Friday, December 23, 2016

702 (2016 #57). Fire Along the Sky

by Sara Donati,
read by Kate Reading

This is the fourth book in Sara Donati's Wilderness series, featuring the Bonner family (and their friends and kin) of New York.  This one takes place in 1812-1813, ten to eleven years after the previous book.

The original couple, Nathaniel and Elizabeth Middleton Bonner, are still a part of the story, but the focus is on their four adult children - particularly the girls, Hannah (28 when the book begins) and Lily (18).  Their distant cousin Jennet (also 28) comes from Scotland, looking to rekindle her love with the oldest son, Luke, after being widowed.  And Lily's twin Daniel goes off to fight in what we today call the War of 1812.

The author readily admits in a note at the end that "in pursuit of a good story, I have fiddled with the facts" (page 657).  I think she gets away with it because so little is taught (in American schools at least) about the War of 1812, the backdrop for this story - what she writes seems plausible.  Her depictions of city and frontier life in that era feel spot on.

I don't want to give too much of the complex plot away.  Besides Paradise, the fictional town in the real Adirondacks near Lake George and Saratoga (both of which I have visited), the book also has as settings Montreal (Luke's home, where Lily goes for a while to study art), and Île aux Noix, or Nut Island, in the middle of a river in Canada just north of the border.  Let's just say the story kept me engrossed.

It also ends with a major event that sets up the next book in the series.  It's so compelling that I had to go borrow the book today to start reading it - I'd planned to take a break in this series for a good month!  Oh well!  I will miss Kate Reading's excellent narration in the audiobook format.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This e-audiobook, along with print and electronic copies, were borrowed from and returned to public libraries.]

Thursday, December 22, 2016

701 (2016 #56). The Liszts

by Kyo Maclear,
illustrated by Júlia Sardà

The Liszts is a picture book with a subtle message about getting away from our obsessions and being open to the unexpected and spontaneous.  In this case, the obsession is list-making.  The Liszts make lists.  When a visitor comes ("the door was open"), only middle child Edward is open to possibilities and asking questions.  Kyo Maclear's story is more appropriate for older children - younger ones will probably miss the point.

The Liszt family (and the visiting stranger) look like a mix of the 1960s Munsters and Addams Family, only with a bit more color.  Readers who remember these series might appreciated that, as well as some of the clever text.  Rendered digitally by Júlia Sardà, the illustrations are incredibly detailed.  However, this, along with the text hand-lettered by Sardà, further makes the book more suited to older children, or perhaps as a read-aloud by an adult.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.]

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

700 (2016 #55). Where Texas Meets the Sea

by Alan Lessoff

The subtitle to Where Texas Meets the Sea is a little misleading.  "Corpus Christi & Its History" is missing a modifier.  From that title, many readers would expect a chronological history of this coastal city, and that is not what you get.  Maybe "A Thematic History of Corpus Christi" would have been a better subtitle.

This is definitely an academic book.  Five of the six chapters in the book are based on four articles (which I plan to read) that the author previously published in academic journals.  The one chapter that did not - chapter five - concerned downtown planning and historic preservation efforts, the topics of most interest to me.

Parts of this fifth chapter describe the angst over the preservation of the 1914 county courthouse (the "Acropolis of our city," pages 222 and 225), still standing, and the 1950s civic center designed by Richard Colley (particularly Memorial Coliseum, the "'Quonset hut' of Sisyphus," pages 232 and 233, demolished in 2010 with its Friends group ordered to pay the city $30,000 for causing delays).  This was fascinating, as was the description of the "building zoo" (pages 216, 220, and 240) of Heritage Park, which began while I worked for the city's Park and Recreation Department.  Chapter four was also quite intriguing, with its focus on the public sculpture in the city and its effect on civic identity.

Chapter one describes Corpus Christi's history in four rough periods (page 61):

From the 1830s to the 1870s, Corpus Christi was an outpost town, a spearhead of Anglo-American expansion into a contested region.  From the 1870s to the 1910s, it was a coastal town, the gateway and service center for a region that Anglo-Americans controlled and were colonizing.  From the 1910s to the 1960s, it was a crystallizing city; in this period, the pillars of Corpus Christi's modern political economy were built.  From the 1960s into the 2000s, Corpus Christi was a developed city, a "mature" place, as economists use the term.

Chapters two and three present the alternate viewpoints of the city's "role in two grand, competing stories of the founding of Texas...the south-to-north Tejano saga of explorers and conquistadores, missionaries and empresarios, vaqueros and carters, invasion, expropriation, and borderland violence..[and]..the east-to-west Anglo-Texan epic of frontier settlements, ranchers, vigilantes, and rangers, the Texas Revolution, the Mexican War, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and railroads" (page 5).

Chapter six focuses on the period from about 1965 through 2012, when Corpus Christi pretty much settled into its role as a secondary, regional city, satellite to bigger ones in the state.  I don't necessarily think that is a bad thing, though.  In two visits this past summer, ten years after a previous visit, I was awed by how physically large the city had become - and saddened by some of the ensuing infrastructure problems (a failing water system and streets in bad condition), that, to my mind, were perhaps the result of too much political emphasis on trying to be an impressive city.  I for one would not want Corpus Christi to be another Houston or Dallas-Fort Worth, or even Austin or San Antonio.

The last two sentences of the book's conclusion pretty well sum up my feelings about Corpus Christi, a city that will always be close to my heart, the city of my youth and first real love, a city that will always intrigue and fascinate me (page 294):

In a photograph or in a book, people remain unchanging, ever present for those who come later, even though life and the city move relentlessly on.  All the evidence that a city's people leave behind, all their attempts to express their experiences of a place, all their wrestling with its myths, history, arguments, and prospects, its grandeur and its disappointments, all these make that city endure and its people matter.

Author Alan Lessoff, a specialist in comparative urban history, was an assistant and associate professor of history at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi from 1992 to 2000, and made great use of its archives and special collections library, as well as other resources there when writing at least three of the four articles that formed the basis of this book.

My spouse and I both worked in Corpus Christi's city government from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, and are familiar with many of the issues raised in this book.  My in-laws also married and lived there from the late 1930s through the late 1940s (in association with the Navy, one of the city's strongholds), when my husband was little. We also both have extended family in the city going back to 1878 (including Mayor A. A. Lichtenstein and his family's department store, and others in the tourism and health care fields).  Given this background and our knowledge, we were keenly interested in the book.  I think others with long and/or deep ties to Corpus Christi, as well as students of urban history and planning, would also like this book.

