Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hurricane stories

Excuse me for the non-reading related post, but I wanted to share some things I observed during Hurricane Irma.

  • Steak n Shake 17509 N Palms Village Pl, Tampa FL - We stopped a Steak n Shake around 4pm on Friday 9/8/17 to get some food on our way to TN.  The employee at the drive thru were so sweet, asking us how we were doing and even gave our dog, Buddy, a special treat - BACON!
  • Improvised (and illegal) gas canisters strapped to cars, like this.

  • It is a small world.  
    • While waiting at the Tifton, GA Walmart to have our flat tire fixed, we met Diana, Diane, and John.  They live near us and they had a blow out on I-75 going 70 mpg.  They live right on the water and were concerned that they wouldn't have a house to come back to. 
    • While buying a sweatshirt at the Walmart, we ran into a woman and her two sons, who live in Cape Coral.  
  • The tire center employees at the Tifton, GA Walmart were awesome.  They opened at 7am and had our tire replaced and we were on our way before 8am.  They were sympathetic and kind.
  • When you pack a suitcase in a hurry, you end up with:  3 pair of underpants, 1 pair of shorts filled with holes, a pair of flower printed pants and a none matching print shirt.  
  • Driving North, we saw an impressive amount of National Guard vehicles, Utility trucks, and Ambulances. 
  • The Waze app is awesome for driving somewhere unfamiliar.  It gets you around traffic jams.
  • The stress of watching a pending storm develop and tracking it for over a week is mind blowing.  Is it going East or West?  Who knows.  

We watched the storms track for over a week.  We prepared, just in case the storm came our way. We were ready to stay, until it became a Cat. 5 and looked like it was coming directly at us.  We quickly threw some clothes in a suitcase, packed the car, grabbed the dog and cat, and evacuated.   We were headed to stay with family in TN until the storm cleared.  Normally an 11 hour drive, due to many circumstances, it took us 26 hours.  First, traffic was ridiculous.  Understandable since almost the entire state of Florida was trying to get the heck out of Dodge. After crossing into Georgia, we were exhausted and decided to stop to sleep a little. We ended up, at 1:30 in the morning, getting a flat tire. So, we put the spare on and parked at Walmart to wait for the tire center to open. Have you ever tried to sleep in a car with a dog and a cat? Tire changed by 7:30 the next morning and off we went.

Plan for next hurricane:
1. Plywood or storm shutters!!!!!!!
2.  Make a list of what needs to go into the suitcase in case we have to evacuate to prevent.
3. Don't live in Florida.
4. Snacks for the road.  NO FOOD ANYWHERE!!!!!!

Hope you all made it through unscathed!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

I find that I have discovered most of my favorite authors by happenstance.  There is usually a good story to go along with the discovery.  From Og Mandino to Amy Hill Hearth to Adriana Trigiani, these author discoveries have added so much happiness to my reading life.  I discovered my newest favorite, Chitra Divakaruni, when I was assigned to run the book discussion at the Punta Gorda Library. While searching for the next club read, I spotted a book with a beautiful cover. That book was Before We Visit The Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. While researching the author for the club, I discovered that the author does Skype chats with book clubs. I took a chance and email in inquiry. Even though our current technology would now allow the Skype chat, the author was so wonderfully kind and answered our questions via text message. It was such a wonderful experience that I decided to read more of her work. This is how I came upon One Amazing Thing.

The novel is about a group of 9 people stuck in an an Indian Consulate office after a massive earthquake hits. When they decide the building is not safe to try to get out, they bandage their wounds and wait in the darkness hoping for rescue. To pass the time, as the water level in the office begins to rise, they decide that they will each tell a story of one amazing thing that has shaped their lives.

The stories they tell are as diverse as the group telling them, from uplifting to horrifying. You will have to read the book to find out more.

Follow me on Twitter for a chance to win a copy of this book.  If you win, please pay it forward.

