Category: In The Library

Zero Waste Book Review

Book Cover of Zero WasteReduce, reuse, recycle is one slogan I grew up with. But Shia Su takes this mantra to a whole new level with her book Zero Waste: Simple Life Hacks To Drastically Reduce Your Trash. The cover of the book shows a glass jar, approximately quart size with the trash she generated in a year. This is truly cutting waste to zero.

The book has a pictorial Table of Contents. There are lots of pictures throughout for illustrative purposes. The content is such that you can either read straight through or skip around to what you need. Zero Waste is a good resource book.

Su has highlighted tips throughout. Some of her suggestions I already practice. For instance, at the grocery store I seldom use the small plastic bags in the produce department. I just place the items in the cart and group them close together at check out.

Other concepts, such as the high-tech toilet seats from Japan, I have only just heard of. (A neighbor took a trip to Japan this summer and came back raving about the toilets.) I was however, surprised that the cost was not higher. Bidets are certainly not new. But my understanding is the Japanese manufacturers have taken the concept to a whole new level.

Many of the tips are cost savers. But some of the Zero Waste ideas would be tough to convert to. The various personal hygiene tips top the list in this department.

On the other hand, the food storage tips and most of the housekeeping tips are doable for me. I also found her comments on clothing donations informative. We tend to forget economic dumping is not limited to large manufacturers.

Su is a blogger. Her site is Wasteland Rebel. Just a quick glance at the blog after reading the book shows a lot of carryover. So, if you like holding a book in your hands, buy Zero Waste. Or you can subscribe to her blog. Either way, I think you will find the information interesting. How many of us could fit a year’s worth of trash in a quart jar?

The Alice Network Book Review

Kate Quinn offers a treat for history buffs and those who like a bit of romance. Her book, The Alice Network, is set in the years immediately following World War II. But, the focus of more than half the book is World War I, also known as The Great War.

Charlie

Alternating chapters reveal the stories of two women. Charlie, short for Charlotte, opens the story in 1947. She is searching for her cousin Rose. The family lost contact with Rose while France was occupied by Germany. Charlie has one lead, Evelyn Gardiner.

Charlie is also running away. Her story is a combination of post war stresses as well as her search for Rose. War has long-lasting consequences for both soldiers and families. Quinn does an outstanding job of conveying post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) throughout Charlie’s tale.

Fans of romance are treated to just a bit as Charlie becomes attracted to Finn Kilgore, employee of Evelyn Gardiner. Kilgore’s background is of a former soldier with some issues. He is struggling a bit but is a rock to both Eve and Charlie.

Eve/Marguerite

Evelyn Gardiner is the protagonist of The Great War story as well as the support Charlie needs in her search for Cousin Rose. Evelyn now known as Eve and sometimes as just Gardiner, is a drunk. But during World War II she served as a spy with the assumed name Marguerite.

Marguerite Le Francois is an integral member of the Alice Network. She is recruited in England but placed in France. Her fluency in English, French, and German makes her an ideal spy. Of course Marguerite is entirely concocted by Quinn. But The Alice Network was real. So too were some of the key supporting figures in the story of Eve. The weaving of fact and fiction is expertly done.

The Alice Network

Throughout history, women have been a party to war. During the Great War, women served as key figures in spy rings operating behind enemy lines. In the chapters focusing on Eve’s storyline, Quinn demonstrates the sacrifices made by these women. Then through Charlie’s story, she gives the readers a glimpse of how long-lasting the impact of war is.

I really enjoyed The Alice Network. The back and forth between storylines worked. Although the reader knows Eve survives World War I since she is still around in 1947, there is still quite a bit of suspense to this novel. I greatly appreciated the author’s notes at the end of the book. Quinn spells out fact from fiction as far as the war events. Those more knowledgeable of The Great War might not appreciate the notes as much.

I strongly recommend this book. The members of The Alice Network went to great lengths to shorten the war. The author does a really good job of showing the impact of war on soldier and civilian as well.

The characters are endearing. The story is suspenseful. The ending is akin to a romance novel even though there is a dose of bittersweet. Kate Quinn has a winner in this well researched and well written book.

The Day the Crayons Quit Book Review

Book, coloring book and crayons
The stars of The Day the Crayons Quit ready to color again.

The Day the Crayons Quit

Author Drew Daywalt and illustrator Oliver Jeffers have a winner in The Day the Crayons Quit. Each of the colors in a crayon box has something to say. This children’s book is sure to be a hit with your favorite youngster.

I feel this is a book which is designed for an adult or older child to read to the younger crowd. The story is definitely geared toward a preschool or early grade school crowd. But the vocabulary is not for beginning readers.

Striking Crayons

The story is engaging. Duncan wants to color in class but finds a stack of letters instead of his crayons. Each color has hand written a note. Thus some of the book could be difficult for an early reader to decipher. Adjacent to the note is artwork featuring that color. Most colors complain, some need a referee and a couple are downright hilarious. The humor is perfect for the target audience. But I appreciated it as well.

In addition to the story line, Daywalt provides a personality for each crayon. Then Jeffers brings the color into focus with illustrations any child can relate to. The duo have created a children’s book which has lasting value. Humor rules throughout. This story fits in many places. The book is appropriate for story hour at libraries, reading time in schools and naturally bedtime.

Read Aloud

The Day the Crayons Quit harkens back to a time when youngsters were entertained by someone reading to them. This book provides the opportunity to spend time with a child. Reading aloud is an activity that requires participation by both reader and listener. Thus, a far cry from the electronic entertainment seen so often today.

I encourage anyone with a young child in their life to find this book. This includes daycare providers, elementary school teachers and librarians, parents and grandparents. The Day the Crayons Quit is a great addition to the library.

I have just one question for Daywalt and Jeffers. Whatever happened to Mr. Brown Crayon?

Clock Dance Book Review

Clock Dance- A Book Club Book

The author of Clock Dance is new to me. But I am glad I discovered her work. Clock Dance piqued my interest from the start. I read it cover to cover. Many of you may be familiar with the author, Anne Tyler. She is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer. So, it is not surprising that Clock Dance is being read by book clubs across the country.

Willa Drake is the protagonist in Clock Dance. The reader follows her life from grade school to 60 ish. There are large gaps in the timeline but Tyler makes that work. Thus, in some ways, Clock Dance is a summary of life events.

The characters are pretty straight-forward. The development of Willa is nicely done. But the reader may be surprised by how her relationship with key members of her family changes over the years. I was, yet I wasn’t. Dysfunctional family relationships during the early years have a way of sowing unusual outcomes.

Call for Help

The “real” story begins in the present which for Willa means her early sixties. In a case of mistaken identity, she receives a call for help. And she responds much to her husband’s chagrin. He tags along.

Willa flies half way across the country to care for a young girl. Tyler makes it clear the kid is pretty self-sufficient. There is a parallelism between Willa and Cheryl, the young girl she is in temporary charge of. Thus the natural re-awakening of Willa’s self is easy to believe.

