Monday, October 28, 2013

US Writer's Conferences

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, I have updated the US Writer's Conferences page. You can find the tab on the main page of this blog under "TexasBookLover." This will be followed in a couple of days with a new page for international writer's conferences. As always, please let me know by comment or email if I've gotten something wrong and all about everything I missed. Thanks y'all!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Welcome Sweden!

This evening it is my privilege to welcome Sweden to Texas. Välkommen!

Welcome Singapore!

This afternoon I am delighted to welcome Singapore to Texas. Y'all have three official languages and I hope I get this right. Malay: Selamat datang! Mandarin: Hhuānyíng guānglín! Tamil: Vaarungal!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

TexasBookLover on Facebook and Twitter

Y'all don't forget TexasBookLover is on Facebook and Twitter!

Welcome Macedonia!

Two new countries today! This morning I am also delighted to welcome Macedonia to Texas. Dobredoydovte!

Welcome Cambodia!

This morning I am thrilled to welcome Cambodia to Texas. Svakom! 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Book Fairs & Festivals, Updated

Greetings book lovers! Just an FYI: I have updated the US Book Fairs and Festivals page. In addition, I have added a new page for International Book Fairs & Festivals. You can find the tabs at the top of the main page, just beneath TEXASBOOKLOVER. Check it out! And as I am certain I have not found every book fair or festival on the planet, please leave a comment or email me at if you'd like to add an item. Thank you!  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Welcome United Arab Emirates (UAE)!

This morning it is my privilege to welcome the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to TexasBookLover. Marhaban!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Welcolme Bangladesh!

This evening I am delighted to welcome Bangladesh to Texas. Shagotom! 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Book Riot's Favorite Literary Characters Poll

Polls. I know. But this is curious. How any Jane Austen character beat out the Finches I will never understand. OWEN MEANY LIVES! And 'fess up - who voted for Jay Gatsby?

We at the Riot love a good poll, and in our latest bout of curiosity, we asked you to name your three favorite literary characters. 679 Riot readers answered the call, selecting 681 unique characters. Check out the top 20 below, and click here to see the full set of responses. Did your favorite make it?

  1. Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)–106
  2. Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)–80
  3. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)–76
  4. Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre)–58
  5. Sherlock Holmes (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)–47
  6. Harry Potter (Harry Potter)–36
  7. Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride and Prejudice)–33
  8. Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)–30
  9. Jo March (Little Women)–39
  10. Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables)–27
  11. Scarlett O’Hara (Gone With the Wind)–23
  12. Severus Snape (Harry Potter)–20
  13. Samwise Gamgee (Lord of the Rings)–19
  14. Thursday Next (Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series)–19
  15. Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the Rye)–17
  16. Owen Meany (A Prayer for Owen Meany)–16
  17. Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter)–15
  18. Gandalf (Lord of the Rings)–15
  19. Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby)–15
  20. Lisbeth Salander (The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson)–15
Here’s how the favorite characters stack up against the results of our “What’s your favorite novel?” poll(diagram courtesy of fellow Rioter Minh Le).
favorite characters venn diagram

Welcome Pakistan!

This morning I am thrilled to welcome Pakistan to Texas. Khush amdid! 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Number of Independent Bookstores is on the Rise!

Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston
An issue near and dear to me: According to the American Booksellers Association (ABA), about 1,000 independent bookstores went out of business between 2000 and 2007 as consumers turned to online buying and e-books. Happily, reports of the death of local bookstores have been greatly exaggerated. The ABA reports that since 2009, the number of independent bookstores in the United States has risen 19 percent to 1,971. 19%! Also, sales from independent bookstores in 2012 were up 8 percent over 2011.

One reason for the renaissance of independent bookstores is the public’s renewed interest in locally-owned stores, said Dan Cullen, a spokesman for the ABA. “Nationwide, there’s been a ‘shop local’ movement recently,” Cullen said. “It’s become apparent that many, many more consumers are choosing to shop in local businesses of all kinds, not just bookstores. They recognize the influence their shopping dollars have in those stores, and in the local communities.”

In some cases, the chain bookstores may even provide a boost to the independent stores. Many customers may buy the newest best-seller from a national chain or Amazon, but once they’re done with the book, they’ll take it to an independent bookstore that specializes in used books, such as Texas's own Half Price Books. For instance, I paid a visit to a Half Price Books in San Antonio last week and bought 7 books for $93. Can't beat it with a stick. Or a hammer.

