Debbie’s Literary Resolution

This week in our Literary Resolutions blog series, we hear from Debbie Hampton, Blair’s director of design and production, about the book that is inspiring her resolutions.

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kissesfromkatieI suppose we all make some sort of New Year’s resolution deep down inside and never really voice it to anyone. Mine is usually something like I will be a better Mom, daughter, sister, friend, etc. And that is easily tied into the book I resolved to read this year since it was given to me by my family for Christmas in 2012. The book, Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie Davis, tells the story of an amazing young woman totally devoted to answering God’s call. She was a typical teenager living a comfortable life—planning for college, prospects of a good career, anticipating marriage to the love of her life—but, after a mission trip to Uganda to help with abandoned babies, her heart stirred and the pull to abandon a privileged life and be totally submissive to God changed her forever. By the age of 22 she had moved to Uganda, adopted 14 little homeless girls and founded Amazima ministries, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bettering the lives of underprivileged children.


By page 20 of this book I felt like the most selfish person that ever walked the earth. Here I am in my comfortable world of a steady job, a home, a wonderful family and friends, my wonderful church family, and God’s greatest gift of a beautiful daughter. How can I complain at all about anything or justify ever being in a bad mood or un-Christian in any way? But then I remember all that God has called me to do. To be a loving and caring Mother, daughter, friend, etc., and at the same time be a servant, be a giver, and be a helper to anyone in need. I fall short of all of these and I know by the end of this amazing story I’ll feel even more unworthy. But I hope to also feel even more inspired and reminded of enormous blessings.

katies-daughters

Katie Davis and her daughters

You can learn more about Katie Davis on her blog.

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Check back next week for another post in our Literary Resolutions blog series. Happy Reading!

Steve’s Literary Resolution

This week in our Literary Resolutions blog series, we hear from Steve Kirk, Blair’s editor, about his delayed success in completing a reading resolution.

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I made my literary resolution early (mid-December) and broke it early (January 2). The previous two years, I’d read the opening and middle volumes of Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium trilogy” over the holidays and happened to finish them on New Year’s Day. So I resolved to end 2013 and begin 2014 with the final book, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. But owing to company in the house, I didn’t finish until well past my target date.Hornets

No matter. Larsson’s novels are my kind of blockbusters—brisk, complex, and transportive. Though he goes on too long about Swedish politics and over-introduces minor characters, those flaws are overwhelmed by what he does well—namely, create memorable protagonists (Mikael Blomkvist and Lizbeth Salander), intricate plots, and an exotic setting. In Hornet’s Nest, he sustains a lively 563 pages with his title character mostly confined to a hospital bed and his two heroes together only on the last couple of pages.

I admit to being flummoxed by all the Jonassons, Carlssons, Erikssons, and Goranssons. And when I began the series, I pulled up a Stockholm map on my computer and made a futile effort to follow the action as I read. But I soon learned to plunge right in and let myself be transported. By the end, whenever Mikael Blomkvist might leave Café Copacabana next to the Kvarter cinema in Hornstull, then turn on to Bergsundsstrand on his way to the tunnelbana, I was right there with him, wherever it was we happened to be going.

Stieg Larsson wrote mostly for his own entertainment. He died in 2004 at age 50 from a heart attack after climbing seven flights of stairs on a day the elevator broke down. He never saw his novels hit print; they’ve since sold well over 70 million copies. Larsson had a fourth volume in process, a fifth and sixth at least in synopsis form, and a seventh through a tenth planned. My coming holiday seasons will be the less for his passing.

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Join us next week for another post in our Literary Resolutions blog series. Happy reading!

Margaret’s Literary Resolution:

This week in our Literary Resolutions blog series, we hear from Blair’s Margaret Couch about how her reading group helped her stay on track.

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I rarely make New Year’s resolutions, but I realized when I was asked to write a blog about book resolutions that I actually had already made one for 2014.

dad

Margaret’s father, Paul Couch.

Over the last few months, I’ve been going through papers and books at my parents’ place. Among my discoveries were my father’s C.  S. Lewis books. Growing up, we read some of Lewis’s fantasy books at the dinner table, and they were favorites. However, I don’t recall ever reading any of his nonfiction books. Instead of putting the books I was going through into the giveaway box, I brought most of them home, thinking I would get around to reading one or more sometime in the future.Covers

One Lewis book in particular that I had always wanted to read was Mere Christianity. I remember my father recommending that one, and I was happy to have his copy in my possession. But as is my habit, once the book was in my house, I never picked it up to read. I prefer fiction and always have a stack of books either on the bedside table or on my list to read. CoverI realized I would probably never read any of C. S. Lewis’s theologically based books unless I made myself accountable to a group. It was then that I thought about starting a book club at my church. In talking with members there, I found others who wanted to join me in reading and discussing issues presented in books such as Mere Christianity. Our group started meeting in January, and I have, as I anticipated, kept myself on track and read each section of the book in preparation for our weekly meetings. I give my thanks to the group for unknowingly getting me off to a good start on keeping my resolution.

