Friday, September 30, 2016

Review: Six Scary Stories

Six Scary Stories Six Scary Stories by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a selection of six stories selected by Stephen King for a competition he judged to promote his collection Bazaar of Bad Dreams. All six are well written short stories. The collection reminded me of a mini Tales from the Crypt collection. Worth reading if you're a horror fan. None of them were very gruesome, except for the last one.

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review: Loving Eleanor

Loving Eleanor Loving Eleanor by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lorena "Hick" Hickok was an AP journalist who covered Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt's wife Eleanor in the late 20s. She met the first lady of New York and continued to cover her until Roosevelt won the 1932 Presidential election. Hick and Eleanor became steadfast friends and many historians believe that they had a deeply intimate relationship. Loving Eleanor is the fictionalized account of that relationship from Hick's perspective based on over three thousand letters written by Hick and Eleanor throughout their friendship. This book shows Eleanor in a way most people have never thought of her. Many know about FDR's philandering ways, but many did not realize that Eleanor was a deeply loving person, who may have also had several affairs herself with both men and women. She was devoted to family, friends, and domestic causes. She was definitely her own woman.

The book is really from Hick's point of view but the reader will definitely get a sense of what Eleanor was like on a personal basis, away from politics. I found Hick to be a bit whiny and selfish who didn't always seem to understand that she had a friendship / relationship with the First Lady of the United States and a woman that had her own agenda in life. They were likely very much alike, so much so that it caused occasional riffs. I'm not sure I cared so much about some of the intimate details, but I did like getting to see a different side of Eleanor than I had known / realized. I've always admired Eleanor's work and spirit and this has caused me to want to read more about her.

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Review: The House of Twenty Thousand Books

The House of Twenty Thousand Books The House of Twenty Thousand Books by Sasha Abramsky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sasha Abramsky gives us a detailed look at the life of his grandfather Chimen Abramsky, a Jewish atheist and scholar, who amassed over twenty thousand books on subjects entailing communism, socialism, and Judaic studies. Chimen primarily lived in England after leaving his home country of Russia as a young man. As a rebellious son of a well-known Jewish Rabbi, Chimen covertly departed from his faith and joined the Communist Party for many years. He worked in his in-law's bookshop in England and began to collect rare, important works from communist and socialist leaders and scholars including Karl Marx. Chimen was most comfortable at his home with like-minded friends and colleagues talking and debating political and religious ideals and theories. Later in life, he was unable to continue supporting the ways and means of the Communist Party and changed his focus to Judaic studies.

I found Chimen to be a very interesting subject to read about. While claiming to be an atheist and following the tenets of socialism, Chimen never really broke away from his Jewish heritage. Very likely that is due out of respect for his father Rabbi Yehezkel Abramsky. Chimen was very complex and was obviously a very learned and respected man. His collection of books was astounding and became the heart and soul of his home. Although a very interesting look at Chimen, I was not so interested in all of the details around the communist and socialist rhetoric.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Review: Tales of the Peculiar

Tales of the Peculiar Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For fans of Rigg's Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, this book of short stories "fairy tale" style will give some background into some of the peculiar people that are encountered in the series. There are ten short fairy tales as told by Milliard Nullings, the invisible man in the Peculiar Children series. Some of the stories may seem similar to normal fairy tales, but each gives some background on peculiars, including ymbrynes. This is a good companion to the series.

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Review: A Gathering in Hope: A Novel

A Gathering in Hope: A Novel A Gathering in Hope: A Novel by Philip Gulley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Gathering in Hope is the third in a series about jaded Quaker pastor Sam Gardner. Sam and his wife have now settled in quite nicely to Hope, Indiana as the spiritual leader of Hope Friends Meeting. His congregation is growing and is becoming quite diverse with the addition of a lesbian couple and a new family with twin baby girls. Time for Hope Friends to spruce up the nursery. The most recent addition appears to be over 100 endangered bats that have taken up residence in the church attic and nearby trees. The Department of Natural Resources comes to inspect the colony and puts a halt to any services or activities until after mating season, when the bats will leave for a while on their own. In the meantime, Sam has to deal with the church elders who are busy preparing a remodel and expansion of the church. The Hope Friends are now left to find a new meeting place while the bats fornicate in the attic, until all 100+ wing residents are found in a garbage bag outside of the meeting house. Crazy antics ensue until the culprit is found.

I love Gulley's writing. He has such a sarcastic sense of humor that I love. The characters are quirky but lovable. I think the book before this one was his funniest, but this one is right behind it.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Review: The Land of Oz

The Land of Oz The Land of Oz by Tim Hollis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you ever visited North Carolina in the 70s, you likely heard of the little amusement park The Land of Oz based on the popular children's novel and MGM movie Wizard of Oz written by L. Frank Baum. The park was nestled atop Beech Mountain near Banner Elk / Boone, North Carolina. During the winter, the park was a ski resort, but in order to extend the revenue season, the summers saw the area transformed into a park complete with Uncle Henry's Home, The Yellow Brick Road, and the Emerald City. As you walk along the brightly painted walk you would encounter Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tinman, the Cowardly Lion, and the Wicked Witch. For anyone who was even a remote fan, the park provided an afternoon of fun. The park officially closed in the 80s and has since fallen into disrepair, until a few old fans and local realty agent began to bring it back to life. The park is now opened on a limited basis on special weeks(ends) in the spring and fall. This book is basically a photo journal of the park from its inception through its current state. Most of the photos are from the original park's publicity shots and souvenir book, as well as some photos from park employees and realty agency that is currently the owner of the property.

I vividly remember visiting the park as a young girl. I was always a fan of the Oz books, and the movie. I still have the souvenir book we purchased at the park and L. Frank Baum's Land of Oz book that I bought at the park bookstore. This was a great little book to stroll down memory lane. I hope to someday visit again on one of the park's special weekends.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Review: A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder

A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder by Michael Pollan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Michael Pollan dreamed of a small building on his property that he could go to in solitude and read and write. Just a place of his own with a nice view that added to his property and didn't seem like an out building plopped up in the backyard. A Place of My Own is about those couple of years that he spent with his friend, an architect, and a contractor / carpenter, bringing his dream to life. He really wanted something that he could easily enough build himself, but he soon found that he needed some help. So much more went into creating his "simple vision", but what he was left with was exactly what he wanted and needed.

I've read Pollan's Food Rules and enjoy his straight talk with a little sarcastic humor. I think many people can relate to wanting to build a dream home or some dream space to call their own. This book is a reminder that you sometimes have to work hard for your dreams and that they may not always be as easy as you think. If you ever plan to build, you may want to peruse this book. I will say that at times he got long winded on architectural theories and ideals, but loved the underlying sense of humor he uses.

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Sunday, September 4, 2016

Review: Lily Tomlin: The Kindle Singles Interview

Lily Tomlin: The Kindle Singles Interview Lily Tomlin: The Kindle Singles Interview by Tom Roston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a short interview with Lily Tomlin, hosted by Tom Roston for Kindle Singles. I've loved Lily Tomlin since I watched her on Laugh-In. In person, she seems to be the same funny lady I grew up watching. She seems very open and honest with a no-holds-barred attitude. The interview covers her time at Laugh-In with characters like Edith Ann and Ernestine to her time on 9-5 with Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton. The main focus is a promotion for her movie Grandma and her Netflix original show Grace and Frankie.

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