The 360-page print book includes 49 pages of end notes and a twelve-page index.  Although the end notes in the printed book conveniently have a notation on the bottom of each page as to which pages in the text they cover, I nevertheless found them somewhat frustrating.  The Corpus Christi newspapers are a major source used, and all that is given for these is the newspaper title and issue date.  With Corpus Christi being a large city, I would have appreciated titles of the articles and/or section and page numbers, as it will take a long time to find the actual article source within an issue of the newspaper.

For this book in particular, I would first recommend reading the blurb and excerpt from the introduction available on the publisher's website.  That introduction is also available as a free sample of the Kindle version of the book - albeit without working footnote links.

I probably sound critical of the book, but it is important to note it's not for everyone.  I liked it enough that I plan to purchase the Kindle version to have for future reference.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This book was borrowed and returned through interlibrary loan.]

Friday, December 09, 2016

699 (2016 #54). The Chilbury Ladies' Choir

by Jennifer Ryan

It's March 1940 in the fictional village of Chilbury, in Kent in England.  The vicar of the local church has just posted a notice that, because the male voices are gone due to the war, the choir will be disbanded.  The women left in the group disagree, and with the help of a new female music tutor in town, they form the Chilbury Ladies' Choir.

Margaret Tilling, sisters Kitty (13) and Venetia (18) Winthrop and Silvie (the ten-year-old Czech refugee living with them), and the devious midwife Edwina Paltry tell the story through letters, and diary and journal entries (along with a few from a few other characters) over the next six months, as World War II affects the town.

The first four women are in the choir.  Edwina is not, and it is her story that I found least plausible.  Nevertheless, the book is enjoyable, particularly with the well-defined character development in Margaret, Kitty, and Venetia.

Debut author Jennifer Ryan said she was inspired by her grandmother's stories of the war in England, where Ryan grew up.  In her acknowledgments at the end of the book, she also refers to Mass Observation, a project to "record everyday life in Britain," which recruited about 500 volunteer writers to keep diaries from 1939 into the 1950s and 1960s.  The diary of  Nella Last in particular informed Ryan's writing.

A number of songs the choir (or others) perform are specifically mentioned in the story.  I can see a playlist created of these songs to be played in the background during a book club discussion.

I would recommend this book especially to fans of World War II women's fiction.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this advance reader edition through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It will be passed on to someone else to enjoy.]

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

698 (2016 #53). The Taming of the Queen

by Philippa Gregory

This is the seventh book written in Philippa Gregory's Tudor Court series, the other six having been completed by 2008.  She had written about all of Henry VIII's six wives but the last one - Kateryn (or Catherine) Parr.  That's who this book is about.

The previously twice-widowed Parr outlived Henry - but barely.  Near the end of his life, some of his advisers were trying to oust her for her religious beliefs.  Kateryn managed to stay one step ahead, and survived.  As Kateryn was a very intelligent woman, I found I really liked this book.

The book begins just before Henry asks Kateryn to marry him, and ends with his death.  She is in love with Thomas Seymour and, in Gregory's story, must hide that love from the king.  Another source indicates that the king was suspicious and kept Seymour away from court.  Gregory makes it clear in an afternote that she doesn't know how involved Kateryn and Thomas were while she was queen.  It's highly likely it isn't clear in any of the sources in her six-page bibliography.  The two did marry four months after Henry's death, but Kateryn died shortly after giving birth to their first child less than a year and a half later.  I do think it was more realistic to portray Kateryn pining for Thomas but not actually having an affair, as another book about her did.

I also thought it was interesting that, in the book, Gregory had Parr sit for the family portrait that is in Hampton Palace today.  The portrait is dated c. 1543-1547, which was during Kateryn's reign, but the queen in the portrait is Jane Seymour, the mother of Henry VIII's only legitimate son.  While it's possible that Kateryn posed for the artist only to find on its revealing that Jane's face was used (which is what Gregory writes), it is more likely that someone else posed, or that the artist worked off another image of Jane.  It makes for a good story though.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

697 (2016 #52). Lake in the Clouds

by Sara Donati,
read by Kate Reading

This is the third book in Sara Donati's Wilderness series, featuring the Bonner family (and their friends and kin) of New York.  This one takes place in 1802, eight years after the previous book.

Elizabeth Middleton Bonner, the female lead of the first two books, is still a player here, but the focus is on her stepdaughter Hannah, now 18 years old.  A good part of the story takes place in New York City, where Hannah goes to learn how to inoculate against smallpox.

Learning about medical treatment in the early 1800s, and life in a large city then, was quite interesting - for both Hannah and this reader.  You know too that, just as characters from previous books in the series reappear in this one, new characters introduced in this book (such as Dr. Savard) are bound to be in later books in this series.

There's also a lot of action back in Paradise, the fictional town in the real Adirondacks near Lake George and Saratoga, both of which I have visited.  In both locations, runaway slaves and the efforts by some slaveholders to bypass the 1799 gradual manumission laws provide the impetus for an interesting story arc.

There's not as much romance in this book as in the first two in the series - which is a good thing, in my opinion, and causes me to classify it as historical fiction rather than historical romance.  In fact there's so little romance that the conclusion for Hannah just doesn't ring true for me.  Still, I will be continuing on with this series.  Kate Reading's excellent narration in the audiobook certainly helps.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to public libraries.]

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

696 (2016 #51). The Second Mrs. Hockaday

by Susan Rivers

Set during the Civil War (as well as about 30 years later), and told through journal entries, letters, and legal documents, this is the intriguing story (based on a true one) of a woman accused of murdering a newborn illegitimate child during the Civil War.  The second Mrs. Hockaday is Placidia "Dia" Fincher, who marries Major Griffyth Hockaday shortly after her stepsister's wedding, shortly after meeting them.  Despite only having two days together before he is recalled to the war, there is a strong invisible "cord" (as Dia calls it) between them.  Nearly all of the story is told from Dia's viewpoint, as she struggles to keep the small Hockaday farm in South Carolina going in the midst of the war.  Dia's journal entries (lacking paper, in a copy of David Copperfield) and letters to a sympathetic cousin, that cousin's replies, and the correspondence between her son and stepson 30 years later form the novel.

