Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Attenbury Emeralds by Jill Paton Walsh

This is another Amazon vine Review that I did. Nothing like a good British mystery to read in this kind of weather. It took winter a while to get here for which I was happy, but it has arrived with a vengence!

The New Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane Mystery: The Attenbury Emeralds by Jill Paton Walsh based on the characters of Dorothy L. Sayers.


This book is based on the characters of Dorothy Sayers; Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. I don't recall every having read a Dorothy Sayers book although I know I have one in my stack of 'books to read during a blizzard pile'. I think it is time to move it to closer to the top of the pile (and not just because we are currently buried in snow). If the author of this book stayed true to the original books, then this would be a very good series to read. I love reading cozy British mysteries and especially those that take place following WWII which has been an area of special interest to me this year. The more I learn of this era, the more good, well researched books come alive.

This book handles the powerful changes of the social structure in Britain due to the war, the inheritance laws, the loss of servants to factories, and the deaths of many of the titled members of British society in the war. This book helps to explain some of these changes while at the same time giving us a mystery that is thoughtful as we follow an emerald throughout many years. Lord Peter Wimsey is trying to find out how a different emerald was substituted into a locked safety box at the bank. The interesting thing is, his first mystery that he solved right after WWI involved the very same emerald. All in all a very nice book to read on a cold winter night.


For more information about Dorothy Sayers and her books you can visit this link.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cut Your Grocery Bill In Half Steve Annette Economides

With great pleasure I read this book for an Amazon vine Book Review. I gave it a 5 as a rating. Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America's Cheapest Family by Steve & Annette Economides. Click on the title of this blog topic and be taken straight to the Economides website and see what else they have to say.

Over the years, I have read many books on frugal living, frugal shopping, and how to feed a family with limited financial means. Some of the books were great and some were so-so. Some were very dogmatic and made you feel like if you didn’t want to follow, or couldn’t follow, their ways of doing things that you were stupid or throwing your money away. I still remember one book on feeding your family on something like $10 a week. The woman claimed that no matter what she wouldn’t go higher with her grocery budget. Occasionally I think about that book and wonder what her family is eating for only $10. Tough going at this point. All that to say that over the last 30+ years I have read a great deal on the subject and find this book to be one of the most well balanced books on feeding your family frugally and nutritiously. If you are having trouble making ends meet in today’s economy, or any economy, get this book, read it and do what you can. Systematically train yourself to follow their guidelines to get your food budget under control

I have been hearing bits and pieces about this couple for years now but except for the occasional magazine article, hadn’t been able to read enough about their ‘system’ to know what exactly they were doing. They have already published a book called America’s Cheapest Family Gets You right on the Money. I haven’t read it yet, but will be trying to locate it at my library. In writing this new book on Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half, They took the time to write a lengthy book (300+ pages) with lots of ideas and ways to feed your family without going broke. If you have been practicing frugal living prior to reading this book, you may not get as much out of it as someone who hasn’t, but you will get fired up to see what else you can do to save in this department of your finances. If you and your family are eating out every meal or most of them and you can’t get your financial ends to met, then you need this book.

One of the first things I will mention that I really liked about this book, is Annette believes in cooking, and the family apparently believes in eating, tasty well made meals. Too many frugal eating books depend too much on the “it doesn’t matter what it tastes like, it is good for you, eat it.’ If you don’t know how to cook cookbooks are recommended, preferably from the library. The Betty Crocker and/or Better Homes and Gardens large cookbooks published in the 1950-60’s are some of the best all round cookbooks, especially the picture or illustrated ones. The better you learn to cook, the more the family will be happy to stay home and eat at home where the food tastes better.

Along with pitching the thought of learning how to cook, the book has many practical suggestions for planning, shopping, storage, equipment you might need (and where to find it cheap). This is a family that believes in yard sales, second hand thrift, scratch and dent sales, saving until you can afford to buy something. They also write understanding that their audience will be coming from many different skill levels in handling their personal finances, so at the end of each chapter there are special hints for three different levels of shopper. No where are you made to feel bad that you aren’t suddenly transformed into a chef that feeds a family of 10 on $50 a week by the time you are finished reading the book. This is a learning process. Take it slow and keep working at it and eventually you will find that all the money you were wasting at restaurants is now in your pocket or being used for other things. And oh yes, if you aren’t into cutting coupons or don’t have a source for them, this book isn’t based on couponing to the max. If you have them and they will help, use them and if not, no problem.

