What’s That Book? Gunslinger by Jeff Pearlman


Title:  Gunslinger: The Remarkable, Improbable, Iconic Life of Brett Favre

Author: Jeff Pearlman

Genre: Biography

Rating:  5 stars

What’s it about?  This is a great, thorough biography on Brett Favre, the NFL great who played almost 20 seasons in the league, mostly for the Green Bay Packers. While the author doesn’t ever directly interview Favre for the book, you quickly forget that, as it’s clear that dozens of people were interviewed for this story. Play-by-play action is almost always boring in game stories, yet Pearlman has a way of making a game more than a decade old sound as exciting as if you were watching it on TV.

He paints Favre’s character without holding back — this is by no means a book chronicling only the best moments of his football career. It goes through the personal struggles that Favre endured such as drug addiction and rampant infidelity, but just when you think he’s a terrible human being, you realize he has another side. Another side that proves humans are more intricate and complicated than they appear in a news article or a TV segment. Pearlman finds a way to force the reader to put their own values and morals to the test. Are some of the things Favre did unforgiveable? Is he just a fun-loving guy who gets carried away sometimes? Did the constant spotlight make some of his actions inevitable? Everyone will have their own opinion, but the argument is by no means one-sided. In an age where fans are forced to grapple with whether to cheer for a player who’s committed a crime or moral wrongdoing but still plays for their favorite team, this story shows this isn’t a new problem.

The author captured the unconditional love that the city of Green Bay had for Favre, which then turned on him temporarily when he signed with the rival Minnesota Vikings. There’s a reason he’s arguably the first name that comes to mind when you mention Packers’ greats. Not many players were truly idolized like Favre was by Packers’ fans.

It is hard to find fault in this book. The vocabulary is impressive without sounding like he’s trying to brag. The story is a good length without feeling like it lasted as long as Favre waffled over retirement. It is, above all things, fair. Obviously, it would’ve been great to hear directly from Favre, but there are enough interviews with other people to make up for that.

How did you hear about it?  I followed the author on Twitter and he had been talking about the book a lot when it was released in 2016, so I decided to give it a try.

Closing comments:  I am not usually much of a biography guy, but this might change my mind. It’s one of those stories where you don’t have to be a Packers fan to enjoy it. You don’t even have to be a football fan. You’re certain to go back and forth on whether you like the legend that is Brett Favre, and that’s what makes him such a fascinating character.

Contributor:   The author of this review is Austin Vitelli. He currently works as an assistant editor for Matrix Medical Communications, a medical publishing company. He is a recent journalism graduate from Lehigh University. He is a huge NFL fan, specifically the Philadelphia Eagles. You can view his website here or follow him on Twitter here.

Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it?
Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

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Blog views and other obsessions – revisiting the summer slump

Image: brainsonfire.com

What is it about summer that makes blog views drop? Is everyone on fabulous vacations, too busy having fun and living a real life to read blogs? Or are they consciously escaping from the internet? I approve of both of those, by the way, because I’m not just a blogger, I’m a person with a life who has to balance my virtual time with reality.

I don’t think these vacationers plan to catch up on my blog! Image: Pixabay

But from a blogger’s view, summer is the time when I hope readers will curl up with their devices and check out all the posts they might have missed. And because I’m a book blogger, I’m hoping they will read my reviews so they can decide which books to put in their beach totes.

My stats page looks a little like this right now. Image: Pixabay

Because I’m a little obsessed with views, I can’t stay away from my stats page. Views, Visitors, Likes and Comments – how can you not want to know? And how can you not be disappointed to see the numbers drop in the summer?

If you can’t stay away from the stats page, hoping your views will soar, set more realistic summertime goals. Don’t just compare to last month, or aim for an unreachable number. Are your views up from last summer? Are you getting more likes and comments than last summer?

