Friday, December 16, 2011

Lost December, by Richard Paul Evans


This book came out November 11th - the day of my last posting.  I didn't even get it until some time after that - and then I put off starting it because if you've ever read one of his books you know that they're super fast reads - and I just didn't want it to end so quicky!

This was a good one, of course.  It's a modern day story of the prodigal son.  It has your life lessons, your quotes you'll want to write down and remember, your deep and profound thinking, and of course, your love story.  It's a book about harsh reality, love and forgiveness.  You'll want to keep reading it as soon as you start.  And the ending - totally rocks!

I have to say, though, towards the end, it almost seemed as though he realized he was getting carried away with the story and tried to shorten the good parts just so he could get them all in before he hit a certain page number.  It was a very good story, though, and very well-written, otherwise.  :)  I hope he never stops putting these babies out.  ;)

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Shepherd's Song, A Christmas Story by Larry Barkdull


I found this little jewel among my own collection; though, where it came from, I do not remember.  (Probably my mother-in-law.)  Whatever the case, I'm glad it was there for me to find, it was needed at this time in my life.

Mostly, I'd say this is for the religious person, as someone who isn't Christian might not appreciate it as I did.  It's just a short, sweet story about a shepherd, Joshua ben Levi, going through the hardest trial of his life.  His wife is eight months pregnant, has been bleeding, her water has broken and she's in heavy labor.  The baby hasn't moved for two days.  The midwives don't look hopeful for either life at stake.  Amid serious and painful contractions, Joshua's wife tells him he has to pray.  God will bless them this day. 
He gathers his sacrificial lamb and reluctantly leaves his wife to walk to Jerusalem to the temple there to pray.  Before he leaves, his father offers him words of comfort as he, too, lost his wife during childbirth.  He tells him God did not abandon him that day, but the question remained - would he abandon God? Even now, as I type this, I cannot think of this without tearing up.  This was read in a moment in my own life when I was facing a trial that I felt I was alone in facing.  I refused to pray as I didn't feel I was getting any help.  After reading this, it was as if my Heavenly Father was reminding me that He really was there, but I needed to ask myself that same question.
*sniff*
Anyway, he travels to Jerusalem and ends up facing a journey he had not anticipated.  I'm not going to give it all away because, really, this book is worth seeking out and reading.  Truly. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Deep and Dark and Dangerous, by Mary Downing Hahn


This one was better than the last one I read.  Although, it was strikingly similar to the one I read when I was in 5th grade.

Both stories had two girls, somehow related, who were being torn apart by a ghost girl, who drowned.  This one might have scared me a little when I was younger; it was well-written in the mystery and horror (if you will) area.  I got it for my kids, along with several other Halloween books appropriate for the season, but this one was neglected.  I had nothing else to read, so I thought I'd give it a shot.  It was decent, considering.  ;)  If you have kids in, I don't know, grades 4-6, maybe, and they like a good thrill, this would be a good book for them. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Three Dog Life, by Abigail Thomas


Have I mentioned how much I love memoirs? ;)

First, a little tidbit of information I learned from my husband and this book (he told me this before I read it on one of the first few pages):  Australian Aborigines slept with their dogs for warmth on cold nights, the coldest being a "three dog night". 
- Wikipedia

I've read about women losing their husbands to death, but this woman lost her husband to brain damage.  He was hit by a car, one night, and lost the front part of his brain, therefore losing any short term memory storage.  He lives in a nursing home that cares for TBI patients and she visits him once or so a week.  In this book, she comes to terms with life, who she is, what she wants, if it's selfish to not bring him home and care for him, herself (I'm with the decision she made, by the way), who her husband has become, and how to cope with the present, not paying any mind to the past or the future.  She talks about guilt, healing, living, and being happy in spite of her circumstances.  She finds simple pleasures in art, her friends, her husband, and yes, her dogs. 

I love the way this woman writes - so honest and raw.  I say raw, because she doesn't mince words, she doesn't go back over what came out on the paper and sugar-coat it.  It's real.  I feel like I was given a glimpse inside her soul, how she sees herself and probably would hope others see her.  Her writing reminded me of how I want to be able to write, or how I maybe even do write, but only in places no one else can read.  And maybe even how I sometimes write on my blogs.  Either way, I felt connected to her because of how open and real she is in this book.  I can't say enough how much I loved reading her life.  I can't imagine having to go through something like she is going through.  I'm glad I found this random book that I otherwise might never have noticed.  A real story from a real person.  Love it.  :)

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs


I had this one on hold for quite a while, and finally got it and finished it a week ago.

It was definitely a peculiar book, that's for sure.  I have to wonder where some authors get their ideas - did they have a bizarre dream that, when written down with detail added, turned into some sort of novel?

This book had a mix of past, present, real, not real, and unreal, with a touch of weird.  A boy loses his grandfather, ends up in therapy about it because of the circumstances of his death, which bring out the stories he was told by him as a little boy... which leads him to the island his grandfather did most of his growing up on.  There, he finds the stories are real, that he's actually part of them, and has to choose to stay in the real world or the world he's discovered.  It pretty much leaves one hanging, almost as if there were going to be a sequel.  I doubt there will be, because it also had a sort of finality to the ending... and even if there were a sequel, I wouldn't read it.  The book was interesting enough at the beginning, but once the mystery was unravelled, the story seemed to drag on and lose its pull on me.  I finished it simply because I wanted to see how it ended, which, in my opinion, wasn't great.  The most interesting part, I'd have to say, is how the author weaved authentic, vintage photographs into the story.  I wouldn't say don't waste your time, because it might appeal to some, but I find my taste is for more realistic circumstances, and this book was full of fantasy.  Oh, well.  Not a complete waste of time.  ;)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett


This book was well-worth the wait!

