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Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Secret Keeper

by Kate Morton

I wish I would write my reviews as soon as I finish a book.  It would sure make things easier.

This write-up is from the author's website.
1961: On a sweltering summer's day, while 
her family picnics by the stream on their
Suffolk farm, sixteen-year-old Laurel hides out
in her childhood tree house dreaming of a boy
called Billy, a move to London, and the bright
future she can't wait to seize. But before the
idyllic afternoon is over, Laurel will have witnessed
a shocking crime that changes everything.

2011: Now a much-loved actress, Laurel finds herself overwhelmed by shades of the past. Haunted by memories, and the mystery of what she saw that day, she returns to her family home and begins to piece together a secret history. A tale of three strangers from vastly different worlds--Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy--who are brought together by chance in wartime London and whose lives become fiercely and fatally entwined...

The Secret Keeper was my favorite read of the year.  I loved it and look forward to discovering other books by Kate Morton.  There was a healthy dose of mystery with sufficient twists and turns to keep the excitement bubbling. 
Have you read a book by Morton that you highly recommend for my next read? 

The Genealogist's Internet

by Peter Christian

I was hoping this book would help me in finding birth, death, divorce, etc. records for some of my ancestors.  It didn't, but it did explain why these records cost us money to get a copy.  We help pay salaries of workers who put them in digital form and for the upkeep of these records.  I know scanning is a tedious job so now I don't mind paying the fee.

Christian offers some valuable internet sites for those working on American or British Isles research, but not so much for other countries. 

Mathematics Minus Fear


Mathematics Minus Fear: How to Make Math Fun and Beneficial to Your Everyday Life 

by Lawrence Potter


This is the 2nd nonfiction book I've read about Math this year.  Does that qualify me as a true geek?  If so, I'm okay with that.

The title of this book is a little miss leading.  I don't think reading it will help anyone who has a fear of math.  I thought it had some interesting historical facts about math.  In ancient times  (I'm not just sure how ancient) the technique for working out 'long multiplications' was to create a grid called 'gelosia' , after the grills which were placed over the windows of houses where nuns or chaste women lived.  Writing that made me realize that the interesting part was the connection to math but that grids over the windows indicated the home of nuns or chaste women.  

There were some fun riddles and math problems sprinkled throughout the book that might prove fun for a math teacher to present to the students.  'As far as how to make math fun or beneficial to your everyday life'  I don't think this book succeeded.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Christmas Garland

by Anne Perry

It's not too early to pick up a Christmas mystery.  Trust me.  This story is not light and fluffy or covered in tinsel and sparkling lights.

Anne Perry has presented us with a themed mystery every year since 2003.  A Christmas Garland is the 10th.  As is appropriate with each Christmas tale, snuggle up with a warm quilt with a cup of tea.  A crackling fire would be nice, too.

A Christmas Garland is set in 1857 India.  Lieutenant Narraway is a young soldier who is assigned by his superior officer to defend a medical orderly accused of murder.  The court hearing is mostly for show, as all the evidence points to the orderly and yet, the orderly swears to his innocence.  Amid the horrors that war brings, the families of Cownpore who have suffered great loss, strive to maintain a semblance of hope and reason during the holiday season.

I always enjoy Perry's historical novels for both the mysteries and and the historical atmosphere she captures and writes so well.

 ** I received a  copy of A Christmas Garland  from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.




Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Taste of Home Cooking School

I love Taste of Home magazines.  Flipping through the pages and drooling over those delectable pictures and even reading the recipes is a favorite past time of mine.

This is a new cookbook from the people at Taste of Home with pictures of every recipe and lots of good tips and cooking advise.  As the title implies, it's like a cooking school at home.  There are lessons on measuring such items as shortening, shortening, brown sugar, etc.  It identifies different types of cutlery, cookware, and  bakeware and what's the best use of each.

I tried several recipes - some I'll make again and others I wasn't too impressed with.

One I really like was My Take on Mom's Meat Loaf.  It uses fresh mushrooms and turned out excellently.  Cold meatloaf sandwiches the next day were supremely good.     Another keeper is The Gourmet Scrambled Eggs.  I served them for dinner with fried ham slices and fresh fruit.  My husband and I thought they were especially yummy.

I tried two soups, neither of which we liked very well.  Wild Rice Soup intrigued me because it was made with ground beef instead of chicken.  Don't get me wrong - I love chicken and wild rice soup.  After the first try, my husband suggested adding noodles.  That was a big improvement.  I also, sliced up some left over fresh mushrooms that I didn't use in the meatloaf.  I am tempted to make this again, with some modifications, because I loved the ground beef and wild rice together.

Yankee Bean Soup caught my attention because of the addition of molasses.  I love navy bean soup but this recipe was very lackluster, even with the molasses.  Darn, I wanted this to be good.

The last failed recipe was the tantalizing-sounding Pumpkin Creme Brulee.  My husband loves creme brulee so I thought I would spoil him.  I followed the recipe to the tee and it turned out terrible.  I thought maybe it was under cooked so the next day I baked it another 40 minutes.  The taste was okay but the consistency was yucky so we threw the rest out.

Overall, I thought this cookbook was hit and miss.

