Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ashley Bell

by Dean Koontz

I don't even know what to say about this book.  I'm a big fan of Dean Koontz and some of his books.  In this one Koontz delves into the mind of a coma patient who is fighting an internal battle with forces of evil.  And yet the battle is totally internal.

I thought about this book for weeks afterward, which is a marker of a good book.  I don't know that I enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed some of his others.  My favorites are From the Corner of His Eye and Odd Thomas.  Ashley Bell didn't make it on the list, probably because of the strong sci-fi theme.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Reader's of Broken Wheel Recommend

by Katarina Bivald

A quirky, yet hopeful, book about a Swedish tourist who decides to vacation in a small town in Iowa.  She chose this town because she has been a penpal to a lady who lives there.  Only when she arrives the penpal has died.

 I enjoyed the characters who populate Broken Wheel but I find it quite unlikely that a young woman with no friends or social like in Sweden can move into a floundering town and bring it back to life.

Even with that major hurdle to overcome, the book was fun to read.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Super Genes

by Deepak Chopra & Rudolph E. Tanzi

This is not a book about the study of our DNA but rather a look at what has been learned about our genetic makeup and how we can influence that blueprint in relatively simple ways to improve our lives.

I was totally fascinated by this book.  As a retired biology teacher I've long been fascinated with genetics and the new discoveries that are being made since the human genome has been mapped.  Within the last couple of years I've heard tidbits about a new area of genetic study that deals with the epigenome.

Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression.  The things we eat, our thoughts and attitudes, the level or stress in our lives do not change our DNA blueprint but they do effect the switching mechanisms that turn a certain gene on or off, up or down.  Science has discovered a real connection between nature and nurture.  And, even better, we can learn to nurture ourselves and improve our lives.

Super Genes points out that there are three main components to our "super genome."  First is our DNA, second is the epigenome which is a buffer of proteins that encloses the DNA, and third are the genomes of the microbes that live n our intestines, mouth, and skin.   This 3rd group help us digest our food, resist disease, and counter a host of chronic disorders, therefore we want to do things that promote their health because they help promote ours.

The authors discuss the science behind their work in simple terms.  The most helpful part of the book was the chapters dealing with life-style changes we can make to transform the expression of our genes with diet, stress reduction, excercise, meditation, sleep, and emotions.  In each chapter they talk a little about the science behind their suggestions for change.  Then they offer a menu of easy choices, harder choices, and experimental choices.  The reader is encouraged to choose 1 item per week to work on.  That's not one item per chapter but one item from one of the chapters.  The idea is that after making a few easy steps that are to be continued the benefits will pay off and over time it will be easy to make choices that at first were hard.

My first week was the easy choice of take a probiotic supplement and a multivitamin daily. A probiotic is a food that contains active bacteria.  Tomorrow will be the start of a new week and I'm going to continue taking the probiotic and multivitamin but I'm going to add a prebiotic as well.  Prebiotics are the food for the microbes that are helping us.  Suggestions include oatmeal, bananas, pulpy orange juice (so I'm assuming an orange would work), and fruit smoothies made with unpeeled apples, various berries, and other fruits.

Each chapter ends with the a section that discusses the science behind the changes.

I highlighted a lot of passages in the book, but let me share this one from the emotions chapter:
"Once you know that negative emotions are harmul to you, your viewpoint changes.  It's no longer a free ride to attack someone else, feel envy, act out of spite, and fantasize about revenge.  Each of these emotions rebounds on you, right down to your genes."
Obviously, if our negative feelings make an impact then so do our positive ones.

This book is a life changer for me.  I look forward to other's thoughts and feelings as your read this book.  I highly recommend it.  Highly.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

The Fairy Tale Girl

by Susan Branch

When I was offered this book to review I had to do a double take when I saw the author's name.  The Susan Branch who is an artist?  The cover looked like it could be her memoir and sure enough it is.  I don't know how many note cards, calendars, planners, and knick-knacks I own that Susan designed.  I love the whimsy of her art and it comes through in her book.

I also decided to read The Fairy Tale Girl because it is a memoir set in my time period.  Susan was born 3 years before me so I was excited to climb in to the time capsule and endulge in the nostalga.  I felt that most during the last half of the book.  Susan was the oldest of eight children; I was the oldest girl of seven children.  Instant bonding moment!  Susan kept a diary and has a great memory; I didn't and I don't so it was fun to be reminded of the things in my life so similar to her's.

I didn't relate as well with the first of the book - the part about her relationship with Cliff.  We both grew up being 'little moms' but I didn't understand what she was willing to put up.  In addition to being the oldest girl in the family, I also grew up Mormon where we are taught that our greatest contribution in life is as a wife and mother.  Like Susan, there was nothing I wanted more than to find Prince Charming, get married, and have a family.  I think Susan got confused when it came to the Prince Charming part.  There are some frogs that, no matter the number & intensity of the kisses, will never turn into a prince.  My heart broke for her.  It's doubly sad because someone I love dearly is going through the same thing.

