Thursday, December 31, 2015

Review: Smuggler's Lady by Jane Feather

Synopsis: Her auburn hair tucked into a severe chignon, dressed in a shabby brown bombazine, Merrie Trelawney was the picture of dowdy widowhood and sober respectability. No one would guess that those demurely lowered eyelids hid a sparkle of pure adventure. Or that the white hands so modestly folded in her lap could handle a sword as well as any man. Certainly, no one would suspect her of being the notorious leader of a smugglers' band who called themselves, "The Gentlemen"... Lord Rutherford, who had just inherited some property in this godforsaken corner of Cornwall, looked upon the local gentry with distaste. The men were pompous and stuffy; the women - that Merrie Trelawney, for example - were utterly insipid. How that auburn-haired church mouse had managed to best him in their verbal sparring, was completely beyond him. But if she thought that he was finished with her, she was sadly mistaken. Something about her struck a false note. And though he was not in the habit of seducing country widows, it might make an interesting change at that.... (from the back of the book)

Review: Lord, this was awful. The premise sounded fun, but it was so disappointing.  The Heroine, Merrie, was suppose to be this intelligent and daring adventurer pretending to be a dower widow - and yet, she ditched the facade willy-nilly, making it seems like a contravenes of the author and not a part of her character. The Hero, Rutherford, was ridiculous. First, making him the heir to a Dukedom was over-kill. Dukes (or their Heirs) aren't in the habit of running off to Cornwall - they have flunkies and lackeys for that sort of thing. And they don't go to war, either. It was utter nonsense to think his parents would risk losing their only heir by sending him off to fight for King and Country.
As for their interaction, it was stupid. He was all “I love her” after about five minutes and she was all “he’s so hot”. Given that they started banging about one week after they met, I’m thinking it wasn’t love, but lust.  The conflict between them, particularly at the end, was over-done, drawn-out, and annoying. It made no sense. Her objections to the marriage seemed contrived - and ludicrous to think someone wouldn't find out about her lack of wealth and position eventually.  She was suppose to be this headstrong woman with a mind of her own, but she came off as snobbish, ornery, contrary, and weak because the Hero could talk her into anything just by kissing her. Lame.  He came off as naïve and a bully.  As for the secondary characters, they were flat, annoying, and felt like set-pieces as a high school play instead of real people. In particular, the heroine’s brothers felt like puppets, only there to bring the couple together, to be discarded once their job was done. In the end, I was barely able to finish this and only managed it because I skipped through as much nonsense as I could. Don't waste your time on this twaddle.

Bookmarks: 5 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8217-5401-7
Date Finished: 12-28-2015
Pages: 460

Review: A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan C. Bradley (A Flavia de Luce Novel, Book 3)

Synopsis: In the hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey, the insidiously clever and unflappable eleven-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce had asked a Gypsy woman to tell her fortune—never expecting to later stumble across the poor soul, bludgeoned almost to death in the wee hours in her own caravan. Was this an act of retribution by those convinced that the soothsayer abducted a local child years ago? Certainly Flavia understands the bliss of settling scores; revenge is a delightful pastime when one has two odious older sisters. But how could this crime be connected to the missing baby? As the red herrings pile up, Flavia must sort through clues fishy and foul to untangle dark deeds and dangerous secrets. (from the back of the book)

Review: Once again, I "read" this by listening to the unabridged audiobook, performed by the talented Jane Entwhistle. As with the previous two, it was marvelous. Bradley's story combined with Entwhistle's voice acting make this story alive, sparking, intriguing, and delightful. Miss Flavia once again finds herself in the midst of murder (her favorite) and, much to the outward annoyance and inward amusement of the local constabulary, sets out to solve the mystery herself. To avoid spoiling the story, I won't go into the details, but I will say the mystery wasn't as tight as the previous two, and had some rather odd bits and far-fetched answers. But to be honest, I don't read it for the mystery - at least, not the murders. I read it because Flavia is just my sort of person, because Bradley's other characters have depth, charm, and intrigue enough, and because watching Flavia grow is fascinating. I'm eager to see how the young miss gets on in the next adventure!

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-385-34346-6
Date Finished: 12-28-2015
Pages: 415
Audio Hours: 10 hours and 47 Mintues
Read by: Jane Entwhistle

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Review: Answers for Atheists, Agnostics, and Other Thoughtful Skeptics: Dialogs About Christian Faith and Life by E. Calvin Beisner

Synopsis: Christians and non-Christians struggle with vital questions about God and themselves. Honest questions deserve honest answers. And in an age when people often have little acquaintance with Christianity, the answers must be especially clear and understandable--no religious jargon, just straightforward truth. In this unusual book, frank dialogs between a non-Christian and his Christian friend move intriguingly from topic to topic, covering such pertinent questions as: Is there a God? How do we know? So, why does evil exist? Why should modern man believe in the Bible rather than evolution or in miracles rather than scientific law? What are the evidences for Christianity? If Christianity is true, why has so much evil been done in its name? Can God really forgive me for what I've done? Answers for Atheists presupposes no prior understanding of Christian vocabulary or beliefs but concisely explains each new term or teaching as it comes into the dialog. Invaluable both for the unbeliever looking for answers and for the believer who wants to learn how to better answer friends' questions--and his own. (from the back of the book)

Review: Written as a conversation between two characters (Jim, a Christian, and Dave, a Non-Christian), this is intended to help Christians learn how to intelligently, compassionately, and logically answer questions about the facts of Christianity - the reasonableness and validity of the Bible, Evolution vs. Creation, and why Faith makes sense. This is a lofty and noble goal. However, while it contains large quantity of information, the conservation format comes off cheesy and unrealistic. It's sort of like rehearsing a conversation in your head - it never goes as planned in real life. Real people don't respond the way Dave did - with mutual respect and inquiry. Mostly, people believe what they want and aren't open to logic. Add to that elementary arguments with glaring holes and you have an unhelpful book for study - although most of those holes have been adequately explained in more modern Apologetic books (see Lee Stroble's Case for Christ). The list of books in the back is a helpful place to find resources for further study, but again, in the 20+ years since this was published, academics has moved on and much of those are either out-of-date or out-of-touch or don't address current controversies. I will note that this book was written in 1985 (with a 1993 revised edition) and was written for missionaries in the former Soviet Union. I gather it was useful for that purpose but for those of us in America during the 2010s, not so much. Not a bad source if it's all you can get, but with many other, much better, books on Apologetics out there, this one is not worth the time.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-89107-700-6
Date Finished: 12-22-2015
Pages: 191

Aquisitions: Loot from a First Time Visit to Used Book Store

We recently returned from a trip to Florida, to visit my Dad. Every time I've been down there, in the last few years, I've attempted to visit a used book shop I found near his house. But as it was always closed when I could go, I was constantly thwarted.

Until this time.

Black Sheep Books in Jacksonville, Florida was marvelous! I found far more books than I intended, and many more I was forced (by my dear Husband) to leave behind.

Here is what I purchased:

Battletech Books: I collect them, having played and greatly enjoyed the table-top game. They are rare in used shops, so you can imagine my happy dance to find this stack sitting in  pretty little row on the shelf. For the record, there are sixteen!

The Red Pyramid: The first book in the Eygptian Mythology series by Rick Riordain. Now, I just need to find the next two, in paperback and I'm set.

E.E. "Doc" Smith: Smith is an older author, from the 50s - 70s, and I greatly enjoy his science fiction works. He is another difficult author to find - people who own him tend to keep him - so I did a little jig when I saw these and snapped them up!

Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: I have most of the original 56 Nancy Drew - but not this one. And although this is from the second printing (where they condensed the stories slightly) I bought it anyway. And I found several Hardy Boys that I was missing, so now I have first 9, as well as a dozen or so more.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Review: The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin

Synopsis: It is a time of celebration in the Pingkang Li, where imperial scholars and bureaucrats mingle with beautiful courtesans. At the center is the Lotus Palace, home of the most exquisite courtesans in China... Maidservant Yue-ying is not one of those beauties. Street-smart and practical, she's content to live in the shadow of her infamous mistress-until she meets the aristocratic playboy Bai Huang. Bai Huang lives in a privileged world Yue-ying can barely imagine, yet alone share, but as they are thrown together in an attempt to solve a deadly mystery, they both start to dream of a different life. Yet Bai Huang's position means that all she could ever be to him is his concubine-will she sacrifice her pride to follow her heart? (from the back of the book)

Review: I picked this book up solely because it was not based on a ranch, in Regency England, or somewhere in the Scottish Highlands. No, it's based in the Tang Dynasty, around 850 A.D. Lin does a fine job of creating real characters and setting them in a rich world. I wish she had given more details about life during this time, as it would have added more to the story. Aside from that, my only complaint is how neatly the love story over came what felt like a larger obstacle. But Lin's way of handling that included a mild gender comment and didn't detracts from the overall story. Worth reading this one, and I plan to read any others of her's I can get.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-373-77773-0
Date Finished: 12-19-2015
Pages: 378

Monday, December 28, 2015

Review: Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton

Synopsis: In the summer of 2010, photographer Brandon Stanton began an ambitious project —to single-handedly create a photographic census of New York City. The photos he took and the accompanying interviews became the blog Humans of New York. In the first three years, his audience steadily grew from a few hundred to over one million. In 2013, his book Humans of New York, based on that blog, was published and immediately catapulted to the top of the NY Times Bestseller List. It has appeared on that list for over twenty-five weeks to date. The appeal of HONY has been so great that in the course of the next year Brandon's following increased tenfold to, now, over 12 million followers on Facebook. In the summer of 2014, the UN chose him to travel around the world on a goodwill mission that had followers meeting people from Iraq to the Ukraine to Mexico City via the photos he took. Now, Brandon is back with the follow up to Humans of New York that his loyal followers have been waiting for: Humans of New York: Stories. Ever since Brandon began interviewing people on the streets of NY, the dialogue he's had with them has increasingly become as in-depth, intriguing and moving as the photos themselves. Humans of New York: Stories presents a whole new group of humans, complete with stories that delve deeper and surprise with greater candor. Let Brandon Stanton and the people he's photographed astonish you. (from the online description)

Review: After reading the instagram account of HONY and finding it funny, moving, heart-rending, and educational, when I saw this book on sale for $10, I might have strained something trying to buy it so quickly. Worth every cent twice over. Stanton has an eye for capturing the inside of people through his photos, and for eliciting emotions from them that connect us all. You see people every day and they blend together, but to Stanton, each person is a Cosmos. I see people differently after reading this book. Each human has a life and story as rich as my own, and Stanton reminds us all of that fact - and hopefully, knowing that pushes us all to be kinder to those around us.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4
Date Finished: 12-15-2015
Pages: 428

Friday, December 18, 2015

Review: Corrie's Christmas Memories by Corrie Ten Boom

Synopsis: A collection of Christmas prose written or told by Corrie Ten Boom. This includes the scriptures of the Christmas story,  a Christmas parable, and a Christmas message by Corrie's Father, Casper Ten Boom.

Review: Ten Boom's The Hiding Place remains a most favorite book, so of course, I picked up this volume when I found it at a thrift store. It was sadly disappointing. While Casper Ten Boom's message was excellent, the remaining items (scriptures exempt) this felt cheesy and trite, and more of a way to cash in on Miss Ten Boom's name. But of course, any money Miss Ten Boom made went directly back to helping people. I doubt same could be said for the publisher.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8007-0822-9
Date Finished: 12-12-2015
Pages: 64

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Review: The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (Re-read)

Synopsis: "If you care for journeys there and back, out of the comfortable Western world, over the edge of the Wild, and home again, and can take an interest in a humble hero (blessed with a little wisdom and a little courage and considerable good luck), here is a record of such a journey and such a traveler. The period is the ancient time between the age of Faerie and the dominion of men, when the famous forest of Mirkwood was still standing, and the mountains were full of danger. In following the path of this humble adventurer, you will learn by the way (as he did) -- if you do not already know all about these things -- much about trolls, goblins, dwarves, and elves, and get some glimpses into the history and politics of a neglected but important period. For Mr. Bilbo Baggins visited various notable persons; conversed with the dragon, Smaug the Magnificent; and was present, rather unwillingly, at the Battle of the Five Armies. This is all the more remarkable, since he was a hobbit. Hobbits have hitherto been passed over in history and legend, perhaps because they as a rule preferred comfort to excitement. But this account, based on his personal memoirs, of the one exciting year in the otherwise quiet life of Mr. Baggins will give you a fair idea of the estimable people now (it is said) becoming rather rare. They do not like noise." (from J.R.R. Tolkien's own description for the original edition, quoted by the online description)

Review: I read this book nearly 20 years ago. Recently, a friend sent me loads of audio book files, including The Hobbit. Desperate for something engaging to listen to at work, I turned this on. It was even more delightful that I remember. Hearing it helped me delve into the world - I could almost see the beauty of Rivendell, the darkness of Mirkwood, the heat of Smaug. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the movies followed the book more or less faithfully, aside from adding a love story and expanding events only mentioned in the book (such as the Battle of Dol Guldur). I won't extol the merits of this book any longer, as it's virtues are well known and generally agreed upon, but its worth reading and worth hearing if you happen to find an audio copy.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 345-23512-6-125
Date Finished: 12-11-2015
Pages: 287

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Review: Not Good If Detached by Corrie Ten Boom

Synopsis: In Not Good If Detached, Corrie reveals that the secret of "abiding in Christ" is discovered in the difficulties of life, in total dependence on him, and in a consistent daily walk. This collection of thirty devotionals imparts insight from the people Corrie met around the world as well as important lessons she learned from the Lord. "Without Him, I am nothing," wrote Corrie. "Like some railway tickets in America, I am not good if detached."This book was originally published by Christian Literature Crusade in 1957 (from the online description)

Review:  Ten Boom writes in a strange, wobbly style. If I hadn't read her The Hiding Place, I might not have picked this up. It's language and style are dated, and it's a bit cheesy. And yet, she speaks truth. Her humility and love for God shine from the prose. One can't help but feel convicted by her words. She holds nothing back from God, giving all - her life, time, energy, money - all goes to doing the will of God. Most of us don't come close to her love and devotion to Jesus. Worth reading.

Bookmarks:  7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Published: 1957
Date Finished: 12-8-15
Pages: 127

Monday, December 14, 2015

Review: The Rule of St. Benedict in English (1980) ed. by Timothy Fry, O.S.B.

Synopsis: The English translation of St. Benedicts's Rule of Orders, written in Latin approx. between 529-547 A.D.

Review: This is a tight, sharp, clean little work. Benedict is clear and precise, with limited words. His rules seem a bit strict to my modern mind (not a fan of the idea of beating children) but I understand that during the time, this was acceptable and even laudable. My inherent mistrust of humans causes me to ask whether Benedict's rule would work - there is much room for the miss-use of power. The answer, of course, is that each monk should be so devoted to Christ that he exudes the humility and kindness of the Lord. But humans are notoriously prone to self-interest and to the use of religious belief and the name of God to further their own agenda.
That aside, this was a worthwhile read. To understand how the Benedictine monks lived, and to perhaps find wisdom for living ones own life. One doesn't need to be a monk to require advice on how to deal with other humans in a manner pleasing to God. This book offers excellent assistance in that area: worth reading and worth buying.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-8146-1272-9
Date Finished: 12-6-2015
Pages: 96

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Review: Hana-Kimi (For You in Full Blossom) by Hisaya Nakajo (Volumes 2-5)

Synopsis: Mizuki remains mostly undiscovered as girl. She struggles during many adventures, including a near-rape. Sano grows closer to her, discovering she is a girl, but doesn't tell her. With exams, school competitions, summer jobs, and crazy friends, Misuki's life is never boring!