 ** I received a  copy of Taste of Home: Cooking School  from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.

It's Murder Son

by Lauren Carr

I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery that has a little bit of everything.  There's the Cinderella story - only in this book it's a deserving police detective that inherits mansions, land, money, a restaurant, and more.  Along with his famous mother's assets is a personal secretary who is cute, fun, and smart.  And then there's the dog - more of a liability, perhaps.

Of course, there is murder, and not just one.   To solve these murders, our police detective must look closely at love triangles, neighborhood animosities, get-rich quick schemes, and even a mob connection.  The story has lots of twists and turns and unexpected elements.

Carr writes well and the story flows easily from beginning to end.  I liked the main characters and hope to see them in a follow-up book.  I would love to read more books by Carr even if  her next book is a stand alone.

I just looked and discovered that this book IS part of a series.  It's book 3 of the Mac Faraday Mysteries.  Hooray, that there are 2 books I am looking forward to reading.  Shucks, why do so often I find myself in the middle of series?

***Note added several hours later:  Thank-you to Lauren Carr for leaving a comment and providing the correct information about her Mac Faraday series.  It's Murder, My Son is book 1.  Next is Old Loves Die Hard, then Shades of Murder.  Out in January is Blast from the Past.   Oh, goody!  I'm in with the first book and have 3 more to look forward to.


 ** I received a  copy of It's Murder, My Son  from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Heartsick

by Chelsea Cain

I listened to this audio book while cutting fabric and pressing quilt blocks.  When I had to stop to sew, I wished I had earphones so I could continue listening.  *Note to self - get earphones out of drawer in the library and put near the sewing machine.

This is not a book for the faint of heart.  There's nothing cozy about this mystery.  This was a book on my Pinterest "Book Recommendations" board that I was able to find on searchoverdrive.com.

Heart Sick features a beautiful, female serial killer.  Gretchen Lowell may be the scariest villain I've encountered in my reading.  I really liked Archie Sheridan, the investigator that she tortured and let live.  The story starts out with Archie dreaming about the time with Gretchen and the torturing.  It had been over 2 years since she held him captive but he is still obsessed and thinks about her, reliving the nightmare daily.  Archie's partner encourages  him to come back to work and help solve a new serial case involving young girls.

The story shifts between Archie's memories, along with visits to Gretchen in the penitentiary, and working to find the latest serial killer.  I like books that build on two or more story lines at a time.  Earlier tonight I discovered this is book one of a series.  I will probably read the next but I don't understand why.  There's something compelling about Gretchen's psychological hold on Archie and I hope that he is successful in expunging her from his thoughts. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Joy of X

by Steven Strogatz

This is a fun, understandable (to a point) book about math.  Before I became a science teacher I considered teaching math or English.  I rejected English because I wasn't sure I had the ability to encourage writing skills.  I can usually tell what's well-written and what's not, but how do I instruct a student to improve his writing?  I took one look at the Theory of Math classes required to teach math and shook my head.  If Strogatz was the teacher of those classes I may have reconsidered.

When I read a book like this I enjoy the feeling of grasping concepts presented in a 'new-to-me' way.  Unfortunately, I don't hold on to those concepts for long and I'm not able to discuss them in any knowledgeable manner.  So writing this book review is harder than writing about fiction.

There is a story line, of sorts.  Strogatz starts with a description of numbers that we learn about in kindergarten - real numbers that made sense to me.  I understood for the first time that numbers are much like the science words my students complained about learning.  A number is a shorthand way to express in one symbol what might take a whole phrase or sentence to explain otherwise.

We are led from what we understand to what flew over our heads in math class.  Imaginary numbers never made sense to me until reading this book.  The day I read about imaginary numbers I talked with my daughter who is taking Calculus 3 in college.  She was complaining about imaginary numbers.  I laughed at the timing.

When you're in a book store pick this book up and read through the chapter titles.  Strogatz is very creative both with his chapter titles and his presentation.  As I read The Joy of X (cute title, huh?) I thought of my math friends and how much they would enjoy this book.  Yes, Raidergirl, I thought of you!  Even if you're not a 'math geek' you may want to excite your synaptic firings by reading an interesting approach to math.  Hmmm, I wonder if I've pushed back the onset of Alzheimer's.

One other good thing - Strogatz talked about several different fictional books that I wrote down.  The first I want to get my hands on is The Housekeeper and the Professor.  Has anyone read it?

 ** I received a  copy of The Joy of X  from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received. 

Quarantine

by John Smolens

I enjoy historical fiction so when this book became available on NetGalley, I requested a copy.  The setting is 1796 - just a short time after the Revolutionary War - a time period I haven't read much about.  A trading ship owned by a wealthy, lecherous townsman arrives in Newburyport, Massachusetts caring a plague.  The people are ordered to stay on board and the yellow flag is raised  warning of quarantine.

Some men sneak off the ship and come into town, spreading the disease.  Soon tents are set up and townspeople are taken to the tents where most will die.  It was interesting to hear about the medical practices of the day.  I squirmed thinking about the bleeding of patients and laying hot bricks on their upper body.  I wonder if, years from now, we will look back on our highly esteemed medical practices with the same feelings of squeamishness.

There's more to the story than just the quarantine.  There's the element of crooked dealings at other's peril in the wake of war and disease and there's the story of lost love, an orphaned boy, and a family with some quirky problems to face.

