Sunday, December 13, 2015

On The Island

Rated 5 Stars

I'm giving this book my highest rating because the author kept it real for me all the way through.

At the very beginning I was a little squicked by the ages of the characters because you absolutely knew where the relationship was headed but then I suddenly remembered some very good friends who have the same age difference where she is 13 years older than he is and they have a wonderful marriage and grandchildren even so who cares how old other people are. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter a fig.

I was a little surprised at how long it took for the characters to develop the relationship but I guess the author did that to keep the relationship above board. Personally I think that in the real world it would have happened a lot sooner for comfort as well as passion.

But I really liked the story. Their struggle for survival, how much they both had to pull together and draw on inner strength neither knew they were capable of made an exciting story for me. And then the difficulties they had adjusting to going back to civilization after so long rang really true for me.

So yeah, I recommend this book.
Publisher's Description:

Two people stranded on an island struggle to survive—and slowly fall in love—in the runaway New York Times bestseller from the author of the forthcoming novel COVET.

Anna Emerson is a thirty-year-old English teacher desperately in need of adventure. Worn down by the cold Chicago winters and a relationship that’s going nowhere, she jumps at the chance to spend the summer on a tropical island tutoring sixteen-year-old T.J.

T.J. Callahan has no desire to go anywhere. His cancer is in remission and he wants to get back to his normal life. But his parents are insisting he spend the summer in the Maldives catching up on all the school he missed last year.

Anna and T.J. board a private plane headed to the Callahan’s summer home, and as they fly over the Maldives’ twelve hundred islands, the unthinkable happens. Their plane crashes in shark-infested waters. They make it to shore, but soon discover that they’re stranded on an uninhabited island.

At first, their only thought is survival. But as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.

November 9

Rated 3 Stars

But then all of Colleen Hoover's stories are good. They are just so angsty that I end up depressed even while I'm enjoying it. I know that doesn't make much sense but that's exactly what happens to me in most of her books. This book desperately needed some lighter moments to allow the reader to catch their breath and recover a little from time to time.

The story was pretty much saved from only being two stars by Zachary Webber's narration. He really is good. Angela Goethal's narration just plays on all that angst and makes the whole thing worse. Don't get me wrong, a little angst is a good thing, more than a little can even be exciting as it keeps you on the edge of your chair, but too much leaves me feeling like I've been drowned in a wave of heartbreak.

But for readers with a higher tolerance for gloom and doom it's a very good story.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Martian

Rated 4 stars
Kindle Format

I am very much a so-so reader when it comes to the SI/FI genre.  I usually fall  into  love with them or are bored to tears by them.  This booked fell into the I Liked It category

There were a lot of technical details in it and not being a science geek most of them flew right over my head.  But the story was interesting so I just took the science stuff on trust and skimmed over what was to me the boring bits. Also having the image of Matt Damon in my head as Mark Whately helped as I have really liked him ever since I watched all the Bourne movies.

Amazon Description:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. 

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. 

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. 

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Monday, November 23, 2015

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Life Inspired

Rated 4 Stary
Some of what Tolkien wrote is incomprehensible to me but I did love The Hobbitt and The Lord of the Ring trilogy.  I was curious about the man and this biography took care of that.  
Amazon Book Description:

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was Professor of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) at the University of Oxford. His research on Beowulf is still considered a standard in the field. Tolkien, however, unlike most Oxford dons, stepped out of his role as professor to create popular literature. 

Tolkien’s best-known writings were The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, in which he created a fully realized world known as Middle-earth, vaguely identifiable as Northern Europe in a pre-history that never was. To bring his world to life, he produced detailed geography and cartography as well as a legendary background. He peopled the world with diverse types of inhabitants and created spoken and written languages for them. By doing this, he essentially created modern fantasy literature and a standard for subsequent writers to chase and miss. A British poll at the end of the twentieth century named The Lord of the Rings the most important English-language work of that century.

During his lifetime, Tolkien did not appreciate people focusing on him rather than on his writings. He felt that his writings were more worthy of attention. With apologies to the late gentleman, he is now due some notice.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Fifteenth Minute

Rated 5 Stars
Kindle format

Sarina Bowen's books rarely disappoint.  This book is another one of her cautionary tales wrapped up in such a well written story with an entertaining plot that you don't realize you've been cautioned until you have finished it and had  a chance to think about it.

