Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bookshelf, Library Bag, or Donation Box

In Bookshelf, Library Bag or Donation Box, our Tators give their verdict on the books they read, whether they're keepers for the shelves, one you borrow from your local library, or just give to your local used bookstore. 

Elizabeth Arnold's The Book of Secrets starts when Chloe Sinclair finds Nate, her husband of more than twenty years, gone. She find a cryptic note that explains he's gone back to their childhood town where a tragedy made them leave. She finds a notebook inside a copy of a favorite book of their youth written in a code she recognizes from those times. As she starts breaking the code, Chloe is taken down the path of their past, from the moment Chloe meets Nate and his sisters, Grace and Cecilia, the summers of reckless dares, and the unusually courtship of Nate and Chloe, to the birth of their son and the tragedy that happens to make them leave their hometown. The closer Chloe gets to the buried secrets, the more her life is spun out of control. 

Right away, I was intrigued by this book. As a self-diagnosed bibliophile, any stories about fellow bookish people makes me feel a kinship. I half fell in love with Chloe's and Nate's bookstore, even though I could feel from the beginning all was not well in their lives. The connection Chloe and Nate have with books is incredible. Their first meeting is over The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which cinches the bond they have through their entire lives. I also was fascinated with the idea of using code from books that had impacted their lives. 

This book is not a lighthearted romance of a husband and wife trying to find their way back to each other after some silly mix up. Nor is it a simple mystery of where Nate went. It's an emotional journey. Reading the parts about the Sinclair's father, who was more than a strict taskmaster, I felt for these children, who were not even allowed to play with their dollhouse, because it meant that they were sinful for having an imagination. Nate and Chloe's marriage is not perfect, but you find yourself rooting for them, none the less. I wouldn't say I saw the ending coming, but I will say it wasn't a shock. That being said, I don't feel like the ending was ruined for me at all; rather, I appreciated the way it was not a complete happy ever after, but a work in progress.

The Verdict

Bookshelf: I was hooked from the beginning and never lost interest in the story. That says a lot for me, especially lately when it doesn't seem like it takes much for me to become distracted. I'm not sure who to recommend it to, however. People who like reading stories about characters who like books, for one. I think I would also recommend it to those who know a marriage is never perfect, that even though some feel broken, they aren't always beyond repair. 

*Galley was received for review purposes from

Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday @ the Forums

Every Friday we check out our forums and let you know what the most popular threads are.

Source: Jared Fagan

Self Promotion Thread - In answer to the influx of members who are coming on to sell their blogs, books, proofing business, we created this thread. Please help us out and keep your self promotion to this thread.

Character Attachment - This one isn't new, but it could use a revival. An interesting topic and one serious bibliophiles struggle with all the time.

August Book Poll - We posted this before, but it seemed one of our books, John Brown's Body, didn't meet the group's criteria (it was poetry) and sneaked in. So it's been replaced with Lewis Sinclair's Main Street. Get your votes in!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mom Says/Kid Says

Courtesy: Goodreads
Welcome to the May edition of Mom Says/Kid Says where I as a mother read a book with my four year old son, Sammy, and we review it together. This month, we review And the Winner is...Amazing Animal Athletes written by Etta Kaner and illustrated by David Anderson. 

Mom Says

This 36 page book contains facts about animals which are presented as an Olympic event called World Animal Games (that's WAG for short). The story is quite witty and contains many puns. 

A walrus and a cockatoo provide insightful commentary as we witness sporting events performed by animals and even humans. The format is as follows: first an event is described, such as a high jump. Second, we are given a description of the contenders, such as a puma and a flea. Third, the event actually takes place (we watch them jump) Fourth, the winner is announced along with facts as to why that animal was victorious. For example, fleas would win a high jump because they have a rubber pad a move their legs which stores energy to make them proficient jumpers. Fifth, the human then competes just to see how they would measure up to the animals in that sporting event. Spoiler Alert…The humans never win!

Kid Says

My son prefers fiction books with a story line such as the Little Critter series by Mercer Mayer. It was fun for him to see the animals as the illustrations were great and to see their pictures, learn their names, and discover a small fact about them. For example, he didn't know that a flea's food is blood!


Library Bag. When my son is older and shows more interest in non-fiction, I may move it to bookshelf. But for now, it is going in my library bag. 

*Mrs. Hoffman and son were provided with a free copy from

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Book Association

In Book Association, we look at our book group's monthly selection and find you other novels that meet a particular theme we find in it. This month's book is Anna Karenina. Last week, we covered Love Triangles. This week will be Pen Translation Award winners. Originally written in Russian, Anna won in 2002. Here are some other winners.

Kafka on the Shore - This exercise in magical reality about a young boy who runs away from home and experiences a mysterious odyssey won in 2006 when it was translated from its original Japanese.

Foucault's Pendulum -Italian in origin and winning in 1990, this novel is about a group of editors who create a scam that connects the Knights of Templar to other occult groups, both ancient and modern, but turns deadly when the occults start getting involved.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer - Translated from French and won in 1987, Jean-Baptiste is born with an extremely keen sense of smell that soon turns from gift to curse.