The truth is, blog traffic depends on what you put into your blog, all year long. You can’t entirely avoid the summer slump, but you can boost your views by staying active. Don’t be a passive blogger, just posting and hoping someone will find you. Jump in to like, share and comment on blogs and on other social media sites. Twitter and Facebook are two good places to go. You can read a book about how to do it, or you can experiment and see what works for you. You have to feed that blogging machine to keep it happy and keep your views up. And you have to do something else too:

Accept that people have lives outside the internet (that’s a good thing) and that views will sink a little in the summer. Things will pick up in the fall. They always do. Remember, blogging should be fun, even if it’s linked to your professional life. Relax and accept the ups and downs.

Relax – the future is bright! Image: Pixabay

I’ve been writing about my obsession with blogging for a while now. Take a look at some of my earlier posts:

Facebook and the wayward herd 3/22/17
Aging out? 10/27/16
Back up that blog! 11/25/16

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!


The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin


Being mostly a fiction reader, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy reading the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, but I was happily surprised to find Franklin’s memoir a remarkable and amusing record of time in America during the mid- to late 1700s. I also enjoyed refreshing my memory about the colonies before the American Revolution and the steps that led to independence.

But one of the most important things I learned was that Franklin was simply exploding with ideas to make life better in America. Both industrious and frugal, he knew how to succeed in many enterprises, including owning a printing shop, a newspaper, being a postmaster and establishing a library, a university, a hospital and a fire company. In addition, he had an excellent instinct for human behavior and was able to reconcile many tense discussions among both his fellow men and important leaders. He used this diplomatic skill throughout his life.

The Franklin Stove/Image: benjaminfranklinbio.com

Franklin was always thinking and had many inventions, including the Franklin Stove (still around), better street light fixtures, a system for keeping the streets clean and of course, proving the relationship between electricity and lightning with his famous kite and key experiment.

Franklin was daring and witty and was an incorrigible flirt in his later years. He wrote Poor Richard’s Almanac, a publication full of clever advice.

In addition to inventing things, Franklin loved to find ways to bring people together to support interests and causes. He formed Junto, a secret men’s discussion and debate club, he organized a volunteer defense and he helped raise money for buildings and churches.

I also learned these Franklin tidbits:

Baby Ben/Image: benjaminfranklinbio.com
  • Franklin was the youngest son of seventeen children.
  • He attended school for one year. He was a learner through and through and taught himself math and several languages. He loved to read.
  • As a young man, he had a hankering for the sea, but his father wanted to keep him on land.
  • He apprenticed with his older brother James, a printer, in Boston.

    Mrs. Ben Franklin/Image: benjaminfranklinbio.com
  • He ran away to Philadelphia at age 17 and met his future wife, Miss Read, on his first day in town.
  • He had a son out of wedlock.
  • Another son died of smallpox at age 4 and Franklin forever regretted not having him inoculated.
  • Although he did not consider himself a military man, he was commissioned to build a fort in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to protect the American frontier.
  • He refused to obtain a patent for the Franklin Stove because said he only invented it to help people.

I enjoyed Franklin’s comments about the cost of a college education, a big worry for his father, “But my father, in the meantime, from a view of the expense of a college education, which having so large a family he could not well afford,” chose to establish his children in successful jobs.

Franklin also mentions a few regrets, which he calls “the great errata” of his life. One of them is, during a year-long trip to England, only writing once to Miss Read to inform her only that he’d be gone a long time. She didn’t wait and married another man. Read and Franklin finally got together later, after her husband deserted her. Another mistake was agreeing to collect money for a friend, then spending it.

Ben Franklin contributed generously to early American life. He had tremendous foresight and knew how to deal with people. I recommend this memoir to readers who are interested in history and the character behind important figures.

Want to know more? Check out these additional sources:

fi.edu (The Franklin Institute) Benjamin Franklin FAQ
ushistory.org – The Electric Ben Franklin
Wikipedia – Benjamin Franklin

I read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin as part of my Build a Better World Summer Reading Challenge to read a memoir, biography, or autobiography.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Who’s That Blogger and Indie Author? Audrey Kalman

Sometimes you’re a blogger and sometimes you’re an indie author and sometimes you’re both! I hope you will take a look at Audrey Kalman’s indie author information at the bottom of this updated post, to learn about her indie author writing success. Thanks for stopping by again!