The author of the book lives in Houston. She and her family are safe after Hurricane Harvey but many others are not. Please keep them all in your prayers and, if you can, please do what you can to help.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Paying it forward

At the library where I work, the Summer Reading theme is Build a Better World.  Our adult programs are build around Pay It Forward, the book and movie.  We are having  a Pay It Forward Raffle for prizes where patrons have to fill out a card saying they performed 5 various Pay It Forward activities.

Today, I was in the drive thru at Dunkin Donuts getting a coffee and the young lady in the car in front of me paid for my coffee.  I'm still moved by her kindness.

In the spirit of her generosity, I have running an Amazon Giveaway for the ebook Pay It Forward.  All you have to do is follow me on Twitter.  Here is the link:

Good luck and thanks for reading.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Before We Visit the Goddess (or how to win at book club)

Back in May 2017 I was asked to take over the book discussion group at the Punta Gorda Library.  The pressure was on to pick the first book for the group to read after I took over.  I quickly popped onto the Reading Group Guides website to see what was “hot” with book clubs right now.  The first book that popped up was Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Divakaruni.  The cover of the book is what drew me in.  It is a beautiful cover. 

Perhaps one of the truest-to-life mother-daughter stories, Before We Visit the Goddess tells the story of Sabitri, Bela, and Tara.  Three generations of an Indian-American family trying to make their way in this world.  Sabitri yearns to get an education, but as the daughter of a poor rural baker, the profits from their sweet shop are not enough to do so.  When a well-to-do local woman takes Sabitri under her wing, it looks like her fortunes will change. Until Sabitri falls in love with the woman’s son. 

Years later, forced to deal with her mother’s mistake, Bela decides to flee to America with her student leader boyfriend. Moving to the U.S. ends up not being the positive move Bela thought it would be.  As her marriage falls apart and her daughter Tara, grows even more distant, Bela tries to keep Tara from throwing away her education by reaching out to Sabitri.

A beautifully written story filled with descriptions of many Indian delicacies.   If you are like me, you start wanting to try all of them.  One day, I hope to be brave enough to try making them.

While putting together information about the author, I found that she will do a video chat with book clubs.  I sent an email asking about the video chat and Ms. Divakaruni responded that she would love to "meet" with us.  The day of the chat, technical difficulties prevented us from video chatting but the author was kind enough to answer our questions via text message.  She was lovely and our book group thoroughly enjoyed asking questions which helped us understand the book even better.  I can't thank the author enough for making my first month of running the book club such a success! 

Here is a transcript of our texting session

________________________BEGINNING OF CHAT ___________________________________

Chitra:  Hi, this is Chitra. I’m here if you want to ask me some questions via text.

Book Group:  Thank you.  We have a question about the back and forth time line.  Was there a reason you wrote it that way?

Chitra:  Yes, I didn’t want this to be a traditional family saga with hundreds of pages. I wanted to make this book work like memory does – moving back and forth between the most resonant parts of our lives.  I put the dates so that the reader wouldn’t be too confused.  I hope it worked.

Book Group:  Yes it did!

Chitra:  Great!

Book Group:  Are any characters based on people in your life?

Chitra:  The characters are all fictional, although some parts of Sabitri’s life are close to my mother’s – she is of the same era, and she worked very hard to go to college but could never complete her degree but the other details are all fictional.

Book Group:  Question about the magician – Was he real or a figment of Bela’s imagination?

Chitra: That is really up to the reader to interpret.  In Bela’s mind, he is real and therefore he has an effect on her life.  The truth also could be somewhere in between – that he doesn’t appear the first time, but then she imagines him the rest of the times.  I mean that he does appear the first time for a few minute, but them she imagines him the rest of the times.

Book Group:  I love Bipin.  He was my favorite.  Was he in love with Sabitri?

Chitra:  I love his character also. We should all be lucky to have a friend like him! Yes, he is in love with her all his life and remains faithful to her even when she explicitly doesn’t return that love.  There are several characters like him in the book.  Through them I wanted to express that sometimes the people we most depend on are not our families but friends or maybe even strangers.

