Monday, December 29, 2008

The Underground Economy

Kevin Coolidge

“Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.”—The IRS

“I have seen taxes more than double during my relatively short time on Earth. A corresponding doubling of civility has not occurred.” – Ragnar

I was watching the news today, and just when I think I’ve seen it all, there’s a millionaire in a nice three piece suit begging for a handout. Yep, the CEO of Ford was asking for a couple billion dollars to just get by. Of course, he arrived in Washington D.C. via a company jet that cost $20,000 to operate roundtrip from Detroit. I didn’t even make $20,000 last year, and I’ve never flown first class. I’m just a guy who works hard to make ends meet, wishing my disposable income wasn’t so disposable.

So, just what is required to comfortably get by in our society? The experts seem to agree it’s around $50,000. This should cover the purchase of a house, a bit of land, a new car every few years, and some recreation and travel. Don’t forget to add some funds for food, clothing, and utilities. You should have some money left over for the occasional splurge on a nice dinner out. This makes for a comfortable lifestyle.

Federal and state income taxes account for about 42% of our personal income. Take 42% of fifty grand and you end up with $29,000. No wonder that Ragnar’s Guide to the Underground Economy by Ragnar Benson and published by Paladin Press provides a plan for joining the underground economy. We could earn $30,000 and accomplish the same standard of living if the government would stop being so generous with our money. I’ve done the math and $30,000 is definitely easier to earn than $50,000.

Does this mean becoming a public tax protestor? The thousands of people currently working in the underground economy don’t advertise their displeasure or call attention to themselves. Working in the underground economy is not about proving a point. It’s about taking care of your family. Benson goes into the details of how to make a living without having a job.

Making a living without a job does not mean making a living without working. Ragnar Benson gives solid samples of people who are already doing this in small, inexpensive, easy steps. Ever have a garden and trade those tax-free tomatoes for some cash? Or do some engine work or some welding in trade for some firewood? Then you are a member of the underground economy.

The underground economy has its perks and its perils, and Ragnar covers both. If your only source of income is from the underground, there won’t be any social security checks. Of course, at lot of us don’t expect to collect from this government-run scam designed to crumble in the near future. Paying cash for every purchase is also a quick, painful method of calling the attention of a drug enforcement agent.

So, why not wait for a government bail-out? Why labor in the underground? Why seek independence from government programs that seek to keep you quiet and dependent? It’s tempting to take that free money, but the startling truth is that people working in their own field for their own contentment are happier, more relaxed, and more productive than people working for no one in particular. People generally like to compete in the free marketplace as long as they are allowed to keep and enjoy the wealth they create...

Hobo was already bailed out. He says, “Cats have it all figured out. Working would interfere with his 20 hours of sleep time.” Miss a column? Snooze, but don’t lose. Go to www.frommyshelf.blogspot.com and catch up on your cat naps. Hobo will write for food. You can see him sing for his supper in “Hobo Finds A Home” a children’s book about friendship, fun, and fat cats named Gonzo. No government funds were hurt in the making of “Hobo Finds A Home”

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Oops! A review from October that never got posted here! (or) If Janet Evanovich can publish "Plum Spooky" in January, why can't I do Halloween now?

Kasey Cox

Boo! Ooooooooooo! Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek! Sound effects from stories best told around a campfire, or with a flashlight at the slumber party. No matter how much adults may roll their eyes, or try to steer their kids away from the “Goosebumps” books, most kids like scary stories. What’s the attraction? There’s a lot of deep psychology behind that answer, as well as theories from many other fields of study, but suffice it to say here that what kids seem to like best is a story or song with equal parts of scary, gross, and funny mixed in. Do you know the old story about the voice chanting, “When I get you, I’m going to eat you!” and what the chanter was really after? If you can’t remember it from your childhood, ask a ‘tween. Be prepared: the story itself is creepy in the telling, but “ew!” in the ending.

“The Ugly Pumpkin” by Dave Horowitz. Retelling of the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, “The Ugly Duckling”. Bright drawings in leap-out-at-you Halloween and fall colors of orange, yellow, blue, and black. It’s autumn, and all the pumpkins are lined up, waiting to be chosen to become Jack-O-Lanterns. The Ugly Pumpkin gets passed over, again and again, but even more hurtful than this rejection is the scorn and teasing he endures, as other pumpkins, kids in Halloween costumes, skeletons, and even trees make jokes at his expense and say cruel things. In despair, he rolls down into a ragged garden to hide and be alone, and accidentally, joyfully, discovers the truth of his identity, that which should have been obvious: he is not a pumpkin after all. Perhaps my favorite part of this hilarious and touching story are the enormous letters of the words as he shouts first his misery than his jubilation to the sky: first, that he is the Ugly Pumpkin; finally, “Oh My Gosh! I’m a ……!” Far be it for me to ruin the end for you and the delighted children you’ll share this with. Besides, you’ve got to see these illustrations for yourself! I believe old Hans would get a big chuckle out of this rendition of the story he told people was autobiographical.

“Sipping Spiders Through a Straw: Campfire Songs for Monsters” – lyrics by Kelly DiPucchio, pictures by Gris Grimly. Grimly, whose style and work is now celebrated in its own right, cites his early influences from H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and artist Edward Gorey. As for the lyrics, for those of you who have lived through “Great Green Gobs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts” and/or “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells”, as a kid yourself or as an adult now, this collection is fine. Most of the words do not evoke anything too disgusting, and many are quite giggling-ly clever. Skip over any songs you don’t want your kids singing, enjoy the ones you all get a laugh from, and enjoy the whimsical, strange drawings. The images and the words may be a little too much for those younger than 5 years old, I think – with my kindergarten-going nephew in mind. He would enjoy them, but his younger sister might be a little scared, or just not quite language-ready to keep up with the words. I would gleefully share this with my friends ages 5 and up, and find it especially useful to fill time entertaining kids at upcoming Halloween events.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Please, No Fruitcakes or Avian Flu

Kevin Coolidge

A book is longer lasting than a fruitcake, cheaper than a flat screen, and more fun than a partridge in a pear tree. I’ve always thought books were the perfect gift. They are affordable, portable, memorable, and easy to wrap. I love matching the right gift for the right person, but I hate wrapping presents. It’s so frustrating: I never seem to be able to cover the entire package. No matter how huge a sheet of paper I start with. Instead, I’m sticking with what I know best and help you choose the right book for the right person, and best of all every one of my suggestions can be purchased for less than $20.00.

Does your reader appreciate stories of the great outdoors? If your guy loves to fish, then you can’t go wrong with John Gierach. It’s fly-fishing and philosophy. He manages to explain the peculiarities of the fishing life in a way that will amuse novices and seasoned fly fishers alike. If he’s already stocked up on Gierach, then aim for some local flavor-such as Poacher Wars by William Wasserman, Of A Predatory Heart by Joe Parry, or Of Woods and Wild Things by Don Knaus.

Does your girl love romance and vampires? She can sink her teeth into the Twilight series. There’s a nice mix of romance, suspense with a paranormal twist that will leave you hungry for more, and the first book is available in mass-market paperback for $7.99. If your reader has already devoured the series, hunt down the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead, The Morganville Vampires by Rachel Caine, or the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris.

Does your reader adore animals? Fetch Marley & Me. It’s a memoir, with dog, and recounts the years the author and his family spent with his Labrador Retriever. Marley isn’t a bad dog. In fact, he’s loyal and playful-a wiggly, yellow, fur ball of a puppy that grew into a barreling bulldozer of a dog. If anything, Marley is too energetic, too playful, and sometimes just too, too much, but you don’t have to pay too much. It’s now available for $7.99. If your reader has already ripped into this funny book, then check out Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron, A Dickens of a Cat and other Stories of the Cats We Love edited by Callie Smith Grant, or From Baghdad with Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava by Jay Kopelman and Melinda Roth.

My Christmas shopping is finished, and it’s all books, because they are inexpensive, recyclable, transferable, and inspirational, and besides, a scented candle never changed anyone’s life. Let’s see--bags, bows, boxes, paper and ribbon, and where did I put the tape? Maybe I can just get these gift-wrapped???


What do you put out for Santa? Milk? Cookies? A shot of bourbon? A good book? If you are looking for ghosts of columns past, then haunt http://frommyshelf.blogspot.com/ Hobo already has a tuna sandwich and a cold beer waiting for the big guy in red, along with an autographed edition of his book, “Hobo Finds A Home” great for Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years and Kwanzaa.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Right to Arm Bears?

Kevin Coolidge

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

You remember the election America held last month? Firearm enthusiasts sure do and are paying strict attention to Obama’s campaign pledge of “common sense” gun control. Gun owners aren't waiting until January to find out Obama’s definition or how he plans to honor this campaign promise.

Excuse me for a moment. Anytime I start my column with Amendments to the Constitution, a little buzzer goes off in the legal department. Yes, here comes the memo now. “Objection, leading the witness” Ooops, wrong side. Appears Frank has been moonlighting. Ahem, “The author, publisher, and distributor of this column disclaims any liability from damage or injuries of any nature that a reader or user of the information may incur. Moreover, it is the reader’s responsibility to research and comply with all pertinent local, state, and federal firearm laws. This column is for academic study only” Now, that is out of the way--on to the fun stuff.

Homemade Guns and Homemade Ammo by Ronald B. Brown: This book will tell you how to make guns, gunpowder, and primers from common material. No knowledge of chemistry or fancy tools is needed. Just ordinary hand tools. When technology is in the hands of a few, an army of thousands can control a population of millions. What if this information was available to the Native Americans? The Incas? The Jews in Nazi Germany? Would oppression have tread more lightly? Contains five yummy gunpowder and two primer recipes, and you thought shake ‘n bake was fun.