Susan Rivers has constructed a story that was so compelling that it was a quick read.  Highly recommended as a great blend of historical fiction, mystery/suspense, and nonfiction - Rivers did extensive research on life in the era.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It will be passed on to someone else to enjoy.]

Saturday, November 19, 2016

695 (2016 #50). Three Sisters, Three Queens

by Philippa Gregory

The women of the title are Henry VIII's first wife, Katharine of Aragon, and her sisters-in-law, his two sisters, Margaret Tudor Stewart Douglas Stewart and Mary Tudor Valois Brandon.  Each woman was a queen, of England, Scotland, and France respectively.

The main character in the book, though, is Margaret - she tells their story in first person present tense.  Katharine's and Mary's stories primarily come through (fictional) letters they write to Margaret.

There is little in the historical record about Margaret, so Philippa Gregory has lots of leeway in this novel.  She's an interesting woman, married three times and divorced once (before her brother divorced Katherine).

However, much of the book is spent with Margaret waffling (especially about her awful second husband Archibald Douglas), or being envious of her two sisters.  I think the book could have been around 400 pages (instead of 544!) and still told Margaret's story well.  Gregory includes five pages worth of bibliography at the end of the book.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

Monday, November 14, 2016

693-694 (2016 #48-49). Two Children's Books published in Canada

Yitzi and the Giant Menorah is a colorful book with a cute Hanukkah story. The illustrations by author and illustrator Richard Ungar are done with a technique called watercolor monoprint and have an Impressionistic feel to them.
Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea is the first book in cartoonist Ben Clanton's Narwhal and Jelly series.  This easy reader / comic book / graphic novel (64 pages) has hand-lettered text and simple illustrations done with colored pencils and colored digitally.  The four very short stories in the book are silly, but there are two pages of fun facts, one each about narwhals and jellyfish.

I'll be adding both books to my library's collection, but I really wish I could get a copy of Clanton's Vote for ME!

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received these books from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.]

Saturday, November 12, 2016

692 (2016 #47). Truly, Madly, Guilty

by Liane Moriarty

This book was similar in structure to Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies.  Like that book, this one moves between the present and an event in the past, but back-and-forth rather than linear as in Lies.  Whatever happened occurred on "the day of the barbeque," and it isn't until a little more than halfway through the book that the reader learns exactly what happened that day.  It was a surprise.

Erika and Clementine are fr-enemies from childhood with a complex relationship.  Accountant Erika and her husband Oliver are childless, while cellist Clementine and her husband Sam have two young daughters.  They all get invited to a backyard barbecue at the huge home of Erika's and Oliver's next-door neighbors Vid, a wealthy electrician, his trophy wife Tiffany, a former pole-dancing stripper turned house flipper (and the character I liked best), and their ten-year-old daughter Dakota.  Minor characters are Erika's and Clementine's mothers, Sylvia and Pam respectively, and Vid's and Tiffany's other next-door neighbor, a cranky old man named Harry.

Most of the story is told from either Erika's or Clementine's viewpoint, although all the six main characters' viewpoints are presented in at least one chapter, as well as that of Dakota and Harry.  It certainly kept me turning the pages.

Once again, Moriarty addresses some serious issues:  hoarding, audition anxiety, infertility, blame, and guilt among them.  I don't want to give away too much and spoil the story for others.

I loved this quote near the end, where one main character wondered about another, “what sort of person [she] could have been, would have been, should have been, if she’d been given the privilege of an ordinary home. You could jump so much higher when you had somewhere safe to fall.”

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[The e-book, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my university library and my local public library respectively.]

Friday, November 04, 2016

691 (2016 #46). Empire of the Summer Moon

by S. C. Gwynne

My husband and I read this book because the author was invited to speak in our small town, the seat for our county which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.  Comanches roamed the area before the county's founding, and the highest point in the county, Comanche Peak (more a mesa), was once a Native American meeting place.

The long title and subtitle are somewhat misleading:  Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History.  The Comanches weren't an empire and really not a tribe; rather, they were a group of bands with shifting leadership - anyone who could pull together a raiding party could be a chief.  The book really isn't about Quanah Parker, either, until the last few chapters.

The title sounds a lot like an article in Texas Monthly magazine.  That's not all that surprising, because author S. C. Gwynne has been with that magazine since 2000, and was with Time Magazine for twelve years before that.  To my husband and me, the book had the feel of a number of magazine articles being grouped together, in that its structure was not always linear, but involved a lot of repetition and backtracking.

Gwynne is a journalist, not a historian, and I was bothered that the book seemed ethnocentric.  Still, I learned a lot about the Comanches, including Quanah Parker and his mother Cynthia Ann Parker; those who fought them, particularly Sul Ross, Ranald Mackenzie, and Jack Hays; and other captives, such as Herman Lehmann and Rachel Parker Plummer. I'm glad I read the book, but I am not sure I would recommend it to others.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

Monday, October 31, 2016

690 (2016 #45). Undue Process

by Arnold Krammer

I read this book as a follow-up to The Train to Crystal City, because I wanted to learn more about the persecution of German aliens (and in some cases, citizens) in the United States during World War II, a topic overshadowed in our history by the internment of Japanese-Americans.

Undue Process: The Untold Story of America's German Alien Internees is relevant for me because I am currently doing some research about a first cousin twice removed who, despite immigrating here from Germany in 1912 and serving in the Army, was still not naturalized when World War II broke out.  He too was arrested (apparently because his American-born wife had a short-wave radio, illegal for aliens) and briefly detained, and then was a parolee for most of the rest of the war.

Author Arnold Krammer is (now) a retired history professor at Texas A&M University (I might have had him; he was teaching when I was there).  Using mostly primary sources, such as government documents released soon before the book was written (1997), Krammer provides more background information on why and how the government identified "dangerous" aleins, and how they were arrested and processed.  He also discusses issues that arose after the Civil Rights Act of 1988 passed, which compensated Japanese-Americans who were unfairly interned, but completely ignored German-Americans.

The extensive end notes (19 pages), bibliography (eight pages), and index (four pages) should help me in my research.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

Saturday, October 29, 2016

689 (2016 #44). Dawn on a Distant Shore

by Sara Donati,
read by Kate Reading

This book is the second in Sara Donati's Wilderness series - but little of it takes place in the wilderness of New York State in the late 1700s, unlike the first book.

