Thursday, June 27, 2013

Introducing... The Texas Twist by John Vorhaus

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

A cold wind fell across the face of the west; a scratchy wet towel of a wind that poured down the front range of the Rockies, gathered speed across the prairie, and blasted into Manhattan, Kansas, slamming it sidewise across the north-south artery of Seth Child Road. Rain mixed with sleet rattled the January skeletons of the poplars dotting Kansas State University and thrummed against the casement window of a basement space in a weathered red brick building on the ragged eastern fringe of campus. Inside the lab, a goggle-eyed man in a lab coat with a slight hitch in his giddyup moved frantically-- corybantically-- from his computer keyboard to his laser array, cold storage units, and test bench equipment. The scientist (well, he looked like a scientist) paused to glance at his watch. He peered out the window, then back at his watch. He looked nervous. He looked nervous even though no one was looking. That's how good he was, how deep he got into his thing.

He glanced once more at his watch.

They were late.

-- The Texas Twist by John Vorhaus

Friday, June 21, 2013

BOOKCASE ENVY: Citybook Modular Bookcase

Design Milk has published an article showcasing a very cool modular bookcase.


 They're as flexible as your imagination!


Check it out!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Introducing... Fahim Speaks: A Warrior-Actor's Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back by Fahim Fazli with Michael Moffett

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

Afghanistan.

Before 1980, most Americans knew or cared little about this impoverished, land-locked, Central Asian nation. After the Soviet Union invaded, though Afghanistan became a flash point-- one that threatened to ignite a Cold War into the flames of a World War. Throughout the 1980s, American foreign policy sought to counter the Soviet presence there. The Carter and Reagan Administrations secretly supported a Mujahadeen resistance movement that eventually led to Soviet defeat and a 1989 withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Union of the Soveiet Socialist Republics imploded two years later. The dissolution of the Soviet Union ended the Cold War, beckoning a period of unprecedented world peace. Or at least many Americans believed so at the time-- not understanding the unintended consequences and true legacy of our Central Asian policies.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mailbox Monday (6/17/13 edition)

 Image licensed from bigstockphoto.com
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted this month by Bellezza at Dolce Bellezza. I've received a few new books recently:

Tampa by Alissa Nutting
Received through Shelf Awareness

In Alissa Nutting’s novel Tampa, Celeste Price, a smoldering 26-year-old middle-school teacher in Florida, unrepentantly recounts her elaborate and sociopathically determined seduction of a 14-year-old student.

Celeste has chosen and lured the charmingly modest Jack Patrick into her web. Jack is enthralled and in awe of his eighth-grade teacher, and, most importantly, willing to accept Celeste’s terms for a secret relationship—car rides after dark, rendezvous at Jack’s house while his single father works the late shift, and body-slamming erotic encounters in Celeste’s empty classroom. In slaking her sexual thirst, Celeste Price is remorseless and deviously free of hesitation, a monstress of pure motivation. She deceives everyone, is close to no one, and cares little for anything but her pleasure.

Tampa is a sexually explicit, virtuosically satirical, American Psycho–esque rendering of a monstrously misplaced but undeterrable desire. Laced with black humor and crackling sexualized prose, Alissa Nutting’s Tampa is a grand, seriocomic examination of the want behind student / teacher affairs and a scorching literary debut.



I had a bunch of books show up this week from publishers, and I have no idea why they were sent to me, but I'm happy they were!

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

A sweeping story told in letters, spanning two continents and two world wars, Jessica Brockmole’s atmospheric debut novel captures the indelible ways that people fall in love, and celebrates the power of the written word to stir the heart.

March 1912: Twenty-four-year-old Elspeth Dunn, a published poet, has never seen the world beyond her home on Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye. So she is astonished when her first fan letter arrives, from a college student, David Graham, in far-away America. As the two strike up a correspondence—sharing their favorite books, wildest hopes, and deepest secrets—their exchanges blossom into friendship, and eventually into love. But as World War I engulfs Europe and David volunteers as an ambulance driver on the Western front, Elspeth can only wait for him on Skye, hoping he’ll survive.

June 1940: At the start of World War II, Elspeth’s daughter, Margaret, has fallen for a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Her mother warns her against seeking love in wartime, an admonition Margaret doesn’t understand. Then, after a bomb rocks Elspeth’s house, and letters that were hidden in a wall come raining down, Elspeth disappears. Only a single letter remains as a clue to Elspeth’s whereabouts. As Margaret sets out to discover where her mother has gone, she must also face the truth of what happened to her family long ago.


