Sunday, August 31, 2014

Welcome Palestine!

This morning it is my privilege to welcome Palestine to TexasBookLover. Ahlan wa sahlan! Baruch haba!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Welcome Bolivia!

This morning it is my privilege to welcome Bolivia to TexasBookLover. ¡Bienvenidos!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Tulisoma South Dallas Book Fair

The Tulisoma South Dallas Book Fair begins today at the Dallas Public Library!

Welcome Honduras!

This morning I am delighted to welcome Honduras to TexasBookLover. ¡Bienvenidos!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Welcome Angola!

This morning it is my privilege to welcome Angola to TexasBookLover. Bem vindo!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Backswing by Aaron Burch

Backswing, Aaron Burch
Queen’s Ferry Press
ISBN-13: 978-1938466304
$16.95, 214 pages

Backswing, a mix of Raymond Carver-esque slice-of-life and the dystopia of The Twilight Zone, is the debut full-length collection of fourteen short stories from Aaron Burch, editor of the literary journal Hobart. Each story is told from a male point of view—a twenty-first century man or boy trying to figure out what the hell is going on around here anyway, frantically chasing the next and the next and the next without realizing that, as the cliché goes: Life is not the destination, it’s the journey. Clichés usually become such for a reason, yes? The cover art of Backswing reminds me of Jim Hightower’s There’s Nothing In the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos, and many of the characters in this collection are always practicing something—golf swings, sleight of hand, Tae Kwon Do—chasing perfection while simultaneously hugging that stripe in the middle of the road, bewildered and terrified of choosing. Decisions are hard; perfection is harder. You can’t get there from the middle of the road.

“Flesh and Blood” is the story of Ben, a pubescent boy uprooted from his home and moved halfway across the country when his father takes a new job. I alternately smiled and sniffled my way through this one, eloquent with pre-adolescent yearning to understand (everything, anything); to survive hormonal turmoil (for instance, is it gay of him to notice how ridiculously blue Bret Michaels’s eyes are?); to find your tribe and be recognized as a member—of belonging. I grinned and wished I could’ve given Ben a high-five (which would have mortified him—adults are so embarrassing) at the conclusion of his tale. Near the end of this collection we will meet Ben again as an adult in “The Neighbor” and, unfortunately, he seems to fit right in. An intriguing character, Ben has the potential to carry a novel.

The nameless protagonist of “Fire In the Sky” returns to his hometown to join his college roommates for the wedding of a friend. The reunion is awkward as they try to recreate the past, a (mis)remembered idyllic interlude of all-for-one camaraderie, while attempting to reconcile unrealized dreams and good intentions of eternal friendship that have fallen to the demands of jobs and families and the inertia many of us seem to think is required for responsibility. When the evening ends in tragedy they cannot, literally, run away fast enough.

I am less enamored of the philosophical allegories of “The Stain” and “The Apartment.” In the former, a small cult-like community, living in the equivalent of a sensory deprivation chamber, notices a stain on the road and spends the rest of the story discussing what it might signify. The stain was not there the last time they looked, at least they don’t think it was there, but then they can’t remember how long it’s been since they looked out that window. In “The Apartment,” a man wanders around his apartment building—it looks like his apartment building—trying to find his unit, but he has become so isolated and his life so bland with the constraints of conformity that he cannot distinguish his home from any of the others. Although not heavy-handed, the lessons of these parables are obvious and might have been more affecting if delivered in more accessible settings.

Aaron Burch
Where Burch really shines is in the stories that begin as Carver and gradually metamorphose, or suddenly fracture, into Lovecraft, often with biblical references. It’s quite the cocktail. There’s the poor man who, upon learning of his brother’s death, succumbs to madness in “Sacrifice” and does just that. Tyler in “Unzipped” is a reassuringly typical teenage boy, mouthing off to his mother and worrying about girls, except for the zipper that appears in his chest one morning.

