Saturday, January 20, 2018

Parochial and Plain Sermons

Parochial and Plain Sermons Volume VII by Bl John Henry Newman, 257 pages

This is the seventh of eight volumes collecting the popular sermons preached by Newman during his time as an Anglican.  Most of the eighteen sermons in this volume center on the theme of religion - why it is a virtue, why it is difficult, its demands and rewards, but especially exhorting the reader to courage in the face of the world's perpetual disapproval.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


Tenderness by Robert Cormier, 229 pages

A psychological thriller told from the points of view of a teenage serial killer and the runaway girl who falls in love with him.  This book was even creepier than I expected.  I would absolutely give this to teens who like horror.

The Marker

 The Marker by Diana Savastano   346 pages

Despite this book’s less-than-creative title, I was eager to read it. According to the back copy, it was about a marker from a Civil War soldier’s grave and his attempt to have his body moved to its proper burial site.

I was worried when I first opened it. The spacing between the paragraphs screamed self-published. And spacing between paragraphs also, usually, means poor writing.  I’m happy to report that most of the book is well done.

The book opens in 1863 at Port Gibson, Mississippi. Dr. Bradley Taylor, CSA, is killed and is buried in a makeshift grave. He’s exhumed in 1867 for a proper burial but is mistakenly misidentified. A marker denotes the place of his burial.

The story then shifts to present-day New York City. Reporter Jennifer Beasley is in desperate need of a vacation, but her editor, Sam, talks her into doing one more story before she gets two weeks of rest and relaxation. So Jen and a reporter head to Florida on assignment.

After their arrival in Fort Lauderdale, they have a free afternoon before headed to their interview. In an antique shop, Jen purchases a grave marker that had been taken from a Mississippi national cemetery in 1952. She doesn’t feel right about owning such an object. Before she decides what to do with it, she has an unusual encounter. When she holder the marker, she hears a voice, begging her to take him home.

After her assignment is complete, Jen starts to look into the marker’s history.  What follows is a highly readable story. I can’t give away any more than I already have. I truly enjoyed this book from the beginning until almost the end, about a fourth from the end, the story falls apart and seems rushed.  Therefore The Marker receives 4 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world.

Last Stop in Brooklyn

Last Stop in Brooklyn by Lawrence H. Levy   320 pages

This book is the third in the Mary Handley series. I haven’t read the first two. As with most books in series, they can be read alone, but it helps when to have read the previous entries, especially when the author make a reference to the plots.

The time is 1894, and the story takes place in Brooklyn, New York. Mary is the borough’s first female detective. Her case begins with a seemingly easy circumstance of adultery, which takes her to the downside of Coney Island. I had hoped to read more about the amusement park’s heyday, but those are the details that Levy leaves out.

I got real confused after that. I’m not sure where the second part of her case, solving the murder of a Coney Island-prostitute. There was so much detail (except about Coney island) that I was often lost. Most of it was things the readers didn’t need to know. I know that writers are supposed to know everything about their characters,, but the reader doesn’t. I often got bored before I reached the end of a paragraph.

This books has other problems: the characterizations seemed off, the dialogue didn’t seem appropriate to the time, and I just couldn’t care about the problems of any of these people.  Therefore Last Stop in Brooklyn receives 2 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world. I did love the cover and the title, which saved it from a 1-star rating.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

This Savage Song

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab, 427 pages

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city--a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent--but he's one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who's just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August's secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.” The more I read Schwab the more I love her.  I’m excited to read the next book in the series and will be giving this series to teens who like fantasy horror.

A Gathering Of Shadows

A Gathering Of Shadows by V. E. Schwab, 512 pages

“Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell's possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland's dying body through the rift, and into Black London. In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games-an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries-a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port. But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again-and so to keep magic's balance, another London must fall.” The sequel may have been better than the first book.  I loved it and as long as people are ok with the darkness, this fantasy novel should please a lot of people.