The supporting characters are good. So is the plot. The ending is a bit surprising but not overly so. Those of us approaching a certain age do begin to wonder how things could have been. Tyler reminds us that time remains to make changes. The clock has not run out yet.

I really liked Clock Dance and plan to loan my copy out to others. This book has great appeal and not just for those of us approaching the later stages of life. Anne Tyler is a great writer and I plan to read more of her work.

Fire on the Track Book Review

Book Cover of Fire on the Track with old bookcase as backgroundRoseanne Montillo offers a close look at the first female track and field Olympians in her book Fire on the Track. Much of the history focuses on Betty Robinson. But detailed backgrounds of Babe Didrikson, Stella Walsh and Helen Stephens are also outlined. Participants in the Olympic games of 1928, 1932 and 1936 are the focus of the work.

Fire on the Track captures you from the start with a narrative of the 1931 plane crash that badly injured Robinson. This style sets the stage for the remainder of the book. Montillo writes a very readable presentation of non-fiction and thus captures a wider audience.

However, due to some very intimate details, I only recommend Fire on the Track for high school age and above. Some of the runners, Stephens in particular, suffered in a manner that would easily qualify her for inclusion in the #Me Too movement. The greatest change over time is the desire in the past to hide the atrocities. Since Montillo has been thorough in her reporting of history, I personally would shield younger readers from this narrative. But I think it is appropriate and important for the mature audience to learn of these past events.

Olympic Track and Field

Having established those parameters, I strongly recommend this book. As a runner, I had a smattering of knowledge about most of the individuals covered in this historical account. But, I did not know of the many difficulties faced by these trailblazing women. Nor did I fully appreciate how much discrimination continued even after the inclusion of track and field events for women in the Olympic Games.

Montillo balances the personal stories of the individual runners with the political and economic events of the time period. Climate played a role as well. The late twenties and the decade of the thirties comprised a period of struggle. The relative prosperity of 1928 yielded to the Dust Bowl days, bread lines and loss of property. All of which are expertly woven into the account.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect is the personalities of the runners. These young women participated in competition during an era not particularly accepting of the idea of gender equality in sport. Each of the runners were exceptional. Each faced obstacles. And each handled the spotlight differently. Either pick up a copy at your nearest library or buy a copy. Put this book on your list.

Daniels’ Running Formula Book Review

Of the many training books I own, Daniels’ Running Formula is one of my favorites. I have the original edition. But you can find copies of the 3rd edition online through the major booksellers. I used this book to train for a marathon. But other distances are covered too. Indeed, Daniels has a formula for all distances and all types of runners.

Four Keys to Success

Jack Daniels states there are four keys to successful running. First is inherent ability. Even though runners come in various shapes and sizes, certain body types lend to more success. This was important during my competitive running days. But I find I still enjoy running even with a bit of a middle age spread. However, even if I no longer strive to cross the line first, I believe proper training is essential to avoid injury. Thus Daniels’ Running Formula is still consulted.

The other keys are motivation, opportunity and direction. In discussing each, Daniels focus is on competitive running as is much of the book. His discussion of each of the four keys leads into the three parts comprising the body of the work. I believe these ten pages are worth reading. However they contain philosophy as opposed to the more scientific approach used in the remainder of the book.

Program Planning

Part I of the book is composed of three chapters. Daniels uses graphs to illustrate increase of training stress to optimize the level of competitiveness. Naturally, I appreciated the fact that he included a diagram illustrating diminishing returns. The author uses these early chapters to introduce some important biological concepts. A thorough discussion of the cardiovascular system is covered by Daniels.

For the serious runner, there are detailed instructions to create and utilize aerobic profiles. Various charts and illustrations in Daniels’ Running Formula aid in the understanding of the shared concepts. The reader is forewarned; quite a bit of this first section is tough to comprehend. But I believe it is the most important part of the book for competitive runners.

Formula for Training

The second section and bulk of the writing concentrates on training. This part starts with a section on building base. A base level of fitness will vary by individual. Couch potatoes will need to start from scratch. Daniels discusses how to build your fitness level even if you are a less experienced runner.

He also makes clear that slower speeds end up stressing a body more than a quicker tempo. Thus, someone running ten minute miles will work harder than a six-minute miler. Therefore, in the beginning, time measurement of running is as important as distance.

The training section is easier to understand in general. Although you will still have charts requiring knowledge of maximum aerobic capacity. Daniels guides the runner through the set-up of a training program. Explanations of various training techniques are covered. Interval running, marathon pace, fartlek, easy runs and hard runs are all discussed. He includes everything.

Racing

The final section is geared toward racing. Many think of racing in terms of high school and college students. Or they conjure up memories of Olympians. But racing is a positive for all runners. Even my small town of 7500 has multiple running events each year. I have even travelled to a town of under 500 for a road race.

In Daniels’ Running Formula, the racing section first covers the basics. This includes topics such as clothing, shoes, sleep and stretching. The first chapter also discusses how to pick the races and has some psychological pep talk as well.

The next three chapters are focused on race distance. The author breaks the distances into what I would call short (or even very short) medium and long. Chapter 12 is 1500-3000 meter racing. Then, Chapter 13 is 5-15K distance. Chapter 14 covers half and full marathons.

Since high school I have raced only once at the 1500 meter distance. My marathon training partner talked me into the race. It started 30 minutes after we completed the qualifying 10K. Needless to say, my race time was not impressive. But I digress.

Daniels includes a race strategy for each distance. He also provides a training calendar with workout descriptions. Runners who are already conditioned can consult these last chapters repeatedly.

Throughout the book, Daniels spotlights some top individuals in the sport. It was fun to read about Jack Bachelor (I lived in Gainesville when he did and loved spotting him on his runs) and Joan Benoit Samuelson (an all-time favorite.) Read the book to find out if your all-time favorite runner is highlighted.

I recommend buying this book if you are serious about your running. You will improve your performance. If you are not a runner but have one in the family, Daniels’ Running Formula makes a great gift.

Secrets of the National Parks

Secrets of the National Parks Book Review

Summer is here. Travelers are flocking across the country and many of them are headed to National Parks. If you are among the many heading to the great outdoors, consider purchasing Secrets of the National Parks. I found this guide-book edited by National Geographic on a bargain table at Barnes and Noble for under ten dollars. But I think it is worth more.

My parents did not enjoy camping. However, both felt it was important that we were well-rounded in our education. Trips to National Parks played a key role in exposing us to the wonders of nature. Thus, as my kids were growing up, I made sure they also experienced some of our great national treasures.

I wish I had found Secrets of the National Parks sooner. The book offers a comprehensive guide to 32 of the most popular of the parks. Following this major portion is a small section of snippets about smaller, off the beaten path sites. Last, some of the Canadian National Parks are covered in a similar fashion to those United States sites which comprise the bulk of the work.

Maps and Photos

The editors facilitated the use of the book by placing a map of the United States at the beginning. Each of the 32 National Parks high-lighted in the work are positioned on the map. Then, the page number where each park is detailed is located in red beneath the park name. Thus, those wanting a quick look at a specific site have an easy reference. Maybe the next edition could represent the Canadian Parks in a similar fashion.

