Saturday, April 25, 2015

Video Reviews: BBC HOME ENTERTAINMENT Wings 3D, Planet Dinosaur 3D, Tiny Giants 3D

My Review:
This is such a magical movie that takes you on a journey with a variety of birds through a variety of settings. There is something for everyone in this movie. Weather you love birds, like I do, or are somebody who just enjoys nature this movie will blow your mind.  You will see what wonderful video and photography. along with some of the latest technology can create.  This movie was both awe inspiring to myself and my kids.  It has so much beauty, just enough narration and a story that makes you marvel as nature and it's wondrous ways.  5 stars

Planet Dinosaur 3D (Blu-ray)

Transporting viewers to locations across the planet and back through hundreds of millions of years, Planet Dinosaur brings to life the most amazing, surprising and strange prehistoric creatures that ever lived. Narrated by John Hurt (Doctor Who, the Harry Potter films), this groundbreaking series uses the latest CGI and cutting-edge research to reveal the secrets of these newly discovered giants, weaving a dramatic story of survival laced with scientific developments. This is unlike any dinosaur show you’ve ever seen – a completely immersive 3D experience studded with curious facts, jaw-dropping action and charismatic monsters whose discovery entailed a re-write of the prehistory books.

My Review:
Wow, this is such an awesome movie that both adults and children will enjoy.  I was obsessed with dinosaurs when I was a child and this movie brings that love and admiration jumping out of the TV in the most brilliant way.  My boys and I were enthralled by this movie.  Created through some of the latest technology this movie is a must watch for all dino lovers out there.  Simply amazing and awe inspiring.  5 stars

Tiny Giants 3D (Blu-ray)

The incredibly immersive power of specialist 3D cameras transports viewers in a very intimate way into another world to experience the titanic battles these creatures face to survive. Narrated by Stephen Fry (TheHobbit films, 24: Live Another Day), Tiny Giants 3D reveals the astonishing lives of tiny animals in an adventure of giant proportions.

My Review: 
I think this is seriously one of the cutest and most interesting videos I have ever seen.  These 2 tiny giants were a hoot to watch and amazing to learn about.  My kids, and the neighbor kids, sat quietly totally engrossed by the 2 tiny giants...a chipmunk and a mouse.  I never knew the things they had to do to survive.  It was so inspiring to see nature at its best and to see how much fight these tiny animals have inside of them.  You cannot help but cheer them on.  I cannot say enough how much I adored this movie!  Add in 3D and you have a unforgettable movie experience!!!  5 stars. 


Friday, April 24, 2015

Showcase: Shotgun Lovesongs and Beneath the Bonfire by Nickolas Butler

Well, here is WI we are in the middle of my favorite week ever, well next to Christmas that is...
is now underway!  I have had so much fun so far and saw some amazing writers that I have always wanted to see and some that are new to me. And I still have 3 more days to go!!!  
What an amazing week it has been.  
Making memories, building up my signed book collection and being inspired by the writers that create stories that change my life.

  Yesterday, I was honored to listen to Nickolas Butler read from his novel 
and what a brilliant book...such honestly, imagery and characters worth getting to know.  Butler was kind enough to be interviewed by me and I am so thankful that he took time to answer of few of my questions.  

Thanks so much Nickolas!!!


Hank, Leland, Kip and Ronny were all born and raised in the same Wisconsin town — Little Wing — and are now coming into their own (or not) as husbands and fathers. One of them never left, still farming the family's land that's been tilled for generations. Others did leave, went farther afield to make good, with varying degrees of success; as a rock star, commodities trader, rodeo stud. And seamlessly woven into their patchwork is Beth, whose presence among them—both then and now—fuels the kind of passion one comes to expect of love songs and rivalries.

Now all four are home, in hopes of finding what could be real purchase in the world. The result is a shared memory only half-recreated, riddled with culture clashes between people who desperately wish to see themselves as the unified tribe they remember, but are confronted with how things have, in fact, changed.

There is conflict here between longtime buddies, between husbands and wives — told with writing that is, frankly, gut-wrenching, and even heartbreaking. But there is also hope, healing, and at times, even heroism. It is strong, American stuff, not at all afraid of showing that we can be good, too — not just fallible and compromising. Shotgun Lovesongs is a remarkable and uncompromising saga that explores the age-old question of whether or not you can ever truly come home again — and the kind of steely faith and love returning requires.


Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, has become an international bestseller and won numerous accolades, including France's Prix Page/America, previously won by Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding. Now, in Beneath the Bonfire, he demonstrates his talent for portraying "a place and its people with such love that you'll find yourself falling for them, too" (Josh Weil, author of The Great Glass Sea).

Young couples gather to participate in an annual "chainsaw party," cutting down trees for firewood in anticipation of the winter. A group of men spend a weekend hunting for mushrooms in the wilderness where they grew up and where some still find themselves trapped. An aging environmentalist takes out his frustration and anger on a singular, unsuspecting target. One woman helps another get revenge against a man whose crime extends far beyond him to an entire community. Together, the ten stories in this dazzling, surprising collection evoke a landscape that will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has traveled the back roads and blue highways of America, and they completely capture the memorable characters who call it home.

Nickolas Butler

Nickolas Butler is the author of the novel "Shotgun Lovesongs" and a forthcoming collection of short stories entitled, "Beneath the Bonfire".

Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania and raised in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, he was educated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop. His work has appeared in: Ploughshares, The Christian Science Monitor, The Kenyon Review Online, Narrative, The Progressive, and many other publications.

Along the way he has worked as: a meatpacker, a Burger King maintenance man, a liquor store clerk, a coffee roaster, an office manager, an author escort, an inn-keeper (twice), and several other odd vocations.

He presently lives on 16 acres of land in rural Wisconsin adjacent to a buffalo farm. He is married with two children.

Q.  What inspires your writing?

A. On a pragmatic level, writing is how I make my living.  If I'm not writing, I'm not making money; I don't have another job.  On a more romantic level, I'm inspired by nature, by art of all kinds, by friends, by things overheard in everyday life...  I think, as a writer, you have to be paying attention to everything and everyone.  There are stories everywhere, inside everyone.

Q.  What is your favorite thing about being an writer?

A. I'm living my dream.  Short of holding a clipboard for Aaron Rodgers, I wouldn't want to do anything else.  Being a writer is an amazing blessing.  When I'm writing, I'm engaging my imagination, my memory, my senses, my own philosophy.  And I get to travel the world meeting readers, librarians, professors, teachers, and booksellers.  What could be better?

Q.  What is the toughest part of being an writer?

A. Writing.  When I'm feeling very inspired, writing comes easily, everything flows.  But it isn't always that easy, and that's when writing becomes tough.  You're all alone, staring at a wall, or a computer screen, waiting for a mysterious muse to whisper into your ear - which is of course a joke.  There is no muse.

Q.  If you could not be writer, what would you do/be?

A. I was a coffee-roaster for three years, and I very much enjoyed that.  I think brewing beer would also be fun.  I don't know.  I also think being a librarian would be rewarding - surrounded by books and movies and music.

Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?

A.  I don't know...  It's a good question.  I'm 35 years old, and I feel like my life is just beginning.  Two small kids, a great marriage, doing exactly what I want to be doing.  Ask me again in five years.

Q.  Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?

A. A Moveable Feast or The Sun Also Rises or The Nick Adams Stories...  all by Hemingway.

Q.  What do you want to be remembered for 100 years from now?

A. 100 years from now, my grandchildren will be in the middle of their lives.  I hope that they remember me as a kind old man who was still curious about the world, who loved cigars, beer and wine, and the natural world, and everything that makes us human.  I'd love to have a pet crow.  I'd love to learn how to care for horses.  I'd like to become a better poet.  I just want to people to remember me for being kind, generous, maybe brave.

Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.

A.  I met a woman in a bookstore who thought I was Nicholas Sparks.  When she finally accepted that I was NOT Nicholas Sparks, she seemed very disappointed that she had purchased my book. 

Q.  Are you working on something new?

A. Yes.  Working on a new novel about three generations of fathers and sons and mothers and sons visiting the same northern Wisconsin Boy Scout camp.  I think its about love, fatherhood, marriage, divorce, and becoming a man.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Tracey Scott-Townsend: Another Rebecca and The Last Time We Saw Marion


On the cusp of adulthood, Rebecca Grey has no idea where her life is headed. Like many of us, she struggles to build a sustainable identity, a task made even harder by the fact that her mother is engaged in an extended breakdown and her absent father has another family to worry about. Dealing with their problems leaves little time for her own, and pretty soon, something has to give. As she toils under the weight of a tragedy that was never hers to begin with, Rebecca faces the impossible task of carving out a future for herself, all the while shadowed by the mistakes of her parents. Told with an experienced voice through the eyes of three characters, Another Rebecca tells the story of one family’s moving inability to let go of the past. 


