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Tremble Chin, Poetry that Explores Everyday Life

It’s just a simple book of 19 heartfelt poems. More or less a journal of observations spanning a couple of decades of everyday life. The poems were inspired by scenery and personal events around rural Georgia in the Southeastern USA.

You may have witnessed similar experiences or have common memories. These storied compositions will no doubt provoke images that are delightfully relatable. Pick up a copy on Amazon. We’d love to hear your impressions!

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Terry Kay, A Great Southern Writer

The first book I read by Terry Kay was “To Dance with the White Dog” (1990).

I am just in awe at the author’s telling of this story. I felt the emotions when Sam Peck lost his wife of 50 years. I understood the worry of Sam’s children for their father and what a difficult struggle he was likely to have losing his love and life companion, Cora. I felt their concern when Sam begins to see a mysterious white dog that is never around when they are there. A great author like Terry Kay really puts you there… in the story.

I finished “To Dance with the White Dog” on a plane sitting next to my husband on our way to a ski vacation.  As I finished the last few pages, I could not hold back the tears. After I closed the back cover, I struggled to tell my husband why I was crying.  The book really touched me, I mean really touched me.  So much so that years later at a book signing, I choked up again as I handed my copy of “To Dance with the White Dog” to Terry Kay for him to sign.  He inscribed “For Kathy-who honors me by caring for The White Dog. Warmest Regards-Terry Kay 12-10-93” and said kind words to put me at ease.

Since then I have read nearly all of Terry Kay’s books.  They are all excellent, but here are a few that you simply must read.

Written in 1976, “The Year the Lights Came On” was the first. This tells of the Rural Electric Association (REA) bringing electricity to a small town in northeast Georgia. More importantly, this book paints a picture of rural America told through eyes of Colin and his brother, Wesley. Through this book you will experience friendships, loyalty, schoolground fights and drama, and what life was like on the wrong side of Route 17 and the railroad tracks.

The Runaway” (1997) is perhaps my favorite because it is reminiscent of another of my favorites, “To Kill a Mockingbird”.  It is set in the 1940’s where you quickly become a part of the relationship between 2 boys, one black and one white, Tom and Son Jesus. They love to daydream and will do anything they can to avoid work which is what brings them to find a mysterious bone.  They unwittingly unleash a murder investigation and a flood of racial conflict. The story is remarkable and the characters will warm your heart.

I read “Taking Lottie Home” (2000) fairly recently; I don’t know how I missed this one since we have a first edition sitting on our shelves. Ben Phelps and his high school buddy, Milo go off to play professional baseball. Milo makes it to the big leagues, but Ben is cut along with Foster Lanier who had success for a while until his injured leg and heavy drinking slows him down too much.  They meet Lottie on the train ride to their respective home towns. Lottie had run away with a salesman, but they part ways, and Lottie, Ben and Foster’s lives became intertwined for years to come.  Through deceit and hardships, it all comes together with doing the right thing. Thanks, my friend Janet, for lending me your copy of this book.

The Book of Marie” (2007) is a story about Cole and Marie.  They first meet in 1955 at Overton High School shortly after Marie transfers to the south from Washington, D.C.  Marie strikes a long-lasting friendship with Cole and in her valedictorian address, foretells of the coming social changes. Cole falls in love; Marie keeps her distance, yet in a funny turn of events convince their classmates they have a great romance. They meet again 15 years later at a high school reunion. The odd letters they shared over the years and the relationships formed as a result of the reunion tell a historical story of the influences of the time. Like all of Terry Kay’s books, there is a stark truth to the history and the character of people.

After Eli” (1981) is very different than any other of Mr. Kay’s books. To me it was somewhat mystical and somewhat dark. It keeps you enthralled! Michael O’Rear enchants 3 women in an Appalachian village when he comes to town; Rachel, the widow of Eli, her sister and daughter. Michael plays them and preys on them, spurred by the legend of Eli’s hidden treasure.

The King Who Made Paper Flowers” (2016) as of this blog post, is the most recent. It is the story of Arthur Benjamin who reluctantly becomes a “king” among semi-homeless vagabonds with a character all their own. A fun novel that will grab your heart-strings as well.