Any other PEN Award winners you can think of that you'd like to share?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tator Tuesdays

Every week we interview our Tators and ask them bookish questions. This week's question:

Who is your favorite author?

Source: Goodreads
If I have to only pick one right now, it would be Patrick Ness

Source: Goodreads
I love books that challenge us as readers -- that challenge the way we think and view the world around us. I think that Mark Twain did that brilliantly through his use of satire.

Source: Goodreads
Malcolm Gladwell. I’m a sucker for statistics.

Source: Goodreads

Source: Goodreads
To just pick one? I'm really getting into John Steinbeck lately.

Source: Goodreads
V.C Andrews. The original author, not the ghost writer.

Who are some of your favorite authors? 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Literary Loot

Heather's Literary Loot for April
It doesn't look like much, but I promise you -- this bunch makes me feel like I've won the lottery. I really enjoy attending book events where the author gives a talk, participates in a question and answer period, and then holds a signing. Signed books are the Holy Grail for me.

On Wednesday the 17th, I took a trip down to the Commonwealth Club of California to hear Mary Roach discuss her new book, Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal. Roach is smart and witty and wildly entertaining. She also discussed her writing process as well as her other books. To hear audio from the event, click here. While I hadn't yet purchased Gulp, I did happen to bring my copy of Stiff -- the book that introduced me to her funny and informative writing style that has made her famous. She spoke with me briefly and signed my book (pictured bottom, far right).

A week later, on Wednesday the 24th, I headed over to the World Affairs Council of Northern California to hear Shannon O'Neil share her thoughts on Mexico--U.S. relations and talk about her new book, Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, The United States, and the Road Ahead. The topic of Latin America -- U.S. relations is close to my heart as I graduated with my degree in Latin American and Latino Studies and Politics. I was curious to hear O'Neil's perspectives on the hotbed issues such as politics, immigration, drugs, and violence that dominate the discussions surrounding Mexico and the United States. She kindly signed my book after the event (pictured bottom, center).

Over the weekend, I popped into two local shops: Bookshop West Portal and Two Cats Comic Book Store. At Two Cats, I picked up Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese. It looked interesting and I liked the style. Two Cats has a nice amount of non-superhero comics and that keeps me coming back. Down the street, I headed into Bookshop West Portal in search of Kevin Smokler's Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven't Touched Since High School. There's been a lot of buzz around this place because Smokler will be joining some of the Tators for an upcoming podcast. I found the last copy of his book hidden in the back of the store in the reference section (pictured, bottom far left). It also seemed to sport his signature, but the sales lady wasn't able to verify. That led to the following Twitter encounter: 
Author Smokler verified his signature in my book via Twitter!
I definitely got more than I bargained for when I picked up Practical Classics -- but in a very good way! 

Not pictured: a digital copy of Tina Fey's Bossypants -- purchased for $0.99 on Amazon (promotion has ended).

Ep #11 Brave New World

Episode 11 starts off with Tators Karena, Jeane and Jared chattering about crepes and burping garlic then move on to forum news and chat about databases, the Harper Lee lawsuit and weird things customers say to booksellers. They share their bookmarks before jumping into the discussion of Brave New World and Aldous Huxley. Wrapping up the podcast is the announcement of July's book as well as setting up the selections for August.

Source: Jared Fagan

Where's My Bookmark?

  • Anna Karenina
  • Room
  • The Astonishing Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl
  • Click
  • Atlas Shrugged
  • The Langauge of Flowers
  • Lamb

Websites we Mention:

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bookshelf, Library Bag, or Donation Box


In Raising Cain:Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, child psychologists Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson discuss the emotional education of boys. Through case studies, many facts and citations, this book suggests that schools, parents, and society overall do not foster the emotional growth of boys which causes long lasting issues such as anger, aggression, or depression. They describe a society that expects both too much and too little of boys. For instance, their actions are dismissed too easily by parents and teachers as "Well, that's just boys being boys." On the other hand, boys are held to the impossible and unfair standards of masculinity in which they are not allowed to express emotional vulnerability such as sadness or hurt.

I agree with the concept that there is a lack of emotional development for children in society, but not just with boys. There are many parents who do not foster their children's emotional growth and development, be it sons or daughters. There is often a greater value placed on academic achievement over emotional development. Some parents, for example, may care that the child reads for 45 minutes a night or does exceptionally well at school. However, what they miss is the fact that school does not teach the child how to manage his or her emotions, and this is where all parents must become teachers. 

The book does not give the reader specific instructions. Instead of being a "how to" book, I found it to be more conceptual in nature. It is more of an eye opener to the way society acts and reacts to boys and shows how we must rise above cultural stereotypes for the sake of our children. I think if the readers understand the message, they will in fact be better equipped to understand boys and help them to become emotionally stable men. 


Bookshelf: In conclusion, I recommend if you are a parent of a boy or a teacher, that you keep this on your bookshelf. Kindlon and Thompson go through the different stages of a boy's life and the different emotions they can experience and how you can best support them. I do think if you are looking into this book to begin with, you must already be a pretty good parent or teacher and this can only enhance your relationship with that special boy in your life. For further reading about parenting and managing your child's emotions, I would recommend What Do You Really Want For Your Children? by Dr. Wayne Dyer.  