Amazon Book Description

Freshman Lianne Challice is known to millions of fans as Princess Vindi. But sometimes a silver screen sorceress just wants to hang up her wand, tell her manager to shove it, and become a normal college student. Too bad that’s harder than it looks. 

She’s never lived a normal life. She hasn’t been to school since kindergarten. And getting close to anyone is just too risky — the last boy she kissed sold the story to a British tabloid. 

But she can’t resist trying to get close to Daniel "DJ" Trevi, the hot, broody guy who spins tunes for hockey games in the arena. Something's haunting his dark eyes, and she needs to know more. 

DJ's genius is for expressing the mood of the crowd with a ten second song snippet. With just a click and a fade, he can spread hope, pathos or elation among six thousand screaming fans. 

Too bad his college career is about to experience the same quick fade-out as one of his songs. He can't get close to Lianne, and he can't tell her why. And the fact that she seems to like him at all? Incredible.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

How to Listen to and Understand Great Music

By:  Professor Robert Greenberg
Format:  Audio
Length: 36 hours
Cost 1 audible credit = $11.00

This was one fantastic audiobook! This is part of the the Great Courses lecture series and if you order it through Great Courses it would cost about $300. However, if you order it through, it costs one credit, which is about $11.00. the only difference is that you don't receive the written course material, which might have come in handy on occasion but is not necessary to enjoy this incredible experience.

So what is this great experience? It is nothing short of a 48 lecture course on, exactly as promised, how to listen to great music! Each lecture is 45 minutes, so that adds up to about 40 hours of listening time... quite a commitment. Robert Greenberg is a music professor who seems like the type of person that if you met him at party you would feel like you knew him your whole life. His enthusiasm for music is contagious. He is a great story teller and has a way of describing music in such a way that "it sticks". 

Like most great teachers, he tells you what he is going to teach, teaches it, then summarizes what he just taught. As he frequently says, music is a mirror of the time, so he adds historical insight into the description of the music. He doesn't try to cover everything, that would be impossible, but takes a longitudinal approach, beginning with the ancient world and quickly moves forward to the baroque,classical and romantic period. In the process he defines musical vocabulary that conductors, composers and music producers seem to think we all understand but don't. In the process he not only clarifies our ability to perceive what the composer's intent was in the creation of the music, but also helps us to understand their brilliance in making complexity seem so simple. 

The 30 Greatest Orchestral Works

The course covers the major eras and stylistic periods in Western music from the early 18th- to the mid-20th centuries and highlights a wide range of European and American works. Among these: Haydn's Symphony no. 104, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, and Shostakovich's Symphony no. 5.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Go Set a Watchman

Rated 4.5 Stars
Unabridged Audiobook

I just finished Go Set a Watchman. It's a very good book but I'm not all that sure I  liked it that much.  As a Southerner who is approximately the same age as the fictionalized Scout I can attest that  it's certainly true to it's time.  Harper Lee is a terrific writer even when she reminds you of a truth that you would prefer stayed conveniently under the rug you have swept it under.

The book also reminds me that it's not a good idea to put anyone on an unrealistically high pedestal because it's a long way to fall when the person inevitably slips off.

I also love, love, love the way she uses language.  It's music to my ears.

Now having said all that much I had to keep reminding myself that both 1) GSAW and TKAMB were both works of fiction.  2) Neither book was autobiographical but did include childhood reminiscences. 3) That TSAW wasn't written as a sequel.  It was a draft of a first attempt by the author to write a novel.  4) After finishing it the author for whatever reason didn't intend for it to be published.  5)  That IMO it was published in an underhanded kind of way as a way to make money for someone that wasn't Harper Lee or any of her nonexistent descendants.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Morland Dynasty

When I bought my new Kinde Fire I was please to discover they had improved the text to speech function so that it's listenable.  Not as good as audible but it makes listening to any book in Kindle possible.  This is a re-do for me.  I read the entire series as they were published but decided to revisit some of my favorite characters   So I'm listening to the 1/3 of the Morland Dynasty.  I started with The Promise which is where my favorite characters come of age so to speak and start to become main characters in the drama.  And just like before I was sucked right in.  I have finished The Promise, Dream Kingdom and The Restless Sea, The White Road. I'm now listening to The Burning Roses

The Question  5 stars

 I started with The Question  which is where my favorite characters come of age so to speak and start to become main characters in the drama. 