I found it appropriate that I should read this book after the last book I just read.  Also, I found it interesting that it took place 100 years after the last book and showed that these issues were still, well, issues. 

This is a fictitious book, but it's based on how things were once upon a time (and still probably are, in some areas, unfortunately).  It switches between the points of view of two black women and a white woman.  The two negro women are maids for white folk, and are asked by the white woman to give an account of what it's like being a maid for white people for a book she's endeavoring to write.  The white woman, Skeeter being the name she goes by, also gets the stories from more black women.  She surprised to find that they're not all bad.  I really don't think I can do this book justice by telling you what it's about.  It's probably a fairly accurate dipiction of what life was like in the south in the early 1960's, for black woman and white woman.  What I can say is it's full of emotion, so enjoyable to read, and is one I'm going to own in the future - that's how good it is. 

I waited two months for it to become available at my local library - and I'm glad I did.  I'll be seeing the movie, but I would recommend reading the book, first, as the book usually is better.  :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers, by Jean Fritz


Between my computer breaking, the book I finally got from the library that I couldn't wait to start and have hardly been able to put down since, and life, I'm just now getting this review done.  I finished last Saturday, so it hasn't been too long. 

I was one of the people who vaguely knew who this woman was, knew that she had written a book (Uncle Tom's Cabin - on my list of to read) that I may or may not have read once upon a time in Junior High, and that's about it.  I thought she was African-American - that's how little I knew about her.  I wanted an autobiography or biography to read while I waited for the above mentioned book, and I couldn't be happier that I chose this one.

Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in the era of the Civil War.  She was raised by a well-known preacher who wanted his sons to be preachers, too, since daughters weren't good for much outside of marrying them off or them becoming teachers.  Harriet felt oppressed by this her whole life, felt there was fire burning within her that she didn't know what to do about, since her options were so limited.  She married and had kids, just like any woman should've done in those days, and even became a teacher at the insistence of her oldest sister.  This never made her happy - in fact, she was prone to depression, like most of her family.

She always opposed slavery, but didn't become an actual abolitionist until later in her life.  She helped with the finances by writing articles for the media.  Then she got an idea of writing something that helped the fire she felt burning within - a book about slavery.  It started as magazine articles that she couldn't get published fast enough, because her readers longed for the next edition.  She used fictional characters that were based on people she'd met and based the events in the book on stories she's heard from people, both black and white, over the years of her life.  The book was an instant success in both America and England.  She was very well-known in that time period for this book and her views as well as her speeches (that were delivered by men, since it was considered improper for a woman to speak to the masses), although a lot of people in the South, after realizing what the book was about, didn't like her.  She was an advocate of Abraham Lincoln, but only after she met him personally to make sure he really would sign the Emancipation Proclamation like he said he would. 

She and her family played huge roles in the Civil War.  This woman is my new hero, next to Mother Teresa.  She rocked the literary world and lived a stellar life.  I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a quick book, one that tells an excellent story about an excellent woman. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

About Alice, by Calvin Trillin


I love books that are written by real people telling their real stories.  This book was a short biography of sorts written by a grieving husband about his late wife, Alice.

He touches on the details of her personality, things he cherished about her... things, I'm sure, every wife wishes her husband would notice (and love) about her.  :)  He quite obviously loved every bit of her, from her outer beauty to her inner stubbornness.  She was a hopeless (or hopeful?) optimistic, a wonderful mother, a well-rounded, talented person with a desire and ability to touch the lives of others.  Alice was diagnosed with lung cancer in her early years, only to be given a 25 year grace period to see her daughters both married.  She had a sweet and realistic outlook on life and was able to always see the best in things.  She was never shy about expressing her opinion, no matter the number of feathers it might ruffle.  Her husband painted a nice little picture of her; a small glimpse, I'm sure.  I have to wonder if this was part of his grieving process... Either way, it was just nice to read about a small portion of this woman the world is now without.  She died from cardiac arrest, her heart being damaged by the radiation treatment she received.  But she died happy, seemingly satisfied with the life she'd lived.  I'm sure her family and friends feel equally blessed to have had her apart of theirs.

