Wednesday, January 30, 2008

In Memorium: Margaret Truman Daniels

For all mystery fans, Margaret Truman is known for her Washington D.C. "who-done-it" stories.

From Robert Stein (complete article at this link):

She died today in a week when Caroline Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama and Chelsea Clinton was on the campaign trail for her mother. First Families have changed since Margaret Truman's time, but she was a kind and caring woman whose books about the place, including murder mysteries, will be a lasting part of White House.

For complete coverage and photos see the AP Story

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"Grubbing" Commences

The long awaited day finally arrived, as usual, when least expected. After making a daily run south along Padre Boulevard each morning to check if there was any activity at 5505, this morning I was just catching up on some correspondence and hanging out at the La Quinta, with no intentions of going anywhere.

When my Google sidebar notified me of an e-mail from John Silar titled "A Start", I must admit that my heart skipped a beat. It took a minute or two to round up the dogs, Mother and Griff, but then we were off to check things out.

My new word of the day is "grubbing" which is the removal of vegetation from the building site. That is what is happening today in preparation for laying a foundation for the retaining wall, which will be built to contain enough fill material to raise the site to an acceptable elevation. My little piece of sandbar is just a little above sea level so all this gets more complicated.

The morning's work resulted in a small pile of grass and sand which had been scraped together. But Sam made a lot of progress and by 3:30 a sizable amount of surface debris had been removed.

It's time to call the chamber of commerce and schedule an official ground-breaking! Now the countdown to opening day can begin in earnest and my days of leisure will be coming to an abrupt end.

A Beginning

Good News!!!

Construction is commencing today. Or at least there will be some activity at 5505 Padre Boulevard to give this whole dream some sense of reality.

I'm going to check things out. Hopefully, I can get some pictures posted this afternoon.

I need to temper my good news with a note of best wishes to the Franke's. It was really a shame to see the damage to such a beautiful building and such a labor of love. I was especially sorry to hear about this building fire, because Dennis Franke has been an avid supporter and source of encouragement for my bookstore project.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sun's Out

OK everybody. I can come out of my funk and catch up on things today. Two weeks of wind, rain, gray, and dreary weather has finally lifted. I'll be back later and let you know what's going on in paradise. Till then, have a great day!!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

ABA: Trade Paperback Nonfiction

Independent bookstore bestselling trade paperback non-fiction for the week ending January 22, 2008:

1. Eat, Pray, Love
By Gilbert, Elizabeth
The author's yearlong search for spiritual meaning.

2. Three Cups of Tea
By Mortenson, Greg/ Relin, David Oliver
An American's effort to open 50 schools across rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. A Book Sense Notable title.

3. The Omnivore's Dilemma
By Pollan, Michael
A hard-boiled look at the food chain.

4. Into the Wild
By Krakauer, Jon
This heartbreaking story of the demise of a "lost" young man is now a movie.

5. The Audacity of Hope
By Obama, Barack
Hope as a precursor to presidential ambitions. Now available in paperback in time for a surge in the polls.

ABA: Trade Paperback Fiction

The trade paperback fiction bestsellers in independent bookstores for the week ending January 22, 2008:

1. Water for Elephants
By Gruen, Sara
An indie fave about a traveling circus comes to paperback. The 2007 Book Sense Book of the Year Fiction Winner.

2. Atonement
By McEwan, Ian
A thoughtful, powerful, and moving 20th-century story and winner of multiple awards, now reissued with a movie-image cover.

3. The Kite Runner
By Hosseini, Khaled
A Book Sense Pick, now in paperback. A stunning, enlightening novel of friendship and Afghan culture and politics.

4. Suite Francaise
By Nemirovsky, Irene
Paris under the Germans, by an author interned at Auschwitz. A bestseller in hardcover too.

5. The Gathering
By Enright, Anne
Enright's newest novel about a large Irish family gathering for a wake for one of their own.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Patience Is a Virtue!!

I am a confirmed procrastinator and always operate more efficiently under a certain amount of pressure. Going with the flow comes pretty naturally to me - one of the reasons why South Padre Island appeals to me. However, I must admit to an almost irresistible urge to find a shovel and move some dirt on the lot at 5505 Padre. The idea of building a bookstore on the island has evolved over several years and now I must confess to wanting to "get on with it".

