Saturday, October 31, 2009

Books I've read this week - The Manufactured Identity

The Manufactured Identity © 2009 by Heath Sommer

ISBN: 978-1-60696-550-4
Tate Publishing & Enterprises

About the book: Months after his mysterious disappearance from a routine fishing trip, no one really expects over-the-hill Texas housewife Lory Latchley to find her missing husband – especially her husband. The Manufactured Identity is clinical psychologists Heath Sommer’s ever-escalating immersion into the world of unlikely friends who each awaken to find their faithful companions missing without warning or reason. Desperate to find meaning in their pain, they are thrust by the auspices of fate into a common thread of mystery and human frailty. In the end, the fate of all may reside in the unstable hands of rookie pastor John Joe, but ultimately Lory and her newfound partners will uncover a truth so unnerving it makes even infidelity look palatable.

The first 18 chapters of this book skip back and forth between different characters and I was beginning to wonder how the author was going to tie them all together. I had my suspicions about the disappearing husbands and it turned out I was right in a way. The story was much more involved that I would have thought. You can definitely tell the author is a psychologist because a lot of his expertise comes out in the book through the discussions of the counseling pastor and his patient. The book really delved into the reasons the man did what he did.

The only thing I didn’t like were the few occasions when the author felt he had to use grandiose or novel words in place of every day ones. In one instance instead of saying her teary eyes, he says ‘moist corneas’. In another, the man takes a drink of his ‘ethyl liquid’ instead of just saying liquor or whiskey. In yet another when Lory suddenly snaps out of her depression he says “she pulled out her sword and cut through the aggregated flaxen of her depression”. And what the heck is a-proprioceptive? Is this a clinical phrase? Guess I should keep a dictionary close so I know exactly what he’s saying.

I did find the story fascinating and the author did a great job tying up all the loose ends. The ending was not what I expected and added yet another twist to the book.

This book was provided to me by the author to read and review.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's Called Fall for Good Reason!

Rain, please quit coming down.
Farmers needs to harvest their crops
But the rain just keeps coming
In a multitude of drops.

The creeks are running over;
My basement's getting damp.
If the rain keeps on falling
I'll have to build a ramp.

Gravel roads are muddy messes;
Feed lots turned to pools.
If the rain keeps on falling
We'll have to get the cattle stools.

Where was the rain when needed
The farmers want to know.
Now it just keeps on falling
They'd rather have it snow.

© 2009 by Kat Bryan

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Books I've read this week - Sanctuary

Sanctuary © 2009 by N. E. Julian

ISBN: 978-1440133091
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 332
S.R.P.: $19.95

About the book: Nineteen-year-old Lea Kostovic, a cynical and emotionally fragile former university student, has been abandoned by her family at the outset of a Balkan civil war during the late 1990s. Major Ed Russell is a gruff yet idealistic divorced American army officer stationed in the former Yugoslavia on a peacekeeping mission. While manning a border checkpoint, Russell learns that Lea intends to head south to find her family and must convey to the young woman that the borders will not reopen until spring. Lea realizes that as a person of Croatian descent, neither the Serbs nor the Muslims will take her in. The thought of roaming the countryside for months—freezing, starving, and alone—prods a wary Lea to accept Russell's offer not only to work for him as an interpreter, but also to stay with him. There's just one condition to their simple bargain—Lea must trade sex for protection and survival. A complex relationship ensues and as Russell and fledgling artist Lea begin a new life in America, they attempt to build a marriage from a barter that originally had nothing to do with love and respect. As Lea learns to love and trust Russell they must try to form a marriage in the face of strains caused by the demands of his career and both of their emotional scars.

I didn’t think much of Major Russell’s conditions at first when he offered Lea a safe place to stay in return for sex. However, he was basically a decent person who treated her well, protected her from the other men, paid her to be his interpreter, and then fell in love with her. Lea had been mistreated much of her life and wasn’t so quick to show her emotions or let her feelings evolve. She was very depressed after being abandoned by her family. The story does a wonderful job of showing how two people have to work hard to make a relationship work. My brother has been in the Army since 1984 and I think this book did a good job of portraying some of what servicemen and their families go through. The story was humorous at times and very sad at times but it came together well and I enjoyed it very much.

This book was sent to me courtesy of N. E. Julian and Bostick Communications for review.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Books I've read this week - Peaches and Screams

Peaches and Screams © 2002 by G. A. McKevett

ISBN: 1-57566-727-4
Kensington Publishing Corp.

About the book: Plus-sized private eye Savannah Reid is about to discover the answer to that age-old question: What could be worse than going back home to the Deep South in the height of August humidity? It’s going home to a wedding – not your own – without a ring on your finger or a date on your arm. But a hideous bridesmaid’s dress is the least of Savannah’s problems after her kid brother is arrested for murder….

As the oldest of nine siblings, Savannah has attended her share of family weddings south of the Mason-Dixon line…several of which have featured her sister Marietta as the bride. But before the fickle Southern belle can traipse down the aisle with her latest Mr. Right, the youngest of the Reid brood is thrown into the slammer. At first, Savannah wonders if unruly Macon really is responsible for killing the Honorable Judge Patterson. But when she learns that the ornery old geezer had more enemies than Marietta’s had husbands, Savannah is convinces that her brother’s been framed.

