PaperBackSwap Blog


Archive for May, 2017

Author interview & Book Give-Away with Mary Potter Kenyon

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Interview with Author &

PaperBackSwap Member

Mary Potter Kenyon

 

Mary Potter Kenyon is the author of five Familius titles:
Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings, and the Stories Behind America’s Extreme Obsession, Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage, Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace, and Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink, (with co-writer Mary Jedlicka Humston), and a grief journal slated for publication in early 2018.

Mary has graciously offered to be interviewed here on the PaperBackSwap Blog.

 

Welcome Ms. Kenyon and thank you for agreeing to this interview!

Thank you for featuring me and my books.

 

You wrote your book, Refined by Fire in the two years following the death of your husband of 34 years. Where and how did you find the courage to share such a personal journey?

I’d already written about caring for my husband David during his cancer treatment in my book “Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage.” Our marriage relationship was revitalized through that cancer journey, and David was a five-year survivor when he had a heart attack. After writing my way through caregiving in 2006 it seemed only natural to write my way through grief, too. Within months of my husband’s death, I was facing the loss of grandson who was battling terminal cancer. Writing and reading is how I’ve always faced things, even as a teenager. I wrote “Chemo-Therapist” because every book I picked up about caregiving through cancer ended in the death of the cancer patient. I wasn’t about to read those, so I wrote my own, a story of love, hope, and a revitalized marriage relationship. My husband always told me it was a love story, not a cancer story. David had been the biggest supporter of my writing. “Coupon Crazy” was his idea, “Chemo-Therapist” was our love story, and “Refined By Fire” was written because of the loss of him. Pieces of my personal journal and blog appear in “Refined By Fire,” revealing the rawness of grief. I wrote it with blood, sweat, and tears, and it is the book I am most proud of. I knew I wouldn’t be able to help others in their own journey if I wasn’t willing to be completely open and honest in my writing. 

 

In your book you quote many other authors on the theme of loss and grief. One of my favorites is by Anne Lamott:

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

Do you have a go-to quote? One that usually helps you to put things in perspective?

For years, I’d utilized my personal journal to jot down quotes or paragraphs from books I was reading, words that inspired me or said perfectly what I was feeling or experiencing. I’d noticed other authors using quotes at the beginning of their chapters, particularly in non-fiction, and I wanted to do the same thing. The idea was that if that author’s words spoke to the reader, they’d want to read more. I love leading readers to other books and authors. Lo and behold, one day I learned that there was actually a term for the quotes at the beginning of a chapter; epigraph. Now, I use epigraphs in all of my books. I don’t have a single favorite quote. Depending on what is going on in my life, it changes. At various times, I’ve even taped a quote to my desk, or carried one in my purse, usually when I am struggling with something and need inspiration or encouragement. I’m also drawn to journal, calendars, wall plaques and stationery with inspiring quotes.

 

What would you like to share with others who are going through grief and loss?

In my upcoming journal, I write about how many weeks went by after our downstairs and upstairs hallway lightbulbs burnt out. I couldn’t bring myself to haul out the ladder and replace them. That was something my husband had always done. I didn’t ask anyone else to do it, either. In fact, my teen daughters thought something had gone wrong with the switches. We adjusted to the newly darkened hallways. We’d leave the light on and the door open in the upstairs bathroom so we could see the steps at night. We’d open the downstairs bathroom and turn on that light to illuminate the dark hallway closet. We lived that way for months until one of my older daughters was helping me clean out the closet and wondered out loud why the hallway light wasn’t working. My daughters were horrified when I admitted I hadn’t gotten around to changing the lightbulbs. My point? It is a very dark night of the soul when we lose a loved one. But there are things we can do for ourselves during that dark period; read books by those who have gone down the path before us, attend support groups, reach out to others in our newly discovered empathy, or by journaling. We have the ‘lightbulbs,’ or the tools for healing available to us. We just have to utilize them. 

 

You are Senior Services librarian at the Dyersville, Iowa library. Have books always been a part of your life?