Burch has a sly, sometimes acerbic humor and an affection for his quirky characters that manages never to slide into indulgence. The individuals populating these stories (bless their hearts) are everyday people dealing with common problems. The alchemy occurs when these ordinary people are rendered extraordinary by deceptively simple yet evocative language that leaves you startled and then comforted, as if Burch has suddenly popped up with a mirror, showing us ourselves. We identify with these characters because they are us. The supposed banality of average lives is no less profound simply because it happens every day. Backswing is a distinctive and accomplished debut, and I look forward to the next collection.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Roundup! August 25 - 31

Bookish events in Texas for the week of August 25 - 31, 2014:

Special Events:
Literary Inspirations: The Art of Carl Köhler, Houston Central Library, July 28 - September 19, 2014

Texas Writers Exhibition, Montgomery County Memorial Library, August 1 -31

Gonzales County Jail Museum and THMD Visitor Center, Voces Americanas: Latino Literature in the United States Exhibition, August 4 - 29

Amazing Houston Comic Con (Amazing Comic Conventions) at George R. Brown Convention Center, August 29 - 31

Tulisoma: South Dallas Book Fair at the Dallas Public Library, August 29 - 30

Monday, August 25:

Brazos BookstoreGraham Nash - WILD TALES, 12:30PM

South Padre Island
Paragraphs On Padre Boulevard, performance from The Panza Monologues, 5PM

Tuesday, August 26:
Spider House Cafe & BallroomAustin Poetry Slam, 8PM

San Antonio
B&N, San Pedro, Sun Poets' Society Open Mic Poetry, 7PM

Institute of Texan Cultures, Jessica Buchanan, author of “The Kidnapping of Jessica Buchanan and Her Dramatic Rescue by Seal Team Six,” is the featured speaker at Can We Talk?, 5:30PM

Wednesday, August 27:
BookPeople, Hugo Award Winning Author JOHN SCALZI speaking and signing Lock In, 7PM

Two Bronze Doors, The Pegasus Reading Series featuring Nick McRae, author of The Name Museum and Mountain Redemption, followed by open mic, 7PM

The Heritage Society, Building Arts Distinguished Lecture Series: Lighthouses of Texas: Science, Engineering, and the Sentinels of the Sea by Steph McDougal, 7PM

Murder by the Book, Chelsea Cain will sign and discuss One Kick, 6:30PM

San Antonio
Gemini Ink, Guadalupe Home Reading & Book Launch of The Magic Mirror, 6PM

Laurie Auditorium - Trinity University, Diana Holt, an attorney who took up the cause of a wrongfully convicted man on death row, will speak on the case as part of Trinity University's Reading TUgether keynote lecture. Attending will be Edward Lee Elmore, the man whose conviction she fought to overturn, 7PM

Thursday, August 28:

Allen Public Library, C. Paul Rogers III will discuss his book Throwing Hard Easy: Reflections on a Life in Baseball, 7:30PM
B&N - Sunset Valley, Book Signing With Authors Ann Aguirre I Want it That Way and Cora Carmack All Lined UP, 6:30PM

Friday, August 29:
B&N, Meet Local Author: Gume Laurel III signing Kingdom of Abel - A Journey Not Their Own, 3PM

B&N - Creekwalk, Meet Sci Fi/Urban Fantasy Author Jamie SchultzPremonitions, 2PM

Round Rock
B&N - La Frontera, Stephen Dean signing Historic Dance Halls of East Central Texas, 2PM

San Antonio
B&N - La Cantera, Jolene Navarro signing Lone Star Hero, 2PM

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Monday Roundup! August 18 - 24

Bookish events in Texas for the week of August 18 - 24, 2014:

Special Events:
Literary Inspirations: The Art of Carl Köhler, Houston Central Library, July 28 - September 19, 2014

Texas Writers Exhibition, Montgomery County Memorial Library, August 1 -31

Gonzales County Jail Museum and THMD Visitor Center, Voces Americanas: Latino Literature in the United States Exhibition, August 4 - 29

Monday, August 18:
Bookpeople, New York Times Bestselling Author HAMPTON SIDES speaking and signing In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette, 7PM

B&N, Come join local veteran and father of fallen Marine Carson George for a signing of his new book Forever 22, 6PM

Tuesday, August 19:
Every Tuesday night at Spiderhouse, poetry, score cards and cash prizes come together for an evening of competitive art.

