Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

Random events and choices alter the course of a lifetime in this book.  Barnett tells 3 versions of a story:
  Version 1: Eva runs over a nail with her bike, Jim helps her fix it, they fall for each other and they get married.  
  Version 2: Eva misses the nail, has a big, grand wedding with her boyfriend David, and doesn't meet Jim until much later in life.  
  Version 3: Eva runs over the nail, meets Jim, falls for him, but leaves him and marries David when she finds out she's pregnant with his child.

Within each Version, Jim and Eva's paths cross and recross,  careers rise and fall, and marriages, children, and aging play a part in each of their lives.  The stories are told along parallel timelines, all spanning around 50 years.  There were a few events (Eva's brother's birthday party, for instance) that took place in all 3 versions, and it was interesting to read about it in three different circumstances.

I did enjoy reading this book, seeing how life unfolded in each version.  I did find it a bit confusing to keep straight at first though, and actually wrote myself a little note about what had happened in each version.  You might also find this helpful!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Celebrate The Season 2016 by Better Homes and Gardens
Looking for something new to celebrate your holidays? Better Homes and Gardens puts out this publication yearly, and it is a great addition to our seasonal decorating books. I like to use my traditional decorations, but I always like a little something new. This issue has a small section for fall in the front and the rest is Christmas home decorating and a few delightful recipes. The ideas I loved out of this one were the use of live poinsettias in different, various vases and containers (beautiful!) and the one inch round slabs of trunk used under plates as placemats. These are things I can easily incorporate into my Christmas palate. I also like the wax paper leaf lanterns and the penguin ornament which would be fun projects to do with kids. The soups and breads were interesting as well. Overall, a fun book to enjoy and get you excited about the season!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver

In this semi-autobiographic collection of essays, Oliver shares her love of nature and literature.  She describes her communion with nature beginning in her childhood and never feels alone as Walt Whitman is her "friend."  Reading Whitman's Song of Myself reaffirms her conviction as a poet and a sense of belonging that we are all part of a greater whole.  She also pays tributes to Woolf, Emerson, Poe, Wordsworth and Frost and shares her observations of owls and turtles .  If you love nature and poetry, you will find this uplifting.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Medicine in Translation by Danielle Ofri

Dr. Ofri has a strenuous job at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, the oldest public hospital in the United States. Working with language barriers, torture survivors, legal and illegal immigrants, the young and the old, she has many stories and experiences to share. She seeks to understand her patients and build  relationships with them as well as treat their conditions. Spending a year's sabbatical in Costa Rica with her family renews her energy helping her to focus on learning the Spanish language, music, and family. This interesting book relates many struggles of this doctor and her patients.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

This book is perfect for kids, families and adults for a fast read during the Christmas season!  The Herdman tribe have joined Sunday school (for the desserts and donuts!) and are now part of the annual telling of the Christmas Story on Christmas Eve. 
The Herdman children are not the most well behaved children.  Like any good story things go bad and fast!
        I grew up participating in a Christmas pageant on Christmas Eve, with the shepherds wearing the same robes year after year and the angles wearing little white wings.  While reading, I smiles spread across my face, as I remembered all the “fun” we had during those practices leading up to the big performance.  And then receiving our brown sack of peanuts in shells, apples and candy cane!

        The Union Street Players produced a play based on the book in 2013.  

Thursday, November 17, 2016

In Such Good Company by Carol Burnett

Carol Burnett's In Such Good Company takes its readers back to a happy place; a time when variety television could still draw an audience, and Hollywood was still home to mega-stars who could sing, dance and act.
In this book, Burnett looks back on the characters, guests and episodes of her famous television variety show. If you were a regular viewer of the show, In Such Good Company puts you in front of your TV, watching it all over again. The episodes and the memories come flying back as Burnett describes the people who joined her on stage in front of a live studio audience.
Many of the skits she described seemed like they were just on last week, not decades ago. I was a regular viewer, and many of the stories she tells revive a lot of memories. Some of the backstories she adds make these stories even more special.
The kind of television Burnett describes in the book is lost on most of our younger generation today, and that is too bad. Today's television fare makes it hard to imagine any type of variety program going over with today's viewers. This book is a valuable piece of TV history, giving everyone a glimpse of what family time around the tube was like. In Such Good Company takes you back to a different, and good, time in our entertainment history.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Whistler by John Grisham

