Saturday, December 28, 2013

War and Peace 1977 BBC Movie

Story by:  Leo Tolstoy
Movie by BBC 1972
Rated 5++++++
15 hours long

I watched this on U-Tube and I finished it this morning.  I meant to watch it in slow stages but by episode 8 the story had such a grip on my attention that I just had to finish.

I am so grateful to my Friend Connie for mentioning the W&P movies in Bookflurries.  It just never occurred to me before that there was a movie.  How stupid is that?

It really bothered me that I hadn't been able to finish the book.  It went beyond W&P its self and into a more personal feeling of failure.  Now I can comfort myself by thinking the medium was to blame not the story.  I can see now how being in Pierre's stream of consiousness would chase me right out of the book.  I loved him as a character, and Anthony Hopkins did a wonderful job of playing him, but any more of his philosophizing than was in the movie would have put me to sleep. All of the casting in this movie was just brilliant.

Anyway, thanks for the nudge Connie.  It felt good to finally check W&P off  my to-do list.

  • War and Peace is a television dramatization of the Leo Tolstoy novel of War and Peace. This 20 episode series began on 28 September 1972. The BBC dramatisation of Tolstoy's epic story of love and loss set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. Anthony Hopkins heads the cast as the soul-searching Pierre Bezukhov, Morag Hood is the impulsive and beautiful Natasha Rostova, Alan Dobie is the dour, heroic Andrei Bolkonsky and David Swift is Napoleon, whose decision to invade Russia in 1812 has far-reaching consequences for Pierre and the Rostov and Bolkonsky families.

Friday, August 16, 2013

31. The Boy's in the Boat

By: Daniel James Brown
Rated 5 Stars

This is one of the two really outstanding non fiction books I read recently.  I come from generations of farmers and I grew up listening to "how bad things were during the Depression"  But this is a book about more than just a story about overcoming hard times but about what we are made of and what we can accomplish if we really make up our minds to do it.

Publisher's Summary

For readers of Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit and Unbroken, the dramatic story of the American rowing team that stunned the world at Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Daniel James Brown's robust book tells the story of the University of Washington's 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.
The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together - a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.
Drawing on the boys' own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times - the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam's The Amateurs.

America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction

By:  John Steinbeck
Rated 5 Stars

I haven't read many books lately but the few I had have been very enjoyable.  I have been diligently working on my quilt and listening while I read.

I bought America and Americans because 1) I like John Steinbeck's writing, 2) I wasn't aware he had written any  non-fiction, 3) it was written in an era that particularly interests me and 4) there are a bunch of snobby reviews on amazon about it that infer it would be over the head of any but the most  discerning readers.  

I am probably one of the most non discerning of readers but could never resist a challenge.  Beside Steinbeck was writing about my "times."  I miss the America I grew up in. 

The country and our society have changed dramatically in the years since the date it was published that it probably really does feel dated some young readers but for me it provides a picture of the times when I was young, and tells of the values of the time that I grew up in. Not all of them were laudable but at least I did not feel like an alien which I often do now days.  Every once in a while I look at my little black dog and remind him "Hobbs, we're definitely not in America any more."

Publisher's Summary

More than three decades after his death, John Steinbeck remains one of the nation's most beloved authors. Yet few know of his career as a journalist who covered world events from the Great Depression to Vietnam. Now, this original collection offers a portrait of the artist as citizen, deeply engaged in the world around him. In addition to the complete text of Steinbeck's last published book, America and Americans, this volume brings together for the first time more than 50 of Steinbeck's finest essays and jouralistic pieces.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Between the Lines Series

By Tammara Webber
Audio Books

This series follows the lives of a group of Hollywood actors who meet during the filming a remake of Jane Austen's classic novel Pride and Prejudice into a modern day version called School Pride. During the course of this series the readers follows the cast members as they film the movie, party, cope with constant media attention and paparazzi, fall into and out of love and cope with revelations from the past.  

All four of the books in this series are very well written and it held my interest all the way from book 1 through book 4.  And the very best part for me is that there are no explicit sex scenes I have to fast forward through.  The book is plenty steamy but the author is smart enough and skilled enough that when her characters climbed into bed they were making love not hooking up. Except for Reid of course, because he really was a bad boy until he . . . .  Oh, sorry - no spoilers allowed here.   Anyway, this author really is very good and I will continue to buy as many of her books she cares to write.

Between The Lines is Book 1 of this series and I'm giving it a 5 star rating. This book has two narrators.  Reid Alexander, Hollywood heart throb and bad boy and Emma Pierce an up and coming young actress.  Most of the main and some of the secondary characters are introduced in this book which covers the actual filming of the movie.

Where You Are is Book Two and my least favorite of the series.  But I am still giving it a 4 Star rating because a) it isn't the books fault I didn't like it as much as the others; and b) because it sets up the story for much of  the rest of the series.  This book has four narraters, Reid, Emma, Graham and Brooke.  Reid and Brooke are scheming, Graham and Emma are trying to build a relationship.

Good For You, Book 3 in the story is where Reid gets his comeuppance. It's narrated by Reid and Dory.  Dory is introduced in this book and is my absolute least favorite character in the series.  If you read the reviews for this book you will discover that a lot of people like her.  But she is just way to goody-goody for me.

Here Without You, Book 4 in the series is where Reid gets his act together, Brooke completely redeems herself, and Dory comes out way better than she deserves.

So that's it.  I don't think I've written a single spoiler *phew*  This was a fun series to read.  I highly recommend it.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

34. The Mine

By:  John A. Heldt
Rated 4 stars

I enjoy time travel books.  I also enjoy a well written romance novel.  Happily this is both. 