As a child growing up in poverty, I thought only rich people owned books. I learned to read before I attended school, and spent hours learning to print my name so I could obtain the coveted library card. It was a rite of passage in our family. During the summer, my two younger sisters and I would check out five to six books each on a Friday, and by Monday morning we’d have finished our own and be trading with each other. I worked at the same little local library as a teenager every summer, and again (with the same boss!) for a couple of years before my eighth child was born. When I needed to find work after my husband’s death, my first job was as a director of a small library. Then I worked as a newspaper reporter for eighteen months, what some would consider the perfect job for a writer. But it felt as though the endless meeting coverage, Beef and Pork Queen, corn stories, and legislative coffee coverage was killing me creatively. Now I’m back in a library, doing all my favorite parts of the job, without the responsibilities of a Director, and working on a book about using creativity in everyday life. I always dreamed of being an author or a librarian when I grew up, and now I’m both. 

 

How did you find PaperBackSwap? Any special memories?

I’ve always wanted to own a lot of books. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t have shelves of books in their home. As a teen, I saved every penny of my babysitting money to purchase cheap Scholastic paperbacks. When I began homeschooling in 1992, I had a wonderful excuse for buying books. And for a short while, my husband and I even operated a used bookstore, so I had ready access to books. During that period of time, I was bartering books for clothing, toys, and educational materials for my children, so the idea of swapping books was nothing new to me. I’ve been a member since shortly after its inception, so I can’t even remember how I discovered it.  

I’ll never forget the day a man came to our door, a book in his hand, his wife waiting for him by the car. His name was Pete, and though I can’t remember what state he’d traveled from, he was passing through Iowa to go to a wedding and he’d decided to hand-deliver the children’s book I had ordered. My husband and I stood on the porch together, listening to this man’s story. He’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and he’d consciously made the decision to live every day of the life he had left. His wife came up on the porch and talked to us, too, with tears in her eyes. Their time together was limited, and this man was hand-delivering books to other book lovers, just to touch their lives in some way. He touched ours. After the couple left, David and I sat on the couch and held hands, quiet. His cancer treatment had given us a whole new perspective on life, but meeting Pete gave us a renewed determination to appreciate life and each other. I wrote him later, to tell him how much his gesture had meant to us. It was the next year that I lost David, and I have wondered since about this couple and the gift they had given us in the reminder to cherish each other.

 

Did you read as a child? What was your favorite book growing up?

I was an avid reader as a child, reading anything I could get my hands on. I’ve collected some of my favorites and have a shelf full of childhood reads; books by Lois Lensky, Jean Little, Elizabeth Enright. I loved anything I could identify with and even spent a summer spying on my neighbors, thanks to “Harriet the Spy.” As a teen working at a library, I started with the “A” authors, working my way through the alphabet and the shelves full of adult fiction, certain that by the time I’d graduated, I’d read every book in that library.

And now, what do you read? Do you read for entertainment? For escape? For knowledge? How many books are there in your To Be Read Pile?

I do a lot of research when I am working on a non-fiction book, so right now, I have 12-15 books on creativity in my to-read pile, but when I need a break from non-fiction, there are 10 fiction books in another pile, waiting to be read. I am a big believer in life-long learning, so I read a lot of non-fiction. I keep track of the books I read (and want to read) on Goodreads.com, and my (modest) goal this year is to read 50 books. I read 65 last year, approximately 60% non-fiction. 

 

Mary Potter Kenyon graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a BA in Psychology. She is Senior Services librarian at the James Kennedy Public Library in Dyersville, and a certified grief counselor. She is widely published in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. She is the author of six books, including the award-winning Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace,” and a grief journal slated for publication in early 2018. Mary is a popular public speaker and workshop instructor. See her website at www.marypotterkenyon.com.

 

       

Mary Potter Kenyon has generously offer a copy of 4 of her books to a PaperBackSwap Member who comments here on the blog. A winner will be chosen at random. Good luck!

