Thursday, November 15, 2007

Brief summary of Book Review, The Partisan

Click on the Book title below (The Partisan) to see an abstract and the full review.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pssst! Do You have a Secret? Postsecret Blog Publishes New Book, with a Book Tour to These Cities

It started as a simple request which grew into a community and a Blog. The request? To send an anonymous secret, written on one side of a postcard to a site called Postsecret. From there, things snowballed, clearly resonating with people. I just finished reading the latest book and I found it moving, touching, poignant and even bittersweet. The secrets revealed in the latest book, A Lifetime of Secrets: A Postsecret Book, touch on all sorts of emotions, from revenge to altruism. You'll have a rare chance to get a glimpse into the hidden side of human emotions, something that seems less lascivious to me than intriguing, like social history unfolding before my eyes. Some of the anonymous writings moved me to tears, some angered me. I think this is all good, since the book certainly didn't leave me feeling indifferent. It made me think and reflect about humanity, always a good thing, in my opinion.

If you find this whole Postecret project intriguing and want to attend one of the live events on the book tour to obtain a copy of the book or just to find out more about the whole endeavor, here is the schedule of upcoming book tours (you might want to check back at any updates) :

Baltimore, MD
John Hopkins University with Barnes & Noble
October 9 at 6:00 p.m.
facebook event page
(A rare galley edition of the new book will be given away at this event.)

Brooklyn, NY
Barnes & Noble in Park Slope
October 10 at 7:30 p.m.
facebook event page
(A rare galley edition of the new book will be given away at this event.)

New York, NY
Barnes & Noble in Chelsea
October 11 at 7:00 p.m.
facebook event page

Frederick, MD
Borders Books & Music
October 12 at 7:00 p.m.
facebook event page

Vienna, VA/Washington, D.C.
Borders Books & Music
October 13 at 3:00 p.m.
facebook event page

Phoenix, AZ
Changing Hands
October 15 at 7:00 p.m.
facebook event page

San Francisco/Santa Cruz, CA
Bookshop Santa Cruz
October 16 at 7:30 p.m.
facebook event page

San Francisco, CA
Diesel Bookstore in Oakland
October 17 at 12:30 p.m.
facebook event page

San Francisco, CA
The Booksmith
October 17 at 6:00 p.m.
facebook event page

Seattle, WA
Elliott Bay Book Co.
October 18 at 7:30 p.m.
facebook event page

Madison, WI
Madison University Bookstore (Hilldale store)
October 22 at 7:00 p.m.
facebook event page

Milwaukee, WI
Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop in Shorewood
October 23 at 7:00 p.m.
facebook event page

Chicago, IL
DePaul University Bookstore
October 24 at 12:30 p.m.
facebook event page

Chicago, IL
Barbara's Bookstore (University Location)
October 24 at 7:30 p.m.
facebook event page

Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
University of Minnesota Bookstore
October 29 at 2:00 p.m.
facebook event page

Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN
Virginia Street Swedenborgian Church
October 29 at 7:00 p.m.
facebook event page

Boston/Cambridge, MA
Harvard Book Store (at the Brattle Theater)
October 30 at 6:00 p.m.
facebook event page

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Book workshops offered by noted writer Joyce Maynard

For those who may not be familiar with the author's name, Joyce Maynard is a prolific writer who has written books, articles and essays for many years. Her novel, To Die For, was a particular favorite of mine, both tightly written and with enough detail to be fully resonant and believable. It was loosely based on a true event, a murder caused by a teacher who had a love affair with one of her students and then manipulated him to do her bidding.
This was later made into a movie with Nicole Kidman and a young Joaquin Phoenix as the "student and lover". Joyce herself even appeared in the movie in a brief appearance as Kidman's lawyer. Watch carefully and you'll see her for a moment on the courthouse steps as Kidman is being led out of court.
To see samples of Maynard's writing and more information about this author, you can check out her website at
Meanwhile, those who live in California might want to participate in an ongoing writers' workshop in Mill Valley

Here are the details and further info is also available at:"

October 27 - December 17 — $250 tuition

Here is what Joyce wrote about this workshop (courtesy of Joyce Maynard):
" I want to tell you about a new kind of workshop I’ve decided to run. Where, as some of you know, I have previously hosted one-day intensives here at my home in Mill Valley, (and no doubt I’ll be doing those again in the future), I’m going to be running an ongoing writing group, to be held on Monday nights, starting next month.

In the past, when I’ve had the opportunity to work with a writer over a period of time, I’ve seen enormous growth and development in the work. I look forward to helping a new group of writers move forward in the process that has given me so much joy over the years

The format of these workshops will be different from the one-day workshop, naturally. We’ll meet here at 7 pm, for two and a half hours of reading and discussion of your work, with each writer in the group having a chance to share what she’s been up to each time we meet, but focusing in greater depth on one or two particular pieces of work each session. Over the course of the weeks I’ll also make time for some over-arching discussion of partiular issues of the writing process likely to apply to everyone. (Those include story structure, voice, point of view, language, dialogue, character development, pace and the overall discipline of the writer, among other things. ) And of course, no evening like this would be complete (in my book, at least) if it didn’t feature some nice homemade baking to sustain us, as we work. No doubt pie will be featured, somewhere along the line. Also my poppy seed cake.

Traditionally, my classes have tended to focus on personal narrative and memoir, but I want you to know that if it’s fiction that interests you, I’ll be open to working with you writers of fiction as well. I tend to believe that the questions that every writer faces -- whether it’s fiction or nonfiction she or he is tackling -- are largely the same, and so many of them come down to the simple but endlessly complex topic of how to tell a story in a way that moves one’s readers or listeners, and possibly in such a way as to reveal to them something they didn’t know or understand before. That’s the central question we’ll be exploring, over the weeks ahead.

Initially, I’ll plan on six meetings (two per month), running from October 27 through December 17. The group will be limited to ten students (but I will need commitments from six students to run the workshop.) Cost of the six sessions will be $250.

With my other workshops, I have periodically been able to offer scholarships, but for now at least, I have to limit this particular group to full paying students. Down the line, that may change.

To reserve a space in the workshop, send your check for the full amount to me at Joyce Maynard, 500 Edgewood Ave, Mill Valley, CA 94941. I won’t cash your check until I’m sure we’ve got a quorum, though I don’t anticipate this will be an issue.