Maps are a key characteristic of the books. Each park description includes a map. The editors use a numerical system to indicate both the most visited and the secrets of each park. Thus, the first suggested site described by an author is located on the map with a 1 within a red circle. I found this a very useful feature of the book as many of the parks are vast.

The photos included in the book entice the viewer. The ones featuring the parks I have visited bring back great memories. Those of the places I have yet to see are beckoning. Each captures the essence of the individual locations. Some focus on landscape such as the photo of Delicate Arch. Others highlight the inhabitants from coyote to roseate spoonbills.

Plant life is often depicted with the magnificent natural formations as backdrops. One of my favorites was Sunflowers and Buttes included in the Capitol Reef National Park section. This site is now on my list to visit.

Secrets Detailed

Perhaps the best attribute of the guide are the secrets shared by the writers. While the sections cover the most visited trails, sites, and visitor centers, each includes at least one lesser known, off the beaten path choice. I appreciate this. My enjoyment of nature is heightened if I am not surrounded by throngs of people.

Details include the degree of difficulty of the various hikes. The book is quite useful in this way. Both hikers with very young children as well as those with aging ankles or knees benefit with forehand knowledge.

Updates to the sites are also related. For example, Mesa Verde which I have visited many times has additional attractions since my last visit in 2009. I need to make a return trip in the not too distant future in order to view the new visitor center and participate in the just established “Backcountry Hikes” program.

Nature has a tendency to change over time. Therefore, individuals using Secrets of the National Parks need to check before travelling long distances. Most notable of ongoing change at this moment in time (summer of 2018) is the volcanic eruption at Kilauea.

National Geographic has produced an easy to read guide that is appealing. On a recent trip, I shared the guide with two of my companions. One I asked to verify Wind Cave National Park was on the way to Sturgis. The other is weeks away from a trip to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. Both individuals enjoyed Secrets of the National Parks. I think you will too.

Rocky Mountain Fruit & Vegetable Garden Book Review

Rocky Mountain Fruit & Vegetable Garden is geared toward the states of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah & Wyoming. But author Diana Maranhao is so knowledgeable about edible gardening you might want to pick up a copy even if you live in a different state. Since the book is geared toward the mountain west region, there are a few items such as the chart on average first and last frost dates that are not applicable for everyone. However most of the book contains useful information not limited to the Rocky Mountain area.

Maranhao divides the book into two sections. In the first section, the initial focus is on the states making up the Rocky Mountains in the U.S. For those residing here the above mentioned frost date chart along with detailed Zone maps of each state are a plus. Chapters 2 through 5 are useful for gardeners everywhere even though there are some location specific details.

Seasonal Gardening and Soil Composition

Chapters 2 and 3 yield tips and information on the basic conditions needed to grow a successful garden. The author explains how temperature extremes hinder crops. Then she suggests ways to mitigate the damage. Additionally, the author indicates which plants perform best as transplants and which need direct sowing.

The soil building chapter shares information generally found in good gardening texts. The section on composting did yield some suggestions I was not aware of. Maranhao does recommend soil testing utilizing local extension agencies for tool kits.

Planning, Planting & Growing

Chapters 4 and 5 cover the nuts and bolts of a garden. I really like the author’s approach. If I had a common sense guide such as Rocky Mountain Fruit & Vegetable Garden when I first started out, I think my failures would have been fewer. The planning and planting of the garden are spelled out in a non-verbose way.

The garden maintenance section advocates using a drip system. I concur. Much of the success of my raised row garden is due to the watering system. Maranhao gives details on differing drip systems. She also stresses the need to weed and monitor for pests.

Rocky Mountain Fruit and Vegetable Profiles

The second section of Rocky Mountain Fruit and Vegetable Gardening is a fantastic guide for the gardener as it pertains to specific plants. This portion is divided between fruit and nuts and vegetables and herbs.

Priority in planting is trees, bushes and vines. The author includes a chill chart which indicates the number of hours fruit trees need exposure to sub-45 degree air temperature. While I knew some cooler temperatures were needed, I did not know how many. Nor that winter thaws above 60 degrees Fahrenheit reverses the chill factor.

I also appreciated the illustrated diagrams on planting and pruning. Information on trellising plants is in this section as well. Other tips include a proper hardening off technique for transplants. Then the author turns to individual edibles.

The book organizes the information on the individual plants by dividing the specimens into cool and warm season groupings. Then, the seasonal plantings are listed alphabetically. Each of the listings has growing tips in addition to the basic questions (and answers) of who, what, where, when, and how to plant.

I added Rocky Mountain Fruit & Vegetable Gardening to my home library. The book is easy to use. Diana Maranhao is knowledgeable and writes with a style that is easy to follow. This book is a great resource especially for those living in the mountains, high valleys and high plains.

You Me Everything Book Review

You Me Everything is the first novel Catherine Isaac has published in the United States of America. Romance readers across the ocean might be familiar with the author under the name Jane Costello. After reading her debut released on this side of the Atlantic, I want to find her other works too.

Part of You Me Everything is a love story. But the story is so much more. Many people in real life and in fiction, travel through life with few challenges. Others, such as Jess the protagonist in this novel have more than their fair share of ongoing heartbreak. Amazingly, Isaac creates a story that is uplifting regardless of the all important backdrop of relationship misunderstanding and breakdown. A further tribulation is the diagnosis of Huntington’s and the carrying gene.

Isaac’s writing is fast paced. The dialog is witty and the characters are incredibly endearing. I felt like I knew them all. But what I liked best was the growth of the lead character, Jess. She learns to face a difficult future with both grace and joy.

While the characters hail from Great Britain, much of the story takes place in the French countryside. Jess and her ten-year old son are taking a holiday at the resort his father owns. The purpose is for the father and son to bond and spend time together. Something which is difficult when living in different countries.

However, there is an underlying motive behind Jess’ plans. Her mother is in the final stages of Huntington’s disease and Jess has learned in the past year that she also carries the gene. At her mother’s insistence, she travels to France. Both now and in the future her son needs a close bond with his father.

Huntington’s disease

You Me Everything is the second book I have read recently involving a character with Huntington’s disease. For more information on this debilitating condition click here. The devastation is dramatic. Isaac does a tremendous job conveying the hardship and heartbreak of the families. But even more impressive is her ability to convey a joy for life among characters facing the diagnosis. Her message is clear: We all have one life and we must live it to the best of our ability.

Quilt in a Day: Log Cabin Quilt Book Review

Eleanor Burns’ Quilt in a Day log cabin pattern was the first how-to quilt book I ever purchased. I still use it over thirty years later. Burns is very straightforward with her directions. She begins the book with a brief history of the log cabin pattern. Then the detailed instruction begins.

