Monday, November 18, 2013

Sky of Stone by Homer Hickam

Sky of Stone
by Homer Hickam

Homer Hickam's trilogy about his childhood through his coming of age stories are some of the best written!

These books not only give us the foundation of his future life at NASA as an engineer, but enlighten us about the industry of coal mining.  Most importantly, it is a lesson in the real tangled affairs of a family and the power of dreams and love.

Hickam brings us into a world so foreign that we are more apt to be repulsed than engaged, but engage us he does.  These non-fiction books are masterfully written and a readers delight.

Here you find determination, love and the foibles and kindnesses of real people.

Homer Hickam Website -

Rocket Boys (October Sky)
Coalwood Way
Sky of Stone

The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith

The Miracle at Speedy Motors
by Alexander McCall Smith

Book Nine in the delightful "The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series....

Once again, Mr Smith has made his characters live and delight!  This books deals with miracles - big and small - fulfilled and unfulfilled.  And, as always, with love.

Another great read!  Thank you so much!!!

Book 2 - Tears of the Giraffe (2000)
Book 10 -  Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (2009)
Book 11 - Double Comfort Safari Club (2010)
Book 12 - The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (2011)
Book 13 - The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection (2012)
Book 14 - The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon (2013)

Dead Canaries Don't Sing by Cynthia Baxter

Dead Canaries Don't Sing
by Cynthia Baxter

Put the book down.  Step away.  Do not waste your time.

Unless, of course, you want to read a book about a veterinarian with the maturity of a twelve year old and mystery without suspense.

This book bored me to sleep.  Awful.  If it is intended to be a book for pre-teen girls, then I may have misjudged it.  I have no interest in reading the rest of her books.  While the premise interested me, I would suggest that she actually meet a veterinarian before writing about them.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Delightful - utterly delightful!  And, a great read!
The book is presented as a series of letters... an interesting and successfully done method for this book.

It is the story of the people in Guernsey, the part of England occupied by the Germans during World War II, during the occupation and immediately post war.  

As a lover of history, these little known stories come alive in this book - stories of people and a place forgotten, that survived by their own ingenuity and struggles.  The characters are rich and lively.

It is also an emotional journey - from the horrors of war to the prayers for lasting peace and the carve out of joy and happiness.

This is a must read!

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen
by Suans Gregg Gilmore

A great story presented with little writing ability.... It is written as she thinks it would sound good, rather than in the voice of the story teller.  The voice continually changes and, even when told in the first person, there is a detachment from it.   The story teller has to be there - it's a great story --- it was just painful to read.

The story is emotional.  It is the coming of age novel that will die in lost confusion because characters to care about where never created.  The story is shallow, but with characters of substance, it could have been enjoyable.

I'll past on her other works.  I hope she finds and editor that forces her to develop her characters and end the excessively long and tedious sentences written in single syllables when ever possible.

Such a disappointment.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friends, Lovers, Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith

Friends, Lovers, Chocolate
Alexander McCall Smith
In the second book of The Sunday Philosophy Club series, Alexander McCall Smith takes us on another journey with Isabel Dalhousie.  While running her niece's delicatessen, she meets and man who is haunted by memories not his own since his heart transplant... this she must help him to understand....  All the while she is involved in her own thoughts about love and friendship and other complications.

Another delightful read!!!

Sunday Philosophy Club Series:
  • The Sunday Philosophy Club (2004)
  • Friends, Lovers and Chocolate (2005)
  • The Right Attitude to Rain (2006)
  • The Careful Use of Compliments (2007)
  • The Comfort of Saturdays (2008)
  • The Lost Art of Gratitude (2009)
  • The Charming Quirks of Others (2010)
  • The Forgotten Affairs of Youth (2011)
  • The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds (2012)

The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith

The Sunday Philosophy Club
Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith brings his energetic and delightful writing (No 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series) to an entirely different setting in Scotland with charming Isabel Dalhousie.  Far from Botswana, he creates another great female character to journey with.

Isabel is the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics... a pursuit which brings her to apply her sense of ethical right and wrong to amateur sleuthing!  At a concert, she catches the eye of man tumbling to his death from the balcony and it sure there is something more than a fall....

It is an interesting journey through the genteel homes and lives of Edinburgh.

A delightful read!!  I will look forward to continuing the series!

