About This Blog

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I'm not on board with the whole ebook thing. I enjoy books in all their formats. But there is nothing quite like a bookstore with its neatly arranged shelves of books and artfully created displays of new arrivals, best sellers, and suggested reading. I especially enjoy discovering small, independent bookstores and have made it my mission to visit and report back on as many of these gems as I can. That is my focus, but there is really nothing that is off limits as long as it is about books or reading. Hope you enjoy my blog and come back often.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Share: Christmas Tree for Bibliophiles

Too late for this year, but next year I might have to give this a try.



Here's a link with instructions:


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Notes From A Grammar Nerd

So maybe you don't really care about writing and grammer thats are problem not your's. Maybe the wrong use of a word don't really bother you. Maybe random Capitols or missing comas don't cause you concern. Your not one of those people who pay much attention to how a sentence is written. If theres errors to bad. You could care less. Its not something you really think about.

On the other hand, maybe errors like those in the previous paragraph drive you up a wall. Maybe you even had trouble making sense of it. Now, I'm not one to go around correcting other people's grammar unless I'm asked. Grammar nazis can be annoying. But your writing and grammar, like it or not, create an impression. In my last post I talked about the importance of reading. Now I'd like to spend a little time on its cousin, writing.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Grrrrrreat!!

Let me just say right off the bat that this is not a shameless commercial promotion for Kellogg's cereals. Yes, I am a cereal lover; and yes, I do buy Kellogg's cereals from time to time. But that's not what this is about. More of an "atta boy!" That's what this is about. Kudos to Kellogg's and Scholastic Books for creating a program that puts free books in the hands of young readers. How could any self-respecting school librarian turn that offer down.

I just went online and ordered my first free book. After it arrives in my mail in about 8 weeks, I will head to my old school and donate it to an English teacher friend who is always in need of more books for her classroom library. I also had the option to donate the book directly to a school.

The promotion information on the back of the box rightly points out what every librarian already knows: Reading can boost self-confidence and improves a child's ability to think creatively and critically. Librarians also know that reading can improve vocabulary and writing skills along with a host of other benefits. Good readers are better students.

Free books? Count me in on this deal. Hats off to Kellogg's and Scholastic. If you are interested in this deal, look for specially-marked boxes of Kellogg's cereal, and check out the Fuel for School promotion at www.freebookoffer.com.



Sunday, November 16, 2014

Score One For The Little Guy

Round Lake Bookstore
216 Bridge Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720
231-547-2699
866-580-0607

What do you do when you've just opened a small independent bookstore in a charming Lake Michigan tourist town and one month later the Book World chain opens a store just down the street? Well, if you're the owners, Dianne and Bill Dupont, you carry on and do everything you can to make your store a success. Six years later it would appear that they have done just that. Round Lake Bookstore in Charlevoix, Michigan, by my observation is thriving.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

School Library


Charlevoix
Public Library
220 W. Clinton Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720
231-547-2651

Now this is a school library. Okay, more precisely, it's a school turned into a public library. And what a library it is. The story begins over 85 years ago in the charming northern Michigan tourist town of Charlevoix, Michigan. In 1927 a grade school and gymnasium was built which served the local children for more than 70 years, beginning as a K-8 school, then becoming a K-12 school, and in the 60's--a middle school. The campus was later abandoned after a new middle school was built in 2004. Luckily, it wasn't abandoned for long.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Good News for Traditional Book Lovers

I've said this before. I have nothing against technology. I'm a big fan, actually. I would be lost without my computer and iPhone. I spend time reading on those devices every day. I even read ebooks from time to time. They're great for long waits at the auto repair shop. That said, I will always prefer print media. The tactile experience of flipping real pages cannot be replicated electronically. I'm also a reader who is prone to flipping back to earlier pages to double check something or reread a pertinent passage. This may bring gasps from some readers, but yes, I do sometimes crimp important page corners and write in my books. And when I close a book and put it aside until later, I always take a peak at it from the top to see how far along I am. Book marks are not just for marking my place, but also for marking my progress. These are habits not so easily managed with an ebook. So I'm greedy. I want to give up neither technology nor printed books. But when the power is out or the battery is dead, I can still read if I have a paper book.

As you can probably guess, I have always been more of a words person than a numbers and science person. I usually refer to my condition as a math allergy. Numbers give me a rash, at least symbolically. And science? Well, that often includes math, so . . .


Now it seems that science might be on my side. Thanks to Alysandra, my science/math-oriented future daughter-in-law for sending me this thought-provoking article. It seems that science may actually indicate serious advantages to reading paper books. Click the link below, and see what you think.