Guerilla Gunsmithing, Quick and Dirty Methods for Fixing Firearms in Desperate Times by Ragnar Benson: Free people need guns, and they need them to work. Ragnar Benson has experience fixing “junk” guns in some tough places. This is not a book for someone interested in gunsmithing, but rather a book with practical techniques for removing stuck rounds, straightening bent barrels, and replacing lost parts. Yes, he does mention using duct tape to “repair” a stock, but also a practical test using common paraffin to determine caliber. These quick fixes should be good enough for government work, or at least good enough to put together guns and ammo to work on the government.

The Do-It-Yourself Gunpowder Cookbook by Don McLean: Have you ever wanted to make your own gunpowder from such items as roadkill, whiskey, manure, “fool’s gold”, and maple syrup? And do it all with simple hand tools and techniques that have been around for centuries? Sure you have. Remember guns don’t kill people. Bullets kill people, and for bullets, you need gunpowder.

Modern Weapons Caching by Ragnar Benson: A down-to-earth approach to beating the government gun grab. Sometimes you have to realize you may be fighting a losing battle and literally take your weapons underground, or be prepared to have them confiscated. Ragnar borrows techniques used by both the French Resistance in World War II and the Vietcong in Vietnam, and improves upon them with modern technology. Remember--just because “they” call you paranoid, doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out to get you.

Hunting and guns are an important part of our culture here in Tioga County, and there’s something about the smell of gun oil and the searing heat of a woodstove that reminds me of home. If you were raised hunting, you know there’s just something about a gun...


“Don’t just huddle with that gun,” Hobo says, “but praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition.” Miss a past column? Mosey over to www.frommyshelf.blogspot.com for a cache of the past. Hobo has had enough of small game; look for Hobo and his new line of designer clothing now available in Blaze Orange, just in time for hunting season.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Of ceiling wax, clipper ships, and dragons....

Kasey Cox


For this week’s book column, I could tell you that Wally Lamb, author of bestsellers “She’s Come Undone” and “I Know This Much Is True”, early Oprah Book Club discovery, has a new novel out this week, for the first time in ten years. I could tell you that there’s a “Complete Movie Guide” book for all the fans of the young adult romance “Twilight” series, whose first movie will be released on November 21st. Perhaps I could answer the FAQ about J.K. Rowling’s wizard fable book, “The Tales of Beedle the Bard”, to be released at the beginning of December.

Although all of these announcements are news in the book world, and perhaps worthy of a column inch or two here in the Gazette, I’m going to take us in a slightly different direction, for several reasons. Because you can read these headline events in book and entertainment news anywhere. Because I enjoy letting you know a little bit about other choices you and yours have. Because after you’ve read Harry Potter, or Twilight, or the newest J.D. Robb, or the latest Jodi Picoult on the market, there are still others to enjoy. Little gems who don’t get the same flashing neon ads, who aren’t featured on NPR or the cover of the New York Times book review, but who are, nevertheless, great reads just waiting for you to discover them!

My latest discovery – (as I claim any credit for this, I can hear my friends Jen, and Justin, saying, “but we told you about this author months ago!!”; in my defense, if I tried to read every book that either of these two recommended to me, I’d never come out of my room) – is Naomi Novik. Novik debuted in the fantasy scene less than three years ago, but she obviously brings a great deal of skill and thought to the writing profession. And, thank goodness, Novik presents an original angle to the – dare I say it? – seemingly endless series of books about dragons. Though for some fans what I here declare will be blasphemy, Novik’s “Temeraire” series runs circles around Christopher Paolini’s more popular, more well-known, more financially successful “Eragon” series.

What’s so cool about the “Temeraire” series? Well, for starters, Temeraire brings to life the Napoleanic Era of Patrick O’Brien’s “Master and Commander” series. Although I like history, I find this era too often written about in terms as dry as the powder on the wigs the gentrified class wore. Novik creates characters and situations with page-turning life, instructing and exciting all at once.

For those of you who could care less about science fiction, fantasy, dragons, or any combination thereof, chances are you know someone who does like to read this kind of book. Since gift-giving season is upon us, I also suggest the “Temeraire” series because it’s something different, a series your loved one may not have read yet, and it’s available in inexpensive mass-market paperbacks, so everyone wins. For parents and kids, grandparents and grandchildren, teachers and students, Novik also provides a wonderful opportunity for discussion, books where many different interests can be met and shared.

Hobo was considering being the cat on a ship, but he’s not much of a mouser. He says he’s a lover, not a fighter. He likes some dragons, though – look at his relationship with occasional fire-breather, Kevin. He also sympathizes with David and Goliath stories, like England vs. the Napoleanic Empire, and indie stores vs. big, impersonal corporations. You can follow his battles at http://frommyshelf.blogspot.com

Saturday, November 22, 2008

an abbreviated ode to indie bookstores

Kasey Cox

One of the reasons I love visiting, shopping at, networking with, and working in an independent bookstore is that you never know what you'll find. The people who frequent indie bookstores, as customers and as staff, are an interesting, eclectic, Heinz 57, fascinating lot of people. And how does this group differ from the folks in a big box bookstore? Certainly, there's some overlap, but the folks who come to the indies usually love the treasure hunt. They are looking for more than the top 40. They want more than what Amazon tells them to buy this month, more than the Madison Avenue list of "what cool people are reading right now", more than Walmart's paperback rack. They want staff who can talk about what they've recently read, people who can suggest authors you might like because you just read this other book, informed recommendations on a book for your seven year old nephew.

While I find online shopping occasionally necessary, it is not always as convenient as the online companies would have you believe. Especially if there's a problem. Suddenly, you can't talk to a real person, you're dialing some "800" number -- if you can even find a phone number at all -- and being told to press "1" to continue in English, and the people you bought the book from have moved, died, or didn't provide delivery confirmation, so the book is lost. They don't care that you needed it NOW for class, or a birthday, or for your book club. Or you've been charged a heck of a lot more for shipping than was originally explained to you.

Don't you love just coming in to a bookstore to look? I love meandering, browsing the shelves, never knowing exactly what I might find. I like to touch the books, read selections, debate prices in my head, weigh my options, and .... best of all... no shipping, no wait time.

If you are more the directed hunter type of shopper, where you come in with a mission, and want to (or need to) get in and get out, that's no reason to avoid your local bookstore. Usually these folks will bend over backwards for you. They pride themselves on their customer service, and you are their customers. Unlike the faceless, nameless drones online, these people know you and will see you around on a regular basis. Bookstore staff in your town or neighborhood know that you buy books from them, and that you, then cook their steak the way they like it when they're at your restaurant for their special birthday dinner, or you fix their leaking pipes, or you help them when some spammer phishes their bank account. It's like the old "Cheers" series -- your bookstore knows your name, what you read, who you're interested in, what kind of prices you can afford.

Indie bookstores provide a place for people to meet, to talk, to try out different ideas, to learn, to lose themselves, to find themselves anew. They build community, one book at a time.

In this era of corporate greed and irresponsibility, in this economy of uncertainty, it's more important than ever to shop local.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Neither Picasso nor Hemingway gets the final word

Kasey Cox

How lucky am I? I’ve written enough book reviews (or achieved a loud enough reputation as a sucker and a soft-heart) that now people send me a copy of their newest book, asking that I might publish at least one review in order to publicize their work. Wow – free books, and an appeal to my writer’s ego. I feel blessed, honored … but also more pressured. A recovering perfectionist, I confess that writing has also been an area in which I have struggled mightily. In my worst hours, I will write a sentence or two, stare at it, erase it, stare at the blank page, write almost the exact same sentence, chastise myself for always using the same adjectives, cross it out, gnash my teeth, consider throwing the book or the computer or both against the wall.

Teeth gnashing aside, for several weeks after I read Dave Boling’s book Guernica, I hesitated to write a review. I've been avoiding going through this process for Guernica not because I didn't like it, but because I liked it so very much. I want to write a review that is worthy of the book, that somehow beautifully conveys everything that was beautiful in this first novel by Dave Boling. I figure, maybe, eventually, I will be able to, but it will take much more thought and writing. In the meantime, I want to start telling others to start reading this book!

I have already raved, ad infinitum, about my fondness for historical fiction. As a teenager, when I was bound to the place I lived, before I had a chance to travel, I traveled and learned about other times, other places, other people through novels like this one. This is true, now, too: as a young, working adult, owner of a small business in a small town, I am too busy, and too poor, to travel much. I let books take me places. Yes, I read nonfiction, too. I especially enjoy history, and I do understand the difference between history and historical fiction. And though the best writers of nonfiction history for the general public -- people like Barbara Tuchman, Stephen Ambrose, Joseph Ellis, Edmund Morris -- write beautifully, I find the lyrical language of the fiction warmer and more accessible.

This is certainly true of Dave Boling's writing. In prose that is has both lovely descriptions and compelling action, the book moves well and draws the reader in.

I know quite a bit about World War II, the Blitz, and also about the history of France (French major), but very little about the history of Spain. The little I know of the Spanish Civil War comes mostly from Hemingway novels. I know next to nothing about the Basque people. So I was interested in reading Guernica as a possible springboard to learn more. This novel is by no means a definitive work; Boling clearly explains as much in the author’s notes at the end, and provides an excellent reading list. I consider Guernica an invitation to delve into these events. I read a few critical reviews which offered advice to the effect of "don't bother with this novel; go back and read Hemingway (again) instead." I completely disagree. Though Papa Hemingway is a strong presence in our understanding, I believe it very important that he is not given the only word on this time period. As a matter of fact, Hemingway's terse style and ex-pat views give us only one small window. I want more. I received it here.

Even though I often hesitate to recommend a book only available in hardcover -- since hardcover prices are going up so much! -- I wholeheartedly say, this book is worth the hardcover price. Treat yourself.


