Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Runaway Quilt ~ Jennifer Chiaverini

The Runaway Quilt

Jennifer Chiaverini

ISBN: 0452283981
Book #4 in the Elm Creek Quilt Series

This volume in the series finds Sylvia going through the attic and finding antique quilts and journal of her ancestor, Gerda, which describes the Civil War ear and the family's role in the Underground Railway and the use of quilts to that end.

In this volume, we learn a great deal about the history of the family and Elm Creek Manor and the heritage of quilts throughout the country. The trip along the Underground Railroad will long be remembered by readers.

This is a fascinating look at a little known chapter in history.

Book 1 - A Quilter's Apprentice
Book 2 - Round Robin
Book 3 - The Cross-Country Quilters

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Cross Country Quilters ~ Jennifer Chiaverini

The Cross Country Quilters
by Jennifer Chiaverini

ISBN-10: 0452283086
3rd in the Elm Creek Quilts Series

Elm Creek Quilts Camp is in full swing. Quilters come from across the country to take classed, seek inspiration and joy in their craft and to make new friends. The art of quilting unites people who would never meet otherwise.

Five quilters who attend camp decide to make a challenge quilt; each will design blocks that represent their lives and goals and share them when they reunite at Camp the next year.

As we follow them through the year, what keeps them going through the trials of life is the friendship that is interwoven in the stitches of their quilts and the promises they made one another before they stitched their quilts.

While I do not quilt, I am a handspinner and knitter and our get togethers hold a special charm and wealth of creativity that craftsmen will share. These charms make new acquaintances fast friends.

Book 1 - A Quilter's Apprentice
Book 2 - Round Robin

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Round Robin ~ Jennifer Chiaverini

Round Robin by Jennifer Chiaverini

ISBN-10: 0452282276

2 in the Elm Creek Quilts Series

A Round Robin Quilt is one that is handed around to several quilters who each add to the craft and the design and the theme, interweaving their ideas and lives into one creation.

Elm Creek Manor has become a haven for quilters and a school to teach quilting. A group of friends, the Elm Creek Quilters, has started a Camp for quilters. The Elm Creek Quilters have decided to create a quilt for Sylvia. As the quilt is passed from quilter to quilter, their stories and the history of Elm Creek Manor continue to evolve.

Once again, we meet very real women who are united by their love of quilting and allow that love to overcome their vast differences.

"..a continuing tale of friendship and loyalty in which quilting is a bountiful metaphor for the way we stitch our lives together, piece by imperfect piece."

Book 1 in the series A Quilter's Apprentice.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Quilter's Apprentice ~ Jennifer Chiaverini

The Quilter's Apprentice

Jennifer Chiaverini

1st Book in the Elm Creek Quilts Series

ISBN 0452281725

I picked up this book from the remainders bin several years ago. Little did I know that I would be embarking on a journey that still continues. I am not a quilter, though I admire those who are. As a spinner and knitter, I understand the tactile pleasure and the creative expression. So, my interest was in the story of people who shared this love.

A Quilter's Apprentice begins the journey of Sarah McClure and her husband. Moving to a new town, Sarah finds herself without a job and with few prospects. She takes a job with Sylvia Compson, a seventy-five year old who is sorting through the family home from which she was long estranged, for eventual sale. Sylvia is bitter and lonely. Sarah is desperately unhappy. Sarah trades some of her salary for quilting lessons from Sylvia.

Sylvia slowly confides the history of Elm Creek Manor and the tribulations of World War II that tore the family apart with tragedy, betrayal and jealousy. Sarah comes to terms with the uncomfortable truths about her own family.

Through the sorting of the house and the quilting lessons, a bond of friendship and trust develops between the two women, who came to the relationship with little in common. As they both learn to forgive themselves and to live life forwards, rather than backwards, joy enters their lives, which are now changed forever.

The characters are strong women with likable traits and vivid flaws. They are people we know. We share their pains and sorrows and we celebrate their victories.

