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Book review: An Obvious Fact

Book Review :: An Obvious Fact

I've fallen so far behind in getting my book reviews on the blog and I apologize for that. I'll try to catch up a little here in the coming weeks so you can have some ideas for holiday book gifts. And of course, I'm always a pusher for this man's books, so if you know someone who isn't reading them yet, they'd make a great gift for sure. So here's the most recent Walt Longmire from Craig Johnson--make sure you read the acknowledgements, it's a bonus story! My review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
First line: "I tried to think how many times I'd kneeled down on asphalt to read the signs, but I knew this was the first time I'd done it in Hulett."
Book review: An Obvious FactFor the twelfth novel in Craig Johnson's highly addictive mystery series, Absaroka County sheriff, Walt Longmire, and his best friend, Henry Standing Bear, are in Hulett, Wyoming during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. It's August and bikers from around the world are pouring into the area when one of them is run off the road and left in a coma. The investigating officer calls on Walt to help solve the crime. While following the clues, Walt encounters hostile biker gangs, an undercover ATF agent, the namesake for Henry's '59 Thunderbird and a 15-ton, military-grade MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle. Meanwhile Walt's undersheriff, Vic Moretti, shows up in her rental car, a bright orange Dodge Challenger. The suspense ratchets to nose-bleed levels and the action races non-stop. Paying homage to what is arguably the most famous orange Dodge, albeit a Charger, Johnson includes a rip-roaring car chase complete with a field full of hay bales. The Dukes of Hazard would certainly be proud. Rounding out a dozen books with his beloved sheriff, not to mention short stories and novellas, Johnson hasn't lost a step. An Obvious Fact is fresh and exciting, while still maintaining all the attributes that make this series so popular. It's witty and complex with pop culture weaved into clever Sherlock Holmes literary references. The brilliantly colorful, snappy dialogue remains second to none. And dynamic characters surprise and delight readers with their charm, authenticity and depth. The most obvious fact is not deceptive at all; Craig Johnson writes a mighty fine story.

New Photo Friday – Week 13

jennifer forbus - new photo friday Happy Friday everyone! We're supposed to have a little spurt of warmish weather today in Northeast Ohio, so I'm in a stellar mood. This week has been rather crazy busy but sunshine and warm temps are the perfect remedy for almost anything in my sphere. I hope you're able to enjoy today as well. I'm going to share a photo today from my photography class last night. My group was working on low-key lighting, which I LOVE. The dramatic effect of this lighting approach definitely grabs the eye and it's a fairly easy technique with little equipment needed. We used two off-camera flashes on this shot, one with a shoot-through umbrella and one with a softbox. For this shot, I used an ISO of 100, an aperture of 4.0 and a shutter speed of 1/125. New Photo Friday - Low Key Lighting Let me know what you think. Have you ever tried this technique? And if you have a photo to share this week, let us know where to find it. I'd love to take a look. Thanks for stopping by. I'm hoping to get some bookish posts up next week as well as my new photo, so do keep an eye out. And have a wonderful weekend!
New Photo Friday - Maddee James

New Photo Friday – Week 12

Happy Friday everyone! And I apologize for no photo last week. I just ran out of time before I had to set off for Milwaukee, which is where this week's photo comes from. In our workshop for the Erie Shores Photography Club we worked on family portraits using flash photography, which was a great exercise. And in my class this week, we photographed a dancer. I'm also entering photos in our club's competition for the first time this month. Cross your fingers for me. So a lot of fun photography stuff going on.

Jen

The picture I'm sharing this week I took when I went out for a little stroll in Milwaukee. I just did a little jaunt around the immediate neighborhood of the Irish Cultural Center. This little weed caught my attention so I played with some depth of field on it. I shot this at an aperture of 2.8 and 1/160 second shutter speed (ISO 100). I don't have a macro lens, so it lacks a lot of the great detail a macro would have brought in, but it still tickled my fancy. New Photo Friday - weed

Maddee J.