I liked the fact that he only transported his character back to 1941, an era which I am at least familiar with as I was 6 years old in that year.  My memories of what life was like in 1941 are a tad bit fuzzy and are from the pov of a child but there was a good bit that came across as familiar to me. Right off I had a kind of coming back to a familiar place. I realize this makes me a little unique among readers. 

I also liked that the main character did not blunder around but recognized immediately what had happened to him and immediately set about figuring out how to cope with his drastic change of circumstances.

None of the characters are larger than life.  Well maybe Joel was a tad bit too resourceful but he was a man in a very tricky situation so I forgave him.  All of the characters felt real and were likable.  In other words these were all people that you felt could easily been real and furthermore were people I would have liked.  

And lastly I found it refreshing that the author did not introduce a villain to add tension to the story but let the story create it's own tension.  There were a couple of baddies but they were strictly background and only served to set the story in motion and then they faded away.

Publishers Description:

In 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can't use, money he can't spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of Whirlaway, swing dancing, and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will alter their lives forever. THE MINE follows a humbled man through a critical time in history as he adjusts to new surroundings and wrestles with the knowledge of things to come.

Friday, July 5, 2013

33. Where She Went

By:  Gayle Foreman
Rated 3 srars

I purchased this audiobook the minute I saw it was out and available on audio. It is a sequel to "If I Stay" and I am sorry to have to say that I was disappointed with it.  I loved "If I Stay" but this one just didn't have the charm and poignancy the first book had.  It felt flat - especially when compared to it predecessor.  Still I'm glad I bought it because I really wanted to know "Where She Went."

 Publisher's Summary:

 It's been three years since the devastating accident... three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever. Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is L.A. tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock-star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future - and each other Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I StayWhere She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

32. Shadows of the Titanic

The Extraordinary Stories of those Who Survived

By"  Andrew Wilson
Rated 2 Stars
Audio Book

The book is a non-fictional account of the lives of a selected group of the survivors.  All of them very deeply effected by the experience, some of them so much that it changed the entire course of their lives.  A few were unable to cope and committed suicide. Some of them did not leave notes.  The author described the dying thoughts and actions of several people as if he had been there and was privy to their last thoughts.  This really bothered me.  It bothered me a lot.  I felt like the author was being disrespectful  to the people he was writing about.  These were real people!  He didn't even write any kind of disclaimer that explained why he decided he had the right to co-opt their last minutes. And then as a result of that I had another issue.   How much credence can you give to anything in the book once you feel the author did at least part of his research in thin air.

I did finish this book and had it not been for that I would have rated it at least four stars. It was well written and the subject of the book was interesting to me.  I just couldn't get past that author presumed to write about dying peoples last thoughts and actions in a way that he could not possibly have known about.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

27. Monkeewrench

By P. J. Tracy.  
Rated 4.5

My Granddaughter Nicky highly recommended this book to me.I was a little leery of it as she tends to read things like Patricia Cornwall books with lots of gore in them.  She isn't bothered by gore as her job exposes her to lots of it while I'm more the cosy mystery type reader.  But this book is kind of between the two types.  Some violence but not too much. :)  And a right out of the blue ending.  I love mysteries that keep you hanging until the very last page.

Publisher Description:

People are dying for the new computer game by the software company Monkeewrench. Literally. With Serial Killer Detective out in limited release, the real-life murders of a jogger and a young woman have already mimicked the first two scenarios in the game.

But Grace McBride and her eccentric Monkeewrench partners are caught in a vise. If they tell the Minneapolis police of the link between their game and the murders, they'll shine a spotlight on the past they thought they had erased-and the horror they thought they'd left behind. If they don't, eighteen more people will die...

Friday, May 24, 2013

28. George VI

By Denis Judd
Rated: 4.5

I hated to pay the kindle price for this book but finally broke down and bought it anyway.  It was very well written and it completes my close look at Britain during WW2 and the post war years I've had going for a while.

Publishers Description:

George VI was the man not born to be king. He nonetheless rescued the British monarchy in the aftermath of the abdication crisis and cemented its prestige with his well-judged performance during World War II and the Blitz. In this acclaimed biography, Denis Judd tells the story of Prince Bertie’s transformation into King George VI including his struggle with a crippling shyness and sense of inadequacy, exacerbated by the stammer which was the focus of the Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech. His marriage to the self-assured and supportiveElizabeth Bowes-Lyons and his unexpected accession to the throne in 1936 changed the direction of the young prince’s life for good. Once on the throne, it was he who bore the weighty responsibility for restoring the nation’s confidence in their monarchy following his elder brother’s abdication, and for maintaining morale during the darkest days of World War II, when, together with Winston Churchill, his dignified presence functioned as a beacon of reassurance to civilians and military alike. Denis Judd provides a fascinating, if sometimescontroversial, reassessment of the man who, quite unexpectedly, came to occupy an extraordinary position in a time of unprecedented change.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

29. Columbine

By:  Dave Cullen
Rated:  4 Stars

The best part of the book was how the community managed to take back their school and put the tragic events behind them and create a normal, positive high school experience for the students in the future.  Of course I knew that perfectly well having "watched" so to speak a friend's kid's have just that.  A normal, positive and excellent  high school experience there.

Book Description:

On April 20, 1999, two boys left an indelible stamp on the American psyche. Their goal was simple: to blow up their school, Oklahoma-City style, and to leave "a lasting impression on the world." Their bombs failed, but the ensuing shooting defined a new era of school violence-irrevocably branding every subsequent shooting "another Columbine."

