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Thursday, May 25, 2017

My Seven-Year Itch Has Been Scratched

The Seven Year Itch by George Axelrod (on WildmooBooks.com)
The Seven Year Itch by George Axelrod, 1955

Greetings Everyone!

After writing here at Blogger for seven years, I've decided to scratch the itch I've had for some time and have moved the blog over to WordPress. At this time, it looks like all the archived content made it over to the new site, which also has a search option if you're looking for anything from the past.

I'm still blogging under the name WildmooBooks.


What does this change mean for you, Dear Reader?


👉  If you have this blog bookmarked as wildmoobooks.blogspot.com, you'll have to change that to wildmoobooks.com. That's all.

👉  If you have the blog bookmarked as wildmoobooks.com, the most you'll have to do is refresh your browser.

👉  If you've signed up for email delivery in the past, I am moving that option to a new service, so, for now, you don't have to do anything. I'll import existing subscriber email addresses and there'll be an option for new subscribers soon.

Thank you so much for visiting and reading my blog for the last seven years. I look forward to continuing to write about books and libraries for years to come.

Happy Reading!

Chris

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What do you want to be when you grow up?

How to Be Everything by Emilie Wapnick (WildmooBooks.com)

A couple years ago I stumbled across Emilie Wapnick's TED talk -- "Why some of us don't have one true calling" -- and I felt like I'd found a soul mate. In that presentation, Wapnick talks about how she had a life-long pattern of getting very deep into a subject and then eventually losing interest. Repeatedly. She thought there was something wrong with her.

I've gone through the same struggle in my life and felt as if there was something wrong with me. I bounced from the Marines to hospital work to college/graduate school, teaching, retail management, marketing, library work, massage therapy, et. al. Luckily for me, I had parents who were interested in a variety of things that modeled taking the time to pursue those interests, so I didn't feel like a complete alien. I can still hear my dad and his sister, one of my favorite aunts, laughing about how they hadn't figured out what they wanted to be when they grew up. They were in their 40s then. However, both my dad and my aunt were gainfully employed and I, back then, sometimes worried about my ability to support myself.

In 2007 I took Tom Rath's Strength Finder test and my top strength was learning, which, according to his definition, means I'm more interested in the process of learning than in outcomes. No surprise there. That helped me feel better about my jumping around on the career stage. I've also come to see how skills gained at one job or area of interest have helped me in subsequent jobs or interests.

However, it was seeing Wapnick's TED Talk that helped me let go of my worries and actually embrace the fact that I don't have one true calling when it comes to career. All that I've done thus far has been awesome--it's fed my soul (well, not everything did that), advanced my knowledge and skills, and helped me make great connections with people. She gave me the freedom to let go of some of the shame I'd been carrying around about not completing programs, staying in jobs for way too long, and interests that I once proclaimed were IT that fizzled out.

I jumped at the chance to review Wapnick's new book, How to Be Everything: A Guide For Those Who (Still) Don't Know What They Want To Be When They Grow Up, for TLC Book Tours and now available from HarperOne.


From the publisher: What do you want to be when you grow up? It's a familiar question we're all asked as kids. While seemingly harmless, the question has unintended consequences. It can make you feel like you need to choose one job, one passion, one thing to be about. Guess what? You don't.

Having a lot of different interests, projects and curiosities doesn't make you a "jack-of-all-trades, master of none." Your endless curiosity doesn't mean you are broken or flaky. What you are is a multipotentialite: someone with many interests and creative pursuits. And that is actually your biggest strength.

How to Be Everything helps you channel your diverse passions and skills to work for you. Based on her popular TED talk, "Why some of us don't have one true calling", Emilie Wapnick flips the script on conventional career advice. Instead of suggesting that you specialize, choose a niche or accumulate 10,000 hours of practice in a single area, Wapnick provides a practical framework for building a sustainable life around ALL of your passions.

You'll discover:
• Why your multipotentiality is your biggest strength, especially in today's uncertain job market.
• How to make a living and structure your work if you have many skills and interests.
• How to focus on multiple projects and make progress on all of them.
• How to handle common insecurities such as the fear of not being the best, the guilt associated with losing interest in something you used to love and the challenge of explaining "what you do" to others.

Not fitting neatly into a box can be a beautiful thing. How to Be Everything teaches you how to design a life, at any age and stage of your career, that allows you to be fully you, and find the kind of work you'll love.

