Monday, December 4, 2017

Mustaches for Maddie

                                      

Fans of Augie's story, Wonder, will only need to read a few pages, or perhaps paragraphs or sentences of Mustaches for Maddie to fall in love  the central figure in this charming, uplifting and socially aware novel.

12-year old Maddie has a quirky sense of humor and loves making her classmates laugh by slapping on fake mustaches every chance she gets.  Being funny gets her noticed by class queen bee, Cassie - that is until Maddie is cast as Juliet in the school play, a role that Cassie had been campaigning for aggressively.

When Maddie starts tripping when she walks, and her hand starts curling up at her side, it is confirmed that she has a brain tumor.  Maddie doesn't want anyone to know, especially Cassie, whose jealously has turned to bullying.  

This fictionalized account of real life Maddie's story is told by her parents who clearly have the same positive outlook, and silly sense of humor as Maddie.  The book closes with a letter from Maddie in which she tells us...

I think that everyone who reads this book should realize the moral of this story is....
Drum roll please...

     To love potatoes and mustaches.
     Okay, probably not really.  There's more to it.
    I learned a lot through my friend troubles, and surgeries.  Like small acts of kindness go a long way.  A really long way.  And when things are rough, you can always find a way to laugh.
   I really try hard to be friends with everyone....sometimes it takes courage to be kind to some people.  But we need to always stick up for what's right.  You can do it.  Anytime, anywhere, you can have compassion.  Everybody needs a friend and that friend can be you.

Be kind.  Smile more. Laugh more. Dream more.

Enough said.
Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Papillon - Fact or Fiction?

Midway through my date with Papillon, I decided to read some background on the person and the prisons in which he had been incarcerated. That might have been a mistake because I now ambivalent about this book.  
Let me back up for those who haven't read the book.  Charriere was convicted of murder in France and sentenced to hard labor for life. He spent fourteen years in a variety of prisons, always plotting an escape, and succeeding at times.  He recalls these years with uncanny detail. 

 It was those details that made me stop and check.  Something didn't seem quite right. How could anyone survive the inhumane living conditions, continued beatings, clandestine deal making and unsavory relationships.  ( I won't even mention what I learned about where prisoners stored their small contraband items.  Let your imagination  run with this one.  You're probably right.)  It reminded me of the moment I began to question James Frey's account of multiple,  Novocain-free root canals,  and other nasty dental procedures in A Million Little Pieces.  My suspicions were right.  He had invented a few details to keep things interesting.  I feared that Charriere had done the same.
Since Charriere's death in 1973, several articles have appeared to debunk the honesty of the writer's account.  In fact, one French journalist claims that only about 10% of what was written was real.  For example,  not all the dates line up with reality, and several of the more colorful passages appear to have their origins in other prison life-escape accounts written decades earlier.  Wouldn't you know, the two extended passages that fascinated me most were cited as being derivative.  
So, what's true and what's not?  Who knows?  Prison records do show us that Charriere was born in France, and he was sent to a penal colony in French Guiana.  He did escape and....well....read the book and find out.
With that, and much more information at hand, my reaction to the book becomes about perspective.  As a fiction book, it doesn't hit the right marks for me.  It's wordy, clumsily written (could be due to the translation) and the story ebbs and flows in a less than rubato fashion.  Lousy fiction.  No traditional story line here - just a free flow of details, lots of double backs, repetition, lack of character development blah blah blah.. 
If I look at this book as non-fiction (which is hard to do now) I would have to give it a thumbs up. Intriguing details about world I know nothing of.  Random encounters with colorful and frightening characters. A narrator with a epic will to survive.   Small successes followed by little set-backs - just like us except that we all live nicer, safer, law abiding lives.  
Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman starred in the movie version which only covers a fraction of the fourteen years.  It's worth watching, though.  The book, now that's your call.  This was my pick for our up-coming discussion on Friday.  I am bracing for a storm.  Mea culpa to my book groups buddies.  

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Connections


This is what it's about for me. Sure, that cash register ring is sweet, but nothing compares to seeing kids enjoying a book, a real book with pages and big pictures they can study and question.  Even more important - the book, child, adult connection.  On this day, my friends Wyatt and Grandma TT introduced me to Wyatt's twin siblings, Cole and Chelsea.  I have learned from experience that with kids under four, I am best staying behind the counter.  Once I get too close they cry.  Not these two.  I felt as if I had known them forever.  Chelsea offered me her Halloween mask and was a bit puzzled when I couldn't get it around my thick skull.  She chatted me up while Cole explored.  I'm bragging here when I say when it was time to leave. Cole asked me help him with his mask and jacket. Clearly we had a connection and I can't wait for their next visit.