This series can be read out of order, but it is more enjoyable to read in order, as the characters develop and change.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

On Call in Hell ~ CDR Richard Jadick

On Call in Hell

CDR Richard Jadick

This book about the Second Battle of Fallujah and the Doctor and Corpsmen on the front lines who tended the wounded is one of the most intense reads I have had in some time.

Lt CDM Richard Jadick volunteered to accompany the 1/8 Marines on their Iraq Tour in 2004. When the Second Battle of Fallujah began, Jadick decided to take his emergency room to the battle, rather than waiting for the wounded to come to the hospital in the rear. He set up a Forward Aid Station - FAS - that became a make-shift operating room.

In this book, after his auto-biographical history, Jadick takes you into the heart of the battle. He takes you into the personalities and spirits of the Corpsmen and National Guard ambulance drivers who worked with him and the wounded Marines and Soldiers he treated and lost.

Lt CDM Jadick was awarded the Bronze Star with a V for Valor for his work. He considers it a group award and credits his Corpsmen and others with the successes they had. His citation credits him with saving 30 men who would not have survived the trip back to the base hospital.

This book may be as close as many of us ever get to combat. It was an experience of many emotions - fear, terror, intensity, sorrow and joy. It is all too human. And, it is a great read, though you will need tissue in certain parts.

To see CDR Jadick on Jon Stewart -
To read the Newsweek Article -

The medical staff of the Second Battle of Fallujah deserves to be mentioned by name for their heroic actions. I am proud to live in a country that produces fine young men like these. Their actions were heroic.

II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF)
First Battalion, Eighth Marines (1/8)
1/8 Infantry Battalion Medical Personnel

Headquarters and Service Company (HSS)
Battalion Surgeon, Lt Cmdr, Richard H Jadick
Assitant Battalion Surgeon, Lt Carlos C Kennedy
HMC Russell W Folley
HM1 Richard E Lees
HM1 Bryan P Zimmerman
HM2 Shawn J Johns
HM2 Steve Meszaros
HM3 Jobraith Burn
HM3 Martin Graves
HM3 Clifton H Hinds
HM3 Ryan D Hirkala
HM3 David Lester
HM3 David McArdle
HM3 Jason M Smith
HN Uriel Garcia
HN Raymond Masino
HN Roger D Millhouse
HN Ricky J Peterson
HN John Paul Rosales
HN Collin Steadman
HN Justin Troyano
HA Ernesto Argueta
HA Daniel S Avila

Alpha Company ~ Avenger
HM3 Casey T Moody
HM3 Reinaldo Aponte, Jr
HM3 Manuel G Cortez
HM3 Duncan Fraser
HM3 Ryan Turner
HN Jorda Hotlschulte
HN Julian C Mask

Bravo Company ~ Beowulf
HM3 Kevin M Markley
HM3 Jeff M Gregus
HM3 Milton L Jones
HM3 Lucas Q Jushinski
HM3 Luis E RuizPopo
HN Rex A Goodman
HN Joel Lambotte

Charlie Company ~ Cajun
HM3 Aaron Pines
HM3 Raul M Cervantes
HM3 Anthony Lopez
HM3 Michael C Martinez
HM3 David Nadermann
HN Luis Lopez
HN Ether Maldonado
HN Randall McLain
HN Barry L Womack

Weapons Company ~ Wolverine
HM3 Thomas J Stahura
HM2 Justin B Sutton
HM3 Christian Rueda
HN Joel E Dupuis
HN Joseph Maston
HN Kouji Touya

HMC - Chief Hospital Corpsman
HM1 - Hospital Corpsman First Class
HM2 - Hospital Corpsman Second Class
HM3 - Hospital Corpsman Third Class
HN - Hospitalman
HA - Hospitalman Apprentice

The Corpsmen and Doctors on the ground with the Marine Corps are in the Navy.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Exile by Richard North Patterson

EXILE by Richard North Patterson

Richard North Patterson is one of my favorite fiction authors and his books always promise a good read. His newest book, EXILE, was a little daunting and I was glad I didn't pay for it by the pound! But, it was such a great read that I barely put it down.

