Friday, July 30, 2010

First Lines...

"On the morning my husband left me, hours before I knew he would, I looked at the bruised March sky and recognized tornado green.

I'd seen that peculiar algae shade before--anyone who grew up in Ohio had--but my intimate relationship with storms was a bit of family lore.

When I was eight, I tried to touch a tornado."

...The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cleveland Fans: "Aaah...that's still tender."


In Zombieland, Bill Murray has what's probably the single greatest cameo of all time. If you haven't seen the movie, you suck. But in the interest of not spoiling too much, there's a scene where Tallahassee (played by Woody Harrelson) pokes his finger into Murray's gaping chest wound, and Murray says, "Aaah...that's still tender."

Well, Cleveland fans can understand that sensation. Especially the ones who were at last night's Indians/Yankees game. And that tenderness made 'em mean.

From the Associated Press:
A fan wearing a Miami Heat jersey of LeBron James drew the ire of the crowd at a Cleveland Indians game and was escorted out of the ballpark.

Fans in the left-field bleachers chanted obscenities and pointed at the man Wednesday night during the sixth inning of the game between the Indians and New York Yankees. Hundreds of fans joined in before security led the man out of Progressive Field.

As he left, some fans followed him toward the gate with more derisive chants.
Here's some footage. The language is not so safe for work.

The Best Press Conference Mashup Ever

From Deadspin via Dan B.:

Worst Evers: Free throw shooters

As the poet / philosopher duo Matt Stone and Trey Parker once wrote: Freedom isn't free. No, there's a hefty fucking fee. And if you don't throw in your buck oh five, who will?

The NBA equivalent to the $1.05 they were talking about is practicing free throws. Some guys like Ray Allen do it. Others...don't. Here are my personal picks for the worst of the "don'ts."

The Winner: Chris Dudley

Christen Guilford Dudley once said: "So I wasn't good at free throws. Neither is Shaq. So really, you could describe my game as Shaq-esque." Based on how Shaq treated Dudley when they played against each other, it's probably a good thing Chris uttered this quote after retirement.

Dudley's career free throw percentage of 45.8 isn't the lowest among the players in this list. So why does Dudders rank first among my worsts? It's not simply because he 817 of 1,508 freebies over his (gulp!) 15-year career. What sets Dudley apart are some of his dubious fouls shooting accomplishments.

For instance, according to his bio: "On April 14, 1990, he missed 17 of 18 free throws in a 124-113 loss to the Indiana Pacers. In that game he broke Wilt Chamberlain s NBA record by missing 13 straight free throws, one of them an airball. Dudley wound up with a league-worst .319 free-throw percentage."

Yep: 1-for-18 with 13 consecutive misses. Here's the box score.

But you know what? When that most bawful of charity stripe performances happened, it was only the second-worst free throw shooting moment of Dudley's career. From SportCenter's This Day In Sports:

January 29, 1989 — Cavs center Chris Dudley stepped to the free throw line and did something no one in the NBA had ever done. And that wasn't a good thing. Dudley, a celebrated defender, rebounder and shot-blocker, was a somewhat below-average free throw shooter. OK, he was a somewhat awful free throw shooter, with a career average of 45.8 percent, which is better than Ben Wallace but worse than Shaq. But in a January game against the Washington Bullets, he took poor free throw shooting to a new level.

Dudley got fouled, stepped to the line and missed both shots. NBD. But the ref called a lane violation on a Bullets guard, so Dudley shot a third. Which he missed. Another lane violation (this one by Bullets center Dave Feitl) brought another attempt and another miss (that's four for those counting at home). Amazingly, Feitl was called for another lane violation. And amazingly, Dudley missed his fifth and final (of the series) free throw attempt, becoming the first player to miss five free throws in one trip.
The bottom line is that when Dudley went to the line, the results were like jamming your hand into a running blender. You knew something bad was going to happen, but the variations of horror were nearly limitless.

The Runners Up: Ben Wallace, Shaq, Wilt Chamberlain

How did Big Ben miss out on the top spot? Well, for starters, he actually made significant non-foul shooting contributions to a Pistons team that made two NBA Finals and won a title. He also doesn't hold the two amazing records Dudley has.

Still, Ben earning top Worst Evers honors wouldn't have been a traveshamockery. After all, his lifetime FT% of 41.7 was accomplished by missing 1,501 of his 2,575 career FT attempts. It got to the point where NBA arenas started seriously considering handing out crash helmets and safety goggles to every fan sitting in the 100 level seats when Wallace came to town just to reduce their liability.

To top things off, here's a snippet from a Worst of the Night post I published in March:

When last we saw Big Ben, he was going 1-for-9 from the free throw line, which included consecutive airballs. Last night, he went 0-for-5. But it's even worse than that.

With just over a minute left, Paul Pierce seemingly committed a foul on Pistons rookie Jonas Jerebko. Only the Celtics bitched and bitched until the refs sent Wallace to the line instead. He missed them both, obviously, and then left the game almost immediately with a "knee injury" (it's a shame he didn't claim flu-like symptoms.)

Wallace is now 2-for-20 from the line in Detroit's last five games. And opposing coaches have gone to the Hack-a-Ben strategy twice during that stretch.

Said Pistons coach John Kuester: "Ben has been in this league for a long time, and he knows that he has to work his way out of this. It's certainly not a question of effort -- he's the first one in the gym and the last one out. He hits 70 percent in practice, but he's got to go to the line and make them in the games."

I love it. First one to the gym and the last one out. I swear, every player is described like that these days. Guy must never leave practice. I hope Detroit's practice facility is filled with cots.
Okay, I lied about topping things off. Here's Big Ben airballing consecutive freebies...with the game on the line:

Click here for a funnier fan-made video of those misses.

Then there's Shaq. His career FT% of 52.7 seems almost ridiculously high compared to Dudley and Wallace. But he's sure got them in sheer volume. The Big Clanky has missed an astounding 5,259 foul shots (out of 11,121 attempts) in his 18 NBA seasons. That's more than most players ever get to take. For example, Shaq's former teammate Derek Fisher has only 2,200 career FTAs despite playing 1,028 games over 15 seasons. At this rate, Fish will retire having attempted fewer than half of the foul shots Shaq missed.