1-Day intensive on memoir and personal narrative

December 1 — 9am - 5pm

Personal narrative and memoir (both book-length, or shorter essay/column). Issues explored include: locating your story, creating a structure, the difference between chronological and emotional storytelling, point of view, point of entry, language, pace, how to end an essay, the revision process. Participants are asked to submit hard copy of a piece of first person writing, no longer than 2500 words (shorter is fine). Manuscript submission deadline is November 25.

All students will receive the email addresses of other members of the group, to give everyone an opportunity to familiarize himself or herself with the others' writing. We’ll workshop each student’s manuscript in a way that will prove instructive not only for that student, but for all in the group. Maximum students: 9.

Cost of this workshop is $225, lunch included. To reserve a place in the group, send your check to Joyce Maynard, 500 Edgewood Ave, Mill Valley, CA 94941. If workshop is filled, your check will be promptly returned. Students wishing to continue working with Joyce may be considered for an ongoing weekly writing workshop to begin in the fall. Email Joyce for more information or go to Email links are provided there.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Old and New titles Worth Checking Out

1. The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio (How my Mother Raised 10 kids on 25 Words or Less): This is a memoir, nonfiction, written by the daughter of Evelyn Ryan and it is truly inspirational. I am old enough to remember when magazines actually had the type of contests that Mrs. Ryan entered, where contestants had to fill in the last line of a jingle. If you like true accounts of people overcoming adversity or you enjoy games involving wordplay, this one might be for you. It has a Foreword by Suze Orman and got raves from such publications as The New Yorker, NY Times, Washington Post, People Magazine and even author Patricia Cornwell.

Evelyn Ryan was married to an alcoholic husband and ahd to fight to turn every financial challenge into an opportunity during a time when women weren't encouraged to work or earn much money. This was later turned into a major motion picture which was good but the book is even better, in my opinion.

2 . Wicked - The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Macguire -This book was the basis for the Broadway play with the same title and is a fantasy tale about the "behind the scenes" story of the Wicked Witch. Where did she come from? What were the circumstances of her birth and life? One focus is on how she became so wicked and a general look at good and evil. I found this a very fun book to read and it made me think about ethics, good, evil and was also a very good escapist read. Lke fantasy? This might be for you!

3. A Simple Plan by Scott Smith - I consider this a book that deserves to be a classic, one that also became a movie but which lost some of the complexity of the ethical dilemnas at the heart of this novel. The situation is seemingly simple. Three men find a bag full of over 4 million dollars after coming upon a crashed plane. One wants to turn the money in, reasoning there is no safe way to keep it. The others come up with a scheme to try and keep the money, especially since it may be "drug money" and under the radar screen. What seems like a fairly straightforward tale takes unexpected twists and turns. A favorite of mine!

4. Town House - by Tish Cohen -(soon to be a major motion picture). This novel is for those who like something a bit different and would be one that those prone to anxiety or social phobial could relate to. It is the tale of an agoraphobic (someone afraid to leave his home) and the challenges he faces as his home is about to be sold. I was riveted by thie writing style of the author, soneone who was able to keep me reading a book which I didn't think I'd like. Humorous, very realistic and suprising developments fill this book.

5. Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies -by Richard Heinberg -copyright 2003 - 3rd edition - A look a the imminent decline of oil and how that affects everything from travel to unexpected aspects of everyday life. Recommendations are included for resource conservation and a more sustainable society.

6. Bitter Sweets by Roopa Farooki - a novel -This is brand new fiction and a first novel about a woman from Calcutta whose father convinces her to deceive a man into marrying her and how this act reverberates through the marriage and life of the couple's daughter. The author has been compared to Zadie Smith, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Arundhari Roy. I found this one to be about average in quality. It held my interest and the writer shows great promise but I hope the next novel will be a bit more fleshed out, with more details about setting and characters.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Social Networking Pays off Handsomely for One Author

Shortly after discovering the social network Gather, I found out that author Terry Shaw had been selected as the winner of Gather's First Chapters writing competition and his book, The Way Life Should Be was published by Simon and Schuster, making one writer's dream come true (and, as it turns out, another writer also had his dream come true when another book in the competition, Fire Bell in the Night, was also published.

I have to admit I was a bit skeptical when I heard about all of this. Would readers of this social networking site really be able to find a gem in the more than 2600 manuscripts that had been submitted? Would they be able to select "the one" from among the five finalists? I knew I had to find out so I got a copy of this book and sat down to read it.

As it turns out, the answer to all of the questions above was an unequivocal yes. From first page to last, I could not put The Way Life Should Be down for more than a few minutes at a time. I even ignored the phone and kept the tv set off. I've since recommended the book to everyone I know.

This riveting mystery novel centers on John Quinn, editor of the Stone Harbor Pilot, a Maine newspaper he's inherited from his formidable father. Right from the start, the suspense builds, as Quinn's longtime friend, Paul Stanwood, is murdered while checking out Sullivan Park, a notorious hangout for gay men. Stanwood is protective and supportive of the men, angry at those who harass them and suspicious of the true motivations of city officials who want to close down the park.

But before he can provide further details about the motivations of those who want the park shut down, he is killed, setting off shock waves in Quinn's life. He already has more than enough tension in his life already because his wife, Maria, resents the time he spends at work and even suspects him of possible infidelity. Getting caught up in a murder investigation is the last thing he needs right now.

Quinn can't rest, however, until he knows the truth. He can't turn his back on his friend, especially when he finds he may be the only one who really wants to know the truth. This makes him even more determined. He also has some guilt about the disagreements he has had with his friend and this remorse drives him as well.

As the novel unfolds, I was delighted to find that it had all the hallmarks of an excellent mystery, including plenty of surprises and twists and turns. There are also a fair number of suspects, including the despicable police chief, Al Sears, a guy who defines the word bully with nearly every action. He has no trouble throwing his weight around and getting people to go along with him.

What Quinn can't possibly foresee are the many complications that will ensue along the way or the surprises he'll discover in both his friend's background and in Quinn's own life. Even Stanwood's own wife doesn't seem above suspicion. Also, the park turns out to have been more than a gay hangout but the center of a potentially lucrative land deal.