Hobo hugs perfectionists. He says, “Silly humans; only cats are perfect!” Although he’s a Hemingway cat, Hobo recommends other authors, too. For instance, himself! Watch for the new edition of “Hobo Finds A Home”, coming to bookstores this next week! Or read Hobo’s Histories at his blog archives, here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Walking With Spring

Kevin Coolidge

The doughboy, the G.I, the grunt, the modern day land warrior, the men who combat the enemy-You may fly over a land; you may bomb it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life-but if you desire to defend it, protect it and keep it-there’s never been anything but boots on the ground.

All wars are different, and all wars are the same. They all have a price. The Army’s first study of the mental health of troops who fought in Iraq found that about one in eight reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The survey also showed that less than half of those with problems sought help, mostly out of fear of being stigmatized or hurting their careers.

Once called shell shock or combat fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder can develop after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, feelings of detachment, irritability, trouble concentrating and sleeplessness. A lot of people, including vets, don’t believe that PTSD exists, mostly because guys don’t talk about it.

A lot of guys come back from wars really messed up, and it doesn’t just go away. They aren’t going to talk to you about it. They don’t want your pity. They don’t pity themselves. You can’t see it. It’s there...

It was the spring of 1948, and a young man from Pennsylvania had to work out the sights, sounds and violence of World War II, during which he lost his best friend. He took a hike, for four months. Earl Shaffer became the first person known to hike uninterrupted the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, from Springer Mountain in Georgia through 13 other states to Katahdin in the central-Maine wilderness...on more than 2,000 miles of footpath.

Earl Shaffer wrote a book about his experience called Walking With Spring. Originally self-published (300 copies), Walking with Spring was first professionally published in 1983. Written soon after his first of his three thru-hikes, the last undertaken at age 79, and far more difficult than he liked as he neared his eighth decade.

This book only contains hints and clues about this unusual man, the loner, the poet, and the man rooted in nature. Although Earl had suffered psychological trauma during his service in the South Pacific, he hardly mentions it at all. There are no long-winded passages of psychobabble or self-pity in this book. Instead, you get a real feeling of interest and wonder at the natural world Schaffer experienced--concisely, yet accurately conveyed.

This is not a book to prepare you to physically or materially hike the Appalachian Trail. It is instead a memoir of a period in time, the aftermath of war, and the recuperative power of the outdoors on the human psyche. John Muir knew this, as did Emerson, and Thoreau. Perhaps this is the strongest argument in defense of wild places. The wilderness is absolutely necessary for people to be human…

Hobo says this is my side of the mountain. He’s a real ridgerunner, born in the hills and suckled on the teat of a cougar. Can’t get enough of Hobo? Hike on over to www.frommyshelf.blogspot.com for past columns. All hail the cat, I mean chief. Look for Hobo on January 20th. Politics are about to get a little furrier. The committee to elect “Hobo For President” approves this column.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Wellsboro PA

Kasey Cox

In 1990, Kenneth C. Davis wrote his first bestselling history book, "Don't Know Much About History", which launched a popular series of "Don't Know Much About ..." books. (This is one of those series where you scratch your head and say, "Darn! Why didn't I think of that?") Davis's books, whose later installments are often co-authored with another teacher or historian, work well to make history - or geography, the Bible, mythology, the American presidents, the solar system, or what have you - more interesting to bored or slightly overwhelmed students. The histories are arranged chronologically featuring essays on important people or events from each era, usually opening and closing with a little humorous bon mot.

While Davis's series does not include "Don't Know Much About Wellsboro History", never fear, because even if you know a lot, Scott Gitchell can tell you more. Gitchell, of the Tioga County Historical Society, has just published the book that has been a huge labor of love for most of the past two years - if not the last couple of decades of studying the area, her history, her lore, and her people. The title of the book is not as bouncy as Kenneth Davis's books, because it reflects Gitchell's thoroughness and attention to detail. Sound the trumpets now, because it's the book you've been waiting for - "Wellsboro, Pennsylvania: The First Two Hundred Years: 1806 - 2006, A Pictorial History."

The "Don't Know Much" series is an easy study in comparison and contrast with a book such as Gitchell's bicentennial volume. Davis's essays, while fun and witty, have been criticized as leaning too much on entertainment value and not enough on the objective presentation of facts toward which a historian should endeavor. This criticism cannot, however, be leveled at Scott Gitchell: indeed, this objective, detailed listing of all the facts available is the true strength of the newly-released "Wellsboro book".

Spending time immersed in "Wellsboro ... The First Two Hundred Years", I found an impressive collection of facts - dates and names, building locations, early streets, laws and meetings, businesses and houses built and razed, floods, fires, churches and Odd Fellows. In Wellsboro's earliest days, before it was officially Wellsboro, I found many names I recognized - Morris, Harrison, Kelsey, Bacon, Packer, Deane, and Niles. There was a Cox near the beginning, but I am, sadly, not of his line. (I guess I can forget my membership in the "Daughters of Wellsboro's Founding Families". Bummer.) I also discovered many incidents I'd had no knowledge of - events involving freed slaves, black men on the first fire company, a heated "free soil" incident, a Ku Klux Klan chapter more angry about Catholics running for president than any racial conflicts one might believe, great bank robberies, and women postmasters and police officers. I won't ruin the stories: you need to read the details for yourself.

For many people who despair that Gale Largey's two history books of Wellsboro are out-of-print and extremely difficult to find for sale, Gitchell's bicentennial history of Wellsboro is a gift. Gitchell offers his community the gift of this book, affordably priced at less than $40 for a beautifully bound hardcover book whose paper and binding are, quite literally, built to last, to be handed down through the generations. You can be certain that Scott Gitchell, after years of research through old books, maps, documents, newspapers, letters, and photographs, understands the importance of building a book - especially one with such precious cargo as thoroughly-collected and -corrected histories - that will withstand the beatings of passing years.

History or ho-hum? Hobo knows history. His own, of course, is available in his memoir, "Hobo Finds A Home", soon to be re-released by Edgecliff Press!


... If you mourn the unavailability of Gale Largey's books, this is the book to buy, and keep, and gift. Kudos to Scott Gitchell for all his unselfish, unpaid hard work, and for a wonderful book!
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Hi, folks! We've had a huge response to the book signing we hosted this past weekend, for Scott Gitchell of the Tioga County Historical Society, and the Wellsboro bicentennial history book. There have also been a lot of questions, so I thought I'd answer the FAQ here.

(1) What's the book again? What does it contain?

This is officially titled: "Wellsboro, Pennsylvania: The First Two Hundred Years: 1806 - 2006, A Pictorial History". It is a lovely hardcover, printed by the same company that did the bicentennial history of Tioga County. It's 160 pages, packed with Wellsboro history from its very roots till today. Lots of information, lots of cool black & white photos of days gone by.

(2) How much is it?

It is $36 + tax, which comes to $38.16 total. If you'd like it shipped, just 4.00 for shipping. The price quoted in the Williamsport paper was incorrect -- that price only covers the cost of the book, and then neither the Hist. Society nor the bookstore make any money. I'm sorry, but we can't give it away at cost. I hope everyone understands. This is a wonderful book, and a treasure that you can pass down through your family, like the Gale Largey books.Which leads me to ....

(3) How many were printed? Are they in danger of running out?

1500 copies were printed. After the response we had this past weekend, and the way the phone has been ringing today, I think they will be sold out by the end of the year. Dickens will probably just about wipe them out. It remains to be seen if another printing would be done. When I broached the subject with Scott, he said it's a lot of money for the Historical Society to come up with, right up front. Possibly more could be ordered, if enough people ordered and everyone pre-paid, but this is not something we can count on.

(4) Can I get a signed copy?

Of course! If you don't have time to take your book to the Hist. Society to have it personally addressed, we will always keep a ready supply of signed copies here at the bookstore.



In other news, people are starting to think about buying calendars for 2009. If you regularly get a certain kind of calendar -- be it "The Far Side" or "Tolkien" or "Cathy" or what-have-you -- we can get these for you at a fantastic discount! If you preorder and prepay for the 2009 calendar(s) of your choice, we will give you a great price, and save you a trip to the mall, or the last-minute rush. We'll be taking these preorders for calendars up until Dec. 20th, so let us know what you need, so we can give you the personalized service and the savings you deserve.

Hope you all have a great week! Stay warm!

Cheers,

Kasey Cox(class of 90), Kevin Coolidge(class of 87), and HOBO(bookstore cat, and author of "Hobo Finds A Home", school of hard knocks)

From My Shelf Books
87 Main St
Wellsboro PA 16901
(570)724-5793
www.wellsborobookstore.com

p.s looking for a great book for the outdoor lover? Consider "Of A
Predatory Heart" by Joe Parry. Check out his blog at
www.ofapredatoryheart.blogspot.com for a FREE excerpt.

Looking for a great childrens book or book for the cat lover? Check out
"Hobo Finds A Home" now available at www.edgecliffpress.com, Amazon,
and Barnes & Noble, and a bookstore near you.





______________________________________________________________________________________

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Good "Vibes"

Kasey Cox

When presented with a wide cross-section of genres in a selection of about 20 books I could review, I choose to read & review Amy Kathleen Ryan's book, "Vibes". This book won over many other choices, because I enjoy young adult fiction, and this looked like it had something new to offer. I've read a lot of young adult fantasy & sci-fi, which I still love. I used to read a lot of books aimed at teen girls (I'm now 36), but I haven't read much lately. I've been more cautious about diving into authors like Megan McCafferty or Sarah Dessen. I probably would have liked those books when I was fifteen, but now, if I read any "chic lit", it's someone like Jennifer Weiner, whose stories are about women's issues, relationships, feelings in the way teen stories are about issues, etc. that teens relate to.

I believe Ryan's "Vibes" bridges this gap: there are thoughts, feelings, problems that people of several ages can relate to. As a woman, I related to Kristi's concerns, remembering all too well the times I felt the same way she did ... and not just when I was seventeen. I also related to, and felt sympathy for, her mom. I loved the teen boy characters, too. One of the descriptions for this book made it sound as if it were just another teen romance where "Kristi has the hots for gorgeous Gustav (Gusty) Petersen." I was so pleased to find three-dimensional, more real characters, esp. with some of the male teens. That's refreshing. The adults, and some of the peripheral teen characters, were, at times a little shallow, but it is from Kristi's perspective, and that's how she saw them -- or perhaps that's ALL she saw of them, so that's not inappropriate.