Charts

Burns provides multiple charts to aid the planning of a log cabin quilt. First are worksheets to pin fabric swatches on. These sheets keep the sewing order on track. Also included are yardage charts. Each of the charts indicate the application of block arrangements. This is useful because only the Field and Furrow arrangement can always work. The many other arrangements require specific numbers of blocks. So if you want a Barn Raising Log Cabin quilt, you must make sure to use the correct block arrangement.

The yardage charts also provide the accurate amount of fabric to buy. The yardage varies by the size of the log cabin quilt and the placement of the fabric within the quilt design. I have made many quilts using these charts and I have yet to be short or overly long on fabric.

Log Cabin quilts key on color contrasts. Burns breaks up the charts between lights and darks. However, contrast can be between colors opposite each other on the color wheel. An example is using red and green in a Christmas themed log cabin design. In such a scenario, just assign one of the colors to the light chart and the other to the dark side.

Burns labels the next chart the tearing chart. She is big proponent of this technique. However, I am a rotary cutter fan. The tearing charts still apply. Preparing the strips all at once is key to this method of quilting.

Log Cabin Block Assembly

After all the fabric is in strips, the blocks are ready to sew. Burns provides the illustration in assembling the quilt. For a first time quilter, these diagrams are extremely helpful.

Once the blocks are made they can be previewed in the various log cabin variations. Burns includes diagrams indicating block arrangement for each log cabin variation. The book is a fantastic guide for the many designs.

The next section gives instruction on piecing the blocks together. Burns discusses the practice of butting the pieces together. This allows continuous sewing and saves time. Also, the technique avoids wasting thread.

The author does an excellent job of walking the beginning quilter through the entire process. The log cabin quilt is one of my favorites. I love the contrasts of both color and hue. Values of color really show off the different arrangements. If you are interested in learning to quilt, I highly recommend this book.

Triple Crown

Tomorrow, June 9, 2018, Justify has a chance to become a Triple Crown winner. In honor of that possibility, I am presenting three book reviews today. All three discuss this difficult feat. Two are non-fiction accounts of my favorite Triple Crown winner, Secretariat. The third is a work of fiction by Felix Francis.

There is something for everyone in these three books. First, the novel is a good mystery full of the Francis penchant for showing the human element. Next, the general history and wonderful photos in Secretariat by Raymond G. Wolfe Jr. is perfect for the many sports fans stirred up by the quest for the Triple Crown. Finally, Secretariat: The Making of a Champion by William Nack is geared toward those with a serious interest in the horse industry. Enjoy one or all of these books and tune in to watch the Belmont tomorrow to see if Justify becomes just the 13th winner of the Triple Crown.

Triple Crown The Novel

Felix Francis is the son of Dick Francis. The two collaborated on a few books before the latter’s death. Triple Crown, published in 2016 is a crime novel involving the Triple Crown races in America. The novel is written in the style made famous by the elder Francis.

Jeff Hinkley is an agent for the British Horseracing Authority. He travels to the United States on an exchange program to advise the Federal Anti-Corruption in Sports Agency (FACSA). However, his true purpose is to identify the individual within FACSA tipping off horse trainers to upcoming raids.

The action continues at the Kentucky Derby where problems intensify with several horses unable to start in the famous race. Francis conveys the atmosphere surrounding the Derby to the reader. Visitors to Louisville, Kentucky can visit both Churchill Downs and Wagner’s. Even those just watching the race on television can relate to his description of the crowds.

The plot moves from crime to murder mystery as the races move along the legs of the Triple Crown. Hinkley goes undercover as a groom. Readers glimpse life on the backside through the prose. There are a few twists in this tale of government corruption. The racing industry is not painted in a particularly positive light either. However, the writing does convey a sense of the workings of the industry. The fast paced novel is entertaining. The focus is on the players in the game more than the actual races themselves.

Secretariat

A wonderful testimonial in pictures as much as text is Secretariat by Raymond G. Woolfe Jr. The first edition appeared in 1974 with the update including a forward by jockey Ron Turcotte released in 2001. I love this book. The photos cover the story from start to finish. Both he human element and the horse are detailed.

The text begins with the famous coin toss to decide ownership. The story follows the entire life of the horse. Additionally, the book includes updates on the humans involved with the Triple Crown winner. Also shared with the reader are several charts. Along with the racing charts, the list of progeny, and the pedigree is Secretariat’s training log. Every activity is recorded from January 20, 1972 when he arrived at the barn to November 12, 1973, his last day at the track.

This combination coffee table book and historical account is a great tribute and record of Secretariat. Some pictures are in color but many are in black and white. The challenge of photographing the 31 length victory in the Belmont is evident. No other horses were in sight at the widest angle. The first Triple Crown winner in 25 years, Secretariat was an amazing horse.

Secretariat: The Making of a Champion

William Nack only has a few pictures in his historical account, but one is my favorite of all time. Taken from the infield the viewer has a true sense of just how far in front Secretariat was in the Belmont. The final leg of the Triple Crown.

Secretariat: The Making of a Champion is a detailed look at all the parties involved in the making of the horse. In this account, background on the breeders involved includes so much more than just the coin toss. Nack gives great inside information to this important side of the industry. Interesting details on the principle breeders involved are a major part of the book. Indeed, the story of Penny Chenery Tweedy is conveyed alongside that of Secretariat. Furthermore, Seth Hancock’s syndication of Secretariat and the involvement of the Ogden Phipps are important parts of the history.

Additionally, the trainer Lucien Laurin, groom Ed Sweat, the primary jockey Ron Turcotte and the exercise rider Jimmy Gaffney are involved in this well documented biography. Each provides perspective. Thus, Nack tells the Triple Crown winner’s story through the stories of the many humans caring for him. Finally, Nack does an incredible job of describing the racing action. His play-by-play of the Belmont will have those readers who were lucky enough to witness the historical race nodding their heads, yes, yes.

Groundbreaking Food Gardens Book Review

Groundbreaking Food Gardens Book cover of Groundbreaking Food Gardens

Niki Jabbour is the author of Groundbreaking Food Gardens. This great garden planning book contains 73 garden plans to inspire you. Jabbour gives a brief introduction to her 72 contributors. Then each designer provides a layout and tips for their garden. Groundbreaking Food Gardens comprises a wide range of gardens. There is truly something for everyone.

The table of contents allows the reader to pinpoint the type of garden they are thinking about without reading from cover to cover. But reading straight through benefits the serious gardener. Each of the contributors explains the how and whys of their design. Additionally, the garden experts provide lots of information. Tips on succession planting, soil amendment and water rates add to the book.

Eclectic best describes the multitude of garden designs. The sections include potted gardens, roof top gardens as well as large-scale operations. Some of the gardens are strictly focused on edible plants. Others combine food and flower. Still others are designed with backyard living in mind. Quite a few plans are geared toward kids. Both the Chicago Hot Dog Garden and the OTTO Pizza Garden incorporate familiar shapes into the garden. This visual approach is fun for kids (and adults.)

Groundbreaking Design InstructionsDescription of garden reducing grocery bill

One of the best elements of Groundbreaking Food Gardens is the instructions for implementing the designs. Details for achieving the same or similar look are provided in an easy to understand manner. For example, a step-by-step guide for planting a knot garden explains the spacing and layout of the plants along with the materials needed. Diagrams are provided for individual plant layout. Other structures such as containers and pallet gardens also include instructions.