Author Terry Shaw really ramps up the action as Quinn finds his life (and his family's welfare) in danger, witnesses are threatened or beaten and another key witness ends up in the hospital. By the end of the book, my pulse was racing as I turned the pages, eager to find out what would happen and how events would play out. I doubt you'll be able to put this one down either!

There are so many fine points about this novel that I feel compelled to say something about them. The writing style is not the least amateurish and if I hadn't known this was a newly published fiction writer, I doubt I would have guessed. The dialogue is totally realistic and the writing is tight, leaving no dead space or lengthy interludes. The author's originality shines through as he finds innovative ways to reveal key details, whether through newspaper excerpts or other touches. I was truly in admiration of his talent with words and his skillful transition from event to another. I hope to read another book from Mr. Shaw in the not too distant future.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Age of Conversation Book Launches

In what may be a first-of-its-kind collaboration via the internet, more than 100 marketing professionals have joined together online to write The Age of Conversation. In addition to the downloadable e-version, the book will be available in limited quantities in hardcover and softcover. All proceeds from sale go to Variety, the Childrens Charity.

The book has an unusual story behind it, involving online connections between people around the world who have never met each other.

Drew McLellan, who heads McLellan Marketing Group, an advertising agency here, has been writing a blog online for since September 2006. His blog, is among the 25 most-read marketing blogs in the world. McLellan’s partner in this adventure is another marketing blogger in the top 25, Gavin Heaton. Heaton is the Interactive Director of one of the world’s leading marketing and promotions agencies, Creata, where he is Director of Interactive. Heaton blogs at

In March, McLellan wrote about Wharton’s effort to create a collaborative book and Heaton commented, “And it sounds like it could be fun ... but you know what, Drew? I reckon between a few of us we could knock out a short book and publish it. All we need is a theme and a charity ..."

“Three e-mails later, we had named the book and the charity. It just fell into place, McLellan said. “The Age of Conversation was the prefect topic. The marketing industry is abuzz about how the citizen marketers are changing the landscape. This book captures that new phenomenon,” he added.

McLellan and Heaton, through their blogs, invited other marketing professionals and other bloggers to commit to writing an essay about conversation. They set what they thought would be an impossible goal – 100 bloggers. They received commitments from 104 authors in less than 7 days.

“What began as a comment online has grown into a major collaborative effort by marketing professionals from 24 states and nations, beyond the U.S.,” said McLellan. “Gavin and I were overwhelmed with the response.”

“We heard from people, telling us what they planned to write about,” Heaton added. “We’ve been amazed at the variety of approaches that have been taken, and with hardly any duplication or overlap. This book really explores the art of conversation and how that is changing the face of marketing from virtually every angle possible.”

A fellow marketing blogger in New York, Christina Kerley, had just lost her mother and many in the marketing blogging community were looking for a way to comfort her from afar. McLellan and Heaton decided that they would dedicate the book to Sandra Kerley, their colleague’s mother.

The Age of Conversation will be available in all three formats on July 16. Prices will be:
e-book: $9.99 ($7.99 going to charity)
paperback book: $16.95 ($8.10 to charity)
hardback book: $29.99 ($8.55 to charity)
read more | digg story

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Loving Frank: A Review

Because this is a novel, the reader can take for granted that plenty of the details are imagined, as the author could not possibly have been privy to the conversations or situations described here, not to the extent portrayed. But I urge readers NOT to be put off by the fact that this is fiction beause it is clear that the author did her research. I found this book to be very interesting, very well written and it revealed a part of Wright's life I hadn't really known about.

Mamah Borthwick Cheney was a married woman who had an affair with Wright, also married at the time. She is credited (if "credit" is the right word) with destroying his first marriage. Anyone expecting to pick up this book and sink into an epic love story should be forewarned - this is NOT the stuff of dreamy romance novels, but the hard, gritty reality of an affair during a time when women weren't expected to break the bonds of convention. It also isn't an easy read at times, as it has some slow passages, which is the main reason I gave it a 4 rating instead of a 5.

Here is the reality behind the fiction: Cheney met Wright when she and her husband commissioned the architect to design a house for them. This is not an airy or stereotypical romance but a portrayal of an independent, educated woman at odds with the restrictions of the early 20th century. Frank and Mamah, both married and with children, met when Mamah's husband, Edwin, commissioned Frank to design a house.

This is what the book focuses on, the affair between the two. But I think there is information potential readers need, information that helps to put things in deeper perspective.
For one thing, Wright's own father, a minister, had divorced his wife, citing alienation of affection even though SHE was the one who'd asked him to leave, according to many accounts. I think family history is important and a key component in shaping one's life, depending on how it is interpreted, the trauma that may be endured and the legacy of pain or resilience left in its wake.

So I'm noting that Wright came from a family that was troubled, had a long history of marital tension before the divorce (his father struggled to make a living). Who knows what part this played in Frank Lloyd Wright's history of flirtations, long before he met Cheney? All of these factors - the divorce within his family, Wright's reputation as a flirt (some say a womanizer) and the fact that he already had 6 children which took up most of his wife's attention may have played pivotal roles in the affair itself. It is certainly important background info.

The author writes very well (most of the time) about the affair itself and events that were considered scandalous, even making headlines: how Wright and Cheney left their families, lived together, traveled overseas and more.

There is more I want to tell but if I do I will absolutely ruin the book for readers who don't know the whole story or haven't heard the complete tale of this affair. The book leads up to stunning event and I don't feel I should spoil the book by revealing more.

I will say that if you are the sort of reader who likes nice, neat and happy endings or romances, then you may feel let down at the end. I was fascinated by the whole saga. This is a major and epic novel, kept from being absolutely superb, in my opinion, by a few pacing issues. Even so, I'd recommend it for the strengths that shine through and for revealing a major episode in the noted architect's life. I'd definitely buy another book by this author, someone I expect to get better as she continues to write. She already has so much talent!

