Saturday, December 24, 2011

Books to Read Over Winter Break

Frankly, I'm not a huge fan of winter. It's a great time to stay indoors and read lots of books. This is especially true when it snows. Because I'm not a big fan of snow, at all.

Well, one the books, THE LEFTOVERS, has actually been reviewed on this blog.

What do you know? :)

And I really hate snow.

So, happy holidays. However you choose to celebrate them. And happy reading!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Actual Bookstores are Way Cool

Credit: AP
You know, I won't deny that I've benefited financially as an author from online sales of my books in electronic format, especially through Amazon. Since Amazon is a mammoth online retailer, what would you expect? Chopped liver?

However, that doesn't mean I agree with the recent article in Slate, that actually argued against supporting local booksellers in favor of Amazon. Seriously? WTF?

Why can't they all co-exist? Real brick and mortar bookstores have their benefits, don't they?

Yes, they do. And this article talks about that.

I urge you to read the whole thing, but the intro will give you the general idea: 

On a recent evening in Washington, D.C., Kramerbooks was hopping. Getting inside meant actually shimmying past people who were chatting and poring over the stacks. There’s a restaurant in the back, but on this particular night there was no wait for a table, so it’s safe to say that the vast majority of these people were using Kramerbooks as a place to hang out.

Two doors down, at Beadazzled, a bead and jewelry shop, no such crowd could be found. Both stores are independently owned, well-liked local institutions that have been in D.C. for decades. But Kramerbooks is a hive of ebullient chatter on any given night and Beadazzled isn’t. Why do bookstores so often become magnets for bustling urban activity?

Bookstores enjoy a rare trait: To many, the store itself is seen as at least as important to the community as the product it sells. There are several reasons for this, which is why a Slate story published earlier this week called “Don’t Support Your Local Bookseller” has sparked a small online uprising of indignant bookworms. In the story — so paint-by-numbers counterintuitive that it almost reads as a parody of a Slate piece — Farhad Manjoo argued that people should buy books on Amazon and let independent bookshops wither. “Buying books on Amazon is better for authors, better for the economy, and better for you,” he writes.

Authors and economists can duke it out over the first two claims. But “better for you” is a lot of B.S.  if you are lucky enough to live somewhere that has a quality independent bookstore. (And if you live in the suburbs, I bet it’s hard to find a parking spot by your local Barnes & Noble on a Friday night, just as it was at Borders, before bad business decisions pushed it into bankruptcy.) Unlike almost any other kind of retail establishment, bookstores operate as quasi-public neighborhood trusts that give city dwellers more than they receive in return. Like art galleries, they’re a free-of-charge indoor urban venue where you can make yourself comfortable without being expected to eat something, drink something, or even buy something.

This is why the most-loved bookstores tend to hang on: Kramerbooks and Politics & Prose in D.C., The Strand and McNally-Jackson in New York, Skylight and Book Soup in Los Angeles, Tattered Cover in Denver, Book People in Austin, Texas — the list goes on. Their patrons are numerous enough that even if only a fraction of them make a purchase it adds up to a profit. That doesn’t really make them like Whole Foods, as Manjoo suggests. Yes, both Whole Foods and independent bookstores provide a luxury shopping experience, but bookstores provide a cooperative aspect that goes well beyond that. No one goes to Whole Foods just to soak up the atmosphere — everyone’s ultimately there to buy quinoa and ramps. Bookstores, on the other hand, function as communal spaces, which makes them valuable urban amenities.

Nice rebuttal!

Besides (and in my own experience), how are you going to buy a decent espresso (at a place that reminds you of Italy) or get to hear a really great author give a talk before a signing on Amazon? Hmm? :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Art Wall Decor | How To Manasge Art Decor for Your Walls

Manage Art Wall Decor
Mirror Wall Decor

When you step inside a house or any place you visit, the first thing you will probably notice is its wall decor. A suitable wall art decor can definitely catch attention and can even impress the guests and anyone who will be able to see it. If you are a home owner, you might be thinking how can you make your home a much better place for your family to enjoy.