Shaq's inability to convert freebies have us one of the great quotes -- not to mention one of the greatest fallacies -- in NBA history:

"I don't care about my [free throw shooting] percentages. I keep telling everyone that I make them when they count." - Shaquille O'Neal, in post-game interviews recorded by WOAI-TV on November 7, 2003
Yeah, right. Try to ask the 2007-08 Phoenix Suns whether Shaq hits them when they count without getting punched in the groin.

In a larger sense, The Big Misfire's inaccuracy at the line gave us the immortal Hack-a-Shaq strategy. Not only is it memorable, it can (and has been) transferred to other lousy foul shooters: Hack-a-Bowen, Hack-a-Dwight, Hack-a-Ben, etc.

Last but never, ever least, we have Wilt Chamberlain. Everything about this man was larger-than-life. Everybody knows about the 100-point and how he averaged 50 PPG during the 1961-62 season. And then there's the claim that he shagged 20,000 women. What people don't know is that, while he was still in the NBA, Wilt tried to miss one free throw for every woman he violated with what we have to assume was an enormous and terrifying penis.

The Big Dipper ranks second all-time in free throws attempted with 11,862. (Karl Malone is the all-time leader with 13,188, but he played four more seasons than The Stilt.) Unfortunately, Chamberlain ranks only 14th in free throws made with 6,057.

For those of you who enjoy simple math, that means Wilt had 5,805 clanks in 14 seasons. This means that even though he's played four more seasons than Wilt did, Shaq is still almost 600 missed FTs behind Chamberlain. Ouch.

Speaking of ouch, Wilt was such a turrible foul shooter that Chamberlain -- a true giant of a man -- was often forced to run away from players who were trying to intentionally foul him. And the NBA had to institute rules changes because of it:

Chamberlain was such a great player and dominant force that he would be certain to be on the floor in late-game situations if the score was close. However, he was such a poor free throw shooter (51% over his career) that if the opposition needed to employ intentional fouling late in the game, Chamberlain would always be that team's target. Just as the opposition was eager to send Chamberlain to the free throw line because of his ineptitude there, Chamberlain himself was reluctant to go for that same reason. This led to the spectacle of virtually an entire other contest being held away from the ball and almost completely outside of the basketball game being played, as Chamberlain essentially played a de facto game of tag with defenders, attempting to run from and dodge them as they chased him trying to foul him.

The NBA decided to address this undesirable situation by instituting a new rule regarding off-the-ball fouls—that is, committing a personal foul against an offensive player who neither has the ball nor is making an effort to obtain it. The new rule stated that if the defensive team commits an off-the-ball foul within the last two minutes of the game, the offensive team would be allowed to keep possession of the ball after the awarding of either one or two free throws. Since the entire reason for employing intentional fouling as a strategy was to quickly terminate the offensive team's possession, this new rule, when in effect, forced the team using intentional fouling to foul only the offensive player who had the ball. This brought an end to the need for Chamberlain, or any other poor free throw shooter, to play "hide and seek" with opposing defenders in intentional fouling situations.

"The reason they have that rule is that fouling someone off-the-ball looks foolish...Some of the funniest things I ever saw were players that used to chase [Wilt Chamberlain] like it was hide-and-seek. Wilt would run away from people, and the league changed the rule based on how silly that looked." - Pat Riley
So Wilt couldn't hit his what? Chicks dug him.

NEW Third Generation Kindle Revealed!

Third Generation Kindle Revealed!

Late last night Amazon revealed the NEW Kindle! Word spread very quickly through the internet and Kindle forums. The photo above shows the new Kindle design on the left versus the "old" Kindle version on the right. One of the most anticipated and best feature is the latest generation e-ink screen called pearl. The new screen is sharper and has 50% better contrast than previous Kindle screens and "any other eReader". Amazon revealed earlier this month E-Ink's Pearl on the Kindle DX and I can tell you first hand after seeing it that the fonts are sharper and there is more contrast between the background and the fonts. Nice that Amazon decided to share this with their smaller Kindle! And speaking of smaller, the new Kindle has a 21% smaller body, but still retains it's 6 inch screen size. Here are some of the other highlights of the new Kindle...

  • 15% lighter... weighs in at 8.7 ounces, which is less than a paperback
  • Battery life... ONE MONTH if you leave the wireless turned off; 10 days if you leave the wireless turned on.
  • Double the amount of storage- you can now store up to 3500 books!
  • Improved PDF support, with a dictionary look-up and the ability to add notes.
  • Faster page turns
  • comfortable new soft-touch textured back
Some other design changes are the buttons for Menu, Home and Back, which were on the right side of the Kindle, are now located below with the typing keys. The Navigation button is now larger, and the number keys are not displayed, which means to access them you will probably have to shift keys.

What else is great about the NEW Kindle? How about the price! You have a choice...
  • Kindle Wi-Fi only, available in graphite grey.... $139.00
  • Kindle 3G plus Wi-Fi, available in white or graphite grey... $189.00
The Kindle is slowly inching towards that magic eReader $100 price point and beats Barnes & Nobles Nook (Kindles direct competitor) by $10! I can't wait to see one of these new Kindles in person! I'm particularly curious to see the new size. One of the things I liked about the Borders Kobo reader that I tried was it's size; the Kobo was smaller than my Kindle and the size was very comfortable to hold, especially with it's soft-touch quilted back. The new Kindle size is almost as small as the Kobo and it too has a new soft-touch textured back.

Well, what do you think? If you've been on the fence about getting an eReader this may be the final push you need. And does this mean prices even lower for Sony, Barnes & Noble and Kobo eReaders again? You can read all about the new third generation Kindles and all their features at . Pre-orders are being taken right now, with the new Kindles being shipped on August 27th!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Pickup Diaries Part 8: Insane amounts of basketball

One was on a mission. The other was just along for the ride.

As my junior year ended and I transitioned into my final summer as a high school student, I was playing insane amounts of basketball.

The thing was, I needed a practice buddy. Somehow -- and I honestly don't remember how I managed to pull this off -- I convinced my friend Dave D. to become my practice partner. To the best of my knowledge, "Double D" never had any real interest in taking up basketball as an active sport. As a former almost-Clevelander, Dave followed the Cavaliers in a very casual way, but he rarely watched games unless we were hanging out and the Cavs happened to be on national TV.

You can guess how often that happened.