On the brink of a new century, the great stability of Victorian England is under threat. Europe is dividing into armed camps, while at home socialism and the suffragette movement challenge traditional values. At Morland Place, Teddy begins to restore the estate to its former glory, while his sister Henrietta's family fill the house with life, and nephew Bertie finds a haven from the strictures of his own home. As Victoria's reign draws to a close, war with the Boers becomes inevitable. Young men volunteer in droves, among them Henrietta's beloved extra son Bertie. The Tommies march off singing, eager for a scrap; but what horrors will face them under the burning South African sun, and which of them will come marching home again?I

The Dream Kingdom  5 stars

In the height of Edwardian splendor,  Jessie and Violet share a sparkling London debut. At Morland Place, Teddy's business is expanding and he brings home a new wife, to the anxiety of his sister Henrietta who knows there can't be two mistresses of the house. England is a land of confidence and opportunity but below the surface troubles are stirring. The death of the King brings to a head the constitutional crisis, while abroad the flexing of Russian and German might are an ominous sign of the dangers that lie ahead.

The Restless Sea   5 stars

England still conducts herself with Edwardian confidence; but beneath the surface cracks are breaking society apart. Socialism, strikes and riots, social unrest, and then the disasters of the Titanic and Captain Scott shake the ordered world. Among the Morlands, Jessie and Violet struggle to adapt to the demands of married life; Jack, unlucky in love, designs aeroplanes and trains pilots for the new Royal Flying Corps; and Anne, as the struggle for the Vote becomes more violent, takes comfort in the friendship of an unusual young woman. Meanwhile, the war no-one wants comes ever closer.

The White Road  5 Stars

The outbreak of war is greeted with euphoria. Thousands flock to volunteer. Everyone believes the war will be over by Christmas, so there’s no time to waste. Bertie, a reservist, is one of the first to go to France; Jack is invited to join the Royal Flying Corps, and Ned joins one of the new ‘Pals’ units. The brutal reality of Ypres dispels illusion, but only fuels determination, as the war comes home to everyone, in ways they have not expected.

The Burning Roses   5 stars

The euphoria of the first days of the war has faded, but the nation is more determined than ever to win. While the Morland men go overseas, the women play their part at home, but it is a strange and emotional time for all. And with the Eastern Front at stalemate, all now depends on the new offensive on the Western Front at Loos...

To Be Continued . . . . 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Ivy Years Series

The Year We Fell Down - Book One

By Sarina Bowen
Rated 4 Stars
Kindle Edition

I have always loved Romance novels but have learned over the years to be able to suspend my disbelief and skip past a lot of badly written icky sex scenes to get to the heart of the story.  So I am finding this new to me author refreshing.  Don't take this the wrong way.  I am not slamming the Romance genre its self but it's just like any other genre there are very good ones and very bad ones and thousands of in-between ones.  And since I read a lot of romance novels it only stands to reason that I run into my fair share of wall bangers.  But my point is that when I find an author who tells a great story, writes really well and touches my heart that's a real red letter day in my reading world.  This is one of those books and Sarina Bowen is an authors I will certainly follow.

 I really liked both characters.  Especially Corey who faced the new life she was unexpectedly dealt with common sense, courage and a sense of humor.  She only whined a little bit but that only made her more human in my eyes.  She deserved more whines than she took.

Hartley, well I had a little trouble with him.  In some ways he was a little too good to be true and in other ways he spent a lot of time with his head up his . . . in a dark place. But I learned to like him even before he got his act together.

As for as Hartley's snooty girl friend, well I had to cut her more slack than she deserved because I have a Granddaughter named Stacia and it's not all that common a name.

Book Description
 March 20, 2014
The sport she loves is out of reach. The boy she loves has someone else. What now?

She expected to start Harkness College as a varsity ice hockey player. But a serious accident means that Corey Callahan will start school in a wheelchair instead.

Across the hall, in the other handicapped-accessible dorm room, lives the too-delicious-to-be real Adam Hartley, another would-be hockey star with his leg broken in two places. He's way out of Corey's league.

Also, he's taken.

Nevertheless, an unlikely alliance blooms between Corey and Hartley in the "gimp ghetto" of McHerrin Hall. Over tequila, perilously balanced dining hall trays, and video games, the two cope with disappointments that nobody else understands.

They're just friends, of course, until one night when things fall apart. Or fall together. All Corey knows is that she's falling. Hard.

But will Hartley set aside his trophy girl to love someone as broken as Corey? If he won't, she will need to find the courage to make a life for herself at Harkness -- one which does not revolve around the sport she can no longer play, or the brown-eyed boy who's afraid to love her back.

The Year We Hid Away - Book 2

These New Adult novels have so much more depth than I expected.  Both of the main characters in this book faced some daunting challenges, the kind of challenges that could believably happen to a young person.  I really love it when I don't have to supped my disbelief a single time in a book about relationships.  I also liked it that I was not sure until nearly to the end whether or not Scarlet's Father was guilty or not. Hat tip to the author for keeping the reader in suspense. 

Book Description

 May 26, 2014
She's hiding something big. He's hiding someone small.
Scarlet Crowley's life was torn apart the day father was arrested for unspeakable crimes. Now the shock has worn off, but not the horror.
It's a safe bet that Scarlet is the only first year at Harkness College who had to sneak past TV news trucks parked on her front lawn just to leave town. But college will be Scarlet's fresh start. Clutching a shiny new student ID -- with a newly minted name on it -- she leaves it all behind. Even if it means lying to the boy she's falling for.

Bridger McCaulley is a varsity hockey star known for being a player both on and off the ice. But a sobering family crisis takes that all away. Protecting his sister means a precarious living arrangement and constant deception. The only bright spot in his week is the few stolen hours he spends with Scarlet.

The two form a tentative relationship based on the understanding that some things must always be held back. But when grim developments threaten them both, going it alone just won't work anymore. And if they can't learn to trust one another now, the families who let them down will take everything they've struggled to keep.

The Understatement of the Year (Ivy Years #3)

Rated 5 Stars

My word, this book really got to me.  It is is the first book I have ever read that really address the subject of how  how miserable life can be for a gay young person to live in the closet. At an age when at lot of young people are dealing with all of the issues that come with being a teen ager to have the added stress of knowing their  sexual orientation is going to add complications that will alter everyones perception of them is terribly painful.  Even if they come from loving homes where they are unconditionally loved and accepted they know, in fact have almost certainly already found out, that there are a lot of ugly and hateful people in the world.  

Book Description

 September 29, 2014
What happened in high school stayed in high school. Until now.

Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he's made an art of hiding his sexual orientation from everyone. Including himself.

So it's a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, sporting a bag of hockey gear and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team's new left wing could destroy Graham's life as he knows it.

John Rikker is stuck being the new guy. Again. And it's worse than usual, because the media has latched onto the story of the only "out" player in Division One hockey. As the satellite trucks line the sidewalk outside the rink, his new teammates are not amused.

And one player in particular looks sick every time he enters the room.

Rikker didn't exactly expect a warm welcome from Graham. But the guy won't even meet his eyes. From the looks of it, his former... best friend / boyfriend / whatever isn't doing so well. He drinks too much and can't focus during practice.

Either the two loneliest guys on the team will self destruct from all the new pressures in their lives, or they can navigate the pain to find a way back to one another. To say that it won't be easy is the Understatement of the Year.

Blonde Date  - Novella

Rated 4 Stars

Book Description

 July 6, 2014
A blind date. A nervous sorority girl. A mean-spirited fraternity prank. What could go wrong?

As a sorority pledge, there are commandments that Katie Vickery must live by. One: thou shalt not show up for the party without a date. Two: the guy shall be an athlete, preferably an upperclassman.

Unfortunately, Katie just broke up with her jerkface football player boyfriend. Even worse, her last encounter with him resulted in utter humiliation. She’d rather hide under the bed than attend a party where he'll be.

Yet staying home would mean letting him win.

Enjoying herself tonight was out of the question. She could only hope to get through the evening without her blind date noticing that he was spending the evening with a crazy person.

Andrew Baschnagel is living proof that nice guys don’t finish first. He’s had his eye on Katie since the moment her long legs waltzed into his art history class. So when her roommate sets Andy up to be Katie’s date, he’d be crazy to say no. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a lot of practice with either girls or parties. Yet.

The Shameless Hour

Rated 3 Stars
Kindle Format

This is the 4th book in Sarina Bowen's Ivy League series and by far my least favorite.  Had I rated this book based on how much I liked the character it would have been rated 1 star.  However as a precautionary tale well written I had to give it at least a three.  Had Bella not set my teeth on edge I would have given the book at least a four and maybe five stars.

Amazon Book Description

She's not looking for a hero. He's not looking for a hookup.