Do I recommend The Fairy Tale Girl?  Absolutely!  There is so much to love about this book.  There are quotes and delightful artwork throughout.  Inside the front and back covers are pages from a baby book.  Very endearing.  I loved the typeset, too.  It almost passes as someone's personal writing in a diary.

***Disclosure:  I was offered this book by Jocelyn Kelley and Kelley and Hall Publishing for an honest review. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

If Anything Should Happen

by Bonnie Hearn Hill

Introducing radio talkshow host and amateur sleuth Kit Doyle in the first of this thoroughly entertaining mystery series.

When Kit Doyle’s near-perfect mother tells her about the letter she’s written and locked away – a letter to be read only ‘if anything should happen’ to her – Kit thinks she’s being melodramatic. But the next day Kit’s mother is dead – and what she reads in that letter will change Kit’s life forever.

Armed with nothing but the secret letter, a tight-lipped father, and some good friends at the radio station where she works, Kit sets out to learn the truth about the shady past her mother has kept hidden for so many years.

But when a dead body turns up, Kit realizes that at least one person is determined to stop her finding out the truth – whatever it takes.

I think I would have like this story better if there wasn't a gaping hole, a major event that happened near the beinning that is never addressed.  Kit's mother tells her about the letter in the safe and then the next day the mother is dead.  The mother is beautiful, healthy, trim and fit, but passes away at 51.  This is the women who raised Kit and who Kit believed was her biological mother and yet Kit doesn't mourn the loss and nobody even questions the death.  What?!

You need to know that I only read half the book, so maybe something develops in the last half but I don't think so - at least, I didn't get that impression from any of the reviews I read.  I can understand that Kit is anxious to find answers to the secret her mother reveals in the letter, but I still thing there should be some thought for her mother and some investigation into her death.  

I just couldn't connect with the story that was happening because of the story that got left behind. If you have read the book or do so in the future, let me know if I should finish it.  All the reviews I've read so far are praiseworthy with high ratings, so maybe I'm giving up too soon.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Three-year Swim Team

The Three-Year Swim Team:  The Untold Story of Mau's Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory
by Julie Checkoway

In 1937, a schoolteacher on the island of Maui challenged a group of poverty-stricken sugar plantation kids to swim upstream against the current of their circumstance. The goal? To become Olympians. 

I loved the story of Soichi Sakamoto, the schoolteacher who couldn't swim himself, and his dedication to the poor kids he taught to swim with everything they had.  Interwoven with the personal story of Soichi and the members of the swim team is the backdrop of what is is happening during this time period with world politics as well as the IOC.    

The book reads like a novel - easy to read and captivating. I always like it when a book enlarges my understanding and learning.  It was interesting to see the reactions of the Hawaiin swimmers to their treatment when they visited the south for swim meets. I think we've made progress in racial relations.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Slade House

by David Mitchell

My husband recently read Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and loved it. Then we watched the movie and with his help I was able to follow the imaginative story.

So when I saw a new book by Mitchell being offered on NetGalley, I requested it.

Slade House is a perfect Halloween ghost story.  There's a good plot, interesting characters, and an imaginative story line. I liked how every nine years when the twins needed a new soul there was more information about their methods and history.  

Not a typical genre for me but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  And I'm glad I got to read it just before Halloween.

Thirteen Ways of Looking

by Colum McCann

Both the cover and titled caught my attention on this book. Thirteen Ways of Looking is a collection of short stories.  This is one of those books that I have a hard time reviewing.  I loved it but I don't want to give anything away.

The writing was beautiful, but it took me a while to get into the rhythm of the book.  At times the voice was an old man loosing his mind and at other, even within the same paragraph, was the voice of a narrator.  I didn't notice that as I got further into the book.  Maybe the editing got better or I got used to the style.

Other than that complaint, the writing was beautiful and descriptive. The reason I don't know what to write is because I suspect there was symbolism that I missed or didn't understand.  This is a book I want to read again and study the poem about crows so I can understand their connection.   

Thursday, October 08, 2015

The Magic of Jello

I love reading cookbooks and looking through the pictures.  And even though I don't cook often I do enjoy adding a sticky note to recipes that look yummy and are easy to make.  If they promise to be worth the effort I will occasionally spend the time necessary to wow my family with something special.  For instance, I don't bake cookies but I have to try the Gingerbread People because they are made with butterscotch pudding!

I have tried and loved many of the recipes in this books or variations of the recipes.  My mom use to make Sunset Salad every time she served Sloppy Joes.  Sunset Salad is orange Jello with shredded carrots and crushed pineapple stirred in.  Sometime mom would add cabbage instead of the pineapple.  We loved it.

This book includes lots of kid friendly ideas like Worm Cake, Witches Brew, No-Drip Pops, and a favorite treat of my family - Jigglers.  Remember Jello doesn't have any fat and is low in calories but high in flavor so it's perfect for kids treats.

Another family favorite is Poke Cake.  This book includes a recipe for Rainbow Cake which is a layered cake with each layer featuring a different color Jello.  Every year for his birthday, my husband requests Raspberry Poke Cake frosted with Cool Whip.