The Writer's Garret, "Getting Your Work Published" with Joe Milazzo, 7PM

San Antonio
B&N, San Pedro, Sun Poets' Society Open Mic Poetry, 7PM

Viva! Bookstore, Telling Our Cuentos: Journaling as a Pathway to Poetry, 1PM

Wednesday, August 20:
BookPeople, Actress & Author TERRI APPLE speaking & signing I'm 35, My Eggs Are Rotting, How's Your Sperm?, 7PM

Malvern Books, An Evening with Samuel Snoek-Brown & Zoë Miller, 7PM


Brazos Bookstore, Summer of Proust: Brazos Book Group, 7PM

San Antonio

Thursday, August 21:

Houston Public Library - Central, World Cafe: The Heart of Houston: Lessons in Servant Leadership, 6PM

Friday, August 22:
The Belmont, ACE's Back to School Fundraiser, 8PM

BookPeopleMysteryPeople Presents Texas Author Ed Kurtz speaking & signing The Forty-Two, 7PM

Malvern Books, The Lion & The Pirate Unplugged, 7PM

Saturday, August 23:
B&N - West Gate Mall, A.G. Howard: Unhinged Splintered Book Two, 2PM


Galveston Bookshop, a book signing with Richard S. Hall Lighthouses, Lightships, & Beacons of Texas:A Comprehensive Field Guide, 3PM  

B&N - Firewheel Mall, Release Event for Author Jaye Wells' Cursed MoonCursed Moon, 3PM


Murder by the BookEd Lin will sign and discuss Ghost Month, 4:30PM

B&N - Vista Ridge Village, New & Local Writer's Showcase, 1PM

B&N, Meet the Author: Kimberly Langley signing Free From the Inside Out, 3PM

San Antonio

The Twig Book Shop, Valerie Massey Goree, Colors of Deceit, 11AM

The Twig Book Shop, Celina Villagarcia, Pulp, 3PM

Viva! Bookstore, Meet the Author and Book Signing: One-of-a-Kind Judge The Honorable Hippo Garcia The People's Judge by San Antonio author Joan Cook Carabin, 1PM

South Padre Island
Paragraphs on Padre BoulevardLiterary Mercado, 1PM

B&N, Karen Harrington:Courage for Beginners, 1PM

Sugar Land
B&N - First Colony Mall, Shattered Fate Book Signing, 1PM

San Antonio
B&N - La Cantera, Author Sam Snoek-Brown signing Hagridden, 2PM

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Roundup! August 11 - 17

Bookish events in Texas for the week of August 11 - 17, 2014:

Special Events:
Literary Inspirations: The Art of Carl Köhler, Houston Central Library, July 28 - September 19, 2014

Texas Writers Exhibition, Montgomery County Memorial Library, August 1 -31

Gonzales County Jail Museum and THMD Visitor Center, Voces Americanas: Latino Literature in the United States Exhibition, August 4 - 29

Word Around Town Poetry Tour 2014, Houston, Aug 10-16

Monday, August 11:
Bookpeople, Bestselling Author AMY BLOOM speaking & signing Lucky Us, 7PM

Brazos BookstoreMurakamania Midnight Release Party: Join us for the midnight release of Haruki Murakami’s newest novel, COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI AND HIS YEARS OF PILGRIMAGE, 10PM

Murder By the BookSpencer Quinn will sign and discuss Paw and Order and David Rosenfelt will sign and discuss his new book, Hounded, 6:30PM

Tuesday, August 12:
Bookpeople & Austin Pets Alive! present New York Times Magazine Writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis speaking & signing Travels with Casey, 7PM

Every Tuesday night at Spiderhouse, poetry, score cards and cash prizes come together for an evening of competitive art.
B&N, San Pedro, Sun Poets' Society Open Mic Poetry, 7PM