Saturday, October 11, 2014

I Got Used Again!

Booked for the Season
8 N 7th Street
Grand Haven, MI 49417
616-296-0465

Last summer I got used in Pentwater, Michigan. Used books that is. The brainchild of Timothy Lux, Booked for the Season was my first encounter with the unique concept of selling used books on consignment. (See earlier post.) Imagine my delight when I learned that there are other Booked for the Season stores. What's more, they are not too far from my home in Lowell. A sunny September day provided the perfect opportunity to make the brief drive to Grand Haven, another lovely Michigan tourist town, in search of an opportunity to get used again.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ghost Story?

The Haunted Bookshop
219 N. Gilbert St.
Iowa City, Iowa 52245
319-337-2996

We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming. To recap our last bookstore episode: while on vacation, my husband and I had stopped in Iowa City and had just enjoyed a visit to the renowned Prairie Lights bookstore. With plenty of time still left in our day, we set off to check out another establishment only a few blocks away, a shop that would prove to be entirely different, yet equally fascinating. I've been saving this one. Now as the farm stands are bursting with apples, potted mums, and other trappings of fall, now when there is frost in the forecast and the suggestion of autumn color, now when corn mazes rather than beaches provide weekend entertainment and thoughts of Halloween are not too far distant, now is the appropriate time to tell you about The Haunted Bookshop.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Just had to share this:

My fellow book lovers will appreciate this. It is so well done, I just couldn't keep myself from sharing it.


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 And on a related note, here's an oldie but goodie.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Another Great Book To Movie

If you've read many of my posts about books, you probably have a pretty good idea that I enjoy historical fiction. That genre encompasses not just several titles that I have loved, but some of my very favorites. That said, I also relish a good historical nonfiction title from time to time. Just a few hours before this writing, I finished reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. More than simply a good book, this one will stick with me for a long, long time. This story of WWII hardship, survival, and courage is an inspiration. Difficult to read at times because of the detailed descriptions of the suffering and tribulation these men endured, it has only made my respect and admiration for the soldiers of WWII more profound.


I anxiously await the movie adaptation of Unbroken, scheduled to be released this Christmas. I hope it does the book justice. If this trailer is any indication, I don't think I will be disappointed.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cross One Off the Bucket List

Prairie Lights
15 South Dubuque St.
Iowa City, IA 52240
319-337-2681

Forgive me, Sparty, for I have found another. No. No. Don't get me wrong. You will always be my number one, but I have developed a new admiration for another B1G university. Okay, so it's mainly just another university town, but still, I feel a tiny bit guilty. Allow me to explain. Recently while on our annual trek to the Pyrotechnics Guild International convention, this year held in Mason City, IA, my husband and I had occasion to spend a night in Iowa City, home of the Iowa Hawkeyes. It's not East Lansing, but it's a wonderful place. Almost immediately, I fell in love with the city. Friendly people, great restaurants, live Friday-night music in the charming town square, and of course bookstores--what's not to love? Our stopover in Iowa City was actually prompted by a bookstore that has been on my bucket list for several months now. (See Bucket List.) I was excited to have this opportunity to visit well-known book lovers' bookstore, Prairie Lights, and happy to have my husband Jim along on this visit.

Monday, August 11, 2014

I Got Used!

Booked for the Season
145 S. Hancock Street
Pentwater, MI 49449
231-690-7190

Recently while on safari in search of the sometimes elusive independent bookstore, I encountered a rare breed of the species, one that I had never before seen or even knew existed--the consignment bookstore. Deep in the heart of the western Michigan tourist oasis of Pentwater, I encountered this intriguing shop called Booked for the Season, so named as it is open only during the summer. Through wide-open double doors, I entered the smallish space with rustic floor boards and thatch-covered walls accentuated here and there with brightly colored, stylized lizards.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Well Done!


This poster, reportedly in the window of the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Oxford, is enough to compel me to add this store to my bookstore bucket list. The title of the shop is another good reason.
Photo from imgur.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Movin' On Up

Between the Covers
106 E. Main St.
Harbor Springs, MI 49740
231-526-6658
facebook.com/btcbookstore

"Don't judge a book by its cover." We've all heard that expression. It's not what's on the cover, but what's between the covers that's important. Last summer I had the pleasure of finding what's between the covers in the charming town of Harbor Springs, Michigan. Of course I'm talking about a bookstore called Between the Covers. (See Delightful Book Cellar.) At the time of my visit, the shop occupied a small basement space, and the owner was hopeful of eventually moving up to street level. Well, it looks like she got her wish. The store has moved to new digs, so I naturally had to take a drive up north to have a look.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sad News


After 3 years during which thousands of book givers distributed over a million and a half specially published paperbacks across America, sadly World Book Night is suspending operations due to lack of funding. I was fortunate to have participated in the event for the past two years.