When a terrorist cell attacks a convoy in San Francisco and murders the Prime Minister of Israel, we are thrown into the world of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Patterson takes us to Israel and the Palestine territories. He tells the stories of both sides of the conflict. His intense research into the areas makes clear the realities of phrases that we have all heard: suicide bombers, occupation, check points, settlements, the right of return, religious fanatics on both sides, honor killings. It is a fascinating journey into the lethal politics of the region.

It also has the stuff of great novels - a love story, the trial of the century, deception, murder and intrigue.

I enjoyed the story immensely, but I was fascinated by the history lesson that went with it. And, I feel I have gained some insight into the conflict that seems to have no resolution in this tiny corner of the world that affects the globe.

I strongly recommend this book.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Divorcing Dwayne ~ J L Miles

Divorcing Dwayne
J L Miles
Cumberland House Publishing

Divorcing Dwayne is the first book in an upcoming trilogy about the life of Francine Harper and the man in her life - Dwayne. Francine has chosen the man who made her father roll his eyes and her mother proclaim he "wasn't worth loosing her pants over."

Francine's life unfolds with the consequences of bad decisions - the primary one is Dwayne, and all of the secondary ones revolve around him, too - the jail time, the murder trial, driving the bulldozer into the mini mall, getting a role in a movie and being chased by the mob.

Francine, with the help of her best friend, Ray Ann, lives her life in living color in the small town of Pickville Springs, Georgia. One can say that Francine never had a crazy thought go unfulfilled, as she races through her days.

As Francine said, "Well, gee, Ray Anne, my husband's been cheating on me, I have reason to believe he's a hit man for the Mafia, and now he's doing the soundrack for some Hollywood movie! .... I feel like I've been asked to join a parade and told to march behind the elephants."

This book is laugh out-loud funny. It is a definate must read for any woman who can look back on her life and question some of those decisions made in her youth (that would be all of us - right?).

J L Miles has a gift of story telling. This is a delightful book - funny, poignant, real. I am looking forward to the next two books - Dear Dwayne and Dating Dwayne.

(Book received as a free preview copy)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Standing in the Rainbow ~ Fannie Flagg

Fannie Flagg is a craftsman with words. She paints pictures of people and places that embed themselves into your heart. Anyone who delights in the stories of families, will find characters that resemble someone they knew and loved. Sitting down to read a Fannie Flagg novel is like spending an evening with your favorite memories, only they are all new ones.

Standing in the Rainbow follows the people and the small town in Missouri from post WWII to the present. There are tears and laughter, joy and sorrow in the days of these all so knowable characters. The book is a journey through life - the searching, the finding, the achieving, the losing. But, Fannie Flagg always shows us the hope and joy that is in our hearts through the journey.

While I was reading this book, I found that I read much of it aloud at the dinner table. The stories were ones we could all relate to and delight in.

I've never read anything by Fannie Flagg that I didn't enjoy. She has the ability to paint wonderful pictures of our country and its stories and people. I just finished Standing in the Rainbow. So much of what she writes I can relate to and feel she is speaking from my heart. At the end of this book is a passage that is particularly wonderful...

"The world he had known was gone. Not only was he living in an alien place, but while he had been busy all these years making a living, someone had changed all the rules. For all he knew, he might as well have gone to sleep and awakened on the moon.

When he'd grown up, everybody had more or less agreed to a certain way of living. A certain standard. You didn't lie, you didn't cheat or steal, you honored your parents, your word was your bond. You didn't try to weasel your way out of things. You married the girl. You paid your bills. You took care of your children. You didn't cuss around girls. You didn't hit women. You played by the rules and it was expected that you would be a good sport if you lost. You kept your house, yard, and yourself clean.