Something I haven't tried yet is Slurpies made with Jello and Ginger Ale (or pop of choice).  The picture looks like shaved ice from one of those expensive stands.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Beautiful Blue Death

by Charles Finch

First off - I love this cover and I'm not sure why.  Is it the colors?  Or the old fashion apothecary bottles?  Or is it because it makes good use of the 'rule of thirds?  It's probably all those mixed together because I can't pinpoint any one reason but I do find it very appealing.

A Beautiful Blue Death is the first of the Charles Lenox mystery series.  I love it when I actually start a series at the beginning.  The first part is a slow going as the stage is being set and the characters introduced.  I rather like Lenox, a Victorian gentleman who is also an amateur sleuth.  A dear lady-friend of his asks him to look into the death of a former domestic. Joining the story as an aid to Lenox is an alcoholic, washed up doctor.  At that point in the book I threw up my arms in despair as I realized this was merely a remake of Sherlock Holmes.  Add to the mix of characters a brother who works in the Parliament.  "Oh no," says I.  "This is really too much!"

I continued reading, however, and discovered that, although Lenox, the doctor, and the brother resemble the Sherlock characters, there were qualities in the characters that endeared them to me and I also grew interested in the plot.  As Lenox narrowed down the list of suspects and was convinced of the guilty party, that person turned up murdered.

I look forward to reading the next in this series and watching the character development and the relationships between the major characters.

Just checked and discovered there are already six books in this series.  I better get reading!  The covers continue to appeal to me so I am going to show them here as a reminder of the correct order.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The World of Poo

by Terry Pratchett

I have enjoyed reading several Pratchett novels but this little "fairytale for all ages" was not one of them.  Early on I thought first- or second-graders would giggle shamelessly if their teacher were to read this to them but closer to the end I realized they would be as bored as I was.

There were a lots of vocabulary words to talk about poo or going poo, such as doing one's business.  And I suppose there was even occasion for learning new things, such as hippos whirling their tail around so as to splatter the poo as far as they can to mark their territory.  This would be especially memorable if the children could watch a video in science showing such a thing.

That said, I would suggest not bothering with the book.  Talk to your husband, children, or grandchildren to learn what there is to know about poo.  It dawned on me as I wrote that last sentence that Pratchett is from England so maybe the husbands, children, and grandchildren over there don't talk about these things in polite company.  Thus, the need for this book.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Under This Roof

by Paul Brandus

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book that read more like a novel than a nonfiction.

Under This Roof's main character is the White House with leading characters being 21 presidents of the United States.  Brandus tells about the condition of and changes made to the White House over the last 200 plus years.  Also included are major events during those presidents's years in office.

I was not a good history student and I blame it on my history teachers.  I wonder if a really interesting teacher had primed my curiosity if I would have become an history teacher instead of a science teacher.   At this stage of my life I love history and can't seem to get enough.

I have had a few interesting conversations with my brother, who is an American History teacher.  I called him just the other day with questions that arose from reading this book.  One was about the Louisiana Purchase that occurred during Thomas Jefferson's presidency.  I was confused when Jefferson sent Lewis & Clark to explore this new territory.  I am familiar with the Lewis & Clark trial and knew they explored all the way to the coast of Washington but I thought the Louisiana Purchase dealt with Louisiana and a few states around Louisiana.  I did some exploring online and talking to my brother.

It wasn't long before I called him again asking why the British were burning the White House and what caused them to turn east again?  I knew there was a War of 1812 but I couldn't have told you who we were fighting.  I assumed the U.S. won.  He told me the winner is in question and also, reminded me of the Johnny Horton song, The Battle of New Orleans, that I listened to again.  Wow! I have so many loose history events bouncing around in my brain that need connecting!

As you can guess, this pattern continued throughout my reading of Under This Roof.   Lots of online searching to answer more questions and to settle a few conflicting ideas.  A fun, and interesting process.

Under This Roof is an overall glance at some major events in history and how they tie-in to the White House and the presidency.  Don't expect in depth explanations of events.  Do expect interesting tidbits about our presidents and their terms in office and what was happening to their residency.  Expect an interesting and compelling  read.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pop Goes the Weasel

by M.J. Arlidge

I very seldom stay up late to finish a novel, even a compelling mystery, but I did just that with this book.  I couldn't put off knowing who the killer was even after my "pep talk to self" that I could savor the mystery longer and when I woke up I would have that delicious reveal waiting for me.  Believe it or not, that little pep talk usually works.

This is book 2 in the Helen Grace series.  I can't wait to get my hands on book 1, Eeny Meeny.    Checking online I discovered there is a 3rd and 4th book, too.  Oh, yea!

Pop Goes the Weasel is a dark thriller.  Definitely not a cozy mystery. Arlidge drew me into the story within the first few pages and my interest level continued throughout the book.  The main characters are flawed and fleshed-out.  I look forward to getting to know more of Helen's history and I hope we get to meet up with Robert again in a later book.