When we think of Columbine, we think of the Trench Coat Mafia; we think of Cassie Bernall, the girl we thought professed her faith before she was shot; and we think of the boy pulling himself out of a school window -- the whole world was watching him. Now, in a riveting piece of journalism nearly ten years in the making, comes the story none of us knew. In this revelatory book, Dave Cullen has delivered a profile of teenage killers that goes to the heart of psychopathology. He lays bare the callous brutality of mastermind Eric Harris, and the quavering, suicidal Dylan Klebold, who went to prom three days earlier and obsessed about love in his journal. 

The result is an astonishing account of two good students with lots of friends, who came to stockpile a basement cache of weapons, to record their raging hatred, and to manipulate every adult who got in their way. They left signs everywhere, described by Cullen with a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of police files, FBI psychologists, and the boy's tapes and diaries, he gives the first complete account of the Columbine tragedy.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

30. The Ashford Affair

By:  Lauren Willig
Rated:  2.5 Stars
Audio Book

I would have given this book a higher rating except that I felt like it was only half there.  Unless the author is planning to write the other half of this book and publish it as a second book it ends in a very unsatisfactory place.

The character of Bea is very well developed until about half way into the story and then she disappears, both literally and figuratively from the book only to appear at the end to wrap up the ending with an apparently exciting story to tell that was only hinted at but left untold.  It ticked me off to be left hanging like that in a story, hence the 2.5 star rating for what would otherwise have been at least a solid 4 Star rating.

Publisher's Summary

From New York Times best-selling author Lauren Willig comes The Ashford Affair, a story about two women in different eras, and on different continents, who are connected by one deeply buried secret.
As a lawyer in a large Manhattan firm, just shy of making partner, Clementine Evans has finally achieved almost everything she’s been working towards - but now she’s not sure it’s enough. Her long hours have led to a broken engagement and, suddenly single at 34, she feels her messy life crumbling around her. But when the family gathers for her grandmother Addie’s 99th birthday, a relative lets slip hints about a long-buried family secret, leading Clemmie on a journey into the past that could change everything.
Growing up at Ashford Park in the early 20th century, Addie has never quite belonged. When her parents passed away, she was taken into the grand English house by her aristocratic aunt and uncle, and raised side-by-side with her beautiful and outgoing cousin, Bea. Though they are as different as night and day, Addie and Bea are closer than sisters, through relationships and challenges, and a war that changes the face of Europe irrevocably. But what happens when something finally comes along that can’t be shared? When the love of sisterhood is tested by a bond that’s even stronger?
From the inner circles of British society to the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the red-dirt hills of Kenya, the never-told secrets of a woman and a family unfurl.

Friday, May 3, 2013

26. Dali Lama - Man, Monk, Myth.Mayank

By:  Mayank Chhaya
Rated 4 Stars
Audio Book

I really admire the Dalai Lama.  He is a true man of peace.  This is a well written biography that tells of his early life and the events that caused him to flee from Tibet and his impact on Eastern Thought.  I am being drawn more and more towards the Eastern POV the older I get and the more disillusioned I get with Christianity.  It seems to me that most Christians don't follow the teachings of Christ.

Publisher's Summary

An authorized biography of one of the world's greatest spiritual leaders.
Written with the full co-operation of the Dalai Lama, this fascinating, up-to-date biography captures the public persona and enduring mystery behind one of the world's most important spiritual leaders.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

28. What Matters in Jane Austen?

By: John Mullen

Rated 4 Stars

This book is full of interesting tidbits, but you do need more than a passing acquaintance with Austen's novels to understand what the author is talking about.  Especially when he is referencing  what characters say to each other.  But for people who are new to reading about the period in history in which Austen's books are set the chapters that address money, mourning, games and social customs  are very helpful. 

Book Description

January 29, 2013
Which important Austen characters never speak? Is there any sex in Austen? What do the characters call one another, and why? What are the right and wrong ways to propose marriage? In What Matters in Jane Austen?, John Mullan shows that we can best appreciate Austen's brilliance by looking at the intriguing quirks and intricacies of her fiction. Asking and answering some very specific questions about what goes on in her novels, he reveals the inner workings of their greatness.

In twenty short chapters, each of which explores a question prompted by Austens novels, Mullan illuminates the themes that matter most in her beloved fiction. Readers will discover when Austen's characters had their meals and what shops they went to; how vicars got good livings; and how wealth was inherited. What Matters in Jane Austen? illuminates the rituals and conventions of her fictional world in order to reveal her technical virtuosity and daring as a novelist. It uses telling passages from Austen's letters and details from her own life to explain episodes in her novels: readers will find out, for example, what novels she read, how much money she had to live on, and what she saw at the theater.
Written with flair and based on a lifetime's study, What Matters in Jane Austen? will allow readers to appreciate Jane Austen's work in greater depth than ever before.

Monday, April 15, 2013

24. The Queen Mother

By:  William Shawcross

Rated 4 Stars
Audio Book

I was actually looking for a biography of George VI on audible but couldn't find on so I got this one as it was the closest I could get.  I'm beginning to think audible is prejudiced towards male monarchs.

She wasn't really all that special but she brought humanity to the Royal family at a time when they desperately needed it.  She was the right woman at exactly the right place and time.

Publisher's Summary

The official and definitive biography of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: consort of King George VI, mother of Queen Elizabeth II, grandmother of Prince Charles - and the most beloved British monarch of the 20th century.
Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon - the ninth of the Earl of Strathmore's 10 children - was born on August 4, 1900, and, certainly, no one could have imagined that her long life (she died in 2002) would come to reflect a changing nation over the course of an entire century. Now, William Shawcross - given unrestricted access to the Queen Mother's personal papers, letters, and diaries - gives us a portrait of unprecedented vividness and detail. Here is the girl who helped convalescing soldiers during the First World War...the young Duchess of York helping her reluctant husband assume the throne when his brother abdicated...the Queen refusing to take refuge from the bombing of London, risking her own life to instill courage and hope in others who were living through the Blitz...the dowager Queen - the last Edwardian, the charming survivor of a long-lost era - representing her nation at home and abroad...the matriarch of the Royal Family and "the nation's best-loved grandmother".
A revelatory royal biography that is, as well, a singular history of Britain in the 20th century.