My focus has been on the building and each day I anxiously drive south on Padre Blvd. from the La Quinta and hope to see something going on - but to no avail. So to take my mind off of the bricks and mortar part of my new venture, I am going to switch my focus to the operational details, all those things I can do something about. There are really so many details to take care of that it seems overwhelming. A September opening seems like ages away, yet time does seem to fly by and I need to get an action plan together.

So...I pledge to not worry about the construction - I will leave that to the expertise of John Silar, architect extraordinaire, and to take care of my end of things.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Saturday Booksigning - Ruslan of Malaysia

I attended the book signing held at the Library Reading Room Saturday afternoon, even though I had never heard of, and knew nothing about the subject of the biography written by Roy Davis Linville Jumper and published by CDR Press, South Padre Island, Texas. However the enthusiasm of Dr. Jumper for Edmund Colin Ritson Dewsnup - an Englishman who converted to Islam and became known thereafter as Ruslan, following the tradition of shortening to a single word his full Islamic name, Mohamed Ruslan bin Abdullah Iskander - was contagious.

I brought home my copy of Ruslan of Malaysia,The Man Behind the Domino that Didn't Fall, and set aside my other reading to begin this fascinating story about the man who led a counter-insurgency against the communist infiltration of Malaysia. Admittedly, Jumper, who has studied the political situation of Malaysia and taught political science in the Navy Pace Program, comes at his subject from a perspective with which, while recognizing my limited knowledge of the history of this region, I may not completely share. That being said, he writes in an easily understood, conversational tone that makes the book an informative, interesting and yet enjoyable read.

To quote from the back cover the book is:

The life story of a courageous Englishman who conceived the plan to arm Orang Asli tribesmen to fight communism in the Anglo-Malayan Emergency, converted to Islam and then with renewed zeal and singular focus in a bloody sequel, the shadowy Second Emergency, led his troopers into the country's jungle interior killing the insurgents one-by-one. In sum, this book makes the effort necessary to secure for posterity Ruslan's many accomplishments. Through it others may, now that Malaysia is after years of struggle strong and well on the way to being an advanced, fully developed country, know him as the man behind the domino that didn't fall. By comparison when one considers the buckets of blood that drenched Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, there but by the merciful all-knowing will of Allah, through Ruslan, goes Malaysia.

Dr. Jumper's parents are residents of South Padre Island and meeting them just reconfirmed my belief that this island attracts fascinating people from all walks of life. Their experiences, living and working in the middle and far east, would be an interesting topic for a future lecture or discussion series. They obviously passed their passion for the region on to the author who:

...has traveled throughout Asia and sailed the Pacific Rim teaching political science in the U.S. Navy Pace Program. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, he spent his boyhood in Beirut, Lebanon, where he attended the American Community School. He studied public law at the University of Dijon, France, and holds B.A. (French Language), M.A. (Public Administration) and Ph.D. (Political Science) degrees from major universities in the United States. His publications include Death Waits in the Dark: The Senoi Praaq, Malaysia's Killer Elite (Greenwood Press, 2001); Orang Asli Now: the Orang Asli in the Malaysian Political World (University Press of America, 1999); and Power and Politics: The Story of Malaysia's Orang Asli (University Press of America, 1997).

If you enjoy history or biography, this is a fast-paced book which covers the political and military situation sufficiently to provide context to Ruslan's story, but does not overwhelm the reader with historical nuance. Each chapter closes with footnotes which cite the interviews or source documents used by the author.

I'm going to go finish reading my copy right now. If this book sounds interesting to you, the South Padre Island Reading Room should have a copy.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mind, Body, and Spirit Bestseller List from BookSense

BookSense publishes bestseller lists based on sales in independent bookstores nationwide.

For the eight-week period ending January 8, 2008 bestseller's in the Mind, Body, and Spirit book category are listed below.

I have read several of Sylvia Browne's previous books about her psychic experiences and found them to be fascinating, even while I find it hard to believe all her claims. She has two titles on this list (#24 and #25) and I think the one exploring the natural psychic ability of children and ways to recognize and enhance these gifts could be quite interesting.

Sue Monk Kidd, the author of the popular novels, The Secret Life of Bees (Viking, 2002) and The Mermaid Chair, published in 2005, has a book listed as #8.

Other well-known authors represented include Deepak Chopra, Shirley MacLaine, Robert Fulghum and Rhonda Byrne.