In this book someone is killing men who appear to be upright citizens of the community but are hiding some dark secrets.  The killer send these mens hearts to their family or business.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Saving Sophie

by Ronald H. Balson

I picked this book up after reading half of an unsatisfying mystery and was immediately impressed with the writing and story.  There are complexities in the plot that provided interest and encouraged me to continue reading.  And I thought about the book when I wasn't reading.

Jack Sommers is grieving his wife's sudden death when his in-laws take him to court in a child custody suit.  Lies about Jack's character and his ability to care for Sophie are bantered about but eventually proven false and he is granted custody.  But several weeks later his wife's parents kidnap Sophie and take her to live with them in Hebron, Israel which is a West Bank Palestinian Settlement.

Things are looking bleak for Jack but they get worse.  He disappears from work on the day of a big business deal when $88 million dollars goes missing.

Artfully woven in to this plot is a subplot that deals with college basketball racketeering.

After reading a book like this I go online to search for other books by the author, in hopes there are more to be enjoyed.  Luckily, Balson has written a previous book, Once We Were Brothers, that also has a 4.5 rating.  Yay!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Corridors of the Night

by Anne Perry

I have been reading Perry's William and Hester Monk series from the beginning.  I love this series but I think this is my favorite.  Each book fleshes out the characters and their relationships which makes them seem like dear friends.  And it's always nice to check in and find out what's going on in their lives.

William is Commander of the Thames River Police, a job which is difficult at best but with the amnesia he suffered years ago, the job has some unusual stresses.  He is never sure what is relationship is with certain people that become involved in his cases - people that act like they have a history with Monk.

In this episode Hester is kidnapped because of her outstanding record as a nurse.  She is needed to care for 3 children who have also been kidnapped and her help is required to help save a wealthy, but arrogant man.  The man is dying from a blood disease and must have transfusions of blood that has been taken from the children.  Even though blood transfusions had been tried in the past they were never successful.

As a retired biology teacher I was interested in the antiquated machine and methods involved in the transfusions.  Questions of morality were raised as to the extent science or medicine can take to make progress.  At what cost does the advancement take?

This is the 21st book in this series but I think it would be just as enjoyable as a stand alone.  The feelings for the characters may not be quite as strong but they will develop quickly.  Hester and William Monk are very likable.  The historical aspects of the book are interesting as the book is set in Victorian England.

If I was to rate this book, which I am always hesitant to do, I'd give it a 4.75 out of 5. 

I received this book free from the publisher through NetGalley. I thank them for their generousity. In exchange, I was simply asked to write an honest review, and post it. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Curious Beginning

by Deanna Raybourn

Isn't that a beautiful cover?  I love the coloring.  Need to make a quilt using that color scheme.  The lady walking away piqued my interest - Where is she going?  What is she leaving behind?

I have a couple of books in my library by Deanna Raybourn but I don't believe I've ever read one of her books.  That is about to change.  I will be watching for the next books in this series with anticipation.

I was captured immediately with the character of Veronica Speedwell. She is honest in her feelings and assessment of herself.  She is self-assured in a time when women were supposed to be reliant upon men.  She is intelligent and a keen observer.  I like her a great deal.

Here's the write-up from Ms. Raybourn's beautiful website:
London, 1887.As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria's golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

I enjoyed this book immensely and look forward to the next installment.  I'm sure that Veronica and Stoker will find mysteries to be solved as they embark on scientific explorations.  

I received this book free from the publisher through NetGalley. I thank them for their generousity. In exchange, I was simply asked to write an honest review, and post it. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Monday, August 17, 2015

Pictures of the Past

by Deby Eisenberg

I just about gave up after the first 3 or 4 chapters.  I like books that go back and forth between time periods and/or characters but this one jumped between 3 or more time periods and characters in too close succession.  The fact that it was an unedited ebook probably added to the confusion.  I think the beginning of the book was not the place because it seemed too scrambled.  I need to someplace or character to grab onto.

If this had been a library book I would have returned it unread.  Being it was a free galley I felt like I should give it harder try.  It did get better the further in I got.  And I actually liked it.  The characters were likable and it came together in the end.

I had never heard about the ships that carried the Jews to America but were not permitted to land and had to turn back to Europe.  It was heartbreaking.  And to learn of the propaganda that Hitler had sent on to America and Cuba before the ships sailed to slant their feelings towards the Jews was an interesting part of the book. 

Overall a good book that could have been better.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Two Across

by Jeff Bartsch

This book read like a movie playing in my mind.  It's going to make a great chic flick with all the near misses of the main characters realizing their feelings for each other.

I like a story that isn't a retold variation of an oft repeated theme. Example in point - all the vampire novels floating around.  This is a love story (and I realize those have been around forever) but the setting is new and interesting.

Stanley and Vera first meet at a National Spelling Bee.  They are both precocious and awkward teens.  They meet a few times over the years but still the sparks don't fly.  Stanley's mom has  strong feelings about his future which includes an Harvard education and then a life in politics.  Vera's mom allows more leeway for Vera but there are still plans for an Ivy League school and a math professor.

