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By Glenn Dromgoole

 haiku history          This is probably the weirdest book on American history I have ever read. And the most creative, too.

J.W. Brands, a distinguished author and professor at the University of Texas, has compiled the history of the U.S. three lines – 17 syllables – at a time.

He’s been working on it for years, Tweeting his haiku verses to friends and followers, and now he’s collected them into a book. Even the book’s title is a haiku:

         Haiku History

        The American Saga

        Three Lines at a Time

Brands is a stickler for the more conventional haiku style of five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third.

The Mayflower Compact of 1620 is summarized: “We solemnly swear/As a joint body to seek/The general good.”

The Salem witch trials: “Shivers and specters/Flit over souls in Salem/As nineteen are hanged.”

The Bill of Rights in 1789: “The Congress convenes/Its first order of business:/To guarantee rights.

One section of the slim 134-page volume deals with the Civil War – three lines at a time, of course, ending with Lincoln’s assassination. Other haiku concern World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, Afghanistan, Iraq.

The 1955 Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott: “Footsore Rosa Parks/Declares, ‘Enough!’ and rejects/The back of the bus.”

The 9/11 attack: “Hijacked airliners/Like manned cruise-missiles target/New York and  D.C.”

Brands said he has written more than a thousand history haiku, but he thought that would be too overwhelming for a book, so he limited his selection to 335 or so, ranging from 15,000 B.C. to the 2016 election.

The book, published by the University of Texas Press, is $21.95 hardcover.

breakfast at honey creek cafe      Jodi Thomas Fans: Amarillo novelist Jodi Thomas has a big following in Abilene. She’s been here several times to speak and sign books and was the A.C. Greene Award winner in 2013.

Her new novel, Breakfast at the Honey Creek Café (Kensington, $15.95 paperback)kicks off a new series set in the fictional Central Texas community of Honey Creek, where Mayor Piper Jane Mackenzie finds herself in the middle of a potential scandal, and an undercover state trooper is sent in to protect her.

Meanwhile, a firefighter-turned-preacher arrives in town to serve as interim pastor of the community church while trying to get over the death of his one true love.

And two high school seniors who don’t seem to have anything in common find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other.

Jodi pulls together three quirky romances into one fine small-town tale.

 

 

 

 By Glenn Dromgoole

men money gypsy blood           Sharron Ann Sibley, a high school beauty queen who expected to live a happy life as a wife and mother, pulls no punches in her autobiography titled Men, Money & Gypsy Blood: A Memoir of Love, Survival, and My Rise to Wall Street ($24.95 paperback).

Unlike most autobiographies, Sibley’s is told in third person rather than first person. Instead of “I did such-and-such,” she says “Sharron Ann did such-and-such.” It takes a little getting used to, but it works fine.

Her story revolves around the men in her life, beginning with her father, respected Abilene physician Dr. Dub Sibley, who passed away in 2011. She dedicates the book to him.

Her first lover was an Abilene High football star — and she would love him the rest of his life, even when she was married to her first two husbands.

Those marriages ended in divorce and bankruptcy, and she struggled for several years just to pay the bills and feed her two boys.

With a lot of hard work – and good advice from her second cousin, another important man in her life – Sibley made a lucrative career with her Dallas brokerage firm.

She was happily married two more times – to her old high school boyfriend and to a wealthy investor she called the General – and both of those successful unions ended with their deaths. They are buried in Buffalo Gap, with a space between them reserved for her.

Sibley says her story was one of “rags to riches. Only instead of marrying a prince, she’d done it all on her own… Every dollar she made, she had earned out of dedication, hard work, and perseverance… She was a woman who didn’t just break the glass ceiling: she’d shattered it.”

Autographed copies of Sibley’s story are available at Texas Star Trading Company.

 

Popular Abilene authors have new books due this fall

 By Glenn Dromgoole

             Hey, Jay Moore, Sandi Mathur, and Charlie Russell fans: Three of Abilene’s most popular authors have books scheduled to come out this fall.

Abilene history virtuoso Jay Moore has written a history/biography of the Dodge Jones Foundation and family that is due in October. It’s going to be a high quality coffee-table narrative of the foundation and family (Judy Matthews) that have transformed the face of Abilene in the past 40 years. Proceeds from the book benefit Abilene Heritage Square (ACU Press, $40 hardcover).

Dr. Sandi Mathur is following up his very successful autobiographical account of his first year in West Texas, Cowboys and Indian, with the sequel, Cowboys and Indian II, based on his second year as a West Texas physician.