Overall, I'd agree heartily with what many teen reviewers have said -- I love Kristi's voice. With Kristi, and her struggles, author Amy Ryan adds a needed and interesting perspective on modern teen life. It's sympathetic, not dumbed-down, but also not made into an overly intense Lifetime Channel-type tragedy. This was a fun, enjoyable read. I'll highly recommend it to my teen readers, and their moms, and dads. Reading this together would provide a great chance to discuss some tough "issues", and could act as a springboard toward understanding each other's perspectives a lot better.

The Science of Vampires

Kevin Coolidge

Hmmm, salt, garlic, silver crucifix, wooden stakes, iron stakes, and because I like to hedge my bets, a napalm fed flamethrower. Ok, the flamethrower and napalm is homemade. First you take orange juice concentrate and some gasoline…. Never mind, there’s no time for that. I have to exterminate my lawyer*. I really don’t want to, but he’s a bloodsucking parasite. Sure, I see you nodding your head, but I mean he’s a leech, a fang boy, a corpsesicle. He really drinks blood. He’s a vampire.

Vampires are real, not figments of fantasy or superstition. They are everywhere. Waiting for the darkness. Waiting for us to let our guard down. Waiting for us to forget. That’s why I decided to read up on my undead foes…

The Science of Vampires by Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.: This author has a master’s degree in forensic psychology. Her book offers a fascinating investigation into the myths and realities of the vampire. What is vampire personality disorder? What causes a physical addiction to another’s blood? How could a vampire hide in today’s world of advanced forensic science? Does this come in black? Criminologists may study the monster in the man, but the real monsters stalk the shadows…

The Sookie Stackhouse book series by Charlaine Harris: Sookie has a problem. She can read minds, and that makes having a romantic relationship close to impossible. Dating a vampire has an unexpected benefit. Her predilection for reading minds doesn't seem to work with him, but violence follows in his wake. The series details the co-existence of vampires and humans in Bon Temps, a fictional small Louisiana town. This is all possible due to the creation of TruBlood™ by Japanese scientists. TruBlood™ allows vampires to get all their nourishment through the synthetic blood, and theoretically leave humans alone. Hmmm, I better finish my Bloody Mary before it clots…

The Twilight Series by Stepheie Myers: She is the author of the books Twilight, along with the sequels New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. The Twilight saga follows the adventures of Isabella Swan (nicknamed Bella), a teenager who moves to Forks, Washington and finds her life turned upside down when she falls in love with a vampire named Edward Cullen.

The series has gained a cult following among young adult readers. Fans have been officially dubbed “Twilighters”. Many dress up like the characters. They write their own fan fiction about them, post their tales on the Internet. When Stephenie Meyer appears at a bookstore, 3,000 people go to meet her. There are Twilight-themed rock bands. The small town of Forks on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State is a real town, and has thus received am unusual amount of attention, and now celebrates “Stephenie Meyer Day” on September 13, the date of character Bella Swan’s birthday, in honor of the author. So, just why has this series become so immensely popular? As Shakespeare knew, love burns hotter when love is forbidden, and this pair of lovers is extremely star-crossed.

Blood Sucking Fiends and You Suck by Christopher Moore: You meet the girl of your dreams and she’s dead. No, make that undead, and, now surprise! You are a vampire too. Yes, love bites, and Christopher Moore knows it. You Suck, a love story, is Moore’s tenth novel and sequel to Blood Sucking Fiends, his third novel.

Christopher Moore is an American writer of absurdist fiction. His novels typically involve an ordinary guy thrust into supernatural or extraordinary circumstances, and often touch on political, environmental, or social concerns. Think John Steinbeck mixed with Kurt Vonnegut. Nope, You Suck is not your typical vampire story. I guess that’s what happens when you fall for the ghoul necks door…

The night is dark and cold, a good night for hunting. Now where did I put my ultraviolet flares and crossbow???


*This column does not advocate violence to attorneys or the undead.

Tired of endless, death-warmed-over, mountain gossip? Then excavate the vault at frommyshelf.blogspot.com. Hobo is resurrected this month in the new version of “Hobo Finds A Home” Can’t get enough of Hobo? Be sure to watch for Hobo, the multivitamin, now with extra vitamin C!!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hobo T-shirts now available!




Now, Hobo, beloved bookstore cat and children's author, is available as a T-shirt! The front of the shirt features the Hobo photo you see here at his blog, framed in a warm brown, with the words:

Hobo says, "You can never have too many books, just not enough shelves"

underneath his photo. On the back, in black script, is:

From My Shelf
Wellsboro, PA
(570) 724-5793
www.wellsborobookstore.com


We have them available in kids' small (think really small) and medium; and then adults small all the way through to 3XL. The adult "small" is really the same size as a kids' large. All t-shirts, despite size, are $12 each, (that includes tax, but not shipping).

If you'd like to order one (or more), let us know!

Use the Paypal button here:









Or send your check or money order to : From My Shelf, 87 Main St, Wellsboro, PA 16901 indicating what size or sizes you need, and the address to which you'd like them sent.

Cheers!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I'm in love! And there's a book about it.

Kasey Cox

I love books, writers, wannabe-writers, young moms and dads, nerdy kids, teachers, librarians, first graders clutching Junie B. Jones, retired couples, vacationers, loyal locals, book clubbers, new grandparents, the tween boys who come for their latest manga installment, railroad aficionados, folks doing jail ministry, college students, expectant parents, bird watchers, hikers, sci-fi conventioneers, crazy collectors, local historians, poets, seekers, philosophers, bored teenagers, conservative Christians, insistent liberals, doubting Thomases, cynical humorists, wounded souls, self-helpers, New Agers, literary snobs, cowboys, nature buffs, romance junkies …. I love them all, and feel at home with them. Despite all their differences, they are all BOOK PEOPLE. How fantastic that they are united in a bookstore, and how lucky I am to be among them.

Certainly, for any subject under the sun, there’s at least one book about it. But Shelf Life: Romance, Mystery, Drama, and Other Page-Turning Adventures from a Year in a Bookstore is for me. With her sixth book, Author Suzanne Strempek Shea has gifted me, and book people like me, this slice-of-life memoir from her first year of working at Edwards Books in Springfield, Massachusetts. This warm, funny story is a love song, an ode to independent bookstores and the people who frequent them. Which ultimately gives the reader, I am happy to tell you, a wry, sweet, forgiving look at the quirks of the contemporary American.

The front cover of my copy of Shelf Life features a detail from Van Gogh’s painting, “The Parisian Novels”, otherwise known as “The Yellow Books.” I’m a Van Gogh fan, but I’ve never seen nor heard of this piece. This cover alone has touched me: I want to run right out and buy a huge copy of this painting for my wall.

Just inside the perfect front cover, then, are the words I wish I’d written. Suzanne lists all the requests she fields. When people come to a bookstore, they are often in search of entertainment, relaxation, an escape into the stories. More often, though, they are in search of new knowledge, or more information about a subject that is already of interest to them. Sometimes they are searching for answers, for help, for validation, for absolution, hoping to find it in the words of a book. The mix of these requests paints an amazingly accurate and near-bewildering collage of the most intimate details of the American life as well as the melting pot of culture we are. Even in Wellsboro, our custom order clipboard and daily customer requests reflect this amalgam, too.

At another point in Shelf Life, Suzanne admits to the envy she feels as an author working in a bookstore, wishing at times for that author’s sales, or this author’s cover art, or another author’s idea. Accordingly, I’m comfortable that she wouldn’t mind a little paraphrase of her opening pages: what do people ask for? Lasagna gardening. Leadership skills. Escape from codependency, from debt, from a*%holes at work, from holiday weight gain, from neck pain. They want murder, intrigue, romance, passion, a new kid by Friday, new hiking trails, more energy-efficient houses, Mennonite recipes. They enjoy hedgehogs, boy wizards, survivors, football players, forensic scientists, sharks, vampires, women who own quilt shops and play amateur sleuth. The list goes on. And so do we!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Elmira Express

Kevin Coolidge

I love the Twin Tiers in the autumn. The days are still warm; the nights cool, giving birth to vibrant fall colors. The hills seem almost alive, and the threat of colder weather is a promise on the wind. Fall in the Twin Tiers ushers in a revered tradition. When it’s autumn in America, it’s time for football. Across the land, in big cities and small towns, in large stadiums and rural high schools--the sights, sounds, and colors of the game are all around us. The common thread is the game, and the athletes that practice and play it with heart and determination to the very best of their abilities.

Few players have shown more heart or determination than Ernie Davis. Davis was born on Dec. 14, 1939, in New Salem, Pa. His parents separated shortly after his birth, and his father was soon killed in an accident. He grew up in poverty in Uniontown, a coal-mining town 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, where caring grandparents raised him.

At 12, Davis moved to live with his mother and stepfather in Elmira. He went on to become Elmira's favorite son, both as an outstanding athlete and as a respected and well-loved citizen. Ernie’s talent bloomed, and the honors came early and often. He led Elmira Free Academy to a 52-game winning streak in basketball and as a Syracuse sophomore helped the Orangemen gain their only national football championship.

As a senior in 1961, he became the first African American athlete to win the Heisman trophy and was the number one pick in the 1962 NFL draft. And then, suddenly, he was gone. He was diagnosed with leukemia the summer before his rookie season. He never played in the NFL, but succumbed to the disease less than a year later. Though Ernie never played a game for the Cleveland Browns, they retired his number 45, worn only in practice.

