Posts Tagged ‘Books’

Attention all bibliophiles, mark your calendar ~ the 16th National Book Festival will be at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (Washington DC) on 24 September, 2016. It’ll be open from 10am to 10pm and all events are free of charge.

A list of authors already scheduled to attend (from the Library of Congress website):

  • Kwame Alexander, Newbery Medal winner
  • Douglas Brinkley, prize-winning historian
  • Christopher Buckley, author of such satirical works as “Thank You for Smoking”
  • Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and author
  • Philip Glass, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer
  • Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Winston Groom, author of “Forrest Gump”
  • Stephen King, best-selling, prize-winning author and literacy advocate
  • James McBride, National Book Award winner
  • Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian
  • Joyce Carol Oates, prize-winning author of more than 70 books
  • Ed Piskor, alternative comics artist
  • Michael Ramirez, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Diane Rehm, NPR host and author
  • Salman Rushdie, Man Booker Prize winner
  • Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Bob Woodward, Pulitzer prize winner and author of 17 No. 1 best-sellers
  • Luis Alberto Urrea, prize-winning author of “The Devil’s Highway”
  • Gene Luen Yang, Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

More authors expected to sign-on in the coming months.

For those who are unable to attend, but want to follow along, there’s an free app available. Click here.



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After many visits to the Library of Congress located on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, where the only way I could view the Reading Room was from a balcony, it was thrilling to finally walk through the Reading Room and the Main Card Catalog area during the bi-annual Open House. The staff and volunteers provided a lot of interesting information and the card catalog was such a throwback to my high school days.

The Library of Congress originally began inside the US Capitol in 1800 but now consists of three buildings: the Thomas Jefferson Building (1897) is the original building and is separate from the other two, the John Adams Building (1938) and the James Madison Memorial Building (1981). The library collection includes more than 158 million items consisting of more than 36.8 million books and other print materials in 470 languages. It is the largest rare book collection in North America, has over 68.9 million manuscripts and is the world’s largest collection of  legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings.

The Library is the research arm of Congress and is recognized as the National Library of the United States. As the world’s largest library, it’s a fantastic resource to scholars and researchers. The material is open to those age 16 and older without charge but there are caveats. Check here for information on how to research at the library.

As a book lover, the Library fascinates me. In 2013, the staff responded to more than 636,000 congressional reference requests as well as provided to Congress approximately 23,000 volumes from the Library’s collections. It also registered 496,599 claims to copyright.


Library of Congress
Library of Congress

Library of Congress Reading Room I
Reading Room

Library of Congress Card Catalog
Card Catalog

Library of Congress Lauks to London
Showing her daughter how to use the Card Catalog

Library of Congress reading room
Flangan’s Clock ~ with the observation balcony on either side.

Library of Congress the Dome II
Looking up to the Dome

Library of Congress Dome
Close up of the Dome

Library of Congress Girl Power
The Stacks at the Library of Congress

Library of Congress the stacks
More books at the Library of Congress

Library of Congress Main Card Catalog

During your visit to the Library of Congress, don’t miss the Gutenberg Bible which is on display year-round. The bible is the first important book printed in Western Europe using movable metal type and signaled a turning point in the art of bookmaking.The Gutenberg Bible was completed around 1455 at Mainz, Germany and sparked the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern world by providing the written word to all people including commoners.

Next time the Reading Room will be open to the public will be President’s Day ~ February 16, 2015.

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Book Giveaway: And The Winners Are…

Logan made the book giveaway video complete with sound effects!

Congratulations to Kelly and Kellee!!  Books will be in the mail this week ~ I have to take a train to the APO so it’ll probably be Friday.  Enjoy and if you want more information about Brad Taylor’s books (he has a sequel to “One Rough Man” and a third novel coming out in January 2013) then go to his website here.

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Winter weather has made its way to the UK.  Combine the cold with short days and it makes me what to cuddle up to a good book with a cup of hot chocolate.  I joined a book club here in London and, so far, I’ve read two of their selections: In the Garden of the Beasts (Erik Larson) and Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn).  Both are books I wouldn’t have picked up on my own and that’s one reason for belonging to a club~ gets me out of my comfort zone.

The Garden of the Beasts (non-fiction) is a fascinating account of the newly appointed US Ambassador to Germany in 1933.  As much as I’ve read/studied about World War II, I found this book to be a fresh perspective of a mild-mannered college professor who became Ambassador by default and his rather wild, promiscuous and ambitious daughter.  It was impossible for me to read it without a deep sense of foreboding ~ not unlike watching the movie “Titanic” or “Dances with Wolves.”   Hindsight affords us the knowledge of what happens in the end and, as we all know, it’s not a happily ever after even for the survivors/victors.

