Life is a Series of Books

"The books one reads in childhood, and perhaps most of all the bad and good bad books, create in one's mind a sort of false map of the world, a series of fabulous countries into which one can retreat at odd moments throughout the rest of life..." George Orwell

In a recent post I set you up for the summer with a selection of chick lit reads. The books should be keeping you busy unless your kids are home and won’t leave you some time alone! The recent movie release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince from the book series inspired me to recommend other collections available for the tween and teen scene.
News flash: the notorious James Frey is being taken off the backburner and back into the Frey-ing pan! You might recall his book A Million Little Pieces creating quite the kafuffle in the literary world. Frey went from the pan to the fire soon after Oprah put A Million Little Pieces on her book club list. Oprah proceeded to tear Frey into a million little pieces after it was revealed that his autobiography was a bit more imagination than realization! Frey was panned but now he’s on fire! All the hullabaloo didn’t hurt Frey’s career since he went on to write My Friend Leonard and Bright Shiny Morning. Now it appears that Frey is venturing into the teen scene with a sci-fi series for the younger set of ravenous readers. Frey is pairing up with a new novelist, Jobie Huges, to write four books. The first book is titled I Am Number Four. Are they going to work backwards or what’s the deal? It’s also been reported that Transformers director, Michael Bay has bought the film rights to I Am Number Four. Let’s hope the books and the movies do well or we’ll be hearing reviews that I Am Number Two stinks! Phew! Sorry, I just had to add that. With the recent release of the latest Harry Potter movie, I can’t help but wonder if Frey is switching gears desperately trying to be the next J.K. Rowling? Maybe it’s just the cynic in me but we can’t blame him for trying, right? Maybe Frey is looking for a million little dollars? Cue song: Barenaked Ladies singing ‘If I Had A Million Dollars’
If you have kids at home this summer and you’ve already heard “I’m bored” a million little times and feel as if you are going out of your freaking mind then maybe I can help. If your kids spend the majority of their waking hours starring at a screen or glued to a game controller then I might be able to assist. I have a 13 year old son. Need I say more? What’s a parent to do you ask? Get your kids into reading a good book, or better yet, a book series! I’m all for children reading whatever they’re into, even if it’s Archie Comics. BTW, did you hear Archie and Veronica are getting hitched? OMG! I thought I’d share a Twitter tidbit there!
After a few years of disinterest in reading, my “I’ll wait for the movie” son turned out to be an avid reader and now actually enjoys spending time in Chapters with me. Sometimes ‘DS’ likes to go it alone but that’s not the point and I don’t take it personally, really. (Sniff, sniff.) He is a teenager after all! This summer he’s discovered a series of books by Michelle Paver. For grading day I gave him a bag full of books that made him grin from ear to ear! I’m always asking him, “Whatcha reading?” and he always answers with the name of a book and looks forward to reading the next one. That’s my boy! I’m all for recommending the Harry Potter books but if your kids have ‘been there and done that’ so to speak and eager for a different series to get into then check out these titles.
Chronicles of an Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver: Oath Breaker, Outcast, Wolf Brother, Soul Eater, Spirit Walker.
Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Magician’s Nephew, The Horse and His Boy, The Silver Chair, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Last Battle.
Inheritance Series by Christopher Paolini: Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr.
Pendragon by D.J. MacHale: The Merchant of Death, The Lost City of Faar, The Never War, The Reality Bug, Black Water, The Rivers of Zadaa, The Quillan Games, The Pilgrims of Rayne, Raven Rise, The Soldiers of Halla.
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer: Artemis Fowl, Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident, The Eternity Code, Artemis Fowl and the Opal Deception, Artemis Fowl the Graphic Novel, Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony, Artemis Fowl The Time Paradox, Airman.
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket: The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, The Miserable Mill, The Austere Academy, The Ersatz Elevator, The Vile Village, The Hostile Hospital, The Carnivorous Carnival, The Slippery Slope, The Grim Grotto, The Penultimate Peril, The End.
So this summer encourage your kids to spend some time in the library or a book store and then bask in the quiet solitude as they immerse themselves in their books!