But the thing about Dave is that a) he enjoys physical challenges and b) he's a natural athlete. When focused -- and, to be honest, he's not always the most focused person -- Dave can pick up almost anything...and he can pick it up quickly. One summer break during college, my mom bought a badminton net, and within a few tries Dave had become a badass badminton player, diving around, spiking birdies, and winning every game. Football? He could catch, throw and tackle. Hard. After college, I went through a big running phase and began running half-marathons. I asked Dave to do it with me, and he'd jump in and run the 13.1 miles without training. These days, he trains for MMA-style fighting.

That's Dave.

Dave's natural speed, strength and endurance helped him compete, and his hand-eye coordination allowed him to master difficult skills in short order. One of the first times he wandered out to watch me practice -- while wearing a heavy gray sweatshirt in 80-degree heat I might add -- he wanted to try his hand at a half court shot. He missed his first try and then hit the next three in a row. And he hadn't even touched a basketball since middle school.

Again, that's Dave.

So he started playing with me. Dave's only about 5'7", so I had a somewhat unfair (in terms of one-on-one) height advantage on him. To compensate for that, we agreed on a "three-point zone" on the Boulevard court (there was no three-point line). That way, good shooting could potentially overmatch my height. In almost no time, Dave was drilling threes at (what seemed to me) a crazy rate. I'd been practicing three-pointers for months and he cracked the code in a week.

That rat bastard.

Over the next two months, we played basketball five, six, sometimes seven hours a day. We probably would have played even longer if we hadn't had jobs (I worked at the Ponderosa, he worked at Little Caesar’s). Our games were epic in length and scope. We would stage best-of-seven series, but instead of games to 11 or 15, we'd play to 100. Instead of playing 21, we'd play 121. We'd play 48-minute games, complete with timeouts and a halftime break. And we'd use the breaks to run sprints or jump rope.

We did all this in the dog days of summer, and we never, ever brought water with us. We'd usually play to the point of complete dehydration before we'd wander down the street to the Village Pantry -- a convenience store that existed all over Indiana at the time -- and buy a couple 32-ounce Gatorades. Man, those things tasted better than anything I had ever tasted in my life. Dave figured our dehydration was what made them taste that good, so we decided to keep dehydrating ourselves before getting Gatorade.


One day, we were drinking our Gatorades when I noticed Dave's bottle claimed that the flavor inside was Michael Jordan's favorite flavor. I immediately brought this to Dave's attention because his Cavaliers had recently been eliminated from the NBA Playoffs by Jordan's Bulls. Dave blanched and chucked the almost-full bottle against the wall outside the Village Pantry. "Fucking Michael Jordan," Dave said. "It's like he exists to piss me off."

For the record, I developed my Gatorade Conspiracy theory this summer during one of our trips to the Pantry.

A month into the summer, my friends stopped calling my house because they knew I probably wouldn't be there. If they really wanted to get a hold of me, they would drive or ride their bikes to Boulevard school. (Nobody bothered to call Dave because either a) they knew he'd be with me and b) Dave rarely answered or returned phone calls. As a friend, Dave either appeared mysteriously or he didn't. Even now, all these years later, he's still like that.) Gauvin in particular would track us down and ride his bike in circles around the court while me and Dave squared off.

So I played and I played and I played. I also trained by doing basic weight-lifting exercises (although I wasn't consuming enough protein to bulk up properly), running, and various other gimmicky crap. For instance, I heard or read somewhere that jumping on a mini-trampoline could help increase your vertical leap. I told Dave, who somehow produced a mini-trampoline. To this day, I have no idea where it came from or where it went after we were done with it. But then, Dave also liked to steal beef jerky from the Village Pantry, so I didn't really want to ask.

Anyway, we spent a week or two jumping on that stupid trampoline. Of course, we were teenagers with no experience, guidance or perspective, so when we didn't see instantaneous results, we abandoned this trampoline experiment for -- of course -- playing more basketball. That was my last attempt at enhancing my leaping ability until the White Man Jump Challenge (more on that in a future installment).

Dave and I would occasionally venture forth to other parks in search of two-on-two battles. They were surprisingly hard to find. It was usually pretty easy to start a one-on-one game, or a game of 21, or, if you really wanted to, a full court game. But two-on-two is a strange number. It usually requires two friends to find another two friends who are willing to play.

But still, we managed to stage a decent number of two-on-two contests. The problem was, even though he had picked up the sport at an alarmingly fast rate, Dave lost his confidence against strangers and would always defer to me, to the point of barely shooting or even refusing to shoot. Once our opponents realized that, they would just double team the hell out of me. It was becoming a sticking point and I couldn't seem to get through to Dave that I needed him to shoot.

Then one day we went to Highland Park, which had the second-most popular court in Kokomo. There were two guys who were pretty good there, and they were mopping the floor with various would-be challengers. Dave and I were shooting around at one end of the court while they went two-on-three and won. I didn't want any part of those guys because a) they were good enough to seem a little intimidating and b) I didn't trust Dave to step up and take shots.

Then they challenged us. Dave didn't want to accept the challenge, but I couldn't say no. Saying no would have felt like backing down. My pride wouldn't allow it.

I don't remember much of what Dave and I did on defense. At the time, for me, defense was just waiting to get back on offense. That's not to say I didn't try my best to stop people, only that I didn't take note of what happened on defense the way I dissected what happened on offense.

On our first few offensive possessions, I posted up and hit a couple short hooks. I had a slight height advantage against my man, and I was going to keep using it until they double-teamed me, which happened pretty fast. When it did, I passed back out to Dave who would hold the ball and wait for his man to come back out. Only he didn't. Dave still wouldn't shoot. He tried to lob in a few passes that were intercepted.

Normally, I was very patient with Dave in these situations. Part of that was me trying to be a good friend, but most of it was fear. Like I said, Dave was always a little mysterious. He was impossible to get on the phone and he showed up for things and then disappeared for reasons unknown to anyone (maybe not even himself). I was seriously worried that if I ever got shitty with Dave, he'd stop playing basketball with me.

But this time, I snapped. These guys were good, and they were talking trash to us. I felt I could score on my man one-on-one, but I was basically helpless against their double-teams even if Dave did manage to get me the ball. So, finally, while he was standing on the perimeter just holding the ball, I screamed, "Goddamn it, Dave, fucking shoot it!"

