Monday, November 30, 2015

Short Stuff

Not much to say...full weekend...0 reading!

But...I watched a fascinating PBS show on the history of British crime novels ans writers.  Truth - I have never read an Agatha Christie mystery.  I will do so soon.

That's all I have for you today.
LaDeDa Bev out!

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Place of Thanks

Several years ago, this book was being read on NPR's "Chapter A Day" program.  I heard part of one episode before my radio began to crackle and pop, but I knew I wanted to read the book.  Of course, that day was the last chapter and the Internet lacked content in those olden days, so there seemed to be little chance of figuring out the title. When I spotted it recently at Goodwill, I just knew - this is it.  I grabbed it and ran - apologies to my more visual readers.

Lots of people trace their bloodlines and make fascinating, shocking, and heartwarming discovers along the way -but  the genealogy of a house? What a crazy idea.  The folks who owned James Morgan's house included a soft-drink bottler, VA loan officer, a secretary of a U.S. congressman, a civil engineer, a housewife, a theatre director, medical technologist, Medicare system analyst, teacher, entrepreneur gone bust, and two writers.  Morgan spends painstaking hours uncovering each story and recounts it with energetic detail and dignity.

Of course this got me thinking about my own house.  Three owners, a pair of sisters (I'm counting them as one), a hospital administrator and me.  That's about all I know.  Sure, there are things I want to know like why did the administrator dig up all the scrubs and cart them away when he moved, and who planned the beyond illogical kitchen layout?

Even more unexpectedly, my thoughts turned to my store, my funny looking, cobbled together building where so much has happened.  People often ask me how much longer I plan to stay in business.  Who knows?  The thought of not coming here every day saddens me.  Heck, how can I even think of closing when I have customers who worry about me when I am gone for more than two days in a row?  And what about my blogsters -Lauran who gets concerned when a post doesn't appear until Tuesday, or Pat, who advises that even when I have nothing to say, I should at least write one paragraph?  

 On days when bookish things are not happening, I sometimes think of this space as a giant office where I "twiddle and resolve" (to quote a line from one of my favorite musicals). Heart-A-Rama work gets done here, as well as other theatre and writing projects.  Other times LaDeDa a warm, funky drawing room where I greet guests.

This is the place where old friendships have been renewed and strengthened, and new friendships have evolved.  It is here where Colleen's five children would make their annual Christmas stop, lining up in age order to give me a holiday hug.  It is here where former students find me and we catch up; and yes, some have even apologized for creative challenges offered in my classes.  LaDeDa was Mimi's first stop on her way home from the hospital days after being born, and where her her cousin Walter sang a rousing version of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" in the middle of July.

Lovely Fran.  Puny James.  Exuberant Amelia. Steve the wordsmith.  World's best pasta sauce maker - Lisa...I've met them and so many more  because of this quirky building.  They entered as customers.  They became friends.  So many faces, so many families.  

I can't forget my dog pals who drop by and know exactly where the treats are stored.
Jose (accent over the e, please) , Trixie.  Bella. Charlie. Sydney. Ella.  

Employees.  There's not enough time or space to honor each by sharing what they have brought to my life. Some stay for a short time and move on.  Others stay forever - connecting when and how we can - always moving forward but not forgetting the times we shared here.

This store, the job earned me the first nickname I ever had...
LaDeDa Bev is thankful for this life.  

Eat turkey (except for Becky who will eat something foolish like tofu.)

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday, November 9, 2015

Here We Go Again

...another book discussion selection that will not have me gushing with enthusiasm.  I am nice and clean and fresh smelling from all the soapy suds offered up by the flatly sung opera.  If an author is going to rehash the forbidden love, and the broken hearts will wait forever to be reunited themes, she better add something fresh to the telling.  

My reaction to this novel is partially colored by my preference for novels that lead with style rather than plot.  Old plots are just that - old. Heck, even those silly toga wearing Greeks knew that. They were on the ground floor of storytelling, yet they knew enough to switch things up.  When everyone gathered for the yearly theatre festival, most in attendance already knew the stories being told.  They knew that Oedipus had killed his father, married his mother and (horrors) fathered three children by her.  What they didn't know was what approach Sophocles would take with the story.  Would he be sympathetic toward Oedipus or was Oed's hubris responsible for his downfall?  Would  the playwright blame Jocasta for not recognizing her prodigal son?  How about the gods and the path they pre-determined for Oedipus and his kin?  It's all about the spin.