Norma said you have to just swing with it and try not to let it bother you so much. He wished he could but somehow it seemed this new world was easier for the women to accept and adjust to. What bothered him and other men his age and older was that the things they had been willing to die for were no longer appreciated. Everything he had believed in was now the butt of jokes made by a bunch of smarty-assed late-night-TV so-called comedians making a salary you could support a small country with. All he heard was people saying how bad we were, how corrupt we had been, and how terrible white men were. He had not felt like a bad person. But just the fact that he was a white man of a certain age, a lot of people he did not know hated him. He had never knowingly been mean of unfair to another human being in his life. Now is seems he was the oppressor, responsible for every bad thing that had ever happened in the history of the world. War, slavery, racism, sexism --- he was the enemy and all had tried to do was live a good and decent life. History was being rewritten by the minute. all of his childhood heroes were now being viewed as villains, their lives judged in hindsight by the current fad of political correctness. hell, now they were even taking Huckleberry Finn out of the libraries, for God's sake. It was all too confusing.

You never saw people anymore, everything was self-service, everybody behind glass windows. and you could not get a real person on the phone. Everywhere you called, a recorded message connected you to another recorded message and then hung up on you. and everybody was mad and screaming about something. He did not know which was worse, the radical right or the radical left. It seemed nobody was in the middle anymore. We used to be on the right track and then we took a wrong turn but he did not know where. Was it the dope or television? Was it having too much that did it? He had tried to read what the experts thought but they did not know any more than he did. All he knew for sure was that after the '40s and '50s when he had been raised, the world had flipped over like a giant pancake and everything was backward. When he was a kid everyone had wanted to be Tarzan; now they all want to be natives. People were sticking rings in the noses --- even pretty little girls were running around with green hair, their bodies pierce everywhere.

And nobody answered a direct question anymore with a simple yes or no. Everything was answered with some kind of rhetoric. And he knew far more than he wanted to know about perfect strangers. Things people used to be ashamed to talk about now sold books and got them on television. Murderers were being asked for their autographs and turned into celebrities. Football, basketball, and baseball players could beat up their wives, take drugs, go to jail, and still stay on the team and make millions. It didn't matter what kind of a person you were anymore. He remembered when a professional athlete was someone to look up to; now the sports page read more like a police blotter.

And never in a million years would he have dreamed that one day baseball players would be wearing earrings. Or that some girl would be singing on television in her brassiere. Life was all so different, with this one having two mommies and another on two daddies.

He did not know what to think anymore. The way it looked to him, the world was not getting better; it was getting worse. He sat there for about an hour and gazed out at the water, wondering where and when it was all going to end.

He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees and stared down at the sandy ground, as if looking for an answer. After a few minutes he noticed a tiny ant that walked underneath him, struggling to carry what looked like a large piece of potato chip. It was much too big for him to eat, but he was headed somewhere with it anyhow. He watched the ant as it kept going and banged into another concrete bench, went around it, crawling over rocks and other obstacles, determined to get back home with his treasure. It was much too big for him to carry, but he did not seem to know it.

He sat there and watched the ant struggle along until is was out of sight and he smiled for the first time in weeks. 'Who knows?' he thought. 'If he keeps going, the little son of a bitch might just make it.' "

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Blog of War ~ Matthew Burden

Brought to us by Matthew Burden - - this book gives you multiple views of the troops in the Great War on Terror. Excerpts collected from many war-time blogs will make you laugh and cry. It will touch your heart in many ways and give you an insight into the nature of the fine young people who are serving our country today.

"The Blog of War provides an uncensored, intimate, authentic version of life in the war zone. Dozens of voices come together in a wartime choir that conveys better than any second-hand account possibly can what it is like to serve on the front lines." (Cover Notes)

It is a fast read, but one that you will want to revisit many times.

Some of the entries were from bloggers I followed, some were new to me. But, all were well-written and expressed a very personal view of their war. I recommend this book to everyone in America who has any interest in those who are defending this country and the realities of the war we are in.

Thank you, Matt, for an outstanding read.