Davis was easily recognized as a great athlete, but his high school coach, Marty Harrigan, summed up what many felt for Ernie Davis when he said, "Everyone knew Ernie's athletic greatness, but few realized what a great human he was. His concern for his fellow man, and his affection for children, was sincere."

I think this is what moved me the most when I read The Express, The Ernie Davis Story by Robert C. Gallagher. There are lots of talented professional athletes today, and most of them are more than willing to inform you just how gifted they are, but the media exposure never changed him. "Ernie was the same kid at the end as he was at the start," said Jim Flynn, his high school basketball coach.

Ernie believed he was fortunate to be so gifted and never took his ability for granted. He worked hard both on the field and in the classroom. “Ernie was always the first one on the practice field and the last to leave.” Many athletes, assured of a college scholarship, would have coasted in class, but “Ernie worked hard when it wasn’t popular to get good grades. The teachers loved him. He never would excuse himself from work and say he had too many outside activities.” Ernie intended to play professional football, but he knew that career expectancy in the NFL was only a few seasons, so he wanted to be prepared for another career when he retired from football. He believed that education would lead to social and economic success.

Syracuse University experienced its greatest football success during Ernie’s career. The Orangemen became the national champions and winners of the Cotton Bowl. Four days before the game, Ernie pulled a hamstring while practicing place kicks. It was doubtful right up until game time whether he could play. Before leaving the game in the fourth quarter, he scored two touchdowns, including a then Bowl-record pass play, scored twice on two-point conversions, and intercepted a pass that led to Syracuse’s final touchdown.

He was voted the game’s Most Valuable Player. Davis was to have received his MVP award at the awards banquet that night. But when bowl officials said that only white players were invited to the dinner and that Davis would have to leave after picking up his trophy, the Syracuse team refused to attend.

It was Ernie's performance against the University of Pittsburgh that same year which inspired the nickname "The Elmira Express." Elmira Star-Gazette sports writer Al Mallette coined the phrase. Penn State coach Joe Paterno had this to say about Ernie Davis: "He's the kind of runner you hate to coach against; you can't instruct a boy to tackle a man if he can't catch him."

It was December 1961 when Ernie won the Heisman trophy. Winning the Heisman is a significant accomplishment regardless of the year or player, but it was a significant racial breakthrough at a time with segregation was just beginning to become a social issue. Today, black players often win the award, and it might be hard for his contemporaries to appreciate his achievement. When he was in New York to receive the Heisman, Davis was treated with media coverage usually reserved for national heroes. President John Kennedy was in the city at the time and asked to see Ernie, a visit that thrilled him. "Imagine," Davis said, "a president wanting to shake hands with me."

Ernie was the number one pick for the 1962 National Football League draft following his senior year. The Washington Redskins had the initial selection, but soon traded him to the Cleveland Browns, who signed him to a three-year no-cut, no-trade $65,000 contract with a $15,000 signing bonus, a new record for a rookie.

The next summer while training for the upcoming All-Star game, Ernie awoke with swelling in his neck. A trainer sent him to the hospital, and doctors soon discovered the leukemia. At the time, Ernie and the public were told only that he had a “blood disorder”. He wasn’t told it was leukemia until October, after he had been in and out of the hospital. "Either you fight or you give up," Davis said in remembering how he felt when told the news.

The disease went into remission, and Davis kept planning on pro football. He practiced with the Browns. Coach Paul Brown, heeding the advice of medical people who warned him of the risks, did not play Davis. The next spring, Davis noticed more swelling and entered the hospital again. Two days later, on May 18, he died in his sleep. In Elmira, more than 10,000 citizens passed the Neighborhood House on May 21 where Ernie lay in state. Flags in the city were flown at half-mast. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, also the burial place of Mark Twain.

Universal Pictures has finished production on the film adaptation of Davis’s life. The movie is slated for release Oct. 10. The book is available now. Stop by your local bookstore or library and check it out. You can catch Kevin tailgating at From My Shelf Books in Wellsboro. Stop by or tackle it online at www.wellsborobookstore.com

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Preserving Reviving Appreciating Local History

Kasey Cox

Our bookstore, like many others across the nation, participates in the weekly reporting of our bestsellers. While we do sell our share of Stephenie Meyer and John Grisham, our report of top sellers is as different from the New York Times bestseller list as the Bronx is from Galeton. The main reason for this is not that we are Ridgerunners as opposed to Manhattanites; and, anyway, our bestseller list is compiled from books purchased by tourists and locals alike. Strangely enough, these are often the same books. We sell a disproportionate amount of our books from one section of our store – the shelf labeled “local interest, local history, local authors.”

When people travel, they want souvenirs that they can’t get somewhere else. Tourists seek out the “local color” books because they genuinely want to learn the history and flavors of our beautiful area. At first, I found this surprising; now I find it heartening. But this is a “secret” that Arcadia Press has known all along.

In the short review I wrote for the July issue of Mountain Home, I mentioned the excellent work that Arcadia Press does with the series of books they produce, focusing on the history of small towns or of city neighborhoods. Arcadia Press finds local writers and researchers who have a passion for working with historical preservation. Arcadia Press understands that the true history of America is told through the stories and pictures of individual places; this makes reviewing their books for Mountain Home such an excellent match.

Just as tourists enjoy buying books celebrating local flavor, the people from an area want books that describe their roots. I still hate disappointing those searching for increasingly rare and hard to find local histories that only had a limited number of copies printed. One such book is Bill Pippin’s thoroughly researched, amusingly told history of Galeton, entitled Wood Hick, Pigs-Ear & Murphy. This book was published in 1976, and owners of the book still jealously guard their copies. Whether you are one of those Wood Hick owners or are just waiting for someone to die so you can have their copy, I’ve got good news for you: in late June of this year, Arcadia Press published Around Galeton and Coudersport, by Ronald W. Dingle. Since this new book is part of Arcadia’s “Postcard History Series”, it features more photos than Pippin’s book, which is a treat, since many of the images come from the author’s private collection.

I found Ron Dingle’s book a welcome addition to information available on Potter County history. Ron himself obviously loves the area, since he has been coming here since the mid-1960’s, moving here permanently upon his retirement from the Chef Boy-Ar-Dee plant in Milton. Ron is currently a member of four historical societies in north and central Pennsylvania, giving him access to the people and information necessary to creating this book.

Dovetailing into the stories illuminated by the “Postcard History” of Galeton and Coudersport is another new Arcadia publication, Pine Creek Villages, by David Ira Kagan. This collection, which just became available at the end of July, chronicles the historic buildings, inns, stores, houses, train stations, and businesses up and down the Pine Creek watershed. Featuring separate chapters on Torbert and Tombs Run, Ramsey, Waterville, Jersey Mills, Cammal, Slate Run, Cedar Run, Leetonia, and Blackwell, delighted readers will be able to revisit places they thought they knew, to see what they were like at various stages from the late 1800’s to the 1960’s.

All railroad enthusiasts, be sure to take note of Kagan’s book, since much of the history of the Pine Creek Villages focuses on the logging railroads that went up into the mountains, the locomotives that brought down the virgin timber, and the people who came here to work in what was the frontier. The photos and stories in this book remind us that in order to “manifest destiny” in the United States, settlers often had to go through the Appalachians. Some stayed, but in many cases, this area of the country remained unsettled, wild, pristine, long after places farther west had bustling cities and towns. Reading this made me appreciate again the rugged beauty, the quiet, the pace of life we enjoy in this part of Pennsylvania.


Kasey Cox is the manager of From My Shelf books, Wellsboro’s independent bookstore. Both Ron Dingle and David Kagan will be visiting the bookstore in September. See their website for details, at www.wellsborobookstore.com

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Poacher Wars

Kevin Coolidge


A game warden came upon a duck hunter who had bagged 3 ducks and decided to “enforce the laws pending." He stopped the hunter, flashed his badge and said, "Looks like you've had a pretty good day. Mind if I inspect your game?"

The hunter shrugged and handed the ducks to the warden. The warden took one of the ducks, probed the anal cavity with his finger, pulled it out, sniffed it, and said, "This here's a New York state duck. Do you have a New York state hunting license?"

The hunter pulled out his wallet and calmly showed the warden a New York state-hunting license. The warden took a second duck, inserted his finger in the bird's rectum, pulled it out, sniffed it, and said, "This here's an Ohio duck. Do you have an Ohio state hunting license?"

The hunter, annoyed, produced an Ohio state-hunting license. The warden took a third duck, investigated the bird’s southern exit with the same finger test, and said, "This here's a Pennsylvania state duck. Do you have a Pennsylvania state hunting license?"

Once again, only this time more aggravated, the hunter produced the appropriate license. The warden, a little miffed at having struck out, handed the ducks back to the hunter and said, "You've got all of these licenses, just where the hell are you from?"

The hunter dropped his pants, bent over, and said, "You're so smart, YOU tell ME!"

Yep, every ridgerunner has at least one story involving a game warden. There are times when they can be annoying, like that time you hit that deer at 1am, only the deer was still twitching and the tire iron was only to put it out of its misery. After all, if you were going to jacklight deer, wouldn’t you have a spotlight and a loaded tire iron, and still have an intact radiator? There’s no sense letting all that good meat go to waste.

Of course, lots of poachers like to make the claim that a deer was just “road kill”, and to portray themselves as down-on-their-luck rascals just looking for meat to feed their hungry family. The hardcore poacher is often a serious outlaw with an extensive criminal record, and little respect for life. Illegal hunting to meet the demands of an international trade in wildlife and wildlife parts is a major problem facing those concerned with the protection and sustainability of wildlife populations. Many of the people involved in the trade of illegally hunted animals are the same people involved with organized crime --such as drugs and prostitution. They want to be where the money is. The trade in bear's gall bladders is a good example. The bear gallbladder trade is similar to the heroin business, except that bear organs are harder to come by and harder to smoke. There is money in wildlife.