Review: The story gets better as it goes along. It was a bit slow in the first volume, but be the end of the second, the story picked up pace. I enjoyed the addition of more female characters as an interesting contrast to Mizuki. I also enjoy Nakatsu, and his confusion at being attrached to a "boy", not knowing Mizuki is really a girl. The story of the summer job turned out to be more serious than I originally expected - Sano coming to Mizuki's rescue when she was nearly raped added a bit of depth to the story, depth that makes the story better. I'm eager to get my hands on the next volumes.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1421542256
Date Finished: 12-4-2015
Pages: 500+

Monday, December 7, 2015

Review: The Westminster Historical Atlas to the Bible (Revised Edition) ed. by George Ernest Wright and Floyd Vivian Filson

Synopsis: An Atlas of the Bible, including pictures, diagrams, maps, and extensive writing about the history of the land, people, and the archeological discoveries.

Review: This is a thin, large volume, written in 1956 as an updated edition of the first one published in 1946. This is dense. Riff with technology jargon and complex vocabulary, this is intended for scholars and academics, not your average lay person. That being said, it's an excellent resource for those wishing to learn in depth about that archeology facts behind the bible. I would, of course, recommend getting a more update one. There have been many advanced in the last 70+ years. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Published: 1956
Date Finished: 11-25-2015
Pages: 130

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Review: The World's Finest Foods: 180 Classic Recipe from Around the World by Ann Creber and Elisabeth King

Synopsis: A cookbook with recipes from around the world.

Review: This book is part coffee table book, part world tour, and part cookbook. Heavy and large, with gorgeous color photos, it's a feast for the eyes. Each country is introduced with a two-page spread that talks about the influences on the food, the history of the cuisine and what the most popular dining customs are for the county. Including recipes from China, France, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Russia, Spain, Thailand, and the United States, it's like a mini world tour! The recipes I'm most looking forward to trying are Djej M'Qualli (Chicken with Green Olives and Preserved Lemons) from Morocco, Enchiladas de Pollo from Mexico, Yam Kai Dow (Crispy Fried Egg Salad) from Thailand, Carne con Olivas (Beef with Olives) from Spain, Soupa Avgolemono (Egg and Lemon Soup) from Greece, Shashlyk i Plov s Gribami (Shewered Lamb with Mushroom and Rice Pilaf) and Beef Stroganov from Russia, Hun Tun Tang (Wonton Soup), Ningmeng Ji (Lemon Chicken), Cha Shao He Chao Fan (Cantonese Roast Pork Strips and Fried Rice) and Xia Qiu (Crystal Shrimp) from China. I'm hungry just typing all that out! Each recipe includes a list of ingredients, directions, pictures, and a short explanation of where the dish is from and its history. Any ingredients that are essential to the county (i.e. olives or dates or soy sauce) have a small information box talking about the ingredient, like how it is made and it is history. Each recipe also includes "Wine Notes" about the best wine to serve with the dish. I'm excited to get started cooking and bring a little taste of the world to my kitchen.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-55670-374-0
Date Finished: 11-25-2015
Pages: 304

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Review: Toujours Provence by Peter Mayle

Synopsis: Taking up where his beloved A Year in Provence leaves off, Peter Mayle offers us another funny, beautifully (and deliciously) evocative book about life in Provence. With tales only one who lives there could know—of finding gold coins while digging in the garden, of indulging in sumptuous feasts at truck stops—and with characters introduced with great affection and wit—the gendarme fallen from grace, the summer visitors ever trying the patience of even the most genial Provençaux, the straightforward dog "Boy"—Toujours Provence is a heart-warming portrait of a place where, if you can't quite "get away from it all," you can surely have a very good time trying. (from the online description)

Review: Hilarious as the first, this second collection of Mayle’s adventures take us through life in the south of France. From his descriptions of local customs and food (oh, the food made me so hungry) to the stories about truffle hunting and dog shows. His vivid descriptions made me long to visit Provence! I’m eager to read his next book.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-679-73604-2
Date Finished: 11-22-2015
Pages: 241

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review: Hana-Kimi, Volume I by Hisaya Nakajo

Synopsis: Mizuki Ashiya, a Japanese girl living in the United States, watches a program on TV featuring a high jumper named Izumi Sano. She was amazed by his performance and begins following his athletic career. Years later, she does research on him and discovers that he is currently attending Osaka High School. The school is unfortunately an all-boys school and Mizuki convinces her parents to send her to Japan by herself. Oblivious to the fact that their daughter is going to attend a boys school, her parents let her go. To enter the school, she cuts off her long hair, disguises herself as a male, and tries her best to give hope to Sano after hearing that he no longer does the high jump anymore. As she settles in, an accident reveals her identity to Hokuto Umeda, the school doctor, and Izumi Sano. Izumi hides his knowledge of Mizuki's gender and tries to help her keep her secret, though it sure is not easy as many situations land Mizuki in compromising positions that will reveal her true gender. (from the Wikipedia Plot Description)

Review: This is a Manga, my first attempt at reading it, actually. This story was recommended to me by a friend, after I expressed how much I enjoyed the anime Ouran High School Host Club (also a recommendation of hers). Hana-Kimi has a similar premise. It took me a while to get the hang of reading from right to left. I got lost a few times. The story was engaging, but not like Ouran. The same friend told me about a Korean Drama based on the story, and I checked it out. It was hilarious and so cheesy. I might read more of these, but I prefer Ouran. I'm going to check out more Manga, of course, as I enjoyed the reading experience.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-59116-329-9
Date Finished: 11-22-2015
Pages: 178

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review: Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris

Synopsis: Kathleen Norris had written several much loved books, yet she couldn't drag herself out of bed in the morning, couldn't summon the energy for her daily tasks. Even as she struggled, Norris recognized her familiar battle with acedia, a word she had discovered in early Church text years earlier. Fascinated by this "noonday demon", so familiar to those in the early and medieval Church, Norris knew she must restore this forgotten but important concept to the modern world's vernacular. An examination of acedia in the light of psychology, spirituality, the healing powers of religious practice, and Norris's own experience, Acedia & Me is both intimate and historically sweeping, brimming with exasperation and reverence, sometimes funny, often provocative, and always insightful. (from the online description)

Review: I understood this book to be about depression and marriage and God. It was so much more. Acedia is not depression; it is much more insidious. Norris once again wields her words with amazing dexterity. I might write ad nauseum about how much I adored this book and home much is helped my understanding of my own struggles. Instead, I offer a selection of my favorite quotes from the book.

"At its Greek root, the word acedia means the absence of care. The person afflicted by acedia refuses to care or is incapable of doing so. When life becomes too challenging and engagement with others too demanding, acedia offers a kind of spiritual morphine; you know the pain is there, yet can't rouse yourself to give a damn." (page 3)

"Whatever age we live in our perspective is always much more limited than we believe, and even as we progress in our understanding, blind spots remain that astonish and appall those who come after us." (page 35)

"“The very nature of marriage means saying yes before you know what it will cost. Though you may say the “I do” of the wedding ritual in all sincerity, it is the testing of that vow over time that makes you married.” (page ?)

"Because we are made in God's image, in fleeing from a relationship with a loving God, we are also running from being our most authentic selves.” (page ?)