As high school comes to an end Stanley hatches a plan to bring in some money that he can live without working for awhile and not have to attend school.  He has become sick of studying and determines that he wants no more of it.  So Stanley and Vera pull of a fake marriage.  Quite ingenious, actually but definitely fraudulent.  They never live as husband and wife but they go off to college, supposedly together, to continue the rues.

Stanley does what he loves which is writing crossword puzzles.  Vera starts to realize that she is in love with Stanley and, of course, Stanley has no clue.  Over the years they go their separate ways but discover that they can communicate through their crossword puzzles.  Vera is actually better than Stanley but she's not obsessed with the puzzles like he is.  She uses them solely to get in touch with Stanley.

I really liked this story although it made me sad at times.  If you read it, and I hope you will, don't be surprised when you get hit with the desire to create, or at least do, a crossword puzzle.  

The Complete Francis of Assisi

I've read quotes by Francis of Assissi and heard bits and pieces about his life and philosophy but didn't really know that much about him.  I knew he was a "friend " to the animals but didn't know he despised education.

This lovely book includes a a biography of Francis and a collection of many of his writings.  It's always interesting to me when someone changes their life in drastic ways as did Francis.  I admire the ability to totally leave the old comforts behind and the continued adherence to a more austere life.  I wonder if I would have the strength to do that.  Lucky for me I don't believe the Lord requires that of me.

I downloaded this collection onto my phone so that if I'm waiting somewhere I can reread some of Francis's writings to his followers.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster

by Scott Wilbanks

I adored this book.  Absolutely loved it.  It was magical and fun and I found myself wanting to do nothing else but immerse myself in its story.  It made me happy.

Mind you, I started off wanting to like the book because of the title and the cover - mailbox, epistolary novel maybe, but soon found myself perplexed and annoyed.  The characters seemed unreal and there were several things going on that I felt I had to keep track off.  The characters are unreal but appropriate for this story and I really didn't to need to keep track of anything because eventually it all fell into place.  I persevered and it wasn't long before I was swept up in the story and loving the characters.

The secret is to loosen your grip on reality.  You don't have to give up totally on reality, just let it slide.  This is a fantasy.  Not one with elves, gnomes, fairies, etc.  This fantasy has time-travel and a secret door, romance and mystery, good guys and really bad guys, magic, friends and family, and yes, it even had letters and a mailbox.

I didn't know very much about this book when I started reading and I think that allowed me to keep a fresh out-look.  So I'll only share what I knew going in.  Annie Aster buys a red door that somehow connects her to an old lady in 1895 Kansas that she can write and receive letters through a mailbox that appears on the boundary of her house and a Kansas wheat field.  Annie and her new 'neighbor' must solve a mystery before one of them is convicted for murder.

Has anyone else read this book?  What are your thoughts?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Red Skies

by Kay Bratt

I have been having the best luck with my latest selections of books.  This one was no exception.  Red Skies is book four in Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters series but it read like a stand alone.  I have not read the first three books and don't feel like that detracted at all from the wholeness this book offered.

The setting is present day China where Mari struggles to earn money selling pictures of tourists sitting on her camel by the Great Wall.  It used to be a business she and her husband did together but he was thrown from the camel and is laid up at home. So Mari struggles alone to make the business work and pay the bills.

On her route home at night she meets a young girl who is forced to beg on the streets.  Mari has only seen her twice but can't forget about her or get her out of her dreams.  From the one time Mari talked with the girl she found out her name was An Ni.  After repeated attempts to find An Ni again, Mari decides she must have been traded to another gang or sold.

Throw into this mix an American who is trying to check of items on a bucket list.  The obvious is that these three people will some how be brought together as the story unfolds, what's not so obvious is how that happens.  And that's what makes this a captivating tale.

This was a very satisfying read and I would highly recommend Red Skies.  In fact, my friend posted on facebook yesterday asking for book recommendations and I'm going to tell her about Red Skies.  I noticed that all Bratt's books have a 4.5 rating on

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Little Paris Bookshop

by Nina George

I liked this book mostly for the beautiful writing.  The main character, Jean Perdu, was an interesting man and very likeable but I didn't understand why he held on so tightly to a lost love for over 20 years and wouldn't allow himself to live a fruitful life because he lost her.

Perdu had a knack for suggesting the perfect book for the reader. That ability didn't ring true to me because the man wasn't honest with himself about his own feelings.  He wouldn't allow himself to experience his buried emotions so how could he know and understand the feelings and needs of his customers so completely?

This book is about the journey Perdu takes as he finally decides to deal with his past loss.  It is a long journey that involves some idiosyncratic characters, some beautiful places, and many beautiful literary passages.

The wound is opened with an unread letter left by his lover 2 decades before.  Perdu has not had the courage to open it until the letter is discovered by a neighbor.  The letter is not what he expected but it forces him to come to terms with the past.

I think the author is much more of a romantic than I am.  That being said I still enjoyed the book immensely.  I wanted to shake Perdu at times and advise him to just get on with his life.  Go ahead and grieve but then get on with living your life.  It's not that I haven't experienced the loss of a love and I have felt that loss and still do in some ways, but I did get on with the life that was before me.  I realize that when and if I face the loss of my partner and lover of the last 42 years I may not be so anxious to get on with my life.  I hope I never have to but I also hope he doesn't have to.  My plan is to go in our sleep on the same night.