Monday, April 8, 2013

25. That Woman

By:  Ann Sebba
Rated 4 Stars
Audio Book

This book is a cautionary tale if there ever was one.  Be Careful What you Wish For is the message that comes through loud and clear.

Because I have never been particularly interested in gossipy enquirer type articles I had never looked very closely at either the Duke or the Dutchess of Windsor.  But lately I have been doing quite a bit of reading lately about WW2 and several of the books I have read have mentioned that they were both suspected of having pro Nazi sympathies I decided to search out a biography of the Duke.  I didn't find one on but did find this book.  My goodness, what a to-do!

The conclusion that I came up with is that neither the Duke or the Dutchess had pro Nazi sympathies.  In fact I got the impression that both of them were so self absorbed that it was impossible for them to connect with or even understand any concept beyond their own personal desires at any given moment.  That is not to say the wouldn't has assisted the Nazi cause- but only if they perceived that by doing so they would advance their own interests.

I felt a little sorry for the Duke because if the facts of what happened were represented accurately then a real good argument could be made for him having a developmental disability of some sort.  Perhaps autism.  He really did seem to be unable to understand cause and effect throughout his life.  In the end he got exactly what he pushed so hard for and gave up so much to get and then spent the rest of his life unhappy because he was never able to understand why when he shed all responsibilities all his perks went away as well.  I thought he was honestly bewildered by that.

As for the Dutchess, well I have less sympathy for her.  I don't think she ever wanted Edward "for keeps" but thought she could carry on an affair where she could enjoy royal patronage, snub her nose at Brittain's society types, advance her husbands career and then when Edward inevitably tired of her like he did all the mistresses that came before her go back to her long suffering second husband that she truly loved and her life would go back to normal.  Instead she found herself in way over her head and ended up losing the husband she loved and stuck with an obsessively clingy husband that she didn't love.

The only ones who came out ahead in this mess were the British people who ended up with a much better king at a time when they had enough to deal with without having to put up with a King who displayed all the maturity of judgement of a six year old brat.

Publisher's Summary

Here is the first full-scale biography of Wallis Simpson to be written by a woman, exploring the mind of one of the most glamorous and reviled figures of the 20th century, a character who figured prominently in the blockbuster filmThe King’s Speech.
This is the story of the American divorcée notorious for allegedly seducing a British king off his throne. "That woman", so called by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was born Bessie Wallis Warfield in 1896 in Baltimore. Neither beautiful nor brilliant, she endured an impoverished childhood, which fostered in her a burning desire to rise above her circumstances.
Acclaimed biographer Anne Sebba offers an eye-opening account of one of the most talked about women of her generation. It explores the obsessive nature of Simpson’s relationship with Prince Edward, the suggestion that she may have had a disorder of sexual development, and new evidence showing she may never have wanted to marry Edward at all. Since her death, Simpson has become a symbol of female empowerment as well as a style icon. But her psychology remains an enigma.
Drawing from interviews and newly discovered letters, That Woman shines a light on this captivating and complex figure, an object of fascination who has only grown more compelling with the years.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

16. The Mountain Between Us

By:  Charles Martin
Rated 4.5 Stars

I enjoyed this book very much in spite of its being classified as Inspirational.  Charles Martin is a competent writer and a first rate story teller. Both of which are rare for Inspirational books.

I had to suspend my disbelief a time or two but hey, this is fiction and  implausible situations are allowed as long as the story is good.  And this is a good story.  It kept me listening with my full attention all the to the end and there was no way I could shut if off until I learned how it came out.

Publisher's Summary

On a stormy winter night, two strangers wait for a flight at the Salt Lake City airport. Ashley Knox is an attractive, successful writer, who is flying East for her much anticipated wedding. Dr. Ben Payne has just wrapped up a medical conference and is also eager to get back East for a slate of surgeries he has scheduled for the following day. When the last outgoing flight is cancelled due to a broken de-icer and a forthcoming storm, Ben finds a charter plane that can take him around the storm and drop him in Denver to catch a connection. And when the pilot says the single engine prop plane can fit one more, if barely, Ben offers the seat to Ashley, knowing that she needs to get back just as urgently. And then the unthinkable happens. The pilot has a heart attack mid-flight, and the plane crashes into the High Uintas Wilderness - one of the largest stretches of harsh and remote land in the United States.
Ben, who has broken ribs and Ashley, who suffers a terrible leg fracture, along with the pilot's dog, are faced with an incredibly harrowing battle to survive. Fortunately, Ben is a medical professional and avid climber. With little hope for rescue, he must nurse Ashley back to health and figure out how they are going to get off the mountain, where the temperature hovers in the teens.
Meanwhile, Ashley soon realizes that the very private Ben has some serious emotional wounds to heal as well. He explains to Ashley that he is separated from his beloved wife, but in a long standing tradition, he faithfully records messages for her on his voice recorder, reflecting on their love affair. As Ashley eavesdrops on Ben's tender words to his estranged wife she comes to fear that when it comes to her own love story, she's just settling. And what's more: she begins to realize that the man she is really attracted to, the man she may love, is Ben.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

23. Leaving Everything Most Loved

By:  Jacqueline Winspeare

Rated:  5 Stars
Audio Book

Winspeare said that this was book was going to change the entire playing field and boy was she ever right.  She changed almost everything over the course of the book.

