Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What Alice Forgot

What Alice ForgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I spent the last three days engrossed in the story of Alice and her sudden memory loss.  It begins when she falls off her bike in spin class;  when she comes to, she believes it's 1998 (it's actually 2008) and she's shocked at her flattened stomach and toned physique, has no recollection of her three children, and thinks she's still in the early, easy years of her marriage.  She's on the brink of divorce, and she can't remember why.

As Alice struggles to remember, she pieces little glimpses of her past back together and reconciles with her sister.  She's appalled at what she learns about her 39-year-old self, and tries to re-establish her 29-year-old self as she remembers it.

This book really made me think about what I would have missed out on in the last ten years.  A very enjoyable read, with a satisfying ending!  Liane Moriarty hasn't disappointed me yet.

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Casual Vacancy

The Casual VacancyThe Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With a vast cast of characters, The Casual Vacancy plunges the reader into the small town politics of Pagford, its slum area The Fields, and its bigger, brighter neighboring town of Yarvil.  The characters are all well-developed, and even the most vile are, on some level, understandable.

The story starts with a bang, when Barry Fairbrother drops dead on his way to dinner at the club, then it builds slowly and inexorably toward a powerful conclusion. Barry has left a casual vacancy -- a spot on the town council -- and people are immediately scrambling to fill the void and either continue what he'd started, or cancel what he'd started when he'd begun campaigning to save a rehabilitation facility.  The story lines of the various characters slowly meet and braid together in this riveting, suspenseful tale.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Bartender's Tale by Ivan Doig

The Bartender's TaleThe Bartender's Tale by Ivan Doig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ivan Doig tells a grand story, and this one made me yearn for Western small town life (normally unappealing to me).  The Bartender's Tale is about a legendary bartender named Tom Harry and his son Rusty.  Rusty's mom abandoned the two of them when Rusty was an infant, and Tom's sister raised Rusty for the first six years.  Then one day, unannounced, Tom retrieved Rusty and took him north to Montana where they live a fabulous bachelor life and run the Medicine Lodge.

The days pass between Tom's mysterious trips, Rusty's saloon eavesdropping and small town gossip.  The summer Rusty is twelve things change drastically, and Rusty grows up even faster.

This story is about family, commitment, responsibility and living with past decisions.  When Tom's history comes back to haunt him, he handles things with his signature stoicism.  "The first rule is," Tom says, "playing with the hand you're dealt."

Give yourself a break: read this grand story, told in grand Ivan Doig fashion.

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell

The Hand That First Held MineThe Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Hand That First Held Mine is a tale about motherhood, of course, and love of all types, and strange twists of fate and malice.  The story follows two sets of characters:  Ted and Elina, who just had a baby boy.  They live in London and Elina, who nearly died in childbirth, has no recollection of the birth of her baby and is having difficulty adjusting to life as a new mother.  The story also follows Lexie Sinclair, a young girl in London a few decades previous, and her exciting journalist career.  Lexie's story was my favorite, as there was more action.  Ted's and Elina's story was portentous, which kept me going, and it paid off in spades.

I won't give the ending away here, except to say:  it's worth the read.

All of that, and I learned at least two new words:  maenad and chiaroscuro (both uttered by Lexie's journalist boyfriend).

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Check it out on Amazon here: The Hand That First Held Mine  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything

I discovered All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown at a thrift shop, and bought it for $2.50.  It's an Advance Reading Copy, and the need for proofreading was a bit distracting.  I'm sure the final copy didn't have this feature!

BUT, the story was an enjoyable Silicon Valley family satire, where a long-married couple has just taken their pharmaceutical company public.  The day the company goes public (this is all in Chapter One, so I'm not giving away too much of the story line here), wife Janice plans and prepares for a celebratory dinner with her husband and their younger daughter, who still lives at home.  Janice is instead surprised with a telegram from her husband Paul stating he wants a divorce.  From there, the book takes the reader through the summer months with Janice and her two daughters (the older one returns home, having failed at starting a magazine), each living their own lives and not sharing their burdens with the others, ignoring the impending divorce and what it might mean for their daily lives.