Meeting author Callum Wilde is the catalyst that turns Marianne Fairchild's fragile sense of identity on its head, evoking demons that will haunt two families. She is seventeen and has spent her life fighting off disturbing memories that can't possibly belong to her. His twin sister Marion died seventeen years ago. When Cal and his older sister Sarah spot Marianne in the audience of a TV show that Cal is recording, they are stunned by her uncanny resemblance to Marion. They have to find out who she is, but they both soon come to regret the decision to draw her into their lives. Events spiral out of control for all of them, but whilst Cal and Sarah each manage to find a way to move on, Marianne is forced to relinquish the one precious thing that could have given her life some meaning. The book is set in a haunting estuary landscape of mudflats, marshes and the constant resonance of the sea. The Last Time We Saw Marion is the story of two families - but the horrible truth is that two into one won't go... 

Tracey Scott-Townsend
Author of Another Rebecca

Q.  What inspires your writing?

A. Everything. Feelings about everything. I’m amazed simply by the fact of being alive, always have been since I knew I was alive. It’s perplexing and phenomenal. I’m better at coping with feelings now than I was when I was young though, and they’re what make me a writer. But anyway, what inspires me is the human condition and all that. Especially motherhood. And sex. Being connected in the deepest ways to other human beings. (And animals and nature – so back to ‘everything’ then.)

Q.  What is your favorite thing about being a writer?

A. The joy of creation. You create worlds through writing. It’s a privilege to have this gift, and I mean it in the sense that it feels like someone gave me a present: the ability to invent lives and events and bring places to life through the power of description. As a writer you’re also (mainly) in control of your own life and it’s entirely up to you whether the work gets done. I like that. A dedicated writing space is important to me (mine is my shed) because when I go in there I’m telling myself the serious work starts here.

Q.  What is the toughest part of being a writer?

A. Having other stuff to do. Every night when I go to bed (due to lack of ability to keep eyes open any longer) I tell myself I’ll be out in the shed first thing. But then there’s the kitchen to wipe down and the evening meal to prepare and the toilet to clean. Before you know it, it’s no longer ‘first thing. It’s really down to self-discipline.

Q.  If you could not be writer, what would you do/be?

A. Before writing full-time I worked as a visual artist. But if we’re talking something completely different I’d be a maker of some kind and hopefully someone with more business sense than me would help me create a viable business. I once designed a baby-carrying sling and sold a few of them. I also came up with an idea of dolls with a background story told through an interactive website. Other than something creative, I’d work with young people, hoping to improve lives and inspire.

Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?

A. The One Inside. That just came to me, so I’m not going to argue with it.

Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?

A. I’m going to have to say Wuthering Heights. For its sheer vitality and massive passion. I get you, Emily Bronte.

Q.  Which character from ANY book are you most like?

A. I’m probably a bit of a Jane from Jane Eyre. Probably. It’s hard to give an objective assessment of myself.

Q.  What character from all of your book are you most like?

A. Difficult because my characters are often young and I’ve got more mature since I’ve got older (luckily!) But Rebecca from my current novel is the most like the young me, and Sarah from The Last Time We Saw Marion is more like the me when I first wrote it. I do have a character in a future novel who is most like the me that I am now.

Q.  Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?

A. I’d like to spend a weekend at the Goldman household in Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido. It’s full of chaos and make-yourself-at-home and intelligent (if noisy) debate and home-grown vegetables and children. And I’d like to be young again for this weekend, amazed and entranced by this experience of family life as is Katherine, the main character of the novel. (If I hadn’t put Wuthering Heights as my most favourite novel ever, it would have been Brother of the More Famous Jack.)

Q.  What do you want to be remembered for 100 years from now?

A. My novels. To have moved people with their telling.

Q.  What is your favorite season?

A. Spring. For the obvious reasons, everything feels so fresh and new, I love the physical symbols of hope and rebirth.

Q.  What inspired your book cover(s)?  Or what is your favorite book cover and why?

A. The cover of Another Rebecca is a photograph I took of ice on the back window of our home. You can just see the outline of a brick house through the pattern of ice which looks like feathery trees. It feels like being trapped behind the ice. It made me think of my dual female characters, both trapped within their own lives behind a semi-transparent barrier. 
Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.

