Sunday, September 21, 2008

Gone West Continued

Hello All!

I am continuing my reading of western award winners--this title was Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas. The book won the 2008 Western Writers of America Spur Award for Best Short Novel.

This was another "western" that surprised me, as it took place during WWII, and was the story of a Japanese internment camp being built near a small town in Colorado, and the effects it had on the community. This is a very well written, interesting book, told from the viewpoint of a young girl. Rennie Stroud is just becoming a young woman, and the Stroud sugar beet farm is located next to the internment camp. The book covers several years of the Strouds' lives, as they cope with Mrs. Stroud's heart troubles, the results of hiring internment camp detainees for help on the farm, the rape and murder of a neighbor girl who is the same age as Rennie, and the telegram that arrives, telling them that Rennie's brother is missing in action in Europe. Throughout all this, the rhythm of farm life is constant. Sandra Dallas also incorporates quilting into this novel, as she did in The Persian Pickle Club.

From the Western Writers of America website:
The Spur Awards, given annually for distinguished writing about the American West, are among the oldest and most prestigious in American literature. In 1953, when the awards were established by WWA, western fiction was a staple of American publishing. At the time awards were given to the best western novel, best historical novel, best juvenile, and best short story.

Since then the awards have been broadened to include other types of writing about the West*. Today, Spurs are offered for the best western novel (short novel), best novel of the west (long novel), best original paperback novel, best short story, best short nonfiction. Also, best contemporary nonfiction, best biography, best history, best juvenile fiction and nonfiction, best TV or motion picture drama, best TV or motion picture documentary, and best first novel (called The Medicine Pipe Bearer's Award).

Winners of the Spur Awards in previous years include Larry McMurtry for Lonesome Dove, Michael Blake for Dances With Wolves, Glendon Swarthout for The Shootist, and Tony Hillerman for Skinwalker.

This somewhat explains to me why the novels I'm reading are not "westerns' in the sense of the old west, as I originally expected from the Spur Awards. But as I am a recent transplant to Arizona, I am very interested in my new part of the country, and so will continue to read novels about the west, as I am enjoying it very much.

Happy Reading!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sark Appearance and Signing

Hello All!

This was beyond anything I could have expected at an author appearance and book signing! I would say that Sark is a life force of joy and creativity! She just glows, and lifted the audience throughout the hour that she spoke and interacted with the audience. She appeared at Changing Hands bookstore to promote her new book, Juicy Pens and Thirsty Paper. We were each given a paper plate, which at one point, we were asked to write what was on our creative plate. While I don't feel I'm creative in the traditional sense, I do feel that I think of creative ways to promote libraries, books and reading, so that people/library patrons become or continue to be interested and enthusiastic about books and reading. I left feeling good about this, and about being able to define it.

Sark's books are colorful works of art containing words of inspiration and wisdom. The book that most people may have seen or know of is Succulent Wild Woman. She also has a line of greeting cards. The books I purchased are
Fabulous Friendship Festival and Living Juicy. And of course after the appearance last night, I wished I had purchased Juicy Pens and Thirsty Paper :), but I'm happy with my choices for now. Visit her website at:

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

Hello All,

I've just finished Wally Lamb's latest title, officially due out in November. As an Advance Reader's Copy, the book comes in at 700+ pages. Whew! It covers the Columbine tragedy, one couple's path throught their marriage, drug addiction, family (both past and present, and how the two are connected), and a history of women's penitentiaries in New England, to start with. Most of the story is told from Caelum Quirk's point of view, in first person, but occasionally tells the story from other characters' points of view, in third person. This is not confusing, as it has been for me in other books, but the transitions are not always clear or smooth.

For me, this book was just long. I feel that Mr. Lamb could have written two or more books from all that he covers in this one tome. There really is a lot here, most of it pretty interesting, and definitely an investment of time on the reader's part. But even though Mr. Lamb works hard at bringing the various stories together, I still think there is easily two books contained in this one book.
For those of you who like long, fairly intertwined, interesting books, and/or are a fan of Wally Lamb, this book is for you. I'm still undecided whether this book was for me.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What Our (Lone) Bookshelf Says About Us

Hello All!

Laura Lippman started this: and Andi Shechter continued it: .

Our bookshelf is lonely, and I can hear our boxed books calling from 5 miles away in our storage unit. Ken, my husband, and I moved from Michigan to Arizona about 13 months ago, expecting to only live in what is basically a studio apartment for a few months. Well, I've had some job searching highs and lows, and Ken has changed careers just since we've been here. So here we stay in our studio place with a minimal collection of our books.

Just focusing on my books for the moment; I think my books would say that I like a variety of mystery writers, although I seem to be expanding into other genres and nonfiction. Despite our lack of space, I still go to booksignings and bookstores, both new and used. The books are all jumbled right now, with a book on Grand Canyon Women next to a romance by Dorien Kelly, next to a mystery by Will Thomas, next to 2 titles by Arizona author Nancy E. Turner. Since attending a readers' advisory program where two publisher's reps spoke, I've been a lucky recipient of HarperCollins Advance Reading Copies--talk about a space challenge! Some are boxed to be donated, and in the trunk of my car :).

I will admit to purchasing what will end up being doubles of some of my comfort reads; I just wanted to have them available. I have bought several Charlotte Macleods, Margaret Marons and Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking (which actually may be my 3rd copy of that title).

And there are the series that I haven't read in awhile, or that I want to get caught up on, or that I'm in the middle of--these are some of the others that are packed away. These include series by Peter Robinson, Laura Lippman, Donna Leon, Ellen Byrreum, Shirley Damsgaard, off the top of my head. There are series I'm in the middle of completing for my collection where I don't know what I own and what I don't--if I see something at a used bookstore, I have to hold back, so that I don't end up with too many doubles. And the main title that I'm bummed I packed and didn't leave out is Sean Chercover's Big City, Bad Blood. Yes I could borrow it from the library, but my copy is signed--I want to read that copy ;)! I may cave though, as Sean's up for so many awards at Bouchercon.

Ken's books include natural history, history, Buddism, and some of the ARCs I've received (usually science oriented). We share a collection on Arizona travel, as we want to know as much as possible about our new state. I also have several gardening books for the desert, and a collection of Phoenix and Phoenix Home & Garden magazines, for when we have our own garden.

The shelf also contains some fossils of Ken's, a photo of my grandparents, stationary, a box of birthday cards, and some basic miscellaneous stuff. As I hope to be on a cleaning kick starting Friday, both Laura and Andi have inspired me to be a bit more brutal if I'm not going to read something I haven't read, or I'm not going to reread something (even if it's signed--a really tough thing for me).

I'm also in the process of trying to return library books, and not take any out (very, very hard for me), so that I can read the books that I've taken the time to choose and the money I spent to own. Library books are also allotted some space here--TBR are Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas, Scattershot by Bill Pronzini, Bobbie Faye's Very...Bad Day by Toni Causey, For Whom the Minivan Rolls by Jeffrey Cohen and Deadly Vintage by Elaine Flinn.

Thanks for the inspiration for cleaning, and for this post, Laura and Andi :)! Right now, my bookshelf says I'm a slob :)!!!

Happy Reading!