Non-Fiction

The Story of the Great British Bake Off by Anita Singh

Before heading over to London to visit my sister in June, I figured I should brush up on what is currently topping British popularity charts – that meant, Bake Off! I downloaded a whole season on Netflix for my overnight flight across the pond and wound up watching all night instead of sleeping!

Synopsis

When The Great British Bake Off made its debut in August 2010, it had the makings of a modest hit. But nobody – not the programme-makers and certainly not those first contestants – could have predicted what was to come. Here was a show in which the biggest weekly drama was whether or not a sponge cake would sink in the middle. And oh, how we loved it.

Here is the ultimate Bake Off fan book: from Bread Lions to Bavarian Clock Towers; from heart-throbs to heroes; from soggy-bottoms to sticky buns. This is the celebration of Britain’s most popular cookery contest.

Review

In honor of a new season popping up on Netflix on Friday in the US and the start of the holiday shopping season, I give you, The Story of the Great British Bake Off! I’ve been an avid baker for a few years – my family always did more in the way of candy making pre-holidays before I took on epic cake decorating in college as a way to de-stress and be creative. I’ve never done anything on par with GBBO’s showstoppers, but a couple of the signature bakes are similar to things I’ve concocted in the past. But first, for those unfamiliar, a bit of background on The Great British Bake Off.

The Great British Bake Off is the antithesis of American cooking and baking competitions. The biggest difference – there’s NO prize money. The 12 amateur bakers compete for fun. The competition takes place over 10 weekends and bakers must get themselves back and forth from the competition site and their homes across the UK every weekend that they are on the show. The vast majority compete while working full time, going to school full time, etc.

Each episode/competition/weekend sees the bakers face three challenges – the first, a signature challenge that they get to practice ahead of time, the second, a technical challenge just blind by the judges and a complete surprise to the bakers each week, and the third, the following day, the showstopper challenge, a long bake that is usually difficult technically and detailed in regards to decoration.

The book follows the first seven seasons of the show, the seasons that aired on the BBC before the show made the jump to Channel 4. Here in the US, it includes the seasons that have aired/are airing on PBS, the first four seasons on Netflix as The Great British Baking Show and The Great British Baking Show: The Beginnings. Because that’s not confusing at all…

What that means is that to American readers, one should avoid some of the early chapters because those seasons haven’t aired yet here. However, it is a fun and insightful look at the show for us here in the states who did not have a great deal of background information on the series while they were airing or who, like me, are latecomers to the GBBO phenomenon.

It’s an absolutely delightful read and the perfect gift for your favorite fellow GBBO enthusiast!

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $29.95 • 9781786694430 • 224 pages • published January 2018 by Head of Zeus • average Goodreads rating 3.54 out of 5 • read in August 2018

The Great British Bake Off Website

The Story of the Great British Bake Off on Goodreads

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Biography, Non-Fiction

In Extremis: The Life and Death of War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum

I first came across In Extremis when going through front list (new release) publisher orders and, thanked my lucky stars I have such a good relationship with the rep because when I begged her to send me an advance copy, she happily obliged. And I think it is safe to say, In Extremis is my favorite read of the entire year.

Synopsis

When Marie Colvin was killed in an artillery attack in Homs, Syria, in 2012, at age fifty-six, the world lost a fearless and iconoclastic war correspondent who covered the most significant global calamities of her lifetime. In Extremis, written by her fellow reporter Lindsey Hilsum, is a thrilling investigation into Colvin’s epic life and tragic death based on exclusive access to her intimate diaries from age thirteen to her death, interviews with people from every corner of her life, and impeccable research.