Each character let something get out of control, and each character is determined to fix her life on her own.  The story makes it easy to understand how 'regular' people can get into unacceptable, irresponsible, dangerous situations.  It seems that one bad decision follows another.

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything is a great sandwich book.  Read it, enjoy it, laugh and gasp.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Prairie Evers

Prairie EversPrairie Evers by Ellen Airgood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought this book from Ellen Airgood at an author reading/signing event in De Tour Village, Michigan.  It's a young adult genre book, but it's really a book for all readers.

Prairie Evers has just moved to New Platz, New York, with her parents, from North Carolina.  Until now, she has been home-schooled by her Grammy, who is staying in North Carolina.  Prairie is lonely and struggling with the sudden changes in her life and starts raising chickens to keep her mind occupied, when her parents tell her she has to start going to school.  At school, she meets a girl named Ivy and they become fast friends. Imagine the challenges she faced at school, with a name like Prairie and a Southern accent!  Prairie and Ivy save each other and learn more about the world and themselves in the process. The story even made chickens seem interesting, which I thought was impossible!

This is a book about friendship, family, trust, hard work, perseverance and silver linings.  It's a great book, for all readers from ten to one hundred.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Testing the Current

Testing the CurrentTesting the Current by William McPherson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the story of a year in Tommy McAllister's life, beginning when he's 8, then going back to his 7th year and ending just past where it begins.  It takes place in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, which is called Grand Rivere, in the late 1930s.  Tommy's family is wealthy, so they didn't feel much effect from the Depression, but some of his classmates and neighbors did.  He's careful not to show off in front of those who have less than he has.

Tommy is trying to figure out life, and he learns a lot during this year.  He's very curious, always asking questions, and giving out too much information at inappropriate times.  The book effectively illuminates that time in history, and the class levels and traditions of that time.  I imagine this is what my grandmother's life was like then, as she lived in that town during that time and had small children much like Tommy.

It's a subtle tale, a bit wordy, but very enjoyable.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

The Third Son

The Third SonThe Third Son by Julie  Wu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was not in the mood to read about a Taiwanese immigrant (I've read many immigrant stories lately), but when I started this book, I couldn't put it down.  Saburo, the main character, is the third son of a Taiwanese politician.  He's the least favorite child, and his parents habitually call him stupid and put him down at every opportunity, even to the point of giving him such a meager amount of food, he becomes malnourished.  He meets his dream girl at the age of 8 during an air raid, and when he finds her again years later, she is with his eldest brother and biggest rival.

This is an amazing tale of perseverance, familial sense of duty and loyalty, and learning to depend on yourself rather than others.  Saburo learns he can survive, and succeed, despite his family's continued resistance and the bad luck that seems to follow him.

It's a good one...put it on your reading list, if it isn't there already!  

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Burgess Boys

The Burgess BoysThe Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book about assumptions and perceptions, and how an entire life can be shaped around them.  Three of the characters in this book undergo substantial changes after discovering and/or admitting the assumptions and perceptions they'd lived by were false.

The story is told from several different perspectives, in third person, and it is basically the recounting, by an acquaintance introduced in the prologue, and never mentioned again.  As a way of introducing the narrator, it works, but the reader never learns the narrator's name and the encounter mentioned in the prologue isn't mentioned in the story itself.  It seems Jim Burgess is a well-known, respected lawyer who won a high-profile case watched by everyone on television.  He lives in Manhattan, working for a large law firm, when his nephew gets into some legal hot water for a childish prank involving a pig's head being thrown into a mosque during Ramadan. The nephew still lives in Maine, in the small town where Jim grew up.  Jim is the eldest of three, a few years older than his brother and sister, who are twins.

Enjoy this story.  Sink into it.  Elizabeth Strout has outdone herself this time.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Feel Bad About My Neck

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a WomanI Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a great way to pass an afternoon!  Nora Ephrons' signature sarcasm brightened my day.  I listened to the audio version of this book, which the author reads herself, and I now wish I could have a cup of coffee with her in her NYC apartment.  We could lament about our necks, beauty regimens and the price of skin lotion.  We could share stories about the hard-to-believe real-life events we've experienced.  We could wear scarves and comfortable shoes and say pithy things.