Shaking the Patterson family tree nets Savannah an assortment of embittered ex-wives, spurned mistresses, and illegitimate offspring – but no real leads. Now, with hapless Macon stewing in a steamy cell and Marietta pouting about her postponed nuptials, it’s time for Big Sis Savannah to turn up the heat and show a cleverly concealed killer that this is one Georgia peach who ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie….

G. A. McKevett is the author of several novels featuring the plus-sized P.I. Savannah Reid. The titles all feature food in some way – Just Desserts, Killer Calories, Cooked Goose, etc. Food also featured somewhat prominently in this book as the entire dysfunctional Reid family was always sitting down to a fantastic southern meal. I guess you would say this was a chick-lit mystery and it was full of humor along with the whodunit story line. Savannah was once a cop and now has a private investigation business in California. She goes back home for her sister’s third wedding only to find out her baby brother has been arrested for murder. The town’s deputy is her old flame Tommy Stafford who broke her heart years ago when he wouldn’t commit to a relationship. Now she has to try and get him to help her clear her brother. More bodies turn up before the case is solved. It was a fun, quick read.

I purchased this book at the Des Moines flea market.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Books I've read this week - The Murder of King Tut

The Murder of King Tut © 2009 by James patterson & Martin Dugard

Little, Brown
ISBN: 9780316034043
About the book:  A secret buried for centuries
Thrust onto Egypt's most powerful throne at the age of nine, King Tut's reign was fiercely debated from the outset. Behind the palace's veil of prosperity, bitter rivalries and jealousy flourished among the Boy King's most trusted advisors, and after only nine years, King Tut suddenly perished, his name purged from Egyptian history. To this day, his death remains shrouded in controversy.


The keys to an unsolved mystery

Enchanted by the ruler's tragic story and hoping to unlock the answers to the 3,000 year-old mystery, Howard Carter made it his life's mission to uncover the pharaoh's hidden tomb. He began his search in 1907, but encountered countless setbacks and dead-ends before he finally, uncovered the long-lost crypt.

The clues point to murder
Now, in "The Murder of King Tut," James Patterson and Martin Dugard dig through stacks of evidence--X-rays, Carter's files, forensic clues, and stories told through the ages--to arrive at their own account of King Tut's life and death. The result is an exhilarating true crime tale of intrigue, passion, and betrayal that casts fresh light on the oldest mystery of all.

James Patterson became interested in and then somewhat obsessed with the story of King Tut and what had happened to him.  He set out, along with Marty Dugard, to research everything he could about the boy king and his life.  This book is the result of what they think could have happened.  The book is written in three parts which are spread throughout the story - Patterson's reasons for writing the book and his conclusions; the story of the pharoahs' lives as they MAY have happened; and the story of Howard Carter, an Englishman who went to Egypt and spent his life searching for pharoahs' tombs.  His exploration party was the one that eventually found the tomb of King Tut after others had given up hope.

The cover of the book says this is a 'nonfiction' thriller. I think using the research they did, Mr. Patterson and Mr. Dugard did an excellent job of writing the story of the pharoahs and it makes a good novel.  The part about Mr. Carter is based on his own journals so much of it is known fact.  Putting the two together makes a very interesting book but what really happened to King Tut is still very much unknown and the book's conclusion is just the author's own theory and not fact.  Read the book and draw your own conclusions.

I won this book from The Tome Traveler blog.  Thanks Carey!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ladies' Night Out

Monday night was ladies’ night out as I met with my three former bowling team members for supper. Only one of us is still bowling but we try to keep in touch about once a month to catch up on everything. It’s amazing how much we have to say to each other even though we run into each other occasionally outside of our get-togethers. This time was no different and there was some big news to share. Jo is going to be a first-time grandmother. Dee and her hubby are a recent retirees and going to Arizona for the winter (first-time), living in a camper for several months. She has kept us in stitches telling us of their recent travel misadventures with their fifth-wheeler so I hope everything goes smoothly this trip. We’re going to miss her this winter. I was happy to let them know my son finally found a job after being off work since last November.

We’ve been trying to eat at different places in the area and this week was no exception. We decided to try The Little Dublin Pub in Winterset. It’s a relatively new and somewhat cozy little bar with a good menu. Since it was Monday night there were only about a half dozen drinkers sitting and talking at the bar. There was a giant TV at one end and a football game was on but no volume so it didn’t intrude. We got a booth and had a look at the menus. Three of us decided to try the shepherd’s pie (not your typical bar food, huh?) and we were thrilled with our choice. It came with choice of soup, (salmon soup that night which none of us was brave enough to try), salad, cole slaw, or cottage cheese. I had a salad and it was a bit disappointing, just lettuce with a tomato wedge, but Nancy ordered the cole slaw and said it was the best she had ever eaten. The main dish was wonderful. It was ground beef , peas, and I’m sure other things, in a wonderful sauce topped with real mashed potatoes and just the right amount of grated cheese. It came with a side of 2 slices of toasted French bread. YUMMY! Dee ordered the grilled chicken breast and it came with choice of potato, peas (frozen, not canned), salad, and toast. Our meals were right around $10. We all loved the food and made sure to tell the cook. They also offer steaks, sandwiches and have a child’s menu and lunch specials. I can’t wait to eat there again.

We spent 3 hours eating and talking with no hassle from anyone and really enjoyed our time together. Where to next?