I also got to meet three-week old Eudora, the newest addition to the Otto family.  Five kids each strongly his or her own person.  Each engaging, respectful and happy.  OK, you got me.  I am assuming that Eudora will grow to be engaging, respectful and happy like her siblings.  Some people would say it was gas, but I know she smiled each time her mom brushed her cheek and whispered her name.  How lucky am I to share moments like that often.  

People frequently ask why I don't expand or move downtown where I might get more traffic.  We were downtown for our first five years.  While I admire our downtown and all the fine shops that have been popping up in the last few years, I always wanted to be a neighborhood store.  Here, we are just another neighbor.  We see kids grow and cross the street on their own.  We see kids take those early, halting steps in our store.  We hear about their favorite books, and writers.  We know all the local furry friends and try to keep them supplied with water and treats.  We've shared graduations, and marriages, along with some sad times.  I believe those connections are stronger here than they would have been in a more bustling location.

Because we're smaller and slower (and because I only answer to myself) I can spend my days as I choose.  I sure was surprised a few weeks back when a long lost friend reentered my life.  Julie and I lived in the same neighborhood for years, until her family moved to Florida.  Julie's life became quite adventurous while mine became fixated on school.  We lost touch. 

Julie approached the counter; I quickly recognized that impish little grin, walked away from what I was doing and spent a pleasant afternoon listening to stories and getting to know her partner, Flo.  

This is the life I have grown to love - no two days the same.  No demands except those I put on myself, and lots of time to make connections, to create memories, and to take an occasional walk down memory lane.

Not store related, but this week we celebrate my friend Stephanie's birthday and 15 years of being cancer free.  Happy Birthday - Happy Boobies Steph.  

Books?  Yes, I just finished Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk - which sort of inspired this non-bookish post. Now I have to read 52 pages a day of Papillon in order to be ready for next week's book discussion group. Yes, this is a demand I'm putting on myself since it was my book choice and I'm fearing there might be some justified  anger.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House...and a visit with Pete the Cat

How?  How have I  never run across M.C. Beaton?  A number of circumstances led me to her, happily so.  First, a new customer, new to Manitowoc,  who is working on her masters long distance through a university in the United Kingdom mentioned her.  After she and her husband spent 20 minutes decoding the secrets to utilizing my TV and DVD player so I could watch an episode of  "Grantchester", she asked if I had ever seen "Agatha Raisin".  Second, I watched "Agatha Raisin" on PBS and was quickly hooked.  Then, at our Friday night book discussion, Mary said that she had read all the AR books and since I was headed to the library on Saturday to return Pete (more on that in a minute,) I decided to pick one up.

It's OK with me that PBS decided  Agatha had to be younger and less frumpy than Beaton portrays her. Agatha left her high profile London PR firm to move to a Cotswold village.. Little did she know she would spend her days bumbling, flirting, gossiping and stumbling across dead bodies.  In this particular book, she simply hopes to kindle a romance with a new neighbor while investigating rumors of a haunting.  Paul turns out to be a cad, the rumors prove false, but there is a murder which she sets to investigating despite warnings from the local authorities to stay out of it.

The Raisin books are typical cozy mysteries - fun, quick reads.  You won't  find bloody crime scenes or partially decomposed bodies in these books.  Sex takes place behind closed door.  Much like Agatha, the sleuths are generally women, and all have a primary job - dog walker, tea shop owner, caterer, librarian, scrapbooker.  There's a cozy mystery series for just about every occupation and interest.  There are even cozies with Wisconsin connections.  Here's a list of those for you:

Mystery authors  who feature Wisconsin locations in their books:
Allyson K. Abbott (aka Annelise Ryan & Beth Amos): Mack’s Bar Mystery Series – Mackenzie “Mack” Dalton is the owner of a bar who serves up justice.
Laura Alden: PTA Mystery Series Beth Kennedy is the owner of a children’s bookstore.
Sandra Balzo: Maggy Thorsen Mystery Series – Maggy is a woman who runs her own coffee shop while solving crimes.
Susan Bernhardt: Kay Driscoll Mystery Series Kay Driscoll is a retired nurse who volunteers at the local free clinic.
Christine DeSmet: Fudge Shop Mystery Series Ava Oosterling is the owner of a copper-kettle fudge shop who sleuths while sharing space in her grandpa’s bait shop.
Kathleen Ernst: Chloe Ellefson Mystery Series – Chloe is the curator of a living history museum in Wisconsin during the 1980s.
Victoria Houston: Loon Lake Fishing Mystery Series Lewellyn Ferris is the police chief who enjoys fly fishing while thinking up whodunnit.
Mary Grace Murphy: Noshes Up North Mystery Series Nell Bailey is a retired turned food blogger who lives in Wisconsin.
Hannah Reed (aka Deb Baker): Queen Bee Mystery Series Story Fischer manages her bees while also managing to solve mysteries.