Instead, this one has heroine Elizabeth Middleton Bonner and much of her family - increased by the birth of her twins Lily and Daniel at the beginning of the book - traveling to Canada (Montreal and Quebec) and ultimately by ship to Scotland.

The plot is rather far-fetched, and the brogues of SO many Scottish characters are hard to understand at times - although audiobook narrator Kate Reading helps.  Still, it was interesting enough to keep me going with this series.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[The e-audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to public libraries.]

Thursday, October 20, 2016

688 (2016 #43). Inheriting Edith

by Zoe Fishman

An easy beach read.  Maggie Sheets is a 38-year-old single mother of a two-year-old.  College educated, she quickly learns that she can earn more money housecleaning (which she enjoys doing) for the wealthy in New York City.  She becomes friends with a lesbian bipolar author, Liza Brennan, but falls out with her when Liza steals her short story character for a successful novel.

Later, Liza commits suicide, and leaves her beach house in Sag Harbor to Maggie.  There's just one catch - Liza's 82-year-old widowed mother with Alzheimer's, Edith, comes with it.

The plot is pretty predictable, but as I said, it's a quick and easy read.  Edith's friend Esther is a bit over the top.  I would have liked less of her and of Maggie's daughter Lucy, who is far too talkative for a two-year-old and in the book too much.  Instead, learning a little more about Liza, and finding out what happens with Lucy's father and with Maggie's father (from whom she is estranged, but beginning to forgive by the end of the book), would have been far more interesting.

Not a waste of time, but not a book I would read again.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It was donated to the local library Friends group.]

Friday, October 14, 2016

687 (2016 #42). The Train to Crystal City

by Jan Jarboe Russell

This book was this month's selection for the local book club I used to be active in (until the meeting time moved to afternoons, which I cannot attend).

The book discusses a World War II internment camp in Crystal City, Texas, that housed families of (mostly) men of Japanese, German, and Italian origin who were still aliens (not yet naturalized) and were considered a threat to national security during the war, sometimes simply because of their occupations (photographer, for instance, or bridge-builder).  Many of their children were born in the United States and thus citizens.  However, the parents agreed to be potential deportees in exchange for American citizens held behind enemy lines, so of course their minor children would go with them.

Jan Jarboe Russell interviewed a number of these surviving children, and their stories are the strength of the book.  She also presents the conflicting thoughts of the Americans supervising the internment, from the camp school principal through the camp director to the head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and even the President.

I knew that there were some prisoner of war camps in Texas, but I never realized there were internment camps as well, particularly one for entire families.

This book is relevant for me because I am currently doing some research about a first cousin twice removed who, despite immigrating here from Germany in 1912 and serving in the Army, was still not naturalized when World War II broke out.  He too was arrested (apparently because his American-born wife had a short-wave radio, illegal for aliens) and briefly detained, and then was a parolee for most of the rest of the war.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

Saturday, October 08, 2016

686 (2016 #41). Into the Wilderness

by Sara Donati,
read by Kate Reading

This is a historical romance, set in upstate New York in (mostly) 1793.  I became interested in reading it after I finished The Gilded Hour, which features descendants of the characters in this book.  I was also intrigued by the setting, in the Adirondacks near Lake George and Saratoga, both of which I have visited.

Elizabeth Middleton is a 29-year-old spinster when she and her younger brother come from England to join their father in the town of Paradise in New York.  Elizabeth only wants to stay single and start a school, but she soon falls in love with Nathaniel Bonner, a 35-year-old widower of a Mohican wife.

Elizabeth and Nathaniel have an incredible amount of adventure over the next year and 876 pages (over 30 hours in audio).  Also an incredible amount of (good!) sex.  The plot was intriguing enough to keep me going, though.

Despite the unlikelihood of a woman teaching school in the United States in the late 1700s, I felt author Sara Donati researched the era well.  Details made me feel like I was there experiencing frontier life in that era.

I was interested to learn that Donati based Nathaniel's father Hawkeye on the character of the same nickname in James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales (of which The Last of the Mohicans is best known).  Donati says this book is a "very loose retelling" of The Pioneers from those tales.  Not having read that book, I can't comment (although I am interested in reading the Tales now).  Donati has Hawkeye marry Cora (from Last of the Mohicans) and Nathaniel is their son.  Elizabeth is apparently an amalgamation of female characters in Jane Austen's books, which I also have not read.

I liked this book well enough to continue on with the series (five more books).  Kate Reading's narration is excellent, especially the Scottish brogues of some of the characters - which, I understand, will come in to play even more in the next book.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to public libraries.]

Friday, October 07, 2016

685 (2016 #40). Portrait of Route 66

by T. Lindsay Baker

My interest in this book is due more to the use of the Curt Teich Postcard Archives than the subject of Route 66.  Like my ancestors on my father's side, Curt Otto Teich (1877-1974) was a German immigrant who came to Chicago and was very successful.  From its opening in 1898 through 1978, the company produced postcards for businesses and attractions across the country.  The records of this postcard production company, once the largest in America, originally wound up at the Lake County Forest Preserve District's Discovery Museum in Wauconda, Illinois.  Now the collection is about to be transferred to the Newberry Library in Chicago.  Some of the collection is available online in the Illinois Digital Archives.

(As an aside - the former archives had posted a great guide (very useful for collectors) to dating Teich postcards based on their stock numbers that is no longer online on the original archives URL.  Fortunately, it's been preserved in a Flickr group.  The company is also known for its "big letter" postcards, featuring the words "Greetings from [some town]," where the letters in the town's name were made of images of attractions there.  Also, it's very possible some of my ancestors and Teich knew each other, as the location of his company from 1898 through 1907, address 59-61 Clybourn Avenue in Chicago then - is very near Clybourn's intersection with Division, where my Dienes ancestors owned a hat store.)

T. Lindsay Baker, a history professor at my place of employment (Tarleton State University), visited the Teich archives and researched in the production files for postcards along historic Route 66, the former U.S. highway that ran 2500 miles across eight states from Chicago to Los Angeles.  Many of the production files included the original black-and-white photographs that were used to create these postcards between 1925 and 1954, an era before color photography was prevalent.

