Bookish Ramblings: Fall Book Events

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Good day, book people. I hope you’re all able to find some time to read this weekend. I’m on my way to a regional book festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Bookmarks Festival of Authors and Books has events happening this weekend, with most presentations occurring today. I’m excited to see and hear Grady Hendrix, Jason Mott, Vanessa Riley, Farrah Rochon, Kaia Alderson, Anne Bogel, and more. This is my first in-person festival since 2019 and it’s an interesting mix of in-person and virtual. If you’re interested in learning more, please visit Bookmarks. BTW, if you’re ever in Winston-Salem when the festival isn’t happening, you’ll probably want to stop by the Bookmarks Bookstore.

Next month I’ll be participating in two virtual bookish events. Up first is the West Virginia Book Festival. Although preliminary plans were for an in-person festival this year, plans changed. This event will still take place but will be virtual rather than in-person. This year’s author lineup includes Colson Whitehead, Jon Scieska, Josh Malerman, Melinda Falgoust, and Kara Vuic, as well as West Virginia authors Eric Eyre, Denise Giardina, Homer Hickam, Brett Armstrong, Cat Pleska, Bonnie Proudfoot, David Mould, JoAnn Dadisman, Joe Geiger, and Judi Tarowski. The WV Book Festival will be taking place on October 22nd and 23rd. You may want to mark your calendars for this event.

And last, but not least, is the first Black Readers Con. This con will be taking place virtually on October 30th and 31st. There are 45 speakers lined up to appear over 19 sessions across the two days. “Join the Black book community of Bookstagrammers, Booksellers, Book Bloggers/Reviewers, and Book Clubs.” The purpose of this event is “to enhance and amplify the voices of Black Readers and the Book Clubs they love.” I’ll not only be attending this event, but I’ve been kinda/sorta working with the organizers and will be assisting behind the scenes. I initially learned of this event through one of my online book clubs, Mocha Girls Read and via posts on Instagram. Quick shout out to everyone that has worked tirelessly to make this event happen. Thank you, Mocha Girls Read, Black Men Read, Books & Brown Sugar Co., Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books, and #BeeJacksCorner. For those of you that are big Romancelandia fans, I have two words for you: Beverly Jenkins!

Will you be participating in any upcoming bookish events? Let us know. Until next time, Happy Reading y’all!

2015 Book 329: CARRYING ALBERT HOME by Homer Hickam

Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam
ISBN: 9780062325891 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062325914 (ebook)
ASIN: B00S58E834 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: October 13, 2015 
Publisher: William Morrow


Big Fish meets The Notebook in this emotionally evocative story about a man, a woman, and an alligator that is a moving tribute to love, from the author of the award-winning memoir Rocket Boys—the basis of the movie October Sky

Elsie Lavender and Homer Hickam (the father of the author) were high school classmates in the West Virginia coalfields, graduating just as the Great Depression began. When Homer asked for her hand, Elsie instead headed to Orlando where she sparked with a dancing actor named Buddy Ebsen (yes, that Buddy Ebsen). But when Buddy headed for New York, Elsie’s dreams of a life with him were crushed and eventually she found herself back in the coalfields, married to Homer.

Unfulfilled as a miner’s wife, Elsie was reminded of her carefree days with Buddy every day because of his unusual wedding gift: an alligator named Albert she raised in the only bathroom in the house. When Albert scared Homer by grabbing his pants, he gave Elsie an ultimatum: “Me or that alligator!” After giving it some thought, Elsie concluded there was only one thing to do: Carry Albert home.

Carrying Albert Home is the funny, sweet, and sometimes tragic tale of a young couple and a special alligator on a crazy 1000-mile adventure. Told with the warmth and down-home charm that made Rocket Boys/October Sky a beloved bestseller, Homer Hickam’s rollicking tale is ultimately a testament to that strange and marvelous emotion we inadequately call love.



