Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dewey's Spring Read-a-thon 2013: Hour 14


Kristin at The Book Monsters is asking read-a-thoners to post pictures of where they are reading today.

 Most of my reading is being done on the living room couch...
That green blanket belongs to Zook. He gets anxious if it isn't draping off the couch back for him to hide under! (That's Zook laying in my spot). Zook is my little shadow, always next to me, but there are plenty of other animals constantly vying for my attention.

Now if I can just get some reading done!

Dewey's Spring Read-a-thon 2013: Hour 12

Well, as usual, I'm not doing great at reading during the read-a-thon. Too much time spent cleaning, sleeping and blogging/doing mini-challenges. In fact, I just woke from my post-sugar snack crash! But here's my mid-event update:

Mid-Event Survey

1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired? As stated, I just woke from my nap. Even sadder? It's the second nap I've taken today. Reading does that to me!
2) What have you finished reading? The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
3) What is your favorite read so far? See #2
4) What about your favorite snacks? Oh, that's like asking me to pick my favorite child! Would it be the Honey and Mustard Pretzel pieces? The Cheesy Pesto Dip and grape tomatoes? The Sprite? The Chocolate Lava cake I had delivered along with the small pizza I ordered from Dominos? I can't pick!
5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love! I haven't had time to browse any blogs yet. I hope to do that this evening.

Dewey's Spring Read-a-thon 2013: Hour 9

This started out as an "hour 8 redux" post, but images took so long to upload that it is now almost hour 10!

Midnight Book Girl and The Fake Steph are duel-hosting another mini-challenge. The goal is to come up with a book sentence. Well, I came up with 4 of them-- two of each of the ladies!

 "One thousand white women, the lace makers of Glenmara, handling the dead-- the honored dead."

"Adam, the alchemist, you are not so smart!"

"Maman's Homesick Pie-- sugar, blood, bones & butter-- I'd know you anywhere."

"The midwife's confession-- the birth house, the stolen child, a cupboard full of coats-- secrets she left behind."

(Is anyone else having trouble uploading images to Google? These images took forever to upload!)

Dewey's Spring Read-a-thon 2013: Hour 8

Well, we're into hour 8, and as usual I'm doing poorly on my reading! But at least I have finished The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy! And I just made a batch of Cheesy Pesto Dip, which is now marinating in the frig. So I'll be snacking on that before long!

The Estella Society is hosting a mini-challenge that I hope I am getting in on before it ends. The task is to post a self-portrait. This is mine:

Since I've finished the Hitchhiker's Guide, I can now start Maya's Notebook and The Great Gatsby, and work some more on The Aviator's Wife.

So I'd better get to it! I'm way behind on my goals for today!

Dewey's Spring Read-a-thon 2013: Hour 4

Felicia The Geeky Blogger is hosting this hour's challenge, which is to retitle the book you are currently reading.

This is one of the two books I am currently reading:

And I would rename it:

"A Woman is Nothing Without Her Husband!"

That seemed to pretty much be the thinking of the time, and Anne Morrow wasn't recognized for her own accomplishments as an aviator, but only as the wife of Charles Lindbergh.

Do you have any books that could use a retitle?

Dewey's Spring Read-a-thon 2013: Hour 3

Well, this hour Sheila at Book Journey is hosting a mini-challenge for the read-a-thon. For the challenge, you are to create a book club dinner party for a book you are currently reading.

I am currently reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The Aviator's Wife. Since there isn't much I can do with the Hitchhiker's Guide, unless I want to serve tea, I'll have to go with the second book.

First, although I don't eat meat, in this fantasy I would probably have to serve roast beef, as that is what the book mentions Anne (Lindbergh's wife) serving when she first marries Charles Lindbergh. However while she serves it dry and overdone without any gravy or sauce, I would have to serve it with a very flavorful gravy and roasted vegetables.

And because this is the 30s, there would be some sort of salad. It seems they did lots of things with lettuce, even cooking it! And a jell-o mold with fruit in it. I think that is very 30-ish!

For dessert, I'd probably do something like Banana Pudding-- something else that has a 30s feel to it!

And there would be a cup or small vase on the table with Slim Jims, in honor of Lindbergh's nickname of "Slim"!

So my dinner party looks something like this:

Everyone decked out in their '30s finery, sitting at an elegant and simply decorated table. On the menu we have:

Slim Jims
Roast Beef, Roasted Vegetables and Gravy
Jell-O Mold with Suspended Fruit
Banana Pudding
Coffee, Water, Wine

And that's my 1930s book club dinner party for The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin! (And I'd be left pretty darn hungry, since I don't eat meat!) 

Go check out what everyone else is coming up with!

Dewey's Spring Read-a-thon 2013: Hour 1

It's that time of year again, and it almost got by me... again. I just realized this week that it was time for the spring read-a-thon! I'm going to work to get a lot of reading in, but the fact is that my brother is moving back here, and I just learned last night that he'll be staying with me for awhile. So I have tons to do before he gets here within the next week or two! So while I'll try to do a lot of it tomorrow, I'm going to try and squeeze some projects in today as well.

But let's start out with a little reading.

Introductory Questionnaire

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Southwest Florida
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? I'm looking forward to finishing up The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy!
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Cosmos Creations Salted Caramel flavor. Have tried these things? So good! I am also going to be making a small batch of the Cheesy Pesto Dip that was suggested by Heather on the read-a-thon site a few days ago.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I work in software sales and tech support. I love animals, and have a houseful. I am divorced and have no kids. When I'm looking to get out of the house, I love to visit art galleries, or to go hiking or kayaking.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I've been doing these read-a-thons since probably 2010. I used to try and stay awake the whole time, but I take it much easier these days. The goal is to just get in more reading than usual. Spend the day reading, and not feel guilty doing it!

Have fun everyone!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Introducing...The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

He is flying.

Is this how I will remember him? As I watch him lying vanquished, defeated by the one thing even he could not outmaneuver, I understand that I will have to choose my memories carefully now. There are simply too many. Faded newspaper articles, more medals and trophies than I know what to do with; personal letters from presidents, kings, dictators. Books, movies, plays about him, and his accomplishments; schools and institutions proudly bearing his name.

-- The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

SPOTLIGHT and EXCERPT: The Cuckoos of Batch Magna by Peter Maughan

Author Peter Maughan contacted me about reviewing his book. Unfortunately I couldn't take it on right now, but I offered to spotlight his book to get it some much-deserved exposure.

To give you an introduction to this charmingly told story, here is an excerpt for your enjoyment...


by Peter Maughan

When the Sir Humphrey Strange, squire of of Batch Magna, a village on the Welsh borders, dies, the title and what’s left of his estate passes, through the law of entailment, to a distance relative. And Humph, a short-order cook from the Bronx, finds himself most remarkably to be the 9th baronet. He has big plans for the place and they do not include the houseboat tenants on the estate’s stretch of the river. Eviction notices are sent out. In this chapter Phineas Cook, off the Cluny Belle, hurries with his notice round to the Commander and his wife Priny on the Batch Castle.