An absolute 5 star book that will be very helpful for any family, no matter what level their income, that is struggling with their finances. The only absolutely essential thing that you will have to do is change your mind set to one of wanting to do what is necessary to trim your grocery budget. You can read all the books in the world about saving money, but until they become actions, none of it does you any good.

Whenever I write a review of a book, I never look to see what anyone else has said about the book until I have posted my review so I am not influenced by the reviewers. For this book, there were some reviews that I just didn't understand, such as one person saying this was a slim volume with not much information. A book of 300+ pages, I don't really think can be construed as a slim volume! Some mentioned that they felt the family ate too much meat, or all the ideas they wrote are already out in books and the Internet. Maybe so, but for someone desperately seeking a way to bring their grocery bill under control, this book has the information you need, presented in a simple and understandable format.

If you want more ideas on frugal living, here are some websites to visit, the first being the Economides family website:

The Dollar Stretcher
Living on a Dime  They have published a cookbook that has many of the recipes I grew up on. Cheap and filling.
Frugal Coupon Living
Saving Advice

Monday, October 18, 2010

Goodnight, Beautiful by Dorothy Koomson

This is a review of Goodnight, Beautiful that I did for the Amazon Vine program. I thoroughly loved this book although at the beginning I got a bit confused as to who was narrating the story. Prior to reading this book I had just finished two different 'novels'. Both had issues that the author was trying to shove down our throats. One was a mystery book that was really all about feminism. If I wanted to read about these issues, I would go to the non-fiction side of the library. This is partly why this book was such a relief to read. Where she could have pressed certain issues, she just let them be part of the story.

This novel has everything in it that makes for a great reading experience in my opinion. Romance, loving family relationships, friendships and the bricks and rocks and boulders that are at times thrown into our paths. This book could have ended on a very sad note, but the author took it one step further and was able to end the book on a high note.

I loved the way the author was able to weave together two families that were tightly bonded by being neighbors and also bonded by love for each other. In the book you come to learn that one family was white and one was black, but rather than let the book flounder in the race relations issue, it was treated as just another thing, not too terribly important. One mother had bi-polar disease and so the other came along side her to help her raise her children. One father worked hard to support the two families when the other father couldn't cope.

The children grew up and went their ways. One of the girls offered to become a surrogate mother for the boy she grew up with and considered a brother. One boy married a woman with bi-polar disease and walked along side her to help her cope. The girl ended up raising her child alone except with the amazing help of her friends. The child goes in for surgery and instead of getting better, goes into a coma and that is what the whole book is tied around. These family stories are told as the background for this child laying in a hospital bed. When the sad end comes, the families are tied together with the passion that we can get through this too.

A touching lovely story and I hope to see many more from this author. I love how she was able to bring issues up such as race, mental health, single parenting and instead of preaching at us, showed how grace for each other will make everyone's life better. A very touching book.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Emperor’s Tomb by Steve Berry

A review from an Amazon Vine book of

This is one of series of books featuring Cotton Malone and Cassiopeia Vitt. Generally I have found that most series authors find ways to introduce recurring characters so that you know something about them. In this case there was only a bit of personal history given which at times made you feel at a disadvantage although the book can be read as a stand alone book in the series.

I have never read this author before and the copy I was reading was the uncorrected proof which I hope will go on to get some major flaws repaired before actual publication. I found the story interesting and there was a lot of history about China that I enjoyed learning about, but I found many scenes in the book to be totally implausible.
The biggest scene that I had trouble believing in was a shoot out in a museum in Antwerp. Several different factions were chasing each other, shooting each other, and fighting each other in a closed museum at night. Oh, and by the way, the building was on fire. I have always heard and believed that when a building is burning it is hard to see as everything is dark and smoky, it is hard to breath unless you are down near the floor, the atmosphere is hot and nasty and a normal person’s instinct is to get out of a burning building as quickly as possible. Not these guys. They were all so committed to their cause that they all kept fighting, shooting, etc. while the building and room all around them was going up in flames. Apparently the normal problems associated with a fire did not bother these folks except of course for the one guy that burned up in front of them. Come on, get your characters fighting in a way that is believable!

Even the premise of the book at the beginning was hard to believe. Cassiopeia receives a plea from some one she owes a favor to that his son has been kidnapped in China and would she please go rescue him. With no background on this lady, one would wonder what special talents does she have to rescue 4 year old boys from kidnappers in China? She doesn’t speak the language, she has no permission to get into China, she has no idea where the boy might be, etc. So after she is captured and is given some water torture she brings her friend Cotton into the picture as he is an ex-spy and can maybe help. At times the conversations between Cotton and Cassiopeia and the others in the book reminds me of the dialog in a grade B movie especially the Russian spy and his poor English skills and manner of talking.