The book features 112 sites (organized geographically starting in Chicago) along Route 66, presented in double-page spreads.  One side of the spread includes the black-and-white photo (often with notations on cropping and colors to use) along with the finished postcard (except in one case, where apparently a postcard was never made).  The other side of each spread includes Baker's research about the business or attraction pictured and the production of the postcard.  Baker also includes a brief description of what (if anything) was at that location in July 2014, when he and his wife took a road trip along the entire Route 66 looking for these sites.

The only things I would have liked to see in the book are:

  • a small image of the text on the back of the postcard (always quite interesting), and
  • either an image of what was on the site in July 2014, or an address or GPS coordinates so one could look for oneself (on Google Maps Street View, for example).

Nevertheless, this is an outstanding book and a great addition to Route 66 history.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

Thursday, October 06, 2016

684 (2016 #39). You Should Have Known

by Jean Hanff Korelitz

A rather predictable psychological thriller.  Grace Reinhart Sachs is a therapist who has just written a book with the same title as this one.  Grace's book is about the need for women to pay attention to first impressions when they meet men, subtle signals are there that can predict the outcome of the relationship.  Not surprisingly, Grace did not apply this in her own life.

Since Grace is a therapist, there's a lot of self-analysis of her previous and subsequent actions.  Fortunately, this was not as boring as it might have been, or I never would have gotten through this 400+ page book.  Since the book was a selection of my local book club, I might not have read it otherwise.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

Friday, September 30, 2016

683 (2016 #38). This One Summer

by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

I wanted to read this book both because it was an award-winner (see below), and because it appeared on the 2016 ACLU of Texas Banned Books Report.  It was challenged in an elementary school for being "inappropriate for grade levels."  Its use was restricted by transferring it to the high schools in the district (I'm assuming there was more than one copy of the book, because I know the district in question has two high schools).

In this case, I think that was a good decision.  This is an excellent book, but it is not really appropriate for most younger children (at least not in a school situation where a parent can't be involved in the decision).  Even author Mariko Tamaki told School Library Journal (after a similar challenge in Florida) that the book was “listed as being for readers ranging 12–18.  It contains depictions of young people talking about, and dealing with, adult things.”  It was also challenged in a K-12 school library in Minnesota.

This book won both a 2015 Printz Honor award (as it "exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature") and Caldecott Honor award (a runner-up to the "illustrator of the year's most distinguished American picture book for children").  It also won the 2015 Eisner Award ("for creative achievement in American comic books") and the 2014 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel.

It's understandable that the book wound up in elementary school libraries.  Many such libraries routinely purchase Caldecott Medal and Honor books, which are typically picture books aimed at elementary school ages.  However, the definition in the Caldecott Medal manual of the Association for Library Service to Children of the American Library Association is:

A “picture book for children” is one for which children are an intended potential audience. The book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen and picture books for this entire age range are to be considered.

This graphic novel does address some more mature themes, such as teen pregnancy, drinking, sex, and miscarriage, and has some "cuss" words.  It's hard to tell how old Rose, the main character is - maybe about 12?  Definitely no older than 14.  She and her parents have been visiting their beach cabin community every summer since she was little, and Rose always gets together there with Windy, a girl who is a year-and-a-half younger.  Windy looks (and acts) age 12 at most.  This particular summer, though, Rose's parents are fighting, and there is drama among the youth in the nearby year-round community.

All of the illustrations (by the author's cousin Jilliam Tamaki) are rendered in black-and-white.  The reading level (according to the Accelerated Reader program) is 2.4, making the book appropriate for struggling middle and high school readers.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

Sunday, September 18, 2016

682 (2016 #37). The River of Doubt

by  Candice Millard

Wow!  What a story!

I'm not as familiar with former U. S. president Theodore Roosevelt as I probably should be.  From what I do know of the Rough Rider Bull Moose naturalist, the fact that he journeyed down an unexplored Amazon River tributary is not surprising.  What is surprising - after reading this book - is that he survived.

A last-minute decision to explore the unknown Rio da Dúvida (the River of Doubt, today's Rio Roosevelt) combined with poor planning by expedition members unfamiliar with the area, nearly spelled disaster.  Roosevelt's team included his son Kermit, the Brazilian explorer Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon, American naturalist George Cherrie, and numerous Brazilian "camaradas" who did all the heavy work.  They battled insects, excessive rain, rapids, unmanageable dugouts, disease, insufficient supplies (and the inexplicable carrying of unnecessary gear), near starvation, the threat of attack by animals and natives, and even death among their ranks.

This was a perfect topic for the first book by Candice Millard (who has a fabulous three-screen setup for her work computer), a former writer and editor for National Geographic.  She weaves in information about the flora and fauna of the Amazon basin and the natural and political history of the area.  Even better, she writes well, and the story flows and compels the reader.

The book is well-researched:  its 353 pages of text are followed by 38-plus pages of endnotes, eight pages each of bibliography and index, and photo credits for 16 pages of photo inserts.  There are maps on the end pages - it would be helpful though if they were larger.

Since the publication of this book, Millard has written one about the assassination of U. S. President James Garfield, and her third book, about Winston Churchill, will be published on Tuesday, September 20.  I plan to read them all, and anything else she writes.  She ranks up there with Erik Larson for narrative nonfiction.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

Monday, September 05, 2016

681 (2016 #36). The Gap of Time

by Jeanette Winterson

The Gap of Time is The Winter's Tale retold - the first in the Hogarth Shakespeare series of books where bestselling authors are commissioned to retell stories from Shakespeare. Jeanette Winterson did this one - unfortunately, I'm not familiar with her other work.

I have seen and read The Winter's Tale (both twice), but it was last over a dozen years ago, so I appreciated Winterson's brief synopsis at the beginning, as well as her use of similar character names ( (Shep is the Shepherd, Clo is the Clown, MiMi is Hermione, Zel  is Florizel, Leo is Leontes, Xeno is Polixenes, etc.).  The title comes from nearly the last line of the play, and also refers to the sixteen-year gap between events in the play.

I've now read the first four books in the series, and am interested in reading all the future titles. I'd rank this one below Hag-Seed and Vinegar Girl, but above Shylock is My Name.  It was easier to "see" the original Shakespeare play in this book than it was in Shylock.  I also think my "rankings" have something to do with how I'd rank their original Shakespeare sources as well.

