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winterLAND book journal #21 - WinterLAND - Jan. 27 to May 26, 2014
     also journals:
 #18 - #19 - #20 - #22

We've doing our Northern California being-with-and-helping-family thing — a few days in Oakland and a few days in Winters every week. During the summer the contrast between the intense heat of the Central Valley and the cool dampness of the East Bay is fascinatingly different.

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crowingbook to crow about   not the best or the worst   special type of book special creative design/execution   p no enjoyment, but no warts




book A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel (F/195p) $16.00, Penguin - finished reading 5.26.14  


crow Any Other Name by Craig Johnson (F/317p) $26.95, Viking - finished reading 5.24.14  


crow A Serpent's Tooth by Craig Johnson (F/335p) $15.00, Penguin - finished reading 5.23.14   

   Another Craig Johnson that I loved. It seems that Mr. Johnson may have been reading some spy novels, as this book gets the police force involved with the CIA, and maybe a little reading about the environment and the oil industry, as the underside of that industry shows a black heart on the bottom and the top in this story.  


crow Benediction by Kent Haruf (F/258p) $18.00, Vintage - finished reading 5.18.14   

   Haruf is such an excellent writer, one who draws on so many emotions, that his characters are crafted with many dimensions, yet, always against a simple background/landscape that shows how nature is always a major character in most any scene. You may very much feel like you've stepped back into a simpler time, but these people aren't really much different, they just don't live lives that are as distracted as our modern ones.     


crow The Black Country by Alex Grecian (F/383p) $16.00, Penguin - finished reading 5.17.14   

   The writing is a wonderful mixture of suspense and darkness, as the reader is told how the newly-formed Scotland Yard's Murder Squad goes about investigating a series of murders, murders that just may be related. The story is fast-moving and historical, with a fantastic landscape of Sherlock Holmes era Great Britain, and a local landscape that's quickly changing at the end of the book—literally, the ground beneath the characters' feet is shifting and moving. It's fascinating to watch how Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith search out, and seemingly create, some of the new crime sciences that change the way the police deal with crime. What fun this book was, and the advantage of reading this author's second book first, was that I had the first title, The Yard, to head to once I finished this title.  


book A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (F/384p) $15.00, Random House - finished reading 5.15.14




book Sweeping Changes by Gary Thorp (NF/147p) $19.00, Walker & Company - finished REREADing 5.8.14   

   This is my third, fourth, or fifth reading of this great little book, and I always feel good after reading it. Gary called on our bookstores for years as a publisher's rep, showing that season's line of new books. We both got to know Gary a little better as each year rolled by, and he was a very pleasant, low-key guy, and this book is just such a good reflection of who Gary is. We had Gary do a book signing for this book, and it was a treat to see people react and relate to this kind-hearted man.  


crow The Philosophy Book edited by Sam Atkinson (NF/343p) $25.00, DK - finished reading 5.7.14   

   Hell, this isn't a book to curl up with to read from front to back, though that's exactly what I did, but it's an excellent introduction to a very broad range of philosophers and schools of thought. I learn so much, being a philosophical bumpkin, that it could be a great reference book if it didn't have to be packed away, because of a lack of space in my life.   


crow The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis (F/733p) $20.00, Picador/FSG - finished reading 5.3.14   

   If you haven't read her short stories − and you like short stories at all − you owe it to yourself to have that experience. Her range of topic is incredibly broad, her writing always intriguing, and she doesn't just go for an easy plot twist to surprise and shock you, she writes with heart and style about characters that you care about and seem believable human.     


book Ashes of Evil by Janet Gallagher (F/369p) Publish America - finished reading 4.23.14   

   A very surprising story of murder, grit and surprise, from a older and kind woman that I got to know. It is always a kick to find out what the inside of an author's mind is like, as opposed to their outer personality.  


crow The Unwinding by George Packer (NF/430p) $16.00, FSG - finished reading 4.20.14  


book The World Afloat by M.A.C. Farrant (F/96p) $12.95, Talonbooks - finished reading 4.12.14





crow Can't and Won't by Lydia Davis (F/283p) $26.00, FSG - finished reading 4.10.14  


book The Night Watcher by Sarah Waters (F/524p) $15.00, Penguin - finished reading 4.3.14  


book Harvest by Jim Crace (F/343p) $15.00, Vintage - finished reading 3.29.14  


book In Paradise by Peter Matthiessen (F/244p) $27.95, Penguin - finished reading ARC 3.22.14   

