Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough


Above is my breakfast this morning.  In the words of that great philosopher the Cookie Monster:

C is for cookie and that's good enough for me.

Today my writing is accompanied by all three movements of Pour le Piano by Claude Debussy performed by Gina Bachauer.

Years ago, the first time I moved to New Jersey, I was facing some hard financial times so my mother came up to stay with me and watch my toddler son while I worked.  Tuesdays were my day off so my mother, one of the most organized people I know, mapped out all of New York City and each week we would go and explore some part of the city.

One Tuesday it was the Roosevelt house.  Not only was it a fascinating tour but the information provided about our 26th President provoked an interest in that has lasted me the rest of my life.  I have read Roosevelt's own writings and have a couple of other biographies lined up after this one.




Mornings on HorsebackMornings on Horseback by David McCullough

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


If you're looking for a book describing Teddy Roosevelt's time in office this is not it. Lion in the White House by Aida Donald or Roosevelt's own autobiography would be where to start.

McCullough brings us to the brink of Roosevelt's political career and aside from a small afterward informing us of how all the Roosevelt children turned out, there he ends.

The book is still rich with information. Starting with Theodore Roosevelt, Sr, we get a solid and colorful background in which Teddy Jr grew up, as well as what sort of child he was which gives us insight into the sort of man he developed into.

Theodore Sr. was an intensely honorable and devout man. A strong Christian and the adoring and adored father of his children. A good third of the book narrates the close relationship Theodore Sr. had with all of his children.

He married a Southern woman, Mittie, the decade prior to the Civil War. Mittie was the quintessential Southern woman. Gorgeous, charming, flirtatious but completely in control of her destiny. Theodore must have fallen hard, even besotted. Their letters are filled with ardor on his part and teasing banter on hers.

They married and she, her sister, and her mother moved up to New York to live in the Roosevelt mansion. This must have been hard in many ways for the Southern ladies, New York being a drastically different culture than their dear Georgia. But it was also a blessing because a few years later, when the War broke out, they did not suffer the fate of the rest of their family and friends. Their home and all they knew was destroyed. Mittie's mother prayed she'd rather die than see the fall of Richmond. Her prayer was answered and she did die a year after the war started.

What Mittie's feelings were on the matter, we don't know because it seems to have been the culture at the time that one's feelings were not for exhibition. We see this later in her son, Teddy Jr, after the death of his first wife. He simply never speaks of her, not even mentioning her in his autobiography, yet from the records we know he loved her extremely.

The Roosevelts' lives would probably be deemed distasteful to modern sensibilities. They were unapologetically rich and lived a lavish lifestyle. Ironically, not because many people don't live that way now, in fact with our modern conveniences, the average person lives a more comfortable life than the richest person in the 19th century, but today it's gauche to be in favor of wealth, even if we enjoy it.

Teddy Roosevelt was sickly and an asthmatic. The Roosevelts traveled all over the world, taking an entire year to visit everything from Europe to India. This influenced Teddy in many ways and years later, as a grown man, he sought to replicate those experiences by returning to India and also living out west as a rancher.

Before that we read about his experiences at Harvard, and the impression he made on his fellow students. He was deemed a strange, awkward character with a high pitched voice, but he soon commanded their respect and he never lacked in confidence. Growing up in the Roosevelt household no doubt instilled a strong sense of self-worth.

One thing I must confess that I found disturbing was the utter delight in killing animals. Teddy describes with relish all the huge and powerful animals he hunted and conquered. I know there was a time when that was fashionable but I personally abhor killing for sport.

We also get to know Teddy's siblings. Corinne, the youngest, smart, devoted sister and the only one to live long enough to see another Roosevelt in office.

Elliot, the father of Eleanor Roosevelt, a tragic figure whose uncontrolled drinking put him into an early grave.

And the one Teddy was closest to, Bamie. Bamie had different physical handicaps, one being a curved spine. Her father treated her with the utmost care, usually carrying her everywhere and making sure she was deprived of nothing. Theirs was a special, close relationship.

And despite her physical challenges she turned out to be the most brilliant of them all, advising Teddy on everything from personal relationships to political directions. And I was glad to see that she did finally marry and marry happily, especially since everyone at the time had consigned her to "Old Maid" status. I would very much like to find a biography of this fascinating woman.

