Friday, December 30, 2011

68. Zen For Beginners

By Judith Blackstone and Zoran Josipovic
Rated 4 Stars
Format:  Borrowed Book

This book is a quick, broad and quirky introduction to a complex issue.  A friend recommended this book to me and even went so far as to loan me his copy.  I like it.  It's not particularly something I am prepared at this time of my life to take very seriously, but I do find the book interesting and frankly it has a lot to recommend it.

Book Description:

Zen from its foundation in China of the 6th Century AD, has always been more than a religion. It is an intriguing system of principles and practice designed to give each individual the experience of eternity in a split second, the knowledge of divinity in every living thing. To create a book about Zen, however, is risky. It is one thing to describe the factual history of this exotic strain of Buddhism. It’s quite another to successfully convey the crazy wisdom of the Zen masters, their zany sense of their uncanny ability to pass on the experience of enlightenment to their students. The authors of Zen For Beginners have clearly overcome these considerable risks. The books uses an engaging mix of clear, informative writing and delightful illustrations to document the story of Zen from its impact on Chinese and Japanese culture to its influence on American writers such as Japanese culture to its influence on American writers such as Ginsberg and Kerouac.

66. The Cause, #23

By:  Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Rated 5 Stars
Format:  Kindle

I am still jumping around in the series and  am continuing to fill in the gaps I left in this series when I stopped reading the books in order and skipped to book 24.  It's been pretty interesting skipping around.  I ought to drive me nuts but somehow it's not bothering me.  I guess I need to adapt Lord Peter's family motto "As My Wimsey Takes Me"  But I really did want to know the back story of Venetia and Hazelmere and also how things turned out for Charlotte and Oliver.  I think The Hidden Shore, #19 is going to be my next read.  What a soap opera!

Book Description:

Venetia is on the brink of marrying Lord Hazelmere when she discovers he does not mean to allow her to continue training as a doctor. She calls the wedding off, and from being the talk of the Season becomes the scandal of the year. Estranged from family and friends, she needs all her determination to continue the fight. At Morland place George and Alfreda continue to spend on grandiose building schemes despite the threat of bankruptcy; while Henrietta's cold marriage to the ascetic Rector of Bishopthorpe brings her close to questioning her religion.

64. The Outcast, #21

By Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Rated 4.8 Stars
Format:  Kindle

This book mainly takes place in South Carolina during the time that immediately led up to the American Civil War and during it.

It answered a lot of questions in my mind regarding the American branch of the Morland's and how Ashley and Lennie who play such large roles in future books fit into the fabric of the overall story.

I rated it down just a slight bit because I thought that Benedict was a little bit of wimp.  But he was James's son after all. *shrug*

Book Description:

 At Morland Place, Benedict's peaceful life is overset when a mysterious orphan arrives. No-one can understand why he takes this waif into the household, but the strain his arrival causes forces Benedict to take the boy to America, to join his much-missed daughter Mary. There Benedict becomes enamoured of the Southern way of life, just as bitter civil war is about to destroy it forever.

67. The Campaigners, #14

By: Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Rated 4.4 Stars
Format:  Kindle

With this book it became clear what I had skipped from book 12 to book to book 25 last year.  It was because of James.  He is a character that I disliked to intensely that he poisoned each book in which he was a character that I couldn't stand to read it.

In this book at hour 11:59 of his life he forgives himself himself for every stupid, rotten thing he did and naturally expects everyone else, especially Heloise to go along with it.  Heloise is so lame.

But James didn't play such a large role in this book as he had in the previous books and by skimming through the parts he was in I managed to enjoy the book in spite of him.  The rest of it was good.  Liked the battle scenes.  It was bloody but not as bloody as the Richard Sharpe book was and I liked the rest of the characters.

Book Description

 It is 1815, and Napoleon’s escape from Elba has convulsed Europe. The Allied Army is gathered in Flanders, and where the Army is, the fashionable world must follow. So Lucy and Heloise both take their daughters to Brussels for the most exhilarating season ever, and romance flourishes in the warlike atmosphere. Rosamund must finally come to terms with her feelings for her cousin Marcus, Sophie meets an enigmatic French major who may change her future, and Heloise renews acquaintance with a former suitor. The looming shadow of battle only makes the dancers whirl more feverishly, but when the army marches out to face the might of the French at Waterloo, one question is in every heart—which of them will not come back?

Monday, December 5, 2011

65. Bliss Remembered

By:  Frank Deford
Rated 4.5 Stars
Audio Book

This is a hard book to describe.  It's not a romance but the core of the book is a love story.  It's about a war but it's not just a war story.  It's about the 1936 Olympics but it's not all about sports.  It has spies but it's not a spy story.  In other words it's twisty.  I loved it.

I rated it down just a little because I felt that towards the end of the story the author started to lose his grip on the plausible.  There were a couple of eye rolling moments for me but by that time I was so involved with the characters and the story that I was able to pretty much suspend my disbelief.  Still . . . .

Publisher's Description:

With Bliss, Remembered, the celebrated Frank Deford has produced a work of literature that ranks with the best of his many novels, including Everybody’s All American, which Sports Illustrated ranked as one of the twenty-five best sports books of all time. In Bliss, Remembered, Deford explores new territory as he tells two love stories from the perspective of a beautiful should-have-been Olympic champion named Sydney Stringfellow.

At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Sydney begins an intense love affair with a German, but the affair abruptly ends when political forces tear them apart. Back in the US, Sydney—daring, vulnerable, and memorable—is left healing her broken heart when a striking American begins to pursue her. In Deford’s tender novel, the simplicity and honesty of choices of the heart clash with a brutal time—a time when choices seemed so dire in the enveloping shadows of a changing world.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

63. The Winding Road, #34

By:  Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Rated: 4.5 Stard
Kindle Book

If this turns out to be the last book in this series I am going to be sad, sad, sad!