"To quote Merton, "It takes real courage to recognize that we ourselves are the cause of our own unhappiness.” (page ?)

"To people schooled in a religon that has often seemed to define sin as a grocery list of dos and don'ts, these monks can seem, as Dominican Simon Tugwell explains in Ways of Imperfection "rather casual about morality". They were not concerned, he writes, "that people should behave correctly according to the rules, but rather that people should be able to see their situation clearly for what it is, and so become free from the distorting perspective which underlies all our sins" (page 135)

"When I saw the film I was reminded of the helpful distinction that Thomas Merton makes regarding Cassian's differentiation between acedia and sadness. Merton comments that the "sadness caused by adversity and trial in social life" generally comes from "a lack of peace with others" But acedia is far more insidious; it is "the sadness, the disgust of life, which comes fro a much deeper source - our inability to get along with ourselves, our disunion with God." (page 148)

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-59448-996-9
Date Finished: 11-15-2015
Pages: 334

Monday, November 16, 2015

Review: A Quaker Book of Wisdom by Robert Lawrence Smith

Synopsis: "The most valuable aspect of religion," writes Robert Lawrence Smith, "is that it provides us with a framework for living. I have always felt that the beauty and power of Quakerism is that it exhorts us to live more simply, more truthfully, more charitably." Taking his inspiration from the teaching of the first Quaker, George Fox, and from his own nine generations of Quaker forebears, Smith speaks to all of us who are seeking a way to make our lives simpler, more meaningful, and more useful. Beginning with the Quaker belief that "There is that of God in every person," Smith explores the ways in which we can harness the inner light of God that dwells in each of us to guide the personal choices and challenges we face every day. How to live and speak truthfully. How to listen for, trust, and act on our conscience. How to make our work an expression of the best that is in us. Using vivid examples from his own life, Smith writes eloquently of Quaker Meeting, his decision to fight in World War II, and later to oppose the Vietnam War. From his work as an educator and headmaster to his role as a husband and father, Smith quietly convinces that the lofty ideals of Quakerism offer all of us practical tools for leading a more meaningful life. His book culminates with a moving letter to his grandchildren which imparts ten lessons for "letting your life speak." (from the inside of the cover)

Review: This is a pleasing and inspiring book. With simple, home style prose, Robert Lawrence Smith speaks about his faith and family. He doesn't get too deep into Quaker theology, but uses lessons and examples from his own life to illustrate the core tenants of Quaker beliefs. Having little knowledge of their beliefs, I found this an excellent overview and starting point. I'm eager to learn more about the Quakers, and although I don't think I agree with all their theology, I admire them for the dedication they have to their beliefs - in particular, to education and service to the poor and hurting.  I recommend this book as a fine place to start learning about Quakers. It isn't academic or scholarly, and would be a lovely gift for someone looking for inspiration.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-688-15653-3
Date Finished: 11-8-15
Pages: 192

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Review: The HIIT Advantage: High-Intensity Workouts for Women by Irene Lewis-McCormick

Synopsis: Achieve maximal results in minimal time! The HIIT Advantage: High-Intensity Workouts for Women is the resource for the most research-based, organized, and systematic information available on high-intensity interval training. The HIIT Advantage keys in on specific exercises, combinations, and progressions that will incinerate fat, shape and strengthen the upper and lower body, and assist with core strength for excellent posture and enhanced exercises performance—all written with a woman’s ultimate physique in mind. HIIT protocols pair quick bouts of super-high-intensity anaerobic intervals with shorter, low-effort rest intervals. The HIIT Advantage is the authoritative guide on high-intensity training. Comprehensive yet accessible, it describes how and why HIIT is one of the most effective ways to burn fat and improve performance. You’ll find step-by-step instructions, photo sequences, variations, and recommendations for 74 exercises to define muscles, reduce injury, and increase weight loss. You will learn the proper setup of a HIIT workout, the rationale, and the ratios for rest and recovery. Best of all, you’ll choose from 19 complete workouts consisting of a combination of 20-, 30-, and 45-minute sessions. Finally, you’ll receive exclusive access to the HIIT Advantage video library, including demonstrations of 24 key exercises, as well as an original 30-minute workout. If you’re serious about your workouts, get the advantage of burning more fat, shaping your physique, and improving performance. Get The HIIT Advantage and get results! (from the back of the book)

Review: This is the 4th or 5th exercise book I've read in the last few years. HIIT (or Tabata) is a new-fangled form of exercise that appeals to me - mostly because it doesn't take much time. I was hoping this would be a good starting point for learning about HIIT. Sadly, the book wasn't quite what I was hoping. Lewis-McCormick started off strong. Part I is a densely-packed section full of information about the chemical, anatomical, biological, and kinetic theory behind HIIT. It's techical, particular for your average reader i.e. someone without a science background, but it's not inaccessible. With strong arguments, lots of information, and clear prose, I found this helpful for me to understand why HIIT is so beneficial. Part II is where things began to slide. This is all the HIIT Exercises. It's arranged well, starting with Lower-Body and moving to Upper, then Core, and the book lays open nicely, so you can have it open while you do the workouts. But the exercises. It seemed she tried to stretch how many she added by making up new ones that really should just have been variations on one type. For example, there are 5 types of push-ups listed, each given it's own page and instructions. But at least 3 have no discernible difference, or the difference is so slight it doesn't warrant its own page. Instead, she should have list push-up as one, and then under it, listed instructions for variations so it was crystal clear what you could change to make the exercise different. And while the pictures are helpful, the written explanations are confusing and generic, and in paragraph form, when they should be in list format. But the most frustrating thing about the book was Part III. This is where she gives you pre-made workouts. The issue is, the explanations are awful. She seems to use "Max Intervals" and "Hard, Harder, Hardest" interchangeable, and yet, clearly states they are different. There is lots written about the ratio of times (2:1 or 3:1 etc.) but doesn't actually apply them in a clear format to the pre-made workouts.
In the end, I was hoping this would be similar to Delavier's fitness books and it wasn't. A veteran HIIT practitioner will find it too basic for their needs and a beginner will find it too confusing. Lewis-McCormick has a strong beginning and it's clear she is intelligent and passionate. But the book needs work before it's usable.

Note: I received this book as part of LibraryThing Early Review's Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4925-0306-4
Date Finished: 11-7-2015
Pages: 183

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Review: The Awful Rowing Toward God by Anne Sexton

Synopsis: Published shortly after her death, the last poems Sexton proofed, this is a collection about her journey to God ad the thoughts and emotion she felt.

Review: In even a brief encounter with famous feminist writers, Anne Sexton's name is always one to pop up. Lumped into the same list as Virginia Wolf and Sylvia Plath, she is considered a genius and someone to laud. I don't. I didn't enjoy these poems at all. Angsty and needlessly neurotic, they hold no clear theme or idea other than her own self-centeredness. True, she struggled with depression and mental illness in a time when mental illness was not understood or socially spoken about. True, she was a writer during a time when all writers were suppose to be emo and existential. But her work doesn't seem to hold meaning. It's just a jumble of disconnected words, as if she intentionally trying to be deep. But trying to be deep is different than being deep. I did think it interesting how she referenced Søren Kierkegaard more than once. An intriguing choice. Granted, he was heavily influential in philosophy, psychology, and religious - all of which Sexton had personal experience with - but it is still choice I wish to understand more. But unless she left some other written words about it, I doubt I will ever understand her thinking. Particular because I find her words overly-dramatic and ego-centric. Clearly, Sexton is not my cup of tea – but I am not surprised by this in the least.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None for this book. She won a Pulitzer Prize for her 1967 Live or Die.

