I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Raging Heat by Richard Castle

If you watch the show Castle on ABC, then you'll recognize the name of the author as the character on the show who writes a book series about a Lieutenant named Nikki Heat, that he based on Kate Beckett and the journalist Jameson Rook, who tags along with her, and sometimes writes stories about her cases for the press.

Rook has just returned from a long stint away on a story.  As Heat is trying to organize the mess he's left everywhere, she finds a receipt for a jewelry store in Paris and believes that Rook may be asking her to marry her and she has no idea what to think about that.  Her thoughts are quickly taken elsewhere when an Haitian immigrant falls through the glass ceiling of the New York Planetarium.  It appears that he had been beaten before he died.  No one can figure out how he came to fall the way he did. 

Soon they discover another murder of an elderly gentleman, whose maid was the Haitian's girlfriend and who hid a phone with a message from his saying to run that K.G., who they believe to be Keith Gilbert, a man running for the Senate.  Heat is so narrowly focused on Gilbert as the killer, she fails to see the other pieces of evidence that don't fit.  The Haitian, Beuvais, worked at an illegal operation that went through people's trash and try to find out information in order to forge IDs, steal identities, and other things.  His girlfriend was able to get out and Beuvais was working on a way to score some big money so they could go back to Haiti. 

His last job was ripping off an ATM with two large men, the cops has seen before fleeing Beuvais's apartment.  On camera, there is a shot of one of them shooting at Beuvais.  Rook who had been helping out the Roach partners with this angle ends up butting heads with Heat and their relationship suffers horribly.  He's doing his job as a journalist and following up on details that Heat refuses to look at, which also causes friction between her and her team.  It seems that everybody was after Beuvais to kill him.  Also, those that killed his girlfriend, were pros who tortured her before she died. 

You don't have to watch the show to read this book, though you will enjoy the inside jokes.  Nor do you have to read the other books, though I really cannot recommend them enough in that the ones that deal with solving Heat's mother's murder is actually better than the one that they came up with on the show.  This doesn't happen often, but I couldn't put the book down.  I read three hours past when I was going to stop for the night.  I just had to finish it.  This is a great book.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Marked Man by Barbra Hamilton


In this second mystery set in Revolutionary  Boston and featuring Abigail Adams, the Boston tea party has just happened and the colonists are awaiting the king's reprisal.  Abigail notices in the paper that a slave girl named Bathsheba has gone missing, leaving behind a young babe and a toddler.  Abigail knows in her heart that this woman would never leave her children behind and must be dead.  She is soon distracted from this by the arrest of Henry Knox, a bookstore owner and printer of seditious material, for the death of an Army officer and friend of the Governor's.  It is said that Henry and Lucy Fluckner, from the first book, whose maid was a target for a madman, were meeting and in love.  Sir Jonathan Cottrell tried to touch Lucy in a very inappropriate manner, in order to dishonor her into a marriage with him so he could get a lot of land in Maine from her father.  Henry gave him a black eye and threatened to kill him if he touched her again.

Cottrell, then went to Maine to oversee Mr. Fluckner's properties and try to get the people off the land to make way for new people.  The night he got back he was supposed to go to the Fluckner's ball where Lucy's father was going to announce her engagement to him, against her wishes, but he never showed up.  Instead, his body is found beaten and frozen on the ground outside the house the next morning.  Mr. Fluckner, not realizing the gravity of the situation and just wanting Henry away from his daughter, has one of his employees say they saw Henry in the alley that night with the scarf that was found on the scene.  Henry is to be tried in military court after being questioned on the Sons of Liberty and everything he knows, and then likely found guilty of murder and hung.  Luckily the weather is keeping the ship from arriving, giving Abigail Adams and her sleuth in arms (sort of) Lieutenant Coldstone.

Abigail, with the help of Lucy and her chaperone, Mrs. Sandhayes, help to figure out who was in the ball where and when in order to see who could have slipped out of the house to kill Cottrell, but this gets them nowhere.  Cottrell's servant, who didn't go with him to Maine because he was too ill, is found to have been poisoned by two actors from Barbados, where Cottrell was stationed and sullied a girl's reputation, who had committed suicide, and had to buy off her parents.  Needless to say, everywhere he went, Cottrell made enemies, but sorting through them and finding the killer is going to be tough.