The Twig Book ShopPoets Showcase at the Twig, 7PM

Wednesday, August 13:
BookPeople, Nixon Historians DOUGLAS BRINKLEY & LUKE NICHTER speaking and signing The Nixon Tapes, 6PM

Bookwoman, Joanne Blackerby speaking & signing Training Effects, 7PM

Dr. Sue's Chocolate, Author Shawna Seed will read from her latest novel, Not in Time, 7PM

Murder By the BookJaye Wells will sign and discuss Cursed Moon, 6:30PM

Thursday, August 14:
B&N - Arboretum, Poetry Open Mic, 7:30PM

BookPeople, Austin Native and Author PETER BARBOUR speaking and signing The Brothers Hogan: A Fort Worth History, 7PM

BookwomanSecond Thursday Open Mic featuring Ebony Stewart, 7:15PM

Centraltrak: The UT Dallas Artists Residency, Panel Discussion Hosted By Lee Escobedo, 7PM


Monkeywrench BooksMonkeywrench Books benefit w/ Karaoke Underground, Phantom Fox and The Villettes!, 9PM

B&N - Lincoln Park, James Rollins to sign The 6th Extinction (Sigma Force Series), 7PM

Fort Worth
Kimbell Art Museum, Artful Readings: 'The Samurai Banner of Furin Kazan,' by Yasushi Inoue, 5:30PM

Writespace Houston, Houston Writers Guild presents Tides of Possibility Reading and Book Launch, 8PM

B&N, Broadus Spivey and Jesse Sublett will be signing copies of their new release Broke, Not Broken: Homer Maxey's Texas Bank War, 7PM

San Antonio
San Antonio Museum of Art, Fill Your Lungs with Fresh Air: Matisse and Writing with Gemini Ink, 6:30PM

Saturday, August 16:

Blanton Museum of Art, Psychologist Hal Herzog, a leading researcher in the study of human-animal interactions and author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals, 1PM

BookPeople, National Bookstore Day for the BookPeople Nation, all day

BookPeople, Award-winning Authors KATHI APPELT and RITA WILLIAMS-GARCIA and
MOGIE!, 12:30PM

B&N, Kisha Simmons speaking and signing Texas and the City: The Journey Less Traveled, 1PM

Lucky Dog Books - Oak Cliff, Poets on X Series: Opalina Salas and kYmberly Keeton, 7PM

Fort Worth
Fort Worth Public Library - Central Branch, Author Roundup: Celebrate local, published authors of books for children and teens. Attend a panel discussion that will teach you to read critically and write confidently. Book signing to follow; authors’ books for sale at program, 1PM

B&N - Vanderbilt Square, Author: Lesa Nickelson French and The Truth About Us, 2PM
B&N - Creekwalk Village, Release Event for Author Jaye Wells' Cursed Moon, 2PM

B&N - Preston/Park, Karen Harrington:Courage for Beginners, 3PM

Round Rock
B&N - La Frontera, Martha Louise Hunter signing Painting Juliana, 2PM

San Antonio
Viva! Bookstore, Zentangle in August with Ginny, 10AM

South Padre Island
Paragraphs on Padre BoulevardLiterary Mercado, 1PM

Sunday, August 17:
Fort Worth
B&N - Hulen, Author event: Rebecca Behrens, Tara Dairman, Polly Holyoke and K.A. Holt, 4PM

Friday, August 8, 2014


Ruby, Cynthia Bond
$25, 333 pgs

Ruby Bell was a constant reminder of what could befall a woman whose shoe heels were too high. The people of Liberty Township wove her into cautionary tales of the wages of sin and travel. They called her buck-crazy. Howling, half-naked mad. The fact that she had come back from New York City made this somewhat understandable to the town.