An Interview with Anna Deskins

I've been fortunate enough to be found by this new and up-and-coming author, Anna Deskins.  She's interviewed me about my blog and life as a mommy, and now I'm going to post my interview with her.  :) 
Your children's book, The Adventures of Smitty looks magical. Tell us about it.
It's the story of a magical island of little creatures called Smilies and the mischievous little main character, Smitty. He's such a naughty boy. Haha! All the moms and kids I've shared it with have been giving me such a wonderful reaction. I cannot believe it. I have to tell you how excited I am to finally have a life-long dream come true. Writing The Adventures of Smitty was really about finding a story that I would want to read to my children at night. It has to be exciting but not scary so that my two daughters can go to sleep. Basically, I was looking for that perfect blend to read to my kids at night and decided, "Why not try writing my own?"
We've had a lot of changes in our life recently, so I want to make sure that when I put my daughters to sleep that they feel safe. I have short chapters because I know how busy we moms are but if you can just sacrifice 5 minutes at night reading to your kids, it makes a world of difference. Your kids will never forget it. And although we're running around the whirlwind of life, our kids grow up so fast, and that time that we'd rather finish watching what happened in our favorite soap opera instead of reading to our kids will never come again. I hope that The Adventures of Smitty and books like it help moms do exactly that.
And it's only 99 cents this week. That's what I love about it. Now, You are recently divorced. How have you been able to continue writing when going through such a change?
Yes, it is by far one of the most challenging points in my life. To see a marriage you thought would last forever to not last forever was difficult for the two of us. I really learned a lot about myself and most importantly, it's brought me closer to my daughters. I think that's what really motivated me to finish this children's book no matter what. When you're going through changes in your life like this, you need something to hold on to. There's a part of you that wants to prove that you can make it, that you will be a success even if it's not with the partner you originally imagined building a life with. I had to keep writing, for my kids. I want to show them that they have to keep strong, no matter what.
We as women, as moms really need to stick together to support each other and our dreams. We're living in an age when I think we're finally realizing, although we want love, the men in our life aren't the answer to everything. We have to stand up on our own two feet and keep going. True love will happen, but until then, we have to keep moving forward. Our children depend on us and we depend on us.
In addition to being a children's book author, you're also a small business owner. How do you juggle taking care of two daughters and at the same time running a business?
Yes, I am a fashion designer and have a retail store. Any type of creativity is what I'm passionate about. That's why writing The Adventures of Smitty was so important to me. Let me tell you, running a small business in today's economy isn't easy especially when raising two girls at the same time. But somehow, it seems someone's watching over me because my dreams are coming true no matter what. To have that many moms glowing about my children's book, means so much to me. And I know my girls are proud.
When do you ever have time to write?
You mean, in between laundry, running a business, chasing my girls around the house, cleaning the house, and flying back and forth from Miami to New York? Haha! That's one thing I've learned, when you really want to do something, you find a way. Things fall into place if you just go for it and that's what I want to encourage all the moms who are reading this right now. Whatever your goal is, you can do it. Don't let the challenges in your personal life stop you from going for your dreams. Just go for it and it's almost magical how things fall into place.
Where can we get a copy of "The Adventures of Smitty"?
Right now, it's available online by going to: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/94655 You can also visit my website:http://www.AnnaDeskins.com where you can read more about my writing process, my recommendations for other books and my own adventures in Mommyhood.
I'm so grateful for your support and the support I'm getting from so many wonderful moms who dream of writing children's books one day too. Writing The Adventures of Smitty has been such an emotional experience for me, a true journey as I was going through so many changes while writing it. It's truly been a blessing in my life. It, along with my daughters, and that guy upstairs have really pulled me through a challenging time.
Thanks for the interview, Anna. And let's go out and support a fellow mom by getting a copy of The Adventures of Smitty today. I know I will!

Darth Paper Strikes Back, by Tom Angleberger


Our library had this when I placed it on hold, but I didn't want to wait for them to tell me it was ready so I just went and got it.  :)

This one was as equally entertaining as the last one... with an unexpected ending.  :)

Harvey was the antagonist in the first book, always making claims that Origami Yoda wasn't real, that he was just a wad of paper.  This book is another "case file"; stories put together to help a cause.  The cause was Dwight (the creator of Origami Yoda in the first book) and his potential to get kicked out of school.  The kids who've come to know him as an ok guy instead of just the weirdo they thought he was have put together some letters to the school board in attempt to keep him in school with them.  Harvey and his Darth Paper seem to be against the plan the whole time, always adding rude comments or pointing out the bad things about Dwight.  Convinced that the school board will see Harvey's point over Dwight's new friends', Tommy presents his case to the school board, anyway. 

Will they let Dwight stay in school or send him to the reform school for naughty kids? Guess you'll have to read it to find out! ;)

I'm assuming by some slight indication at the end of the book that there are more to come - which I'm very pleased to assume because these have been fun books that I'm so glad my kids have the chance to add to their brain's library.  :) I recommend sharing them with your kids, too!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger


My son brought this home from his school library - he said there was a long waiting list of kids who wanted to read it.

I read the inside cover and thought it sounded funny, so I read it.  :)

It was pretty funny! It's about a kid (Tommy), who is in 6th grade and is having a debate over whether or not Origami Yoda is real.  Sure, he's "real", but does he really have the wisdom he's been giving advice to kids with? Or is Dwight (the creator of the finger puppet, and, coincidentally, biggest weirdo in the 6th grade) smarter and wiser than people think? The book is a conglomeration of other kids' experiences with Origami Yoda, all compiled to create a sort of case file.  The gist of it is, you ask Yoda a question and he gives you an answer.  An answer that is usually a very good one.

The big question Tommy is debating on asking, is why he compiled other people's experiences, in the first place.  Does Sara like him? (heehee)

If you want to know what Yoda had to say about that, you'll have to read it for yourself.  ;)

It's a very cute book that I'm very glad my son read because it actually has some non-obnoxious lessons in it, plus, it's just good, clean fun.  :)  I prefer this one over Diary of a Wimpy Kid, any day.

We currently have on hold at our local library, "Darth Paper Strikes Back".  Should be fun! 

