Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Have a Little Faith: A True Story" by Mitch Album

I was surprised to find this book on the shelf at the library last week. I have enjoyed Album's books in the past and was looking forward to giving this one a try. It was very enjoyable. Although he condenses it into a one year period it covers a span of 8 years of getting to know his childhood Rabbi after being asked to perform the Rabbi's eulogy. At the same time as he is getting to know the Reb, the Rabbi's nickname, he also gets to know a pastor at a church closer to his new home in Detroit. As a sportswriter Album is used to traveling so he takes time to go to meet with the Reb in New Jersey and also regularly visits the I Am My Brother's Keeper Ministry that is housed in an old church that is falling apart. This book reminded me how important it is to slow down and get to know people, to stop relying so much on emails, text messages and technology and how much can be gained by face to face interaction with family and friends. Also, community is formed by getting to know your neighbors.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Jack Daniel's Spirit of Tennessee Cookbook" by Lynne Tolley and Pat Mitchamore

This book is part cookbook and part history book. Scattered thoughout the recipes are historical essays, descriptions, personal accounts, stories and quotes about Tennessee and the Jack Daniel's distillery. These add ons bring Tennesse and it's geography and population alive for the reader. Many recipes start with a story of where it came from and how it came into being.

I enjoyed finding out how Jack Daniel's distills their whiskey, about how prohibition affected the Daniel's family (they started trading mules), and about how one boarding house is so popular it is still a lunchtime spot that requires reservations. I look forard to giving a try to some of the recipes, many of which call for Jack Daniel's whiskey. Unfortunately none of the recipes include any calorie estimates which I've become used to in cookbooks.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Down the Rabbit Hole: An Echo Falls Mystery" by Peter Abrahams

This is a young adult mystery that I decided to read for a group I belong to on GoodReads. When I was younger I loved reading mysteries, I still enjoy them now but I've branched out in more directions as I've gotten older. I thought it would be fun to try out a YA mystery as an adult. This one would have appealed to me a lot more when I was younger. I enjoyed it, but as an adult it became kind of obvious who was responsible. I got a bit frustrated with the main character, a thirteen year-old-girl named Ingrid because she kept taking matters into her own hands. She does solve the mystery but had she been my daughter she would have been grounded for a very long time for taking so many chances with her safety.

Contest to win "Her Fearful Symmetry" by Audry Niffenegger

Right now Facebook has a special offer for "Her Fearful Symmetry" by Audrey Niffenegger. Regal Literary has 25 hardcover and 10 Advanced Reader’s Copies of Her Fearful Symmetry for fans. Email with subject “Facebook Special Offer – I’m a fan!” by November 13, and we’ll enter you into the lottery. I'm not sure if you have to become a fan on facebook before you can enter, but if you have a facebook account it only takes a minute. I loved "The Time Traveler's Wife" and have really been wanted to read this one too!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"The Power of Respect: Benefit from the Most Forgotten Element of Success" by Deborah Norville

This book is well written and very nicely organized. Norville first defines respect and how it starts at home, how it can be taught in a family, how it works in a marriage or a friendship, how it functions in the workplace, how it's lack can affect both a school or business, and how an individual can work on their own self respect. She uses examples from research and from the lives of people she knows either personally or through her work on Inside Edition. The chapters are clearly marked for easy use by parents, teachers or businesses.

Having small children I was very interested in how to teach respect to children and as an educator I really enjoyed how she showed respect at work at schools and the great difference it made in not just behavior but also academic achievement when school wide respect programs were implemented with student involvement. It is eyeopening to think about how she is right, often we are more respectful to strangers we meet during the course of our day than we are to our own families. You can build people up by showing them respect, at home, at school, or at work and that building up can build a foundation for the future.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"The Postmistress" by Sarah Blake

I received this book as part of Barnes and Nobles First Look Book Club. If you have never taken part in one I highly recommend it. You can find them on the B & N site under book clubs. The next sign-ups will be at the beginning of December for a January club (the next two months are off months). You sign up and receive an Advanced Reading Copy or ARC of a book that has not yet been released. You are expected to participate in an online discussion and post a review to their site at the completion of the book. This is my third one and all three have been wonderful.