 ** I received a  copy of Quarantine  from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Beautiful Mystery

by Louise Penny

At my house when a new Louise Penny book arrives (and yes, this is one author that I pre-order) there's a debate over who gets their hands on it first.  I usually win.  My oldest daughter who lives near (through the back gate) usually heaves a sigh as she realizes Candleman gets it second.  She doesn't complain too loudly because she doesn't pay for the books.

The Beautiful Mystery is book 8 in the Inspector Gamache series.  Many of the other books in the series can be read as stand-alones, although it's better to read them in order.  I didn't the first time I read them but I was able to put the pieces together just fine.  With the second reading, I read them in order.  Definitely better.  But if you're intimidated about 8 books, pick one and read; and then pick another but don't start with The Beautiful Mystery.

You don't want to read The Beautiful Mystery until you've developed a relationship with Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his First Lieutenant Jean Guy Beauvoir.  Trust me, if you read any of these books you will develop a relationship with the characters.  They are so real, so complex, and often quirky.

I spent the first 100 pages interested in the story but missing all the characters from Three Pines.  The Beautiful Mystery focuses on Gamache and Beauvoir in the setting of a Monastery.  I enjoyed learning about the monks who lived with a vow of silence except when they gathered several times a day and sank Gregorian chants.

I don't want to say too much about the story because I think each new reader should experience it page by page and not from review to review.  When I say "new reader" I don't mean new to the series.  Again, I don't think this should be the first Louise Penny book you read, but if you have been reading these, this one is a must.  It's powerful.  I have been thinking about it for 3 days since I finished reading and am dying for my husband to finish  so I can discuss it with him.

I liked this description of the abbot: "An autumn face, after all the leaves had fallen."

A theme that comes through in several of the books is appearance.  "Again Beauvoir was taken by the clash of perception and reality in this monastery.  and the choice to reflect what looked good rather than what was truthful."  And, "That was the thing with the bad apple.  It was insidious.  Slow.  It looked just fine, from the outside, until the rot  spread.  And by then it was too late."

Macmillan Audio has provided a short clip to listen to.

My only question at this point is how am I going to wait for a whole year until the next book arrives?

Monday, September 03, 2012

Garment of Shadows

by Laurie R. King

I started this series quite by happenstance several years ago.  At the library I had picked up a couple of books with a word in the title dealing with bees.  This was not an intentional decision.  After reading two, I looked at the 3rd - The Beekeeper's Apprentice - and realized it had to do with Sherlock Holmes.  I was not excited but since I had already decided this was the summer of bee-themed books, I ventured forward.  I'm glad I did.  I have thoroughly enjoy this series.

Garment of Shadows is the 13th or 14th book in the series and I think it's the best one yet.  The story starts off with Mary waking up with bruises, cuts, a reeling headache, and amnesia.  She doesn't know where she is but she senses she is not safe.  For the reader, the stage is set and the questions are numerous - Is she being held captive and for ransom?  Where's Holmes?   Is he in the next room bound and gagged?  Is he even in the same vicinity?  How did they get separated?  Are they in the middle of an undercover assignment?

This has become one of my favorite series and King is one of my favorite authors.




Sunday, September 02, 2012

The Second Empress

by Michelle Moran

I don't know why I am so lacking in historical knowledge.  I blame my boring history teachers and not my tendency to talk in class or the need to write notes to friends.  All I knew about Napoleon was he stuck in hand in his jacket, was married to Josephine, ruled France, and was short.  I guess I knew that we all must face our Waterloo, but I didn't know anything more about that then it had something to do with Napoleon.  Oh yes, I also knew Napoleon was sentenced to Elba where I thought he stayed until he died.

I love books that help fill in the gaps in my knowledge and The Second Empress did that in a very enjoyable way.  I felt compassion for Marie-Louise being chosen by Napoleon to replace Josephine who was the love of his life but couldn't provide him with a son so she was set aside.  And rumors of Napoleon's ambition and selfishness was well known in the Austria, so Marie-Louise was even more apprehensive to marry him.  For the good of her father and her country she agreed to marry Napoleon and leave the man and country she loved for France.

As the second empress of France, Marie-Louise learned of the strange relationship between Napoleon and his sister Pauline.  The greed of the Bonapartes was amazing.  I'd like to know more about how they grew and what filled their souls with such avarice and hunger for power.  Napoleon must have been very charismatic to come back from Elba and gather such forces to reclaim the throne after he was so hated.  I want to study more about him and his wars with Russia, England, and Austria.

My favorite of Michelle Moran's is Madame Tousand, but I loved following up that tale of the French Revolution with the story of Napoleon's rise to power.  It amazes me that the French overthrew the the aristocrats and then allowed Napoleon to become emperor and allowed the aristocratic life flourish again.  We are short-sighted people, all of us, I guess.  We'll reach for the first hope, and the quickest, to rescue us from our troubles.

My best wishes to Michelle on her upcoming marriage.  I hope marriage doesn't slow your writing, because I look forward to reading many more of your books.

 ** I received a free copy of The Second Empress  from Michelle Moran and Random House in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.