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd


I so love this book! I read it a long time ago and was given a copy by a friend.  Since I'm still waiting my turn for a couple books at the library, I decided to re-read it.

If you've never read this book, I highly recommend it. 

It takes place in 1964, during the whole Civil Rights Act era.  Lily is a girl who's lost her mother by an accidental shooting she caused, lives with a father who treats her badly, and is being raised by her negro nanny, Rosaleen.  When Rosaleen's arrested for defending herself against the typical racism of that day and age, Lily breaks her free after running away and the two follow clues to a town she believes her mother once visited, once upon a time.

There, she not only finds herself, but also finds the love of mothers in unlikely places.  She falls in love, learns about her mother's past, experiences death of a loved one for the second time in her life, and learns the art of beekeeping. 

It's a beautiful story filled with love, laughter, tears, anger and forgiveness.  I'm glad I already own my very own copy because this is definitely a book I'll be re-reading, again, in the future.  :)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Death of a Chimney Sweep, by M.C. Beaton


I am currently waiting (for over a month, now!) for two books at my local library, and I really was wanting to read something in the meantime.  So, I found this book. :)

I love a good mystery, so I was intrigued.  (This author has written, apparently, 27 mysteries, all starting with "Death of...".) 

He starts his story off quickly, cutting right to the chase.  Someone dies, then someone else is dead (a lot of people die, actually)... there's a local police sergeant who's always trying to help solve the crimes, infringing on someone else's territory... and there are lively characters to keep it interesting.  Many details are added in to keep the reader guessing whodunnit, and the plot is enough to keep the pages turning.  The lingo is fascinating, as it's origination stems from England. 

I almost felt like the writer was trying to drag the story on longer than it needed to be, maybe adding too many details... but the ending was kind of funny.  The sergeant's cat actually did away with the bad guy, and in order to protect the animal, he dumped the body somewhere to make it look like an accident. 

It was clean, it was entertaining, it was enough to maybe lead me to another of his books should I have to wait any longer for the books I really want to read... and it was free from my library - can't beat that!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Doll in the Garden, by Mary Downing Hahn


When I was younger, I loved a good ghost story - anything with mystery! I once read a book by Mary Downing Hahn called, "Wait Till Helen Comes".  I was in 5th grade and it terrified me!

My kids love a good ghost story, even though they can't sleep afterwards.  I think we have it in our blood to find such things so fascinating.  My MIL gave us some books this summer, this book being one of them.  When I saw who the author was, I snagged it, immediately! I've told my kids about the other book I read many times but they haven't gotten up the gumption to read it just yet.  I thought they'd like this one, though, so we brought it home.

I'm currently awaiting my turn for a book at the library, so I've been trying to find things around my house to read that I haven't read, already.  (And some things I have.) I saw this book and thought I'd see if it was as spine-chilling as the one I've read, before.

Alas, it wasn't.  Maybe if I were still 10 or 11, it might have been.  Being an adult, I saw where it was headed early on, which isn't saying it's bad.  I'm just a little too grown up for it.  (It's no Mary Higgins Clark, that's for sure.)

I think my kids might find it intriguing, though.  ;) If your kids like this sort of thing, I would guess it's more mysterious than scary, if I were to try to look at it from a juvenile's point of view.  A friend of mine and I were talking, yesterday, about how being an adult can sometimes take the fun out of things.  Oh, well.  :) 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Stolen Life: A Memoir, by Jaycee Lee Dugard


My biggest fear is my kids being kidnapped.  I can handle them dying even more than that.  (I'd really like to not ever have to test that theory...)

Wow.  This book was disturbing.  It was emotional.  It was... disturbing.  Unbelievable. 

Jaycee was kidnapped in 1991, when she was 11.  Her kidnapper, Phillip Garrido, kept her for over 18 years.  He fathered her two children.  He was married.  His mother was on the same property.

She not only survived, but she managed to do it well.  What I can't believe is how she was taken on outings, met Phillip's parole officers, had access to the internet... and she still wasn't found until she was.  That she was kept in the backyard and no one even thought to look back there is just unfathomable.  This man was sick.  Very messed in the head.  He had her brainwashed, controlled, scared.  She actually felt the need to protect him, to keep him happy, to rely on him.  His wife was in on this.  That, in itself is wrong in so many ways.

She was rescued, reconnected with her family, and is doing so amazingly well... her story is not one I would ever wish on anyone, but her attitude should be manufactured and sold in jars.

I love reading memoirs.  The real stories.  This one was hard.  She was able to recount so many things from those horrid years.  I hope she can continue in her positive outlook on life and build something wonderful for herself and her girls.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25, by Richard Paul Evans


This book took me less than eight hours to read.  I could not put it down! I had to, however, take breaks to digest what I just read and let it all sink in.

This was such an awesome book! Of course it is, RPE wrote it!

He can write men well.  He can write women really well. 

He writes electric teenagers with flare.

This is the first (yes, first - I have to wait for the next one!) in a series of, actually... I don't know how many books, but I guarantee you'll be hooked.

It's supposed to be geared toward the young adults of the world, but I'm a youngish adult and loved it! It had me hooked from the very beginning.  I kept thinking while I was reading it not only about how well it was written, but how well it was researched.  Much brain-stocking info had to be acquired to make this book seem realistically fiction vs. a far-fetched fake.  It's full of a little mystery, a nice flowing plot, and an ending that leaves you a mixture of satisfied with a want for more.