The Color of Love

Writing a blog can be an intensely personal and revealing experience. It can be like passing your diary around for all to see but of course to a lesser degree! Funnily enough I’m usually a very private person. I tend to be more of a listener in most social settings, but one-to-one I’m all about telling you like it is. I’m stealing a phrase from my sister that goes, “everyone is entitled to my opinion!” (Special shout out to Kara - Holla!) This is one of the reasons why I started reviewing to compliment my love for reading and writing. At times I pick a book for purely selfish reasons instead of sticking to the tried and true bestseller list. Sometimes I discover a real gem!
A while back on a trek to the book store I noticed the book
Pig Candy: Taking My Father South, Taking My Father Home: A Memoir (Free Press, 2009) by Lise Funderburg. I found myself compelled to read it after perusing the book’s covers. Lise Funderburg is a freelance journalist and the acclaimed author of Black, White, Other: Biracial Americans Talk About Race and Identity (Quill, 1995) and The Color Purple: A Memory Book (Carroll & Graf, 2006). I recalled Oprah, the book maven herself, giving the thumbs up to Black, White, Other and read Funderburg’s insightful contributions to Oprah’s O Magazine. Why was I so draw to reading this memoir? Lise Funderburg is the mixed- race daughter to a black father and a white mother. Funderburg’s novel Black, White, Other is a collection of forty-six stories told by adults from black- white unions. Like these individuals and the author, I share this similarity. My father is from West Indian descent and my mother’s heritage is French Canadian. I can relate to being in the ‘Other’ category.

In Pig Candy Lise pays tribute to her terminally ill, stroke-impaired father, recalling their annual trips from his retirement community in Pennsylvania to his summer farm house in Georgia. George Newton Funderburg was a complex man with a colorful background and a thorny past. His life experiences are marked by times of segregated schools, ‘White’s Only’ signs and KKK threats. Lise wondered why she and her two sisters had such restricted childhoods but more than that she wanted desperately to get to know her father after years of disconnect. As an aside here, I can relate to the strict upbringing, but now that I’m a parent myself I can look back on it as a form of protection.

Lise reflects on her father’s skewed psyche,
“My father won’t let Margaret close all of the sunroom blinds to August’s wilting midday heat. You can close most of them, he says, as long as you leave two or three open. I want to be able to see the Klan sneaking up on us. He is joking and he is not joking.”
Lise puts on a brave face and deals with her father’s cancer and cantankerous manner, all the while trying to gain some much needed closure to their strained relationship.

George’s e-mail is a good example of his headstrong nature.
Subject: Eddie Frank’s Ungracious Behavior.

dear Jackie and Eddie,
it is distressing to have to write this e-mail about eddie’s confrontational, ungracious behavior toward one of my guest invited to fish on our lake.
it may be that we can straighten this outwhen i return in about two weeks, I hope so, how ever to emphaxize my position, let me suggest that eddie not, fish on our pond until we do straighten this out. also, it might be a good idea for eddie not to take any of my liquor, vodka or wine,until that time I am not an Indian giver and realize that there may be some wine I had given Jackie that she should feel free to take home if she likes.
by copy of this writing to francees smith [Dorothy’s sister] i am requesting she pass it along to troy eugene johnson so that he may reassure his nephew that my permission for him to fish on our lak is still in tact and he is welcome to come back.the nephew should know that his grandmother was most gracious to me over sixty years ago when i spent a weekend at their house in the Glades.
Keep well, continue your good work and enjoy
uncle george
Best Wishes

Don’t get me wrong, George isn’t all bad; he has a likeable quirkiness about him. He likes the challenge of inventions and helpful gadgets. The special order pig box is right up his alley! Lise, family and friends, help him in his mission to make pig candy; a slow cooked barbecue pork delicacy. George is a collector of hobbies. He’s a master of dabbler, if you will. He dives into a new endeavor and inevitably loses his enthusiasm when a new interest comes along. I can relate to this habit myself with a studio full of half completed projects. Don’t get me started!
Endearing and amusing,
Pig Candy is a book to be slowly savored, like the succulent, slow barbecued pork. Just like southern hospitality and home cooked flavor, Pig Candy leaves you feeling warm and wanting more. The themes of mortality and race are treated with dignity and grace. Lisa’s recounting of the Funderburg’s layered family history will leave a legacy for generations to come. In Lise’s search for her own racial identity she discovers a blurring of the lines between race and family. Growing up in a family with assorted colors the one message I can send is that love has no color. I can imagine that Lise Funderburg would agree with me wholeheartedly.