In spite of the fact that Polly, whom I have never cared for, features prominently in the book it was a very satisfying read.  Lost some beloved characters but they had all lived long full lives over many books.  And for the characters left to make their way into the future without us the book ended on a hopeful note.  What more can we ask?  Another book that's what!

Product Description

1925. England is prosperous; the nation has put the war behind it, and hope is in the air. The Jazz Age is in full swing in New York, where Polly Morland is the most feted beauty of the day. But a proposal of marriage from the powerful, enigmatic Ren Alexander takes her by surprise. Her cousin Lennie, expanding his interests from radio to television and talkies, worries that no one knows much about Ren; but his attempts to find out more threaten disaster. In London, the General Strike gives the country another chance to show its stiff upper lip, as everyone turns to and helps out. Emma drives an ambulance again, while Molly runs a canteen, and each unexpectedly finds love, and a new career. But the whirligig is slowing, shadows are gathering over Europe, and the good times are almost over. Morland Place is threatened by the worst disaster of its history, and the Old World reaches out a hand to pluck Polly from the New. The Wall Street Crash brings the fabulous decade to a shattering close, and nothing will ever be quite the same again; but new shoots emerge from the ruins, hope is reborn, and the Morlands prove again that family is everything, and will endure.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

62. The Winter Journey #20

By:  Cynthia Harrod Eagles
Rated:  5 Stars
Kindle e-book

Having talked a good friend into reading some of the books in this 34 book series I was reminded that I had not read all of them myself.  I think I suffered from burn out along about book 11 and then jumped to book 23, leaving me with about 15 more book still to read in this series.  Hey, I'm up to it.

I picked this book completely out of any order because part of it was about the Crimean Way and I have always found wars and conflict interesting.  It was another of the un-put-down-able books in this series.  I'm definitely going to have to get #21, The Outcasts though because it ended with a cliff hanger. 

Publisher's Description

The Great Exhibition brings all the Morlands to London - including a cousin from America. Charlotte is using her wealth and social position to build a hospital, and, aware of how badly sick people are nursed, defies convention to train a team of female nurses. When the Crimean war begins, and her brother Cavendish departs with his cavalry regiment and her husband is called on to serve with the Intelligence Department, Charlotte goes too. Not all the soldiers' courage or high spirits can save them from the brutal horrors of war, and as the bitter Russian winter sets in, Charlotte's nursing skills are desperately needed as the army falls victim to cholera, dysentry, frostbite and gangrene.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

61. The Secret Life of Pronouns : what our words say about us

By:  By James W. Pennebaker
Rated 3.5 Stars
From:  Library
Format:  book

This book is interesting but dry.  Very dry. I am pretty much a word geek and I love words and language although you couldn't tell it from my own writing. But then I don't presume to be a writer, just a commenter. I would have been a lot happier with this book  if the author had written it in a more interesting style.  As it was it was just a dry statement of facts.  It's the kind of book you would read for information only and not a book I, at any rate, would read for pleasure.

Product Description:

Draws on groundbreaking research in computational linguistics to explain what language choices reveal about feelings, self-concept, and social intelligence, in a lighthearted treatise that also explores the language personalities of famous individuals.

Discovering the secret life of the most forgettable words -- Ignoring the content, celebrating the style -- The words of sex, age, and power -- Personality : finding the person within -- Emotion detection -- Lying words -- The language of status, power, and leadership -- The language of love -- Seeing groups, companies, and communities through their words -- Word sleuthing -- Appendix: a handy guide for spotting and interpreting function words in the wild.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

60. Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People

By:  Harold Kushner
Rated 2 Stars
From:  Library
Format:  Book

I am giving this book 2 Stars instead on the 1 that it deserves simply I really did read the whole thing.  I did so because I really couldn't believe the author was really writing this stuff and kept reading on to see if he would get his head out of La-La land and come back to earth.

I have a very good friend to whom very bad things are happening right now and I am having a hard time understanding why such a bad thing has happened to such a fine person.  A friend recommend this book to help me understand, why we have had so many bad things happen to us, even though we are good people. It's obvious he didn't really read it, but only went by the title of the book. You could easily loose your faith and hope reading this book. I don't recommend it at all!! Page 67 says God does not cause bad things to happen and also, he is unable to stop bad things from happening. He states that all the supernatural events and miracles of the Bible are just stories to make God look good.

And this statement is outrageous: "Are you capable of forgiving and loving God even when you have found out that He is not perfect, even when He has let you down and disappointed you by permitting bad luck and sickness and cruelty in His world, and permitting some of those things to happen to you? Can you learn to love and forgive Him despite His limitations ...?

Give. Me. A. Break!   What's the point in being God if you're not really a God!  God's gotta do better than that if I'm going to be a believer.  Might as well believe in The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Product Description:

When Harold Kushner’s three-year-old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease and that he would only live until his early teens, he was faced with one of life’s most difficult questions: Why, God? Years later, Rabbi Kushner wrote this straightforward, elegant contemplation of the doubts and fears that arise when tragedy strikes. Kushner shares his wisdom as a rabbi, a parent, a reader, and a human being. Often imitated but never superseded, When Bad Things Happen to Good People is a classic that offers clear thinking and consolation in times of sorrow.
Since its original publication in 1981, When Bad Things Happen to Good People has brought solace and hope to millions of readers and its author has become a nationally known spiritual leader.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

58. Why Read Moby-Dick

By:  Nathaniel Philbrick
Rated 3 Stars
From:  Library
Format:  Book

 I am rating this book 3 stars because I actually finished it. I wouldn't have if it had not been a very slim book, 127 pages and written in a very readable style. The author, who seems to be to be a few fries short of a happy meal, obsessed on Melvillle's Moby Dick until he convinced me that I should never read it even if I was on a desert island and it was the only book around

Library catalog description:

"Shares expert guidelines on how to read and appreciate Herman Melville's classic work, offering insight into its history, characters, and themes while explaining its literary relevance in the modern world."