All I'll tell you is Michael Vey is the main character... he has special "powers" that stem from something that happened to him around the time of his birth... his mom has been kidnapped due to his new-found friend's research on their past - as they both have these powers in common... and he has to put pieces of a puzzle together to take you from one chapter to the next.  If you like Richard Paul Evans, mystery, thrillers, and a touch of science fiction, you'll love this book!

It's a page-turner.  It's a must-read.  I loved it! Can't wait for the next!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Baby Grand, by Richard Paul Evans


So, this book, I just found here, is selling for up to $300 online.  That's IF you can find it.  I not only have this book, but I paid $5.00 for it from Richard, himself (ok, his assistant), and it has his autograph in it. 
Oh, yeah, baby.  ;)

I read it, today, in a matter of minutes.  It's 22 pages long, I think, so quick read, for sure.  But it was sweet.  It's the true story of how Richard tried to surprise his wife with a baby grand piano for Mother's Day and she accidentally finds out about it.  Short and sweet.

Made me think of this last Christmas.  A big box arrived via some parcel service and my husband told me it was from a friend of ours.  I sort of panicked because we hadn't thought of getting them anything.  I insisted on going to the store and getting them a gift, asap.  So, we did.  :) 
What my husband may have forgotten, not unlike RPE, is that I'm in charge of the bills.  ;) I saw that a significant amount of money had been spent by one of us, most likely not myself.  (haha)
Upon examining the aforementioned box, I noticed it had a range of numbers in the form of "mm".  That got me putted the pieces together in my head.... don't cameras deal with "mm"s? I want a camera... someone spent a lot of money on something recently...
So, I knew (figured, rather) that I was getting a camera for Christmas. 
And I did.  A really nice, somewhat expensive camera that I wasn't expecting till my 50th wedding anniversary. 
And it wasn't from our friends.  ;)
To this day, my husband doesn't know I knew but played along, anyway.  And he doesn't read this blog so the secret is between you and me.  ;)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Miles to Go, by Richard Paul Evans


Aah, another awesome book by the awesome Richard Paul Evans. 

Alan started his journey from Seattle to Key West when his wife died, his partner stole his clients causing him to lose his business, and he loses his house to foreclosure.  He was held up at the end of the last book by a mugging/stabbing.  He was in the hospital... that's where this books starts.

He meets a woman who changes his life, or rather, he changes hers.  This leads to the changing of other lives.  Which leads to a slight downfall in his own.... then he meets someone he knows.... then it ends without telling you who!

I don't want to give too many details because you really should read these books, but, as usual, this book is jam-packed full of wisdom and is so well-written.  RPE really does have a talent for poetically weaving a story together.  As I read it, I wanted to write down and remember so many of the little tidbits of great thoughts and ways of seeing life - he really does know his stuff! I loved it!

I'm on vacation right now and didn't want to wait until I got home to do this review, which is why it's short.  Do read the book, though.  Start with the first, of course, if you haven't already.

Hurry, though, because he has another book coming out August 9th! It's totally different than what we're used to seeing from him, so this should be good!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I'll Walk Alone, by Mary Higgins Clark


I usually spot the newest release by Mary Higgins Clark on an endcap at my local Kmart.  When I saw this one, I immediately placed a hold on it at my library.

I had to wait a while for it, but it was well worth the wait!

When I read the description on the inside cover, I must admit I was a little disappointed.  It mentioned identity theft.  How interesting could that be, I wondered? But, I've read just about every single one of her 30 books (the ones my library has, anyway) and couldn't pass this one up.

I'm so glad I didn't! This followed her same style, with twists and turns and additions to her growing puzzle along the way! She weaves a tale of a young woman who's lost her son, and now has strange charges to her bank accounts and credit cards, when a picture of her son being kidnapped shows she's the one who did it.  She knows she's not crazy, but the rest of the world thinks she is.  With the help of her friends (no thanks to the detectives on her case), the mystery is solved and.... I'm not going to tell you what happens! It's a must-read, that's for sure.  The only thing I found to be a slight let-down was the criminal's motive - I thought it was a little weak.  It's like you hit a big climax, only to have your balloon wither and deflate slowly.  Other than that, it was a very good read. 

If you're a fan of mystery or of Mary, herself, this book won't disappoint.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith


If I had to describe this book in one word, that word would be ridiculous. 

I had to really force myself to get it finished.  It wasn't that it wasn't well-written, I can only say that it was, as far as putting together a story and doing one's research goes.  But by the end, every time I read the word "vampire", I wanted to gag.  If I never read another vampire book as long as I live, I would be just fine. 

If you read the cover, and you tend to lean towards the naive side of the scale, you'd probably find yourself wondering how true this book is.  The author claims it's true.  Says these are facts.  He even goes so far as to insert himself into the story.

But, really? Abe being a vampire slayer? Ha.  

I know it's fiction, and perhaps I tend to take certain books too seriously, but I had a hard time with this one.  I don't know much about President Lincoln, and perhaps should have done some research before attempting to read this book.  To me, it was just hard to take.  What I do know, he was a highly respectable man.  How could someone make Abraham Lincoln out to be so cold-blooded? So against God? So dishonest, even? Again, it's fiction.  It says so on the copyright page.  The author even lets on that it is in this interview.  He claimed to have high respect for Lincoln, when all throughout the book he makes him look like he has serious mental issues.  I guess I need to lighten up, eh?