There's a map at the beginning of the book which is always a plus in my opinion. At the end there are recipes - another big plus.  Throughout the book Perdu jotted ideas into his Great Encyclopedia of Small Emotions: A Guide for Booksellers, Lovers and Other Literary Pharmacist.  The last paragraph of the books is an entry under K:  "Kitchen Solace -- the feeling that a delicious meal is simmering on the kitchen stove, misting up the windows, and that at any moment your lover will sit down to dinner with you and, between mouthfuls, gaze happily into your eyes.  (Also known as living.)"  At the end of the book, after the recipes, is Jean Perdu's Emergency Literary Pharmacy.  This listing includes "fast-acting medicines for minds and hearts affected by monor or moderate emotional turmoil.  To be taken in easily digestible doses . . . and if possible, with warm feet and/or a cat on your lap."

If I was to rate this book I think I'd go with a 4.5 because of the beautiful thoughts and passages that are sprinkled in good measure throughout the book.  One that will stay with for a long time is this one: "Some thresholds are too wide to be taken in one stride."

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Eat Beautiful

by Megan Stevens

I have so much to learn about gluten-free & sugar-free eating.  This book is a great place to start.  At my age I'm beginning to accept the fact that I'll never be filthy rich so I can hire a daily chef who will create beautiful servings of nourishing, life-giving dishes.  It's time I look this 'face-on' and do it myself.

What I like about Eat Beautiful:
1. Megan provides easy to follow steps for doing things that are 'new-to-me', such as making carrot flour from the pulp that is left over when making carrot juice.  Also, how to use soaked beans, seeds, and nuts in recipes.  And how to cook a Kobacha squash.  I grew some several years ago and then didn't know what to do with the fruit.  I tried cutting them in half like I would an Acorn but Kobachas have very tough skin.
2. I like that there is a wide range of recipes - everything from carrot cake pancakes to cakes, cookies, pies, to beverages and breads.  I have to say that everything that was pictured looked delicious.  The waffles are the first recipes in the book: Carrot Cake Waffles and Chocolate Chia Seed Waffles,  Oh my!  Speaking of Carrot Cake, wait until you see the picture of the carrot cake.  It looks so decadent.
3. Several of the recipes contain Stevia which I've never used but these recipes will build my knowledge base as well as my confidence.  I think I'll start out with the Zucchini Bread recipe which not only uses Stevia but soaked cashews or walnuts and chia seed.
4. I like that Megan shares the name of her & her sisters cute little cafe in Eugene, Oregon.  It's called Vanilla Jill's Scoops and Soups.  I love the Northwest so I'll be stopping in on my next trip through Eugene.
5.  Megan includes a chapter entitled Feeding Kids.  Lots of good ideas there.
6. There's a chapter about foods not to eat and why.
7.  And there's a chapter describing the ingredients she includes in her recipes.

What I didn't like about Eat Beautiful:
I wanted more pictures!  The pictures that are included are scrumptious-looking, but I would like more.  I realize that would make the price of the cookbook prohibitive so maybe there's a happy medium that I need to accept.

I would highly recommend this cookbook to anyone looking for healthier recipes, anyone who loves to read cookbooks (as I do), and those who must change their cooking for health reasons.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Essential Guide to Modern Quilt Making

This helpful and informative book includes 10 different workshops about quilt making from 10 talented women.  I finished the 1st chapter on The Principles of Color and turned right around and read it a second time.  I am in between quilts and have been looking at paint chip samples online to provide inspiration for my next quilt.  The chapter on color was very helpful for me.

The next chapter is Working with Solids.  I know that's a BIG trend right now and especially with modern quilts but I don't really like working with solid colors and I've only seen a few quilts in solids that I would actually like to make.   However, Alyssa Haight makes a good case for using solids along with prints.  They provide polish and calm to your design by giving your eye a resting place.  I usually use tone-on-tones for that reason but I am going to push myself to include some solids along with my prints.

There are chapters or workshops on Working with Prints, Improvisational Patchwork, the Alternate Grid, Circles & Curves, Paper Piecing, Large-Scale Piecing, Modern Machine Quilting, and A Study of Modern Quilts.

I have tried some improvisational patchwork to push out of my comfort zone and had a lot of fun.  For a person who isn't very creative I felt empowered.  I haven't taken to paper-piecing because the idea of picking and tearing the paper off the back of the pattern doesn't sound like my kind of fun but, since reading that chapter, I think I will use it occasionally and sparingly to make perfect points and unusual designs.

The workshop on Large-Scale Piecing intrigued me a lot.  The idea is to make over sized blocks or even make one block into an entire quilt top.  I have yet to try this but I'm ready to give it a go.  I think an large scale block would look great as part of the back of a quilt.

My favorite chapter was the one on Modern Machine Quilting as that is something I've been focusing on over the past couple of years.  Angela Walter provided some tips for sewing pebbles that are helping me improve the look of my pebbles.  It will take hours more practice before I will dare to use them on an actual quilt.  And I really liked her classic ribbon candy and the idea of echoing.

One thing I really liked about the book is the helpful hints at the end of the chapters and the inclusion of patterns.  The last chapter shows modern quilts and each quilt is discussed as to what makes it a modern quilt.  Very helpful.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

by Rachel Joyce

If you read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry you must read this book. I wouldn't call it Part Two but rather a Companion to Harold's story.  If you haven't read The Pilgrimage, don't let that hold you back from reading Queenie.  It's a book that can stand on its own quite easily.

I didn't absolutely love The Pilgrimage, though I liked it well enough, but I did love Queenie's Love Song.  It answers so many of the questions I was left with when Harold's pilgrimage ended.

Queenie has cancer and is in a hospice when she learns that Harold Fry is walking from his home in southwest England to see her in northeast England.  A nurse encourages Queenie to write him letters to help fill the time and to tell him why she left 20 years ago.

Queenie's descriptions of Harold and what it was about him that caused her to fall in love with such an ordinary man are reaffirming to me of my love for the ordinary people in my own life and helped me appreciate how extraordinary those people really are.

I liked Queenie's description of her boss at the brewery:  "It's a shame short men don't wear heels; it would save the world a lot of trouble."  And the boss's secretary:  "She was a slight person, quietly spoken, but her breasts were so disproportionately gigantic that no matter how much one tried to appreciate something else about her, her rather ordinary mouth, for instance, or her thin curtain of hair, your eyes kept forgetting about thos bits and landing slap bang back on her bosom.  It was the same for everyone.  The men had full-on conversations with them."

When I read a book, I like to highlight passages so I can go back later and reread them.  It helps to recall to mind other parts of the book and its general movement.  Sometimes I mark just a few, or none at all.  I marked quite a few in this book and I've already enjoyed reading through them a couple of times.  I marvel at Joyce's writing - straight forward yet beautiful.  I look forward to reading more of her work.  I'm even considering a reread of The Unlikely Pilgrimage.  I think I'll enjoy it much more now than I did the first time.

I highly recommend The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.  Loved it!

Closing note:  I just love that Queenie's full name has 3 "double letters" in it.  Include the 'Miss' and there are four.

* I received a copy of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy  from NetGalley and Random House in exchange for my review.  No other compensation was received.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Hand-Stitched Home

by Susan Beal

This is a beautiful book featuring household items made using Pendleton wools.  I thoroughly enjoy reading the history of Pendleton Woolen Mills as I was fortunate to visit the mill and store located in Pendleton, Oregon several years ago.
I wasn't into quilting then, or any sewing for that matter, or I would have bought some yardage.

If you're not familiar with Pendleton wools they are usually woven into plaids or Native American designs.  My first introduction to them were as men's shirts.  They were beautiful and highly desired and quite costly, but they lasted forever.

The projects in this book range from pillows to plant hangers, bags, backpacks, and blankets. There's a gorgeous winter cape.  And even instructions for a belt.

I have never sewn with wool before so I was happy that Beal includes a thorough 'how-to' section.  If you are interested in sewing with and creating beautiful wool items, this is the book for you.  I think I'm going to start off simple with one of the scarf patterns and work my way up to a pillow and then a tote.

* I received a copy of Hand-Stitched Home  from NetGalley and Tauntan Press in exchange for my review.  No other compensation was received.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kill Again

by Neal Baer and Jonathan Greene

I'm not finished with this book yet.  In fact, I'm only four or five chapters in but I am so excited about it I wanted to write down some of my early thoughts.

We start of in the killer's basement apartment where he's writing on the wall.  He is obsessed with words.  After two pages I felt the tension and knew this was a scary man.

Then we switch to scanty tidbits about Claire.  She is a psychiatrist, she is co-teaching a class about serial killers to future law enforcement officers, and she has been taking a break from work for several months or longer, and is just starting back to work.  Ian, Claire's fiance, is missing from her life - don't know if he's dead or if they split up.  And she had a reoccurring nightmare as a child that has started back up in the last two weeks.

Can you understand why this book has a grip on my attention?!  But wait, there's more.  She has just introduced the idea of epigenitics to her students.  I didn't know right off what that was but being a retired biology teacher, I was intrigued.  Plus, sometime in the last year my husband mentioned an article he had read about life pressures altering our genes and those genes being passed on.  My first thought was the scriptures that talk about God visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon their children unto the 3rd and 4th generations.  I have always believed God works in natural ways and this idea could scientifically explain those scriptures.

I still don't know much about Epigenitics but I'm going to be looking it up and discovering more about it - that is, if it does exist as a scientific theory.

I'm hoping there are previous books by these authors.  Also hoping that this book continues to hold my apt attention throughout.

**July 2, 2015**   I finished the book.  No further mention of epigenetics which saddened me.  I did discover from internet searches that epigenitics is a scientific theory and I will continue to do further research about it.

And I discovered that these authors have a previous book that also features Dr. Claire Waters.  It's titled, Kill Switch and, yes, it is ordered and on its way to my house.