The book has three parts:


Part I: Everything? Welcome to the Tribe. This section is all about giving consolation and encouragement to world-weary multipotentialites, Emilie's word for those who have multiple interests and creative pursuits. There's nothing wrong with you! She goes over the strengths of being a multipotentialite and offers advice on how to live a happy life balancing money, meaning, and variety.


Part II: The Four Multipotentialite Work Models. Different Strokes for Different Folks. Wapnick has found that there are four major ways multipotentialites work and offers strategies on how to figure out what your style is and how to best work it/them. Fascinating perspectives that will give you insight into yourself and how you might work most effectively.

Part III: Common Multipotentialite Stumbling Blocks. Slaying Your Dragons.  This section was the most interesting to me because it's where I am now. I'm working on my personal productivity system, embracing all the things that make me unique, and gaining confidence in my choices. Wapnick offers advice on how to talk with people in various contexts about your multipotentialite life. This section is helpful for me and I think it would be INCREDIBLY helpful for younger folks just starting out on their journey or those who are embracing their various passions for the first time, no matter what their age.


How to Be Everything by Emilie Wapnick (WildmooBooks.com)
My Reading Buddy

Wapnick's ideas as presented in her TED Talk were a big part of my decision last year to jump into entrepreneurship with my wife Laura. She's a personal coach and we're taking her in-person workshops and transitioning them into online classes. My love of learning, teaching experience, customer service skills, and marketing background, among other things, are all coming into play. It's been a fun and challenging year and Wapnick's book is full of hope and helpful tips for the work I'm doing with our business and my own projects. All of Wapnick's advice is geared toward helping multipotentialites enjoy the work they're doing and the life they're living. This is a book I'll read again and dip into here and there for reminders.

Graduation season is here and this would be a great gift for the high school or college graduate in your life. I wish I'd had a book like this when I was in my 20s. It would've saved me from a lot of worry, self-flagellation, and sticking around in programs/jobs for too long. The way our business world is changing--relying on and rewarding people who are adaptable and well-versed in a variety of fields--this could be a success manual for those who aren't satisfied being specialists in one field.




Watch Wapnick's TED Talk:




Title: How To Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don't Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up

Author: Emilie Wapnick
Publisher: HarperOne (May 2, 2017) 240 pages
Bottom line: Highly recommend to seekers with multiple interests that are trying to figure out how to do everything they want to do.
Source: Review copy via TLC Book Tours



About Emilie Wapnick

Emilie Wapnick is a speaker, career coach, blogger, and community leader. She is the founder and creative director at Puttylike.com, where she helps multipotentialites integrate all of their interests to create dynamic, fulfilling, and fruitful careers and lives. Unable to settle on a single path, Emilie studied music, art, film production, and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University in 2011. Emilie is a TED speaker and has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, The Financial Times, The Huffington Post, and Lifehacker. Her TED talk, “Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling,” has been viewed over 3.5 million times, and has been translated into 36 languages. She has been hired as a guest speaker and workshop facilitator at universities, high schools, and organizations across the United States and internationally.

Find out more about Emilie at her website, and connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Library Visit: Manchester Community Library, Vermont

I'm in Manchester, VT this weekend for Booktopia (a weekend full of authors and readers, created by Books on the Nightstand and now hosted by the Northshire Bookstore). 

The first year I came up from Connecticut for Bookstopia, four years ago, the new library was under construction. The second year my time didn't jibe with the library's open hours, but the third year--last year--I finally made it inside. It's taken me a full year to get this post up, but better late than never and I'm here again, so it's the perfect time.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
This way to the library! I know I'm not the only one who gets excited when she sees this sign.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
The modern design reflects the clean lines of traditional Vermont architecture.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
Small windows adjacent to the large window in the photo above. The children's section is along this side of the library.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
There is LOTS of marble in Manchester. The front of the library features a marble walkway and marble benches.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
A view of the whole library.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
The front entrance.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
The foyer. Comfy seating and a cafe. To the right is a large community room, bathrooms, and access to the lower level. Straight ahead is the help desk and just to the left of that are doors to the children's section.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
Helpdesk/circulation and new book displays.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
The Loft - a  dedicated space for middle schoolers.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
Work tables in the stacks.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
Comfy seating in the stacks.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
Cather on the shelf.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
I appreciate the clear, bold labeling - so easy for patrons to read and for staff to spot miss-shelves.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
Color coding makes alpha even easier! Speaking of color coding, the library uses the Glade System in their nonfiction section (which is NOT what is pictured above). The Glade System uses color coding to organize nonfiction categories. Check out the breakdown here.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
Reading area. The periodicals section is to the right of the fireplace.