Books I've read this week - Through the Triangle

Through the Triangle by C. P. Stewart
ISBN: 9781432740368
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Date of publish: Aug 29, 2009
Pages: 388
S.R.P.: $21.95

About the book: For decades, tales of mysterious disappearances and strange phenomena in the Bermuda Triangle have captivated the public. Now, a fascinating new science-fiction novel offers a plausible explanation for this enduring enigma.

Through the Triangle, from physics educator C.P. Stewart, packs a high-energy roller coaster of a story into a well-researched and fascinating book that might make you think twice before boarding that next flight or boat through this extensive region of the Atlantic Ocean. The book follows Jake Myers and his teenaged son Nathan, whose fishing trip to Florida takes a detour when their boat runs into a major storm. Little do they realize when they emerge that they're in the right place, but at the wrong time-the Florida coast, nearly 300 years in the future.

Now, this group is about to confront a terrifying part-human, part-animal species that can see in the dark. Together with a loose association of other humans, they'll have to rely on instinct and cunning to survive while they discover the frightening truth that has occurred over the past centuries. But an even greater threat might be one of their own.

Stewart's first book takes readers through the Bermuda Triangle to the other side and, while fictional, is based on research. He analyzed writings of well-known physicists on the subject of spacetime and M (formerly string) theory, along with reports by some of the fortunate people who were caught in the Triangle and survived to tell about it. The result is Stewart's conviction that people and objects don't cease to exist, but rather are propelled into another time.

It all combines for a savvy time-travel thriller that will keep you guessing right up until the shocking finale.

Before I started reading this book I didn’t have too high of expectations. I figured it would be more of a “men’s” book. I have to say I was VERY pleasantly surprised. The only thing I didn’t like was when the book ended – I wanted more! We’ve all heard of the Bermuda Triangle and the book used that idea as a starting point. A fishing boat is caught up in a strange storm and ends up almost 300 years in the future. The author’s imaginative ideas about what had happened to the world in that time were very well developed. His characters and the dialog were interesting and drew you into the story. There was a twist towards the end that made me go, “Oh, no!” but the story finished well. I think this may be one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Thanks to Bostick Communications, Outskirts Press and C. P. Stewart for providing me with a copy of this book to review.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Books I've read this week - The Laceyville Monkeys: Say the Right Words

The Laceville Monkeys: Say the Right Words by Harriett Ruderman
Illustrated by Beverly Luria
ISBN: 978-0615264820
Publisher: Illusion Press
Date of publish: March 1, 2009
Pages: 32
S.R.P.: $15.95

About the book: Thirty years ago author Harriett Ruderman entered into the fairytale world of Laceyville. As she listened to her mother tell her daughter the stories that would later inspire her to write the first in a series of books for children based on Grandma Ethel's stories.

It all began at bedtime; Grandma Ethel was telling one of her stories about an imaginary town filled with memorable characters and three very special monkeys who possessed amazing talents. Their names were Eva, Keva and Sheva and the town was called Laceyville. Over time, the Laceyville characters grew in numbers and the stories just kept coming. The story came from Grandma Ethel's creative spirit and Harriett's daughter's anticipation and requests for more.

The Laceyville Monkeys: Say the Right Words teaches children the importance of warm words to others, and also tells a fun story about three talented monkeys. The Laceyville Monkeys stars Eva the ballerina, Sheva the singer and Keva the gymnast. Their owner, Miss Hepzibah Mott, brings her beloved monkeys to Laceyville for the big talent contest.

Readers will meet George the Gorilla, who plays the piano, Jake the Snake who charms all with his Cobra Dance, and silly old Granny Scott, who 'says the wrong words,' and is utterly embarrassed at the results. These characters, and others, are part of the Laceyville cast, created to entertain and amuse children with their antics and fun while emphasizing the importance of warm, caring words of encouragement and love.

This was a very cute story with nice colorful illustrations and although it gives a great moral lesson about speaking nicely to others, it does it in a very gentle way. It would be a great read-aloud book for story time leading into discussion about the lesson it gives.

Thanks to Rachel Rausch at Newman Communications for sending me the book to review.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Winning has been slow this fall but then I haven't been entering as many contests since I started blogging and got on Facebook.  Here are the prizes I haven't posted about yet.

A DVD, Jonas Rockin’ the House from Here and There.  Thanks Pat!  This will go to my niece for Christmas.

Green products from Val’s Views, that included one-use bamboo leaf plates and ‘silverware’made from wood, and Skoy cloths, which I really like. The cloths are washable and re-useable many times.  Thanks Valerie!

Friends Like These by Danny Wallace from A Bookworm's World.  Thanks Luanne!

So Into You by Sandra Hill from Bookin’ with Bingo. Thanks Karen!  My review is here.

Provenance by Laney Salisbury & Aly Sujo from O’s Summer Reading Giveawy.  Thanks to Oprah and O magazine.

The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson from The Tome Traveler.  Thanks Carey!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Books I've read this week - Evil at Heart

Evil at Heart © 2009 by Chelsea Cain

About the book: Gretchen Lowell is on the loose. A sensationalist media has turned her into a star. Her face graces magazine covers…women get “beauty killer” manicures…there are sightings of her worldwide….even kids wear t-shirts that read, “Run, Gretchen.” Most shocking of all, a fan club has formed – counting the number of days Gretchen Lowell has been free.