I have done several posts about this program. If you aren't familiar with it, you can type World Book Night in the search box in the side bar of my blog to get a list of all those posts.

Monday, June 30, 2014

No Ordinary Sunday Drive

the Bookstore
330 Main Street
Frankfort, MI 49645
231-352-9720

Yes, Michigan, there is a summer. Finally! So on a glorious Sunday in June, I decided to take a drive. Now before your mind conjures up a stereotypical picture of a little old lady librarian out for a pokey, rubbernecking Sunday drive, let me just say that this was no ordinary Sunday drive. This was a drive on a gorgeous, sunny Michigan day. This was a drive unmatched for scenic beauty. This was a drive along the picturesque Michigan Highway 22. This famed stretch of roadway meanders along the northern Lake Michigan coastline through the Sleeping Bear Dunes area, recently voted the Most Beautiful Place in America. If you're new to my blog, you may want to read my earlier posts about this spectacular part of the country and some of its bookstores.

I took the opportunity to stop at one of the scenic overlooks along the route to oooh and ahhh and take a few pictures. In addition to the unparalleled beauty to be seen along M-22, Sunday drivers will also encounter several charming, small tourist towns. One such town is Frankfort, just south of Sleeping Bear. This lovely town is practically surrounded by lakes, situated on the shores of Lake Michigan to the west, Betsie Lake to the south, and just a few miles away from the Caribbean blue waters of Crystal Lake to the north and east. You may have guessed by now that on this day, there was more to my Sunday drive than just scenery, and you would be right. Frankfort is home to an endearing little bookstore called simply the Bookstore.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Update, Storybook Village

Last fall I enjoyed a visit to this wonderfully creative bookstore/imagination place. If you didn't see my post about it, you owe it to yourself to check it out, (click here) especially if you are ever near the town of Pentwater. Storybook Village is back in full operation for the summer, and according to Barbara Sims, there are even more activities than ever. Since my visit, she says that people have been discovering the special activities in Starlight Theatre: classroom visits, birthday parties, baby showers, and even a tea party for the Council on the Aging in Oceana County! The store has even partnered with Michigan Great Start to be the host for Family Play Groups every Thursday morning throughout the school year, for children birth to five, so these families can enjoy some special time with their children and learn some great ways to engage them in story and creative play.

 Here are some ongoing daily activities and upcoming special events:

 Ongoing Activities this Summer:
-Open 7 days a week, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
-Special Puppet/Story Time and Clay Craft activities for children three times a day. Children become the stars of the puppet shows, and they make a clay craft afterward which can be baked at home for more storytelling adventures! The shows are: Monday through Saturday at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.; and Sunday at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
-Older children, 7 and up, will enjoy the “Imagination & Improv” Workshop Theatre with Lori Cargill, on Tuesday and Friday from 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., June 24 through August 29. In this wonderful workshop, children will utilize props to develop new theatre and perform their masterpiece for friends and family in Starlight Theatre!
-Pilates Class – every Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

Upcoming Special Artist and Author Visits:
-June 27, 3-5 p.m.: A Visit/Book signing from Kevin Kammeraad and the Cooperfly Puppet Troupe
-July 3, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.: A Visit/Book signing from Carl Sams and Jean Stoick, authors of Stranger in the Woods. They will be presenting their newest book: I am Africa and will be talking about their exciting journey to Africa where they took over 40,000 photos for the book.
-July 11, 3 p.m.-6 p.m.: Gisbert von Frankenheusen and Robbyn Smith, authors of the Michigan Legend Books, will be on hand to sign books and give children drawing lessons.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Happy Happenstance

The Bookshelf
438 E. Edgewood Blvd.
Suite B108
Lansing, MI 48911
517-394-1999

Thursday, June 5, 2014, the night before the theatrical release of The Fault In Our Stars. As you know by now, I have been eagerly anticipating this event. (See previous post.) I was on my way to my son's place in Lansing. As a birthday gift for me, we were driving to one of the select theaters in the country hosting "The Night Before Our Stars," a pre-release of the film followed by a live-stream event featuring author, John Green, as well as the movie's director, producer, and three of its stars. An early viewing of the movie adaptation of a book I love plus a live feed of key people from the movie and an evening with my wonderful son--it doesn't get any better than that. Oh wait! It did actually get better than that. What could make it even better? If you guessed something to do with a bookstore, you would be correct. Allow me to explain.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Okay? Okay.