And he did.

Dave drilled it. On the next possession, he drilled another. Then another. Then another. And then another. Dave's five-for-five streak had swung the game in our favor. Now our opponents' defense was all discombobulated. They didn't know who to defend, the big man inside or the little man outside. On game point, Dave knocked down another jumper in his defender's face. I lost my head, screaming "Dave!" and running over to give him a double high five. We were laughing and jumping around, which caused our opponents to mock us once again.

We didn't care. It was a big moment. Dave had finally found his confidence. This had been his breakout game. I was sure of it.

Unfortunately, I was wrong.

During the final month of the summer, our high school was putting on a pre-tryout basketball camp. Kids who wanted to make the Varsity or Junior Varsity teams were encouraged to sign up, because it was assumed that this camp would make or break you. It was the best possible opportunity to get some real coaching and play against Varsity-level competition. It was exactly what I needed. No, it was, I thought, exactly what we needed.

See, I had become convinced that Dave loved playing basketball as much as I did. And after all the time we had spent playing, I was sure he'd want to try and make Varsity with me. It made sense. He had picked up the sport so quickly. He was a natural athlete, and trying to make the school team seemed just as natural.

But my enthusiasm had caused me to misjudge one of my closest friends. Dave was always the guy sitting at the back of the class. Usually, Dave didn't speak unless spoken too...and sometimes not even then. He was a high school ninja. If you didn't know Dave, you didn't know Dave. As in, you probably didn't even know he existed. A summer or two ago, I was hanging out with Dave and Gauvin in Indianapolis, and we ran into a woman who had graduated with us. She recognized Gauvin by his hair -- this is easy to do...Donald Trump has nothing on Gauvin -- and then recognized me despite my shaved head.

She had no idea who Dave was.

Dave said, "Uh, we sat next to each other in English class for, like, two years in a row."

“Weird,” she said. “I don’t remember you.”

Most people would have been insulted. Dave just shrugged. Even now, he was completely indifferent about whether people noticed him. In fact, he preferred that they didn’t. So even though I asked nicely, suggested strongly and eventually tried to force him to join me…he refused.

I was going to camp on my own.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind... A TLC Blog Tour & Review

"Trust Yourself and Believe, Whatever Happens Don't Give Up..."
...William Kamkwamba

The simple act of turning on a light switch... opening a refrigerator full of food... going to school... These are all things most of us take for granted, but in William Kamkwamba's life these things were luxuries. Surviving famine, cholera and political treachery, William Kamkwamba shares his heartwrenching story of life in Malawi, "a country where magic rules and modern science was mystery."

I had seen
William Kamkwamba on television being interviewed about his windmill. I was fascinated. How a small boy with a curiosity in how things worked was able to help bring electricity to his village was amazing. What I didn't know until I read the book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, written by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, was how far William had to travel, not by miles but by the determination to live & have a more stable life, before he could make his idea a reality. In this emotionally charged story, William Kamkwamba is "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind". He was born into a family of poor farmers in a rural African village, with 6 siblings and the realities of a harsh African life, which included no electricity, or any other modern convenience, and living under a corrupt government that would rather see big profits than help the many small farmers that populated the country. Their livelihoods were wrapped up in the ability to grow their crops. They had to work around rainy seasons, dry spells and make the hard soil work for them. Then famine broke out, food became scarce, and people struggled to survive. Because of the famine, William had to drop out of school because his parents could no longer afford to send him. Though, he still had access to the library and used his time to keep his studies up. That library contained books on Physics and electricity donated by The American Institutes for Research. At the age of 14, with very little education, and not a very good grasp of English, William was inspired by the pictures in a book on windmills to see if he could build his own. A windmill could make electricity and bring water for irrigation. This could help not only his family, but his whole village...

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind will pull you in. It's a story of desperation and loss, but as the story continues, uplifting. The beginning of the book really opens your eyes to the harsh realities of the life of an African farmer. But you also get a sense of a simpler life, one filled with magic and storytelling handed down from one generation to the next. I got a sense of community among the people of the village, even though they had very little, people tried to help one another with what they had. As you learn more about William and day to day life in his village, you begin to see what a special young man he is. Of course the villagers thought he was crazy, going through the scrap yard looking for pieces of this and that to "build a windmill". We all know the ending- he did make his windmill, and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is that story. There's also a wonderful "P.S." at the end of the book, an "afterwards" story entitled A Great Adventure that recounts some of the things that went on after the book was published. One of the wonderful things William mentions is meeting Dr. Mary Atwater, the woman who wrote Using Energy, the book that first inspired William to build his windmill. Dr. Atwater was "a black person in the American South during the 1950's, and she didn't have many great educational opportunities. It didn't help that she was also a girl, and a girl who loved science." But Dr. Atwater's dream came true through education, and she was "happy that I lived long enough to see that something I wrote could change someone's life."

William Kamkwamba will touch your heart. I felt such happiness when he was able to bring his dream to reality and help his village. But it doesn't stop there, because with worldwide attention, he's now helping to build schools and bring education into the communities of Africa. This is one very special story that will make you thankful for the bounty that you have, but also inspire you to follow your dreams, and to try and help others attain theirs. I would encourage anyone who enjoys inspirational stories to pick up this book. It's one story you won't forget.

Check out William Kamkwamba's Blog to learn more about him and his nonprofit organization Moving Windmills. I want to Thank Trish from TLC Tours for sending along a copy of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind for review! William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer will be touring the blogs with their book until the end of August, here are the other stops on the tour!

And in the meantime, here is a video of William talking about "How he harnessed the wind"...

Larry Bird was "Feeling Up!" in 1979

I love Larry Bird commercials. Maybe it's the fabulous scripting, or maybe it's because Bird always comes off like he's acting at gunpoint. At least that might explain those blank stares and the lifeless oration.

But this commercial -- which is from Bird's rookie year -- shows us Larry's playful side. Also his painfully dorky side. The commercial's climax features a hilariously fake dunk, shameless mugging for the camera and the most awkwardly delivered line in Bird's long and storied history of awkwardly delivered lines.

I hope that bottle of 7UP was worth it, Larry.

Lucy Springer Gets Even by Lisa Heidke... A Virtual Book Tour & Review

Lucy Springer Gets Even by Lisa Heidke
Fresh & Funny,
it's the Perfect Summer Read
for all you Chicks out there!