A wall art and decor must be best in terms of uniqueness, style, and cost. Then go for the type which you have planned. Decorating ideas is very crucial in terms of selecting a wall art and decor. When selecting wall art, we have several options, including paintings, grilles, mirrors, shelves, and others. The choices we make regarding these items are important. Some of the most important selections involve the type of wall art is size, the arrangement we will use, and the wall art's color.
Grouping Photographs and other wall decors:
Framed photos, art prints and posters can be hung by grouping them to look professional. It shows unity when you display art prints, photographs and pictures together. Even pictures with different shapes and sizes but having the same frame color and mount will show unity.

It is also very important to hang frames with uniform spacing. The common mistake in hanging frames is to hang them higher than "eye level" of an average person on walls of the hallways or entry ways where people view them while standing. When hanging them in the walls of the living room and dining area, framed displays should be at eye level which is about 6 to 9 inches above the furniture when you're seated. To manage wall art decor you must read 5 tips from Amy C below:

Dealing with large walls:
The wide space you have to cover makes it a little harder to decorate large walls than smaller ones. When things you hang on the wall are not in proportion, it looks awkward. An effective way to deal with large walls is to hang framed photographs across the wall in several rows arranged in straight line or in any pattern you want.

Using Mirrors and Metal Art:
A mirror can make a room look larger and it can add dimensions. Wall mirrors come in different styles and designs. It is also a good way to decorate your wall with metal arts crafted from brass or silver. These kinds of wall art are unique and not so many people use them.

Tiles are contemporary wall decors:
You can easily buy some pieces of tiles and add your personal artistic touch.

Manage Art Wall Decor
Curtain Wall Decor
Curtains and shelves:
Curtains are always important to add a warm and cozy look. Curtains enhance the look of the wall. Shelves add beauty when placed across a wall where you can display books and other decors.

Manage Art Wall Decor
Wall Shelves Decor
You can create your own unique style. Art decors can easily enhance the indoor mood. This is an excellent opportunity to show your personal expression through the decors that you hang on your wall. It can be classic, modern, funny, romantic or contemporary. You'll never be short of choices to make a great looking wall.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

20 Essential Books About Special Education

Once again, I have an article to share with an interesting list of books. In this case, it's a list of books about special education.

I'll just quote a bit from the article to give you an idea, okay?

Special education teachers require a very specific set of skills if they hope to do right by their students. Even the best make mistakes, but opening up to what others have to say and offer grants them an excellent opportunity to learn and forge viable future solutions. That’s why reading proves fundamental when entering the industry. Without the free exchange of ideas and insights, many promising kids and teens with special needs might not receive the educational opportunities that are their right.

Plenty of fantastic reads exist beyond this, of course, so read these selections and use them as an introduction to all the varying perspectives out there. This list strives more for diversity rather than any one facet in particular. Don’t take it personally if a favorite ended up left off. That doesn’t make it a bad book by any means!

Well, of course not. All books are special, right? And somehow this topic reminds me of this heartbreaking movie.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Berkley Book Corner

As part of my continuing show of support for indie bookstores, I'm blogging about The Berkley Book Corner, which opened not too long ago.

It should be noted that this bookstore is located in Berkley, Michigan -- not Berkeley, California.

So ... I was trying to find things online that would express the essence of Berkley to readers.

A Google search produced the usual Chamber of Commerce stuff. All well and good, but BOH-ring!

Then, I turned to my old friend Google images. And what did I find?

This cool movie marquee ...

This awesome T-shirt ...

And a photo of Curtis Armstrong ... ?

Turns out that both Curtis Armstrong and Marshall Crenshaw are from Berkley, Michigan.

Now isn't that something?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

50 Best Books for American History Buffs

If you enjoy history, here's a list of books you might like. An article called 50 Best Books for American History Buffs provides a list that runs the gamut from colonial American times onward.

I'll quote the article, word for word:

While a young country in comparison to many others around the globe, the United States nonetheless has a rich and engaging history. 

