#FridayReads: Results May Vary and The View from the Cheap Seats

bal·ancebalancing act
/ˈbaləns/
noun – a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.

As I struggled to describe how challenging it can be to find balance in life between work, family, passions, and sanity, my gaze fell on this lithograph by James Christensen hanging in my front hall. It sums the conundrum up perfectly. (Even the cat is a doppelganger of my own big tomcat reflected in the glare at the bottom of the photo. Wait, no, the beautifully rendered feline would have to be allergic to people and trying to lick himself into becoming a hairless Sphynx. See, messy life.)

To find balance in my life, I chose to drop the ball on blogging.

I must allow myself reading time to maintain my sanity. I have stacks of books I want to recommend, to shout their praises from the virtual rooftops so readers everywhere can enjoy them as much as I have. Though I no longer do formal reviews, I still need to share the love, not only to my patrons at the library, but with my friends out there in Internet Land.

This month I’ve met my writing word count goals (holler!) AND my workout goals, so it’s time to step it up with shaing-the-love goals. Expect to see something bookish, be it here on the blog, or on Facebook or Instagram each Friday.

Because you never know where you’ll discover your next favorite book or author.


Results May Vary by Bethany Chase

From Bethany Chase—whom bestselling author Emily Giffin calls “a great new voice in fiction”—comes a wise and delightfully relatable novel about a woman’s journey to rebuild her life, and her heart, after a stunning betrayal.

Can you ever really know the person you love?

She never saw it coming. Without even a shiver of suspicion to warn her, art curator Caroline Hammond discovers that her husband is having an affair with a man—a revelation that forces her to question their entire history together, from their early days as high school sweethearts through their ten years as a happily married couple. In her now upside-down world, Caroline begins envisioning her life without the relationship that has defined it: the loneliness of being an “I” instead of a “we”; the rekindled yet tenuous closeness with her younger sister; and the unexpected—and potentially disastrous—attraction she can’t get off her mind. Caroline always thought she knew her own love story, but as her husband’s other secrets emerge, she must decide whether that story’s ending will mean forgiving the man she’s loved for half her life, or facing her future without him.

Compassionate and uplifting, Results May Vary is a bittersweet celebration of the heart’s ability to turn unexpected troubles into extraordinary strength.

I devoured this book in two nights. One might imagine a novel about a woman’s betrayal would be a drag, but not in Bethany Chase’s deft hands. The well-crafted story is both charming and sweet. I couldn’t help but root for the multi-faceted characters on their journeys to not just grow up, but grow into themselves. Beautifully written.

Print Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: August 9, 2016


The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

An enthralling collection of nonfiction essays on a myriad of topics—from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories—observed in #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s probing, amusing, and distinctive style.

An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

My husband first introduced me to Neil Gaiman and his Sandman comics not long after we met. (It’s entirely possible he may have every graphic novel, comic, and work of fiction Gaiman’s every produced squirreled away in his library/office. He still reverently hand washes his faded and well-loved Sandman coffee mug several times a week.) While I have read and enjoyed several of Gaiman’s works, I’m generally not a fantasy or graphic novel novel aficionado. There are always exceptions. Neil is shining one.

View from the Cheap Seats is magic, especially if you listen to the audio book narrated by Neil himself, of course. It’s a love letter to the the craft of writing, to artists and creators in a multitude of mediums, and to the pure joy of reading.

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • 1st edition (May 31, 2016)

 

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Pokemon Chapter Books & Manga Kids Will Love

Pokemon chapter books and manga

Pokémon Go is taking the world by storm, a cultural phenomenon that has won the hearts and imaginations of players of all ages. Chances are that if you’re here, you have a Pokémon-loving child in your life that you want to encourage to read. What better way to entice kids read than to give them a book related to the current new craze?

But Pokémon is far from new. Since 1995, fans of all ages have enjoyed the video games, trading card game, and animated series. Pokémon’s appeal comes from the exciting stories and dynamic personalities of Trainer Ash, his friends, loyal Pikachu, and the other Pokémon (short for Pocket Monsters).

The books and Manga listed below have always been popular items at my library, but now, we can’t keep them on the shelves. Countless times each day, excited kids come in begging for Pokémon books.   Excited Kids + Books = Win for All

Check out these recommendations at your library or buy them for your Pokémon fan at your local bookstore, Amazon, or ebay. See for yourself what all the excitement is about!