The Honey Thief by Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman

This extraordinary book, derived from the long oral tradition of storytelling in Afghanistan, presents a mesmerizing portrait of a people who triumph with intelligence and humor over the oppressions of political dictators and an unforgiving landscape.

A musician conjures stones to rise in the air and teaches his art to a mute child. Master Poisoner, Ghoroob of Mashad, has so perfected his craft that it is considered an honor to die from his meals. These are stories of magic and wonder in which ordinary people endure astonishing extremes in a world of bloodshed and brotherhood, miracles and catastrophes.

With lyrical wit and profound simplicity, The Honey Thief reveals an Afghanistan of greater richness and humanity than is conveyed in newspaper headlines; an Afghanistan not of failure and despair, but of resilience and fulfillment.
 


The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

From the New York Times best-selling author of Commencement and Maine comes a gorgeous, sprawling novel about marriage—about those who marry in a white heat of passion, those who marry for partnership and comfort, and those who live together, love each other, and have absolutely no intention of ruining it all with a wedding.

Evelyn has been married to her husband for forty years—forty years since he slipped off her first wedding ring and put his own in its place. Delphine has seen both sides of love—the ecstatic, glorious highs of seduction, and the bitter, spiteful fury that descends when it’s over. James, a paramedic who works the night shift, knows his wife’s family thinks she could have done better; while Kate, partnered with Dan for a decade, has seen every kind of wedding—beach weddings, backyard weddings, castle weddings—and has vowed never, ever, to have one of her own.

As these lives and marriages unfold in surprising ways, we meet Frances Gerety, a young advertising copywriter in 1947. Frances is working on the De Beers campaign and she needs a signature line, so, one night before bed, she scribbles a phrase on a scrap of paper: “A Diamond Is Forever.” And that line changes everything.

A rich, layered, exhilarating novel spanning nearly a hundred years, The Engagements captures four wholly unique marriages, while tracing the story of diamonds in America, and the way—for better or for worse—these glittering stones have come to symbolize our deepest hopes for everlasting love.


Aleph by Paulo Coelho

In his most personal novel to date, internationally bestselling author Paulo Coelho returns with a remarkable journey of self-discovery. Like the main character in his much-beloved The Alchemist, Paulo is facing a grave crisis of faith. As he seeks a path of spiritual renewal and growth, his only real option is to begin again—to travel, to experiment, to reconnect with people and the landscapes around him.

Setting off to Africa, and then to Europe and Asia via the Trans-Siberian railroad, he initiates a journey to revitalize his energy and passion. Even so, he never expects to meet Hilal. A gifted young violinist, she is the woman Paulo loved five hundred years before—and the woman he betrayed in an act of cowardice so far-reaching that it prevents him from finding real happiness in this life. Together they will initiate a mystical voyage through time and space, traveling a path that teaches love, forgiveness, and the courage to overcome life’s inevitable challenges. Beautiful and inspiring, Aleph invites us to consider the meaning of our own personal journeys.



I got a number of books through Netgalley:

The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale

Jack Parker thought he'd already seen his fair share of tragedy. His grandmother was killed in a farm accident when he was barely five years old. His parents have just succumbed to the smallpox epidemic sweeping turn-of-the-century East Texas--orphaning him and his younger sister, Lula.

Then catastrophe strikes on the way to their uncle's farm, when a traveling group of bank-robbing bandits murder Jack's grandfather and kidnap his sister. With no elders left for miles, Jack must grow up fast and enlist a band of heroes the likes of which has never been seen if his sister stands any chance at survival. But the best he can come up with is a charismatic, bounty-hunting dwarf named Shorty, a grave-digging son of an ex-slave named Eustace, and a street-smart woman-for-hire named Jimmie Sue who's come into some very intimate knowledge about the bandits (and a few members of Jack's extended family to boot).

In the throes of being civilized, East Texas is still a wild, feral place. Oil wells spurt liquid money from the ground. But as Jack's about to find out, blood and redemption rule supreme. In The Thicket, award-winning novelist Joe R. Lansdale lets loose like never before, in a rip-roaring adventure equal parts True Grit and Stand by Me--the perfect introduction to an acclaimed writer whose work has been called "as funny and frightening as anything that could have been dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm--or Mark Twain" (New York Times Book Review).
 