From the early days of settlement on the East Coast, to the wild days of outlaws and Indian wars in the West, from shore to shore, there is plenty to learn about when it comes to studying how our country came to be the nation that it is today.

Isn't that interesting? But wait! There's more.

Best of all, you don't have to major in history to do it. All you need is a passion for history and a few good books.

Here we've compiled a list of just a few of these wonderful books on America's past that offer an education on the complexities of the history of our country you likely didn't even touch upon in your previous history courses.

Yeah, complexities ...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's All About the Money and Family in 'Steal the Show'

Review: STEAL THE SHOW (Minotaur Books 2011)
Author: Thomas Kaufman

Willis Gidney isn't your average private eye. For one thing, he was raised in the tender loving care of the Washington, D.C. juvenile justice system. Which is to say, he grew up hard and fast.

Incidentally, Gidney is a white man. For good or ill, race plays a significant role. D.C. has a large black population. And it's juvenile justice system is no exception. So Gidney grew up a minority within that system, as well as one within his own hometown.

He's also unmarried and looking to adopt a daughter who's currently in the clutches care of the D.C. Adoptive Services agency. Her name is Sarah. Well, Gidney calls her Sarah, anyway. Her actual name is Baby Jane Doe or some really institutional "who gives a good crap about you" name.

And wouldn't you know that Gidney's case worker turns out to be the biggest b*tch most ruthless bureaucrat of them all.

So Gidney really needs to get his hands on some moolah big time. To pay his lawyer. So he can grease the legal wheels and adopt this kid.

As a result, Gidney does just about the stupidest most desperate thing you can imagine. He agrees to break into a warehouse and ends up finding a lot of movie pirating equipment.

But he does it for the money, so he can grease the wheels and get the kid, so it's okay, right? No, it's not.

Turns out his client is an asshole a jerk and takes pictures of him breaking into the warehouse. Imagine!

So then the client uses the pictures to force Gidney to work for his father. The client's father, that is. Gidney don't have no daddy, remember? :( Anyhow, Gidney is forced to work for the client's dad, a lobbyist for motion pictures. Don't ask. He needs the money, okay?

Plus, have I mentioned how much I like Gidney? He's really awesome, tough and funny. Plus, Thomas Kaufman writes about D.C. with a style that's wholly his own. He captures the feel of the place perfectly. His prose reflects the hardboiled sensibilities of a modern Raymond Chandler, but does so in a fresh and unique way.

As for the plot, I don't dare tell more for risk of spoilers. Just know that Gidney's girlfriend, Lilly, is an important part of it. Gidney and Lilly share many touching scenes together. (No pun intended. Ha ha ... ) The book also features many other colorful characters, like his clever, albino attorney, various ruthless ganstas and a diva actress who tries to seduce Gidney while impaling his foot with her spike-heeled shoe. Nice! And as is customary for hardboiled mysteries, this one's got twists and turns aplenty.

So ... why is the book called STEAL THE SHOW? Because it involves film piracy. However, the great director Alfred Hitchcock used a plot device called a MacGuffin. It was a thing the characters sought or desired that was used to drive the plot, which could end up being essentially meaningless in the grand scheme. In my opinion, the film piracy in this novel seems like a MacGuffin. This story is really about Gidney's need for money and his desire for a family. This gives the book far more emotional resonance than the average private eye novel. Pretty damned awesome.

PS: How does someone in the trunk of a car survive an accident in which the auto flips over, crashes and burns, then emerge from the trunk without a scratch? I don't think so ...

PPS: It's Hopkins Street, not Hopkins Place. Ahem! :)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mystery Scene Magazine Review of 'City of Whispers'

Before the awesome Sara Paretsky (who I've just found out is on Twitter and is a cappuccino drinker -- love it!) and even the amazing Sue Grafton (who I heart so dearly), there was Marcia Muller.

As you can see, Muller endures. CITY OF WHISPERS is her 28th Sharon McCone mystery, and I reviewed it for Mystery Scene Magazine. Here's the link to the review right here.

I love hardboiled mystery writing women. And I love the Internet. :)

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