Maddee is infusing this week's post with some color! Here's what she has to say about her photo this week: "I know I seem to be rose-obsessed but I’m really not at all… in fact I just removed a bunch from my yard! BUT — I love taking photos of them because they’re so luscious and layered! This is taken with my iPhone early one morning and the cool thing is that I wasn’t wearing my close-up glasses so actually had NO idea that morning frost lined these petals. It was a beautiful surprise when I got home and downloaded them to my computer where I could really see! Anyway, the colors of this rose are like orange-strawberry sherbet! One of my favorite flower shots I’ve ever taken. :)" New Photo Friday - Maddee James I hope you've enjoyed the photos week. Be sure to let us know if you have one you'd like us to check out. I hope your weekend is filled with great books and photograph-worthy moments!
Book Review - Fredrik Backman

Book review :: And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

First line: "There's a hospital room at the end of a life where someone, right in the middle of the floor, has pitched a green tent."
Book Review - Fredrik BackmanIt isn't Black Friday yet, but I have my first literary gift recommendation for 2016. Fredrik Backman's new novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, is stunning. This beautiful little book is a gem of a read that will be devoured in a couple of hours at most, but will demand to be read over and over. Backman's amazing stroll through the lives of three generations--father, son and grandson--will make your heart smile through the tears your soul cries. He paints a debilitating disease using his magnificent brush of creativity. In phrases only he could compose (and Alice Menzies deserves accolades for her astounding translation), the man who brought us Ove, Elsa and Britt-Marie, tells a mesmerizing story of minds that betray before the bodies wears out. A story of sons and grandsons who have to say goodbye to someone who's still with them. In his letter at the book's opening, Backman says, "This is a story about memories and about letting go. It's a love letter and a slow farewell between a man and his grandson, and between a dad and his boy." Parts of the book take place in the man's mind, a lovely little town square that he says gets smaller every day. The faces of the people that pass are fuzzy. They look familiar but he simply can't focus in on exactly who they are. The man's grandson, Noah, sits with him in his mind. "Noah's feet don't touch the ground when his legs dangle over the edge of the bench, but his head reaches all the way to space, because he hasn't been alive long enough to allow anyone to keep his thoughts on Earth." The man's wife also visits him in his mind. She's been dead awhile now. "Her hair is old but the wind in it is new, and he still remembers what it felt like to fall in love; that's the last memory to abandon him. Falling in love with her meant having no room in his own body. That was why he danced." While the heart-breaking dementia invades the man's mind, Backman helps the reader experience his glorious life--his blessings as well as regrets. This gorgeous, little volume has less than 100 pages and includes delightful, color illustrations throughout. After you get a copy for yourself--this is one you'll want to keep, but really what Backman don't you want to keep!?--snag some extras to tuck in stockings, to share with friends and family who might be experiencing something similar, or just to gift to someone you care about. I'd add a package of tissues to the gift though. You won't get through this one without crying.
New Photo Friday - long exposure

New Photo Friday – Week 11

jennifer forbus - new photo friday Happy Friday friends! I hope you had a great week. Mine was a whirlwind it feels like. How is it the last Friday of October already? As I mentioned last week, I went to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park last Saturday with my photography club--Erie Shores Photography Club--and shot beautiful nature. We saw three different falls and a nature trail. It was such a wonderful--and exhausting--day. This weekend is going to be a little mundane as I have a lot of work to catch up on, but next weekend is Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee. Are you planning to attend? I'm looking forward to a fun bookish weekend since I had to miss the last two M&Ms. So let's move on to this week's photos!

Jen

I had a hard time picking which photo to use today. We had such great content to shoot. I have a few heron images that came out nice from the nature trail, but I opted for a water image because I used long exposure for these and I really haven't done that technique in the past. And I was like a fascinated little kid. I'd adjust my settings to use the fastest shutter speed I could and then I'd go to the slowest, and then I'd play with the ones in between. So I ended up with a slew of the same shots, just different water effects. (It really doesn't take much to amuse me!) This one ended up being one of my favorites. The leaves aren't spectacular, we're having an overall disappointing color change this year--maybe due to the strange weather--but there's still some color. The shot was taken with an ISO of 100, an aperture of 18 and a 20 second shutter speed. Obviously I took this on a tripod at that shutter speed. 😉 New Photo Friday - long exposure

Maddee J.

Maddee is sharing some faith with us this week. She has a lovely church, and this is what she shared about it: "I took this in San Miguel de Allende, like last week’s photo.  It’s this amazing church in the main square.  Taken with my iPhone in the evening so the edges aren’t sharp… but the lighting was so pretty, and I adore palm trees so the lone one there next to the church made me happy!" New Photo Friday - San Miguel de Allende So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed our photos this week. Definitely let us know if you have pictures we can come check out. And have a wonderful last weekend of October!
New Photo Friday - Maddee Week 10

New Photo Friday – Week 10

jennifer forbus - new photo friday Happy Friday friends! We've hit a little milestone today at week 10 of the New Photo Friday feature. I hope you've been enjoying the photos. It's keeping me on my toes and reminding me to practice, practice, practice. This weekend the Erie Shores Photography Club is heading out to shoot some waterfalls, so I may have a lovely nature photo for next week's post. Earlier in the week I was able to see the movie of A Man Called Ove. If you're not familiar with the book or my fan girl obsession with it, check out my review from a few years back. My review was blurbed for an ad in the New York Times. My claim to fame. 😉 I'm working on a movie review, which I'll hopefully post for you next week. Stay tuned. Now on to the main event...