Pokémon Chapter Books


These chapter books by Tracey West follow Ash as he sets off on his journey to collect all badges and become the World’s Greatest Pokémon Trainer. The series is loosely based on the television cartoon, so fans will find some familiar story lines. Each book is under 100 pages, and the recommended age range is 7–10. (Think equivalent of The Magic Treehouse series, therefore good for any young independent reader.) This series was introduced 15+ years ago, and my library’s copies are battered, worn, and very well loved. You can still find the books new and gently used via Amazon and Ebay.

I Choose You
Island of the Giant Pokemon
Attack of the Prehistoric Pokemon
Night in the Haunted Tower
 Team Rocket Blasts Off!
Charizard, Go
Splashdown in Cerulean City
Return of the Squirtle Squad 
Journey to the Orange Islands
The Secret of the Pink Pokemon
Race to Danger
Talent Showdown
Thundershock in Pummelo Stadium
Go West, Young Ash
Ash Ketchum, Pokemon Detective
Prepare for Trouble
Ash to the Rescue
Tough Enough
Winner Takes All

Pokémon Easy Readers (DK Readers)

Get to know Ash Ketchum, his Pokemon, and his friends in this DK READERS series, part of a multilevel reading program aimed at capturing children’s interest while developing their reading skills and general knowledge. Lively illustrations combine with engaging age appropriate stories. According to DK, Level 2 is ages 6–8, Level 3 ages 7–10, but many younger readers would be encouraged to read by these easy, under 50-page books.

Meet the Pokemon (DK Reader – Level 2)
Meet Ash (Pokemon (DK Reader Level 2)
Pokemon: Meet Ash’s Pikachu! (DK Reader Level 2)
& many more

 

Pokémon Manga

MANGA is a popular style of Japanese comic books and graphic novels that reads right to left. It sounds weird, but most readers have no problem adapting. Though geared towards children, it has garnered legions of tween, teen, and adult fans worldwide.

Pokémon X•Y by Hidenori Kusaka

This is the most recent Pokémon Manga series (2014 – current). The awesome adventures are inspired by the best-selling Pokémon X and Y video games. All the favorite Pokémon game characters jump out of the screen into the pages of this action-packed manga!

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Paperback: 96 pages each
Reads R to L (Japanese Style)

Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 1
Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 2
Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 3
Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 4
Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 5
Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 6
Pokémon X•Y Vol. 7 

 

Pokémon Adventures by Hidenori Kusaka

This MANGA series follows the adventures of Red as he tries to defeat all eight Kanto Gyms and the Elite Four. It sticks more to the video game story lines instead of the TV series (which is why the main character’s name is Red and not Ash). Many enthusiasts consider this their favorite Manga series, but please note that it’s slightly more violent, as some Pokemon actually die instead of just fainting.

Available individual editions or 7-volume boxed set.

Age Range: 9 – 12 years
Grade Level: 4 – 7
Paperback: 208 pages each
Reads R to L (Japanese Style)

 

Pokémon Black and White by Hidenori Kusaka 

Meet Pokémon Trainers Black and White!

This Manga series, started in 2011, is very popular with kids at my library. His entire life, Black has dreamed of winning the Pokémon League! Now he embarks on a journey to explore the Unova region and fill a Pokédex for Professor Juniper. White has an exciting career as the Trainer of a talented troupe of performing Pokémon. She dreams of making her Tepig Gigi a star! Together, Black and White continue on their journey… What surprising new Pokémon—and people—will they meet next?!

Age Range: 9 – 12 years
Grade Level: 4 – 7
Paperback: 80 pages
Reads R to L (Japanese Style)

Available individually or in boxed sets:
Pokemon Black and White Box Set 1: Includes Volumes 1-8
Pokemon Black and White Box Set 2: Includes Volumes 9-14
Pokemon Black and White Box Set 3: Includes Volumes 15-20

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Just for fun


Pokemon Go: Ultimate Pokemon Go Secrets

This beginner’s guide to Pokemon Go goes over the essentials of the wildly popular game. Know why Razz Berries are important? How about Stardust? This guide features tutorials with pictures that explain everything from how to set up your Pokemon Go account to fighting gym battles and farming XP.

All ages.

 

Pokémon Origami: Fold Your Own Pokémon!

Turn your favorite Pokémon into folded art with the easy origami projects in Pokémon Origami: Fold Your Own Pokémon! 80 full color pages featuring 48 pages of instructions and all the special sheets of origami paper needed to complete 10 Pokémon!

