Sunday, March 30, 2014

The House On The Cliff by D E Stevenson

The House on the CliffThis is a clean, sweet read and I enjoyed it very much. If you're ever looking for a feel good "palate cleanser " between books, D E Stevenson seems a good choice.

There's really not a complicated plot or even much in the way of twists and turns. I found it fairly predictable but I still enjoyed it. I was debating what to rate it...
Because of its simplicity I thought a solid 3. But you really can't compare apples to peaches. 'The House On the Cliff ' isn't trying to be 'War and Peace ' so you cant put them side by side and compare.

So for what this is: a sweet love story along the lines of "The Secret Garden" for grown-ups, it succeeds.

In a nutshell, a rather destitute orphan (hopelessly infatuated with her charismatic coworker) inherits her ancestor's old homestead and leaves everything in the city behind. Its a story of discovery. First, of oneself, second, where one belongs, and lastly who to share one's life with.

SEX : None


Overcoming Obstacles in Cooking by Michael W. Miller

Overcoming Obstacles in Cooking3 1/2 Stars for actual content
5 Stars for effort and encouragement

"Stop and look at me for who I am~
Don't turn away when you take a glance.
Don't look at the crowd and follow them~
Be yourself and give me a chance." - Matthew W. Miller

This is really a special cookbook because it is written by someone who knows the challenges of cooking with a disability but does it anyway. Matthew (the author) deals with mild Cerebral palsy so his insights encourage one to keep it simple and never give up.

When I picked this up I thought it was going to be more of a book on tips (organizing kitchen supplies for easy access, that kind of thing) but it's not. It is a cookbook. Matthew has gathered favorite recipes from friends and family that are easy, simple and user friendly; the book reminiscent of the old "church bakesale" collections.

I would highly recommend this cookbook to people dealing with a disability and also to young people (or adults!) who were never taught how to use recipes. The choices are pretty foolproof and would give them a good start and confidence in the kitchen.

How this book could be 5 stars :

I want to hear more from Matthew! His poem is beautiful and his suggestions on pages 74 -77 are very helpful. (for instance, when cooking with someone who has a disability be patient and don't jump to their rescue unless they really need rescuing!)
I would love to read even more tips like this (you need to go to the appendix for these) and I would prefer them spaced throughout the book along with stories (successes and disasters) that the author had while learning the art of cooking. That's just an idea and my two cents worth. :)

Also I would love to see some pictures (or sketches) of the recipes.

I do think the price is rather high ($35) for such a short book but I truly wish the best for the author and his future endeavors. He genuinely seems to be a kind, likeable person!

*I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion

Sunday, March 23, 2014

To Serve Them All My days by R.F. Delderfield

To Serve Them All My Days3 1/2 Stars

I think I deserve one of those shiny silver stickers on my forehead for getting through all 678 pages! My paperback was literally falling apart in my hands and needed frequent sticky tape first aid as I read.

As my friends know, I love chunky sagas and epics but I'll be honest with you. You could EASILY chop 200 pages off this without affecting the story one iota.

IN A NUTSHELL: A shell shock soldier ( WW1) is discharged from a lengthy hospital stay and is encouraged to take a post at a boys boarding school by his neurologist. What follows is 20 years as a teacher and mentor and how one school gave a shell of a man a new lease on life and reason to live.

The first half was 5 stars for me but I wish his first wife could have held up a bit longer (I'm not spoiling it, its in the description and come on, it covers 20 years so nothing is permanent) I really liked her a lot and wished things could have been different. His future love interests I didn't care for so much.

One character is very into politics and my eyes start glazing over when you mention Tories and liberals, so you can imagine I found these bits hard going. The school subjects/methods also got a little tedious after a while but it is a book about a boarding school so what did I expect, right? For anyone in the education field this book would be fascinating.

I really loved the stories about the individual boys and their escapades. Their nicknames were entertaining as well. I come from a family where no one uses anyone's real names and we have nicknames for everyone else we know too (some know it and most don't!) so I could relate to this. Some nicknames:

Matron. Heavy, full busted and highly corseted: MA FENDER
Student with one missing *ahem* appendage: LACKANACKER
Teacher with one toe missing and a rolling gait: TUMBLER
Teacher with comaraderie classroom discussions: POW-WOW
The list goes on and on....

The writing itself is very readable and the characters well portrayed and individualistic. It's a good story and worth reading.
But I'm glad I'm done. :)


SEX: Fade to black
PROFANITY: Moderate. D, B, H


Friday, March 14, 2014

The Day My Father Became A Bush by Joke van Leeuwen

The Day My Father Became a BushThe funny thing is, I read almost the whole way through this before I realized it was contemporary. I had thought it was WW2. Then someone in the story started typing on a computer and there were plastic baggies and her parents are separated but not by war and I was like whaaaat?

Anyway! The story is well written and has the true voice of a child. The illustrations are good too. Its about a girl who has to flee over the border during wartime to the safety of her mother's house (which she's never seen). Her father is a soldier but all she really knows is that he was a fine pastry chef and now he spends his time disguised as a bush.

It is a chapter book so probably recommended for ages 8-12

Shadows In The Afternoon by Robert Tyler Stevens

Shadows in the AfternoonThis book is published under two titles. "Shadows in the Afternoon by Robert Tyler Stevens and "Katerina's Secret by Mary Jane Staples.

Most of R.T.Stevens's stories take place before/during WW1. This one was interesting in that it takes place some years after the end of WW1, and the hero is an Infantry captain who was discharged after his lungs were poisoned with gas. He is portrayed as thin, having to walk slowly and not exert himself so as to not bring on the racking coughs and painful gasping of breath. So not your typical hero material. Yet, he is very kind and is described as having a firm mouth and lovely eyes and generally cheerful disposition.

