Sunday, December 26, 2010


The Vietnam War has long been a mystery to me. Nobody in my family served during that war - they were all too young or too old. My American History teacher in high school was a Vietnam vet who still had flashbacks, so we very briefly breezed over that time in history.

Matterhorn is a story told from Lieutenant Waino Mellas' point of view.  Along with Lieutenant Mellas, we are dropped into the middle of the jungle with Bravo Company.  Mellas is new to the company, and has no experience in the field, so he is forced to find a way to gain the respect of his men.

During Mellas' struggle to prove himself, we meet the other men of Bravo Company who become more than just characters in a book.  They become real people, people we know and love.  As they fight for their lives, and for the lives of their brothers, we are introduced to the comraderie and conflicts within the Company, and we feel their frustrations, joy, and sadness.

Matterhorn is a wonderful novel that will take you beyond whether the Vietnam War was right or wrong.  It will make you think long and hard about all the men who fought and died there, it takes you straight to the humanity.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Magician's Nephew

I've been a fan of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe since I first saw it on tv when I was quite young, but it was many years later that I found out it was just one from a series of books. Sad to say, I never read any of the Chronicles of Narnia...until now.  I just finished The Magician's Nephew, and really enjoyed it. 

It took me a little while to really get into the story, but I think that was because I went into it thinking this book would be about Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.  The Magician's Nephew is about Professor Digory Kirke when he was a boy, his uncle Andrew Ketterley (a magician), the neighbor girl Polly, and the Queen of Charn named Jadis.

This is the story of Digory's curiosity and braveness, Andrew's deception and cowardice, and Polly's perserverence and compassion.  We are introduced to Aslan and get to watch as Narnia is born.  There were also two very important questions (to me) that were answered; Why do only some of the animals speak, and How did the White Witch find Narnia?

Up Next: Matterhorn

Monday, November 22, 2010


Seabiscuit author, Laura Hillenbrand, brings us another amazing story about a remarkable runner in Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.  This story left me speechless.

Louie Zamperini was a trouble maker as a boy, headed down the wrong track until his brother introduced him to running.  He was famous during his time at USC before heading off for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.  He placed 7th, met Hitler, and even stole a Nazi flag from the Reich Chancellery.

Louie had his heart set on the 1940 Olympics, where he knew the gold medal would be within his reach.  Those Olympics were moved from Tokyo to Helsinki because the Japanese government decided they could no longer support the Olympics.  When the Helsinki Olympic Stadium was destroyed in bombing raids, the 1940 Summer Olympics were canceled altogether.

Louie found himself in the Army Air Force as a bombardier, and while stationed in Oahu, was engaged in the fight over Nauru.  His plane made it back to base with 594 holes in it, and one crew member receiving fatal injuries.

A few weeks later, the remaining crew members were given replacement crew and sent out on a search and rescue mission.  It was this mission that was the start of Louie's incredible journey to get back home. 

Unbroken is an epic story that every American should read.  When you've finished this book, go find yourself a veteran, hug them, kiss them, and thank them for all they've sacrificed for you.  Then, hug and kiss your family, and fully appreciate how lucky you really are.

Up Next: The Chronicles of Narnia - The Magician's Nephew

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Crave is the recently released, second book in J.R. Ward's Fallen Angels series.  As Jim Heron is awaiting instructions about his next soul to save, he works on a personal project - Isaac Rothe.

Isaac Rothe is an old buddy of Jim's from XOps.  Jim had called in for a favor from his old boss, Matthias.  He was given the information he requested, but in order to keep up his end of the bargain, Jim was to kill Rothe for going AWOL.  At some point, Jim decides that Isaac deserves to live, and instead of killing Isaac, Jim decides to help him hide. 

Jim is busy trying to keep Isaac alive when he becomes aware that Rothe is the next soul on his list to save.  He does everything he possibly can to keep Isaac safe from the demon, Devina, only to realize that it was not Rothe's soul that was in jeopardy.