I have loved every one of these stories even when I got a little annoyed with the character of Maisie for clinging to tightly to her past and not moving on as fast as I thought she ought to.  I am no longer annoyed.  Plus she managed to change everything while leaving all the bare bones of the series firmly in place.  This book just came out and I am already wishing for the next one.

And as for the mystery, I didn't figure it who-done-it until the very end. I absolutely love twisty mysteries and this was one had a grand twist at the end.  This book lets the reader know that regardless of how much we want to see Masie and James wrapped in each others arms Winspeare is a mystery writer and any romance that floats by is strictly secondary and is meant to advance the plot only.

 I grew up watching Perry Mason mystery in the early days of TV and my brother and I competed every week to see which one of us could figure out the Grand Denouement first.  I'll admit I had an advantage over him for a while because whoever casted the shows had a weakness for weak chins and all I had to do was look to see which character had one and I had the killer. 

And I say this in every review I write for the Maisie books but Winspeare is probably better than any other writer of mysteries set in this era.  She does such a good job of setting the atmosphere of time and place that the reader is left as fly on wall as they experience the story in whatever format they have chosen.

And, as a personal note to whoever reads this comment.  I know I am sounding a little gushy but if you have read any of my journal entries in the past you know that I pretty much call them as I see them.  It has gotten me quite a few negative votes on amazon and a few on audible.  But happily I am not running for election to anything so I will continue always to call them as I see them.    

Publisher's Summary

In Leaving Everything Most Loved by New York Times best-selling author Jacqueline Winspear, Maisie Dobbs investigates the murder of Indian immigrants in London.
The year is 1933. Maisie Dobbs is contacted by an Indian gentleman who has come to England in the hopes of finding out who killed his sister two months ago. Scotland Yard failed to make any arrest in the case, and there is reason to believe they failed to conduct a thorough investigation. The case becomes even more challenging when another Indian woman is murdered just hours before a scheduled interview. Meanwhile, unfinished business from a previous case becomes a distraction, as does a new development in Maisie's personal life.
Bringing a crucial chapter in the life and times of Maisie Dobbs to a close, Leaving Everything Most Loved marks a pivotal moment in this outstanding mystery series.

Monday, March 18, 2013

22. The Grizzly King

By:   James Oliver Curwood
Rated:  5 Stars

I recently finished a perfect jewel of a book.  Shaun got it from the library and said I had to read it and when I looked for it I found it free on Kindle.  

This book was written in 1917 and is not in the least dated.  The Romance in the title refers to the hunter and the bear's relationship to the wilderness.  It's about a man hunting for a bear from both points of view.  I had never even considered that Grissly Bear's might have a point of view before but after reading this I even came away with a certain amount of sympathy for them.  Not much, but some.

Anyway it's a little gem of a book, just 140 pages.  And for you kindle owners, free.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

19. Middletown

By:  Gaile Sheehy
Rated 4 Stars
Audio Book

Publisher's Summary

50 people never came home to Middletown, New Jersey after September 11th. Wall Street fathers, young Port Authority police, single working moms, the beloved coach of the championship girls traveling basketball team. Three toddlers in one church pre-school lost their daddies. Dozens of widows, young and beautiful girls in their 20s and 30s, some still nursing newborns, watched their dreams literally go up in smoke in that amphitheater of death across the river.
Gail Sheehy traveled to Middletown shortly after the disaster and began in-depth interviews with many of the bereaved.
Middletown, America was written as the year progressed, following parallel and intertwining stories of selected individuals and their families. A mother who was doubly bereft when she lost her only son as he tried to fill the shoes of her absentee husband; the sole survivor in an office of 67 people who escaped the 88th floor of Tower 2 seconds before the floor was decimated.
Here are the fire-fighters, rescue workers and front-line public health volunteers, now training to be soldiers in this new war.
Of equal importance, however, is the way these very real individuals dealt with this disaster and the trauma that followed. Middletown, America is also a story of recovery and of the ways people finally learn to deal with seemingly insurmountable grief and an incomprehensible physical and financial disaster.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

15. My Stroke of Insight

By:  Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.
Rated 4.5 Stars

I so wish I could have had this book while my Mother was still alive.  Her brain disease affected the left hemisphere where the author had her stroke and I am seeing my Mother on every page.  I talked to my son about this book this morning about Mother and I know in my heart there is nothing I or anyone could have done to improve her condition but I sure could have understood what she was going through a lot better. I am finding a lot of comfort when the author talks about feeling peaceful detached from the world.  I'm hoping it was that way for my Mother.

Book Description:

On December 10, 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor, a thirty-seven- year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist experienced a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. As she observed her mind deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life-all within four hours-Taylor alternated between the euphoria of the intuitive and kinesthetic right brain, in which she felt a sense of complete well-being and peace, and the logical, sequential left brain, which recognized she was having a stroke and enabled her to seek help before she was completely lost. It would take her eight years to fully recover.

For Taylor, her stroke was a blessing and a revelation. It taught her that by "stepping to the right" of our left brains, we can uncover feelings of well-being that are often sidelined by "brain chatter." Reaching wide audiences through her talk at the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference and her appearance on Oprah's online Soul Series, Taylor provides a valuable recovery guide for those touched by brain injury and an inspiring testimony that inner peace is accessible to anyone

Friday, March 1, 2013

14. The Romanovs: The Final Chapter

By:  Robert K. Masie
Rated 4 Stars
Audio Book

The first half of this book tells the story of how the remains of the Romanov family was finally discovered after team after team of scientists, amateur archeologists, the KGB and just plain adventurers looking for their 15 minutes of fame spent fortunes and sometimes lifetimes searching for them.