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Check back in next week for more in our Literary Resolutions blog series. Happy Reading!

Artie’s Literary Resolution: Taking Advantage of Hidden Gems

This week in our Literary Resolutions blog series, Blair’s office manager Artie Sparrow  resolves one resolution by sharing about another.

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Nestled in the avalanche of emails when I returned to work after being away for two weeks was an announcement that Blair’s next blog series was about resolutions. At that point, I resolved to stop procrastinating and finish things I started, especially the following blog post that I began composing four months ago:

CivilWarBlundersI’m not much of a Civil War buff, but I do enjoy reading about mistakes made by other people. When I started working at Blair, I eagerly devoured Clint Johnson’s Civil War Blunders. As the title implies, it’s accounts of big mistakes made during the Civil War, some of which are rather amusing, despite the underlying subject matter. My favorite blunder is the Union’s first attempt to capture Fort Fisher. It featured an earth-shattering kaboom, but no one got hurt.

Made of sand and dirt, Fort Fisher was located at the mouth of the Cape Fear River and protected Wilmington. In December 1864, Union forces were desperate to capture or destroy it, since Wilmington was the last Confederate port that remained open. oceanThe Union plan was simple in its genius and stupidity: it loaded a ship with gunpowder, ran it aground near the fort, and blew it up. The goal was to destroy the fort, but all the attack succeeded in doing was setting off a giant explosion that did little damage. The Confederates easily repulsed the first Union attempt to take the fort. Union troops had to return later using more conventional means to capture it.

Last year when my wife and I went to Southport for vacation, I finally got my chance to see where the giant kaboom took place. In the middle of the week, we took the ferry across the river to Fort Fisher. A helpful staff member at the visitor center told me how to get to the approximate spot where the Union ship blew up. One of my quirks is that I love looking out into the ocean at places where extraordinary things happened, even if the water fortfisherthere looks just like any other stretch of ocean. That didn’t take long, so afterward we took ourselves on a self-guided tour of the remains of Fort Fisher. The walls facing the Atlantic Ocean have mostly washed away, but those that went across the island to the river have been preserved. Thanks to Clint Johnson’s Touring the Carolinas’ Civil War Sites, we were able to understand what we were looking at and what happened there. We found out that the Armstrong gun is a replica of a cannon that could fire 150-pound shells a distance of five miles. We learned that Shepherd’s Battery was the scene of fierce hand-to-hand fighting when the Union finally succeeded in storming the fort.blunders

I’m still not much of a Civil War buff, and there’s no danger that I’ll start reenacting. However, I will spend more time reading Clint Johnson’s books and other Blair backlist titles. Maybe I’ll find some more hidden gems for my travels.

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Check back next week for another post in our Literary Resolutions blog series. Happy reading!

Win a Free Copy of B.O.Q.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

B.O.Q. by N.P. Simpson

B.O.Q.

by N.P. Simpson

Giveaway ends January 31, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Enter now to win one of 25 free advance reader’s copies of B.O.Q.: An NCIS Special Agent Fran Setliff Novel by N.P. Simpson.

In B.O.Q., Simpson conveys the special energy and purpose of a military base. When Ann Buckhalter, the wife of a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, is found dead in the river just downstream from Camp Lejeune’s Bachelor Officers’ Quarters (B.O.Q.), NCIS Special Agent Fran Setliff is called in to investigate her murder

But things heat up when Fran discovers that more than one person’s life has been simplified by the victim’s death. Uncovering the truth about Ann Buckhalter’s death also means uncovering all the unsavory things going on behind the camouflage curtain-racial and gender discrimination, unethical medical practices, sexual indiscretions. Solving the crime means Fran must navigate the murky waters of the military base and the colorful individuals who fill the ranks.

Enter now and find out what really happened at the B.O.Q.!

New Blair Blog Series: Literary Resolutions for 2014

We hope you all had fantastic holidays and are ready to face the new year head on.  Blair is celebrating the beginning of 2014 with a new blog series on our literary resolutions. I start us off this week with the simple goal toKeep CalmEasier said than done.

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Shocking though it may be about an English major and publishing industry professional, I have almost always been an avid reader. I would read late into the night, constantly have new titles awaiting me, and usually have a favorite book on hand.

I still love the idea of reading, collect books that I want to read, and plow through ones that I substantially start, but since becoming a passably functioning adult, I am usually in a less-than-alert state when I get home.