For content this book does reveal some truly unique forms of torture. There are also many characters in this book, most of which you can’t tell whose side they are on. You may gain some insight into the internal workings of the Chinese political machine, assuming the author got those parts correct. It was an interesting book but not one that will inspire me to keep trying to find this authors others books to read which is the sure sign from me that I like a book and an author.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Ave Steinberg is a book I read and reviewed for the Amazon Vine Program. It is an interesting look into the life of those prison workers that feel caught in the cracks. They certainly aren't the inmates, but mostly they don't feel like part of the guard force either.


At one point in my nursing career, I worked three years as a prison nurse. Being a civilian employee at a jail or prison is a very unique experience so I looked forward to reading this book. This is an autobiographical work by Avi Steinberg who ended up working as a librarian in a large Boston prison when all his other job options had run out. He became one of several librarians who worked along with a trustee detail of prison inmates. While there he learned to walk carefully, and at times not so carefully, the tightrope between being friendly to the inmates as opposed to being friends with the inmates—there is a huge difference! He also had to learn how to deal with the prison staff of guards and other civilian employees in an institute that was state run with all the many nuances working a state funded job can throw at you.

He found that he had to learn many things that had nothing to do with librarianship. Learning what is contraband and what isn’t. Intercepting notes that the prisoners had left in books. Dealing with deaths of inmates he had come to care for. His story is told in a very humorous manner and yet was sensitive to his surroundings. While some parts of the book, I was honestly wondering where the guards were, I felt that the feelings about his work there was very real and honest. It is hard to see that nice friendly inmate face on a daily basis and yet know that you can’t trust him or be his friend. He even recalls being mugged by an inmate while out of work. That is always the strangest feeling when you bump into someone you only basically saw behind bars or finding yourself behind them in line at the movies. If you are interested in prison life from a different point of view, you should enjoy this book. I know I did.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bitter in the Mouth by Monique Truong

My picks for books a week ago for the Amazon Vine program where less than stellar. One book I will not even inflict the review on you folks who read my blog. Needless to say I couldn't read past 80 pages it was so boring to me. When I published my review of that bit of drivel on Amazon, I was happy to see that Publisher's Weekly agreed with me. When doing a review for the Vine program, to keep me as honest and fair as possible, I read the book, write and publish my review before seeing what anyone else has to say about it. Sometimes I seem to be the lone voice of dissent or praise, but since this is supposed to be my feelings and I've never been known for being a "yes" person I don't particularly care. When possible, I try to let the authors know of my reviews of their books and when they write back and tell me that I 'got' the book I feel happy. The titles of all my reviews here, when possible, always link back to the author's blog or website so that if you like you can find out more about them. That all being said, on to today's Vine review.

I was prepared to not like Bitter in the Mouth as the blurb about it seemed a bit implausible, but the selections for my Vine review picks that week were sketchy and this book looked to be the best of the lot. I am so glad I did choose it, because it turned out to be a very interesting book that showed friendships and families in the light of how they really are warts and all. Linda loves her father and is close to him, she is distant from her mother, extremely close to her great-uncle and has a best friend, Kelly, which she communicates by letters from their first little girl notes until the end of the book when they are in their early 30’s I believe. Not only does this book show the problems within the family, it also shows what Linda and her mother go through to heal their relationship.

Linda ‘suffers’ from synesthesia, although she would not call it suffering. Her form consists of every spoken word leaves a taste in her mouth which means that every word has certain connotations to her. For example, Mom equals chocolate milk, the name Leo equals parsnips. The only one that she has been able to discuss this with is her best friend Kelly, which is one of the reasons for the written letters between them over the years. Verbal language made it incredibly hard for her to handle the ‘incomings’ as she called them. It isn’t until she sees a TV program about people with other forms of synesthesia that Linda learns she is not alone.

What is found most appealing in reading this book, is that within minutes I felt like I was reading a girl’s true diary if girls had the writing ability of an adult to write out their feelings. I had to remind myself many times throughout reading this book that it was fiction. The entire book is narrated by Linda and as she learns things or understand past moments in time, only then do we learn and understand them too. This is a different and lovely novel and by the end of the book, you are really hoping for a happy ending for Linda even past the actual end of the book. You feel like you know her and want the best for her after all she has gone through. I will certainly be looking for more books by this author.