Frances Skinner Willing, Portrait, Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
Frances Skinner Willing's portrait hangs over the fireplace. She founded the first library in Manchester in 1897. 

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
Standing in front of the fireplace, looking toward the front of the library. The help desk is way back in the upper righthand corner.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
Computer stations.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
The children's section, which is through doors to the left of the help desk.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
Large play/event area in the children's section.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
Free books for children.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
The community room. Behind me is a large screen for films.  Those large doors open into the room with the fireplace. A patron told me they open them for large events.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
Lots of stuff going on in the lower level.

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
Happy to see more of these water bottle filler stations popping up in libraries. (I first saw them in airports.)

Manchester Community Library, VT (Featured on WildmooBooks.com)
Such a beautiful library. If you're ever in the area, stop in for a visit. The librarians are friendly and happy to talk about their libray. 

The Manchester Community Library
138 Cemetery Avenue / Route 7A
Manchester Center, VT 05255
mclvt.org

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Readathon Recap and Book Club Bookstore

My Reading Nook (WildmooBooks.com)
My reading corner.
 I didn't read as much as planned or for as many hours as I thought I would for this marathon. I think I was overtired, which makes it hard for me to settle down and focus. Seasonal allergies are also messing with my mind these days. It's all good. Some readathons I'm a reading machine, others not so much. This one sorta snuck up on me. I'll be more prepared for the October readathon which is usually the one I hunker down with more. Save the date: October 21, 2017!

Chris Wolak and Cynde Acanto owner of the Book Club Bookstore, South Windsor, CT (WildmooBooks.com)
With Cynde Acanto owner of Book Club Bookstore

I started the day in my reading corner with Jason Rekulak's The Impossible Fortress and read for about an hour before writing a blog post, checking in with readathon social media, and doing some family stuff. Then I headed out to South Windsor, CT for the Book Club Bookstore's grand opening of their new location. As you may know it was also Indpendent Bookstore Day yesterday, so I felt compelled to visit at least one bookstore.

Book Club Bookstore Grand Opening, South Windsor, CT (WildmooBooks.com)


I knew I'd be arriving at the tail end of the party, which was scheduled for 10:30-12:30, and a traffic jam on the interstate put me further behind, so I arrived as the last of the party goers were leaving and folks were cleaning up. I had a nice browse and talk owner Cynde Acanto.

Book and Plant Haul from the Book Club Bookstore, South Windsor, CT (WildmooBooks.com)
My book and plant haul.

Book haul details:
  • Connecticut Valley Tabacco by Brianna E. Dunlap (author event 5/24 at 6 pm)
  • A Short Guide to Writing About Literature by Slyvan Barnet (I used to have a copy)
  • Danse Macabre by Stephen King (the Master's book about the horror genre)
  • Stephen King Country by George Beahm (because I now live close enough to easily visit)

It was my first time visiting the store and I really like it. It's small, but well curated and sells new and used books. The left side of the bookstore is primarily adult fiction and some YA/kids books. The right side is adult nonfiction. The front of the store features gifts made by local artisans and a nice selection of live plants (cacti and small plants for terrariums as well as terrarium kits and supplies). My terrarium has been in need of a refresh, so I bought some reindeer moss and a miniature plant. I think it's some kind of ivy.

They host an impressive number of author events and book clubs. Check out their Facebook page or website for more information. I hope to attend their Stephen King book club sometime.

Stephen King Book Club, Typewriter display, Book Club Bookstore, South Windsor, CT (WildmooBooks.com)
Creative way to display the Stephen King Book Club schedule

After the bookstore, I did some grocery shopping. Would you believe the grocery store I stopped in didn't have frosted strawberry pop tarts? Sad. That's one of my readathon staples. I only eat them two or three times a year as a special treat. The place had unfrosted strawberry pop tarts. Does anyone really eat those? I should have checked those two boxes for dust.

You Are a Badass Audiobook (WildmooBooks.com)
Need motivation? Try this audiobook.

All things aside, the lack of pop tarts was the only hiccup of the readathon for me. Sure, I could've gone to another store, but I settled on Good-n-Plenty for my sweet treat instead. I'd also finished the audiobook I was listening to by that time--You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero, which I highly recommend if you need some motivation. I might have driven to another store if I had more listening to do. You know how that goes.