Quicksand Pond

Quicksand Pond by Janet Taylor Lisle, 240 pages

Twelve-year-old Jessie spends the summer with her family on Quicksand Pond, a New England vacation spot, where she develops a star-crossed friendship with independent Terri, and meets a reclusive old lady whose connection to a murder that took place decades ago still informs her present--and affects Terri in ways that Jessie gradually comes to understand the more time they spend together.” This was a good story.  It moves a little slowly, but there’s enough action to keep kids’ interest.  I would have liked it wrapped up a little bit more at the end, but that’s a personal preference.  The ending made sense within the story.  I would definitely give this to kids who like realistic fiction.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave

Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford    336 pages

Author Bill Buford had thought of himself as a reasonably good cook, although he had always wondered how good of a cook he'd be if he worked in a kitchen. Conveniently, Buford became friends with famous chef Mario Batali, who offered him an opportunity to train in the kitchen of his restaurant, Babbo. Buford leapt at the chance, and this book documents his culinary adventures in Babbo's kitchen and beyond. Bufor describes what it's like to work in Batali's kitchen, but also travels to Italy and London, where he studies such things as the fine art of pasta preparation, as well as the art of butchery.

I had read this book years ago (it was published in 2006) but was reminded of it recently when I was reading an article about Mario Batali.  The article, which focused on complaints about Batali's behavior, mentioned that Buford wrote about Batali's behavior years ago.  Reading the book originally, I didn't think as much about some of it, although I felt that Mario was not only a bit over the top, but also that I didn't understand why Batali would tolerate certain kinds of behavior in his kitchen.  However, this time through the book, it is a little clearer on that last point: Batali probably tolerated behavior because he, himself, didn't think anything was wrong with engaging in this kind of behavior.  As a result of the recent news about Batali, reading the book was a completely different experience.

I did like reading about Buford's learning experiences, although I sometimes marveled at the fact that Buford was apparently wealthy enough to not only work in Babbo's kitchen, but also travel abroad several times.  That aside, it's an interesting book, although I felt that the adoration of Batali sometimes wore a bit thin, as did the extensive writing about butchery. But, that's just my take on it.

The LIKE Switch

The LIKE Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting and Winning People Over by Jack Schafer and Marvin Karlins       Audio Book:  7 hours, 40 mins.     Paperback Book:  288 pages

Great book.   I want to read it again it is that good with so much useful information.   A how to on reading other’s body language.    So many great tells given here in an enjoyable read.    You won’t want to put this one down and you will want to take notes.   I would love to sit in on a lecture or take a class with this author.   I would love to become fluent in reading body language and verbal tells.   Fascinating stuff.   I will never hear or say the well without thinking about what you will learn about it here.    And the ways he influences people to go along with what he wants is definetly worth reading.   He is like the Dale Carnegie of the F.B.I. set.   No wonder he held the positions he has.    And he goes even further – it’s not all about body language and influencing people it is also about telling the lie whether in person or in writing.   I may even go back over this 2 or 3 times just to be sure I learn all the great stuff he has to teach here.      Excellent!   Do yourself a favor and check this one out you will be glad you did.                     

Paris For One: and Other Stories

Paris For One: and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes     Audio Book: 5 hours, 30 mins.        Paperback Book:  320 pages                     

Great stories.   I think there are 8 different stories told here and each is delightful, even the sad parts because there is always growth that comes and sometimes the journey to happy has a few rocks along the way.   The good news is, sometimes when we trip or fall it draws our attention to something we had been missing until we are eye to eye with it.   Funny stories,  gaining self-esteem stories, adventure stories, giving oneself and others second chances stories.   I love it when the gal being forsaken and disregarded learns to stand up for herself and lets the chips fall where they may disregarding the jerks feelings finally that had been misusing these beautiful souls.    Repentence, forgiveness and romance as well as bolstering wounded egos.    These are great stories that will leave the reader smiling and glad they read them.    Jojo Moyes is my new favorite author.    Give her a try readers, you will laugh, cry and hear “Eye of the Tiger,” in your mind as you read at times.    Cheers, applause and lots of laughter for these terrific short stories.  