How They Were Found by Matt Bell

In this debut collection, Matt Bell draws from a wide range of genres to create stories that are both formally innovative and imaginatively rich. In one, a 19th-century minister follows ghostly instructions to build a mechanical messiah. In another, a tyrannical army commander watches his apocalyptic command slip away as the memories of his men begin to fade and fail. Elsewhere, murders are indexed, new worlds are mapped, fairy tales are fractured and retold and then fractured again.

Throughout these thirteen stories, Bell's careful prose burrows at the foundations of his characters' lives until they topple over, then painstakingly pores over the wreckage for what rubbled humanity might yet remain to be found.
 


The Never List by Koethi Zan

The most relentless, deeply disturbing thriller writer since Jeffery Deaver and Gillian Flynn

For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

A shocking, blazingly fast read, Koethi Zan’s debut is a must for fans of Karin Slaughter, Laura Lippman, and S.J. Watson.
 



And I bought from Barnes and Noble:

The Wall by Marlen Haushofer

"I can allow myself to write the truth; all the people for whom I have lied throughout my life are dead…" writes the heroine of Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall, a quite ordinary, unnamed middle-aged woman who awakens to find she is the last living human being. Surmising her solitude is the result of a too successful military experiment, she begins the terrifying work of not only survival, but self-renewal. The Wall is at once a simple and moving talk — of potatoes and beans, of hoping for a calf, of counting matches, of forgetting the taste of sugar and the use of one’s name — and a disturbing meditation on 20th century history. 


What a fabulous couple of weeks in books! 

Friday, June 14, 2013

DID NOT FINISH: World War Z by Max Brooks

I'm not going to rate this book, as I did not finish it. I am a stickler about wanting to read the book before seeing the movie. So when I heard this movie was about to be released, I decided it was time to read it.

However I found the format of this book to be somewhat tedious. The entire book is laid out as if it is an interviewer speaking with witnesses of the Zombie War. The writing was good, and if the movie weren't coming out, I may have continued on with the book. But I decided that the movie would probably be much more enjoyable in this instance. So this one I "did not finish".

REVIEW: Florida Wildflowers: A Comprehensive Guide by Walter Kingsley Taylor

Synopsis

Walter Kingsley Taylor’s Florida Wildflowers in their Natural Communities was wildly praised for its beauty, ease of use, and unique organizational structure: plants were described in the context of where they grow, making identification much simpler—and more rewarding—for the casual hiker or wildflower enthusiast. Vastly expanded and updated with new taxonomy, this volume provides detailed information on more than 450 species included in the earlier edition and nearly doubles the number of species included by expanding coverage into wetlands.

Paperback, 576 pages
Published April 16th 2013 by University Press of Florida
ISBN 0813044251 (ISBN13: 9780813044255)


About the Author

Walter Kingsley Taylor, professor emeritus of biology at the University of Central Florida, is the author of A Guide to Florida Grasses.


 
My Thoughts
As any traveler touring Florida knows, the "Sunshine State," lying in the latitudes where major deserts of the Earth occur and near the edge of the tropics, is neither desert nor tropics. It is true, however, that some similarities exist between the Florida Scrub and certain scrubby areas found in the desert region of the U.S. Southwest and that the stately palms waving in the ocean breezes of southernmost Florida create an image of the tropics. Though certainly more temperate than tropical, Florida serves as a bridge that connects the two climatic regions. No point is more than 100 miles from warm, marine waters. Waters from the Gulf of Mexico and waters from the warm, north-flowing Gulf Stream moderate extreme temperatures and prevent Florida from being desert. Furthermore, the sand-based soils are well watered. All of these factors allow for a luxuriant, much varied, and year-round growth of vegetation.

Since moving back to Florida a dozen-plus years ago, I've been on the lookout for a great wildflower guide. I spent years in Washington State studying the local flora and fauna there, and ethnobotany and herbology and aromatherapy, and I was interested in expanding my knowledge to the native flora of South Florida. I found a couple of books of interest, but nothing that quite fit the bill.

Then I came across this beauty. This book was offered as a sample e-book on Netgalley, and I was excited at the opportunity to take a gander at the book. Then I was even more excited to learn that, upon my review of the sample, I could request a print copy. I browsed the sample and decided this book was for me, and quickly requested a print copy to review. What a great choice I made!

