Saturday, January 23, 2010


I went to the PX today after I dropped my son off at his job at church. On Saturdays, while Evan is working, I usually treat myself to a hot chocolate from Cinnabon (and maybe a 4-pack of the cini-minis or whatever they call them) and sit in the food court and read for a while. Once I'm done, I wander into the PX and browse for a while. Today I wanted to get the Glee 2 soundtrack, and I was hoping to find some Valentine decorations to hang from the ceiling in our kindergarten classroom. On my way into the PX, I noticed an author sitting at a table just outside the entrance. I smiled at her and went ahead with my shopping.

On the way out, I walked past the author again, and again I smiled. Then I had the impulse to stop and talk to her. I often think about how awful it must be to be there with a book to sell, and have people just walk by and not buy. So I asked her about her books (she had three titles for sale), and I ended up buying one, which she very nicely autographed for me. The book was Only Time Can Tell, and the author was Lisa Dumas Harris. She was really nice, and I'm looking forward to reading her book. She's a local author, from Richmond Hill, I think, which made it doubly important to support her.

This led me to think about something that happened when Harold and I were first married. I had the chance to meet Dorothy Garlock, who was doing a book signing, and I think it was her husband who tried to get me to go over and meet her and buy a copy of her book and have it autographed. I just couldn't do it. I really don't remember why I felt so reluctant, but I think it was because I was afraid I would turn into a gibbering idiot and be another one of those people who babble to successful authors about the book they're writing that will never see the inside of a publishing house. If I had it to do over again, I would totally go over and talk to her.

Later in my marriage, when I was managing a Reader's Market (the book department inside Kmart), I hosted several book signings: Robert Cormier, R. A. Salvatore, R. Patrick Gates, and Rick Hautala (who showed up during my maternity leave, but I made sure to go by and get a couple of books signed). I just now realized that all my authors had R names. Don't know what that means, but it's kind of interesting. Anyway, Robert Cormier was the most gracious man and was wonderfully encouraging. He told me when he got stuck in a manuscript, he would introduce a new character and see where things went. He was truly a lovely person, and I was sad when he died.

R. Patrick Gates and Rick Hautala both write horror stories. I don't recall us selling tons of their books. R. A. Salvatore was really nice. He hadn't yet become the huge phenomenon he is now, but he had several books under his belt and was enjoying being a published author. He talked a lot about his kids and laughed at me (in the nicest way) because I didn't know how to pronounce DelGiudice, which is a fairly common name in Fitchburg, Mass. It's very cool to walk into stores now and see Bob's books taking up so much shelf space and think I got to meet him way back when.

It was also during my Kmart days when I got to meet my idol, LaVyrle Spencer. Being a store manager, I received an invitation to have tea at the Ritz in Boston with LaVyrle, and I was allowed to bring a guest. I couldn't decide who to bring, because my sister-in-law Nancy loved LaVyrle's books as much as I did, but I also wanted to bring my aunt, Posey, to return the many kindnesses she's done for me over the years. I called the publisher, and they said I was welcome to bring an extra guest.

The three of us dressed in our nicest clothes and had a wonderful time. The tea was lovely, and it was so awesome to meet LaVyrle and her husband. The only dark note was when I asked her about Romantic Times magazine, which was relatively new at the time. LaVyrle's eyes snapped, and she said she did NOT want to talk about it. I don't remember anything more specific than that, but I did feel a bit chagrined. At that time, LaVyrle's novel Morning Glory was being made into a movie, and she told us that Peter Weller (AKA RoboCop) was being cast as the hero. He looked exactly like her description of Will, and I thought it was perfect casting. I was not best pleased to find out that Christopher Reeve ended up playing the role. I never did get to see the movie, and I've looked for it from time to time, but it's apparently quite hard to find. Since LaVyrle ended up retiring from the writing business, I guess that makes the movie even more rare.