If you are a woman with a neck, you will love this book.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Arcadia by Lauren Groff

ArcadiaArcadia by Lauren Groff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this book at The Babbling Book in Haines, Alaska (great store, if you're ever in the neighborhood) because I had already read and enjoyd Lauren Groff's other book, The Monsters of Templeton.  This book didn't disappoint.

This is the story of Bit, born in the 1970s in a hippie commune in western New York state.  The commune consists of several old buses and lean-tos on a beautiful piece of land, with a hulking mansion in sorry disrepair.  Soon the hippies get to work restoring the mansion so they can have heat and sturdy shelter.  The commune grows beyond its means, and eventually Bit must learn how to adapt to the outside world as he moves to New York City.

The writing is so good, you are in the commune.  You are there, feeling the damp chill on your bare arms, studying your friends' prominent ribs, growing vegetables and eating a vegan diet, running barefoot in the cold, greasy mud, bathing once per week. Wondering at some of the established practices our society endorses and supports. Hoping you never have to leave Arcadia and venture out into the unknown.

There will always be space on my shelf for a Lauren Groff book.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Divide by Nicholas Evans

The DivideThe Divide by Nicholas Evans
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought (rescued) this book from a garage sale.  The pages are warped, the cover is worn.  I wonder how many have read it already.

Nicholas Evans writes what I like to read:  it's engaging, it's easy, it's energetic. The characters are all believable, even the ones I disagree with, and the story is told from many different angles.  The Divide refers to both the Great Divide and a dude ranch called The Divide.  It also refers to the division within the marriage and within the family of the main characters.  In the beginning of the story, a man and his son are extreme skiing in a remote location, their annual bonding trip in the brutal Colorado climate, when the father loses control on an icy patch and skids down the hill.  When the son digs him out, they discover the body of a young woman frozen in the ice.

From there, the story keeps you reading into the wee hours.  Enjoy!

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Lost Art of Mixing

The Lost Art of MixingThe Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is told through an artful combination of characters and cooking, which seems to be Bauermeister's calling card.  She does it well.  The characters are well-developed, their lives and personalities related like ingredients and recipes, each character somehow saving another from failure, despair or loneliness.  The brink-of-divorce couple, the homeless/family-less girl, the outlandishly tall (and also family-less) boy, the restauranteur, the widower...all are worthy of inviting over for coffee and good conversation.

I listened to this story on Audible, and the narration was very well done, really bringing the characters to life.  If you're looking for diversion of the fluff variety, you've found it!  A great feel-good story.

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Four Spirits

Four SpiritsFour Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It seems Sena Jeter Naslund can't write a bad book, so no matter the subject, it's a must-read.  This particular tome takes place in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s and the story follows different characters, whose lives intersect at some point whether they know it or not, during and after the bombing.  Naslund's characterization is so realistic, one can almost (but not quite) feel a tiny bit of understanding for the truly evil people in the book.

I started reading this book without reading the back of it, and it worked out perfectly for me, as I wasn't really in the mood for another book about the horrific happenings in the South, but I was soon a victim of Naslund's prose.  A perfectly content victim.

Read it and weep, and at the end, feel hopeful for this crazy race to which we belong.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

A Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time BeingA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, what a rich, luxurious tale!  There is so much in this story, I don't know where to begin.  Or end.

A woman living on an island near Vancouver finds a Ziploc bag on the beach.  The bag contains a two diaries and some letters.  As the woman reads the diary, the reader learns about the diary-writer, a Japanese girl, and the bullying and family tragedies she suffered.  This story has so many aspects and facets, and all are woven in throughout to create a smoothly flowing stream of a story.

There is Zen Buddhism here, and friendship, and bullying and wisdom, and suicidal tendencies and naked hope and quantum mechanics. There's humanity, in all of its glory and shame.  This book sucked me in like the ocean vortex, an inexorable obliteration.  I went gladly, consumed by the poetry Ozeki used to relate this story.

