Browsing Archives for Book Giveaways

The book, Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, left a bad taste in my mouth. Something about it was off. Too ripe, too green, too moldy, too full of worms… I don’t know, but the book did not agree with me and it has resulted in a churning stomach for the past several days. Maybe my innards just don’t agree with a ‘locovore’ diet. Give me an orange, give me a pineapple, I never realized that eating fruit could do so much harm.

Ultimately I think it is because I simply don’t understand Ms. Kingsolver’s particular brand of lunacy, which quite frankly was not lunatic enough for my own personal tastes. If you are going to go off the deep end and live by an extremely narrow regime that revolves around eating for one entire year, only food that either you or your nearby neighbors produce then by cracky, you oughtta be able to make that experience a lot more interesting than Ms. Kingsolver did.

What makes a challenge, any challenge, interesting for people to read about is the suffering that occurs as a result. Personally, I try to avoid suffering at any cost. But I don’t mind reading about other people suffering… once in a while… maybe… not really.

Here is my definition of suffering…

Suffering – One single solitary second of discomfort.

The Country Doctor would disagree with that definition. His would be more like this.

Suffering – Proof that you are alive.

This is Barbara Kingsolver’s definition of suffering…

Suffering – Let’s not be unreasonable. Who wants another cup of coffee?

Kingsolver was not really willing to suffer for the sake of her ‘art’ in this book. Her family did not give up chocolate, coffee, olive oil, or spices. They ate out occasionally. If an item was really necessary to make a special dish they would purchase it. For instance, they were unable to find a local source for organic whole wheat flour, but they did not give up homemade bread. Just don’t ask for a banana at their house. It will result in a stern lecture in the car on the way to the store. Bananas are shipped on trucks from far away and that uses up gas. Evidently wheat flour, coffee, chocolate and exotic spices all fly to Virginia on the back of carrier pigeons.

The only time I felt the book had any intrinsic charm was when Kingsolver wrote about her chickens and her turkeys. A momentary spark would flicker and flare as she spoke of her birds. Her daughter Lily was the primary poultry farmer in the family and the chapters that revolved around her and her chickens were sweet and fun to read. Then Kingsolver would go right back to reciting depressing farm factoids, speaking of CAFO’s (whatever those are) and her one and only joke – the professional turkey masturbators .

Yes, I just said turkey masturbators on my blog. I have been de-sensitized to the term now that I have read it four hundred times in Kingsolver’s book. Everything else made me feel judged, paranoid, or wishing the book was over already.Oh and also – the book is almost entirely mirthless (except for the solitary turkey joke). Sorry Kingsolver fans, but I have spent far too many joyous hours wrapped inside of a book about one man or one woman or one family, embracing and rejoicing in a back to the land lifestyle . I have read too many wonderful books about people who live the dream of producing their own food, glorying in the natural world, and understanding their dependence on their neighbors and their community in a much more dramatic way. I am speaking of books like Green Mountain Farm by Elliot Merrick and We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich. These books tell with arching beauty the struggle to survive off the land underneath the author’s feet.

Then there are books like Back to the Damn Soil by Mary Gubser and It Takes a Village Idiot by Jim Mullen which celebrate a life lived in the grasp of Mother Nature due to either economic necessity or to quit smoking (ha ha) with wit and humor.

These books mentioned above revel in the non-stop wrestling match of attempting to grow all your own food and they manage to delightfully scissor a story from the unyielding earth, the wily livestock, the crazy neighbors, and the inevitable visits from the green horn city folk.

Barbara Kingsolver does not even use the terms ‘green horn city folk’ in her book. Nor does she mention any crazy neighbors. Did she really live in the country? Or did she just make this whole book up?

Kingsolver is not the first person to attempt to live off a patch of land and subsequently write a book about it. She is just the first person to make that experience excruciatingly boring while at the same time passing judgement on everyone who grows a crop outside of her narrow ideal. (Except for the coffee and the chocolate farmers).

Now, who wants a copy of Animal Vegetable Miracle?