Monday, August 27, 2012

The Kingmaker's Daughter

by Philippa Gregory

One of the Gregory's Cousin's War series, The Kingmaker's Daughter takes up where The Lady of the Rivers leaves off, only the point of views are in juxtaposition.  In Lady of the Rivers we follow the story of Jacquetta Woodville who becomes a close and loyal friend to Margaret, King Henry VI's wife.

Jacquetta falls in love with her husband's squire and, after the Duke dies, she marries the squire.  They share a strong love and devotion to each other that melted my heart.  Richard and Jacquetta Woodville have ten children, the first being a beautiful daughter who will eventually reign as the Queen of England.  A beautiful and touching story that had me supporting the Woodvilles every step of the way.

The Kingmaker's Daughter is told from the perspective of Anne Neville, daughter of the Earl of Warwick: the most powerful magnate in fifteenth-century England.  The Earl has no sons so he uses his daughters as pawns in his pursuit of power.  Sadly, not an unusual fate for women of the court.  Anne is forced to serve her rival for power, the beautiful Elizabeth Woodville.

The switch in perspectives, from Jacquetta Woodville's to that of Anne Neville, created in me a weary caution to like Anne, since I had previously cared so much for the character of Jacquetta.  It was far into the book that I came to respect and appreciate both viewpoints.  It was powerful to see through two different sets of eyes of two very similar women - both pawns and susceptible to the whimsical rise and fall of fortune;  both greedy; both desiring to satisfy their parents' grand plans.

I thought both books were exceptionally good and I recommend them highly.  I don't know how I missed reading The White Queen and The Red Queen but I will not let that be the case for long.

 ** I received a free copy of The Kingmaker's Daughter  from Kaitlyn McCrystal and Simon & Schuster in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

21 Memory Improvement Tips

by David Brugger

I downloaded this little ebook from Pixel of Ink and read it several weeks ago. There were suggestive reminders but nothing really new.  At age 61, I thought I might discover something innovative or that I wasn't already doing.  I do need to oxygenate more.  (I'm trying to avoid saying exercise.)  I try to make up for it with deep breathing which I'm sure isn't quite as helpful.  Why is so hard to exercise?   But I deviate - this book is about memory.  If you read very much on the subject you don't need to read this one, but if you're just starting out then I recommend 21 Memory Tips.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On Hitler's Mountain

by Irmgard A. Hunt

I read a review of this book on Cath's blog, Read_Warbler. (It's the 2nd review in the post.)  She reviewed it in Sep 2009 and, though I bought it right after reading her review, I didn't read it until this month, almost 3 years later.  

Irmgard 


 “The trigger that could tip the scale dangerously in such a direction might be a monstrous economic disaster or more fear-inspiring terrorist attacks providing the excuse to suspend or ignore the Constitution and to declare emergency powers like Hitler did in 1933 after the fire in the Reichstag. There might be a group or groups that would be demonized and become an excuse for extreme measures. In Germany it was the Jews. Here it might be terrorists or Muslims.
“And yes, I believe we are seeing danger signs all around us, from the Homeland Security Act that diminishes civil rights and increased surveillance to scare tactics that increase fear, acceptance of torture of prisoners, and acceptance of a war based on lies. Add to that litany the increasing political power of an intolerant, ideology-driven, fundamentalist right wing and we have a scenario that could spell the end of democracy as we know it.
“There are of course enormous differences between the United States now and Germany then. For one, the ultra-fascist, violent Storm Troopers (S.A.) who staged the Kristallnacht and spread violence before and after Hitler’s power grab do not now have an American equivalent. In addition, the extreme fear of an imminent Communist revolution that haunted the Germans in the twenties does not exist.
Most importantly, the American people, unless they become completely brainwashed by their government and their fundamentalist religious leaders, are used to living in a democracy, to questioning, speaking up, protesting, marching, blowing the whistle, and pointing the finger.
“If we want to keep America free we must continue to do just that.” 

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Jane McGonigal - Playing Games

I posted a TED video on my other blog, In Season, that I hope you'll watch.  McGonigal talks about game-playing and makes some great points in favor of electronic games.  I think what she says can be applied to regular-type games, too.

She also invented a reality game called SuperBetter.  And "there's an ap for that!"  And it's FREE.  She talks about this game in the video .  I've downloaded it to my iPad and love the feeling of improving myself in manageable increments each day.  Each day there are new "quests" to do and you can choose between two.  One of the first day's  "quests" was to shake hands with someone for 6 secs.  So Candleman and I shook hands and commented on what a 6-second kiss could do for us.

Hope you'll check it out.  The video takes 20 minutes but it's 20 minutes you will be happy you spent.  I was dragging my feet when my husband asked me to watch it.  I screamed and yelled and kicked, "I don't have 20 minutes!"  I felt so good by the time the video was over.  I spent another 20 minutes ordering her book and finding the game.  Trust me - it's time well spent.  Would love to hear your reactions and thoughts . . .

Sorry if this sounds like an advertisement.  I'm receiving no payment for this - I'm just enthused about it and want to share it.  If you end up buying a copy of McGonigal's book by following my link, I will receive a few pennies from amazon, but not enough to make it worth the time it took to write this post.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

6 Lists ~ 6 Months

I've seen these lists on a few blogs over the last few weeks and thought it would be fun to make my own list. The idea is to look over the books you've read in the first 6 months of 2012 and group them into a 6 lists with 6 books each.  On my lists there is some overlap - otherwise I wouldn't have read enough books to complete the lists.   This was fun.  Give it a try.