Thank you, Mr. Kay, for your fine writing and for sharing with us stories and characters that are true to life, that fill you with emotion, and make you feel richer for having read them.

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Sequels in Novels

It started with television series. A show that holds your attention by continuing a story from one season to the next, often with a “cliff hanger” at the end of each season.

This has become commonplace in fictional books as well. I’ve accepted this phenomena for digital streaming/network television content, but it just doesn’t suit me in books. Sure there is that rare book that so captures my attention that I can’t wait for the follow-up book, but so often the sequel doesn’t match up to the first that it becomes frustrating.

Personally I think the reason for the book series concept is largely greed or laziness. The book publishers like the idea because they feel they have a committed and surefire following. The book authors like the simplicity of not having to invent a whole new set of characters and story line.

Throughout history there have been books with one, maybe 2, follow-up books that seem to work just fine, like Jack London’s Call of the Wild and White Fang. Even there, most consider these books to be companion books. At any rate, I prefer a single story that you can savor and contemplate as you finish the last page and close the book. For me it’s “one and done”!

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Patrick Rothfuss, More Than an Epic Fantasy Writer

Courtesy of Kyle Cassidy

Although Patrick Rothfuss writes fantasy novels, his epics have the feeling of historical novels. They are written in such a way that you can truly believe the characters, their culture and language, their tools, and that the events in the stories really happened.

His first novel, The Name of the Wind, was written in 2007. It is the first of a three volume series called the The Kingkiller Chronicles. The series is told as a 3 day autobiography dictated from Kvothe to The Chronicler, Devan Lochees. There are some present-day events in the story tying into an unresolved evil from the past that interrupts the transcriptions.

Kvothe was the only survivor of a gypsy-like troupe who is murdered by a cruel unseen people. When he comes back to camp and sees his family murdered, he vows to find the killers.  Kvothe’s father taught him to be a gifted fiddle player which helps to lift him out of poverty. After 3 years living on the streets, he finally garners enough money and knowledge to earn him a spot in the University where he will learn history, medicine, languages, alchemy, and most importantly, various forms of magic. Kvothe is a quick learner and becomes skilled at most anything he touches. Even though he is a larger than life character, Kvothe is likable and not arrogant, unlike his nemesis, Ambrose.

Reading the first novel will make you thirst for the second.  Those who read The Name of the Wind when it first came out had to wait 4 years for Wise Man’s Fear. Day 2 of the Kingkiller Chronicles is written as skillfully as Day 1. Rothfuss’ attention to detail (hence 722 pages for Day 1 and 1120 pages for Day 2) can at times be a drudge, but it is never long before you are drawn back into the amazing and fantastic world he has created.

Day 3 of the Kingkiller Chronicles has not yet been released. The working title is The Doors of Stone and has no projected completion date as of this blog post. In the interim, Rothfuss is working on 2 novellas and a novel about characters from the Kingkiller Chronicles. One of the novellas was released October of 2014. The Slow Regard of Silent Things brings us into the world of Auri who lives among the dark, ancient passageways underneath The University and who Kvothe befriends at night on a hidden rooftop.

Even if you are not a reader of fantasy novels, Patrick Rothfuss’ stories are highly entertaining and sure to capture and hold your attention. They are so realistic you will believe he is writing about a place and time that really existed.  Here are the books to-date on Amazon:

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Robert Sabuda and Pop-Up Books

Robert Sabuda is a gifted artist who has experimented with many forms of illustration. His most notable body of work centers around pop-up books. His mastery of pop-ups and movable paper is remarkable.

Sabuda, born in 1965, is a native of Michigan who attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, which is known for architecture, interior design, and industrial design fields of study. Sabuda gained recognition for his pop-up books starting with his first in 1994, The Mummy’s Tomb.

The pop-up book themes are geared toward children, but seeing a young child with one of Sabuda’s pop-ups will make you cringe in hopes that nothing will be damaged. Everyone can appreciate the beauty of his creations. The detail and his artistry is truly amazing. Typically every page has a primary pop-up and 1 or 2 pop-ups on the side to contribute to the story. His latest pop-up is The Little Mermaid.