It then goes on to describe the sickening in-fighting between teams of scientists and politicians from any country or region with even the most tenuous claim to have an interest in them indulged fought over the bones.  It was pretty disgusting and I was amazed how people with so much education would stoop so low.  The few scientists who did have integrity were almost buried in the avalanche of mud and had to fight tooth and nail to protect their reputations.  As I said, disgusting.  At the time this book was written the bones of the Romanov family was still laying in a morgue in Moscow while the Government fights over where and how to bury them.  Sad!

The second half of the book was pretty much devoted to Anna Anderson, the Polish peasant woman as she utilmately turned out to be was able to perpetrate such a long running and fairly creditable hoax for so long.  I Her story was very good and I guess it must be pretty easy to convince people who really want to be convinced of almost anything.

Book Description:

In July 1991, nine skeletons were exhumed from a shallow mass grave near Ekaterinburg, Siberia, a few miles from the infamous cellar room where the last tsar and his family had been murdered 73 years before. But were these the bones of the Romanovs? And if these were their remains, where were the bones of the two younger Romanovs supposedly murdered with the rest of the family? Was Anna Anderson, celebrated for more than 60 years in newspapers, books, and film, really Grand Duchess Anastasia? The Romanovs provides the answers, describing in suspenseful detail the dramatic efforts to discover the truth.
Pulitzer Prize winner Robert K. Massie presents a colorful panorama of contemporary characters, illuminating the major scientific dispute between Russian experts and a team of Americans, whose findings, along with those of DNA scientists from Russia, America, and Great Britain, all contributed to solving one of the great mysteries of the 20th century.

Friday, February 22, 2013

13. Prague Winter

A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948

By:  Madeline Albright
Rated: 5 Stars
Hardback and Audiobook

A very good friend recommended this book to me and even loaned me a copy of it because she thought I would like it.  She was right.  I liked it so much I used one of my audible credits to purchase it in audio format.  I am so glad I did because the books was read by Madeline Albright herself.

This book is basically a history of Czechoslovakia during the periods before, during and after WW2.  I found this interesting because the events leading up to both wars and their aftermaths have had a lot of impact on where we find ourselves today.  It's my contention that you cannot fully understand what is happening around you today unless you know what happened yesterday.  That's just my personal take however and probably an excuse to myself for my fascination with conflict when I consider myself to be a pacifist.

By reading the book herself and thereby describing the events in her own voice she transformed the story from being dry history into her story.  Sometimes you could tell by her voice that many of the events she was describing were very painful.  I especially enjoyed the parts relating to her childhood during WWII.  The one thing that I do not understand is why her parents kept so much of her families personal history from their children.  I am sure they had their reasons but still it is hard for me to understand.  I am about seven years younger than Madeline Albright but I still have some very vivid memories of those days.  But I grew up in the oh so safe American mid-west so if I have memories I can imagine that people who lived through those times must have memories vivid enough to evoke some strong emotions.

Publisher's Summary

Before Madeleine Albright turned twelve, her life was shaken by the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia - the country where she was born - the Battle of Britain, the near total destruction of European Jewry, the Allied victory in World War II, the rise of communism, and the onset of the Cold War.
Albright's experiences, and those of her family, provide a lens through which to view the most tumultuous dozen years in modern history. Drawing on her memory, her parents' written reflections, interviews with contemporaries, and newly available documents, Albright recounts a tale that is by turns harrowing and inspiring. Prague Winter is an exploration of the past with timeless dilemmas in mind and, simultaneously, a journey with universal lessons that is intensely personal.
The book takes readers from the Bohemian capital's thousand-year-old castle to the bomb shelters of London, from the desolate prison ghetto of TerezÍn to the highest councils of European and American government. Albright reflects on her discovery of her family's Jewish heritage many decades after the war, on her Czech homeland's tangled history, and on the stark moral choices faced by her parents and their generation. Often relying on eyewitness descriptions, she tells the story of how millions of ordinary citizens were ripped from familiar surroundings and forced into new roles as exiled leaders and freedom fighters, resistance organizers and collaborators, victims and killers. These events of enormous complexity are nevertheless shaped by concepts familiar to any growing child: fear, trust, adaptation, the search for identity, the pressure to conform, the quest for independence, and the difference between right and wrong.
"No one who lived through the years of 1937 to 1948," Albright writes, "was a stranger to profound sadness. Millions of innocents did not survive, and their deaths must never be forgotten. Today we lack the power to reclaim lost lives, but we have a duty to learn all that we can about what happened and why." At once a deeply personal memoir and an incisive work of history, Prague Winter serves as a guide to the future through the lessons of the past - as seen through the eyes of one of the international community's most respected and fascinating figures.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

12. The House Girl

By:  Tara Conklin
Rated: 3 Stars
Audio Book

This book looked really great from the summary I read before I purchased it.  And in a lot of ways it was a pretty good book.  It's just that I had to keep suspending my disbelief so often that I finally got tired of doing it.  But let me be clear, I am not complaining about the writing.  But while I thought this book was well written it could have definitely used some professional editing to keep the plot from drifting off into implausibility.  Had this not been basically such a good book (interesting plot line, good writing) I could have shrugged this book off and I would not now be going to all the trouble of writing a long review to critique it.

The story of the slave Josephine Bell was the most interesting to me. I thought the parts of the book relating to her life very poignant and probably basically true to life.  But even here I had to quibble with the fact that she was so educated and had so much opportunity to spend time not to mention access to art supplies that she was able to produce the body of work that was apparently floating around in the 21st century.  Also the fact that at her death she was still only 17 years old.  Still, if one was able to suspend ones mild disbelief it was a very good story line.