After growing up in a middle-class Catholic family on Long Island, Colvin studied with the legendary journalist John Hersey at Yale, and eventually started working for The Sunday Times of London, where she gained a reputation for bravery and compassion as she told the stories of victims of the major conflicts of our time. She lost sight in one eye while in Sri Lanka covering the civil war, interviewed Gaddafi and Arafat many times, and repeatedly risked her life covering conflicts in Chechnya, East Timor, Kosovo, and the Middle East. Colvin lived her personal life in extremis, too: bold, driven, and complex, she was married twice, took many lovers, drank and smoked, and rejected society’s expectations for women. Despite PTSD, she refused to give up reporting. Like her hero Martha Gellhorn, Colvin was committed to bearing witness to the horrifying truths of war, and to shining a light on the profound suffering of ordinary people caught in the midst of conflict.

Review

I love war correspondents’ memoirs and biographies – It’s What I Do was one of my favorite reads of last year. And, just, oh my goodness. In Extremis dethroned Lynsey from the top of my personal ranking. Granted, I’ve only read two to completion so far (I’m reading Martha Gellhorn’s, the role model for both Lynsey and Marie, right now), but goodness gracious, it will be a long time before I find another book like this. And it caused one of the longest book hangovers I’ve ever had. And, through In Extremis, I had the opportunity to check off a book seller life goal and be the first review for a title on Goodreads and Lindsey Hilsum responded to my review!

My husband, Ben, and I have been together for almost a decade and he could not recall a single instance in that time when I stayed up past midnight to read. I absolutely love to read, but am borderline narcoleptic so I’m not a big night time reader. But for days on end, I stayed up far later than I should have, unable to put down Lindsey Hilsum’s marvelous biography of her friend and fellow journalist, Marie Colvin.

Lindsey Hilsum is, in the humble opinion of someone who has not personally met her, the best person to write Marie Colvin’s biography. A friend, but not an intimate acquaintance, she approaches her subject with the kind and caring hands of someone who felt a deep loss when she died, but removed enough to offer a fairly objective perspective on the life decisions she made that led her to that final, fateful trip to Homs, Syria in 2012. Marie kept extensive journals her entire life and they serve as the basis for the bulk of In Extremis, making it as close to an autobiography as it could possibly be. Sprinkled in are excerpts from Marie’s reporting for London’s Sunday Times, and they offer an even deeper glimpse into what inspired and drove her to seek out war zones and report on the stories of the people who live there.

A few years ago, Ben & I visited the Newseum in Washington D. C. which triggered my current obsession with journalism. I’d always loved writing and have been a news junkie from a very young age (the day does not start until I’ve checked the BBC, CNN and my custom Google newsfeed), but I never appreciated just how important journalists are worldwide until that trip. They are responsible for keeping the world apprised of the goings on in far reaches of the world and at home. And nothing, well, almost nothing, in regards to my country’s current political climate, makes me angrier than the unofficial war on journalism and the president’s constant claims of fake news. As I rally against it, and uninformed fellow Americans, I remind myself of the fact that Marie Colvin had to stand up to people who challenged the authenticity of her reporting and she did so with kindness, grace, and style.

Even though Marie’s personal life may have been a bit of a mess, okay, quite a big mess, she played a crucial role in ensuring that the western world knew exactly what was going on in the war zones of the world, particularly the Middle East. It is easy enough for those of us sitting in our living rooms in the Northeast of the US to ignore the challenges facing not only that area of the world, but also in Europe as they struggle to accommodate record numbers of refugees, and to dehumanize those who are struggling because their struggles don’t affect us directly. But Marie wouldn’t let us. She did everything in her power to bring that suffering, the plights of the people who were displaced from their homes, and the challenges they faced daily, into our collective consciousness.

When reading, and therefore constantly Google-ing Marie Colvin, I came across the production of A Private War, Matthew Heineman’s cinematic depiction of Marie’s life. While the movie is based on the Vanity Fair article published immediately after Marie’s death and not on Lindsey’s biography, the two, given their near simultaneous release dates, will become inexorably tied to each other in future. I was very nervous when I found out that Rosamund Pike is playing Marie – I adored her in Pride & Prejudice, but is she the best choice to play my new hero? After reading articles about production and how much the process of portraying Marie affected her personally, and the fact that a documentary filmmaker is at the helm, I’m far less concerned and a great deal more excited.

