Monthly Archives: March 2012

Review : By the Iowa Sea

By the Iowa Sea : A Memoir of Disaster and Love, by Joe Blair

Does an honest memoir exist? Is one even possible? As memoirs are necessarily selective, isn’t there a tendency to extol one’s virtues, hide one’s flaws? For those who admit to having, let’s say, a complex life, even a flawed life, an honest memoir becomes an act of courage. Joe Blair’s new book, “By the Iowa Sea: a Memoir of Disaster and Love,” is such an act of courage. It is also a compelling, beautifully written story set during the Iowa floods of 2008, when nature’s weight bore down on a great many Iowans, Blair included.

Blair bears other burdens as well. A free spirit who as a young man dreamed of riding into the distance in pursuit of adventure on a Harley finds himself bent if not broken by the approach of middle age, dreams unrealized now that he is a heating and cooling man in a crumbling marriage with four children–one of whom is severely autistic.

With the floods as backdrop, Blair recounts his story, inner thoughts revealed, slowly unfolding like a flower, a black rose perhaps, that crumbles in our hands, bloodied by thorns.

While it took great courage to write this memoir, it took even greater courage for Blair to sustain his life. While he couldn’t hold back the flood, he could wait until it subsided. He also waited till the waters of his life that were on the verge of drowning him, subsided.

His marriage is intact, his children have their father. May we all have at least of bit of Blair’s courage when we need it.

Reviewed by Bob Leonard
author of Yellow Cab


Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Books, Reviews, Uncategorized


Author & Humorist Charlene Baumbich Comes to Knoxville!

A couple of years ago a woman from Illinois and her husband were driving through Iowa, and they happened to stop for gas in Knoxville at the BP station just east of the square.The woman took advantage of the stop and visited the ladies room, and much to her delight, found it to be super clean and very stylish with checkerboard tiling in raceway colors.  She mentioned her approval of the bathroom to the gas station attendant, as she was purchasing a soda at the counter.  The cashier mentioned that the root beer she had chosen was made locally at our new brewery, which led her directly down the street to Peace Tree Brewing Company. During her tour, the director learned that the woman was an author and she sent them over to us at The Next Chapter.
This charming and charismatic woman bounded through the book store door asking whether I’d ever visited the BP bathroom before.  After I admitted I hadn’t had the pleasure, she proceeded to go on and on about how fabulous it was, even showing me a picture she had taken of it!  She continued on, in her excited and contagious way, to describe her fabulous time at Peace Tree, with t-shirts in tow for her sons.

As we talked, I learned that Charlene is an author.  She has written numerous books, including several inspirational and self-help titles, the beloved Dearest Dorothy series, and the Snow Globe Connections series, and when I met her she was working on a new book for her Snow Globe Connections series.  She mentioned that she was looking for a ballet dancer to help her with some technical details for this newest book.  Of course, I disclosed that I was a book store owner, but also the owner of “Tresa’s School of Dance” and had taught dance classes for 38 years!

It was like a match made in heaven as she ran across the store to hug me, and then asked if I would help with her process by reading her manuscript. I was honored and excited at this request, and sent her to the computer shop to have her script printed so she could leave it in Knoxville with me. Then, local KNIA/KRLS news director, Dr. Bob Leonard, also happened into our store during Charlene’s visit, and he asked if she might be interested in giving an interview for his weekly show, to which she graciously and excitedly agreed.

After a lovely visit, we sent Charlene and her husband to The Swamp Fox for dinner, and so their gas station stop turned into a six hour sojourn in Knoxville!

Since then, we’ve kept in touch with Charlene, read some of her books, and learned more about her career as a humorist and speaker.  I enjoyed reading her manuscript for Finding Our Way Home, and was able to offer some expert advice to make the book, which features an injured ballerina who must learn to live without her dancing, even more true to life.  And now, I am so pleased to have the final result on our shelves along with Charlene’s other books!

So, to celebrate the release of Finding Our Way Home, it is with great pleasure that we welcome Charlene to Knoxville once again, for a trio of special events on Thursday, March 22nd.  At 12 noon, the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce will host Charlene at the Peace Tree Tasting Room for an edition of Expert Edge– Business Survival 101: The Balance Between Humor and Grit. At 2pm, an Afternoon Tea and Book Signing here at the Next Chapter. Finally, at 5:30, come to The Peace Tree for “Charlene, etc., Life’s Quirky Tidbits,” as our special guest entertains us with humor, uncommon wisdom, and passionate insights.

We hope you can join us!

Read more about Charlene and her work at her website:

%d bloggers like this: