Monday, December 31, 2012

Of Thee I Zing by Laura Ingraham (308 pgs.)

So, I set this book on the table and my conservative-listens-to-talk-radio husband asks, "What are YOU doing with a LAURA INGRAHAM book?!"  I looked at the book and back at him and asked, "You know who Laura Ingraham is?"  Yes, unbeknownst to me, I chose a book by someone known for conservative political commentary.  This book, however, wasn't so much about that as observances about society in general as noted by the subtitle "America's Cultural Decline from Muffin Tops to Body Shots."

I found the book entertaining and in some places it made me laugh.  There were a few gratuitous "lefty" comments that I could have done without and I didn't agree with all of her opinions (worded as only a RED could), but thought provoking and amusing nonetheless.  A fast read.

ten things we did (and probably shouldn't have) by Sarah Mlynowski (354 pgs.)

The title of this book hooked  me with curiousity. 

This book follows most of a year of April's life via the "10 things she -- and her friends -- shouldn't have done".  I would have keeled over from stress had I attempted almost ANY of those 10 things as a teen, but it did make for quite an interesting story as we follow her ins and outs of school, friendships, romance, and just plain growing up. 

I'm still not sure "Hula" should be on that list, though.  

The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift, 471 pages

This was a historical fiction book I was sent to review by Night Owl Reviews.

The Daughters by Joanna Philbin, 275 pages

I managed to mess up and read the second book in this series, so I had to go back and read the first one. It was funny and well written.

I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus by S. G. Browne, 201 pages

This was a hilarious zombie book I was sent to review for Night Owl Reviews. Lisa would love it.

Renfield Slave of Dracula by Barbara Hambly, 306 pages

The story of Dracula as told through Renfield's point of view. It was a very good twist on a classic vampire story. Fans of Dracula shouldn't miss this entry.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The People Code, 316 pages

I do think this philosophy has a lot of value, but the book goes a little off the rails at times. I think it's enough to just think of yourself and those you love through the lens of their core motives. A lot of the time, a question of "why are they doing this?" can be answered by thinking of their motive. But, look at the guy's face on the cover?! I do NOT trust this guy! :)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Are You Loathsome Tonight? 185 pages

Reread after many years.

Just Above a Whisper by Lori Wick (297 pgs.)

This is Book 2 in the Tucker Mills Trilogy.

This story continues the story of Jace and Maddie from Moonlight on the Millpond, as well as many of the characters from that story.  (Tucker Mills in the 1880s is not a big town.)  The focus of the story, however, is on Reese, an indentured servant and newish Christian, and Connor, a bank owner and life-long Christian with a bit traumatic history himself.  Will they be able to work through their fears, differences, and the dangers of their situation to find a relationship with each other?

Just Above a Whisper has a little more heft to the story, relatively speaking, than did book 1.  The feelings of the protagonists seem a bit less trite and so I enjoyed the story a bit more.

Moonlight on the Millpond by Lori Wick (285 pgs.)

This is the first book in the Tucker Mills Trilogy.

I have a love/hate relationship with Lori Wick.  For the most part, I enjoy her books and the characters she develops.  She generally embraces more "real" humanity than some other picture perfect Christian authors.  Yet, sometimes her particular flavour of religion (VERY male-leadership oriented) rubs me the wrong way and I find myself talking back to the book. 

The story follows Jace and Maddie, 2 young people who believe themselves to be Christians, but haven't yet found that personal relationship with God.  (Ya have to have that MOMENT of salvation, ya know...)  Jace was raised by an over-bearing sister and Maddie has been hurt by a "lying, cheating male" and vows to never trust another man again.  Will they be able to work through their problems and find a future together?

This book actually has a less tidy ending than many of Wick's books, but that just leaves room for the next book in the series.

Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer (363 pgs.)

When looking for some lighter reading, Christian romance is usually my go to genre.  It tends to be light (leaning towards fluff, quite often), but generally good light entertainment.

Short-Straw Bride is set in a small town and ranch in the 1880s.  It's a story of a young girl's infatuation with her rescuer that lasts through her growing up years.  When she has a chance to rescue him in return, events go quite wrong and the only way to save her reputation is for one of the Archer brothers to marry her... a decision made by drawing straws.  The question is, was the drawer of the short straw the loser or the winner?  A shared faith in God will help and guide them through a very difficult transition from strangers to spouses.

Over-dressed: The Schockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline (224 pgs.)