Chapter Four

Phineas walked along Upper Ham, and through the door of what was once the ticket office and waiting room of the Cluny Steamboat Company, to reach the Batch Castle, and out onto the landing stage, all now part of the paddler’s plot and moorings.

Both the building and landing stage looked much as they did in the  photographs on a wall in the lounge bar of the Steamer Inn. There was a wooden triangular pediment still under the eaves, like that of an old branch line station, hanging baskets of geraniums, hollyhocks and foxgloves in the beds, and begonias blooming in the fire buckets. And a Victorian lamp-post that had once flared in the river mists, a yellow rambler climbing still up one side of the office door, and crimson roses under the windows, the heated air velvet with their scent.

Phineas found the Commander standing at the starboard rail of the boat, bracing himself on his good leg, a pair of marine binoculars trained steadily on the wooded hills on the other side of the valley, as if watching for the smoke of the enemy.

He lowered the glasses when Phineas came up the gangway, and wiped at the sweat on his brow with the back of his hand.

“A buzzard,” he said. “Hear it whistling? There’s a nest up there somewhere. I love to see them soar, riding the sky, so effortlessly. And so free. I shall reserve a second life, after first returning as an otter, and come back as a buzzard.”

He glanced at the letter Phineas was holding, the white envelope red-franked with the name of a firm of Kingham solicitors. “Ah, I see you received the same signal, my boy.”

“So it’s not just me?” Phineas said, stuffing the letter into his shirt pocket. The Commander smiled. “No, old chap, it’s not just you. Ours came in the same post. As did one for the Owens. And presumably Jasmine’s been paid off as well.”

“A hell of a blow!” Phineas said, and looked at the Commander as if waiting to be told otherwise.

The Commander nodded solemnly. “As you say.”

“And completely out of the blue.”

“Oh, completely,” the Commander agreed.

“Jasmine’s not there, by the way. Or at any rate her car isn’t. I was going to give her a shout.”

The Commander motioned towards the living quarters. “The First Lieutenant,” he said, meaning his wife, “is in there now, ringing both you and Jasmine. Annie’s with her.” When storm threatened, those on the river tended to turn for the lee of the Castle.

“And you’ve been given the same notice on your moorings?” Phineas asked.

The Commander nodded. “Three months.” He and his wife, Priny, were the only ones to own their boat, buying it out of what was left of a venture farming edible snails in Cornwall, something else which had ended in a lively exchange of letters with the bank. “They don’t say what they’ll do if we haven’t moved by then. Sink us, I suppose.”

“Well, at least he’s given us good notice. Two months more than he was legally obliged to. Which is decent of him.” Phineas thought again. “Or is it?” he asked himself suspiciously, seeing that it involved business and lawyers.

He decided it wasn’t. “He’s probably got his own timetable. Besides,” he added indignantly, “the estate owes the Owens a bit more than that. A damn sight more than that!”

“Oh, I quite agree. I quite agree,” the Commander said, peering at his wrist watch.

“And what about you, James, you and Priny? What will you do?”

“Emm? Oh, well, we’ll have to sell her back to the estate – always providing of course that they want her back. Or we could arrange a tow – if, that is, we can find somewhere to tow her to. And if, that is, we had something to steer her with. The old duck certainly couldn’t go anywhere without a push of some kind.” He looked at Phineas, as if Phineas had suggested she might. “There’s not enough of her plumbing left for anything else.” The Castle was also the only one of the paddlers to still have the remains of an engine.

“Although I’d dearly love to be able to do that for her. To take her out as she arrived …. To put a fire in her again … smoke and steam in the air… her wheels churning the water white round Snails Eye .…”

The Commander’s good eye was distant and full of it.

Then he remembered Phineas. “And what about you, Phineas? What will you do, my boy? What are your plans? Will you stay here? Move on? Have you given it any thought at all yet?” he demanded anxiously, making up for it with a flurry of concern for his friend.

“No – I don’t know, James. I don’t think I’ll stay. Not now. I mean, it won’t be the same, will it?”

“No, old man, it won’t be the same. Not the same thing at all.”

“And what about Annie and Owain? And after all this time.”

“It’s an outrage. No other word for it.”

“And Jasmine and her family,” Phineas went on. “Where will Jasmine go, with … with all those children of hers?” he said vaguely, never sure, like most people, like Jasmine herself seemed not to be sometimes, quite how many that meant.

“As you say. As you so rightly say, my dear chap. Where will they go? Where will they go? It’s appalling, appalling.”

“And what’s he going to do with the paddlers, that’s what I’d like to know? The notice doesn’t tell us much, does it? Just that he wants vacant possession. So what is he going to do with them?”

“What indeed. What indeed, my boy. That’s the question,” the Commander said, frowning about him. “That is the question …”

He found his stick on the deck table, a heavy blackthorn, cut and shaped for him by Owain Owen, the handle, with a shine stroked into it from use, carved into a badger’s head. He then fished about in his trouser pockets, searching for his fob, before remembering that he was using his wrist watch this morning. Life had suddenly become rather hectic.

“What indeed. What indeed, my dear fellow,” the Commander muttered, studying the watch face.

“That’s it!” he said then. “Wardroom’s open.”

He was wearing a pair of creased white ducks, with a Royal Yacht Squadron necktie for a belt, and what was left of his hair sticking out in the heat in damp, greying, tufts. He had his head to one side slightly, favouring his good eye. Phineas peered at the glass one.

The Commander’s leg had been shattered when, as a wartime naval pilot on the deck of his carrier, a Swordfish aircraft, coming in after him, and with the pilot wounded, had landed nose down, shredding the air with splinters from the wooden propellers. When the same accident later caused him to have an eye removed, the Commander commissioned a miniaturist to paint a collection of plain glass ones, depicting naval battles and landscapes that spoke of England, and one flying the Union Jack when a bit of swank, a bit of defiance, in the face of whatever was called for.

“The Stubbs,” the Commander told him. “Huntsman and Horse.”

“Ah,” Phineas said.

Phineas followed his friend up the steps to the wardroom, a room stuffed with books and bottles, and copies of ancient charts, like storybook charts, marked with brimming treasure chests and spouting whales, and warnings of monsters, and cherubs with winds on their breath. Here, the Commander pursued his theories of such things as time, and of moons that had shone down on this planet before, and monsters that still lived here, and the location of lost Atlantis.

Carrying their drinks, they came out into the dazzle of sunlight and white-painted upperworks as Priny and Annie Owen left the sitting room opposite.

“Ah, there you are, darling,” Priny said when she saw Phineas. “Jasmine’s not here,” she added to her husband. “She’s gone to Shrewsbury for the day, the babysitter tells me.” She smiled at Phineas.

“What is it about your legs, Phineas, that reminds me I was once a mother?”

Phineas frowned down at his legs, in a pair of white shorts. Annie laughed. “It’s because they need fattening, like the rest of him.”