ISBN: 0-395-20366-X
Date Finished: 11-3-2015
Pages: 85

Friday, November 6, 2015

Review: The Action Heroine's Handbook by Jennifer Worick and Joe Borgenicht

Synopsis: Get Some Action! For every woman who wants to be as tough as Lara Croft, as nimble as the Bionic Woman, and as babe-a-licious as Charlie’s Angels, The Action Heroine’s Handbook shows you the essential skills you’ll need to conquer the bad guys and save the day without breaking a sweat. Find out how the real action heroines do it, directly from a host of experts, including stuntwomen, jujitsu instructors, helicopter pilots, detectives, forensic psychologists, survivalists, primatologists, and many others.
Learn to:
      •  Profile a serial killer
     •  Outwit a band of home intruders
     •  Navigate white water rapids
     •  Go undercover as a beauty queen
     •  Outrun a fireball
And dozens of other Tough Chick Skills, Beauty Skills, Brain Skills, Brawn Skills, and Escape Skills. Special sections and appendices feature the top action heroine hairdos, handbag essentials, and the best footwear for every action situation. With step-by-step instructions and easy-to-follow illustrations, The Action Heroine’s Handbook will prepare you to save the world, one baddie at a time. (from the back of the book)

Review: I have several books in this vein - stunt woman's workouts, handbooks on how to survive in the wild. Some are tongue-in-cheek, some are serious. This is the former. It does have some interesting and helpful advice (How to Out-Drink Someone) and some not-so-useful advice (How to Fend of the Undead). With multiple references to action movies and tons of humor, it's a fun and lighthearted read. Worth reading if you happen upon it cheap, but not worth paying full price for. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-931686-68-8
Date Finished: 11-2-2015
Pages: 191

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Review: Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter

Synopsis: Sophie Fevvers—the toast of Europe's capitals, courted by the Prince of Wales, painted by Toulouse-Lautrec—is an aerialiste extraordinaire, star of Colonel Kearney's circus. She is also part woman, part swan. Jack Walser, an American journalist, is on a quest to discover Fevvers's true identity: Is she part swan or all fake? Dazzled by his love for Fevvers, and desperate for the scoop of a lifetime, Walser joins the circus on its tour. The journey takes him—and the reader—on an intoxicating trip through turn-of-the-century London, St. Petersburg, and Siberia—a tour so magical that only Angela Carter could have created it.... (from the back of the book)

Review: I read this for my Halloween book. It understood it to creep and dark - and considering it about the Circus (which creep me out) - I thought it should be sufficient for a Halloween. I was disappointed. Sort of a bent fairy tale, it contained more magic realism, strange characters, and shocker-value narrative than creepy and dark. I didn't enjoy it. I agree the Fevvers and Walser are complex characters, well-written, and intriguing. But the secondary characters seem built only to shock the reader. They are a mish-mash of cliches and oddities, all the fantastic to be believable. And the magic - a bit is fine, but half the time, I had no idea what happened. It seemed often the magic was used to connect bits in the story instead of using plot. I didn't like that. And in the end, the biggest "hook" of the story - whether Fevvers actually has wings or not - is never answered. It fits with the the book - meaning the reader never really knows what is real and what is not  - sort of like a Circus, I guess - but it wasn't my sort of story. I prefer rational thought.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: 1984 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, 2012 Best of the James Tait Black, winner

ISBN: 0-14-007703-0
Date Finished: 10-31-2015
Pages: 295

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Review: The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Synopsis: Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds her closet harboring Della Lee Baker, a local waitress who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey’s narrow existence quickly expands. She even bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who is hounded by books that inexplicably appear when she needs them—and who has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush. Soon Josey is living in a world where the color red has startling powers, and passion can make eggs fry in their cartons. And that’s just for starters. (from the back of the book)

Review: This novel joins a rare collection of my fiction. Normally, when I picked up a fiction book, it's because someone recommended it, it's an author I already know or have heard about. This book, however, was one that "spoke" to me I picked it up, read the back, and knew it was a book I would adore. And it was. The characters intrigued me, and I was quickly twisted up into the story. The sugar-candy theme wove through out the story, and the magic - I loved it. The books appearing, the magic red sweater, the sweet romance, and the twist at the end - all made this book as satisfying as a warm cookie. Described as a Southern Gothic with a touch of Magic Realism, it truly lives up to those. A bit dark, a bit light, where secrets bind people together and keep them apparent, Allen writes a story worth reading.

Bookmark: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-553-38484-0
Date Finished: 10-27-2015
Pages: 284

Review: From Falling Bodies to Radio Waves: Classical Physicists and Their Discoveries by Emilio Segre

Synopsis: Meet a diverse group of highly original thinkers and learn about their lives and achievements: Galileo, a founding father of astronomy and physics; Christiaan Huygens, a seventeenth-century pioneer of wave-particle duality; and Isaac Newton, the English mathematician and physicist who laid the groundwork for a scientific revolution and promoted radical investigation as the means to reveal nature's hidden workings. This chronicle of physics and physicists traces the development of scientific thought from these originators to their successors, among them Faraday, Watts, Helmholtz, Maxwell, Boltzmann, and Gibbs. Combining his own engaging style with the physicists' original writings, the author illustrates the evolution of individual physical ideas, as well as their roles in the wider field. A student and colleague of Enrico Fermi, Emilio Segrè (1905–89) made numerous important contributions to nuclear physics, including his participation in the Manhattan Project. A Nobel laureate, Segrè is further renowned for his narrative skills as an historian. Hailed by the Journal of the History of Astronomy as "charming and witty," this book is a companion to the author's From X-Rays to Quarks: Modern Physicists and Their Discoveries, also available from Dover Publications. (from the online description)

Review: I'm currently in a Physics course and it's kicking my hiney. But my professor has a penchant for diverting from formulas to the history of Physics - which is quite interesting. He recommend this and the sequel, both of which I purchased for pennies. This was a well written book - as organized as the history of scientific discovery can be. Segre writes in clear, concise way. However, it's clearly written as a supplement to a math-based Physics course. Segre includes examples of formulas, derivations, and other conceptual ideas. At the end, he even includes the explanation of several of the largest discovers - Appendices like "The Essential of Boltzman's H-Theorem" and "The Arguments of the Newton of Electricity". These are math-heavy and pure Physics. This is a must for any Physics major, and an excellent supplement for a major in any science. Many of these giants contributed to chemistry, medicine, industry, and technology. For any one else, the abundance of math may be off-putting, But if you don't mind that, this is a worth while and interesting read. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-486-45808-3
Date Finished: 10-27-2015
Pages: 298

Friday, October 30, 2015

Ramble: Update on 2015 Reading Goals

When we last check on our intrepid heroine, we learned she hadn't gotten as far in her goals as she hope.

Alas, she's still there.

Evolution (5+): I’ve still only read one. I’m supposed to read Bates' The Darwin Reader next, and then a Richard Dawkins. But I can’t seem to motivate myself.  Probably because I’m taking a difficult Physics course, and my brain can only handle so much dense thinking at once. I doubt I will finish this one – but I hope to at least give one more.

Economics and Finance (2+): Done!

Memoir and Essay (2+): I decided on Toujours Provence by Peter Mayle. I just need to read it.

Mystery and Horror (3+): I originally planned to read all my scary stories this month. But it turned out to be a busier month than I foresaw. I still have two days, so maybe I can still get one in!

Science Fiction (10+): Done! 