I know when I see some clothing item that's low-priced that is was made by someone who was paid very little to make it.  I know it in my head, but I don't always let it register.  After reading this book, it will be much harder to forget. 

We all like to have a little something new.  We've come to accept that an item of clothing will last for only a short time, but that doesn't bother us because we didn't pay much for it anyhow.  The entire way we view clothing has changed dramatically in recent decades.  We're not concerned with saving and shopping for a few quality pieces that will last us for years.  We want something fun and fast and don't care if it falls apart because we will tire of it soon anyhow.

We also don't like to think of the many, many workers in other countries who may not even be earning a living wage to make our $8 shirt or $20 dress.

Sewing ones own clothes (or having them made) used to be the only way to get clothes.  I feel good about going back to that old way of doing things.

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen (281 pgs)

Occasionally a teen book will catch my eye.  This one took me back to the dramas - both minor and major - of the high school years.

 Having at least one good friend is so important during this time.  Halley and Scarlett know that.  They stand by each other through problems with parents and dating to the death of a friend and unexpected pregnancy.  The teen years may not be easy ones, but a true friend will get you through them.  No matter what.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Art of Men by Kirstie Alley, 301 pages

I'm a fan of biographies, and Kirstie Alley always struck me as a funny person. This book was really nothing but fluff, but was a fun read that gave me a little bit of a backstage view of Hollywood and the people she knew. I also enjoyed the little bit about Patrick Swayze and North and the South, both of which I'm a big fan of.

Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Robin Maxwell, 320 pages

I'd seen a review for this book and it sounded intriguing. I've read some of the original Tarzan books and have always liked them. Plus, I'm a fan of any book that tells the story from the female point of view. It was really well done and held my interest, while staying true to the original storyline. I recommend this to Tarzan fans and those who have yet to discover the stories.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Totally Mad, 253 pages

A look back at the history of Mad. I enjoyed getting to learn about the history of Mad but it would have been nice if the comics had been a little bigger so I could read them without so much trouble.

December Dread by Jess Lourey, 278 pages

This was a good book in that we get to see Mira let go of her past a little bit while working towards her future. These monthly murder mysteries are always intriguing and a good read.

November Hunt by Jess Lourey, 280 pages

I'm a fan of these monthly murder mysteries. I can't believe I'd missed November's entry.

Sandman: worlds' end (162 pages)

By Neil Gaiman.

Took the bad taste of "Fables" out of my mouth, for sure.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fables: Animal Farm, 112 pages.

By bill willingham.

Dear Danya, I know you love this series, but I must confess that I simply can't understand it. It reminds me of "Once Upon a Time". I want so badly for this show/comic series to be good because it's a world filled with faery tales (!!) but the characters are predictable up until the shocker moments that are supposed to make you sympathize with them, but they don't.

SPOILER ALERT: And the whole point of "animal farm" is that the animals are partially right, they're not supposed to just be beheaded with no compromises whatsoever! And why do we think Snow White is perfect and wonderful: I haven't seen any evidence that she is either. And Rose Red is supposed to be BA but she really just does whatever a man/Snow White wants her to do?! The premise is good, the plot structure is fine, but the details and character development are so lacking that I think I have to abandon this series even though I freaking LOVE the cover art. Sad.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Secret of the Golden Flower: A Chinese Book of Life; translated and explained by Richard Wilhelm with Commentary by C.G. Jung; 148 pp.

My friend, Zane, lent me this book; its a great read for anyone interested in Taoism.  Having read Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching and/or Jung's Treatises on Alchemy would probably be a good prerequisite.  A guide to Taoist meditation and philosophy for those with at least some background in mysticism or alchemy already.

Deck Z: The Titanic, by Chris Paul and Matt Solomon, 222 pages

I know I'm not over zombies, so I think I've over the re-imaginings of classic novels, historical events, and famous people with a supernatural bent. The whole trend just seems completely played out at this point, with very few well-written and creative examples added to the genre. That being said, I still
felt compelled to read "Deck Z," which overlays the Titanic tragedy with a zombie outbreak. The beginning of the novel showed promise, focusing on a scientist who had collected samples of "The Toxic," a substance containing the organism that zombifies people. He struggles to find a cure while trying to keep the samples out of the hands of the German Kaiser's government, who want to use it for nefarious purposes. To escape the Kaiser's men, he gets a ticket on the Titanic. *insert eye roll here* From here, the story falls apart. The characters are poorly developed and often like caricatures, the dialogue is painful in parts, and it's just ludicrous to imagine the captain of the Titanic as a master swordsmen slaying zombies left and right. I also take issue with the fact that the characters right away were calling the creatures zombies. They're equating the flesh-eating monsters to the victims of Haitian voodoo practices who fell under the control of their tormentors. The only saving grace for me is that "Deck Z" is a fast read, and it's suitably gory. Other than that, not a crucial addition to the zombie canon.

