Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Visions of America

Pictures taken and book written and compiled by Joseph Sohm

For over 30 years Sohm has been taking pictures of America, everything from farms to football games to the statue of liberty. Pictures that capture and release the feelings of democracy. My heart filled with esteem for my fellow compatriots and the contribution they make to our country as I perused and read this work of art.

Let me share a couple of quotes from the dedication which is to all Americans and all people seeking democracy.
The photography in this book was taken with the goal of celebrating the American experience in all its diversity.

One of my goals has been to illustrate how all nationalities live in relative peace in America. In my pictures and words, I've tried to include everyone - and that's a tall order. I have also been aware of how inadequate the scope of a book is as a vehicle for recognizing all the contributions to our nation of all the peoples who comprise it. My intent is to honor all, through images and words, and I hope I have done so.

I think Visions of America succeeds in celebrating the American experience and in honoring all. My husband, daughters, mother and I have all been thrilled as we thumbed through the pages. I came in the door the other day and my husband explained, "Awesome!" My mother said, "This is just wonderful." I can't wait to hear my brother, Steve's reaction - he'll probably try to take it home with him.

When I first lifted this book into my lap I leafed through looking at the pictures. At some point I found myself stymied as to the logic behind the grouping of pictures into chapters. Why a picture of the Jefferson Memorial alongside a picture of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate from Kenya? I quit looking at the pictures and turned to the table of contents where I discovered the section I had just been looking at was about blacks in America: Red White BLACK ~ From Africa to America. A really fun chapter is States of the Union where there are pictures of every state's capitol building, flag, and "Welcome to" signs. Sohm had set a goal to visit every state and get pictures of these items along with customized license plates. I was tickled to read that because we always stop and get a picture of us by state signs. We're only missing 4 states. It took Sohm over 15 years to collect all his pictures which explains why the Utah welcome sign says, "Utah: It's still the place to be." I think those have all been replaced with something about the 2002 Olympics. I think those are pretty cool, too.

Another favorite chapter - what am I saying? They are all favorites. Okay, the Avenue of the Americas chapter shows cityscapes of many of the larger cities in America along with some interesting and/or tall buildings, bridges, streets and other icons. There's an absolutely beautiful picture of Chicago.

Red White BLUES reminds us that there is much to be done in America as far as taking care of those less fortunate than ourselves. Pictures of run-down buildings in St. Louis and gang warfare in LA bring tears to my heart. What can be done? It's a haunting chapter in the book and a tragic chapter in America. This type of tragedy or ones similar happen in every city and by way in America.

There are thirteen chapters in this beautiful book, each offering a slice of America. I'm thrilled to death to own this book and have it on a table in my living room where I and others can pick it up and look through and read it. I keep thinking what a lovely present it would make.All the pictures I've shared in this post can be found in the book. For further information check out Sohm's web page, Visions of America. There are several beautiful, touching videos. I enjoyed learning more about the author.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Winner Annoucement

Congratulations to the winner of Roastbeef's Promise:

from the brand new blog
Book Scratch

I'm tickled that your name was drawn and hope this encourages you in your book blogging endeavors. Happy Reading!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Reading Personality

I was just trying to catch up on some of my favorite blogs before heading for bed. Wimpulsive talked about getting a review book from a site I'd never heard of before so off I went to check out BookBrowse. (I didn't even finish reading her review - I'll be back, SuziQ, I promise!) I can tell that I'm going to spend hours browsing this terrific site. It's a gold mine of information, book suggestions, book club tips, etc., etc. It even features a giveaway. Thanks SuziQ to leading me to BoodBrowse.

One of the first thing I noticed was a quiz on reading personality. Like I need to take another quiz?! But I did. Here's the result:

Your Reading Personality: Eclectic Reader!

You read for entertainment but also to expand your mind. You're open to new ideas and new writers, and are not wedded to a particular genre or limited range of authors.