Lindsey’s writing is tremendous, Marie’s life equal parts inspiring and cautionary tale, and I truly hope that her story reaches as many people as possible and helps us all recognize that we are all human. We all share this world, and the sufferings of a few are the sufferings of us all.

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $28.00 • 9780374175597 • 400 pages • published November 2018 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux • read September 2018

In Extremis on Goodreads

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In Extremis

Memoir/Autobiography, Non-Fiction

From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein

I’ve slowly but surely been making my way through the four major Obama White House Staffer memoirs – first was Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?, followed by this one, next will be Thanks, Obama (my coworker Su’s favorite), and last The World as It Is

Synopsis

In 2012, Beck Dorey-Stein is working five part-time jobs and just scraping by when a posting on Craigslist lands her, improbably, in the Oval Office as one of Barack Obama’s stenographers. The ultimate D. C. outsider, she joins the elite team who accompany the president wherever he goes, recorder and mic in hand. On whirlwind trips across time zones, Beck forges friendship with a dynamic group of fellow travelers – young men and women who, like her, leave their real lives behind to hop aboard Air Force One in service of the president.

As she learns to navigate White House protocols and more than once runs afoul of the hierarchy, Beck becomes romantically entangled with a consummate D.C. insider, and suddenly the political becomes all too personal.

Against the backdrop of glamour, drama, and intrigue, this is the story of a young woman making unlikely friendships, getting her heart broken, learning what truly matters, and, in the process, discovering her voice.

Review

Beck is a Philly suburb-raised elder millennial like me. I was so excited about her memoir of her years in the White House, maybe more so than Alyssa Mastromonaco’s, which I adored. The four names of Alyssa, Beck, David Litt & Ben Rhodes are inextricably linked in my mind as the authors of the collective “Obama White House Memoirs.” I’ve even tried to arrange displays so that I can feature all four together without anyone really noticing that that was my primary objective. Alyssa, whose was published first, even references her fellow staffers literary endeavors in her own. But onto Beck.

As a White House stenographer, a person who records all of the president’s conversations and then transposes them later for memos, briefings, and posterity, Beck had incredible insider access to the Obama White House. She kept extensive journals during her years there and her memoir reflects her attention to detail. The details of her personal life.

Beck traveled all over the world, met countless interesting people, and experienced many once-in-a-lifetime adventures alongside the leader of the free world. But what makes up the bulk of her memoir? Her affair with a fellow White House staffer. Each of the magnificent locales she travels to is given a cursory description, and then we endure Beck’s exposition of her affair. We get a more in depth description of the White House staff parking lot than the whole of southeast Asia.

I get it – it’s her memoir, she can write about whatever she wants. And Beck is a marvelous writer, I finished the whole of From the Corner of the White House because her writing is so strong. And yes, she obviously talks about friendships and travels and what is going on in our country and parts of her life other than the affair, but its dominating force in her life also makes it a dominating force in the book. And I felt significantly misled. Based on the publisher synopsis above, I thought I was going to get an insider glimpse into life inside the White House, The West Wing in book form so to speak (without any confidential details of course), but instead, I got an insider glimpse to Beck’s personal life, not exactly what I was expecting.

Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $28.00 • 9780525509127 • 352 pages • published July 2018 by Spiegel & Grau • average Goodreads rating 3.85 out of 5 • read October 2018

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From the Corner of the Oval

Biography, Memoir/Autobiography, Non-Fiction

Jell-O Girls by Allie Rowbottom

I’ve been half-heartedly participating in a book club that used to be mine and has now migrated into someone else’s, but I’ve still had a foot in the door. When a fellow member picked Jell-O Girls for today’s discussion, I was thrilled to finally read nonfiction AND get to talk about it. Downside, my opinion and personal experiences seemed to be in the minority…

Synopsis

In 1899, Allie Rowbottom’s great-great-great-uncle bought the patent to Jell-O from its inventor for $450. The sale would turn out to be one of the most profitable business deals in American history, and the generations that followed enjoyed immense privilege – but they were also haunted by suicides, cancer, alcoholism, and mysterious ailments.