If you want to know more about poaching, ask a poacher, or better yet, ask a game warden who has pursued poachers on foot, by vehicle or boat. Or you can just read Poacher Wars, A Pennsylvania Game Warden’s Journal by William Wasserman. Bill was a Pennsylvania game warden for more than thirty years, and was responsible for patrolling 400 square miles of rugged mountain terrain.

He’s encountered a number of poachers who were convicted felons including murderers, drug addicts, dope dealers and outlaw bikers. He’s seen men shot in the woods, with their blood seeping from wounds, and put his own life at risk. In his book you will find sixteen true short stories about these dangerous and unpredictable men.

If you want to know what working wildlife law enforcement is like for a Pennsylvania conservation officer, this book is a definite must-read. Game wardens are police officers with full arrest powers: they solve poaching cases with many of the same forensic skills that police investigators use to solve murder cases-such as DNA analysis and ballistic evidence. Crimes against wildlife can be more difficult to solve than crimes against humans, because there is often a lack of witnesses to interview, and Bambi can’t or won’t talk.

Hunting season is meant to protect animal populations and breeding cycles. So if you love the taste of venison, polish up the rifle, or your car, and bone up on the latest game regulations. Now where did I put my shotgun???

Guns? Game? Or is meat just tasty, tasty murder? Email me at frommyshelf@epix.net Miss a previous column, check out past columns at www.frommyshelf.blogspot.com Hobo swears he had a valid hunting license for that mouse, he can check it out in his book “Hobo Finds A Home”, a children’s book about a cat who wanted more out of life.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Tin Man Was Smarted and Braver than He Thought

Kasey Cox

Dar Williams, a folk singer whose popularity began in the coffeehouse and folk festival scene of New England in the early 1990’s, wrote these words: “And when I talk about therapy, I know what people think/ That it only makes you selfish and in love with your shrink….”

I ruefully smile at these lyrics as I go about my review for Andrew Seubert’s new book, The Courage to Feel: A Practical Guide to the Power and Freedom of Emotional Honesty. Andrew Seubert, co-founder of The ClearPath Healing Arts Center in Corning, NY, has been a licensed psychotherapist for the past 25 years. He and his wife, Barbara Hale-Seubert, practice out of offices in Mansfield and in Corning, and I daresay have probably worked with a great number of the folks in the Twin Tiers. Lately, Andrew’s expertise has lead him to more seminars and workshops where he trains other therapists, as far away as Holland and England.

Perhaps I’m not the best person to write this review, because I’m not sure how many people will take me seriously. Why? I am completely biased. I’ve known Andrew, and his family, for almost a decade. I think Andrew is a great person, and an amazingly talented, effective therapist. I’ve already learned the techniques he outlines in his book, most of them in the privacy of Andrew’s office and in my own life as I struggled to grow through very rocky soil. Therefore, I can’t come to this book with a fresh perspective. I read it as one cheering Andrew’s success, hoping that it is everything he wants it to be, and also as one for whom the explanations for these concepts are already well-ingrained. For me, this book is a refresher course as much as anything.

On the other hand, maybe that makes me particularly well-suited to recommend this book. After writing several articles in the last year in which I publicly disclosed my struggles with manic-depression (bipolar disorder), I have had a staggering number of people call, email, or come to the store to ask advice on books on mental health, and to thank me for speaking up. While I can now speak up about my feelings and experiences, suggesting books that give good advice to people in dealing with their feelings is difficult at best. Each person, each family’s situation is so different. The Courage to Feel, however, allows me a more solid recommendation, since it is advice for everyone to use.

Seubert’s book is exactly what the title describes it to be – above all else, a practical guide to feeling our feelings, which takes a great deal more courage than most of us imagine. After all, feelings are just there, right? They happen to us, they’re part of life, and growing up means learning to deal with them – essentially, at least for most of us, that means shoving them away, tuning them out, so we can deal with life. Not so fast, Andrew says. That is not really dealing with feelings at all. Feelings are life: they are the vital energy that keeps us engaged with ourselves, the people and the world around us. When we shove them aside or tell ourselves they’re not important, we are missing crucial messages that are built into our physiology for essential reasons. And most of us were never taught to interpret those messages, or, in fact, to “deal” with them at all.

Most of The Courage to Feel shows us, step by step, in clear, practical, down-to-earth words, how to unpack the years of feelings we’ve stuffed away, and how to begin to learn from our feelings now, in our day-to-day lives, instead of pushing them into the background like some kind of dirty secret. Andrew explains how we will find incredible energy in this process, a new passion for our relationships and our work, better physical health as well as mental and emotional renewal. There are many books out there, and practitioners, who promise the same kind of things, but that are too easily dismissed as “New Age” or “psychobabble.” I believe you’ll be really pleased with Andrew’s style. There is very little of the language that makes therapy-shy people squirm. For those who need the imaginative, there is the fable of Simon the Turtle woven throughout the book to guide their way. For those who are more business-like, trained as we are for most of our lives to respond to steps and outlines and how-to’s and outcomes, Andrew also provides this.

So which is it? Am I an excellent choice for this review, or should my thoughts on it be taken with a grain of salt roughly the size of Rhode Island? I once asked Andrew a similar either/or question, when I was struggling to decide which part of my life was most real – the achiever or the hospital patient. The simple wisdom is an answer that applies much more universally, to many situations, to many a person, place or thing – “you’re both”.


Hobo isn’t the cowardly lion – he tells everyone his feelings. His photo has been absent lately because he’s been in negotiations. He wanted more pay and fewer public appearances, and he’s certain his photo is worth at least as much as those first photos of Brangelina’s twins. He has currently settled for a break from the summer tour he’d planned – sorry, local senior centers – but his thoughts are still available online at frommyshelf.blogspot.com. He’ll also answer email at frommyshelf@epix.net.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Falling Stars

Kevin Coolidge

The nighttime sky is truly a wonder to behold, and for a young boy just starting a lifetime of discovery, my dad’s old binoculars were all I needed. When you read about the latest discovery with the Hubble space telescope, you might think that the only things worth looking at are with the biggest, best, and most expensive equipment, but it simply isn’t true. If you are just getting interested in astronomy, you might want to consider Binocular Stargazing by Mike D. Reynolds.

Why start with binoculars? 1. A pair of binoculars of reasonable quality can be bought for under $100; a telescope of reasonable quality can cost twice as much, or much more. 2. Binoculars are easier to learn to use than a telescope. 3. Objects are easier to find with a standard pair of binoculars than a telescope, and allows a novice to begin to learn the night sky and navigate from object to object. 4. If you decide that astronomy is not for you, you can always use the binoculars for other things, and 5. Two eyes are simply better than one.

Many amateur astronomers keep a pair of binoculars when out observing. Binoculars can be useful for first examining a part of the sky before an object is located. And when that occasional fireball appears, a pair of binoculars is useful for examining the smoke trail, or train, often left behind—and if you are quick enough, the meteor itself.

Most of us have looked up at the night sky and seen what is commonly called a falling or shooting star. These momentary streaks occur when meteors, objects ranging from the size of dust particles to fist-size masses, enter the earth’s atmosphere and are heated to incandescence. Few of these objects survive their encounter with our atmosphere.

What we see on earth is a streak of light that lasts about a half second on average -- generally speaking, the larger the material that enters the atmosphere, the brighter the meteor. Brighter meteors will occasionally leave a smoke trail in their path lasting a few seconds; trails produced by very bright meteors, referred to as fireballs, may last minutes. Fireballs that appear to break up, or produce sound, are called bolides.

One of the most prolific meteor showers known as the Perseids occurs in August. The Perseids are so called because the point they appear to come from lies in the constellation Perseus. Meteor showers occur when Earth moves through a meteor stream. The stream in this case is called the Perseid cloud and it stretches along the orbit of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the greatest activity between August 8 and 14, peaking about August 12. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour. To experience the shower in its full, one should observe in the dark of a clear moonless night, from a point far outside any large cities, where stars are not dimmed by light pollution-such as Cherry Springs state park.

If you are looking for a good introduction to the wonderful world of meteors and meteorite collecting, check out Falling Stars, A Guide to Meteors & Meteorites by Mike D. Reynolds. There are a number of good books out there on this subject, but this one is a handy quick reference guide for novices and those interested in learning about the origins of these interesting pieces of rock from space. It gives a brief overview of meteors and comets, descriptions of major meteor showers, major impact craters, and famous meteorite falls, as well as a breakdown of the various types of meteorites.

Backyard astronomy can be easy and fun. I’m going to make myself a big bowl of popcorn, drag my Barcalounger√§ into the backyard and catch a FREE midnight show.

Kevin Coolidge wishes for clear skies at www.frommyshelf.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ambush in the Alleghenies

Kevin Coolidge



Deep in the wilderness of western Pennsylvania, a young George Washington suffered his first military defeat, and rekindled a centuries-old feud between Great Britain and France. The battles that followed would be fought across virgin territories, from Nova Scotia to the forks of the Ohio River, and it would decide the fate of the entire North American continent. It is against this setting that William P. Robertson and David Rimer start their exciting new series Ambush in the Alleghenies, four daring trappers get snared in the conflict soon to be known as the French and Indian War.

Robertson and Rimer have spent fifteen years creating their series of seven novels about the famous Civil War rifle regiment, the Bucktails. Now the authors are back with a new adventure set in the wilderness of colonial Pennsylvania. Ambush in the Alleghenies details the exploits of Lightnin’ Jack Hawkins, Bearbite Bob Winslow, Will Big Cat Cutler, and Alexander MacDonald, four mountain men struggling to survive the savage land and fierce enemies.

The book begins with the opening phase of the French and Indian War. George Washington is sent on a spy mission to Pennsylvania. The protagonists, beaver trappers by trade, are dragged into the conflict when the French invade their trapping territory and interfere with their way of life. They meet a very young George Washington, who employs them as scouts. The book finishes two years later with the defeat of British General Edward Braddock near Fort Duquesne.

