Bookish Ramblings – Fall 2015

      I consider myself very fortunate to have good friends and family to support me throughout the year with my host of medical problems (chronic migraine headaches, fast-developing cataracts, and more). I treasure these people and thank them for all manner of things, especially for facilitating my continued attendance at various book festivals. Before having cataract surgery, it was close to impossible for me to drive great distances due to obvious vision issues. Add to that the fact that I have a migraine headache each and every day (yes, I do mean every day!), it becomes problematic to drive great distances simply because I have no way of knowing if the migraine headache will ratchet up from moderate to severe and thus interfere with my ability to safely travel home. As a result, I’m usually in need of a travel companion whenever I’m attempting to go more than an hour away from home.

Festival #1: 
      This year, one of my friends from a local book group, Shelley, was gracious enough to travel with me to a regional book festival in August, the Lewisburg Literary Festival. (Also met up with another book group friend, Veronica, and her husband.) I’m the type of person that’s willing to drive up to four hours just to meet one of my favorite authors, so the day-trip to Lewisburg was nothing more than a scenic drive to me. Of course, getting to hear both Wiley Cash and Kathryn Stockett, as well as getting books signed by both authors was the highpoint of the day. Spending the day with two of my bookish friends, Shelley and Veronica were additional bonuses. An extra bonus was not having that day’s migraine interfere with driving to and from Lewisburg or being able to enjoy the presentations by Mr. Cash and Ms. Stockett. BTW, if you ever get the opportunity to hear either of these authors speak, go!

Festival #2:

     I’ve spent the past few years raving about the BookMarks festival in Winston-Salem, NC to friends and family. I’ve had the pleasure of taking my nieces to this festival and they’ve enjoyed it as well. This year, one of my bookish friends from North Carolina (a fantastic romance author and former local librarian) decided to attend the festival and we talked another local librarian into attending. My youngest brother, twin diva 8-year-old nieces, and I drove down to spend the weekend in Winston-Salem and attend this year’s festival. The author lineup was amazing: Garth Stein, R.L. Stine, Sandra Brown, Diane Ackerman, Pat Conroy, Cassandra King, Ron Rash, Candace Bushnell, Damon Tweedy, Elizabeth Berg, Patricia Park, Kwame Alexander, Aisha Saeed, and many more. For me, the hardest decisions were which presentation to attend (I wanted to hear everyone) and which books to buy (I wanted them all). My nieces were excited to get books and have them signed by the authors. One of the twins deliberated for close to 10 minutes over what should be signed in her book (told you they were divas). This one-day festival is well worth the trip in my not-so-humble-opinion. Of course, since I didn’t have to drive, I spent the trip down and back reading.

Festival #3:

     The West Virginia Book Festival returns this year, YAY! Due to budget cuts and funding issues, this festival has been on hiatus for the past two years. However, the WV Book Festival returns this weekend with a bang. Friday evening features Neil Gaiman. Yes, Neil Gaiman will be at the West Virginia Book Festival in Charleston, WV on Friday, October 23rd at 7:00 PM at the Charleston Civic Center. Saturday, October 24th will feature Homer Hickam, Jacqueline Woodson, Jeff Shaara, and Jodi Picoult. To say that I’m excited about this festival is a major understatement. This year’s book festival is part of FestivALL Fall, so there are plenty of events happening around town for everyone. I’ll be with the books and book people!

Do you attend any local or regional book festivals? 

Bookish Ramblings: An Update

I know it’s been awhile since I posted a review. Let’s chalk this up to ongoing problems due to chronic, severe migraine headaches AND writer’s block (or should that be reviewer’s block?). Strange as it may seem, I’ve been able to keep up with my reading as long as I read in electronic format. I can handle low-light and ebooks but low-light and print books just doesn’t seem to work. I have no idea why.

So what have I been up to other than reading and more reading? Well I was fortunate enough to attend the BookMarks Book Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina last month. I was accompanied on this day trip by my youngest brother and his lovely six-year-old twin daughters, as well as my sixteen-year-old niece. The twins were excited about the idea of receiving a free book after participating in the childrens’ activities. My older niece accompanied me as I attended lectures by Deborah Harkness (A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night), Jason Mott (The Returned – review coming soon with a giveaway offer), Ann B. Ross (author of the Miss Julia series), and Jill McCorkle (Life After Life). The best thing about this trip was spending the day with family and listening to some wonderful authors discuss their work. The second best thing about this day-trip was I didn’t have to drive so I got to read going and coming, yay! BTW, Ms. Harkness revealed the title for the third book in her All Souls Trilogy, The Tree of Life.

Here’s a picture of Ms. Harkness at the festival:

And here’s one of Mr. Mott:

I also attended a lecture at a local university by author Wil Haygood (The Butler, A Witness to History). Mr. Haygood actually worked for a local Charleston WV newspaper quite a few years ago before heading to Washington DC and the Washington Post. Mr. Haygood spent quite some time here in Charleston and met with local college students as well as Upward Bound students. If you ever get the opportunity to hear him speak, go! To read more about his visit to Charleston, please click here

It was fascinating to hear about Mr. Haygood’s discovery of Eugene Allen that was followed by a newspaper article. That article in turn inspired the blockbuster movie “The Butler” and ultimately led to the writing of the book, The Butler A Witness to History. Mr. Haygood shared anecdotes of his time spent with Mr. and Mrs. Allen, as well as his time on the movie set. 