Archie Sheridan has hunted her for a decade. He lived and breathed her crime scences, only for her to be right there in front of him, all along. He’s suffered long and hard…and been left near death. After his last attempt to capture her went spectacularly wrong, he’s been hospitalized for months.  When a dead body is found with Gretchen’s signature heart, Archie is forced into action. Has the Beauty Killer returned to her ways…or has the cult surrounding her created a whole new evil?

I won this book from way back on August 1 and had been waiting for it. It arrived this past Tuesday but I didn’t get a chance to read it until Thursday. Once I started, it was hard not to finish it in one sitting. I didn’t realize when I started reading this book that it was #3 in a series. (The others being Heartsick and Sweetheart.) While I wish I had read the others first, there was enough flashback information in this one to fill in the story and it was good enough to stand on its own.

Detective Archie Sheridan is obsessed by the beautiful serial killer Gretchen Lowell even though she almost killed him, too. The book opens with Archie in a psychiatric hospital being treated for vicodin addiction and attempted suicidal. When bodies start showing up with signs pointing once again to Gretchen, he can’t resist getting involved in the case. Helping him in his search are fellow cop, Henry Sobol, and a journalist looking for a scoop, Susan Ward. Is Gretchen the killer or are there copycats? Is Archie still obsessed with her or can he stand up to her this time? This book was gory, gross, and fascinating. I couldn’t put it down.

This book was an ARC from and Minotaur Books

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Books I've read this week - Don't Look Down

Don't Look Down © 2009 by David Laing Dawson

ISBN: 978-0981003757
Publisher: Bridgeross Communications
Date of publish: Aug 17, 2009
Pages: 194
S.R.P.: $19.95

About the book: Four men, age 18 to 81, have murdered, and now share a room in the secure forensic psychiatry ward. Who better to get inside their heads, and find both the tragedy and comedy of their lives than psychiatrist and novelist David Laing Dawson.

Frank has just completed a ten year sentence in a Federal Prison for manslaughter. He is remanded for an assessment in the Forensic Ward of a Psychiatric Hospital. On this ward Frank shares a four bed room with Joseph, a man suffering from severe depression and delusions of jealousy, David, a young schizophrenic man, and Henry Thornton, 81 years of age, sometimes confused, and possibly guilty of the mercy killing of his companion and lover.

Dawson explores the comedy as well as the tragedy of these four lives as they intersect in a dramatic way in a place none of them wishes to be.

This story has the ring of truth and insight only an insider can provide. And though the characters and events are tragic, the author finds many moments of shared humanity, warmth and good humor.

Although this book tells the story of 4 murderers, you can't help but feel sorry for them.  The circumstances leading up to each killing, such as childhood abuse or mental illness,  is very different and each man kills for a different reason.  They all end up in a room together at a psychiatric hospital.  The author does a great job exploring their backgrounds and letting the reader into their minds as he tells the story.  I like the way he tied up all the loose ends at the end of the book, too.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Books I’ve Read this Week - Embellish

Embellish © 2009 by R. L. Sloan

ISBN: 9781432740368

Publisher: Outskirts Press
Date of publish: Aug 29, 2009
Pages: 388
S.R.P.: $21.95

About the book: As a young girl, Solis Burkes is raped at the hands of ruthless school bullies-an incident that haunts her into young adulthood. Then she meets Nacio, a strikingly handsome man who seems to know everything about her-including the painful past Solis hasn't told anyone about. But what Solis doesn't know is that Nacio has been with her every step of the way, protecting her ever since that fateful episode.
It's a destiny he's been working up to for the last 257 years.

Now, as Solis enters a dark world of vampires, voodoo, and passion, she'll need all the protection she can get. Unbeknownst to her, those responsible for Solis's rape have returned. Connected to the evil voodoo Priestess Auldicia, they'll stop at nothing in their plans to spew violence and mayhem throughout the city. And an old family feud dating back centuries puts Solis first on their list of targets. But not if Solis can unravel the clues fast enough, and inflict her own brand of revenge...

Embellish mixes sexy romance with high-stakes paranormal intrigue for a keeps-you-guessing, fast-paced and savvy thriller, right up until the shocking finale.

Before I say what I thought about the book, I just want to remind everyone that I only write MY opinion.  Someone else may have a completely different take on the book.  That said, I thought the story idea good but poorly written.  The premise of a young woman finding out she has a vampire who loves her and vows to protect her from her enemies has the makings of a very good, paranormal romance.  However, the book didn’t deliver (IMO). Solis had been raped as a child.  Her mother died young and her grandparents raised her.  She tells us she acted out by sleeping with so many guys she couldn’t remember their names.  Then along comes Nacio, the 257-year-old vampire, who swears his love for her and does she have sex with him?  Nope, just lots of passionate kissing.  Not very believable. 

There were too many unneeded bits of drivel in the book like the fact that Solis’ biology professor spit when he talked.  That had nothing to do with the story.  I think the author tried too hard when it came to descriptive phrases, too.  Like this sentence, “He pulled me in close to his chest and slowly glided his tongue over the muscle and pulsing vascularity  that warmly established my life force within me.”  Why not just say, “He slowly licked the pulsing vein in my neck”?

Let’s just say this book had all the elements for a really good story but it didn’t come together for me.  If I was rating on a 1-5, I’d give it a 3.