 

 

Fiction Review – Truly Madly Guilty

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

 

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

Liane Moriarty is one of the authors I have really fallen in love with over the past couple of years.  I’ve read five of her books so far and each one has a gripping, need-to-read feel.  I know many readers have not been overly complimentary of Truly Madly Guilty but I tend to disagree.

Mirah gets a book signed by Liane Moriarty

Mirah gets a book signed by Liane Moriarty

I had the pleasure of attending a book event with Liane Moriarty during her promotional tour for Truly Madly Guilty. She was funny, personable, and self-deprecating. I could instantly see how her personality had come through in her books.  Moriarty said one common theme for all of her books is guilt and what different people do when they carry a burden of guilt. I thought back to her books I had read and realized that guilt did, indeed, have a some role in every story but in Truly Madly Guilty, guilt is front and center in the plot.

Truly Madly Guilty is about six characters who attend a barbecue where ‘something’ happens that changes their lives.  But what happened?!  Moriarty does drag out the story and leave the readers wondering for quite a while.  I admit, I felt very uncomfortable reading this book most of the time.  I had a sinking feeling in my gut during all of the chapters that took place at the barbecue…what was about to happen?  I felt nervous and apprehensive the more I read and even though I didn’t really like the characters, I had to keep reading. I had a similar reaction while reading Gone Girlcheck out my review to that novel here on the blog.  I think when an author has the ability to create such a visceral reaction to a story then she must be doing something right!

The characters in Truly Madly Guilty were not my favorite literary characters. I had a difficult time relating to any of them and that did make it more complicated for me to really care about what happened to them. However, the mystery of the barbecue kept me reading so I decided to give this novel 4 out of 5 stars.  For a 5 star Moriarty recommendation, I would suggest The Husband’s Secret.

 

 

 

 

 

Historical Fiction Review – The Winter Sea

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

When thinking about this review I had a difficult time deciding what category to put it in…The Winter Sea is historical fiction, with the feel of chick lit and modern day fiction and a little fantasy thrown in for good measure.  I decided to go with historical fiction due to the presence of actual historical figures and events that were integral to the success of the novel.  But with all of that said, I hope the readers who claim not to be fans of historical fiction will still give it a chance.

Carrie McClelland is an author conducting research regarding the efforts to restore James Stewart (the young King James) to his throne in Scotland.  Beginning her research in France, where James was living in exile, she soon realizes she actually needs to be in Scotland and changes the perspective of her story.  Through historical research and family connection, Carrie creates the story of Sophia and her place at Slains Castle, her relationships with various supporters of King James, and her love story that transcends war and exile. The depth of Carrie’s connection to the story, and the way in which the truth is revealed to her, leaves her questioning what she has long believed of her family history.

I think Kearsley has a winner with this novel.  She used an interesting format (chapters set in the present day and chapters that were from Carrie’s historical novel that she is writing) and I liked the mirroring of the past in the present. Kearsley carefully weaves together the past and present and makes sure all of the details connect between the past and present. Kearsley created an ethereal love story that left me feeling hopeful and fulfilled with both stories being told.  For creating fantastic characters and leaving me satisfied with the story but still wanting more, I give this novel 5 out of 5 stars.

 

 

 

Mystery Monday – The Track of Sand

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

The Track of Sand by Andrea Camilleri

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

I hesitated to read The Track of Sand, a 2008 mystery that is the twelfth in the series of mysteries starring a Sicilian police inspector. The reason is that the one previous, The Wings of the Sphinx, was so weak. The recurring themes – Salvo’s rocky romance with Livia, globalization as criminal enterprise – felt stale, so I wondered if the series, like The Big Bang Theory, was just going through the motions.

I was pleasantly surprised that international crooks play no part in The Track of Sand. The series hero Salvo Montalbano wakes up one morning to find in his yard the battered carcass of a horse that was beaten to death. Salvo feels admirable grief for the horse and rage at the evil-doing perps. His half-official investigation delves in Mafia schemes and the lifestyles of the filthy rich. A new character, the lovely Rachele Esterman, adds to Salvo’s diversions.