Book Club Mom


Blogmaster/Indie Author:  Audrey Kalman

Blog name:Audrey Kalman – Fiction with a Dark Edge

Type of blog: Meditations on writing, life, philosophy, art, and culture

Where in the world?  United States

Blogging since when? 2011

What’s your story? When I published my first novel, Dance of Souls, in 2011, I knew it was important to have what we call an “author platform.” At the time, a blog was a necessity. Now, six years later, some people argue that you don’t need a blog any more since you can publish your ideas and opinions on sites like LinkedIn and Medium. But I like being able to completely control my content and presentation. In the beginning, I blogged a lot about the challenges of being an indie author. Now that I’ve published one book and have another scheduled for publication, I write about more general subjects, though still with…

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Who’s That Blogger and Indie Author? Audrey Kalman


Blogmaster/Indie Author:  Audrey Kalman

Blog name: Audrey Kalman – Fiction with a Dark Edge

Type of blog: Meditations on writing, life, philosophy, art, and culture

Where in the world?  United States

Blogging since when? 2011

What’s your story? When I published my first novel, Dance of Souls, in 2011, I knew it was important to have what we call an “author platform.” At the time, a blog was a necessity. Now, six years later, some people argue that you don’t need a blog any more since you can publish your ideas and opinions on sites like LinkedIn and Medium. But I like being able to completely control my content and presentation. In the beginning, I blogged a lot about the challenges of being an indie author. Now that I’ve published one book and have another scheduled for publication, I write about more general subjects, though still with a focus on art and literature. My most popular posts have been the ones where I’ve opened up personally about something going on in my life, like one I wrote about dealing with anxiety.

What types of blogs do you follow? I follow many blogs by people who offer advice on writing and marketing. I also follow a couple of great mindfulness blogs and I recently discovered Vox Populi, described as “a community of writers, artists, teachers and activists who share a vision of what American life is and what it could be.” They post a lot of poetry, which is quite refreshing!

Early bird or night owl? Definitely early bird. I try to do all my creative stuff before 11 a.m. and reserve the afternoon for activities that don’t require laser-like attention, since, as I get older, my brain power wanes considerably after about 3 p.m. I treat blogging like a job. I’ve been a freelancer for more than 20 years, so I’m fairly disciplined about deadlines—which is very helpful in supporting my own writing.

Coffee or tea? Tea, definitely: loose leaf. My current favorite is Early Grey green from Ahmad Tea, which I buy by the pound.

Most recent binge watch: “White Collar,” originally on USA Network, now available on Amazon. I love the two main characters, an FBI agent and his ex-con sidekick.

Check out these recent blog posts by Audrey Kalman:

Leave your garret and come to my party – 7/19/17
Grammar can save the world – 7/3/17
A weekend among the book people – 6/6/17

More about Audrey: Audrey Kalman writes literary fiction with a dark edge, often about what goes awry when human connection is missing from our lives. She is the author of two novels and numerous short stories, which have appeared in literary journals ranging from Pithead Chapel to Sixfold. She edited two editions of the Fault Zone anthology of California Writers and serves as VP/Speakers for the SF-Peninsula Branch of the California Writers Club. She lives in northern California with her husband, two children, and two cats, and has a day job (actually more like a middle-of-the-night job) as a birth doula. She is working on another novel. Or two.

I love character-driven novels, especially those structured as interlocking stories and/or multiple points of view. Some favorites: Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, Emma Donoghue’s Room, Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed, William Faulkner’s Light in August.

BookWhat Remains Unsaid

Contact Information (blog, website, etc.):
Twitter – @audreykalman
Facebook –@AudreyKalmanAuthor
Web site – audreykalman.com
Goodreads – Audrey Kalman

Awards/special recognition:
Best of Show: Literary Essay, June 2016 San Mateo County Fair Literary Arts Competition
Short listed for the 2016 Pithead Chapel Larry Brown Short Story Contest
Placed for publication for the Winter 2015 edition of Sixfold
Best of Show: Short Story, June 2013 San Mateo County Fair Literary Arts Competition
Most Promising Writer of the Year, June 2012 California Writers Club

Hey bloggers and indie authors!  Are you interested in expanding your network?  Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com to be featured on Who’s That Blogger or Who’s That Indie Author!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Adam Rex

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors
Drew Daywalt
Illustrated by Adam Rex


I don’t review a lot of children’s books, but I couldn’t resist a post about this new picture book by Drew Daywalt. It’s already a New York Times best seller. We recently purchased it at the library where I work and the children’s librarians love it. So do I!