For information on independent bookstores in Texas you can click on the "Texas Indie Bookstores" tab at the top of the main page of this blog. For other locations please pay a visit to IndieBound

Welcome Afghanistan!

Tonight it is my privilege to welcome Afghanistan to Texas. Y'all have two official languages: Pashto and Farsi. I hope I get this right. Pakheyr! Khosh amadid! 

Friday, October 11, 2013

International Day of the Girl Child 2013

"...the beginning of menstruation can mean the end of a girl's education." How's that grab ya?

By proclamation of the United Nations General Assembly today is International Day of the Girl Child. The impact of investment in education is profound: education results in raising income, improving health, promoting gender equality, mitigating climate change, and reducing poverty. (GPFE) Educating girls begins a virtuous cycle, improving health, nutrition and education for many generations. Educated women tend to marry later, have fewer children, have better health and nutrition and seek prenatal care. Their children are more likely to survive, are healthier and more likely to succeed in school. Studies have found that a child of a mother with four years of education is twice as likely to survive as the child of an uneducated mother. The International Food Policy and Research Institute found that female education was the single most important factor in reducing child malnutrition. (AED)

Commentary: Keeping girls in school

By Patricia Lone

Choose a desk in a primary school in the developing world and the chances are that it will be occupied by a boy.

Many forces combine to spell an early end to education for girls. Chief among them is poverty. The cost of voluntary' contributions, uniforms, books, and bus fares can make even free education expensive - especially if there are many children. When a poor family considers how much a daughter can help in cleaning, cooking, collecting wood and water, and looking after younger children, and how little opportunity there will be for her to get a paying job even if she is educated, then the returns rarely seem to warrant the expenditure.

So it is usually the daughters who are withdrawn from school.

Even when girls are enrolled, the burden of domestic chores stands in the way of educational progress. A study in Mozambique's primary schools found that the single most important factor in poor performance was the time and strain imposed by the child's workload.

Close behind poverty follows tradition. And perhaps the strongest tradition of all is the idea that sons should be educated because they will be the breadwinners of their own future families, and the supporters of their aging parents. A girl's work, though it may be longer and harder, is considered less likely to bring in monetary income. And in cultures where marriage means that a daughter becomes part of her husband's family, the incentive to educate girls is weaker still.

Yet when asked, many poor families will say that they want their daughters to be educated. Many girls stay home, not because parents are poor or culturally intransigent, but because they do not believe that the kind of education on offer is appropriate for their daughters or because they feel the risks are too great.

Those risks are real. Girls are sexually harassed, sometimes raped, by their fellow students, or their teachers, or sometimes by strangers as they walk to school. Girls get pregnant. And these sexual pressures and vulnerability are central to low enrolment and retention rates for girls in the classrooms of many countries. If classes are overcrowded, if children are poorly supervised, if male students are unruly and violent, then many girls feel threatened and many parents fear for their safety. If no single-sex schools or classes are available, if there are no women teachers, and if the school is too far from the home or community, then female attendance tends to fall away. A study in Egypt, for example, showed that girls' enrolment was at a low 30% when schools were three or more kilometres from the children's homes, but over 70% when the school was located within one kilometre.

Here, too, poverty plays its part. If their clothes are torn or inadequate, girls from poor families, constrained by the demands of modesty and propriety, will stay at home. If they do not have adequate sanitary protection, or if their school does not have separate toilets, then the beginning of menstruation can mean the end of a girl's education.

Few governments and development agencies have adequately addressed the many needs, risks and fears of girls and their families as they make their decisions on whether or not a daughter should attend school.

Just as there is no single cause of the low level of girls' enrolment and retention in school, so there is no single answer.

Many different approaches are being tried, most of them small in scale and as yet unevaluated. The common strands in the experiments to date appear to be the building of schools or classrooms closer to communities (at least for the early years of primary education); the involvement of local communities and parents in the running of schools; the training of more female teachers; the offer of cash incentives to families who keep daughters in school up to specified grades; the expansion of non-formal education to try to give more girls basic literacy, numeracy, and life skills; information campaigns about the importance of girls' education; flexible schedules (to allow girls to meet domestic responsibilities); and more preschool education both as a means of reducing later drop-outs and as a way of making it possible for girls to attend school while their young siblings are cared for.