I do think this is a series where it is helpful to have read the Shakespeare play the book is based on, as I doubt all the retellers will provide the convenient summary.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It was donated to my local public library to add to their Hogarth Shakespeare collection.]

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

680 (2016 #35). The Gilded Hour

by Sara Donati,
read by Cassandra Campbell

I thoroughly enjoyed this very long (over 30 hours) audiobook, even though the story left a lot of unanswered questions at the end.  Turns out The Gilded Hour is actually the first book in a planned series, and author Sara Donati plans to address the unfinished stories in future sequels.

This book is set in 1883 in New York City - and Donati, a former university professor, certainly did her research.  The main character is Dr. Anna Savard, a surgeon who primarily treats poor women and children.  She lives with a widowed aunt who raised her, and with her cousin, Sophie Savard, also a physician.  As the story continues, more members are added to the household, as one story concerns four Italian orphans.  The oldest of those, Rosa Russo, is the inspiration for the novel - author Rosina Lippi (Sara Donati is her pen name) was named for her orphaned grandmother (although this is not the grandmother's true story).  Meanwhile, Sophie, while rather prominent in the first part of the book, marries and goes to Switzerland with her tubercular husband, so I suppose we will read more about her in a later book in the series.

Donati explores a lot of topics in her lengthy (741 print pages) novel: medicine, birth control, abortion, abandoned children, even murder and police investigations.  Descriptions of settings were evocative, characters were well-developed, and the variety in the plots kept me reading.  Donati wove in some real people and situations into her novel.  I kept expecting the evil Anthony Comstock to somehow finagle the arrest of Anna or Sophie or both - and who knows, maybe that will happen in a later book, too.

Cassandra Campbell was an excellent narrator - a strong but definitely feminine voice for Anna, a slight French accent for Sophie, Italian accents where needed, and so on.

While I would have liked to know up front that this book was the planned opener of a series, Donati's writing hooked me enough that I'm going to read her previous Wilderness series (six books).  Characters in The Gilded Hour are descendants of people in those books, although it is not necessary to have read the previous series to understand this book.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This e-audiobook was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

Monday, August 29, 2016

679 (2016 #34). Hag-Seed

by Margaret Atwood

A clever and funny retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest, Margaret Atwood's Hag-Seed (a reference to Caliban in the play, literally, "the offspring of a witch") is a play within a play (within a play).

So far, I like this book the best of the titles I've read in the Hogarth Shakespeare series of books where bestselling authors are commissioned to retell stories from Shakespeare.  Hag-seed is the fourth one written.  It probably helps that this is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays.  I've only read one of Atwood's books (The Handmaid's Tale), but I loved it.

I do think this is a series where it is helpful to have read the Shakespeare play on which the book is based.  Fortunately for her readers, Atwood has made that easy by including a synopsis, albeit at the end of the book.

Felix gets fired as the artistic director of a regional theater, and ends up working with a literacy program at a nearby prison, where the inmates act out Shakespeare's plays.  After a few years of this, he learns those responsible for his dismissal have become government officials and are coming to view the play, not knowing he is the director.  He decides to stage the play he was working on when fired all those years ago - with some relevant changes.

As a Shakespeare fan, I would LOVE to see a performance of The Tempest based on Atwood's book!  The costumes and dialogue adaptations (rap in one case) sound awesome!  Requiring his actors to only use swear words they find in the play is a brilliant touch. Highly recommended.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this advance reader edition through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It will be passed on to someone else to enjoy.]

Sunday, August 21, 2016

678 (2016 #33). The Woman in the Photo

by Mary Hogan

The title and premise of this book intrigued me - trying to figure out who your ancestor was with only a photo.

The story has two connected narrative lines.  The historical fiction is set in 1888 and 1889 in and near Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  Elizabeth Haberlin is the about-to-debut daughter of a doctor to the wealthy, and they spend their summers with them at the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club.  The club was located above Johnstown on Lake Conemaugh, which was formed by the South Fork Dam owned by the club.

The "present day" story is set in southern California. Adoptee Lee Parker is turning 18 and gets to see some information from her closed adoption - including a peek at an old photograph of a woman who looks like her standing next to Clara Barton.  Lee is determined to find out who the unknown woman is, which provides the connection between the two narratives.

Of the two stories, Elizabeth's was far more interesting.  I'm not sure why author Mary Hogan included Lee's story, except perhaps to make the Johnstown Flood tale she wanted to tell more accessible to the young adult audience she usually writes for.  I thought it interesting that in an "about this book" afterword, the author says nothing about the present-day tale.

Nevertheless (and despite a rather didactic attitude about blame), I would recommend this book for its coverage of this less-known disaster.  It made me want to read more about it.  The chapters narrated by Elizabeth also include period photos of the Club and of Johnstown, which add much to the book.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.]

Saturday, August 20, 2016

677 (2016 #32). Sarah

by Marek Halter,
read by Kate Burton

I was listening to a very long e-audiobook when its checkout period expired, and had to get on a wait list to finish it.  I searched for a shorter audiobook to listen to in the meantime, and found this abridged version of Marek Halter's novel, the first in his "Canaan Trilogy" about Biblical women.

Halter takes the wife of Abraham and primarily weaves a backstory for her.  He ignores the possibility that Sarah was actually Abraham's half-sister, and instead makes her the daughter of a lord of Ur.  He comes up with an interesting premise for her infertility and her lasting beauty.

I very much enjoyed this novel.  It is fiction, so it does not bother me at all that Halter took "liberties" with Sarah's story.  Her story (as well as that of Abraham, his father Terah, and so on) is slightly different in the Biblical book of Genesis, in rabbinic tradition, and in Islam, and there is no other historical source material, so she is a perfect character for fiction.

I was surprised to learn author Marek Halter is a man, as the book has a somewhat feminist tone, and the female voice rings true.  I felt he depicted life at that time - especially for women - quite well.

The audiobook was an abridgment; nevertheless, there was still plenty of description of the settings of the story.  Kate Burton (daughter of Richard Burton) was the narrator.  Her deeper voice was fitting, but I felt the book was read too quickly - or sped up to make it fit in just four discs.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This audiobook was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

Sunday, August 07, 2016

676 (2016 #31). El Rincon

by Bill Walraven

Subtitled "A History of Corpus Christi Beach," this book was published by the Texas State Aquarium (located there) when it opened in 1990.  It was written by Bill Walraven (1925-2013), a longtime columnist for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

I read this book to learn a little more about the interesting history of Corpus Christi Beach (as it was known when I lived there, 1979-1984; in 2012 it went back to its pre-1950s name of North Beach).  The title of the book comes from the El Rincon peninsula where the beach is located, surrounded by Corpus Christi Bay and Nueces Bay.

