Changes in the Wind

george-bernard-shawI hope you are all as flexible as I am, and I don’t mean physically I mean mentally.  With autumn upon us, I felt it was time to do some redecorating around Cate’s Book Nut Hut, and this will mean change.

In some things, particularly when it comes to my books, I like them to be in a certain order and ‘catalogued’ in a way where others may get lost looking for something but I can go straight to it.  I think the Book Nut Hut is beginning to head down this alley, as after looking at it on a different computer, and heck even a different operating system to my own, I realised there needs to be changes.  I don’t want my ‘readers’ to get lost in its digital annals only for me to discover their skeletons propped up against a meta-tag somewhere down the road.  Don’t worry though, the changes won’t take place over night, like everything else that is worth doing well, it will come into being in a slow and deliberate manner.

The first of these changes has already taken place, some of you may (or may not) have noticed that it is no longer catesbooknuthut.wordpress.com but just catesbooknuthut.com.  If you have the WordPress link in your bookmarks, there is no need to change this, as you will be automatically redirected to the dot-com site.  Other changes that will be taking place are the redesigning and wording of some of the pages (review and ratings guideline being one of them,) and page titles in the hopes of making ‘The Hut’ easier to find your way around.

‘The Hut’ also now has its own Facebook page, www.facebook.com/CatesBookNutHut.  Here you can find links to some of the Authors already reviewed on the site, such as Heidi Peltier and Lee Foust, and there will be ‘bookish’ items and trivia posted here on a regular basis.

Another big change coming up shortly; one I’m really excited about and hope you will be too,  will be the inclusion of a podcast.  This is currently being worked on by myself and © Altered Reality Productions, and will be called ‘The Acorn’ as Cate’s Book Nut Hut is a mouthful to say at any time of the day.  The podcast will have its own page on the site where you will be able to listen to ‘chapters’ (after all this is a book podcast), and links to iTunes where free subscription will be available for those who want to make sure they don’t miss out.  ‘The Acorn’ will also feature Author interviews, and I already have some lined up, along with other goodies to keep the bibliophile in all of us happy.

There will most likely be other little changes as I progress through my housecleaning, but for now these are the major big ones that I wanted to let you know about.  So, as the saying goes…….

“Watch this space”

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‘And now for something completely different’

“Let’s face it, writing is hell.”
~William Styron

writers almanacI thought it was about time to take a break from the book reviews, and my attempts at writing articles I think may interest people, and hand today over to those who actually know what they are about.  Today, Wednesday August 28, 2013, I am turning my blog over to “The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor”.  For those of you reading who may not be familiar with this web site, it contains daily poems, prose, and literary history from Garrison Keillor, and other Authors.  Not only do these great folks keep this website full of wonderful tidbits, they also produce a podcast for us to listen to as we go about our day.  So, without further ado, take it away “The Writer’s Almanac”:

“Song of Smoke
by Kevin Young

To watch you walk
cross the room in your black

corduroys is to see
civilization start—
the wish-
whish-whisk

of your strut is flint
striking rock—the spark

of a length of cord
rubbed till

smoke starts—you stir
me like coal

and for days smolder.
I am no more

a Boy Scout and besides,
could never

put you out—you
keep me on

all day like an iron, out
of habit—

you threaten, brick—
house, to burn

all this down. You leave me
only a chimney.

“Song of Smoke” by Kevin Young, From Jelly Roll © Knopf, 2003. Reprinted with permission.

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It’s the birthday of the father of German literature, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe , born in Frankfurt, Germany (1749), the author of the epic drama Faust.

He moved to Italy in 1786, and when he returned to Germany two years later, he fell in love with a woman from Weimer, Christiane Vulpius, a 23-year-old who was 16 years his junior. That year, he wrote her an epithalamium, a wedding poem, but he didn’t actually marry her; instead, the couple lived together for 18 years unwed. That is, until one night, Christiane saved Goethe’s life by driving off a band of Napoleon’s soldiers who had broken in their home. Goethe went down to a church the very next day and married her, his live-in girlfriend of 18 years.