Elsie Lavender Hickam received a rather unusual wedding gift from her previous fiance Buddy Ebsen, a baby alligator. Mrs. Hickam adored that alligator and lovingly raised it in the coalfields of West Virginia. When the alligator scared her husband out of the house without his pants, Elsie had to choose between her husband and the alligator. What ensues is the hilarious tale of Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator by Homer Hickam.

Imagine the late 1920s and a young woman, Elsie Lavender, raised in the coalfields of West Virginia is now living it up in a pre-Disney Orlando, Florida. She’s attending secretarial school, working as a waitress, and enjoying the company of the up-and-coming actor/dancer Buddy Ebsen. Elsie and Buddy get engaged and then he receives a job opportunity in New York city and then California. Weeks and months go by without any correspondence from her fiance, so Elsie returns to rural West Virginia and her family. She receives an unusual marriage proposal from her future husband’s boss, ponders the proposal, and subsequently marries the young man, Homer Hickam. After their marriage, she receives a belated wedding present from Buddy Ebsen, a baby alligator named Albert. When forced to choose between her husband and the alligator, she chooses her husband (somewhat reluctantly it appears) with the proviso that they must return Albert to Florida. Now if the picture of an alligator being raised in the coalfields of West Virginia in the 1930s wasn’t strange enough, imagine this husband, wife and alligator on the road…oops, I almost forgot the rooster that decided to travel with them.

To give you an idea of just how hilarious the travel adventures of Elsie, Homer, and Albert were, you only have to look at some of the titles for sections of the book: How Elsie Became a Radical; How Elsie Rode the Thunder Road, Homer Wrote a Poem, and Albert Transcended Reality; How Albert Flew; How Homer and Elsie Saved a Movie and Albert Played a Crocodile; and, How Homer and Elsie Survived a Hurricane – A Real One as Well as the One in Their Hearts. Elsie and Homer have some amazing adventures on their quest to return Albert home, including foiling a bank robbery, meeting John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway, participating in the illegal transportation of moonshine, and more. Elsie even becomes a millionaire for a few hours in North Carolina. The 1000 mile road trip this couple took provides some poignant and heart-touching moments along with some outrageously funny moments. 

Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator is much more than a story of returning an animal to its native habitat, it’s about letting go of the past, overcoming jealousy, being happy with what you have (without giving up on your dreams), as well as finding and accepting love. Homer Hickam has taken the outlandish and fantastical tales about his parents’ trip in the 1930s and made it into a fictionalized story that is a testament to fortitude and love. Carrying Albert Home was a fast-paced read for me and one that I enjoyed from beginning to end. (Adding to that enjoyment was the ability to see Mr. Hickam, the author, at the recent West Virginia Book Festival.) Don’t put Carrying Albert Home on a TBR list, go out, grab a copy, and then sit down and read it…you won’t be disappointed.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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Bookish Ramblings

I’m sorry to say I missed both the Books by the Banks festival in Cincinnati, Ohio AND the West Virginia Book Festival in Charleston WV last weekend. Yes it was another series of migraine headaches, and yes I’m pretty bummed about missing both events. I’m especially disappointed in missing the West Virginia Book Festival after reading the following blog entry about Lee Child and his Jack Reacher novels: 
Thanks to Ms. Maguire I’ll be adding the Jack Reacher series to my mountainous TBR list. (BTW, Ms. Maguire is one of the leaders of the CTC Mall Book Group with Ms. Blessing. Both are employees of the Kanawha County Public Library and have done a wonderful job at the last two book club meetings.) Have you read any Jack Reacher novels? If so, what are your thoughts?