Up Next: Unbroken

Monday, November 8, 2010

Half-Broke Horses

 Half Broke Horses author Jeannette Walls comes from an interesting family, to be sure.  She introduced us to her mother in The Glass Castle, and now we get the honor of meeting her grandmother.

Lily Casey survived floods, tornadoes, droughts, and the Depression.  She learned out to break horses and how to fly.  Her life was an uphill battle, and she made it through some heartbreaking blows along the way.

I don't know who's luckier - Jeannette Walls for having known such characters as Lily and Rosemary; or Lily and Rosemary who have a granddaughter/daughter who has been able to tell their stories so well.

Up Next: Crave

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Suite Francaise

I came across this title when doing some research after reading Sarah's KeySuite Francaise is written by Russian/French author Irene Nemirovsky.  She had intended this to be a 5 book series, but was unable to finish the last three books.

The book tells the stories of several different families & individuals from June 4, 1940 until July 1, 1941 when the Nazis invaded and occupied France.  At first, I was concerned that there were too many different people to keep track of, but Nemirovsky writes in a way that makes it easy to keep everyone straight, and keep the book interesting.

As a bit of a history buff, I have read many books about the WWII era, both fictional and non-fictional.  Never have I felt anything but disgust for the German soldiers...until the second part of Suite Francaise.  I found myself wishing the Third Reich Lieutenant well, and I find it remarkable that, given the author's fate, Mlle. Nemirovsky was able to create these emotions for me.

Not only do I recommend this book, but I strongly recommend reading both appendixes at the end.

Up Next: Half-Broke Horses

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Glass Castle

The plan was to read Half-Broke Horses next. Then I found out Jeannette Walls had written another memoir first, and since I like to read books in order, I quit HBH about 20 pages in, and picked up The Glass Castle.

I honestly didn't know if I should laugh or cry, be horrified or amused.   Jeanette Walls takes us on a journey through her childhood that makes her readers feel as if we are on the journey with her.  Rose Mary and Rex Walls are the parents of 4 children, and it's a miracle those kids survived into adulthood.  Rex was an alcoholic whose money-making schemes almost always resulted in the family having to sneak out of town in the middle of the night.  Rose Mary has an interesting outlook on life, but has never grown up.  She's more concerned with not wanting to prove her mother right than she is with the welfare of her children.  I hated Rex and Rose Mary for the way they neglected their kids, but as I read how their lives turned out, I realized that I had inexplicably fallen in love with them.

Jeanette and her sisters and brother are an intelligent, resilient, and admirable group of people who survived incredibly depressing childhoods.  I have a feeling that The Glass Castle is just a quick overview of what their lives were like growing up, and they could each fill an entire library with their stories.

Read the book, thank your parents, and hug your children.

Up Next: Suite Francaise

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sarah's Key

My God. That is the one thought went through my head over and over during the three hours it took me to read Sarah's Key.  This is by far one of the best, and possibly the most heart-wrenching stories I have ever read, and it was impossible for me to put the book down till I had finished it.

This book is not a historical work, and the characters are fictitious, but the events are based on real events that took place during the summer of 1942 in France.  It begins on July 16/17, 1942 in Paris when 10-year-old Sarah is brutally forced from her home with her mother and father.  Her 4-year-old brother is spared only because he is able to convince Sarah to lock him in their secret cupboard.  Thinking they'll only be gone for a few hours, she promises to come back for him before nightfall.  He has his teddy bear, flashlight, book, and enough water to last him several hours, maybe even a day or two.

Then there's Julia, an American journalist living in Paris with her French husband and their daughter.  When she is assigned to write a piece about the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup, she uncovers a dark secret her father-in-law has been keeping for 60 years.

Sarah's Key bounces back and forth between Sarah and Julia until their two worlds collide, and it makes you hunt for the same closure that Julia is searching for.  This is an excellent book, and my praise can do it no justice.