“I was hoping,” Phineas said, “they’d look less sort of obvious, once they got a bit brown again.”

“Leave the man’s legs alone. He’s got a perfectly good pair,” the Commander said. “The sort of knees that helped carve out an empire. His shorts could do with a press, and his hair’s too long, I grant you. And he needs to straighten up a bit, stop slopping about the place. But his legs will do.”

“At least he’s got the sense to wear a hat in this heat,” Priny told him.

“Put yours on, James, please. You’ll boil your head.”

The Commander had caught the sun on a trip yesterday in their mahogany dinghy, pulling strongly upriver, with a lunch hamper in the stern. His leg, which rarely failed to let him know it was there when on land, forgotten.

“I can’t, Number One, you’ve hidden it. She’s always hiding things,” he told Phineas.

“Something to do with her age, I expect.”

“Where’s Owain?” Phineas asked, while Priny located the ancient red-and-white striped rowing cap her husband had left on a deckchair.

“Helping out on a pigeon shoot over at Boden,” Annie said. She smiled sympathetically at him. “You’ve got notice as well, then, Phineas?”

Phineas nodded. “Yes. He hasn’t wasted much time, has he? And to not say anything to you when he was here!” He shook his head. “Incredible.”

“Oh, I’m sure he didn’t know it at the time, Phineas. He couldn’t have.” Annie looked appalled at the thought.

“He’s a businessman, Annie. A money man. To them, people go in one drawer, profit in another. And they never confuse the two.”

Annie had met the American at the Hall when he was over briefly to inspect his inheritance, and had liked him, as he had seemed to like her. She hoped he hadn’t known that one of the houseboats was hers, that with a few impersonal words that weren’t even his own, he was pulling over twenty years of family memories up by the roots.

“And Owain doesn’t know about it yet?” Phineas said.

She shook her head. “No. No, none of them do. Not yet.”

He saw she had been crying, the kohl she wore on her eyes smudged, and never very good at that sort of thing, made an awkward job of hugging her.

“Drinks!” Priny said brightly, looking at their glasses. “What a good idea.”

“Where’s Pink Gin?” Phineas asked when they were seated. Pink Gin was the
Cunninghams’ aged mongrel, a dog who, when the drinks came out, usually liked a drop of something in her bowl.

“Too hot for her, darling,” Priny told him. “She’s getting rather ancient now, I’m afraid.”

“She’s inside,” the Commander said. “Dreaming of past glories. Ratting and rabbiting in her sleep.”

They were sitting at the round white plastic deck table, under a large, Patio Living pink-and-white striped parasol, an oasis of shade and the chime of iced drinks.

Priny lifted her glass. “To survival.”

Like her husband she was good at that. Priny couldn’t be kept down for long, no matter what the weather. Even Hitler, with his promise to bomb Malta to dust, couldn’t do that when she nursed there during the worst of it. Not even the matron of her hospital could do that.

She was wearing a wide-brimmed sugar-pink straw hat, and what she called her mad old bag spectacles, emerald green, with two electric-blue butterflies perched on the frames, crimson lipstick to match her nail extensions, a poppy print shirt and floral Capri pants. A party of one in full swing, a Plymouth gin in one hand, a cigarette in an amber holder in the other.

“I’m just surprised the General didn’t do anything about all this in his will, you know?” Annie, who’d been thinking about it, said. “I mean, it’s not just us, is it. It’s the paddlers, and all that. Part of the history of the place, the old CSC. Our old tub was named after his mother.” She shook her head. “Just didn’t think, I suppose. That would be it. Poor old love.”

“It’s this place. We are children here!” Phineas cried suddenly. “Strolling heedlessly along, smelling the flowers and admiring the view. With no thought of what might be on its way round the next bend.”

He shook his head incredulously at the sheer folly of their ways. “Well now it’s here,” he said, looking at them accusingly. “Now it has found us.”

Phineas’s newfound maturity, worn over the past few days with a solemn, aloof sort of air, like that of a visitor from an enclosed order to the frivolous world he’d left behind, was now less in evidence. His expression, as he gazed hotly out across the water, more that of an aggrieved teenager who had done what he’d been told to do, had taken a more mature, a more serious, responsible view of things, and had ended up getting evicted.

“Bound to happen sooner or later, I suppose,” the Commander said equably, tamping his pipe down. “It’s the times, my boy, the times. O tempora o mores. The new order. It goes under different names but always calls itself progress, and we are in its way. And the last sad squires ride slowly towards the sea, and the new lords take the land. Lords who look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies. With bright dead alien eyes. Something like that.”

He put his pipe in his mouth, and then took it out again. “Come to think of it, I had a letter from one of them only the other day.”

Priny laughed, the sound pure bottled nightclub. “James thinks the bank manager’s been taken over by an alien.”

“It’s the only possible explanation,” her husband said.

“That’s what happens, darling, when you leave your hat off in the sun.”

The Commander ignored her, and lifted his glass. “Here’s to the General,” he said, and winked mysteriously at Phineas.

Annie laughed then, suddenly, at her own thoughts, and wiped at her nose with a hand.

“He’ll go mad, Owain, when he hears. Go mad, he will. Probably take an axe to the old boat, the work he’s put in on her. He only got round to finishing the paint job a couple of months back, her letters and scrollwork and all. Hopping, he’ll be. Bloody well hopping.”

“Perhaps that’s what we should do to all of them,” the Commander said. “Rather than simply hand them over. Hazard them ourselves. Sink them. Blow them up. Send them to join their sister ship, the Sabrina. Better that than into the hands of the enemy, and God knows what indignities. It could be said we owe them that. Both the little ships and the General.”

The PSSabrina, the old Roman name for the River Severn, and the vessel that had made the full complement of the CSC, had blown a boiler two years into service, when her crew, in an attempt to beat a previous time from Water Lacy, tried to shovel more speed out of her than her maximum eight knots safely allowed. She lay upstream of the Cluny Belle now, a diving board for generations of village children, and with moorhens nesting in her broken

“What, a few limpet mines on their hulls, you mean, James?” Phineas asked with interest, remembering a film he’d seen recently on television.

The Commander shook his head. “No. No need for that, old man. A few sticks of something in the bilges should do it. Linked to a central detonator.”

“A plunger. Yes, yes, I know,” Phineas said, nodding at it.

“Then bang!”

The Commander leaned towards him. “And we’re far enough away from the village not to cause civilian casualties or to take the Masters’ Cottages or the pub up with them. The General wouldn’t want any of that. No, it would just be our party. Us and a plunger. Bang!” he said again, the huntsman’s pink in the Stubbs like blood in his eye, the good one with enough blue life in it for two eyes, twinkling away, signalling devilment like a ship’s lamp.

“At night, of course?” Phineas said. These things were always done at night.

“Well, of course at night, old chap. Not a lot of point in fireworks during the day now, is there.”