Annelise Ryan (aka Allyson K. Abbott & Beth Amos): Mattie Winston Mystery Series Mattie is an ex-nurse who currently serves as a deputy coroner, which comes in handy in her investigations.
Happy sleuthing.

Pete the Cat stopped by LaDeDa on Saturday to dance and visit.  Here he is with my buddy, Wyatt.  We sure had fun and I have to thank the Manitowoc Public Library for making Pete's visit possible.  I wish you could have seen the kids' faces when Pete walked into the store. I think they were picturing a little cat in a yellow shirt, and were surprised to see how big he was - at least 6 feet - (we measured him against a 5"12' friend who came with Wyatt). Pete signed autographs and posed for pictures.  He even stuck around after most people had left so he could dance again with two friends, one  who arrived late and missed the dance party, and another who was too shy to dance with the other 20+ kinds who were here.  That Pete. What a guy.
Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Trade Show

Trade show recovery complete.  Books unpacked and shelved.  Emails and PM's answered (mostly).  Rock hard night's sleep in my own bed in my own home.  Glad I went.  Glad to be back.

I wish something monumental had happened for me to share with you, but the truth is nothing did.  The show model has worked well for years, offering educational seminars, brainstorming sessions, lost of authors milling, meeting and signing, along with fun nights of book trivia contests, complete with free beer and pizza.   In between all that, the trade floor is open from browsing and buying at over 600 publisher displays.  

The three day event ends with a relaxed two-hour reception with lots of food, drinks, generous books signings, and some door prizes. I won a bag full of stuff - t-shirts, window clings and some advertising what-nots from a small publisher.

The trade show floor is open from 9-4, which is long time to be walking, talking and carting swag, but you just do it.  I took a most welcome break to spend an hour with a marketing professional who specializes in working with bookstores.  She reviewed our blog and our Facebook page and was quite complimentary.  Her biggest suggestion was that we should include more info and more pictures about our staff.  We have a camera shy group here;  I will try.  We will see.  

Every year a silent auction is held with the proceeds going to BINC, a foundation that offers financial help to any bookseller or bookstore owner that has experienced a financial challenge.  Some publishers put their entire booths up for auction, while others offer smaller, more affordable bid items.  With all the weather related devastation in our country this year, the donations were especially plentiful and impressive.  I decided to bid on a sidelines display unit from Unemployed Philosophers, a company whose products we already carry.  UP offered their largest display unit, fully stocked - a $5000.00 value.  I figured we would be outbid early in the two hour open bidding time; still I took a chance, bidding more than I could afford, yet far below retail value. Each each time I checked, no one had topped our bid.  Then 10 minutes before the auction ended, I say a new bid pasted over ours.  My heart sunk.  I knew I had already bid outside of my comfort zone, and I didn't have the intestinal fortitude to even glance at the bigger bid.  In hindsight, that may have been a mistake.  

The week before the show, someone approached me about organizing an author festival for our area. Sounds great.  Although the plan is still in the discussion/incubation phase, I used  the  meet and greet portion of the show to toss out some test bubbles to a few writers just to determine interest.  Quite promising.  We'll see where this all goes.  In the meantime, I'm happily reading books for book clubs 1 and 2 and looking forward to spending time with bookish friends.

Oh...here's something of note from the show and from my travels home through New Glarus and Madison - I saw very little cell phone use in restaurants, in shops, or by groups of people just standing around together. People were talking.  I saw happy people smiling, and heard happy people laughing.  Sooooo very refreshing!

Thanks for stopping by. 


Monday, October 9, 2017

After my recent successful (third) attempt to read Pride and Prejudice, I began thinking about those Bronte sisters, wondering why they haven't enjoyed the same renewed reader interest as Jane Austen.  Every high school girl who discovered and inhaled Victoria Holt eventually found her way to Wuthering Heights and/or Jane Eyre.  I sure did, and now, all these years later, finally reading Jane Austen convinced me to revisit some classics and perhaps even fill in some reading gaps.  (No, I will not give in and add a 19th bookmark to Anna Karenina.  In fact, to prevent that time suck, I donated the book in hopes that the right person will find it, adore it and wonder at the crazy variety of bookmarks including several grocery store tallies a few ticket stubs and some random envelopes).