News flash: It was recently announced that Pig Candy made it on the Southern Indie Bestseller (SIBA) list. So much for recommending a little known gem!

The Girls of Summer

If you’re looking for some cool summer reads to take to the cottage or beach then read on dear readers, read on! This summer I’ve noticed a fabulous selection by some of our favorite chick lit authors. There’s so many fresh reads that are just ripe for the picking, and ready for us to devour!
At the top of the list is My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Sara and Brian have a son Jesse and a daughter Kate. All is well until Kate becomes very ill. In desperation, the couple decides to have another child to help their sick girl live a better life. The book introduces a controversial topic. Ethical and moral issues are brought forward when the youngest daughter Anna decides to challenge her parents in court. Anna wants to sue her parents for the rights to her own body. The recent release of the screen version starring Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin is bound to harvest some more interest and popularity for novel. If you haven’t already read the book then you might be interested in the movie tie-in edition. Word of warning: whether you read the book or take in the movie make sure you have tissue at hand!
When I say The Devil Wears Prada what do you think of first; the novel or the movie? If you’re a fan of either of these guilty pleasures then you should know about
Laura Weisberger’s recent novel Chasing Harry Winston. The narrative introduces the reader to three best friends, each on the verge of turning thirty. Two of the gals make resolutions and they give themselves one year to change their lives for the better. Can they all remain friends forever? There’s so much at risk and so much to lose. Talk about drama! Do I smell a movie sneaking around the corner? You heard it here first, people!
Did you read the book Lipstick Jungle or watch the now defunct television series of the same name? If you answered yes to either then you might want to pick up a copy of
Candace Bushnell's new novel One Fifth Avenue. BTW, did you see Brooke Shields speaking at Michael Jackson’s memorial? Heart wrenching! So, getting back to the book One Fifth Avenue, just imagine a Manhattan backdrop, swanky living accommodations and five women on the make. Need I say more? This book is sure to indulge your voyeuristic side!
Emily Giffin is a bestselling author of Something Borrowed, Something Blue and Baby Proof. Now she’s penned a new novel. Love The One Your With is the tale of a woman’s journey in search of true love. Does she stay with the man of her dreams or go with her soul mate? Is it love or is it lust? There’s too many questions and no clear answers. What’s a gal to do? This book is sure to tug at the heartstrings.

Jennifer Weiner is a personal favorite of mine. Hola, twitter friend! I so enjoy her terrific tweets! This summer she offers us the paperback version of her popular book Certain Girls: A Novel. This book is the sequel to Weiner’s bestseller Good In Bed. Certain Girls is appealing just like the 40 something character with all her charms and flaws. This read is both romantic and realistic! You might remember Weiner’s popular book In Her Shoes. Didn’t Cameron Diaz star in the movie In Her Shoes along with the talented Shirley MacLaine and the quirky Toni Collette? Side note: if you get the chance to see Collette in Showtime’s United States of Tara then you are in for a great rollercoaster ride!
BFF’S listen up! What better than spending time with your BBF? How about reading about BFF’s? Jennifer Weiner’s new book Best Friends Forever: A Novel is about to fly off the shelves on July 14. Lifestyles and distance can get in the way of a friendship but some childhood friendships can withstand the test of time. Full of adventure and angst, Best Friends Forever is a tribute to loyalty in friendship. Reading can be more fun if it’s shared so pick this one up and pass it along. Heads up Denise I’m throwing this one your way soon! The unstoppable
Sophie Kinsella brings a new novel to the Shopaholic series. In Shopaholic and Baby, Becky’s back and now there’s a baby on the way! Everything is better than ever or so it seems. Does Becky finally have it all or are there complications on the way? No spoiler here; only the pages will tell!
Twenties Girl is Kinsella’s captivating new narrative about a young woman who finds herself haunted by a ghost; her very feisty and opinionated great-aunt. Great-aunt Sadie just won’t rest until Laura finds the heirloom necklace. Laura goes on the hunt but ends up finding something more than she bargained for in her search for the treasured piece of jewelry. Fans of Sophie Kinsella might already know about the author’s alternate nom de plume
Madeline Wickham. Under the pen name Wickham the author brings her fans a fantastic collection of reads. In Wickham’s novel The Gatecrasher, we meet a mysterious woman who has a penchant for a lavish lifestyle and wealthy men. She knows just how to meet her needs; funerals! I've heard of wedding crashers, but funerals? Are you shaking your head too? Wickham’s writing is wonderful and will leave you wanton or at least wanting more Wickham!
In Sleeping Arrangements, Wickham weaves a tale involving secrets and surprises. Picture this; two families forced to share accommodations while on vacation in a Spanish villa. Add to this uncomfortable situation the fact that Chloe is with her beau and the other man is her former boyfriend. Yikes! If you want some intrigue then this is the novel for you to read.
If you liked Wickham’s novel Remember Me then you might want to try Cocktails for Three. Three friends meet in a bar, and no it’s not the start of a joke but the setting where juicy secrets are revealed! It’s the London, UK fashion scene where gossip reigns supreme and boy these girls can be mean!
Heads up dear readers! Be sure to check out the audio book versions for these titles. They would be perfect for those summer walks or a long drive. Better yet, just grab your beach chair, take in some sun, enjoy a frothy drink and read at the same time! Gentle warning: don’t forget the sunscreen! I should mention that recently I’ve been visiting
Shortcovers to check out popular books and find both the website and the smart phone application very helpful. You can read the first few chapters of a book on-line or from your phone and then have the option to purchase the entire e-book if you so desire. Isn’t technology grand? So dear readers I hope I've given you a good sample of reads to hold you over for the summer. Feel free to send me your feedback or suggestions if it moves you to do so!