The Commander’s head reared up at a sudden thought. “Of course! The very thing. The very time. On the day of the Regatta. A grand finale to the fireworks. It could scarcely be more appropriate. The little ships started the whole thing, let them finish it. Let them have the last, loud word. Eh? Bang …!”

“I think,” Priny put in, “that perhaps we should try something a little less explosive first, darling.” She could never be entirely sure with either of them. There was a part of her husband, she always felt, that had yet to return from the war. And Phineas, despite being in his middle thirties, had still to grow up. “And do bear in mind, James,” she told him, just in case, “if you are inclined to get any silly ideas, that the Castle is all we have in the bank at present.”

The Commander sighed heavily. “Yes, I know, Number One, I know. I’m sorry, Phineas, old man. It’s age. It makes misers of us,” he said dolefully.

“Counting out our lives in small change from a thinning purse.”

Priny ignored it. “We’ll meet tonight. In the pub for the happy hour, and see what we can come up with. Jasmine should be back by then. I’ll pop round and leave a note for her, in case we miss her, and she throws a drama.”

Annie finished her wine. “And I’ll get over to the Hall now, see what else I can find out.”

“What shall I do?” Phineas wanted to know.

“I’ve got you down for keeping an old party company over another glass in the wardroom,” the Commander told him, getting up stiffly with the aid of his stick.

“It’s not over yet, Phineas my boy. Not over yet, my dear fellow,” he said then, quietly,confidingly. “Did I tell you that a few days back I saw an otter? No, not a mink,” he insisted, as if Phineas was about to suggest it might be. “A mink is much smaller and a darker brown.

No, it was an otter. On Snails Eye. Disporting itself on a bank there. Sliding down a mud run and splashing away without a care in the world. A lord of time, with a fine set of whiskers.” The Commander stopped and looked at him.

“Time for animals like the otter, you see, Phineas, is different from, for example, time for a farm animal. On the whole, time for farm animals stands still, scarcely moves from where they’re grazing. If we were able to represent it on a clock face, you would see that in the evening, when it’s time to sleep, the minute hand had barely moved from where it was in the morning, when it was time to start eating. Which of course is how it should be.”

The Commander started and stopped again.

“Time for wild animals, on the other hand, you see, my boy, is almost constantly on the go. Here and there, this way and that. It leads them by the nose, as well as the belly. And when they’re not questing or eating, or engaged in sundry other matters, then they’re squabbling. And when they’re doing none of those things, they are playing. And then they are lordly, lordly. Time for us, Phineas, we humans, is a poor shackled thing in comparison. We are tied to it from birth, and burdened with its future as well as its past. The baggage of our lives, and our fears of what might be. And the usual spree of youth aside, we spend it with one eye on the clock. Unlike animals such as the otter, who chuck it about as if there were no tomorrow. Which of course, for them, there isn’t. They live only in the present. They cannot know time and so are free of it. And lords of it. With fields of time, seas and rivers of time, and all the skies to play in.”

The Commander shook his head with sudden impatience. “Anyway, anyway,” he said, moving again, and as if Phineas had diverted him. “The point is – the point is, my dear Phineas, that I have never, in all my ten years on this river, seen an otter here before. Never.”

He stopped again, and sighted Phineas with his good eye. “You do realise what this means, don’t you?” he said. “It means, it means, old chap,” he explained patiently, when Phineas appeared to have no idea, “that the General is once more among us. And why? That’s the question, Phineas. That is the question, my dear old fellow. Why? Why now of all times?” the Commander asked, and winked.

You can get your copy of The Cuckoos of Batch Magna by Peter Maughan now!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

REVIEW: All Different Kinds of Free by Jessica McCann


A free woman of color in the 1830s, Margaret Morgan lived a life full of promise. One frigid night in Pennsylvania, that changed forever. They tore her family apart. They put her in chains. They never expected her to fight back. 

In 1837, Margaret Morgan was kidnapped from her home in Pennsylvania and sold into slavery. The state of Pennsylvania charged her kidnapper with the crime, but the conviction was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. It was the first time a major branch of the federal government had made a pro-slavery stand, and the ruling in Prigg v. Pennsylvania sewed the bitter seeds of the states' rights battle that eventually would lead to the Civil War. 

Yet, the heart of this story is not a historic Supreme Court ruling. It is the remarkable, unforgettable Margaret Morgan. Her life would never be the same. Her family had been torn apart. Uncaring forces abused her body and her heart. But she refused to give up, refused to stop fighting, refused to allow her soul to be enslaved.

Paperback, 274 pages
Published April 2nd 2011 by Bell Bridge Books
ISBN 1611940052 (ISBN13: 9781611940053)

About the Author
re-posted from her website

I write. I live in the metro Phoenix area with my husband, two children and two dogs. And I write.

All Different Kinds of Free, my award-winning historical debut novel, was published April 2011 by Bell Bridge Books.

My reporting and creative nonfiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Business Week, The Writer, Phoenix, Raising Arizona Kids and ASU Research to name a few. Many corporations, universities and nonprofit organizations also tap me to write and edit dynamic communications materials.

Check out the author's website
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My Thoughts
Mama always told me bad things happen on Wednesdays, 'cause it's the middle of the week and the Lord just ain't looking then. I never really understood what she meant by that, because I thought the Lord was always supposed to be looking. But her explanation still consoled me when the goats got into the saltbox and Mr. Ashmore took the switch to me for it, or when my stomach was growling at night because rabbits had gobbled up our small garden and all we had to eat that summer was Johnnycakes.

It was hard to pick a place to highlight, as this book took place in areas across Pennsylvania, Maryland and South Carolina, and a very central scene to the story even took place at the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. However Margaret grew up as a young girl on the Ashmore place in Maryland, and Mr. Ashmore built a water mill where her father worked, and I liked this picture.
By Gabor Eszes (UED77) (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Margaret grew up as a free black woman in the south, born to two slaves who were freed by their owner before she was born. She marries an ex-slave who is now free, and they move north, settle their own homestead and have a few kids. They have a wonderful life together. Then Margaret is kidnapped by a man sent by her parents' previous owner, who claims that she is a runaway slave.

Based on real historical characters, this is one of those absorbing stories that can keep you on the edge of your seat, wondering what will happen to Margaret and her children.

The author reveals at the end of the book how this book came about.
The references you will find to Prigg v. Pennsylvania in history books are typically brief and lack details about the people involved. They generally emphasize that its controversial ruling fanned the early sparks of contention that eventually led to the Civil War. The history books will have you believe that is why the story of Prigg v. Pennsylvania is important.

Yet, from the moment I first learned of Prigg v. Pennsylvania, I believed the story was important because it began with Margaret-- with one woman's fight, against all odds, to hold her family together.

According to the published Supreme Court opinion for Prigg v. Pennsylvania, Margaret Morgan escaped a life of slavery in Maryland when she fled to Pennsylvania in 1832. She lived there several years before being abducted by Edward prigg and returned, along with her children, to her owner Margaret Ashmore. Prigg was brought up on charges for violating the Pennsylvania Personal Liberty Law, which had been created to protect free blacks from kidnapping.