One of the very interesting things that I found in this book was knowing it was written by a Vietnamese immigrant and I kept waiting for somebody in the book to be Vietnamese. Well at the half-way point we are introduced to that person and I had been suspecting who it would be for a while, but the writing was skilfully done so that it wasn't really the focus of the book but an added element. I see great things ahead for this excellent writer, Monique Truong.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

I picked this book up at a book sale and I know I did it because of the cover. It shows a dress maker’s dummy in the size of a full figured woman surrounded by lovely crewel work embroidery. For someone like me that sews and embroiders, etc. I was hoping for a cozy novel with a sewing theme. I got much more than that!

Truly, our main character was truly a giant from birth onwards. Her story is one of cruelty not only from other children but also from adults including her father who blamed her for her mother’s death during childbirth. Truly has a two-year older sister, Serena Jane, who of course, is of normal proportions and is a raving beauty besides. The world falls at her feet. Yet as this book proves beauty is only skin deep and those of us who plod on despite physical infirmities and less than perfect looks should also have a chance to make something of ourselves and be loved and cared for also.

Throughout this book is woven the tale of a quilt that is elaborately decorated with flowers made by a woman many generations earlier who had been known for her healing potions. Truly discovers the key to unlocking the knowledge the quilt holds and finds she then also holds the power of life and death and what an awesome responsibility that can be.

I don’t like my book reviews to be mini reruns of the book, but just enough hints to make you want to read it for yourself. In this book especially giving the condensed version of the book wouldn’t do it justice. Many times I pick up a book with the phrase ‘a novel’ on the front cover and wonder will it be yet another boring long treatise about ‘whatever’ where I have no sympathy or empathy for the characters. This book wasn’t like that. I felt sorry for Truly who so wanted to be loved for just who she was, I wanted to slap the adults into treating her like a human. As I heard more and more about the quilt, I wanted to see it and hold it myself as I knew it surely was a thing of beauty. As Marcus loved Truly from afar I kept wishing I could give him courage to show his love to her. This is a wonderful story and was the author’s first book. I sincerely hope that it won’t be a one hit wonder.


I read a book about every day or so and so within a few days of reading
The Little Giant of Aberdeen County,  I found myself reading Maggie Rowan by Catherine Cookson. In Maggie Rowan we also find two characters that were born with unusual shapes and disfigurments in pre-WWII England. If you would like to read and compare two books that have similiar themes, these two books should be a beginning for you. The books both take place during basically the same time frame in history, each on it's side of the Atlantic. Thankfully, attitudes have changed towards many with disabilities of all sorts, yet how many times do the pretty and handsome children get so much showered on them while those less fortunate shrivel on the vine. Both these books are a call to action to look into our own attitudes about others that might be different than us and remember everyone has feelings.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Am Hutterite by Mary-Ann Kirkby

I Am Hutterite is another book I read for the Amazon Review program. While in college in Saskatchewan Canada during the mid-1970s, I on occasion saw Hutterites and wondered about them. When I had the opportunity to get this book to read, I was excited to find out more about these people. After reading it, I understood one of my college friends much better as she had grown up highly influenced by the Hutterites in her area. I enjoyed getting to know these people through the book, but one thing became very clear to me. As long as humans are in charge of communal living and are making the rules and regulations, there will never be a true communal experience. Mary-Ann Kirkby's family bore the brunt of the head elder's dislike for her father and rather than treat the family by the beliefs he espoused, he treated them like the enemy. No communal living whether religious in nature or not, will ever be able to truly accomplish the reality of communal life. It is too hard for any one person or group of people to set aside themselves to fairly and wisely lead the group. Even if you get one or two that can do this, eventually the reigns will be turned over to someone who can't and seek power for power's sake and the community life will start to disintegrate.

While going to college in Canada in the 1970s I saw the occasional Hutterite but didn't have any idea about their beliefs or why they set themselves apart. When the opportunity to read this book for review, I jumped on it as a chance to find out about these people. Written as an autobiography by the author who lived in a Hutterite village in Canada until the age of 10 when her parents left the community. In many ways their lifestyle was perfect. They had everything they needed because they shared all in common. The workload was shared and there were certain procedures for occasions in a persons life. How a new mother was taken care of after a baby was born made me practically drool with longing even though I am many years removed from the birth of my own children. As a person aged their responsibilities to the community lessened although there was always some work that they could do.

Although the author and her family left the Hutterite community when she was aged 10, they still kept a close association with it due to relatives and friends there. Having the community to go visit seemed to help, as the children especially, got over the hump of going to regular public schools and being the victims of ridicule. This is a warm and sensitive book about growing up different yet growing up in a special way where everyone felt like a part of something bigger than themselves. There are still a large number of Hutterite communities in the Midwest and Canada. They split off into smaller communities when their numbers reach over 100 or so.