After making dinner, eating, watching an episode of Grace & Frankie, playing with my dog, and then playing a few rounds of Rory's Story Cubes with my wife, I messed around online some more, walked on the treadmill while reading The Impossible Fortress before finishing the night reading in bed.

Overall, it was a good day with some reading, a wholly satisfying bookstore visit, and no pressure to do anything else...which is probably my favorite thing about readathon.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Readathon Opening Survey

WildmooBooks Finalized TBR Stack #readathon
Finalized TBR stack!

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon has begun! Thought I'd jump in and do the opening survey:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? 
USA > New England > Connecticut > Guilford

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak. Reading it for Booktopia and have heard nothing but good things about it.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Potato chips!!! For three weeks now I've been practicing chip discipline and only eating chips once a week. Today is the day! 

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I'm 51 years old and recently started a book podcast with my friend Emily (Book Cougars). Middle-aged book lovers represent! I think more middle-aged folks should start blogging if they aren't already.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I'll be taking a nap or two during the day, not because I'm old, but because 1) naps are good and 2) I'm on a multi-day sleep deficit from traveling during the week.

You can find other participant's responses here.

Off to read now!

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Night Before Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon and a BIG BUG READING

Another glorious day dedicated to reading is almost here! Or at least a good chunk of my day on April 29th will be dedicated to reading because it's Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon!

To be honest, this readathon sorta snuck up on me and I don't feel very prepared (I haven't even bought snacks yet!), but I'm happy to have a day to chill with some books. The 29th is also Independent Bookstore Day and the BOOKCLUB Bookstore in South Winsor, CT is having their grand opening tomorrow, which I'd like to attend. I'm thinking I can get snacks on the way home from the grand opening.

I went to a couple libraries today to pick up holds and a few other things that caught my eye. I haven't finalized my "official" TBR stack yet as I'm still pondering, but chances are I'll try to finish a book or two that I already have started and then flip around in some other books. I'm in more of a browsing mood today, but who knows what tomorrow will bring. 

Here's a shot of today's library haul:


#libraryhaul for #readathon and The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

When I got home I was thrilled to find an advance reader's copy of The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry waiting on my porch. I've heard nothing but good things about this book, which is a bestseller in the UK. It's coming out this June in the US. I probably won't start it tomorrow, but isn't the cover fantastic?

One of the libraries I went to today is the Acton Library in Old Saybrook, CT. I adore their metal sculpture of a dragonfly reading Lord of the Flies.


Metal sculpture, Dragonfly reading Lord of the Flies, Acton Library, Old Saybrook, CT (front)

Metal sculpture, Dragonfly reading Lord of the Flies, Acton Library, Old Saybrook, CT (back)

Isn't she charming?

If you've never heard of Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon, it's a reading marathon held twice a year, in April and in October, and hosted by Heather and Andi of The Estella Society. This October the readathon will be celebrating its 10 year anniversary, so I hope you'll consider joining in on the fun!

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Dude Diet Update: First Recipe Attempts

Months ago, way back in November 2016, I posted about The Dude Diet by Serena Wolf and said Laura and I would be trying some of the recipes over the winter. Well, it's now spring, but we're finally getting into it!

Quinoa Crunch Granola from The Dude Diet on WildmooBooks.com

Laura made the Quinoa Crunch Granola. She's actually made it a couple times now, with some slight modifications based on what we had around the house (i.e, walnuts instead of pecans). The first time she used a liquid coconut oil and the second time a virgin coconut oil in solid form, you know, the white waxy-looking stuff? We both prefer the taste of the liquid coconut oil. The recipe calls for "liquid extra-virgin coconut oil," but we need to shop around a bit more for a liquid coconut oil that is also extra-virgin. The Quinoa Crunch has been a great addition to our breakfast routine and also does double duty as a snack.

Smoky Black Bean Chicken Stew from The Dude Diet on WildmooBooks.com

The first recipe I tried was the Smoky Black Bean Chicken Stew. With the exception of the cumin, which makes Laura ill, I followed the recipe to a T and--wowzers--was it spicy! I LOVED it, but the chipotle peppers in abodo sauce were too spicy for Laura. I made a less spicy version for her the next day that was a bit too bland that'll I'll work on jazzing up.