According to several other public records, however, Margaret had lived her entire life as a free woman. The court opinion failed to note that she had married a free black man from Pennsylvania many years before she left Maryland and that she had not been listed on John Ashmore's deed of property at the time of his death. Margaret was not itemized as part of the inheritance to his widow or to his daughter, as was all his other property. In fact, in the 1830 U.S. census, she, her husband and their children were recorded as "free blacks" by the county sheriff.
Little else is known about Margaret, other than the fact that she lost the case against Pennsylvania that concerned her. This book speculates about how her life may have gone.

Margaret is a strong woman, living a blessed life with her husband and children, when Edward Prigg forcibly takes her and her children from her home and returns her to the widow of the man who once owned her parents.

I really enjoyed this story, although there were a few characters that seemed to have been inserted into the story for no real purpose, such as the character of Rose McFarland. She was a spirited and intelligent young woman that I would have been interested in getting to know better, but instead she was introduced briefly and then disappeared from the story again. It left me wondering why make a character so intriguing and likable just to have her be a momentary distraction?

My final word: Simple and unadorned, this hard-hitting story will leave you rooting for Margaret and her family, hoping against hope that she regains the freedom stolen from her. If you like fictional stories about slavery and the struggle to overcome, pick up this book!

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

Cover: B
Writing Style: B+
Characters: B+
Storyline/Plot: A-
Interest/Uniqueness: A-

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Monday, April 22, 2013

2013 Spring Dewey's Read-a-thon

This is the second time in a row that I almost missed this read-a-thon! Last fall I almost missed it as well. What is wrong with me?

For those unfamiliar with Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon, you can read the full history here, but essentially it was started by Dewey in October 2007 in response to her husband and son going off for a 24-hour Comics Day. Dewey held three of these Read-a-thons before passing on in November 2008, and the tradition is now carried on by those who helped her with the Read-a-thons before her death.

The next Read-a-thon will be this Saturday, April 27th. Check out the official website for more information and for the sign-up forms. You can sign-up to be a reader, a cheerleader, and/or an "Hourly Challenge Host", or you may volunteer to donate a prize.

If you've never joined in on the fun, it's time you did! You don't have to commit to the entire 24 hours. The goal is to simply spend a day reading as much as you can, and to enjoy yourself. Come join us!


 Image licensed from
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted by MariReads. I've received a few new books recently:

Nowhere is a Place by Bernice L. McFadden
Won through LibraryThing

Nothing can mend a broken heart quite like family. Sherry has struggled all her life to understand who she is, where she comes from, and, most important, why her mother slapped her cheek one summer afternoon. The incident has haunted Sherry, and it causes her to dig into her family's past. Like many family histories, it is fractured and stubbornly reluctant to reveal its secrets; but Sherry is determined to know the full story. In just a few days' time, her extended family will gather for a reunion, and Sherry sets off across the country with her mother, Dumpling, to join them. What Sherry and Dumpling find on their trip is far more important than scenic sites here and there--it is the assorted pieces of their family's past. Pulled together, they reveal a history of amazing survival and abundant joy.

The Book Lovers' Companion: What to Read Next
Won through Book Trib

More than 200 truly rewarding reads are covered, with a non-spoiler synopsis, background information, discussion points, and suggested companion volumes

With so many fantastic books out there, book clubs and avid readers can have difficulty choosing what to read next—thankfully, this comprehensive guide brings together the best and most loved titles for easy reference. Featuring a diverse selection, from Pride and Prejudice to The Handmaid's TaleThe Kite Runner to Cloud Atlas, the guide includes interesting discussion points and facts as well as potential companion books with similar themes, honest opinions from readers, and razor-sharp reviews from critics, so readers will know they're making the right choice every time. Top ten lists are also included, such as Top Ten Quick Reads (Metamorphosis, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie), Top Ten Challenging Reads (Anna Karenina, Possession), Top Ten Gay Reads (Giovanni's Room, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit), and Top Ten Chilling Reads (The Stand, Ring). Compiled by a range of English literature experts and avid readers, this book is sure to inspire any book lover.

Florida Wildflowers: A Comprehensive Guide by Walter Kingsley Taylor
Received through NetGalley 

I received an actual print copy via NetGalley. A very impressive guide to wildflowers in Florida, and so much more!


S.E.C.R.E.T. by L. Marie Adeline 
Received from Crown Publishing 

Cassie Robichaud’s life is filled with regret and loneliness after the sudden death of her husband. She waits tables at the rundown Café Rose in New Orleans, and every night she heads home to her solitary one-bedroom apartment. But when she discovers a notebook left behind by a mysterious woman at the café, Cassie’s world is forever changed. The notebook’s stunningly explicit confessions shock and fascinate Cassie, and eventually lead her to S∙E∙C∙R∙E∙T, an underground society dedicated to helping women realize their wildest, most intimate sexual fantasies. Cassie soon immerses herself in an electrifying journey through a series of ten rapturous fantasies with gorgeous men who awaken and satisfy her like never before. As she is set free from her inhibitions, she discovers a new confidence that transforms her, giving her the courage to live passionately. Equal parts enticing, liberating and emotionally powerful, S∙E∙C∙R∙E∙T is a world where fantasy becomes reality. 

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Purchased through Amazon (along with the accompanying DVD) 

From two of our most fiercely moral voices, a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.

With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth. Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope.

They show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad. That Cambodian girl eventually escaped from her brothel and, with assistance from an aid group, built a thriving retail business that supports her family. The Ethiopian woman had her injuries repaired and in time became a surgeon. A Zimbabwean mother of five, counseled to return to school, earned her doctorate and became an expert on AIDS.

Through these stories, Kristof and WuDunn help us see that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential. They make clear how so many people have helped to do just that, and how we can each do our part. Throughout much of the world, the greatest unexploited economic resource is the female half of the population. Countries such as China have prospered precisely because they emancipated women and brought them into the formal economy. Unleashing that process globally is not only the right thing to do; it’s also the best strategy for fighting poverty.

Deeply felt, pragmatic, and inspirational, Half the Sky is essential reading for every global citizen.

These are all used books that I picked up at the Sandman used book store in town:

The Quincunx by Charles Palliser 

An extraordinary modern novel in the Victorian tradition, Charles Palliser has created something extraordinary--a plot within a plot within a plot of family secrets, mysterious clues, low-born birth, high-reaching immorality, and, always, always the fog-enshrouded, enigmatic character of 19th century -- London itself.
(This book caught my eye years ago at the book store, as I am familiar with the term "quincunx" or "finger of God" through my dealings with astrology in my youth. I've wanted this book for years, and when I saw it in the used book store, I felt fate whisper in my ear!)