Austen and Bronte were not contemporaries as I had thought.  In fact, Emily Bronte was born one year after Austen died.  The combination of lurid and violent scenes in Wuthering Heights must have been shocking to delicate 19th century readers and may have been responsible for Bronte publishing this book under a pseudonym.  Publishers considered this book by Ellis Bell such a shock that Bronte had to defray the cost of publication until a sufficient number of copies had been sold.  

Comparing Bronte and Austen would occupy more blog posts than I bet you would be willing to read.  I would have to begin with a discussion of light and dark, lyrical syntax as opposed to harder, more driven narrative... on and on.  Both writers do give us exaggerated characters that exist in a more than life-size vitality created by their own consuming passions.  Oh oh, this is beginning to sound like a lecture....moving on...

Emily Bronte chose a suitable title.  The word wuthering is a provincial adjective used to describe the atmospheric tumult of stormy weather.  And tumul there is a-plenty.  In fact, there is little let up beginning with the frenzy of who is related to whom and ending with last minute redemption.  In case you haven't read this book, I won't give anything away except to say it one of those heart-braking stories of a love that cannot ever be.  I liked it OK - but for me, the award for best aching novel of all time goes to Love in the Time of Cholera.  

This is my annual week of anxiety as I prepare to get myself to our booksellers regional tradeshow.  This means I must travel in a vehicle other than one  between bookboard covers.  I am a homebody and a terrible traveller.  Funny how one can be a risk taker in some aspects and dramatically opposite in others.  Anyway, there might not be a post next Monday, depending on how much post show organizing I have to do.  I'll be sure to say "Hello" from all of you to the writers I bump into in the coming days.  

Thanks for stopping by.

Check out our EVENTS tab for info on our Pete the Cat visit.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Find your Heart...Circle of Terror....and Windigo

If you peek at this blog from time to time, you most likely have concluded that I don't read self-help/inspiration books, nor do I read anything in the world of creepy.  So, what do I find myself blogging about today?  Inspiration and creepy.  And you know what?  I doing OK with both. 

In fact, Keri Olson's, Find Your Heart, Follow Your Heart, speaks to something that directly affects my life.  More on that later.  This book grew out of a series of unimaginable events - three bouts with cancer, benign brain and spinal tumors resulting in temporary paralysis.  How she weathered all of that and came out with a wink and smile baffles me.  This little book packs a lot of power - part memoir, part daily devotional, part guided journal - to be read and used in any way that meets your needs.

Having recently resigned my producer/director role with Heart-A-Rama means dealing with change and new ways of just being.  I began on stage as a horse's patoot and moved around in the organization where needed, ending in the producer role (some would say I ended right where I began!).  Anyway, my eleven month volunteer job is now in someone else's capable hands.  I have found much wisdom in Keri's chapter on change.  Her chapter headings will direct you to where you want or need to be, and following each chapter are provocative questions to help you solidify your thoughts.  If you're a pragmatist, like me, or more of a hopeful, altruistic individual, you will find something in these pages that will awaken and clarify.

Circle of Terror...yikes!  Larry Powalisz worked as a Milwaukee detective before moving to Texas, eventually working on an anti-terrorism unit.  Fascinating individual.  In fact, he was one of the first detectives on the scene of the Dahmer case in Milwaukee.  Who can forget that nightmare?

Well, that nightmare plays a significant role in Powalisz's book which begins in a Milwaukee cemetery and leads the investigators in and around Milwaukee. The author softened the shocking details with a bit of romance.  Good call.

Sometimes I read a book and my theatre brain kicks into high visualization mode and I begin to see a story playing out in my mind's eye.  That happened with this book.  The police procedural format moves smoothly and logically, and because of the action and more action this could easily be adapted into a screen play.  Get on that Larry!

I can't sign off without acknowledging all the hullabaloo about Windigo fest  happening this coming weekend in downtown Manitowoc.  I greatly admire people who have strong convictions and stand by them, but this is a new event in Manitowoc and perhaps taking a wait and see attitude might be advisable.  If zombies, cannibals and Isis recruiters occupy the streets, then yes, time to take cover or to protest.  This reminds of people who refuse to read a book or see a movie if the F-bomb is written or uttered.  How is one's life changed by that word?  How will lives be changed by an edgy Halloween festival?  Dawn, the organizer, has been so generous to charities in our community.  Maybe we can be charitable  in return by not judging her festival until there is reason to judge.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Noir by Christopher Moore


Christopher Moore, my favorite irreverent rapscallion writer, return, with the this!  I didn't think he could top Lamb's edginess, but Noir does.  He even included this warning for those folk who feel their lives will be forever changed by reading politically incorrect trigger terms: The story is set in 1940's America. The language and attitudes of the narrators and characters regarding race, culture and gender are contemporary to that time and may be disturbing to some.