In high school, I read Elizabeth's Kata's A Patch of Blue.  White girl.  African American man.  Then there's Miss Saigon- also a love destined for challenge.  Both stories were told with eloquence and honest emotion. At the very least, I was hoping for a tender, poetically written love scene for Isabelle and Robert.  Instead I got this: Small sounds  of pleasure and pain and pleasure again slipped unguarded from by throat when he entered the secret place of my body,  using the instrument I'd  scarcely dared imagine even in the darkened privacy of my old bedroom to create an eternal union between us." The instrument? Really?  This stuff is one keystroke away from the old "fruit of his loins" line.  Best to have left that scene out...along with the final scene.

If you're looking for an intense story of a lover who waits and suffers, go directly to Love in the Time of Cholera.  I'm not into pain as a recreational activity, but this book is painful.  It is a symphony, not a soap opera.  The rubato rhythms are accompanied by often dissonant harmonies, unpredictable and unwelcome, just like real life.  This book forces reality onto readers, daring individuals to see what is before them and to act upon it.  Granted, no one needs a steady diet of that type of literature, and that's where chick lit like Calling Me Home comes in handy.

The story takes us on a Driving Miss Daisy journey of an elderly woman being escorted to a funeral by her African American hair dresser.  Along the way, the two share interesting histories and lots of  stories oozing with social drama -  there's abuse, badly behaving children, out of wedlock  pregnancies, abortion....all the standards.  The author provides the mandatory writer's workshop reversals along the way, and upon reaching their destination, the story is done.  No one told the author that.  She had to write one more scene where sugar dripped, and the promise of reader tears lurked behind thinly veiled symbolism.    You know those final episode TV series scenes - like the one where Mary Tyler Moore leaves her newsroom for the last time, closes the door and then opens it once more  and scans the space lovingly before the final exit?  Yup, you know what I mean .  That's how this books ends.  Too, too much for me.

 But I will enjoy the discussion knowing there is the right book out there for everyone, and understanding that the group has suffered through some of my less than popular picks over the years.  We have different tastes and that's OK.  I will enjoy the discussion because I enjoy these friends - we have travelled far together for many years now, and the trips have been adventurous, rocky, silly, provocative and always rewarding and welcome.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween Madness

Cold, wet, rainy, angry Halloween.  Angry?  Oh yes.  Little did I know that kids who spend two hours going from house to house holding open bags to receive free sweet or sour what-nots, would not appreciate something different tossed into their bags. I thought for sure that giving them something other than a fun-sized, one bite and it's gone Snickers would be welcome.  Think about it.  Twixt.. M&M's...Milky Way....Nerds...Reeses Pieces....dropping into your bag over and over and over.  How about a nice, heavy duty glow stick?  I thought it was a great idea.  I love glow sticks.  But no.  I am the devil incarnate because of those very expensive glow sticks.  There were sad faces and there were angry faces.  There were even some angry words.  "But Bev, we wanted candy."  What they didn't know was that I had candy as well, but after the nasty glow stick reception, I got stubborn and didn't get the candy out.  Bottom line - I have a ton of candy and lots of glow sticks to share in the coming weeks.  

After the trick or treat debacle, I cracked open this book which I wanted to read before watching the movie.  I knew that the movie had not been a blockbuster hit, but figured the book had to be better. I was disappointed to learn that in this case, the movie came before the book.   Oh well.
The Astronaut's Wife comes off as a contrived combo of "Alien" and Rosemary's Baby.  Astronaut Spencer Armacost (played in the movie by Johnny Depp) experiences a two-minute communication loss with NASA while on a space-walking mission with another astronaut.   After returning to Earth, the second astronaut dies, his wife becomes pregnant with twins and commits suicide. Jillian Armacost also becomes pregnant with twins.  Shebegins to notice changes in her husband, subtle at first, but eventually growing more extreme.