Well, the book was about Abe's life.  Supposedly, his mother, aunt, uncle, sons, friends, etc.  were all killed by vampires.  Supposedly, his axe was his greatest weapon against them.  Supposedly, he becomes a vampire himself.  I had to laugh at this.  This really put the book over the edge into ridiculous land.  

I don't recommend reading it.  If you are interested in Lincoln, I came across this blog that has true facts about him and his presidency and I intend to find a decent biography, as well.  An autobiography would be most excellent. 

I really wouldn't waste your time with this book.

Monday, June 6, 2011

RPE rocks the barn

I'm a big Richard Paul Evans fan. Huge.  But you probably figured that out already.  ;)

My husband was browsing Amazon.com one night and found one of his books I not only didn't own (I own all of his books), but haven't even heard of.

So, I did some searchin'. I was only able to find it on Amazon.com used, starting at $63.00. I couldn't find it anywhere else.

I wasn't about to pay that, so I did the next best thing. I emailed Richard. Ok, not Richard, himself, but someone who takes his emails for him.

She told me it was out of print but she just happened to have one. She said send me a check and she'll get it right to me.

$5.00 and a couple weeks later, I have it. :)


I even got another autograph out of the deal! :)

Madame Tussaud, by Michelle Moran


This was one intense book.  I never knew much about the French Revolution, but several years ago I read a few books on Marie Antoinette.  I found that fascinating and this book was equally a page turner.

Madame Tussaud was a name I knew, but didn't know anything past that.  She was a famous show-woman who worked with wax.  Her specialty was creating real looking images of famous people.  She used her shop in France to report news on the happenings of the times, which happened to be when the people of France were revolting against their king and queen.

The bloodshed that happened during this period in history is unbelievable.  The author makes mention that about half a million people lost their lives for the cause of "liberty", or what some thought was liberty.  She said approximately 40,000 were guillotined.  Among these numbers were many women, children, people of the church - the innocent.  It's amazing the evil that can take hold of people if they let it, and people did in this historic time.  All of the major events and characters in this book were real.  The author's extensive research to put this together is simply exhausting for me to even think about! :)

Having read books about Marie Antoinette that were basically from her point of view on the events that took place around that time, it was nice to be on the other side, from the "commoner's" point of view.  Marie Tussaud was fortunate to escape death when she did.  It's amazing she survived as long as she did, trying to play both sides of the political fence.  She was a tutor to the king's sister, Elizabeth, while trying to support (or appear to support, to avoid imprisonment or death) the "patriots" seeking freedom from the monarchy.  She had to make death masks of people she cared for after they were beheaded, a job she never relished, as one can imagine.  She had to part with family either by choice or death for safety reasons and even parted with the one she loved due to her devotion to her work and family.  She married a man she met in prison, gaining her last name Tussaud, only to find he was an excessive gambler once they were free.  She had three children by him, two sons who survived, and after realizing her marriage wasn't going to work out, joined her first love to travel with her show. 

She has many wax museums around the world and is still famous today for her work.  The last figure she created before she died was one of herself. 

I love Moran's way of making what she writes seem so real, like she was there taking notes while these historic events were taking place.  This book was a little more disturbing to read because of the reality that was the French Revolution, but it was very informative and entertaining, nonetheless.  I do recommend reading it.  :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Have a Little Faith, by Mitch Albom


The other book I've been working on isn't a sit-down-and-read-till-yer-done-book, so I decided to squeeze in another one for fun.  :)

Mitch Albom is one of the best authors I have ever read.  I've read two of his other books, "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" and "Tuesdays With Morrie".  I loved "Tuesdays With Morrie".  Mr. Albom really knows how to portray a person's personality through his way with words.

This book held true to his form.  I consider myself to be a fairly religious person, but this book gives a whole new light on the subject on what being religious really means.  This book was compiled over a span of eight years, after Mitch's rabbi approaches him with the question, "Will you do my eulogy?".  Mitch felt in order to be able to do this, he had to get to know the man.  In the process, his reader has that blessed opportunity, as well.  I truly wish I could have known "the Reb" in real life.

One of the things Mitch does in his free time is to help people through his charities.  To do this, he investigates the place he wants to help to make sure they're legit.  This is how he meets Henry, the other character that graces us through the pages of this wonderful book.  Henry had a rough life, mostly due to his own choices, but turns it all around to become the pastor of his own congregation.

Through his visits with these two men, he learns more about himself than he ever thought he would.  He learns what it means to know there's something or someone bigger than him in the universe.

And he takes his reader right along with him on this magnificent journey, one I will truly cherish being able to go on. 

I highly recommend reading this book, as well as his others.  This book is one I'm hoping someday to purchase, as I only buy books I'll read more than once.  There was so much wisdom packed into those pages, I can't help but want to revisit them over and over again.  :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Winds of Change...

I am now in possession of these books, plus some others. 

I am currently reading Body Clutter with a friend of mine and we're making some huge progress, if I may say so, myself.  I'm excited to share my final results!

I have put the other book I was reading on hold for the moment, as it isn't due back to any library anytime soon.  :)

Happy reading!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What's in store...

My library decided to buy this book!! Woohoo!

