Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell

TLC Book Tours 
by Lisa O'Donnell

If you ever wondered what a dysfunctional family was, read THE DEATH OF BEES, and you will no longer be wondering.

Marnie and Nelly lived with their parents who were not married and who never paid attention to them.  They were too busy being on drugs and selling drugs.  The girls had to take care of themselves and were always left alone. Then one day they were truly alone...their parents went missing and never returned.  The girls knew what happened to them, but they couldn't tell anyone.  Their neighbor Lennie saw their parents had been gone for a long time and instinctively knew they wouldn't return so
he stepped in to help.  Lennie had issues of his own.

The book was somewhat disconnected and shared all the awful things that normally occur in a dysfunctional family.  The author portrays scenes very vividly and leaves nothing to the imagination.  She lets every detail of the family's life out in the open for all to see and does it cleverly by having each chapter's contents be the voice of one of the characters.  I believe she was making the reader aware of how often this type of life happens more than we know and what many children live with on a daily basis.  She was also showing that the cycle continues from generation to generation.

Despite the author's attempt of trying to enlighten what we as a civil society do not want to face, this book definitely would not be good for young adults.  There is a lot of vulgarity, sexual situations, drug situations, tension between parent and child, and even murder.  On a positive note, it does touch on strong friendships.  If this book were being rated as a movie, I would give it an R rating.

It did get a little more interesting as the book continued, and there were some funny parts.  You can't help laughing at the absurdity and utter
unbelievability of some of the circumstances, but the book's disconnection with following the plot, the vulgarity, and the unpleasant, but informative topic makes me give the book a 3/5.

This book was given to me free of charge without compensation in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Snapshot Saturday - January 26, 2013

This past weekend, January 20, I celebrated my first year of retirement from teaching.  

I had taught for 34 years....38 if you count being laid off.  :)  

Yes...teachers got laid off back in the 80's.  :)

I cleaned out one quarter of my teaching materials and happily took a photo last summer before I started my last semester of a great career. I am.   

We put out a few bundles each week so the recycle guys wouldn't have a full truck before their day even started. :)

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books.  It’s easy to participate – just post a picture that was taken by you, a friend, or a family member and add your link on Alyce’s site.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Truth About Love & Lightening by Susan McBride


Did the storm really bring Sam along with it....the Sam who disappeared 40 years ago?  As much as Gretchen wanted it to be Sam, she was worried that his return may mean that 
her secret/her lie would be exposed.

Regardless, it couldn't be anyone but Sam especially since it was well known that his ancestors were famous for storms, lightning, and unusual things happening when lightning struck.  Could it really have happened again no matter how strange....rain, lightening, and walnuts?    

Strange things do and have happened at the farmhouse where Sam grew up and where Gretchen and her sisters now lived.  Strange things such as ghosts knocking on the front door and now the farmhouse being the only place that had electricity when the entire town had none because of the storm that blew through town the day before with Sam on its coattails.

The Truth About Love & Lightening is a book that has lovable, appealing characters with interesting backgrounds.  The characters are the basis, the wonder, and the root of what made Ms. McBride's book a marvelous read.

Ms. McBride always pleases her readers with a mixture of splendid characters, great story lines, and a little bit of mystery.  Waiting for the answer about Sam and also the answer about Gretchen's secret/lie was cleverly and expertly carried out with flashbacks and details of the current lives of the characters.  The unhurried way Ms. McBride melts the reader into the suspense of Sam and his family's past and also into each character's feelings and believability makes you turn the pages not in an unhurried pace but at a hurried, curious pace.

I really enjoyed the book because of Ms. McBride's smooth, splendid writing style.  She glides seamlessly from one period of time to the other and gives you just enough information that you keeps you involved.  

Don't miss this marvelous read by Susan McBride which also teaches us about love and the wisdom of living our lives where we are now, being happy with what we have now, and not living in the past.  5/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dough, Rolls, Bread, and Pasta Topped With my Homemade Sauce


This is a very YUMMY post.  Hope you have had your lunch.  :)

The first one is the dough I made in my bread machine.

The second one is showing the rolls I made out of the dough.

The third one is a loaf of bread still in the oven. It was crusty on the top when it came out.

The fourth one is dish of pasta topped with my homemade sauce.  

The noodles took FOREVER to cook, but it was worth the wait.

I bought the noodles in New York City, and they had come from Italy.  :)


 We had a YUMMY dinner!!!

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books.  It’s easy to participate – just post a picture that was taken by you, a friend, or a family member and add your link on Alyce’s site.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister


Food, family, relationships, recipes....a wonderful combination, and a marvelously wonderful book.

THE LOST ART OF MIXING makes you feel cozy inside and out.  After being with Lillian, you are relaxed and happy...she is just someone who makes you want to be where she is and where you want to stay.

In fact, most of the characters mixed well with each other just like a perfect recipe.  Each character blended together to make an unforgettable book about family memories, misunderstandings that turned sour or proved to be a good thing, the heartache of aging parents, and also everyday situations we mostly likely are dealing with or will deal with one day.  