Six mysteries to solve:
1.  Fatal Grace by Louise Penny
2.  The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith
3.  The Philosophical Practioner
4.  The Innocent by David Baldacci
5.  Paper Doll by Robert Parker
6.  The Hunter by John Lescroart
Six books that took me back in time:
1.  Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick
2.  11/22/63 by Stephen King
3.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
4.  Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
5.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett
6.  War Crimes for the Home by Liz Jensen
Six books that took me on a journey:
1.  Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg
2.  Return to Exile by E.J. Patten
3.  Discovery of Jean Baret
4.  11/22/63 by Stephen King
5.  Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory
6.  On Hitler's Mountain by Irmgard A. Hunt
Six authors I've read before:
1.  Louise Penny
2.  Terry Pratchett
3.  Fannie Flagg
4.  Philippa Gregory
5.  Alexander McCall Smith
6.  David Baldacci
Six books I read on my new e-reader:
1.  Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
2.  Promise Me Eternity by Ian Fox
3.  The Philosophical Practitioner by Larry Abrams
4.  The Ninth step by Barbara Taylor Sissel
5.  The Book of Lost Fragrances by  M.J. Rose
6.  On the Rim of Love by Marie Astor
Six books I enjoyed the most:
1.  Fatal Grace by Louise Penny
2.  11/22/63 by Stephen King
3.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett
4.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows 
5.  Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie flagg
6.  Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock

by David Margolick

There are a couple of reason why I chose to read this book.

1.  My brother called one night and suggested that we do a family book club.  He thought that we could all read the same book and then when some of us get together we could discuss it.  Wow!  What a great idea.  We don't have to be limited to time and location to enjoy a book club as a family.  I was readily ready to get this activity going.  Mark had recently finished reading Elizabeth and Hazel and when he told me about it, we decided that would be our first book.
    I immediately emailed my siblings and my children and invited them to join us.  My daughter order the book and said she could see this book club taking place on several levels - me and my children might meet at different times than me and my siblings and the discussion could take place in two or three different settings.  Love this idea.

2.  A few years ago I attended the Book Festival at the Salt Lake City library.  I had an hour to kill before the book and author presentation I wanted to attend so I decided to grab a good seat in that room and listen to whatever was being presented.  I knew it was a lady that would be talking about the civil rights movement and I wasn't interested.  Jump to present day - I have no idea what the presentation I wanted to hear was but I remember well the presentation about the civil rights.  Carlotta Walls Lanier was one of the Little Rock Nine and wrote the book A Mighty Long Way:  My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School.  I was so impressed with Carlotta.  She was dignified, sweet, and matter-of-fact.  She told the story in a way that wasn't filled with hateful, accusatory remarks about what happened to hear.  After her stirring remarks was a question and answer period where we learned some incredible things that I had never heard about.  One was that the governor of Arkansas closed all the schools in Little Rock the year after the Little Rock Nine so that the U.S. Government could not force the all white schools to accept blacks.  Carlotta received a standing ovation.  I cried as I shared parts of her story with my husband that night.  I cried 2 weeks later when I told my sister about the Little Rock Nine.


After that brief introduction as to why I chose to read this book, let's talk about the book.  The picture on the front cover is of Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan.  The picture on the bottom of the cover also shows Elizabeth and Hazel back in 1958.
Elizabeth, the 16-year-old black girl, was walking into Little Rock High School while other students and parents yelled and pestered her.  Hazel is the 16-year-old white girl yelling so hatefully at Elizabeth.  The book tells their stories.  Both were victims of the deep South way of thinking and the time period in which they lived.  There were lots of times I found myself feeling grateful that I wasn't raised in the south.  Or in Nazi Germany, or any other place where children are indoctrinated with such hate for other human beings.  I would hope that I wouldn't have been so hateful and prejudice but if I'd been taught that way all my life I probably wouldn't have behaved any differently than Hazel did.  I felt empathy and sympathy for both.


That said, my heart was ripped open by what Elizabeth had to endure that day.  The other 8 black students were contacted to meet and they would go together to school, but Elizabeth didn't get the message.  So she rode the city bus and then walked the rest of the way to school herself.  When she tried to enter the school the guardsmen would not let her enter so she was forced to walk to the bus stop and wait for the next bus to take her home.  Reading this account is chilling.


This is definitely a book worth reading and I hope my children will read it.  Now I need to get my hands of Carlotta's book.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Philosophical Practioner

by Larry Abrams


It was the title that captured my interest.  I read a NetGalley book on my Kindle so I didn't get to see the picture - it would have intrigued me as well.


The main character, Eric, is a very likable man who helps people with their problems from a philosophical standpoint rather than emotional one.  I kind of like that idea.  He doesn't have many clients because most people have no clue what he does.


One day a woman walks into he office and tells him she's going to kill someone.  Mistakenly, he thinks she wants him to talk her out of it.  She doesn't.  On her second or third visit to his office she informs him that he is the person she is going to kill but first he needs to find out who Clara Thompson is.