Spencer appeares to be receiving messages in early morning hours through weird radio broadcasts.  Jillian presses him for answers about what happened during the missing two minutes but that continued line of questioning only aggravates him.  Eventually, Jillian makes contact with a former NASA agent who provides her with startling information proving that Spencer is dead and his body has been inhabited by aliens.  Oh my.  The strangeness continues though an obtuse scene with a toaster.  Then the book cuts to the first day of school for the twin boys and ......
both the book and the movie were OK - the book up until the last twenty pages, and the movie until the last twenty minutes.  Not sorry I read or watched.  
Now I'm going to crack some glow sticks and eat chocolate.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Warren the 13th

Warren is the 13 member of his family to own the Warren Hotel.  However, Warren 12 died when 13 was only seven and so the care of the business went to Uncle Rupert and his new wife, Annaconda.  Rupert is lazy; Annaconda is sneaky and in true Cinderella fashion, 12 acts as the lone bellhop, waiter, groundskeeper and errand boy. Annacondo says that real food is no good for a growing boy and so 12 lives on a diet of slop and whatever scraps Chef can sneak to him.

It comes as no surprise that the hotel has been empty since Rupert took control, but, as part one of the promising series opens. a tall, silent stranger  dressed in black approaches, his oddly narrow head wrapped in white bandages.  Annacondo is certain he is connected in some way to the fabled "All Seeing Eye."

You would think I'd  be reading furiously to discover what that Eye business is all about and whether or not 12 knows more than he lets on.  Of course the Boo Radley-esq guest piqued my curiosity, but not nearly as much as the little note from the author that was slipped inside of my advance reader copy (ARC)

ARCs burst with marketing information including a summary, bits about the author, on-line tools for promo used, that sort of thing.  The "Warren"packet included a poster, bookmarks and other goodies sure to entice readers.  Also included was a short note from the publisher ending with this challenge - " If you happen to spy a ten-word secret message in the margins of the story, could you email me at ......" and then he gives his address which I don't think was intended to share.  So, you guessed it, instead of finishing to book, I have been tearing through it, studying the margins trying to find that dang ten-word message.  You know how many I have found so far?  0.  I'm not going to tell you how long and hard I have searched, but I am so angry with Jason Rekulak that I am tempted to reveal his email address so you can all send him evil words on my behalf.  I am betting there is no hidden message and Jason is sitting in an office spinning in his bign fancy-pants desk chair  giggling about all the booksellers he has certainly duped into a ridiculous snipe hunt.  Book two is scheduled for release in 2016. I can't wait!

Last Friday I had the opportunity to meet Helen Frost and hear her speak about her young readers' novel Diamond Willow.  the signing took place at the Spirit of the Rivers studio (far Franklin Street end of the former Kresgee building).  If you haven't seen these sculptures yet, check out the website to see when the studio will be open again.  In the meantime, we still have a couple signed copied of Helen's book for you.

What's next?  Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Halloween Reading Scares!

With Halloween approaching,  it seemed appropriate to once again attempt to read the one book I find more frightening than any other - A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.  Definitely a cult book and movie, the story centers on a gang of thugs who....well, that's about as far as I get.  I always stop at the disturbing scene where Alex tap dances accenting the dance with kicks to the stomach and head of an elderly man....all the while croaking out a hideous rendition of "Singing" in the Rain."

Look like Warren the 13th, a silly-scary tween novel is more my speed.  My advance copy came with this warning:
This Advance Reader copy contains 
 Secret Codes!
 And other sinister material!

Instead of troubling you further about my fear of the Burgess book - which, by the way is told using largely a made-up language - I will post these recently found fun facts for you.  Enjoy.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Trade Show Weekend

Tired.  Even though I spent the weekend surrounded by writers, publishers, vendors and books, I read nothing - nothing except trade information.  You see, I forced myself to travel.  Yup.  I went to our regional trade show and came home with boxes of books to be inventoried, and catalogues to be filed.

This trade show is for book sellers in Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois Ohio,Wisconsin and maybe a few more.   Over 600 vendors were on hand to showcase what will be new in 2016.  Seminars and break-out sessions covered a wealth of topics including making diversity a priority on our stores, customer service and maintaining sanity in an industry filled with surprises and quick changes.  

