Friday, March 24, 2017

Gotta-Read List for 2017

YipppEEEEE!!! I'm a-l-m-o-s-t cleared a path (figuratively) to some reading time. I plan to dig in to Wild by Cheryl Strayed this weekend. 

What about you? How's your 2017* must-read list looking? Anything you've checked off, or added, recently? What's the best book you've read so far this year? 

Here are a few others on my Gotta-Read List in 2017:

Ellen Dunham-Jones,  Retrofitting Suburbia

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
humorous essay collection
How We Learn by Benedict Carey -- and a speed-reading recap

The Mermaid's Chair, by Amy Monk Kidd

*hey, let's not judge. Technically it's still the first quarter of 2017...

Want to read something funny and light? Try my essay collection about dogs, life, and other things we generally can't control. Reviewers say it's "laugh out loud funny" and it's under $7. Take a look, you might enjoy it! 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Hemingway's Girl - Hemingway for Beginners?

I thoroughly enjoyed this breezy novel about life on Key West during the depression, a time that sucked a lot of air out of the years between WWI and WWII. But even then, life and love went on, and Hemingway did his thing.

Don't Judge a Book By its Title

When some of Ernest Hemingway's novels were assigned reading (way back when), I'm sorry to say they didn't appeal to me. So - silly as it may seem - ordinarily I would've dismissed this book on title alone. But a recommendation can be a powerful thing, and when a friend raved about the book, I decided to give it a try. Sure am glad I did. (Thanks, Hannah!) 

Now, to be clear, the book is not by Hemingway, but a novel about a young girl's fictional friendship with the author, known to many as "Papa." Like all good historical fiction, bits and pieces of history (actual, not alternative, facts) are plentiful throughout the book. Still, generally, reading anything by or about Hemingway isn't a big draw for me. The good news is that Erika Robuck may have changed my mind about her muse, or perhaps more accurately, reminded me that one's tastes in literature (and life?) can change in a decade or two. Or three.

Florida and the Great Depression

The setting was as vital to the story as the characters, and while I've done some research into what life was like in Florida during WWII, I have read and studied very little about the years leading up to it so learning a bit about that era was a bonus. We may bemoan the current state of politics and worry about the economy, but oh, we've come a long way, baby.

Hemingway, who trained as a newspaper reporter, was no saint. (And no, that was not necessarily redundant). This novel includes his penchant for fighting, drinking, and extramarital affairs.

Key West Setting and Ohio Appeal

The stretch of land (islands, really) that comprises the Florida Keys is golden, grand, hot, sticky, and sunny, almost always. In other words, an appealing setting for an Ohio reader, especially during a gray winter. But I like the nod that the author gave to our often-overlooked change of seasons: 
"God, you haven't lived until you've seen the leaves change color up north.  ... The best part of the snow is the silence. It muffles the world. You've never heard such silence as a nice batch of snow makes."       ~ Erika Robuck, Hemingway's Girl (c) 2012

Who Will Enjoy this Book? 

Fans of Hemingway might - or they might not. Personally, I think it may be a "gateway read" that could convince a non-fan to read some of his works, again, years after they were listed as required on a class syllabus. Whether you're a Hemingway fan or not, this title is an enjoyable light romance and well-written work of historical fiction.

Although it's not a YA, per se, it is appropriate for advanced readers in middle- and high-schools. (Meaning I'd rate it a PG.)


I have also reviewed A Moveable Feast -- about his first marriage -- and didn't like it much either. But, you can be the judge.

Are you a Hemingway fan? Have you ever read his works? I'd love to hear from you! I welcome comments here, and on my Facebook Page.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Life is Good, The Book

Life is Good: The Book by Bert and John Jacobs
Published by the National Geographic Society
(c) 2015
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I'll admit I didn't want the book at first. I assumed it was a collection of feel-good stories, pithy quotes and cute line drawings and nothing very substantive.

I'm glad I read it!

Two Entrepreneurs, One Story

Bert and John Jacobs founded the Life Is Good company by selling t-shirts from a beat-up van. It was before "angel investors" were all over Twitter, before eCommerce was available as a free plug-in for your Wordpress site. The company's start-up phase lasted years. The van was a mess.

In those hustling, hard-working years, they knew they had something...they just didn't know quite what.

   "From the start, we saw the T-shirt as a great vehicle for communication. What you say on the outside says a lot about who you are on the inside. We just needed to figure out what we wanted to say." [p. 62]

They figured it out at a keg party.