As Abigail and Coldstone get closer their lives are threatened.  Coldstone is lured to a secret place and is shot and Abigail interrupts an intruder set on poisoning her food stores.  Cottrell is said to have been seen at a house rented by a mysterious Mr. Elkins, whom no one can find.  An inspection of the house results in the sense that someone has died there, but there is no proof of this, only an empty well in the cellar, used to keep wine cooled.

As time grows close for Henry's departure, Abigail finally realizes who the killer is, but may be too late to save her life or Henry's, as the most ingenious nemesis steps forward and shocks the reader with their identity.  I did not see the ending coming.  This book was a really great read and kept me on the edge of my seat.  As I flew through the last pages of the book, I was hoping for the killer to  be caught and taken in.  The ending will surprise you.  This series really delves into what life was like at that time in history (including the use of a French version of a chamber pot in church because the sermons are so long and having to deal with frozen laundry) and lets a woman, who in today's time could have been a lawyer like her husband John, or anything she wanted to be, but is put into the part of mother and wife.  This series lets her spread her wings and become something extra and lets her use her sharp mind to unmask killers.   By the way, Henry Knox and Lucy Fluckner were real people.  They will marry and have a ton of kids and fight in the war.  Fort Knox and Knoxville is named after Henry.

Quotes:


Honestly, I understand why ladies are never the heroines of anything, they simply cannot get away from their kitchens long enough to rescue anyone.
--Barbara Hamilton (A Marked Man p 281)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Marked-Man-Abigail-Adams-Mystery/dp/0425237087/ref=sr_1_17?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1475501257&sr=1-17&keywords=a+marked+man

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash


This New York Times bestselling author has written a novel about two girls and their lives during the time when Sammy Sousa was battling McGuire for the most home runs and beat Maris's record.  Years ago, their father legally gave all rights to being a parent to Easter and Ruby Quillby.  Wade was a minor league player who once played with Sousa and is now washed up.  Afterward, her mother began a quick spiral downward into drugs and depression until finally one day, when Easter was twelve and Ruby six, their mother overdoses on drugs.

They are then sent to a foster home to stay while their mother's parents in Alaska start the process of getting custody of them.  But Easter doesn't want to go to Alaska.  She's happy in Gastonia, where she has a safe home and a boyfriend, who knocks on her window and they spend time talking to each other all night.

Everything changes one night, when their father, Wade Chesterfield, who has been denied access to the girls, knocks on their window.  Easter thinks it's her boyfriend, so she opens it, only to see her father coming through the window.  Before she can stop her, Ruby runs to him.  Ruby doesn't remember that he was a bad father and husband to their mother.  Wade threatens to take off with Ruby if Easter calls the alarm, so she decides to go quietly with him.

But Wade isn't the only one looking for the girls.  A man hired by a mob boss who robbed an armored car and stole a lot of money, part of which Wade stole from him, when he was in his house doing construction repairs.  But this is also the story of Brady, Easter and Ruby's guardian ad litem, who knows Wade has the money and the bad guys are after them, but can't get the police interested.  They only care about the catching the mobster, not the lives of two innocent girls. The Brady had an unfortunate incident that got him booted off the police force and caused him to lose his family.  Helping these two girls becomes a mission for him.

Easter doesn't know what to make of Wade.  She feels so conflicted.  He left, but now he's back, but she knows that trouble is looking for them.  She wants to hold on to the resentment she has for her father, but she also desperately wants his love and attention.  This book will hit you in the gut when you think about what these poor girls have gone through and what their fate may be.  This is one not to be missed.

*Addendum: This novel won the 2014 Golden Dagger Award for Best Novel by the Crime Writers Associates.  This is a very high honor.