In conclusion,

If anything struck me the most it was the strong commitment and tender devotion Theodore Sr had towards his family.

The next thing would be the political shenanigans of the late 19th century and how Theodore Sr. did his utmost to eradicate the political corruption in New York and how this mantle was taken on by his son after the father's untimely and unexpected death while he was still a young man.

The courage both Theodores had in striving to remove the entrenched corruption and cronyism in the political arena of their time, how they fought against the majority of politicians, powerful crime bosses and indifference by the middle and upper classes toward the plight of the exploited lower classes is reminiscent of William Wilberforce's fight against slavery.


 I found this book to be an inspiring account of one of my favorite presidents.



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Friday, May 19, 2017

The Bewitched Parsonage: The Story of the Brontes by William Stanley Braithwaite


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The Bewitched Parsonage The Story Of The BrontesThe Bewitched Parsonage The Story Of The Brontes by William Stanle Braithwaite

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is so far the best, most interesting biography I have read. It's the first I read of the Bronte sisters and I do not know if it is the most reliable, but it is highly readable and informative.

Mr Braithwaite wrote this biography in the 1950s. I think perhaps that is one reason why I trust his biography. Unlike Elisabeth Gaskell who was a personal friend of Charlotte Bronte and possibly biased or protective of her reputation, and also unlike today's University Professors of Literature who insist on interpreting all woman's literature through contemporary social constructs (woman oppressed, victimized, miserable etc.) Braithwaite writes about his subjects with a cool eye and even-hand.

His biography starts with the Bronte's Great- grandfather, then Patrick Bronte, the father of the Bronte sisters, who was born and raised in Ireland.

Apparently, the great-grandfather came home one day with a swarthy orphan, whom he named Welsh because of his dark skin. When Welsh came of age, he inherited the property of his adopted father. It was understood that when Hugh, Patrick's father, came of age, he would receive his fair share.

This did not happen. Welsh took everything and outcast Hugh who then lived in poverty all his life as well as his wife and ten children. This was the world Patrick was born into. Coming from a family of wealth but being condemned to live as peasants.

This did not deter Patrick who went to school, became highly literate in classical literature and, with the help of a couple of Ministers, went to University and became a clergyman himself.

He moved to the Moors of England and married an English woman, Mary Branwell. It was a marriage beneath her, as they viewed things in those days, but her family agreed and she was devoted to her husband.

Patrick was stern, unemotional and Spartan. The house they lived in was dark, cold and damp and probably contributed to the demise of his wife after eight years of marriage and also to all of six of his children, except his son who drank himself to oblivion. He survived them all.

After his wife's death, Patrick locked himself up in his library and left his children to raise themselves. This they did as well as they could and, since their father forbade them to associate with the village children, they kept each other company and created their own worlds in writing.

Although they were kept from the world, they were acutely aware of it. Their parents had given them a rich heritage of stories from their family histories and also from their father's extensive library of books, of which they were given free use.

They also learned of the local village lore and gossip through a woman who came to take care of them after the their mother's death. This woman was the basis for Nellie in Wuthering Heights and also housekeepers in some of the other novels.

They eventually were sent away to a school that was to become the model for the school of abuse and neglect Jane Eyre was sent to as a girl. As teenagers they went to work as governesses for rich families, an occupation they all deplored. However, it gave them experience that expressed itself in their books.

A well-to-do Aunt sponsored Emily and Charlotte to study in Brussels for a time. What happened there is sketchy and somewhat controversial. Elisabeth Gaskell refused to make any mention of it in her biography but apparently Charlotte fell in love with the Professor presiding over the school.

How far this went, whether there was an actual affair, a mere dalliance on the professor's part or simply a product of Charlotte Bronte's imagination, is anyone's guess. What cannot be denied are the letters that she sent M. Constantin Heger. M. Heger threw the letters away, but his wife retrieved them and kept them, later giving them to the Bronte museum. Six of these letters survive and are included in Braithwait's biography. In my old fashioned opinion, they are not the sort of letters one should write to a married man.