There are sidebars sprinkled throughout the pages. Some, like the one on Lasagna Gardening are page long and appear in the table of contents. Others like the snippet on square foot garden give the reader just a taste. Many of the contributors share their personal knowledge gained through years of gardening.

Groundbreaking Food Gardens covers so many possible ways to grow nutritious food. I knew some of the techniques such as the Lasagna Bed and the Square Foot Gardening. But many others contained new information. While several of the garden designs require some experience, quite a few were geared toward beginning gardeners. This book has something for everyone.

Book pages describing kid friendly gardens

 

 

The Recipe Box Book Review

Multiple recipe boxes on a kitchen counterSam Nelson is the protagonist in The Recipe Box, a novel by Viola Shipman. Shipman is the pen name (and grandmother) of Wade Rouse. The novel includes mouth-watering recipes. The recipes have been passed down to Nelson through the female line.

The novel opens in New York City. Sam Nelson is a pastry chef. However, the story quickly reverts back to her native Michigan. The Recipe Box revolves around a family owned orchard and pie pantry. Sam moved to New York to get away from the family business. And to follow her dreams.

There are many flashbacks in the novel. Each is a glimpse of the work and effort needed to make the business work. Throughout, the women in the family are shown as the backbone of the company. But Sam wanted something else.

However, an unscrupulous boss leads to an abrupt departure from New York for Sam. She is unsure of her future. So the Recipe Box focuses on her decisions. In addition to a career change, Sam faces a change in relationship status. Angelo Morelli, a Jersey boy, follows her to Michigan. He is determined to move things to the next level.

Recipe for Life

Some might see the novel similar to a coming of age book. But the book is a family saga. Sam is at a crossroads in life. She needs to find herself. The recipes and traditions passed down define the family. But do they represent Sam?

I love this book and plan to gift it to one of my daughters. The underlying philosophy holds true regardless of profession. Happiness comes from within. Outside factors may influence you but you are who you are.  The author shares wisdom with regard to self and relationships with others. But most of all, the importance of family is emphasized throughout.

This is a great summer beach book or a winter by the fire read. You will laugh and you will cry. If nothing else, buy the book for the delicious recipes! Furthermore, if you possess your grandmother’s recipe box (or boxes) like I do, pull a recipe out of the box and make it this week. Just like The Recipe Box infers, there is no greater tribute to those before us than to whip something up using a family recipe.

 

 

The Clarity Book Review

The Clarity

The Clarity is a first novel by Keith Thomas. Mr. Thomas writes for television and the movies. So his first book is not typical of a debut. I would categorize The Clarity as science-fiction horror story. If it were a movie, the release date would be late October. Warning: this book is full of suspense and some gruesome scenes.

A psychological experiment, primarily using orphans, is at the center of the plot. The main characters include a mother and daughter. The mom was part of the experiment, but escaped. Somehow the side-effects of the scientific trial are passed on genetically to her daughter.

Psychologist to the RescueBook Cover of The Clarity

The story begins in a run down complex on the outskirts of Chicago. A neighbor/babysitter asks Dr. Matilda Deacon visiting the building to look in on Ashanique, the daughter, while the mother, Jan, is at work. The brief visit intrigues the psychologist but the sudden return of the mom cuts the encounter short.

Unfolding events prompt Jan and Ashanique to contact Dr. Deacon for help. The action picks up as a murderer tracks all three down. The villain is also a former subject of the psychological study. He did not escape with the other participants of the science experiment. Now he is a killer controlled by the group continuing the study.

The plot has several twists and turns. A romantic interest for Dr. Deacon, a local policeman, enters the story. Kojo Omaboe serves as both a protector and a sounding board for Matilda. Their relationship lends reality to the story.

The sci-fi aspect of The Clarity revolves around the experiment. The scientists were focused on the brain. Both drugs and electroshock were used on the subjects. Some of the patients react differently and become the Null. This leads to great conflict with The Null patients seeking revenge.

Flashbacks

Memories and flashbacks are a major part of the book. The characters affected by the experiment are bombarded by reflections of past history, not necessarily their own. A key to the plot is the recovery of a chemical equation which would negate the memories. And the negative side effects.

Keith Thomas strikes terror in the reader’s heart with some of his scenes. Yet other parts of The Clarity are akin to existentialism. The idea of memory tracing back through DNA is hard to grasp. But as the side story of Dr. Deacon’s dementia ridden mother indicates, the memory process of the brain is still an unknown and uncontrolled. Who knows what powers the brain may hold?

The Clarity accurately conveys the threshold science is standing at with respect to unlocking the mysteries of the brain. Thomas weaves reality and future unknowns in a masterful way. The one caveat is the many gruesome scenes. They are graphic. The tortures sent chills through my body. I am not sure I could handle a film version unless my eyes were closed! If you want an edge of your seat thriller, The Clarity fits the bill.

The Kremlin Conspiracy Book Review

Trending among writers is the use of current world events as backdrops for novels. The Kremlin Conspiracy is one such novel. Joel C. Rosenberg follows the lives of two men from the late 1990s. One, Marcus Ryker hails from the United States. The other, Oleg Kraskin is a native of Russia. Both have compelling stories.

Much of The Kremlin Conspiracy involves sharing the life story of these two men. Rosenberg creates parallels in their lives. Both serve their country. Each marries for love and each brings a son into the world. But, their lives are also quite different.

Rosenberg carefully meshes real events over the time period into the story line. For example, the events of 9/11 are the catalyst for Ryker to enlist in the armed forces. Similar connections exist between real incidents and the plot. In fact only the most recent happenings involving North Korea were off-kilter. This is an intention of the author.

At first this approach was difficult to process. However, the characters created by Rosenberg were so compelling, the mix of fact and fiction became secondary. The reader is caught up in the lives of the main characters and their loved ones. The drama of their relationships and each traumatic event is believable, and sometimes heartbreaking.

Eventually the two men cross paths. At this point The Kremlin Conspiracy begins to rev up in action. Both men end up working together in the best interests of their respective countries. The action is the edge of your seat kind.

The patriotism reflected by both men is inspiring. Rosenberg takes great pains to show how each of the main characters matures. Both place duty before self.

Additionally, the author includes a spiritual aspect. This inclusion of the faith journey of one of the characters is well done. There is some contrast between the two characters in this regard. However, they share a common intellectual bent. Theology and philosophy are not far apart.

The Kremlin Conspiracy is well written. The characters are interesting and the plot well thought out. The ending may leave the characters hanging but not the readers. All who pick up this book should understand the warning the author is making. Consider putting this book on your reading list.

 

Field of Thirteen Book Review

Earlier this week I walked to the library to see if any books on the Kentucky Derby were in the collection. I found Field of Thirteen by Dick Francis. This book is actually a collection of short stories revolving around horses. Only one involved the Kentucky Derby. So I read that story first.