The Secret
Rhonda Byrne (Ed.), Atria/Beyond Words, $23.95, 9781582701707


The Four Agreements
Don Miguel Ruiz, Amber-Allen, $12.95, 9781878424310


The Power of Now
Eckhart Tolle, New World, $14, 9781577314806


90 Minutes in Heaven
Don Piper, Revell, $12.99, 9780800759490


Sage-Ing While Age-Ing
Shirley MacLaine, Atria, $26, 9781416550419


2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl
Daniel Pinchbeck, Penguin/Jeremy Tarcher, $14.95, 9781585425921


A New Earth
Eckhart Tolle, Plume, $14, 9780452287587


Firstlight: The Early Inspirational Writings
Sue Monk Kidd, Penguin, $14, 9780143112327


The Secret Gratitude Book
Rhonda Byrne, Atria Books/Beyond Words, $19.99, 9781582702087


Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
Thich Nhat Hanh, Bantam, $14, 9780553351392


Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires
Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks, Hay House, $14.95, 9781401904593


What on Earth Have I Done?: Stories, Observations, and Affirmations
Robert Fulghum, St. Martin's, $22.95, 9780312365493


The Law of Attraction: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham
Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks, Hay House, $14.95, 9781401912277


Awakenings: Asian Wisdom for Every Day
Danielle Follmi, Olivier Follmi, HNA, $29.95, 9780810993792


The Book of Secrets: Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life
Deepak Chopra, Three Rivers, $14.95, 9781400098347


The Hidden Messages in Water
Masaru Emoto, Atria, $16.95, 9780743289801


Way of the Peaceful Warrior (20th Anniversary Ed.)
Dan Millman, H.J. Kramer, $12.95, 9780915811892


Mary Roach, Norton, $13.95, 9780393329124


Many Lives, Many Masters
Brian L. Weiss, Fireside, $14, 9780671657864


Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui
Karen Kingston, Broadway, $10.95, 9780767903592


The Astonishing Power of Emotions: Let Your Feelings Be Your Guide
Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks, Hay House, $24.95, 9781401912451


The Passion Test: The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Destiny
Janet Attwood, Chris Attwood, Hudson Street, $23.95, 9781594630422


Be Here Now
Ram Dass, Three Rivers, $14.14, 9780517543054


Psychic Children: Revealing the Intuitive Gifts and Hidden Abilities of Boys and Girls
Sylvia Browne, Dutton, $25.95, 9780525950134


Insight: Case Files From the Psychic World
Sylvia Browne, NAL, $14.95, 9780451221308

Monday, January 7, 2008

Two weeks in paradise

It's amazing! We have been here for two weeks and I have yet to accomplish a lot of what I know needs to be done on the bookstore business agenda. There is something about this island living which defies the sense of time. Minutes just drift by into hours which flow into days and before one knows it two weeks have just rolled by.

I am surprised when I hear the complaints that there is "nothing to do" on the island. What ever happened to our ability to be content within ourselves and just relish the ability to live and appreciate each moment. The need to be entertained or busy is a phenomenon I don't completely understand.

To catch up with what has been happening, we got here the 23rd of December and spent Christmas Eve getting settled in at our home away from home - the La Quinta. The staff does a great job of taking care of their Winter Texans, who have been spending several months here, every year, since the hotel opened five or six years ago.

Christmas Day was an absolutely glorious day. It was unusually beautiful even for South Padre Island. The gulf was a vivid blue, smooth as glass, there wasn't a drop of wind and the cobalt sky didn't have a cloud anywhere in sight.

I decided to be brave and take sandy feet up on her, open to everyone Christmas open house. The idea of someone just opening their doors and inviting anyone who wishes to join her for a Christmas Brunch, complete with mimosas, intrigued me, to say the least. So I gathered up all my nerve and just went on over!! I am so glad I did. Everyone welcomed me and I immediately felt like an accepted member of the island community. Thanks to all of you for being so kind.

My mother and I then joined the La Quinta crowd for a real turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

Griff (my uxorious husband) arrived the Friday night before New Year's. Picking someone up at the Brownsville airport is such a joy. We greeted the New Year by watching the wonderful fireworks over the Laguna Madre at midnight and with a brief walk on the beach New Year's Day. After discovering a perfect hamburger sea bean on New Year's Day, I expect to have good luck in 2008, since it must be some kind of omen. Finding that little treasure made it worthwhile to brave the wind and cold out on the dunes.

That should bring everyone up to speed on what's been going on here. Now it is time to get motivated and start working on bookstore plans.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Snow Ponies

Snow Ponies is South Padre Island's Children's Book of the Month for January 2008.