Through the friendship of the hotel proprietress's daughter, Edward meets a woman who is desperate for companionship and surprisingly old fashioned. She lives in a villa behind high walls, locked gates and never appears in public. Her only company is a "Dr.Kandor", a housekeeper and gardener. She calls herself "Katrina", a Bulgarian refugee.

Edward Somers accepts this story at first but as attempts are made on the Countess's life, he starts suspecting the truth of her identity...and her Russian royal family.

The book is a leisurely read, there's excitement but not of the intense 'I'm not going to sleep tonight' type. But I really enjoyed it. The cover is hideous but you need to ignore that (or buy the book under the other title). Loving all things Romanov and R T Steven's writing style in general I give this book 4 stars.


SEX: None
VIOLENCE: Pretty Mild
PROFANITY: Mild to Non-existant


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Erica's Tripod by Cynthia Fabian

Erica's Tripod: A Book about a Girl with Muscular DystrophyI really did not like this. The idea is a good one, to teach a handicapped child to be ok with needing help. But the child Erica came across as rather ugly. She is rude to her mother, says "I hate you" multiple times to the dog, shouts at him, and even says his name is "stupid". (Here in North Carolina, elementary school children are taught never to use the word stupid, its considered almost a swear.)

I can understand a child feeling "out of place" when they are dealing with a disability. But there's no call for being rude and I think unwittingly the book sends the wrong message. Children who have no health challenges might read this book and assume that all children in wheelchairs are like Erica: angry, rude and bad tempered.They might think, "I'd better not approach him/her". We wouldn't want that to happen. There are so many beautiful people with issues of one sort or another, why isolate them further?

The idea of this book is a good one but it fell short. I do think it could be reworked though and something good could be made of it.

As it is, for the reasons I mentioned,I will not give this to my nephews (or any other child) to read.

*I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Scarlet Shadows by Emma Drummond

Scarlet Shadows by Emma DrummondVictoria is only 17 years old and an orphan when she is betrothed to Charles, a titled military man of 38, considered a fine catch . His outward charm masks a stern, controlling nature which Victoria starts getting whiffs of even before the wedding, but youthful inexperience and naivity make a dangerous combination.

While at the family estate in the months before their planned wedding, Victoria becomes companion to Charles' brother Hugo (at home recovering from temporary blindness) and starts falling for his easy nature. Still, even after a taste of what true love is she feels honor bound to go through with her marriage to Charles.

What follows is a diasterous marriage, family feud, tragedy and war. Both brothers (being military men) are assigned to the Crimea. Victoria goes along as a military wife. She has to deal with the violence of her husband and the smoldering glances of Hugo. Added to that is sickness, storms, starvation and the turmoil of war. Injury and death doesn't even begin to cover what becomes a full scale blood bath in the infamous "charge of the light brigade "

Emma Drummond writes in a gripping, readable style. Her characters LIVE (and yeah, they die too) and even if you dont like them you want to know what becomes of them. So Scarlet Shadows kept me turning the pages.

In saying that, its not a cheerful read. And I didn't enjoy it as much as "Forget the Glory ". (By the way both SS and FTG are based on the Crimean war so there are similarities between them and some of the same events are mentioned.)

So whose the better hero? Hugo (in SS) or Rowan (in FTG) . Hmmmm. Both are angsty tortured heroes. Very hard to choose. Hugo sees Victoria's worth from the very start which is sooo sweet, while Rowan has to have Mary pounded over his head for him to see her as more than a maid. But still, once he sees her, TRULY sees her....*sigh* ..

The better heroine? Victoria (in SS) or Mary (in FTG) ?
Mary, hands down.


SEX : Non explicit (but nonetheless mature) scene of marital rape, past dalliances on the part of male characters are mentioned. Passionate longing.
PROFANITY : Pretty mild. D 's and B 's.
VIOLENCE : Brief but intense battle scenes.

MY RATING: Strong PG 13
Recommended for: NA and A readers

I Guess We Missed The Boat by Barry Finlay

I Guess We Missed The Boat by Barry Finlay2 1/2 Stars

This book would make the perfect waiting room book. The chapters are short, don't require much concentration and are mildly entertaining. Not super entertaining but about as entertaining as anything else you might find on a waiting room table.

The book reads like an "around the breakfast table " chat with relatives. Kind of like, "remember that bus trip we took to Chicago and someones stinky armpit was in your face the whole way?" and everyone laughs and passes the box of cereal.

There's nothing earthshaking or memorable about this, its somewhat amusing, somewhat off color and somewhat forgetable. BUT! If you have to sit and wait in a school queue to pick up your kids or visit the doctor, then I think this book may deserve a place in your handbag.

*I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. Many thanks.

Toby says Be A Buddy Not A Bully by Charmaine Hammond

Toby, the Pet Therapy Dog, Says Be a Buddy, Not a Bully by Charmaine HammondThis is a cute story about a 'working dog 'who gets bullied but doesn't retaliate. He goes back to his owner and the owner handles the situation.

His example teaches children at school that it's not ok to be mean and if you see someone being mean you need to speak up and then tell a responsible adult.

The story also teaches that it's ok to be different and Toby loves everyone, even if they like brocolli icecream. He loves people for their individuality. And it follows that we should too.

I thought the book well written and good for teaching a lesson. There's also questions for discussion at the back of the book and a few games/puzzles.

Recommended for classroom reading and discussion.

I received a free book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.