We’re Going to Need More Wine

“We’re Going to Need More Wine” by Gabrielle Union                Audio Book: 7 hours, 48 minutes    Paperback Book:  304 pages            

Wow factor here.   I am a huge fan of Gabrielle’s acting and will always want to see anything she is in.   I had no idea what an amazing writer she is, too.    She is also brutally honest about things both good, bad and ugly that have happened to her along her journey so far.     From her being one of two black girls in her highschool in Pleasanton, California, to her being raped while working at a Payless Shoe Store to her relationships to her failed first marriage to her current life with her 2nd husband, his two sons their life in Florida and how she constantly worries about it being a right to carry state and they are parents of young black men in an all white neighborhood.    She is also an activist and advocate for women in rape crisis situations.   She is actually a lot like the bold, strong, brave black women she plays in films.    She is honest and hard hitting in this book and shares who she  is and what happened without excuses.   I admire her honesty.   Like I said – WOW.    An excellent read written by an unforgettable phenomenal lady known as Gabrielle Union, actress, writer, activist, wife, mother.      

At the Edge of the Orchard

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier             Audio Book: 9 hours     Hardback book:  304 pages            

A true word artist.   This author paints such vivid pictures in your mind it is like watching a film in your head.   The characters are so real you will see the freckles on their faces and sense the sweat soaked bed linens when family members come down with swamp fever after moving to Ohio.    I kept thinking, “Swamps in OHIO?   WHAAAAT?”  But then I remembered St. Louis has swamp land – there are still to this day marshy soft swampy bogs in places around the Muny in Forest Park.    And Chouteau’s Pond (now the main post office and Union Station downtown) was known for its being swamp and full of flies and horrible smells.     As in the title the story revolves around the main characters apple tree orchard.    First the main characters lived in Connecticut where main character James Goodenough’s father had an apple orchard planted from Golden Pippin apple seeds brought over by his father from England.   In the excitement of expansionism James decides to move his wife, Sadie and their children west to Ohio.    The Goodenoughs lost 5 of their 10 children to what was known as swamp fever living in the swamp lands.   Horrible deaths and horrible emotions to endure and keep on keeping on.   Sadie becomes sullen and often talks aloud to the children they have buried.   She does not allow herself to get attached to the children still living.    She uses them to work the garden, work the orchard, cook, sew, pretty much everything she chooses not to do she makes the children do.    There are few kind words exchanged in the Goodenough home.    The parents fight like wildcats, Sadie’s words like she is poking James with a stick constantly berating his farming skills and ability to find them a good place to live forcing them to exist in this muddy, depressing bug infested hell hole.   Doesn’t stop James from reaching for her at night, though, he only speaks to her as needed till those times her constant berating get to him and he begins beating her.    He also beats the children within an inch of their life if they get out of line in any small infraction of his rules.    Sadie gets more and more depressed and when a local man comes to sell them seeds, seedlings and sapplings to help get their orchard going seeds for eaters and spitters (apples that taste good and are edible and spitters that are sour but make good cider, apple butter and to Sadie’s delight Apple Jack which the local man, known as John Appleseed, turns Sadie on to as a soother for her aches and pain and also to help with her grief.    There is an underlying heat between Sadie and John.   Is it sheer loneliness on her part, sympathy on his part or is there more there?    Men seem to find her comely.  J   There is a lot to this story and it is written so well it is like a visit to the past, every detail meticulously researched and related in such a way the reader feels they are there in whatever space in time and location is being presented.    The story covers the gold rush days, too, with apples being a connecting thread all throughout the story.    It is REALLY a good story – and appealing I think to both men and women.       The characters are written with such rich details you can feel the fabric described it is that tangible.    Descriptions of all the work involved and detailed canning procedures you can almost smell the apples.    Great story about rough times and the strength of the people that endured them.       