Charlie Russell, who has developed quite a following for his upbeat ranch-family novels, has another one going to the printer soon — My Country –  God’s Country, a sequel to last year’s When the Cactus Bloom.

            We will have autographed copies of these books – and, hopefully, book-signing events – this fall. Stay tuned.

            Jim Wilson: The former Abilene veterinarian and poet Dr. Jim Wilson has published a new collection of verse – Poems with a Point in 25 Words More or Less ($9.95 paperback).

Wilson, who now lives in Burton, near Brenham, urges readers in his introduction, “Live in the now moment of your life. Make the most of it because now is where your pot is boiling and where you can turn the heat up or down as necessary.”

His poems offer thoughts and suggestions about living in the now moment. I especially liked this one:

Wisdom Patience and Kindness

           

            “Pray for wisdom patience and kindness.

While you are waiting for wisdom

practice patience and kindness

 

“and by the end of the day

wisdom will have surprised you

several times. I’ll bet.”

 

What a Team: Here’s a sports book you probably won’t care about, but I did because it’s the story of the 1991 boys’ basketball team from my alma mater, Hardin-Jefferson High School in Sour Lake, near Beaumont.

Coach Charles Breithaupt, now the executive director of the University Interscholastic League, wrote Press On ($15.49 paperback) about his remarkable team that won state. The most remarkable thing, though, wasn’t the state championship. It was the fact that the entire starting lineup, as well as Coach Breithaupt himself, would go on to earn doctorates, and a seventh member of the team is about to. I’ve never heard of such a thing at any level – high school or college. An amazing and uplifting story.

We don’t keep the book in stock, but we can order it.

Houston Novelist: What You Wish For is the latest novel by Houston authorwhat you wish for Katherine Center (St. Martin’s, $27.99 hardcover). It’s set in Galveston and features a librarian at an acclaimed private school and the hard-nosed principal who comes in to run it after the beloved founder dies.

Center has written several other novels, and we became fans a few years ago after reading How to Walk Away and then Things You Save in a Fire.

Read more about her at katherinecenter.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 excellent debut novels by Abilene writers

 By Glenn Dromgoole

I’ve read three first novels by three Abilene writers this year, and I have to tell you that I have enjoyed – and heartily recommend – all three.

Earlier this year I reviewed The Arms of God by Leslie Hammond ($19.95 paperback). In fact, we were scheduled to host him for a book signing at Texas Star Trading Company in March before the pandemic changed everything.

The Arms of God is a well-written, upbeat novel filled with characters you can’t help but like.  The title refers to the Brazos River, which flows through the West Texas tale, and focuses on the life of a hard-working young man who is embraced by the community after his mother kills his father when he is just eight years old.

Lisa McKinnon has published what I would call an autobiographical novel, I’ll Tell the Moon ill tell the moon($14.99 paperback), focusing on adventures, events and people from her childhood in Littlefield, Texas. The Birdie character in the book is basically Lisa.

The story revolves around Birdie, her brother Sam, and her best friend Caroline as well as Birdie’s grandmother, mother and sometimes abusive father who is especially rough on Sam, a slow reader.

Most of the tales are set in Littlefield in 1967, with the last few chapters taking place in 1975 and 2013. Folks who grew up in small towns, especially in that era, should easily identify with the mischievous brother and sister duo.

 

Wes Gorman brought in his hefty novel, The Last Homecoming, which he calls a Texas Gothic last homecomingTale ($15.99 paperback), set on a fictional family ranch near Abilene. I have to say that I was a little intimidated by the 537-page tome until I started reading it. Right away I was hooked, and I finished it in two days!

Best-selling novelist and creative writing professor Sean O’Bryan, who is going through a divorce soon after his father’s death, is invited to visit his 80-year-old Uncle Emmet on the O’Bryan ranch. Immediately he feels at home and decides to stay awhile.

But he soon encounters some very strange things occurring at the ranch – weird dreams, a ghostly soldier figure, telephones ringing that no one can find. And all of them seem to involve family secrets his uncle is reluctant to share.

The novel is an upbeat tale of love, family and friendship, but it also has an overriding supernatural element.

All three of the new novels have one thing in common: the church has an important place in the stories – the Church of Christ in Hammond’s, the Methodist Church in McKinnon’s, and a non-denominational tabernacle in Gorman’s.

If you’re looking for a good read this summer, you can’t go wrong with any of these first novels. And we have autographed copies at Texas Star.