   This was his last published novel, and it was an ambitious work that involved a varied group of travelers and their visit to a concentration camp. The characters included camp survivors, guards and staff members, tourists, and relatives of all. Bringing this diverse group into one book created a fertile ground for discussion, argument, and thought-provoking dialogue. There was something about it that just seemed off about the whole thing, and I'm not sure what that was, but I thought about this book for weeks after finishing it.  


book Why Are You So Sad? by Jason Porter (F/192p) $15.00, Penguin - finished reading 3.21.14  


crow The Vikings by Robert Ferguson (NF/382p) $18.00, Penguin - finished reading 3.18.14   

   Okay, so I've been a sucker for anything about Vikings, since I was a young boy building wooden models of Viking long ships, but this was such a good history of the far-reaching effects of these warriors, raiders, pillagers, settlers, builders, and assimilators that one can't help but see how important they were in the world's history. 




book Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala (NF/228p) $15.00, Random House - finished reading 3.16.14  


book We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (F/308p) $16.00, Penguin - finished reading 3.15.14   

    I have known Karen for many years as a customer in our bookstores, as an author who we hosted for booksigning events in our bookstores,  and as someone who's heart was firmly in the right place when it comes to caring about the community she lived in. As to her writing, I have always appreciated the sense of humor and the playfulness in her short stories. This collection is very good, and a pleasure to read.     


book The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner (F/416p) $17.00, Scribner - finished reading 3.8.14   

   Maybe I just wasn't in the right state of mind for this book, as Vicky read it first and loved it, but this novel just didn't move me that much. I could appreciate the writing and some of the plotline, but my mind drifted away from the book, time and time again.    


book The Race Underground by Doug Most (NF/416p) $27.99, St. Martins - finished reading ARC 3.5.14  


crow Heart of Darkness by Robert Conrad (F/412p) $24.95, Tin House Books - finished reading 2.27.14 and again 3.1.14

special type  


book The Remedy by Thomas Goetz (NF/320p) $27.00, Penguin - finished reading ARC 2.24.14  




book A Day at the Beach by Geoffrey Wolff  (NF/314p) $15.95, Vintage - finished reading 2.18.14  


crow Kurt Vonnegut Letters edited by Dan Wakefield (NF/412p) $20.00, Random House - finished reading 2.13.14   

   This was easily the best experience I have ever had reading the collected letters of an author, or anyone. These personal letters exposed more of the man behind the public persona that was, Kurt Vonnegut, best-selling author. The letters range from the many notes to family members and friends, to letters to his publishers, and even the letter here and there to people responsible for banning some of his books. His humor was often present, and his good heart was displayed time and time again. He might be casually and humorously writing about setting his house on fire with a stray cigarette, or reflecting on the fact that he was outliving many of his long-time friends. His practical nature was the firm base of many of his thoughts, but the pure whimsy that he loved to express in his books and letters, was such a joy. I'm richer for the reading.  


book The Isle of Youth by Laura van den Berg (F/242p) $14.00, FSG - finished reading 2.6.14   

   The range, resourcefulness of plot, and fine writing on display in this collection, is the reason I love to read short stories. The author has an easy style that creates characters that are very believable and real. I didn't want one story to end, but I was always eager to have another begin. I felt like reading putty in a talented writer's hands...I would let here take me anywhere.  


book Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (F/396p) $17.99, Quirk Books - finished reading 2.1.14    

   This volume is the follow-up to that most-unique book, Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children. If you liked Peculiar Children, Hollow City will be a good experience for you. I get a distinct young adult vibe going with these books (nothing wrong in that), and the writing is able to develop situations cleanly enough that the bizarre collection of characters have a good canvas upon which to have their grand adventure. I love some of these odd characters, and their unique powers, and it's pleasurable to know that Riggs is already working on the third book.   

   The process of the writing interests me. Does he search for photos to support a possible plotline already developed in his mind, or do the strange photographs nudge the story this way and that? However he does it, it's working for him with good book sales and increasing backing from his publisher.

special type The books are special and they deserve attention.     


book Winters by Dorothy M. O'Neil (NF/126p) $21.99, Arcadia Publishing - finished reading 2.1.14   

   There are so many of these book by Arcadia, of about communities all across our country, and I have read many of them about places in California and Vermont. There is a standard style to them, but if the subject interests you, you're sure to go from cover to cover in a flash. Often, the publisher connects to a local historical society, and if you know any of the history of the subject area, you will recognize many of the photos and drawings that these books are filled with. So, if you want to appreciate a community more, learn more about the history and development of maybe your hometown, pick up the Arcadia book for your city.     


crow As the Crow Flies by Craig Johnson (F/308p) $25.95, Viking  - finished reading 1.29.14



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