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/This-Dark-Road-Mercy-Novel/dp/0062088262/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477057014&sr=8-1&keywords=the+dark+road+to+mercy

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil by Deborah Rodriguez


In 2001, right before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Rodriguez, a hairdresser, joined an humanitarian aid group to go to Kabul, Afghanistan and try to help.  The country was in chaos after driving out the Russians, surviving the tribal wars, and the driving out of the Taliban.  When she arrives she's with doctors and such who are setting up clinics and doing "important things", but no one seems to know what to do with this woman with spiky dyed bright red hair that can't be contained under a scarf, until she goes to a big party held by aid group for everyone to meet each other, and when she is introduced as a hairdresser, a wild cheer goes up.  It turns out that the Taliban closed all of the salons because they believed they were brothels, which a few were.  Very few salons were open now and they didn't know how to do much.  One woman had to drive to Pakistan to get her hair colored, because no one in Afghanistan knew how to do it.  Soon she is swamped with requests to cut and do hair.

This is when she gets the idea to open up a beauty school to train Afghan women to do better hair (they didn't even have real curlers for perms and had the customer leave the solution in overnight, which resulted in frizzy hair) and to train new ones in the profession so they could earn their own money for themselves and their family.

Soon she is back home with her mean and abusive second husband and two boys, and she decides to call Paul Mitchell on a whim and they agree to send her whatever she wants.  They suggest she call other companies to donate items as well.  Soon the boxes start to arrive and there are so many she has to rent a storage shed.  While she gets up the courage to finally leave her husband, partly in thanks to the friends she made in Afghanistan and what she saw there, she finds out about an aid organization that plans to open up a beauty school and she offers to teach it.

The organization provides the salon and she has the materials to work with.  She is soon swamped with over a hundred applicants for her first class and she can only take twenty.  Her Dari is limited so she has to speak through her best friend, Roshanna, who teaches her much about the Afghan culture.  She is soon tearing her hair out trying to teach them about the color wheel that is essential to highlighting and coloring hair, when after days of this, she finally manages to reach one student, who explains it in her own way, and soon they are on their way to learning how to do hair.

Two of her Americanized Afghan friends are determined to get her an Afghan husband.  She thinks this is silly, after all, she has already failed at two marriages.  Soon, however, they find the perfect man, Sam.  Only he speaks very little English and already has a first wife with seven daughters.  After only knowing him for about twenty days, and being ten years older than he is, she marries him.  Things are rocky due to culture and language barriers.  In Afghanistan, men may hold hands or put an arm around another man walking down the street, but they don't hold the hands of their women, ever, or show affection.

When Roshanna's family has a man's mother asks for her to marry her son (it's the mother who finds the first wife in Afghan culture), they are thrilled, because, Roshanna had been engaged once, when the Taliban was in rule and they were afraid they would take her and marry her by force, they set up a marriage to a German Afghan.  After the marriage certificate is signed at the engagement party, unbeknownst to her family he rapes her and then leaves for Germany and the family soon finds out he has divorced her.  No one knows she is not a virgin.  Wedding are a very big deal in Afghanistan.  The women put on enough make-up and pile their hair up as high as possible on their head that they look like drag queens.  On the night of the wedding, there is a sheet put up between the two sexes, as men and women do not mingle at official parties.  On both sides, however, everyone is doing something beyond dirty dancing, it's so sensual.  Panic soon ensues, however, when the handkerchief is brought out with no blood on it.  She won't let him completely enter her because it hurts.  So, Debbie has a talk with her and cuts her fingernail to the quick and forces blood to come from her finger in order to smear it on the handkerchief.  Everyone is happy.

Finding funding for her second and third classes becomes hard, so Debbie opens up a beauty salon at her new home with her husband and hires the top four girls from her first class to not only work there, but to also teach the class, with the idea that in the future, these women would be teaching the classes themselves.  Each member of the class leaves with a complete kit to set up shop anywhere, including brushes, combs, curlers, curling irons, hair dryers, etc...Word spreads among the Westerners, as well as the Afghan women about the school and her salon and soon they are swamped with customers, including some men, who sneak in after hours, because it is illegal for a woman to do a man's hair, for a style and manicure.

While there are many problems that occur in her marriage, with keeping the beauty school open, and with some of the dangerous Afghan people who are still pro-Taliban, she keeps going determined to give these women their freedom to make it on their own and to finally have a say in the family's finances.  This program is changing the lives of not only the women but of the men in their lives

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Kabul-Beauty-School-American-Behind/dp/0812976738/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479136574&sr=1-1&keywords=kabul+beauty+school+by+deborah+rodriguez

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King


In 1998, when he was promoting Bag of Bones, a fan asked King, what happened to Danny Torrence and if he'd write a sequel.  Over the years, King would wonder what age Danny was and if he had become an alcoholic like his father, only he'd joined AA.  This book answers these questions and more.