Up Next: The Glass Castle

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sizzling Sixteen

She's back! In Sizzling Sixteen, Stephanie has to rescue her cousin, and boss, from a most unpleasant fate.  With the help of Connie and Lula (and with Ranger stepping in when she gets in over her head), Stephanie manages to save Vinnie twice by coming up with some crazy schemes.

I have mixed emotions about this book.  While I still enjoyed it very much and it was nice to see more of Vinnie and Connie, I do think that it's time for Evanovich to bring Stephanie into the 21st century.  I could have done with a little less Lula (I love her, but sometimes she can be too much) and a little more Morelli.

As always, this series had me laughing almost all the way through, even (perhaps especially?) with the crazy alligator and hobbit appearances.  If you're looking for a fast, easy, and fun read, this is a good option.

Up Next: Sarah's Key

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I Capture the Castle

I watched this movie several months ago on Netflix, and fell in love. I Capture the Castle follows the lives of the Mortmain family for about six months, and is told by 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain as she writes in her journals.  Cassandra and her family are living in a dilapidated castle in the English country, and barely have enough money for food, much less rent.

When American brothers, Simon and Neil Cotton, inherit the castle, their lives intertwine with those of the castle residents in ways nobody ever imagined.

This is a wonderful story about personal growth, hope, loss, and first loves.  It can get wordy in some areas, but is worthy of any bookshelf.

Up Next:  Sizzling Sixteen

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Under the Tuscan Sun

I LOVE this movie, and had no idea it had been a book first, so when I saw it sitting on the shelf at the library, I had to get it!  I was so disappointed when I started reading Under the Tuscan Sun.  To compare the book to the movie would be like comparing yourself to a tree - you both need oxygen to survive.

There are very few similarities between the book and the movie, but the spirit remains the same.  The book brings to life more of the restoration process, which really intrigues the DIY-er side of my personality.  Frances Mayes' descriptions of Bramasole, and the adventures she finds make you feel like you're right there, along for the ride.  And, the way she describes the food makes your mouth water.  Luckily, she includes several delicious sounding recipes (I have yet to try any, but I'm hoping to)!

There are very few similarities between the book and the movie, but the spirit remains the same, which is why I recommend reading Under the Tuscan Sun.  Just remember to put aside your thoughts and feelings about the movie, whatever they may be, and read this book with fresh, open eyes.  You won't be sorry.

If you would like to see the real Bramasole, or the little cottage Mrs. Mayes stumbled upon during one of her walks through the countryside, then bought to restore, look here and here.

Up Next:  I Capture the Castle

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

It took me FOREVER to get into this book. I skipped the last half of the first chapter, and chunks of Chapters 2-3. It wasn't until about half way through the 4th chapter that I actually became interested.

The book starts with an elderly man opening his birthday present, and adding it to his collection.   The gift makes his heart ache.

Then, we are introduced to one of the book's main characters, Mikael Blomkvist, and his troubles.  This is where the book bored me to death.  It went on and on about Blomkvist's trial, and went a little to far into what goes on in the corporate world - something that I, personally, have very little interest in.

Once Lisbeth Salander is introduced and Blomkvist is offered a new job, the book becomes much more interesting.  Together, they work to find out what happened to Harriet Vanger, almost 40 years earlier, and what they find is utterly shocking.

If you decide to read this book, be patient.  The first few chapters are uber boring, and a lot of the Swedish pop culture references might fly right over your head (as they did mine), but it is definitely worth it to finish this book.

Up Next:  Under the Tuscan Sun

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Stephanie Plum Series: Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Book 15)

Lula is running late for work so while she's trying to drive and put her make-up on at the same time, she misses her turn, and watches a man get beheaded. It turns out, the man who lost his head is a celebrity chef who is in town for the local BBQ Cook Off.

Not only did Lula see the murderers, but the murderers also saw Lula. Lula's life is in danger, and the murderers find her at her house, so she decides to move into Stephanie's apartment, which sends Stephanie to Ranger's apartment.