You now have less than two weeks to read John Green's The Fault In Our Stars before the movie comes out. I know. I know. I have already posted more than once about this book and its talented author. But believe me when I tell you that this is a thing. A movement. A phenomenon. You should not miss this. But you don't have to just take my word for it. Last week the Wall Street Journal devoted two full pages to John Green. Two full pages! There's even a TFIOS (pronounced tif-ee-ohs) t-shirt for crying out loud.

Don't be put off by the fact that it is designated as a young adult read. I'm an old adult, and I absolutely loved it.

Allow me to share the articles from the WSJ.

The Green Revolution

Upending the Summer Blockbuster Model

John Green Glossary

The last one will explain TFIOS as well as the t-shirt.

So go read the book, and then go see the movie when it comes out on June 6.
Okay? Okay.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Book House Update

Sadly, this was once the Book House.
About a year ago, I posted a story about the Book House in the St. Louis area. Inhabiting a charming old Victorian house, this popular bookstore was in danger of being torn down to make way for an industrial storage facility, of all things. (See earlier post.) Well, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that even with a petition drive to save the store, it was indeed torn down. The good news is that the store has found a new space and reopened this past winter. Judging by all the activity on the store website (www.bookhousestl.com), the Book House is alive and well. 

The new Book House location
Yes, the original Victorian house from which the store took its name is no more, but happily the store itself survives. That's saying something.

The Book House is still on my list of stores to one day visit. It's resilience alone makes it appealing.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

World Book Night 2014

Bulletin board in children's area, Reed City Public Library
After the winter we endured in Michigan this year, 50 degrees felt positively balmy. Not so warm as last year, but then again not so wet either. Looking out the window from indoors, the sunny blue skies this 23rd of April suggested that spring might actually have arrived in Michigan. It was a perfect day to give away books.

My World Book Night adventure this year took me to the small, rural Michigan town of Reed City. Why Reed City you might ask? Well, this charming town just happens to be the site of Chris's Country Dollar, a variety store owned by my brother Dave who agreed to let me use his establishment as a base of operations for my book giving. My brother is a gregarious sort with a sympathetic ear and the uncanny ability to carry on a conversation on almost any topic, so it is not unusual for patrons to stop and chew the fat as well as shop. What better place to seek out light and reluctant readers on which to bestow free reading material.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dream Homes For Bibliomaniacs

"What do you do when you're an architect whose father owns 16,000 books? You build him a house-library and move in permanently."

I just had to share this quote from a Flavorwire article and photo gallery featuring homes designed for book lovers. If you're like me, you'll be drooling over these pictures of bookshelves embedded into the floor, built into a staircase, filling walls, and more.

Am I jealous? Well, much of my book storage is made up of piles on tabletops, on the floor, on the window ledge, on my nightstand--so, yes, of course I am envious seeing these beautiful spaces. At the same time I am also happy to know that there exist others who are perhaps as book nerdy as I am or more so. Hmmm, I'm getting some ideas!

Take a look at the rest of these unique and beautiful homes on the Flavorwire website here:

Dream Homes.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sizable Success

Schuler Books & Music
2660 28th Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49512
616-942-2561
www.schulerbooks.com

I have mentioned on more than one occasion that I have nothing against big chain bookstores. I shop at Barnes and Noble from time to time. I even have a Barnes and Noble membership card. Come on. A bookstore is a bookstore after all. But I have a special place in my heart for independent bookstores. With something of a hurried imperative, I began this blog nearly three years ago, thinking that my time might be limited. As electronic media became more and more popular, surely the independent bookstore would be an endangered species. Happily, I was wrong. As with any business, there are some that flounder and fade away. But I was pleased to find a reality of numerous bookstores, small and large, adapting and thriving. As a matter of fact I recently paid a visit to a successful independent bookstore in Grand Rapids, Michigan, not more than a mile from a sizable Barnes and Noble store. Apparently they can coexist, and in close proximity no less.

Friday, March 28, 2014

This just in:

The World Book Night organizers have chosen an honorary chairperson for this year's event. And the choice is--drum roll, please--comedian and actress Amy Poehler. Read the story here.