Gone Girl (fiction) is currently #8 on the New York Times best sellers list. It’s a quick read with lots of twists and turns.  I found it difficult to like the characters and it was even more disconcerting because I found them to be deeply flawed but surprisingly realistic.  I’ve known people who are like Nick, Amy, the parents, etc.  Not to the extent they’re portrayed in the book but muted variations.  What kept me most interested though is the fast-paced, sharp and tense writing style. The story alternates 1st person between the Nick, the husband and Amy, the wife.  I don’t want to say much about the storyline because just describing it might give away too much.

Next month’s book selection is the classic: To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee).  I read it in the dark ages High School ~ great book, great story but I’m not sure I want to re-read it now.  May skip next month’s meeting and move onto the February selection which is Bringing Up the Bodies (Hilary Mantel).  I’m half way through her first book Wolf Hall and it’s fabulous!

Yesterday, the book club luncheon included a “book exchange”, and since I was the last to pick, I stole away with The Days and Nights of London Now ~ as Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It and Long For It LONDONERS (Craig Taylor).  It definitely wins the prize for longest titled book I’ll be reading this year.  I was very excited about the book until I read the author is Canadian.  For some reason, I assumed a book with that lofty London title would surely be written (compiled) by a Londoner.

The book I took to be exchanged was The Ambassador’s Suitcase (Matthew Parris) which my friend Leslie ended up with whichs works out well. We can trade books after we’ve read our own books. Originally, I ordered the action packed novel One Rough Man (Brad Taylor) to take to the book exchange. I wrote a review on it last year here. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it in time so I decided to do this book giveaway.   Also, my copy of Gone Girl is in pristine condition and it’s not a book I’m likely to re-read so I’m giving that away as well.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:  Please leave a comment beginning with “The best book I’ve read in a long time is…”   Also, if you want to be considered for one specific book, please write either One Rough Man or Gone Girl.  Otherwise,  I’ll put your name in for both.  It will be possible for one person to win both books.  The winner will be chosen by my daughter, Logan who will pull a name from a hat for One Rough Man and then she’ll draw a name from the other “hat” with those who want to be in the running for Gone Girl.  I know, I can’t get any more “low tech” than that but it’s more fun this way.   Deadline to leave a comment will be Sunday, 9 December 2012 at midnight (GMT/London time).  We’ll choose names on Monday, 10 December.  FYI both are hardcover books which I’ll mail to you if you win.

Good Luck!!

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Book Signing in Arlington


It was definitely worth the drive to see Brad and, BONUS, we got to see his lovely wife, Elaine.  Brad’s talk before the signing was very informative (& funny).  He spoke about character development, how he selects locations, and how he takes precautions to protect those who are still serving.  I’m happy to see they are both doing so well and wish all good success for Brad’s future novels.

Here’s John and Brad at the signing:

I wasn’t quite so impressed with the Book Store 😦   I emailed a week ago and specifically asked if I could have a copy of All Necessary Force set aside along with the David McCullough book, The Greater Journey ~ Americans in Paris.   Unfortunately, they sold out of the book and decided to sell MY copy before I got there.  I know you Kindle readers are laughing at me because all you have to do is click a button for your book, but I still like reading hardback books.  It’s easier on my eyes.

If you’re looking for a good read, I recommend you start with One Rough Man. 

I’ve always wanted to attend a book signing/author talk but, for some reason or another, have never make it.  But I’m determined to go to One More Page bookstore this Wednesday (18 Jan) for Brad Taylor’s book signing for his new book, All Necessary Force.  Brad is the twin brother of Scott Taylor, who was the best man at our wedding.

Brad’s first book, One Rough Man, is an action packed story of a Special Forces soldier who finds himself on the edge after his family is murdered.  For the first few chapters, I had a hard time not imagining Brad as the main character but, as the story went, I became so engrossed I forgot all about Brad and just enjoyed the rest of the novel.  All Necessary Force continues the adventures of Pike Logan and I’m looking forward to reading about how he gets in and out of predicaments.

The author, Brad is a former Special Forces officer and I can’t help but wonder how those who are still in Special Forces feel about his book. It contains A LOT of,  what seems to me, insider information.  If that were my profession, which relies on anonymity for safety reasons, I’d been a bit put-out but as a lay person, I found the book to be interesting and fast-paced.

One More Page promises to be an interesting book store to visit ~ they not only sell books, but they sell wine (and have wine tasting on site) and chocolate.  Can’t go wrong with books, wine and chocolate!!

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“House and Home” by Kathleen McCleary

I’m thrilled to be included as a host for TLC’s Virtual Book Tour of House and Home.

Although I’m the last stop on the tour, I’m no less excited to post my review and I waited until a few days ago to pose my questions to the author, Kathleen McCleary. I wanted to ask unique questions which the other tour stops hadn’t asked. 