Kill Again held my interest to the end.  I felt like it wrapped up rather quickly but the rest of the book was suspenseful.

* I received a copy of Kill Again  from NetGalley and Kensington Books in exchange for my review.  No other compensation was received.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Circling the Sun

by Paula McLean

I didn't realize this was based on real-life people and events.  At some point I began to wonder if their was some truth to the story, probably when I read the name Karen Blixen, which sounded familiar.  I looked up Karen Blixen and reacquainted myself with Isak Dinesen's real name. Dinesen is her pen name -- you'll recognize her as the author of "Out of Africa."  Denys Finch Hatton and the main character of the book, Beryl Clutterbuck were also real.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which is a fictional account of real people's lives and relationships.  As with any historical fiction the reader must keep in mind that the conversations and much about the relationships is conjecture on the author's part.  However, there are facts to be gleaned and general circumstances to be trusted.

Beryl was a strong female with a great deal of grit and determination.  Sometimes she made life harder for herself with her unconventional thinking and actions.  She became the first woman to earn a license as a horse trainer in Kenya and England.

After Dnys Finch Hatton was killed in a plane crash, Beryl took up flying.  She was the first woman to fly solo from east to west over the Atlantic.

Circling the Sun was an absorbing read.  I rarely stay up late to finish a book but I did just that with this book.  Even with her successes, I felt sad for Beryl.  It seemed she was always trying to prove herself good enough for the men she loved and, mostly, for herself.

* I received a copy of Circling the Sun  from NetGalley in exchange for my review.  No other compensation was received.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

G. K. Chesterton Quotes

Edited by Bob Blaisdell

Seven years ago I read The Inconvenient Adventures of Uncle Chestnut by Paul Nowak and loved it, so when I saw this book on Net Galley I requested it.

This is the perfect ebook for my phone.  A few minutes waiting in line anywhere and I can read a few quotes.  With Chesterton there's always something that either resonates or is fodder for contemplation.

As I read this book I highlighted many quotes that I thought were worth rereading in the future.  Unfortunately, the book got erased from my Kindle, along with all the quotes.  They are now floating around the "ether"-net.  (An argument in favor of tangible books.)  I do have a few quotes that I found by skimming through the book after I uploaded it a second time.

One of my favorites:  "An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.  An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered."

The paradox of childhood:  "Exactly what Shaw does not understand is the paradox; the unavoidable paradox of childhood.  Although this child is much better than I, yet I must teach it.  Although this being has much purer passions that I, yet I must control it.  Although Tommy is quite right to rush towards a precipice, yet he must be stood in the corner for doing it."

"Selfishness is a permanent and natural danger which arises from the existence of a self."

I have enjoyed reading this book as it provides a glimpse into the mind of Chesterton. I find him to be an interesting person and I agree with many of his ideas.

* I received a copy of G.K. Chesterton Quotes  from NetGalley in exchange for my review.  No other compensation was received.

Saturday, June 06, 2015


 by Daniel Palmer

I love a book that grabs my attention and keeps me reading.  I can easily set most books down with the anticipation of being able to pick up the story the next day.  Constant Fear was not so easy to set aside - I wanted to keep reading to the finish.  My anticipatory set of mind could not be convinced to savor this book for a few days.  It wanted to be satisfied sooner than later.

This is a page-turner involving a group of five teenage students, a father, and a serious hostage situation.  I don't want to give away too much.  I went into this book knowing nothing of the story so each part was new to me.  Sometimes it's good not knowing too much before you start reading.

I was delighted to discover that Daniel Palmer has written other books.  Having read and loved this one, I will be checking on some of this other books.  Nothing better than discovering a new author whose work you really like and then discovering there's more already in the treasure trove.

I recommended this book to my sister when I was only part way into it.  Now that I'm finished I will highly recommend it.  As far as thrillers go this one lived up to its claim.  No foul language to speak of, no sex scenes, but some pretty descriptive violence.  Some of the characters are very despicable people.

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

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dreaming Spies

by Laurie R. King

I started reading the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series back in 1994 when I chose 3 books from the library that all had the word 'bee' in them.  I didn't realize that coincidence until arrived home.  I read two of the books and then picked up The Beekeeper's Apprentice and realized it dealt with Sherlock Holmes and his apprentice, Mary Russell.  I was not thrilled but felt a personal challenge to read all three of my 'bee' books.

I was hooked by the time I finished that first book. King's books are a little more intelligently written than the average cozy mystery and so usually more thought-provoking.

Dreaming Spies takes Russell and Holmes to Japan on a well-deserved vacation.  Being the keen observers that they are they cannot miss the subtle clues to something amiss among several of the passengers on their ship.  They meet a beautiful but very cunning young Japanese woman who completely capture their interests.  And, as you suspect, they are drawn into a mystery and thoughts of a leisure vacation are set aside.

King is a top-notch writer and has developed a believable character in Mary Russell and her relationship with the older Sherlock Holmes.  I have loved every book in this series, though I think each one is even better than the last.

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