Smoky Black Bean Chicken Stew with Goat Cheese from The Dude Diet (WildmooBooks.com)

I took Serena's advice and added some crumbled goat cheese the first time I ate this stew and it was so delicious--the creamy tang made me make obscene groaning noises as I ate. I've since tried it with sliced avocado on top, but my fantasies about this dish go back to the goat cheese version.

Up next, Smashed Potatoes with garlic and thyme.

You can check out Serena Wolf's recipes online here.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Book Cougars 10th Episode Giveaway

Book Cougars Top 10 Giveaway March 2017 (Ends 4/18/2017)


Cohosting the Book Cougars Podcast with my friend Emily is such a blast!

We've just entered the double digits with Episode 10. 

To celebrate we both listed our Top 10 books of all time.

It is more of a Top 10-ish list because we both cheated a bit. Okay, I admit I cheated more than Emily, but the point of this post is that we're offering a giveaway of our Top 10 reads as a thank you for all the support and encouragement we've received from listeners. 

And I wanted to share the enter-to-win here on WildmooBooks because you've all been so supportive of me over the years, Dear Readers. 😍

Here's the enter-to-win box. The follow us on Twitter is just an option, it is NOT required.
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you'd like to share YOUR Top 10 reads, please do it over at the Book Cougars Facebook page:



Or feel free to list yours here in the comments if you're anti-Facebook.

Here's the link to Episode 10 where you can see our Top 10 lists and give us a listen if you're so inclined. You can also find us on iTune, Stitcher, and other podcast apps.

Happy Reading, Happy Listening, and THANK YOU again for all your support and encouragement!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Other F-Word by Natasha Friend




"That's all they wanted, wasn't it? Milo thought. To know where they came from? It wasn't right, it wasn't wrong, it just was."

In the 90s, test-tube babies, as babies conceived in vitro fertilization were called back then, were headline news and a huge topic of conversation in the LGBT community. I remember regular conversations with lesbian friends about who'd they'd prefer to have as their sperm donor if they decided to go that route to have a child. A stranger via a sperm bank? A family member? A friend? Gay guys were scrutinized on the dance floor by their lesbian friends like never before. I also had a friend who donated her eggs, which is a much more complicated and painful procedure than donating sperm.

One of the main arguments against using a sperm bank was that the kids wouldn't know who their dad was beyond a number and some basic descriptive information. Some countered that it was the same as being adopted. There were more issues, of course, and this novel addresses many of them.

I was drawn to this book but a bit skeptical. The description gave me pause:
A fresh, humorous, and timely YA novel about two teens conceived via in vitro fertilization who go in search for answers about their donor.

Milo has two great moms, but he's never known what it's like to have a dad. When Milo's doctor suggests asking his biological father to undergo genetic testing to shed some light on Milo's extreme allergies, he realizes this is a golden opportunity to find the man he's always wondered about.

Hollis's mom Leigh hasn't been the same since her other mom, Pam, passed away seven years ago. But suddenly, Leigh seems happy—giddy, even—by the thought of reconnecting with Hollis's half-brother Milo. Hollis and Milo were conceived using the same sperm donor. They met once, years ago, before Pam died.

Now Milo has reached out to Hollis to help him find their donor. Along the way, they locate three other donor siblings, and they discover the true meaning of the other F-word: family.
Trigger alert! I thought. Such a novel could be rife with homophobic sentiments and cringe-worthy scenes of heteronormativity. I don't read a lot of LGBT novels due to the obligatory gay bashing scene and/or homophobic attitudes presented as "facts," but this novel is a breath of fresh air.

As the description states, the story is about a teenaged boy named Milo who lives in Brooklyn and a teenaged girl named Hollis from Minnesota, both of whom have lesbian moms. They met once when they were little kids and at the beginning of the novel are brought together again as teens. They track down more half siblings--kids whose heterosexual parents couldn't conceive. There's also Milo's best friend, JJ, a major character in the story, who is adopted.

There's so much that is gracefully packed into this story. There are the big issues at hand: what the kids struggle with, how the in vitro kids have similar yet different issues from the adopted, and how the parents cope with their own challenges regarding their decisions and fears. Also touched upon are numbing one's feelings, dating, bullying, gender vs genes, and grief after losing a parent/partner, among other things.

I was pleasantly surprised by this tender and seemingly "real" novel. I put "real" in quotation marks because I don't have direct experience with these issues, but I have friends who've dealt with a variety of them, both when they were children and now as parents. From what I know of their stories, this novel rings true.

In the end, being a teenager is hard no matter where you come from and who your parent/s is/are. As Milo's friend JJ says, "None of them get us, dude...They're parents."