I've met other authors over the years, and interviewed several during my tenure as a reviewer at, including Sandra Brown (who was warm and wonderful) and Beverly Lewis (as inspiring to write about as her books are to read). I met Alex Haley and got his autograph way back when I was in college. (I still have it!) He was a very engaging speaker, and I waited quite a long time for a moment of his time and attention. What I've carried away from it all is that it's really hard to be a fledgling author making a name for yourself, and it would be my worst nightmare to be sitting alone at a table wishing and hoping people would stop by and chat and maybe even buy a book. Once you're established, you have so much more control over the situation, but everything you do and/or say means so much more to the person you're talking to, and you really have to be thoughtful and courteous so people don't take away a negative impression. I think sometimes people forget that it was their fans who put them in the big leagues.

I hope I'll be in a position someday soon to have to keep that in mind.

Happy trails!

Friday, January 22, 2010


I've been looking through my reading log this month, and what I saw startled me a bit. I read about 150 books a year, give or take a dozen. (No, that's not the startling part!) What surprised me was that I tend to read the same authors over and over. I thought I was a more eclectic reader than that, so it was unsettling to see how often I gravitate back to the same writers.

Of course there are the obvious culprits, those authors who are blessedly prolific, like Nora Roberts/J. D. Robb--well, actually, I guess there's no one else quite like the Queen--she is an entity unto herself! Still, authors like Christina Dodd, Kelley Armstrong, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and others keep me coming back for more.

This week, I finished Liar by Justine Larbalestier. Now, I wouldn't exactly call her one of my favorite authors, but I find her books inherently intriguing, especially this one, about a girl who is a pathological liar with a very unusual problem. The thing is, this book grabbed me and kept me all the way through, but I'm still scratching my head over the ending, which I think is exactly what JL was going for when she wrote it. So I guess she is one of my favorite authors, because her books always leave me thinking.

My current read is Ivy by Julie Hearn. It's a book for teens, but it seems like an amalgam of A Little Princess, anything by Dickens, and possibly Slammerkin or The Dress Lodger. I'm always up for a heartrending orphan story, but I have no idea where this one is going to take me. I'm enjoying the ride, er, read.

Putting books up for sale at has been fairly lucrative of late. Since my husband retired from the army last June (2009), he has not found another job. His retirement pay doesn't stretch quite far enough for him to remain unemployed for much longer, but of course this economy is about as bad as it can be for job hunters. So I do my regular job, my side job, and find other ways to make money, like selling my books. Considering how many thousands of books I have, and the snail-like pace at which I read, it makes some sense to try to sell them, because I probably won't live long enough to read them, anyway.

I'm going to stop here and go eat dinner, but I wanted to post something and keep my blog active on a regular basis this year.

Happy trails!

Saturday, January 16, 2010


January so far has been a really good reading month, with lots of interesting books. I've finished 10 books this month, and have several others in varying states of reading progress. I like to finish a book every other day, so I'm a couple of days ahead of schedule. I don't have really strong impressions of some of the books, but I'll share my thoughts, such as they are.

True Love and Other Disasters, by Rachel Gibson--This was about a former exotic dancer/Playboy bunny who marries a wealthy old guy. When he dies, he leaves her his hockey team. The old guy's son is a nasty piece of work who wants to buy the team from his erstwhile stepmother, but he gets in her face once too often and she decides she'll keep the team for herself. Unfortunately, she and the team captain take an immediate dislike to each other, but their animosity soon turns to attraction.

I really enjoyed this book--it reminded me of Susan Elizabeth Phillips's Chicago Stars books. However, I was kind of bugged by some of the details in the book, especially about Faith's clothing and nail polish. As a former exotic dancer trying to go conservative, I found the constant references to short red nails a bit off-putting, because someone who switches to a basic neutral palette in her clothing would probably wear less obvious colors of nail polish. Also, sometimes the footwear sounded kind of tacky and stripperish, and I could never tell if the author meant to show that Faith hadn't quite absorbed a less flamboyant presentation or if she wanted to show that sometimes the wild girl has to escape the confines of her beige life. Other than those minor quibbles, it was a fun, satisfying read.