The sense of place still feels authentic and familiar, with Salvo walking on his jetty and sitting on his rock. He still eats local cuisine at Enzo’s trattoria. The translation is extremely smooth and readable, with helpful cultural notes at the end. Camilleri handles skillfully the spectrum of life, from the funny to the horrible, often following each other only in minutes.

The plot, however, is thin and the reveal has a tacked-on feeling. There’s no harm reading this one if human interest and like of characters outplay plot and detecting, but I advise readers new to Camillieri to read – in order, please – The Shape of Water, The Terracotta Dog, The Snack Thief, The Voice of the Violin and Excursion to Tindari.

Save

Save

Jerrie and Richard visit Midway Elementary to distribute books

Thursday, May 18th, 2017
In our recent Books for Kids donation campaign, our generous members donated enough credits and PBS Money to provide 12,511 books to needy children in Georgia. Richard Pickering, President and Founder invited long-time PaperBackSwap member, Jerri Adkins, to join him in distributing books to the students at Midway Elementary. Jerrie, herself, donated all 1200 credits for this school! Below are their memories of that special day.

 

Dear Members,
We all work very hard at PaperBackSwap to bring you the best in swapping books all over the USA.  And our club members are the best!

 

midway 4
Recently, due to your generosity, I had the opportunity to hand out new books to kids at Midway Elementary School (preK – 5th grade).  These kids do not get much in the way of gifts and have a very tough life.  I was honored to be able to hand out these books due to the generosity of so many of you who donated credits in order to make this happen.

 

The smiles on their faces were priceless.  When I explained that they could take 2 new books home with them, they could not believe it.  Many of them brought thank you cards.  And here are a few pictures from the actually event where we met the kids.

 

I can not tell you how proud I am of each and every one of you who made a donation (either with credits, money for shipping, or both).  We have a wonderful community of members who truly care – about each other and through the gift of giving.  Thank you so much for all that you do in making PBS a blessed place to share our love of reading!

 

Richard Pickering
President and Founder of PaperBackSwap

 

 Midway one

 

Y’all know about the School Donation Program, yeah?  It’s one of our very favorite holiday things to do.  It’s such a kick, to donate to a dozen schools in ten states.  Last year, I’d been saving up credits all year, looking forward to it.  But it’s popular, and folks are generous, so it fills up fast.  I wound up with lots of extra credits left over, and jumped up and down a bit.
 
Richard contacted me about something more local with a school he had worked with before.  Now, ego-boost aside, the whole point is to get books to the kids.  (When a book in my house becomes both a book in someone else’s house and a book in a kid’s hands, that’s math I can get behind!)  He did the legwork, and I did the driving (all two hours of it, with a stop to change, so the kids would feel important enough to get dressed-up for).
 
When I got there, I found out he’d been, as the saying goes, busy to some purpose.  There were boxes of books, half a hallway wide, over a classroom long, and nearly ceiling-high.  Richard said, because of doing so many schools close together, he’d been able to get a great break on the shipping, & so get lots more books.  (More math wins!)
 
Fortunately, the media specialists had already sorted out the books for Midway onto age-appropriate tables.  We had to keep shooing the smaller kids away from the big-kid table, as one does.  They brought them in, wave on wave, class after class.  Surf’s up!  I was very grateful Richard & the others were there to help.
 midway 5
It was all an excited, rainbow-butterfly blur for several hours.  Several of the classes made adorable thank-you cards.  Richard kept directing them to me (possibly because I’d brought a bag?).  The children were very excited about the books, talking about reading them, selecting some for siblings, possibly swapping them out in their classrooms, etc.
 
It was lots of fun, but draining.  I was very glad to have done it.  Best of all, there’s now a summer program, so everyone can get in on the fun.
 midway two
Jerrie Adkins
PaperBackSwap Member

 

midway 3

Biography Review – Petty

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

I have been a huge fan of Tom Petty for years.  My earliest recollection is finding my sister’s copy of the Full Moon Fever album but my love for Tom Petty really began in 1993 in Miami and Brazil with the Greatest Hits album; it became the music of my summer.  Any time I hear songs from that album I feel compelled to sing along and I am taken back in time. While I’ve attended Tom Petty concerts and listened to his music for years, I really didn’t know much about the man himself.  In comes Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes.