Lucy Springer Gets Even by Lisa Heidke is pure Chick Lit! Lucy's acting career has been on permanent standby for a while (although there was the infamous broccoli commercial...), her love life just turned upside down, with her husband taking off to parts unknown without so much as a goodbye, and if that weren't bad enough, she has no kitchen, and the house is a disaster as it's in major renovations with workers who enjoy a good cup of coffee more than swinging a hammer. What's a girl to do? Call her Mother? Heck, that's part of the problem too! How about try and put it all back together with wit and good humor, and a bit of alcohol thrown in for good measure! Here's what the publishers say,

Lucy Springer thinks she’s got it tough. She’s living through renovation hell, her two kids seem more challenging than ever, and her once successful acting career has been reduced to the odd commercial.

Then Max, her husband, absconds to Bali with an unknown companion and things go from bad to disastrous.

But Lucy doesn’t give up easily. Juggling increasingly chaotic building dramas, bewildered children, her crazy best friend-slash-agent Gloria, her ever ‘helpful’ mother and chasing after Max, Lucy Springer is determined to get her life on an even keel – and more.

Lucy Springer Gets Even was pure fun! Lisa Heidke has a wry sense of humor that shines through as Lucy goes from the gutter to glory. And I loved the way Lisa Heidke wrote the book-starting with the first day of Lisa's story, Day 1, we get to experience each day as it's happening until Day 60. Like diary entries, it's unique and a great way for us to be swept up in the story, just as if we were there. Lisa Heidke puts us in the role of BFF as we watch Lucy try and juggle career, kids and her well meaning, but domineering mother, and I was rooting for her all the way!

Great writing, a fun story written in a unique way, and a good ending is what you'll find in Lucy Springer Gets Even. Women who want a lighter summer read with a resilient heroine will enjoy this book! And this book hits the bulls eye for Chick Lit lovers too!

About the Author... Lisa Heidke studied journalism at Queensland University, fled Brisbane and settled in Sydney where she worked in book and magazine publishing. After many years living in Sydney's inner west, Lisa woke up one morning to find herself married with three children and living on the North Shore. In 2006, Lisa's This Wife's Life was shortlisted for the Varuna/Harper Collins Manuscript Awards and then in 2007, Lucy Springer's Story was shortlisted. Learn more about Lisa at her website And read an EXCERPT from Lucy Springer Gets Even from her publisher, Allen & Unwin

Lisa Heidke has been on a Virtual Book Tour for Lucy Springer Gets Even, and Chick with Books is one of her stops. I want to thank Pump Up Your Book for sending me a review copy of Lisa's great book! It was a great escape!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pickup Diaries Addendum: Fights

Fighting is the ugly side of athletic competition. In most cases, fighting happens when there are (rare) real or (usually) imagined threats to to someone's personal safety and/or sense of masculinity. In these situations, the person or persons involved feel the only sane reaction is to burst out in explosive "self-defense."

Of course, fighting doesn't always mean fighting. If you ask the average pickup basketball player, they will probably tell you they've almost been in a fight at least a few times if not many times. As someone who grew up in a neighborhood where fighting was the rule rather than the exception, let me tell you that fights don't "almost" happen. They either do or they don't. And when they do, they happen fast and end faster.

No, in pickup basketball, or pickup football, or even pickup hockey, people tend to threaten or even promise violence when the last thing they actually want or intend to do is actually fight. The important thing, it seems, is to appear willing to fight. This can serve the dual purpose of a) potentially intimidating someone who was accidentally or intentionally causing actual physical harm and/or b) restoring the perceived manhood that was lost.

Why do I bring all this up? Because I almost got into a fight this weekend.

But let me back up. My philosophy as a basketball player is to never go looking for trouble, but I also refuse to back down when trouble finds me. You can ask people like BadDave or Evil Ted about my various confrontations and near scuffles. Back in college, during an intramural game, somebody hooked me while I was boxing out on a free throw attempt. I swung him to the ground. He scrambled up and said, "After the game, you're dead, McHale!" (My last name was on the back of my jersey.) I told him, "Bring it. I'll be waiting right over there after the game," and I pointed toward the main exit. Oddly enough, he used another exit to leave the gym.

One time while playing ball at Lifetime Fitness, my defender kept grabbing my arm. Every play, he had a firm grip on my shooting arm...sometimes while I was shooting. Eventually, he did this while I was going up for a layup and I took a hard fall. On the other team's next possession, I let him drive past me then caught his arm and took him down. "That's what you've been doing to me every possession," I said standing over him. "Doesn't feel good does it?"

These are the things that happen during pickup basketball. They're ugly things that don't really have any place in the game. And yet, if you play often, they're almost impossible to escape.

My general approach has always been: If somebody screams at me, scream back at them even louder. If somebody gets rough with me, get rougher with them. Don't start problems, but never back down at any cost.

The problem with that philosophy is that you're flirting with danger every time you play.

To wit: Several years ago, I was again playing at Lifetime Fitness, I was engaged in a rather brutal series of pickup games. My team had won the previous game, and my offensive rebounding had been a big reason why. So as the next game was starting, this guy pointed at me and said, "I got this guy" in that pointed way that indicates he knows what I'm capable of and intends to shut me down.

He was an unusual sort of baller. On a very tall day, he might have been about 5'8". However, he was built like a power lifter. Although I'd never played against him, I'd seen this guy at Lifetime a few other times. He was always getting into "fights" -- by which I mean screaming matches -- with other players. Seriously, of the half dozen times I'd seen him around, there hadn't been a single time in which he hadn't gotten into a very heated dispute. And you know what they say about how "the only common element in all your bad experiences is you..."

Sure enough, this guy was all over me from the first check in. I tend to be in constant motion on the court. To slow me down, this guy kept grabbing my shorts and jersey. When I tried to box him out, he would give me a two-handed push in the back to dislodge me. When he'd box me out, his elbows would come flying back at me. Twice he caught me in the face. Once he got me in the throat. And these weren't casual elbows. These were Laimbeer-esque man-killers.

He was trying to hurt me.

Look, giving and receiving the occasional elbow is an unfortunate but unavoidable aspect of basketball. It has no place in the sport on any level, but it happens. My problem is when it happens repeatedly, intentionally, and without regard for other peoples' well-being. That's when the behavior becomes dangerous and irresponsible.