Title: The Other F-Word
Author: Natasha Friend
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Publishing Group / Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (Release date: March 7, 2017)
Bottom Line: Highly recommend to teens and YA readers interested in non-traditional family stories and LGBT issues.
Source: Review copy via NetGalley

Monday, February 27, 2017

Patricia Cornwell Takes Another Stab at Jack The Ripper

RIPPER: THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER SICKERT by Patricia Cornwell hits bookstores tomorrow (2/28/17).


Corwell is not the first person to pin the Jack the Ripper crimes on Walter Sickert (1860-1942). The work of several investigators before her lead to him. She was the first to apply cutting-edge forensic technology to the remaining evidence, which, when combined with details of the time period, makes for a fascinating investigation and a thrilling read.

I read Cornwell's first book on the subject, PORTRAIT OF A KILLER: JACK THE RIPPER -- CASE CLOSED, when it first came out in 2002. On tour for that book, Cornwell came to Chicago where I then lived. Borders and the Chicago Public Library co-hosted the event, which was held in the beautiful Winter Garden atop the Harold Washington Library. I no longer own that book, as I passed it on to a fellow Cornwell fan, so I didn't refer to it for this review, but I can say that her new effort is meatier, much prettier, and still just as horrifying the second time around.

As for the pretty side of things: it is printed using both black and red text. There is an abundance of informative photos and illustrations. It is over 500 pages long and heavy as a brick, yet it is the thickness of a 300-page book. The paper is thinner than that used in the average hardcover nonfiction book, but it is high quality, almost glossy.

As for horrifying, I mean, of course, the content. Cornwell paints vivid descriptions of the crimes and
the times. Some of the content of this updated and expanded book resonated with me from reading Cornwell's first book-length work on the subject, as well as CHASING THE RIPPER, an Amazon short that came out in 2014, but other information is new. Cornwell addresses the criticisms of both her investigation (such as the erroneous claim that she destroyed paintings by Sickert to acquire his DNA) and the first book (she was presumptuous to say "case closed"). She claims she sometimes wishes she'd never gotten involved with the case because it has become all consuming and she's spent millions of her own dollars on the research. I enjoyed reading about how she got involved in the case and how the research has developed over the years.

Cornwell (source)
Those of you familiar with Cornwell's fiction know that she's committed to seeking justice for the victims of horrendous crimes. In the case of Jack the Ripper, she believes there were probably many more victims of his deranged violence than were attributed to him due to contemporary police procedures and class biases of the day.

The brutal descriptions and actual crime scene and morgue photographs make me squeamish. I'm no fan of true crime, but what I found most interesting is Cornwell's descriptions of late 19th century medical and police procedures. Did you know fistulas were rather common in the 19th century? Many people were born with them and/or developed them. Walter Sickert was born with one on his penis (or possibly his anus) and underwent three corrective surgeries as a child, which would have been exceedingly painful, probably not successful, and possibly mutilated his penis. Can you imagine having surgery without anesthesia? His condition would have had to be desperate for his parents to put him through that. Cornwell believes his fistula and the horrific surgeries may have led to Sickert's psychological derangement.
Literary side-bar: Charles Dickens (1812-1870) developed a fistula around his anus and had a successful reparative surgery in 1841.
In 2002, that first Ripper book had a lot of pre-publication buzz. I read the book because I was a relatively new fan of Cornwell's fiction (I started reading her in 1999) and I thought it would be interesting to see how she applied modern investigative techniques and technology to a historic--and still open--case. Plus, I love reading about the 19th century. This updated and expanded book is definitely worth a revisit.

Author: Patricia Cornwell
Title: Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer, February 28, 2017
Source: Review copy
Bottom line: Highly recommend for true crime readers and/or those interested in 19th-century crime and history, particularly medical and police techniques. Art enthusiasts may also find it interesting as Cornwell compares Sickert's paintings to crime scene evidence.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

The English Patient (1992) by Michael Ondaatje


The English Patient was published in 1992 and won the Man Booker Prize (along with Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth). The movie adaptation followed in 1996 and won an Oscar for Best Picture, among other categories.

I've been waiting to see the movie until I read the book. It's taken me awhile to get around to it, like, 25 years. When I came across a $1 copy of the book at a library sale last year, I bought it. These days when I really want to see a movie I don't wait to read the book.