Robertson and Rimer realistically illustrate the everyday life of Eastern mountain men. The clothing, food, weapons, trapping techniques and even the rough humor are meticulously depicted. There are some great photos are fellow re-enactors which bring the book and time period to life. The book brings history to a younger generation of readers; though I know of more than one adult (other than myself) who is going to love this series.

I find the book to be well researched and a must read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction and action-oriented prose. When I asked William how he writes the novels, he answered, “ The way we write the books is this. First, we both do research to find out the time period. Using the history as the template, we come up with a creative plot. I then write the rough draft and give it to Dave for editing. He corrects the grammar, finds weak places in the plot, and checks for logic and possible historical errors. After that, I add in his corrections and find other mistakes, too. The book goes back and forth 5 or 6 times until we work the bugs out of it. I am the creative force behind the books, while Dave is the technical writing expert.” The authors have even included bibliography and a glossary so that interested readers can discover out more about this exciting period of history.

The novel also includes elements of tall tales and myth making, for which the American frontier is known. Each frontiersman possesses strong medicine* that enables him to thwart Bold Wolf, an evil Ottawa chief, and their archenemy. Lightnin’ Jack, uses his speed to beat the chief’s gauntlet, while Will Cutler has an amazing skill with weapons.

Danger lurks everywhere in the dense hemlocks of the Alleghenies, with ferocious cougars, scalp-stealing savages, and Frenchmen full of fight. I’m looking forward to the next thrilling book in the series, but in the meanwhile, I think I’ll grow my beard out and practice my shootin’, cause I ain’t planning on getting ambushed or missing the next one…

French? Indian? Or born to be a mountain man? Email me at frommyshelf@epix.net Miss a column? Don’t get mad, get caught up at www.frommyshelf.blogspot.com Don’t miss the exciting adventures of Hobo. He doesn’t wrassle cougars, or take any scalps, but he does venture into the wilds of Tioga County in “Hobo Finds A Home”, a children’s book for the kitten in all of us.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Just Bill Me

Kevin Coolidge

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I’ve always loved books, and I don’t remember a time when I haven’t been able to read. I’ve read classics, pulp fiction, and books that raised the librarian’s eyebrows. I’ve even browsed through encyclopedias, just for fun. You never know when a stranger is going to ask you the major exports of Chile. I was one of those kids who wanted books for Easter. After all, you can only eat the ears of a chocolate bunny once, but you can read a book again and again. I guess it’s not really a surprise that I ended up working in a bookstore.

I also love the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Although in recent years it seems that the Bill of Rights itself is being challenged, I’m still an optimist, and hold fast to the belief that my rights to write and read what I want are still protected. There’s a deep, American sense of pride I feel when I order or have a book in stock that a big chain bookstore might not carry, because it doesn’t want to take time to listen to customers, or field complaints from an intolerant minority.

This pride has become even more pronounced during my time at the bookstore. I recently had a man approach me with two books in his hand. He introduced himself as an off-duty Pennsylvania state police officer from Potter County. He was not pleased with the books, and expressed the opinion “surely there are better books that I could be selling.” Of course, when I asked if he had bothered to read either of the offending books, he hadn’t.

Why this man had to introduce himself as a police officer, and not just a concerned citizen, bothered me. Yes, I listened to him. People have the right to their opinion. You can have an opinion, but it should be an informed opinion. Thankfully, Americans have the freedom of information and the freedom to choose. Maybe not as much as what I’d like, but it’s still there. I don’t think every book is for every person, but I want to choose to read or not to read.

I don’t expect you to always agree with what I have to say. I won't always agree with what you have to say. In fact, there are some people that I simply cannot stand listening to. When I hear someone, or come across an article that truly disgusts me, I remind myself, that just as I have a right to express my opinions and ideas, so do you. If we expect to have certain freedoms, we must be willing to extend those freedoms to others. The last thing I want to do is start restricting those opinions. I may turn off the television, put down the newspaper, browse to another website, or turn down the radio. I may even just shake my head and walk away when someone is talking, but I will not, cannot, attempt to restrict what is being said.

First they came for the Harlequin™ romances
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a romantic.
Then they came for the GLBT
And I did not speak out
Because I was not gay
Then they came for Judaic literature
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was nothing
Left to read…

Choose for yourself? Or read only the mandated bulletins? Email me at frommyshelf@epix.net Miss a pass column? Read all about it at www.frommyshelf.blogspot.com Hobo wants to let his fans know that he has turned down vice president nominations from both Obama and McCain. He’s going to be running to the beat of his own heart. Remember, a vote for Hobo is a vote for you. Vote for someone who cares. Vote for yourself this election year.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Short & Sweet on the Finger Lakes

Kasey Cox


(this was first published as a little book review in a local magazine, Mountain Home, in their July edition)

If you’re looking for detailed histories for a small town, or an old neighborhood in a city, look no further than Arcadia Publishing. In their series such as “Images of America” and “Then & Now”, Arcadia brings the history of an area to life, showcasing historic images and photos, explaining the stories behind each one. The writers, historians, and photojournalists who publish for Arcadia are people who have spent many years in an area, and have a unique perspective and appreciation for their subject. Recently, a Wellsboro-born writer Eric Smith – who now lives and works in Lock Haven – was honored with the invitation to create an Arcadia book on “Clinton County”, published last September to warm reception.

Now, for those of us who love the Finger Lakes area, Arcadia has gifted us with a new book from their popular “Postcard History” series. The book, just released at the end of March, is simply titled “Finger Lakes”. Being co-authored by Kirk W. House and Charles R. Mitchell adds to the many accolades this volume will receive. Mr. House is the former director-curator of the Glenn Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, NY, showplace of early aviation history. Mr. Mitchell is the current curator of the Yates County Genealogical and Historical Society (which encompasses much of the area around Keuka Lake).

Having been blessed with grandparents who owned a small cottage on Keuka Lake, and having many of my own fond memories of the area, I was immediately excited to open this book and dive into fascinating historic photos of Ithaca, gorges in Watkins Glen, vineyards near Canadaigua, Taughannock Falls, the World-Record 28 foot griddle that still hangs in Penn Yan. Just leafing through it, I smiled like a sentimental fool, and also learned a lot of new things about an area I thought I knew well. This book will be a wonderful gift to anyone you know who has loved the Finger Lakes.

Relay for Life, Seasons of Life

Kasey Cox

We are coming into the season where local Relay for Life teams start kicking it into high gear, raising money and getting ready for the big event. Mansfield’s Relay for Life is on June 28 this year, and Wellsboro’s follows soon after on July 11. I always keep tabs on the Relay activities, and try to donate as much as I can. I feel a real kinship to cancer patients and their families, although I have never had cancer myself, nor has anyone in my immediate family. Why would I feel so connected to this cause, this journey that people take when they or someone they love is diagnosed with cancer?

Professor, popular lecturer, and recent author Randy Pausch provides an answer. Like the Lance Armstrong yellow plastic bracelets reminding people to “Live Strong”, Pausch’s book “The Last Lecture” focuses his message on LIVING. This most recent of inspirational books to top the bestseller lists, “The Last Lecture” is a true story, unfolding even as you read it, of a young professor, husband, and father, who has written this book as a lasting legacy to those he leaves behind. Pausch has stage four, terminal, pancreatic cancer that has significantly metastasized into his liver. Most likely, by the time most of us are getting out our winter coats again, he will be gone. Unfortunately, as many people involved with the Relay for Life will tell you, Pausch’s story is not unusual. We could read many books that would be variations of what is happening to Randy Pausch and his family. What’s different about “The Last Lecture” is the framework of the book and what Pausch has chosen to say.

The premise for his book, as well as the title, comes from a hypothetical question posed to many professors to be the basis of a lecture: what would you say to this audience if you knew this were your last chance to share your wisdom? For Pausch, this question is no longer an academic exercise, no longer in the realm of “what-if”. The fact that there are many “last lecture” series given on campuses intrigued Pausch, even as he began to plan for the unthinkable – that his youngest child may not remember spending time with her father.

So, the last lecture that Pausch delivered on September 18, 2007, focused on “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”. A lot of the advice he shared – keeping a childlike wonder in looking at the world, thinking outside the box, accepting constructive criticism, accepting help, being the kind of person people want to help, the importance of persistence – is not new, but boy, does it sound different coming from someone who has achieved as much as Pausch, and who is facing death sooner than he ever thought.

Books like this run the high risk of being too maudlin, or overly trite, coming across like a melodramatic country song or a bad Lifetime Channel movie. I began reading “The Last Lecture” hesitantly, fearing I’d be pulling out the waders or the Kleenex too soon. I was pleasantly surprised at how upbeat Randy Pausch’s perspective is, and how practical his advice. The book itself is a quick read: after the first few chapters which set the stage and give the background to this story, the chapters are short, each one summarizing a lesson he wants to share. It would easy to zip through this book and think, “oh, that’s a sad story, with some good advice from a nice, intelligent man.” I think it’s actually best to let Randy Pausch pull you quickly through the first time you read his last lecture. But then make certain you go back through with the proverbial fine-tooth comb. Read one chapter, ruminate, talk with your family and friends about it, journal about it, apply it to working with your colleagues for a week and see what happens. Then bite into a little more. You’ll find that Pausch’s honed abilities as a professor have allowed him to organize and synthesis a lot of information into small packages, but each package, when opened, has a huge gift inside. Ultimately, there are a ton of gifts packed into this little book.

Why do we cheer for folks with cancer? For that matter, why are those country songs and Lifetime movies so popular, why do the stories about people who are struggling with a terminal illness touch us so much? For me, it’s not to sit down and have a good cry, although that sometimes happens. What’s most important is the reminder to live well, as Pausch says, “with the cards you’ve been dealt.”