In 1806, the same year of the home invasion and marriage, Goethe published a preliminary version of Part I of his great work, Faust, the story of a brilliant scholar named Heinrich Faust, who makes a deal with the devil. The great epic has it all: seduction, murder, sleeping potions, an illegitimate love child, a stray poodle that transforms into the devil, contracts signed with blood, imprisonment in dungeons, heavenly voices, and even redemption. Faust is often called a “closet drama” because it’s intended to be read, not performed. Goethe spent 50 years working on this two-volume masterpiece, finishing it in 1832, the year of his death.

Christiane survived for only a decade after her and Goethe’s wedding. In later life, after recovering from a heart disease that nearly killed him, the 73-year-old Goethe fell passionately in love with an 18-year-old woman, Ulrike von Levetzow, and was devastated when she turned down his proposals of marriage.

Goethe, who said, “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”

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It’s the birthday of poet Rita Dove , born in Akron, Ohio (1952). Her father had a master’s degree in chemistry but had to work as an elevator operator because he was black. He eventually became the first African-American chemist to work for Goodyear Tires.

He encouraged his daughter to take advantage of education, and she was at the top of her class. She was chosen as one of 100 of the best high school students in the country to visit the president of the United States. Her parents assumed that she would go on to become a doctor or lawyer, so when she announced that she wanted to be a poet, they weren’t sure what to make of it. She said, “[My father] swallowed once and said, ‘Well, I’ve never understood poetry, so don’t be upset if I don’t read it.'” Her teachers at college told her that she was throwing her education away if she didn’t study something more practical.

But with her poetry collection Thomas and Beulah (1986), based loosely on the lives of her grandparents, she became only the second African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and she went on to become the first African-American national poet laureate.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Guest Host: Billy Collins
Host: Garrison Keillor
Writers: Betsy Allister, Holly Vanderhaar
Technical Director: Thomas Scheuzger
Engineer: Noah Smith
Producer: Joy Biles
Permissions: Kathy Roach
Web Producer: Ben Miller”

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‘You are NOT allowed to read that!’

bebelplatz-berlin-memorial-to-burned-books

Bebelplatz Book Burning Memorial

 ‘The fact that anybody wants to burn a book shows you how powerful the physical object is, both as itself and as a symbol’ ~ Chuck Wendig.

Until I married my American Husband I was not fully aware of the fact that there are people out there who want to restrict my access to the types of book I read, not just fiction but non-fiction as well.  I was also naive in thinking that book burning was a thing of history; for example the May 10 1933 book burning in Berlin, the monument to which I have visited.  Book burning is also a thing of the 21st century and takes places in America for various reasons; Non-approved Bibles, books and music in Canton, North Carolina in 2009; Tolkien’s works publicly burned in Alamogordo, NM, in 2001 as satanic.  Really?  In the 21st Century, here in America, intelligent people would fail to celebrate Tolkien’s masterful achievement and, instead, find it threatening enough to burn it?

I feel it would be amiss of me as a lover of the printed word not to write about this form of censorship and, how we are slowly creeping towards a more complete ‘Nanny State’ where we are told what is good for us, and how much of it we can consume.  I understand that there needs to be checks and balances in place for some things, but when it comes to art, and to me writing is an art form, personal choice needs to be allowed to run free.  If, after reading the synopsis of a book on a fly-leaf, we feel uncomfortable or it may be against our beliefs, we have the choice to put the book down and find something more to our tastes.

jailed-book1If you are completely confused by this topic, I’m referring to the upcoming Banned Books Week.  Whether you may be blissfully unaware, or choose to pretend it doesn’t exist, it does with challenged and banned books spanning all genres and reading age groups.  But what is Banned Books Week?  It is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read that is typically held during the last week of September and highlighting the value of free and open access to information; it brings together the book community, from reader to publisher, like nothing else can as they share their support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some may consider unorthodox or unpopular.

By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship, and all of the books featured during this week have been targeted with removal or restrictions in libraries and schools, by individuals or groups. While books have been and continue to be banned, the fact is that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available, unless you happened to be in Alamogordo NM, where not only Tolkien but the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling were committed to the flames.

banned-book-week-pic-1

Although we are still a month out from Banned Book Week, I strongly feel it is an issue that needs to get publicity not just for one week of every year but all the time.  However, I know how difficult this would be so, in my attempt to stand up for an art form that gives me great pleasure, as well as broadening my mind and horizons, I am going to focus all of my posts for the week of 22-28 September 2013 with books that have been challenged since the beginning of the 21st century.  I will be choosing four books and proudly showcasing them on the blog.