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

 San Piedro Island, north of Puget Sound, is a place so isolated that no one who lives there can afford to make enemies. But in 1954 a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder. In the course of the ensuing trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than a man's guilt. For on San Pedro, memory grows as thickly as cedar trees and the fields of ripe strawberries - memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and the Japanese girl who grew up to become Kabuo's wife; memories of land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbors watched. Gripping, tragic, and densely atmospheric, Snow Falling on Cedars is a masterpiece of suspense - one that leaves us shaken and changed.

(I'm always lured in by books that take place in the Olympic Mountains or Puget Sound area of Washington) 

The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty by Caroline Alexander

Surely this exhaustingly-researched, enthralling and enthusiastically-written tome is the last word on the most famous of all seafaring mutinies, that of shipmate Fletcher Christian and against Lieutenant Bligh on the Bounty. More than 200 years have gone by since the ship left England after dreadful weather kept it harbored for months, on its mission to transport breadfruit from Tahiti to the West Indies. The mutiny in Tahiti left the mutineers scattered about the paradisiacal islands and found Bligh and 18 of his loyal crew members set adrift in a 23-foot open boat. Bligh, who'd served as Capt. James Cook's sailing master, fantastically maneuvered the crew on a 48-day, 3,600-mile journey to safety. Caroline Alexander, author of The Endurance, is never in over her head even when weaving together densely twisting narratives, or explaining the unwritten rules of the Royal Navy, of the complexities of class and hierarchy that impelled much of what happened aboard the Bounty. The book centers far more on the effort to round up the mutineers than the actual mutiny itself. The book is enlivened by the colorful commentary of the crew members themselves, gleaned from letters and court documents. Alexander does us all the favor of presenting Bligh the way he was understood and received in his day--as a brilliant navigator who, when placed in context, was not a brutal task-master at all. She roots the tyrannical figure we know so well from the movies on the last-ditch efforts of one well-connected crew member to save his own hide from hanging. --Mike McGonigal

(I've been fascinated with the "mutiny on The Bounty" since Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins introduced me to the event in the movie by the same name) 

Lost Nation by Jeffrey Lent

Lost Nation opens with a man known only as Blood guiding an oxcart of rum toward the wild country high in New Hampshire, an ungoverned territory called the Indian Stream - a land where the luckless or outlawed have made a fresh start. Blood is a man of contradictions, of learning and wisdom, but also a man with a secret past that has scorched his soul. He sets forth to establish himself as a trader, hauling with him Sally, a sixteen-year-old girl won from the madam of a brothel over a game of cards. Their arrival in the Indian Stream triggers an escalating series of clashes that serve to sever the master-servant bond between them and offers both a second chance at life. But as the conflicts within the community spill over and attract the attention of outside authorities, Blood becomes a target for those seeking easy blame for the troubles. As plots unravel and violence escalates, two young men of uncertain identity appear, and Blood is forced to confront dread apparitions of his past while Sally is offered a final escape.  

(I don't know what it was about this book that caught my eye, but I'm just fascinated with it)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Introducing... The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

"Whenever you geel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."

He didn't say any more, but we've always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that.

-- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Monday, April 15, 2013

CHALLENGE: The Book Lovers' Companion

I won this book (The Book Lovers' Companion: What to Read Next) from Book Trib. This book has a list of 200 books, from classics to current bestsellers, that are recommended for book clubs. And I thought that this would make a great challenge! So I am challenging myself to read all 200 of the books listed in this companion.

This is a personal "perpetual" challenge, but anyone else is welcome to join in, if they so desire.

Below is the list of books from the companion. The ones I read are BOLDED, and if I have posted a review, then I will link to it.

  1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  2. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  3. Brick Lane by Monica Ali
  4. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  5. Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
  6. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  7. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
  8. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
  9. Light a Penny Candle by Maeve Binchy
  10. Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore
  11. Any Human Heart by William Boyd
  12. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
  13. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  14. Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
  15. Wise Children by Angela Carter
  16. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
  17. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  18. What a Carve Up! by Jonathan Coe
  19. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  20. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  22. The Passage by Justin Cronin
  23. Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
  24. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
  25. Room by Emma Donoghue
  26. House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
  27. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  28. A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore
  29. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  30. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  31. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
  32. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  33. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
  34. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  35. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  36. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
  37. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
  38. Lord of the Flies by William Goldberg
  39. The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass
  40. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
  41. Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky by Patrick Hamilton
  42. The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley
  43. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  44. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  45. Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller
  46. To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
  47. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  48. Atomised by Michel Houellebecq
  49. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  50. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  51. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  52. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  53. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
  54. The Girls by Lori Lansens
  55. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
  56. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  57. Small Island by Andrea Levy
  58. Atonement by Ian McEwan
  59. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  60. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  61. Liars and Saints by Maile Meloy
  62. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  63. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  64. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  65. The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch
  66. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  67. Suite Francoise by Irene Nemirovsky
  68. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  69. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  70. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  71. The Pact by Jodi Picoult
  72. Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
  73. Vernon God Little by D.B.C. Pierre
  74. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  75. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
  76. The Human Stain by Philip Roth
  77. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  78. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
  79. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  80. Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz
  81. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  82. The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
  83. Fortune's Rocks by Anita Shreve
  84. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
  85. On Beauty by Zadie Smith
  86. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  87. Sophie's Choice by William Styron
  88. Perfume by Patrick Suskind
  89. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  90. The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor
  91. Marrying the Mistress by Joanna Trollope
  92. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  93. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  94. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  95. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
  96. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  97. When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
  98. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  99. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon
  100. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Top Ten British and American Classics
  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  2. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
  3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (optional: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is considered a "prequel") 
  4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (optional: Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman was inspired by this book)
  5. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  6. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  7. A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
  8. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  9. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  10. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Top Ten World Classics
  1. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  2. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  3. The Outsider by Albert Camus
  4. Cheri by Colette
  5. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
  6. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  7. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  8. Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg
  9. Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann
  10. My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
Top Ten Quick Reads
  1. Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand
  2. An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge
  3. A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr
  4. The God Boy by Ian Cross
  5. The Barrytown Trilogy by Roddy Doyle
  6. The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
  7. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  8. Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively
  9. Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan
  10. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Top Ten Challenging Reads
  1. Possession by A.S. Byatt
  2. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  3. Ulysses by James Joyce
  4. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  5. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  6. Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
  7. How the Dead Live by Will Self
  8. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
  9. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  10. Germinal by Emile Zola
Top Ten Books with a Younger Perspective
  1.  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  4. Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence
  5. The  Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  6. His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
  7. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
  8. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
  9. Holes by Louis Sachar
  10. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Top Ten Humorous Reads
  1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  2. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
  3. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
  4. Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor
  5. She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb
  6. The Bad Mother's Handbook by Kate Long
  7. Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
  8. Anita and Me by Meera Syal
  9. My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber (a collection of short stories)
  10. Thank You, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse (the first full-length Jeeves novel)
Top Ten War Books
  1. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  2. The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell
  3. Strange Meeting by Susan Hill
  4. Dispatches by Michael Herr
  5. Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally
  6. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
  7. The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat
  8. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  9. The Memoirs of George Sherston by Siegfried Sassoon
  10. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
 Top Ten Crime Books
  1. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  2. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  3. Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell
  4. The Devil's Teardrop by Jeffery Deaver
  5. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  6. The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
  7. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  8. A Taste for Death by P.D. James
  9. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
  10. A Fatal Inversion by Ruth Rendell
Top Ten Gay Reads
  1. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
  2. Don Juan in the Village by Jane Delynn
  3. Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet
  4. The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
  5. The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
  6. Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
  7. 'Brokeback Mountain', Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx
  8. The Story of the Night by Colm Toibin
  9. A Boy's Own Story by Edmund White
  10. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Top Ten Cult Classics
  1. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
  2. Cocaine Nights by J.G. Ballard
  3. Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
  4. Generation X by Douglas Coupland
  5. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey (originally published as non-fiction; the author later was revealed to have fabricated chunks of the text) 
  6. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  7. Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
  8. The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart
  9. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
  10. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
Top Ten Sci-Fi Books
  1. The Boat of a Million Years by Poul Anderson
  2. Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear
  3. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
  5. Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
  6. The Canopus in Argos series by Doris Lessing
  7. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  8. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  9. The Humanoids by Jack Williamson
  10. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Top Ten Chilling Reads
  1. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
  2. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
  3. Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James (a collection of short stories)
  4. Host by Peter James
  5. The Stand by Stephen King
  6. Tales of Mystery & Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe (a collection of short stories)
  7. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  8. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  9. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  10. Ring by Koji Suzuki