Some approaches

* In Bangladesh, the 35,000 community schools started by the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) have so far enrolled 982,000 students - 70% of them girls. Most of the BRAC teachers are women who live in the community and have 9 or 10 years of schooling. A village management committee runs the school, and there is a monthly meeting between parents and teachers at which the attendance of mothers is considered essential.

* In Mali, 75 village schools have been established with compulsory parity - each class having 15 boys and 15 girls. The schools are run by a committee selected by the community. Twice as many girls are enrolled as in the formal school system.

* In rural south Egypt, where about half a million girls of primary school age are not in school, local community schools are being built to cut down the distance girls are expected to travel. In the 110 schools set up so far, approximately 3,000 children are enrolled - 70% to 80% of them girls.

* In Pakistan, 300 new village schools have enrolled 14,000 girls in one of the most isolated and traditional areas of the country where the female literacy rate is no more than 4%. The success of the Baluchistan project, funded by several international organizations, is partly based on the concept of the mobile female teacher training unit, which allows women with 8 to 10 years of education to train as teachers without leaving their own villages. So far, more than 400 such teachers have been accredited by the Government. The schools themselves are run by village education committees elected by a minimum of 75% of all parents of school-age children.

* A similar project in Punjab (Pakistan) has opened 114 schools over the last five years and succeeded in enrolling approximately 3,000 girls. All teachers and supervisors are women, and the schools maintain a flexible calendar to allow for the seasonal farm work which girls are expected to do.

* In Senegal, the Tostan organization has launched a programme to bring non-formal education to 1,400 girls in 20 villages. Stressing flexible timetables, Tostan is also promoting energy-efficient stoves to save the many hours a day that girls have to spend collecting firewood.

* In Burkina Faso, 30 satellite schools have been set up to reach equal numbers of boys and girls, aged seven to nine, who have dropped out of the school system. After three years in the satellite school, taught in a local language by locally recruited teachers, pupils can transfer back to the formal primary school system.

* In Nepal, girls who have dropped out of school are being offered non-formal classes for two hours a day, six days a week, nine months of the year, after which they are eligible to rejoin the formal school system. Approximately 70,000 girls have enrolled so far. Meanwhile, the Government of Nepal is offering small subsidies to poor parents who keep their daughters in school.

Why do more girls than boys drop out of school? And what can be done to keep them there? A survey by Patricia Lone (UNICEF), based on information and research from Ann Cotton (Cambridge Female Education Trust, UK), Randy Hatfield (Academy for Educational Development, US), Peter Laugharn (Save the Children Federation), Molly Melching (Tostan literacy project, Senegal), and Saudamini Siegrist, Rosa Maria Torres and Malak Zalouk (UNICEF).

Welcome South Korea!

This morning I am delighted to welcome South Korea to Texas. Hwan-yeong!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Alice Munro Wins the Nobel Prize in Literature

I got my wish! Alice Munro has won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature. Ms. Munro, a Canadian author of fourteen short story collections, is a master of the form, par excellence. She has told several interviewers that Dear Life, published last year, will be her last collection. She is 82. I am delighted with the Swedish Academy's choice because, unlike in recent years, the selection of Alice Munro is, in my opinion, more strictly based on literary merit, as opposed to politics. Congratulations Alice!

Now y'all go read! There's plenty to choose from:

Dance of the Happy Shades – 1968 (winner of the Governor General's Award for Fiction)
Lives of Girls and Women – 1971
Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You – 1974
Who Do You Think You Are? – 1978 (winner of the Governor General's Award for Fiction)
The Moons of Jupiter – 1982 (nominated for a Governor General's Award)
The Progress of Love – 1986 (winner of the Governor General's Award for Fiction)
Friend of My Youth – 1990 (winner of the Trillium Book Award)
Open Secrets – 1994 (nominated for a Governor General's Award)
The Love of a Good Woman – 1998 (winner of the Giller Prize)
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage - 2001
Runaway – 2004 (winner of the Giller Prize)
The View from Castle Rock – 2006
Too Much Happiness – 2009
Dear Life – 2012

Monday, October 7, 2013

Welcome Israel!