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Friday, August 16, 2013


JoylandJoyland by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've always loved Stephen King's writing and his characters, but I didn't like the horror aspects of some of his stories.  This one has none of that (a little sip of supernatural, maybe, involving a couple of ghosts, but it works).  It's a fantastic story, written from the point of view of a sixty-something man looking back on one particular summer in his life.

Devin Jones spent a summer working at an amusement park, selling fun, learning the carny lingo (King calls it the Talk) and dressing up in a dog costume to dance around and entertain the kids.   He loved the work and the park so much, and was so intrigued by the story of a murder that had taken place there a few years previous, he decided to take a semester off from college and stay on as the park buttoned up at the end of the season.  He met a single mother and her son Mike, who was afflicted with muscular dystrophy and lived in a Victorian house on the beach near the amusement park.  Mike was my favorite character, an old soul in a young body.

Read this one to escape your routine and meet some new (fictional) friends - take a semester off and stick around to enjoy the lingo and sell some fun.

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Friday, July 19, 2013


BenedictionBenediction by Kent Haruf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Meet Dad Lewis.  He's on his death bed, suffering the indignities of loss of control over his bodily functions and reminiscing about his life.  His regrets and triumphs are examined as objectively as possible.  He holds a high standard of conduct for himself, and forgives those he doesn't understand. The reader learns of his childhood and his children.

His passing is uneasy, his life unfinished, his regrets unresolved.  And yet, the reader is left with the sense of things happening as they should and life going on, relentlessly unfolding for those Dad leaves behind.

Bookworms Anonymous declared this book "a sad, feel-good story about a wonderful old man."  As always, Kent Haruf delivers a solid story line populated with compelling characters.

One caveat:  there are no quotation marks in the book!  I find this style of formatting difficult to read.  I didn't have to suffer through it, though, as I listened to the audio version from audible.com.  The lack of quotation marks was completely unnoticeable!  I had both the printed version and audio version, and after reading a couple of chapters I switched to the audio version and finished the story that way.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ed King

Ed KingEd King by David Guterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

David Guterson has effectively answered the questions:  How can what I don't know hurt me? and How do I know the facts that I know are really true?

The best way to read and enjoy this book is with little information, so the story unfolds for you as it should.  As a teaser, I can tell you this much without ruining anything:  In 1962, a not-quite-legal au pair from Britain had an affair with the father of her charges while his wife was in a mental institution.  In 1963, she gave birth and left the baby on a door step.

Find out what happens from there.

This is Guterson's best book yet.  Enjoy!

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Friday, July 5, 2013

It's All Relative

It's All Relative: Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays, and 50 Boxes of Wine (A Memoir)It's All Relative: Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays, and 50 Boxes of Wine by Wade Rouse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wade Rouse takes the reader on a year-long journey through holidays large and small, sharing his experiences in his signature self-deprecating way.  The book progresses from New Year's Eve to Christmas, with stops along the way for important traditional holidays, as well as Chinese New Year, the Pez Collectors' National Convention, and Barbie's birthday.

Wade lets you in and gives you a glimpse of his life, his family, his foibles, his successes.  His writing is deep and true, and you'll find yourself laughing at least once during each essay, even as Wade learns life lessons and accepts his own talents and limitations.

Read this book to gain a better understanding of human nature, friendship, relationships, family and self.  And laugh at each witty turn of phrase.

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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Solitude of Prime Numbers

The Solitude of Prime NumbersThe Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought this book for my mom's birthday because i was attracted to the cover and the title, and I knew she'd loan it to me after she read it.  The story was written by an Italian physicist and translated to English, which is also interesting to me as I'm an Italiophile.

The story follows two characters, Alice and Mattia, each of whom survive a childhood trauma that leaves scars and alters their behavior and their life paths.  Near the beginning of the book, Alice is in a serious skiing accident while training for competitive downhill skiing.  She never quite learns to trust anyone after the incident, and develops anorexia as a way to control her Universe.   Mattia loses his twin sister, and starts a lifelong habit of mutilating himself.  They become friends, and they each recognize the intense feelings they have for each other, but neither of them acts.