No, they weren't hot and sweaty, filled with passion, but definitely they were the words of someone who missed a person of interest very much. The letters are filled with complaints that her letters were not being responded to.

It wasn't as though Charlotte did not receive marriage proposals. She received a number, but from nobody she felt she could love. I wonder if her longing for a man out of reach was an unconscious desire to keep love firmly rooted in a powerful imagination that no real person could live up to.

Charlotte Bronte's novels, Shirley and Villette were inspired from her time in Brussels and by her mysterious relationship with Professor Heger.

And speaking of mysterious...

Emily stayed briefly in Brussels but quickly returned. Her life was for the Moors. She wrote mountains of poetry that expound on her soul united with the desolate landscape she grew up with. Emily is a kind of cross between Emily Dickenson and Thoreau. She was rarely seen, although she had detailed knowledge of everyone in the village and she was a mystic. Her poetry is the type George Herbert wrote, except her god is nature.

Very little is known about her. Charlotte destroyed most of her sister's work so what might have been known is gone forever.

All three sisters were otherworldly. It has been speculated that they suffered from Autism, Asbergers, or had Radical Attachment Disorder due to being orphaned by their mother and neglected by their father.

Anne wrote the Tenant of Wildfell Hall and it is considered to be the most revolutionary in its treatment of woman who defies conventions and stands against the confinement imposed by society conventions by creating a heroine who leaves a drunken, abusive husband.

The man could very well have been patterned after the Bronte's brother, Branwell. I would also say that John Reed, the spoiled, dissipated cousin of Jane Eyre is a good likeness as well.

Branwell caused the sisters a lot of heartache and they spent what little money they had trying to erase his debts. But Branwell went to his grave a never-do-well. He spent his short life drinking and it finally ended his life.

After giving historical information of the Bronte's lives, Braithwait describes the writing, giving each book a chapter for analysis, not his but the contemporaries of the Brontes. It is remarkable and also humorous to read some of the reviews. Because the sisters wrote under male pseudonyms, some reviewers remarked on how accurately men were able to describe life as a governess or inside a school room. They were also excoriated for writing about women in unbecoming terms. Very shocking at the time. He also describes how they eventually got their books published.

They wrote under male pseudonyms and would have been content to leave it at that except for a rumor that their publisher was going to sell the rights to an American company without their permission.

Anne and Charlotte traveled to London by themselves, Emily of course refused to go, and confronted their publisher. The publisher had no idea who these two small women, hardly bigger than children were or what they wanted. It took a while for Charlotte to convince him that they were, in fact, Acton and Currer Bell, the writers of Jane Eyre and Agnes Grey. We can imagine his shock.

Someone who was not shocked was their father. He did not have an inkling that his daughters were published authors and it took them a while to convince him. One would have thought he might have left his library after that but apparently not.

Another valuable contribution the book provides is showing the inspiration for many of the characters. I've already spoken of a couple. Rochester and Heathcliff seemed to have stemmed from the same inspiration, which was a stern, very masculine teacher at the school they attended.

But Heathcliff also has family history. Remember Welsh in Ireland? Emily was familiar with this story as it had been told countless times.

Charlotte believed that her sisters' untimely demise was due to the deplorable living conditions at the school there. Both Anne and Emily were dead of tuberculosis by their thirty-first birthdays. Unfortunately, Charlotte did not long outlive them. TB claimed her life at thirty-seven. But not before she married and, according to Braithwait, there is every indication it was a happy marriage, although her husband was not seen as her intellectual equal. He was, however, extremely devoted to Charlotte.

As she was dying, she opened her eyes to see him on his knees, fervently praying over her. Her final words:

"Am I dying? But we have been so happy."

One final irony: During their lifetimes, the Brontes were poor and not considered of the class that could be recognized by the gentry (although Charlotte became good friends with contemporary writers after she became known, such as Thackeray and Gaskell). How satisfying it would be to know that your works are now bulwarks of British literature.



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https://typeset-beta.imgix.net/rehost%2F2016%2F9%2F13%2F22b1e2dd-6025-4452-a3ef-3563ceb53f6d.jpg
The Bronte sisters.  Painted by their brother Branwell.  Originally he included himself, but later painted himself out of the picture.