 

 



How to Draw Pokemon

Have an aspiring artist or Manga illustrator? Encourage them to grab a pencil. Pick up some paper. And get ready to draw the coolest, most action-packed Pokemon art ever. Catch step-by-step secret tips on drawing your favorite Pokemon, like Pikachu, Togepi, Chikorita, Meowth, Pichu, Houndour, Lugia, Cyndaquil, and more!

 


Pokémon Visual Companion

This is truly a must-have reference for every Pokémon fan, and is the ultimate reference to key characters, famous battles, and important places. Every region has been revised and updated, including new events, people, and Pokémon from Unova. You also meet Ash, trace his journey, and get to know his Pokémon, friends, and travel companions, as well as villains and rivals throughout the Pokémon world. This is the ultimate guide to the Pokémon animated series, guaranteed to delight any Pokémon fan!

 

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Pokemon chapter books and manga kids will love!  These books are perfect for ages 6-8, 9-12, and even tweens and teens love Manga.

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The Black Widow – When is fiction is too real to be entertainment?

At 12:56 a.m. a massive boom rocked my house, setting off every dog and car alarm in the neighborhood. After a few eternal moments, I remembered that a Space X rocket landing had been scheduled for the wee hours. Eventually, my pulse slowed.

It’s no wonder that window-shaking booms stop my heart. Eighty-five dead in Nice. Five officers gunned down in Dallas, another three in Baton Rouge. At least five injured in a knife and ax attack in Germany. In Turkey, 294 killed in a failed coup. A terrorist attack in Orlando: 49 killed, 53 injured, the horror that blooding the streets just a few miles away from my home. We’re talking just the last few weeks. Brussels. Paris. Who knows how many lives lost in the Middle East.

Every bang, pop, and crack make me jump. My nerves need a break. I hide from reality in books.

Maybe not this time…

Two minutes before the sonic boom, I’d ripped through the ending of THE BLACK WIDOW, the latest installment of Daniel Silva’s international thriller series featuring Israeli Master Spy Gabriel Allon. It’s a novel that pulls no punches regarding the brutality and ruthlessness of Islamic terrorists. It’s book about death and those who want to cause as much of it as possible. And in light of the world today, it didn’t read like fiction. It it felt all too real.

Now, THE BLACK WIDOW is an excellent novel. I’d give it a solid 4.5 stars, and only that low because it wasn’t my absolute favorite installment in the consistently strong Gabriel Allon series.

But honestly, this book kind of rocked me to the core.

I should have expected what was to come when I read the trigger warning. I raced to finish The Black Widow long past my bedtime, needing something more than the answers to who would live and who would die. (Answer: far too many people would die, far too close to home.) I needed to  escape from my escapism. I wasn’t reading for pure enjoyment. The story and descriptions zoomed over the line between fictional constructs of an author’s imagination and the evil and ugliness that is exploding across the globe now. I needed closure.

Heads strewn on balconies. Crucifixions. Beheadings. Limbs tangled in tree branches raining blood. Viscera on walls. Calculating scrounges of humanity systematically shooting the wounded and dying.

We desperately block these images from our imaginations. But many once ordinary people in places as civilized as Paris – as Orlando – will forever be haunted by such gruesome memories seared upon their souls.

Is art reflecting reality, or is reality reflecting art?

I need a break. Next up: a romance novel that guarantees a few hours of blissful escapism and a happy ending. I don’t think we’re going to find one in reality any time soon.

florida poisonous spiders, brown widow, brown widow florida, brown widow eggs

Did I mention I found  this BROWN WIDOW and her seven egg sacs on my porch Friday night?

  ********

 #1 New York Times bestselling author Daniel Silva delivers another spellbinding international thriller—one that finds the legendary Gabriel Allon grappling with an ISIS mastermind.

Gabriel Allon, the art restorer, spy, and assassin described as the most compelling fictional creation “since Ian Fleming put down his martini and invented James Bond” (Rocky Mountain News), is poised to become the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service. But on the eve of his promotion, events conspire to lure him into the field for one final operation. ISIS has detonated a massive bomb in the Marais district of Paris, and a desperate French government wants Gabriel to eliminate the man responsible before he can strike again.

Acclaimed novelist Daniel Silva has thrilled, entertained and educated readers with eighteen thoughtful and gripping spy novels featuring a diverse cast of compelling characters and ingenious plots that have taken them around the globe and back—from the United States to Europe, Russia to the Middle East. From its shocking opening to its explosive denouement in Washington, D.C., The Black Widow reveals itself as Silva’s most timely and powerful novel yet. Following the success of his smash hit The English Spy, this electrifying thriller showcases Silva’s consummate skill and brilliant imagination, and is sure to be a must read for his multitude of current and future fans.