Ruby may be the best book I’ve read so far this year and it’s been a great year for books. I stand in awe of, and humbled by, the talent of Cynthia Bond. She has created a meaty Southern Gothic gumbo of family, friendship, religion, prejudice, history, sex, opportunism and violence set in East Texas, which is apparently a natural theater for a particular brand of backwardness and cruelty endemic to the American South. Think Jasper and Vidor. Shudder. There are too many trees – makes me claustrophobic and you can’t see what the hell is going on a hundred yards away. And you really really need to know what’s going on in East Texas.

In 1963 Ruby Bell returns to the East Texas township of Liberty after having escaped to New York City (wherein she described herself as “…lost and found, all at the same time…”) many years earlier. Ruby had been taught from a small child that her body was, in her words, a “vending machine,” and so she put what she believed her only asset to work. As the consort of a society woman and philanthropist in New York, Ruby met Baldwin, Ellison, Bukowski, and de Kooning, attended the City College of New York, and wore Chanel and Pucci. Racism certainly still existed in the North, just not the drawling in-your-face sort she grew up with. Ruby is called back to Liberty when her childhood friend dies and observes that she “…has not breathed in that particular odor of obeisance for nearly a decade.”

Ephram Jennings has lived in Liberty all his life and fell absolutely in love with Ruby as a child. “…The sweet little girl with long braids. The kind of pretty it hurt to look at, like candy on a sore tooth.” Ephram was raised by his sister Celia after his mother was driven insane and committed by his father, the reverend Jennings (who is best and appropriately described as the dregs left behind when the scum of the earth moves on to greener pastures), and the good reverend was lynched. Ephram has never married, remaining with the regimented Celia, a good Christian woman. She said sarcastically.

Ruby’s poor, battered psyche learned to disassociate as a small child. What began as a self-defense mechanism merges with an unfortunate genetic predisposition that expands over the next decade so that Ruby’s mind spends less and less time in residence. Her descent into madness is excruciating but her reality is worse. It is an agony to watch Ruby and Ephram come so close to healing each other while his sister, convinced of her own righteousness and simultaneously steeped in false Christian humility, attempts to keep them apart. The welcoming committee of good Christian women is eleven years late. They aren’t interested in helping Ruby. They aren’t even really interested in whether Ephram is going to hell. He is an embarrassment in his bid for freedom; he has slipped the reins and some people will punish you for doing what they are too cowardly and/or unimaginative to do themselves.

Ruby benefits from an engrossing story, authentic dialogue that is practically a dialect of its own, and sense of place that is mesmerizing. You can smell the piney woods, feel the humidity on your upper lip, and hear the gospel songs. But the crowning glory of Ruby is its language. I don’t remember when I’ve read anything so beautiful, truly. A couple of examples:

[When Ephram goes a-courting]

About twenty other people found themselves wandering the back road to Bell land that day to see if Ephram would fall down and start foaming the evil out of his mouth. Instead they watched a lone man clean and tote and haul. But it was still more than enough. It wasn’t just the exhibition of sin that Celia Jennings had painted so beautifully during testimony that morning. It was the pure, unadulterated, juicy, unholy spectacle of the thing. The scarecrow crazy whore of Liberty had taken up with the township’s mule of a deacon.

[a description of the woods]
Cynthia Bond
The piney woods were full of sound. Trees cracking and falling to their death; the knell of axes echoing into green; the mewl of baby hawks waiting for Mama’s catch. Bull frogs and barn owls. The call of crows and the purring of doves. The screams of a Black man. The slowing of a heart. All captured, hushed and held under the colossal fur of pine and oak, magnolia, hickory and sweet gum. Needles and capillary branches interlaced to make an enormous net, so that whatever rose, never broke through to sky. The woods held stories too, and emotions and objects: a tear of sleeve, bits of hair, long-buried bones, lost buttons. But mostly, the piney woods hoarded sound.

I took seven pages of notes as I read Ruby and at one point my pen has ripped the paper from anger. Make no mistake: Ruby is not an easy read. But it is necessary. Have courage and you will feel your soul stretching. There is no Disney ending here but there is hope. I am rooting for Ruby and Ephram. 

Finally, she said, “You think I’m crazy.”
“Naw, I don’t.”
“Well, you wrong. I’m crazy, but that don’t make me stupid.”
“Then tell me what you’re watching.”