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Just chillin' with my peeps.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Miscast For Murder by Ruth Fenisong




















I hope you all had a Happy Mother's Day, not only those of you who are mothers but those who were able to celebrate with your mothers or at least remember her in gratitude. I know not everyone has the same experience with their moms; it's a broken world and relationships are not always as they should be.  So I hope for you all that there was someone who was able be that female presence in your life. And, anyway, I hope you all had a great weekend.


I had a wonderful weekend.  The above photos are of the flowers given to me by my husband, Josh, and my son, Derek who has come home for the summer.

Derek manages to fool me every time into thinking that he has forgotten about the special day.  He does this for my birthday, Christmas, whatever, and I fall for it every single time.  
 Ahhhh...life is good. And I am listening to Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor.  It is performed by one of my favorite Pianists, Martha Argerich.

And now for something a little darker.


Goodreads did not have a copy of this book available so I had to create my own copy.  We can all see what a good job I did with the title and I have no idea how to undo it.


miscast for murder ruth fenisongmiscast for murder ruth fenisong by Ruth Fenisong

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Miscast for Murder is the second story I have read by Ruth Fenisong. Like the first, it is a quick, fun read. Something to curl up with on a rainy weekend as I did.  I
also forgot to bring the dust jacket inside after taking the above photograph. The next day it was still there on the grass, all but obliterated .

Bess Rohan works for a publishing company in New York City. She has left the small town where she grew up under the shadow of a domineering, narcisstic mother and has branched out to develop her own person and make her own life and career.

Her father, Kevin Culhane, left the family when she was an infant. Knowing her mother as she does, she doesn't blame him although she has always yearned for a relationship with him. Culhane has since spent his time in the city, becoming a successful TV personality although now his star is waning.

While working in her office a young, cocky man by the name of Link Basset enters. Basset is a successful scriptwriter and also a DJ at a local restaurant. He is extremely self-assured and confidant and asks Bess out to lunch, or rather finds her leaving for lunch and joins her. Bess does not know this man, finds his quasi-insolent manner distasteful but is too diffident to shake him off so they go to a restaurant of his choosing where he pays for everything, against her will.

At the restaurant Bess sees a man she recognizes sitting at another table with a beautiful young lady. She has never met him before but she knows him because she has kept up with his career. It is her father Kevin Culhane. Basset knows Culhane and also the aspiring starlet he is having lunch with. He looks at them both with distaste. He is shocked when Bess confides in him that the man is her father.

Culhane does not recognize his daughter because he's never seen her before and soon he and his lady friend leave.

After lunch, Bess makes an impulsive decision to find where her father lives and meet him. She goes to the run down hotel he is living in.

In the city, Bess is living with her Aunt Alma who, unknown to Bess, has stayed in touch with her ex-brother in law. She has dinner with him and pursuades Culhane to come back to her apartment to meet his daughter. At first he is reluctant, but after some persuasion he agrees but insists on going home to change his jacket because it is soiled.

Alma waits in the lobby of the hotel while Culhane goes to his apartment to change. He never comes down. Alma, finally, after arguing with the boy at the front desk, simply scurries up to his apartment herself. She walks down the hall to his room to find the door open.

Alma walks into the room to find (DUH DUH DA DUM!!!!!) a dead body! It's of a woman who looks familiar but she's too frightened to look closely or stay long. Culhane is nowhere in sight so she runs home.

That is the premise and it is a good premise. Fenisong develops the premise into a satisfying story that keeps the reader in suspense as to what happened and who is the guilty party.

Once again Detective Nelson (he was in the last novel) arrives to interview all the players involved and to gather information. One by one we learn a little more about Link Basset, who seems to be more connected with the girl found in Culhane's room than we knew. We find out why Culhane was with the young woman.

We meet the victim's hard-nosed mother who demands justice but also fails to show remorse or produce an alibi.

Where was Bess when the girl was murdered? We meet Bess' mother, Lisa Rohan, and quickly learn to hate her as everyone but Bess does. We also find out the the murdered girl looks a lot like Lisa. Was there maybe a mistake? Was the wrong person murdered? But Lisa's fur coat was found in Culhane's apartment, covering the victim. How did it get there?