Daywalt is an American filmmaker and writer. He began his career writing and directing short films and horror films on the YouTube channel Fewdio. He is also the author of the award-winning The Day the Crayons Quit and its sequel, The Day the Crayons Came Home.

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors is a great story about the backyard game every kid knows, usually played to decide something important, such as who is in charge or who gets to go first.

Daywalt’s story brings the three players (Rock, Paper and Scissors) to life in the Kingdom of Backyard, the Empire of Mom’s Home Office and the Kitchen Realm. They are undisputed champions in their own domains, but winning has been too easy and each yearns for a worthy opponent. The match is on once they meet each other. It’s a good natured contest, and it ends with a feel-good message, perfect for teaching a lesson about competition and friendship.

Hilarious from start to finish with terrific illustrations by Adam Rex, this story will engage both young and older children who know all about the game and the power struggles that go on in their neighborhood backyards. Adults will also appreciate Daywalt’s clever story and subtle humor, as well as Rex’s imaginative and colorful illustrations.

I wish my kids weren’t mostly grown because they would have loved this book. But maybe I’ll check it out anyway. You never know…

Interested?  Visit these links for more information.

Publishers Weekly review
Kirkus Review

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Who’s That Indie Author? Krystal Jane Ruin


Author name:  Krystal Jane Ruin

Genre:  Paranormal

Book:  No Rest for the Wicked

Bio:  Krystal Jane Ruin is the author of supernatural and paranormal fiction, living in the Tennessee Valley with a collection of swords and daggers. When she’s not hoarding stuffed pandas, hourglasses, and Hello Kitty replicas, she can be found drinking chai tea, knee deep in Sudoku, in a YouTube hole, or blogging about books, writing, and random things.

Favorite thing about being a writer:  Getting to live in strange worlds where anything can happen! There’s no adventure too dangerous or frightening to experience through a book.

Biggest challenge as an indie author:  Juggling projects I’m writing with projects I’m editing and preparing for publication.

Favorite booksThe Witching Hour by Anne Rice and The Forbidden Game Trilogy by L.J. Smith

Contact Information:
blog: The Narcissistic Rose at krystalsquared.net
website:  krystaljaneruin.net
Twitter:  @planetkrystal
Facebook:  @krystaljaneruin
YouTube: krystaljane

Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

What’s That Book? The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin


the aviator's pic
TitleThe Aviator’s Wife

Author:  Melanie Benjamin

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating:  ****

What’s it about?  A realistic look into the public and private lives of Anne Morrow and her famous aviator husband, Charles Lindbergh. Melanie Benjamin takes on a well-known subject and fills in the gaps by letting the reader imagine how Morrow felt during her early marriage and later when Charles left her and their five children alone for long stretches.

Benjamin also describes how Lindbergh’s career changes as flight technology advances and he takes on more advisory roles. His pro-Nazi comments made him a controversial figure in the late 1930s and his alliance with Henry Ford, a known anti-Semite, made him extremely unpopular during this time and ruined his long friendship with the Guggenheims.

How did you hear about it?  I always have my eye out for stories about  Charles Lindbergh because of the bigger story behind the glamour of his aviator feats, especially the media sensation during the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. I also read Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh years ago and liked learning about Morrow’s life and her ideas. This was before I knew about Lindbergh’s double life in Europe, in which he had long-term relationships with three women and fathered two children with one and another with a sister. I wanted to read The Aviator’s Wife to learn more about Anne Morrow.

Closing comments:  So many times the people who do great things are selfishly focused, unable to see either left or right, only straight ahead. I think this must be how Charles was. Anne found her own way to shine, by being a mother, by writing and by forming her own important relationships. In the end, Benjamin gives us a realistic picture of what might have been said between Anne and Charles throughout their marriage and during Charles’ final days.