The characters are well-developed; each is a lonely, prime-number-type entity unto himself or herself.  The story is like a deep study of loneliness and trauma, and the question of whether or not one causes the other and how a person might deal with life events.

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Long-Shining Waters

The Long-Shining Waters is a celebration of Lake Superior.  Three story lines, in three different centuries, are tied together by setting.  Lake Superior has been here for eons, and will remain long after we're all gone.  The stories in this book relate Superior's beauty, her strength and her fierce moods.

In 1622, an Indian settlement along Superior's shores survives various accidents and visions.  In 1902, a young married couple homesteads on a remote beach.  In 2000, a bar burns down, forcing the owner to take stock of her own life and propelling her to journey around Lake Superior, viewing her from all sides.  The three stories are interspersed with mysterious poem-like snippets, as if told by Lake Superior herself.

Go ahead: open the cover and fall into the poetic prose. Each story line is related with great attention to detail and in powerful language that compels the reader to visit Mother Superior and pay homage.  If you haven't seen Lake Superior yourself, it's time to make the journey.  She's a true inland-ocean.

Read the book and plan your trip.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Author Interview

Betty Meyette interviewed me!  Check it out here:  
 http://elizabethmeyette.blogspot.com/  and share it with your friends.  

Betty writes historical romance novels such as Love's Destiny and Love's Spirit, and you can visit her website here:  http://www.elizabethmeyette.com or you can check out her books on Amazon, here.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Garden of Last Days

The Garden of Last DaysThe Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus III
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Garden of Last Days offers the reader a glimpse into a facet of the events leading up to 9/11.  The twist is, it takes place in Florida.  This isn't something I enjoy reading about, but this story is so well done and features enough interesting characters, it's impossible to put down.  I forgot to eat and didn't bother sleeping until I finished this book.

You'll meet Franny, an adorable three-year-old whose mother April is a dancer at a strip club.  April is not the stereotypical coke-snorting dancer; she's saving her money to buy a house for herself and her daughter, and she conducts her life like two parallel paths:  one April the mother, one Spring the dancer.  One night, her babysitter (elderly neighbor and landlady Jean) is unable to sit for Franny, so April takes her with her to work.

You'll meet AJ, a guy dealing with a recent string of bad luck (mostly brought on by himself).  The kind of guy who's always in the wrong place at the wrong time, and makes bad decisions. He's a patron at the strip club and ends up getting tossed out with a broken wrist for manhandling one of the dancers.

You'll meet Lonnie, the best bouncer at the strip club.  He's dyslexic and has a crush on April/Spring.

Finally, you'll meet Bassam.  He's finished his training for 9/11 and is an enthusiastic member of jihad (not sure if that is the correct phrasing; my brain refuses to absorb much about those people).  He's also a customer at April's strip club.  He is, of course, the least favorite character in the story.  His tale is well told, however, and the author relates much of Bassam's philosophies and religion through his inner narrative.  Sickening and stomach-turning, but well done.

The story takes the reader through the last few days before Tuesday, September 11, 2001, and into that morning.

Clear your calendar, hold your calls, tell everyone you've got the flu.  This book is fascinating.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

Where'd You Go, BernadetteWhere'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun, fabulous tale told by Bernadette's daughter Bee (short for Balakrishna) through the use of emails, notes and internal narration.  The story takes place in Seattle, where Bernadette, her husband Elgin and Bee live in a dilapidated former girls' school with blackberry brambles claiming the basement and ever-growing holes in the roof ushering the rain inside.  Elgin works at Microsoft, writing code for a robot designed to be controlled by thought.  When Bee earns perfect grades, she chooses a family trip to Antarctica for her prize, and Bernadette is determined not to let Bee down despite her fear of crowds and severe seasickness.

As indicated by the title, Bernadette disappears.  I don't want to give any more of the story line away, so you'll have to sit down and read it to see what happens.  It's highly entertaining, interesting and engrossing.  A light, different type of story.

I did notice two inconsistencies in the story line while reading;  I won't mention them here as they occur in the last third of the story.