Finally we meet Lisa's new husband. A hard working man who has discovered too late that he has married a beautiful harpy.

Ruth Fenisong must have been someone, who, perhaps lacking the witty dialogue and writing skills of her contemporary detective writers (Stout, Fey, Gardner), still must have possessed a strong sense of compassion. Her characters all command sympathy, with the exception of Lisa Rohan, which creates a good plot and a yummy story.



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Apres le deluge.





Josh tells me I should leave my readers with a question if I would like more response.  So here is my question:

What do you look for in a good murder mystery (or any mystery)?

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas



 This is how I read a lot of the non fiction I review.  I try to be a good steward of my body and exercise but I must confess that stationary machines are sooo boring!  I'm also able to knock out a lot of my non fiction reading list this way.

Annnnd....I am listening to Pour le Piano L.95 Movement 1:  Prelude by Claude Debussy.  I have really been on a French music kick lately and I haven't even begun to post my travelogue about my visit to Paris last December.  This particular performance on youtube is by Arthur Rubenstein in his old age when he suffered from Macular Degeneration and only had peripheral vision.  Rather amazing isn't he?

But enough about me.  My latest review:

Amazing GraceAmazing Grace by Eric Metaxas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is the life story of William Wilberforce, the man who devoted his life to ending the slave trade.

Eric Metaxas gives us a thorough outline of Wilberforce's life.

Wilberforce was born to wealthy parents and was as religious as your average English citizen. Which is another way of saying, he was not religious at all. Of course, every good English citizen belonged to the Church of England, that was only civilized. But to actually apply any of the fundamental attributes of Christianity as prescribed in the Bible, well, that's the sort of thing those "fanatical, radical Methodists" did. Funny that Methodists were once considered fanatical.

Wilberforce lived a privileged life that was filled with drinking, gambling and all sorts of parties. He bought his position in Parliament with lavish expenditures on those in positions to vote for him.

He became close friends with William Pitt, the future Prime Minister. At some point in his political career he underwent a spiritual rebirth. This no doubt had to do with his friendships with some of the "radical Methodists" who influenced his life, including an aunt and uncle whom he once lived with as a child.

Thomas Clarkson, a major abolitionist, also influenced Wilberforce and through him, became aware of the horrors of the slave trade.

Metaxas' book takes the reader through Wilberforce's life, people of influence, marriage, sickly heatlh and his lifelong struggle fighting the slave trade.

One of the most amazing things the book describes is the fight slave traders gave, the waffling of politicians and the indifference of the English people against one of the worst and grossest exhibitions of man's inhumanity to man.

Most harrowing are the descriptions of how Africans were treated as they sailed the Middle Passage (route from Africa to America). It's not for the faint of heart.

The political backdrop of the American and also the French revolutions give context as to why the struggle was as long as it was. He also writes about the corruption of King George's progeny who were more interested in emptying the Royal coffers on wine and women than any humanitarian endeavors.

Not only was Wilberforce concerned for the African people but also for the poor in England. He championed the cause of the down and outcast in his own country. It seems heartless to us today but the contemporary attitude of the time was to leave the poor alone and it was no one's duty to help them.

Again, the Methodists created the soup kitchens and did their best to pass laws that would require more humanitarian living conditions for England's poor. This was derided by the rest of the country. This is evident even in certain writers such as Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. Both lampoon Missionaries and Evangelical Christians in their novels.

For those interested in history and the life of one of our greatest heroes (in my opinion), this is an excellent resource.



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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Pamela Smith Hill, editor



I am listening to Mazurka by Tchaikovsky, an interesting rendition on the Vibraphone, and Alexander Glasunov's (Mazurka Oberek).  


Pioneer Girl: The Annotated AutobiographyPioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


For those of us who have fond memories of reading the Little House on the Prairie books to ourselves and later to our children, Pioneer Girl is a heavily annotated book that provides the original manuscript Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote with every page filled with background comments by the editor.


Some reviews stated they found the annotations to be cumbersome reading but I thought the notes were what made the book worth reading at all.


In the 1920's, after the death of Wilder's mother and a few years later of her sister, Mary, Laura may have developed a sense of her own mortality since by that time she was in her sixties. With the encouragement of her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, Wilder began writing down all her memories and putting them in book form. The work was non-fiction and she was scrupulous about making sure her facts about names and places were accurate. She later remarked that she wished she had not used real names so she wouldn't be beholden to keeping facts straight.