A. I haven’t really got anything funny but I can tell you something. I took a sketchbook with me for a book-signing. It was a great way of drawing (no pun intended) people over to my table. And if they wanted to talk about my sketches or get advice about drawing that’s what I did. They usually ended up buying my book anyway, which was lovely.

Q.  Are you working on something new?

A. I’m polishing up the sequel to The Last Time We Saw Marion, entitled Of His Bones. It works as a stand-alone novel but also ties up the loose ends of the first one. The two books were very much inspired by the great passions of Wuthering Heights and I hope I’ve achieved a kind of contemporary parallel in writing them.

Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?

A. *Blushes* Hello, and thanks for stopping by and hopefully sticking with me until this point. It’s been great reaching out to you. I love a chat, so if you feel like checking out my links, and especially reading my books, I’d love to hear what you think.
Thank you very much for having me J

Twitter @authortrace

Showcase: The Whale Chaser: A Novel by Tony Ardizzone

About the author: 
Set in the turbulent decades of the Vietnam War and the drug and hippie counterculture, The Whale Chaser is a powerful story about Vincent Sansone, the eldest child and only son in a large Italian American family, who comes of age in 1960s Chicago. A constant disappointment to his embittered father—a fishmonger who shows his displeasure with his fists—Vince abruptly flees Chicago. He ends up in Tofino, a picturesque fishing town on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. First he works gutting fish, then is hired by Tofino’s most colorful dealer, Mr. Zig-Zag, and joins the thriving marijuana trade. Ultimately, through his friendship with Ignatius George, an Ahousaht native, he finds his calling as a whale guide. Vince must come to terms with the consequences of his actions as well as his family’s version of la storia segreta, the unspoken story of how his grandfather, like thousands of other Italians and Italian Americans, was interned in a prison camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. 

Tony Ardizzone was born and raised on the North Side of Chicago and is the author of seven books of fiction, most recently the novel The Whale Chaser, which was published in fall 2010 by Academy Chicago Publishers. He is also the editor of the anthology The Habit of Art: Best Stories from the Indiana University Fiction Workshop, which Indiana University Press published in 2005, as well as the novel In the Garden of Papa Santuzzu, published by Picador USA/St. Martin's Press in 1999 and released in paperback in 2000. His creative writing has received the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, the Milkweed Editions National Fiction Prize, the Chicago Foundation for Literature Award for Fiction sponsored by the Friends of Literature, the Pushcart Prize, the Virginia Prize for Fiction, the Lawrence Foundation Award, the Bruno Arcudi Literature Prize, the Prairie Schooner Readers' Choice Award, the Black Warrior Review Literary Award in Fiction, the Cream City Review Editors' Award in Nonfiction, as well as two individual artist fellowships in fiction from the National Endowment for the Arts.

In 2005 Ardizzone was the recipient of the Tracy M. Sonneborn Award, given annually by Indiana University, Bloomington, to a faculty member for outstanding teaching and research. At Indiana University he offers courses in creative writing and the craft of fiction, ethnic American literature, 20th century American fiction, teaching creative writing, and literary interpretation. He has served two terms as Director of the Creative Writing Program, as well as a pair of terms on the Board of Directors of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. In 2006 Indiana University named him Chancellor's Professor of English, a title given to faculty members who have achieved local, national and international distinction in teaching and research, and the interaction between teaching and research. Prior to coming to Indiana, he taught for nine years at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, where he founded its creative writing program and served as its program director. He has also taught in the low-residency M.F.A. Program at Vermont College in Montpelier.

Q. What inspires your writing?

A. My family aunts, uncles, and my Italian grandmother included. My favorite times as a boy were family get-togethers at Nonna’s house and the hour after we cleared the plates when the adults would sit around the table sipping cups of coffee and talking, telling jokes and stories. Over time I came to realize that if stories aren’t told, either orally or on paper, they’ll disappear, and so I took up a pen and bought an old typewriter and picked up where they left off.

