Book Marks

kitty bookA little movie called “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” just opened. Nope, I never heard of it either. But here are the top Kindle-related Star Wars moments.

The perfect venue for a wedding-a book store!

I think every country should celebrate this for Christmas, not just Iceland.

Some non-fiction books you might want to read; I know the Ruth Bader Ginsburg book is on my book-it list.

Children’s book authors reveal the books they loved as kids.

Are you an author and need some advice on building your website? Here are some tips.

Meaty author, and all-around cool girl, Samantha Irby’s very own reading list. Thanks for the suggestions Ms. Irby!

Ariel and Matthew read bad books so you don’t have to. Thanks, kids!

More books for my book-it list courtesy of Bust.

Good old Bill Shakespeare gears up to be 2016 “It Boy.”

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Retro Review: The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

The_Gift_of_the_MagiShort story The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry (real name William Sydney) is probably quite familiar to most of my readers, but it’s an important story to keep in mind during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. And to me, it’s a soothing parable in our time of hate, bigotry, violence and greed.

The Gift of the Magi was originally called Gifts of the Magi and published in The New York Sunday World in December of 1905. Later O. Henry had it published in his collection of short stories The Four Million in 1906.

The Gift of the Magi tells the story of a newly-wed couple, James (Jim) and Della Dillingham. They are madly in love and living in a rundown apartment in New York City. Money is quite tight, but they are determined to buy each other the perfect Christmas gifts despite their lack of funds.

Della is blessed in long, thick hair, which goes down to her knees. Jim has a gold watch, a family heirloom that once belonged to his father and grandfather.

As I mentioned, Jim and Della are not flush with cash. Della wants to buy a beautiful  chain for Jim’s watch. However, she only has $1.87, not exactly a princely sum even in the early 1900s. What shall Della do? Della decides she will sell her hair so she goes off to the local hairdresser by the name of Madame Sofronie who cuts off Della’s gorgeous long hair. With the $20.00 she received for her sacrifice, Della buys Jim the perfect platinum pocket watch fob. She just knows Jim will be delighted with it and can’t wait to see the look on her face when he opens her gift. She also hopes he isn’t too upset over her newly-shorn locks.

With dinner on the table, Jim arrives back to his and Della’s humble abode. He is taken aback by the sight of Della’s hair, but not for the reasons Della might think. Della explains that she sold her hair so she could buy him a Christmas gift. It is then Jim hands Della his Christmas gift to her, a collection a beautiful and quite expensive hair combs, which Della can’t wear because of her shorter locks.

Della then bestows Jim’s gift-the platinum watch fob. Jim is touched by Della’s generosity but tells Jim that at this point the watch fob is unneeded because he sold his watch so he could afford the hair combs.

Though saddened they can’t use the gifts they bought for each other, Della and Jim commend each other for their sacrifices they made out of love just like the Biblical Magi. And let’s face it, Della’s hair will grow and one of these days Jim will be able to buy a gold watch.

The Gift of the Magi is a timeless and timely story that is told many times at the holiday season but is perhaps one that should be read during the non-holidays. It took me a short time to read this sweet and comforting story and it gave me sense of peace during a very trying time in my life. I also think this is a great story to read aloud to people of all ages and will touch people’s hearts.

Brag Book

565447-lolcat.gif A few weeks ago I wrote a rave review of Jennifer Morales’ collection of short stories Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee stories. Well, Ms. Morales was kind enough to leave a sweet comment on my about page.

It turns out Ms. Morales is hosting a virtual author visit sometime next year to discuss her book. Here is her comment with more details:

“Thanks, Jen, for the great review of my book, Meet Me Halfway! I wanted to let your readers know that I’ve just announced that book clubs and other groups that commit to reading Meet Me Halfway in 2016 can get a Virtual Author Visit (e.g., Skype, Google, FaceTime, etc.) from me, so I can answer club members’ questions and discuss themes raised by the book. I just need them to sign up by Jan. 31 at info [at] moraleswrites [dot] com.”

Book Review: The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks

the perfect comebackIn Matthew DicksCaroline Jacobs is not the type of woman anyone would call feisty and assertive. She is an admitted wimp who stands on the sidelines and doesn’t stand up for herself, let alone for anyone else.

But then Mary Kate Denali, the twin-set wearing queen bee, alpha bitch of the local PTO goes off on a condescending verbal smackdown towards another member. Not liking how this member is being harassed, Caroline defies Mary Kate and her rude remarks using the rather colorful word-yes, that one-the King Kahuna of cuss words.

Mary Kate, not used to be called out on her middle-aged mean girl schtick, clutches her pearls in shock. How dare anyone defy the grande doyenne of the PTO with such crude language. But instead of backing down and apologizing, Caroline gets fired up. Her daughter, Polly, defends her mother by getting physical with Mary Kate’s daughter. Polly is called into the principal’s office and threatened with suspension.

When Caroline collects Polly from the principal’s office she makes a split decision that sets The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs in motion. Without stopping back home for even a change of clothes or a quick explanation to her husband on her scheme, Caroline decides to drive back to her hometown to confront old school chum turned high school tormentor, Emily.

While on this many mile road trip, Caroline tells Polly the tale of how she and Emily were as thick as thieves through most of their childhood until Emily became friends with one of the most popular girls at their high school and rejected Caroline in the most humiliating and public way-within the confines of their school’s cafeteria. Shudder.

Or as Obi-Wan Kenobi aptly put it in Star Wars:
“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

Caroline and Polly can’t exactly be described as close, especially considering Polly is in her difficult teen years and Caroline is a self-described wuss. But during their journey to Caroline’s hometown, mother and daughter begin to bond as Caroline describes how this moment of teen betrayal affected her and continues to affect her. Polly is a bit troubled by her mom’s confession and at the same time wants her mother to grow a pair; in other words, Polly totally wants Caroline to confront that trifling bitch Emily.

Before Caroline confronts Emily she makes a pit stop at her mother’s house. To say Caroline’s mother is a character is putting it mildly. She runs a pet burial service and has a host of wacky friends, including a boyfriend named Spartacus.

But Caroline doesn’t have time to bond with her mom. She finds out Emily is still living in her hometown. Caroline picks herself up by her bra straps and confronts Emily and her teen-aged traitorous ways. But as much as Caroline despises Emily, she also feels some compassion for her as she learns why Emily conducted herself the way she did back in highschool and how she is coping with a family life that isn’t all what it may seem on the surface. Furthermore, Polly does something that sets the story in another direction and helps repair the frays of Caroline’s hurt past feelings.

To say I loved The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is an understatement. Dicks is a masterful writer, fully empathizing with his characters, shading them with rich details that never come across as false. It probably helps that he worked in education and has some perspective on the high school experience. But I also think he is a very empathetic person, and having empathy is desperately needed when writing a novel. I can easily see The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs (someone call Tina Fey’s agent, stat!) but for now I will appreciate this treasure of a book as one of the best works of fiction I’ve read in a long time.