Monday, October 12, 2009


We were home all day Saturday because of the crappy weather and in between cleaning and playing on the computer, I drank way too much coffee. I paid for it later by being up until 3 A.M. playing games on Facebook. When I did go to bed, I had trouble getting to sleep. I was just dozing off about an hour later when I heard a rustling noise in the plastic bag of the wastebasket that is right beside my bed. I reached up and turned the bedside light on, leaned over, and even before I put my glasses on, I could see that there was something gray in the bottom of the once-empty bag. "What the heck? Jim was awake by now and was as surprised as me when I told him there was a LIVE MOUSE in the trash bag!  When I tried moving the wastebasket ,  the little devil tried to jump out. Just what I needed - a mouse trying to get in bed with me! Jim has a slightly smaller wastebasket on his side of the bed, so he brought it over and put it inside of mine and smashed that rodent dead. I gave Buddy all-get-out Sunday morning for laying down on the job, too. She caught one on the porch on Thursday but I don't know how this one got in the bedroom.... or in the wastebasket for that matter.

The saga continues……
I'm lying in bed asleep this morning just before 5 and I'm woken up by this very quiet scratching (gnawing?) noise. Jim is already up getting ready for work and comes to the bedroom when I turn the light on. He's wondering what's wrong and I tell him  but he can't hear the noise with his hearing loss. I'm still on the bed looking warily around but I tell him it sounds like a mouse is behind the door. He swings the door back and I decide the noise is in the closet the other side of the wall.

At this point, I get up because I can't sleep hearing that noise. I turn the living room light on and calling Buddy, open the closet door. I don't see any mouse droppings but after a minute, Buddy and I both hear the scratching noise resume. Now, since this is the only closet in the house, it's FULL. I removed a couple of boxes and a pair of winter boots and Buddy sits down to wait. In the meantime, I get somewhat dressed because the house is chilly and I don't know how long  the mouse hunt is going to take. I'm now wide-awake so I get a cup of coffee and sit down at the computer. About 5 minutes pass and I hear a loud noise and Buddy comes out of the closet with a field mouse in her mouth! Yay, Buddy!! Of course, it's still very much alive and I holler at Jim and follow Buddy into the dining room. (What better place to eat a mouse, right? LOL) We’ve done this before and I knew to grab an empty wastebasket and hold Buddy over it. She dropped the mouse into it and Jim killed it. Buddy got LOTS of praise and now we wait for the next one that, hopefully, won't be anytime soon.  Oh, the thrills and excitement of living in an old country house!  BTW, that's Buddy napping in my header photo.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Books I've read this week - The Recipe Club

The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food and Friendship
By Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel
Published by Polhemus Press
October 2009; $24.95US/CAN; 978-09823492-0-5

About the book: Lilly and Val are lifelong friends, united as much by their differences as by their similarities. Lilly, dramatic and confident, lives in the shadow of her beautiful, wayward mother and craves the attention of her distant, disapproving father. Val, shy and idealistic -- and surprisingly ambitious -- struggles with her desire to break free from her demanding housebound mother and a father whose dreams never seem to come true.

In childhood, "LillyPad" and "Valpal" vow to form an exclusive two-person club. Throughout the decades they write intimate letters in which they share hopes, fears, deepest secrets -- and recipes, from Lilly's "Lovelorn Lasagna" to Valerie's "Forgiveness Tapenade." Readers can cook along as the girls travel through time, facing the challenges of independence; the joys and heartbreaks of first love; and the emotional complexities of family relationships, identity, mortality, and goals deferred.

But no matter what different paths they take or what misunderstandings threaten to break them apart, Lilly and Val always find their way back together through their Recipe Club . . . until the fateful day when an act of kindness becomes an unforgivable betrayal.

Now, decades later, while trying to recapture the trust they've lost, Lilly and Val reunite once more -- only to uncover a shocking secret. Will it destroy their friendship, or bring them ever closer?

I enjoyed this book a lot. It was a very nice mix of novel and cookbook. Val and Lilly were childhood friends and then pen pals. They decided to start a recipe club for two and when they wrote back and forth they included a timely recipe. I liked the way they named the recipes according to their moods or circumstances at the time, like ‘Good For What Ails You Ginger Ale’ or ‘Mighty Math Muffins’.

The story was full of emotion as neither girl had any trouble saying what she felt in her letters. Val’s mother suffered from agoraphobia (fear of going outside) that caused her to have panic attacks and never leave their home, and Lilly’s father was a psychiatrist who treated her. He spent long hours at Val’s home and encouraged Val in her studies and later paid for her college. She always seemed what he wanted in a daughter while Lilly wanted to forgo college and have a career singing. This caused some problems between the girls and their parents. Things come to a head one day and they didn’t speak again for 26 years!

The book starts in 2000 with Val emailing Lilly to let her know Val’s mother had died and in part two it goes back to 1964 and relates the girl’s relationship and what led up to their split. Park three returns to the present. Are the women able to regain the friendship they had when younger? There’s a dramatic turn of events that will either help reunite them or split them forever. I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Article by the authors of The Recipe Club

The next book on m y reading list is The Recipe Club by Andrea Isreal and Nancy Garfinkel.  In anticipation of that review, here's an article written by them.

You are What You Say . . . When You Talk About What You Eat
By Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel,
Authors of The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food and Friendship

Everyone knows the old saying, "You are what you eat."

But there's an even greater truth: you are what you say about eating.

That gleam in your eye, when you reminisce about eating pasta in Rome, is probably less about the fettuccine than it is about Federico, the handsome guy at the next table.