I am excitedly looking forward to April 23, when I will be giving away 20 copies of Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein up north in the small town of Reed City, Michigan. Thanks to my brother Dave for the use of his store, Chris's Country Dollar, as a home base. Dave also put me in touch with the local public library in Reed City, and they have agreed to help publicize the event. Can't wait.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Just For Fun

Okay library lovers, I thought I would share an old favorite with you. This is one of the best library promotional videos I have ever seen. It came out a while back and is a parody of an Old Spice commercial. Here's the commercial in case you haven't seen it or need to refresh your memory:






And here's the parody. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bookstore Bucket List

Outside a South Carolina bookstore
One of the most gratifying side effects of writing this blog is that readers, friends, and former colleagues will from time to time suggest bookstores that may be of interest to me. It is an inspiration to know how many people think of me when they learn of interesting bookstores. While in Paris, Donna, a friend and former colleague, snapped a picture of a French bookstore for me. And recently Diane, another friend, thought of me when she saw a fabulous sign outside a bookstore in South Carolina.

A Paris Bookshop
So many great bookstores, so little time. What is left to do but create a bookstore bucket list. There are a few establishments that I have had my eye on for a while now. One such store is Ann Patchett's Parnassus in Nashville, brand new in 2011. Loving her books as I do, I am sure I would equally love her bookstore. And Nashville is a drivable distance from Michigan, right? There are many other great stores in the US, all within relatively easy reach, or at least not pie in the sky. My cousin Jane's suggestion, Changing Hands, in Tempe, AZ; Denver's Tattered Cover, recommended by my friend Susan; San Francisco's City Lights; and The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap in Virginia each suggest a potential vacation highlight. And TypeBooks in Toronto is definitely doable. 

Then there are some compelling bookstores in foreign lands that I dream of visiting one day. El Ateneo in Buenos Aires has been on my list for over a year now. Housed in a creatively repurposed classic opera house, it is beautiful and intriguing. (See video below.) I am also called to visit Britain's Hay On Wye, an entire town of books, which my dear friend Rena brought to my attention. And recently my friend Paula shared a Business Insider article detailing 18 Bookstores Every Book Lover Must Visit At Least Once. Number 11 on this list is Shakespeare And Company, a Paris shop that has been on my radar for a while, along with Number 8, the aforementioned El Ateneo. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had already visited two of the stores mentioned in this article. Number 11, Politics andProse, brings back delightful memories of a trip to Washington DC (see earlier post), and thanks to the Ganem family, I enjoyed a visit to Number 2 on the list, the remarkable John K. King books right here in Michigan (see post).

Number 16 on the Business Insider list is Prairie Lights in Iowa, of special interest to me as my husband and I will be visiting Iowa in August for the annual Pyrotechnics Guild International convention. You can be sure that I will make an effort to visit Prairie Lights this summer.

Bucket list or impossible dream--who can say. But I will continue to add to my list as I learn of interesting and unique bookstores wherever they are. Thanks to all my friends for the suggestions.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Happiest Place On Earth

About the only positive thing that this Michigan resident can find about the winter of 2014, the year of the "Polar Vortex," is that the misery this year has been shared by those in states with traditionally more temperate winter climates. Schadenfreude? Okay, maybe just a little. There is something comforting in shared pain, I confess. At any rate, I was blessed to gain a respite from the cold this year, if only for four days. Since my husband and I had spent a fair amount of our honeymoon at Disney World, we felt it only fitting that we make a return visit to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We were blessed with sun and warm weather the entire time. What a treat it was to get a hint of sunburn on our faces and even at one point to hear my husband complain that he was hot. Leaving coats, boots, and single digit temperatures for shorts and flip flops, I did indeed feel like I was visiting the Happiest Place On Earth.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bibliomaniac Bargains

The Bookshelf
2417 N. Cedar St.
Holt, MI 48842
517-699-1010

For a bibliomaniac like me, meeting a fellow book lover is always a pleasure. But when that book lover is also the owner of a bookstore chock full of book bargains, so much the better. Recently on my way to visit my son in Lansing, I took a brief detour to the adjacent small community of Holt, Michigan, where I met Laura Spanburg, owner of The Bookshelf, and lover of bargains as well as books. It was not hard for me to understand why Laura is such a happy purveyor of great deals once I learned that she spent seven years as a manager of Bargain Books in Holt. When that store closed two years ago, Laura simply would not let the community be without great deals on good books. She found an available building that had formerly housed an art gallery and opened The Bookshelf.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Yay!!!