I'd also suggest readers do some research AFTER reading the book if they are interested in Wright's complete life story. If you do too much research beforehand, you'll find out what happens in this book and that may take away from the suspense.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Recent reviews of new or noteworthy books

I've been reviewing books for years, have well over 900 and 11,000 comments at a major online site (Amazon) - but it takes time to review all those books! I get free books but NO PAY. I won't take pay for my reviews becasue I don't want my opinion influenced. However, I am always mindful of authors and their hard work, so if I hate a book, I try to find something positive to say about the author, the book, etc. Most of my reviews are positive, if not glowing (superb books are rare, good books are not).

So what you will be reading below are my honest opinons. If any of these books grab your interest, I hope you'll read them and also chime in with an opinon. Some book I've read are pre-publication copies, so you may have to wait a bit before they are out, put them on a list or something. Also, if you are on a budget, you may want to wait for paperback editions or try book swaps with friends. You can get some good bargains and many online sellers will combine or offer free shipping, saving your time and gas money. Just a thought.


1. The Year of Liviing Biblically - A.J. Jacobson - This has been a recent favorite. It is nonfiction and tell the story of one man's quest to live for an entire year in a heartfelt attempt to follow every rule, instruction and value in the Bible (both Old and New Testament). He is not particularly religous and he doesn't approach this from any particular viewpoint,although his background is Jewish. Along the way, he consults with all sorts of religious experts, from priests to rabbis, the Amish and even speaks with Mormons and polygamists. The result is a lively and often funny book that will have you thinking about what it means to live ethically in today's world and how difficult it might be to LITERALLY follow every part of the Bible, from stoning adulterers to wearing clothing of unmixed fabrics. I learned a lot reading this one!

Quantico - by Greg Bear - There was a live chat with the author last night and it was fascinating. This is a thriller, set in the world of biochemical terrorism and I waws riveted from the first page because what is described seems all too plausable to me. Books like this can (hopefully) get readers to think about ways to change the world for the better and prevent tragedies. One thing Mr Bear said in the Live Chat has stayed with me: "Knowledge is Power and it is also a Race". As a parent, I want to make sure that my children and everyone's children have an opportunity to get the knowledge they need to stay in the race. Our lives could depend on it!

IEP and Inclusion Tip for Parents and Teachers by Anne Easo and Kathleen Whitbread - (IEP Resources, Publisher) - A short paperback that if full of valuable info for any parent who has a child with special challenges, whether it is dyslexia or some other learning challenge. Ther are sections on Preparing for the IEP Meeting, what to do during the Meeting, Creating Legally Correct IEPS that will help YOUR child, Tracking Progress, Handling Disagreements and How to Encourage Teachers and Staffers at School to Develop Educational sytems that are Inclusion minded (I used a lot of caps because some of these are chapter titles).

Run - Anne Patchett- When a mother dies, their father has the difficult task of raising three boys, two of them adopted and African-American. There is a crisis when one brother is nearly killed when he absent-mindedly steps in front of a car and this brings about even more life-altering events. I don't want to say more for fear of spoiling the story. This book is a bit slow-paced but, as an adoptive parent, it certainly had me thinking about how a child's identiy is affected by adoption - or could be.

Getting Unstuck - How Dead Ends Become New Paths- Timothy Butler - The author, a longtime psychologist, reveals how change, whether expected or not, can be an opportunity for growth. Some of those changes (the death of a loved one, divorce, getting fired) may be unexpected and others come about because someone hates a job and wants to quit but is afraid of what may lie ahead. They are paralyzed by fear. For those who are eager to get "unstuck" and/or want to know if they are truly ready for change, this book could be a great help. It includes exercises to awaken your vision of what YOU want from life, suggesetions for finding activities and people who share your views and (most importantly, in my opinion), a guide for making the choices that can get your from HERE to THERE. One of the most fascinating examples in the book was at the beginning, when the author wrote about Betsy Sloan, a woman who had the courage to leave her secure but deadening $100,000 job as a major CPA for a large company to teach high school for $34,000 a year. How many of us could do the same? Yet she is happy and I'll bet we could use more teachers like her!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Videos and Articles - are they Friends or Foes on Gather?

Does video compete with articles, books, printed news, publishing? Or do they compliment each other?

read more | digg story

Teen Romance Novels - Opinions and Titles - Classics and New books

Several young women have asked for "good teen romances", leading me to think about the ones that grabbed me when I was that age as well as an exploration of what is out there now.
The first author that came to mind was Judy Blume. I particularly like the book Forever, which focuses on a young woman and her first real love, including issues of sexuality. Blume has been considered "controversial" by some for being so honest about the realities of teen sexuality, so consider your values when considering this book.

Blume's book are a strong contrast to the relatively chaste teen novels of the 50s, when the book often ended with a kiss, at most! This lead some teens to sneak glances at such books as Peyton Place or whatever novel their parents tried to keep hidden, only spurring on their curiousity.

Personally, I felt she wrote openly and honestly about the topic of teen sexuality and first love, something that is a reality today (especially the sexual pressures). Whether you are comfortable with such graphic novels, I give credit to Blume for being an author who makes a strong effort to stay in touch with her readers, to listen to them and try to keep up with their concerns. Adolescence - and adolescents- change with the times. So does this author!
Other books by Blume include: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing...Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret....Deenie...Iggie's House.


Until Tomorrow by Christine Jones Todd is one in a series of books about a young woman, Christy and a male, Todd, during their college years. This series has a strong fan base and it garnered 53 five star reviews from readers at Amazon. My personal take: Strong writing but I found Christy to be a bit whiny, from my older, mid-life perspective. In this book, the background is Europe, providing novelty as Christy and Todd have adventures overseas. Clearly, plenty of readers adore this series, so you might search out a copy and see what you think. It held my interest from beginning to end and my feelings about Christy were only mild, not enough to spoil the book.

Smart Boys and Fast Girls by Stephie Davis is also a fine book and comes highly recommended to me by a number of teens. The book focuses on a common problem: the girl that all the guys like "as a friend or buddy". Where does that leave the young woman who craves romance, not just friendship, who wants to be seen as desirable and attractive and appreciated for more than someone to "hang out with" ? Her life may be busy, she may have plenty of friends but sometimes that isn't enough. This book is one that many females should identify with and find realistic. Who Needs Boys? is another notable book from the same author.

If you want something a little different try Dating for Demons by Serena Robar a romance with a supernatural twist but still firmly grounded in romance territory. How different is this one? It has been described as a "vampire sorority tale" if that gives you a clue.