I am giving you all advance warning of this, in case there are some people out there who would rather not see these books blazoned across their computer screen, and they will know to give my reviews a miss for that week.  I will not just be showcasing the books that week, but also listing why these books were challenged and also giving a little background on the Authors.  List of nominees for this week of challenged books are:

2001 – Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
2002 – Harry Potter (series)*, by J.K. Rowling (because I have never read any Harry Potter books)
2003 – The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1), by Jonathan Stroud
2004 – The Alice Series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
2005 – Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
2006 – The Handmaids Tale, by Margaret Atwood
2007 – The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
2008 – His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
2009 – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story, by John Berendt
2010 – Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs
2011 – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, by Alan Moore
2012 – The Glass Castle: A Memoir, by Jeanette Walls
*Please note, where books are part of a series, I will only be featuring the first.

One last thing to bear in mind, and an indication of just how out of hand some of these book challenges are becoming; in 2010 in the Menifee, Calif. Union School District pulled the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary because a parent complained when a child came across the term ‘oral sex’.  Officials for the District said, at the time it was pulled, that they are forming a committee to consider a permanent ban of the dictionary; whether they went ahead with this is not known.

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Review: Being Franklin Zebb ~ Nyla Naseer

BeingFranklin Zebb’s life had never been straightforward. 

From a very early age it became clear that Franklin was different and appeared to have a somewhat charmed ability to ‘get lucky’ in all sorts of different and mind-bending situations, from launching a global multi-player computer games business as a teenager, to being an international athlete, a strategic subversive and an innovative media mogul with a penchant for investigative journalism and ‘helping deserving causes’ that might appear, at first sight, a little unusual or even dubious. He had certainly made an impact.

There comes a point in every man’s life when it is time to take stock and think back over one’s achievements. After an exhaustive few decades, Franklin had reached this point and decided to settle into a hermit-guru lifestyle, living in a cave in the Yorkshire Dales, writing his first book and meditating, whilst hosting various friends from his past who popped in now and again. 

Predictably, he attracted a faithful group of followers and curious observers, with whom he shared the remarkable stories of his life, thus far. This book is an account of Franklin’s year as a hermit-guru and his own recollection of the extraordinary experience of being Franklin Zebb.

The story sees Franklin succeeding, more by luck than judgement, in some key themes of social and cultural change of the past thirty plus years and rightfully claiming the title of ‘Master of the Almost Believable’.

This is a funny, clever, satirical book which draws on naivety and parody whilst it tumbles along!

4 Thumbs-Up

This is the third published work by this Author, and the first in the Franklin Zebb ‘Chronicles’

Franklin Zebb is an amalgamation of Walter Mitty and Richard Branson and, although this book is first person narrative it manages to build a very deep and precise look at the character of Zebb.  Through the main leads own words we are taught what made him who he is today, and what he thinks will take him to where he needs to be tomorrow.  This character is so personable that the reader cannot do anything but like him, and his naiveté.  Using Zebb as a mouthpiece, the Author brings to life all the people her character meets on his haphazard journey through his history, and compels them to keep reading on until the end.  You cannot help but admire Zebb; complete with his total lack of political correctness at times.

The Author describes the locations in her book very well and, being from Yorkshire, I was able to revisit places that I haven’t been to in a long time; but this isn’t the only locale that the Author takes us to, in this entertaining little novel the reader also travels to places as far apart as Africa and Alabama.  It’s a book that, to review in-depth, would mean writing spoilers and I feel that would be a disservice to the Author who has penned this great little story.  If the Author decides to go ahead and write more about Zebb, I will definitely be reading them, and I think that in time she will give James Thurber a good run for his money.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone that is looking for a delightful and hilarious read.  It is full of satire, wit and, at times, a glorious lack of political correctness that some may not like.  Regardless of this, this light-hearted and extremely readable book will definitely be able to get a conversation started amongst all those who have read it, so I feel that it would be a good choice for book clubs that are looking for something completely different and off the wall.

