Monday, February 27, 2012

Seuss-a-Thon comes to Charlotte Saturday

Do you love Dr. Seuss, do you love him? I do!
If you love Dr. Seuss, then this day's for you.

OK, I know, really cheesy. But if you're a fan of one of America's greatest children's authors, you'll want to head on Saturday to the Seuss-a-Thon at Black Forest Books and Toys, 1942 E. Seventh St.

Black Forest is teaming with UNC Charlotte's Children's Literature Program to hold this event, which features prominent Charlotte folks reading aloud their favorite Dr. Seuss books. It'll run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and include other Suess-related activities.

The event supports the National Education' Association's Read Across America campaign and celebrates the birthday on Friday of the late Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Charlotte author's audiobook an Audie award finalist

"Macbeth: A Novel," an audiobook co-written by Charlotte's Andrew Hartley, is a finalist for an Audie.

Each year, the Audio Publishers Association awards Audies, known as the Oscars of audiobooks, to the best audiobooks of the year.

Hartley, UNC Charlotte's Russell Robinson professor of Shakespeare studies, and co-author David Hewson fleshed out Shakespeare's "Macbeth," making it a rich work of historical fiction. It's narrated by Alan Cumming, a prolific actor who appears regularly in CBS's "The Good Wife."

Along with being a Shakespeare expert, Hartley writes fiction. As A.J. Hartley, he's author of several historical thrillers and fantasy adventures.

Hartley and Hewson, also a thriller writer, hatched the idea for the novel, which allowed them to tell the Scottish play's story in a new way. (With battle scenes and internal dialogue, for instance.)

The book is one of five nominated for an Audie for best original work. Others in the running are "METAtropolis: Cascadia," "The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, Vol. 3," "Prayers: A Personal Selection" and "The Witches of Lublin -- Collector's Edition." Winners will be announced on June 5. first published the novel as an audiobook only, but the print version will be out in May.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Library offers free workshops on digital books

These days, the stacks aren't the only places to find books at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg library. The library's collection also includes digital books that you can download and read on electronic readers, tablets, laptops and smart phones.

Over the next several weeks, the library is offering workshops at multiple branches to teach patrons how to find, check out and download books from its growing digital collection. The workshops are free, but in some cases, registration is required. Find times and locations here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Charlotte's Paula Broadwell at Park Road Books

Charlotte's Paula Broadwell, author of "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus," will sign copies of her bestselling biography at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

Broadwell, pictured with boys in Afghanistan, made multiple trips to the country during Petraeus's yearlong command of U.S. forces there.

A West Point graduate and counterterrorism expert, she embedded with troops and spent hours interviewing Petraeus to report the story.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pulitizer winner to speak at Levine Museum

Douglas Blackmon, author of "Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II," speaks at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, at the Levine Museum of the New South, 200 E. 7th St.

His book, winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction, exposes a neo-slavery system that relied on laws enacted to intimidate blacks. Under the laws, tens of thousands of African Americans were arrested, hit with fines and arrest costs they could not pay and then sold as forced laborers to coal mines, lumber campuses, brickyards, railroads, quarries and farm plantations.

Blackmon will read and sign books at the event, which is free, though a $5 donation is suggested. Reservations are suggested. Call 704-333-1887 ext. 501 or email

Books will be on sale at the event, which is sponsored by the Levine Museum and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Charlotte Writers' Club to host Jeffery Deaver

Bestselling thriller author Jeffery Deaver will discuss writing and plot 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, at the Charlotte Writers' Club's monthly meeting at the Queens University Conference Center, 2229 Tyvola Road. The event is free and open to the public.

Deaver, who lives in Chapel Hill, has written 27 novels, including, most recently, "Carte Blanche," the latest James Bond installment. Deaver's novel "The Bone Collector" was made into a movie starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie.

In his next novel, "XO," out in June, heroine Kathryn Dance tries to stop a stalker from destroying a beautiful country singer.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Author sets debut novel, 'Uptown,' in Charlotte

The insulated splendor of Morrocroft Estates had a certain artificial exclusiveness, but was no less compelling for that fact. In the absence of any natural distinction, Morrocroft was, much like the city of Charlotte itself, entirely dependent upon the creation of a fabricated one.
-- opening lines of "Uptown" (Main Street Rag; $14.95), by Jack Gardner

Though he lives in Virginia, Jack Gardner chose Charlotte as the setting of his first novel. The book's protagonist is Stephen Rayfield, a young history professor at UNC Charlotte, but the city itself also plays a major role in this story of pretense, betrayal and the New South.