Here's a link to the quiz if you'd like to take it. Start quiz

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Roastbeef's Promise Giveaway

I received this book as a review copy. I liked the premise and the title was interesting, causing me to wonder if Roastbeef was the son's name. Indeed, Roastbeef is his name, rather a nickname because he liked roastbeef so much. Roastbeef is asked by his dying father to sprinkle some of his ashes in all the contiguous 48 states.

I read the first chapter which started with a great first page and I thought I had my hands on a really good book, but after being introduced to the father, the father dying, the funeral and Roastbeef telling his siblings about his father's dying request I thought the chapter should end. It didn't. Instead Roastbeef starts his journey and visits 4 or 5 states before the chapter ended. I was bothered, greatly. And the more time that went by the more bothered I was that the book didn't take a natural break before the trip. After not picking it back up for 2 days I started on chapter 2 today. I just couldn't get back into it. So that's when I decided I would give this book to someone who might thoroughly enjoy it. I knew I wouldn't be finishing it and I hate giving a bad review for an free book. Really, how could I after only one chapter?

I am sure there are many, many people who will love this book. It received the 2009 National Indie Excellent Award in the Humor category.

You can learn more about this book, along with some live TV interviews with the author, at this web site. You can also read a synopsis, the first chapter and learn about the author.

All you have to do to enter the drawing is leave a comment stating a place in your state or country that would be a wonderful place for my husband to sprinkle some of my ashes. Of course, this won't take place for several decades! but I can start planning can't I? I've already decided on the perfect place in my home state of Utah - the beautiful library in Salt Lake City. His instructions would be to take a very small amount of ashes in a baggie and place them at the end of chapter 1 of Roastbeef's Promise. (I say all this with tongue in cheek - I would like to have a green funeral and be buried in my home town.)

I will choose a winner next Sunday.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Falling Into the Sun

by Charrie Hazard

from the publisher's site:
After discovering her neighbor’s suicide, Kate Nardek realizes the same kind of despair that spurred Michael’s self-destruction fuels her teenage son’s violent blowups. She seeks psychological help for him, a decision that changes both their lives. In her quest to vanquish her son’s demons, Kate must face down her own, and, subsequently, rethink her beliefs about mental illness, good and evil, death, and her own self-worth.

Michael’s journey parallels Kate’s as his soul flies into the center of creation. There, he discovers something has noted every twist of his life. This being’s perfect knowledge generates the healing salve of perfect compassion. If Michael confronts the truth behind violent episodes in his recent life, he too can learn compassion. Gripping, poetic and powerfully uplifting, Falling into the Sun explores spiritual truths of Hindu, Native American and Christian traditions as it tenderly grapples with the generational legacy of alcoholism and mental illness.
The narrator tells Michael's story in italics, interspersed with Kate's attempt to deal with the memories of the suicide and her problems with her teenage son. I thought Michael's story was revealing and quite touching. At the beginning of the book he compares his pre-suicide thoughts with the time he had to untangle and rewind kite string when he was a boy. Even with his father's help he fell into exhausted sleep after several hours. When he awakes in the morning he finds the string neatly coiled on the spindle. "He knows there's a way back to a neat coil, but he's worn out by the loops and has lost faith in overnight miracles. His mind is numb, as when a child, hands full of tangled string, blame and punishment stinging him like whip lashes."

The after death experiences were thoughtfully dealt with as well. Interesting, providing many thoughtful moments.

Any mother of a teenager can relate to the struggles of a violent, mentally-afftlicted child even if her own is a model child. The fear, horror, concern, despair and anger are easy to sympathize with. Kate's challenges become ours, our hearts break for her at the same time we try to encourage her to be brave and keep searching for help and answers.

I was amazed at the beautiful writing of this, the author's first novel. Several times while driving last week I would read excerts to Candleman that I thought were especially poignant and well written. Falling into the Sun deals with some complex situations in a beautiful, thoughtful way. Even though belief in God is part of the healing process, this is not a typical Christian novel. It's meaty. Not oversimplified like some I've read. I look forward to reading future novels by Hazard.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Vacation Book Buying

Candleman, daughter Katie and I had a phenomenal book shopping spree while on our little vacation last week. While in Vegas visiting our daughter Alyson we went to Barnes and Noble to find me a new novel. We found that but we also found several other books for $4.98, $5.98 and even the unbelievably low price of $3.99! On our way home we stopped at another Barnes & Noble in Provo.