It brings the under-the-sea tale to life!

Sabuda’s Encyclopedia series is very educational, but please don’t let your children abuse them.

We have “Winter’s Tale” in our personal collection which we bring out once a year with all our other Christmas decorations.

The pop-up’s in this book are all in white except for the last page which includes colored lights that brighten the snowman’s house.

We have a few Christmas cards from his collection as well.  I love Robert Sabuda’s pop-ups and love to share them with our seasonal visitors.
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Using Kindle as a Tool for Learning Another Language

I have struggled with learning Spanish, mostly on my own, for a number of years. I know there is no substitute for immersion for really learning to speak another language fluently, but lacking the time and money to do so, I have tried a number of things.

I started with a set of cassettes from a Diplomatic course that wasn’t particularly helpful except for learning pronunciation by mimicry. Then I tried a wonderful course by BilingualAmerica.com. The in-house and personal lessons by phone were too expensive, though, so I purchased the first 3 levels of the Spanish Power self-study CDs and lesson books. Their system of learning is excellent for attaining a basic vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar, and verb conjugation. I quickly learned that I needed to work on my verbal skills, so I signed up for some reasonably priced night classes at a local language academy. It was a big help and a lot of fun, but unfortunately the academy went out of business. So now I am back on my own, although I occasionally find a Spanish Meetup group that is helpful in practicing conversional skills.

Self-study of Spanish grammar and other learning books got very boring and not very motivating. I bought a few dual language books where you have Spanish on one side of a page and English on the other. Such books are hard to find and are usually geared toward grade school learners. I bought a few young adult books in Spanish as well, however, looking up unknown vocabulary was time consuming and tedious.

Then I purchased a Kindle, mainly because of its ability to do on-the-spot word translations. This has kept me interested for sure. I can now find books in Spanish that I enjoy and are at the adult reading level. My latest Kindle is the Paperwhite which goes a step further. You can translate a word or a phrase. Often you will find that a single translated word does not seem to fit the context of the sentence. In such cases, you can highlight and translate the whole sentence surrounding the word and get a better understanding. With the help of people who are multilingual that contribute to the Google Translate engine, the translations are getting better and better. Reading Spanish books on the Kindle has definitely proved invaluable in increasing and fermenting my vocabulary.

I still hope one day that I can travel to a country where I can immerse myself and speak Spanish every day, but until then, reading in Spanish every day on my Kindle is enough for me.

UPDATE: Language translations also work beautifully on the Kindle Fire tablet

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Book Sculptures

Recently I came across a web site with wonderful book art; very original. Jodi Harvey-Brown definitely has a talent for bringing a story to life, literally out of the pages of a book. To quote Jodi from her web site (https://www.jodiharveyart.com/):

I have always loved art, and I have always loved to read.  Books pull you into a new world, while art lets you see it.  It made sense to me that these two mediums should come together.  The books that we love to read should be made to come to life.  Characters, that we care so much for, should come out of the pages to show us their stories.  What we see in our imaginations as we read should be there for the world to see.  My book sculptures are my way of making stories come alive.

Check out her gallery of book sculptures.  Here are some of my favorites – of course the Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn creation tops my list:

Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn
Little Red Riding Hood
Pandora’s Box
Treasure Island

Jodi sells her creations on Etsy.  She will create a drawing or sculpture from your personal experience of a book as well. The best of luck to you Jodi.

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Hardcover versus Paperback versus Audio Book versus eBook

There are some who say that audio books and eBooks will eventually replace hardcover and paperback books. It is true that in 2011, eBooks outsold, for the first time, all other formats in the categories of adult fiction and children’s/young adult titles according to the Association of American Publishers. Audio books have gained momentum as well. But in 2013, the sale of eBooks had a lower increase than expected. Paper books still outsold eBooks in all categories combined (557 million hardcovers versus 457 eBooks). People who love to read seem to want to have all book mediums available to them.