Book Group:  Beautiful.  Can you explain the meaning behind the title of the book?

Chitra:  The title relates to the visit Tara makes to the temple. But a more symbolic meaning is that we are all on a spiritual journey – to visit the goddess inside of us.  But before we can be in touch with our sacred selves at the deep level, we need to undergo some things and learn some lessons – compassion, forgiveness, etc.

Book Group:  So, do you have a sweet tooth and which is your favorite?

Chitra:  LOL.  Yes, I do have a sweet tooth!. Sweets are a traditional favorite in my part of India, Bengal.  Chocolate Sandesh is my favorite, just like Bela.  I have a really good recipe for it on my website, on my blog. In fact I have several recipes from the book on my blog.

Kathy:  I’ve been on the blog.  I need to find Paneer.

Chitra:  Life hack:  If you can’t find paneer, you can use ricotta cheese.  Strain it in a soft cloth so that some of the liquid comes out of it.

Kathy:  Thank you.  I’ll try that.

Book Group:  Any new books in the works?

Chitra:  I’m working on a novel which is a retelling of a famous Indian epic.  I’m retelling it from the point of view of one of the major female characters.

Book Group:  Very nice.  Thank you so much for chatting with us. We all enjoyed the book and the chat.

Chitra: Thank you for reading my book.  I hope you’re going to try some of the other ones. You can always keep in touch with me on my Facebook page or on Twitter as @cdivakaruni.  By for now.

___________________________END OF CHAT_____________________________________

You can order Before We Visit the Goddess at Amazon or check with your local independent bookstore or library.

Learn more about Chitra Divakaruni by visiting

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Getting Off On Frank Sinatra by Megan Edwards

When Copper Black finds out that her boyfriend's ex-wife is expecting his child, she really needs a  distraction.  Enter a house sitting opportunity at a notorious party house. She moves from her temporary housing in an apartment over her pastor brother's garage into the party house where a murder had supposedly taken place (the body was never found).  While house sitting, Copper must take care of the owner's tortoise, Oscar.

While working on a story about a performing arts school, Copper Black discovers the body of a much loved, charitable woman.  She must deal with a detective who seems to suspect her of the murder, the unraveling of her love life, the unwanted advances of a creepy guy, her estranged parents visiting, and help her brother with a scandal he is sort of involved in.

This was a well written book that really pulled me in and kept me wanting more. I was surprised to hear that this was Megan Edwards debut.  I am looking forward to her future writings.

I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Thanks for reading.

The book is set to be released on March 14, 2017. Here is a link to the book on Amazon.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dorothy Must Die - Danielle Paige

Several friends have been telling me that I need to read Dorothy Must Die.  I knew it was based on the Frank L. Baum Wizard of Oz books and I just couldn’t see myself liking it.  I did, however, add it to my “to read” list.  Last week, I didn’t have anything that I really wanted to read, so….

Oh MY!!!!  What a crazy read!  If you are wondering what happened in Oz after “The Wizard of Oz” ended, here is the story.  After Dorothy went back to Kansas, she decided that she’d rather be in Oz. Somehow, she went back to Oz and took over the throne from Ozma and let power, and magic, go to her head.  All of Dorothy’s friends from the Wizard of Oz are still with her.  The Tinman is busy turning people into a tin army.  The Lion goes around sucking the fear out of Dorothy’s “enemies”.  The Scarecrow has basically become a mad scientist and is doing experiments on Dorothy’s subjects. Dorothy and Glinda the Good Witch are going around stealing all of the magic in Oz, because the only thing better than having magic is having ALL the magic.

Enter Amy Gumm, the grumpy teenager living in Kansas with her pill popping, drunk mother. A tornado, of course, brings Amy to Oz, where she is rescued by a boy named Pete.  Amy is caught by Dorothy and is about to meet a “fate worse than death”, when she is rescued by Mombi, a member of the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. The group, which includes Gert, Mombi, Glamora – Ginda’s twin sister, and the warlock Nox, want to recruit Amy to assassinate Dorothy. Amy, eventually agrees, and is bound to Mombi by her promise to kill Dorothy.