What’s next? Well, I’m going to do my best to write all the reviews that should have been written and posted over the past few weeks (okay months, don’t nitpick). I hope it won’t be too confusing but I’ll be posting reviews of recently read books mixed with previously read books. Please bear with me as I attempt to catch up. Thanks and Happy Reading!

BOOKMarks Book Festival

As planned, I was able to attend the BOOKMarks Book Festival this past Saturday in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. My 15 y.o. niece, Cayla, and I arrived early and walked around for a while, visiting all of the books. Of course, I picked up a few more books, including another copy of Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones (I also own Kindle and EPUB ebook versions of this book). One booth visited was the North Carolina Literary Map, which provides a geographical map of the North Carolina’s literary heritage. I received a wonderful bookmark from this group and the following is found on the back: “Explore the North Carolina Literary Map and discover our state’s rich literary heritage! The University Libraries at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, partnering with the North Carolina Center for the Book, has developed a robust online literary resource to support public interests, encourage student research, and document writers from all geographical areas of North Carolina. Their map includes novels, biographies, historical works, poetry, plays, short stories, children’s books, and young adult literature…just about anything you can image connected to writing in and about North Carolina.” Even though I don’t reside in North Carolina, I took advantage of the festival discount and joined at the Bookworm level. 

The festival provided eight stations with a variety of authors available at each. My first session of the day featured Tayari Jones, Michael Malone and Daniel Wallace on “The Blessing and the Burden of Place.” This was a rather lively session and each author provided their thoughts and perspectives on the importance of place (setting) for their works. Mr. Malone noted that he was advised by author Willa Cather to let your fiction grow out of the land beneath your feet. Ms. Jones stated that she felt that her work was a somewhat historical record of places and times even though the works are fictional accounts. All of her novels have been set in Atlanta and the Atlanta of the past. Mr. Wallace mentioned that his settings are all basically a fictionalized version of his grandparents’ town in Alabama because he felt a strong connection to that town based on his childhood visits.

After this session, I was able to get my copy of Silver Sparrow signed by Ms. Jones. She is an extremely warm and gracious person and even consented to taking a photo with me (I’m in white).

The next session attended featured Gillian Flynn, author of Sharp Objects, Dark Places and Gone Girl. Ms. Flynn noted that she is working on a screenplay adaptation of Sharp Objects and that Gone Girl has been optioned for a screenplay adaptation by Reese Witherspoon’s production company. She stated that Dark Places was somewhat of an homage to In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Ms. Flynn loves to read noir mystery and it is perhaps for this reason that all of her books are very dark. She noted that although she starts writing with a theme, she never really knows how a story is going to end. She even wound up throwing out 200 pages of a draft of one story simply because she tried to make a character a “good girl” and the story seemed force. Once the changes were made, the story made more sense and worked. When asked about the differences between writing a novel and a screenplay, she noted that it was quite a different process but she had researched screen-writing and was fortunate enough to grow up in a household with books (her mother was a teacher) and movies (her father taught film). To learn more about Ms. Flynn, please visit her website

Gillian Flynn at the BOOKMarks Festival

The last session we attended also featured Tayari Jones. She began with  reading the first chapter of Silver Sparrow. Ms. Jones stated that she actually wrote all of her books on typewriters, simply because it was too easy to delete work on a computer but a typewritten page that is thrown out can always be retrieved. This session featured a host of questions about the premise of the book as well as the book as it was discussed by a number of book groups that had read it over the past year. Ms. Jones did mention that she is working on a new novel. I enjoyed the reading and session and have now placed Silver Sparrow in the top 10 on my TBR list. My niece is even interested in reading this book as a result of this session. I’m debating whether or not I’ll allow her to read my signed copy or simply go out and purchase a copy for her to keep. To learn more about Ms. Jones, please visit her website:

Although my migraine headache was quickly going from moderate to moderately-severe by mid-afternoon, I’m very glad I was able to attend the BOOKMarks Book Festival. (My only regret is that I was unable to attend the sessions featuring Kay Hooper, author of Haven, or Gail Tsukiyama, author of A Hundred Flowers.) I think I’ll have to make this an annual event, as it was well worth the six-hour round-trip drive.
What did you do over the weekend? Did you read any good books? Please share with us…

BOOKMarks Book Festival

I’m planning to drive down to Winston-Salem, NC to attend the BookMarks Festival on Saturday, September 8, 2012 (if I don’t have another severe migraine headache that will derail all travel plans). If you’re in the area, you don’t want to miss this event. I’m looking forward to seeing several of my favorite authors, including: Gail Tsukiyama, author of A Hundred Flowers; Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl; Kay Hooper, author of Haven; Sherrilyn Kenyon, author of Time Untime; and Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow. That’s just a short list of authors attending this book festival.

The BOOKMarks festival is a free one-day street book festival featuring readings, discussions, book signings, workshops, etc. with over 40 authors. Reading-related exhibitors and food vendors will be present, along with a Young Readers Central Area, and an onsite bookstore. The festival will be in the Downtown Arts District on Sixty and Trade Streets in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

What are your plans for this weekend? Hope you all have a great weekend with some awesome reads.

Happy reading!