 

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Chuck Wendig in the flesh

Yeah, I’ve have been slacking with the blog lately. Too much going on with life, the family, the day job… Then there’s the recent horrible events here in Orlando which I still don’t have the strength to write about. In fact, I haven’t written much at all over the last month. Mea culpa.

I DID have a chance to meet sci-fi and urban fantasy author extraordinaire Chuck Wendig at the Orlando Book Festival at the Orlando Public Library. Chuck is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Aftermath, as well as the Miriam Black thrillers, the Atlanta Burns books, and the Heartland YA series, alongside other works across comics, games, film, and more.

But, many of us in the writing community know him best as our beloved foul-mouthed writing guru and author of the blog Terrible Minds. Seriously, he’s like our Yoda. Only taller. And I’m guessing minus the secret bad ass lightsaber skills. (Although he does write Star Wars books, so he may whip out some sabers as he plots in his writing shed.) His no-nonsense posts inspire legions of Penmonkies, driving us to sit our butts in the chair, keep on writing, and not stab our eyeballs out. And laugh. The man is funny.

And he is just as affable in person. Seriously.

The Kick Ass Writer

Writer that I am (ahem), I had him sign The Kick Ass Writer. My hubby had him sign a couple of his favorite novels, then bought a stack more for Chuck to inscribe.

Chuck began his keynote speech by saying he’d considered starting with a moment of silence, but then he realized that writers and artists are not at their best when silent. Six days before, 49 people had been killed and 53 injured at the Pulse Nightclub, a few blocks away.  (If you haven’t read his Recipe for a Shooting. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

Some of the nuggets of wisdom he doled out to the audience of eager Padawans writers and readers:

  • Telling your parents you want to be a writer is like telling them you want to be a unicorn farmer.
  • In the game of writing, no one knows what their doing. (You’re not alone!)
  • Writing is a game of perseverance. It can be like putting a bucket on your head and head-butting a wall. Either you or the wall will fall down eventually.
  • Care less. Your writing and your life will improve. (And you’ll be less likely to start head-butting walls like a drunken billy goat.)
  • The man can write 30k words in a weekend. That is NOT a typo. THIRTY THOUSAND WORDS IN A WEEKEND. Forget man–he’s a myth. No, a legend.
  • And while we’re on the subject of writing faster than the speed of light, he wrote his first Star Wars book, Aftermath, in ONE MONTH. This was not planned. The publisher kept moving the release day up. The book hit the shelves exactly one year to the day after he tweeted about how he’d like to work on a Star Wars book. Note: this in NOT how anyone else will every procure a publishing deal. Like ever.
  • His measly little blog Terrible Minds get about 10k hits per day. Guess a few folks want to read his rants about writing. And food. And his kid. And don’t mind his creative use of naughty language.

 Chuck 2

Don’t bash the hair. The humidity hovered around 300% in downtown O-town that day. Between sessions, I’d made the pilgrimage to the makeshift memorial filling the grassy lawn of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts just blocks away.

I had to see it with my own eyes. I had to honor those we’d lost. I had to let my heart bleed.

You see, even as I watched the coverage on TV, it didn’t feel real. The 24-hour news feed running “Orlando Massacre” and “America’s Deadliest Mass Shooting” played like a reality show. How could this happen here? We’re the land of fucking Mickey Mouse, fairy dust, and overpriced Harry Potter wands. Not mass shootings. Until now.

I’m going to get off this tangent. I don’t want to write about it. The wounds are too fresh.Pulse shooting, Orlando Massacre, Pulse Memorial, Dr Phillip's Center

Now back to good stuff.

My husband joined me for the Chuck meet & greet keynote speech. He has a thing for signed books (and comics, and photos…you get the drift). He brought along a handful of books, then had to buy a few more because the temptation was just. too. great.

Back at home, our 12-year-old eyeballed the hubby’s loot, and thought Under the Empyrean Sky (The Heartland Trilogy Book 1) looked like a good read. Kiddo is pretty bright and an avid reader. But ready for his first “adult” book? And that book be one of Chuck’s? (As I mentioned, the man is infamous for his potty mouth.)

Then I realized that age 12 I was about to start on my Stephen King kick. That shut me up.

Kiddo ended up reading Chuck’s Star Wars: Aftermath first.

Read whatever you want, my child. If books are the most corrupting element in your tween life, we’re doing okay.

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Shocked Mom Wins the Internet #it’saboy

surprise it's a boy
Never trust an ultrasound.