For Bella, the sweet-talking, free-loving, hip-checking student manager of the Harkness men’s hockey team, sex is a second language. She’s used to being fluent where others stutter, and the things people say behind her back don’t (often) bother her. So she can’t understand why her smoking hot downstairs neighbor has so much trouble staying friends after their spontaneous night together. She knows better than to worry about it, but there’s something in those espresso eyes that makes her second guess herself. 

Rafe is appalled with himself for losing his virginity in a drunken hookup. His strict Catholic upbringing always emphasized loving thy neighbor—but not with a bottle of wine and a box of condoms. The result is an Ivy League bout of awkwardness. But when Bella is leveled by a little bad luck and a downright nasty fraternity stunt, it’s Rafe who is there to pick up the pieces. 

Bella doesn’t want Rafe's help, and she’s through with men. Too bad the undeniable spark that crackles between the two of them just can't be extinguished.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


By Tammara Webber
Rated 5 Stars

I loved this book.  The title says it all.  It's a very sweet love story.

Copied from Tammara Webbers website

(Contours of the Heart® Book 3)

He’s the love of her life, but he doesn’t know it.
She’s his one moment of sacrifice in a lifetime of survival.
He was damaged and wild, but resilient.
She’s always been obedient; now she’s restless.

Home for the summer between college and med school, Pearl Torres Frank knows two things: Boyce Wynn is the embodiment of everything she should run from and everything she wants to run to. Rebellious and loud. Unconcerned with society’s opinion of him. Passionate. Strong. Dangerous.

And one more trait he hides from everyone but her:

(Spinoff novel; may be read as a standalone.)

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Winter Sea

Rated 1 Star

This book was on my audible wish list for over a year.  I should have left it there.  ZZZzzzzzzzzz.

Publisher's description:

Escaping an unhappy marriage and an unsatisfactory job, Cassie Holloway moves to the little Australian coastal town of Whitby Point. There she meets the Aquino family, whose fishing business was founded by their ancestor, Giuseppe, an Italian immigrant, some ninety years before. Life for Cassie on the south west coast is sweet as she sets up a successful restaurant and falls in love with Giuseppe's great grandson Michael. But when the family patriarch dies, a devastating family secret is revealed which threatens to destroy her dreams. Cassie's future happiness now rests with her quest for the truth

Monday, April 20, 2015

Other Side of the Night

The Carpathia, the Californian and the Night the Titanic Was Lost

By:  Daniel Allen Buter
Non Fiction
Rated 5 Stars

I really liked this book.  I used one of my audible credits and it was a credit well spent. was one of myIt was very well written and contains a whole lot of information that I had never heard before.  It was narrated by Paul Heitscht who did a very good job.. 

Publisher's Summary
After every disaster, someone has something to hide.... 
A few minutes before midnight on April 14, 1912, the "unsinkable" RMS Titanic, on her maiden voyage to New York, struck an iceberg. Less than three hours later she lay at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. While the world has remained fascinated by the tragedy, the most amazing drama of those fateful hours was not played out aboard the doomed liner. It took place on the decks of two other ships, one 58 miles distant from the sinking Titanic, the other barely 10 miles away. The masters of the steamships Carpathia and Californian, Captain Arthur Rostron and Captain Stanley Lord, were informed within minutes of each other that their vessels had picked up the distress signals of a sinking ship. Their actions in the hours and days that followed would become the stuff of legend, as one would choose to take his ship into dangerous waters to answer the call for help, while the other would decide that the hazard to himself and his command was too great to risk responding. 
After years of research, Daniel Allen Butler now tells this incredible story, moving from ship to ship on the icy waters of the North Atlantic - in real time - to recount how hundreds of people could have been rescued, but in the end only a few outside of the meager lifeboats were saved. He then looks alike at the U.S. Senate investigation in Washington, and ultimately the British Board of Trade inquiry in London, where the actions of each captain are probed, questioned, and judged, until the truth of what actually happened aboard the Titanic, the Carpathia and the Californian is revealed. 
Daniel Allen Butler, a maritime and military historian, is the best-selling author of "Unsinkable": The Full Story of RMS Titanic, Distant Victory: The Battle of Jutland and the Allied Triumph in the First World War, and The First Jihad: The Battle for Khartoum and the Dawn of Militant Islam. He is an internationally recognized authority on maritime subjects and a popular guest-speaker for several cruise lines. Butler lives and works in Los Angeles, California.