It's About Optimism

I won't spoil the how-the-Life-is-Good-company-found-its-niche story, but I will say that you should never underestimate the importance of having awesome friends and parties. The original slogan and drawing that became Life Is Good really was born in a "meeting" of the minds - AKA a late night with lots of friends and beer.

Also, while the company sells t-shirts, the value has more to do with the message on them than the cut, color and (super-soft) cotton they're made of.

Two Entrepreneurs, Many Stories

To their credit, the Jacobs brothers share much but not so much that it's all about them. The book is well-crafted because it shares many related stories, all of which support the whole. And, I have to say some of my initial, pre-conceived notions about the book were accurate. It's packed with graphics, lists and cute pictures. But in a good way - they are not filler, but part of the story.

The Boston Connection

I should've seen it coming, but I didn't. Near the end of the book is a section, just about five pages recounting, recounting the horrible sadness when bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, on Patriots' Day, 2013.

I've had little connection to city where I was born most of my life, but in the past five years or so I've worked regularly, creating and managing content for a marketing firm in Boston.

Managing content is usually a matter of planning and scheduling. Posts are created ahead of time to cover holidays and other special events. But when the world stops, the internet keeps going...and it becomes a place where people turn for news, escape, sanity, solace...whatever they need. So while I was horrified, worried about and hurting for people I worked "with" but only via email and phone lines, and feeling helpless (what could I do?!) i was also trying to help by sharing appropriate nuggets (do we really NEED a Facebook post today?) and more thoughtful blog posts as time went on. Reading about how Life is Good employees gathered together in the immediate aftermath would have been a little painful for anyone; for me, it hit a tad close to home. The good news, of course, is that because the company is built on optimism, the Life is Good team had a little extra resilience.

The follow-up, describing how the company responded with the Nothing is Stronger Than Love design (seen above, on the keyboard where I typed about the bombings) is a textbook example of good PR and good business.

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Who would enjoy this book
It's a good business story; might make a good gift for a recent grad trying to find his or her way in the (corporate world); is easy to read (like on an airplane or beach vacation!) and would certainly be of interest to almost anyone in the Boston, MA area. 
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Full disclosure: I bought the book because I need to upgrade my wardrobe. Most of my t-shirts come from my kids' sports teams and...well, let's just say some of them are ready to move on to the great rag-box in the garage. The book was advertised as part of a T-shirt & book promo package at the Life is Good website, and I'm happy with both my new shirt and the book. If you just want the book (it makes a nice gift!) you can save some $$$ and pick up the book, by itself, from Amazon. 
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Read any good books lately? As always...guest reviewers are welcome! Get in touch in comments on this blog or leave a message on my Facebook Page, Dumb Things We Say to Dogs

Monday, January 23, 2017

Best Books of 2016?

Chris Fralic's list of the "best" business books of 2016 brought some titles to my attention that I feel I really must read. (And made me feel behinder than ever on my 2R list....)

While each entry on his list didn't pique my interest, A Torch Kept Lit, Great Lives of the Twentieth Century sure did. One reviewer describes the book by William F. Buckley, Jr. as "52 obituaries devoted to luminaries from various walks of life—politics, the military, espionage, the world of arts and letters—as well as less prominent but cherished family members and friends."  

As you've probably realized, Fralic's best books of 2016 list didn't include only books that were published last year. Several were new titles, others (like the Buckley book) were published years ago. 

I'm not especially quick to jump on new releases, as there are so many books...and copyright date really has nothing to do with quality! 

At the moment I'm reading Life is Good - The Book ((c) 2015). It's optimism and the entrepreneurial path, as followed by Bert and John Jacobs, founders of the Life Is Good company. It's not quite what I expected -- and that's OK. More about the book later. 

Now, I'd love to hear from you -- what was the best book you read last year? What are you most looking forward to reading this year? 

Please comment below, or get in touch through my fuzzy Facebook Page, Dumb Things We Say to Dogs

Happy reading, all! 

What, no time to read? 
Have you tried a speed reading course
I took a class years ago, and am still reaping the benefits. 
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When I'm not reading, I'm writing. Copywriting, that is. If you're looking for a Marketing Content Manager, you might want to see what I do. I call it Writing That Works

Friday, December 30, 2016

Turning the Page on 2016

Gee, I'd like to say I've been so busy reading that I've fallen behind in my blogging. But, that's not the case. No excuses. In a feeble attempt to catch up, here are a few books I liked, didn't like, and maybe gave up on too soon in 2016. 

