Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects by Richard Kurin

Benjamin Franklin’s walking stick.  Lewis and Clark’s compass.  Abraham Lincoln’s top hat.  The flag that inspired the Star Spangled banner.   Such objects are venerated among Americans because they give a voice to the myths and legends about our country that have been handed down over generations.  And thanks to the Smithsonian, these objects still exist and are being handled with the most delicate care, while still being made available and accessible to the American public whose story they helped write.  The Smithsonian’s History of American in 101 Objects takes 101 selected artifacts from the Smithsonian and explains the origins, history, and details of each.  If you’ve never really thought about what the Smithsonian has in its collections, you owe it to yourself to explore this book.  Even if you only read one chapter, you will come away better educated and with a better appreciation for these real-life national treasures.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Great Balls of Cheese by Michelle Buffardi

In preparation for Christmas I decided to try a new recipe for "snoop time". This new book came in with all different kinds of cheese balls you can make. Half of them are savory, the other half are sweet recipes. The pictures are great and the instructions are clear. I picked the "S.O.S." on page 63 to try. I stuck to a recipe that had familiar ingredients for my family. It called for dried beef, which we have access to from our wonderful meat markets in Pella! It turned out great and is delicious. There are also several quite fancy projects that the more adventurous cook might like to try.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Color Master: Stories by Aimee Bender

Bender delves into the human psyche with dark fairy tales in this collection of 15 captivating short stories.  The title story is highly visual and emotional.  Asked by the King to create a series of dresses for the Princess, to whom he plans to marry, the dying color master must interpret the subtle shades of the sky, sun, moon, and stars in dyeing the fabric.  But how does one capture anger or sadness into a dress, not to mention having to pass on her skills to a young seamstress?
Bender's imagination soars with twists and turns making me want to finish one story after another, even with the unsettling last story, The Devourings.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

16 Lighthouse Road by Debbie Macomber

This book starts a series of twelve books called Cedar Cove, a town in the Pacific Northwest of Washington full of heartwarming characters.  Olivia Lockhardt, a family court judge, denies a divorce petition of a young couple who lost their baby.  Olivia is attracted to Jack Griffin, a newspaper editor who becomes interested in her through this case. Her best friend, Grace Sherman, has a moody husband who has disappeared which starts a mystery. Justine, Olivia's daughter is in a relationship with an older man which is disapproved of and Charlotte, Olivia's mother, makes friends with a stroke patient.  Romance, mystery, and relationships between these characters continue in the following books of the series.  I am currently listening to the fifth book of the series, 50 Harbor Street, and am enjoying what happens to these characters and the new characters as well.  A television series based on these books has begun on the Hallmark Channel.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants by Ruth Roger Clausen

What do you do when the deer eat your freshly bloomed tulips? A lot of thought and money go into buying the right bulbs in the right colors. The bulbs are planted a whole season ahead of time. It is very disappointing after all that trouble to have the buds eaten off just before they bloom or the day after they have bloomed. Soooo.... this book has the answers to your problem. You might not be able to have tulips, but you can have daffodils and ornamental onions, which are very pretty. The book includes not only bulbs, but annuals, perennials, shrubs, ferns, herbs, and grasses that deer do not like. Some of my favorites are the fringed bleeding heart, peonies, and yarrow. The pictures included are also fantastic. Time to get some new plants for the garden!

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Benjamin's fascinating historical fiction is told from the perspective of Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  The novel alternates between different stages of the Lindbergh's marriage, from their unexpected courtship to the kidnapping of their baby and the final betrayal as Charles's secrets are revealed.  Anne is an accomplished remarkable strong woman despite the constant pressure she is under, and is torn between being a wife and the ambassador's daughter.  It is a good read that makes one wonder, as Anne's mother told her, that "only the weak needs heroes..."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Walk by Richard Paul Evans

Alan has just lost everything.  His job, his wife, his home.  As he contemplates suicide he comes up with a better idea.  He will go for a walk.  This is not just any walk.  Alan is going to walk from Seattle, Washington to Key West, Florida.  The people he will come across will share some very important lessons that will save his life and hopefully inspire yours.