This shocked mama just discovered that the baby everyone had said was a girl was, in fact, a boy. Surprise!

Australian mum Koto Nakamura had been told she was expecting a girl. According to Today Parents, they’ll have bundles of pink gifts and supplies to return since their little guy proved to be sneaky during the ultrasounds.

Nakamura’s priceless reaction to the news was even captured on camera by her birth photographer Jessica Jackson.

I’m pretty sure I made the same expression after my ultrasound.Then I went to the parking lot and sobbed. I, however, had several months to adapt to the concept of raising a boy, not seconds.

Don’t worry, according to Today Parents, all is well, and the couple is delighted with their new baby boy.

#bestbirthpicever

See the full story on Today Parents.

Spreading Some Love Between the Covers

“Love stories are universal. Love stories are powerful.
And so are the women who write them.”

Last spring I wrote about how I was dying to watch LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS, a feature-length indie documentary film that explores the little-known, surprisingly powerful world of women who write and read romance? I finally attended a screening thanks to the fine folks at the Orlando Public Library. I left inspired, enlightened, and I may have had a watery eye from time to time.

Love Between the Covers is the fascinating story of the vast, funny, and savvy female community that has built a powerhouse industry sharing love stories. Romance fiction is sold in 34 languages on six continents, and the genre grosses more than a billion dollars a year–outselling mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy combined. Yet the millions of voracious women (and sometimes men) who read, write, and love romance novels have remained oddly invisible. Until now. For three years, the film follows the lives of five very diverse published romance authors and a unpublished newbie as they build their businesses, find and lose loved ones, cope with a tsunami of change in publishing, and earn a living doing what they love—while empowering others to do the same.

During the three years the filmmakers shot the documentary, they witnessed the largest power shift in the publishing industry in the last 200 years. And it’s the romance authors who are on the front lines, pioneering new ways to survive and thrive in the rapidly shifting environment.

Many aspects of the film had me in awe. Bella Andre writes 25 pages a day?!!

The segments following the video diary of aspiring romance author Joanne Lockyer had me feeling all swishy inside. I found myself discretely dabbing the corners of my eyes after she saw her book, her quest, her baby in print for the first time in all its tangible beauty.

There were so many more nuggets of goodness, conversations about diversity, desire, power shifts, and how to write a damn good book.

I tried to jot down a few of my favorite quotes as I watched, but alas, as I read over my chicken scratch, I’ve realized that these should more be considered paraphrases. My profound apologies if any of these are too far off. (Feel free to kill me off in your next book if I offend.)

We’re not looking for a stupid heroine … we’re looking for a story where the woman has her shit together and the man is the cherry on top of the sundae.

Beverly Jenkins

Loyalty, love, loss, courage–all books in ALL genres circle around to these eternal themes.

Eloisa James

I love fiction because it’s fiction. Fiction is not real and it’s not supposed to be. Fiction is a dream. Fiction is a desire. Fiction is hope.

Len Barot/Radclyffe

Yes it’s a fantasy. But so are Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. It’s no great surprise that he never dies in the end. So what’s wrong with our
Happily Ever After?

Beverly Jenkins

This is the one place where you will consistently find women’s sexuality treated fairly and positively.

Sarah Wendell

 

But one of the main themes of the movie was the camaraderie. Through RWA (Romance Writers of America), these women, be them multi-millionaire business builders or publishing-shy newbies, shared a refreshing desire to share what they know to help others succeed. (I also see this in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, but this wasn’t their movie. Go WFWA!) They stress that there’s no finite number of readers, so we can publish an infinite number of stories.

After the movie screening, the Orlando Public Library hosted romance panel discussions about Tropes We Love and Hate and Vampires and Angels and Weres, Oh My!, followed by a book signing featuring local romance writers.

And…

pro rwa

 

I’m offically a PRO member of Romance Writers of America.

Come on in. There’s room for you here too.

 

10 Things I Learned During an Evening with Bill Bryson

1. I can make Bill Bryson laugh!

Bill Bryson Rollins College book signing

No, that doesn’t count. To be honest, I simply cannot recall what witty quip I must have whipped out to cause the celebrated travel, science, and historical writer to chuckle, but I have the picture to prove I said something good.

During Notes from All Over: An Evening with Bill Bryson, the writer entertained the crowds with his renowned brand of cerebral yet homespun humor. Before a packed house at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, Bryson spun tales about his life between readings from some of his well known works, sparking alternating bouts of laughter and applause. I’ve binged on his audiobooks recently, so listening to him read passages from A Walk in the Woods, In a Sunburned Country, and his new release The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain truly brought the books to life. The evening proved that America and Britain’s bastion of curmudgeonly wanderlust is just as charming, hilarious, and endearing off the page as he is on.