The latest Grisham book involves investigators from the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct.  Lacy and Hugo are contacted by a man using the name Greg Myers, who claims to have information about a corrupt judge who has stolen vast sums of money.  The scheme involves the elusive Coast Mafia, the Tappacola Indian tribe and its casino, and many foreign shell corporations.
Will Lacy and Hugo be able to gather enough information to remove the judge from the bench?     Do they need to get the FBI involved? 

This book was a quick read, and I enjoyed it.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

How To Be A Grown-Up by Emma McLaughlin and Nicole Krauss

It took me a long time to read this book. Probably because I had trouble connecting with the main character, whose life is vastly different than my own. But, I kept returning to read some more because I wanted to know what was going to happen to her. Rory McGovern is a mother of two young children, living in the city, with an actor husband who is in the process of divorcing her. As the title implies, she finds she must do something to keep her life going. She has to be a grown-up. She takes a full-time job working for 20-somethings. It is demanding and disorienting, and those young professionals don’t always know what they are doing. Her kids are challenging, and her husband is exasperating. He wants her to pay alimony, then he makes it big, only to crash just as suddenly, and locks her our of her/their apartment. On top of all this, the business she works for is about to fold. Again, she decides to be a grown-up. I had to keep reading to see how she turned out. I’ll leave it as a cliffhanger.


Collecting the Dead by Spencer Kope

Magnus “Steps” Craig is part of an elite FBI tracking unit that solves missing persons and murder cases.  What most people don’t know is that his tracking skills are aided by a special ability that he calls “shine.” This is a well written thriller with an interesting hero.  I hope it becomes a series.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Parent Hacks: 134 Genius Shortcuts for Life with Kids by Asha Dornfest

This book is a fun, quick read!  Parents of young children are always looking for solutions for the everyday issues, and this book is full of useful tips.  Written by a blogger, it contains the best submissions from over ten years of online exchanges with other parents.  Ideas cover many phases of early parenting, explained simply and with entertaining pictures, great for those who welcome the help but have little time to read.  Especially fun were the suggestions for painter’s tape and Press ‘n Seal wrap!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Girl With the Lower Back Tatoo by Amy Schumer

To me, Amy Schumer's The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo will best be enjoyed by two groups of people: 1) those that are fans of Schumer and her comedy; and 2) those that have heard of Schumer and just want to learn what she is all about.
The book is written in a very informal, conversational style that reads easily. Schumer is a good storyteller and the book zips along. As her comedy is on the blue side, so is the book; so if you easily blush, you may want to read elsewhere.
One thing the book is not, is a pity party. Schumer tells you all about her life, the good, the bad, and the traumatic. She does this to explain just who she is, not as some kind of excuse as to why she is messed up or why her life has been so rough. Schumer is not unhappy. She likes her place in the world, problems and all, and has a close circle of family and friends that help her get through it. Overall, the book is a very positive, and humorous, read.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp

This is the story of two mothers and their families. The first mom, Catriona and her husband James, by necessity, use in-vitro fertilization in order to have a child. The second mom, Diana, and her husband, Liam, adopt the leftover embryo of Catriona and James. So then, while Catriona is in a clinic recovering from puerperal psychosis, her baby dies of SIDS while in the care of her husband, James. Instead of telling her, James decides to hide the death of the baby , use nefarious means to find out about the baby born from the other embryo, and hatches a plan to kidnap the biological brother. Amazingly, this plan works and goes undetected for 2 years until a blood test at a doctor visit reveals that the baby was not the one born to Catriona and James. Lots of emotions and trauma occur in both women's lives. The story culminates in a legal battle to discover who will end up being parents to the young Noah. I found this book to be intriguing and was quickly carried away with the story. It was a good read.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood

With her marriage ended and children grown, Ava decided to join her friend's book club.  The theme for the year is the book that matters most.  Each member takes turn to present a book that is crucial to them.  Ava recalls the book From Clare to Here that helped her cope with the deaths of her sister and mother when she was a child.  The process of searching the obscure book and the author reveals family secrets but also comes full circle. Meanwhile Ava's daughter Maggie who is supposedly studying art in Florence, is living marginally in Paris and deep in heroin addiction. The depiction of her struggle is graphic. Somehow the plot seems implausible, yet I couldn't put the book down.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Mischling by Affinity Konar

Twelve year old twins Pearl and Stasha arrive at Auschwitz in 1944.  Because they are identical twins, the two girls become part of the notorious experiments of Joseph Mengele.  The focus of the book is not on the horrors they face, but on the bond between the sisters and the hope and resilience they display in brutal circumstances. Although it is fiction, the book was inspired by the real-life experiences of twins Eva and Miriam Mozes.  I recommend it!

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Things We Do For Love by Kristin Hannah

After a failed marriage, the loss of a baby, and a botched adoption Angie Malone returns to her warmhearted Italian family. Her beloved father has died and the restaurant her family runs is failing. Angie, who had a successful advertising career helps out with the restaurant making many improvements.  When a teenage girl, Lauren, who lives in a very poor area of town with an alcoholic, uncaring mother begins working at the restaurant Angie develops a relationship with her. Angie, who so wants to have a child becomes a mother figure to Lauren though her emotions are still unstable as she tries to help Lauren. As more difficulties arise in Lauren's life and Angie's husband returns an emotional journey continues with love and heartache.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ashes of Fiery Weather by Kathleen Donohoe

These are the stories of 7 women from a multi-generational family of Irish/American firefighters who belong to the Brooklyn "Glory Devlins" firehouse.  The stories span time from the potato famine in Ireland to post-9/11 New York City.  They aren't told in chronological order, which made the book more interesting for me.

Generational events are portrayed well, from the quick weddings in WWII, to unwed mothers fearing for their jobs, to resistance toward females becoming firefighters.  Loves, losses, joys, and difficult decisions fill each woman's life.  This was a book that quickly grabbed my interest, and held it throughout the book.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The World According to Star Wars by Cass R. Sunstein

If you think Star Wars is just a world of science fiction space battles, you may need to think again after reading The World According to Star Wars by Cass R. Sunstein. You might just find the galactic good-versus-evil saga has many choices and ideas that may apply to your everyday life.
Sunstein takes the reader through Star Wars creation, growth and success and uses these to apply them to your life and how you might find success as well. He also looks at Star Wars mass appeal and just what it is that makes these stories for so many of us. The author contends it unifies people and connects generations as it continues to grow in scope, and popularity. It is a unique look at what makes the world work.
The book is a very entertaining, and thought-provoking read; however, knowledge of the Star Wars universe of stories and characters is a must as Sunstein references them throughout his book.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Invisible Girls by Sarah Thebarge

This one is a true story. It is a biography of a young woman who nearly died of breast cancer in her twenties. She then decides to make a break from her life on the east coast where she had studied medicine and writing. Having lost virtually everything, including her fertility and her boyfriend, she was searching for a new start and a chance to heal. It is in Portland, Oregon where she has a chance meeting with a Somalian family on a train. From that point on, a relationship begins that will, in the end, change all of their lives. The title of the book refers to the fact that each of these women and girls are not seen by humanity. They encounter practically insurmountable circumstances. Through out the story you hear of Sarah's relationship with God from childhood to the present, and her struggle to understand his existence and plan in the face of severe hardship. The best part of the story is when she decides to give up on her original plans for a career and stays in Portland to help her Somali girls.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Few of the Girls by Maeve Binchy