This book is a beauty! First there is the cover and binding. Thick, glossy, high-quality. Very impressive. The inside book cover has those handy flaps that are great for helping you save your place in the book. The book is paperback, but the cover is made from high-quality stiff paper that is going to hold up to field work and minor moisture contact.

The book is chock full of information, maps and diagrams. The state of Florida is divided up into four areas: Panhandle, North Florida, Central Florida and South Florida. It breaks down how to identify flowers by flower structure, flowering times, and distribution.

And although this is a wildflower book, it also describes Florida forests: Slope Forest, Upland Hardwood Forests, Mesic Hammocks, Uploand Mixed Woodlands, Sandhills and Upland Pines, Scrubs, Pine Flatwoods, Dry Prairies, Coastal Uplands, Shell Mounds, Pine Rocklands (Subtropical Pine Forests), Rockland Hammocks (Tropical Hardwood Hammocks), and Ruderal Areas (Disturbed Areas). And it describes Florida Wetlands in detail.

That's the first 78 pages. Then there are 400 pages of colorful wildflowers, along with trees, shrubs, and palmettos, all organized by forest or wetland area in which it may be found. Each entry includes a full color photo, scientific name, whether or not the plant is native, a description, flowering time, habitat, range, synonym, and any other comments. 752 plants are listed in this book, each one with a beautiful photo and description.

At the end of the book is a list of Places to Visit. This is divided up by habitat per county, and lists lots of national parks, state parks and wildlife refuges where you can go seek out wildflowers yourself.

My final word: Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous!

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon

My Rating:





Disclosure:

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reviewing this book.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Introducing... World War Z by Max Brooks

Introducing books through the first paragraph or so... 

It goes by many names: "The Crisis," "The Dark Years," "The Walking Plague," as well as newer and more "hip" titles such as "World War Z" or "Z War One". I personally dislike this last moniker as it implies an inevitable "Z War Two." For me, it will always be "The Zombie War," and while many may protest the scientific accuracy of the word zombie, they will be hard-pressed to discover a more globally accepted term for the creatures that almost caused our extinction. Zombie remains a devastating word, unrivaled in its power to conjure up so many memories or emotions, and it is these memories, and emotions, that are the subject of this book.

-- World War Z by Max Brooks

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Synopsis

Flight Behavior transfixes from its opening scene, when a young woman's narrow experience of life is thrown wide with the force of a raging fire. In the lyrical language of her native Appalachia, Barbara Kingsolver bares the rich, tarnished humanity of her novel's inhabitants and unearths the modern complexities of rural existence. Characters and reader alike are quickly carried beyond familiar territory here, into the unsettled ground of science, faith, and everyday truces between reason and conviction.

Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless farm wife who gave up her own plans when she accidentally became pregnant at seventeen. Now, after a decade of domestic disharmony on a failing farm, she has settled for permanent disappointment but seeks momentary escape through an obsessive flirtation with a younger man. As she hikes up a mountain road behind her house to a secret tryst, she encounters a shocking sight: a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire. She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders, and the media. The bewildering emergency draws rural farmers into unexpected acquaintance with urbane journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a striking biologist with his own stake in the outcome. As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town, and a larger world, in a flight toward truth that could undo all she has ever believed.

Flight Behavior takes on one of the most contentious subjects of our time: climate change. With a deft and versatile empathy Kingsolver dissects the motives that drive denial and belief in a precarious world.


Hardcover, 436 pages
Published November 6th 2012 by HarperCollins
ISBN 0062124269 (ISBN13: 9780062124265)



About the Author
from Goodreads

Barbara Kingsolver is an American novelist, essayist, and poet. She was raised in rural Kentucky and lived briefly in Africa in her early childhood. Kingsolver earned degrees in Biology at DePauw University and the University of Arizona and worked as a freelance writer before she began writing novels. Her most famous works include The Poisonwood Bible, the tale of a missionary family in the Congo, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a non-fiction account of her family's attempts to eat locally.

Her work often focuses on topics such as social justice, biodiversity, and the interaction between humans and their communities and environments. Each of her books published since 1993 have been on The New York Times Best Seller list. Kingsolver has received numerous awards, including the UK's Orange Prize for Fiction 2010, for The Lacuna and the National Humanities Medal. She has been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

In 2000, Kingsolver established the Bellwether Prize to support "literature of social change."