Some highlights:

1. On how to avoid a bear attack: wear bells so the bears know you’re coming. And keep your eyes open for bear scat on the ground. It’s easy to spot — it has bells in it.

2. When a British bookstore author questionnaire asked what he would like people to say about him 100 years from now: “Well, at least he was still sexually active.”

3. He’s never thought of writing fiction.

4. Reviewers of his new book,The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain, have written that he’s far grumpier than he use to be. He used this as a segway into reading a passage from the book, a cautionary tale regarding the horrors of ordering for a large family at McDonald’s with grossly incompetent staff.

5. He profoundly curious and always does his own research. Writing is a difficult art, but through research, one gets to enjoy the joy of discovery. You never know what you’ll find.

6. On embellishment in his writing: it depends on which of the two types of books he’s writing. Ernest books of information have no embellishment. They’re meant to be reliable sources of information. However, when writing of his personal adventures, he freely expands and uses hyperbole or it wouldn’t be funny. He suspects his readers are intelligent enough to tell the difference.

7. He had nothing to do with making the movie version of A Walk in the Woods, having sold the rights to Robert Redford over a decade ago. The movie was supposed to reunite Paul Newman and Robert Redford for the first time since The Sting, but Paul got sick, and the movie was put on the back burner. When Redford decided to go forward with the production, Bryson wasn’t involved with the script writing. Bryson watched the movie for the first time at the Sundance Film Festival. He sat between his wife and Redford, and found it insane because there was Redford on the screen answering to his name.

8. Bryson thought the film somewhat accurately reflected his book until one particularly awkward scene. “Bryson” on film began flirting with a hotel-keeper (portrayed by Mary Steenburgen) and there’s obvious chemistry. He felt the strong need to lean over to his wife and swear this scene was not in the book and it never happened.

9. He sent his friend Katz (not his real name) the manuscript for A Walk in the Woods because he felt a bit bad that he’d portrayed him as such a buffoon (even though he was a total buffoon). Katz read the manuscript and said it was funny, but all fiction. Bryson walked him through each scene, and Katz fessed up to each antidote. Then how was it fiction? According to his Appalachian Trail companion, the stories were all true, but it was just fiction in the way Bryson told them.

10. Bryson’s greatest regret in life is not completing the (somewhere around) 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail hike. He never hiked or even saw Mount Katahdin, regarded to be the most difficult climb in the entirety of the A.T. Someday. Maybe.

Bonus: When asked what inspires him to write: bills.

Bill Bryson signed copy a short history of everything

My son’s first signed book!

And that, my friends, is the witty and wonderful Bill Bryson. If you haven’t read his books, you absolutely must. I highly recommend the audiobooks.

Some of my favorites:

And next in my queue:

#Friday Reads — A Bollywood Affair, Frisky Business, and Tiny Beautiful Things

What a wonderful week for reading, full of laughter, love, and maybe, just maybe, a few tears. These three selections are highly recommended.

 

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.

Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.

Heartfelt, witty, and thoroughly engaging, Sonali Dev’s debut is both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love, in all its diversity.

 

 
Frisky Business by Tawna Fenske

No more rich men for Marley Cartman. Absolutely not. Thanks to her dad, her ex-fiancé, and the overbearing donors she schmoozes for a living, she’s had more than her fill. From now on, she wants blue-collar men with dirt under their fingernails. But when Marley makes a break to handle donor relations for a wildlife sanctuary, she finds herself drawn to the annoyingly charming—and disturbingly wealthy—chairman of the board.

The kind of man she doesn’t want

Judging by his hipster T-shirts, motley assortment of canine companions, and penchant for shaking up stuffy board meetings, you’d never guess that William Barclay the Fifth is a brilliantly successful businessman. Will has good reason to be leery of scheming women, and as he and Marley butt heads over the wisdom of bringing grumpy badgers to charity events, he can’t help but wonder if his new donor relations coordinator is hiding something other than a perfect figure beneath that designer suit…

 

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills. And it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar-the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the best-selling memoir Wild-is the person thousands turn to for advice. Tiny Beautiful Things gathers the best of “Dear Sugar” in one place and includes never-before-published columns. Rich with humor, insight, compassion-and absolute honesty-this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.

The audiobook is riviting, rich, and bursting with heartbreak and beauty.