I enjoyed the story of “The Gift” which as published back in 1973 in a Sports Illustrated issue covering the Kentucky Derby. Horse racing fans can tell you right away who won the Derby that year. And some casual fans can too. I would love to see a copy of that magazine to see how “The Gift” was placed.

Francis explains a bit about each of the short stories. Some were sold to magazines just wanting a story with word count the only specified requirement. A few of the stories he wrote to fill out Field of Thirteen. Thus the stories are quite varied.

While “The Gift” centered on a washed up sportswriter gifted one last major coup, other stories feature jockeys, trainers and owners. Some of the stories take place on a flat track and others cover steeplechase. Weaved throughout are glimpses of human nature.

Dick Francis paints pictures of the foibles of mankind. His writing is reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm fables. In fact one story has a horse named Fabled. I do not believe this was coincidence. The author also has tones of Agatha Christie. There are little twists that serve as catalysts. I love this kind of writing.

The various stories are not always flattering to the subject matter. Many of the characters are quite flawed. However, each story does have at least one person of virtue.

Field of Thirteen

Field of Thirteen was published in 1998. But a quick check via the Internet indicates the book is still available for purchase. I am thinking of gifting one to a horse racing fan at Christmas. The short stories are entertaining. My favorite was “Spring Fever.” Even if you are not a fan of horse racing or of short stories, you might give this book a try. I liked Field of Thirteen.

April 2018 Wrap Up

Garden bed with raised sides made from recApril 2018

It is hard to believe but April 2018 is over. We are a third of the way through the year. April was busy for me as I wrapped up an extended stay in Florida celebrating the 80th birthday of someone near and dear to me.

In The Garden

Other events included planting quite a few varieties of vegetables in the raised row garden and a few plants close to the house. The deer proof fence is working. No signs of deer (droppings) in the new garden. So I consider the effort a success.  However, 70 M.P.H. winds damaged some of the poles. Therefore, replacement poles are now anchoring the garden.

An existing 4 x 8 foot raised box was elevated even more. Originally the height was 9 inches. Now the bed reaches just over two feet. This is easier to reach. Hopefully, the added depth will allow me to plant longer root vegetables.

Reading

Quite a few book were read this month. Thanks again for the suggestions both private and public. Several exciting books will be reviewed in the coming weeks. I am beginning to get used to the format that blends current events with fiction. No longer do I find these stories off-putting. I am sure novelists with a penchant for telling spy stories can’t resist utilizing the current world affairs as a backdrop.

Gardening references occupied a large amount of my time. There is a host of information in book and magazine form as well as online sites. Make sure you read the review of Gardening Shortcuts. I also recommend Edible Gardening, a magazine put out by American Farmer’s Almanac. I consulted the website put out by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds numerous times. The site has an easy to use planting guide that you can access by clicking here.

Spring

Our springs on the High Plains are short and varied. This year we have had cooler temperatures, a bit of moisture and lots of wind. The danger comes from the wind in the form of fire. So those of you living in a drought situation (which includes various states from coast to coast) be careful using any open flame outdoors. Fires in both Florida and on the plains made appearances near me in April 2018.

As always, feel free to share any great reads. Just use a first name or even initials. The month of May will be action packed. Stay tuned!

Deerproofing Your Yard & Garden Book Review

Deerproofing Your Yard & Garden

As regular readers of Econogal know, deer like to take refuge in my yard. Others can read about one often seen three-legged deer by clicking here. At this time I am working on deer proofing my new raised row garden. So, I checked a book on deer proofing a garden out of the library.

Rhonda Massingham Hart has written an excellent guide, Deerproofing Your Yard & Garden. The book discusses the problem of deer overpopulation. Also, the chapter “Getting to Know Deer” gives a background on the dominant species and where they roam in the United States. Hart includes a discussion on damages done by deer ranging across the yard. I learned much from this particular chapter.

The second half of Deerpoofing Your Yard & Garden focuses on deterring deer. “Deer-o-scaping” “Deer Deterrents” and “The Deerproof Garden” are three chapters chock full of useful information. These are the chapters I utilized the most.

Deer-o-Scaping

The almost forty pages of “Deer-o-Scaping” focused on ways to deter deer by what and how you plant. The chapter includes multiple lists of plants which either lure or repel deer. For those in the United States, the lists of deer resistant plants divide into regions of the country. Hart warns that the lists, while working in a general manner, can be challenged by a deer with independent tastes. Thus, just like humans, some deer are exceptions to the rule.

This chapter goes beyond what is planted. How things are planted also comes into play. The overall landscape design is also key. Hart suggests using hardscapes at entrance points to discourage deer. Currently, new walls are being constructed in our yard to disrupt the migratory paths of deer.

Deer Deterrents

The chapter “Deer Deterrents” while not confined to repellents, provides an excellent guide to both commercial and homemade mixtures. One trick I plan to try is the use of fabric softener sheets hanging in the garden. I like the idea of recycling these sheets in this manner.

Of course the best way to deer proof a yard is with fencing. But the fence should be designed with deer in mind. Since deer can jump quite high, extra measures need to be taken. Deerproofing Your Yard & Garden gives a good overview of fencing options. These include double fencing and electric fencing.

I believe Deerproofing Your Yard & Garden is an excellent reference book. Anyone having problems with deer should consult Hart’s book. I used several ideas including the tip to erect the fence before planting. If you have deer problems, find this book and read it!

Terminal Freeze Book Review

Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child reminds me of the Hollywood movies from way back when. Scientists make a once in a lifetime discovery of a frozen creature previously unknown to man. Unfortunately, funding for their work above the Arctic Circle complicates matters. Instead of leaving the specimen frozen in place, filmmakers demand the removal with plans to thaw out the block of ice on live television. Much like a B movie, havoc ensues.

Child does a nice job in his writing of foreshadowing events. The fast pace of the plot made the book a fun read. A perfect escape for a rainy spring day. The characters are believable, although one of the secondary characters in Terminal Freeze seemed to be a carryover from perhaps an earlier novel.

The creature itself is a bit of a mystery. It does not fit the profile of any known animals past or present. Thus a fear of the unknown adds to the suspense. The thawing of the flash frozen specimen does not go as planned. The creature disappears and so do some of the humans,

Global Warming

While Terminal Freeze is an action adventure at heart, the author does go beyond sheer entertainment. Child introduces the scientists as a group studying global warming and climate change. The ice above the Arctic Circle is melting. Child is very descriptive of the changing environment. Yet the writing is not preachy. Instead, the facts of the changing climate in the Arctic Circle are straightforward and convincing.

The author also does a nice job in portraying a wide arrange of personalities. If this were a movie, (and it could be) there would be an ensemble cast. Human foibles are explored. Outcomes are not happy for all involved. Additionally, Child introduces a concept of a spiritual world that some may miss (or not buy into.)

I want to thank Moe for suggesting this book. This author was unknown to me. I read Terminal Freeze in an afternoon. It was a very enjoyable book, and I have another “new to me” author to watch for new releases. You might like Lincoln Child’s books too.