Stephanie is working overtime trying to keep up with her FTA's, finding the men who are after Lula, and trying to help Ranger with a problem he has at his securtiy business. There's plenty of laughs and explosions in Finger Lickin' Fifteen, and I look forward to the next book in the series.

Up Next: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stephanie Plum Series: Fearless Fourteen (Book 14)

It's just another fugitive pick-up for Stephanie when she stops to get single mother, Loretta Rizzi. Loretta has a boy that needs to be picked up from school, and doesn't want to go in to get rebonded until she finds someone to take care of him till she's able to get back home. Stephanie agrees to pick him up, and ends up having the spitting image of Joe Morelli living with her and her boyfriend for longer than expected.

In Fearless Fourteen, it's not just Stephanie that's getting threats, Joe is getting them, too.  Loretta's brother, Dom, robbed nine million dollars from a bank, stashed it somewhere, served his time, and now that he's out, he and his partners want their money.  The money's hiding place has something to do with the house that Aunt Rose left to Joe, and Loretta has been kidnapped.

While trying to find the money so the crazy men will release Loretta, Ranger has also hired Stephanie to do some bodyguard work for a celebrity who comes to town.  The extra work forces Stephanie to hire Mooner, and the celebrity's stalker, to watch over the house and Loretta's son.

Fourteen books into the series, and Janet Evanovich is still able to keep things quite entertaining!

Up Next: Finger Lickin' Fifteen

Monday, August 9, 2010

Stephanie Plum Series: Lean Mean Thirteen (Book 13)

Stephanie was married for about 15 minutes to a jerk named Dickie Orr.  In Lean Mean Thirteen, she's doing a favor for Ranger, and needs to plant a bug on Dickie.  She goes into his office, and the conversation starts out civil enough.  Then Stephanie sees a picture that sets her off and she begins threatening to kill Dickie and Lula points a gun at him, and there are witnesses.

When Dickie disappears and blood is found in his house, Stephanie is the prime suspect.  Her archenemies, Joyce Barnhardt, who is involved with Dickie when he disappears, also thinks Stephanie is guilty, so she does what she can to make all of Trenton turn against Stephanie. 

The two main men involved in Stephanie's life believe in her innocence, and work to keep her out of jail.  Not only does Stephanie find out a few surprising things about Dickie, but she also finds out that Joe Morelli has been keeping a big secret from her.

Up Next: Fearless Fourteen

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Stephanie Plum Series: Twelve Sharp (Book 12)

In Twelve Sharp, Stephanie is back to working for Vinnie. Ranger has left town to take care of some "bad business" in Miami. While he's gone, Stephanie is approached and shot at by Carmen Manoso, Ranger's wife.

While Ranger is gone, the news reaches Trenton that Ranger's daughter is missing, and he is wanted for her kidnapping.  He comes back and convinces Stephanie to help him find his daughter and the madman who is responsible.

After agreeing to not only help Ranger, Stephanie also invites him to hide out at her apartment.  Her boyfriend, Joe Morelli, is also on the case, and when he finds out about the sleeping arrangement, he decides to move in to her apartment, too.

As always, Janet Evanovich keeps things interesting on all different levels, and it's hard to put the book down once you start it!

Up Next: Lean Mean Thirteen

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Stephanie Plum Series: Eleven on Top (Book 11)

Stephanie has had it with being shot at, bombed, and having her apartment broken into. In Eleven on Top, she quits her job as a bail enforcement agent, thinking that her life could finally regain some normalcy.

After trying out a few different jobs, and receiving threats, including a couple of bombs, she agrees to go to work for Ranger.  When Ranger has to go out of town for a couple of weeks, he gives Stephanie the keys to his truck, and she uses the GPS system to find his Bat Cave.

Stephanie is in a difficult position...she can't stay at her apartment because she's not safe there, and she doesn't want to endanger Joe or her family.  So, she decides that since Ranger is out of town, she may as well crash at his place while she hunts for her stalker.

When Ranger returns and finds Stephanie sleeping in his bed, he agrees to help her.  What they find is a surprise to them all.

Up Next: Twelve Sharp