What I Did for Love, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips--It's always a treat to read SEP, and I enjoyed this story of a child TV star who finds herself married, Vegas-style, to her former co-star, a somewhat dissipated has-been who seems intent on arranging for a reunion show to earn some money. Of course his motives turn out to be a bit more altruistic, and there's really a decent guy under that bad-boy exterior. SEP keeps the action moving and the plot twists turning with her usual flair.

Certain Poor Shepherds, by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas--This slight Christmas tale seems like a book I SHOULD like because it's kind of serious and literary, but I just didn't love it. This is the story of a dog and a goat and the flock of sheep they tend, who follow the star to Bethlehem and have some adventures along the way, including encounters with angels and the three Wise Men. Probably someone more serious-minded than I would enjoy it more.

Getting Lucky, by Elaine Barbieri--I was actually somewhat disappointed with this story, because it was all a little too pat and relied on stock characters to tell the story. The heroine was orphaned while on a wagon train to California and had to walk the rest of the journey after her parents died. The book blurb tells us the heroine's virtue is at stake, but you never really get a sense that she's in any real danger, despite the best efforts of the villain and the jealous other woman (who is a saloon hall hooker). Everything was telegraphed well before anything actually happened, and there was just a bit too much mustache-twirling and gnashing of teeth to make a truly engaging read.

Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George--This was a very unique fairy tale about a girl who is offered as a sacrifice to a most unwilling dragon. She coaxes him into giving her a pair of shoes, which are coveted by an evil princess who is engaged to the heir to the throne of the girl's kingdom. The story was original, and it was a very enjoyable read, with some excellent themes.

Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery, by Eric Ives--This book was very scholarly in nature, as the author's intent was to delve through legend and letters to get to the real reason why Jane Grey, the person most innocent in the plot to put her on the throne of England in lieu of her devoutly Catholic cousin, Mary, was put to death. It was pretty dry reading in places, but thoroughly researched and eminently convincing in its conclusions.

Early Dawn, by Catherine Anderson--The heroine of this story is kidnapped from a train during a robbery by a band of outlaw brothers who molest and abuse her while preserving her virginity as they intend to sell her to a Mexican bordello. After several days of captivity, the heroine is rescued by a man who's been pursuing the brothers for years in serach of vengeance for his wife's rape and murder by these same villains. Most of the book consists of the hero and heroine trailing and/or evading the outlaws while they wait for the heroine's brothers to catch up with them and take her home. The heroine's strength of character was very appealing, and the hero's heartache was touching. Anderson has added another winner to her long list of successful books.

The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold--I don't know what took me so long to get to this one, but it was definitely my kind of book. I wanted to read it before I see the movie, which opened this weekend. Susie Salmon is a captivating narrator/heroine, and the ripple effect her murder has on the rest of her family is heartbreaking and encouraging at the same time. Anyone who's lost a loved one to a murderer will find this book heartfelt and accurate in its depiction of the isolation grief causes the survivors of crime victims. I hope the movie does the book justice.

Kissing the Countess, by Susan King--It took me months to get into this book, but once it finally caught me, it held me until I finished it. Catriona is a minister's daughter who collects old songs from her Scottish Highland home to preserve them before they're lost to the clearances (when Scottish lords moved families out of their homes and cleared the land to raise sheep for maximum profit and minimum outlay). While returning from a trip to gather yet another song, she comes across an injured man. As the weather gets treacherous, they seek shelter in an abandoned hut, where they're found by Catriona's father, the local doctor, and the mysterious man's friend. Forced into marriage, Catriona learns that her husband is the new laird, whose father was responsible for moving so may people out of their homes. The subplot involving the doctor was a little nebulous and stretched belief at times, but overall, the book was interesting.

Princess Ben, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock--This was another good fairy tale, about a somewhat spoiled princess whose uncle, the king, is murdered along with her mother, while her father is missing and presumed dead. Ben ends up being groomed for the throne by her very strict aunt, the king's widow. This story incorporated elements from lots of familiar fairy tales, but combined them in a unique and compelling way. I definitely want to read more by this author, and recommend this book to all fairy tale fans.