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Review: The Quirky, Nerdy, and Entirely Original Elementary School Adventures of Derpy Dirk: Derpy Dirk and the Fight With the School Bully By the Flagpole At Lunch — a Derp Sandwich chapter book ~ Derp Sandwich

Derpy Dirk

Okay, two things I want to say right up front is this little short had me laughing out loud as I read it in bed, much to the chagrin of Hubby who was trying to sleep, and secondly I want to repeat what the author has tried to drill in to the unsuspecting readers head:

THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR CHILDREN!

 

4 Thumbs-Up

If you are looking for a book that is ‘politically correct; give this one a miss.  If you are looking for a book that has all its grammatical and spelling ducks in a row; give it a miss.  This book is pure unadulterated satire, full of ‘offensive’ comments made by our nerdy ‘hero’, and his faithful sidekick.  The book is, and I’ll say this again, satire; satire is meant to be offensive and so far away from politically correct it would take light years to get there.  This little book is also absolutely, hilariously stupid.

The Author uses a pen name, and maybe that’s wise after reading this; it would save him having to move multiple times, and keep his insurance premiums down on house and car.  Maybe I should consider doing the same after writing this review.

I am going to highly recommend this book to those people out there that are still unafraid to laugh, even if it is in the privacy of your own homes, at the inappropriate jokes, racial slurs and just plain stupidity that passes for common sense nowadays.  I truly think you would get a kick out of this book… or is it a ‘journal’, maybe a diary!.  To find out what I mean by this last sentence, pick it up and give it a read.

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Review: Dag ~ Nicolas Wilson

Dag

Dagney Morgan, a sarcastic Department of Agriculture employee with an affinity for paperwork, has a chance run-in with a farmer covered in toxic chemicals, and walks away with a genetically modified baby, along with the seeds of a military-industrial conspiracy. Dagney and her makeshift family scramble to stay ahead of artificial soldiers and megalomaniacal businessmen long enough to reap the truths behind an international web of corruption and intrigue. They also stop for pie, at one point.

 5 Thumbs-UpIn this Indie science fiction/thriller you will find fun, action, mystery, and bizarre vegetable matter, and no more will be written about the vegetables as it would have to include too many spoilers.

The novel follows a science gone awry story line, which is carried along with an intensively funny and sharp dialogue, very much like ‘Men Who Stare at Goats’ by Jon Ronson.  However, there are some more sensitive and serious interludes in the novel, and the Author writes these with just as much care as the scenes that had me chuckling down each page.

The main lead character is female, and wow what a character she is too, down to earth, ballsy, and not afraid to say what’s exactly on her mind.  She also has a tender side (but don’t tell her I said so), and this is handled with great care as if the Author doesn’t want his lead to find out he knows her inner secrets.  The other characters in the novel are also very well written, more like the folks you would come across on a day to day basis, if you moved in the circles in the novel.   The characters are fleshed out enough to make us either love them or hate, and make the weirdly wonderful plot work and, even though there doesn’t seem to be too much depth to them, it doesn’t matter.

Nicolas Wilson’s background is in graphic novels (Barren Mind and Survival), and this comes through with expected and satisfying results. It enables him to make the imagery sharp and clear, whether we are reading about wild and sweeping landscapes or smaller, more intimate places.  I also feel that his background helped immensely when writing about the more bizarre as he was able to translate this into the purely written genre very well.

A Word to those who are easily offended; crude language abounds in this novel, but for me that wasn’t an issue and neither were the sexual references, which include great helpings of innuendo, what fun.  Some may feel that the Author may have overdone this aspect, and was not on hand shaking terms with restraint and discretion; but that’s what’s different  about this book.  It’s not intended to be restrained and not intended to be discreet.

My secret guilty pleasure is the graphic novel, and I was delighted to find all the aspects I love from them, bar the artwork, in a ‘regular’ book.  This book moves, flows, entertains and by no means sticks to the rules that our far too politically world seems to be imposing on us now.  If you want something totally different to keep you entertained, while at the same time making you think about things, this is the one for you.  If you’ve never read a graphic novel, do it; if the graphic novel is not for you, read this instead.

There is so much more I want to write about this novel, but to do so would be to release some of it humour and plot into this blog, and it is worth so much more than the few lines I can give it without spoilers.

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