelt walkway as far as Johnny’s enigmatic carved faces in the trees bordering his camp ground. Right now they’re out discovering the magnificent Victorian mansions on Poplar Hill and the quirkiness of ‘Vintage on Main’ (our favorite local store).

There’s something very special about re-connecting with family and especially in these circumstances. Facebook is no competition with sharing the same space!

But the highlight of their visit will probably be Saturday night when some of our closest (and craziest) friends will gather for a ‘games night’ to play Cards against Humanity. These nights are always outstandingly funny and a great way to cut across cultural boundaries.

Unsurprisingly, Vicki had read ‘The Little Bookstore’ and said yesterday that one of the stories in it had particularly grabbed her. I thought she was going to talk about one of the stories of our odder customers but I’d forgotten about a family story in there. She meant the story about the death of my mother (her Grandmother). She was unprepared for it and found it very affecting.

So the bookstore, its story and the stories of the customers and friends who support it is now joined in the most concrete way possible to my family.

 

I couldn’t be happier!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, writing

The Monday Book: Hot Cripple by Hogan Gorman

This book is hysterical. It’s a righteous indictment of today’s fragmented health care system AND our “buy your way out of justice” justice system. But it’s also so very, very funny.

Hogan Gorman is a model who get hit by a car. And her life goes to hell in a handbasket. And she pretty much swears her way through it. One of my favorite parts was when she lists the best eight swear phrases to deal with excruciating pain, in descending order.

Not for the faint of heart, and not a “happy ending” book, if foul language bothers you, don’t read it. But this book is so very, very funny, and her crises are so very normal that you can’t help but feel like you’re there with her as she realizes she can’t get off the toilet, is going to eat nothing but rice and ketchup for three days, and meets a succession of civic employees ranging mostly from bad to worse.

This book is hysterical. An enthusiastic two crutches up.

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Date a Girl who Reads by Rosemarie Urquico

Things have been a little pushed by deadlines this week, so I offer for the Friday blog (on this Sunday morning) some of my favorite words of wisdom by Rosemarie Urquico

girl who readsDate a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.
Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag.She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.
She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.
Buy her another cup of coffee.
Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.
It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.
She has to give it a shot somehow.
Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.
Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.
Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilightseries.
If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.
You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.
You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.
Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.
Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, publishing, reading, Sarah Nelson, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

The Monday Book: WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel

wolf hallThis book caused quite a stir when it came out, and has recently been made into a Masterpiece Theater mini-series, so probably most of you have already heard of it. I’m a sucker for historic fiction, but too often that means a thinly veiled bodice ripper in the hands of lesser artists.

Not here. This is a tough, sardonic, wickedly funny underneath and terrifyingly brutal on the top portrayal of one of the most confusing and dangerous times in political history. You weren’t going to get killed in the breakdown of government, but BY the crazy, inhumane government itself.

Hmm, maybe that’s why we in the early 2000s are so fascinated by King Henry’s court, when two almost equally powerful factions were smashing into each other trying to reign, with the end result that no one knew at any time what was right and wrong to be doing in the eyes of the law, or whether they were going to go to work tomorrow.

This book uses sarcastic wit, historic accuracy, and the filling in of a few personalities, to present a novel without heroes, from a time period that might have been the same. Everyone believed in something, but nobody believed in the same thing–unless the king wanted them to, in which case they either did believe it, or died in some horrible way. Ho hum…. The genius of the writing is how well Mantel makes then feel like now: the animals are going extinct; modern times are too fast to keep up with, now the printing press has been invented; the rulers are fickle; the parliament can’t get anything done. Etc.

Mantel’s good at description, and I’m not such a fan of dense descriptive books when it comes to room settings or wooded copses, but she does make you feel as though you are there. And when she gets to describing the tensions in the room at any given meeting, suddenly less is more. She conveys so much through dialogue, you wonder how she manages to write up settings so descriptively well. Usually a writer is better at one than the other, but she’s great at both.

Two hats in the air for WOLF HALL. If you like historic fiction, you’ll love it. If you like politics, you’ll love it. It’s kind of a THRONE OF CARDS game. :] (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, Downton Abbey, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, writing

The Monday Book: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

dogwoosI like flower language, and I’m deeply embroiled in a storytelling project involving fostered and adopted children in SW VA right now, so finding this book on clearance at a used books store in Knoxville, Tennessee, it was a no-brainer purchase.

It was easy to get into, but perhaps hard to stay with; this literary novel has a weird dichotomy running through its middle. On the one hand, it is about tough, stupid, needy, intelligent Victoria, a child who ages out of foster care and lands hard/soft/hard/soft as the book progresses. She’s hard to love, but everybody around her does. And the only way this tough, I-don’t-care girl can communicate well is by flowers. She uses their Victorian meanings to say what’s on her mind.

So does her 20-something suitor. And her foster mom and FM’s estranged sister. It’s kinda hard to buy. But what was it Isaac Asimov said – that every writer gets one free pass at an unbelievable premise built into his or her story? Diffenbaugh got hers in early on.

Still, as bad as the flowers strewn along this bed of thorns tale of dysfunction are, her characterization of Victoria is compelling. Just Victoria, though: the other characters all kind of serve her, appearing as extensions of what she needs.

This is not a character-driven novel. The flowers are running the show. And if you’re willing to believe that could happen, it’s a good read – compelling forward motion, an underdog to root (ha) for, and some very believable circumstances for the foster kid.

On the other hand, perhaps too much perfume, not enough manure, for the growth the characters show. A mixed review, but I can say that I enjoyed reading it, and only began to think “Hey wait a minute” afterward. It was good escapism, and a pretty good depiction of the inner chaos of a foster child who ages out. Just don’t confuse the elegant narration of this fiction with anything like journalism, and we’ll be okay. Ain’t no foster kids in SW VA giving each other flowers, jobs, or free passes.

(If you would like to see the blog on ADOPTION IN APPALACHIA, it is adoptioninappalachia.com. Go take a look at some real stories and advice on the subject.)

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, crafting, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, YA fiction