Paris in the Present Tense

Paris in the Present TenseParis in the Present Tense by Mark Helprin, 394 pages

Jules Lacour has lived a life fenced in by tragedy.  As a child, both of his parents were shot in the street in front of his eyes during the last days of the German occupation.  He was raised by genealogically and emotionally distant relatives.  He served in the French army in Algeria.  He enjoyed decades of marriage to a woman he loved with all his heart, only to lose her to a long illness.  His career as a cellist and composer, while comfortable, has brought him neither recognition nor wealth.  He has a daughter, with whom he has a good relationship, but who does not and will never understand him.  His only grandson is slowly dying, in a France where their Jewish people are rapidly disappearing.  Jules loves France, loves Paris, loves his family, loves his few remaining friends, loves music, loves his students.  He is quick to love and loyal to what he loves - to what has gone before - loyal to death and beyond.

Helprin deftly manages shifting between genres including satire, crime drama, and romance.  The setbacks and betrayals Jules continues to suffer throughout the novel are contrasted with his continual attention to - and devotion to - beauty, creating a portrait of a life and a world that are far from perfect and yet infinitely precious.

A Meeting at Corvallis: Emberverse Book III

A Meeting at Corvallis, S.M. Stirling, 497 pages, audiobook length 23:07:05

On March 17, 1998, at 6:15 EST, all advanced technology in the world stopped working – nuclear power, gunpowder, electricity, internal combustion engines, steam engines, all mysteriously dead, causing mass chaos and death from starvation and disease. In Dies the Fire, the first book in the Emberverse series, the Pacific Northwest began to reform into several new nations – the Bearkillers, led by the Bearlord Mike Havel, the Clan Mackenzie, led by the Witch Queen Juniper Mackenzie, and the Portland Protective Association, led by the tyrannical Lord Protector Norman Arminger. Ten years later, things have stabilized – the cannibal Eaters have mostly been wiped out, and there are no more mass dyings, but the nations are at each other’s throats. Arminger threatens the uneasy peace, and only the capture of his daughter has kept him at bay – but for how long?

Stirling’s exploration of how ordinary people react to extraordinary times is both charming and chilling in turn – the Clan Mackenzie, for example, is a neopagan utopia, where the folk live in harmony with the land and each other, whereas the Protectorate is a feudal dictatorship characterized by mistreatment and exploitation of the serfs who farm the lands. It’s difficult to tell if Stirling sees feudalism as inevitable and advantageous or merely a simple way of decentralizing government in an era without high-speed travel or communication, and in the long run the series probably suffers for this confusion – there is a strong running theme of the importance of a powerful leader to the development and improvement of a society. The books make an effort at diversity (one major and several supporting characters are gay, and there are a couple people of color, as well as a good number of powerful women), and as such probably deserves the tag of "diverse reads", but they aren’t always written with the care and tact one would hope for, something that unfortunately gets much worse as the series progresses onwards from this point.

It’s difficult to know whether to recommend this book. The concept of ancient technologies re-engineered with modern sensibilities is certainly fascinating, especially to this blogger – Arminger especially is often hampered by his devotion to purely historical methods, ignoring advances in engineering and social structuring even when they would benefit him, and the Bearkillers blend old and new with startling effect – but the frequent graphic violence (and in Dies the Fire, sexual violence) and mishandling of diversity issues certainly bear considering before starting this series.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Human-Powered Home: Choosing Muscles Over Motors

The Human-Powered Home: Choosing Muscles Over Motors, Tamara Dean, 261 pages

An impressively detailed look at the possible applications of human power (the most renewable resource) in day-to-day life. While Pedal Power in Work, Leisure, and Transportation focused exclusively on pedal power (naturally), Dean expands her focus to other uses of muscle power where pedaling might be overkill, such as treadled sewing machines and hand-cranked grinding mills. Best of all, the book includes multiple step-by-step plans for constructing and adapting your own devices to human power.

The Human-Powered Home also spends a good deal of time discussing the realistic power output humans can produce, as well as comparing brands of ready-to-purchase tools and giving easy-to-digest tips and tricks for embarking on your own human-powered journey. This book is really the complete package, a must-read for anyone aiming for a more sustainable lifestyle.