I'm very glad I got to read this book and would highly recommend it to others, especially those interested in a religious community life. It answered many of the questions I had had about Hutterites back many years ago and gave me a deeper insight into this large group of people that purposefully live their lives in a purposeful way.

An Impartial Witness: A Bess Crawford Mystery by Charles Todd

I read An Impartial Witness for the Amazon Vine Review program. Although reviews of this book were mixed, I enjoyed it and gave it five stars. It kept me up until 3 in the morning as I couldn't put it down.

This book takes place during World War I and begins not quite in the trenches but at the aid station/hospital nearby. Amidst the muck, mud, blood and filth wounded soldiers are being tended to by devoted nurses who in age where high society women were generally gently cared for, some left it all behind to help nurse the soldiers. Bess Crawford was one of these women. As the story begins, she escorts some of the wounded soldiers back to England and by a fluke sees one of her wounded soldier’s wife crying in the arms of another soldier at the train depot. Through a series of circumstances she finds that the woman was murdered later that day and her patient, subsequently commits suicide feeling he has nothing left to live for. She writes to the detective in charge of the investigation to let him know that she had seen the women and then over the course of each leave she gets, she becomes more and more involved finding out who killed the woman.

Solving a mystery during the time of war and almost 100 years before cell phones, faxes, etc. is difficult enough, but breaching the social class distinctions and where honor is everything became far more of a problem. But eventually Bess solves the mystery of who the killer was in time to save her friend from death. Not only was the book interesting, it also gave insight into the war and some of the difficulty the English people and solders faced during that awful time. I enjoy reading this book as it not only tells a story, but it also teaches you. I would certainly be happy to read more books in this series.

A Midwife's Story

I found this book. A Midwife's Story, at a Friends of the Library book sale where I happily shoved it into my bag on bag day. I love to read anything about giving birth and nursing and I am also interested in the Amish as I live near a large population of them. The book takes place in the 1970s and has apparently been republished. My copy that I read was a Bok Club Edition from 1986. This is the review I put up on Amazon after reading this delightful book.


A fabulous yet touching story of a woman's desire and willingness to become a midwife during a time in our history that midwifery was looked down on, but she persevered. The most amazing thing I found was midway through the book when the midwife herself miscarries a child and her reaction to this loss of a child she never even expected to have was touching.

As a nurse myself that loved labor and delivery the most as a student, I found the stories realistic, especially the comparison to a hospital birth intertwined with a home birth story from the day before. I felt almost every pang she did for the hospitalized mother as that was mostly my story of giving birth, while what I really wanted was what she had with her home deliveries.

Her love of her Amish families, since as a midwife she ministered to more than just the mother and baby, was touching and we got a significant look into the life of the Amish. I found this BCE copy at a sale and was so glad I stuffed it into my bag as this one kept me up way past my bedtime reading as it was so interesting. If you love stories of nurses, babies, midwives or reading about the Amish you should enjoy this book.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich

Thanks to the McCord Library in North East, PA for making this book available to me.


This is my review of Sizzling Sixteen for

This is your typical Stephanie Plum mystery book. If you have been reading the series, it is a continuation of the amazing adventures of Stephanie, Lula, Joe, and Ranger and featuring more of Connie from the bail bonds office. We find that Connie makes great stink bombs and was known for it when she was in high school. Stephanie is still wrecking cars, Lula is on yet another diet where she is allowed to eat one item, only she hasn’t decided if that means one donut or one dozen donuts. Joe and Stephanie are currently on the outs although that doesn’t mean he won’t come to her rescue as needed. Ranger is still hot stuff and continues to loan Stephanie cars as she continues to total them. This time it is Vinnie the bail bondsman that has disappeared and the three girls need to find him and rescue him or come up with a million dollar ransom if they want to keep their jobs. In other words a typical fun story.

If you have never read a book from this story, you can jump in any time, but I suggest you start from book number one if you can. Otherwise, be prepared for a cozy mystery, humor, fun, romance, crazy grandma’s and a whole slew of oddball people. It is a great hot, humid summertime book to read to make you forget how miserable you are and at times you may find yourself laughing out loud. In the sense of great literature, this book doesn’t cut it, but if you want a fun entertaining book to read this whole series will do it for you.