In this collection of short stories published posthumously with a forward by her husband Gordon Snell, Binchy's fans will recognize her voice in each one of them and relate to the themes of love, friendship and the meaning in living day to day.  This is a good summer read, some of the stories are less than 10 pages, so I can pick it up and put it down anytime. I really enjoyed Picnic at St. Paul's, Afternoon Phone-In and Audrey which is told from the perspective of a very wise cat. You'll never guess what amazing favors your furry friends have in store for you!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany

I’ll confess that I had my doubts about this one.  Harry Potter as a series is an epic story couched in a subplot about four kids just trying to make their way in school like everyone else.  And, in seven books, the story had been told, start to finish.  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is, first and foremost, actually a play.  If you open the book, it is a script, complete with stage directions. Don’t expect another novel. The story focuses on Harry Potter and his son, and their relationship.  Beyond that, I can’t say much for fear of spoiling the plot for those who haven’t yet read it. But it is interesting to see how Harry Potter would “play out” so to speak, as a play.  Reading the stage directions involving items appearing, disappearing, moving by themselves, and the innumerable set changes would lead me to conclude that the play would be impossible to stage in real life, were it not playing right now in London’s West End.  While it may not add a huge amount of material to the original Potter canon, it is definitely worth a look, especially if you have children who may never have read a story in script format before.  It’s a different way of thinking and it compliments Harry Potter well.  A-

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June by Robin Benway

Just for fun I read this book written for young people. It is the story of three high school sisters. They have moved to a new city and a new school following the divorce of their parents. Not far into it, you find out that each girl starts to experience a special ability. April, the oldest, can sometimes, kind of, see the short term future. May, can disappear. June can read people’s minds. They showed some of these abilities as very young children, but for whatever reason, the phenomenon laid dormant until now. As they try to adjust to a new home life and school life, they struggle to harness their gifts. They realize they need to control and wisely use what they have. In the process, they first feel like freaks, but eventually embrace their uniqueness and sisterhood. The driving force of the story is a frightening vision that April has throughout about red flashing lights amidst the presence of people she knows and loves. An entertaining and fast moving book.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Matlida by Roald Dahl

                Matilda is not your typical child.  She was able to read at an early age but the only books in the Wormwood house is the phone book.  At age 4 she starts to walk to the public library where is she is greeted by an enormous amount of books!  The librarian shows her the children’s picture books but soon realizes that Matilda is beyond picture books and shows her Great Expectations!  Matilda then moves though all the great classic novels.  Although Matilda is a smart young girl, she has horrible parents and terrible brother.  During the story we learn that her father, a used car salesman, cheats out is customers by fixing the odometer and other sneaky fixes to make the cars look better than they are.  Because of this Matilda decides to teacher her parents a lesson!  Her parents finally allow Matilda to attend school, she starts at Crunchem Hall Elementary School.  The headmistress is Miss Trunchbull; who might be worse than her parents!   
                Although Matilda attends school, she is welcomed by a wonderful teacher, Miss Honey.  Miss Honey notices how intelligent Matilda is and starts to challenge her and forge kind and caring relationship Matilda has with an adult. 

                After you read this classic children’s book, check out the movie.  It is just as good as the book!  Danny DeVito plays Matilda’s father and also directs.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

First frost is coming to Bascom, North Carolina.  The Waverly sisters, Claire and Sydney are capable women but stressing about things going on in their lives. Claire is too busy with her candy business and Sydney wants a baby along with dealing with her adolescent daughter, Bay.  Bay cares for  a boy whose father has history with Sydney. The Waverly's are interesting characters who have special talents or peculiar gifts which cause them to be outsiders in their town. A stranger arrives in town causing disruption in their lives. A little magic flows through this book and a mischievous apple tree adds humor to the story. This book follows Garden Spells and picks up the story of this family.  This book has less magic and I enjoyed it more than the first one.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Extreme Prey by John Sandford

Yes, this is Book #26 in Sandford's "Prey" series, but if you've never read them and are curious, this is an especially fun one to read.  Lucas Davenport, no longer with the MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, is on the campaign staff for the MN governor, who is running for president.