And, my birthday's coming up, so I'm pretty much guaranteed this book.

The book I'm reading now is good, it's just not one I want to sit down and read.  It's a short one, too, so I should just commit and give it some of my time so as to make room in my busy schedule for some books that I'm so excited might be in my near future.  :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney


AND


My son acquired these books over a series of birthdays and everyone in my family has read them at least once, so I thought I'd find out first-had what all the laughter was about.

I have to say, except for a few parts, I didn't think they were that funny.

First, I've seen the first movie and after I've seen a movie, the book sometimes just isn't that great.  That held true, in this case. 

I definitely read things from an adult's point of view, which, I believe, is why these books just weren't that funny to me.  Mostly, they were a quick read, slightly entertaining, and one of them (the yellow one) was really obnoxious.  Greg Heffley is obnoxious.  He's so full of himself! It's no wonder Rowley doesn't want to be his friend! (hee hee)  As I read these as a parent, I couldn't help thinking, "I sure hope my kids don't try this crap".  I know, I need to lighten up, they're meant for the younger readers in my house, not for me.  And my kids love them.  When I said they've read them at least once, it's more like 3-5 times PER BOOK.  They LOVE them.  From an adult's point of view, though, I give them a "meh" with a simultaneous shoulder shrug.  ;)

But, now I can say I've read them and I know what my family (husband, included) is talking about when they say things like, "Remember when Greg tried to use the force to elevate the remote control from the coffee table to his hand?" or "Wasn't it funny when the one kid played the tuba behind the curtain?".

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand


Best. Book. Ever.

Ok, well, one of them.  This book was lent to me by a co-worker of my husband upon learning that I love WWII books.  I am so glad he did and was patient with me borrowing it for so long whilst I completed my gardening course and previous book.  I am so so so very glad I kept it instead of returning it upon the realization that I wouldn't be getting it to it as soon as I had hoped.  This was, by far, one of the most excellent books I have ever read.

As it says on the cover, it's a story of survival.  Louie Zamperini didn't just survive, though.  He conquered; conquered life, the enemy, and himself.  One reason I love reading about these people who've faced such great trial in their lives is how they come out in the end, how they're determined to come out in the end when everything in between is doing its best to break them.  Amazing.  This man is one I'd have at my "if I could invite anyone over to dinner" table.  The things he had to endure, the attitude of optimism he kept, the life-altering choices he made because of it and ability to forgive his enemies truly leave me in awe. 

I don't want to give away too much of the story when I do these reviews in hopes that it'll entice you to read it yourself, if you haven't already, but one thing I learned from this book was something I now long to learn more about:  the Japanese side of the war.  I've focused so much on the Holocaust part of it that I never gave the other side much thought.  I knew they bombed Pearl Harbor, but I didn't know why.  Now I do.  The Japanese leader, at the time, had the same notions Hitler had.  He thought he could rule at least all of Asia and that the Japanese were the superior race.  In the POW camps held by the Japanese, the treatment wasn't unlike that of the ones in Europe.  My grandfather, who died almost 10 years ago, served in Okinawa during the war.  I interviewed him when I was in Jr. High... oh, how I wish he was still alive so I could re-do that interview and ask better questions.  It really makes me want to go down to our local Senior center and find someone I could talk to about the war.  Real people's stories are so much better than fiction!

If you haven't read this book, do.  That's an order.  ;)  You'll thank me later, I promise.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Another new book out you might like...

I have to get to my library to request they buy it, but I saw that it's out earlier than I thought it would be! Woohoo!

If you've read this, this or this, you may be interested is this, Michelle Moran's newest book! I've been looking forward to this for a long time! Yay! I thought it was coming out April 6th, but I guess it's already in stores! Score!

Friday, March 25, 2011

It's almost here!

April 5th is vastly approaching! Have you preordered your book? I haven't... yikes! The book I'm currently reading (see right) is going so much more faster than the last one, so I should be done in no time.  :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Letters My Mother Never Read, by Jerri Diane Sueck


After 3 renewals (at three weeks each), plus the original time I had it (also three weeks), plus the five day grace period, I finally found time to finish this book!!

It was good.  ;)



I won't just leave it at that, though. 

This is one young woman's story of survival.  She lost her mother when she was eight to a fire, was abused by her grandmother for two years, separated from her brothers when her own adoptive father abandoned them at an orphanage on Christmas Eve, and faced further abuse from foster parents.  My favorite part about this person is how she not only survived, but triumphantly so.  She found God and chose to never give up though there were many who constantly told her she wasn't good enough and never would be.  She lived most of her life in an orphanage, overcame her cleft palate and speech issues on her own, was never told about how a woman's body changes during puberty and faced those challenges alone, and dealt with her inner turmoil without the aid of others.  She more than succeeded in school, earned her Master's degree and went on to become a nun as a way of saying "Thank you" to her Maker for always helping her through life.  Included in this heart-rending book are letters to her mother asking questions she never got answered, begging for the nurturing and love she so craved, wondering how she could've died and left her alone. 

I think it would be awesome to meet this woman.  She's amazing. 

I've been told by three different people that now I have to read "A Child Called It", as it's a similar story.  I love reading real stories from real people.  The book I'm currently reading (see right) is another one.  :)

Happy reading!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Gardening Know-How

Since I haven't been reading actual books, lately, I wanted to share some things I've learned from my info-packed class I've been taking.