After his last elbow, I yelled at the guy, "What the fucking elbows!" He didn't respond. But a few possessions later, as I was finishing a fastbreak layup, he gave me another two-handed push while I was in the air. I managed to land without falling on my head or ass, but that was my snapping point. I swung my elbow with serious force into his chest to send the message that he needed to cut out the bullshit. Then I turned around and started sprinting downcourt because the action hadn't stopped and the other team was breaking the other way.

As I was approaching my top speed, two powerful hands grabbed me around the neck from behind. Because of the forward momentum, my feet slid out from under me. During the split second in which I had nothing underneath me, I was slammed hard to the ground by my neck.

What usually happens in cases like this is that adrenaline kicks in. Sure enough, I popped right back onto my feet, looking around and trying to figure out what in the hell had just happened. I saw my man glaring at me from about 10 feet away. I immediately realized he had jacked me from behind and sent me to the ground with the cheapest of cheap shots. I lunged at him but a small group of the other players had already surrounded me and held me back.

My attacker started screaming at me, "Come on! Come on! You know what you did! I will fucking kill you! I will kill you, man!"

I don't remember what I said in return, but I'm pretty sure that it was something similar. But five or six guys either holding me or standing between us. And, unbelievably, some of them were telling me I needed to calm down. "Hey, he attacked me," I yelled at somebody. Couldn't they see I was the wronged party here?

After the initial moment of rage had past, people started to wander back downcourt, and somebody said, "C'mon, let's finish the game."

"Are you fucking kidding me?" I said. "That fucker attacked me from behind. Fuck this shit." I pointed at my attacker. "This isn't over."

I stormed off the court and into the locker room to get my stuff. I was already forming a plan to wait for that guy in the parking lot when it hit me. The muscles in my neck tightened up so badly I had to sit down for a minute. The pain was suddenly so intense I felt light-headed and nauseous.

Obviously, I wasn't in any fit state to fight. Well, not fight and win at any rate.

But something about being hurt -- and realizing I might be seriously hurt -- turned my brain back on. The reality was, I'd been attacked from behind while trying to play basketball. And I'd been hurt. How badly I didn't know. I began to wonder whether I'd have to go to the doctor. Would insurance cover it? Would I miss work? Was the gym liable for anything that had happened?

This was important because at that time my health insurance was pretty shitty. The previous year, while playing pickup football, I had broken the ring finger on my left hand in two places and torn several ligaments, resulting in what is known as a Boutonniere deformity. This is "a deformed position of the finger, in which the joint nearest the knuckle (PIP) is permanently bent toward the palm while the furthest joint (DIP) is bent back away."

My finger was seriously effed up, and it took months of occupational therapy to make it look vaguely human again. And that therapy had been expensive. I didn't want to take another huge hit to my bank account...and so I wanted to find out if Lifetime was responsible for any injuries that happened on the premises.

I went to the manager to ask some questions. Of course, asking questions meant explaining everything that had happened, the escalation of physical play, the way I had responded by elbowing my attacker in the chest, and the way he had thrown me down from behind.

The first course of action was to find my attacker and question him. But by the time we went to the basketball court, he was long gone.

The manager claimed he believed me, but for legal reasons he had to investigate further. As it turns out, Lifetime has security cameras placed around the basketball court (and throughout the gym) to protect the organization from frivolous claims. He said the video wouldn't be available until the next day. He suggested that I see my doctor and then come back the next day so we could review the film.

I ended up missing the next day of work. I went to the doctor and found out I had suffered severely strained muscles and probably had a case of whiplash as well. He prescribed anti-inflammatories and rest.

The next day, I returned to the scene of the crim. The manager had isolated the game in question based on the times I'd given him. The attack looked as brutal as it had felt. Maybe more so. It looked like something you'd see in a staged WWE match, only it wasn't staged.

The manager told me that, first of all, the gym's insurance would cover any medical bills related to my injury. (I'm not sure that was actually gym policy or if the offer was made to avoid any potential lawsuits.) Second, he was (in his words) disturbed by what had happened. While watching the footage, he had seen the elbows my attacker had thrown as well as my retaliatory elbow.

None of those were a problem, he said. But the attack was another matter. After all, he pointed out, the video showed a few moments passing between the elbow and the time at which he attacked me. This suggested at least a short amount of premeditation. In other words, he had chosen to attack me.

"We can't let somebody who would do that remain a member of this gym," tha manager said.

He asked if I knew the man's name. I did not. "Then I need you to do something for me," he said. "The next time you see him here, you need to find me or one of the other manager's and report him. Don't confront him. Just come to one of us. We'll keep the footage on hand and deal with it accordingly."

The manager also suggested I file a police report, but I didn't do that. I probably should have, but that felt like too much.

A week or two later, I saw him. The funny thing is, I wasn't there to play basketball. I was there for a workout. However, you have to walk past the basketball courts to get to the locker room. I heard the familiar screaming...and, sure enough, it was him, getting in somebody's face.

The manager I had spoken to wasn't there, but the manager on duty had been appraised of the situation. He followed me to the basketball court, where I pointed out my attacker. The manager went in, pulled him out of the game, and led him to an office. My attacker saw me standing there and, based on the look on his face, realized what was happening.

I never saw him again, but the first manager I had spoken to called me the next day to tell me my attacker's membership at Lifetime had been permenantly revoked.

And that was that.

The funny thing is, somewhere inside, I felt bad about the outcome. I mean, I would have felt perfectly fine with kicking his ass out in the parking lot. But I felt some small measure of guilt that he was forever banned from the best gym in the area.

It was a very, very small measure, though.

At any rate, that experience changed the way I deal with conflicts that happen during basketball games. Rule number one? Escalation never solved the problem, it only makes things worse. Rule number two? Talk. Not scream or yell or cuss. Talk.

No, really.

So here's what happened this weekend. There's a pay-when-you-play pickup league near my house that plays on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. I've only ever gone once. It was a Wednesday night last fall. On that night, I got hit in the eye, my eye swelled up, and then I found out I had a tumor above the eye and had to have surgery. That's not why I never went back -- by the time I had recovered from surgery, my usual pickup league had started a new session -- but it didn't help.