While on the campaign trail in Iowa, the governor gets wind of a potential assassination plot against his rival in the campaign, and asks Lucas to investigate.  The case takes him to many Iowa towns, as well as to the State Fair.

This is classic Sandford, with the added benefit of being on our own home turf, which makes the book that much more fun to read.  He evens goes to Pella!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Trap by Melanie Raabe

Linda Conrads is a reclusive novelist still traumatized by the murder of her sister twelve years ago.  Linda saw the murderer leaving the scene, but he was never caught.  When she unexpectedly spots him on TV, she is certain no one will believe her.  So she sets a trap for him in the plot of her next novel.  The Trap is a good, twisty thriller.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

I enjoy this Iowa author, and again, this book was a very good read. I could empathize with the main character, Sarah Quinlan, within the very first pages of the story. The author winds a tale of mystery that keeps you guessing and wondering who did it all through the book. The fact that Sarah's husband displays secretive behavior, makes him suspicious and adds to the suspense. When Sarah finds out that Jack's parents didn't die in a car accident and that his Aunt Julia was murdered in much the same way his mother was years ago, she begins to have questions arise in her mind. Then she finds out that her husband has not been exactly truthful with her about his past. He changed his last name after his mother's death, and he was nearly engaged to Celia, his cousin Dean's wife, when they were young. Caught up in unanswered questions, Sarah begins to investigate the past and the present of the Quinlan family. It isn't until way at the end that the reader finds out what really happened.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut

Oh boy.  What to say about Kurt Vonnegut?  To call him a satirist doesn’t even begin to give him credit.  To call his humor simply ’dark’ somehow writes off the intensity and complexity behind the jabs and jokes.  His subject in this book is Walter F. Starbuck, the lowest-level member of the Nixon cabinet, a mere youth caught up in the infamous Watergate scandal and sentenced to jail.  On his first day of freedom, he runs into old enemies, old friends, and old flames, and manages to end up on top of the world before it crumbles beneath him yet again.  Kurt Vonnegut is simply an incredible writer and beyond that, you’ll have to read the book.  Truly a new classic American novelist, or to paraphrase one critic, Mr. Vonnegut is a champion of the simple and direct style, all but lost in most modern novels.  Bravo.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Red Platoon by Clinton Romesha

Read Red Platoon by Clinton Romesha.  That is all that needs to be said. If you would like a book that you can't put down once you start, this one is for you. The book is filled with brotherhood, combat, selflessness, heroism, moments of terror, and moments of deep determination.
Red Platoon looks at the soldiers of Camp Outpost (COP) Keating in Afghanistan in 2009. Due to be shut down due to its poor set-up and sustainability, the base is suddenly attacked in October of that year by large numbers of the Taliban. The book then goes into overdrive, describing how the base was overrun, how the soldiers countered the attack, and how they eventually drove the enemy away, but not without several casualties.
Red Platoon looks at the teamwork it took for these soldiers to think under heavy attack and come out with a working solution. You get a sense of the fog of war, the chaos of combat, and the brutal results of human beings versus modern weaponry. Romesha pulls no punches when it comes to his description of all aspects of the battle.
The most mazing part of this book is the selflessness of Romesha as he describes the battle and the actions he took in its final outcome. If the cover did not tell you otherwise, you would not know that former Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at COP Keating. Never is this an "I" book; it is a "we" book from the very start, and an incredible look our soldiers in the 21st century.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth Mckenzie

Set in Palo Alto, California, quirky Veblen who tempts at a local hospital and translates Norwegian, finds that it is comforting to have a squirrel living in her attic; the noise it makes at night comforts her.  It becomes a conflict of interest when her neurologist boyfriend Paul moves in and decides to trap the critter.  Following the trip to set the "charming" squirrel free are several subplots with the dysfunctional relationships of Veblen and her mother and father.  Paul is in the process of testing his medical device for brain trauma veterans, and finds himself standing up against a conniving heiress in order to expose how greed can supersede truth in some pharmaceutical companies.  The couple's impending wedding collides with all these commotions leading to an entertaining read.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tangle Journey by Beckah Krahula