Dick Halloran teaches a young Danny how to lock up the ghosts he still sees from the Overlook Hotel into lockboxes inside his head and how to close his eyes for five seconds and the vision he sees will be gone.  As he ages, he soon starts to drink to drown out the shining.  In Wilmington, North Carolina, he just about hits bottom and his wondering ways end, when he finds himself in Frazier, New Hampshire and meets Henry, an old man, with a little bit of shine to him, who runs the small train around the park.  Henry sets Dan up with a temporary job until he can get one at the local hospice as an orderly.  At the hospice, he becomes known as Dr. Death, because when the housecat would go into someone's room and lie on their bed, it would turn out to be their time to die and Dan would be called and he would ease them into the afterworld.  He can also see when people are dying by a number of flies on their faces. And he still sees ghosts, both good and bad.

Down the road, a young child, Abra, whose shining ability makes Dan's look like a flashlight compared her lighthouse, has hidden her talent from her parents so they wouldn't worry.  One night she was able to place herself in Iowa when a group of people, the True Knot, talented folks like herself are torturing a kid with and sucking the shining out of him, which makes them younger and stronger.  Most of them have been around for centuries.  Abra reaches out to Dan and writes on his chalkboard in his room about what has happened, and for a short while they carry on a conversation in this manner.  When Abra is twelve, she sees a picture of a dead boy in a circular of missing kids and contacts Dan again for his help.

The problem is that Abra was noticed by the True Knot that night and they are searching for her because they believe they can feed off of her for years and things have been lean lately.  Also, the boy they took the shining from had the measles, and one of them gets its and dies from it.  They need Abra's antibodies to cure them as well.  She is able to go inside the leader of the group, Rose the Hat, for a moment, but when Rose tries it, Abra pushes her out easily with a loud shout that causes an earthquake on her block.

Luckily, Abra's doctor is a friend of Dan's in AA and through him, Abra and Dan must convince her dad that they need to go after this group and kill them before they come and kill Abra.  They hatch a plan for Dan and Abra to switch brains so Abra will not be in danger, but it doesn't go as they hoped and Abra gets taken by Crow, Rose's man and he's taking her back to the campsite, where the campers they travel in are, at the ground where the Overlook Hotel used to be.  Dan hatches another plan, with the help of Abra's great grandmother, who is dying and goes out face the Overlook Hotel once again.  This time, maybe for the last time, if he survives.

Though this book was low on the scare factor (maybe I'm getting too old to scare easily?), King "shines" as the master storyteller he is and it was a really great read.  I was happy to find out what happened to Danny and to see others like him and watch as he becomes the teacher that Dick Halloran was to him.  It was also nice to have the closure to Danny's story that lots of us have been dying to read about and King does it in a very wondrous way.

Quotes


We’re all dying.  The world’s just a hospice with fresh air.
--Stephen King (Doctor Sleep p 67)
 Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Sleep-Novel-Stephen-King/dp/1451698860/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1476884561&sr=1-1&keywords=doctor+sleep+stephen+king

 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bless Your Heart, Tramp by Celia Rivenbark

In this first book of essays collected from Rivenbark's columns, she focuses on 50's Home Economics Advice, Marriage Tips, Lazy Men, Disney movies, Southern speak, snow, exploding grits, women who make crocheted bear can vests and hats, card shopping, and Congestion in the Cold Aisle.

There is a 50s home economics textbook out there includes a section on "Recommendations for a Successful Marriage".  "Textbook: Prepare y0ourself.  Take 15 minutes to rest so you'll look refreshed when hubby comes home...Mama Celia: Get knee-walking drunk.  You've earned it.  You've been with four kids under the age of 7 all day....Textbook: Have a delicious meal ready...MC: Order a big, expensive dinner-to-go from a nice restaurant and call hubby at work to tell him to pick it up...Textbook: Just before your husband arrives, clear away clutter and run a dust cloth over tables...MC: Drop-kick the Little Tikes crap into the yard and hide the smaller stuff under the couch...Textbook: Make the evening his. Never complain if he doesn't take you out to dinner or to other places of entertainment.  MC: Complain constantly and bitterly if he balks at taking you out at least once a week.  Withhold sex until he complies.  Make him comfortable.  Arrange his pillow...MC: Place a pillow over his head and hold it there until he promises to do at least one household chore a month."

