Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Some Good Quotes and Some Good Books

I totally agree with Mr Wallach and I treasure the fact that my mother read to me as a child, and I've read to my son until recently, now that he's a pre-teen and way too cool for that sort of thing.

"I know I'm a Luddite on this, but there's something very personal about
a book and not one of one thousand files on an iPad, something that's
connected and emotional, something I grew up with and that I want them
to grow up with.... I feel that learning with books is as important a
rite of passage as learning to eat with utensils and being

--Ari Wallach, "a tech-obsessed entrepreneur" and parent in a New York
Times article on parents' preferences for printed books for their children

I also find great wisdom in this, from two authors who are pleading for the life of independent bookstores this holiday season...shop local for your book presents, people!

In Down East magazine, cookbook author Kathy Dunst
made a case for supporting independent bookstores, beginning with a
confession: "I am a cookbook author and I often send people to Amazon or
Barnes & Noble because I don't know which stores actually stock my
books. It's a damn shame. The independent bookstore crisis seems to
mimic, in some small way, the whole Occupy Wall Street crisis--the 99%
begging to have a voice, to be given a chance when it comes up against
the power of big banks and big money.

"So I am making a vow. I will shop at independent books as much as
possible, even if it means going out of my way and paying a bit more.
It's worth it to me in the end to know that there are still book stores
out there where I can browse for an hour, or an entire afternoon,
reading through new and old books and learning about authors I never
knew. I don't want a computer-generated list of book suggestions coming
to me through my computer. I want to spend more time talking to the
devoted shopkeeper of an independent bookstore who has read these
books--often met the author--and can truly recommend something great. I
want more human-to-human book connection and less time 'talking' to my
computer. I want to look at book covers and feel the gorgeous quality of
the paper. I want to go to readings at independent bookstores and hear
authors talk about writing and the state of the world. This cannot be
reproduced in a computer or chain store."

--- YES!

"I believe that real books, those pulp-and-paste objects that threaten
our backs when moved from home to home in old wine boxes, must
survive--as should the most dedicated merchants who sell them," wrote
author Julia Glass
in her "Ode to Indies" for Ladies' Home Journal. "So if you are lucky
enough to live near an independent bookstore, think hard before you
exploit its browsability and then go home to order your books from an
online retail behemoth. (Some bookstores, by the way, can 'fill' your
e-reader onsite.) Even if you don't live near a good shop, many now
maintain websites that enable you to order online just as easily as you
might from Amazon....

"But there's another reason it's so essential to preserve independent
bookstores: The people who run them and what they know. I read reviews
and consider myself pretty 'plugged in' to the literary cosmos, yet one
of the things I love best about book-touring is the opportunity to
compare notes with favorite booksellers around the country. I always
come home with books by authors I'd never heard of--or books I've read
about but didn't realize I might love."

Today marks the beginning of the sun in Sagittarius, my birth sign and that of my son, so I thought I'd drop in a little tutorial about all things Archer!

All About Sagittarius
Sagittarians are known as the "favorites of the gods" for good reason: These folks are famous for their generosity, humor and optimism, as well as their ability to see the best is every situation, no matter how dire the circumstances. A Sagittarius will find a real reason to celebrate each and every day, something due in no small part to Jupiter, this sign's planetary ruler that's best known for benevolence. Of course, the other side of this coin is excess and extravagance, so in addition to knowing how to laugh -- and how to make others laugh -- Sagittarians are also experts at overdoing everything. At the same time, if a Sag has to be restricted to just one of anything, it better be the most impressive of its kind!

Sagittarians are also famous for their love of travel and philosophy -- these people crave knowledge and will spare no effort to satisfy their innate curiosity. Sag's own personal philosophy is that life is nothing more than a series of extended vacations, which is why so many born under the sign of the Archer end up living in a different city, state or even country than where they grew up.

When it comes to relationships, Sagittarians often find that some of their most successful ones are with four-legged creatures -- their connection to anything with fur, feathers and even leaves is legendary. Romantically speaking, if you're a human, you can only have a Sag of your very own if you're willing to hold them with an open palm; restrictions will not be tolerated. However, if you let your Sag sweetie know you care, but allow them to live as they see fit, you'll have gained an intelligent, witty and highly impressive partner whose long-term loyalty will astound you.

One warning about Sagittarians: Don't ever ask them a question if you can't withstand an honest answer. They're bound to tell the truth above all else, regardless of the consequences -- that way, at least they can be sure you know exactly who they are. And while Sagittarians can get along with just about anyone, many of them are drawn to those born under other Fire signs also living by the motto, "What you see is truly what you get."

In the past two weeks, I've finished two novels and a short story collection, Laurel Hamilton's "Never After" a collection of "revised" fairy tales in which the female protagonist refuses to be married off to whomever is chosen for her, and instead chooses her own "happily ever after." With story titles like "Can He Bake a Cherry Pie?" and "The Wrong Bridegroom" it's inevitable that there will be quite a number of twists and turns in this anthology, which, although somewhat uneven in storytelling talent, is still a darned good read. The authors keep the characters just entertaining enough, and just different enough from their classic fairy tale counterparts that the reader feels compelled to read on to find out what happens. It's a fast-paced book and well worth the time. I'd give it a solid B+ and recommend it to fantasy fans who enjoy seeing what a contemporary author can do with a tale retold.
Alice Hoffman's "The Red Garden" was less satisfying, unfortunately, mainly because I felt I'd already read it. Her book "Blackbird House" is nearly a carbon copy of this book, about the origins of a town and the generations of the founders through time. This time, we're again following the pioneer families who founded Blackwell, Massachusetts, and the one crazy woman who manages to keep them all alive, and who eventually runs off with a bear and is never seen or heard from again. As with all her books, there is "magical realism" woven throughout, and people come to realizations, fall in love with someone they're not supposed to, and have strange children. Inevitably, the founders house and her "red garden" are characters in and of themselves, and Hoffman brings it all back around at the end and ties it up with a bow for the reader, though I found that a bit too facile an ending. I also found myself getting bored with the book, which is a cardinal sin for me as a reader, because Blackbird House was so similar in content and form, right down to the child who drowns and the crazy pioneer woman. I've also read "Practical Magic" and "The Ice Queen" and I have a copy of "Probable Future" that has been in my TBR for awhile, so I am familiar with Hoffman's style and her tendency toward quirky female protagonists and bad male characters who meet with grim ends. Though I respect the fact that she's written 29 novels, I am saddened that she seems to "phone it in" with the Red Garden, and re-tread a previous plot with characters that are much the same. I regret that I paid full price for this trade paperback book, though I plan on turning it in for credit at Baker Street Books Used Bookstore. Still, it merits a C at best and I wouldn't recommend it to any but the most die-hard of Hoffman fans who love East Coast historical fiction.
Finally, the last book I finished was Tess Gerritsen's "The Keepsake" which is a Rizzoli and Isles mystery, and as I've watched and loved the TV show (though it has been cancelled, much to my consternation) I thought I'd see how the original novels stacked up. Boston cop Jane Rizzoli isn't as sassy as the TV version, and Medical Examiner Maura Isles on TV is blonde, sleek and not having an affair with a priest, so she seems a lot less skittish and guilty on the tube. Still, though they interacted a bit less than they do on TV, I liked the book version of Rizzoli and Isles, and I found the deft plot and fully-realized characters very interesting, along with the twist at the end that I didn't see coming. This book deserves a B, and I'd recommend it to those who like women solving mysteries and getting their hands dirty in the case, while also learning a lot about Egyptian mummifying techniques.

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