Of course, everyone wants to rub shoulders with the writers in attendance.  Truth?  These writers are rock stars but not like the rock stars who disguise themselves in order to slip into a waiting limo after a show. These are not elitist rock stars who walk the gauntlet of waiting fans stopping to indulge one or two for a selfie or an illegible autograph.  Writers deal with words and they eagerly share those words in books, on FB, through tweets and in face to face chatter.  In fact, at times I found myself dodging a couple  writers who wanted to talk,  so that I could sit, gather my thoughts and map out a plan for the next couple hours.

This is how it works.  There is an event called "A Movable Feast" attended by over 50 authors.  Booksellers find a table, grab a beverage and meet with writers who  circulate around the room.  Sure, they tell us about the current book they are promoting, but they also pick our brains on what is selling, what we would like to see more or less of, and they drop hints about their next project.   What surprised me most was the number of writers who looked at my badge and pronounced "Manitowoc" correctly.  What surprised me even more was how many had connections to our city - some through relatives, friends, and one even had a college roommate from here.  And, it turns out, the roommate is a customer of ours.  Small world file!  

All of that is tons of fun, of course.  When the trade show floor opens we meet with the 600+ vendors hoping we will find just what we need for the holidays.  Many writers hang around for that day as well, visiting in their publisher's booths for long periods of time, wandering the sales floor and hanging out near the coffee having a few laughs with other writers and booksellers.

On Saturday night I stopped by to watch a highly competitive game of literary trivia and got pulled onto a team that was one person short.  Teams were made up of a random collection of writers, publishers, vendors and booksellers.  The winning team was gifted the responsibility of planning the trivia contest for next year's trade show.  My team didn't win - but we came darn close.  I still think we should have won.  The question that did us in referred to F. Scott Fitzgerald's story of the Jazz Age.  To me that could only mean The Great Gatsby.  Apparently, the second half of the question alluded to Tender is the Night. Most teams thought as we did, but we were the only team  whose incorrect answer to that question made the difference between first and second place.   When the contest ended writers began dashing up to the stage, grabbing the mic and telling crafty word-centric jokes.  Some were right down blue (the jokes, not the writers). This unscheduled event  proved so popular that surely next year's program will include a line that reads "Dirty Joke Open Mic at 10:00".

So, had you been there, who might you have had coffee with?  David Baldacci, Jacque Mitchard, Mike Perry, Ethan Canin (The Doubter's Almanac), Mary Doria Russells (Epitaph), Loren Long (Otis books series for kids), Rick Bass, Kathleen Ernst, Jacqueline Kelly (Clapurnia Tate books for middle readers) Rick March (Wisconin books featured on public television), B.A. Shapiro (The Muralist), Faith Sullivan (Goodnight Mr. Wodehouse), David Maraniss (When Pride Still Mattered, Once in a Great city:ADetroit Story), Rob Blagojevich's brother (sales of his book will go his bro's defense)...  on and on.

So no...enough.. I have boxes of books to attend to...and to read...and to love.  
Thanks for stopping by.

What will I read next?  Who know?  

Monday, October 5, 2015

Books to Film

A customer convinced me to read this book several months ago, before all the buzz about it started. Sci-fi...not my thing, but I picked it up took a trip I never dreamed of. I went to Mars with brave, engaging, inventive, irascible Mark Watney.  Last weekend I saw the movie adaptation and despite the almost three hour showing including way too many pre-show commercials and trailers, this movie more that surpassed my expectations.  $34 for two tickets to the 3D screening, two small drinks and a medium popcorn.  $34!  And that was at the old fart afternoon showing.  Good Grief.

The 3D was worth it at points, especially on the panoramic views of the Mars landscape.  If you're on a tight budget, the standard version will be just fine. Of course the movie differed from the book, but not enough to change the course of events.  My prediction....this film will win Emmys for cinematography, screen adaptation,  and directing.  Ben Affleck will be nominated as best actor, but he may have a uphill battle against Johnny Depp in "Black Mass".  Chiwetel Ejifor could get a supporting actor nomination.  I didn't always understand the science of he situation, but even more than that, I didn't understand Kristin Wiig's character or Kristin Wiig's presence in this film.  Her ineptitude distracted. Couldn't stand her flat, bullying characters on SNL... sophomoric in bridesmaids... and clearly out of place in this movie.