The ache in your heart, when you tell the story of spoon-feeding soup to your beloved, ailing grandma, is undoubtedly more about loving and missing her than it is about the lousy soup.

How do we know this? Well, through a surprising and wonderful turn of events, we have come to recognize the inextricable connections that exist between the foods we eat, the ways in which we talk about that food, and our deepest -- sometimes hidden -- emotions.

And we've been given this glimmer of wisdom by our recently published novel-cookbook, The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food and Friendship. The story charts the ups and downs of a lifelong friendship between characters who stay connected, despite a bumpy relationship, by forming their own two-person Recipe Club.

When readers of advance copies began asking us to help launch their own food-themed friendship-and-storytelling circles, we knew we were on to something wonderful and important.

So from coast to coast, we are running Recipe Clubs, intimate gatherings in which members share real-life stories associated with personal recipes. Yes, Recipe Clubs are about food and cooking . . . but they're about creating community. Each member, at every meeting, has a chance to speak out with honesty and be heard without judgment. Honoring the age-old, oral-history tradition, we're helping to create a tradition: building new friendships and deepening existing friendships through the prism of food, friendship, and storytelling.

We've been privileged to hear stories from Recipe Club members in small towns and big cities alike, from stay-at-home moms to corporate executives, from those who love to cook to those who just love to eat. And with each tale, we've come to realize that talking about food -- at least in the safe, intimate environment of a Recipe Club -- is a powerful lens through which to understand your life, your family, your friendships, and your attitudes. Food in its entirety -- as an ingredient, as a cooked dish, as something eaten, something fed, something given, something cherished -- is intrinsically loaded with emotional content. It crosses barriers of race, age, gender, nationality, and culture because it ultimately relates to the most universal aspects of the human condition!

Take the story of Carolyn. In college, she had a mad crush on a boy. Since she was an excellent cook, her roommate persuaded her to throw a lavish dinner party, citing the old adage, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach."

Working day and night, Carolyn created a perfect meal. Her pièce de résistance: a Baked Alaska. Heart beating and dessert about to be flamed (a stand-in for her burning passion, no doubt), Carolyn poked her head out the closed kitchen door to present her masterpiece -- only to find her roommate and the boy she adored locked in a mad embrace!

Carolyn's response: a slammed kitchen door and a sledge-hammer fist-punch to the Baked Alaska. And the satisfaction of feeling emboldened by a powerful rage -- rather than being beaten down by the pain of betrayal, disappointment, and humiliation of the moment.

Or hear the tale of Debbie, who grew up in a food-friendly family of five. Decades after leaving home, Debbie still cooked pasta for five. The problem was, she lived alone. The bigger problem: she ate for five, too. Her Recipe Club tale chronicled her slow journey of learning to accept and embrace the fact of living alone, and of learning to nurture herself with the foods she still loved -- but adding in healthy servings of self-respect.

These real, touching revelations (and many others, about subjects as wide-ranging as sharing with sisters, fighting with parents, finding self-confidence, coming out to a family, struggling with self-esteem, and the joy of not cooking when there's someone else to do it) are all honestly expressed and respectfully received at the Recipe Clubs we run. While each story evokes its own response -- laughter, tears, resonant recognition, surprise -- all the Recipe Club stories we hear share some basic ingredients: food, feelings, family, friendship.

When we wrote the final sentence of our novel, The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food and Friendship, we thought we had completed the book. But now we understand that the story is ever-unfolding . . . and our journey has just begun!

Books I've read this week - Letters to Rosy

Letters to Rosy ©2008 by C. Ellene Bartlett

From the book cover: An ocean apart, two elderly women, Rene Dubois, in Germany and Roselee Payton, in America spent time in the late 50’s and early 60’s as teens in the town of Bartsville, Georgia, a small town outside the city of Atlanta. Mendy completed the terrible three. Bound together by love for each other once again became a trio.
Rene’s urge to write letters to Rosy and reveal the story of Ken Mitchell who lost his wife to insanity and the disappearance of his little girl Sasha. He was teetering on the brink of destruction. A year of grieving brought him back to his normal state of health.
He took a cruise to Germany. At the Captain’s Dinner, an unexpected meeting enhanced his obsession to find his daughter.

Another unusual meeting in the park, in Berlin, ignited Ken’s imagination. Bridget was elated with the turn of events when tragedy struck, driving her into the arms of a trusted friend.

Rosy was intrigued and relieved by Rene’s letter and was encouraged to tell her own story of Mendy’s abduction and rape witnessed by her six year old daughter Misty.

Mendy Arnold and Misty vanished from a busy street in Atlanta, Georgia. At the same time Trevor, Mendy’s husband was engaged in a torrid affair with an auburn-haired beauty he met the same morning.

The first letter to Rosy started a downhill avalanche. There was no stopping now; the horrors of yesteryear became a reality once again.

I’m not sure what to say about this book. If you read the synopsis above carefully, you’ll notice that some of the sentences are disjointed and don’t really make sense. In the book, there were several wrong or misspelled words like dinning instead of dining, surly instead of surely, groan instead of groin. When different people were talking, there wasn’t always a new paragraph which confused you about who said what. The dialog was stodgy many times with hardly any contractions (I am instead of I’m) that made it read like a school book at times. This really disrupted my enjoyment of the book. That said, the story itself was interesting but sometimes hard to follow. Each chapter starts with a letter written between Rosy and Rene. They then included with their letters ‘notes’ that told each other a story about other people. There was a twist at the end, of course, which explained how they knew so much. I would recommend the book but be warned about the poor writing style.  Then again, maybe it won't bother you.