Anyway, with my league out of session and my other basketball buddies unavailable, I decided to try the three-minutes-from-my-house league. I was the 10th guy -- and the only guy who wasn't a regular, by the way -- so we had five-on-five.

Here's the weird thing: Both teams played zone defense. Like, before the game, it was decided that both sides would play zone. I was, in fact, assigned my spot in the zone. I've played a little zone here and there, but zone defense is nearly nonexistent in pickup ball except in extreme circumstances (like if you're playing five-on-four or something).

Anyway, the opposing team had a fat guy at the base of their zone. They had him standing the the general area around the basket because (I presume) he wasn't very mobile.

Their zone was pretty soft and I was feeling pretty spry, so the first time I got the ball I drove hard to the rim. As I got there, the fat guy slid into me and I called the foul. Four or five possessions later, I drove once again, and the fat guy once again slid into me and committed the foul, only this time he screamed, "Goddamn it!" in irritation and kind of stomped around in a way that suggested he wasn't happy about the call.

Another half dozen or so possessions went by and I made another move to the cup. Only because I had been fouled on my previous two drives, I decided I should go a little stronger and try to finish through the contact I knew was going to come.

That fat guy and I collided pretty hard. He immediately yelled out "Foul!" by which he meant "offensive foul." He then adopted the age-old offensive-foul-calling strategy of stomping angrily in the other direction without pausing for debate.

Very calmly, I said, "Could you explain that call, please?"

Without turning around, he said, "Jesus Christ, you dropped the shoulder and rammed it right into my face!"

Again very calmly, I said, "You're my height. It would be impossible to drop my shoulder and hit your face."

Now he spun around, "Look, you put your shoulder into my face three times! This is a friendly pickup game and you're gonna hurt somebody! You know you did it, hell, you even called a foul on yourself last time!"

Still calm, I said, "No, I never called a foul on myself. I called it on you. That's why we retained possession."

"Fuck you," he said. "I'm telling you right now, you pull that shit again and I will fuck you up."

Now I walked right up to him. "Really?" I said. "You want to fight me?"

"Yeah, I fucking do," he yelled.

Very conversationally, I said, "Look, whatever you think happened, it happened by accident. I'm not a dirty player and I wasn't trying to hurt you. I think if you stop and think about it, you'll realize that. But you'd rather fight? You want to fight about it?"

"Yeah, I do," he said, "and I will fuck you up."

"Fine," I said, still in a conversational manner. "Then let's do that. I'm right here. I'm in perfect punching distance. If you want to fight, let's fight. You don't want to talk, so we won't talk. We'll fight."

The fat guy screamed, "You'd better get out of my face!"

"Why? You're the one threatening me. You're the one who wants to 'fuck me up.' You want to fight. Well, I'm giving you what you want. What are you going to do?"

Then he turned and walked away. Somebody else said, "C'mon guys, let's just play basketball."

On my team's next offensive possession, I lined up on the right side of the zone. The fat guy moved from the middle to my side. "I've got this side!" he screamed. I received the ball and drove right around him for an easy reverse layup (again, he was fat and slow). On the next possession, he gave me room and I drilled a three-pointer. I didn't score again, but my team went on to win the game. And winning goes a long way toward settling a lingering dispute.

Afterward, the fat guy was very quick to leave.

After he took off, I went up to the guys who were still there and said, "Hey, I hope everybody realizes I wasn't trying to hurt anybody."

"Yeah, yeah," one guy said, "we know that." Someone else spoke up and said, "I don't know what was wrong with [his name]. He's usually so chill."

Well, again, it all comes down to the perceived danger to self and sense of self. Not only was I challenging him physically, and challenging his masculinity, I was an outsider. Men are, by their nature, very territorial. This extends to pickup ball. Hey, when a new guy shows up to my regular league, I want to bust him. Not bust him up, but we like to give 'em their "rookie cookies," as my buddy Mister P says.

In the end, though, the fat guy didn't really want to fight me. I gave him every chance and he walked away. And that's how it usually goes, unless you run into a crazy psycho like the guy that attacked me at Lifetime Fitness (or unless you are that crazy psycho).

Is my somewhat revised method the "right" way to handle a conflict? I don't know. But it works for me, because it straddles the fine line between talking things out and not backing down when somebody tries to threaten you. It works for me.

Now, if the fat guy had punched me...

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean... It's not a "Memoir" this Monday, but it's True Tales of Madness, Love and History !

True Tales of Madness, Love and The History of The World From
The Periodic Table of The Elements

We're all familiar with the Periodic Table of Elements, it's that big chart in the science classroom that has all the known chemical elements arranged by atomic number. We can find Helium (He), Oxygen (O), and Mercury (Hg)...Great, right?! Sam Kean writes, "Probably the biggest frustration for many students was that the people who got the periodic table, who could really unpack how it worked, could pull so many facts from it with such dweeby nonchalance... People remember the table with a mix of fascination, fondness, inadequacy and loathing." Sam Kean was one of the people who got the Periodic Table, but his love of those chemical elements developed into a love of history, and in The Disappearing Spoon Sam Kean mixes science with our love of a good story and the final product is a wonderful adventure! Here's what the publishers have to say...

The Periodic Table is one of man's crowning scientific achievements. But it's also a treasure trove of stories of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession. The infectious tales and astounding details in THE DISAPPEARING SPOON follow carbon, neon, silicon, and gold as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, war, the arts, poison, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.

We learn that Marie Curie used to provoke jealousy in colleagues' wives when she'd invite them into closets to see her glow-in-the-dark experiments. And that Lewis and Clark swallowed mercury capsules across the country and their campsites are still detectable by the poison in the ground. Why did Gandhi hate iodine? Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium? And why did tellurium lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean is written like a short story collection. Contained within the pages are these great, interesting stories, written in a way that it's like your favorite Uncle telling you a story - enjoyable and understandable. This makes sense because that's what Same Kean enjoyed as a physics major- the stories his professor shared with him,

" I realized that there's a funny, or odd, or chilling tale attached to every element on the periodic table. At the same time, the table is one of the great intellectual achievements of humankind. Its' both a scientific accomplishment and a storybook..."

What does Shakespeare and the first virus ever discovered have in common? Why did the Parker Pen Company hire a metallurgist? You'll read about Lewis & Clark, Madame Curie, Mark Twain. The stories are relatively short and can be enjoyed in bits and pieces. Hey, while you're enjoying the "tales", you'll probably learn something too! Read an EXCERPT of The Disappearing Spoon and see for yourself if Sam Kean has what it takes to make science interesting to you!