Jen

I worked on some portraits of my sister and her kids this week, so I thought I'd share one of these. My niece is a joy to photograph as she's so natural in front of the camera. My nephew is a little more challenging. His smile often looks forced and he never seems to be able to relax when the lens is turned on him. So a number of pictures I caught of him that were unplanned ended up being some of my favorites. This one. I like the way the shadows play on his face and the contemplative expression he has. I took this one with my 50mm lens. I used an ISO of 100, an aperture of 1.8 and a shutter speed of 1/640 of a second. New Photo Friday - portraits

Maddee J.

Maddee has a beautiful nature shot for this week's photo. Here's what she has to say about this one: "Taken with my iPhone on a cloudy/rainy morning walk.  When I took this, I tapped the iPhone focus to get the drops on the leaf in the best focus (as opposed to the flower in the foreground).  I was amazed at how beautifully clear some of them are.  I’ve taken [or rather, tried to take] many photos like this and it’s hard to get the focus to really kick in so I was happy about this!  I also LOVE the colors!!" Me too! New Photo Friday - Maddee Week 10 How about you? What do you think of this week's photos? Do you have one to share with us? Leave us a link in the comments if you do. We'd love to check them out.
New Photo Friday - Bokah

New Photo Friday – Week 9

Happy Friday, friends! The leaves are turning colors here and I'm off this morning to take pictures. I hope you're looking forward to a wonderful weekend. I'm going to dig right into our pictures today because I'm super excited about today's selections. So here we go...

Jen

This year I joined my local photography club, Erie Shores Photography Club. And on Wednesday we did a workshop that centered around focus, depth of field and bokah. I had seen bokah before but had never done any photography with it. So we got this video ahead of the workshop. And another club member mentioned doing cut-outs for her lens, so I looked up information on that and found this site. Armed with that information, I made myself some cut-outs and created this photo: New Photo Friday - Bokah My hearts didn't come out quite as defined as I would have liked, but I was delighted at this result for my first time. These are actually Christmas lights in a clear vase. I shot the picture using my 50mm lens (on a tripod), aperture 1.8, shutter speed 1/40 sec, ISO 100. Have you tried bokah before? I'm taking a Photoshop class right now and I might try some of my blending mode activities with this image. I'll let you know how the results come out.

Maddee J.

This week from Maddee we have a picture from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (I love this frog!). She says, " I’m a huge fan of fountains and take photos of them every chance I get. I just adore off-kilter images but I wonder if I would like it even more if I had gotten the entire fountain and cool frog sculpture in. Not sure; I kind of like it as is. What do you all think? (taken with iPhone, no filter)" New Photo Friday - fountain
New Photo Friday - Carmel

New Photo Friday – Week 8

jennifer forbus - new photo friday Happy Friday everyone! I hope you had a great week. We had a lovely week here in Northeast Ohio. I'm trying to soak it all up because I know it's not going to stay for much longer. *sigh* I've had an especially busy photography week, doing more work on my class project and taking some pictures of a Halloween house. I had hoped to post a Woollybear Festival picture this week, but I didn't end up staying long at the festival because it was SO crazy crowded. At least a half a dozen people told me Rufus looked like a woollybear. Too funny. Anyway, this weekend is going to bring some photography excitement for me as I'm going to be a second shooter at a small wedding. Cross your fingers for me, and pray I don't mess up. I'm a wee bit nervous.

Jen

Since I just posted about my project last week and I put the Halloween house on Facebook, I'll share a picture I took this week of my spider. She comes out every night on my porch and spins her web. I'm trying to capture her for a creepy-crawlies competition with our Erie Shores Photography Club. This one isn't going to cut it--it's not very sharp--but I'm going to keep trying. I shot this one using my 50mm lens at ISO 6400, aperture f1.8, shutter speed 1/100s. New Photo Friday - creepy crawlies

Maddee

This week Maddee has switched to her Canon Rebel, which she says is "the original model, actually, which shows how old it is!" She took this stunning image in Carmel, CA, just after the sun went down. She used her automatic setting and no filter. I love the clouds in this one! New Photo Friday - Carmel And that does it for another New Photo Friday. I hope you enjoyed our new photos for this week. Let us know if you have a new photo from this week that we can come and check out. In the mean time, I'm off to practice for tomorrow and try to keep from hyperventilating. Have a great weekend!
Book review: Balls by Chris Edwards