My thoughts on the book:
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. It is set over the course of a year starting in 1940 and going into 1941 before the US enters into WWII. This is not an era I typically read books set in so while I know of it, I don't know any real details. Whatever I learned in school has become pretty sketchy at this point. To me the author really brought the time period alive and made it real. The story is set on both sides of the ocean with the characters being connected by radio. There is Franklin, Mass. where Iris, the postmaster, and Emma, the doctors wife, listen to radio reports and then in London there is Frankie reporting the news they are listening to. These three women are the focus of the story and they are very different. Iris is a 40-year-old unmarried woman who is in charge of the post office, Emma was an orphan who married Will and moved to Franklin a small town on Cape Cod and Frankie is a reporter stationed in London during the Blitz who really brings life and details to the nightly bombing and regular loss of life. I don't want to reveal too much or spoil the story for anyone, but I will say it was a very well written novel with characters who seemed very real. It shows the innocence in the US prior to entering the war, thinking it couldn't really touch the US and also brings alive the plight of the people trying to escape from Europe. Very nicely done!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Curing the Blues with a New Pair of Shoes" by Dixie Cash

I didn't realize this book was part of a series when I picked it up at the library, the cover and title just jumped out at me and I decided to give it a try. The setting is a small town in West Texas where two best friends run both a beauty shop and work as private investigators. This is the fifth mystery/crime they are solving together. Salt Lick, Texas is holding a birthday celebration for Elvis to raise money for a hamburger restaurant rumored to be among his favorite places to eat. Elvis's blue suede shoes are on display but are stolen. Debbie Sue and Edwina work with the inept sheriff and deputy to locate them, while lots of out-of-town visitors pour in to see the parade and festivities all sorts of other issues arise. There is also a love story between two reports from the Fort Worth area, Avery and Sam. This book made me laugh and was a fun read. It reminded me a bit of Stephanie Plum from Janet Evanovich's series. Dixie Cash is not one person by two women who write together under the one name.

Friday, October 16, 2009

"The Letters" by Luanne Rice and Joseph Monninger

I love letters. There is something so personal and fun about sending and receiving them. At times I am sad that due to email, texting and other electronic communications as well as cell phones we do so little letter writing anymore. When I saw the cover I thought this might be a book about Christmas, I guess it was all the trees and snow but that was not the case at all. In this novel Hadley and Sam are a married couple who are currently separated as they each come to terms with their 20 year old son Paul's death in a plane crash in Alaska. Sam, a sports writer, has decided to take a trip via dogsled to the location of the crash to say good-bye to his son's spirit while Hadley, an artist, rents a home in Massachusetts on an island with an active art community where she immerses herself in AA meetings and her artwork. The entire story is told through letters between the two as they work through feelings of guilt, blame, sadness and hope about the past and the future. Because of how far apart they are geographically sometimes there will be more than one letter in a row from the one to the other and because of delays in the letters being received topics don't always show up in the next letter. I enjoyed seeing each character come to terms with the past individually while also recalling and describing their journey to the other. Even though they are separated we can see the love that they still have for each other. This book made me wish for an actual heartfelt letter in my mailbox rather than my usual mail.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"The Search for God and Guinness:A Biography of the Beer the Changed the World" by Stephen Mansfield

The Search for God and Guinness Stephen Mansfield gives the background history of how beer came into being and how it came to be brewed along with it’s importance to cultivating established civilizations. He also traces the Guinness family for over 200 years from the first Guinness to begin the brewery to the last one who stepped aside to allow the company to become a more public entity. Within the family he traces those who stayed with the family business, those who went into banking and those who entered ministry. Along with the history of the family he also covers what else was happening in Ireland and the rest of the world during those times.

I enjoyed learning more about how beer was discovered, experimented with and brewed and how it may have helped encourage people to settle down into cities so they could stay in one place to cultivate crops. I learned a lot about Ireland, beer and the Guinness family (I didn’t realize the Guinness book of World Records was started by the Guinness family). I did however feel that there was more repetition than necessary in some of the sections and some sort of family tree would have been helpful since so many of the same family names were reused generation after generation.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Plain truth" by Jodi Picoult


Katie, an 18 year old Amish girl is accused of killing her infant from a pregnancy she kept hidden from her family and friends. Ellie a Philadelphia lawyer who is related through marriage to Katie agrees to represent her in court and to live with her for the duration of time until the court date to supervise her in lieu of the girl spending time in a jail. (Because of the accusation Katie has been shunned by her family and to stay out of jail on bail she needs to be under house arrest.)During their time together both women learn a lot about themselves and where their lives are going.