On an average afternoon, a Jessica Rabbit type blond named Stilton (yes, she was named after the stinky cheese) walks into a gin-joint where Sammy Two Toes is tending bar.  You get the idea right off the bat, don't you? I reserve my snort-laughs (admit it, you have a reserve laugh), bestowing them judiciously.  I let loose  with the snorts on these character names alone. 

Anyway, it's love at first sight for Sammy but before he can act on his emotions, an Air Force General approaches him with urgent business.  Everyone know that Sammy knows people who know people who can get stuff done.  

While that plot unfolds, a suspicious flying object has been spotted near Mount Rainer, followed by a mysterious plane crash in a distant patch of desert in New Mexico.  If you think I'm going to tell you the place is Roswell, you're right.

The fun continues when one of Sammy's schemes goes south and the Cheese mysteriously vanishes.  Sammy is forced to confront his own dark secrets if he want the girl back.  Following a trail that leads from Chinatown to Telegraph Hill to a giant redwood forest, he crosses paths will assorted oddballs including a crooked cop with a dirty habit, a nightclub bouncer waiting for a class from President Roosevelt, taxmen - and an out of this world surprise.

If you think I have loaded this post with spoilers, think again. I'm less than half way through.   Moore packs his books with so much quirky action your head will spin and your gut will hurt from laughter.  Think Raymond Chandler meets Damon Runyon peppered with Bug Bunny.


I still have a couple copies of this gem in stock at 20% discount.  Email me at bdenor@lsol.net or Face book me at LaDeDa if you want me to hold one for you.
Thanks for stopping by.
I'm going back to page turning and snorting. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Theft By Finding

Bev's book Rule #3 - don't repeat books.  That rule exists because I am a slow, slow, slow reader and well, you know how many books call out to be read.  David Sedaris is one of the few exceptions to Rule #3.  They guy is so darn funny and someday I just need that little dose of his edgy humor.

Theft by Finding threw me off at first.  Of course I skipped the introduction, that was the problem.  If you pick up the fascinating book, read the intro.  Sedaris shares his philosophies on keeping a diary.  First, his diaries span 40 years.  Who is that anal about keeping a diary?  Second, his diaries face outward.  He documents what he sees, what he hears, what he does and with whom, but the traditional diary staples of questioning oneself, one's purpose, and the world does not figure in.  

Frankly, I am surprised that David Sedaris survived the 70's.  This guy lived what I consider a sketchy, dangerous and beyond stupid life. He had no money;  ans rather than living form paycheck to paycheck, he lived from phone call to phone call perfecting his pitch to bill collections for a sympathetic extension.  No rent money, no money to pay bills or to buy food - yet he had easy access to drugs - pot, LSD, meth, all sorts of dangerous stuff in deadly combinations and without taking a usage break.  He hitchhikes everywhere taking rides from any number of questionable characters, and he slept where ever and with whomever.  

In the intro, Sedaris tells us that he self edited this book and the entries he omitted would have made him look "evil, selfish....sensitive."   So far, this book carries no hints as the the satirical genius he would become. I have laughed only once, but don't take that to mean I don't like this book.  I do.   I will finish this volume (1977-2002) and wait impatiently for volume two.  

That one laugh? He refers to an AT'T rep who continues to call him about paying his bill a "professional scolder".

Oh, what about that title?  It's a British concept meaning that if you find something and keep it without trying to locate the rightful owner you are guilty of "theft by finding."  I haven't figured out how that relates to the book yet unless it refer to the idea that David Sedaris is telling us more about other people's lives than his own.

More on this next week unless I decide to read circle of Terror, a crime fiction piece just dropped off by author Larry Powalisz  Although he now lives in Houston he came up this way to get away from the flooding for a while).He spent over 25 years with the Milwaukee Police Department as an inner-city police officer and detective. He also served over 29 years with the United States Coast Guard as a reservist, active duty, and civilian, mainly in the capacity as a special agent with the Coast Guard Investigative Service. He earned a bachelor and master's degree in criminal justice from the University of Wisconsin. 

Book group went well on Friday night, although my teacher radar detected that  someone who had not read the book.  Because I am way too practical for my own good, I wonder why someone would bother coming to a discussion under those circumstances.  But, why not?  Maybe she didn't have time to read it and wanted to hear about the book to see if she wanted to work it into her life.  Or maybe she just likes us. 

Book group 2 meets tomorrow.  Pride and Prejudice on deck.  I had two fails with that book in the past, but this time I read carefully and intentionally.  Hopefully, I'll be able to keep up with the discussion.  We'll see.