I want to thank Hachette Book Group for sending along a review copy of The Disappearing Spoon!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Sunday Salon... Books to Movies

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! Relax, pull up a chair and grab a cup of joe! It's the day of the week over 500 book bloggers and readers sit down to enjoy each other's company and chat about books!

Last week, while I was vacationing, I got a chance to see The Girl Who Played With Fire, which is the movie based on the book by the same name by Stieg Larsson. I usually like to read the book before I see a movie based on a book, but in this case I hadn't quite finished reading it,
and being an "art house" movie I knew it wasn't going to wait for me! The movie was great! (So was The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo!) And this time seeing the movie first has not diminished my enjoyment of the book at all. The book has plenty of material not included in the movie. (wish I could tell you, but then I would be spoiling it on both accounts!) I do recall reading The Firm by John Grisham after the fact and not enjoying reading it because it seemed as though I was reading word for word what was on the big screen. That convinced me that if I wanted to read a book that was coming out in the movies that I should read the book first. Sometimes knowing what happens in the book will leave you a bit surprised in the movie theater because things are changed, such as when I went to see Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton) and they had changed the ending. Reading the book and getting to know the characters and THEN seeing the movie adapted from the book should be a treat. The big screen is suppose to touch you differently than the written word, what do you think?

All this got me to thinking about upcoming Books to Movies! What should we be reading now so that we'll be ready for the buttered popcorn and Junior mints? (BTW, a friend gave me a copy of Life's Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. and one of the instructions was to add Junior Mints to your popcorn and I have done it ever since) Here are some books coming to a theater near you...

Little Bee by Chris Cleave... I loved this book when I read it last year! And I'm really looking forward to seeing the movie. The book should lend itself well to an adaptation. Here's what Publisher Weekly wrote... "A violent incident on a Nigerian beach has tragic echoes in posh London in Cleave's beautifully staged if haphazardly plotted second novel. British couple Andrew O'Rourke and his wife, Sarah, are on vacation when they come across two sisters, Little Bee and Nkiruka, on the run from the killers who have massacred everyone else in their village—and what happens there with this unlikely encounter, is the mystery that propels the novel. Two years later, Little Bee, in possession of Andrew's license, shows up at Sarah's house..."Filming should begin in early 2011, in the meantime, you should have time to read this ahead of time! Here's my Review! *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro... Kazuo Ishiguro is a very popular Japanese author who has won quite a few awards for his writing, including the Booker Prize. Here's what Never Let Me Go is about... A thirty-one-year-old woman named Kathy narrates this haunting tale, drawing the reader gradually into her recollections of her life at Hailsham, the idyllic boarding school where she grew up. She and her best friends, Ruth and Tommy, were encouraged by their teachers to create works of art from an early age, to collect cherished objects, and to take good care of their health. There are no parents in their world, only a handful of teachers, some of whom seem to be deeply troubled by their position at the school. Kathy’s friend Ruth is bossy and manipulative, while Kathy herself is gentle and self-contained. Both are drawn to Tommy, a boy given to explosive fits of temper. What is revealed, as Kathy’s reminiscences accumulate, is a life of preparation for a special role in a world that has begun to exploit the medical possibilities of genetic technology. This Sci-Fi offering is slated to be released Sept. of this year. *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready! (at the bargain price of $8.69!)

Guardians of Ga'Hoole: The Capture by Kathryn Lasky... This is something for the kids (of course us adults should enjoy it too!) It will be animated and 3D! Kathryn Lasky is well known for her childrens fantasy books. Her Guardians of Ga'Hoole series is 15 books so far, geared towards readers between the ages of 9 - 12, with Warner Bros. adapting the first book in the series, The Capture, for this movie. Here's what Booklist writes about The Capture, "Soren, a barn owl still weeks away from fledging, is knocked from his otherwise loving family's nest by his nasty older brother. He is swooped up from the forest floor by a pair of nefarious owls who hold him--along with many other owlets of diverse species--captive in a kind of owl social reformatory. Lasky portrays an owl world that has more in common with George Orwell than with Brian Jacques, offering readers big questions about human social psychology and politics along with real owl science. Broad themes related to the nature of personal choice, the need for fellowship based on love and trust, and sharing knowledge with one's peers are presented compellingly and with swift grafting to the animal adventure story. Developmentally linked celebrations (such as "First Fur" and "First Meat"), methods devised for brain-washing (including the regimental marching of sleepy owls by moonlight), and the diverse landscapes in which owls makes their homes come to life here as Soren rebels against his captors, makes a friend, and executes the first stage of his planned liberation and family reconciliation." This movie is scheduled for a September release. *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready! (at the bargain price of $4.79!)

And speaking of books to movies, there's a great book called Adaptations by Stephanie Harrison that has 35 of the short stories that some older big screen movies were adapted from. You can read the short story that inspired Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, or the stories that inspired Memento, 2001: A Space Odessey, Minority Report and All About Eve.

So, what movies have you seen that you enjoyed both as a book and a movie? Which do you prefer movie first or book first? OR does seeing a movie that was based on a book, make you want to read the book if it was really good? Share what you think right here!

And wrapping up the week in the Books to Movies department, are you watching STARZ this week? The movie adaptation of Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett started this week, and will be running the next 6 weeks on Friday nights on STARZ premium cable channel! If you're a fan of Pillars of the Earth, you will want to watch it. If you've missed the first episode, I'm sure they will be replaying it, because this is a big event, with lush sets and headline actors. First episode gets a thumbs up from me. Did you see it? What did you think?

Would you rather listen to instead of watch your favorite book? If you missed it, I have a giveaway still going on until August 14th for Private by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro! Click on the link to read the details! And next week, I'll have a review and giveaway for the audiobook of Backseat Saints by Joshlyn Jackson, and if you enjoy southern fiction, this girl from Alabama will charm you! And speaking of giveaways, there's still time to enter the giveaway for a bit of reading romance during the time of Waterloo with Eileen Dreyer's Barely A Lady. Giveaway ends July 27th, follow this link for the details.

Hope you found something that piqued your love of reading this week! Happy reading... Suzanne