More than one hundred years after that deal was struck, Rowbottom’s mother, Mary, was diagnosed with the same incurable cancer that had claimed her own mother’s life. Determined to combat what she had come to consider the “Jell-O Curse” and her looming mortality, Mary began obsessively researching her family’s past, bent on understanding the origins of her illness and the impact on her life of both Jell-O and the traditional American values the company championed. Before she died in 2015, Mary began to send Rowbottom boxes of her research and notes, in the hope that her daughter might write what she could not. Jell-O Girls is the liberation of that story.

Review

I’ve been in a bit of a book-finishing rut for the past month and a half. All year I’d been flying through books and then, as soon as my grandmother got sick and passed away, I haven’t wanted to touch a book. Until now. Part of getting back to my normal life it seems must include reading (which is very logical given my occupation, I just hadn’t felt like opening a book), and these days, reading means primarily nonfiction. It’s been a year of my near complete lack of interest in fiction and YA (my two staples for the past two decades), so when book club finally veered back to nonfiction, I was thrilled – I hadn’t actually finished a new book club book since, uh, January 2017.

If I were to write a memoir, it would be a lot like Jell-O Girls. The publisher summary doesn’t exactly capture the spirit of the memoir – it sensationalizes it more than needed. Allie Rowbottom faces an interesting inheritance – money from Jell-O which supported her artist mother her entire life, and a “curse” so to speak, which is basically her family trying to find a source of blame for poor genes. I was intrigued when I picked it up, and it held me captivated until I finished it – in 48 hours. And then I went to log it in Goodreads and see what other people thought about it. Oh boy.

I need to start holding off on looking a Goodreads reviews until I’ve finished a book. I adored Jell-O Girls and thought it one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. It seems, however, I am in the minority when it comes to most readers and I think that there are two primary reasons for this. Firstly, the integration of the Jell-O story with that of Allie’s family doesn’t always work particularly well. It’s nice, and a refreshing interlude at times, to see how Jell-O has changed over the years, but it really has very little to do with Allie, her mother Mary, and her grandmother, Midge, our three female protagonists of the memoir. Second, if you’ve never experienced any of the traumatic events and family situations the main characters experienced, it can be easy to discount them as Rich White People Problems, as most people in my book club, and on the interwebs of Goodreads, seemed to do.

Those two things considered, as someone who has been the primary caretaker to a family member slowly dying of cancer, just lost her grandmother, has had to handle the fact that her mother will most likely die of cancer given that she’s already a three-time survivor, whose parents are divorced, whose family has a long history of mental illness, when you’ve struggled with anorexia nervosa and developed OCD tendencies, passed out and not remembered the last time you ate because you couldn’t control anything in your life except what you ate, well. You could say Allie’s Jell-O Girls is the story of me and my mother’s family.

We’re all a little crazy, humanity proves this. And when you’ve experienced very similar situations to Allie and you want to convey just how magnificently she captures the feeling of waiting for hours on end in the surgical waiting room that you struggled for years to find words to describe, you want to share that with people. You want to talk about just how important this book is to you, not just because you think it’s good, but because it let you know that you are far from alone. That other people have experienced the same set of traumas, self-inflicted and otherwise, that you have. That it’s okay to feel like you’re losing your mind and that you are not alone.

Despite working in a bookstore and talking about books for a living and recommending countless books to people over the last few years, I don’t actually have the chance to sit down and talk about books in detail with many people. I get to give people my thirty-second elevator pitch on a book and hope they’ll buy it. And part of the success of the store I work at is that all of the employees have their own genres of interest – Su reads things dark and twisty, Pam reads contemporary women’s and historical fiction, Mary reads commercial nonfiction and fiction, Jennifer is our children’s buyer and can tell you anything and everything about all the picture books on the shelves, Kaz specializes in LGBT literature, PK reads business and history, Hadley reads the little known random books published by small, academic and indie presses, Staci reads just like my mom, thrillers and mysteries from Baldacci to Scottoline, and I read a little bit of everything in between. There’s not a whole lot of overlap. Therefore, enter book club – the perfect opportunity to discuss books with (mostly) like-minded individuals.