Review: Jim at the Corner by Eleanor Farjeon

Synopsis: Every time he went out for his daily walk, Derry had to pass the corner where old Jim sat on his orange box. And every time he lingered there in the hope of a story. For Jim was a sailor who had grown too old for the sea, but who was never tired of his adventures on the good ship Rocking Horse under brave Captain Potts. (from the online description)

Review: Part folk-tale, part fairy-tale, part children's adventure, Farjeon evokes the mystical quality of old sailor telling the young boy that tales of his adventures. Derry eagerly seeks out the old Jim, and begs for his tales - tales full of rainbow-hued sea serpents, green Kittyfish, and intelligent penguins. First published in 1934, the story has a quaint, vintage feel. Younger kids will enjoy the tall tales, while adults will enjoy the peaceful rhythm of the prose. Worth reading.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0844665214
Date Finished: 10-26-2015
Pages: 101

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Review: Cross Roads and Cross Rivers: Diversity in Colonial New York by Kathleen Eagen Johnson (Philipsburg Manor Gallery)

Synopsis: This is the catalog from an exhibit at the Philipsburg Manor Gallery, part of the Historic Hudson Valley. It combines short narratives with pictures of art and artifacts from the exhibit. Specifically, this exhibit explored the diversity in Philipsburg in the 100 years before the Revolutionary War.

Review: I enjoy when museums and galleries published catalog books for exhibits. It gives the patron the ability to “take home” the exhibit – and to have the information long after the exhibit has been changed. However, if this exhibit was as jumbled as this book, the patrons probably left more confused than educated. This is sad. The information included is instructive and interesting. When they speak of diversity, they don’t mean only black or Native American – but they include anyone who settled in this area: Dutch, English, French, Scandinavian, Creole, and others. The pictures of art and artifacts included help liven up the narrative, and the case study of the Philips family helps add faces to the information. However the narrative is jumbled, disjointed, and awkward to follow. The poor organization detracts from what is otherwise a lovely exhibit catalog. 

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-912882-92-1
Date Finished: 10-25-2015
Pages: 38

Review: The Mysteries of the "Frenchman's Map" of Williamsburg, Virginia by Alan Simpson

Synopsis: When Rockefeller embarked on the restoration to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, the historians involved quickly hailed the Frenchman's Map as the "Bible of the Restoration". But the map, so valuable for the restoration, was shrouded in mystery. This book explors the Six Unsolved Puzzles of the map: When it was Made, Why it was Made, How it was Made, How it was Used, Who was the Author, and What was the Map's Fate. The book includes multiple illustrations and pictures, and includes many facts, names, and history of how these puzzles were or were not solved.

Review: I live close to Colonial Williamsburg and have an avid interest  in Revolutionary War history. This book was a fascinating addition to my knowledge. The Frenchman's Map is one of the best pieces of evidence of how Colonial Williamsburg was laid out during the War. It's precise, labeled, and detailed - and yet, so little is known about it. Even after extensive research, the only question answered was the date - 1782. The rest remain speculation as best. Simpson does an excellent job of moving the reader through the history of the map - including detailed facts about how the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation studied and explored this map. This is a slim volume, but has a lot of information - including colored pictures of many maps. The prose is complex enough for an adult, but would be manageable for a child if they were a strong reader. I recommend as a fine addition to anyone who enjoys Revolutionary War history.
The Frenchman's Map, 1782
Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-87935-104-7
Date Finished: 10-25-2015
Pages: 42

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review: How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman

Synopsis: An American Sailor courts a Japanese Schoolgirl, and each secretly tries to learn the way to other person eats.

Review: This is cute, sweet, story. John and Aiko love each other but are worried about embarrassing the other, because John doesn't know how to use chopsticks and Aiko doesn't know how to use a fork and knife. To see them attempt to learn to other person's ways is endearing and fun. I love the mix of culture and romance. Allen Say does an excellent job of illustrating the story - soft colors and lovely detail. I highly recommend this book for kids - with it's humor and good lesson, I think most kids will enjoy it.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-395-44235-4
Date Finished: 10-25-2015
Pages: 32

Reveiw: Danny Dunn and the Swamp Monster by Jay Williams and Raymond Abrashkin

Synopsis: Danny and his friends Irene and Joe join Professors Bullfinch and Fenster on a trip to Africa to search of a mythical creature said to devour men whole and terrorize villages. Will they find the creature or die trying.....

Review: I've read two other Danny Dunn books and enjoy the hoking plots and characters. It's like reading a Leave-It-Too-Beaver-Science mash-up. The science seems mostly solid, if a bit simplistic, the plot overall is simple and cheesy. I'll continue to collect and read these books - if for no other reason that I enjoy them!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Published: 1971
Date Finished: 10-18-2015
Pages: 110

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Review: The Animal Review: The Genius, Mediocrity, and Breathtaking Stupidity That Is Nature, A Report Card by Jacob Lentz and Steve Nash

Synopsis: From Aristotle to Charles Darwin, Carolus Linnaeus to the Crocodile Hunter, humans have been studying animals for thousands of years. Sure, we've learned some stuff. Snakes lack arms. Fish breathe water. Bears have complicated biochemical nervous systems. But in all this time, no one has answered the most important question of all: Are these animals any good? Here, at long last, are the authoritative listings and ratings of dozens of your favorite (and least favorite) animals. Expanding on their popular blog of the same name, Jacob Lentz and Steve Nash give you facts, charts, and photos with which to make your own judgement....and then they make it for you. Endlessly entertaining and surprisingly informative, The Animal Review is a perfect gift for animal lovers, comedy fans, or anyone who once bought you a gift and is probably expecting something nice in return. (From the back of the book)

Review: This was funny for the first few pages, and then the jokes got lame, repetitive, and stupid. For every funny joke, there was 10 that fell flat. The science is limited and sacrificed in an attempt to be humorous. There was a lot of pop culture, which dates the book. The authors included excellent color pictures but tagged each with asinine tags and comments. Overall, this book was boring and not for me.

Bookmarks: 5 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-60819-025-6
Date Finished: 10-17-2015
Pages: 133

Monday, October 26, 2015

Reveiw: Fatal Alliance by Sean Williams (Star Wars: The Old Republic)

Synopsis: From across the galaxy they’ve come: agents of both the Republic and the Sith Empire, an investigating Jedi Padawan, an ex-trooper drummed out of the Republic’s elite Blackstar Squad, and a mysterious Mandalorian. An extraordinary auction has drawn them all together—in quest of a prize only one can claim. Each is prepared to do what he must to possess the treasure, whose value may be the wealth of a world itself. None intend to leave empty-handed. All have secrets, desires, and schemes. And nothing could ever unite them as allies—except the truth about the deadly danger of the object they covet. But can Sith and Jedi, Republic and Empire—enemies for millennia—join as one against the certain doom of the galaxy? (from the back of the book)

Review: As an avid player of SW:TOR, I was eager to read a book set in the world. Story wise this was mediocre - not amazing, but not bad either. Good characters and action sequences, but the pace dragged at parts and the plot was mildly predictable. I enjoyed when I recognized the moves or characters or places from the game. Williams remained faithful to the feel and arch-types of the game - both the unique characters and the big-name characters, like Satele Shan. This is a fun read for any SWTOR fan, and any Star Wars fan in general.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-345-51133-1
Date Finished: 9-15-2015
Pages: 482

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Review: Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

Synopsis: A vacant lot, rat-infested and filled with garbage, looked like no place for a garden Especially to a neighborhood of strangers where no one seems to care. Until one day, a young girl clears a small space and digs into the hard-picked soil to plant her precious bean seeds. Suddenly, the soil holds promise: To Curtis, who believes he can win back Lateesha's heart with a harvest of tomatoes; to Virgil's dad, who sees a fortune to be made from growing lettuce; and even to Maricela, sixteen and pregnant, wishing she were dead. Thirteen very different voices - old, young, Haitian, Hispanic, tough, haunted, and hopeful tell one amazing story about a garden that transforms a neighborhood. (from the back of the book)

Review: Told through different voice, this story grows with the garden - told from the first young girl who digs in the hard dirt to plant bean seeds to the last voice, an old black woman, speaking about spring and hope, even as the garden dies. It's a power story, giving hope and warmth to the reader, just like the garden gave to the neighborhood. Published in 1997, it has a timeless quality to it. It could be from 1950 or today. This would be an excellent book for elementary age kids (indeed, the young girl is about that age) or teenagers and college kids, to spark discussion and thought about people and community and what brings people together - and what separates. This story explores race, gender, and culture - the things that divide and the things that bind. The prose is simple, but not dumbed-down, complex enough for adults but easy enough for kids. Absolutely worth reading!