Seriously, lots of people purchased this book. Whether they managed to slog through to the end of it, I don’t know. I have two copies to give away today. It is possible that you will enjoy it far more than I. You could also give it away on your blog, or to someone who you are trying to impress with your ecologically sound choices.

I also have a copy of Elliot Merrick’s book Green Mountain Farm to give away today. Merrick is the author of the adventure classic True North. I have never read True North, nor the subsequent Northern Nurse, which told the story of his wife’s life in Labrador, but I have been utterly swept away several times, by the literary beauty of Green Mountain Farm. This book is everything that Kingsolver’s book is not. Merrick shows.. he doesn’t tell. If his book does not make you want to run to Vermont and buy a derelict, windswept farm just so you can crash through the ice on your cross country skis, when you are not chopping wood, planting a garden or attempting to resurrect a house and barn from scrap lumber, I don’t know what will. Like Merrick himself, this book is layered in lyrical beauty, sparkling with wisdom gained from extreme hardship and crosshatched in wit. Perhaps I should send a copy to Barbara Kingsolver?

This giveaway has come to an end.

I recently placed a huge order at Alibris, my favorite on-line used bookstore for some new book giveaways. The new books will start arriving any day forcing me to clear some space on my desk for all the new books which brings me to the reason for this post…

I know… it has a certain ring to it doesn’t it? 

Earlier this Fall, I was all hyped up to do a James Bond Giveaway. I had the books, I took the photos, I prepared a James Bond survey where readers could choose their favorite Bond, I rehearsed my speech, I chose my outfit, I brushed my hair, I groomed the cats… and then I went to see the Quantum Solace, the new James Bond movie.

It was such a disappointment to me, that I lost heart and could not bring myself to post the give-away. Then I felt like such an old fuddy duddy for not liking the new James Bond movie that I struggled with even looking at myself in the mirror for several days. Then I read several reviews that basically felt the same way that I did -that the missing gadgets, and the quirky characters, and wondering if James Bond was suffering an identity crisis and thinking he was actually Jason Bourne, that I started to feel a tiny bit better. I did appreciate the scene in Quantum Solace where Bond refused to stay in a run-down hotel and moved over to more glamorous headquarters as that’s my James! I recognized that guy! But everything else was weird and new and all cutting edge and trying too hard… and it seemed that the real James… the suave James… the cool, collected, debonair James… had disappeared into a new James… a moody James… a brooding James… and I didn’t quite know how to connect to him.

So I put the give-away on the back burner and moved on with my life.

Now that I have had sufficient time to grieve and to heal, I really need to give away these James Bond Books.

They are not just any James Bond Books. They are James Bond for kids books!

Charlie Higson, a writer for British sit-coms, is the author of the series. The books are wonderful action/adventure/thrillers that tell the stories of a young James Bond, orphaned and residing in an English boys boarding school where he manages to get himself caught up in world wide intrigue and espionage on a regular basis. I have the first three books of the series to give away today. The first book, Silver Fin is really the best one, but the others are also entertaining reads.

I also have a copy of Where the Red Fern Grows up for grabs today. The Country Doctor read this book aloud to my kids several years ago and the boys loved it. It is a great classic adventure tale of a boy and his beloved dogs.

I have two books (possibly three) that were unclaimed from previous give-aways. If you are the winner of one of these books and you would like to get the book now, you can certainly e-mail me at Otherwise, this copy of House Dreams by Hugh Howard is up for grabs again. I wrote about it here – but in quick synopsis, it is the non-fiction story of a man building a house. I have probably read it six times… but please remember, I have a slight “people building houses and writing a book about the experience” addiction problem.

Also never claimed, was this copy of S. J. Perelman’s Acres and Pains, a true classic. Acres and Pains is the hilarious story of a city man taking on country life with nothing but a ruddy handy man, a pitchfork and his sterling wit. No one does it better than S. J. Perelman. I wrote more about this author here.

I gave away a few Jeanne Marie Laskas books a while ago. Ms. Laskas is another one of those crazy people with the ability to move from a well established city life to the crazy turmoil of country life and write about it with style and humor. In this book she also writes of her attempt to start a family and the eventual arrival of her little girl.. or maybe that is the other book??? I can’t remember! Either way, Jeanne is a wonderful writer and I am pretty sure that this is a wonderful story. Oh… she likes dogs and horses and other animals too and manages to collect quite a menagerie. Something for everybody!

