Wednesday, November 28, 2012

(150)After edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

After (Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia)
Edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Publication Date: October 9, 2012
Pages: 384

First, I must apologize to you guys.  The last couple weeks of my life have been utter chaos.  My Grandmother took a turn for the worse and we made a hasty trip back to Iowa to be with her at the end.  She ended up passing in the wee hours of Thanksgiving Day. So even though we logged a lot of miles in the car and I logged of quiet hours at her bedside, I have not done much reading.  While life happened, my TBR pile grew exponentially.

I did manage to finish an anthology of Young Adult dystopian short stories. After consists of nineteen stories by some of your favorite YA authors like Garth Nix, Susan Beth Pfeffer, and Gregory Maguire to name a few. The stories range in varying degrees of terrifying.  Like teens who live in a world where everyone carries a gun to school.  Teens who are on a spaceship, and another story features a crucial game of baseball played with the Creepies are just a few examples of what imaginative stories you will find in this book.

You all know that I have really gotten hooked on apocalyptic novels.  So I jumped at the chance to read this anthology.  While most of the stories were great, there were a few that I felt needed more than just a few pages to develop the characters and the story. It is hard to really get the whole story out of a short story, if you know what I mean.

Bottom line, if you are a fan of dystopian novels, then obviously you are going to want to give this one a read!

Monday, November 19, 2012

(149)Heads In Beads by Jacob Tomsky

Heads in Beds

Publication Date: November 20, 2012
Pages: 256

With a Sister who went to school for Hotel/Motel Management and went on to work for the some of the biggest names in the Hospitality Industry, I have heard a story or two about guests.  When I heard about Jacob Tomsky's book, Heads in Beds, I was excited to read it and see if the author's stories were similar to stories that my sister and brother-in-law have regaled us with over the years.

Jacob Tomsky starts his book with how he came to work in the Hospitality Industry, he started as a valet at a new five star luxury hotel in New Orleans and while there he worked his way up to Housekeeping Manager.  After a brief sabbatical in Europe he found himself in New York City.  Where he found himself working the Front Desk at the Bellevue and found out that even though New York City and New Orleans were light years apart in many ways, but the guests were all the same.  From aging rock stars (Brian Wilson & Roger Daltry) to eccentric regulars, we get to hear all sorts of juicy and salacious stories.    A huge portion of this book, though is dedicating to the culture of tipping at hotels.  Who gets a tip, who doesn't and how everyone hustles the guests for as much cash as possible. (Who knew you were to tip your Check-In Agent? Um, I didn't)

Heads in Beds is one of those "behind the scenes" books written by a guy who ultimately just wants to do his job and make money.  There is a lot of poking fun at guests and a lot of swearing.  And like in any service industry there is a lot of drinking and even a few references at drug use.  His stories were similar to stories I have heard from my sister and brother-in-law.  The similarities also continue with the "family like" atmosphere among the staff.  Working in the Hotel/Motel industry can be very, very grueling and not for the faint of heart.  That is definitely translated well in this book.  And maybe it will cause you to be just a little more understanding and friendly the next time you check into a hotel.

Bottom line, if you like to read "behind the scenes" industry books, then you will enjoy Heads in Beds.  But I will give the disclaimer that if you are offended easily or are a frequent traveler you may find yourself offended at the language and may even be offended to  "see" yourself in some of the descriptions.  I think that if you have anyone in your family who has worked in the Hotel/Motel industry, then Heads in Beds will make the perfect Christmas gift!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

(148)A Walk in the Park by Jill Mansell

A Walk in the Park

Pages: 448
Publication Date: November 6, 2012

It has been eighteen years since Lara Carson fled Bath in a hurry.  She has lived her life these years and raised her daughter the best she could all on her own.  Here it is eighteen years later and not only does Lara return home for the wedding of her best friend, but she has inherited a house that will give her the security she longs for and allows her to return to the only home she knows. Her only concern is her ex and Gigi's father, Flynn.  You see, he never knew that Lara was pregnant.  Lara's worst nightmares come true when she runs into Flynn at Evie's wedding.  What will he say when he finds out about Gigi?   And what will she do when she realizes that she still has feelings for GiGi's father?

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed Jill Mansell's work of art.  Lara is the kind of character that I would love to have as a BFF.  I enjoyed watching her navigate the waters of "Ex-Land" - she behaved much better than I would have, that is for sure. The relationship between Gigi and Lara was always fun to watch.  The mutual respect they had for each other was certainly admirable.  I also enjoyed the secondary story of Evie and her mishaps in love. It really said a lot about the bond of friendship she had with Lara that they were able to pick their friendship up after all those years as if no time had passed.