The way the book is written, it almost feels like a compilation of Walraven's columns.  There are numerous photographs in the book, many taken by Dr. John Frederick "Doc" McGregor (1893-1986) for the newspaper, and now in either their files or the archives of the Corpus Christi Public Library or the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History.  My only wish is that the book had been in a larger format so that the photographs could have been printed larger; it is hard to see the details in many of them.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This book was borrowed and returned through interlibrary loan.]

Saturday, August 06, 2016

675 (2016 #30). Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles

by Margaret George

This is the last (so far; there will be a new book about Nero in March 2017) of Margaret George's immense historical fiction biographical novels I needed to read.  It took me about a month and a half to do so, as it is 870 pages long.

Like the subjects of her other books, Mary, Queen of Scots is another misunderstood and often disliked historical figure.  I really did not know that much about her before reading this book.  My other encounters with her were always from the English viewpoint.  George's Mary is much more sympathetic.

In a short afterword, George explains some of her assumptions about the key questions in Mary's life (concerning her third husband Bothwell, the death of her second husband Darnley, the Casket letters, and plots against Elizabeth I, her jailer for the last 20 years of Mary's short life).  There are different interpretations of these events, and they affect the portrayal of Mary.

I found most of the book to be quite interesting.  The third part (the last 200+ pages), covering her imprisonment, was the hardest to get through, mostly because there is not a lot happening - Mary gets moved from castle to castle, and that seems to be about it.

I would rank this book as better than George's Helen of Troy and Mary, Called Magdalene, but not as good as The Autobiography of Henry VIII, The Memoirs of Cleopatra, and Elizabeth I.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I purchased this book some time ago at a Friends of the Library book sale.]

Friday, August 05, 2016

672 - 674 (2016 #27 - #29). Three Children's Books

The Toad is another cute book in Elise Gravel's "Disgusting Critters" series. The illustrations are funny and should interest children, while the text (especially the comments by the toads) has some humor for the adults that might be reading the book aloud, yet is easy enough for many young readers to understand. This would be a good addition to a school or classroom library...or a university library used by future teachers.  This hardbound copy is definitely going into the latter collection I manage, joining Head Lice and others in the series I plan to buy.

The Golden Key is a  Victorian fairy tale by George MacDonald, first published in 1867.  It was confusing and not particularly interesting to me - perhaps I'm just not the right audience, never having been much for fantasy. The detailed scratchboard illustrations by Ruth Sanderson, however, are marvelous! As this technique of etching into a thin layer of white clay coated with black ink originated in the 19th century, it seems very appropriate for this somewhat dark tale.  This paperback advance reader edition will be passed on to someone else to enjoy.

Prince Noah and the School Pirates, written by Silke Schnee, illustrated by Heike Sistig, and translated by Erna Albertz, was originally published in Germany.  This picture book fantasy has a nice message about not categorizing children in schools based on gender or perceived disabilities. However, the message is lost in the overly-wordy text and too-detailed (though colorful) illustrations.

[I received these books from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.]

© Amanda Pape - 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

671 (2016 #26). Curses and Smoke

by Vicky Alvear Shecter
read by Marisol Ramirez and Zach Villa

Subtitled "A Novel of Pompeii," this book is set in A.D. 79, the year the eruption of Mount Vesuvius destroyed the city.

The book's chapters alternate between the two main characters, Lucia and Tages (Tag).  Tag is a young male slave trained in medicine, to help his aging father treat the valuable gladiators owned and trained by Lucius Titurius.  He toys with the thought of becoming a gladiator himself and possibly fighting his way to freedom.

Lucia is Titurius' only surviving child.  Her older brother, baby sisters, and mother all died.  She is well educated and interested in the world around her, particularly in the writings of Pliny.  She longs to discuss with him her observations of strange happenings around Pompeii - such springs drying up, tremors, animals behaving strangely, and a sulfur smell in the air.  As the book opens, she is being betrothed to a man old enough to be her grandfather, all for the money he promises her father to support his school.

Tag and Lucia are childhood friends who haven't seen each other in three years, while Tag was in Rome for more medical training.  Naturally they fall in love.  They plan to run away together.  Naturally the eruption of Vesuvius intervenes.

Author Vicky Alvear Shecter does a masterful job with the setting, weaving in all sorts of historical details of the location and life in that era.  Freedom is a major theme in the book, along with class distinctions, forbidden love, and family and master/slave relationships.  Given that this is a young adult novel aimed at ages 12-17, I felt the romance was age-appropriate.  The book's (surprising) ending, though, might be difficult for a younger reader to handle.

On the audiobook, actors Marisol Ramirez and Zach Villa read the third-person sections written from the viewpoints of Lucia and Tag respectively in the book.  I liked having two readers, male and female, but I found Villa's delivery to be a little flat and monotone at times.

Unfortunately, the e-audiobook I listened to did not include the detailed author's note that is apparently at the end of the print book, which gives the history of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, including different theories about when it actually happened; facts about Roman culture and practices; information about gladiators; and discussion of the inspiration for certain characters.  I have to wonder, for example, if Lucia's pregnant friend Cornelia was inspired by some of the remains found at Pompeii.  I'm going to have to borrow a print copy of the book just to find out. (ETA:  I did borrow a print copy, and the answer to that question is yes.  Lucia's dog was also so inspired.)  And like all good historical fiction, this one has inspired me to learn more about Pompeii, Pliny, and Vesuvius.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This electronic audiobook was borrowed from and returned to my university library consortium collection.]

Friday, July 08, 2016

670 (2016 #25). First Frost

by Sarah Addison Allen,
read by Susan Ericksen

This is a sequel to Garden Spells, set about ten years later.  Some sequels can stand alone, but in this case, First Frost will make more sense if one has read Garden Spells first.

The Waverley sisters, Claire and Sydney, are now happily married, to Tyler and Henry respectively.  Claire has an almost-ten-year-old daughter, Mariah, and Sydney's daughter Bay is now 15.  Bay is a major character in this story, developing her "Waverley magic" and experiencing her first love.