The opening paragraph of House and Home completely peaked my interest and I wanted to know so much more about this woman, Ellen, whose love for her house could be called nothing less than an obsession. As I read the novel, I came to understand Ellen’s love for her home and found myself rooting for her to save the house, and the family, she loved so much.

Being married to someone in the military, I would never allow myself to fall “in love” with a house. As much as we move, it would be emotional suicide. All the military families I know, myself included, are very adept at making whatever home we’re in, the home we love now. If our homes were men, we’d be serial monogamist or as the song goes “Love the One You’re With.”

It was interesting to read of Ellen’s passion for her home, and in a way, it helped me relate to some of my civilian friends who’ve moved in the the last couple years from homes or places they love so much. Since I always look at a move as a chance for a new adventure and an opportunity to meet new people, I didn’t completely understand why my friends were distraught about their moves.

I like everything about House and Home; not just the story and the characters, but the look and feel of the book, too. The cover is so inviting and it’s a small book you can easily carry with you. If you couldn’t tell, I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

Listed below are my interview questions for Kathleen McCleary and her answers. Having read about her on the other tour stops and reading her answers below, I’m as impressed with her as much as I’m impressed with her book:

1) You’ve mentioned your move from Oregon was a motivating factor for you to write the book about the pain of leaving a beloved home. Besides writing a book and getting published, what is the best thing that’s happened to you since your move to Virginia?
It’s hard to top writing a book and getting it published, since that’s been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for me. But other highlights, aside from the blessings of having a healthy family, plenty to eat, and a lovely home (can’t forget what’s really important), would include coaching daughter number two’s Odyssey of the MInd team (and making some terrific friends in the process); seeing daughter number one shine onstage in her play last spring; and finally, the book launch party I had in July, which showed me how many truly wonderful people have been part of my journey here in Virginia. I have been amazed at all the support I’ve gotten from my friends and the community.

2) Hindsight is 20-20, and so, would you say the move was a positive thing for you and your family or would it have been better to stay in Oregon?

Argh! Do I have to answer this? Much as I love our friends in Virginia, and the warm welcome we’ve received from the community, I believe Oregon was an easier place to raise kids, and a place that I (as a somewhat intense and high-strung creative type) found easier and less stressful to live. I would love to hear from readers who have moved about how it’s worked out for them. It’s been four years for me and I still feel sometimes like I’ll never get over it!

3) What’s on your nightstand waiting to be read?  
I’ve got a pile, but the three at the top right now are Brunonia Barry’s “The Lace Reader,” which I’m reading with my book group; “Kristin Lavransdatter” by Sigrid Undset, which I’m reading for the second time (the first time was twenty-some years ago); and Julie Andrews‘ autobiography, “Home.” All three are terrific reads.
4) What was the last book you read that made you laugh out loud?
 James Thurber‘s “My Life and Hard Times.” The well-known chapter “The Night the Bed Fell” has to be one of the funniest stories ever written. Bill Bryson always makes me laugh out loud, too. 

5) If House and Home were made into a movie, who would be your choice to play Ellen? And who would play her hunky husband, Sam?

I love this question! We had a lot of fun with this at a book group meeting recently. I think Diane Lane would make a great Ellen, because she can walk that fine line between comedy (and the book definitely is meant to be humorous at points) and drama. Or maybe Julia Roberts, now that she’s in her forties. I’ve had a harder time with Sam—Johnny Depp, maybe? Antonio Banderas? And personally I’ve always had a thing for Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. If he could do that unkempt look again and wear brown contact lenses he’d be a very hunky Sam. I’d love to hear what readers think. 

If you’ve moved recently, read the book (help “cast the movie”) or have a different question for Kathleen, please leave a comment. She’s interested in what you have to say. Thanks! 

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Virtual Book Tour on Beachbums ~ Save the Date!

I was thrilled when Lisa, from TLC Book Tours, asked if I would host a day on the Virtual Book Tour of House and Home by Kathleen McCleary:

Being part of the tour requires I read the book, write a review and post it on 29 September. Since I get most of my book recommendations from book blogs, I love the concept of a virtual tour. The book tour will have stops on several other blogs throughout this month starting tomorrow, 3 September. Here are the links:

Wednesday, September 3rd: Hooked on Houses

Friday, September 5th: It’s All About Books

Monday, September 8th: The Literate Housewife

Wednesday, September 10th: Books and Cooks

Friday, September 12th: Breaking the Spine

Monday, September 15th: She Is Too Fond Of Books

Wednesday, September 17th: Caribou’s Mom

Thursday, September 18th:  Age 30 – A Year of Books

Monday, September 22nd: Booking Mama

Tuesday, September 23rd:  The Cottage Nest

Wednesday, September 24th: The Inside Cover

Friday, September 26th: In the Shadow of Mt. TBR

Monday, September 29th:  Displaced Beach Bums

I finished the book last night and, so I won’t be influenced by other reviews, I’ll write my review tonight (but won’t post it until 29 Sept). 

