Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What's been going on? Guest posts, for one.

Greetings! How have you been? Wonderful, I hope!

Like you, I've been busy with work and family life. I also took a mystery/thriller writing workshop this fall at the Westport Writers' Workshop that just wrapped up last night. I've also been preoccupied with work projects and whatnot.

I feel like I've neglected my blog a bit, which I believe is a common lament among bloggers if they're not obsessing about their blog. I did, however, write two guest posts for Book Blogger International this month that I hope you'll check out:
  1. The first was about Jazzing Up Your Mystery/Thriller Reading. Here's the link. 
  2. The second was for their Diversity in Books series. I wrote about bridging the military-civilian divide through reading. Here's the link to this post. 
I'd love to hear your thoughts on either or both of these posts, in the comments section here or, preferably, on the Book Bloggers International site. You can also email me if you'd prefer to have a private conversation (chris.wolak at yahoo dot com).
Thanks as always for stopping by. For those of you in the U.S. I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Library stop: North Woodstock Public Library, CT

North Woodstock Library
223 N. Woodstock Rd.
Route 169, just north of Route 197
Woodstock, Connecticut 06281

Woodstock is in the north-east corner of Connecticut, near the Massachusetts border. We took a drive there last month because we used to go to Woodstock, IL to buy our pumpkins when we lived in Chicagoland and thought it would be fun to checkout a town with the same name. 

The library was closed when we happened to be driving around the area, but of course we had to stop to peak in the windows and take some pictures!

According to Library Technology Guides this library has 9,626 volumes, circulates
9,719 items per year, and serves a population of 7,854 residents. There are two more public libraries in Woodstock.

The view from the road.
The building was originally a school.
Built in 1843. The building became a library in 1950, but the North Woodstock Library Association was formed in 1854.
A peek through the front door.
A peek through a side window.
The back of the library.
Love this big field stone stoop.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

Happy 239th Birthday, United States Marine Corps!

Me in 1984
November 10th is the Marine Corps Birthday, the biggest day of celebration in the Marines.
I served in the 1980s and since then have been an on-again/off-again reader of Marine Corps history and lives. I'm currently in an on-again phase.

So on Saturday I took a drive to The Book Barn in Niantic, CT to browse their military section, which is rather sizable and well organized. I wanted to discover a few "new" books about or by Marines.

I came home with three:

Like every new recruit, I learned about Smedley Butler (1881-1940) in boot camp. Butler is one of the most decorated Marines in history. What I didn't learn in boot camp is that after Butler retired from the Marines he became an outspoken opponent of war and railed against the extreme wealth war created for a few Americans at the expense of many. In the post WWI years he gave speeches against war profiteering which he turned into a book called War is a Racket.

Paul Harper grew up in Evanston, IL, attended Yale, and served in Marines as an officer during WWII. I look forward to reading his self-published memoir. I Googled Mr. Harper and found his obituary. He passed just last December at the age of 92. RIP and Semper Fi, Sir.

I owned a copy of Fix Bayonets! by John W. Thomason (1893-1944) back when I was active duty and think I read it, but I'm not sure. I remember teasing my grandmother when she couldn't remember if she'd read a particular book or not and now here I am with one foot in the same boat. When you're a teenager you don't realize that, if you're lucky, there are decades and decades of books yet to come in your reading life. Anyway, this edition includes illustrations by Thomason who published over 60 short stories, articles, and several books (see his Wikipedia page).
I also purchased Emma by Jane Austen. A local book group is discussing Emma later this month and if I can squeeze in some extra reading time I'd like to join them.
Well, now, didn't this post take a Sesame Street-like turn into One of These Things is Not Like the Others?

Do you have a favorite military related book you'd like to recommend? Please leave it in the comments below!

And an early Happy Veterans Day to those of you who have served!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Wait For Signs by Craig Johnson

I've never read anything by Craig Johnson, nor have I watched the A&E Longmire series, but I was aware of the series from browsing in bookstores and reading magazines like Mystery Scene. I recently saw that Johnson will be the guest of honor at the New England Crime Bake this year so when a review copy was offered I said sure. It was time for me to check out this best selling writer.
From the publisher:
Ten years ago, Craig Johnson wrote his first short story, the Hillerman Award–winning “Old Indian Trick.” This was one of the earliest appearances of the sheriff who would go on to star in Johnson’s bestselling, award-winning novels and the A&E hit series Longmire. Each Christmas Eve thereafter, fans rejoiced when Johnson sent out a new short story featuring an episode in Walt’s life that doesn’t appear in the novels; over the years, many have asked why they can’t buy the stories in book form.

Wait for Signs collects those beloved stories—and one entirely new story, “Petunia, Bandit Queen of the Bighorns”—for the very first time in a single volume, regular trade hardcover. With glimpses of Walt’s past from the incident in “Ministerial Aide,” when the sheriff is mistaken for a deity, to the hilarious “Messenger,” where the majority of the action takes place in a Port-A-Potty, Wait for Signs is a necessary addition to any Longmire fan’s shelf and a wonderful way to introduce new readers to the fictional world of Absaroka County, Wyoming.

I agree with the publisher's blurb that these stories are a wonderful introduction to the world Johnson has created. His characters are the kind of people I want to spend more time with and get to know better. The stories are full of humor and humanity. They were written for Christmas, after all, so they're feel-good stories, which will also make this book an easy holiday gift choice. It's smaller size also lends itself to gift giving (5.3 x 7.3)

Johnson is a master at dialog and I found myself chuckling out loud a time or two, which is a rarity for me when reading. I usually feel "set up" to laugh in fiction, but Johnson's fiction flows naturally and unpretentiously. His descriptions are tight and a single sentence speak volumes. Here's one of my favorites: "It was a modest home on the outskirts of town, a single-level ranch, the kind that can contain a lot of rage."

There are 11 novels so far in the Longmire series and I'm definitely going to add the first one to my reading list.

Here is the Longmire series in chronological order:
  1. The Cold Dish 2004
  2. Death Without Company 2006
  3. Kindness Goes Unpunished 2007
  4. Another Man's Moccasins 2008
  5. The Dark Horse 2009
  6. Junkyard Dogs 2010
  7. Hell Is Empty 2011
  8. As the Crow Flies 2012
  9. A Serpent's Tooth 2013
  10. Spirit of Steamboat 2013
  11. Any Other Name 2014
Wait For Signs (goodreads)
Craig Johnson (author website)
Viking, October 12, 2014
Currently #14 on the NYT hardcover fiction best sellers list
Source: review copy
FTC disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer and the thoughts expressed above are my own.
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