Some marriage rules: 1. "Never marry someone until you've established the perfect pizza ratio....Never marry a man who wants two slices one week and four the next....2. Never ask him for his opinion on colors, patterns, or textures...3.Accept that men are notorious for never completeting a task.  If you ask him to clean the refrigerator, which is working beautifully by the way, accept that he will have the coolant coil replaced by the end of the day and all your meat will have spoiled....4. Women, shut up....Quit talking everything to death....5.Never go to bed angry.  Draw straws for the couch and resume fighting in the morning."

Disney movies can be more dangerous then they seem.  "I always thought that as long as it was Disney, how bad could it be?  Then, I started watching more closely.  Take "The Little Mermaid".  Sure, Ariel is pretty and smart and has a great set of pipes but what does she do?  at 16, she deliberately disobeys her doting father and tosses him and her adoring sisters aside like week-old flounder to chase after an older man whom she decides to marry just THREE DAYS after they meet.  Within mere hours of meeting Prince Eric, they're shackin' and her poor family back there "under the seaaaaaa is sick with worry."

In the south a "Southerner can get away with the most awful insult as long as it is prefaced with the words "Bless her heart" or "Bless his heart".  As in "Bless his heart, if they put his brains on the head of a pin, it'd roll around like a BB on a six-lane highway."  Sadly, some Southerners are slowly stopping using southernisms like ya'll, or addressing their elders properly.  "The properly reared Southern child responds to such a question with a 'Yes, ma'am, Miss Lura Mae, I surely would love some more of your delicious lemonade if it's not too much trouble.'  Of course, that is a bit long-winded, but we Southerners believe that a simple "yes" or "no" has a certain harshness in it that could be construed as, horror of horrors, rude."

Northerners make fun of Southerners and their fear of snow.  At the threat of a snowflake, schools close and the grocery store runs out of bread and milk.  "They love to say stuff like ,'Geez, back home it'd snow 15, 18 inches and nothing shuts down.'  Well, that's because ya'll got the road equipment to handle regular snowstorms.  All we got is Bubba and Junior's four-wheel drive pick-em-up-trucks to help us out of the driveway and on our way  And the truth is they're probably not budging either because there's a good chance they've gotten likkered up and have gone off to fry a turkey in somebody's back yard."

Grits can be quite dangerous.  "A large pot of grits exploded and sent two people to the hospital...The grits were being prepared for a client appreciation party hosted by a Gainesville accounting firm when a large piece of the exploding pot hit one of the guests just as he was waiting for his heaping helping of fish and grits."  Kids today are prepared for tornadoes, hurricanes, and fires, but no one is training them in the preparedness of exploding grits.

Try buying a birthday card today in under five hours.  You can't do it.  The problem is that there is a card for every conceivable occasion or condition.  Such as: "We've Just Broken Up, Secret Pal...Now That You Know I'm Gay...I'm Glad You're My Doctor...So You've Had a Hysterectomy...Thanks for Covering for Me. (Who do you send this one to?  Your buddy who lied to your wife and said you were playing pool at his house instead of hanging out at Hooters quaffing pitchers and wearing Hooter Girls' orange shorts on your head?)..."Our marriage may not be exactly like everyone else's but that's OK.' What does that mean?  Is one of you inflatable?"

And finally, she looks at the cold aisle.  Do you need Extra Strength or Maximum Strength?  "...nighttime and daytime, caplets, coated caplets, enteric (who knows?) buffered, aspirin-free, with sleeping aid, without sleeping aid, effervescent, liqui-cap, caffeine-free, with cream and sugar, thin crust or hand-tossed...Did I want Co-Tylenol, Co-Advil or Co-Dependent Tylenol and Advil for the dysfunctional cold sufferer?....How often did I want to take this stuff? Every four hours, six, 12, 24?  I was leaning heavily toward Contac which boasted Severe Cold and Flu Maximum Strength Continuous Action for Adults.  Most adults would love continuous action."