You know those adult coloring books you see everywhere? This book reminded me of that. It does take it a step up, however, in that you make your own drawings. The idea of relaxing through the process of drawing and creating for 30 minutes a day is appealing. In the end you end up with beautiful works of art. You can make them into a journal, or book, or art to put on your wall....or just fill a drawer full of interesting projects, half done. In any case, I'm going to try it!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Warbird Factory by John Fredrickson

John Fredrickson's Warbird Factory is a look back at North American Aviation and its work during World War II. Though the book looks at the development and construction of some of America's most famous fighting planes, it goes way beyond air combat. Warbird Factory also looks in detail at those who designed these aircraft, and those who built them on the factory floor.
For me, the most entertaining part of the book was the look it took at the factory workers' community. The book discusses everything from the working conditions, to the shifts, to how these people socialized and even how they made the commute to work. Warbird Factory also details labor problems that had to be overcome so that the planes could once again roll off the assembly line.
Along with all of the written information the book presents, it is also a treasure trove of period photos taken inside the factories and the offices of North American Aviation. These pictures help paint the picture of how American factories, and the Americans working in them, came together to help shorten World War II. It is a very enjoyable read.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Last Painting of Sara DeVos by Dominic Smith

This story interweaves plot lines from 3 time periods:  -- 1600s Netherlands - where Sara DeVos has become the first woman admitted as a master painter to a guild, --  1950s NYC - where the only known painting attributed to Sara DeVos is stolen from Marty DeGroot and replaced with a skillfully done forgery, and 2000s Sydney, Australia - where Ellie Shipley, celebrated art historian and museum curator, realizes that both the original DeVos and the forgery Ellie did are on their way to the exhibition at her museum.

This book grabbed my interest quickly, and painted compelling sketches of the lives of its characters.  I highly recommend it!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Color Concrete Garden Projects by Nathan Smith and Michael Snyder

When first picking this book off the shelf I thought it might be a great new adventure for my creative side. After reading the book, I think I don't have the tools or location to tackle these kind of projects. It also looks to be hard on the hands and I believe the finished projects look heavy. The authors and creators are male. I loved the modern, yet rustic, look of the finished projects. I was especially drawn to the planters, the tabletop candle holder, and the concrete sphere. I would definitely use these styles in my garden and home. After thorough examination I will have to let someone else create these wonderful, solid forms. Perhaps I will buy some from an enterprising artisan some day.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Star Wars - Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

So, you have been watching Star Wars - The Force Awakens and you are wondering where all of the wreckage on the surface of Jakku comes from - you know, the ships and star destroyers that Rey and others are scavenging for credits?  Well, if you read Claudia Gray's Star Wars: Lost Stars, you can find the answer.
Even though Lost Stars is found in the young adult section, it is a good read for all ages of Star Wars fans. It is also a read that once you start, you will want to tackle it straight through to find out just where it is taking you.
The book follows the lives of two children from two different backgrounds - a boy, Thane Kyrell, and a girl, Ciena Ree. They meet as young children and end up enrolling in the Imperial Academy together. Once exposed to the workings of the Empire, Thane drifts from its teachings and becomes a part of the Rebellion. Ciena remains loyal to the Empire. The book follows them through school and then as they cross paths during the major events of Star Wars IV, V and VI, eventually reaching the surface of Jakku where we encountered Rey several years later when The Force Awakens premiered last November.
The book is action-filled, and, very much a love story. Still, any mushiness in countered by the explosions of ships and the pursuit of the "bad guys", whoever they might be revealed to be.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri, translated by Ann Goldstein