Madison County's 40th Annual Covered Bridge Festival

Madison County, Iowa is the home of six covered bridges - Hogback located northwest of Winterset, Cedar northeast near Cedar Lake, Holliwell southeast, Roseman southwest, Imes at St. Charles, and Cutler-Donahue in the Winterset City Park. All the bridges were built in the 1870s except Cedar. Cedar bridge was destroyed by arsonists (never caught) in 2002 and a replica was built on the same site. Because of all the interest in the bridges, The Covered Bridge Festival was started 40 years ago mainly to promote tourism for the area and to provide funds for upkeep of the bridges. The Festival is always held the 2nd full weekend of October and this year’s Festival takes place this coming weekend, the 10th & 11th. This festival celebrates not only the bridges but also several other things that Madison County and Winterset are proud of.

Guided bus tours of the bridges and other attractions are available. These include the birthplace of John Wayne, who was born in Winterset. His birthplace is now a museum and a larger museum and visitor center is planned for the future.

There is a small park just east of the southeast corner of the square in Winterset commemorating George Washington Carver, who lived there for 2 years before going to college in Indianola. He later went on to develop nearly 325 uses for peanuts, including peanut butter. (Thank you George!)

The Winterset City Park Maze is one of a few hedge mazes in the United States and the only one west of the Mississippi. Also in this park is Clark Tower, a 3-story castle-like tower built of native limestone honoring Madison County’s early pioneers. The tower sits on a hill overlooking the Middle River valley and the view from the top of the tower is spectacular on a fall day. A large rock in the park tells about the Delicious apple that was developed by Jesse Hiatt in 1872 near Peru and is now enjoyed everywhere

Our historic town square is very photogenic with its beautiful courthouse and old store buildings with interesting histories. Informative plaques have been put on the buildings telling of their past use.

The Winterset Art Center, located 2 blocks south of the square, is believed to have been an underground railway site.

The Madison County Historical Complex is home to several buildings, including the old Winterset depot built in 1872; the Zion Church built in 1881; the Field Mercantile Store from the 1920s; the Martin Bros. gas station built in 1934 with a rock face; the Bevington-Kaser House, a mansion built in 1856; an old township post office and log schoolhouse; and the Elmer McKee Agricultural Building, a huge barn that was built to hold farm related items. There will be a Civil War camp set up on the complex grounds with cannon shots thoughout the day and a battle fought at 4:30 on Saturday and noon on Sunday.

Madison County is the headquarters of Fons & Porter who publish a quilting magazine, have a local fabric shop, and a quilting show on PBS. There is a large quilt show during the Festival each year. A handmade quilt is raffled and the proceeds help provide baby quilts for the neonatal units at Des Moines’ hospitals.

There is also a large car show on Sunday followed by a parade at 2 P.M. featuring many of the cars, bands, and floats. A local couple is honored yearly by being selected as Festival King and Queen. This year’s royalty are Willard and Eva Short.

A full schedule of activities takes place around the city square along with demonstrations, homemade crafts and foods for sale, a spelling bee and games for kids. Free movies are shown at the theater on Saturday including The Bridges of Madison County and John Wayne’s True Grit and McClintock. For even more information, check out the Festival web site here. Admission to the square is $3 per person or $2 in advance. I hope you’ll join us.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Books I've read this week - So Into You

So Into You ©2009 by Sandra Hill

About the book: She’d been a nun, poker champion, treasure hunter, and folk healer. Redhead Grace O’Brien thinks life is one grand adventure – until her hunky friend Angle Sabato suddenly declares his love for her. That’s one risky business she’ll never want a part of, not is she’s going to keep her past secret forever.

With heartbroken Angel hightailing it out of town, Grace makes herself busy working with Tante Lulu. Together they agree to help a poor teenage girl who’s trying to raise her siblings after Katrina by building them a new house. And Tante Lulu knows the perfect man for the job: Angel!

Angel’s decided he’s not taking no for an answer from reluctant Grace. Tante Lulu’s convinced they need her Cajun style of matchmaking. And Grace has braced herself for a lightning bolt of trouble, one that could jolt her into heartbreak … or straight into Angel’s arms.

I enjoyed this book a lot. At times the antics of Tante Lulu were almost laugh-out-loud funny. What a character! It would be nice if there were more people like her in the world with her generous spirit and willingness to help others. Grace and Angel were both hard-headed but when they finally get together the sparks really fly. The author does very well describing their actions and emotions. Great chick lit book.

I won this book from Bookin’ with Bingo. Make sure you check out her web site. She has lots of great book reviews and contests. Thanks again Karen!

Monday, October 5, 2009

My Alaskan Trip in 2000

I was VERY fortunate to be able to travel to Juneau in 2000 to visit a distant cousin.  My boss who was at that time eighty years old, had been having some health issues.  She decided she wanted to do some things for people while she was still around to see their enjoyment of her generosity. (BTW, while she's no longer my boss, she's still doing well at almost 90)  She gave me $1000 and told me to find the best deal I could for a ticket to Alaska and the remainder was for mine for spending money.  I think at the time it cost about $800 and I stayed with my cousin so I didn't have any motel or car rental expenses.  I had the experience of my lifetime and I'll always treasure the trip.