Sunday, April 14, 2013

REVIEW: Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield


In the dark days of war, a mother makes the ultimate sacrifice Lucy Takeda is just fourteen years old, living in Los Angeles, when the bombs rain down on Pearl Harbor. Within weeks, she and her mother, Miyako, are ripped from their home, rounded up-along with thousands of other innocent Japanese-Americans-and taken to the Manzanar prison camp.

Buffeted by blistering heat and choking dust, Lucy and Miyako must endure the harsh living conditions of the camp. Corruption and abuse creep into every corner of Manzanar, eventually ensnaring beautiful, vulnerable Miyako. Ruined and unwilling to surrender her daughter to the same fate, Miyako soon breaks. Her final act of desperation will stay with Lucy forever...and spur her to sins of her own.

Bestselling author Sophie Littlefield weaves a powerful tale of stolen innocence and survival that echoes through generations, reverberating between mothers and daughters. It is a moving chronicle of injustice, triumph and the unspeakable acts we commit in the name of love. 

Paperback, 301 pages
Published February 26th 2013 by Harlequin MIRA (first published January 1st 2013)
ISBN 0778313522 (ISBN13: 9780778313526)

About the Author 

Sophie's first novel, A BAD DAY FOR SORRY (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's Minotaur, 2009) has been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, Barry, and Crimespree awards, and won the Anthony Award and the RTBookReviews Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Mystery. Her novel AFTERTIME was a finalist for the Goodreads Choice Horror award.

Check out the author's website
Friend the author on Facebook
Follow on Twitter
Become a fan on Goodreads 

My Thoughts

Reg Forrest lowered himself painfully into his desk chair, which was hard, used and creaky as he was. The dark brown leather was cracked and worn, the brass nails missing in places. When he found the chair in the alley, he thought it had a certain masculine appeal, like something a hotshot lawyer might own. But it hadn't taken long for the thing to seem as shoddy as the rest of his office.


Much of this story takes place in the Manzanar internment camp in California.

Ansel Adams [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This book starts with a murder, and elderly Lucy is a prime suspect. Her daughter Patty begins to question her mother's relationship with the victim, and through flashbacks we get to know Lucy as a young girl and to learn about her mother's past relationship with the victim, as well as other secrets.

Lucy as an adult is reserved and dignified, and she is loved and respected by her daughter Patty. However Patty doesn't really know much about her mother's past.
But there was the dark history Lucy carried inside her and never shared. The horrors of the war years-- being forced from her home and imprisoned, and then orphaned. Patty had never blamed her mother for trying to forget, but her secrecy had created a gulf between them nonetheless. It wasn't her mother's external scars that kept her outside Patty's reach, but the ones on the inside. What if they'd finally scratched their way to the surface? What if, after all these years, her mother's history had come back to haunt her? (page 64)
But as the story goes on, we are led through Lucy's past, and the horrors she experienced during WWII. From losing her father, to the government ordering all Japanese-Americans to interment camps, and all of the horrors of the camp, these are all revealed through the story. 

As a child, Lucy was sweet and smart. But she was also confused as the world around her changed. Confused by the animosity of friends at school, the teachers, the world at large, as the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and all Japanese Americans had to bear the doubt of their own chosen country.

Lucy's mother Miyako was a very beautiful, but a very flawed, emotionally unstable and dependent woman. It seems she married her husband in hopes that such a kind and tolerant man, and the quiet and stable life he offered, would secure her against a world she found overwhelming. She was often emotionally absent from Lucy's life, and Lucy grew to idolize and adore her father, as many young girls do. So when Lucy loses her father, she loses her bearings. And the next thing she knows, their family is being uprooted and forced to leave everything behind to move to a military-style camp in Manzanar, just for being Japanese.

Family friend Aiko is sort of an adoptive aunt to Lucy. When she loses her father, it is strong Aiko, her mother's best friend, that moves in and keeps the family afloat.

During her years in Manzanar, Lucy grows into a beautiful young lady, the spitting image of her beautiful mother, and she meets and experiences first love with a young man by the name of Jessie.

I don't want to give too much away about this story, but Lucy's relationship with Jessie led to one of my favorite moments in the story.
“Can I sit with you?” Jessie asked. “I mean, in the bed? Is there room?”

Lucy blushed, the sensation of warmth stealing over her scars unfamiliar and prickly. “Okay.” she wiggled over in her bed and patted the space she had made.

Jessie got under the blankets with great care, as though he was afraid of hurting her. He kicked off his shoes before sliding his legs under the covers, and they echoed on the wooden floor. The last of the sun lit his face softly as he pulled the blankets back up, his body touching hers at the shoulders and hips. (page 198)
I enjoyed this story. It is gently written, but realistic and hard-hitting. This provocative topic has recently become very popular, and there are a lot of books coming out now about the Japanese internment camps, and this is my first to read. And a fine introduction to this topic it was. This is a shameful period in America's history, and I can only pray that we never again repeat such mistreatment of our own citizens.

Lucy as a young girl is an engaging child that pulls at your heart strings. You want to protect her as a young girl. As an adult, you want to free her from her past.

My final word: This story wound up being more of a mystery than I expected. You get glimpses of things early on that slowly play out and reveal themselves, such as Lucy's scars. When you learn how beautiful she was as a girl, you wonder what happened to scar her? And who was this man from her past that is now dead? Who is the father of her daughter Patty? And then right in the end, in the final pages of the story...WHAM-O!...plot twist! And then another! And another! There were a few very nice, unexpected twists at the end that left this story very satisfying. This was definitely a worthy read.