Relay for Life, Seasons of Life

Kasey Cox

We are coming into the season where local Relay for Life teams start kicking it into high gear, raising money and getting ready for the big event. Mansfield’s Relay for Life is on June 28 this year, and Wellsboro’s follows soon after on July 11. I always keep tabs on the Relay activities, and try to donate as much as I can. I feel a real kinship to cancer patients and their families, although I have never had cancer myself, nor has anyone in my immediate family. Why would I feel so connected to this cause, this journey that people take when they or someone they love is diagnosed with cancer?

Professor, popular lecturer, and recent author Randy Pausch provides an answer. Like the Lance Armstrong yellow plastic bracelets reminding people to “Live Strong”, Pausch’s book “The Last Lecture” focuses his message on LIVING. This most recent of inspirational books to top the bestseller lists, “The Last Lecture” is a true story, unfolding even as you read it, of a young professor, husband, and father, who has written this book as a lasting legacy to those he leaves behind. Pausch has stage four, terminal, pancreatic cancer that has significantly metastasized into his liver. Most likely, by the time most of us are getting out our winter coats again, he will be gone. Unfortunately, as many people involved with the Relay for Life will tell you, Pausch’s story is not unusual. We could read many books that would be variations of what is happening to Randy Pausch and his family. What’s different about “The Last Lecture” is the framework of the book and what Pausch has chosen to say.

The premise for his book, as well as the title, comes from a hypothetical question posed to many professors to be the basis of a lecture: what would you say to this audience if you knew this were your last chance to share your wisdom? For Pausch, this question is no longer an academic exercise, no longer in the realm of “what-if”. The fact that there are many “last lecture” series given on campuses intrigued Pausch, even as he began to plan for the unthinkable – that his youngest child may not remember spending time with her father.

So, the last lecture that Pausch delivered on September 18, 2007, focused on “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”. A lot of the advice he shared – keeping a childlike wonder in looking at the world, thinking outside the box, accepting constructive criticism, accepting help, being the kind of person people want to help, the importance of persistence – is not new, but boy, does it sound different coming from someone who has achieved as much as Pausch, and who is facing death sooner than he ever thought.

Books like this run the high risk of being too maudlin, or overly trite, coming across like a melodramatic country song or a bad Lifetime Channel movie. I began reading “The Last Lecture” hesitantly, fearing I’d be pulling out the waders or the Kleenex too soon. I was pleasantly surprised at how upbeat Randy Pausch’s perspective is, and how practical his advice. The book itself is a quick read: after the first few chapters which set the stage and give the background to this story, the chapters are short, each one summarizing a lesson he wants to share. It would easy to zip through this book and think, “oh, that’s a sad story, with some good advice from a nice, intelligent man.” I think it’s actually best to let Randy Pausch pull you quickly through the first time you read his last lecture. But then make certain you go back through with the proverbial fine-tooth comb. Read one chapter, ruminate, talk with your family and friends about it, journal about it, apply it to working with your colleagues for a week and see what happens. Then bite into a little more. You’ll find that Pausch’s honed abilities as a professor have allowed him to organize and synthesis a lot of information into small packages, but each package, when opened, has a huge gift inside. Ultimately, there are a ton of gifts packed into this little book.

Why do we cheer for folks with cancer? For that matter, why are those country songs and Lifetime movies so popular, why do the stories about people who are struggling with a terminal illness touch us so much? For me, it’s not to sit down and have a good cry, although that sometimes happens. What’s most important is the reminder to live well, as Pausch says, “with the cards you’ve been dealt.”

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Name of the Wind

Kasey Cox

Sometimes, the superlatives aren’t enough.

I have been accused of tending towards hyberbole. I have a hard time holding myself back, though: I say “H-U-G-E!”, drawing out the letters for emphasis; I say “awesome” and “amazing” quite a bit; I also like “fantastic” and “fabulous”. As a person who loves life and feels things deeply, it’s not unusual that my descriptions would be on the dramatic end of the spectrum.

This presents a bit of a problem, on occasion, when reviewing books. I love books. It’s easy to give all kinds of books an enthusiastic thumbs-up, employing any one of my favorite words noted above. But then what to do when a truly special book comes along? How to explain that this book, this author, the writing here, set themselves apart from anything else you’ve read in a long time?

Well, is that enough build-up, or have I exceeded my exaggeration threshold once again? If you can’t hear me on this, then look at what authors Ursula LeGuin, Terry Brooks, Anne McCaffrey, and Orson Scott Card – to name just a few – have to say about Patrick Rothfuss’s debut fantasy novel, “The Name of the Wind.” In just the short time since the first printing in hardcover in April 2007, Rothfuss has garnered praise from major newspapers all across the U.S. and Europe, Amazon’s “Best Pick of the Year 2007 … So Far” summer award, as well as earning starred reviews in The New York Times, the Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and The Onion A.V. Club. Reviewers didn’t just intimate that this was the next Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings series, they crowed it from the rooftops.

If you’re not a huge fantasy reader, you may still enjoy “The Name of the Wind” and the books to follow in ‘The Kingkiller Chronicles.’ Rothfuss’s writing is so mature, so capable, so smooth, that it transcends genre. In the same way that Tolkien wrote his Middle Earth books inspired by the legends of Classic Literature that he taught, so too, Rothfuss’s story reads like a modern telling of the heroes of old, the story of a man who became a legend in his own time. Rothfuss’s protagonist Kvothe reminds me of a Ulysses or Achilles, or more recently of Tolkien’s Aragorn. His story is by turns sentimental and sweet, intriguing, sad and desperate, triumphant, exciting, frightening. Both plot and the telling kept me turning pages well into the night.

If you are a fantasy reader, one who is still grieving the end of Harry Potter, or author Robert Jordan’s death before finishing his series … one who has been impatiently waiting the third installment in Christopher Paolini’s “Eragon (Inheritance)” series … one who re-watches the Lord of the Rings movies every year, and can provide a direct translation of all the Elvish phrases in Tolkien’s books … wait no longer. “The Name of the Wind” is just the book to sink your teeth into this summer. The only problem then: waiting for Rothfuss’s second installment, “The Wise Man’s Fear.”

Hobo, too, is hard at work on the second installment in his ongoing tales of a hero’s journey. In his first book, “Hobo Finds A Home”, the hero leaves his birthplace and begins his wandering and his adventures in the wider world. He just feels lucky he didn’t see any cottonmouth snakes! Who knows what he’ll see on his Summer Book Tour 2008? Check out his website for updates! http://frommyshelf.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Twilight Series

Kevin Coolidge

This morning I woke up tired and naked on the kitchen floor with mud underneath my nails. Last night had to be another full moon. Being a werewolf may seem grand, but it’s just who I am. It’s not like Hollywood. Silver won’t kill me, and who can afford silver bullets anyway? Wolfs bane only makes me itch. I don’t run with a pack. I’m solitary by nature, and I don’t hang with vampires. Those are just the imagination of sexually repressed humans, but with a life span ranging into the centuries, I do have time to work on my stock portfolio and catch up on my reading.

I decided to delve into the young adult series, Twilight, by Stephanie Myer. She is the author of the books Twilight, along with the sequels New Moon, and Eclipse. The fourth book in the series, Breaking Dawn, will be released Aug 2, 2008. The Twilight saga follows the adventures of Isabella Swan (nicknamed Bella), a teenager who moves to Forks, Washington and finds her life turned upside down when she falls in love with a vampire named Edward Cullen.

The series has gained a cult following among young adult readers. Fans have been offically dubbed “Twilighters”. Many dress up like the characters. They write their own fan fiction about them, post their tales on the Internet. When Stephanie Meyer appears at a bookstore, 3,000 people go to meet her. There are Twilight-themed rock bands. The small town of Forks on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State is a real town, and has thus received am unusual amount of attention, and now celebrates “Stephenie Meyer Day” on September 13, the date of character Bella Swan’s birthday, in honor of the author.

So, just why has this series become so immensley popular? As Shakespeare knew, love burns hotter when love is forbidden, and this pair of lovers is extremley star-crossed. Bella falls in love with beautiful Edward, and he returns her love. But Edward is having a difficult time controlling the blood lust in him, because well he’s a vampire. At any moment, his passion could drive him to kill her, and he agonizes over the mortal danger. Bella would rather risk death than be apart from Edward, and so she risks her life to be near him, and thus the novel smolders with an erotic tension from their dangerous, yet chaste relationship. Throw in a rival clan of vampires who want to drain Bella dry, and you have a book that will suck you in.

I did find the series something I could sink my teeth into, though there’s a little too much romance and overuse of adjectives for my taste. This book will have a strong appeal for the young adult, especially the female reader. Though, I feel that the writing and storytelling is strong enough to escape the genre. I personally enjoyed the sequels better and found the introduction of the love triangle with werewolf, Jacob Black and his pack of werewolves bent on protecting Bella from a vindictive vampire to be more suspenseful. The writing can be a bit melodramatic, but few readers will care. There’s a nice mix of romance, suspense with a paranormal twist that will leave you hungry for more.

So, where does a real life werewolf find love? There are few of us. I live among humanity, but our territory is so geographically vast that I seldom catch scent or scat of my kind. As we tend to be rather solitary, it makes dating pretty difficult. I mean. It’s not like I can just meet a nice bitch at the bar, or place a personal ad. Hmm, why not?

“LONE WOLF SEEKS PLAYMATE”
Single, professional, alpha male seeking a soulful, sultry female for continuing bloodline. I am long and lean with a dark, shiny coat and all my canines. I like to run through the woods, pay homage to Luna, and Wolf’s Bane and silver make me itch. You are sexy, playful and willing to learn a few new tricks…

Werewolves? Vampires? Or Both? Drop me an email at frommyshelf@epix.net. Seeking past columns? Pickup the trail at www.frommyshelf.blogspot.com Hobo wants his readers to know that he’s innocent. He’s wanted by the Pennsylvania Game Commission for a crime he didn’t commit. He was framed by a three-legged polecat. He will see justice served, hopefully with a side of caviar.