This afternoon I am delighted to welcome Israel to Texas. Y'all have two official languages so here goes: Bruchim ha-baim! Marhaban! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing

By P.D. Viner
Crown Publishers (Random House), 393 pgs
Submitted by Random House
Rating: 2.5

WARNING: Spoiler alert. Proceed at your own risk.

I am flummoxed. The Last Winter of Dani Lancing. Great title. Promising story. Excellent pacing. Good enough dialogue. Unique characters who stay in character. Evocative sense of place. Firmly rooted in genre (this is a first novel for the author and we can quibble over whether or not falling squarely into genre is a good thing, but let's not.) Technical details indicate sufficient research on the part of Mr. Viner. Clues are offered and the foreshadowing often clever. But I cannot for the life of me get it to come together. The parts are greater than the whole.

Dani(elle) is the daughter of Jim and Patty Lancing: bright university student, track star, beautiful (aren't they all?), Daddy's little girl, contentious critic of a career-centered mother, childhood love (obsession) of Tom Bevans who has become a police detective. So far so good. Additionally, Dani is in love with a married man twenty-plus years her senior; she is pregnant; and then there's the raging heroin addiction, which inevitably means she ends up as some dealer's punch and turned out as entertainment for his friends and business associates. Dani goes missing and her body is discovered three weeks later. No arrests were ever made. It is a cold case.

As the story begins, Dani has been dead for twenty years and her ghost has been hanging out with her dad for the last twelve. She showed up when Patty left Jim rather than grind him to a fine powder under the weight of her grief and guilt. Detective Inspector Tom Bevans has gotten word that Dani's case will come up for review due to advances in DNA technology. Samples were taken and have been preserved. Much smaller amounts of DNA can now be reliably tested. There is a DNA database that can be searched for a match. You think this is good news, don't you? Everyone in this story has an ulterior motive. Remember that. The downside of this development is that it could take another four years for this to happen because there are a LOT of cold cases. So Patty hires a private expert, a former pathologist named Keyson (who turns out to be a sociopath with personal and professional reasons to hate DI Bevans,) to try to move things along.
And move things along he does. Right off a cliff.

Remember what I told you to remember? Everyone here has motives of their own. No one is innocent, or even not guilty. Due to the machinations (deus ex machina?) of Dr. Keyson and the fact that Patty has gone nuts, these ensue: kidnapping, torture, assault and battery, murder, car crashes, tampering with evidence, an overdose of Ketamine, bribery, extortion, suicide, loan sharks, seizure disorders, breaking and entering, petty theft, racketeering, snow, foot chases, car chases, comas, chloroform, and acts of God. Yep. And all of it could have been avoided. Do you know why all of these things happened? Because of the trope of "the good girl." Whore or Madonna, make your choice and make it now because you cannot change your mind later and there is no allowance for individuality, complexity or ambiguity. These things happened because a couple of men wanted so badly for the world to believe that Danielle Lancing had been a good girl that, in the final reckoning, they denied her any humanity. They turned her into a doll. The only saving grace for Dani is that she got to deliver the coup de grace at the end of the story. Even if she was a ghost.

I found it difficult to follow The Last Winter of Dani Lancing in the beginning; the narrative jumps back and forth in time so often and it switches points of view constantly. Your brain will try to impose order and I attempted to fight this, go with the flow, and trust the author. Mistake. My main problem with Dani Lancing is that the author seems to have thrown in a little something from every movie he's ever seen. He is a film-maker, after all, and an award-winning one at that. I was with him, willfully suspending incredulity, until about page 346. At that point the number of cliches reached critical mass and I buckled. By page 360 it had become a cartoon.

Deep breath. Which is not to say that Mr. Viner doesn't have promise. He does. Please refer back to the first paragraph of this review. So many individual elements that were sooo good. They just never made a cohesive whole. The author became overwhelmed with plot elements. I will read his sophomore effort, if there is one, and let you know if that incipient promise is realized.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The United States of America is Closed

The United States of America is closed. Terribly sorry. You'll have to come back some other time. We are currently being held hostage by one of the most ignorant movements in domestic politics: republicans who call themselves the tea party and Speaker of the House John Boehner, a basset hound with an addiction to orange tanning lotion. I for one am a great admirer of tea and am offended on its behalf. Canada and Mexico are still open and fairly close by. Maybe you should try one of those instead.