Lullaby by Sarah Dessen is the perfect choice for those who wonder if romance is real or an illusion, who may be slightly cynical or questioning. This is the book for that reader and I strongly related to it, perhaps because I remember loose, almost hippie-ish times so well. Remy, the young female at the heart of this novel has "no illlusions" about love (or so she thinks). She doesn't believe people are meant to be together "forever".
It is easy to understand why she might feel this way, since her father has split and her mother (ironincally, a romance novelist) is working on her fifth marriage. Although she may consider herself a realist, Remy is definitely into some serious dating and it'll take a near miracle for her to change her views, hopefully before college arrives.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Book Review: The Three Signs of a Miserable Job

A book which focuses on how to increase worker satisfaction by giving fictional examples of how to do this.

read more | digg story

Monday, August 13, 2007

Books that Change Your Way of Thinking

Today's article comes from the website of Edward Nudelman at and I hope you'll consider jumping into the conversation there - and by all means feel free to leave a comment here as well. I have posted a link to another page of his under Related sites of Interest (at right, scroll down):

Books That Change Your Way of Thinking

Consider for a few moments all the books you’ve read in your entire life. Have them all in mind? I didn’t think so. But if you’re like me, a few high spots will be indelibly recorded in a mental list. Some of these have entertained you, some have gotten you through a tough period, some have taught you lessons, and some have been pivotal in changing your way of thinking. These kind of books set us off down a different road and get us thinking in entirely different paradigms. What is it about those books that have that kind of power to affect us so dramatically, perhaps for a lifetime? Is it just timing, or particular preference? Or could there be something lasting and unique in these kinds of books, these kind of authors?

The reason I ask these questions is to get us thinking about what makes a great book great. This is an important question, not only as we think about developing our own writing skills, but also, in considering this, we can enhance and broaden our appreciation of reading in general.

To try to illustrate this, I’m going to give you a brief account of a book, actually a novella, that markedly changed my thinking and certainly influenced some aspects of my life in profound ways.

The story I read as a Junior in High School was The Death of Ivan Ilych, by Leo Tolstoy. Written in 1886, it was the first major work published by Tolstoy after a tumultuous period of depression and angst in the author's life, eventually culminating in a life-changing conversion. Tolstoy had struggled with finding meaning in his life, and looked at the simple faith of the Russian peasants as a model for his own spiritual odyssey. He incorporated many themes into Ilych from his experiences during this period.

Perhaps this is why I was so attracted to the work. I had been on a similar path of disillusionment on many fronts, and was primed, so to speak, to let Tolstoy’s words radically affect my own understanding of myself as well as my own journey of faith.

The Death of Ivan Ilych deals with the struggle for meaning and purpose in life. Ivan Ilych Golovin is a respected judge whose life displays a paragon of “rightness.” One day, Ilych discovers a pain in his abdomen which inevitably turns out to be terminal cancer. He cannot reconcile the fact that a “good man,” who lived a proper, moral life, should have to die a meaningless death. His family skirts the issues of death and offers no comfort or illumination. Only his peasant servant, Gerasim, has the sensitivity to speak into his life. Gerasim shows Ilych how he really was not living authentically, and through his empathy and insight, helps Ilych face death with dignity and triumph.

The book has strong themes. At sixteen, it made think of the fragility and brevity of life. It made me question just what is the “right life.” It no doubt led to my own spiritual quest and ultimate conversion. As well, the contradictions which I saw in my cultural milieu in the mid-Sixties, the rise of materialism and concomitant lack of stewardship for the environment, inequalities in civil liberties and other seething social issues of that period all provided a context to work out my newly found ardor in tangible ways.

After reading Ilych I set out to learn more about Tolstoy. I read other works by the great master. I even went to a play at our Seattle Playhouse, by Tolstoy. I found that I identified so strongly with Ilych because I shared many of the feelings and struggles that he had experienced, and brought into his writing.

Of course, I am not alone in this. But it occurs to me that one aspect of a great piece of writing is to bring out that shared experience in a powerful and provocative way, and in such a manner as to teach something new, some truth cast in a different light, that suddenly seems so apparent.

I would love to hear about your life-changing books. What examples in literature have deeply affected your way of thinking? Can you think of specific ways that you’ve changed as a direct result?

Written by Edward Nudelman, Books Correspondent for POETRY CENTRAL

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Writers writing about their lives - the newest out there

Check this out:In a new Wall Street Journal article, Alexander Theroux has honed in on some intriguing books for writers or anyone interested in writers:
To see the full article, go to:
Search for the title of the article: But enough about Me . It is in the books section...but hurry, because content at this site changes rapidly.

Titles include:
How I Write: The Secret Lives of Writers

Money Changes Everything - the ethical and other choices writers have made, sometimes to their regret, to keep the income flowing. Some are memoirs, other essays or random musings.

Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave - Some of this is as graphic as the title suggests, others are pieces about writers being judged for what they put in print, all pieces written by females.

Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorites Books: You're curious about this, aren't you? I am.

Questions for writers or anyone who writes, for work or pleasure

Click on "Read more" or "Digg story" to see full aritcle.

read more | digg story

Friday, August 10, 2007

An Author of Note: The Other Elizabeth Taylor

'The whole point is that writing has a pattern and life hasn't. Life is so untidy. Art is so short and life so long. It is not possible to have perfection in life but it is possible to have perfection in a novel." (Elizabeth Taylor, author)

Some of you may have seen a movie called Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont. The genesis for this movie was the work of a fairly unknown British writer (until now) named Elizabeth Taylor 1912 - 1975), an author who may finally getting her due on this side of the Atlantic. Until fairly recently, she had no publisher in America but Virago Classics has changed all that and I'd urge readers to grab these novels while they are available. They are small gems.

To avoid frustration, if you do a search for any of her books, I strongly suggest searching by the title of one of her books, listed below, or you'll be deluged with titles written or about Elizabeth Taylor, the actress.

If you want to know more about the British author, not the actress, you can pick up the most current issue of Atlantic Monthly, as of today, August 10, 2007. There is a nice section which contains biographical info about Taylor. She has been compared with not only Jane Austen but Elizabeth Ozen. I'd like to know why her books are finally being turned into movies, what it is about our times that makes her suddenly "relevant" again.