I read and liked:

A God in Ruins
The Tipping Point

A Jew in Hitler's Army
The Chocolate War

I read and was disappointed in:

When Breath Becomes Air
Fast Food Nation
A Grief Observed

I skipped the book & went straight to the video: 

Unbroken (Sorry, Kelly.)

What about you? What did you enjoy, what books didn't measure up for you in 2017? Did you love some of the titles that disappointed me? Would love to hear from you, dear readers!

Are you interested in learning more about home remedies?

I tried to eat healthier after reading AntiCancer: A New Way of Life
For more books that will help you get and stay well, naturally, Click here!

Would you read more if you had more time? Have you tried speed reading? I took a course years ago, and it really helped. (I'm probably due for a refresher course...) Anyway, for a proven way to read more, faster, try these.

Are you a speed reading demon and you'd like to show off your talents? Well, by all means, get in touch with me! Guest bloggers are always welcome here. The best way to reach me is via my website or my furry Facebook Page

Friday, November 18, 2016

When Google's Doodle Informs My Reading Choices

Anyone else add Fools Crow to their reading list this morning? 

Thank you, Google, for mentioning it. I have to admit the company often slips me a history lesson, courtesy of the morning doodle. Today's doodle featured author James Welch, a Native American who wrote novels about, among other things, the loss of a culture. 

In a long quest to find and use natural remedies that work better than pharmaceuticals, or at least sans scary side effects, I have often lamented that we likely lost volumes of vital health information when we wiped out the Native American people. 

In a nutshell, Fools Crow is the title character, a young warrior and medicine man living in Montana with a small band of Blackfeet Indians. And, now, thanks to the Google doodle, it's on my (damn long) 2R list. 

Image crecdit: Google, 11-18-2016

PS: In case you still question the value of having a blog, consider: Google has one.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Ohio Authors, Reading Labels, and Ramblings

So imagine my excitement when I realized acclaimed MG/YA author Shelley Pearsall will be seated just a few tables away at the Buckeye Book Fair next month! I have to admit I didn't realize Pearsall was an Ohio author. It was a nice surprise, especially given my youngest has read a few of her titles. (Which, not surprisingly, means that I have too.)

MG book cover The Seventh Most Important Thing Most recently we've read The Seventh Most Important Thing, the much-acclaimed book about redemption and anger, two things most teens struggle with - though thankfully not to the extent of the main character.

Labels, Labels

Having done some research into "reluctant" readers in the past, I was a bit surprised to find The Seventh Most Important Thing was labeled for "them." It made me wonder, how do we determine who is a reluctant reader in 2016? Goodness, it's hard to concentrate when you're 13 and have a cell phone in your hand (or back pocket) and all your friends are watching (or making) YouTube videos.

Also, I've been perplexed about the "reluctant" label because both my kids, who read and comprehend above grade level and score high for vocabulary could be, I think, labeled as reluctant readers. And yet both go through spurts of serious reading. And, when they find a book they like, both are nearly over-zealous in recommending it.

If any reading teachers would like to explain, I WELCOME YOUR HELP!
(Want to guest blog here? Please get in touch!!)

Trouble Don't Last

Round tuitThe next Pearsall book on my 2R list is Trouble Don't Last. Confession: it's been on my 2R list for a lonnnnnnnnng time. I may have to move it up my list just because I'll have a chance to meet the author soon. But, in case I don't get a round tuit, maybe you'd like to review it?

If your answer is yes, please contact me in comments here, through my website, or slap a message on my Facebook Page about dogs and essays and writing and life and other stuff I don't understand.

Yay! Ohio Authors!
Buckeye Book Fair 2016

In case you'd like to meet Shelley Pearsall, or me, or any of 98 other Ohio authors who published books in 2015 or early 2016, you just might have to go to the Buckeye Book Fair, held Saturday November 5 on the Wooster College campus.

Cleveland's favorite Man of Mystery, Les Roberts, will be there, as will super sports writers and commentators like Terry Pluto and Dan Coughlin, Tom Batiuk, Ohio's funkiest cartoonist, me, and a couple of guys who are really serious about mushrooms.

Hope to see you there! (Download the brochure here.)

Keep reading, my friends.