The book also had so many wonderful hints at recipes that it made me want to put the book down and get out my pots and pans and start immediately on a variation of Lillian's recipes.  The characters in the story did the same thing.  They made you want to stop what you were doing, they made you want to join in the conversation, and they made you want to become long-time friends with everyone involved.  I enjoyed every character no matter whether they were causing trouble or dealing with trouble.

If you need a comfy, relaxing read don't miss THE LOST ART OF MIXING.  Ms. Bauermeister has such a soothing way with her words that you will feel as though you just had the most wonderful massage ever when you are done reading the book. Your body and your brain will not be on overload after reading this book but will be in a splendid slow motion mode.

ENJOY!!!  5/5

I won this book from LibraryThing and received it from Putnam Books without compensation in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Beautiful Explanation of SEVEN LOCKS by Christine Wade

I read and reviewed SEVEN LOCKS in December, but I was somewhat confused about the title and its true meaning and also the meaning of the book itself.  

I wrote to the author, and she graciously agreed to allow me to use her comments made on my review as a separate post so that others  would not miss her true meaning.

Let's welcome Christine Wade.  If you are moved by her words as I was by her book, you will find yourself making SEVEN LOCKS your next read.

Christine's Explanation:

"Thanks for asking about the title !!!!
You are right in that the meaning of the proverb "The future is a book with seven locks." is not patently obvious. I take it to have a meaning such as "Que sera, sera" or "What ever will be will be, the future is not ours to see."

Personally, I think the beauty of a proverb is that some you get right away, like "Speak of the devil, and you trip on his tail" not because its meaning is so literal and obvious, but because you have heard them so many times repeated in context that you just get what they mean. Unfamiliar ones from other cultures are more mysterious and ambiguous. You know people have said them for ages, so they kinda roll around in your brain but you are not quite sure what they mean.

So "the future is a book with seven locks" has an authentic old world ring that evokes the forward march of time by referencing the future. Time, anxiety about time passing, lost time, and memory are all themes of the book that are developed (but not explained) by this proverb.

So glad you enjoyed Seven Locks and glad you found that it has secrets. I wanted to write a book with some cards up its sleeves that an attentive reader could ponder after they put the book down.. The beginning epigraph and the last sentence challenge the reader to unravel the secrets of the book."

Guest Post with Jon Clinch and his book THE THIEF OF AUSCHWITZ

Today I would like to Welcome Jon Clinch to my blog and introduce him and his book, THE THIEF OF AUSCHWITZ.  
I have not read his book, but it sounds wonderful

Welcome Jon and welcome readers of this post.  

I hope you enjoy his interview as much as I did.  

Part One: On The Thief of Auschwitz

Q:     Your first two books have been called “among a small handful of the most American novels since Huckleberry Finn.” What moved you to leave that territory behind and write about, of all things, the Holocaust?

A:     Kings of the Earth was in many ways a memorial to central New Yorkers of my parents’ generation—country people whose voices are dying out and whose stories are on the verge of vanishing forever. In The Thief of Auschwitz, I hope to have created a second memorial to that same generation, this time honoring those on my wife’s side of the family of man—the Jewish side—whose stories are likewise in danger of being lost.

Reading and rereading the first-person accounts of Wiesel and Frankl and Nyiszli over a period of a year or two, I had no plan to write a book. But along the way I discovered something within myself that disturbed me to no end: the more closely I studied the raw materials, the more repellent they became and the more difficulty I had in maintaining my focus on them. It was as if the facts themselves, horrible and numberless as they were, were conspiring to drive me away again and again, preventing me from connecting with the people behind them as fully as I needed to.

Supposing that other readers might face the same difficulty, and intent on the preservation of these voices and these stories, I wondered if fiction might provide an answer. I hope that it has, at least a little.

Q:      How much research did you do? Did you visit Auschwitz?

A:       I did most of my research in books. Laurence Rees’ Auschwitz: A New History was enormously helpful, as was the BBC television series made as a companion to it. Mainly, though, I relied on the well-known first-person accounts of Elie Wiesel and Viktor Frankl and Mikl√≥s Nyiszli.

           My aim was always to seek the heart of the experience, rather than to mire myself in technical and spatial detail.

        There are drawbacks to not visiting the scene, of course.  I'm sure to have gotten a number of details wrong and those details may trouble some readers.  That's always the case, regardless of how well you research anything, if only because the demands of the story sometimes cause writers to take liberties with time and geography.  On the other  hand, I'm sufficiently aware of my limits as a researcher and as a writer to know that---in my case, at least growing too intimate with the physical details of a place can get in the way of following the needs of the story.

          Folks have asked me the same question, by the way, about Finn and the Mississippi River—and the answer is the same. A few telling details are sufficient to bring a place to life in the reader’s mind, and that’s what’s important.

Q:     We know from the beginning that certain characters in The Thief of Auschwitz are doomed. How do you go about maintaining interest and narrative momentum in a case like that?