Monday, October 27, 2014

Storyville by Louis Battle


I have been meaning to read this book for the past twenty years.  It was well worth the wait.  Set in 1898 New Orleans, the local government has just made prostitution legal as long as it stays in the "District".  This is the story of two women, one, Julia Ransome, a transplanted progressive Suffragette Yankee who married Charles, whom she has just found out, after twenty years of marriage, owns a few whore houses.  Julia sees this as a breach of trust and demands that he sell them off.  Charles has never given them much thought (as his tenants can attest) to these properties and never thought to tell Julia or that they should be gotten rid of.  Julia and Charles have a very loving relationship and a son, Laurence, who is at college at MIT, and a young daughter, Angelique, who only listens to her eccentric and cruel grandmother, Carlotta.

The other is a young girl, fifteen-years-old, Kate who is lured down to New Orleans with the promise of a better life and stays at the Versailles Hotel at the edge of the District with a man who promises to marry her, but leaves her as soon as he gets what he wants from her.  He does leave her some money to pay the hotel bill.  The desk clerk, known as Billy Shakespeare, is a former actor who feels sorry for Kate and tells her about a job at a dressmakers making hats.  After a short while doing this, the owner sends her to a brothel to deliver a hat and essentially sells her to its owner.  However, Kate is pregnant.  They give her things to get rid of the baby, but she doesn't take them.  One of the other whores in the house, jealous of Kate, sneaks her out to go to Mollie Q's house to work.  While not a virgin, Kate is as green as they come.  Mollie treats her well and fair.

The District is filled with a cast of characters including Mollie, who drinks too much and is very religious and plans on retiring to a cottage in Ireland and donating money to the nuns in order to save her soul.  There's also Billy Shakespeare, who hangs out at Mollie's and provides council on everything from money matters to fashion and etiquette.  Lady Caroline is a drag queen who caters to a "specific" clientele.  There's also Monkey, a black kid who runs errands for people and plays music like no one else.  In this book, you can hear the music and taste the beignets and smell the honeysuckle.

One night, when Laurence comes home from school to enlist in the Rough Riders to fight in Cuba in the Spanish American War, his friends, intent on getting him to lose his virginity, something he was saving for marriage (he has his father's good looks, but his mother's ideals and temperament), take him to Mollie's where he meets Kate and instantly falls in love.  What will the family and society say when they find out he plans on marrying her?

Julia finds herself on the outs with her husband, whom she knows visited a brothel (which he did, but only to talk to a male friend and nothing else).  When Julia finds out about Kate, she takes her in to live in the house, even though it could ruin her reputation.  The two go to stay in Boston with Julia's family for a while so Kate can have the baby and to treat Julia's parent's illnesses.

These two remarkable women take on the world in their own ways and survive the hardships and tragedies that come to them both.  They are women ahead of their time blazing  a trail for others to follow and show that women are capable of anything they put their mind to and nothing can stop them.  You can't help but admire both women, even as they make tough choices, you as a reader, may not like.  This was an incredible read and a fascinating look into the history of New Orleans during a wild and progressive time when the new century shows how much things can and will change.

Quotes


If only his parents would make love, he thought (for making love now seemed the solution to most of the world’s ills), they wouldn’t be able to stay angry with each other.
--Lois Battle (Storyville p 224)


You know, I think people in tropical climates are intellectually sluggish because the blood doesn’t circulate to their brains.
--Lois Battle (Storyville p 244).


Suicide was a plan even the most helpless could carry out.  Two bottles of sleeping syrup and a bottle of whiskey.  Rocked to sleep in the bosom of the deep.  It was a comforting thought, better than a pile of money because  no one could take it away from you.
--Lois Battle (Storyville p 378)
 

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Storyville-Lois-Battle/dp/0140267697/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1473860448&sr=1-3&keywords=storyville

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Secret Life of Sleep by Kat Duff

I wouldn't be true to this blog if I didn't write bad reviews too, so this is one.  This book, which I hoped would provide me with insight and perhaps help in my twenty-year long battle with sleep, did neither.  It was completely biased against using medications, which do happen to work, at least for a while, and believes that if we don't keep our children in our bedrooms until the age of five, they will become poor sleepers as adults. 