Like, for instance:
  • In Wyoming, if you think you have crabgrass, you probably don't.  We generally don't have crabgrass, here.  It's quackgrass.  So, if you live here (at least in my area), and you've been buying the fertilizer that also kills crabgrass, you, my friend, have been wasting your pennies.
  • If you read the ingredients to the bag of grass seed you just bought and skimped a little on the spending, you may find a percentage of WEED seeds included.  Nice, huh?
  • I can look at a flower and tell you if it's a boy, a girl, or both.  ;)
  • Trees never really "heal" their wounds, they just cover them up.
  • Yes, you can just plant seeds and let them grow (they make their own food).  But after that, you have to feed them.  ;)
  • The soil in Wyoming stinks.  Oh, wait... I already knew that.
  • Certain veges like to grow next to other certain veges.
  • When you mow your lawn, you should only mow 1/3 of it's length, and it should always be about 2.5 - 3 inches tall for optimum light, nutrient, water absorbency.  And it's more aesthetically pleasing.  :)
  • You should wait till evening to transplant an already growing plant... and if you are looking to buy a fruit-producing plant that's already grown a little, don't buy one that has fruit on it.  It'll die.  Buy them young.  I've seen first-hand that this is, indeed, true.
  • Weeds are pretty much inevitable.  Seriously.
  • Some weeds are actually desired.
  • Pesticide isn't just for bugs.
  • Kentucky Blue Grass is the best for my area.
  • Soil can be damaged.  Tilling isn't always a good thing.
  • Compost and organic matter are a gardener's best friend.
  • Gardening can be as complicated or as simple as one makes it. 
  • Anyone can be a gardener and I'm so excited to start mine this spring!
I've learned so much more and have a handful of classes yet to go, and these are just a few things off the top of my head.  I've learned SO MUCH.  I love it, too! It's just soaking right in! (It's almost as if my brain is one big patch of sandy loam!) Sorry, garden humor.  Yeah... I don't think even someone who knows what that means would find it funny.... ;)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On Becoming a Master Gardener

I'm still reading the book I have to the right... and I had a book that I borrowed from someone, and have since returned UNread due to my newest acquisition:  Master Gardener course! I have homework... for the first time in YEARS.  And it's all reading.  Juggling that, my kids, my house, my babysitting, my chores, and the occasional shower, has left me virtually no time for reading.  But, I'm working on becoming more organized with my time so that all of the above happens. 

Now, it's off to shower! ;)

P.S.  The book I borrowed was called Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand.  I hear it's quite good, and as you can see from my reading history, I like these sorts of books.  Can't wait to borrow it again!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dracula, by Bram Stoker


Took me long enough!

I loved reading this book, as I was doing so mostly to compare notes, so to speak, with those of the author of some other famous vampire books...

This book definitely added a bit more fear and terror to the word "vampire", and sort of diminished the "sexy" glow of my former opinion.  Evil is a good way to describe the main character of this book.  Main? Mostly...

It was written in the form of letters and journal/diary entries, all in chronological order, and each one adding a necessary piece to the vampire puzzle.  At first, a slew of different characters were introduced, but towards the middle and definitely by the end, it became quite clear as to why.

It shed more light on how the world typically sees vampires, and that the legend of such creatures has been around for centuries.  This author did his research at the time, that's for sure.  The tale he wove was most mysterious and fascinating, adding twists and turns to every chapter.  How one could come up with such a story is a mystery in itself to me... what is going through their head that one day they think, hm... I'm going to write such a story as will form nightmares in the minds of many for generations to come! Genius.  That's all it is.

Now I want to see the movie, to see if anyone out there has done this book justice.  For if they have, I'll be sleeping with the light on that night, I'm sure.  ;)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Castle Dracula: Romania's Vampire Home, by Barbara Knox


Ever since I read Twilight, my husband's been, erm, harassing me to read a "real" vampire story.  So, I'm currently reading Dracula, by Bram Stoker.  One of our family's goals for the year is to learn something new every month.  This month we chose "places around the world".  We all decided to pick somewhere individually and then at the end of the month, share what we've learned with each other.

I picked Transylvania, since I'm sort of in the middle of it at the moment.  I have to admit - and this may be due to my hair color, that or shear ignorance - I didn't know it was a real place.  I totally thought it was fictitious! Nope.  It's real.  ;)

Although, my library is lacking on information about it... I'm thinking of looking up Romania, to see if that helps.  Anyway, I did find this book, which is a children's book, but that didn't stop me.

I learned that Dracula means "son of the dragon", since Dracul means "dragon".  Dracula was based on a real person, Vlad the Impaler... and his dad was known as Dracul, so Vlad became, well, Dracula.  He was a cruel prince who used to impale his enemies.  He'd invite the poor over for dinner, then lock them in and burn the place to the ground.  Nice, right? And the castle he lived in, now also known as Castle Dracula, was Castle Bran and really exists.  This is what Bram based his character and castle on, I read. 


Nice, huh? Apparently, one can visit this castle and roam freely about.  How awesome would that be?

Anyway, I also learned that, according to legend, vampires can take many forms, not just bats. 

It was a quick read, of course (like 10 minutes? maybe less?), but it was interesting.

Dracula's quite interesting, but I don't have much reading time these days so I'm slowly working my way through it...