This book did need to come with a warning though. Cluck in a Bucket extra crispy fried chicken played a huge role in this book. I was able to read this book in one sitting and by the time I was done I HAD to go get a bucket of Colonel Sanders extra crispy fried chicken, my brain wouldn’t stop demanding it! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


I never read reviews of books until I have actually written and posted mine, so I was surprised than many readers didn't like this book. That is their right, but I am continually amazed when I see some reader's reviews of books and they pick books like this one apart as if it were supposedly the next Great American Novel. This book was quite simply meant to be fun and entertaining. I know I enjoyed it. All of the Stephanie Plum books are over the top silly and the times I have laughed out loud while reading them are too many to count. Then my husband asks what I'm laughing at and I read him a section and he laughs too. That is the fun part of this series of books. Perhaps I've had enough sadness and pain in my life that I enjoy anything that takes me away from the pain, if only for a few hours and so I am greatly indebted to Janet Evanovich for doing this for me. I was in very bad pain the day I read this and so the relief was enormous to get lost in a fun book and I firmly believe that "laughter does good like a medicine".

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Great Starvation Experiment by Todd Tucker

Whenever my son Ron comes for a visit as he did this past July 4th, we have an official exchange of the books routine within about the first 5 minutes he is here. Of the 4 books he brought me this time, I started reading with this one, The Great Starvation Experiment: The heroic Men Who Starved so that Millions Could Live by Todd Tucker.

The Great Starvation Experiment was intended to see what is the best way to help war-torn starving refugees or any large group of people that have had their food sources stopped for so long due to natural disasters, etc. that they are literally starving. The experiment itself was started during World War II but didn’t finish in time for the end of the war, obviously you don’t keep a war going just for the sake of experimentation. During the draft of World War II the powers that be tried to keep Conscientious Objectors out of sight and busy on conservation projects or helping out places like mental hospitals. But for some pacifists, it was not enough that they could do for the cause of peace. Then Dr. Keys, the inventor of the K rations, came up with the plan for the starvations experiment. He found close to 40 conscientious objectors who were willing, at great personal sacrifice, to become part of an experiment on starvation and how to restore starving people to health.

After finding his initial young, physically fit men, Dr. Keys spent the first three months of the experiment, gathering health data on their general fitness and how many calories it took for them to maintain their normal weight. The men on average were 5’ 10” tall and weight on average 165 pounds. The had to walk 22 miles a week on top of the walking involved to get to the dining room and the exercises on the fitness machines that measured them. At this point the men were consuming around 3000 calories a day depending on the man as each diet was structured individually to the man’s size.

The next six months was the starvation part of the experiment. From the very first day of the this part of the experiment the men were cut down to around 1500 calories a day plus all the water and coffee they wanted to drink. They had to maintain their physical exercise including the 22 miles of walking a week. The exercise to simulate the activities of people having to rebuild their lives following war or natural disasters. The men dropped on average 25% of their body weight during the six months. As the men got hungrier and hungrier, a buddy system had to be instituted to be sure that no one was cheating on the diet. If they dropped a pea while eating, they grabbed it up off the floor and ate it. Any food given to them was not wasted and the men literally licked their plates clean. As the weeks and months moved along, they began to care less and less about world events and the only things they could focus on was food and looking forward to the end of the 6 month starvation phase and getting to recovery phase.

However the recovery phase wasn’t what they were expecting. This was actually the most important part of the experiment as Dr. Keys needed to see how many calories it took for a starving person to regain their strength and interest in life so the men were divided into groups and only got intermittent increases in their diets of a set amount of calories. Although the men slowly began to gain strength back, they were still focused on food, especially those who were only getting an extra 400 calories a day. The war was winding down and so was the experiment time when Dr. Keys realized that what the men needed to recover fully was food and as much as they wanted. When given back their full diets, the men quickly recovered their strength and interest in usual activities.

Space does not allow me to tell more about the book. It is fascinating reading and I urge you to read it. This was an experiment that due to the special circumstances of it, can never be repeated again. The data and book published from this study is still the authoritative guide to starvation and eating. These were immensely brave men who went through this experiment. In its way it does answer many things about diets for me. No wonder when someone tries to go on a 1000-1500 calorie diet that have trouble succeeding, as they are literally trying to starve their body to death and the body will refuse to cooperate. All the person will do is think about food and will do whatever it takes to eat food.

While this book deals with medical problems and issues, it is discussed in layman's words and is very understandable. You will find the individual stories of the men fascinating and enjoy hearing the updates on them as most lived to old age.

Unexpectedly, Milo by Matthew Dicks

I received this book to read and review through the Amazon Vine program.