I have been selected to be a book giver for World Book Night 2014. Can't wait till April 23, when I get to give away 20 copies of Code Name Verity, an awesome book.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Books to Movies

This year promises to be a good one for seeing good books brought to life on the big screen. Fresh off last year's release of one of my favorites, The Book Thief, I am looking forward to what 2014 has in store. One title that's getting a lot of buzz is Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I'm a fan of Reese Witherspoon, and with her as the main character, I have high hopes for the movie.

Here are a few more book titles to watch for in theaters this year:

Serena by Ron Rash stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn stars Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck. Reese Witherspoon is a producer on this one.
The Giver by Lois Lowry stars Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. This is on my must-read list, so I guess I'd better get going on it.
Unbroken by Laura Hillanbrand has been on my want-to-read list for some time now. I really enjoyed her book, Seabiscuit, and I was pleased with the movie adaptation. This one is directed by Angelina Jolie.

By far my most eagerly anticipated title to be released in movie form this year is John Green's The Fault In Our Stars. One of my favorite authors, Green has been very involved in the cinematic adaptation, so this should be wonderful. See trailer below, but remember,
READ THE BOOK FIRST. The book is always better than the movie.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Rockin' Robbins

Robbins Book List
320 S. Lafayette Street
Greenville, MI 48838
616-754-4354

What does a bookstore have in common with a Radio Shack? Well, for most bookstores, practically nothing. Now I have encountered many bookstores with caf├ęs or coffee bars, I frequent a bookstore featuring a wine bar, and I have even visited a bookstore with a puppet theater. But not until I stepped into Robbins Book List in Greenville, Michigan, had I ever seen a bookstore paired with a Radio Shack. That's right, this small-town bookstore has a door connecting it to a Radio Shack, an interesting combination to say the least. During the winter months it is often difficult for me to travel far in my search for independent bookstores, so as you can imagine, I was pleased to discover a promising shop not far from my home in Lowell. Though it is not a Lake Michigan coastal tourist town like so many I visit, Greenville happily boasts a bookstore. So on a cold, but not so snowy day, I set out on the brief 20-minute drive to check it out.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Winter is a great time to read.

Let me just say right off the bat that I love Blogger. As a person who gags at the thought of programming, I appreciate the service that Blogger affords me. I can have a relatively feature rich, professional looking blog without having to become an html expert. And it's free. So thanks, Blogger! That said, free things are not necessarily problem free things. For several weeks last fall, my ability to edit the text boxes in the sidebar simply disappeared. You may have noticed that I appeared to be "currently reading" the same books endlessly. Now, unlike those of you who can fly through a new title in a day or two, I'm the first to admit that I am a painfully slow reader. I am not, however, as slow as this editing snafu would seem to indicate. I simply was unable to update the information on my blog until recently when Blogger fixed the bug.

So I thought that now, while the media-hyped "polar vortex" is upon us and wind chills are intent on confining me to the indoors with a cup of hot coffee, a cozy blanket, and my laptop--yes, now would be the ideal time to mention a couple of memorable books that I enjoyed while the Blogger editor was out of commission. Both were set during WWII, both had pivotal, strong female characters, and both held me in suspense until the end.

First, five stars go to Villa Triste by Lucretia Grindle. A modern-day mystery is inextricably tied to the daring exploits of members of the Italian resistance during WWII when honored resistance fighters begin turning up murdered 60 years later. The past and present are skillfully woven in an emotional roller coaster with plenty of twists and turns. Who even knew there was an Italian resistance? The French get all the usual attention in books and films. I was riveted by the daring exploits of these brave individuals who were surrounded by terror and death during the Nazi occupation, unable to trust even their neighbors and friends.

Speaking of the French resistance, 5 stars also go to Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I came across this gem in the World Book Night list and loved it so much that I selected it as my first choice for the title I would most like to give away. The many twists, turns, and surprises in this book prevent me from giving too much of the plot and spoiling it. In a nutshell, two young British women from disparate backgrounds become best friends when they are thrust together in service (secret service) involving missions behind enemy lines in occupied France, circa 1943. One is captured and held by the Germans, tortured, and forced to write her story for her captors. Things are not always what they seem, and I will simply say that the Nazis get more than they bargained for. Plenty of surprises and plot twists in this one as well. Yet underneath the spy thriller is also the touching story of an unlikely friendship, one which paradoxically would not have happened without the War.

If you are looking for an absorbing read to curl up with during this cold and icy season, I highly recommend both of these books.