Sunday Philosophy Club Series:
  • The Sunday Philosophy Club (2004)
  • Friends, Lovers and Chocolate (2005)
  • The Right Attitude to Rain (2006)
  • The Careful Use of Compliments (2007)
  • The Comfort of Saturdays (2008)
  • The Lost Art of Gratitude (2009)
  • The Charming Quirks of Others (2010)
  • The Forgotten Affairs of Youth (2011)
  • The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds (2012)

Steps to the Altar by Earlene Fowler

Steps to the Altar
Earlene Fowler

Earlene Fowler has an easy to read style of writing.  I had never read her before and picked up a copy in remainders - a signed copy, too....  and, I enjoyed her writing.  Of course, this is part of a series and I was completely out of order.... in fact, it is number 9 in the series... the problem with series books!

While the book can stand alone, there are some character quirks that make it a bit confusing without having read the previous eight books!

It is a good read.  It takes place in a central California coastal  town.  Her descriptions of the area and the people are wonderfully accurate.

I wouldn't mind reading this series in order... and from the beginning!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Alice's Drive by Alice Ramsey

Alice's Drive
by Alice Ramsey
Republishing Veil, Duster, and Tire Iron
Annotation and "Chasing Alice" by
Gregory M Franzwa

Alice Ramsey was the first woman to drive across the continental United States in an automobile!
In 1909, with three women passengers, she left Manhattan on June 9 and arrived in San Francisco on August 7.  

In the mid-1960s, Alice Ramsey was our neighbor.  I remember some of her stories.  She had a great influence on me at a young age.  Over the years, I have often thought about Mrs. Ramsey.  I could never afford her book, though I was anxious to read it.  I was thrilled to discover that her book - long out of print and cost prohibitive if found - had been reprinted.

What a charming telling of a long and difficult trip.  Very few of the roads were paved or much more than a cow path.  The weather was uncooperative and the rain gave her many challenges.  She was a driver, navigator, mechanic and story teller.  What a treat this book is!

At the end of the book, Mr. Franzwa traces the route in modern terms... what a great companion to the original.  I wrote to thank Mr Franzwa, only to discover that he had passed away.... Thank you, Mr Franzwa!!!

Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff

Q's Legacy
by Helene Hanff

A magnificent autobiography about the journey to 84 Charing Cross Road - the bookseller, the writing of the book and the experiences that this connection brought Ms. Hanff.

Helene Hanff found a book of lectures by Cambridge don, Air Arthur Quiller-Couch --- Q's legacy was for her to search for the books he refers to in his lectures.  We travel this road with her through good times and bad - through good jobs and bad.  Ms Hanff's incredible character explodes in her own words.  By the end, you are quite sure that you actually know this person.

It is a particularly remarkable read if you have read and loved 84 Charing Cross Road.  And, if you did, you will find the story of Marks and Co touching you in a new way...

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

84 Charing Cross Road
by Helene Hanff

What a beautifully written book! This is a very short book and very quick to read... though you might find yourself going backwards to reread the beauty of the language.

This is the true story of a woman and her relationship with a bookseller.  Separated by the Atlantic ocean, the communication depends upon letters from both parties and a mutual trust to honor payment for books sent without question.  A different time in the world.

The correspondence occurs immediately post World War II,  Who knew how much worse things were in England post war than during the war?  You learn about the food shortages and food rationing. Relationships develop through the letters that are wonderful to peek into.

I also recommend the movie...  It is quite faithful to the book and brings the characters to life.

On Folly Beach by Karen White

On Folly Beach by Karen White

I picked up this book for a very odd reason... I had a friend who was dying of cancer and his favorite place was Folly Beach, South Carolina.  I bought the book to share with him.  I only read it while waiting for appointments... feeling that making it last would keep him alive longer... I think it even worked for a time.  I got up to the last few pages and set it aside - refusing to finish it until he died.

Having few, if any, expectations about the book, I was surprised by how coherent the story was and how memorable the characters.  I remembered the story whenever I went back to it.  This is doubly amazing because the books slipped back and forth between the present and the past.

The story winds into the past of a community controlled by the effects of World War II and into the broken heart of a 21st century war-widow.   The historical details about the years of WWII are wonderfully done.  They are then sprinkled with the richness of life in Folly, South Carolina.

To my surprise, this is a wonderful read.  It is a bit of a love story, but mostly historical fiction and intrigue.

Gidget by Frederick Kohner

Gidget by Frederick Kohner

I grew up in the Gidget age - and the coming of age of surfing.  I never knew, until recently, that Gidget was based on a real person - Kathy Kohner Zuckerman - and her experiences learning to surf and hanging out with the surf bums in 1956-1959!

The book is written by her father.  It is a fun book, but the slang is ancient and a bit stilted being written by an immigrant whose first language was not English....

It is fun to see the rise of the surf culture.  For those of us who grew up on the Pacific, it is a culture we know.  