Autumn is apparently a time of angst for Waverley women, and they eagerly await the "first frost" of the season when their quirky apple tree blooms (not surprising for a tree that can throw its apples).  The frosted apple on the cover gains significance when one gets near the end of the story.  Besides Bay's high school romance, her mother Sydney is anxious about her inability to conceive, and Claire is stressed out by her new candy-making business that has caused her to leave cooking and catering behind.  A stranger in town ultimately helps her resolve her situation.

I'm very glad I listened to the audiobook, read (as Garden Spells was) by Susan Ericksen, as once again, she does a marvelous job giving character to the characters.  I fully expect Sarah Addison Allen to have another book in this series, likely set about five years or so later when Bay is a young adult and Mariah is a teen.  First Frost felt like it was setting up for that sequel.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This e-audiobook was purchased via]

Monday, June 27, 2016

669 (2016 #24). The Girl From Krakow

by Alex Rosenberg,
read by Michael Page

I read this book because the local book club I used to belong to (before they moved their meetings to weekday daytime, when I can't attend) chose it for their next discussion.  I might have read it anyway, as it is being marketed as historical fiction, which I love.

"The Girl From Krakow" is Rita Feuerstahl, a Jew who can pass for "Aryan."  She ultimately does just that, with false papers turning her into Margarita Truschenko, an ethnic German (Volks-Deutsche) from Ukraine. The book covers the period from 1935 through 1947.  Rita's story is set mostly in Poland and Germany, and ultimately in Austria.

The other main character in the book is Rita's extramarital lover, another Jew named Tadeusz Sommermann, a gynecologist.  Besides Poland and Austria, he spends time in France, Spain (during the Civil War there, where he becomes Guillermo Romero), and Russia.  Thus the author pretty well has Europe covered for this time period, as well as various scenarios for the era - the military, the Jewish ghetto, factory work, post-war United Nations work, etc.

Rita is not a particularly sympathetic character.  I don't mind sex in books, and I don't see anything wrong with a character being sexually promiscuous and adventurous (besides Tadeusz, she is sexually involved with her physician husband, later a gay man who shares her room in the Jewish ghetto, and even later a woman).  However, it all felt somewhat gratuitous in this book.  It felt like the author (who is male) felt he needed all this to spice up the story.

The big problem I have with this book is that author Alex Rosenberg is a philosophy professor, and the book, his first novel, felt pedantic at times, with the characters discussing atheism and nihilism and other such topics.  It seemed like the author wanted to get his points across at the expense of character development, for all the book's characters seemed pretty shallow.

I also did not find it particularly realistic that Rita would carry two large, heavy volumes of Darwin's works with her everywhere she went (despite the risks), nor the "secret" her gay roommate told her that supposedly put her life at risk.

It didn't help that audiobook narrator Michael Page was awful.  His British accent was especially annoying with his rather nasal voice, and his interpretations of the female characters in the book were grating.  He did a fine job with male-only voices in The Watch That Ends the Night, but he should stay away from audiobooks where he will be voicing female characters.

While I learned a lot and am glad I read the book, it won't be for everyone, and I will not be re-reading it.  I wish I hadn't wasted an Audible credit (albeit a free one) to purchase it.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This electronic audiobook was purchased from Audible with a free credit.]

Monday, June 13, 2016

668 (2016 #23). Strong & Sculpted

by Brad Schoenfeld

I requested this book (along with some others) one month in the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program because I've recently lost (and kept off) 25 pounds, and would now like to tone up.

Strong & Sculpted was written by Brad Schoenfeld, a fitness expert who has actually conducted studies and written articles for peer-reviewed journals.  He explains the science and theory behind his exercise programs, including clarifying myths about bulking up, spot reduction, and becoming longer and leaner.

The book has step-by-step instructions and full-color photos for 117 different exercises.  What I like most about this section is that Schoenfeld groups them by the targeted muscles, and in almost all cases, there are choices for the equipment I have at hand (dumbbells only, and not a proper exercise bench).  I appreciate not feeling that I *have* to join a gym to use this program - although the advice of a professional trainer would probably be useful in helping me determine just how much weight to use for each exercise.  In fact, I think the book would be especially useful for a personal trainer.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.  I think I will hang onto it for a while.]

Sunday, June 12, 2016

667 (2016 #22). Love of the Game

by Lori Wilde, read by C. J. Critt

This is the third book in Lori Wilde's Stardust, Texas series, which features daughters from the Carlyle family of the mythical East Texas town of Stardust, and baseball players from the mythical Dallas Gunslingers team.  I read the first two books in the series, Back in the Game and Rules of the Game, about six months ago and about 11 months ago respectively.  You don't need to have read the other books to understand or appreciate this one, however.

Wilde has meshed far fewer romance tropes (which I've italicized) into this story than some of her others I've read. Our tortured heroine is physical therapist Kasha Carlyle, an orphan adopted at age seven after a terrible incident in her family of origin that leaves her with physical and psychological scars that make her anxious about losing control and feeling passion.  The athlete is injured pitcher Axel Richmond, who becomes Kasha's patient (office romance).  He too has scars, having lost his son at age ten to cancer.

This story has an interesting twist:  Kasha discovers she has a biological half-sister with Down syndrome, and is seeking guardianship of her.  This could be a bit of a complication to the budding romance.

There's further evidence in this book that Stardust might be modeled on Gladewater, the "Antique Capital of East Texas."  On page 3, concerning Kasha's commute to her job with the Gunslingers, Wilde writes,  "Every day, she made the one hundred and thirty-five mile, one-way trek to the stadium from her hometown of Stardust."  Gladewater is 135 miles from Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers baseball team.  Kasha's adoptive parents own an antique store in Stardust.

I've met Lori Wilde and I know she is a yoga devotee, just like Kasha.  She also has some interesting rituals that help her with her writing, which she speaks about in a recent interview.  "For each book I write, I make a musical playlist, a visual collage, and pick a scented candle that represents that book."  I think these help her writing be so descriptive.  Not only does she detail sights, but also sounds, smells, tastes, and textures.

I listened to the audio version performed by actress C. J. Critt.  Her reading had some unusual pauses and emphases, but I enjoyed her giving characters appropriate voices and Texas accents.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This audiobook was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]