She approaches this from various angles; the mystic, pseudo-science, anthropology, and first hand accounts.  Her only saving grace, is her belief in the use of cognitive behaviorism, which is actually a helpful way to deal with problems like sleep.  First you must understand and fix your ideas about sleep; making it less a battle.  Then, you must also provide a good sleep environment, with the use of few electronics before sleep and using your bed for only sleep, so that your body will know what to do once its there.

A better book on sleep is Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep by David K. Randal.  He is a journalist who has had sleep problems, including sleep walking, for years.  His book, is unbiased and really examines the issue from a very real and scientific view.  It also offers good suggestions to help you sleep, for example, turning the lights down an hour before you go to sleep so that the melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, will begin to produce early and help you to go to sleep.  I've used this method with some degree of success.

In the end, there are better books out there to read on sleep than The Secret Life of Sleep.  Unless, of course you want something to read to put you to sleep, because this book is so boring, it just might do that.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Good Talk, Dad: The Birds and the Bees..and Other Conversations We Forgot to Have by Bill and Willie Geist


First off, you don't have to be a guy to read this book.  As a woman, I related to it in the way one relates to a father, regardless of the sex.  Bill Geist, a former columnist for the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times and a contributor to CBS Sunday Morning (a really good show on at 9am) and Willie Geist, a co-host on MSNBC's Morning Joe and co-host of the Today Show, have written a rather funny and touching story of their lives as fathers and sons.

From summer camp, where Willie's sister was sent to a horse camp and got saddled with a horse one step away from the glue factory and his camp which was run by gang members on probation to stories of going fishing and never catching anything.  There are also the hilarious stories of the red jeep they bought in 1984, when Bill got an advance of $10,000 on his first book.  They went hog wild and decided to get the add-ons of doors and a radio.  Eventually this jeep would go to Willie, who used it to deliver pizzas, recklessly in a vehicle with no shocks or first gear. By the time his sister inherited it, it would only go forty-mile-per-hour and broke down frequently on the way to school.

There's also the story of everyone's crazy Uncle, this one called Herb, who sold his vitamins and supplements company to a larger company and spent his money collecting all sorts of animals, including rare fish, the envy of aquariums, and alligators.  He would also supply the "herbs" at any family get together and the Rolling Stones concert he and Willie went to in Atlantic City.

Yes, there is talk of sports.  They both root for the Yankees (they lived in New York and New Jersey for most of Willie's life and live there now).  Willie was a champion football and basketball player in high school.

But its not all fun and games.  There's a chapter where Bill finally opens up both to his family and the reader, for the first time, about his experiences in Vietnam as a photographer and the horrors he saw and his pictures that were seen on the front page of newspapers across America.  He received a Bronze Star for his service, which sometimes involved the use of a gun and not a camera.  Also, Bill describes his twenty-year battle against Parkinson's and the many years he hid it and tried to deny that anything was wrong.

Finally, the book delves into the life of Willie and his rise to where he is now and his family of a three and six-year-old.  One weekend, when his wife is out of town, he finds himself helpless trying to figure out what to feed them and where the missing leotard is for his daughter's ballet class.  And taking them next door to the police station for friendly visits, or serious chats with the boys in blue, when they have done something seriously wrong.

In the end, this delightful book delves into the lives of two funny and great guys, a father and son, that we can all relate to, even if we are females, as we may have similar experiences with our parents, or be married to one of them.

Quotes
 The pamphlet set forth the rules of sexual conduct.  Sex was definitely restricted to a man and a woman.  Only one each.  Married.  In a church.  Intercourse was to be conducted in the missionary position, with the lights off.  And not for fun!  For family.  If you could manage to avoid the act altogether, so much the better. (Hey, Mary and Joseph pulled it off.)  Oh, and nothing with the suffix  -job or –style.  Those rules were from GOD!
----Bill Geitst and Willie Geist (Good Talk, Dad: The Birds and the Bees.. and Other Conversations We Forgot To Have p 7)
I’ve never understood why fishing has to be at dawn.  Basketball, football, baseball—no other sports start at such a painful hour.  It may be the fault of the fish.  Perhaps genetic engineers will solve this problem in our, or your lifetime.  A large, colorful, easily mountable sport fish, stupid enough to go after fluorescent lures, skips breakfast and eats a big lunch.
--Bill Geitst and Willie Geist (Good Talk, Dad: The Birds and the Bees.. and Other Conversations We Forgot To Have p 46-7)
I told Lucie we were rooting for Columbia because they’re the New York team (she’s too young for me to explain that no one roots for Harvard in anything—in sports or in life).
--Willie Geist (How To Take Your Four-Year-Old Daughter To a Football Game)