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-06-447207-8
Date Finished: 10-17-2015
Pages: 69

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review: Speak a Word for Freedom: Women against Slavery by Janet Willen

Synopsis: From the early days of the antislavery movement, when political action by women was frowned upon, British and American women were tireless and uncompromising campaigners. Without their efforts, emancipation would have taken much longer. And the commitment of today's women, who fight against human trafficking and child slavery, descends directly from that of the early female activists. Speak a Word for Freedom: Women against Slavery tells the story of fourteen of these women. Meet Alice Seeley Harris, the British missionary whose graphic photographs of mutilated Congolese rubber slaves in 1904 galvanized a nation; Hadijatou Mani, the woman from Niger who successfully sued her own government in 2008 for failing to protect her from slavery, as well as Elizabeth Freeman, Elizabeth Heyrick, Ellen Craft, Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frances Anne Kemble, Kathleen Simon, Fredericka Martin, Timea Nagy, Micheline Slattery, Sheila Roseau and Nina Smith. With photographs, source notes, and index. (from the online description)

Review: I chose this because I enjoy reading vignette biographies and have begun to take an interest in current state of human slavery around the world. This is a good introduction into the history of the fight against slavery, told through the life and work of women who have taken up the fight. Starting with Elizabeth Freeman in 1781 and ending with Nina Smith in 2015, this book takes the reader from courtrooms to rallies to jungles to boxcars - across the world, telling the stories of the women in slavery, women who have escaped slavery, women who have seen slavery and chosen to not be silent, and women who have dedicated their life to eradicating it. The women chosen span nationality, socio-economic stratus, cultures, and backgrounds - but they share the commonality of not staying silent.
While the stories are excellent, and worth reading, the writing is simple and the stories arranged awkwardly - something that detracts from the stories. The book itself is heavy and filled with glossy photos that add much to the story. In addition to the stories, the author has included resources and more information in the end. In particular, organizations that work against slavery and ways to get involved. This is an excellent touch. I would recommend this for anyone who wants an introduction to the fight against slavery and worth the time to read. It's not a bad book for children, although I would say 10+ and an adult may want to read it first, as there are some plain-telling stories of sex slaves and a picture of a young girl's hands after they were cut off.

Note: I received this free from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers Program in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-77049-651-4
Date Finished: 10-5-2015
Pages: 205

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Aquisitions: Book Jenga

I went book shopping:

Some from the Thrift Store. Some from the two Used Bookstores I frequent. Some from the Library Booksale. All told, it's about $30 total spent. But this picture doesn't include the second stack of books that I gave away....

The best part? The Library is having a second book sale this Saturday - $5 a Bag. Hurrah!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Review: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Synopsis: They mustn't harm a human being, they must obey human orders, and they must protect their own existence...but only so long as that doesn't violate rules one and two. With these Three Laws of Robotics, humanity embarked on a bold new era of evolution that would open up enormous possibilities - and unforeseen risks. For the scientists who invented the earliest robots weren't content that their creations should remain programmed helpers, companions, and semisentient worker-machines. And soon the robots themselves, aware of their own intelligence, power, and humanity, aren't either. As humans and robots struggle to survive together - and sometimes against each other - on earth and in space, the future of both hangs in balance. Here human men and women confront robots gone mad, telepathic robots, robot politicians, and vast robotic intelligences that may already secretly control the world. And both are asking the same questions: What is human? And is humanity obsolete? (from the back of the book)

Review: I enjoyed the movie and was eager to read the book - which turned out nothing like the movie. At all. The only thing the same was the name Susan Calvin. But while the movie and the books (which is actually a collection of short stories) are vastly different as far as character and plot, the remain the same in essentials. The idea of the three laws and what they really mean to those interpreting them - both human and robots - is essential to both. The book explores the theme of what it means to be human - and can a robot be human or not? My favorite story was Evidence - because at the end, I still wasn't sure. And I love a good mystery. For any science fiction fan, or fan of philosophy, this is a must. Asimov is a brilliant writer and worth reading.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-553-29438-5
Date Finished: 8-5-2015
Pages: 272

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Review: The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart (Ruby Oliver Quartet, Book 1)

Synopsis: Ruby Oliver is 15 and has a shrink. She knows it’s unusual, but give her a break—she’s had a rough 10 days. In the past 10 days she: lost her boyfriend (#13 on the list), lost her best friend (Kim), lost all her other friends (Nora, Cricket), did something suspicious with a boy (#10), did something advanced with a boy (#15), had an argument with a boy (#14), drank her first beer (someone handed it to her), got caught by her mom (ag!), had a panic attack (scary), lost a lacrosse game (she’s the goalie), failed a math test (she’ll make it up), hurt Meghan’s feelings (even though they aren’t really friends), became a social outcast (no one to sit with at lunch) and had graffiti written about her in the girls’ bathroom (who knows what was in the boys’!?!). But don’t worry—Ruby lives to tell the tale. And make more lists. (from the inside cover)

Review: I actually didn't read this. I listened to the audiobook. It was a good read. Ruby felt mostly real. Lockhart nailed the strange mix of confusion and confidence you have as a teenager. Ruby had an extensive vocabulary and she used it well. I enjoyed that. She also did a fine job of giving the characters one view and the reader another - meaning, the reader knows Jackson is a two-face cheater, but Ruby doesn't - she has the naivety of someone who hasn't learned that sort of thing yet. The secondary characters differing personality and even some depth. But in the end, the book just had too much drama for me to be believable. So while I was entertained by the story, and even found some humorous parts, in the end, there was just too much nonsense. It reminded me of some those angsty CW TV shows - which I hate. I probably won't read the rest in the series.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-385-73206-6
Date Finished: 8-4-2015
Pages: 229

Monday, September 7, 2015

Review: The Intellectual Devotional by David S. Kidder and Noah D. Oppenheim

Synopsis: This daily digest of intellectual challenge and learning will arouse curiosity, refresh knowledge, expand horizons, and keep the mind sharp. Millions of Americans keep bedside books of prayer and meditative reflection--collections of daily passages to stimulate spiritual thought and advancement. The Intellectual Devotional is a secular version of the same--a collection of 365 short lessons that will inspire and invigorate the reader every day of the year. Each daily digest of wisdom is drawn from one of seven fields of knowledge: history, literature, philosophy, mathematics and science, religion, fine arts, and music. (from the online descriptions)

Review: This was a fabulous book! I kept it in my purse as my "line book" - the book I read while waiting for things. I enjoyed the subjects chosen - opera, science, philosophy, history, paintings. For anyone how enjoys knowledge, fact, or Jeopardy - this is the book for you. It's perfect for a short reads, for livening the mind, or for learning fun facts to dazzle (or bore) your friends. The only thing I'd changed is more modern music history - jazz or big band, or even rock and roll! I ended up buy the the American History edition to read now that I'm finished with this one. I anticipate it being just as good!