Written by Cynthia Cotten
Illustrated by Jason Cockroft
Published by Henry Holt and Company 2001
32 pages
Picture Book recommended for children 3-6
Magical ponies create the first snowfall of winter.
On a cold, gray day, Old Man Winter leads his snow ponies outside. "Are you ready?" he asks. Yes! Faster and faster the ponies gallop. Everything they touch turns white with snow as they bring winter to the forest and field. At last the ponies tire, and Old Man Winter settles them down for the night in their cozy barn. Outside, the world is covered with a soft white blanket. Winter has come at last. Simple, poetic text and evocative illustrations capture the magic of winter's first snowfall. (from google books)
This sounds like a wonderful story for youngsters that may not have ever experienced a winter wonderland complete with snow and the crisp cold that turns the cheeks a ruddy red and turns ones breath into a visible cloud.

From Kirkus Review
On a dreary, gray day, Old Man Winter ...
... goes out to his barn and releases his snow ponies to gallop across the cold, hard ground, bringing winter to everything they touch. As the magical ponies race each other across the fields, they nip and buck with playful energy. The other forest creatures leap out of their way. The fox snuggles into his warm den; a little squirrel huddles in the crook of a tree; the songbirds hide in the foliage of the holly bush. With each silent step, the snow ponies stir the whirling snowflakes and with each breath, the flakes dance through the air. As they tire, they slowly begin to walk toward the barn where Old Man Winter greets them and tucks them back into their stalls. He exits the barn and smiles at the white wonderland that his magic has created. Paintings full of quick brushstrokes of color layered on a softly muted landscape make this a beautiful as well as a magical read.
Kirkus Reviews Copyright (c) VNU Business Media, Inc.

Carol Schene from Taunton Public Schools, MA writes:

A charming but slight tale about ... ... how snow spreads itself across the land. A herd of shaggy-maned, silvery-white, dappled ponies is released from the barn by a white-bearded, smiling Old Man Winter. As the animals frolic through the forests, fields, and roads, the ground turns white beneath their feet and snow swirls around them. The more wildly they play, the stormier it becomes. The other creatures-a fox, songbird, deer, and gray squirrel-shiver and search for shelter as they pass. Finally tiring, the ponies return to the barn where the old man watches them as they nod off to sleep and then stops outside to view the new winter landscape. The double-page, acrylic illustrations are awash in blue, gray, brown, and silver tones that create a haunting, magical atmosphere that allows the fanciful world to come alive. Bold paint strokes capture the sense of the swirling snow, and the ponies themselves will capture the hearts of horse lovers as they leap and rear and swish their tails along the way. The brief text is rich with descriptive phrases of their antics. This book could be used as a starting point for sparking students' imaginations about snow, and the illustrations will definitely attract young equine fans.

For a curriculum guide go to:

Happy reading!

Children's Book of the Month

I attended my first Board of Aldermen meeting last Wednesday and was excited to see the Mayor's proclamation which demonstrates a community awareness of the importance a love of reading has on literacy levels.

The establishment of the Children's Book of the Month reads:

WHEREAS, The Mayor's Children's Book of the Month Club is an endeavor of the South Padre Island Public Library Reading Room to partner with leaders in its community to stimulate an interest and lifelong love of reading in children: and

WHEREAS, As Mayor, I will assist the library by publicly supporting this initiative and call on all residents to be aware of the Club's significance to the Laguna Madre area and show support and raise the level of awareness about the importance of literacy; and

WHEREAS, I am enthusiastic about the club, as well as an advocate of the library, and will recommend a different book monthly for our children to read.

Congratulations to the Mayor for taking a stand for reading!!

I haven't read much about this initiative in the local press, but I need to check out what programs and activities are available to encourage the community to actually read and discuss the monthly selection.

When Paragraphs is open for business this is the type of community program we are looking forward to supporting.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Polar Bear Dip on South Padre Island

I discovered that I am much more of a teddy bear than a polar bear. In earlier years I have welcomed the New Year sipping a cocktail at Boomerang Billy's while watching all the brave souls take a plunge into the not so warm waters of the Gulf. This year my enthusiasm for people watching was not strong enough to take on the wind gusts - at least not until later in the day.

Luckily, not everyone is as big a wimp as I am, as evidenced by this video from sandy feet.

Thanks, Sandy

It looks like fun was had by all. Now I am sorry I missed it. Oh well - next year!!