 

 

 

 

Molly Ivins quotes, Stevie Ray photos

 By Glenn Dromgoole

             Fans who appreciated – and miss — the witty, irreverent prose of liberal Texas columnist Molly molly ivinsIvins, who died in 2007, can revisit some of her best lines in a compact little collection, Molly Ivins: She DID Say That (Great Texas Line Press, $5.99 paperback).

`          Compiled by twin sisters Allison and Margaret Engel, who also have produced one-woman plays based on the writings of Ivins and humorist Erma Bombeck, the pocket-sized book is full of  such zingers as:

“You know Texans. You can always tell ’em. You just can’t tell ’em much.”

“Our state is spending more on prisons than it is on higher education. That’s a fair working definition of a dead civilization.”

“Polarizing people is a good way to win an election, and also a good way to wreck a country. Stay alert.”

Writing about a particular Republican congressman: “If ignorance ever goes to $40 a barrel, I want drilling rights on that man’s head.”

“I use humor to open people’s ears. That’s what happens when people laugh. They open their ears and hear what you have to say.” 

            Stevie Ray: Photographer Tracy Anne Hart has put together a photographic tribute to guitar seeing stevie rayvirtuoso Stevie Ray Vaughan in Seeing Stevie Ray (Texas A&M University Press, $35 hardcover).

Her photographs feature Vaughan in concert from 1983 until shortly before his death in 1990.

“There will never be another like Stevie Ray Vaughan,” she writes. “What a privilege it was to hear and see him onstage and know him as a friend.”

The book also includes a section of photos of some of the musicians who influenced Vaughan, and another section of photos featuring musicians influenced by him.

 

New novel: Pandemic ravages the worldend of october

By Glenn Dromgoole

As bad as the COVID-19 pandemic has been, it barely compares to the coronavirus outbreak depicted in best-selling Texas author (and former Abilenian) Lawrence Wright’s new novel, The End of October.

            The principal character, revered epidemiologist Henry Parsons, finds himself on the other side of the world, far away from his family, investigating a mysterious disease as it spreads from a small African country to Saudi Arabia and then ravages the world.

In the U.S., Philadelphia is hit especially hard, but the rest of the country not as bad. And, then, as schools, workplaces, restaurants, theaters and sports venues begin to reopen, the second wave of the Kongoli plague spreads relentlessly, killing millions and threatening to virtually annihilate the world.

Meanwhile, Parsons finds himself in the bowels of a nuclear submarine as he tries to make it home to his family, if they’re even still alive.

In his dedication, Wright writes, “This book is offered as a tribute to the courage and integrity of the men and women who have dedicated their lives to the service of public health.” Certainly, in recent months, we have come to acknowledge them as heroes.

The End of October (Knopf Publishing, $27.95 hardcover) is available at a 20 percent discount at Texas Star Trading Co.

 

Aggies: James R. Woodall, A&M Class of 1950, has compiled a book that few people will actually read but that many Aggies will certainly peruse and cherish as a handy reference.

The Book of Aggie Lists: Texas A&M’s Military Heritage begins with Aggies Who Served in the Spanish-American War, 1898-99. A few others: Aggies on Bataan and Corregidor, 1941-42; Aggie Fighter Aces; Corps Commanders and Their Hometowns; and even one on Mess Hall Slang.

Sixty-four lists in all (Texas A&M University Press, $35 hardcover).

 

            Julie Goodenough: Anticipating that 2018-19 was going to be a special season, Abilene Christian University women’s basketball coach Julie Goodenough was encouraged by Dr. Gary McCaleb to keep a journal recording her thoughts as the season progressed.

What a season it turned out to be, with ACU winning the Southland Conference tournament and advancing to the NCAA Division1 tournament for the first time in school history.

“Team First Wins is our mantra and philosophy,” Goodenough told her players at the beginning of the season, so it is fitting that that is the title of her book.

Goodenough’s enthusiasm, faith, discipline, encouragement, respect, and love come through clearly in her candid first-hand account of a remarkable year, on and off the court ($14.95 paperback, published by the Center for Building Community, ACU).

Team First Wins is inspiring and honest. You can get autographed copies of the book exclusively from Texas Star Trading. The book came out while we were closed to the public, but Julie came by twice and signed copies for us. We’ll probably have a public book signing for her sometime this fall.

 

Book Sale: All books at Texas Star are discounted 20 percent during June. Even our bargain books are 20 percent off their already low, low price. Good time to stock up on some summer reading or do a little early Christmas shopping. SALE APPLIES TO IN-STORE SALES ONLY.

 

 

Texas Star will be closed Monday, May 25, in observance of Memorial Day.

Regular hours resume Tuesday — 10-4 weekdays and Saturday. We’re always closed on Sunday.