Rather than reading for a while, I am ready to curl up and fall asleep as early as acceptably possible (Meaning 8 p.m.-that’s acceptable, right?).

Sometime I get stressed out about not having finished a physical book in a while and I pressure myself to read. Anxiety-induced reading, however, is not enjoyable. No matter a title’s literary merit, very little of the text will register if I have to force myself to read it.

Compile this with the relative ease of unwinding in front of TV,

and I quickly give up on the futile resolve to make myself read.

Nonetheless, I continue to find books that I genuinely want to read, or to have read, which then makes me more anxious about my state of not reading. “I love reading, but I’m not reading. Am I a fraud? What am I doing? Why am I not reading RIGHT NOW??”

So this year I pledge to calm down about reading.

Rather than starting books that I think I should be reading, I am going to go with my gut and pick titles based purely on literary desire.

And I’m going to read at a pace set completely by my whims, not worrying about finishing for finishing’s sake.  Sometimes this will be in a fervor fueled by the intensity of my enjoyment, but often this will be simply at my leisure. And that’s okay.

By stripping away the pressure and letting myself enjoy reading again, I hope to regain my footing in the fold of true book lovers. 2014 is the year I fall back in love with literature. So watch out books, here I come!

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Check back next week for another post on Blair’s literary resolutions. Happy reading!

5 Ways to Liven Up Your Holiday Break with Blair Books

It’s that magical time of year when most businesses shut down and workers are treated to some, often mandatory, time off. While traditional celebrations are fun, cabin fever can set in for those of us used to being in the office all week. To help avoid any vacation frustration, we present 5 Ways to Liven Up Your Holiday Break with Blair Books:

1. Revisit the Ghosts of Christmases Past

AmericanChristmasesThink your family has some crazy Christmas traditions? Read about what used to pass as appropriate holiday fare in American Christmases: Firsthand Accounts of Holiday Happenings from Early Days to Modern Times by Joanne Martell. The entries range from how the Christmas tree has evolved through history, to how Santa got too close to the candles in 1890, to how firecrackers were once a cherished and much-anticipated stocking stuffer, to Pete the Christmas goose, who laid an egg and was renamed Petrice in time to be wreathed in parsley on a platter. The stories, both heart-wrenching and heartwarming, allow one to reflect on personal memories and long to relive them. (as shared by Debbie Hampton)

2. Start a Sports Debate

ACCBasketballBookFameIs yelling at the TV during ACC basketball games a holiday tradition? Do you have ideas about who should be in the ultimate hall of fame? Dan Collins presents his system and the 78 players in his The ACC Basketball Book of Fame. Compare your own and your family’s rankings and let the discussion begin.

 

3. Bake Something Unexpected and Delicious

WellShutMyMouthNothing against Christmas hams and fruitcake, but they get a bit tiresome after the 3rd or 4th day of repetitious leftovers. Try out a different style of cooking with Tasia Malakasis and Stephanie L. Tyson. Malakasis’ Tasia’s Table (NewSouth Books) offers up creative ways to use goat cheese in a range of delectable dishes while Tyson’s Well, Shut My Mouth!: The Sweet Potatoes Restaurant Cookbook brings some soul to the table.

Give your family a treat with dishes like the Easiest Devil’s Food Cake in the World and introduce some new culinary traditions to your holidays.

4. Hike the Battlefields

SoGettysburgAt first glance a Civil War battlefield may seem just like a regular field with some scattered monuments, but James and Suzanne Gindlesperger bring these historical sites to life in So You Think You Know Gettysburg? and So You Think You Know Antietam? The Gindelspergers return some humanity to the soldiers who lived and died in the war by providing the reasoning behind each statue’s curios oddities.

Gettysburg National Military Park and Antietam National Military Park are both open throughout the holidays, excluding Christmas Day and New Years Day.

5. Laugh at Yourself…and Others

SWAGDo you feel the urge to bake a pound cake after reading the obituaries? Have you had professional photographs made of your children barefoot and dressed in their Sunday clothes? Are you socially conditioned to believe that tanned fat looks better than white fat?

Then you might be a SWAG (Southern Woman Aging Gracefully), and Melinda Rainey Thompson can relate. Ranging from swimsuit shopping to squirrel battling, from magnolia theft to cemetery etiquette, Thompson’s delightful essays and clever lists in SWAG: Southern Women Aging Gracefully and The SWAG Life reflect the everyday peculiarities of life in the South. Whether you can see yourself or others in her hilarious anecdotes, Thompson will have you doubled over in knowing laughter.

We hope that these suggestions help you make the most of your holidays. Happy Holidays from Blair!