Today was the second meeting of the Charleston Town Center (CTC) Mall Book Group. This group meets on the fourth Wednesday of each month from 11:30 A.M. – 12:30 P.M. in the Community Room at Panera in the mall. We just discussed Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (an excellent book; if you haven’t read it then get it, read it or at least add it to your TBR list). Although the book deals with some harrowing and distressing historical events, it is done so in a respectful manner that ends with a sense of hopefulness despite our history of cruelty and intolerance toward one another. Of course I’ve had to also add all of Ms. de Rosnay’s books (or at least those books available in English) to my TBR list . . . I think the online list is over 300 books long. I’m sad to say that not all of Ms. de Rosnay’s books are available in English. (I knew I should have worked harder at studying French in high school and college all those years ago.)


Next month’s CTC Mall Book Group meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 23rd. The book we’ll be discussing is A Parchment of Leaves by Silas House. If you’re interested and work in or near Charleston WV, please join us.

Since the migraine headaches appear to have eased a bit (diminished but not gone), I’ve got to get back to reading.



Weekend Ramblings 6

This week has been marred by another series of severe migraine headaches. The biggest inconvenience to having a migraine is not being able to read. (Okay, one of the biggest inconveniences next to an increased sensitivity to light, noise, scent and sound and extreme nausea.) Fortunately, I was able to get in some reading over the course of the week. Reviews will be posting soon for Defensive Wounds by Lisa Black, The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman, and Lucidity by C. J. Lyons. 

This is the weekend I’ve been waiting for…book festival weekend. As many of you may recall I had a dilemma choosing which festival to attend: Books By The Banks in Cincinnati Ohio for the day or the West Virginia Book Festival here in Charleston WV for the weekend. Sadly this decision has become moot as a severe migraine currently has me grounded (nothing quite like typing in the dark). At the moment there is no way I can handle a 7-hour round-trip drive to Ohio nor I can tolerate the lights and noise at the local book festival here in Charleston. I remain hopeful that I’ll have the current migraine knocked into submission and downgraded from severe to moderate or mild within the next 2-4 hours. If this happens, then I’ll be off to the WV Book Festival for the remainder of the day.

If you’re in the southern Ohio area, stop by the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati for the Books by the Banks Book Festival. This festival will be playing host to a number of authors, including Dennis Lehane, Chris Bohjalian, J. T. Ellison and Judy Clemens. Presenters include Martha Southgate – A Taste of Salt and Paula McLain – The Paris Wife.



For those of you in West Virginia, head down to the Charleston Civic Center for the two day West Virginia Book Festival. This year’s WV Book Festival will feature: Lee Child, Jerry West, Jaimy Gordon and Dave Pelzer; and don’t forget the library’s used book sale and marketplace. I hope that when I get back up this migraine will be bearable and if so, I’m off to the WV Book Festival. Hope to see you there!



West Virginia Book Festival Update

The excitement builds…It has been announced that Dave Pelzer, author of A Child Called It, will be speaking at the West Virginia Book Festival on Sunday, October 23 at 1:00 PM in the Charleston Civic Center Little Theater. This year’s author line-up is going to make for another interesting and memorable festival. 



West Virginia Book Festival Update

For all readers in West Virginia and surrounding areas, the West Virginia Book Festival has announced another speaker for the 2011 festival: Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher novels. This year’s festival is scheduled for October 22 – 23 and will be held in Charleston WV. 


Last year’s festival featured several best-selling authors and I had the pleasure of meeting Diana Gabaldon – author of the Outlander and Lord John series, and Heidi Durrow – author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky. Both  gave wonderful talks and, for me, were the highlight of the festival; for others I know it was the Nicholas Sparks session. I can’t wait to find out the other authors scheduled to attend this year.




OMG! I just realized the WV Book Festival and the Books by the Bank festival in Cincinnati, Ohio are the same weekend. The 2010 Cincinnati festival featured sessions with Katherine Howe – author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Beth Hoffman – author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, Leah Stewart – author of Husband and Wife, J.T. Ellison – author of The Immortals, and Augusten Burroughs – author of Running with Scissors


Decisions, decisions, decisions…at this point it appears as if I’ll be driving to and from Cincinnati on Saturday and possibly attend the WV Book Festival on Sunday.