A:     That was an issue in Finn, too—except that it was Mark Twain, not the Third Reich, who had doomed my characters in advance. Either way it adds up to the same thing. In Finn, I played with the presentation of time—twisting and winding the narrative thread to bring the past and present together, just as they met in the mind of the alcoholic protagonist. In The Thief of Auschwitz I rely on Max, the only member of the Rosen family who survives Auschwitz, to provide some perspective. As one of the narrators—the rest of the story is told in the third person—he speaks for himself, reminding us that he’s escaped the horrors of the camp, and causing us to be curious about exactly how that might have happened. His periodic appearances, which bring the New York art world into contrast with the world of the camp, also lighten the book’s mood and provide a separate narrative interest of their own.

Q:     Violence is a steady current in The Thief of Auschwitz—and yet the truth is that violence at Auschwitz was often even worse than you depict it. How do you reconcile that?

A:     I was definitely sparing with the most brutal violence, but not because I wanted to spare the reader any pain. On the contrary. I wanted to keep readers engaged. It seemed to me that the key to communicating the true evil of Auschwitz was first to help readers commit themselves to a handful of vividly drawn, realistic, living, breathing people. That’s why the novel begins in a resort town in the mountains of Carpathia, where Jacob and Eidel meet and marry and begin their lives. Once readers have committed to the Rosens, I don’t have to punish my characters every second of every day. I can exercise restraint, keeping certain things off-screen and letting various horrors play out at second hand. The real truth, the compounding of wickedness documented in the first-person accounts, would have made the novel unreadable and therefore worthless.

Q.      The Thief of Auschwitz is quite cinematic. Are there plans for a film adaptation?

A:       Not at the moment, although you never know. Hollywood is a funny place. Finn has been optioned for several years now by a first-rate production outfit—I’ve read the screenplay, and it’s terrific—but I haven’t yet had the chance to buy a ticket at the box office.

Part Two: On Publishing

Q:      We hear a lot these days about the death of big publishing. Are the rumors true, or premature?

A:       It’s not over yet, that’s for certain. What becomes of publishing in the months and years ahead will be a matter of making the best use of technology on one hand and humanity on the other. Technology is really good at the physical stuff—at solving manufacturing and distribution problems. Witness e-books, and the electronic marketplace that has sprung up around them. But when you start looking beyond the physicality of the book as an artifact, you begin to see the parts of it that technology can’t touch. Not just the skill that goes into writing it, but the intelligence that goes into vetting it, the insight that goes into marketing it, and the personal connection that goes into getting it into the hands of readers. Big publishers have been fairly competent at those things all along—particularly as regards large, commercial projects—but the distribution side of things has begun falling apart under its own weight.

I believe that the technology-savvy independent who managed to deliver on the human part of the equation—the connecting with readers part—will be the one who thrives.

Q:      What have you given up by going independent? Editorial input? Marketing support? Credibility?

A:       Editing is a very personal thing that varies by the writer. When the time came for a detailed discussion of Finn, for example, my editor had three little Post-It notes stuck to the manuscript. We dispatched them in a couple of minutes.

           Marketing support, of course, is huge. Big publishers create bestsellers by spending energy and money on them. They also create failed books by ignoring them. It’s pretty simple. As a long-time marketing guy myself, I believe that I can make something happen in that department on my own. I can certainly make enough happen on my own. (A big publisher will, of course, define enough very differently than I do.)

As for credibility, I’m lucky enough to have published a couple of novels that were extremely well received by the press. Finn was named an American Library Association Notable Book and was chosen as one of the year’s best books by the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Christian Science Monitor. Kings of the Earth was named a best book of the year by the Washington Post and led the 2010 Summer Reading List at O, The Oprah Magazine. So I enter into this with some good credentials and name recognition.

Q:      Why haven’t other literary writers done this?

A:       I have friends who write all kinds of books. Literary stuff, of course, but also thrillers and mysteries and horror and chick lit and so on. The genre folks have been much more willing to adapt to the new world of self-publishing than the literary folks have been, and I suspect it’s a matter of perspective. Literary writers revere the publishing system itself and everything that goes with it—the imprints where their heroes were published, the long apprenticeships through Bread Loaf and Squaw Valley, the physical weight of a hardcover book—far more than they revere the part of the business that has to do with commerce. They’re willing to take a small advance or no advance at all to be published by even the smallest of small presses, because it signifies that the house has found them worthy. Writers in the genres don’t see it that way. To them, a reader is a reader is a reader. I have to confess that they’re probably right.

Part Three: On Pen Names

Q:      Why did you publish What Came After as Sam Winston, not as Jon Clinch?

A:       To begin with, I wrote the book as an experiment. I was weary of seeing what at that time was a real spate of literary writers crossing over into science fiction and horror, only to bring with them their usual stylistic and structural tics. What was showing up in stores as a result was a bunch of genre books that didn’t feel right to genre audiences, and that literary readers turned away from because they were full of monsters.

           I wanted to go all the way: to write a real science fiction adventure with a real rollercoaster of a plot, about real people facing real problems—problems that aren’t, as it turns out, a very big stretch from where we are today. That’s what sci-fi has always done best, right? And I wanted to write it in a style that was different from my own, with machine-gun sentences that just kind of rat-a-tat along to keep the reader in motion.

           So that’s what I did. And then, to complete the experiment and see how the book did without interference from my name and reputation, I put it out there under a pen name.