Q. What is your favorite thing about being a writer?

A. The moment when things on the page that previously were lying there, dead as stones, suddenly connect and snap together in a lively, surprising, inevitable way. I'm not the sort of writer who plots everything ahead. I don’t outline. I tend to begin with an interesting situation that boxes my characters into a corner, and then I hope that if I’m patient enough with them they’ll find a way to work things out.

Q. What is the toughest part of being a writer?

A. Everyone who’s ever accomplished anything – be it yoga or exercising or learning another language or how to knit – knows that the task at hand takes time and regular practice. Fiction writers, particularly novelists, need to work for at least a few hours every day. This is often in conjunction with their real (paying) jobs. For me, the most difficult aspect of the writing life is the commitment to the daily writing schedule, to work even when I’d rather stay in bed and sleep for another hour.

Q.  If you could not be writer, what would you do/be?

A.  I would have to work somehow with words, I think. Perhaps I'd be a lawyer, doing my best to say the right things to the judge and jury to get my client off.

Q. What would the story of your life be entitled?

A. Something simple, I think, something working-class, maybe something to do with the streets, with Chicago’s North Side, which is where I grew up. I’ve always thought of myself as just a kid from the neighborhood. So maybe my story would be titled “Chicago Boy.”

Q. What is your favorite book of all time?

A. An impossible question, but a book that deeply influenced me and that I still very much admire is Richard Llewellyn's novel How Green Was My Valley. I read it when I was a sophomore in high school the book was assigned and I was absolutely transported by the author's ability to take me to a place I'd never been, in this case a poor mining community in Wales. The novel centers around conflicts within a working-class family, a major theme in my own writing.

Q. Which character from ANY book are you most like?

A. Since I was a kid who often found his way into trouble but still good at heart I'd have to say Huckleberry Finn.

Q.  What character from all of your books are you most like?

A. Probably Vince Sansone, the central character in The Whale Chaser. Though his story is quite different from mine I put a good deal of autobiographical material into the book. He makes mistakes that I came close to making, and so he’s touched me in ways that few other characters have.

Q.  Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?

A. Since The Whale Chaser is a novel about a man who ultimately finds personal redemption through his job as a guide on a whale-watching boat, I'd love to have a glimpse of the sea back in the days when whales were plentiful. As long as no whales were injured or killed, I'd happily spend my weekend as a deckhand aboard the Pequod in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick.

Q. What do you want to be remembered for 100 years from now?

A. To have been a writer who used language well and carefully, and who created warm, memorable characters.

Q. What is your favorite season?

A.  Autumn. The falling leaves and the increasingly cool breeze off Lake Michigan, when I could open my closet door and take out my leather jacket.

Q.  What inspired your book cover(s)?  Or what is your favorite book cover and why?

A.  My favorite book cover is on the paperback edition of The Whale Chaser. Since the novels setting alternates between chapters in Chicago and later chapters in Tofino, a village on the coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, the designer split images of a whale and put them on colored cards which are mentioned in the book as a tool used in the group therapy sessions the books main character attends. The cards are scattered, as are the major events in his life. His challenge is to put the various pieces together and make sense of them.

Q. Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.

A. After my first novel was published my parents and I stopped by a downtown Chicago bookstore to check if there were copies in stock. We searched for a while and finally found five or six copies, spine out, on a shelf near the back of the store. My father immediately took out his camera to take pictures, which drew the attention of the manager. After we introduced ourselves my mother asked why my book was way back here where few people would see it and not in a big stack near the front of the store. The manager said that the front of the store was reserved for their best-sellers. Without missing a beat my mother said Well, how can you expect my son's book to be a best-seller if you don't put it out where people will see it? The manager smiled, then took the half dozen or so copies he had and set them, cover up, on a table near the front door and, just as you might imagine, as we stood there talking three or four copies sold.

Q. Are you working on something new?

A. Yes, I'm working on an interconnected collection of stories set in Rome during the last days of Pope John Paul II. The stories begin with the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Southeast Asia in December 2004, so a pair of tragedies frame the book. In between is a variety of characters – both North American and native Italian -- struggling with issues of love and faith.

Q. Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?

A.  Allow me to thank them for their interest in me and my work. And if they do decide to read The Whale Chaser please know that I’d be more than happy to talk with any book club big or small that adopts the book and reads it. I love hearing from readers since they’re the ones, truly, who complete the book’s creative act. The writer only begins the process, the reader is the one who completes 

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