Credit for publication of her works for release in Amercia goes to Virago, who listened to the author's devoted fans. She writes about friendship, love, social connection, marriage and other topics, not always flatteringly, but with a keen eye and very perceptively. The author was quite eccentric and really didn't do much to promote her work, so her followers came to discover her over the years and word of mouth built slowly in America. Taylor spent most of her life in Buckinghamshire.

Some titles currently available through Virago Publishers (search link to Amazon and the book is at right) as well as a brief description of each:

Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (Virago Modern Classics): The widowed Mrs Palfrey arrives at the Claremont Hotel, deterimined to live out her life there. However, she can't help meeting fellow residents, including Ludo, a quite attractive young man.

Blaming (Virago Modern Classics): This one focuses on a woman's adjustment to her husband's death.

A View of the Harbor: (Virago Modern Classics): When a retired naval officer comes to a quiet fishing village he simply intends to work on his art. He can't resist getting to know the residents and complications ensue as he meets people ranging from a divorcee to others, discovering painful secrets along the way.

Angel (Virago Modern Classics):

Angelica Devil is fifteen and set on following her romantic dreams in spite of her mother's attempts to get her to move up in the world.

To see the Wikipedia info on her, check here:

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A look at a Hot new Book - what's the "buzz" on the Alli Diet?

What is this "Alli" stuff and what is the "Alli" diet plan? Currently, the book is doing fairly well on Amazon, so dieters, readers and booksellers might want to know more about the whole Alli concept and why it is making news. I can write about this as someone who took the prescription strength form of this before it was approved for over the counter use. It worked quite well for me.

The non-prescription form is about 1/2 the strength of the prescription form, which has its advantages and disadvantages. Still, it can be a diet aid, although I wouldn't call it a miracle drug. It does happen to live up to its claims, however, and that is saying a lot in the often murky world of weight loss products.

First, the basic facts:
1. In spite of the tons of diet pills out there, this is FIRST FDA approved medication for dieters which was once "prescription only". It has a proven track record. It can help increase weight loss, although not dramatically for most people.

2. When used properly, it reduces fat absorption, unlike so many of the so-called "weight loss pills" that do nothing. The name of this medicine is really Orlistat and it DOES block fat from entering the body, reducing calories absorbed. You might have heard of it as Xenical as well.

3. It is currently one of the hottest new diet plans on the market so you should be informed about it, whether as a reader or seller. Odds are high that you know someone with a weight issue, a constant dieter or you sell books to people looking for weight loss tips.

What is the Alli Diet?

Basically, the diet is your typical low-fat diet and it would NOT work for Atkins diet types. Why? Because if you take in too much fat, Alli will cause you to have unpleasant side effects, some so unpleasant that people decide not to stay on the medicine. These effects include bloating, gas and intestinal upsets, including some bowel issues (I'll let your imagination fill in the blanks here).

The book itself is very informative and includes 12 weeks of meal plans, more than 200 recipes, many of which I tried and which are designed to reduce any side effects. I found most of them tasty and easy to prepare. There is a section on exercise and a three stage program for reaching your goal weight.

Here's the catch: if you want this to work, you can't just take a pill and expect the weight to melt off. Alli will NOT keep you from eating too much nor will it slap your hand if you reach for a bag of potato chips. The choices -and consequences - are still yours. Also, it does affect absorption of certain vitamins so you are requested to take a good all-purpose vitamin daily. It won't give you automatic willpower.

Still, if you are one of those people who'll feel a lost better with a 5 pound weight loss in a given week instead of a 2 pound loss, this could do the trick, all things being equal (eating well, exercising, etc).

So that's the basics, folks. As always, talk to your doctor about any possible interactions with meds you take and don't use this with blood thinners like Warfarin (as it notes on the package).

If you'd like to know more about it, please use the Amazon search button to find The Alli Diet or the Alli Starter kit at Amazon and read what other reviewers have said. Consider the pros and cons and make an informed decision.

When you have to (shudder) downsize your book collection.

As much as you may love your books, there could come a day when (horrors!) you have to downsize, move or face the inevitable - your house is being overtaken by books. When you've found every way you can to help disguise the piles - and, believe me, I know a LOT of tricks for storing books - and still find yourself falling over stacks of books, it may be time to start culling the piles. This is a painful job, one I always resist, but eventually have to face, usually after getting flack from my family.

Of course, you are then faced with a dilemna -keep some, of course, but what about the others? Do you sell them or donate them? How do you know what to do?
Here's what I'd suggest:

Step One: Separate the piles into the ones you know are keepers, whether it is because you find yourself rereading the books again and again or because you have a childhood favorite that you want to share with other children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, etc.

Step Two: If you aren't altruistic enough to give away the ones you don't want or have outgrown (yes, tastes in books can - and do - change, evolve and grow.
Find out what your books are truly worth. Be realistic. Look at prices at various sites, from Amazon to Ebay. See what the books sell for and be sure to compare apples to apples. In other words, if your book is a signed first edition with dustjacket, don't compare it to a first edition without dustjacket, unsigned. The detaƮls make a difference. Condition counts.

Step Three: If you think it is worth your time and energy to list the books and you need the extra bucks, list them on Amazon or Ebay or another site or consider using a listing service (although they'll take a commission, so I'd be sure the book is worth it).
You can also sell them to a reputable dealer, someone who cares about books and who'll do his or her best to make sure they get maximum visibility and a good home. I happen to prefer local dealers but plenty of people sell to those out of state as well, as many dealers will happily travel to see a large collection of books.

Step Four: Finally, realize that some books are simply worth very little in today's market. Keep the ones that have sentimental value to you or that you are likely to TRULY want to reread (review Step One, above). For those that aren't worth much, financially or sentimentally, consider these options for donating them:

1. Freecyle or Paperback Exchange. If you aren't familiar with Freecycle, the concept is simple. You can list or offer anything but it has to be freely given, no money. To find the closest group, go to http:/

2. Consider donating to a homeless shelter, school library (some are very underfunded or in areas with limited budgets) or Center for Domestic Abuse. Contrary to the stereotypes, many of the people in shelters are not only literate, but eager to read. Some may have mental illnesses or disabilities that affect their work and finances but being homeless does NOT equate to being stupid. Donate and feel good that you may provide solace for people who are hungry for knowledge. A good book might even provide some inspiration and comfort when they need it most. Help comes in all forms.