57. Turtle Feet : The Making and Unmaking of a Buddhist Monk

By:  Nikolai Grozni
Rated:  3 Stars
Source:  Library

Generally I love books about the Far East because I find it exotic and the people interesting.  While this was a very well written book and interesting, overall I was disappointed. The author spends way to much time on the exploits of his friend Tsar's religious/spiritual experiences as a novice monk.  This became yawn inducing.

People are universally people and with a bunch of guys living together and there are always going to be some there with bad tempers, some with mental problems, some who swear like sailors, some who love to talk about sex, some who use drugs and other's who are devout and sincere. Maybe the author thought some of us didn't already know this and it was important to point that out.

But there is so much more that he could have written about, things unique to his life in India and Tibet.  Maybe I was looking for another Kim or The Far Pavilions.  At any rate it's not a book I would go around recommending.

Publisher Summary:

 Traces the author's spontaneous decision to give up his life as a musical prodigy to become a Buddhist monk, a choice that led to his relocation to the Himalayas and his indoctrination into Buddhist culture, where he found unexpected humor, doubts, and new friends.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

59. The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany

I am rating this book 5 Stars. Although it did not turn out to be exactly what I thought I was getting when I started it.  But hooray for me it turned out to be even better and far more of a biography of George McGovern but limited to his service with the USAAF during WW2. I am ashamed to say that I knew very little about George McGovern other than that he was a one time Presidential candidate. I need to read an actual biography about him as based on his wartime service he was truly a remarkable man. In the book McGovern also praises Tuskegee Fliers who flew escort missions with his squadron. This group of fliers is something else I am unfamiliar about and I need to go hunting through the library catalogue to find out what they have about them. Heaven help that I should be unfamiliar with something after my interest is piqued. :)

Publisher's Summary

The very young men who flew the B24s over Germany in World War II against terrible odds were an exemplary band of brothers. In The Wild Blue, Stephen Ambrose recounts their extraordinary brand of heroism, skill, daring, and comradeship.

Ambrose describes how the Army Air Forces recruited, trained, and chose those few who would undertake the most demanding and dangerous jobs in the war. These are the boys - turned pilots, bombardiers, navigators, and gunners of the B24s - who suffered over 50 percent casualties.

Ambrose carries us along in the crowded, uncomfortable, and dangerous B24s as their crews fought to the death through thick, black, deadly flak to reach their targets and destroy the German war machine or else went down in flames. Twenty-two-year-old George McGovern, who was to become a United States senator and a presidential candidate, flew 35 combat missions (all the Army would allow) and won the Distinguished Flying Cross. We meet him and his mates, his co-pilot killed in action, and crews of other planes - many of whom did not come back.

As Band of Brothers and Citizen Soldiers portrayed the bravery and ultimate victory of the American soldier from Normandy on to Germany, The Wild Blue makes clear the contribution these young men of the Army Air Forces stationed in Italy made to the Allied victory.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

54. The Winds of War

By: Herman Wouk
Rated 3 Stars
From:  Audible
Audio Book

I read this book thirty years ago and it's a perfect example of how one's reading tastes change over the years.  At that time I would have rated it it at least four stars and perhaps even a five.  But as I have gotten older, my perceptions have changed and I'm afraid the most I can honestly give this book is a shaky three stars. 

Wouk used the character of a U.S. Navy captain and his family to tell his version of the events leading up to the second world war.  While I don't expect writers of historical fiction to  slavishly repeat generally accepted versions of historical events, there are limits.  I do expect writers of fiction to provide me with a good story.  Wouk bounced his poor characters from one crisis to another and embroiled him to so many of the plots and plans of  the main players in WW2 that I found it impossible to keep my disbelief suspended.  

I finally made this book work for me by listening to it in the middle of the night  when I couldn't sleep. As soon as I stopped expecting a novel  with a coherent story line I was able to listen to each chapter as an essay based on the author's perceptions of what happened at the time.  From then on  it went much smoother for me.   This made it possible for me to stop and start  listening to the story without having to pick up on a story line.  It was a wonderful help with my insomnia because I could focus on whatever was happening in the book at the time instead of hearing all the things that go bump in the night.

There is a sequel to this book titled War and Remembrance and I'm not sure I will bother with it.  Since Winds of War worked so well for middle of the night listening I just might.  I need to think about it.

Publisher's Summary

A masterpiece of historical fiction, this is the Great Novel of America's "Greatest Generation".
Herman Wouk's sweeping epic of World War II, which begins with The Winds of War and continues in War and Remembrance, stands as the crowning achievement of one of America's most celebrated storytellers. Like no other books about the war, Wouk's spellbinding narrative captures the tide of global events - and all the drama, romance, heroism, and tragedy of World War II - as it immerses us in the lives of a single American family drawn into the very center of the war's maelstrom.

Monday, October 17, 2011

53. The Cat's Table

By:  Michael Ondaatje
Rated:  1 Star
From:  Library

It's my own fault I ended up trying to read this book.  I had forgotten that this is the same author that had written The English Patient. Struggling through to the end left me exhausted and out of breath.  What a piece of work!