Book It: Events for Bibliophiles

Welcome to this week's edition of Book It: Events for Bibliophiles. Did you attend any literary events last week? If so, please let us know in the comment section.

If you would like to see events listed in your area or your book event mentioned in future posts, please contact me via email at: heather[dot]varanini[at]gmail[dot]com.

Here are your events for the week of May 6th through May 12th:

Monday May 6th

Kevin Powers -- The Yellow Birds

Event: Author Kevin Powers shares from his new book, Yellow Birds.

Click here for more information. 

Time: 7pm
Location: Copperfield's Books -- Montgomery Village
775 Village Court
Santa Rosa, CA
Cost: Free

Venezuela in the Post Chávez Era

Event: Rory Carroll, US West Coast Bureau Chief for The Guardian, will be speaking about his new book -- Comandante: Inside Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.

Click here to learn more about the event and purchase tickets.

Time: 7pm - 8pm
Location: World Affairs Council of Northern California
312 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA
Cost: $15 nonmembers/$5 students

Tuesday May 7th

Mark Bittman -- Vb6

Event: Author Mark Bittman, famous for his How to Cook Everything books, comes to share his experience on becoming a vegan and getting healthy.

Click this link for more information.

Time: 12:30pm
Location: Book Passage
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA
Cost: Free

Word/Play: Shenanigans of the Highest Brow

Event: Put your literary knowledge to good use in this fun game. Panelists this month include Esther Inglis-Arkell, Colin Winnette, Jenni Holm, Pireeni Sundaralingam, Isaac Fitzgerald, and Phil Cousineau.

Click here for more information and to purchase tickets. 

Time: 7pm - 9pm
Location: The Booksmith
1644 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA
Cost: $15 (for pizza, open bar, and gameplay)

Wednesday May 8th

Literary Luncheon: Rita Moreno  - Rita Moreno: A Memoir

Event: Come and hear Tony, Emmy, Grammy, and Oscar award-winner, Rita Moreno, discuss her memoir. She will be telling stories from her journey -- from a young Puerto Rican girl to the silver screen.

To learn more and purchase tickets, click here

Time: 12pm
Location: Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista Blvd.
Corte Madera, CA
Cost: $55 (includes lunch and a signed copy of the book)

Celebrate Michelle Tea's Latest Book

Event: Join McSweeny's in celebrating the release of Michelle Tea's first young adult novel! There will be a lot of fun food and activities. 

Click here to purchase tickets and learn more about details about the event.

Time: 7pm - 9pm
Location: The Secret Alley
180 Capp Street
San Francisco, CA
Cost: $20 (Includes a copy of Mermaids in Chelsea Creek, food, cocktails, fortune teller services, and a raffle ticket)

Thursday May 9th

Jeremy Scahill's War on War

Event: Jeremy Scahill, reporter for The Nation, discusses his new book Dirty Wars.

Click here to learn more about the program and purchase tickets.

Time: 6pm check-in/6:30pm program/7:30pm signing
Location: Commonwealth Club of California
595 Market Street
San Francisco, CA
Cost: $20 nonmembers/$12 members/$7 students 

Bubbles & Bivalves with Andrew Beahrs

Event: Andrew Beahrs, author of Twain's Feast: Searching for America's Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens, will be joining Aquarium of the Bay in a fundraising effort for The Watershed Project. Bubbles & Bivalves will also be featuring some of the best food and wine from the Bay Area.

To purchase tickets and learn more about the event, please click here

Time: 7pm - 10pm
Location: Aquarium of the Bay
Pier 39
San Francisco, CA
Cost: $60 - $120

Friday May 10th

James Kennedy at Books Inc. Laurel Village

Event: Meet author James Kennedy and listen to him share from his new book, The Order of Odd-Fish.

Click here to learn more about the event.

Time: 6:30pm
Location: Books Inc. Laurel Village
3515 California Street
San Francisco, CA
Cost: Free

City Arts & Lectures Presents Fran Lebowitz

Event: Satirist Fran Lebowitz will be discussing her work in conversation with Steven Winn.

To learn more about the event and to purchase tickets, please click here.  

Time: 7:30pm
Location: Nourse Theatre
275 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA
Cost: $30

Saturday May 11th

Jim Gaffigan signing -- Dad is Fat

Event: Author and comedian, Jim Gaffigan, will be sharing from his new book, Dad is Fat.

Click here for more information. 

Time: 12:30pm
Location: Book Passage
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA
Cost: Free

Josh Farrar -- A Song for Bijou

Event: Author Josh Farrar discusses his new book, A Song for Bijou.

Click here to learn more about the event.

Time: 7pm
Location: Book Passage Corte Madera
51 Tamal Vista Blvd.
Corte Madera, CA
Cost: Free 

Sunday May 12th -- Mother's Day!

Marc Maron

Event: Author and comedian Marc Maron shares from his memoir, Attempting Normal.

Lear more about the event by clicking here.

Time: 7:30pm
Location: Powell's City of Books
1005 W Burnside
Portland, OR
Cost: Free