Even with the combined research of Rose and Laura, there were certain discrepancies which the notes point out. Hill's notes show that she researched all available records in available newspapers, census bureaus, and town obituaries, marriages and land ownership. She points out when she could not find any record of people Laura mentions in her book or if she got her dates wrong. A lot of the early passages, Laura was simply too young to remember and had to rely on family stories and tradition.


The book begins with a long introduction which traces the inspiration for the book and how it came to be written. It also offers insight into the character of Laura Ingalls and her daughter Rose.


There has been speculation that Rose had a heavy hand in writing the Little House books but after reading Pioneer Girl I conclude that, while Rose served as a valuable editor, she ultimately did not write the stories. She was not above, however, plagiarizing her mother's work.


Rose Wilder Lane was already a successful writer and it was through her contacts that Laura was able to find a publisher. However, gaining access to her mother's writings, Lane rewrote the stories and had them published under her own name in various magazines.


When Laura discovered this, she was not pleased, but Rose made it clear that she saw nothing wrong in what she did and furthermore would do as she pleased. This led Laura to concede defeat but also to getting Rose to agree to allow Laura to collaborate with her on developing the stories.


Laura finally finished her own version of her stories and Rose enthusiastically promoted it, taking her mother to different publishers. They submitted a variety of versions but could not generate interest in the book.


One publisher told Laura that she should rewrite the book as a collection of children stories, told in the third person, rather than first person non fiction as Pioneer Girl was written. As we all know, this is what Laura did and the rest is history.


Pioneer Girl is the original manuscript, and after reading it, it is easy to see why it never succeeded. It's like a very long Christmas letter and wholly lacks the charm and enchanting innocence of the Little House books.


Some of Laura's true character is exposed and not always favorably. In reality she seems to have been rather bossy and judgmental, often describing people or events as "stupid". Nevertheless, she valued hard work and was severe on people she saw as lazy and leaches on society. Her strong work ethic caused her to judge hard drinking because she saw the cause and effect between alcoholism and shiftlessness.


It seems alcoholism was a real problem on the frontier. The first building set up in the towns was invariably a saloon which brought in all sorts of problems: domestic violence, unemployment and crime. Laura describes how alcohol abuse turned frontier towns into unsafe environments. When looking at it in that context, one sees why Temperance societies sprang up.


Laura was rather harsh on a variety of people. While the Little House books describe her family as practicing the Christian religion and going to church, when a church was available, the real Laura does not strike me as having been particularly religious. I could be wrong because she makes no explicit statement but she does demonstrate her contempt for preachers and Sunday School teachers by providing several examples that put them in a negative light.


Perhaps these are real and vivid memories for her, but was every Christian she met greedy, selfish and dishonest? Especially when we arrive at the conclusion that Laura was not overly honest herself.


In her "non fiction" record she includes a story where her father encounters the Bender family and joins a group of vigilantes who capture and administer "justice" to this serial-killing family. Hill notes in the side bar that by looking at the dates the Bender family lived in Kansas, the Ingalls family lived nowhere near the area.


It is speculated that Rose and Laura were hoping to include a notorious crime legend like the Bender family, so it would add spice to the story and increase sales. It is unfortunate that Laura read her stories at a book fair and declared that every word she wrote was "absolutely true."


Those negatives aside, and they are minor negatives in my opinion, what makes the book worth reading is the background and biographical information that Hill provides as well as the many photographs of the Ingalls family and also many of the characters in the book. 




For those of us who love the Little House books, this book will give a richer dimension, even if we learn "our Laura" was as human as the rest of us.



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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Fifth Day Sea Creatures by Christopher E. Wade



The Fifth Day Sea CreaturesThe Fifth Day Sea Creatures by Christopher E Wade

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is a gorgeous book with a bold message. On the fifth day God created sea creatures. It is one in what is going to be a series for each day that God created.

Chris Wade uses a combination of watercolor and pointillism to illustrate his sea creatures. He also uses a one word description for each. Therefore a Blue whale is "Big"; a Coelacanth is "Fancy" a Sea Horse is "unique" and so on.