Buy Now:
Barnes and Noble

Cover: A-
Writing Style: B
Characters: B+
Storyline/Plot: A
Interest/Uniqueness: A

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Introducing... Ten White Geese by Gerbrand Bakker

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

Early one morning she saw the badgers. They were near the stone circle she had discovered a few days earlier and wanted to see at dawn. She had always thought of them as peaceful, shy and somehow lumbering animals, but they were fighting and hissing. When they noticed her they ambled off into the flowering gorse. There was a smell of coconut in the air. She walked back along the path you could find only by looking into the distance, a path whose existence she had surmised from rusty kissing gates, rotten stiles and the odd post with a symbol presumably meant to represent a hiker. The grass was untrodden.

-- Ten White Geese by Gerbrand Bakker

Monday, April 8, 2013


 Image licensed from
Copyright stands

It's been awhile since I did a Mailbox Monday segment, and since then it seems to have changed hands. It is now hosted by MariReads. I've received a few new books recently:

The Third Son by Julie Wu
Received from LibraryThing

It’s 1943. As air-raid sirens blare in Japanese-occupied Taiwan, eight-year-old Saburo walks through the peach forests of Taoyuan. The least favored son of a Taiwanese politician, Saburo is in no hurry to get home to the taunting and abuse he suffers at the hands of his parents and older brother. In the forest he meets Yoshiko, whose descriptions of her loving family are to Saburo like a glimpse of paradise. Meeting her is a moment he will remember forever, and for years he will try to find her again. When he finally does, she is by the side of his oldest brother and greatest rival. Set in a tumultuous and violent period of Taiwanese history— as the Chinese Nationalist Army lays claim to the island and one autocracy replaces another—The Third Son tells the story of lives governed by the inheritance of family and the legacy of culture, and of a young man determined to free himself from both. In Saburo, author Julie Wu has created an extraordinary character, a gentle soul forced to fight for everything he’s ever wanted: food, an education, and his first love, Yoshiko. A sparkling, evocative debut, it will have readers cheering for this young boy with his head in the clouds who, against all odds, finds himself on the frontier of America’s space program.

Eyes Wide Open by Andrew Gross
Received from the author

A horrible family tragedy that may not be what it seems . . .

A past encounter with an infamous killer turns deadly today . . .

An ordinary man must risk his own family to find the truth.

Jay Erlich's nephew has been found at the bottom of a cliff at Morrow Bay. It's all just a tragic suicide, until secrets from the past begin to rear up again. Did a notorious killer, jailed for many decades, have his hand in this?

Years ago, Jay Erlich's older brother, Charlie, a wayward child of the sixties, set out for California, where he fell under the sway of a charismatic but deeply disturbed cultlike figure. Tragedy ensued and lives were destroyed, but as the decades passed, Charlie married and raised a family and lived a quiet, secluded life under the radar. Yet the demons that nearly destroyed him never completely disappeared.

When Jay heads out west to help his grieving brother, he is pulled back into Charlie's past--and begins to suspect that his nephew's suicide may not have been that at all. With eyes wide open, Jay puts his own life at risk to uncover the truth, a quest that goes beyond the edge of madness and a family haunted by a secret past . . . and into the depths of evil.

Drawing on two real-life experiences from his own past, Gross has crafted a richly personal, yet utterly terrifying tale of two brothers, one successful, one wayward, trying to bridge the gap of what tore them apart.

Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan by Sean Parnell with John R. Bruning
Won from Man of la Book

Former Army officer Parnell and collaborator Bruning (Shadow of the Sword) reprise Parnell’s 16 months as an infantry platoon leader in Afghanistan in this heartfelt memoir. In 2006, Parnell and his 10th Mountain Division platoon, the self-styled Outlaws, arrived in Afghanistan’s Bermel Valley, which borders Pakistan. Their mission was “to stanch the flow of enemy troops and supplies into Afghanistan.” Besides their 32 Purple Hearts, the platoon—which “usually patrolled with about 30 men... loaded into six Humvees”—earned seven Bronze Stars and 12 Army Commendations for Valor, making it one of the most decorated units in the Afghan war. Parnell vividly captures the sounds, sights, and smells of combat, and proves most eloquent when describing the bond—“selflessness was our secret weapon”—that developed among his men. Studiously nonpartisan, Parnell still raises important questions about Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s integrity, the competence of the Afghan police, and the sincerity of our Pakistani “allies.” Parnell balances sentimentality with sincerity and crisp prose to produce one of the Afghan war’s most moving combat narratives.

A Dual Inheritance by Joanna Hershon
Received from TLC Book Tours

For readers of Rules of Civility and The Marriage Plot, this engrossing, very smart novel about passion, betrayal, class and friendship delves deeply into the lives of two generations, against backgrounds as diverse as Dar es Salaam, Boston, Shenzhen and Fisher's Island. It is the most accomplished book-by far-of this prominent young author's career.

Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1963: two students meet one autumn evening during their senior year at Harvard-Ed, a Jewish kid on scholarship, and Hugh, a Boston Brahmin with the world at his feet. Ed is unapologetically ambitious and girl-crazy, while Hugh is ambivalent about everything aside from his dedicated pining for the one girl he's ever loved. An immediate, intense friendship is sparked that night between these two opposites, which ends just as abruptly, several years later, although only one of them understands why. A Dual Inheritance follows the lives of Ed and Hugh for next several decades, as their paths-in spite of their rift, in spite of their wildly different social classes, personalities and choices-remain strangely and compellingly connected.

The Bone People by Keri Hulme
Purchased from Barnes and Noble

In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Holmes, part Maori, part European, an artist estranged from her art, a woman in exile from her family. One night her solitude is disrupted by a visitor—a speechless, mercurial boy named Simon, who tries to steal from her and then repays her with his most precious possession. As Kerewin succumbs to Simon's feral charm, she also falls under the spell of his Maori foster father Joe, who rescued the boy from a shipwreck and now treats him with an unsettling mixture of tenderness and brutality. Out of this unorthodox trinity Keri Hulme has created what is at once a mystery, a love story, and an ambitious exploration of the zone where Maori and European New Zealand meet, clash, and sometimes merge.

Winner of both a Booker Prize and Pegasus Prize for Literature, The Bone People is a work of unfettered wordplay and mesmerizing emotional complexity.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Purchased from Barnes and Noble

A man returns to the town where a baffling murder took place 27 years earlier, determined to get to the bottom of the story. Just hours after marrying the beautiful Angela Vicario, everyone agrees, Bayardo San Roman returned his bride in disgrace to her parents. Her distraught family forced her to name her first lover; and her twin brothers announced their intention to murder Santiago Nasar for dishonoring their sister. 

Yet if everyone knew the murder was going to happen, why did no one intervene to stop it? The more that is learned, the less is understood, and as the story races to its inexplicable conclusion, an entire society--not just a pair of murderers—is put on trial.