The story is about four very different people who find themselves in an Italian villa/monastery at the end of World War II. Parts of the story told via characters' memories take place in North Africa, England, India, and Canada.


It was a challenging read at times. After I realized Ondaatje was presenting the characters with writing crafted in their own voices, it got a bit easier, particularly in sections dealing with the character who most annoyed me, the English patient himself. He was overly dramatic and pompous. He's actually a bit of a Lancelot character--seemingly above such things as love until he finds himself hopelessly attracted to and then madly in love with a married woman. Oh, how the mighty fall. In the movie, he was softened a bit, made charming by Ralph Fiennes. (Colin Firth plays the cuckold.)

Ondaatje does a superb job crafting his characters--obviously, the character of the English patient was so well drawn that he got under my skin, as he is probably meant to. In the book, the main love story is between Hana, a young Canadian nurse, and Kip, a Sikh sapper in the British Army. In the movie, this interracial love affair plays second fiddle to that of the English patient's love affair with Katherine, both of whom are white. The movie presents the character of Kip as an exotic and sexualized masculine element. He is relegated to the role of the female--with his long hair flowing, he's shown bare-chested in sexualized scenes that reverse the male gaze as Hana looks upon him.

One of the themes that the movie carries over from the book is how things take on different uses under extreme conditions. Hana uses books from the villa/monastery's library to repair stairs that have been destroyed. She uses a crucifix as a scarecrow in the garden where she's growing vegetables. In a scene from the desert in North Africa, a healer uses his cupped feet as a bowl to mix medicine. Hana's use of the books and crucifix show her resourcefulness, but symbolically these scenes also depict the idea that in war the knowledge in books and the trappings of religion can be useless or at least their original purpose is temporarily suspended.

It's been just about a week since I finished this book and as I continue to dwell on scenes and characters my esteem for the novel grows. When I first finished it I thought it was "just okay." Then after watching the movie, I liked it even more. Writing this post has increased my appreciation of the book even more.

Funny how that happens with some books. Alternately there are those books that I adore and praise immediately upon finishing that I now barely recall (or even forget I've read!). Scrolling through Goodreads and looking at the star ratings that I've given some books makes me cringe.

The Book Cougars discussed both the book and the movie as a joint read/watch in episode 7.



Author: Michael Ondaatje
Title: The English Patient 
Publisher: 1st published by Bloomsbury, 1992. Edition read: Vintage International, 1993. 
Bottom line: You'll probably want to read this one if you're into literary fiction about WWII.  If you're not into either, proceed with caution. From my Goodreads review: Some lovely scenes, some lovely sentences, but lots of beautiful writing just for the sake of beautiful writing annoyed me after a while. I yelled (in my mind, so as not to scare the dog), "Get on with the story already!" multiple times.
Reading challenge: score one for the #readmyowndamnbooks challenge.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Library Extension: An Amazing Plug-in for Library Users

Firefox has been my browser of choice for years now, but last month I decided to try something new and am giving Chrome a try.

Around the time I made this change, I happened to see a tweet by Austin Kleon about Library Extension. It's a tool that tells you if a book you're looking at on Amazon or Goodreads (and other sites, I image) is available at your local library.

I added the extension immediately, but was bummed to find that my local library wasn't yet included, so I added the next closest library to me. I also put in a request with Library Extension to add my library. Andrew wrote me back the same day and said he updated the extension to include my library. How cool is that?  I love this tool and thought you might, too.

Here's a screenshot of how it looks on Goodreads:


The Library Extension box takes just a few seconds to load/populate the information. It even tells you what formats are/are not available.

You can install the extension from their website (https://www.libraryextension.com) or from the App Store (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/library-extension/chkgcmmjoejpekoegkedcpifgfhpjmec). 

A Firefox version is in the works and you can sign-up to be notified when its available.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

January New Books in the House, Blogoversary Mention

Happy Blogoversary to Me

My seven year blogoversary came and went on January 19th. I'd been hemming and hawing about what to write for it. I started several angry posts about bigotry, civility in politics, the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million, how the Russians may have helped elect a corrupt businessman/unqualified billionaire who's afraid to release his tax returns, and how the Electoral College failed to protect against demagoguery and foreign interference, but I deleted all of those drafts. People who are way more knowledgeable and eloquent have already written about these things.