My journal entry for The English Patient

 If I had a better memory for author's names I wouldn't have touched this book with a 10 foot pole.  Like the English Patient it's a book about nothing that goes nowhere.  Yes Michael Onjaatje writes beautiful prose.  But he can't tell a story.  I'll bet I remember from now on.

Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2011: Michael Ondaatje's finely wrought new novel chronicles a young boy's passage from Sri Lanka to London onboard the Oronsay, both as it unfolds and in hindsight. Glancing off the author's own biography, the story follows 11-year-old Michael as he immerses himself in the hidden corners and relationships of a temporary floating world, overcoming its physical boundaries with the expanse of his imagination. The boy's companions at the so-called Cat's Table, where the ship’s unconnected strays dine together, become his friends and teachers, each leading him closer to the key that unlocks the Oronsay's mystery decades later. Elegantly structured and completely absorbing, The Cat's Table is a quiet masterpiece by a writer at the height of his craft. --Mia Lipman

Trust me, if there is a mystery it's buried so deep in smarmy prose that it's impossible to find.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

52. The Great Typo Hunt

By Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson
Rated:  4 Stars
From:  Library

Thanks to Maudeen's tip I am currently The Great Typo Hunt; Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time, by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson. It's one opf those books I would never have found out about unless someone pointed it out to me.

 I have a lot of nerve snickering at other people's typos seeing that I am Queen of the Typos myself and also someone who has never really gotten a grasp on the correct use of comas and an even shakier grip on the proper use of apostrophes. But I have always loved badly worded signs and have a small inventory of them stored in my memory. One of my favorites is a sign I spied in Michael's in Ft. Worth, Texas that read "All flower arrangements must be returned the same day of purchase with receipt." Bringing it to the managements attention only caused them to look at me like I was crazy for asking what would happen to me if I decided to keep it. Another was in a local Mexican restaurant which read "Everyone eating must have plate including children."

 I Hope that I may have learned a little something about the use of the dread apostrophes and get a firmer grip on commas from this book. Anyway it's a very funny book and I'm enjoying it.

 Product Description

 "The Great Typo Hunt is the hilarious tale of the adventures and misadventures encountered on a quixotic cross-country trek to correct grammar and spelling mistakes. Over-the-top heroic tone and witty wordplay make this book endlessly amusing, without detracting from the larger point the authors are trying to make about the importance of clear and coherent communication. An overall fun read that will change the way you look at typos."

51. Museum of Thieves

By:  Lian Tanner
Rated 4 Stars
From:  Library

I don't read a lot of fantasy but I do dabble in the genre from time to time.  I had read so many good reviews of this book written by people whose taste generally runs with mine that I decided to give it a try.

What a fun read!  It's set in a world where children are sheltered by being chained to their parents in order to keep them safe from everything.  Dogs, cats, loose nails, broken glass and splinters.  Everything that might be remotely dangerous are  forbidden by law.

Goldie and boy named toadspit escape from this stifling environment and set out to save their world from an assortment of baddies.  A modern fairy tale, this book is a well written fun read that should appeal to readers of all ages not just children.

Publisher Summary 
Welcome to the tyrannical city of Jewel, where impatience is a sin and boldness is a crime.
Goldie Roth has lived in Jewel all her life. Like every child in the city, she wears a silver guardchain and is forced to obey the dreaded Blessed Guardians. She has never done anything by herself and won’t be allowed out on the streets unchained until Separation Day.

When Separation Day is canceled, Goldie, who has always been both impatient and bold, runs away, risking not only her own life but also the lives of those she has left behind. In the chaos that follows, she is lured to the mysterious Museum of Dunt, where she meets the boy Toadspit and discovers terrible secrets. Only the cunning mind of a thief can understand the museum’s strange, shifting rooms. Fortunately, Goldie has a talent for thieving.
Which is just as well, because the leader of the Blessed Guardians has his own plans for the museum—plans that threaten the lives of everyone Goldie loves. And it will take a daring thief to stop him. . . .

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dolley Madison - DVD

Rated:  5 Stars
From:  Library

What a treat!  Before seeing this DVD I knew very little about Dolley Madison as she is not a well know person in American history.  I knew she was First Lady when the British burned the White House in the War of 1812 and there are cupcakes named after her. But she was a very interesting lady who certainly deserves to be remembered. 

The film was beautifully done and the costumes and sets were gorgeous.  Dolley was obviously a lady of style and elegance.  I highly recommend this movie.

Product Description

"Born in relative obscurity before the American Revolution, Dolley Madison became one of the most influential American women of the early nineteenth century. As the wife of the fourth president, James Madison, Dolley Madison played an important part in the political and social experiment that was the early American Republic. Long before women held any overt political power, Dolley used her unelected position to legitimize the nation's new capital, to create a political and social style for the new country and to give Americans a sense of their own national identity." 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Middlemarch - DVD

Rated 2 Stars
From:  Library

I gave the movie 2 stars because at least I finished it.  But I had to force myself to watch it until the end. I formed no attachment, sympathy,  or love for any of the characters. I suppose if I had read the book I may have liked it more but this movie certainly isn't going to motivate me to do that.

However, it was beautifully filmed as all BBC productions are.  As a period piece it couldn't have been better.  Too bad the story didn't work for me.

Product Description

Chronicles the life loves foibles & politics of the fictional english town of middlemarch. This centers on the socially conscious but naive dorothea brooke whose disastrous match to the pedantic rev edward casaubon sets in motion a chain of events that will change middlemarch forever.