Here's a look at what Katie hauled home:Starting from the bottom she has Vampyre: The Terrifying Lost Journal of Dr. Cornelius Van Helsing, an artist sketch book, The Big Book of Grimm (graphic novel), The Princess and the Bear, a blank unlined journal, Peter and the Starcatchers, and breathe.

I bought a few cookbooks for $3.99 each (the grill one was Candleman's doing).
The books in the next two pictures were all just $3.99 and will be enjoyed by both Candleman and I.
Let's start at the top this time: The Celts: Life, Myth and Art, Kings and Queens: The Story of Britain's Monarchs from Pre-Roman Times to Today, China's Imperial Dynasties: 1600 BC-AD 1912, Dark History: The Popes: Vice, Murder, and Curruption in the Vatican, Spirit of the Polar Regions, Wonders of the World: Masterpieces of Architecture from 4000 BC to the Present, and Great Rivers of the World.Webster's New Explorer dictionary of Word Origins, Freedom from Addiction (Candleman moderates a 12-step type of program that uses this book), The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens (Candleman plans to donate this to the youth detention center where he is involved in church meetings on Sunday and an activity night on Wed.), Making Sense of Fibromyalgia (hopefully, I find some helpful advise), and Leslie Beck's Best of the Best Quilts.

And finally some novels for me:
Case Histories (I've been wanting to read a Kate Atkinson), The Innocence and the Wisdom of Father Brown, Orthodoxy (ok, not a novel, but it's in this stack), The Tale of Hawthorn House (book 4 in the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter - will have to look for the first 3 in the series), The Secret of Lost Things, and The Lightening Keeper. All were $3.99 except the two by G.K. Chesterton, but I wanted those enough to pay a bit more. You may remember from an earlier post of my recent interest in Chesterton.

That's 30 books and a couple of Lastline Bookmarks and two brain teaser games for Candleman for less than $145! I think that's remarkable and I'm so excited to read them. Many will be used as reference but I hope to read big chunks of those as well as the novels. It would be satisfying to actually make some of the recipes from the cookbooks, but even if I don't I will (and already have) enjoyed looking through them and marking luscious-looking recipes. Hey, it's cheaper than a jewelry fetish! I think.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Cedar City Shakespeare Festival

Candleman and I are in Cedar City, Utah this week visiting my sister and her family. Our daughter Kate and my mother came with us. A group of women cousins are also here this week from northern Utah. They come every year to attend the Shakespeare Festival. There are six different plays going right now along with workshops and post-play discussions. Candleman and Katie are going this afternoon to see The Secret Garden. Tomorrow evening Katie and I are going to Comedy of Errors. Candleman and my nephew are going to hike the 16 miles through the Zion Narrows and won't be back early enough to go to the play. I can't wait to see they pictures the take!

We don't usually attend all six plays but do join the 'group' for lunch or dinners a couple times. Last night we ate at the Pastry Pub - a favorite. It has been closed for 7 months due to fire damage and yesterday was its first day open. We were grateful! There's always so many and there are conversations going on all around the big table. I try to catch bits and pieces, but usually wind up not getting a full coherent conversation. So fun, though.

Susan's kids usually gather with us around the table and play some games, enjoy lots of laughter and good conversation. Last night Candleman taught Mom, Susan and I an new game called Golf that is played with Skip-Bo cards. We've decided not to let Mom play any more because she always won!

Right now Mom and Susan are off buying play tickets with a long linger in the University's book store. Katie is in the bedroom reading (or maybe napping) and Candleman is looking through some purchase made this morning for tomorrow's hike. So that gives me a few minutes to type up this post.