Well, that's it so far for this month. I've read lots of new storybooks with my kindergarten classes, and have listed those titles on my shelf at I hope to have lots more books to report on by the end of the month. Happy reading!

Sunday, January 03, 2010


The Last Book in the Universe--Rodman Philbrick
Dracula--Bram Stoker, read by Susan Adams and Alexander Spencer
Sundays at Tiffany's--James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet
The Outlaw Demon Wails--Kim Harrison
And Baby Makes Six--Linda Markowiak
Lucy Gets Her Life Back--Stef Ann Holm
Lean Mean Thirteen--Janet Evanovich
Peace Like a River--Elaine Schulte
Maida's Little Shop--Inez Haynes Irwin (ebook)
Plum Lucky--Janet Evanovich
The Pagan Stone--Nora Roberts
A Cedar Cove Christmas--Debbie Macomber
Worth More Dead--Ann Rule

Just Between Friends--Sandra Steffen
The Great GIlly Hopkins--Katherine Paterson
Snowy Night with a Stranger--Jane Feather, Sabrina Jeffries, Julia London
To the Brink--Cindy Gerard
Christmas, Present--Jacquelyn Mitchard
The Prophet of Yonwood--Jeanne DuPrau
Seduce Me at Sunrise--Lisa Kleypas
The Empty Mirror--James Lincoln Collier
Saying Grace--Beth Gutcheon
Poison--Chris Wooding

One Little Sin--Liz Carlyle
To Tame a Texan's Heart--Jodi Thomas
Griffin's Castle--Jenny Nimmo
Don't Say a Word--Barbara Freethy
Miracle's Boys--Jacqueline Woodson

Fat Chance--Deborah Blumenthal
At Twilight--Maggie Shayne
Sean Donovan--Lori Wick
Blue Christmas--Mary Kay Andrews
Palace of Mirrors--Margaret Peterson Haddix
Salvation in Death--J. D. Robb
Promises in Death--J. D. Robb
From Dead to Worse--Charlaine Harris
Star Bright--Catherine Anderson
Stories for the Extreme Teen's Heart--compiled by Alice Gray
Only with a Highlander--Janet Chapman
Under a Lucky Star--Diane Farr
A Family Christmas--Carrie Alexander

Heart Fate--Robin D. Owens
Alone in the Ice World--MaryAnn Easley
The Revelation--Beverly Lewis
The Gunslinger--Stephen King
Hattie Big Sky--Kirby Larson
The Drawing of the Three--Stephen King
Night of the Loving Dead--Casey Daniels
Jessie--Lori Wick
Stuart Little--E. B. White

Tribute--Nora Roberts
Magic's Child--Justine Larbalestier
Living with the Dead--Kelley Armstrong
Men of the Otherworld--Kelley Armstrong
Fearless Fourteen--Janet Evanovich
Waiting for Normal--Leslie Connor
What I Saw and How I Lied--Judy Blundell
Ashes to Ashes--Tami Hoag (audiobook)
Dead Over Heels--Charlaine Harris
Savvy--Ingrid Law
Christmas Letters--Debbie Macomber
Lavender Morning--Jude Deveraux
The Waste Lands--Stephen King
Tall, Dark, and Texan--Jodi Thomas
Once Smitten, Twice Shy--Lori Wilde
Power Play--Deirdre Martin
Everything She Ever Wanted--Ann Rule

Princess of the Midnight Ball--Jessica Day George
Under the Banner of Heaven--Jon Krakauer (audiobook)
Grave Sight--Charlaine Harris
An Ice Cold Grave--Charlaine Harris
After Midnight--Teresa Medeiros
Numbering All the Bones--Ann Rinaldi
Charlotte's Choice--Cathleen Twomey
The Christmas Hope--Donna Van Liere
How to Ditch Your Fairy--Justine Larbalestier
Heart Quest--Robin D. Owens
Vision in White--Nora Roberts
Swept Away--Candace Camp (audiobook)
The Lost World--Michael Crichton, read by Anthony Heald
Book of a Thousand Days--Shannon Hale
Lock and Key--Sarah Dessen
The Summoning--Kelley Armstrong
The Princess and the Hound--Mette Ivie Harrison