Book review :: Balls

Earlier this week, Chris Edwards' debut released. My review of Balls: It Takes Some to Get Some was my first to appear in Shelf Awareness Pro, so it's a little longer than the reviews I have from SA Readers. I am just delighted to post it today with their permission because right now this is my absolute favorite book of 2016. It blew. me. away. I hope you'll give it a try. And if you do, let me know what you think! Here's what I thought...
First line: So I'm standing there, peeing at a urinal for the first time.
Book review: Balls by Chris EdwardsIn this bold memoir about gender dysphoria and gender confirmation surgery, Chris Edwards explains, "That feeling of finally being complete—of being who you really are—trumps everything." It ultimately takes Edwards more than three decades and 28 surgeries to realize his consummate body, but in 1974, at five years old, he already knows his true gender. It's everyone around him who seems to be confused, so in his childish wisdom he deduces the answer is as simple as a haircut: "Since everything about me was boy-like—my clothes, my toys, my obsession with all superheroes except for Wonder Woman and her lame, invisible plane—I put my five-year-old brain to work and determined that the only thing lumping me in with the girls was my hair length." However, a haircut doesn't stop the female body from developing around the man locked inside. Throughout high school and college—breasts, menstruation, estrogen and a sorority—Edwards battles depression and thoughts of suicide. Using a cunning blend of heartbreaking sincerity and humor, he navigates his audience through this excruciating stage of his life: "I was apparently too scared to actively take my own life, I drove around without a seatbelt on, hoping for someone to hit me. And I was hit. Twice. But both times the car was parked and I wasn't in it." When Edwards, through the help of an amazing counselor, is finally able to share his battle with his family and friends, he finds support, compassion and encouragement. Despite his first instinct to move away and transition, Edwards remains at his job in a Boston advertising firm and courageously opens his quest to the company's board members, his colleagues and the clients. While everyone doesn't always understand, he patiently educates them—and his readers. Edwards also invites everyone to laugh with him—learning to pee standing up, mistakenly inviting the wrong woman on a date. His stark openness and dogged determination allow the audience to identify with him through their similarities, instead of fearing the differences. Balls is a stunning self-portrait of an exceptional man, an inspiration for others who may be a gender not recognized by those around them. And it is a primer for those fortunate enough to be born "complete." With eloquence and grace, as well as sharp wit and brutal honesty, Edwards explains to his audience, "The key to understanding gender dysphoria is realizing that sexual orientation and gender identity are two totally different and completely separate things." More than anything, he exemplifies the definition of bravery. From opening himself up to his family, friends and colleagues to sharing the intimate details of his story with the entire world, Chris Edwards has no shortage of...um...MOXIE! 😉 Smart, funny, genuine and uplifting, Balls is sure to win a lot of hearts.

Book review :: Rise the Dark

Don't fall over because I'm posting a review today. I don't mean to cause any cardiac problems for anyone. 😉 Today's review for Michael Koryta's Rise the Dark first appeared as a starred review in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Of course it also appeared there in a more timely fashion, but for those who missed it, I'm posting it here today with their permission.
First line: The snow had been falling for three days above six thousand feet, but it had been gentle and the lines stayed up.
book review - rise the dark Markus Novak, no longer investigating for the Florida-based Death Row defense firm Innocence Incorporated, is taking on the intimately personal case that has plagued him since his introduction in Michael Koryta's Last Words--the murder of his wife, Lauren. Garland Webb, the man accused of killing Lauren, is out of prison, and Novak is determined to exact justice for both Lauren and himself. He just has to find the monster first. Webb's trail leads Novak back to the scene of Lauren's death. Then it takes a sharp turn, introducing him to an honest-to-goodness Pinkerton PI and sending them both to a place Novak swore he would never return, Red Lodge, Montana. Here Novak's past collides with his present, and he uncovers the truth behind Webb--who is just the tip of a terrifying iceberg--as well as the meaning of words left on Lauren's notebook before she was murdered, "Rise the dark." As Koryta raises the dark on his determined protagonist with a brilliantly sadistic villain, Novak races time to prevent a global crisis. Koryta's second installment in the Mark Novak series is easily appreciated on its own, but readers of Last Words and Koryta's standalone Those Who Wish Me Dead will delight in small references to his earlier works. While some of the explanations for electrical processes deter from the thrilling action, Koryta constructs an enveloping atmosphere that artfully merges the landscape's beauty with the plot's terror and the darkness of his characters. This dichotomy ramps up the suspense, making Rise the Dark heart-poundingly swift and chock full of explosive excitement.