What a culture grew up around Gidget ... movies and television, larger than life characters.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Why We Should Believe in Santa Claus by Alexander McCall Smith

Why We Should Believe

in Santa Claus

by Alexander McCall Smith

Some of us were born in places that no longer are. In my case, it was a country called Southern Rhodesia. You will not find it on a map today, but you will find Zimbabwe, which is what it became. There it is, in the middle of Africa, a part of the world that, for all its trials, is still one of the most beautiful.

Christmas there was at the hottest time of the year. As a child, I remember being puzzled by many of the images of Christmas that we saw in books and magazines. Christmas was all about winter: fields of snow, holly wreaths, carolers gathered around warming fires. This all seemed very exotic and exciting and added to the magic of what happened on the great day itself.

We went to church and sang those carols with all their wintry imagery, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” and so on, more snow and ice. But before we went to the Christmas service, we’d undergo the ritual of waiting outside the closed door of the living room, all of us children bursting with excitement. At exactly six o’clock, the door would be opened and we would go in to see if Santa—or Father Christmas, as we knew him, a name I still marginally prefer—had stopped by. He always had, and he signified his presence by eating the cookie and drinking the glass of milk that we had left for him by the fireplace. Proof! There it was—crumbs on the floor and an empty glass. How could anyone doubt his existence?

And I was not a doubter. Additional evidence was before my eyes in the shape of a pillowcase full of presents. Quite remarkably, they were often the things I had expressed a desire to have. What a mind reader he was!

I stopped believing in Santa when I was 7, and I vividly recall the precise circumstances those many years ago when my belief came to an end. All of us remember where we were when important things happened. Such memories are curious nuggets amongst the dark furniture of our minds, amongst the vague images and associations that make up our memory of things that happened to us a long time ago.

We were preparing for a holiday party a few days before Christmas itself. I knew that my father was due to appear as Santa, a role that he played well, in spite of being too tall and thin to be entirely convincing. But he sportingly donned the classic red outfit, so hot and inappropriate to African conditions, and stuck the cotton-wool beard to his chin. It was evening, and we were standing under a great night sky almost white with stars, limitless constellations soaring and dipping against a background of dark velvet.

Suddenly my father turned to me and said, “You don’t believe in Father Christmas anymore, do you?” I froze. I stood quite still, looking up at the evening sky. A shooting star flashed across the heavens. It did. I remember it to this day, because it seemed like a portent.

I was in an agony of indecision. If I said, “No, I do not believe,” then what would happen to all the presents I was hoping to get? It might be, you see, that Santa was listening to us and would mark my card accordingly: “No longer believes in me—no presents this year.”

Reason, the rational part of me, won out, and I said, “No, I no longer believe.” The heavens did not fall. No sleigh pulled by wounded reindeer slewed out of control in the sky above. Nothing happened. The world went on, as it always does, after all those small moments when something magical or mysterious is denied or lost.

There is a moment in J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan when the audience is invited to revive the dying fairy Tinkerbell and told, “If you believe in fairies, clap your hands.” And every time, the theater breaks into sustained applause. That is not to suggest there are theaters full of seriously deluded people. What it does tell us is that there are times when we need to pretend to believe in things we know not to be true. We know that the world is a place of suffering and hardship, and we know, too, that justice and kindness and love and such things will not always prevail against these hard realities. Myths help us to get by. The day they all die and we tell our children exactly how things are, the world will be a poorer, less enchanted place. So don’t be ashamed to clap your hands at Peter Pan or act as if Santa exists. He stands for kindness and generosity, and those things are alive and will continue to be alive—as long as we believe in them.

Alexander McCall Smith is the best-selling author of the “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series. His newest novel is “La’s Orchestra Saves the World.”

From Parade Magazine -

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Disclosure Policy

I know that the FCC disclosure policy for bloggers hasn't taken effect yet, but I decided to post this, update any posts I may have missed and get in the habit of telling you when a publisher GIVES me a book to review.

Anyone who has read my reviews will know that no matter what the price of a book is, I'm not sold that easily and will pan a book as easily as I will praise it, regardless of how I acquired it.

Ask Elizabeth Samet about how fond I am of the piece of crap and political propaganda she put out.

Or read the review on Rule Number Two - I would have paid double to read this gem.

I also have links to They 'pay' a percentage of the sale to me IF you click on the link on my site and purchase it. After a couple of years, my account is up to $26.53 and they don't pay until I acquire $100.00. Don't think this rapid influx of money is going to benefit me soon!

The FCC has crafted yet more legislation to regulate the dishonest and the corrupt - but, will only cause difficulties for those of us with our little blogs and tiny readerships.

Update 10.13.2013 - I no longer participate in any Amazon program... and I never collected a dime.