In this autobiographic bilingual book, Lahiri explores the parallels between language and identity, reflecting on her parents' and sometimes her sense of belonging among the U.S., India and Italian cultures. Lahiri chronicles her journey in acquiring the Italian language.  She fell in love with Italy when she visited Florence with her sister after college and was determined to learn the language.  Besides years of discipline and hard work, she even moved her family to Rome for three years in order to fully immerse herself and her family in the country and culture. She only allowed herself to read, speak and write in Italian.  Despite having mastered the language, Lahiri still feels the occasional inadequacies.  Anyone who has studied a foreign language will understand her struggles and triumphs of the process. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Baby Brights by Kathleen McCafferty

This book is filled with patterns to crochet for babies. I recently took classes to re-learn the art of crochet. When I noticed this book on our NEW shelves, I picked it up to browse through. I didn't realize at the time how much I would love the projects inside. I was able to make the cute Mary Jane shoes on the front cover. I also made the pixie gnome hat and the pom pom hat. I am still planning to make the high top shoes, the bear hat, and the wavy stripes baby blanket. I now have many gifts for the new babies in my family circle! I highly recommend this one for any crochet lovers.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Zero Night by Mark Felton

If you have ever read Paul Brickhill's book, The Great Escape, or seen the movie adaptation of it, then you might find that Mark Felton's Zero Night to your liking. I will warn you, however, there is no Steve McQueen-type character zipping around Nazi Germany on his motorcycle - the soldiers in Zero Night were far less Hollywood, and far more heroic.
Zero Night details the first mass escape of Allied prisoners of war in World War II. Taking place around the escape of August 1942, Felton details the planning and execution of the escape in great and riveting detail. This prison escape did not involve tunneling, it found the prisoners going over the wire and trying to make their way to freedom.
Though several prisoners did make it out of the German camp, very few found success in the end and managed to keep their freedom. What they did do, however, was disrupt the Nazi war machine as the Germans searched throughout Europe for the escapees.
The book is a quick, enjoyable read that shows you the extent of the planning and execution the prisoners used in their bid for freedom.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Hamilton (Broadway Cast Recording) (available on hoopla)

Alexander Hamilton — what did he do, anyway?  Aren’t we trying to take him off the $10 bill?  The answer is — he was present at nearly every pivotal moment in the early history of the US, and we would not be the nation we are without his contributions. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s amazing hip-hop musical (based on the biography by Ron Chernow) captures Hamilton’s life, struggles, and achievements with tightly written lyrics and catchy music.  Even if you don’t think you like hip-hop, give this recording a try (there are other musical styles as well) — it’s the most amazing musical I’ve ever heard, and I learned a lot of American history in the process of listening to it. 


Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Plant Recipe Book by Baylor Chapman

This plant book is unique in that the author creates arrangements that can be used for special events or occasions, and than used for weeks or months in your home, or repurposed in the garden or other arrangements. Some of the designs can last for years with care, while others are more temporary, but can be reused later.
You begin with a toolbox, containers, soil, plants, techniques, and the ingredient chart. Then follows 100 beautiful arrangements. The pictures are gorgeous, and the author is obviously gifted and talented in her ability to put plants together so skillfully. I frequently will start to long for green things this time of the year, and yes, I did buy a few succulents to try my own hand at making an arrangement. Such a cool book that you too can check out form the library!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Andy and Don by Daniel de Vise

If you are feeling a little nostalgic as the winter comes to a close, I recommend picking up Daniel de Vise's Andy and Don. Even if you are not a huge fan of The Andy Griffith Show, the book makes for an enjoyable read of our country's television past and the rise of two of its biggest stars - Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. If you are a huge Mayberry aficionado, this book may not open a lot of doors for you information-wise, but de Vise still manages to tell a good story of how Griffith and Knotts became friends, worked together, and enjoyed each other's company until the death of Knotts in 2006.
Both Griffith and Knotts were big influences in the American comedy scene of the 1940s and 50s, Griffith with "What it Was, Was Football" and Knotts with his television characters, including the Nervous Man. de Vise explores what came before these creations in their careers, and then how they lead the way to the humor of the Griffith show in the 1960s and beyond.
Andy and Don is a quick read; I read it all in the course of one day. It is at times both funny and sad as you think back on simpler times, simpler ideas and the fact that these two television greats are no longer with us. Overall, I lean to the happy, however, as there is plenty of humor to go around in this book.