Bottom line, I have been a huge fan of Jill Mansell for years.  I am always so excited to see that a new book is coming out and I rush to read it as fast as possible.  Her characters are always cleverly written and are so multi-dimensional that it is easy to relate to them.  If you have never read a Jill Mansell novel, then I must ask - why not?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

(147) The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap 

Pages: 304
Publication Date: October 2, 2012

Forgive me if you have "heard" this story before, but for as long as I could remember I wanted to own my own bookstore.  I even had (have?) a location picked out in my hometown that I thought would be perfect for a bookstore.  So when I was hired by Barnes & Noble it was truly like a dream come true. So I get the passion and desire to be surrounded by books everyday.

Wendy Welch and her husband, Jack, have recently returned to the States after being in Scotland for years and have decided to move to a sleepy little coal town and open a bookstore.  They weren't exactly sure how to go about opening a bookstore, so they decided to start by purchasing an historic old home and turning the main floor into a used bookstore.  As it would be with any small town across America it took a while for the "outsiders" to be accepted and welcomed, but once they were,  their little bookstore is full of quirky customers, social activities, and of course book lovers galore.

Something I have observed over the years is that there is a special camaraderie among booksellers around the world. That is unless you are bookseller for Barnes & Noble - then you are employed by the devil. Everything I have read by  "Independent" bookstores, whether it be a book, article, blog, or even tweet always has to get a "dig" in at Barnes & Noble.  The "big box" bookstore giant has been labeled "cold" and "heartless" with employees who don't know anything about books.  And you know what, I take GREAT offense at those assumptions, because you know what?  I know many B&N employees who have put in five, ten, fifteen, and twenty plus years of service into the company, and ya know what, they are NOT doing it to get rich!!  They are doing because of the passion they have for books and nothing more!!!  And what is even worse are the people who write books and make comments KNOCKING Barnes & Noble - why knock the people who have the power to make you, the author, a LOT of money?  [/end rant]

Having said that, it was just a very small portion of this book that rubbed me the wrong way, just a small blip that the average non-B&N employee would slide right over, but it was enough to get under my skin.  I found myself enjoying Wendy, Jack, and their little bookstore.  I chuckled when they were getting started and found myself even groaning at a few unwise decision, having BTDT at *gasp* Barnes & Noble.  I also really enjoyed the chapter where Wendy gives some recommendations from her personal favorite books.  I don't remember the last time I read a book where the author gave recommendations, it really warmed my heart to see her do so. I also found myself revising my old dream of owning my own bookstore, I mean, if Wendy and Jack can do it without a high overhead, well, why couldn't I? - OH - and I also enjoyed reading Wendy's viewpoint on E-Books and E-Readers, and her opinion might surprise you!

Bottom line, if you are reading this blog, then you probably have (or have had) a favorite bookstore.  A place where you walk in and are recognized by somebody.  A place where you can go and escape in the stacks, among the sounds and smells that are associated with any bookstore, no matter what the size or the name on the door. The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap will take you back to that place, to those feelings you have when you walk through the door.  Trust me, it is a fun journey you won't regret taking!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

(146)The Shortest Way Home by Juliette Fay

The Shortest Way Home

Publication Date: October 30, 2012
Pages: 416

Sean Doran has been to hell and back. He left home  nearly twenty years ago, leaving his younger sister and brother in the somewhat capable hands of their Aunt Vivian.  He went into active war zones with the hopes of forgetting his childhood and the hereditary disease that ravaged his mother and held the rest of them hostage.  After twenty years as a nurse in the war zones, Sean returns home finding his family is just as fractured and damaged as they were when he left.  His brother has passed away leaving his young son, Kevin,  in the hands of the aging Aunt Vivian and his sister, Deidre and Deidre is ready to get make her escape.  Will Sean be able to settle down and be there for Kevin and Aunt Vivian, or will he suffocate under the responsibility?

The Shortest Way Home was a really sweet, tender family novel. It is rare for a Women's Fiction book to be told from a male viewpoint, but Juliette Fay has done just that.  Sean is a good guy who was, first, glad to be home around the familiarity of his past, but then realized just how badly Kevin needed a father figure and how badly Aunt Vivian needed a caretaker. The realization of how badly they needed him was a bit suffocating at first and that is where you can really see the transformation in Sean.  Going from this guy who thought he was on vacation visiting family, to this guy who realizes the weight of the responsibility waiting for him.  I especially enjoyed the relationship between Sean and Kevin. Kevin is such a unique little boy and I love the way Sean starts to realize just how unique Kevin is and that to leave him alone with Aunt Vivian would do irreparable  damage.

Bottom line, The Shortest Way Home, is a sweet and tender novel about the ties that bind, family. The story itself is well written and obviously written from the heart. If you are looking for a good novel about the importance of family, no matter what the age, then you simply must read The Shortest Way Home.

Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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