Grave Surprise--Charlaine Harris
The Time Traveler's Wife--Audrey Niffenegger
Love Is Blind--Lynsay Sands
A Curse Dark as Gold--Elizabeth C. Bunce
Finger Lickin' Fifteen--Janet Evanovich
The Awakening--Kelley Armstrong

Runaway--Bobbi Smith
Guardian of Honor--Robin D. Owens
Catching Fire--Suzanne Collins
The Runaway McBride--Elizabeth Thornton
This Lullaby--Sarah Dessen
The Darkest Whisper--Gena Showalter
Red's Hot Honky-Tonk Bar--Pamela Morsi
The Forgotten Man--Robert Crais, read by James Daniels
Christmas Revels--Mary Jo Putney
Bathtub Voyages: Tales of Adventure--Scott Foresman
The Big Blank Piece of Paper: Artists at Work--Scott Foresman
Personal Demon--Kelley Armstrong
A Babe in Ghostland--Lisa Cach
The Honorable Midwife--Lilian Darcy
Garden Spells--Sarah Addison Allen
True Believer--Nicholas Sparks

Tennyson--Lesley M. M. Blume
Stolen Children--Peg Kehret
Breathe: A Ghost Story--Cliff McNish
Impossible--Nancy Werlin
The Miss America Family--Julianna Baggott
Trouble in High Heels--Christina Dodd
Tongue in Chic--Christina Dodd
Lenore, the Cute Little Dead Girld: Cooties! (Issues 9-12)--Roman Dirge
Danger in a Red Dress--Christina Dodd
Storm of Visions--Christina Dodd
Baby Be Mine--Diane Fanning
Conard County: Cowboy Comes Home--Rachel Lee
Simply Perfect--Mary Balogh
Storm of Shadows--Christina Dodd
The Glass Castle--Jeannette Walls

You're So Vein--Christine Warren
Bed of Roses--Nora Roberts
Bitsy's Bait & BBQ--Pamela Morsi
Chesapeake Blue--Nora Roberts, read by James Daniels
Hard Day's Night--Katie McAlister
Assignment: Rescue, An Autobiography--Varian Fry
When the Duke Returns--Eloisa James
This Duchess of Mine--Eloisa James
Zenda: A New Dimension--Ken Petti and John Amodeo
Just the Way You Are--Barbara Freethy
A Christmas Scandal--Jane Goodger
Hapily After All--Laura C. Stevenson
Destined for an Early Grave--Jeaniene Frost
I'll Be Home for Christmas--Linda Lael Miller et al
The Millionaires--Brad Meltzer, read by Tony Goldwyn
They Cage the Animals at Night--Jennings Michael Burch
Sooner or Later--Debbie Macomber

Land of the Living--Nicci French, read by Anne Flosnik
Lover's Knot--Emilie Richards
Secondhand Bride--Linda Lael Miller
If Wishes Were Horses--Anne McCaffrey
Jumbo: This Being the True Story of the Greatest Elephant in the World--Paul Chambers
Dead and Gone--Charlaine Harris
Stormbreaker--Anthony Horowitz
Call Me Princess--Tomoko Taniguchi
Tall, Dark, and Dangerous--Catherine Anderson, Christina Dodd, and Susan Sizemore
A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity--Bill O'Reilly
Gifts of Love--Kay Hooper and Lisa Kleypas
Amelia Earhart: Adventure in the Sky--Francene Sabin
Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller--Sarah Miller
White Witch, Black Curse--Kim Harrison
The Rescue--Nicholas Sparks, read by Mary Beth Hurt and John Belford Lloyd
Holidays Are Hell--Kim Harrison, Lynsay Sands, Marjorie M. Liu, and Vicki Pettersson
Sucker Bet--Erin McCarthy
The Better Part of Darkness--Kelly Gay
Mistletoe & Magic--Lisa Cach, Stobie Piel, Lynsay Sands, and Amy Elizabeth Saunders

157 Books; 46,439Pages; Average page per book: 296 pages