The Great Escape by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Lucy ends up leaving her guy at the altar. Even though they were perfect for each other, she just can't do it. And so begins the great adventure of Lucy Jorik. While searching for her destiny, she ends up spending the summer in a beach house on the Great Lakes. While in disguise she meets people she really likes, and begins to find it hard that she will be leaving at the end of the season. Of course there is also "Panda", the motorcycle dude turned police officer. A charming story that anyone who likes romance would enjoy.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling by John Galbraith

Cormoran Strike is a struggling private investigator in London.  Down on his  luck in almost every aspect of his life, Strike is thrilled when he is hired by the brother of supermodel to prove her death wasn’t the suicide police believed it to be. It’s a good mystery with interesting characters, and is hopefully the start of a series.  Galbraith is a pseudonym of J.K. Rowling.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

1356 by Bernard Cornwell

Medieval history is never so exciting as when Bernard Cornwell tells it.  He turns what would be boring paragraph in a textbook into a full-length novel filled with intrigue, suspense, rogue monks and cardinals, and an anti-hero-for-hire named Thomas and his band of  fighters known as the Hellequin, or “Devil’s souls.”  If that wasn't enough for one book, the plot also revolves around the possession of an artifact known as la malice, St. Peter’s own sword used to defend Christ in the garden.  The battles have a surprising amount of historical accuracy (as explained by Cornwell in the end notes), but it’s Cornwell’s telling of the story that keeps you hooked.  It’s no coincidence that Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin recommended the book—it has some of the greatest battle scenes that I’ve ever read.  If you’re a fan of the Medieval genre, I encourage you to try 1356.  Don’t be fooled by the “historical fiction,” label.  It’s an action and suspense novel with the history thrown in for good measure.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

One Breath Away By Heather Gudenkauf

     The book jacket stated that this author is a New York Times Bestselling author and that she is from Iowa.  I have not read any of her other novels and read this one on the recommendation of a friend.
     The cover says, one school, one gunman, your child.  I wasn't sure I wanted to read this book after reading that, but I was pleasantly surprised.  This was a fairly easy read and the emphasis really isn't on the gunman but tells the story from different characters points of view.  The characters include a veteran teacher, a policewoman who has a daughter in the class the gunman is holding, a student, a mother who is hospitalized in another state and a grandfather.  I enjoyed the back and forth between characters and their thoughts and feelings.  The story is set in a fictional small Iowa town during a spring snowstorm.  I thought the setting was portrayed quite accurately.
    I enjoyed this book and hope to read other books by this author.

Monday, August 12, 2013

From the Kitchen of Half Truth by Maria Goodin

Meg May was raised on stories. The kind of stories you can’t really believe, such as how the runner beans her mother bought jumped up and ran away and she had to chase them around the kitchen, or that a spaghetti plant sprouted outside the window on Meg’s first birthday. But she can’t get her mother to tell her anything else. And since her father supposedly died in a tragic pastry-mixing accident, there is no one else who can tell her the truth about her childhood.
Now her mother is ill and Meg is determined to learn more about who she is. Time is running out. But Meg begins to wonder if she wants to spend her mother’s last days arguing. And as she finds the truth within reach, she also wonders if she really wants to know what it is. An enjoyable first novel from this author, this book takes us on an interesting journey with Meg. We witness her relationships with people who impact her life in different ways, first through her memories of childhood and now as a young adult. This story conveys this complicated mother-daughter relationship in a way we can all appreciate.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Inventing Modern America: From the Microwave to the Mouse

Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Or by a single individual.  The same applies to the lifestyle we call modern America — a whole host of people, but a handful of which are described in this book, are responsible for the everyday and extraordinary technological and practical advancements that we take for granted.  Inventing Modern America: From the Microwave to the Mouse can best be described as biography speed-dating.  Each “chapter” has two to three pages giving a broad overview of a particular inventor, his most important inventions, and how they were developed.  The book is also lavishly illustrated with historical documents and pictures, providing a window into the past.  I actually came away from this book feeling inspired; it gives you a sense that “if these normal people can come up with a great invention that changes the world, then so can I.”  You’ll pour over the pages and be astonished at every page turn.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg

After Cecilia Ross' best friend Penny died of cancer, she reevaluates her life and decides to take a break form her career as a motivational speaker.  After downsizing, Cecilia  moves into a gorgeous house in St. Paul, Minnesota with three other interesting women who are experiencing breakthrough in their lives .  The four women, along with a dog, take a road trip to rekindle their pasts and yearnings.
Although Berg celebrates women friendships and the notion that our departed loved ones are watching over us, I found this novel a bit too clich├ęd and missed the depths of the author's earlier works.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

   In a small beautiful seaside village in the west of Ireland an old decaying mansion is turned into a hotel by Chicky Starr.  Chicky has returned from America with secrets of her life there.  Her guests are visiting with pasts full of successes or miseries needing a break from their circumstances.  Maeve Binchy delves into these character's personalities and makes them more real and understandable, an ability this author is known for. This book is full of warmth and humor. The diverse character's stories are interesting and enjoyable, including doctors shaken by their experiences, a critical schoolteacher, a businessman who feels obligated to his father, a librarian etc. Maeve Binchy died last year.  I will miss her storytelling.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Top of the Morning by Brian Stelter

To paraphrase the New York Times Review of Top of the Morning by Brian Stelter, it’s not the best writing in the world.  However, what this book does have going for it is an insider’s view of the war behind morning television shows.  If you ever thought the big three networks were “dead” in favor of cable channels, Stelter reigns the reader in by divulging a strategic plan to oust Ann Curry from NBC’s Today Show, and the long, slow slide that made ABC’s Good Morning America number one again in the ratings after more than 800 weeks of dominance by Today.  Stelter also outlines, for example, the ridiculous lengths producers will go to in order to ensure that other networks don’t steal the prime guest for tomorrow’s show from one another, literally sleeping in hotel hallways to guard the guests from poaching.  It’s not exactly a beach read, but if you like a tabloid shocker about media itself, Top of the Morning may be just your cup of coffee.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Always Put in a Recipe and Other Tips for Living by Evelyn Birkby

     I really enjoyed this book. It's the best thing I've read in awhile. It was written by an Iowa homemaker who lives in a rural community of southwest Iowa and has written a weekly column for the local newspaper for years. I guess what I liked most about it was the fond memories it evoked from my own childhood growing up on the farm. Cold winters, hot summers, animals and vegetables, playing in the grove, cooking, mowing, and the happy times with family.
     The book consists of a compilation of Evelyn's best columns. Her style is open and down to earth. She shares mostly the good times, although like any life, there were sad times too. There are recipes included, because as Evelyn says: "Food serves a much broader purpose than just feeding the body. It is a conduit to friendship, a setting for fellowship, a way to receive recognition when certain dishes are praised, and a connection with generations through shared recipes."
     Her adventures as a writer started when she had young children. So a record of her life flows though the columns. Now, sixty-three years later, she is still recording the lives and interest of those around her, and has put those columns together in this book for our reading delights!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The 5 Love Languages of Children By Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell

In this follow-up to “The 5 Love Languages”, Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Ross Campbell collaborate to help us learn how to show our children they are loved in a way they best understand.  This book is based on the idea that love can be communicated in different ways; through physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service.  Each of us has one way that speaks most clearly to make us feel we are loved.  The authors guide us through these five love languages by giving examples of different parent/child interactions. They also show us how to use this to be more effective in discipline, learning, and anger issues.  I found this book to be helpful in navigating parenting issues.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts

Eli Landen is suspected of murdering his adulterous wife, but there is no evidence to convict him.  Needing to escape, he returns to his family's ancestral home of Bluff House.  Eli finds himself caught off guard by his attraction to Abbra Walsh, the house's caretaker.  Then Abbra is attacked at the house by a mysterious intruder.  Eli knows that somehow this is connected with his wife's murder and other accidents that have been happening at Bluff House.  He realizes until he can solve the mystery he will never be at peace.  This was a very good romantic suspense novel with the mystery playing out to the very end.  I really liked it and would definitely suggest.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss

At first I thought this is another health book preaching about the negative effects of sugar, salt and fat, but I found that it reveals an in-depth, insider look into the politics of mega processed food companies, such as Kraft, General Mills, Coca - Cola and Nabisco.  Ever wonder why you cannot resist munching on chips, or my favorite, Cheetos?  Never mind the single serving size printed on the back of the bag.  Who can adhere to it when millions of dollars are spent by corporations to figure out the optimal "mouth feel" and marketing of a snack solely to get consumers hooked?  This is a very informative book!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Unwritten by Charles Martin