Aside from the numbers, book publishers won’t be forgoing hardcover books any time soon. They know that seeing a new book with eye-catching art work in a brick and mortar store is still a viable way to get the consumer’s attention.

Regarding paperback books, their role has changed from the publisher’s perspective. They used to be targeted toward consumers looking for a cheaper alternative to the hardcover book. Today however, the cheaper alternative is the eBook. So now the paperback is used to re-launch a book with a new cover in order take another shot at grabbing the consumer’s attention.

From the consumer’s perspective, there are different reasons from the book publishers as to why printed books are here to stay, at least for now. Sure eBooks on your favorite mobile device are the most convenient when traveling for obvious reasons. And procuring new books downloaded to your device is a snap. Audio books are the easiest for people doing a lot of driving or for people multi-tasking during an exercise workout. But there is just something about having a book you can hold, flip through the pages and admire on a book shelf; a reminder to the journey that it took you on. Collectible books, too, will always have an appeal. That dusty leather-bound vintage book has a certain smell, a certain wonder of the places it has been, the hands that have held it.

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Juvenile Blue Bird



We found this bird under a tree on its back and unable to move. Setting it upright resulted in it falling over initially. After I worked its legs manually, it was able to move the right leg on its own. I moved him away from potential predators and continued monitoring it throughout the day. It wouldn’t take water or crushed strawberries, but it got stronger and stronger on its own. First it was able to perch, then later hop a little. During the last perch session, it sang for me. I moved it out into the open and it flew away to the closest tree, yea!  Bye, Bye Blue Bird. I hope it makes it.

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Booked to Die – My First Collectible Book Purchase

I didn’t read books unless I had to for school assignments, until I met Steve.  Not long after we started dating, Steve encouraged me to read a few books that he enjoyed and opened me up to a whole new world.

Then not long after we married, he took book appreciation to a new level.  He started learning all about first editions and what makes a book collectible. His collection grew slowly for a number of years.  Every now and then Steve would take me to a book fair where he would wade through stacks and rows of books, looking for a gem.  This was before the Internet which has made book scouting so much easier and sadly, has taken away some of the thrill of the hunt. I will never know as much as Steve when it comes to book collecting, but I remember one book fair where I made my first of only a few collectible book purchases.

I was always overwhelmed at the book fairs. There were so many books I didn’t know where to start.  Often when I did focus on one of interest, I didn’t have enough confidence in my knowledge to commit.  But shortly before “my first purchase” book fair, Steve had recommended a book for me to read.

It was “Booked to Die” written by John Dunning in 1992.  I loved the book!  It’s the first book of 5 following Cliff Janeway, a Denver cop who retires and becomes the owner of a rare book store. It is a murder mystery deeply entrenched in the world of book scouting. Not only is it a good page-turner, but it is also great for learning about book collecting and has some really nice quotable lines about the value of books, rare or otherwise.  I learned a lot from “Booked to Die” which I’m sure contributed to my wanting to try out my new-found courage in scouting for a collectible book.

2 weeks after reading the book, I spotted a first edition of “Booked to Die” at a book fair in Atlanta. Since it was my first “first” find, I was nervous haggling with the bookseller, but we finally agreed on a price.  Proud of my purchase, I decided to write the author to tell him how much his book inspired me and to ask his opinion of my transaction.  To my amazement, John Dunning wrote back! His response was thoughtfully worded and typed on an old manual typewriter, what he calls “an honest machine”.

He also included a book mark from his now-closed The Old Algonquin Bookstore. On the back of it, he handwrote Cliff Janeway references, crude drawings of a face and boll weevil, and his signature.   I cherish these mementos which I keep with my copy of “Booked to Die”.


I’m very grateful that Mr. Dunning took time out from his busy writing schedule to share some of his knowledge with me.  The last I heard, he still maintains his on-line bookstore (https://www.oldalgonquin.com).

John Dunning has written other noteworthy books, one of which is another favorite of mine.  I still highly recommend the Cliff Janeway books, but if you get a chance, take a look at “Two O’Clock, Eastern Wartime”. It’s a thriller intertwined with a wonderful history of radio in the 1940’s.