And now for something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!
This book has come up frequently in the lists of favorites among the comments of the crazy people who read this blog. A Confederacy of Dunces is really one of those books everyone who likes to read… should read… yes… should… mostly because I would hate for any “reader” to be at a cocktail party or a backyard barbecue, or a book club meeting, or checking out at the grocery store and for this book to come up in the course of conversation and for you not to have read it and not be able to talk about it like a well versed expert.

For what would life be if one can’t occasionally be the expert?

Or at least pretend to be the expert.

There is so much to be said about this book, and I am running out of time because I am meeting a friend for lunch today and I still haven’t fixed my hair or brushed my teeth! So please – click this link here to read about the book, the Pulitzer prize it won, as well as the tragic and sad ending of the author John Kennedy Toole’s life prior to the book being published.

To enter the give-away, simply leave a comment. If comments are just too infuriating for you, you may also e-mail me at You may request one of the books in your entry, but I can’t make any guarantees. Winners will be chosen randomly. This contest will end at 9:00 am CST Thursday January 8th.

Off to lunch!


Sorrowfully and with much wringing of the hands, I must tell you that this contest is over.

On Tuesday evening, I had the wonderful opportunity to go and hear author Jeannette Walls, speak in Lawrence at the University of Kansas.




Jeannette wrote the best selling, heart-wrenching memoir, The Glass Castle.

The Glass Castle tells the story of Jeannette’s childhood. She was raised along with three siblings, by an alcoholic father with a huge capacity for firing his children’s imaginations with tales of the CIA being on their tail… and a mother… who when faced with the choice of painting a picture or feeding her kids… invariably chose to paint.The family roamed the country from Arizona to West Virginia, often homeless, usually on the run from bill collectors and gambling debts. The children were occasionally left with derelict relatives. If the family did have a home, they rarely had indoor plumbing, heat or electricity. All the while the children reveled in the fantasies of their father, who insisted it was all a big adventure.  The miraculous part of Jeannette’s book is that she manages to tell the story of her appalling childhood without an ounce of guile. 

Fast forward twenty odd years… Jeannette is a successful journalist and celebrity gossip columnist living on Park Avenue in New York City. Even though she had attained every symbol of success a young career woman could ever hope to achieve, she still lives with a cloud of fear and shame hovering over her, thinking that one day her past will be discovered and she will once again become an object of ridicule. But this time, instead of high school classmates taunting her dirty clothes and ramshackle home, it would be co- workers and friends shunning her because her parents still lived on the streets and Jeanette was powerless to change them.

A series of strange and chance circumstances eventually force Jeannette to face her past and she decides the only way she can “face down her demons” is to write her story.

Jeannette attempted several versions of the book before deciding to tell the story from the perspective of herself as a little girl. Through the eyes of a young Jeanette, the reader experiences the chaos, the hunger, the embarrassment, the filth, but ALSO the way her parents created magic out of nothing, gave their kids the gift of optimism, survival, resilience, strength and did I say optimism? Because Jeannette Walls has a truly unique and unsurpassed ability to put a positive spin on the most dire of circumstances.

As hard as it is to think of a child growing up the way Jeannette did, it is truly amazing to listen to her not only conquer her dismal past, but also walk away from it with glowing trophies gathered from the smoking ruins.


And her mother lives with her now… out back… behind her estate… in a “vinyl cottage”. She takes care of Jeannette’s horses… horses Jeanette bought because she knew they might be the only thing that would tempt her mother at 74 years of age away from living on the streets in New York City. Jeannette’s father is deceased.

Jeannette said, “my mother is a very fun, charming, up beat, optimistic person… as long as you are not depending on her to take care of you…”.

Look! Here is Jeannette autographing a copy of her book, The Glass Castle!





This is what her autograph looks like. See how optimistic it is?!?!






It was a courageous act for Jeanette to comb through her past and deliver this jewel of a book.  






I am so glad she did.