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Personal Picks

  • Patti Callahan Henry: Coming Up for Air

    Patti Callahan Henry: Coming Up for Air
    This author recently moved to Birmingham, and she’s already made lots of friends. It wasn’t hard; her bestselling books preceded her. Besides, she’s a really fun and intriguing person. Her newest book, set on the Alabama coast, is about marriage and motherhood and one woman’s desire to become the person she really wants to be. Ellie Calvin has her hands full already when her controlling mother dies and she runs into her ex-boyfriend at the funeral. The old boyfriend is making a documentary on Ellie’s late mother and has questions only Ellie can answer—with the help of a long-forgotten diary. (*****)

  • Hillary Jordan: When She Woke

    Hillary Jordan: When She Woke
    Hillary Jordan’s debut novel, Mudbound (winner of the 2006 Bellwether Prize for fiction), was an international literary hit. That one was set firmly in the rich soil of a Mississippi Delta farm in the mid 1940s. When She Woke, on the other hand, is futuristic and quite chilling. Here’s an America that we won’t recognize completely but might well be able to imagine. The book begins: “When she woke, she was red. Not flushed, not sunburned, but the solid, declarative red of a stop sign.” Hannah Payne wakes up in a bare room wearing only a paper gown. She has been turned into a “chrome.” Chromes are criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to reflect their crimes. Murderers are red. There are hints of The Scarlet Letter here in this nightmare world where politics and religion come together in a mighty scary way. (*****)

  • Susan Haltom: One Writer's Garden: Eudora Welty's Home Place

    Susan Haltom: One Writer's Garden: Eudora Welty's Home Place
    Oh, this is a lovely book with great photos of the famous writer and her family and neighbors. But the real gems are the colorful photographs of the garden Welty tended with her mother. Chestina Welty designed their modest garden and taught her daughter well. Welty, of course, is known for weaving Southern flora into her writing; much of her knowledge came from time spent in her own garden. Near the end of her life Welty still resided in her family home, but the garden had become neglected. Co-author Susan Haltom is a garden designer, and she offered to help preserve the garden and spent a decade doing that. This beautiful book, organized by seasons and decades, contains previously unpublished writings, including literary passages and excerpts from Welty’s private correspondence about her garden. (*****)

What's on my nightstand...

  • Susan Rebecca White: A Soft Place to Land: A Novel

    Susan Rebecca White: A Soft Place to Land: A Novel
    This is a book about sisterhood and the often-complicated love that go along with it. When their parents die in an airplane accident, 13-year-old Ruthie and 16-year-old Julia are sent away from their Atlanta home to live separately in distant parts of the country—in drastically different cultures. The story spans nearly two decades and follows the sisters from this familiar Southern home to bohemian San Francisco, a Virginia mountain town, the campus of Berkley and the lofts in Brooklyn. Once close, the sisters grow up and apart and their relationship becomes complicated by anger, resentment and jealousy. But then another shocking accident changes their lives once again. White is the author of the critically acclaimed Bound South, in which she writes lovingly and insightfully about Atlanta, where she was born and raised.

  • Frances Mayes: Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life

    Frances Mayes: Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life
    Celebrated travel writer and bestselling author Frances Mayes (Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany) is back and continuing her decades-long love affair with Tuscany’s people, art, cuisine and lifestyle. This is a deeply personal account of her present-day life in Tuscany, detailing the changes she has experienced since the success of her first two books and her reflections on the unchanging beauty and simple pleasure of Italian life.

  • Robin Lane Fox: Travelling Heroes: In the Epic Age of Homer (Vintage)

    Robin Lane Fox: Travelling Heroes: In the Epic Age of Homer (Vintage)
    The myths of the ancient Greeks have inspired us for thousands of years. But where did these stories come from? How did they spread around the world? Fox draws upon the latest archaeological evidence, his own travels and his vast knowledge of the ancient world to answer these questions. He explores how the Mediterranean seafarers of 8th-century B.C. Greece encountered volcanic mountains, vaporous springs, huge prehistoric bones and more and then weaved them into their legends of gods, monsters and heroes.

  • David Ebershoff: The 19th Wife: A Novel

    David Ebershoff: The 19th Wife: A Novel
    My bookgroup is reading this one right now. This book combines historical fiction with a murder mystery, and my bookgroup is reading this one right now. One story line, set in 1875, involves Ann Eliza Young, who has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Ann Eliza begins a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of a family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.
 A second story is the tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death.
Both narrative intertwine to create a larger story of love and faith.

For book groups . . .

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April 03, 2012



I have been keeping Bettas for over 10 years and I digersae with what you have encouraged people to do here. Bettas need a temp of 78 degrees. Room temp is not warm enough unless you keep your room at 78 degrees How do you intend on keeping that temp in this set up? Bowls for Bettas are not only a bad idea because of their stagnant water and small size but also because they cannot be heated properly. Its a pretty vase and plant but I totally digersae with keeping a Betta in it.


It entirely denepds on the breeding and fin type of the bettas you've bought.Size wise I've had adults anything from 1.5" to 2.5" in body length (excluding fins). Again it's down to breeding.Their fins may grow if they're small, but pet stores usually get in Bettas when they're 8 months 1 year old, when fins are pretty much fully grown.If you can post/email pics of these fish we can tell you what kind of Bettas you have.


It really deendps on your tank's capacity and the temperment of your betta. Bettas usually do fine with virtually any similar-sized tropical community fish. Problems arise when those tankmates resemble (even faintly) another betta because your betta will recognize it as a threat to its territory and will harass the long-finned neighbor. Another problem is nippy tankmates. A male betta is hindered by those long flowing fins. They make him an easy target for belligerent tankmates and they make him an ungainly swimmer when he needs to take flight from aggressors.Whatever species you choose to house with your betta needs to be tolerable of a tropical setup so that means no coldwater fishes. Also keep in mind the size of your tank and know your limits. Don't overstock!


oh hay vampire life paretnr! i think you've got a realistic training plan going, so that's a good starting point. so you know how to learn swimming, it's biking that might be a challenege. i'd suggest training wheels, but that might be a little too much so i'd say have someone walk by you and hold the handle bars to help you balance and maybe let go for a couple seconds every once in awhile, and gradually build up so that you can balance on your own. i am down to help you learn biking, and swimming!and i think we talked about mileage for half marathon training during our abbreviated 7-miler, but i agree with you: if you can handle 10 miles, then i think you can tack on 3 more at race day and be just fine.get better soon running buddy!!!


Wow were we seperated at birth? First, I am just using a neti pot for the first time. (As of yesedrtay). The mucous extravaganza is gross, but the relief afterward is worth it Second, I can barely ride a bike! I have had veritgo in the past, and it severly limits my comfort level. (Yet I can ride horses at high speeds go figure).Third, I never learned to swim. In fact, I sink. I will be watching your progress you may be the wind beneath my wings or the water beneath my flippers .Fourth, I am kinda dehydrated looking today much like your poor fish. That is about the longest any of my bettas made it most not even close, so I would say you were a good fish caretaker. Up until the shriveling up thing. But still!


I am SO excited that you're going to do a TRI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Too many exliomatcan points? I think not.) Learning how to swim and ride a bike are very good places to start, and I think you're going to be a little bit surprised at how hard that sprint is. No offense, it's just that doing all three sports one after the other is WAY harder than doing any one (or even two) of them alone.Even the cute girl in athletic clothes makes me want to hurl thinking about neti pots, but I certainly hope you're feeling better soon.

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