The Giver by Lois Lowry, 180 pages

I am happy to say that I finally read this book. I wasn't aware that it was part of a series until the other day so I decided to give it a shot. After about two days of reading I completed it and cannot wait to start the second book.
The book follows the story of Jonas who lives in a dystopian society where the community lives under "Sameness" after ridding it of pain and certain emotional aspects. When the age of 12 is reached each child is designated a career by the Elders, Jonas receives a very rare position: "Receiver of Memory" It is a position not taken lightly and is regarded as one the highest if not the highest honor within the community. But with such a high responsibility comes great pain. His trainer is the previous Receiver of Memory (The Giver) his task is to give Jonas memories of times before "Sameness" As time goes on Jonas discovers the power of knowledge and the real story begins...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

If God Is Love, Rediscovering Grace in an Ungracious World, by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland, 302 pages

I really enjoyed this book because the authors discuss many areas of traditional Christianity that I find not only baffling and absurd, but horrific and abhorrent. As long as religions continue to judge between "us" and "them" we will continue to have strife and cruelty. Only when we allow grace, compassion, and love into our hearts and lives and honor all people will we see the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. These authors are of the radical persuasion that God will save every last soul (eventually).

A Quaker Book of Wisdom by Robert Lawrence Smith, 190 pages

The reminder that God's voice can be heard in all of us when we stop to listen and that we are co-creators in peace is as valid today as it was in the late 1600's when the Friends' religion formed. I especially like the idea of silent worship in Quaker Meetings and that no one is elevated above another in status.

The Provincial Lady in Russia by E.M. Delafield, 344 pages

This was the final book in what has been a really enjoyable series. I must say this one was a little disappointing because it wasn't nearly as funny or witty as the previous books.

Shepherd's Voice by Robin Lee Hatcher -- 267 pgs

Inspirational novel about a woman rancher/sheepherder who finds an exhausted, ill man along the road.  It turns out he is the hated son of the town's most influential citizen.  Imprisoned for years for the murder of his older brother, his father is consumed by hatred of his son.  The lives of the woman rancher, the son, and the father intertwine.

Pearl in the Sand by Tess Afshar -- 320 pgs

This is a fictionalized account of the Biblical story of the prostitute Rahab and how she finds life within the Israelites after the fall of Jericho.  JPL only has it through MoLib2Go as a audiobook.  Fascinating take on Rahab's story.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell - 245pgs

Haunting book.  It spans from the 1930's to the present day.  Esme has been institutionalized for over 60 years.  The closing of her facility leads her to her great-niece who was unaware she even existed.  As she learns about her family, secrets come to light.  Secrets locked within Esme and within her Alzheimer's-disease-affected older sister.   This book sticks with you after you've finished it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Three Girls and a Guy by Francine Pascal, 179 pages

I keep getting closer and closer to the end of this series.

The Heroines by Eileen Favorite, 233 pages

This was the December book club book. I didn't really enjoy it that much when I read it a few years ago, but it was a better read the second time. Still wasn't my favorite book, it should have been name The Victims.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (400 pages)

I heart Neil Gaiman. Not nearly as much as Cari, but his writing is genius and Neverwhere is no exception.  I read it for my book club meeting last moth and enjoyed it. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Prime (304 pages).

by Poppy Z Brite.

It's been a bit since I've read Poppy. "Drawing Blood" is still my most-often reread book, but G-Man and Rickey don't intrigue me like Trevor and Zach (or even Steve and Ghost) did. I like the dark prose of Brite's earlier works, but the restaurant saga works are still a good read, even if they do remind me of mystery novels, which I'm not terribly into...

However, reading "Prime" has sparked me to intentions of re-reading Poppy's earlier works, so expect a slew of cheesy '90s goth fiction posts from me in the coming months.

The Little Lady Agency and the Prince by Hester Browne, 613 pages

Sometimes you just need a light, fluffy romance to unwind and relax with. This was a great read for that. Melissa runs an agency in London devoted to helping men become better, aka princes. But she's getting ready to move to Paris to marry her American fiance. Before that can happen, her grandmother asks for help in sorting out a friend's grandson, who's an actual prince. The problem is he's more cad than prince. The challenge is not falling in love with the prince in training.

Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky, 247 pages

I'm a fan of the behind the scenes books of different industries and nonfiction books galore. So hearing about a new, funny novel about the hotel scene sounded like a treat, and the book delivered. Jacob Tomsky started out as a valet, was a housekeeping manager, and spent years on the front desk. So he knows the dirty little secrets that go on and offers up tips to get a great room, and the hard work that goes into keeping that room clean.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling, 435 pages

I've been rereading the Harry Potter books as Samantha's been reading them. It's been a while since I'd read the early books and I'd forgotten just how good they were. It's been really great watching Samantha discover the magic for herself.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Do I get My Allowance Before or After I'm Grounded? Stop Fighting, Start Talking, and Get to Know Your Teen by Vanessa Van Petten 288 pages

This is a good read for anyone with teenagers. It is practical, precise, and relevant. It helps to differentiate between "normal" behavior and what's not so "normal." It explores a plethora of topics that parents and teens face including bullying, cyber safety, friendships, lying, communication barriers & resolutions, sexuality, and more.

Christmas at Home: Homemade Holiday Gift Ideas by Rebecca Germany, 160 pgs

I am a big fan of simplifying the holidays and taking back the season from retailers, so this book was a welcome hand-me-down gift last year. There were plenty of ideas that I like and plan on incorporating, including recipes for jar mixes, a centerpiece that grows, bath salts, soaps, and more.

My Point...and I Do Have One by Ellen Degeneres, 224 pgs.

This is a difficult review for me to write because I love Ellen and think she's hilarious, smart, witty, and a great role model/person. However, I think the point of this book is that there isn't a point. To quote Mr. Horse from Ren & Stimpy, "No sir, I didn't like it."

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Sixth Gun, volume 1, Cold Dead Fingers, by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, 160 pages

Just when you think you've seen it all in graphic novel form, along comes something like "The Sixth Gun." It's a western with heavy supernatural elements, and it's way cool. It's kind of hard to summarize, but six guns with great (and dangerous) power appeared during the Civil War. After the war, an evil
general once thought dead is retrieved by his henchmen so that they can retrieve the Sixth Gun, considered the most powerful of the weapons. It's owned by a young woman whose father died protecting the gun from those who wanted it. The only thing standing between that woman? A gunslinger who used to work for the general. You should check this one out, folks. It's intriguing. I love the western setting and the supernatural aspects. And when looking for an image to accompany this review, I learned that one of the creators of "Lost" is developing "The Sixth Gun" into a TV series!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman (252 pages)

This is the first book in "The Land of Elyon" series. I am not quite sure how I added this to my "Must Read" list. I will say it was a good book, not the best book, but still pretty decent. I am in no rush to read the second book, but I probably will just because I want to know what happens next.

Lessons from Madame Chic, by Jennifer L. Scott, 283 pages

I can't believe I wasted my time reading this drivel. Evidently this woman has a blog called The Daily Connoisseur and was heavily influenced by spending time in France as an exchange student. If you've never seen a French movie, eaten in a French restaurant, read a fashion magazine or traveled beyond the United States, then maybe this book will entertain you. Me, it just annoyed. The author actually offers tips such as "Store away any seasonal clothes that are not appropriate for the current season,"Incorporate exercise into your daily tasks (like grocery shopping and doing household chores," and "Strive to eat only quality food." This woman is a condescending ninny who obviously thinks her readers have neither common sense nor an ounce of sophistication. I can't believe someone published this book.

I Want to Kill the Dog, by Richard Cohen, 123 pages

Several people were appalled when I put this book on hold. Knowing that I'm a bit dog obsessed, they couldn't understand why I'd want to read a book about murdering canines. Well, it's a humor book, folks, and a funny one, at that. Cohen is married to the TV journalist Meredith Vieira, and a respected journalist in his own right. He loves his wife and family, but is tired of taking a backseat to the family's fixation on having pets -- and difficult pets, at that. This book is for anyone who is tired of the glut of sweet memoirs by people who love their dogs, as well as those who are fed up with living in a household run by pets. While I love animals, I can sympathize with Cohen. The dogs he describes are behavioral nightmares and could use a little discipline and obedience training. Cohen is a curmudgeon when it comes to his family's dogs, but he's
an amusing one.