Contributor:  Ginette

Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it?
Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

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A little about Anna Quindlen

Image: Goodreads

I’m looking for a new book to read to fit into my summer reading challenge and I think an Anna Quindlen book would be just right for several of the categories:

  • Read an award-winning book…
  • Read a memoir, biography or autobiography…
  • Read a book suggested by a friend…

See what I mean?

Anna Quindlen is an award-winning novelist and journalist. Here’s her bio from annaquindlen.net:

ANNA QUINDLEN is a novelist and journalist whose work has appeared on fiction, nonfiction, and self-help bestseller lists. She is the author of eight novels: Object Lessons, One True Thing, Black and Blue, Blessings, Rise and Shine, Every Last One, Still Life with Bread Crumbs, and Miller’s Valley. Her memoir Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, published in 2012, was a number one New York Times bestseller. Her book A Short Guide to a Happy Life has sold more than a million copies. While a columnist at The New York Times she won the Pulitzer Prize and published two collections, Living Out Loud and Thinking Out Loud. Her Newsweek columns were collected in Loud and Clear.

I’ve read three of her books – check them out:


Black and Blue – a hard look at the complicated dynamics in abusive relationships

Good Dog Stay 3

Good Dog. Stay. – sentimental reflections about the relationships between dogs and their human families

Stll Life with Bread Crumbs

Still Life with Bread Crumbs – can a sixty-year old photographer with a waning career find love?

Visit these links for more info:

Quindlen’s website: annaquindlen.net
Facebook page: @annaquinlen
Wikipedia – Anna Quindlen

What is your favorite Anna Quindlen book?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary
Gustave Flaubert


You may have already read this classic French novel from 1857, which caused a big stir when it was first published. Labeled as obscene and immoral, many readers were scandalized by Emma Bovary’s adulterous behavior in the book. When the storm cleared, however, readers and critics agreed that Flaubert had written a fantastic story about a young, unhappy middle class woman who does everything she can to ruin her life and the lives of those who love her. With this book, Flaubert also branded a new writing style called literary realism.

I first read Madame Bovary in college. When I picked it up again, I realized that most of what I had remembered was about Emma and her unhappiness and, of course, her secret affairs. Reading it a second time, years later, I saw more and I saw Emma in a different light.

If you haven’t read the book, here’s a quick summary:

Emma Roualt is a young woman living with her father in a French provincial town. She was raised in a convent, thinking she would become a nun, but her heart wasn’t in it, and when her mother died, she returned to live with her father, with a head full of romance novels and unformed ideas about love and happiness. In comes Dr. Charles Bovary, who tends to her father’s broken leg. They’re taken with each other, but Bovary is married, so nothing happens until his wife suddenly dies. It hadn’t been a happy marriage, so before long, Emma Roualt becomes Emma Bovary.

It isn’t until Emma settles into her new married life that she regrets marrying the first man who came along. And that’s where the trouble begins, first with Leon Dupuis, a young clerk in town. They resist temptation for now, but just wait until later. Emma gives in to unbridled passion when she meets Rodolphe Boulanger, however, a womanizing landowner. During their affair, she alternates between depression and mania and when it’s over, Emma crashes. Poor Charles, who adores Emma, is left clueless.

Second reads always teach you something new. This time, I became frustrated with Emma. I was struck with how poorly she regarded Charles. Even though I knew she wouldn’t open her eyes, I wanted her to appreciate him. I also became more aware of important secondary characters and their motives. Homais the chemist and Lheureux the draper are part of a terrific side story that drives the plot in the second half of the book and I admit I enjoyed seeing Emma lose control of her folly.

For those who have not read this classic, I’ll leave out the spoilers. And I will leave the scholarly reviews to the experts. I’ll simply say that the characters, descriptions and plot in Madame Bovary place the book at the top of my list. Take a look at a great review by Kathryn Harrison of the New York Times here. Or if you prefer your drama to be onscreen, check out the 2014 film here.

And for more information about Gustave Flaubert, visit Who’s That Author? Gustave Flaubert.

I read Madame Bovary as part of my Build a Better World Summer Reading Challenge to read a book I had read before.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!