What a good come-on.  It was original, creative, and tempting; so I kept reading.  The format allowed the author to use a lot of his philosophy training.  That wasn't a bad thing, in fact, it was quite interesting, but I did grow a little tired of it.


I mentioned that I really liked Eric.  He was smart as well as wise which led me to question why he loved a woman who was more interested in being famous than in sharing his practical life-style.  I guess there's no accounting for love but this couple were totally mismatched.


I would have liked a little more of the suspense and mystery dealing the female killer - some nail-biting.  The author did sneak in a surprise moment and that was fun.  I had to reread it to make sure I got it right.  Applauds for that.  All in all, this was a fun and worthwhile read.


This book will be in stores Aug 3, 2012.


 ** I received a free copy of The Philosophical Practitioner from Telemachus Press and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Liebster Blog Award

I haven't been tagged in ages, so I was thrilled when LibraryBaby tagged me for the Liebster Blog Award.  Not sure what liebster means but it sounds like it should have something to do with books, libraries, etc.


To be eligible you must be a book blogger with less than 200 followers and keep up with your blog decently. Rules of the tag: share 11 facts about yourself, answer 11 questions the person tagging you asked, and then create 11 questions for the 11 people that you tag to answer.


You may be interested to read a little history about the Liebster Blog Awards at Sopphey Says.  According to her it has morphed through the years.  Originally, you only tagged 3 people -- no questions and answers or facts about the person receiving the award.  Who knows where the 11 facts, 11 questions answered and 11 questions for taggees entered the scene?  Interesting changes in just 2 years time.  I also discovered that liebster had nothing to do with books.  In German, liebster means favorite, beloved, dearest.


11 Random Facts About Me
1.  I have been married for 39 years to the same man.
2.  I am a mother to 4 girls and 2 grandkids.
3.  My basement flooded when I was on a car trip to St. John's, Newfoundland.  We were 3595 miles away from home.
 4.  I love to travel but hate the long waits at the airport.  Favorite way to travel is in the car with my husband driving.
5.  I like to sew quilt tops, collect quilt patterns, cook, collect recipes, x-stitch, tole paint, spend time on Pinterest, play games, work on genealogy, dabble in my garden, and read.
6.  My favorite author is Louis Penny.
7.  I've just started learning about and using essential oils.  I have made my own deodorant and face cleanser.  
8.  I am a retired biology and study skills teacher.
9.  I have 4 brothers and 2 sisters.
10. Before I die I would like to visit all 50 states and all 13 Canadian provinces/territories.  Only 4 states to go (Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana & Montana) and 6 provinces/territories (NU, NT, YT, AB, SK, MB.)
11.  My current favorite games are Hand & Foot (a variation of Canasta) and Settlers of Catan on the computer.


Questions Asked of Me
1.  What is your favorite thing about reading and books?  I like learning while being entertained.  And I often feel gratitude that there are people who are so imaginative and gifted and who are willing to share that with others in their stories and poetry.
2.  E-books or regular books?  Either one.  I like to be able to put bookdarts in regular books and then pull them off the shelves and reread those marked passages but I do like the 'lightness' of ebooks.
3.  Did you have encyclopedias at home when you were a child?  My daughter and I were talking about this just the other day.  We had 2 or 3 different sets - we had to keep current.
4.  What is your favorite kind of music?  Favorite?  That's hard.  I don't listen to a lot but I like some western, some Canadian/Maritime province music, some folk, instrumental, a few movie/Broadway titles, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and really good vocal harmonies.
5.  Where would you most like to visit?  Some of my ancestors came from Randers, Denmark.  I would love to go there.
6.  What is your favorite season?  I like spring when it starts to warm up after winter but I LOVE fall when it begins to cool down again and the harvest is providing such luscious fruits & vegetables and the leaves are so pretty.
7.  Pirate ninjas or ninja pirates?  I must be too old...
8.  Jimmy John’s or Quiznos?  I've never tried either one but I do like Gandalfo's. 
9.  Least favorite genre to read?  Westerns or romance
10.  Coffee or tea? Or espresso?  Is hot chocolate an option?  Don't drink the others.
11.  Are you a morning person or a night owl?  No question - I'm a night owl.

Questions for My Taggees to Answer
1.  What is a TV show/series that you wish had not been canceled?
2.  Romance or Historical?
3.  What hobbies do you have in addition to reading?
4.  What is your favorite holiday?
5.  Cookbook or Health & Fitness?
6.  Where do you read the most?
7.  Why did you start blogging?
8.  Biography or Self-Help?
9.  Any quirky reading habits?
10. Fantasy or Mystery?
11.  Which do you prefer - the beginning or the end of a story?


I'm going to revert back to the original idea of only tagging 3 people for this award.  I know there are many people who don't like to do these 'chain-letter-like' activities.  If I tag you and you don't want to do this, don't.  It won't hurt my feelings at all.  I totally understand that life is busy.


I tag
1.  Katie from KatesBookClub.  This is my daughter, who does awesome video reviews.  She may have well over 200 subscribers/followers but that rule wasn't in the original award rules either so I'm dismissing it.