Gardner, who graduated from Monroe High School, will give a reading at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bestselling 'Weird Sisters' author in Charlotte

In the New York Times bestseller "The Weird Sisters," now in paperback (Berkley; $15), we meet the three Andreas sisters, siblings raised by an eccentric Shakespeare professor father whose parental advise was often delivered in iambic pentameter.

When the three return to their childhood home in Ohio to care for their sick mother, they're also attempting to escape their own personal disasters. The Washington Post calls this novel a "family drama, gracefully costumed in academic garb and lit with warm comedy."

Brown will sign books at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rules for a romance-novel marriage

Charlotte's Charla Muller, author of "365 Nights" and avid romance-novel reader, will discuss how you can incorporate romance into your real-life relationships at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13, at the Matthews Community Center, 100 McDowell St. East in Matthews.

This is a subject Muller knows something about. In her 2009 memoir, "365 Nights," she describes the unusual 40th birthday present she gave her husband -- sex every day for a year.

The Charlotte chapter of the Women's National Book Association is hosting this free event. Also on the program will be Jessica Daitch, who reviews books for Publisher's Weekly. Daitch will review for the group one good romance novel and one terrible one.

More info: Contact Betsy Thorpe,

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Oxford comma: A dissent

Recently, several of my grammar-obsessed Facebook friends have shared humorous posts (like the one at right) about the Oxford comma. They tout this special comma as a tool any smart, literate person should use.

And yet I am not convinced. This is partly because I just wasn't raised that way. Typically, newspapers use Associated Press style, which counsels us not to use that final comma unless it's needed to avoid ambiguity.

What, you ask, is the Oxford comma? It's a comma used before a conjunction when three or more items are listed in a series. In the phrase "Tom, Dick, and Harry," it's the comma following "Dick."

Advocates for the final comma, also called the "serial comma," argue that it can be all that stands between between clarity and ambiguity. They love to offer examples of the craziness that ensues when we don't use it. My favorite is this book dedication: To my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

Two thoughts come to mind, here. First, how weird is it that an author would dedicate a book to Ayn Rand and God? Because Rand was an atheist.

The other thought is this: There's an easy way to fix the problem, and you don't need an extra comma. Just avoid placing the plural noun first in the series. To Ayn Rand, my parents and God. Or: To Ayn Rand, God and my parents.

Ta-da. Problem solved. But it's still a weird book dedication.

If I've failed to grasp something about the necessity of the Oxford comma, feel free to let me know. But my other problem with this whole comma dust-up is that it shifts attention from far more important issues. Among them: the raging epidemic of apostrophe misuse.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ron Rash's 'Serena' headed to big screen

Filming is supposed to begin soon on a movie adaption of Ron Rash's bestselling novel, "Serena," according to multiple reports.

In "Serena," Rash, an award-winning novelist, poet and professor at Cullowhee's Western Carolina University, tells the Depression-era story of Serena Pemberton, whose timber-baron husband runs a logging operation in western North Carolina.

In this riveting novel, Serena is cold, calculating, larger than life. Reviewers have compared her to Lady Macbeth. I think Serena makes Lady Macbeth look soft.

So who'll play Serena in the movie?

Western Carolina University reports that it's Jennifer Lawrence, best known for her stunning portrayal of Ree Dolly in "Winter's Bone."
She's also starring in "The Hunger Games," out in March.

Playing Serena's husband, George, will be Bradley Cooper of "The Hangover."

The movie is scheduled for a 2014 release. The filming location hasn't been announced.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Charlotte's ImaginOn named top children's library, a website that writes about America's best places to live work and play, has named Charlotte's ImaginOn the nation's No. 1 children's library.

Livability editors looked at 500 communities and consulted library experts to determine criteria for their ranking. Among them: The library's responsiveness to community needs.

ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center
, "is the model of what a children's library can be," Livability editors write. The facility, at 300 E. Seventh St., opened in 2005. Along with numerous library services for children and teens, it also hosts Children's Theatre of Charlotte performances.

Other children's libraries ranked in Livability's Top 10 include facilities in Cincinnati, Iowa City and Birmingham.