    If you are a fan of Charles Martin, this book will not disappoint you.  If you haven't read any of his books I invite you to try any one of them.
     Two people with deep problems who want to hide. A Priest who is determined to help them. 2 staged deaths.  I don't want to say more for fear of giving away too much. The author peels back one layer at a time in developing his characters and their stories, with a twist or two thrown in.
     I found it hard to put this book down, but don't skim through it, a lot of wisdom can be found by reading and savoring the text.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

House Girl by Tara Conklin

    From 2 time periods, 1852 and 2004, this book tells the story of two women.  A young slave girl, Josephine, in Virginia, yearns for freedom and wants to "run".  A young lawyer, Lina, in New York City, is looking for descendants of slaves who may benefit financially from the wrongs of slavery in the past.

     Josephine's mistress, LuAnne is a painter but Josephine is the one with the talent.  Years later when LuAnne's paintings are valuable, questions are raised about who really painted these.  As Lena digs into Josephine's past she is uncovering answers about Josephine's life, slave owners, and the Underground Railroad.

    Lina also is trying to find more out about her mother who died when she was four years old, especially after her father paints puzzling pictures of her mother for an art show.

    This book really pulled me in.  I especially liked Josephine's story and the historical aspects.  It may be a great book for a book club to discuss!

The Great Escape by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Lucy Jorik is the adopted daughter of the president of the United States, who happens to be a woman. Lucy was a runaway bride from a perfect man. She left him, her family and friends at the church as she jumps on the back of a motorcycle and leaves town. Her journey is to try to find the real person underneath the perfect daughter, fiance' and sister that everyone believed she was.  It took a summer of running away and finding who she really was before she found happiness. Secondary stories had interesting characters including divorced, down on her luck Bree who recently became guardian to 12-year-old Toby, and fitness guru Temple hiding out for a while.  I really enjoyed the first ten chapters.  Until Temple the gay over weight TV star was introduced, the timing of the story and plot slowed down and became a drag ... The momentum of the book changed and so did my interest. Without the presence of Bree, Toby and Mike I would have stopped reading the book. The three of them gave the plot some life and kept in interesting.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

An unusual San Francisco book store is the setting for this whimsical tale that is part mystery, part quest, and part rumination on the future of books.  It has conspiracy, romance, adventure, code-breaking, high tech data mapping, and even a secret society. I loved it.

Private by James Patterson

Former Marine helicopter pilot Jack Morgan runs Private, a renowned investigation company with branches around the globe.  It is where you go when maximum force and maximum discretion is required.  Jack is already deep into the investigation of a multimillion - dollar NFL gambling scandal and the horrific serial killings of teenage school girls when he learns of the murder of his best friend's wife, Jack's former lover.  It nearly pushes him over the edge.  This is a really good book and fast read with short chapters.  It is full of action and story content.  I loved it.

Damn Few by Rorke Denver

Damn Few, by Rorke Denver, is far from a simple autobiography.  It is the story of a modern United States Navy SEAL, from his entry into the program, through his intense training and eventual deployment in combat situations.  Long recognized as a leader among his SEAL teams, Denver eventually circled back and became a trainer for new classes of SEALs.  The book explores the SEAL mindset, and how America came to view SEALs in a new and respected light after the killing of Osama Bin Laden.  While Denver admits that SEALs are trained killers, he makes the point that that is far from the only thing they do.  SEALs are no less than the most highly trained group of warriors on the Earth.  For a taste of the secretive, demanding, and intimidating world of the Navy SEAL, Damn Few is a highly recommended read.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

     This is a modern day drama of a working, single mom who loves her teenage daughter. Kate gets a call while she's at work that Amelia has been suspended and that she needs to come and pick her up. This is crazy news to Kate because Amelia is a good student who never gets into trouble. The real shocker comes when Kate gets to school  and finds the Amelia is dead
     At first Amelia's grief is so deep that she accetps te explanation that Amelia killed herself because she was upset about being caught cheating. But when she receives a text that says Amelia didn't jump, it confirms what she knew all along. Somebody pushed Amelia.
     The rest of the book is a search to find out what really happened. The texts, facebook entries, and blog all reveal things about Amelia's last few weeks that bring several people under suspicion. Was it members of the girls' club, the Magpies? Was it Ben, the supportive texting friend or Woodhouse the administrator, or Liv, the beloved English teacher? Or perhaps one of Amelia's schoolmates; Sylvia, Ian, Dylan, or Zadie? The possibillties are numerous. The author keeps you guessing until the very end.  A great read.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley

Eleven-year-old amateur detective and ardent chemist Flavia de Luce is used to digging up clues, whether they're found among the potions in her laboratory or between the pages of her insufferable sisters' diaries.  What she is not accustomed to is digging up bodies.  Upon the five-hundredth anniversary of Saint Tancred's death, the English hamlet of Bishop's Lacey is busily preparing to open its patron saint's tomb.  Nobody is more excited to peek inside the crypt than Flavia, yet what she finds will halt the proceedings dead in their tracks: the body of Mr. Collicut, grotesquely and inexplicably masked.  Who held a vendetta against Mr. Collicutt, and why would they hide him in such a sacred resting place?  The irrepressible Flavia decides to find out.  And what she unearths will prove there's no such thing as an open-and-shut case.  I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the next one in the series.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff

Hunter S. Thompson has long been famous  for his,“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” and its pull-no-punches morbidly hilarious journalistic style.  Now Charlie LeDuff takes up some portion of Thompson’s mantle with "Detroit: An American Autopsy," which would make for a darkly hilarious novel of its own if not  every word of the book were true.  LeDuff grew up in Detroit, moved away, and then returned in recent years to take a job as a reporter for the Detroit newspaper.  His journalism takes him to the heart of the problems with Detroit, from the abject poverty, to the rampant civil corruption, to the random, constant building arsons.  For anyone trying to figure out how things could have possibly gotten so bad in Detroit, located in a supposedly “first world” country, LeDuff provides invaluable insight into one of the nation’s largest boom-and-bust towns.  Highly recommended.


Monday, March 25, 2013

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

A young Quaker woman, Honor Bright, sails to America from England with her sister, Grace in 1850.  Grace plans to marry in Ohio and Honor is fleeing after her intended leaves her for another woman.  After a difficult voyage and Graces death in America, Honor has to depend on strangers in this foreign land.  It is interesting to hear of her impressions of this new life, and after marrying a farmer, her views of farm life, the work, and the animals.  Writing touching letters home of her life and difficulties adds to the story. Honor's abilities with quilting aid her in this new land.

Slaves are escaping and coming through this area to travel to freedom.  Honor helps them even though the family she is living with disapproves and later forbids it completely with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law.  She is sympathetic to the slaves and does not understand how the Quaker people can turn them away. She clashes with, but also has an interest in a slave catcher, and is a friend of his sister.  The author builds interesting characters and relates the personality and feelings of Honor well.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed has been writing anonymously for the Dear Sugar columns on the Rumpus website before her New York Times best seller memoir Wild was published.  The book is a compilation of her advice columns in which she responds to the questions that plagued her readers.  Although her language is "strong" at times, she does offer sound advice reflecting her own struggles and tragedies.  The loss of her mother was a turning point in her life...  She comes off as your best friend talking with you.  She urges her readers to let go of toxic people in their lives, accept yourselves and work hard, but most of all, if you have a dream, don't wait, go for it!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Enough by Will Davis Jr.

More is better, at least that is what our culture tells us. The cover of this book says "Finding more by living with less". This was a concept I wanted to know more about. The Author Will Davis Jr. is a pastor in Texas who stopped to ask the question When is enough, enough? He states "that the Bible teaches that it's foolish to try and satisfy the needs of a priceless, eternal human soul by throwing stuff at it". Don't panic he doesn't ask us to take a vow of poverty, but he does present a very powerful case that those of us in America have more than enough. By giving away to the point of having enough we will be richer (not necessarily wealthier) for living a life of giving. I liked the many Biblical references and study questions at the end of each chapter. Although I found it hard to put this book down, it also was very thought provoking and I stopped often to think through what I had read. I found this book so good I hope to own my own copy.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Sweetness of Forgetting by Kristin Harmel