Seriously Simple Dinner Parties, by Diane Rosen Worthington, 224 pages

I really need to get back to entertaining. It's been a while since I had a dinner party, and I miss it: the cooking, the serving, sitting around a table afterwards for hours while talking, eating dessert, and drinking wine. I tend to put out little nibbly things (stuffed mushrooms, spiced nuts, hummus, blue cheese dip) while I'm finishing up the meal, which is usually something hearty and comforting, not at all fussy, such as lasagna, French onion soup, or cheese fondue. Something I like about this book is that while it's geared toward people who host dinner parties, the recipes aren't particularly frou-frou or difficult. The Spicy Mac & Cheese with Carmelized Leeks (oh, how I adore leeks) looks fabulous, and I shall try it sometime when I'm feeling decadent. I'm always on the lookout for the perfect pizza dough, so last weekend I tried the dough recipe. It turned out great. I want to try the Italian Picnic Sandwich sometime, minus the meat; put artichokes on something, and I'm there. Yum. Now I can't wait to plan my next dinner party!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, 160 pages

I'd seen the previews for this movie but didn't really want to see it since it looked really creepy. And, I'll read a creepy book way easier than I'll see a creepy movie. Then I discovered it was based on a book. This was very Victorian, a proper English ghost story. It was enjoyable, would be a great book to read on a dark fall night with the lights turned down low.

How to Steal a Dragon's Sword by Cressida Cowell, 355 pages

This series has become very sad and doesn't look like it's going to have a happy ending at all. But I can't keep myself from reading each and every book as they come out.

How to Break a Dragon's Heart by Cressida Cowell, 299 pages

This is a wonderfully sweet series, that is funny and full of adventure. I check these books out and never even show them to my kids since I want to read them first.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Clockwork Universe by Edward Dolnick, 322 pages

This is my first blog (ever) so be gentle please
As I shelve items I will admit that I tend to get distracted by the things around me. When shelving a cart of non-fiction I entered the 500 section and stumbled upon a book: The Clockwork Universe. I stopped what I was doing (just for a second) decided to open the book and read the summary in the front cover, I was instantly taken in by it. I've been on a learning kick since I got out of high school, I find it much more comforting to learn what I want to learn at my own pace rather than being crammed information while sitting behind a desk.
I won't say this is a great book, it jumped around from this century to the next all within a paragraph and I had to re-read certain sections to grasp the concepts. It did serve its purpose though because I picked it up to learn a thing or two and I did just that. It is about the birth of the modern world and the minds who helped create it. Back then when science was a newly conceived notion it had meaning (after reading this book I believe more so than today) To figure out an equation or a way to explain the world and its inner workings was to figure out a part of God. During plagues, fires, crime and other chaotic events there were men who saw the world as a thing of beauty and sought out to find the meaning of it all.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Twelve Drummers Drumming by C. C. Benison, 374 pages

This was an intriguing murder mystery, set in England with a widowed vicar as the main character.

Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson -- 668 pgs (LP)

Dee Henderson has been away from the writing scene for several years.  This is her entrance back.  Paul is an FBI agent with a cold series of killings by a woman hit "man".  Ann is the Midwest Homicide Investigator who is called in by local law enforcement on the worst of cases.  Their lives collide when Ann brings him fresh information on the serial killer.

Ann is also a writer, and Henderson credits her earlier books and series to Ann.  I'm not sure if I like that "gimmick" or not.  It makes me wonder how much of the rest of her personality she has tried to write into the main character.

I didn't find these books as "sit-down-and-read-it-in-one-sitting" like some of her others, but still enjoyed it.  Henderson is an inspirational fiction writer.  (And my sister was her Sunday School teacher years ago.....)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible (312 pages)

Reading Tim Gunn's books always makes me throw out a bunch of useless clothing and dress less casual. That said, his guidelines are a little too strict (No plaid pants unless you're golfing?! What?!) and must be taken with a grain of salt. I believe we need to make our own fashion rules for the most part. I am completely on-board with keeping sweatpants, flip-flops, and pajama pants out of my daily wardrobe, but I can't follow his condemnation of crazy patterns or his guidelines for what socks go with what pants (I can't remember the rules, but they are borrrring, like black with black and white with white, etc.). I also agree with Tim that structure in clothing is an asset and slight discomfort is not a bad thing. Suffering for art is a timeless custom. I am IN as long as I'm not in actual pain and/or falling down.

You gotta love this eloquent, distinguished man. He definitely blows my hair back!