I miss picking all the books (I am aware that this is very selfish). I miss it being a way to support the store (I’m now the only one who doesn’t buy the book on Amazon or from B&N). I miss having productive discussions about interesting books. No one likes to feel like they’re under attack or being misunderstood when they choose a book or have a specific feeling about a book. And I love Jell-O Girls. In my 29 years of existence and of the 220 books I’ve read since I started working at the bookstore in 2015, it is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I don’t care if the rest of the world disagrees with me. I will praise it for handling life situations that so many people find difficult to talk about. So please, ignore the plethora of poor ratings on websites. Ratings don’t capture the spirit of the book. If you think reading this book would benefit you, your family, please. Take a look at it.

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $28.00 • 9780316510615 • 388 pages • published July 2018 by Little, Brown and Company • average Goodreads rating 3.2 out of 5 stars • read in October 2018

Allie Rowbottom’s Website

Jell-O Girls on Goodreads

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Jell-O Girls

Fiction, Historical

The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher

I’ve started reading again! In an effort to ingratiate myself with our publisher reps at the bookstore, I’ve decided to read an advanced reader copy a month BEFORE the book comes out AND write an “Indie Next” pick for it – this is the first! Downside, I read it back in July so my memory of it is a touch fuzzy…

Synopsis

London, 1938. The effervescent “It Girl” of London society since her father was named the ambassador, Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy moves in rarefied circles, rubbing satin-covered elbows with some of the twentieth century’s most powerful figures. Eager to escape the watchful eye of her strict mother, Rose; the antics of her older brothers, Jack and Joe; and the erratic behavior of her sister Rosemary, Kick is ready to strike out on her own and is soon swept off her feet by Billy Hartingon, the future Duke of Devonshire.

But their love is forbidden, as Kick’s devout Catholic family and Billy’s staunchly Protestant one would never approve their match. And when war breaks out like a tidal wave across her world, Billy is ripped from her arms as the Kennedys are forced to return to the States. Kick finds work as a journalist and joins the Red Cross to get back to England, where she will have to decide where her true loyalties lie – with family or with love…

Review

Kick Kennedy has fascinated me for years (for the full background on my love of Kick, see my review of Barbara Leaming’s biography, Kick Kennedy) so when Cheryl, our Penguin sales rep, told me about The Kennedy Debutante, I begged her to send me an advance copy. I happy wrote an Indie Next nomination for it, even though I didn’t love it as much as I hoped. And it didn’t make the list, but I felt a sense of accomplishment in doing it!

The Kennedy Debutante has taken Kick’s story and turned it into commercial women’s fiction. And for someone who doesn’t read a great deal of commercial fiction, particularly this year, I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the focus of the story being almost exclusively on Kick & Billy’s love story. Which has always been the least fascinating part of Kick’s story. The best parts of the book involved one of the few invented characters (no historical counterpart), a priest, Father O’Flaherty, who serves as Kick’s moral and religious counselor and is a bright spot in the face her parents’ darkness in the disconcerting time in London leading up to World War II. O’Flaherty is kind and compassionate and helps Kick come to terms with who she is, and the role that she has to play in British society, and subsequently it’s history, during her lifetime.

Additional bright spots include any time the Kennedy kids come into the frame, Joe & Jack (JFK) are quite a pair, and the inner glimpses into Rosemary and Eunice’s lives also show how close the sisters were and the obvious inspiration for Eunice’s founding of the Special Olympics. The siblings’ closeness was another bright spot of the book and I found myself often reading in anticipation of the next time the Kennedy clan would appear on set.