Instead, I've decided what I really want to do is recommit to my book blog. I have two major areas on which I'd like to focus in 2017:

1) To be more involved in the larger scheme of things, I'll write more about the issues that come up in my reading regarding diversity and equality. This can be anything from highlighting an author's background to highlighting pros/cons/complexities in a book regarding issues that interest me, particularly around depictions of gender, sexuality, race, and age. 
2) I'll do more to document my bookish life--the books I read as well as the literary things I do, such as post more about the libraries I visit and other literary adventures. Maybe I'll even blog my own starts and stops at writing fiction.

New Books in the House

The last book that I purchased in 2016 was Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist, which I'm currently reading. Today I'm going to share all the new books that have come into my house thus far in 2017. This is something I'll aim to do on a monthly basis this year mainly for the purposes of self-documentation, but also to see if you have opinions on the books that have found their way into my life.

Let me know what you think! 👍  or 👎  or 🤷‍♀️.

Girl at War by Sara Novic (WildmooBooks.com)
Book mail!
My friend Russell, who blogs at Ink and Paper Blog, sent me this copy of Girl at War by Sara Novic. He saw my request for recommendations on Goodreads for books about women at war. Thanks, Russell! This one is patiently waiting near the top of my TBR.

January library haul! March, Queer, Something in the Blood (WildmooBooks.com)
Library haul! Was amazed to find all three volumes of March on display. 
I typically work at my local library several times a week and this year I'm going to resist the temptation to check out books during each time I'm there. I have dozens of books at home that I want to get to and will have a much better chance at actually reading them if I'm not hoarding library books. Exercising book discipline is hard.

Pictured above are:
  • March Trilogy by Andrew Aydin, John Lewis, and Nate Powell
  • Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele 
  • Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker by David J. Skal

January bookstore haul from the Book Barn (WildmooBooks.com)
Book Barn Haul -- Love their new pride bumper sticker. 

On Saturday I went to The Book Barn in Niantic, CT with my friend Jennifer. My intention was to buy one book, James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, but they didn't have it (at least not at the two locations we went to. They have four locations in town. I know, it's crazy book over-load and fucking awesome!). 

Books pictured above:
  • That Summer in Paris: Memories of Tangled Friendships with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Some Others by Morley Callaghan. A smelly old paperback that caught my eye. Callaghan was friends with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and "some others." This is his memoir about the summer of 1929 when all the boys got together after writing (or instead of writing) to drink and box. I'm tired of Hemingway and have never really been into Fitzgerald, but apparently I can't step away from the bookshelf when I see a book about them.
  • Jonah's Gourd Vine by Zora Neale Hurston. I love Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. I've been thinking about re-reading that novel for the 3 or 4th time and instead decided to try another novel by her. But you know how it is when you love a book and so also love the author and don't want to risk reading another book by her that you might not like and that could potentially sour your earlier love? That. Gonna risk it.
  • I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Conde. Never heard of the author or this book, but it caught my eye and the first page drew me in. The back cover calls it a blend of fictional with the factual. Tituba was the only black victim of the Salem witch trials.
  • The Vampire of Venice Beach by Jennifer Colt. Looks fun, plus it has a Borders sticker on the back. Also, while I was looking at it Jennifer snuck up behind my like some kind of book recommending vampire and said, "Colt is a fun writer," so I am opening my home to yet another vampire.
  • Beneath the Bleeding by Val McDermid. It's been a while since I read some Val. The first page made me want to read more.
  • Darktown by Thomas Mullen. I've heard such great things about this one and couldn't pass it up. Crime novel set in 1948 Atlanta that revolves around the first black police officers hired by the city.
  • Writers in Residence by Glynne Robinson Betts. This one was miss-shelved in the US Presidents section so it jumped out at me. Black and white photographs of author homes, offices, etc., and not the usual suspects.

The Hidden Life of Trees and Hidden Figures from RJ Julia (WildmooBooks.com)
Short stack from R.J. Julia Booksellers
On the way home from The Book Barn we stopped at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison to pickup a copy of Giovanni's Room, but they didn't have it either. However, I didn't leave empty handed. These two came home with me:
  • The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben. I love trees and this book has been recommended by a couple friends whose opinion I value.
  • Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly. Purchased this for my wife, Laura, who loved the movie. I haven't seen it yet. Laura recently found out that an old friend's father worked with Katherine Goble Johnson, one of the women featured in the book/film. They're still friends and he went to the premier with her.
  • I didn't realize the hidden theme until typing this.
What's going on for you book-wise in January? Are you on a buying spree...doing some retail therapy? Are you on a book-buying freeze this year? Exclusively using the library?

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