The simple one word descriptions are appropriate for young years but the lovely, sophisticated illustrations are for everyone with an eye for beauty.

Unfortunately the book is recently out and there is no image so I am inserting one of my copy.



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Because the book is fresh off the press I want to show a few of the illustrations to give people a better idea of what the book contains.

Yes, that is me holding the book down taking photos with my cell phone but at least you'll have an idea:













And if you're wondering why I am reviewing a children's book, I confess it is because someone very special to me created it.  Chris Wade is the wonderful husband of my sister Debbie and father of my two adorable nieces to whom he has dedicated his art work.

If you are interested in buying the book it is available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon

Below is a link to his web site:



Sunday, April 30, 2017

Deadlock by Ruth Fenisong


Today was a sad weekend.  Lately I have had a horrible time keeping my boy guinea pigs in their pen outside.  Somehow they were breaking out and finding their way to the girl guinea pig pens.  No doubt the girls are pregnant and this has also made the boys aggressive with each other.

So, with heavy heart, I gave the girls away to a family with middle school children who are excited about caring for them and are delighted that they are pregnant.  A teenage boy took Bosephus Hambone.  Thank you Craigslist.

So goodbye Bosephus





 Goodbye Henrietta Sweet Pea


And goodbye my little Nellybelle





That leaves me with my two original piggies, Percy and Little Bear.  I combined the pens and they now have a lot of room to run around in.  They seem to have accepted that the girls are gone and have settled down.

 Appropriately, I am listening to some poignant music:  the Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor Mov. IV by Gustav Mahler

I may have mentioned that I read nonfiction and fiction during the week, but weekends are for fun and that usually means a mystery novel.  Today's review is on what I read this past weekend by a new (to me) author.

DeadlockDeadlock by Ruth Fenisong

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I had never read anything by Ruth Fenisong before. She has not lasted as Dorothy Sayers, Rex Stout, or Erle Stanley Gardner have (not to mention Josephine Tey and Agatha Christie) and maybe with good reason.

Her writing is definitely dated, which is not a bad thing in that it can give the reader a taste of a writing style that speaks of a certain era, even if it is archaic. In this case the style is one that was popular in the fifties.

The mystery is not extraordinarily profound although it does keep the reader moving to the end.

What I liked especially was that none of the characters were one dimensional or hateful. Each person was presented in a way that allowed the reader to feel a certain amount of compassion for them.

From the get go the murder victim, Glen Williams, is not shown to be a sympathetic character. Before we turn the first page we know that he is a drug addict and trafficker and a very wealthy one. Or is he?

As the story develops we learn through the various suspects and eyewitnesses that Glen was someone who created an image for himself as very important person who had all sorts of terribly "high up" connections that he was going to use to "help" all his new friends become "hugely successful". As we learn through the other characters, perhaps Glen was not rich or particularly important, in fact maybe he created this legend of himself in order to manipulate other people.

But why? The people he manipulated were just every day people, usually struggling in the world trying to make ends meet. What purpose did it serve to deceive these people? They had no money or connections themselves? Was it just a fantasy world that he wrapped himself up in?

The motive is not immediately apparent. Unlike Agatha Christie whose normal formula was to make the victim someone whom everyone would like dead, we don't see at first what the motive for murder would be.

And, as I said, the other characters, while not perfect, certainly don't seem capable of murdering anyone. So who did it?

All of the above makes a decent story but what sold me and what inspires me to read more stories by Fenisong (she was rather prolific so there's plenty of her material to be had) is that the police aren't stooges to be outwitted by a brilliant detective (think Nero Wolfe or Nick Charles) but decent, intelligent people who care about getting home to have supper with their wives while getting to the bottom of the mystery instead of plowing over everybody to get a verdict. This really appeals to me and why I like Josephine Tey's Inspector Grant so much.

The ending might be considered by some a little hokey but I didn't mind it.

Since finishing Deadlock I have bought two more Fenisong mysteries. Josh said I could break the book fast and buy three books, one for each pig I gave up.



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Hercule Parroh has taken the departure of the pigs more philosophically than me.  "Just a few less ears to nip."