Friday, September 30, 2011

50. The Cuckoo's Egg

Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage

By:  Clifford Stoll
Rated 5 Stars
From:  Library

This was a real page turner for me and unbelievably kept me up until midnight to finish it.   Even though all the technology was probably out dated I am computer illiterate enough for the technology bits to go flying over my head.  It was the chase that I found so fascinating.

A poster on Bookflurries said that she had seen the author at a book reading and that he was the most entertaining author she had ever seen.  She said that he was so hyper-energetic that she jokingly compared it to someone mainlining caffeine.  I googled and found a 2007 interview on youtube and I concur with the poster completely.  But it is easy to see how someone with that kind of personality would hang on so tenaciously  in order to catch the person who was invading "his" computer system so brazenly and, getting away with it.  By the end of the book I felt like I too had a personal stake in finding the hacker.

Publisher's Description:

A 75-cent discrepancy in billing for computer time led Stoll, an astrophysicist working as a systems manager at a California laboratory, on a quest that reads with the tension and excitement of a fictional thriller. Painstakingly he tracked down a hacker who was attempting to access American computer networks, in particular those involved with national security, and actually reached into an estimated 30 of the 450 systems he attacked. Initially Stroll waged a lone battle, his employers begrudging him the time spent on his search and several government agencies refused to cooperate. 

49. To Say Nothing of the Dog

Or How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump at Last

By Connie Willis
Rated:  Pending
Audio Book

I am still listening along to this book.  It's a long audio book.  20 hours and 58 minutes.  Audible had it on sale for $4.95 and it was too good a bargain to pass up.  Other books keep getting in my way but sooner or later I will finish it.  I kind of have to be in the mood for Connie Willis.

Publisher's Summary

Connie Willis' Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Doomsday Book uses time travel for a serious look at how people connect with each other. In this Hugo-winning companion to that novel, she offers a completely different kind of time travel adventure: a delightful romantic comedy that pays hilarious homage to Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat.
When too many jumps back to 1940 leave 21st century Oxford history student Ned Henry exhausted, a relaxing trip to Victorian England seems the perfect solution. But complexities like recalcitrant rowboats, missing cats, and love at first sight make Ned's holiday anything but restful - to say nothing of the way hideous pieces of Victorian art can jeopardize the entire course of history.

44.. Pirate King

By: Laurie King
Rated: DNF!
From: Audible
Audio Book

I did not finish this book!  I can't believe this happened to me.  I tried.  I tried three or four times but I just couldn't get into it.  Finally I just started hopping through the story clicking here and there hoping to find something going on that would grab me.  In desperation I finally  clicked about ten minutes from the end and listened to the ending.

It seemed to me that Laurie King had gotten The Pirates of Penzance stuck in her head and couldn't let go of it.  The story was all fluff and no edge.  Holmes only put in a token appearance in this book and I for one don't blame him.  The whole thing was very un-Holmes like.  Not his kind of thing at all.

I sincerely hope that this was not a harbinger of where King is planning to go with this series.  If so she has just lost a faithful reader in me and I would truly hate for that to happen.  Oh well . . . . .

Publisher's Summary

New York Times best-selling author Laurie R. King’s books have received high praise from critics and have earned the Edgar, Creasey, Wolfe, Lambda, and Macavity awards. As Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes embark on their 11th adventure together, they find themselves immersed in the world of silent filmmaking. Here, the pirates are real—and unlike the shooting done with a camera, this sort can be deadly.
In England’s young silent-film industry, the megalomaniacal Randolph Fflytte is king. Nevertheless, at the request of Scotland Yard, Mary Russell is dispatched to investigate rumors of criminal activities that swirl around Fflytte’s popular movie studio. So Russell is traveling undercover to Portugal, along with the film crew that is gearing up to shoot a cinematic extravaganza, Pirate King. Based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, the project will either set the standard for moviemaking for a generation - or sink a boatload of careers.
Nothing seems amiss until the enormous company starts rehearsals in Lisbon, where the 13 blond-haired, blue-eyed actresses whom Mary is bemusedly chaperoning meet the swarm of real buccaneers Fflytte has recruited to provide authenticity. But when the crew embarks for Morocco and the actual filming, Russell feels a building storm of trouble: a derelict boat, a film crew with secrets, ominous currents between the pirates, decks awash with budding romance—and now the pirates are ignoring Fflytte and answering only to their dangerous outlaw leader. Plus, there’s a spy on board. Where can Sherlock Holmes be? As movie make-believe becomes true terror, Russell and Holmes themselves may experience a final fadeout.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Downton Abby - DVD

Rated 5+++++ Stars
From:  Library

Absolutely Marvelous!  Even without finishing it I am giving it 5+ stars.  It is so my kind of thing.

I am rationing it out so as to draw out the fun.  Eventually I am going to purchase the DVD and I know this is one I will want to re-watch.  The sets, the clothes, the atmosphere are as appealing to me as the story is.  I just love this kind of thing.  Oh, I said that already haven't I. :)

Publisher's Summary

Set in an Edwardian country house in 1912, Downton Abbey portrays the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who work for them. In the drawing rooms, library, and beautiful bedrooms, with their tall windows looking across the park, lives the family, but below stairs are other residents, the servants, as fiercely possessive of their ranks as anyone above.

Monday, September 19, 2011

48. Enigma

By:  Robert Harris
Rated 4.5 Stars
From Library
Hardcover Book

Well here I am, once again reading on Connie's coat tails.  I watch her lists very carefully.  I always find at least one book that I wouldn't normally find out about that turn out to to gems and this is one of them. Very well written and extremely atmospheric.