Saturday we are going to drive to Las Vegas to see our daughter who recently moved there for her new job. It's supposed to be 105 degrees! There's only one thing that would get me to make that trip in July - one of my kids! The crazy things we do for our kids. Monday we'll head for home.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Inconvenient Adventures of Uncle Chestnut

by Paul Nowak

I love the fun, little coincidences that occur from time to time. I was reading Relentless by Dean Koontz recently wherein he quotes G. K. Chesterton several times. I was vaguely aware of the name and knew that it belonged to an author, but I had no idea what he wrote, when he lived or anything else about him. I liked the quotes in the book and vowed I was going to search out more information on the internet about Chesterton.

Before finishing Relentless, I received an offer for an ARC based on the life and works of Chesterton. I was thrilled to accept. The book is written for young readers, maybe 3rd grade and up, but as the author says, "It is the first in a series on "Uncle Chestnut, putting G. K. Chesterton in a more familiar light for young people (and time-pressed adults, too!)" It provided a perfect introduction for me.

This is a book that I will reread many times. One time uplifted my spirits and taught me much, but I will needed to be reminded frequently. The four stories (inconvenient adventures) in this short volume are told from the viewpoint of Chesterton's make-believe nephew, Jack.

One of the stories was based on the often quipped saying that the most important thing is that we need to believe in ourselves. I won't tell you what Chesterton's response was to this except to tell you he didn't believe it.

Another story is about being lost. One quote from that story: "Real happiness is knowing that things of this world will never make us truly happy, and relishing the simple pleasures and new experiences each day until we reach home."

As I did further research on Chesterton I discovered he wrote several mysteries. Oh, yes! One of my favorite quotes was said by him and I didn't even know it: "Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." This quote is on the back of some, if not all, copies of Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

Those of you have read Good Omens should note that it was dedicated to the memory of G.K. Chesterton: A man who knew what was going on.

Also of note for those of us who have read Neil Gaiman's collection of short stories in M is for Magic, the character of October in October in the Chair, was based on Chesterton.

Please get yourself a copy of this delicious, delightful and wonderful little book. You'll be glad you did. I anxiously wait for the next installment. I so glad Paul Nowak created this work of love and shared it with the world. We needed this.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


by Dean Koontz

You all know I am a big Dean Koontz fan. I pre-ordered this book from and told my husband so he wouldn't pick it up at Wal-Mart. He did anyway. We kept the receipt so we could return it. When the one I ordered didn't show up I checked on amazon. Lo, and behold, I didn't actually order it because it was still in the cart. So I threw away the receipt and lent the book to my daughter. A few days later, Relentless showed up in the mail from amazon! So I got back on the computer and sure enough I had pre-ordered it, but I had also put it in the cart sometime later to pre-order it again. Cheezzzz!
So we ended up with 2 of the same books - a whoopsabooksy!

The daughter who is reading Relentless has a hard time getting into a book so I suggested this one and told her it would grab her by page three. Was I ever wrong on that point. Relentless starts off at a slow-let's-get-to-know-everyone pace. (I didn't start to read the 2nd copy until Kristi was already on page 30.) Luckily, she's been really busy and hasn't had time to read any further. Somewhere around page 50 the intensity begins to build and as I read further into the book I realized this story is going to keep her up at night. She tends to worry and I knew that the idea of a seemingly omniscient character being in the bedroom while the main character and his wife are sleeping, as well as what he plans to do to them was not the best thing for her to ponder.

I thought this book was relentless at times. There were sections of the book that were slow, but overall, I liked it. Luckily, I don't get creeped-out or have nightmares. One of the things I like about Koontz books is the portrayal of good and evil. There are times in his book when you feel like the evil is too great, not just in the book but in real life, but by the end of each book I feel a sense of hope. There are things that we can do to combat the evil and darkness, there is a reason to fight a good fight and there are reasons to hope.

I marked several passages with book-darts, but I'll just share two:
"It's just that he made so many mistakes. And his sytax is so bad. I could really eviscerate him."
"Dear, the man can't be eviscerated because he has no viscea. He's a walking colon. If you cut him open, you only end up covered in crap."

Among other things, my past had taught me that the very fact of my existence is a cause for amazement and wonder, that we must seize life because we never know how much of it remains for us, that faith is the antidote to despair and that laughter is the music of faith.