Overall, I enjoy The Kennedy Debutante, but if Kick was not the protagonist and it was say, about one of the Mitford sisters or a generic English woman living during WWII book, I would not have picked it up or bothered to be interested in it, given its position in the very saturated field of WWII fiction.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $26.00 • 9780451492043 • 384 pages • published October 2018 by Berkley • average Goodreads rating 4.01 out of 5 • read in July 2018

Kerri Maher’s Website

The Kennedy Debutante on Goodreads

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Uncategorized

In Memory of My Favorite Reader

An update to What Do You Do When Your Favorite Reader Can’t Read Anymore?

A few weeks ago I shared the fact that my grandmother had lost her eyesight and could no longer read books in the traditional manner. The support from you, my fellow book lovers, and the suggestions you offered, were greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, my grandmother will no longer be reading with us on earth. She passed away a week ago. As I prepare for her memorial service tomorrow, I’ve been reflecting on just how much she loved books and reading.

Moppy & Sarah (maybe)

As I’ve spent the past week going through pictures, I came across this little gem of her reading to me when I was very young, probably in 1990. When I was 3, she bought me my first encyclopedia. When I was 10 and obsessed with Harry Potter, she read the first book, and every book thereafter, so she would know what on earth Quidditch was. And last year, she went to London with my sister and learned how to fly a broomstick for herself.

flyingmoppy

My grandmother, who my sister and I affectionately refer to as Moppy, loved adventure, adventure of any kind. She traveled widely, not just in real life but in books as well. Her love of reading, and in particular her love of discussing books with me will always comfort me during the times that I really miss her most. So maybe, before this terrible month is over, I’ll finish my next book. And write the book that we had always intended to write together, the adventures of Merton (her hedgehog) and Ellie (my elephant) and their travels around the world together.

Uncategorized

What Do You Do When Your Favorite Reader Can’t Read Anymore?

I haven’t posted any reviews or bookish lists for the past two weeks for a couple of reasons. The first, I’ve been reading only advanced reader copies (ARCs) and the books don’t come out until October or November, some aren’t even being published until the spring. The second is much more personal.

My grandmother, whom I call Moppy and think of as a second mom, has not been doing well. She is such a strong lady, she’ll be 87 in December, and she is feisty as hell. All of my family, friends, coworkers, everyone I know, I’ve told about my Moppy. And they all adore her. She is one special woman. And she’s been through medical hell the last few weeks.

About two months ago, her eyesight began to deteriorate tremendously. Presently, this is the least of her medical problems, but it’s the one pertinent to books and reading. I have always given her books for Christmas and some of my favorite childhood memories are of reading with Moppy. She even picked up the Harry Potter series in 1999 when my sister and I started reading it and she is just as big a Potter-lover as any millennial.

Books were always a part of her life. She’s lived on her own for quite a few years now and always, on the couch next to her when we visited, were a book and her current knitting project. Never one to sit still, she would only stay put to read a book. So what is one to do, when their favorite reader is depressed not only about losing their eyesight and therefore independence (a whole other conversation to have), but one of their favorite hobbies?

We looked briefly into helping Moppy learn braille, but at 86, did she really want to go through that? She decided she’d rather not. We’ve looked at large print, but they are cumbersome to travel with and more expensive than her favorite paperbacks, particularly ARCs from me, which are free (the joys of being the adult book buyer for an indie store). We’ve tried audiobooks, my new favorites, with her library Overdrive/Libby app on her iPhone, but even those she has to wait for someone else to load for her (she is incredibly tech-savvy, but the app layout can be a challenge), not the greatest position for a fiercely independent woman.

It’ll be at least a week until she’ll be able to embrace reading, or listening to, books again, so I ask you, my dear fellow readers, any suggestions?

Non-Fiction, Psychology, Sociology

Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh

My coworker Jennifer picked this book as her staff pick a few weeks ago and I was curious. When it popped up as an available audiobook on my library app, I figured I would give it a try.

Synopsis

In the rush of modern life, we tend to lose touch with the peace that is available in each moment. World-renowned Zen master, spiritual leader, and author Thich Nhat Hanh shows us how to make positive use of the very situations that usually pressure and antagonize us. For him, a ringing telephone can be a signal to call us back to our true selves. Dirty dishes, red lights, and traffic jams are spiritual friends on the path to “mindfulness” – the process of keeping our consciousness alive to our present experience and reality. The most profound satisfactions, the deepest feelings of joy and completeness lie close at hand as our next aware breath and the smile we can form right now.