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Salvage the BonesSalvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the story of a family in Mississippi, a family who struggles daily, and their preparations for Hurricane Katrina.  Esch, the fifteen-year-old female narrator, has three brothers and so desperately seeks male approval (and the avoidance of disapproval) she discovers she's pregnant after a few encounters with her brothers friend.  Their mother is deceased and their father is an alcoholic.  The four kids are largely on their own, but their father does start preparations for the Hurricane.  His preparations, of course, are meager in the face of Category 5 Katrina.

Family, loyalty, dog fighting, struggle and survival and strength.  And poetry.  The story is written with wonderful metaphors so the reader sees and experiences everything along with Esch.  Definitely worth reading (and underlining passages)!

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

How Reading Changed My Life

How Reading Changed My LifeHow Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Of course it's a good book!  Anna Quindlen doesn't know how to write any other kind.  I'm sure her grocery lists are riveting.

This is a salute to reading; it's a love letter to reading;  it's a life story about a reader reading.  As an avid, compulsive reader I identified with most of Anna's experiences.  I, too, have marked important life events by reading;  I've solved life problems by reading;  I've elevated reading to its natural rank in my daily life and I've moved beyond reading (without letting go of the book) to writing, although I'm not nearly as prolific or accomplished as A. Quindlen.

It's a short book with a deep heart-felt message, a kind of thank you note to reading, and a note of gratitude to the life she's lead, which allowed her to read.  The end includes several interesting reading lists, suitable to pass around book clubs (one list is actually just for book clubs).

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Truth Like the Sun

Truth Like the SunTruth Like the Sun by Jim Lynch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seattle is itself a character in this story of political corruption, greed, and ancient secrets.  One story line covers the 1962 World's Fair, held in Seattle, exposing the back alley deals between the city's most powerful men.  The other story line propels the reader into 2001, when Mr. Seattle decides to save his city by running for mayor, stirring the interest of a young reporter new to the city and eager to expose his past.  The book alternates story lines chapter by chapter, unveiling every secret friendship and money-laundering deal and with perfect timing.

Truth Like the Sun is very different from Lynch's other book, Border Songs, but both provide an enjoyable, engrossing read.  Seattle has always intrigued me; now it's on my list of travel destinations.

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Four Hour Chef by Timothy Ferriss

Four Hour ChefFour Hour Chef by Timothy Ferriss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This tome will reside on my reference shelf until I die.  The title is somewhat of a misnomer--the reader will learn how to become a chef within four hours, it's true, but she'll also learn how to butcher a chicken, how to use spices, and how to memorize a deck of cards in 43 seconds.  Ferriss also covers such practical matters as how to survive in the wild, the Rule of Threes, and a fairly comprehensive study of Meta-Learning.  He provides cheat sheets.

This book, if I'd written it, would have been titled The Four-Hour Life Hack.  Read it and improve your life in some way.  Learn everything!

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention.  It's gorgeous.  Gazing at the hundreds of high-quality color photographs throughout, and enjoying the humor of Tim Ferriss, will life even the bluest of souls.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The $100 Startup

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New FutureThe $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What an eye-opening book!  Chris Guillebeau, I'm pretty sure, is living my life, or at least the one I dream about.  He travels the world and makes money, all at the same time.  And he shares his story, and others' stories, so his readers can enjoy the same kind of lifestyle.  If they're willing to take the leap, which I'm not.  BUT, if I didn't have a great job and didn't live near my family and was maybe twenty years younger, I'd have started doing some of the things he suggested before I finished the book.

Good thing I bought this for my daughter (I frequently read books before giving them away as gifts) as she's about twenty years younger than I am, so maybe she'll take off and fly with Chris's ideas.

If you're looking for an inspiring book, if you need some entrepreneurial motivation, or if you'd just like to learn how the lucky, adventurous people live, read this book!

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Flint Book Expo

Stop by the Flint Public Library this coming Saturday, May 4, 2013 to meet and greet 42 different authors and browse/buy their books!