Kingsolver was born in Annapolis, Maryland in 1955 and grew up in Carlisle in rural Kentucky. When Kingsolver was seven years old, her father, a physician, took the family to the former Republic of Congo in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her parents worked in a public health capacity, and the family lived without electricity or running water.

After graduating from high school, Kingsolver attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana on a music scholarship, studying classical piano. Eventually, however, she changed her major to biology when she realized that "classical pianists compete for six job openings a year, and the rest of [them:] get to play 'Blue Moon' in a hotel lobby." She was involved in activism on her campus, and took part in protests against the Vietnam war. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1977, and moved to France for a year before settling in Tucson, Arizona, where she would live for much of the next two decades. In 1980 she enrolled in graduate school at the University of Arizona, where she earned a Master's degree in ecology and evolutionary biology.

Kingsolver began her full-time writing career in the mid 1980s as a science writer for the university, which eventually lead to some freelance feature writing. She began her career in fiction writing after winning a short story contest in a local Phoenix newspaper. In 1985 she married Joseph Hoffmann; their daughter Camille was born in 1987. She moved with her daughter to Tenerife in the Canary Islands for a year during the first Gulf war, mostly due to frustration over America's military involvement. After returning to the US in 1992, she separated from her husband.

In 1994, Kingsolver was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from her alma mater, DePauw University. She was also married to Steven Hopp, that year, and their daughter, Lily, was born in 1996. In 2004, Kingsolver moved with her family to a farm in Washington County, Virginia, where they currently reside. In 2008, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Duke University, where she delivered a commencement address entitled "How to be Hopeful".

In a 2010 interview with The Guardian, Kingsolver says, "I never wanted to be famous, and still don't, [...:] the universe rewarded me with what I dreaded most." She says created her own website just to compete with a plethora of fake ones, "as a defence to protect my family from misinformation. Wikipedia abhors a vacuum. If you don't define yourself, it will get done for you in colourful ways."


Check out the author's website
Become a fan on Facebook


My Thoughts
A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and it is one part rapture.
Town/Environment:

This story takes place in the Appalachian Mountains.
By Jan van der Crabben (Photographer) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Dellarobia is walking into the mountains on a fool's errand, ready to throw her life away, when she happens upon a magical sight-- a valley filled with Monarch butterflies. This story follows everything that happens after that moment-- the wonder, the confusion, the fear regarding what it all means.

This was my first Barbara Kingsolver book. I've heard such good things about her, and know how popular she is. So I was hoping to be blown away. Unfortunately I was not.

That's not to say it was a bad story. It wasn't. It had it's moments. I'll admit to a few tears and a few smiles. But for the most part, the book came off as just "eh" for me.

Dellarobia wasn't very likable in the beginning, although she became more so later on. She was just a whiny and complaining woman discontented with her life, and unappreciative of everything she has, focused only on what she doesn't have.

But life changes after the butterflies. She begins to remember the person she used to be-- who she wanted to become. She begins to see her life for what it really is, both good and bad. She finds herself once again.

My final word: While I embrace the author's attempts to draw attention to the issue of "climate change" and its consequences, this story just came off as overly-dramatic. Climate change is more of a whisper, it's subtle and quiet and sneaks up on you while you aren't looking. This book felt like a loud scream in a quiet forest. Yet, despite that, the book was almost boring at times, making me scan over descriptive text that I had no interest in. And I kept cringing at the cultural stereotyping that riddles the story. It felt uncomfortable to me. I mean, I understand cultural differences. I often ask our Puerto Rican office girl questions about the Puerto Rican culture. But there was something...I don't know...almost untoward about the constant stereotypes in this book. But overall it is a worthwhile read, if for no other reason than to open your eyes to the far-reaching implications of climate change.

My thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be part of this book tour.
Check out the master schedule on their website:

Tuesday, June 4th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, June 5th: 50 Books Project
Monday, June 10th: Love at First Book
Tuesday, June 11th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, June 13th: she treads softly
Friday, June 14th: I Read a Book Once
Monday, June 17th: Suko’s Notebook
Tuesday, June 18th: Mom in Love With Fiction
Thursday, June 20th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, June 20th:  Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Monday, June 24th: Amused By Books
Tuesday, June 25th: Joyfully Retired
Wednesday, June 26th: Wordsmithonia
Thursday, June 27th: Conceptual Reception
Monday, July 1st: Giraffe Days
Tuesday, July 2nd: The Well-Read Redhead
Wednesday, July 3rd: Dreaming in Books
Monday, July 8th: Peppermint PhD
Wednesday, July 10th: nomadreader
Thursday, July 11th: Olduvai Reads
TBD: Oh! Paper Pages

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon

Cover: B-
Writing Style:
B
Characters:
B+
Storyline/Plot:
B+
Interest/Uniqueness:
A- 


My Rating:






Disclosure:

I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Friday, June 7, 2013

WILDLIFE REMINDER

I posted this on Facebook today, as I see these things every spring, and I thought I would use this forum as well to try and get the word out to people...

It's that time of year. Spring is when nature is pretty hyperactive, and danger is high for wildlife. Some things to keep in mind while you are out and about:

1)  Keep an eye out for turtles crossing the road. Females and males are on the go, seeking out new venues and females looking to dig nests and lay eggs. If you see one crossing the road, please try to stop and help it in the direction it was heading. They commonly get run over and need all the help they can get. Sometimes they can't get over the curbs to get back to safety. Sometimes people forget how tall the turtle shells are, and how low their cars are, and they think they can safely straddle them. They are often wrong.

2)  Likewise look for squirrels and such. Remember that squirrels are prey animals, created to avoid birds of prey. Their avoidance technique is zig-zagging. So people think they can just straddle them with their car, not realizing that the squirrel will dart in the opposite direction and run in an unpredictable zig-zag path. When you see a squirrel, slow down and just give it time to realize you are coming and head back to safety. It really isn't that difficult. I do it all the time!

3)  People also believe that they can just head down the road at 50 mph, and birds will always get out of the way. Especially this time of year, that may not always be true. Birds are focused on courting rituals and building nests right now. They are distracted. And you may easily see something like I saw the other day, with a bird so distracted with the nesting material he was collecting, he didn't think to get out of the way of cars leaving the intersection at the light, and he was plowed over before he could get out of the way, because the drivers are too impatient to edge forward to warn the bird and get him to move. Often the birds are in the middle of a dispute, chasing one another, and are so focused that they forget the cars.

4)  And, in situations like the above, realize that birds are often stunned for awhile after being hit. So they may appear dead, but are actually just in stasis. Like the one I saw get hit last week. He actually laid on his back, feet in the air, for several minutes and appeared dead. Then he flipped over, as cars whizzed inches from him, but was still too stunned to fly off. I grabbed him and given time to recover, he wound up being fine and I could let him go back in the area I'd found him a few hours later. I've picked up stunned birds from the side of the road a few times now.

5)  Remember that animals that are hit by cars aren't doomed. They often can recover, if given an extra hand. If you see an injured animal, try to capture it and get it to a wildlife clinic like CROW on Sanibel Island. They have pick-up locations all over Lee County. (I picked up an injured opossum a couple of years ago that I spotted in the road. He had a broken jaw. They monitored him and were able to release him after a week or so.)

6)  Speaking of opossum, realize that if you see a opossum hit (or hit one yourself), that they are often females carrying young in their pouch. If possible, check for babies. I once had a maintenance crew find a dying mother opossum and a pouchful of babies covered in fire ants. They took the babies from the dying mother and gave the little pinkies to me. I took them to CROW. Unfortunately that bunch couldn't survive the fire ant venom, but often they can be saved!

7)  And, just in general, be patient and thoughtful. If you see an animal in the road, or near the side of the road, SLOW DOWN! Don't expect it will just get away from the road and be fine! If it is in the road, don't keep speeding on, assuming it will just get out of your way!

We are the keepers of the earth and its inhabitants, and let's keep it well!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Introducing... Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and it is one part rapture. Or so it seemed for now, to a woman with flame-colored hair who marched uphill to meet her demise. Innocence was no part of this. She knew her own recklessness and marveled, really, at how one hard little flint of thrill could outweigh the pillowy, suffocating aftermath of a long disgrace. The shame and loss would infect her children too, that was the worst of it, in a town where everyone knew them. Even the teenage cashiers at the grocery would take an edge with her after this, clicking painted fingernails on the counter while she wrote her check, eyeing the oatmeal and frozen peas of an unhinged family and exchanging looks with the bag boy: She's that one. How they admired their own steadfast lives. Right up to the day when hope in all its versions went out of stock, including the crummy discount brands, and the heart had just one instruction left: run. Like a hunted animal, or a racehorse, winning or losing felt exactly alike at this stage, with the same coursing of blood and shortness of breath. She smoked too much, that was another mortification to throw in with the others. But she had cast her lot. Plenty of people took this way out, looking future damage in the eye and naming it something else. Now it was her turn. She could claim the tightness in her chest and call it bliss, rather than the same breathlessness she could be feeling at home right now while toting a heavy laundry basket, behaving like a sensible mother of two.

-- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

ARTILE SHARING: The 12 Coolest Bookshelves You've Ever Seen

CubeSmart posted an article about 12 cool bookshelves. Talk about bookcase envy!




But I think that my favorite may be the inverted bookshelf, which even comes with DIY instructions!

Check it out!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

BOOKISH OPPORTUNITIES: Summer Clearance Sale at GoneReading


GoneReading has a summer clearance sale currently going on, and a 15% off sitewide coupon code available. Just use the code SUMMER15 at checkout for 15% off. Coupon code is valid through 6/9/13. Go shop!

AUTHOR NEWS: The Second Empress available in paperback

Author Michelle Moran is happy to announce that The Second Empress is now available in paperback!

National bestselling author Michelle Moran returns to Paris, this time under the rule of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte as he casts aside his beautiful wife to marry a Hapsburg princess he hopes will bear him a royal heir.

After the bloody French Revolution, Emperor Napoleon’s power is absolute. When Marie-Louise, the eighteen year old daughter of the King of Austria, is told that the Emperor has demanded her hand in marriage, her father presents her with a terrible choice: marry the cruel, capricious Napoleon, leaving the man she loves and her home forever, or say no, and plunge her country into war.

Marie-Louise knows what she must do, and she travels to France, determined to be a good wife despite Napoleon’s reputation. But lavish parties greet her in Paris, and at the extravagant French court, she finds many rivals for her husband’s affection, including Napoleon’s first wife, Jos├ęphine, and his sister Pauline, the only woman as ambitious as the emperor himself. Beloved by some and infamous to many, Pauline is fiercely loyal to her brother. She is also convinced that Napoleon is destined to become the modern Pharaoh of Egypt. Indeed, her greatest hope is to rule alongside him as his queen—a brother-sister marriage just as the ancient Egyptian royals practiced. Determined to see this dream come to pass, Pauline embarks on a campaign to undermine the new empress and convince Napoleon to divorce Marie-Louise.

As Pauline's insightful Haitian servant, Paul, watches these two women clash, he is torn between his love for Pauline and his sympathy for Marie-Louise. But there are greater concerns than Pauline's jealousy plaguing the court of France. While Napoleon becomes increasingly desperate for an heir, the empire's peace looks increasingly unstable. When war once again sweeps the continent and bloodshed threatens Marie-Louise’s family in Austria, the second Empress is forced to make choices that will determine her place in history—and change the course of her life.

Based on primary resources from the time, The Second Empress takes readers back to Napoleon’s empire, where royals and servants alike live at the whim of one man, and two women vie to change their destinies.



Get your copy now!

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: John Vorhaus, author of The Texas Twist

John Vorhaus joins us today for a guest interview in celebration of his sixth novel, The Texas Twist, a “sunshine noir” romp through the world of cons and con artistry. Take it away, JV…


Q: What’s the premise of your new book?

A world-class con artist, Radar Hoverlander, together with his girlfriend and sidekick try to save a clueless beauty from a snake-oil villain, only to discover that she’s nowhere near the real target. That’s one premise. The other is: The second liar never has a chance.


Q: What would you like people to know about the story itself?

Although The Texas Twist is the third book in the Radar Hoverlander series, I invite you to join the story in progress. You won’t be at all lost. It’s a stand-alone tale, and if you enjoy it (and I think you will), you’ll have not one but two prequels to look forward to, The California Roll and The Albuquerque Turkey. It’ll be like traveling backward through time!


Q: What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenge do you set before them?

Well, Radar and Allie are pregnant and that’s a big paradigm shift for them. And Radar’s not sure he wants to be in the con game anymore, but also not sure he can get out. Meanwhile, the estimable Vic Mirplo sets his sights on authorial glory and literary mayhem ensues. Oh, but of course the main thing is can these three intrepid scamsters keep from getting hustled, even when they can see the hustle coming?