Publisher Summary:

 A fictional account of the desperate efforts to break the Nazi's Enigma code takes place in a British railway town, a struggle that becomes complicated by the pivotal disappearance of a beautiful cryptographer. A member of a top-secret team of British cryptographers, Tom Jericho succeeds in cracking "Shark," the impenetrable operational cipher used by Nazi U-boats, but when the Germans change the code, Jericho must break the new code before the traitor among his group can stop him.

47. Waterloo, A Captain Richard Sharpe Adventure

By:  Bernard Cornwell
Rated:  5 Stars

I have loved this series for a long time and it's a little sad that this is the last book.  But as Douglas McArthur said "old soldiers never die they just fade away" Richard Sharpe certainly deserves to sheath his sword and fade away into comfortable retirement.   If I have missed any of the books in this series it was by sheer accident.  If I was really, really rich I would collect them all in audio format to listen to when I am in a nursing home and beyond reading. :)

But Cornwell certainly ended the series with a great big bloody bang with this book.  His battlefield descriptions were about as graphic as I have ever read.  And his description of William of Orange's character made me go running to Wickipedia to see if this was the same William of Orange that was the scourge of Ireland and despised by Clan McDonald.  He wasn't.  That King William reigned in England with his wife Mary from 1689 to 1694.  The William of Orange that Cornwell is writing about in this book was born in 1792 and was subsequently King of the Netherlands.  He may or may not have been the jerk Cornwell protrays him as but after the hatchet job he did on Alfred the Great in his Saxon series I don't entirely trust him.  What I do trust is his accuracy as far as events are concerned and anyway this is fiction so Cornwell can write whatever he pleases.  But I can grumble about it. :)

Publisher's Summary

With the emperor Napoleon at its head, an enormous French army is marching toward Brussels. The British and their allies are also converging on Brussels - in preparation for a grand society ball. And it is up to Richard Sharpe to convince the Prince of Orange, the inexperienced commander of Wellington's Dutch troops, to act before it is too late. But Sharpe's warning cannot stop the tide of battle, and the British suffer heavy losses on the road to Waterloo. Wellington has few reserves of men and ammunition, the Prussian army has not arrived, and the French advance wields tremendous firepower and determination. Victory seems impossible.
In this, the culmination of Richard Sharpe's long and arduous career, Bernard Cornwell brings to life all the horror and all the exhilaration of one of the greatest military triumphs of all time.

46. Absolute Truths

By Susan Howatch
Rated:  At least 5 Stars
Audio Book

This is my first attempt in my current plan to listen to all of these books that I can find in audio format this year.  I have, for no logical reason started with the last book. (!)  It's a variation of the old "Read the Last Page of the Book Syndrome."

Audible has Glamorous Powers, Mystical Paths and Scandalous Risks as well as this one available.  Glimmering Images and Ultimate Prizes are available at outrageous prices in cassette tape format.  I think I will pass on them but I will reread them in book format.

I re-read these books every once in a while.  I am always amazed at how much I am attracted to these books because they are not the kind of books that generally appeal to me.  I think it's the writing.  Susan Howatch is a magical writer.  I don't really like most of the characters in these books but the sincerity of their faith and the fact that they really really try to be good Christians comes shining through.  It is non judgmental Christianity without the meanness and bigotry that has become so much a part of what passes for Christianity today.   It's almost enough to restore one's faith.

Publisher's Summary

Charles Ashworth, the bishop of Starbridge, is a man of great accomplishment, confidence, and conviction, with a reputation as a no-nonsense bishop - until his beloved wife dies. Bereavement overwhelming his spiritual equilibrium, his strict morality is quickly revealed to him to be nothing more than a facade. Spiralling downwards, Ashworth knows he must find his way out of the maze of his own psyche. In doing so, he must face the absolute truths - both good and bad - of his past that may be the only keys to his future.

45. When the Emperor Was Devine

Julie Otsuka
Rated: 4 Stars
From:  Library

A very interesting story and a shameful part of our nation's history.  But sad, very sad.  Our government succumbed to public hysterics' after Pearl Harbor and . . .  dare I even say it, then to greed.  I seriously doubt if any of the U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry were ever reimbursed by as much as one penny on the dollar of what was robbed from them.  I blush to think of it.

Myself, I am of thirty one thirty seconds German ancestry and no one messed with my family during WW2.  Because we didn't look different.  Racism is not just a recent phenomena

Publisher Summary The story is told from five different points of view--a mother receiving the evacuation order, her daughter on the train ride to the camp, the son in the desert internment camp, the family's return home, and the final release of the father after years in captivity--chronicles the experiences of Japanese Americans caught up in the nightmare of the World War II internment camps.

Friday, September 9, 2011

43. Only Time Will Tell

By Jeffrey Archer
Rated 3 Stars
From Library

For some reason this book didn't pull me in very far.  It was an OK book but the relationship between Harry and his Father did't come off as real.  The Father's antipathy towards Harry was over the top as far as I was concerned and since that relationship was what the entire story was built around the whole story felt flat to me.

Publisher Summary 1
"From the popular author of Kane and Abel and A Prisoner of Birth comes the story of one family across generations, across oceans, from heartbreak to triumph. The epic tale of Harry Clifton's life begins in 1920, with the words, "I was told that my father was killed in the war." A dock worker in Bristol, Harry never knew his father, but he learns about life on the docks from his uncle who expects Harry to join him at the shipyard once he's left school. But then his unexpected gift wins him a scholarship to an exclusive boys' school, and his life will never be the same again. As he enters into adulthood, Harry finally learns how his father really died, but the awful truth only leads him to question who was his father? Is he the son of Arthur Clifton, a stevedore who spent his whole life on the docks, or the first-born son of a scion of West Country society, whose family owns a shipping line?