2.  Zibilee from Raging Bibliomania - a long time fellow book blogger/friend.


3.  Susan from You Can Never Have Too Many Books - another long time book blogger/friend who likes ginger cookies, which our my favorite.  Susan, do you have a good recipe?  I'm on the hunt for the best recipe for ginger snaps.



Monday, July 09, 2012

11/22/63

by Stephen King

I've only read 2 books by Stephen King and the first one I didn't love.  My daughter recommended The Talisman thinking I would like it but I didn't.  So when my sister and brother recommended this I was more than a little hesitant.  As they presented their reasons for liking it and the basic premise of the book, I became interested.

What they didn't tell me was what a chunkster it is - 850 pages!  I pulled it down off the top shelf at the library and groaned.  Luckily, it was enjoyable to read and so it didn't seem so terribly long.


John Epping is a thirty-five-year-old English teacher, who is roped into helping a local diner owner with his obsession to save JFK from being killed more than 40-years ago.  Al's Diner has a time-travel-worm-hole that takes him back in time to the year 1958.  Of course, Epping becomes intrigued with the idea and decides to take the plunge in hopes of changing the past and make the future a better place.


I must say, "King is quite the storyteller."  He has quite the imagination and the ability to vividly share it with the reader.  I loved his take on time travel and the idiosyncratic problems Epping encountered.  King masterfully depicted life in the late 50's and early 60's, which also added to my enjoyment of the story.  I was in 7th grade when Kennedy was assassinated so I felt transported in time, too.


One quote to share is all - Jack Epping is talking:
I'd made the stupid assumption that people were going to approach the Cuban Missile Crisis much like any other temporary international dust-up, because by the time I went to college, it was just another intersection of names and dates to memorize for the next prelim.  That's how things look from the future.  To people in the valley (the dark valley) of the present, they look different.
Has anyone else read this?  What did you think?  I liked it.  A lot.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The World Without You

by Joshua Henkin

I have the impression from his emails that Mr. Henkin is a very nice  man and I felt bad that I didn't read the first book he sent me so I vowed to be sure and read this one.  He dedicated this book to his father who died on October 4, 2010.  That made me choke up because my mother died the month before.  I saw that as a sign that we had a bond and I was for sure going to love his book.

So much for signs.  I didn't love this book.  It was well-written but I did not like any of the people and the family drama was too much for me.  Another time it may have  appealed to me but when I read it was not that time.

That said, I think it is a book that many people will like.  There were some pretty funny spots - like when the wife hit her husband in the eye with a tennis racket.  He so deserved it!  I cheered.

The Frankel family gathered at their beloved summer home in the Berkshires where the mother and father were going to inform the children and grandchildren that they were separating.  They had been married 39 years.  It was a shocker to be sure.  The kids couldn't believe that they would divorce after so long.  That part I could understand.  Don't get me wrong - I love Candleman and all, but there are days.  In the Frankel's case their only son had been killed a year ago while on assignment to Iraq.  I have heard that the death of a loved one can create quite a wedge between couples.

I definitely think you should read other reviews about this book.  Don't cross it off your list based on my review.  Like I say - at another time I may have loved it.

 ** I received a free copy of The World Without You from Joshua Henkin. No other compensation was received.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

by Mary Ann shaffer & Annie Barrows

There have been many good reviews about this book posted elsewhere and I'm just going to add - I loved it, too.

The book is written in letters back and forth from a journalist in London and some folks on Guernsey Island. It is the end of WWII and Europe is trying to put itself back together.

This beautiful story tells of the Nazi occupation of the Guernsey Island for five years during the war. We learn of hardships suffered by both the islanders and the soldiers and yet the overall feeling of the book is one of hope, resurgence, and love.

I very seldom cry while reading or watching movies, but there was one part of the book that I couldn't hold back the tears. Don't put off reading this because it contains a little sadness. I thought the book was delightful. I strongly recommend it to all my blogger friends.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Healthy Shame: How to Spank Your Inner Monkey

By Joseph W. Dopp


I was offered this book to review.  I wasn't interested but Candleman was sitting in the same room and had been reading a few self-help books lately and I asked him if he would be interested.  "Sure I'll take a look."  So I wrote back and let Joe know that I wouldn't be reading it, but that my husband would if he still wanted to send a copy.  He did.


Here's Candleman's review:  You can also read it on his blog: Live and Learn.
I've learned that Shame is a fundamental cause of addiction.  Shame as opposed to guilt.  The definition I accept is:  Guilt - I did wrong.  Shame - I am wrong.  Clearly shame is damaging as is presupposes that I am fundamentally flawed rather than being a person of divine potential who has made mistakes.  Even terrible mistakes.  So this title held a bit of intrigue for me and I decided to give it a try.  I didn't get very far.  While Dopp is witty, I didn't find him to be all that funny, which he was clearly shooting for.  Instead I found him irreverent and crass.  Even that I endured until he explained that a fundamental principle of his method decried what he called the prideful notion that we might ever become like God.
I believe God is my own Father and that His greatest desire is for His offspring, me and you, to grow to become like Him.  Dopp says we are clay in God's jar.  I declare that we are not clay in Gods jar, nor are we pawns on His chess board, nor sheep in His pasture nor art in His Gallery.  We are not rats in His laboratory we are His own sons and daughters, endowed with divine potentiality.  Dopp sees my position as blasphemous.  He can think as he wishes.  I however, couldn't find enough common ground in our philosophical approaches to change to warrant finishing the book.  Our views are built on entirely different foundations.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Katie's Book Club Summer Reading Challenge

I'm joing Miz Kate for her summer reading challenge.  Like her, my local library used to host a wonderful reading challenge every summer - one for the kids and one for the adults.  As the school year closed I anxiously looked forward to my summer reading and to this challenge.