Q: What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any?

In a book of this sort, where truth and lies intermingle, and crosses and double-crosses abound, my challenge was to make sure that everyone’s actions and motivations stand up to scrutiny twice: both when you don’t know what the real “true truth” is and when you do. Building a novel like this is like creating and solving a jigsaw puzzle at the same time. As a craftsman with pride in my work, I want those pieces to fit snugly. In tautological terms, it was a question of “plot logic” and “story logic.” Plot logic is what happens because the author needs it to happen. Story logic is what happens because the characters need it to happen. In a tight novel, the reader is satisfied that both story logic and plot logic are served. I seek to write tight novels.  


Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?

Writing a decent climax. As a novelist who makes it up as he goes along, I’ve often had trouble with endings. Sometimes they don’t feel big enough, nor sufficiently thought through. With The Texas Twist, I saw the set-piece ending fairly early on in the writing (unusual for me) and so for once I had something concrete to aim for. Then, after I wrote the ending, I found that I had just a ton of chuffa (loose ends and red herrings) to clean up and clear out, and that took some time and effort. But when it was done, I felt like I had a lean, powerful, pacey climax that did what it set out to do. I “earned” the ending, which has not always been the case in the past.  


I'd like to thank John for stopping by, and encourage you to check out his latest novel The Texas Twist, third in the Radar Hoverlander series. I read the first book in the series, The California Roll, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I remember getting a kick out of the vocabulary used throughout the story, and enjoying the crazy characters and their clever antics. I look forward to reading and reviewing this latest novel in the upcoming weeks!

The Texas Twist was just released June 1st.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

AUTHOR NEWS: Joyland by Stephen King

Stephen King has a new book coming out: Joyland. Situated at an amusement park in North Carolina in 1973, this story has a creepy carnival feel to it.  NPR has a nice brief interview with the author regarding his new book.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

REVIEW: The Book Lover's Companion: What to Read Next

Synopsis

More than 200 truly rewarding reads are covered, with a non-spoiler synopsis, background information, discussion points, and suggested companion volumes

With so many fantastic books out there, book clubs and avid readers can have difficulty choosing what to read next—thankfully, this comprehensive guide brings together the best and most loved titles for easy reference. Featuring a diverse selection, from Pride and Prejudice to The Handmaid's TaleThe Kite Runner to Cloud Atlas, the guide includes interesting discussion points and facts as well as potential companion books with similar themes, honest opinions from readers, and razor-sharp reviews from critics, so readers will know they're making the right choice every time. Top ten lists are also included, such as Top Ten Quick Reads (Metamorphosis, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie), Top Ten Challenging Reads (Anna Karenina, Possession), Top Ten Gay Reads (Giovanni's Room, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit), and Top Ten Chilling Reads (The Stand, Ring). Compiled by a range of English literature experts and avid readers, this book is sure to inspire any book lover.



My Thoughts

I received this book through BookTrib, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. What I got was a really charming list of books for my consideration.

The book begins with a foreword by Lionel Shriver and an introduction by Ana Sampson, who writes:
I was once told that the average person would read three thousand books during their lifetime. If anything it seems reasonably generous: that would be thirty-seven and a half books consumed each year if you lived to be eighty...Since then I feel rising panic when I realize I am not enjoying a book because I am using up one of my precious literary experiences on something that doesn't engage me, teach me something or take me somewhere. What a waste!
I know where she's coming from, because I feel a similar way. That is why I tend to be so picky about what books I choose to read. I have little time to spend reading, and I don't want to waste it on something I won't really enjoy!

This book has a list of 100 books compiled by the Michael O'Mara Books team as great books to read. For each of these books, there is basic information such as the author, when it was published and the number of pages, followed by a synopsis of the book. Then a brief summary of "What the Critics Said", "Discussion Points", "Background Information", and "Suggested Companion Books".

In addition there are fourteen "Top Ten" lists, such as: Top Ten World Classics, Top Ten Quick Reads, Top Ten Challenging Reads and Top Ten Chilling Reads.

My final word: I'm slowly making my way through this great little book! If you are looking for some great recommendations for your next new read, pick up this little treasure for a great list of suggestions! Thanks to this book, I've already added several books to my Wish List, and added a book or two to my "to be read" shelf.

My Rating: 





Disclosure:

I received this book via BookTrib and the publisher, in hopes that I would provide my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way.