This introductory novel in The Clifton Chronicles includes a cast of colorful characters and takes us from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War, when Harry must decide whether to take up a place at Oxford or join the navy and go to war with Hitler's Germany. From the docks of working-class England to the bustling streets of 1940 New York City, Only Time Will Tell takes readers on a journey through to future volumes, which will bring to life one hundred years of recent history to reveal a family story that neither the reader nor Harry Clifton himself could ever have imagined"--

42. The Leftovers

By:  Tom Perrotta
Rated 4 Stars
From:  Library

I've been trying to give my reading a totally different direction .  This book was highly recommended to me which is usually a kiss of death.  But I have been having such a hard time lately with books I figured what the heck I'd give it a try.  To my complete amazement I am really liking it.  This is also in spite of it being a post rapture kind of theme, another sure fire kiss of death for me. The book makes no judgements about what happened or why it happened.  It just tells a good story about how those "left behind" deal with the situation. 

Publisher Summary 2 

 What if—whoosh, right now, with no explanation—a number of us simply vanished?  Would some of us collapse? Would others of us go on, one foot in front of the other, as we did before the world turned upside down? That’s what the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, who lost many of their neighbors, friends and lovers in the event known as the Sudden Departure, have to figure out. Because nothing has been the same since it happened—not marriages, not friendships, not even the relationships between parents and children.

Kevin Garvey, Mapleton’s new mayor, wants to speed up the healing process, to bring a sense of renewed hope and purpose to his traumatized community. Kevin’s own family has fallen apart in the wake of the disaster: his wife, Laurie, has left to join the Guilty Remnant, a homegrown cult whose members take a vow of silence; his son, Tom, is gone, too, dropping out of college to follow a sketchy prophet named Holy Wayne.  Only Kevin’s teenaged daughter, Jill, remains, and she’s definitely not the sweet “A” student she used to be.  Kevin wants to help her, but he’s distracted by his growing relationship with Nora Durst, a woman who lost her entire family on October 14th and is still reeling from the tragedy, even as she struggles to move beyond it and make a new start.

Friday, September 2, 2011

41. The Devil Himself

By Eric Dezenhall
Rated: 5 Stars
From: Library

Product Description:

In late 1982, a spike in terrorism has the Reagan Administration considering covert action to neutralize the menace before it reaches the United States. There are big risks to waging a secret war against America's enemies---but there is one little-known precedent. Forty years earlier, German U-boats had been prowling the Atlantic, sinking hundreds of U.S. ships along the east coast, including the largest cruise ship in the world, Normandie, destroyed at a Manhattan pier after Pearl Harbor.

Nazi agents even landed on Long Island with explosives and maps of railways, bridges, and defense plants. Desperate to secure the coast, the Navy turned to Meyer Lansky, the Jewish Mob boss. A newly naturalized American whose fellow Eastern European Jews were being annihilated by Hitler, Lansky headed an unlikely fellowship of mobsters Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel, Frank Costello, and naval intelligence officers.

 Young Reagan White House aide Jonah Eastman, grandson of Atlantic City gangster Mickey Price, is approached by the president's top advisor with an assignment: Discreetly interview his grandfather's old friend Lansky about his wartime activities. There just might be something to learn from that secret operation. The notoriously tight-lipped gangster, dying of cancer, is finally ready to talk. Jonah gets a riveting---and darkly comic---history lesson. The Mob caught Nazi agents, planted propaganda with the help of columnist Walter Winchell, and found Mafia spies to plot the invasion of Sicily, where General Patton was poised to strike at the soft underbelly of the Axis. Lansky's men stopped at nothing to sabotage Hitler's push toward American shores.

 Based on real events, The Devil Himself is a high-energy novel of military espionage and Mafia justice.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

40. Midway

The Battle That Doomed Japan, the Japanese Navy's Story

By:  Mitsuo Fuchida and Masatake Okumiya
Rated: 4 Stars

Publisher's Summary

This landmark study was first published in English by the Naval Institute in 1955. Widely acknowledged for its valuable Japanese insights into the battle that turned the tide of war in the Pacific, the book has made a great impact on American readers over the years. Two Japanese naval aviators who participated in the operation provide an unsparing analysis of what caused Japan's staggering defeat.
Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the first air strike on Pearl Harbor, commanded the Akagi carrier air group and later made a study of the battle at the Japanese Naval War College. Masatake Okumiya, one of Japan's first dive-bomber pilots, was aboard the light carrier Ryujo and later served as a staff officer in a carrier division. Armed with knowledge of top-secret documents destroyed by the Japanese and access to private papers, they show the operation to be ill-conceived and poorly planned and executed, and fault their flag officers for lacking initiative, leadership, and clear thinking. With an introduction by an author known for his study of the battle from the American perspective, the work continues to make a significant contribution to World War II literature.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

39. A Year in the Merde

By:  Stephen Clarke
Rated 4 Stars
From:  Library

Publisher's Description:

A Year In The Merde is the story of Paul West, a 27-year-old Brit who is brought to Paris by a French company to open a chain of British "tea rooms." He soon becomes immersed in the contradictions of French culture: the French are not all cheese-eating surrender monkeys, though they do eat a lot of smelly cheese; they are still in shock at being stupid enough to sell Louisiana, thus losing the chance to make French the global language, while going on strike is the second national participation sport after ptanque. He also illuminates how to get the best out of the grumpiest Parisian waiter, how to survive a French business meeting, and how not to buy a house in the French countryside.