In this story the author gives us a trip through Holocaust history. It is also a story of family  and love from past to present. There are themes of hardship, secrets, and second chances. The family bakery and some nice recipes are intertwined into the story as well.You find yourself anxious to keep  reading as you travel with Hope to uncover the truth of the past before it is too late. We are also given insight to Alzheimer's through Rose, the beloved grandmother. This story was very sad in parts, but ultimately ended well.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Looking for any work, laid-off San Francisco web designer Clay Jannon answers an ad for a clerk at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore.  Looking for a normal desk and a normal boss, he finds Penumbra who, to say the least, is a bit odd.  Looking to keep the job, Clay follows the rules about keeping meticulous records of who comes into the store and what books they ask for.  Especially those that request them from the “back” of the store.  Looking to satisfy his curiosity, Clay opens one of the requested books, only to find it written entirely in code.  Looking for more answers, Clay confronts Penumbra.  Looking for an apprentice in a secret society, Penumbra explains his motivations.  Looking to solve the mystery of immortality, Clay and his companions travel to New York and the headquarters of the secret society, only to discover that they will never look at anything the same way again.  A great, mysterious read.

October Baby by Eric Wilson

Not long after Hannah, a college freshman, experiences increasing anxiety and a sudden collapse, all signs point to the surprising circumstances of her birth.  Hannah soon learns from her parents that she was adopted and is the survivor of a failed abortion attempt.  Bewildered, angry, and confused, Hannah turns to her oldest friend, Jason, for support.  Encouraged by his adventurous spirit, she joins Jason and his friends on a road trip, embarking on a journey to discover her hidden past and find hope for the unknown future.  Along the way, Hannah finds that every life is beautiful, and that life can be so much more than what we might have planned.  This author also wrote the book "Fireproof".  I loved the book and can't wait to watch the movie adaptation.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Life as a Furry Red Monster by Kevin Clash

My Life as a Furry Red Monster is the lighthearted autobiography of Kevin Clash, the voice and muppeteer talent behind Sesame Street’s most beloved character, Elmo.  In the book, Clash describes in some detail his youth and early love of puppets and acting, performing in neighborhood shows and making his own puppets out of scrap materials.  He mentions how his early forays into television shaped the characters he would play on Sesame Street, and describes the global impact that Sesame Street has had with localized versions in foreign countries. Clash then ties it all in by explaining what Elmo has become: a friend that three-year-olds feel they can relate to and an expression of unconditional love and curiosity.  Elmo is the optimist and the best in all of us.  Highly recommended. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Katie arrives in South Port obviously running from something. She begins a new life trying to keep a low profile. But like  in any small town she is noticed, and asked questions from people she works with and people in places she must frequent in order to survive.
She becomes friends with Jo, a lady who moves into the cottage adjacent to hers. She also attracts the attention of Alex, a widowed store owner with two children. As time passes, Katie begins to feel more comfortable and opens up to Alex about her past, a violent husband who, she feels, is still looking for her. Kevin, the husband is a police detective. He starts out fine, but gradually becomes more controlling and indeed crazed. He is a good detective, but alcohol and a poor mental state are why it takes him several months to finally track down Erin (Katie).
A grand finale ending, where it all comes to a head, reveals the love of a new family for Katie and a surprise about Jo. I read this book on my recent vacation and enjoyed it very much. I am now looking forward to the soon to be released movie.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Digging To America by Anne Tyler

Two families who would have never come together, meet by chance at an airport.  Each couple is waiting for the Korean child they have adopted.  The Donaldsons decide to invite the Yazdans to an arrival party, an event that is repeated every year as the two families become more deeply intertwined.  This was a great book that showed America in two different lights as the families decide how to raise their children.  It was funny and tender.  Just an all around good book.

Reagan Diaries by Ronald Reagan

Based on Reagan's personal diaries, kept daily over a period of eight years, this book gives us more insight into the REAL Ronald Reagan.  During his 2 terms as our 40th president he kept a diary that has proven very revealing not only for conservatives, but for anyone who wishes to learn about the depth of a very interesting man.  These diaries demonstrate both the deep wisdom, strong conviction and the charming humor of this great man.  Re-living all the major events of the 1980s is made deeply personal as the President recorded his meals, doctor's visits, private visitors, movies, books, horseback rides and ranch chores alongside the great moments of his time.  President Reagan's convictions and deeply-held beliefs clearly guided his decisions and actions, as he recorded them for history. His habits of not taking himself too seriously, reaching across the aisle in bipartisanship and staying rooted in moral truth set good examples for those who succeed him.