  By Glenn Dromgoole
    Abilene elementary School teacher and author Matt Roemisch wrote a children’s book while stuck at home during the pandemic, Ask Someone Grumpy to Read You This Book ($7.99 paperback).ask someone grumpy
           It’s a rhyming children’s book, but he tells children not to read it by themselves. “You must ask someone grumpy to read you this book. If you can’t find someone grumpy, just take a second look. Trust me, grumpy people are all around, so jump up and find one, then come sit back down.”
           So the grumpy adult begins to explain his (or her) grumpiness, and in the process of reading the book together, of course, the frowns turn upside down.
           Roemisch says the book is not only for kids with grumpy adults in their lives, but also perhaps for adults with grumpy kids in their lives.

By Glenn Dromgoole

             Here are some Texas books I’ve been reading while sheltering at home during the  pandemic.book of lost friends

Lisa Wingate: In The Book of Lost Friends, Lisa Wingate weaves the stories of two young women more than a century apart: a teen-age former slave searching for her family in 1875, and a first-year teacher struggling to find a way to connect with her students in an impoverished rural school in Louisiana in 1987.

Nearly three years after the publication of her best-selling novel Before We Were Yours, Wingate returns with another gripping human drama, this one revolving around families torn apart by slavery (Ballantine Books, $28 hardcover – 20 percent off at Texas Star Trading).

James Patterson teams up with Andrew Bourelle in another murder mystery featuring Texas Ranger Rory Yates – Texas Outlaw (Little, Brown, $28 hardcover – 20 percent off at Texas Star).

If you’ve read anything by mega-best-seller Patterson, you know to expect the action to flow with short chapters that grab your attention and won’t let go. I zipped through this one in a couple of days.

This is the second Rory Yates novel. The first one is now in paperback.

New Western: Texas Literary Hall of Famer Carlton Stowers is making a name for himself (although in fine print) as an author of western novels. His third one, under the name of Ralph Compton (“a Ralph Compton western by Carlton Stowers,” reads the subtitle), is Reunion in Hell (Berkley, $7.99 paperback).

The action jumps off the page as the reader follows the saga of brothers Clay and Cal Breckenridge, featuring a cattle thieving gang, a fine young man whose parents have been murdered, some courageous citizens of Tascosa, and a band of Indians seeking revenge.

Stowers, whose main claim to fame is non-fiction crime and sports books, has now turned out three “Ralph Compton” novels, with two or three more in the works. Good stuff.

             Diane Kelly: Texas fans who love Diane Kelly’s breezy mystery/romance novels will be glad to know she has a new one out in her new series featuring house flipper Whitney Whitaker, cousin Buck, her cat Sawdust, detective Collin Flynn, and of course the requisite dead body blocking the doorway to the house that Whitney and Buck are trying to flip.

“Dead in the Doorway” is $7.99 paperback.

                       Coming Up: A couple of books I haven’t read yet, but plan to:

— Lawrence Wright of Austin, formerly of Abilene, has penned a novel, The End of October, about a pandemic that threatens the world. Pretty timely, huh? It was written a year ago but just came out at the end of April. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve read about it, and we’re ordering copies for our store ($27.95 hardcover — 20 percent off at Texas Star).

— One of my favorite Texas novelists, Jodi Thomas, has a new small town fiction series that begins later this month with the publication of “Breakfast at the Honey Creek Café” ($15.95 paperback).

Coleman Springs: Speaking of small towns, while you’re cooped up you might pick up my one fiction title, Coleman Springs USA, a collection of stories about a little town with a big heart. It’s clean and easy to read, and it’s just five bucks on our bargain table.

Stay safe. Read a lot. Check out our web site – www.texasstartrading.com – for more books as well as jigsaw puzzles, Texas candles, Texas gourmet, and Texas gift items.

Texas Star is now open for in-store shopping with a modified schedule. We’re open 10-4 Monday-Saturday. We encourage phone orders and curbside pickup or local delivery. For in-store shopping, we offer hand sanitizer at the door for all customers. We also encourage face masks, but do not require them.

Texas Star employees will wear face coverings when customers are in the store.  Although we are not required to wear them, we do so out of respect for our customers and their well being. We regularly sanitizer our counter area, as well as credit card pin pad device. We also clean door handles and other surfaces touched frequently.

Please avoid large groups, and if the customer count becomes too great, we might ask shoppers to wait outside until others leave. That has not been a problem, so far.

Please be patient with us as we navigate new waters! We love our customers and want you to return and shop with us when you feel comfortable.

 

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