This will be my first appearance at the Flint Book Expo, so I'm not sure what to expect;  for more information, check out the Facebook event page here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/405196682909343/  or search for #fplbookexpo on Twitter.

I hope to see lots of people there--hop in the car and come on down to Flint!  It'll be fun.

I'll have all four of my books there available for sale, and I can accept credit cards with my snazzy new Paypal swiper!


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Range of Motion

Range Of MotionRange Of Motion by Elizabeth Berg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the realistic, yet somehow uplifting, story of a wife's grief over her comatose husband.  The first few lines of the book reveal Lainey's numb shock over the absurdity of her husband becoming the victim of a large chunk of ice falling off a roof.  Lainey puts as much of her life on hold as she can, shelving her job and caring for her two daughters like a not-quite-single mom.  Lainey's neighbor Alice proves indispensable, shuffling over in her bathrobe from the other side of the duplex to watch Lainey's daughters or bolster Lainey's spirits.  In return, Lainey listens to Alice's marital woes and maintains the friendship both women desperately need.

Lainey's tireless belief in Jay's recovery sustains her most days, and she brings many sensory experiences to his hospital room.  HIs favorite shirts, his daughters' artwork, photographs and kitchen spices, his favorite cologne are all faithfully presented to Jay with the hope he'll respond.

I won't give away the ending here--this is a book worth reading, and the characters will stick with you for a long time.

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Once Upon A River

Once Upon a RiverOnce Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Join Margo Crane on her search for her mother as she lives off the land on the Stark River. This story is a coming-of-age-style adventure odyssey full of memorable, realistic characters and plenty of ethical and moral conundrums.  Margo calms herself by target practicing, and is able to easily shoot the ash off of a cigarette from twelve paces.  Her heroine is Annie Oakley, with whom she shares trick-shooting skills.  She shoots, skins, cooks and eats squirrels and deer, perfecting her skills so she can start selling fur, using the money she earns for more ammunition.

After Margo's father is killed, she sets off down the river to find her mother, who had previously left under somewhat sketchy circumstances. On her journey down-river, she encounters a few other people, some helpful and some harmful, and she learns valuable lessons from each of them.

The writing is superb.  I'll remember this book for a long time.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life

Wild Mind: Living the Writer's LifeWild Mind: Living the Writer's Life by Natalie Goldberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought this book at Starrlight Books in Flagstaff, Arizona, a great little used bookstore.  This inspiring little volume, made up of brief essays about Natalie Goldberg's life interspersed with suggested writing topics and exercises, motivated me to grab a pen and start writing.  Natalie shares some great tips about fitting a writing discipline into a daily routine, incorporating humor in writing, and beating writer's block.  She even addresses procrastination with an understanding yet firm solution.

This book will reside on my writing resources shelf, next to Goldberg's Writing Down The Bones.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Folded Earth

The Folded Earth: A NovelThe Folded Earth: A Novel by Anuradha Roy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn't in the mood to read a book about India, but this book is so well written, I enjoyed it from the first page to the last.  In the beginning of the story, Maya is remembering the death of her husband and her subsequent move to a tiny Himalayan village to live peacefully.  She teaches and manages a factory, and types up manuscripts for her influential neighbor in the evenings.  Maya soon learns the world intrudes even in the most remote villages, and the reader learns how everyone is tied together and why Maya is unable to escape her past.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Stand and Deliver

Stand and Deliver: The Dale Carnegie Method to Public SpeakingStand and Deliver: The Dale Carnegie Method to Public Speaking by The Dale Carnegie Organization
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of my irrational fears is public speaking.  I'm not sure exactly what sort of calamity will occur if I say the wrong word or (horrors) can't find the word at all, but this fear manifests itself in a squeaky voice, a shortness of breath (no doubt from not breathing at all for the first few minutes) and shaky hands.

When I saw this book on Audible.com, I bought it immediately.  I have two public speaking events scheduled for this coming summer, and since I have four books published and a fifth one in the works, I anticipate several more events in the next few years.  This book contains many valuable tips and suggestions for public speaking, and some concrete ways to handle stage fright, which the author calls fear of the unknown.  I will definitely use the Rule of Three for organizing my speech, and I'll also use the tips regarding speaking notes.