Father's Day Message From Author Kevin Alan Milne

Dad’s Day Message from Kevin Alan Milne Author of
The Nine Lessons: A Novel of Love, Fatherhood, and Second Chances
(Center Street- Hachette Book Group, 2009)

Recently I picked up a copy of The Nine Lessons by Kevin Alan Milne. I had planned to tuck it away and give to my husband for Father’s Day. (Note to my husband if you’re reading this ~ surprise!) Instead of wrapping the book I started to read it and then proceeded to check out the author’s website. To my delight I discovered a very frank, funny man who writes with a fine finesse! Milne is also the author of the novella
The Paper Bag Christmas (Center Street-Hachette Book Group, 2008).

Milne is a businessman by day and a writer by night. He has four daughters, one son and a devoted wife. As an aside, I noticed the son (a.k.a the boy) was named Kyler. My husband and I have two boys named Kyle and Tyler. If you blend the two names together it forms a very efficient moniker to yell, um, I meant call, when they are needed at once! I asked the author if he would share with us some words of wisdom and inspiration. He has a message to share about his book The Nine Lessons, “a novel about fears, joys and foibles of being an imperfect parent, and the truths passed on from one generation to the next.”

After graduating from high school in 1991, I attended a public event where all recent graduates were asked what we wanted to be when we “grow up”. I have to admit, I took exception to that question. I’d just graduated from high school, for Pete’s sake, and what could possibly be more grown up than that? Still, I knew what they were really asking: what career will you pursue? I tried to play along, but for the life of me, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. One by one my friends stepped up to the microphone and predicted their future successes. Most wanted to be doctors, lawyers, and the like…nothing wrong with that. When it was my turn, however, I chose to address my parents directly, explaining that I had absolutely no clue what job I would fulfill as a full-fledged adult (I’m sure at that moment they wanted to slink beneath their chairs). “Eventually I’ll figure out how to earn a living,” I said. “But if you really want to know what I’ll be when I grow up, I can tell you: I want to be just like my dad…and if I’m even half as good at being a father and husband as he is, I think everything else will work out just fine.”
Cheesy, I know, but one wife and five kids later I’m living the dream! Jobs have come and gone since high school, but along the way nothing has been quite as satisfying—or scary or challenging or downright frustrating!—as marriage and parenthood. With Father’s Day right around the corner, I sincerely hope that fathers, mothers, and children of all ages will appreciate the message of The Nine Lessons, and will seek to share their own lessons from one generation to the next.
Happy Father’s Day!
Kevin Alan Milne

(Printed with permission from the author Kevin Alan Milne.)

The Nine Lessons is a touching tale that should be a must-read for any father and son. To learn about the author’s inspiration for writing see his story How Corporate America Ignited My Inner-Author. Check out Milne’s blog for updates and his website for future projects.