Gardening Shortcuts Book Review

Recently while browsing the 635 section of the Dewey Decimal system at the library, I picked up a couple of gardening books. Gardening Shortcuts by Jenny Hendy was one of them. This book claims to have “shameless shortcuts, tips and tricks for a great garden super fast.” I believe Gardening Shortcuts has all that and more.

The text is divided into eight sections. These divisions are not the usual groupings. Instead the guide has chapters that encompass both the macro and micro of gardening. Some of the chapters revolve around the use of outside spaces while others focus on specific topics such as growing edibles.

Hendy begins Gardening shortcuts with a basic overview one needs to begin gardening. This includes sections on soil typing and soil amendment, supplies and tools. The chapter also introduces container gardening, planting and the basics of buying stock or seeds.

Key Chapters in Gardening Shortcuts

Then Hendy switches to what I call the macro chapters. Relaxed Patios, Beautiful Borders and Smart Features are three extensive, wide encompassing chapters. Each is chock full of great tips. Each and every page contains photos illustrating the different tips. For example, the author gives tips for “Instant Impact.” Most of these suggestions can be achieved in a short amount of time. Also scattered throughout the book are ideas labeled “If You Have More Time.” Of course these topics will take longer to implement.

Gardening Shortcuts offers a nice mix of tips directly related to plants coupled with ideas for enhancing your outside living areas. The chapter Smart Features incorporates the two themes. Both hints for shaping topiary as well as a two-page spread on decorating for an outside dinner party are in this chapter.

A more traditional chapter is Grow It, Eat It. One will find the expected advice on edibles within. This chapter includes tips on growing in containers. The “You Will Need” boxes tells the reader items needed to complete the task. Visual aids provide further aids to the step-by-step instructions.

Hendy’s discussion of seeds includes sprouting in addition to planting. But the book does not provide thorough information on starting seeds indoors. The focus is on direct seeding into the soil.

The Welcoming Wildlife chapter provides ideas on creating inviting habitats for wildlife. This includes hardscape recommendations and suggestions of plants. Directions for a mini bog garden are given. I found this type of garden intriguing. Jenny Hendy suggests a mini bog as an alternative to a pond if a household has young children. I love this safe alternative. The habitat is attractive to kids,frogs, and other critters without the danger of water.

Gardening Shortcuts may be one of the books I re-check from the library. (My rule of thumb is after the fourth check-out, the book needs to be bought.) Jenny Hendy offers a wide range of ideas. So many neat projects that any reader should find one to try. Look for Gardening Shortcuts at a library or bookstore near you.

We Were the Lucky Ones Book Review

We Were the Lucky Ones is a work of fiction based loosely on the family of Georgia Hunter. The book is written in present tense with historical facts found at the ends of the chapters. Hunter did not realize she was part Jewish until she was in her teens. While the book is a novel, the story is based on her great grandparents and their five children. All of whom managed to survive the Holocaust.

The stories are told through the eyes of the siblings. Both the dialog and story lines are fictional. However, this is historical in nature and some of the events actually took place. Many of the family events have been retained through oral history and two members of the family, small children at the time, contributed first-hand knowledge of the family saga.

The book begins in 1939 in Paris, France. Addy is the middle child of Sol and Nechuma Kurc and is living away from the ancestral home of Radom, Poland. His mother writes in a letter that things in Radom are changing. She is warning him to stay away. Of course, this makes Addy want to return as soon as possible. Naturally, he wants to be with his parents and siblings. Events quickly unfold from there.

Kurc Family

We Were the Lucky Ones follows the various members of the Kurc family through World War II. Although Addy escapes Europe early on, he serves in the French Army first. His path to safety in Brazil is not direct.
Their stories are fascinating. But, I am not sure where the line between fiction and fact is drawn. Much like many historical novels the events of the past are brought to life. Hunter involves the reader in each of the siblings’ plights by dividing the book among the five. So the point of view changes from chapter to chapter. Instead of a book that feels disjointed, the result is an edge of your seat reading.

The various family members are separated by events of the war. Many extended family members and in-laws do not survive Hitler’s purge. Each story is harrowing. It is amazing the Kurc’s and their five children survive the war. They truly were among the lucky even though many scars were carried on past the war.

Jewish Persecution

Many books cover World War II. We Were the Lucky Ones paints a startling picture of what it took to survive the type of persecution the millions of Jews faced. The perseverance of the characters is inspiring. Thus, the novel serves as a testament to the survivors.

Hunter paints a realistic picture of what the Jewish people of Poland faced after Hitler invaded the country. While the characters are based on her family, this is a novel. Evidently, gaps in the oral history handed down to her were filled as accurately as possible. Hunter explains in her afterword her research methodology. So the accounting is historically sound. Just the dialog and the point of view of the family members come from her imagination.

I thoroughly enjoyed We Were the Lucky Ones. For the Kurc family to all survive the holocaust is remarkable. A fact that I am sure all their descendants appreciate. Georgia Hunter was correct, this was a story that needed sharing.

Find a copy of We Were the Lucky Ones. It is a must read. Both World War II buffs and individuals just looking for a good book will enjoy this story.

March 2018 Wrap Up

March 2018 has been a busy month. In addition to reading many books and working on garden projects. I traveled. The first trip to New Orleans you can read about here. Currently I am visiting Orlando. March is a busy month for travelling. After all it is spring break for many. The planes are packed and in some cases the airlines are looking for people willing to be bumped from their scheduled flight. I have yet to accept the offer.

Cold mornings lent themselves to reading while waiting for the temperatures to warm up. As a result, I have about half a dozen book reviews waiting for a Friday publishing date. There was a stretch in mid-March when book after book was incredible. I am excited about the reviews (including yesterday’s on Educated.)

I spent the pleasant early spring afternoons creating a new garden area. The raised row garden idea came from Jim and Mary Competti, bloggers at Old World Garden Farms. You can read a review of their new book here.

Zip Ties

Since I had a scheduled trip to Florida at the end of March, I worked diligently to establish the 40 x 30 foot garden. I managed to finish putting a deer fence in place just the day before I left. Zip ties allowed me to get the job done in quick order.

There are pros and cons with zip ties. On the pro side, they are relatively inexpensive. I bought a container of a thousand for $10.00. They are easy to attach. Finally they are strong. On the negative side, they will eventually become brittle when exposed to outside elements and thus have a short life span. They also play havoc on your finger nails.

I used zip ties to attach recycled metal soffit to wire supports for the base of my garden fence. Then, I used zip ties to attach a netting to seven-foot poles (to deter deer.) I also used the zip ties as an additional anchor of the poles to the base fence. Most of the afternoons in March 2018 were spent on this gardening project. See the pictures below for a sneak peek. An extensive post on the how-to is forthcoming.

Readership Community

Readers are a dying breed. On one flight a chatty aisle mate kept interrupting my reading of Kristen Hannah’s latest book The Great Alone. She was quite curious as to what the book was like since I was so engrossed. I wish I had an extra book to give her. I can’t imagine boarding a plane without a book to read.