I have posted photos of my travels on my Facebook page and thought maybe you'd like to see them. Alaskan photos   This was only the 2nd time I had flown commercial.  It wasn't without a few memorable moments.   From my trip journal: (on the flight going)  "A strange old man sat by me on the Denver to Seattle flight. He kept using his left finger to silently work math problems on the palm of his right hand. Every now and then he would make a somewhat loud 'WHOOO' noise. We were served sandwiches and he took his retainer out and put it in his lunch box while he ate. Very appetizing! As we neared Seattle, he would lean over in front of me, looking out the window. Never said 'pardon me' or anything. I was really surprised that he was flying alone.

Something potentially serious happened on that leg of the trip also. I had my handbag open when I was writing in my journal and later discovered my notebook had fallen out. I managed to retrieve it in the tight space between the seats but when I was putting it back, noticed my ticket was missing! I told myself not to panic; I was sure it must have fallen on the floor, too, but I couldn't see it anywhere. Knowing I couldn't be the first and only person to lose a ticket, I was sure I could replace it somehow but maybe not in time to catch my flight to Seattle. I waited while my seatmates de-planed and looked on the floor. NOTHING! I sat there and thought about what to do - tell the stewardesses, cry, etc. I decided to look one last time. Bending way down and looking under the seats ahead.....there it was. WHEW!"

If anyone is interested I will post more.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (October 5, 2009)

I've decided to participate in J. Kaye's Book Blog meme, "It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" This is a weekly event to celebrate what we are reading for the week as well as books completed the previous week. Feel free to join in this weekly event.

Right now I've just started So Into You by Sandra Hill. I've been told it's funny so I'm looking forward to it. My family insisted I get on Facebook after our reunion and that's been taking up quite a bit of my time.  I've been posting lots of photos and getting re-aquainted with some school friends.  But......I have to get busy and read more books this week.  I will, I promise!  I have review copies of Letters to Rosy by C. Ellene Bartlett and The Recipe Club by Andrea Isreal & Nancy Garfinkel.  Both look really good.

What are you reading?

Weekend Wanderings

Sunday was our son’s 37th birthday. The last race in the series he helps sponsor was then so we met him and his wife Dianna in Des Moines Saturday and spent some time with them. First, we took them to lunch at Buffet City, 8801 Universtiy. This Asian restaurant has the biggest selection of any in Des Moines. Along with the expected buffet items there is a Mongolian grill and sushi. They fix a baked broccoli dish with cheese and seafood-stuffed puffs that are yummy. If you can’t find something you like here, you aren’t looking hard enough. And guess what – lunch is only $5.99 per person! Where else can you get a deal like that!

After lunch we went to Nobbie’s. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a giant party supply store. They were having their Halloween ‘fair’ and the place was crawling with kids of all ages. They had hair painting and a man who showed how to put on fake injuries and scars for the kids. The kids and adults loved to see the results. They have the largest selection of decorations and costumes in the area as well as other seasonal, bridal, and theme-party items.  Beware of the giant spider!

Although it was cool and sometimes sprinkling, we decided to check out the new John and Mary Poppajohn Sculpture Park. What a wonderful addition to downtown Des Moines! There are about 20 pieces and they represent all different styles of art. Here are some of my favorites. 

Des Moines has also done a wonderful job with the flower beds and planters along the downtown streets that they change seasonally. Right now there are mums, flowering kale, pansies, yellow and red Swiss chard, and dusty miller along with the done-blooming stems of Asiatic lilies as a background. Very pretty.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Books I've read this week - The Peruke Maker

The Peruke Maker: The Salem Witch Hunt Curse © 2009 by Ruby Dominguez

This isn’t a novel; it’s a screenplay and the first I’ve read. (FYI, a peruke is a wig.)

About the book: Inspired by true events, The Peruke Maker is a well researched screenplay about the spiritual and emotional journeys of Bridget Cane, a stunning 17th century red haired beauty, and Sarah, a thoroughly 21st century woman. Their paths become inextricably bound across time and space as Thomas Cane's vengeful curse continues to threaten the virtuous during this relentless quest for an avenger of innocent blood.

Like the book's 21st century time traveler, Sarah, the author's readers are introduced to this earlier, frightening world by the startling image of Bridget Cane, scantily clad, frozen in fear, her own imminent death portended by the Banshee's bloodcurdling cries, set against the background of a witch hunt that has reached a feverish pitch in a society where the fear of sorcery and the devil is as real as God.

The story builds with heightened tension and conflict and fittingly ends in present day New York City when Sarah's journey ultimately comes full circle as Michael's love for her triumphs over the evil she must face in 17th century Salem. The suspense leading to her final redemption climaxes in a dramatic and magical act of rebirth that transcends the grave at the exact stroke of midnight on the Autumnal Equinox.

This book was interesting to read since it was in a screenplay format but it can't take the place of a good novel. It listed characters and scene locations and then gave the dialog for the scenes. I was amazed at how well it worked to tell the story as I used my imagination to fill it in. It begins in 17th century Salem with details of witch hunts and how the suspected witches are tortured and killed. Bridget Cane was one of those innocent victims and her father put a curse on her killers. Going forward to the present day, Sarah Cane (a descendant?) is caught up in the curse and only the love of a man can save her. Interesting book.

The Peruke Maker by Ruby Dominguez
ISBN: 978-1432738884
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Date of publish: March 26, 2009
Pages: 124
S.R.P.: $28.95