Review

Working in a bookstore, I frequently am asked for books about mindfulness these days. It seems anyone with a brain is trying to get theirs to settle down and not get too riled up by the state of the world. As a general skeptic to all things that one could even remotely label as “new age,” I’ve stopped short of picking a mindfulness book up myself, despite my anxiety which I’ve seemed to quell it on my own in the last few months. But as Jennifer swore it was helpful, I figured, Why not?

When I first started listening to Peace is Every Step, I forgot that it is over 25 years old, written in an age before the internet and various electronic devices ran most of our lives. Most of the points made still resonate today. Whole Peace is Every Step lacks what some might consider concrete and specific steps, it focuses more on changing your perspective and thought process. I’ve come to know understand that this is what mindfulness really is, it’s about thinking through how behaviors and actions affect not only yourself, but other people and the world as a whole. Love and kindness will get you further than anger and hateful rhetoric, and similar sentiments make up the bulk of the book.

I recently had an interaction with a family friend that left me hurt, upset, and confused. And I realized that my reactions, and actions, in response to this encounter, allow me the opportunity to put what I’ve recently read into practice. I could yell, scream, and burn a bridge, or I can sit back, reflect, and try to empathize and put myself in this person’s shoes. Choosing the latter, is choosing the mindfulness approach. And if this settles my anxiety in regards to the matter, then I think, just maybe, Jennifer was right.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $15.00 • 9780553351392 • 160 pages • published March 1992 by Bantam • average Goodreads rating 4.34 out of 5 • stars read in August 2018

Peace is Every Step on Goodreads

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Peace is Every Step2

Bookish Tuesday

How to Publish… Advice from Your Local Indie Bookstore

At least once a week, someone will walk through the doors of the bookstore, or send us an email, asking us to have an event with them or carry their books because they’re now published! And they’re so excited. And then we ask who their publisher is. And they say Createspace. And we say, sorry, but no.

Getting Published

Those who love to read often enjoy writing. And when they read their favorite author’s works, they often think to themselves, I can do that. I’ve got a book in me. And then they sit down, and they crank out of draft, and are faced with a decision – how do they get their draft in the hands of readers. Three main options exist.

Option 1: Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing means that you send your manuscript out to agents in the hope that one will represent you, in a similar manner to those who are looking to get into the film business. Not sure how to find an agent? Check out The Writer’s Market, an annual publication that spells out the steps needed to get your book from draft to bookstore shelves. If you want to see your book on the shelves of a chain bookstore, Barnes & Noble in the US, Chapters Indigo in Canada, Waterstones in the UK, etc. Traditional publishing is the way to go. In the US, if you are traditionally published, it means that your book is distributed by one of the big publishing houses, Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette, Houghton Mifflin, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster or Scholastic. There are a few others that stores work with, but these are the big ones.

Perks of going the traditional route – cost to you – minimal. The publishing house, once they accept your manuscript, you work with their editors, their graphic designers design your cover, the format your manuscript for printing, they promote your book, they make sure that their sales team knows your book is coming, and they in turn inform booksellers about how cool you are/your book is MONTHS before it even hits their shelves so that they can help spread the word that your book is coming.

Option 2: Small Presses

These are the indies of the publishing world and are often distributed by big printer and US nationwide distributor, Ingram. Small and university presses offer some of the same benefits as the larger publishing houses, such as editors, but often don’t have the same resources in house that the houses do. The print runs are going to be smaller, your book may go out of print more quickly, and it might not get any promotional assistance from the publisher. Upside here – if you go into an indie bookstore and ask them to carry it, they probably will. They’ve probably worked with the publisher, or at least Ingram, before. In this instance, you are more likely to see your book on an indie store shelf than a chain store shelf. However, if you want your book to be a major success if it’s published by a small press, you need to be prepared to do a lot of promotional legwork yourself.