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin

I learned about the author from the editor and forward of the book.  Berlin was an amazing writer raising four sons despite her health and alcoholism, which she overcame later in life.  The short stories are semi-biographical depicting switchboard operators, cleaning ladies, physician's assistants and laundromat attendants. - professions she had before teaching at the University of Colorado. These workers try to make a living and face all kinds of hardships, but are at peace with their situations.  Berlin wrote about the nuances of everyday lives, the decisions and ramifications one must face up to.  In Unmanageable a mother tries her best to cope with her alcoholism to function.  Some of these stories reflect time she spent with her sister dying of cancer, and police brutality long before it came in the news.  I'm glad to discover the author and hope to read more of her works.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas

In 1880, Gracy Brookens is the only midwife for miles surrounding the Colorado mountain town where she lives.  She has delivered hundred of babies, and people trust her.  Then the baby of the prominent mine owner turns up dead, and he claims that Gracy killed the baby.  Evidence from the doctor and coroner support his claim.  How will Gracy be able to clear her name?

I enjoyed this book, which is both a murder mystery, as well as an engaging story about a strong woman, and life in an 1800s mountain mining town.

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

This book made me chuckle right from the beginning when Ove, a 59 year old grumpy man with staunch principles and routines tries to buy a computer.  He lives in a housing complex where he will not tolerate any deviation of rules and regulations.  A good description of him would be a curmudgeon (a new word for me) which means bad-tempered, difficult, and cantankerous. However, his personality draws the reader to like this obsessive man.  He is grieving the loss of his wife, a wonderful, loving woman.  When a young chatty couple with two daughters move in next door Ove's mailbox is accidentally flattened with their moving truck.  Many comical moments follow throughout the book relating to this family as Ove's structured world is disrupted.  Sad moments also occur as Ove remembers his life with his wife.  I listened to this book through Hoopla, a service our library provides to download audiobooks and several other materials. We also own the book in print. I really enjoyed this book!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Speed Kings by Andy Bull

     The cover of Andy Bull's Speed Kings says it covers the 1932 Winter Olympics and the "fastest men in the world", meaning bobsledders. The book does just that, but it does so much more beyond those points. The book covers the rise of bobsledding as a sport, how it worked into the Olympics, and the men who took part in the games; however, that is just a small part of what Speed Kings is all about.
     Speed Kings is a well-written personality profile of some of the eccentrics, playboys, scholars, athletes and questionable personalities of the early twentieth century. It covers characters in high finance, politics, Hollywood, sports and military history. Though this may seem like quite the hodgepodge, Bull does a great job in keeping all of these people fresh, entertaining and relevant to the story. Who would have imagined so many unique ties to bobsledding?
     If you are looking for the extreme details, technicalities and minutia of the sport of bobsledding, you are not going to find it in Speed Kings. What you are going to find is a fun, fast read that opens the door to a lot of other subjects and people you may not be familiar with in this country's past history. Think of it as a threshold book to many other non-fiction subjects - Cary Grant meets the Nazi Party meets the Dewey Decimal System.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Handmade Soap Book by Melinda Coss

I must admit I am a soap maker "wannabe". I love the looks of handmade soap and the idea of making it yourself. I am still in the stages of looking and learning and am nor sure I will ever get to the actual "making" stage. Every year I buy handmade soap from West Market Park at Tulip Time. When this book hit our NEW shelves here at the library, I couldn't help but check it out. I looked longingly at the different types pictured: grapefruit slice, strawberry, buttered roses, sunflowers, honey and beeswax, goats' milk, olive, creamy coconut, spice, vanilla and more. The soaps looked so beautiful and natural. They were packaged and presented artfully and tastefully. With the use of the internet you can get pretty much whatever supplies and equipment you need nowadays. For now I will continue to just look, but maybe one day...