When I see TV commercials using patriotism to sell military service to impressionable young men and women, it seems there really ought to be the voice of that announcer in pill commercials warning, “May cause neuroses, psychoses, severe burns, paralysis, loss of limbs, premature death, and lifetime sorrow.”
---Bill Geist (Good Talk, Dad: The Birds and the Bees.. and Other Conversations We Forgot To Have p 166) (He is a Vietnam Vet and recipient of the Bronze Star)
During its long run at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the Nets organization did whatever it could to distract the fans from remembering they were watching a bad team in an empty arena in the middle of a New Jersey swamp.  Larry Bird called it the arena he hated most during his long career, saying of the fans, “It’s as if they’re not even there.” That wasn’t just your impression, Larry.  They weren’t there.  It was the kind of place where you could see a friend across the arena during a game and, I kid you not, yell across the court to make postgame plans.
--Bill Geitst and Willie Geist (Good Talk, Dad: The Birds and the Bees.. and Other Conversations We Forgot To Have p 217)

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Good-Talk-Dad-Conversations-Forgot/dp/1455547212/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1466168402&sr=1-1&keywords=good+talk+dad+by+bill+geist+and+willie+geist

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ghost Hunter by Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle


Jayne Castle is the name Krentz publishes under for her futuristic suspense novels.  They take place on the planet of Harmony two hundred years after the curtain closed, that had been opened for a while to allow humans through to colonize other planets.  The years of Discord followed and for a while it was every man for himself.  Soon, however, the humans began to develop paranormal abilities unique to the planet.  Underneath the planet, the former aliens who had lived there, left green quartz, and to navigate underground you need tuned amber, or you'll get lost forever.  Amber is also used to start cars, lock doors, and many other common things.  In the catacombs, ghost hunters are needed to dissolve para disonence energy, which takes the form of a ghost, and can fry your brain.  Detanglers are also needed to unravel traps that block doors.  There also dust bunnies that are unusual pets who are great protectors and have two sets of eyes and six feet.

Cooper Boone, recently made Guild boss of the Aurora Springs ghost hunters is engaged to Elly St. Clair.  For months, he has canceled dates, or shown up late, and he gives her no more than a chaste kiss goodnight.  When he fights a duel over her with Palmer Frazier, a man she dated for a while, but realized he was only after her father's influence on the council to make him Guild boss, she gets really pissed off.  The gossip could cost her her job at the University, where she in a botanist and makes her believe that Boone is only interested in the Guild position himself, so she breaks up with him and moves to the big city of Cadence and opens up an herbal shop, where she uses her secret psi talent of being able to "read" plants makes it possible for her to brew up special individual  brews for her patrons. 

One night, her friend, a ruin rat, who is someone who doesn't make it to the University level of para-archeology, but has talent, and goes into the catacombs looking for things to sell, finds someone's hidden stash of illegal drugs and makes a run for her life.  Elly becomes concerned, and as luck would have it, Cooper is in town on "business", which is trying to win back Elly.  He helps her find her friend and de-rezes the blue ghost, a mythical ghost that is watching over her friend, which he shouldn't be able to do, but his talent is a Guild secret. 

They soon find themselves embroiled in a drug operation and murder as they try to find the person behind it all and why this is happening.  This isn't Castle's first Harmony book.  The first one is called Afterburn; but you don't have to read one to read the other.  They are both excellent books and great reads if you want to read something different in the sci-fi genre.  I love them both!

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Hunter-Jayne-Castle/dp/0515141402?ie=UTF8&keywords=ghost%20hunter&qid=1464027842&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&sr=1-1