Slow Burn by Julie Garwood

Another Buchanan book that was wonderful. Julie Garwood is great at balancing a sexy, sweet, and loving romance with a very good mystery.   It has just enough suspense and mystery to keep you intrigued, but not so much as to overwhelm the developing love story between Kate McKenna and Dylan Buchanan. This book, much like many of Ms. Garwood's books on romance, features a woman who knows her own value and worth, but recognize her need to have the insights and protection of a man, especially after she seems to be having some bad luck involving bombs exploding near her. She has unknowingly become the target of an assassin. It is only after two attempts on her life failed that she comes to the conclusion that someone wants her dead. She shares her concerns with her friend Jordan Buchanan, who sends her brother Dylan down to help her figure out what is happening to her and why. There is a second story line having to do with Kates mother and sisters and the company Kate started while she was in college.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Seventeen-year-old Mia has loved playing the cello since the age of eight.  Now a senior in high school, she’s awaiting the outcome of an audition to Juilliard.  She can’t imagine leaving her family, friends, and boyfriend behind but music is her first love. The future is unsure, and she has tough choices she’d rather not make.
While enjoying an outing with her family, though, suddenly everything changes.  Family and love become important in new ways.  Mia reviews her life as an observer as she now faces the only choice that has to be made. 
“If I Stay” is an intense novel that was hard to put down.  Alternating between the present and Mia’s past, the reader is taken along on her journey as she makes her most important decision.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

Heaven is for Real has some nice parts and pieces, but in truth, the author didn't have enough "stuff" to write a book, so the first several chapters go on and on about Colton, 3, vomiting a lot, trips to friends' homes, family trips to see a tarantula at a tourist location, etc. I read the first part of the book thinking, "Who cares? Get to the point!" But then we get to the heart of the book, which is just tale after tale of a young kid with a vivid imagination telling stories to his credulous parents. All in all I am quite skeptical that the child came up with all of this on his own. It was a nice book however I think it should be a fiction book rather then nonfiction.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Killing Kennedy by Bill OReilly

Just as Killing Lincoln provided insight and background into one of the nation's most impactful events, Killing Kennedy shares glimpses of what it was like to be part of the Kennedy inner circle.  I was surprised to learn all about the Kennedy's and it was disappointing for me to learn what he was really like.  I had no idea of his behavior behind the closed doors and it is a wonder how he had time to run the country. The story lines revealed Oswald's possible motivations and listed Kennedy's many sexual transgressions. The authors also did a nice job of staying away from making Killing Kennedy another conspiracy book. The authors brought to light some ideas on who might have been interested in seeing Kennedy dead - the list is long - without focusing on this aspect of the assassination.  I learned a lot by reading the book and would recommend it to anyone.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Trial of Fallen Angels by James Kimmel, Jr.

The Trial of Fallen Angels, by James Kimmel, Jr., is a surprisingly realistic and interesting take on the afterlife.  Brek Cuttler, a young attorney, wakes up with no memory in Shemaya Station, which is many things, including the outer rooms of the courthouse of God.  A mysterious man named Luas tells her she is now responsible for providing defense counsel to souls at the final judgment. The book travels with Brek as she tries to figure out where she is, who she was, and what her role is now.  In the form of a narrative, Kimmel explores concepts that have stumped man through the ages, including the debate between revenge and forgiveness.  The book is an interesting read. Recommended.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom

The story begins with Father Time, Dor, who is determined to measure the hours of the day.  Then it drifts to Sarah, a teenager who feels time is creeping too slowly to meet with the boy she is so enamored of, only to find out he is not at all interested in her.  On the other hand, Victor, a successfully businessman dying of cancer, is eager to extend his time on earth by extreme measures without his wife's knowledge.  Albom explores different perspectives of time through the alternating narratives of these characters.
The lives of Sarah and Victor intersect when Dor tries to redeem himself by intervening in the mistakes both of these two are about to make.  The imagery towards the end is indelible.
This is a fast reading book but kept me lingering in thoughts.  We have all experienced being bound by time, and most of all wishing we could have spent more time with our loved ones, whether living or departed.