I was privileged to read the author's first book, Something Missing: A Novel, and to comment on it and so it was a double treat to get a copy of his second novel, Uunexpectedly, Milo to read. His writing style is fresh and funny. His very observant eye picks up the details that many of us don't see and that really is the premise of his books, no body is looking!

Milo quite obviously has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and has untold routines that he has to do so that his head doesn't feel like it will blow off. Yet he has managed to be married for 3 years without his wife knowing about his quirks and when she keeps telling him she needs space, he moves out. Apparently she meant only to go visit a friend for a week or two and to not sign a lease on an apartment. They aren't communicating very well at this point. But Milo had signed a lease and he is starting to realize that life feels so much better when he can do his rituals when needed instead of having to wait to be sure no one will observe him.

Then life takes an unexpected detour when he finds a video-camera and film on a park bench. In his search to find the owner, he discovers that the owner was using the camera as a video journal and that she feels responsible for the death of two friends. Milo decides that he has to help her and goes off on many tangents to help this girl. Along the way he makes friends and discovers that even when he lets himself and his problems be known to others, they still like him and care for him. As he observes the people around him, he comes to realize that we all have some kind of quirk and it doesn't make us bad, it just makes us each an individual.

Matthew Dicks is a very talented author that writes books that you can enjoy reading to the point of laughing out loud and yet is sensitive to the ways that each of us are different and unique and being unique in a one size fits all world is okay. This book was a delight to read and I hope to read many more books by this author.


Matthew Dicks book's are a treat to read as they are enjoyable, fun and see people for who they are and the great potential within each of us.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

This was another Amazon Vine pick, Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie. a very different book than what I usually read, but just what I needed this weekend while battling a bad arthritis flare-up. For taking my mind off of my pain it gets five stars!

This was a very delightful, quirky book to read combining romance, ghosts and family dynamics. I would never normally read a ghost story and this one surprised me especially as it had not one but five ghosts by the end of the book. The ghost Dennis you almost felt sorry for as he was confined to the couch. But that is getting ahead of the story.

I knew this book was not based on true reality when the main character, Andie Miller, plopped herself down in her ex-husband’s law office determined to give him back 10 years worth of alimony checks that she had never cashed even though she was in debt herself. Who ever gives back alimony checks? In the midst of giving the checks back he convinces her to take a job to care for his wards living in southern Ohio. She arrives to take care of them to find a castle in total disrepair that had been brought over piece by piece from England and a moat surrounding it. The housekeeper was mean and crotchety and oozing booze fumes, the children, Carter and Alice, looking pale and silent until you tried to get Alice to do something she didn’t want to do and then she could scream louder and longer than anyone. And then the ghosts start coming out. A TV reporter shows up to film a story about ghosts along with a ghost expert who doesn’t believe in ghosts and someone to lead a séance. All show up without, of course, the benefit of having been invited.

In this fast paced book, the children learn to love Andie especially as she promises never to leave them. Andie’s ex-husband shows up and gets rid of the TV reporter and eventually all is settled with Andie getting back with her husband (of course). They and the children move to Columbus along with the couch and resident ghost only to find another ghost has been living in their house in Columbus for all this time. No matter how you describe the book, it sounds like a silly book but it is really a fun book to read especially when you need a ‘pick-me-up’ kind of book.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman

This is another Amazon Vine book review. I had rather skimpy pickings last week and this book looked to be one of the better bets. Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman was a lovely story that for the most part I enjoyed very much. I gave it four stars.


This was a story of two families thrown together due to their children’s marriage and then those children’s death one hour after their marriage. The story is set in Maine and is divided into four summers starting with the wedding and ending with the two families acceptance of each other and each other’s strong and weak points four years later. I felt that the story was well told and included many human emotions of sadness, grief, sorrow, love, happiness, beauty, musical appreciation. Every once in a while though, I felt I was hitting a jarring note in the book when I came across a crude word that did nothing for the story except make you wonder why that word had been included in this story in the first place. Yes I am a bit of a prude, but reading a book that is tender and lovely and then running into words that should only appear in sleazy novels was inappropriate and unnecessary. Other than that, I enjoyed reading this book and could also see that it would probably make a terrific movie with the family conflicts, the conflicts within the families, seeing the growth of a musical prodigy, it even had a lovely story setting which would make for great viewing.. It was an interesting and a bit different story.


The child prodigy was Samantha in the book, a young girl that at age three had been adopted from Cambodia and then due to unforseen circumstances wasn't living a life of the great American dream. At the time of the story her prowess at musicwas discovered and her violin playing became a theme throughout the book. Her story in itself would make a great novel.