Amy, disguised as Astrid, learns Dorothy and her minions’ routine and bides her time until she is able to attack.  During Dorothy’s, “just because she wants a party”, gala, Amy/Astrid has her chance when a smitten Tinman accidentally rips Dorothy’s dress.  Amy “poofs” Dorothy and herself out of the party to change her dress.  When Amy gets her alone, she tries to kill Dorothy and all H-E- double-hockey-stick, breaks loose.  Amy gets away – barely, and does manage to defeat ONE of Dorothy’s side-kicks.  I don’t want to spoil the book by giving away the ending.  Needless to say, the ending left me wanting more…and so, I downloaded the next book in the series, The Wicked Will Rise.

This series is considered Young Adult.  It is a little graphic and violent, so you won’t want to read it to the little ones.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Retired Witches series by Joyce and Jim Lavene

I first discovered Joyce and Jim Lavene’s books when I read A Touch of Gold from their Missing Pieces mysteries.  I hadn’t read any of their other series until after their untimely deaths.  When the Save Our Cozies Facebook group posted the idea for an online “book tour” to celebrate their posthumously published upcoming release, Putting on the Witch, I knew I had to be involved.
To prepare for the new book, I had to get my hands on the first two books in the series, Spell Booked and Looking for Mr. Good Witch. So, off to the Kindle store I went to download the books.

From the first sentence of Spell Booked, Candle flame burning bright, With your flame on this night, Trap the evil, seal it well, in this stone, make it remain. Never to be free again, I was hooked.

Olivia, Molly, and Elise realize that they are aging and their powers are waning. They are working to recruit younger witches to strengthen their coven so they may retire “to Boca”, when Olivia is murdered and their spell book goes missing.  It is up to Molly and Elise to figure out the culprit and get their spell book back. They need more than their waning magic powers to do so.  I really enjoyed this look into the everyday life of “normal” witches.

In Looking for Mr. Good Witch, Molly, Elise and Olivia’s ghost are up against a sea witch who is going up and down the coast of the Carolina’s in search of the perfect mate, leaving young male witches who don’t measure up, dead in her wake. With the help of a selkie (a mythical creature that resembles a seal while in the water and a human while on land) and a mermaid that loves crème puffs, they are determined to keep their friend Brian out of the sea witch’s clutches. The more I read this series the more I like the main characters. Molly and Elise are so interesting and the fact that Olivia’s ghost is involved is wonderful.

I saved the best for last…

Putting on the Witch was released on October 4, 2016.  I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy from NetGalley and the publisher, in return for my honest review.

The coven’s spell book is still missing. Molly, Elise, Olivia’s ghost and Dorothy are excited to be invited to the exclusive Witches Ball.  When a member of the Grand Council of Witches is murdered at the ball, the castle is on lock down.  The ladies, and Dorothy’s boyfriend Brian, are determined to figure out who did it, all while trying to hide Oliva’s ghost from the Grand Council of Witches.  Was it Dorothy under her father, Drago's influence?  Was it Drago? Was it another Council member?

I absolutely loved this series and I can’t believe that, along with Joyce and Jim, they are gone.  One can only imagine what other creative characters and worlds they would have come up with together.

If you want to learn more about Joyce and Jim Lavene and their writing, please visit their website.

For a list of their cozy mysteries, please go to Joyce and Jim Lavene's Cozy Mysteries.

Thanks for reading

This blog post is part of the Putting on the Witch Great Escapes Book Tour.  You can see more about the book tour HERE.  To participate in the rafflecopter giveaway go HERE.

Hurricane stories

Excuse me for the non-reading related post, but I wanted to share some things I observed during Hurricane Irma. Steak n Shake 17509 N Pa...