Zanes chronicles Petty’s life from his childhood in Gainesville, Florida to his meteoric rise in the music industry to his position now as rock royalty.  Petty: The Biography was rated as #4 in Rolling Stone’s top 10 music books of 2015.   Beginning with Tom’s troubled childhood with an abusive father and a mother who tried her best, Tom was determined to get something more from his life that was expected.  It was heartbreaking reading of his accounts of living with his father and the lengths his father’s family went to in an effort to exploit his fame. What sticks with me the most was Tom’s admission that having his brother acknowledge and validate Tom’s abuse at the hands of his father proved that he was not alone or making it worse in his mind than it actually was.  I found that to be truly heart wrenching to read.

Tom’s honesty with Zanes about his struggle through the dark times in his life and the roles of his friends, family, and bandmates was illuminating. I felt in the beginning Zanes spent too much time identifying the myriad of former bandmates of Tom’s and it got very overwhelming. I couldn’t keep a lot of the names straight and it was a lot of ‘he was in the band, he was out of the band’.  I think that could have been streamlined quite a bit.  But whether with The Heartbreakers, The Traveling Wilburys, or Mudcrutch, Tom has created unique sounds that fit each band and over the years he has worked at his bands like a business, which I think is what accounted for much of his success.

I admit I was apprehensive about reading this book because I was afraid something would be divulged that would change how I felt about Tom Petty.  Thankfully that did not happen and I got a deepened respect for the man who overcame personal demons and challenges to being a rock and roll legend. I can’t recommend this book enough to other Tom Petty fans.

 

 

 

Mystery Monday – Epitaph for a Lobbyist

Monday, May 8th, 2017

baa

Epitaph for a Lobbyist by R. B. Dominic

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

An indiscreet memo leaked to the papers by her own daughter implicates Shirley Knapp, lobbyist for energy and oil companies, in a possible case of bribery. The vote to kill a pollution control provision in a new law cost $50,000 in 1974, which would be about $235,000 in today’s purchasing power. Series hero Congressman Ben Safford (D, OH) is named chair of the committee to investigate the charge of bribery.

When Shirley Knapp is found shot to death in her car, Ben leads his committee members as they formally and informally investigate the bribery, which they assume is linked to Knapp’s murder. House members Val Oakes and Lou Flecker are veterans of politics, both conservative, though in different parties. Elsie Hollenbach is a California liberal, moralistic but politically canny. Tony Martinelli is machine Democrat from RI, practical and realistic. Their conversations are intelligent and plausible.

Suspicion falls on the three congressmen that voted to kill the proviso. Although this really limits the number of suspects, I didn’t see whodunit until the reveal. The fair play really is amazing. We are indeed given all we need to know. The reveal proves that we missed the obvious as do our hero congress members. It is often the case that the really sophisticated can be in the end very simple.

The authors of this book were Mary Jane Latsis, an economist, and Martha Henissart, an economic analyst. Both knew from their professional experience that astute people will in fact get distracted and miss what is staring them in the face. They know how people at all levels think and act in business and government. Obviously specific conditions are dated (e.g., the non-partisan respect the politicians have for each other), but classic are the treatments of how people with agile minds and deep experience deal with novel situations. That timelessness is what makes these R.B. Dominic novels – there are seven –worth reading still.

These authors also wrote a couple dozen business mysteries under the pen name of Emma Lathen. Perhaps to distinguish the style of R. B. Dominic, they have the mildly annoying wont of always modifying a verb meaning “say” with an adverb or adverbial phrase: “said reminiscently” or “roared in anger.” Also, people don’t just say things they “mutter,” “interject,” “murmur,” “bleat” and so on. It’s a defect we expect from a whodunnit writer of the 1920s.

 

 

Save

Save

Save