Once I reached my destination, I was happy to see my copy of Two Girls Down was no longer inside the Little Free Library around the corner from my Florida hang-out. So readers are still out there, we just need to reach out and connect. I would love to have a reading group to share ideas on The Twilight Wife.

The readership community of Econogal is slowly expanding. If you would like emails sent to you each time a post is released, subscribe now or bookmark the page. Generally, I post twice a week as part of my New Year's Resolutions. So far I am on track to keep the 2018 list.

Be sure to share what books you have read this month in the comments below. This is one way we can share  great books even if we cannot meet in person. I know March 2018 was a banner month for my reading. I made some great discoveries of new authors and enjoyed new releases from old favorites.

What did you read in March?

Educated: a memoir Book Review

Book Cover of Educated: a memoirEducated is the autobiography of Tara Westover. She is the youngest child of seven. Tara grew up in Idaho and her upbringing is a major part of Educated. One could say Tara was home-schooled, but she would probably not agree. By the time Tara was born, the Westover family no longer even registered births. Schooling was haphazard at best.

Most of the names used in the book are pseudonyms. But the people are real. This true story of a dysfunctional family is riveting. Tara manages to survive both physically and mentally. Indeed, one could say she now thrives, even if only looking at her educational accomplishments. But she writes with a sense of peace in the latter chapters giving hope to a thriving psyche as well.

While the Westover family is Mormon, this is not a book per say about the religion. This particular family held themselves apart. Indeed the father felt most Mormons were sinners because they did not adhere to his beliefs of the teachings. Thus, the family remained isolated even from church members, community, and other family members.

In some ways, other religions come to mind. The Westover’s did not seek any medical treatment regardless the seriousness of injury or illness. Many injuries occur throughout the book. Indeed, Tara did not receive any immunizations until at college. An integral part of Educated ties into the fact that only herbal treatments were allowed.

Domestic Violence

Unfortunately for Tara, the women in the family were physically abused. Anytime she pushed the envelope pain would be inflicted. Most often by one of her brothers. This type of control was hard to fight. Her Mother does gain some strengths over the course of time, but never to the extent that she provides a haven for Tara.

Fortunately an older brother Tyler, breaks away and pursues a degree at Brigham Young University. He has formed a new life and later she realizes she can too. Much of Educated revolves around the desire to escape. But there is always a part of Tara that fears losing family.

Educated equals Escape

This conflict makes up a great portion of the memoir. Tara wants to be educated. She wants to learn, but she also wants to be loved. In the end, the thirst for knowledge wins out. The family is divided for the most part between those who are educated and those who are not. For Tara, this division of family is painful and she feels guilt. Getting beyond the blame game finally frees Tara Westover.

Tara Westover does an amazing job of sharing her upbringing. She is matter of fact. The hardscrabble life remains vivid as if I experienced growing up on Buck’s Peak myself. Westover is inspiring. Educated is inspiring. This is one of the best autobiographies I have ever read. Find a copy, read it, and share with anyone who needs some inspiration.

The Twilight Wife Book Review

The Twilight Wife by A.J. Banner is a psychological thriller. Kyra is trying to recover from a serious diving injury. Her husband Jacob has brought her to an island off the Pacific Northwest Coast to recuperate. Only she does not remember her husband or much of the last four years. She can remember the far past, but is having trouble with forming new memory.

Atypical Amnesia

For example, Kyra can regurgitate scientific names of various sea creatures. But she cannot recall much of her wedding to Jacob. Her only memory of that day is his sudden appearance in the bridal waiting room asking her if the courtship has been too rushed.

Kyra stops taking the prescribed medicines and begins having flashes of memory. Unfortunately, what she remembers seems to indicate she had an affair with her husband’s best friend. Nightmares from the diving accident lead her to believe a third diver was involved. However, the intermittent access to the internet seems to point to just the two of them diving.

As Kyra attempts to make sense of herself as a Twilight Wife, Jacob persists as an ever devoted husband. His steadfast presence begins to suffocate. Kyra reaches out to some of the island people who recall her from the previous summer. Slowly, she believes some of the dreams may actually be reality.

A.J. Banner

A.J. Banner brings her characters to life. The reader feels the emotional roller coaster Kyra is experiencing. The conflict within Kyra is clear. She has trust issues revolving around Jacob and few memories of how they were together. Banner then throws twist after twist into the story. The characters react in ways which increase the suspense.

Finally, Kyra regains enough of her memory to realize she is in danger. The storyline falls into place, but things don’t necessarily end happily ever after as Banner throws in one final twist of fate on the last page. Life is a challenge.

The Twilight Wife is a good read. I think the twists and turns are entertaining. This is one of those stories where the end can be debated. If you belong to a book club this is a great selection. There are so many scenes to discuss. Put this on your list of reading material today. Visit A. J. Banner’s website by clicking here and you can get a sneak peek at the next book.

Judgement Day Book Review

Judgement Day – A Television Show

Judgement Day is a Christian based murder mystery written by Wanda L. Dyson. Suzanne Kidwell is the character at the center of the story. She is a journalist in Washington D.C. with an expose style show called Judgement Day. Her show is top rated but her journalistic skills leave something to be desired. She often jumps to conclusions without verifying her sources.

Throughout Judgement Day, Suzanne’s life is in danger. Furthermore, she has been framed for a murder. Private investigators Marcus Crisp and Alexandria Fisher-Hawthorne are hired to find the truth. Complicating matters, Marcus and Suzanne were once engaged.

Suzanne has many enemies so Marcus and Alex have their work cut out for them. Most of their other cases are put on the back burner to help Suzanne. However, Alex continues to search for missing teenagers. Of course the two cases end up being tied together.

Suzanne had been working on a story which she blamed the teen disappearances not only on the wrong person, but also the wrong motive. Instead of the missing teams ending up in a sex related crime, the kids are kidnapped and used on the black market as organ donors.

Contrasting Characters

Dyson portrays Suzanne as very unChristian. She is not a like-able person. This is certainly a case of actions speak louder than words. Unlike her TV persona where she seems to champion the underdog and flesh out the bad guys, Suzanne manipulates all. She is self-centered and unkind to others.

In contrast, the actions of Marcus and Alex are very charitable. Marcus was betrayed by Suzanne long-ago yet he is willing first to clear her name and later to save her life. The character of Alex is used as a comparison to Suzanne. Her actions and personality are quite considerate towards Suzanne.

Two incidents change Suzanne. First she encounters a strange woman in her jail cell. The woman rambles scripture. The passages directly apply to Suzanne. Second she herself is kidnapped and readied for organ harvesting. I believe she achieves redemption.

Judgement Day speaks to all of us as well as the characters. Many of the characters confront their own Judgement Day. Some survive intact and become better people. Others have a less happy ending. The book has Christian overtones but an unusual cast of characters. Judgement Day hones in on the truism, you can’t judge a book by its cover. I am glad I checked this book out of the library and plan to look for other books by Wanda L. Dyson.