38. A House by the Fjord

By Rosalind Laker
Rated 3.5 Stars
From:  Library

This is not a very well written book.  I could swear I have read this author before but when I looked at her bibliography I did not recognize anything. If I was rating this book on writing style alone I would have only given this book 2 stars.  However I learned a lot of interesting stuff about Norway that I didn't know before.  It's a shame this author is not a better writer because this could have been a 5 star read for me.  Oh well . . . .

Publisher's Description:

When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation. So it is with surprise that she finds in this cold and bitter country the capacity for new love and perhaps even a new home.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

36. Last Letter from your Lover

By JoJo Moyes
Rated 4 Stars
From; Library
Format:  Book

I have been in a deep reading slump lately.  But I decided to try something that was a total change of pace from what I had been trying to read and it worked.

This is a very well written and poignant love story with a bittersweet ending. I enjoyed it and recommend it highly as a beach read.  If it' not too hot at the beach that is. :)

Product Description

A sophisticated, page-turning double love story spanning forty years-an unforgettable Brief Encounter for our times. 

It is 1960. When Jennifer Stirling wakes up in the hospital, she can remember nothing-not the tragic car accident that put her there, not her husband, not even who she is. She feels like a stranger in her own life until she stumbles upon an impassioned letter, signed simply "B", asking her to leave her husband.

Years later, in 2003, a journalist named Ellie discovers the same enigmatic letter in a forgotten file in her newspaper's archives. She becomes obsessed by the story and hopeful that it can resurrect her faltering career. Perhaps if these lovers had a happy ending she will find one to her own complicated love life, too. Ellie's search will rewrite history and help her see the truth about her own modern romance.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

37. Escape

By Barbara Delinsky
Rated 3 Stars
From:  Library
Audio Book

I really liked the premise of this book because I have been there myself.  Who hasn't?  But I did have problems with Emily's whining and thought that she wasn't entirely fair to James.  She should have given the poor guy a little warning that she was so unhappy.  And that ex-boyfriend, what a loser!!!  I am going to rate it a C.  But still, it kept my interest and since I have been having so much trouble with books lately that's saying something. :)

Publisher's Description:

In her luminous new novel, Barbara Delinsky explores every woman’s desire to abandon the endless obligations of work and marriage—and the idea that the most passionate romance can be found with the person you know best.
Emily Aulenbach is thirty, a lawyer married to a lawyer, working in Manhattan. An idealist, she had once dreamed of representing victims of corporate abuse, but she spends her days in a cubicle talking on the phone with vic­tims of tainted bottled water—and she is on the bottler’s side.
And it isn’t only work. It’s her sister, her friends, even her husband, Tim, with whom she doesn’t connect the way she used to. She doesn’t connect to much in her life, period, with the exception of three things—her computer, her BlackBerry, and her watch.
Acting on impulse, Emily leaves work early one day, goes home, packs her bag, and takes off. Groping toward the future, uncharacteristically following her gut rather than her mind, she heads north toward a New Hampshire town tucked between mountains. She knows this town. During her college years, she spent a watershed summer here. Painful as it is to return, she knows that if she is to right her life, she has to start here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

35. Martha; the life of Martha Mitchell

By:  Winzola McLendon
From Library
Format:  Hardcover

I've been in a terrible reading slump but I'm going to give reading another shot.  I have here before me:

Martha, The life of Martha Mitchell, an example of an Uppity Woman who was quite a character .  I found this review and it's lengthy but I found it very interesting.  I wish this mail program had block quote boxes.  Politics is a dirty, dirty business.  After spending darn near a month reading this book off and on I am firmly of the opinion that a) she was right all along, b) she was surrounded by very bad people and c) she fought back in the only way she knew how.  Her husband was a scum bag!

"Martha is the startling, behind-the-scenes story of one of the most famous and controversial woman in American politics -- of what motivated Martha Mitchell and what really happened to her after the Watergate scandal broke -- as told by the journalist who was her close friend and confidante in her last years."

"Here are those legendary middle-of-the-night phone calls; the television appearance when she revealed that her husband, Attorney General John Mitchell, said he'd like to trade some of the liberals in this country for Russian Communists; the time she ordered the Arkansas Gazette to "crucify" Senator J. William Fulbright; declaring "the Vietnam War stinks!" when Nixon desperately trying to justify it; calling for Nixon's resignation before the nation was ready to hear of it."

"Her husband labeled her his "unguided missile," creating the impression that he was an unfortunate but compassionate man saddled with a slightly flaky wife whom he adored too much to suppress. But here Martha reveals that John, with White House backing, put her up to almost all her early outbursts. And a former Nixon aide confirms that Martha was deliberately used by the White House to represent an outspoken view from the right, but one for which the Attorney General and the White House would not be held accountable."

"Most dramatic of all is the story of what happened to Martha after Watergate: how she was manhandled, and sedated to keep her from talking. And when it became necessary to discredit Martha, the White House confidentially "leaked" that she had gone "bonkers." Word was also passed that Martha didn't know anything, anyway, although Administration insiders knew that Martha was an incurable eavesdropper who listened in on John's telephone conversations and on his talks with people who came for meetings at the Watergate apartment. They knew, too, that after John went to sleep, she rummaged through his briefcase, reading secret papers. That these efforts to quiet and discredit Martha were a failure is evident from the message on a floral wreath sent anonymously to her funeral: MARTHA WAS RIGHT. "

"Martha reveals, for the first time, the full impact drinking combined with drugs had on Martha's life, and the poignant story of her love for her husband: though she died penniless and almost alone, Martha never ceased wanting John Mitchell to return to her."