Lina came across as even more unbelievable.  She didn't fit the type one would expect to have even been hired at a high powered NY law firm that specializes in corporate litigation. The amount of the damages being sued for also struck me as highly unlikely.  No one, especially the Government is going to sit still for a suit asking for that kind of damages without pulling some major strings to stifle it and the fact the author had all the attorney's sitting around with sugar plumbs dancing in their heads  just did not work for me.  High powered corporate lawyers ought to have a firmer grasp on reality than the ones in this book did.  Still, they are part the 100% and reality is not their strong suit so . . . . . . . .

Also that all the research necessary to prove this case just fell into Lina's lap from a source that was least likely to help her was the final straw for me.  And last but not least, I thought the ending was messy.  There was not closure to any of the plot lines.

Still, this was still an OK read.  I think I am complaining because I think it could have been so much more. 

Publisher's Summary

Two remarkable women, separated by more than a century, whose lives unexpectedly intertwine....
The year is 2004: Lina Sparrow is an ambitious young lawyer working on a historic class-action lawsuit seeking reparations for the descendants of American slaves.
The year is 1852: Josephine is a 17-year-old house slave who tends to the mistress of a Virginia tobacco farm - an aspiring artist named Lu Anne Bell.
It is through her father, renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers a controversy rocking the art world: Art historians now suspect that the revered paintings of Lu Anne Bell, an antebellum artist known for her humanizing portraits of the slaves who worked her Virginia tobacco farm, were actually the work of her house slave, Josephine.
A descendant of Josephine's would be the perfect face for the lawsuit - if Lina can find one. But nothing is known about Josephine's fate following Lu Anne Bell's death in 1852. In piecing together Josephine's story, Lina embarks on a journey that will lead her to question her own life, including the full story of her mother's mysterious death 20 years before.
Alternating between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing tale of art and history, love, and secrets explores what it means to repair a wrong, and asks whether truth can be more important than justice.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

11. The Whistling Season

By:  Ivan Doig
Rated:  4 Stars
Audio Book

I guess I need to remind myself more often that I don't like Westerns because I really enjoyed this book.  It's a coming of age/Little House on the Prairie/My Antonia kind of book with a little twist at the end.  It's also a peek into rural life in Montana 100 years ago and a nostalgic look back at the one room school houses of the time.

My one mild complaint is that while Doig does an excellent job of describing time and place his attempt at adding a couple rascals into the story came off as far fetched.  Still it is a book of fiction after all and while I rolled my eyes a little I still enjoyed the book.

Publisher's Summary
When a widowed rancher hires a housekeeper to help with his three young sons, he finds her to be cheerful and competent. Yet she is concealing a colorful and infamous past. Filled with humor and hardship, this novel sings with what the author calls "a poetry of the vernacular".

Saturday, February 16, 2013

10. The Distant Land of My Father: A Novel of Shanghai

By:  Bo Caldwell
Rated: 5 Stars

I rated this book 5 stars for the fact that it made me think so much about the characters and what motivated them.  This would be an excellent book for a group as there is a lot to talk about and it would be interesting to what others thought about the book.

My reaction is that Anna's father Joe is one of the most conflicted, yet charasmatic characters I have read about in a . . . .  well I can't remember when a character made me like him, deeply dislike him and at times felt very sorry for him.   In fact in spite of flashes of intelligence I though he was really rather dumb, self absorbed and certainly clueless and insensitive about how his actions effected the people who loved him.  Still, I had to like him. sigh

Where this book really shone for me was in time and place.  Bo Caldwell did a marvelous job of putting the reader in Shanghi during WW2 and the years leading up to it.  I think she accurately  described the mind set of the international community during those days.

This was not an easy read for me in that my emotions were engaged on  almost every page.  Even when the action was slow I could feel the tension and undercurrents swirling around the characters and the feeling of waiting for the shoe to drop.  I highly recommend this book.

Book Description

 September 1, 2001
For Anna, the narrator of Bo Caldwell's richly lyrical and vivid first novel, growing up in the magical world of Shanghai in the 1930s and 1940s creates a special bond between her and her father. He is the son of missionaries, a smuggler, and a millionaire who leads a charmed but secretive life. When the family flees to Los Angeles in the face of the Japanese occupation, he chooses to remain, believing his connections and luck will keep him safe. He's wrong. He survives, only to again choose Shanghai over his family during the Second World War. Anna and her father reconnect late in his life, when she finally has a family of her own, but it is only when she discovers his extensive journals that she is able to fully understand him and the reasons for his absences. With the intensity and appeal of When We Were Orphans, also set in Shanghai at the same time, The Distant Land of My Father tells a moving and unforgettable story about a most unusual father-daughter relationship. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

9. Voice of the Violin

By:  Andrea Camilleri
Rated 3.5 Stars
Paperback Loan from Connie

I liked this book slightly less than I did The Terra Cotta Dog and The Snack Thief.  I thought it was kind of slow.  Also I had a feeling that Montalbano was going to mess up with Livia.  I am hoping that in future books he can bail himself out.

Book Description:

 As the fourth mystery in the internationally bestselling series opens, Montalbano’s gruesome discovery of a lovely, naked young woman suffocated in her bed immediately sets him on a search for her killer. Among the suspects are her aging husband, a famous doctor; a shy admirer, now disappeared; an antiques-dealing lover from Bologna; and the victim’s friend Anna, whose charms Montalbano cannot help but appreciate. But it is a mysterious, reclusive violinist who holds the key to the murder.

Friday, February 8, 2013

9. Horses Don't Fly

By:  Frederick Libby
Rated: 4 Stars

While Fred's experiences as a member of the RAF were interesting they were fairly typical of what most flyers of that time went through.  What I found particularly interesting about this book was his experiences as a child growing up in a motherless household with a loving Father and brother.  His upbringing was without much feminine influence in his life and I think it gave him a rootlessness and recklessness that affected most of the decisions he made as a young man.  After he was in the war for a while he grew up pretty quick.