A note about small presses and books being carried in a bookstore: Ask what their terms are with bookstores. Most independent bookstores are looking at the 45+% discount they receive from major publishing houses and the 42% they get from Ingram. And they want your book to be returnable to the distributor if it doesn’t sell off their shelves in a predetermined amount of time (most stores it’s anywhere from 12 to 24 months). Familiarize yourself with the term “consignment” and what that means to a local bookstore.

Option 3: Self-Publishing

This should be your last choice if your end goal is to have your book sitting on a bookstore shelf. If you want to publish only e-books, sure. Go for it. Self-publishing, by definition means you did it yourself. You may have conscripted friends into proofreading, or hired an editor, graphic designer, etc. but you fronted the costs. Once you agonize over whether or not your book is ready, you have to make a decision about who you want to print it.

You may entertain the following idea: Oh! Amazon does printing! I’ll publish it through their in house press, Createspace! If you ever want your book in an independent bookstore, DO NOT DO THIS. Indies have been suffering for YEARS because of Amazon’s book selling business practices. Indies will not bring your book in from Createspace because doing so directly lines the pocket of our biggest competitor.

If you insist on doing your own publishing AND having your book carried in traditional book stores, search out other options that aren’t owned by their biggest competitor. You can try Lulu, or one of the other options for self-publishing that exist out there – a basic internet search should help turn up a few options.

• • •

Note from the Sarah: I’m the manager and adult book buyer for a sizable independent bookstore. I get asked to explain the differences between publishing options on a regular basis and have found that the vast majority of those who are self-published didn’t want to put the time and effort into query letters and attempting to be published traditionally. Most of the time, their books are not of the same caliber as those that come in from the major publishing houses. I firmly believe that self-publishing should be a last resort if you want to see your book on the shelves of a bookstore.

Childrens, Classics, Fiction

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

I own more editions of Peter Pan than I care to admit. I’ve seen the movie of the Broadway musical with Mary Martin more times than I can count. And yet, as an adult, I’d never reread my favorite book. Until now.

Synopsis

On a starry night, Peter Pan and his fairy friend Tinker Bell fly with the three darling children to Neverland, a magical place filled with mermaids, magic, and mischief. But Captain Hook and his band of pirates lurk nearby, plotting revenge against Peter and his happy band of lost boys…

Review

I have reenacted the story of Peter Pan, in the staring role myself, countless times throughout my childhood. The story of Neverland and the lost boys, the pirates, it all has fascinated me for a very long time. Last Christmas my husband got me tickets to see a reinterpretation of the play and it was the two of us, and two hundred children at the Arden Theater in Philadelphia. It’s a deep and abiding love I have for these characters, and their creator, J. M. Barrie.

J. M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan, I am convinced, with the primary purpose of it being read aloud to children. Often times he address the reader and his prose affects that of a parent telling a tale that is well known and well recited. There are times when it goes on a bit too long – as when the children are first flying to Neverland – and there are words and turns of phrase that one would never find in a book published in the 21st century. However, as such is also offers a wonderful teaching point for small children (I refer here to the terms used for Tiger Lily and her community) as to not only how we address different groups of people, but also how language and society change over time.

For being more than a century old, Peter’s tale is still one of childhood adventure and, most importantly in this, the technology age, of using your imagination. Children should have the opportunity to play act, to feel wild and free in the great outdoors, to be able to fall down and skin their knees without adults hovering over them waiting for the first sign of stress or a tear. Peter Pan embraces all that makes childhood exciting, and for that reason, and so many more, it is the perfect book for children of all ages.

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars (yes, I’m very biased)

The Fancy Edition in the Picture: Hardcover • $27.99 • 9780062362223 • 256 pages • published June 2015 by Harper Design

The Penguin Puffin Classic Edition: Paperback • $7.99 • 9780147508652 • 224 pages • originally published in 1904, this edition published July 2013 by Puffin Books • average Goodreads rating 4.09 out of 5 • re-read in August 2018

Peter Pan