Tuesday, May 28, 2019

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 followup 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"!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Two Cards from St. Louis

Recently I purchased a post card for my collection.  It was to be a duplicate, but I wanted it all the same because I liked the card and the written message on it.  The card is labeled Harbor Boat “Mark Twain”, St. Louis, Mo. and has a picture of that boat in the early 1900’s.

“Miss Ella” had sent it to a young fellow (based on the use of the title “Master” in the address), perhaps a neighbor's son or a favored student, for speculation sake.  On the front she had written, “How would you like to ride on this boat?”.  The card is dated 1908, and what red-blooded young man of that time would not want to ride on a steamboat?  Perhaps he even dreamed of piloting steamboats just like the boat’s namesake, Mark Twain, had done.  At any rate it is a card and message that can easily promote a bit of pleasant daydreaming.

Now, to the rest of the story.  I recorded the card in my database and noted that it was postmarked September 26, 1908.  When I filed the card, I pulled out the duplicate card I had purchased previously and looked it over.  It too had a message on the front, “Love from Uncle Charlie & Aunt Ella”.  Then, on the back I saw that it was postmarked September 25, 1908.  Both cards were postmarked from St. Louis.  The writing on the two cards is similar but does not look exactly alike.  Still, it’s quite possible that one was written by Charlie and the other by Ella.

There is solid ground to conclude that these two cards were sent by the same couple just one day apart in September of 1908.  I had purchased the first in March, 2007, and now in January, 2015 had come into possession of the other.  Perhaps Charlie and Ella sent even more of that same card while on that trip to St. Louis, and eventually they too will find their way here.  Good times.  Good times.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

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:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Jug Tavern Festival

Winder is a small Georgia town about 42 miles northeast of Atlanta. The origin of the town and the county it resides in is an interesting story.

Originally Winder was a trading center that was named Snodon by Creek and Cherokee Indians in the 1700s. In the late 1700s, white settlers arrived at which time the settlement named changed to Jug. There is no documented reason for the name, but some say there was a jug-shaped field next to the local tavern. 10 years later the name changed to Jug Tavern. The town only had about 37 residents at the time and it grew slowly until the years shortly after the civil war. A number of the townsmen did fight in the civil war. Two important battles nearby were the Battle of Jug Tavern and the Battle of King's Tanyard. Jug Tavern finally gained prominence in 1883 when a railroad line was built going through town, connecting it with Gainesville and Social Circle. Initially the railroad was to pass 4 miles south of town, but John H. Winder, the general manager of Seaboard Air Line Railway, decide to relocate the track to run through the town. In appreciation, the townspeople changed the name of the town to Winder.

Early on, Jug Tavern extended into 3 counties: Jackson, Walton and Gwinnett. There is a story of 2 local men involved in a fight. One of the men, standing in Gwinnett County, shot another man standing in Jackson County who fell and died in Walton County. At any rate, the town spanning 3 counties caused continuous legal and governance confusion for the residents and businesses. As a result, Barrow County was created in 1914 from portions of all 3 counties. It was named after David Crenshaw Barrow, Jr. who was a University of Georgia mathematics and engineering professor and later, Chancellor.

To honor its history, Winder now hosts an annual Jug Tavern Festival and BBQ Cook-Off. The multi-day event includes a 5K road race, carnival, car show, craft booths, food booths, BBQ cook-off and live entertainment. This year's event kicks off with the carnival on Wednesday, September 10th and runs through Sunday, September 14.

Regarding Books is excited to be joining the festival this year and will host a booth Friday evening and all day Saturday.  Please come join us!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

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.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Fun, New Murder Mystery series by Steve Hockensmith and Lisa Falco

I recently learned that Steve Hockensmith has a new book out. 

The White Magic Five & Dime is a contemporary mystery with a tarot theme and is co-written with Lisa Falco.

While perusing the shelves in a local bookstore some years back, I’d guess 2007, I came across a colorful book with an interesting title, and after reading the blurbs decided to give it a chance. 
Holmes on the Range introduced me to the writing of Steve Hockensmith and to the Amlingmeyer brothers, the central characters of the book, and to the four books that followed. There's a signed first edition of the book on ABE Books.

My wife and I usually have a designated book that we read aloud together – on car trips or when we just feel like reading together.  I enjoyed Holmes on the Range enough that I recommended it to her.  After that, each book in the series became our designated book.  We followed the Amlingmeyer brothers through adventure, drama, close shaves, and laughter in:  On the Wrong Track, The Black Dove, The Crack in the Lens, and The World’s Greatest Sleuth.

If you like a mystery, especially light-hearted with humorous dialog and cliff-hanging situations, you likely will enjoy this series of books.  The Amlingmeyer brothers are cowboys turned sleuths, and a classic pair of brothers they are.  Opposites in most ways, but each with attributes that complement the other’s in their endeavors at sleuthing and fighting their way out of tight situations. They are usually at odds with each other, but always looking out for each other.  As you ride along on their adventures and laugh at their disagreements, you also learn their backgrounds and their family history, and you see the relationship between them evolve.  Good fun, good reads.
There is also a book of short stories titled Dear Mr. Holmes that adds to the background of the brothers as well as some additional adventures.

Steve Hockensmith has been a prolific and diverse writer over the past eight or so years.  In addition to books already noted he has written several zombie-themed novels and co-written a series of quirky novels for middle-grade kids.  Add to that a couple of books of mystery short stories titled, Blarney: 12 Tales of Lies Crime and Mystery and Naughty: Nine Tales of Christmas Crime.
The zombie books include Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:  Dawn of the Dreadfuls which is a prequel to Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a Jane Austin revamp.  Hockensmith followed that with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:  Dreadfully Ever After.  He also published Cadaverin Chief:  A Special Report from the Dawn of the Zombie Apocalypse.

The middle-grade books were co-written with Bob Pflugfelder and include:  Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab, Nick and Tesla’s Secret Agent Gadget Battle, Nick and Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage, and Nick and Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove.

I have read only the Amlingmeyer novels and short stories.  The others are outside my normal reading genres, though I am sure Hockensmith’s writing skills would serve them well.  The new mystery novel (The White Magic Five & Dime) is one that I plan to read, and I look forward to meeting some new characters from the source that gave us Big Red and Otto Amlingmeyer.   

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

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 3G 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.