I haven't spoken in front of a group since reading this book, but I plan to re-read it before the next presentation, with a pen in hand, and I'm envisioning a confident, successful presentation! I highly recommend this book.

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Book Clubs Unite!

 Book clubs and reading groups all share a common passion:  reading, and sharing the books they read with friends.  Some book clubs meet over breakfast; some meet over ors d'oeuvres; some share a gourmet meal and a bottle of wine (or two).  The common thread is the books, although clubs handle their reading material in different ways as well.

Traditional book clubs choose books well before the meeting, sometimes scheduling several months in advance so the members know which books to read.  Some clubs do additional research on the author in an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of the story, maybe taking turns so each club member gets the chance to lead a discussion.  Some delve into symbolism.

Bookworms Anonymous takes a different tack altogether:  we read for pure enjoyment, for the pleasure of losing ourselves in a fictional universe with a cast of quirky characters, for the escape from reality.  There are no restrictions or requirements, save those of attending and hosting meetings.  We read whatever we like and bring stacks of books to each meeting.  Our group, rather than reviewing any book in detail (this happens occasionally, but it's not part of our protocol), meets to share a gourmet vegetarian meal and dessert, and trade books.  Our reviews are essentially brief sales pitches designed to entice other BA members to read the books we've read and enjoyed.  Sometimes, our reviews are leaning toward caveat emptor statements, warning others not to waste their time.

Bookworms Anonymous is the perfect style of book club for those who love to read many different types of books without worrying about in-depth discussions or obligating ourselves to read a specific tome at a given time. There are no minutes at these meetings; no files. Just seven friends gathering together once a month and sharing books, a gourmet meal and a bottle of wine (or two).

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Accidental Genius

Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and ContentAccidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content by Mark Levy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book contains many valuable ideas and methods for generating ideas painlessly, and how to keep those ideas organized in a 'thought inventory' on the computer.  It's slanted toward business writing, but the concepts can be applied to any writing or problem solving process.

I highly recommend this book, and I'm planning to re-listen to it (I have the audio version, which is well done) to soak in more motivation.

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Flight of Gemma Hardy

The Flight of Gemma HardyThe Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the tale of the indomitable Gemma Hardy, a twice-orphaned girl whose inner fortitude carries her through a life populated with many cruel characters and a few very kind ones.  As a young ten-year-old girl, she believes her life at her aunt's house can't get any worse until the aunt ships her off to a boarding school where she serves as a working girl and is regarded by the school staff as a barely tolerable servant, unworthy to attend their classes.  From there, Gemma perseveres and slowly claws her way from one calamity to another, eventually learning of her own history and realizing she is a valuable person in her own right.

It's a very enjoyable read, and I'd love to enjoy the settings of this story someday:  Edinburgh, The Orkneys, Rejkavik.  The author brought the settings to life for me, and I'd love to wander the paths and gardens described in the book.  The author also used birds as an underlying theme (even including the word 'flight' in the title) which gracefully tied the story together with elegant continuity.

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Monday, January 7, 2013

2 FREE Kindle books!

To celebrate the arrival of Horizontal Hold Season, I am running a Kindle promotion:  Today and tomorrow, A Pocketful of Light and Superior Sacrifices are FREE in Kindle versions on Amazon.com.

Culture. Couture. Cuisine.  Italy has it all and she's willing to share.  Explore the world's original tourist destination with this thoroughly researched and enjoyed trip of a lifetime.  Share this delightful Italian adventure as Jan and her daughter meet old friends, make new ones and discover and change the way we see the world.  Incorporating the traditional triumvirate (Venice-Florence-Rome) with Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast, their trip is a perfect blend of urban and rural Italy.

 This is the story of Mitch and Marcia:  twins, best friends and local celebrities in the small town of Iron Falls, Michigan.  Mitch's superhuman dedication to his detective job and Marcia's near-obsessive focus on her family and bookstore business appear ordinary until the secret they've shared for three and a half decades threatens to surface.