Red Hook Road

Monday, June 21, 2010

No Hiding Place by Valerie Wilson Wesley

No Hiding Place by Valerie Wilson Wesley is in many regards your typical female detective mystery. The sleuth has her usual problems of not enough money, frustrated love life, and a small group of friends. Where this book differs though is that the author and the sleuth are African-American women. In all my reading of mystery books over the years, this is only the second time I have run into this theme. Eleanor Taylor Bland is the other author of this type of work that I have found and have been frustrated because I haven't been able to easily find more of her works. Both of these authors works are quite good for the type of book they are writing. Nor are they 'in your face' books about black women and the black culture. In No Hiding Place, the black culture comes out because that is the case that has presented itself to Tamara Hayle, the sleuth.

As it doesn't matter to me what color the skin of an author or fictional character may have, I only bring these two authors to you attention for those who are frustrated about not being able to find regular books with a black lead character.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Running Dark by Jamie Freveletti

This is another book I have read for the Amazon Vine Review Program.

Running Dark by Jamie Freveletti. I didn’t realize until I started to read this book that it was the second in a series. If at all possible, I would urge you to read the first book before reading this one as it should give you the background and foundation for understanding this book right from the beginning. I found myself a bit overwhelmed to encounter a bomb blast, a Senate hearing, a South American pipeline explosion, Somali pirates, a cruise ship being attacked, thugs, and I may have forgotten some others, all within the first few pages of this book. If I had had the opportunity to read the first book, I would have at least known who the characters were and had some understanding of what had gone on before to set the stage for this book. The author tried to clue us in, but with so many things going on all at once it was a difficult task.

Basically this is a suspense book with several different villains and several different evil agendas trying to be met. Of course, only one or two people in the world are capable of dealing with these problems and manage to do so without getting killed in the process. This book takes you into South Africa, Washington DC area, and off the coast of East Africa on a cruise ship that pirates are trying to take over. Apparently the author had already started this book prior to the capture of an actual cruise ship so in this instance life was imitating art. You can’t say that this type of thing couldn’t possibly happen, but it did give insights into how and why something like this could have happened.

All in all it was a fairly good suspense/thriller novel and I would be happy to read more of this series as it is published, only I need to track down the first book in the series, Running from the Devil, first if only to get some unanswered questions about the characters and their relationships answered.

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

Here is a book I read for the Amazon Vine Review that I just loved and I think I was due one as I had a few lousy books that I just plowed through.

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin. What an absolutely lovely book! In many ways this was a typical plane crash in the mountains and "how do we get rescued book?", but the author's deft writing technique made it into so much more. I loved being able to read a book where the man was honorable in spirit and in deed. I loved seeing how deep a love can grow between two people that isn’t necessarily a romantic or sensual type of love but one grounded in caring and gentleness and putting oneself out for the other. While I caught on to the ‘secret’ of Ben’s marriage fairly early, it made the book all that much better for his dedication to his wife.

I had trouble reading the last few pages of this book as I was weeping copiously. I might cry upon seeing the occasional good movie, but rarely have I ever cried when reading a book. This one touched me deeply and I look forward to many more books by this author. If I could, I would give him 10 stars. Besides writing a touching wonderful novel his has also proved that you don’t have to throw two people in bed together in the first 20 pages of the book to keep a person attention. Genuine love and caring in the characters will keep my attention much longer than anything. Thank you for a lovely book.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

20 Under 40 Writers

The New York Times June 2, 2010 Has chosen it’s ‘20 under 40’ writers for the first time since 1999. These are the writers to be watching for possible star quality writing in the future. This time the list is equally divided among men and women. Clicking on each of their names will take you to and one of their books. Links on Amazon should take you to others as you get to know some of the names that will be the brightest names in literature over the next few decades.
The list includes Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 32; Chris Adrian, 39; Daniel Alarcón, 33; David Bezmozgis, 37; Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, 38; Joshua Ferris, 35; Jonathan Safran Foer, 33; Nell Freudenberger, 35; Rivka Galchen, 34; Nicole Krauss, 35; Yiyun Li, 37; Dinaw Mengestu, 31; Philipp Meyer, 36; C. E. Morgan, 33; Téa Obreht, 24; Z Z Packer, 37; Karen Russell, 28; Salvatore Scibona, 35; Gary Shteyngart, 37; and Wells Tower, 37.

I will be looking for these names on my Amazon Vine pick lists to see if I have a chance at seeing some of their work. I just hope it isn’t the kind of writing that I seriously hate! Let's hear what you think of these writers!