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Award: None

ISBN: 978-1-60961-205-4
Date Finished: 8-31-2015
Pages: 377

Review: Eating the Plates: A Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners by Lucille Recht Penner

Synopsis: When the Pilgrims came to America, there were no supermarkets or stores. Hunting, gathering, growing, and preparing food was a full-time job. And the Pilgrims didn't even like much of what food there was - fruit, vegetables, bread made from bean flour. But they had to eat it. Anything to keep from starving. Why did Pilgrims prefer to eat in the dark aboard the Mayflower? Why did they plant fish in their cornfields? How often did they wash their table linens? Did they actually sleep on the dinner table? And did they really eat turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie at the first Thanksgiving? In answering these and many other questions, Eating the Plates reminds us that the Pilgrims are more than Thanksgiving table decorations. They lived long ago, but they were real people, just like us. This fascinating account of their eating habits, customs, and manners - and a special section of Pilgrim recipes - will bring the Pilgrims to life for readers of all ages, all year round. (from the inside flap)

Review: With clear, simple prose, Penner brings the reader into the world of the Pilgrims. She starts with their history, explaining why they left England, their time in Holland, their hard trip across the Atlantic, and the hardships they faced in the New World. She centers on their diet, manner, and methods of cooking. Penner adds details that kids will enjoy - bugs in the food, sleeping on the dining room table, dirty napkins, and gross recipes! This is an excellent addition to any child's library!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-02-770901-9
Date Finished: 8-28-2015
Pages: 117

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Review: The Westmark Trilogy by Lloyd Alexander

Synopsis: Set in the fictional kingdom of Westmark, the triology follows Theo, a printer's boy and Mickle, a beggar girl, as they become central figures in the upheavel and revolution of their country. Told over three books.
Book One: When Theo agrees to print a traveling showman's pamphlet, he only thinks of the money it will bring in. Instead, it sets off a chain reaction that results in the smashing of the press and the murder of his master. Caught on the wrong side of the law, Theo must flee the city. Soon, he has teamed up with the traveling showman Count Las Bombas (who is actually a con artist) and his servant. The trio is soon joined by Mickle, a clever, strong-willed girl with a mysterious past. Performing feats that astound and amaze, the motley crew falls into a trap set by Chief Minister Cabbarus, who is determined to wrest power from the grief-stricken king. Now they must not only save themselves-they must save the kingdom...
Book Two:  Theo is traveling Westmark, learning about the country of which he will soon be Prince Consort. He is not surprised to find great poverty-Mickle (now known as Princess Augusta) could have told him that from her years on the street. His friend Florian could have told him about the aristocracy's graft and corruption. But neither could have foreseen a loaded pistol in the practiced hand of the assassin Skeit. The echoes of that shot ring from the muskets and cannons of a Westmark suddenly at war-a war that turns simple, honest men into cold-blooded killers, Mickle into a military commander, and Theo himself into a stranger. . . .

Book Three: Mickle, once a common street urchin, is now the queen of Westmark. The kingdom is thriving-yet, at the same time, it is strangely restless. Ghosts of the past lurk everywhere. And the evil minister Cabbarus, banished from Westmark, is plotting to seize the throne. Theo remembers a time when he was the famed Kestrel, fighting battles that threatened to kill his soul. Now he once again must join in the struggle. Who will at last command the fate of Westmark?

Review: While written in three books, this is really one story. The story to a country's rebellions and the people on both sides who sacrificed for their beliefs. It's a dark tale. The course of events have many similarities to the French Revolution, and people die - most of the main characters, actually. The author doesn't shy away from the horrors of war, the choices people are forced to make, that not all rebellions are clean and clear, the both sides might be right, that people often choose power and safety over honor and truth, that some sacrifice and some do not. It's a powerful story, one worth reading. But I caution the reader - it's not a happy tale. It doesn't end happy, or how you want it to. It ends how it should, though. It ends real.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-440-99737-3 / 0-440-94393-0 / 0-440-90548-6
Date Finished: 8-27-2015 / 8-29-2015 / 8-30-2015
Pages: 190 / 244 / 237

Review: Can't You Make Them Behave, King George by Jean Fritz

Synopsis: This entertaining volume sheds light on the life of England's King George III. It begins when he was a bashful boy who blushed easily, goes on to his early days as king, and finally examines his role in the American Revolution - when Americans ceased to think of him as good King George. (from the online description)

Review: This is a simplified biography of King George, stretching from his boyhood to shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War. Told in simple, clear prose, with stylized illustrations, this is a marvelous look at the War for King George's point of view. The book paints him neither as saint nor villain, but simple a man who was king during a turbulent time. This is an excellent addition to any young reader's library, particular if said reader is interested in American history.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-698-20315-1
Date Finished: 8-26-2015
Pages: 51

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Review: Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird

Synopsis: Angelina is a small mouse who wants to dance more than anything - but her desire causes all sorts of trouble for those around her. Will she ever figure it out?

Review: This, apparently, is a current classic children's book. Well, I should say, it was. Now it's a popular children's empire, considering all the non-book Angelina Ballerina paraphernalia out there. It's a cute book, with lively illustrations and sweet plot. Not sure why it's so popular with children, but I also haven't figured why Teletubbies was popular, so there you go. If you have a child who enjoys dance or wants to dance, this is a fine book. However, if you want to keep your home and TV free from the shrill dancing mouse, avoid this book. Your child will love it and you will get sucked into the Angelina Vortex and only be free when your small child grow up and discovered the adolescent romance.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-58485-135-X
Date Finished: 8-25-2015
Pages: 24

Review: West with the Night by Beryl Markham

Synopsis: The partial autobiography of Beryl Markham, regarding her life as an African bush pilot, race horse trainer, and famous socialite.

Review: We probably have Hemingway to thank for this book. Markham wrote it, but it soon lapsed into obscurity until some researcher found a letter from Hemingway to Maxwell Perkins, remarking on how her work made him feel "completely ashamed of myself as a writer." Markham does have a particular talent for the turn of phrase, for evoking emotion and imagery, for taking the reader across the wilds of African and into the deep blue sky with her. From those that enjoy reflective, esoteric writing, this book will delight and enthrall. Markham lived a strange life, partly of her upbringing and partly by her own making. I think this book is worth reading, although, there will be some who find it speaks to their souls, and others, like myself, who merely regard it as a worthwhile book to read and nothing more.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN:  0-86547-118-5
Date Finished: 8-24-2015
Pages: 294

Friday, September 4, 2015

RevIew: Sugarin-Off in the Bullpasture Valley by Lisa Vance

Synopsis: Lisa Vance and her husband make maple syrup and maple sugar on their farm each year. In this book, she documents the process.

Review: I enjoyed this. Every since reading about the Sugar-Off in Little House in the Big Wood by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I've wanted to participate in this event. This book was a good start. With clear, easy language, Vance goes through tapping the trees, which trees to tap, how to make the spigots, boiling, and refining the syrup and sugar. There are even a few black and white photos. In the last part of the book, she includes several excellent maple sugar and syrup recipes - candies, breads, cookies, meats. It's a lovely assortment. I recommend this if you are interested in this slice of American life.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 8-23-2015
Pages: 36

Review: Amy, Ben, and Catalpa the Cat: A Fanciful Story of This and That by Alma S. Coon

Synopsis: Amy, Ben, and Catalpa the Cat take children on a fun-filled adventure in this colorful alphabet storybook in verse. The young heroes meet George Washington, who gives Ben his cocked hat. But the hat is too big! Can Amy make it fit? (from the online description)

Review: Set in the colonial era, this book is a ABC adventure. Each page is dedicated to a letter, with many words that start with that letter. The pictures are lively and colorful. The story is a bit vague and loosely woven, but it's enjoyable. Kids from age 4-7 will most likely enjoy this fun story.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-87935-079-2
Date Finished: 8-22-2015
Pages: 27