If you're in the mood for a bit of silly - try "Paddington".  The only similarities the movie shares with the book is the the bear's name, and the fact that he is naked.  Doesn't matter.  The slapstick business in this movie stands up to the best scenes in any screwball comedy I have ever seen.  Don't bypass this one thinking it's just for kids.  "Paddington" will entertain just about anyone.  And...don't forget to read the books about this charming British bear.

This is my traditional week to worry about travelling to my trade show.  If you know me, you know that getting me to go just about anywhere is challenge, let along going to another state.  This year the show is in Chicago instead of the usual Minneapolis.  The stress and anxiety are the same no matter where I have to point my car.  So, if I actually go to the show this weekend, I'll let you know what there is to know.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Red Moon Revenge and Walt Again

Last week's pre-blood red moon madness culminated with a visit from a customer who shared some defiant words with me.  Having time to chat and get to know customers and their tastes is one of the perks of being a small indie in a neighborhood rather than existing in Manty's bustling 8th street mecca!.  Eventually, she boldly pointed out two books amid the many offerings we have on display.   First, she called my attention to a shirtless mermaid on a book cover, "That's inappropriate".   She followed that by vigorously tapping the cover of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a long respected Penguin edition of the book with a naked Frank, seen from the side, curled in a fetal position - "And that is inappropriate."

  Up to that point, my conversation with Sister Mary Inappropriate had been civil without a trace of judgement or hint of unpleasantness.  But when the Puritancal criticism surfaced, it took my by surprise.  Did I mention that SMI is all of nine years old!  No more fancy moons for a while, please.

Oh, one more little tidbit.  It didn't take long for one our our younger customers to discover the piano.  Two or three time a week she gives me call to say she is working on a new vocal - usually something by Whitney Houston -and would like to practice it as I play.  So far she hasn't noticed that my playing is not so good, but when she does, I'll let you know how that goes.

Now.  Longmire.  For years former Manitowoc resident/friend/novelist/guest blogger, Steve, pushed me to give Craig Johnson books a try.  I resisted.  Westerns?  Not for me.  Steve wrote blog posts.  He sent info from Johnson's website.  He copied and pasted words from email blasts sent by Johnson (or his publicist) making it seem as if the Longmire author was writing directly to me.  None of that worked.  But when I discovered the A&E series based on the books, things changed.  The characters pulled me at first, and the plots were good.  As I developed into a dedicated watcher, it seemed clear that an hour TV show could not do justice to this complex character and so I tried book one in the Longmire series.  To be honest, it was OK.  I passed it on to another Longmire TV fan in my book group.  She and I have similar taste and when she gave it a thumbs I figured I must have rushed through it.

So now, since the Longmire series is only available on Netflix streaming, I find myself working my way through yet another Craig Johnson book.  Thumbs up this time.   With books I generally drawn to style first, characters second and plot third.  If the style doesn't wok for me, I rush, I skim, I walk away.  In this case, all three component work for me. Walt Longmire, Henry Standing Bear and Vic form the triumvirate that keeps the plot moving and  the long, eloquent narrative passages mesmerize.  These aren't shoot 'em up westerns or cowboys vs Indians.  These stories are anchored by conflicts more mental and spiritual that physical. Magically,  Johnson allows me to feel the long silences that characterize Walt's skill of saying the most he can in the least number of words along with Henry Standing Bear's the wisdom born of pain.  Vic - she's the Everyperson  - she is us.  

A Craig Johnson book once a year sounds reasonable - and manageable unlike my plan to read a Dickens novel and a Shakespeare play each year.  And then there was the years of Hemingway that wasn't.

If you plan to pick up a Craig Johnson book let me make this suggestion.  Wait for a snow storm.  A day when you can't escape.  Open a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle's bourbon and take advantage of the long, quiet hours with Walt and the diverse citizens of Asaroka, Wyoming.

Up next...If Walls Could Talk ...the history of a home