I didn't realize how easy it was at the time for men to cross the border from the US to Canada and to enlist in the Canadian army.  I knew it had been done but before I read this book I had not idea it had been so easy.  I enjoyed this book.

Publisher's Description:

Growing up on a ranch in Sterling, Colorado, Frederick Libby tamed countless horses, drove cattle, and even roped an antelope. When World War I broke out, he enlisted in the Canadian army with the same happy-go-lucky daring and grit with which he approached all things. In France, he became an aviator with the Royal Flying Corp, downing an enemy plane on his first day of battle over the Somme. He went on to become an ace, with 24 victories to his credit, just two less than Captain Eddie Rickenbacher. This is a rare piece of Americana, told in as pure and compelling a voice from the vernacular heart of this country as you will ever hear.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

8. Where have You Gone Bernadette

By: Maria Semple
Rated 1 Star
Kindle Book

In spite of all the good reviews his book got on amazon I found it boring in the extreme.   I finally gave up on it.  Generally I like books that are over-the-top" but this book was over-the-top in that all the characters came across to me as extremely shallow.  The kind of people with way too much income and who think that all of life comes down to just being able to write a check which will entitle you to having your smallest desire granted regardless of how it will effect anyone else.

I guess the whole book is just not my kind of thing.I didn't like any of those people.

Book Description:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

Monday, February 4, 2013

7. The Snack Thief

By: Andrea Camilleri
 Rated: 4 Stars
 Paperback Loan from Connie

Montalbano is such a great and quirky character. He's wonderful in so many ways --excepting his foul mouth which I find out of place for some reason,
 his love of fine food to his ability to see smells in color.  It's better in some ways than The Terra Cota Dog. I found Montalbano's refusal to visit his dying Father because he loved him too much to see him at death's door a little odd.  Surely the comfort he could have provided his father would have off set his "discomfort" but I am chalking this up to the possibility that his reaction is a cultural thing.  I did like his reaction to "The Snack Thief: but I am not altogether sure he is not really going to marry Livia when it comes to the sticking point.  But I did like the mystery very much and loved some of the secondary characters especially Signora Cozzo.

Book Description:

In the third book in Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series, the urbane and perceptive Sicilian detective exposes a viper's nest of government corruption and international intrigue in a compelling new case. When an elderly man is stabbed to death in an elevator and a crewman on an Italian fishing trawler is machine-gunned by a Tunisian patrol boat off Sicily's coast, only Montalbano suspects the link between the two incidents. His investigation leads to the beautiful Karima, an impoverished housecleaner and sometime prostitute, whose young son steals other schoolchildren's midmorning snacks. But Karima disappears, and the young snack thief's life—as well as Montalbano's—is on the line..

Friday, January 18, 2013

6. The Case of the Missing Marquise

By: Nancy Springer
Rated 4 Stars

 I read this book in one night.  It was a fast but fun read.  I didn't think I was going to like it at first because it started off slow and I wasn't sure where the author was trying to go with Sherlock and Mycroft.  I hate it when  pastiche authors expect the established characters to carry all the water so to speak.  But Enola elbowed them both out of the way pretty quickly (she too is a Holmes after all) and the story zipped right along for me.  Thank you Sabrina for the recommendation.  I will be reading the sequels and I hope there will be many.

 Publisher's Summary

Two-time Edgar Award-winning author Nancy Springer introduces the sleuthing powers of Sherlock Holmes' sister in the captivating mystery Booklist and School Library Journal praise with starred reviews. Prompted by clues her missing mother cleverly left her, 14-year-old Enola races from the clutches of her captors. But how can Enola escape these slimy ruffians and find her mother?

Monday, January 14, 2013

5. The Terra-Cotta Dog

By:  Andrea Camilleri
Rated 3 1/2

Copy of an e-mail I sent to friend regarding this book:

Your right, I do need to re-read the book because I was very confused for a great deal of it.  To start with, it had nothing to do with the blurb which highlighted the bodies in the cave and that part didn't come into the story until about half way through so I was wondering if I had gotten the wrong recording.  I had that happen to me once so I knew it was possible.

Also the crude language kept jolting me out of the story.  Not because I am a prude but because it felt like the author just threw it in for effect.  But then I remembered that you had mentioned that this was the second book in the series and I decided that the author was still trying to find the right 'feel" for the character.  Then after a while the crude language stopped and I decided I was right.  THEN I realized that this series is being written by two authors instead of one and then I decided that one of them was a much better writer than the other and that was the reason for how uneven the language was and for the fact that the second half of the book was much better than the first half.

Well, by that time my head was starting to spin! <LOL>  I was very happy to get your comments because they were a great help.   I am going to save your spoilers and then relisten with all of them in mind.  And yes, I would like to continue to read the series because the venue is very interesting.  It is a little serendipitous that we just finished reading about Operation Mincemeat because it added some background for this story. I caught myself watching for the submarine lurking silently off shore. :) 

Publisher's Summary

Montalbano's latest case begins with a mysterious tête à tête with a Mafioso, some inexplicably abandoned loot from a supermarket heist, and some dying words that lead him to an illegal arms cache in a mountain cave. There the inspector finds two young lovers, dead for 50 years and still embracing, watched over by a life-sized terra-cotta dog. Montalbano's passion to solve this old crime takes him on a journey through Sicily's past and into a family's dark heart amidst the horrors of World War II bombardment.
Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano has garnered millions of fans worldwide with his sardonic take on Sicilian life. With sly wit and a keen understanding of human nature, Montalbano is a detective whose earthiness, compassion, and imagination make him totally irresistible.