Adults were challenged to read 9 books from the 12 suggestions: 1 mystery, 1 romance, 1 nonfiction, 1 western, 1 Newbery, 1 jur classic, 1 adult classic, 1 sci/fi or fantasy, 1 biography, 1 volume of short stories, 1 volume poetry, and 1 fiction of choice.  This program urged me to read outside my usual choice of mysteries.  I learned so much, developed tastes for just about everything, and I felt growth taking place inside my little cells.  I decided growing - learning new things - is what keeps us young.  I still shy away from westerns, romance, and poetry but I'll read one on a challenge.


Alas, my local library changed their summer reading program a couple of years ago.  Last year was fun because they had the adults choose from several different learning activities, such as learn to twitter or use Facebook, try a new recipe from a library cookbook, go on a 'staycation' by seeing one of our local history sites, download a book from the library's Overdrive digital media collection,  learn to Zentangle, learn a foreign language with interactive audio using Mango, etc.  I was disappointed not to see the usual list of book choices, but I jumped in with both feet and had a ball.


This year the adult program is to simply keep track of how many chapters you read and for every so many, enter our name to win a price.  So very sad and so very whimpy!


So I was thrilled when I ran across Kate's Book Club Challenge.  Her choices are a little different from my libraries, but they are just as fun.  Thanks Katie for rescuing my summer.


Here are the challenges and the book I'm going to use for each one - these are not written in stone and are subject to change.


1. One Book Recommended By A Friend - Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David     Margolick 

2. One Book That Has Been Sitting On Your Shelf For Over A Year - War Crimes for the Home by Liz Jensen

3. One Book You Read A Long Time Ago And Want To ReRead - The Little Country by Charles de Lint OR if 3 years ago qualifies as a long time ago I would like to reread The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

4. One Book From Your To Be Read List - The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King

5. One Book You've Never Heard Of - On Hitler's Mountain by Irmagard a. Hunt

6. One Classic - I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith  (I hope this counts since it over 60 years old and still highly regarded.)

7. One Book You Started But Never Finished - The Folded Earth by Anuradha Roy

8. One New Release - Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz and/or The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny and/or Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King

9. One Book That Is Outside of Your Typical Genre - Pรจlagie :The Return to Acadie by Antonine Maillet

10. One Chunkster (A Book That Is Over 400 Pages) - 11/22/63 by Stephen King (848 pages!)

This is going to be so fun.  I already had fun choosing some books from my shelves and kindly caressing them as I made my choices. I looked longingly at many others and promised them our time together was coming.  I was checking on some new releases from favorite authors.  There's a natural pecking order on the new Louise Penny novel - me first, my husband second, and my daughter third.  After that it's available for sisters, cousins, or anyone else waiting in line. 

Thanks again Kate for challenging my summer!  Love it!





Monday, May 14, 2012

Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident

by Eoin Colfer


I've discovered that I shy away from YA novels as of late (like the last 4-5 years) because of the overwhelming numbers of witch, ghost, vampire, werewolves, and other un-dead, as well as all those dystopian novels; but I still enjoy books targeted for the older children audience.  That said, I still plan to read the Hunger Games books one of these days.

Artemis Fowl is a fun character, though I have ambivalent feelings about him.  It's hard to buddy-up to a genius, but easy to respect his abilities and he's the kind of guy you want on your side.

In this second installment of the series, Artemis discovers that his long-lost father is not dead after all, but has been held captive for two years by the Russian Mafiya. They have issued a ransom demand, but how will Artemis and Butler ever get to the Arctic north in time to deliver the money and save his father? Enter Captain Holly Short, of the LEPrecon unit, whom Artemis kidnapped for fairy gold in the first book. Captain Short is working on a case of her own that may involve humans providing weapons for a goblin uprising, and she needs Artemis' help to uncover the human connection. If these two former rivals can manage to trust one another and work together, they may be able to rescue Artemis Sr., AND squash the power-hungry pixie who is using the goblins in her mad grab for power. 



I really like the spunky little elf, Captain Holly Short.  Mulch and Foaly not only have great names but add dimension to the story.  I hope my grandson will decide to read these books this summer because I think he would really like them.


** I received a free copy of Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident from Disney-Hyperion and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Innocent

by David Baldacci

I am a big fan of Baldacci so when this novel became available on Net Galley I requested a copy.  I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery/thriller.

The story involves a hired assassin, a teen-age girl, and a female FBI agent.  The assassin is running from a botched hit.  On the bus ride to New York he saves a 14-yr-old from a man sitting behind her who attempts to snap her neck.  The FBI agent is assigned to discover who and why that bus to New York was blown up, killing all passengers.

There were lots of questions that I wanted answered.  This may not be Baldacci's best but it was entertaining and well worth the read.

 ** I received a free copy of  The Innocent  from Grand Central publishing and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.