3. Have a sale and donate the proceeds to a pet cause or scholarship fund. One of my favorite things to do is use the sale proceeds to help fund field trips for children whose families can't afford to pay for the trips - or else to help pay for back to school supplies and clothes for a needy child.

4. Consider leaving some in a doctor's office or local coffee house, with a note letting people know the books are free. If you'd like, you can include a brief bit of info about the book, why you liked it, etc. I'll occasionally leave a book in a mall or coffee shop and have actually see people pick them up and put them in their shopping bags, delighted and surprised by the special find.

Finally, and this is just my personal bias, I DO believe there are some books which aren't worth saving or donating. The annual Tax Prep that is out of date almost as soon as the next edition arrives, textbooks with incorrect info and maps. You aren't doing anyone a favor by passing on obsolete info, unless they collect those books or use them for research. So think about that. Know your "target donee".

I'd like to hear your opinions about how you handle your book collection and what you do when they threaten to take over the house! :)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Writing and analysis. Therapy and writing

Where do the two interact? How do they help or hurt each other? What is best for the writer?
As the longer article below indicates, it may not be clearcut. This isn't a double post but this short one is connected to digg

read more | digg story

Therapy and writers? A good thing or bad?

First off, I'd really like to hear YOUR opinions about this, so please feel free to join in the conversation (don't be shy).

After revisiting an intriguing book, Tales from the Couch: Writers on Therapy (Jason Shinder) , I couldn't stop thinking about the various points made by the authors (most of whom, interestingly, found therapy helpful). Does therapy actually help or hinder writers? Does it change their often unique perspective for the worst or does it help them tap into hidden veins of creativity, lurking deep within?.

As someone who has taught writing courses as well as being an avid reader, book collector and bookseller, I've heard many different viewpoints about this. Do writers necessarily benefit from therapy or are they best going it alone, trying to wrestle their demons and open their hearts on paper?

Consider Ernest Hemingway, an author who received electroshock treatment while severely depressed and then stated that it destroyed his memory and "put him out of business." There is also Hunter Thompson, a guy who was extremely popular and a regular writer for Rolling Stone before getting to the point where he committed suicide by shooting himself. He may have been thinking of contacting a counselor as some reports say the word "counselor" was in his typewriter at the time of his death. Also, he was having physical problems and had always been honest about his support of suicide as a "way out" if things got too rough or he felt like he was slipping.

Considering how many writers have written about therapy or their bouts with various conditions like depression (William Styron's Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness is one example that comes to mind), it is surprising that there seems to be relatively little written about therapy in general. For those who want to explore this topic, a look at On the Couch: Great American Tales about Therapy (Erica Kates) is also a good read.

For a more personal experience, there are the novels which explore the therapeutic experience from one viewpoint. Although some might find it dated, especially in light of new research into schizophrenia, I found the novel, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (Joanne Greenberg) to be deeply moving and well-written. Trivia buffs might recall that it was even made into a movie starring Kathleen Quinlan .

Then there is the classic work by Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, a book embraced by the counterculture as an attack against conformity. Long before the movie came out, I loved reading about McMurphy, a man put in a mental asylum, with unexpected consequences. The movie version has forever left the imprint of Jack Nicholson as my vision of McMurphy but I still love to reread this work every now and then. It is a classic, timeless and riveting.

So, take a moment to think about it. What tips or tricks have you found to tap into your creativity, to spark your writing? Do you keep a journal? Try to meditate or take walks to just think and consider alternate ways of approaching topics? Or have you found therapy to have extra benefits for your writing, even if that wasn't the reason you sought out a therapist?

P.S. If you want to check out the book titles noted above (some are hard to find, be forewarned, just use the Amazon search box. There is NO obligation to buy but you'll get to read a description of the books and, with luck, be able to search inside the book and read an excerpt)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Are you a writer or a bookseller? Check out Steve Weber's Books!

Steve Weber is one of my favorite authors, someone who manages not only to write wonderful books about selling and internet exposure but who also keeps people informed about similar topics on his website, Selling Books. He is avid about the world of books and bookselling and the various changes in the way readers and books find one another and the individual bookseller's role, especially independent bookseller and authors.

You can see his profile, a list of his books and a link to his website here:

He has definitely advanced my learning curve when it comes to books and bookselling (I can't keep EVERY book I read, much as I love books). His blog discusses current issues in the book world, everything from selling books to articles about booksellers. Even if you don't sell books, it is worth a look, quite informative, lively and just plain fun to read.

One of his latest books is called Plug Your Book and if you are interested in getting the word out about your book, you can't do better than this one. Disclaimer: I want to be clear that I did read the book and my comments are on the front cover but I have no financial stake in this book, do not receive any royalties, etc. In short, this is an unbiased opinion about a wonderful book.

Here's my review of another of his books, The Home-Based Bookstore :

Read this one and you WILL be able to hit the ground running. And I say that as someone who opened this book warily, knowing what it SHOULD contain- and hoping that it did. I'd been disappointed so many times before with similar books. This time, I wasn't disappointed.

My perspective is that of a former bookseller. When I started out, I'd bought ever book on the subject I could find. Even so, l had a steep learning curve because every single one of those books omitted important info.

THIS book is the one I should have had and it is the ONLY one I would have needed. It is very, very user-friendly, written in clear language and arranged in short sections that contain all the details yet are easy to read. There isn't a single word that is unnecessary. In short, the guy not only knows his business but knows how to pass on the info quickly and painlessly. It is a joy to read such a well-researched, concise volume which somehow manages to squeeze in all the important points about bookselling, from start to finish.

I was delighted to see that this volume not only included the basics (where to find books, what books to buy and which books to avoid like the plague) but also contained the kind of detailed info that most new sellers need but don't automatically know. In fact, I learned quite a bit myself, a reminder that no one is so experienced that a "refresher course" won't help.

I'd done quite well in the business myself and yet there was plenty of info I found here that I hadn't seen before (but wish I had). The sections on organizing your inventory, invenstory softwear and using the newest innovations in wireless price lookups can save buyers needless time and energy. I adapted some of my own methods of book organization after reading this book.

ALL booksellers, new or experienced, could use a review of the info contained in the Taxes, Legal Requirements and Records section of the book.

Finally, the author doesn't contain only CURRENT info but gives readers a "heads up" about the future of bookselling, types of sales venues, etc, making the information not only timely but useful in the future as well.

Readers should look carefully at the sections on Amazon and Ebay, as the author gives an accurate comparison of the pros and cons of each venue (Amazon's "auction" format is defunct, for all practical purposes) and how each has changed over the years. His view is accurate, revealing how a single year can change everything in the online bookselling world. In another year, who knows? Things could change just as quickly.

With this book, you ought to be able to stay on top of the learning curve.

Opting Out - Why Women Quit Careers and Stay home

I just finished reading this book, Opting Out: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home (Pamela Stone) and have to admit it touched off some sensitive feelings about balancing work and home.
My own experience: Stay at home mother who had a thriving writing career and then pulled back to deal with my children, one of whom is special needs. Like the women in this book, I'm a college graduate.
Here's my take on the book:
What I particularly liked about this book: Stone's interviews and discussions with actual women who decided to opt out of working (even though many of them could have made big bucks) as well as her solid research.

Readers should be aware that the author, by her own admission (p. 15 of the book), focused on white married women with children and that these women had previously worked as managers or professionals. If you don't fall into that group, this book may not appeal to you. These women, for the most part, also had husbands who could support their decision to stay home.In short, these women often had expensive college degrees and were high achievers.

Stone also points out that women who tend to "opt out" are the exception, not the rule, citing studies that indicate that 70 percent of the women who are married mothers of preschoolers still continue to work. Turn this figure around and the reality is that one out of every four women DOES decide to stay home. This book is an exploration of these particular women and it is written in what I found to be a very nonjudgmental and open style.

The author was also able to get some company heads to admit their mixed feelings about mothers in the workplace, their fears about them being less committed to their jobs or more likely to quit.

Other areas covered in this book include:
Most women quit only as a last resort (p. 18)

Each woman's story was unique, often complex and with many factors.

There was often ambivalence and a shifting of roles within the home

Their decision did NOT signal a return to traditionalism (p. 19).

Their former workplaces often made it difficult, if not impossible, for them to continue balancing family and work, rejecting their attempts to create innovations while maintaining productivity.

If you'd like to know what is featured in each Chapter, here's a quick rundown:
Chapter 1 - Looks at various women (the former Ivy League sports star, the CPA, the Consultant, an editor, a stock trader, etc) and their various experiences at work.

Chapter 2- 3- Looks at the families, children and husbands.

Chapter 4- Focuses on work, problems and challenges and factors that lead to a decision to opt out.

Chapters 6-8 - Life at home, coping techniques, finding new identities.

Chapter 9- Explores possible ways that women could continue to work (if they chose) and minimizing the obstacles that make staying home a necessity, not a choice.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Recommendations - sure to find something here you'll like!

Over Tumbled Graves by Jess Walter

Don't you just love when you discover a writer that really grabs you and makes you want to read every book he or she has written? That is how I feel about Jess Walter, having discovered the book Citizen Vince and then going on to read another of his books, Over Tumbled Graves.

Over Tumbled Graves is a suspense or crime novel but I really hate sticking it in any genre, because Walters could probably tackle a number of different topics and still come up with a solid book. So if you aren't particularly drawn to fiction, especially crime novels, please give this one a shot. Below the supposedly solid surface (serial killer, two detectives trying to track him down) is a book full of insights about the human condition and the flaws in every heart, large and small. Some of them won't get us convicted but none of us is entirely innocent of certain crimes - even if they are simply crimes of the heart.

For those who want to know more about this book, it focuses on two detectives, Caroline Mabry and Alan Dupree (Dupree pops up in Citizen Vance as well). They happen to be partners and they also happen to be fighting off sexual and romantic tension, a plot twist that adds extra depth to the story. What makes the book a standout, however, is the writing style of the author. The pages are filled with sentences that make readers pause and think and ask questions like: When is the line between being faithful and betraying one's spouse (hint: it doesn't start with physical intimacy) are serial killers profiled?.... what are the markers that set a particular killer out from the pack and help the detectives hone in on him?

If you are looking for a book that goes beyond the usual formulas and contain the imprint of an individual author's style, I urge you to read this book. Then go on to read more by this very talented author!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

First post - Yay! - Book and life

I read quite a bit and also have a busy life. So, I decided to combine the two after reading the latest book, Tales from the Scale, which was an inspiring and honest compilation of weight loss stories, battles with body image and every variation of issues that women face when it comes to weight (I'm sure you can fill in the blanks on THAT topic, especially if you are female).

At the back of the book was a list of websites for the women who'd contributed to the book. All were fascinating and that was when I realized the value of keeping track of not only my life but WHAT I read and how I feel about it. I hope you relate.

I'm a top reviewer at and also Ebay. I used to be an avid Ebayer. Before that, I was a freelance writer and actually had an article published in Weight Watcher's magazine, even though my weight was WAY over any acceptable standards for that publication. The article was on exercise-induced asthma. I worked my way up to a nice career as a writer, primarily for local and national publications.

Then we decided to adopt a 5 year old child from Romania (long story). That was when I knew I would have to make some serious choices, because he was going to require total commitment and energy, including physical therapy, for at least 1 year - no day care, very little outside help. I would have to focus intensively on helping him make up for developmental issues, including the fact that he wasn't on the growth charts, was at the level of a 3 year old emotionally and physically, etc. Yes, it was a major commitment but it turned out to be one I've never regretted. There was a window of time open when this could happen and we took it. They closed down ALL adoptions in Romania only 10 days after he came home to us and, as far as I know, they are still closed.

We have two other children, both adults (more about them later). My husband teaches at a local university and I struggle with trying to keep up with a teenager, a large house and some semblance of exercise and eating right. Weight loss is my largest challenge right now, next to transitioning my son into high school. We also have one deaf white cat. Fur is an issue but we love her. She is as mellow as they come.

So there you have it, a basic intro. Hope you enjoy the Blog!