Interestingly, Books on the Brain has a Tuesday Teaser  which asks you to grab your current read. Let the book fall open to a random page. Share with us two (2) sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. You also need to share the title of the book you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

My tease is House and Home by Kathleen McCleary because I’m hoping my friends (& family) will read it before my scheduled book stop and share how they feel about the book. I’d especially love to hear what my military spouse friends think about the book. As much as we move, we don’t get a chance to “attach” to a house but I’m sure we all have something or somewhere that makes us feel like we’re “home.”

Here’s my random page from House and Home:

Page 130: “Actually, he continued, looking out the passenger window, away from Ellen, “this whole push Jordan has made to move, and ‘move up,’ has been very difficult for me. It’s made me question a lot of things.

The author, Kathleen McCleary, will answer questions so if anyone reads the book this month and wants to submit a question for her, let me know.

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The Winner is…

…FG selected a name as the winner of “Barefoot”

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Barefoot and Other Summer Reading

So far this summer, I’ve read the following:

Love Walked In, by Marisa de los Santos. It’s an interesting story of love and how, when you date (marry) someone, you get all those family & friends connections. In other words, baggage or some sort of complication comes with almost everyone. It’s an easy read with references to classic movies which has made me want to rent a few of the movies mentioned such as: The Philadelphia Story, Love Affair and Libeled Lady.

What I didn’t like about the book was the ending. Too neat, too convenient. Don’t get me wrong, I love a happy ending but, not at the expense of being realistic. Life is messy and to wrap it up in a neat little package complete with a bow is boring. I won’t give examples because that would be too much of a spoiler. I would recommend this because the story is a good one but, be forewarned, the ending is lukewarm.

Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand: LOVED it!! 

This was one of the books I won from Books on the Brain and Hatchett Books. I read it while on vacation at the beach and, since the story took place “at the beach”, it was a good choice. The story takes place in Nantucket, which *surprise*, I’ve never been, too. The author did a fabulous job describing the island and I felt like I could get around Nantucket just from her wonderful descriptions. Nantucket is now on the list of places I’d like to visit while we’re living so close.  That’s the type of travel I like ~ no jet lag!

Back to the book ~ it got my attention from the first chapter. And why wouldn’t it ~ we’re introduced to the three main characters and their emotional issues all at once since they arrive on the island together. And we’re talking some big issues. I almost put the book down when I found out one of the women is battling cancer. It’s such a scary subject to me and having lived through my dad’s unsuccessful battle with cancer, I didn’t know if I wanted to even think about it while on vacation. But, I was too invested in the story line by then so I kept on reading. I could relate to all three women: I’ve seen aspects of them in my friends and in myself as well. Who doesn’t know someone desperately trying to get pregnant? Or who is ill? or who is in an unhappy marriage? It’s a very relatable story.

I’m not a “lay out and read at the beach” kind of gal. I’m either swimming, walking the beach, snorkeling, etc. But when Favorite Man and Favorite Girl were fast asleep, I’d be reading into the late night. I was able to finish the book before leaving the island.

One of the recurring things in the book was “finding sand in your shoes” and so, when I was packing to leave St. John, I was not too careful in getting the sand out of our things. It’s been nice to find a little sand in my shoes now that I’m back home. It brings back good memories.

The book was a gift from the blogosphere and, if it’s not too tacky, I’d like to pass it forward to someone else to enjoy.  I’m going to have a giveaway so leave a comment and I’ll put your name in the hat. Literally, I’ll take all the names, put them in a hat and let FG pull a winner. It’s in good shape, but be forewarned, it might have a little Caribbean sand in it.

The drawing will be on 21 August so please leave a comment before midnight on 20 August. Thanks!

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No TV Makes For More Creativity…

None of the rooms at Caneel Bay have TVs and, although I don’t feel like we’re addicted to TV, it’s on way too much in our home ~ usually for background noise. I wasn’t sure how Favorite Girl (FG) would do with a week of NO TV but it turned out to be wonderful. Of course, we were outside most of the day so it didn’t matter but it was so nice at night when the only sound was the small waves crashing to shore.

During our week of no TV, Favorite Man (FM) got through his entire backlog of reading material (all those magazines and articles he doesn’t have time for when working), I finished reading “Love Walked In” and “Barefoot” which I’ll review soon and FG finished two books and also started a book reviewing blog. She’ll be in 5th grade but reads on a 7th grade level, so her blog Book Bug will be geared towards intermediate and middle school kids. She’s just started so more reviews will follow soon. She reads at least one book a week and has started a book exchange with her other book-loving friends.

I’m thrilled she’s so enthralled with reading but I’m especially happy that she’s giving writing a try as well.

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