Without turning her head she took one step onto a bridge named Ephram.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Monday Roundup! August 4 - 10

Bookish events in Texas for the week of August 4 - 10, 2014:

Special Events:
Literary Inspirations: The Art of Carl Köhler, Houston Central LibraryJuly 28 - September 19, 2014 

Texas Writers Exhibition, Montgomery County Memorial Library, August 1 -31

Gonzales County Jail Museum and THMD Visitor Center, Voces Americanas: Latino Literature in the United States Exhibition, August 4 - 29

Monday, August 4:
BookPeople, Austin Authors JESSE SUBLETT & BROADUS SPIVEY speaking and signing
Broke, Not Broken, 7PM

Blue Willow BookshopJennifer Armentrout will kick off her tour for OPPOSITION, the fifth book in the LUX series, 7PM

Tuesday, August 5:
Every Tuesday night at Spiderhouse, poetry, score cards and cash prizes come together for an evening of competitive art.

Belo Mansion, Marja Mills will appear in conversation with Talmage Boston, 12PM

Fort Worth
Westminster Presbyterian ChurchTim Madigan, long-time reporter with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and author of I’m Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers, 6:30PM

Brazos Bookstore, Houston History debuts its summer digital edition, “Southeast Houston: From Pastures to South Park to MLK.” 7PM

B&N - Fairway Market, Meet Colleen Hoover: Ugly Love A Novel, 7PM

San Antonio
B&N, San Pedro, Sun Poets' Society Open Mic Poetry, 7PM

Wednesday, August 6:
Liberty Bar, Book Swap Happy Hour with Gemini Ink, 5PM

Thursday, August 7:

Fort Worth
Fort Worth Public Library - Central BranchGlen Rose, Texas author Bob Reed will read from, discuss, sell and sign copies of the "The Red-Winged Blackbird", 6PM

Friday, August 8:
Murder by the Book, Deborah Harkness will sign and discuss The Book of Life, 6:30PM

San Antonio
San Antonio Museum of Art, Debra Monroe Reading & SouthWord Festival Wrap Party, 6:30PM

Viva! Bookstore3 Secrets for Creating a Life You LOVE!, 1:30PM

Saturday, August 9:

BookPeople, New York Times Bestselling Author DEBORAH HARKNESS speaking & signing The Book of Life: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy), 4PM

Brave New Books, Alliance of Austin Agorist 8th Networking Party, 6PM

Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, FLOR DE NOPAL LITERARY FESTIVAL 2014 Welcome Gathering & Writing Workshop led by Ire’ne Lara Silva: “Spirited Away: Writing Yourself Back”, 1PM

Resistencia Bookstore, The Possibilities of Mud:  A Reading and Book Signing with Poet Joe Jiménez, 7PM

Bellaire City Library, David Falloure: Author of Sheer Will: The Story of the Port of Houston and the Houston Ship Channel, 2:30PM

Cedar Hill
B&N - Uptown Village, Signing With B.J. Farmer: Child of the South Dakota Frontier, 1PM

B&N - Firewheel Mall, Rachel Caine:Daylighters (Morganville Vampires Series #15), 3PM

B&N - River Oaks, Get Pop-Cultured: Tides of Possibility by Houston Writers' Guild, 2PM
Blue Willow BookshopNatalia Sylvester will discuss and sign CHASING THE SUN, her debut novel, 4PM

Murder by the Book, Elizabeth Little will sign and discuss Dear Daughter, 4:30PM

Round Rock
B&N - La Frontera, Kathy Duval: Take Me to Your BBQ, 2PM

San Antonio
Gemini Ink, Finding Structure in Tension: The Personal Essay/Memoir with Debra Monroe, 10AM

The Twig Book ShopPresentation and Discussion with Author John Barr, Loathing Lincoln: An American Tradition from the Civil War to the Present, 3PM

Viva! Bookstore, Spiritual Meditation and Workshops with Karl Fleddermann DSS, 10AM

South Padre Island