I enjoyed getting a better look at Amish culture and gaining a better understanding of the beliefs and customs that are held within the Amish community. The first page or two had me wondering if I even wanted to read the book, but it was so worthwhile to explore. Katie insists repeatedly that she has not had a baby even though a dead infant is found in the barn of her family's farm and upon examination by a doctor she shows all the signs of having recently delivered a baby. As her reasoning is revealed and her faith in God is shown you start to understand her more and wonder what really happened to the baby. I don't want to give any spoilers but by the end of the novel those questions are answered. As with other Picoult novels I've read, I don't always care for how the mother of the main character is portrayed and how she acts. I enjoyed this book and really enjoyed the growth Ellie shows. She is 39 and has put off having a child or getting married, but as part of this case she reconnects with an old boyfriend and through being separated by living within the Amish community she actually is able to find herself. It made me wonder how much quicker we all might make strides in our own lives if we were not so connected and distracted by technology and television and cell phones. Sometimes simpler might be better and simpler does not always mean lacking in layers and complexity.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove Cookbook"


This cookbook is a companion to the Cedar Cove Series. Charlotte Jefferson Rhodes, Olivia's mother, is the one leading the reader through the book. It is divided into ten sections by breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizers, dessert, and then holidays. Each of those sections is hosted by a different character whose address has been one of the books in the series. Her introduction of the section introduces the characters at that home and says why that meal or holiday is special to them. Through out her series food is mentioned a lot so when the book was created the developers tried to use the menu item mentioned in the novels as favorites.


I have a shopping list ready and about 10 recipes I want to try. I rarely buy cookbooks, this is only my second one for this year, but this one is beautifully put together and I love how it ties into the characters from the series. It makes them seem even more like old friends! I think this would make an excellent Christmas or other holiday present for someone who likes to read and cook. Maybe with a few books from the series thrown in for a new reader. I'll have to comment once I try a few recipes about how they turned out.

Monday, October 5, 2009

"The Traveler" by Daren Simkin


This is a fable about a boy named Charlie who decides to pack up all of his time in a suitcase until he can find what he really wants to spend it on. He travels all over the globe looking for what he wants to spend his time on until he finally decides to go home. When he opens up his suitcase he finds out that he only has about a month of time left, he spent the rest of it searching for the perfect place to be while all his friends spent their time having fun, working at jobs and being happy.


I can see a lot of truth in this fable which is also illustrated by the brother of the author. So often instead of focusing on what is good about today we tend to look towards the future for something better. It is really a lesson on living in the moment and enjoying the here and now rather than waiting for everything to be perfect. You need to find the perfect in what you have and be happy, not to say you can't work towards making the parts of your life you dislike or are unhappy about better but if that is all you focus on ultimately you will never be happy. Smile more and find joy. Always a good idea!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

"Vision in White" by Nora Roberts

Vision in White by Nora Roberts
Book One in the Bride Quartet



Mackensie Elliot and her three best friends formed a wedding planning business together named Vows. As children they used to play Wedding Day and stage weddings in Parker's backyard where they took turns playing bride, groom, minister, maid or honor and more. Years later as a team they have turned Parker's family home into both their home and their business. Mackensie's parents divorces when she was four and have both had more than one marriage since then. Her father is mostly absent in her life and her mother is very selfish and self-involved. Although she works as a wedding photographer, Mac does not believe that love and happily ever after is in the works for her until she is reintroduced to Carter Maguire a high school English teacher.


I love how Nora Roberts is able to create dream jobs for her characters that make me wish I could try. When I read the In the Garden Trilogy I wanted to have a greenhouse and nursery even though I am terrible with plants, while this first book in the Bride Quartet made me think how fun it would be to plan a wedding even though my own wedding was in a chapel in Las Vegas. Maybe part of the yearning was because I never had a wedding dress, reception or any of the other bells and whistles that go with a formal ceremony. I really liked Mackensie and Carter, they were both very likable. I can't wait to see what Roberts has planned for the other three friends. The next installment in the series is set to be published in December of this year.

Prior to this year I had not really read much by Nora Roberts, but I have enjoyed the books I've selected to read so far this year. I loved the Circle Trilogy and the Sign of Seven Trilogy. I enjoyed the Key Trilogy and In the Garden Trilogy as well. One complaint I have is that some of her characters are starting to seem similar. Some of the mannerisms and even speech patterns feel like they are repeating, this could be because I read too many of her books in the past year. Had I spread them out more I might not have noticed it so much. That said, the book was enjoyable, the story felt authentic and believable and I would recommend it to other readers.