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Showing posts from October, 2014

Book Review: The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, by Hilary Mantel

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The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I believe that Hilary Mantel is one of the great writers. Period. Not just of this century or the last, but of all time. Her ability to be in the scene is uncanny. I always come away disturbed by her writing, but also comforted.
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher is a collection of stories, most of which have been previously published. Some of them are slightly spooky. Almost ALL of them lead you down a trail- you think you know where it's going, and then the course switches and you find yourself thinking, "What just happened?". The titular piece is more than I thought it would be. I am an admirer of MT, so I went into the story with prejudices. The two main characters represent two different views of the former PM. One has a sort of flippant, skin-deep hatred of "the butcher's daughter" and the other has deeper feelings, based on deaths of people he knows. It was interestin…

Book Review: Mr. Miracle: A Christmas Novel, by Debbie Macomber

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Mr. Miracle: A Christmas Novel by Debbie Macomber
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really like Debbie Macomber's novels. They always have happy endings and sometimes that is just what you need. The Shirley, Goodness and Mercy books were my introduction to the Angelic Intervention Series, and I have enjoyed their stories. Mr. Miracle is an expansion on this theme, in which an angel comes to Earth, in earthly form, to help a mortal. In this case, the angel is Harry Mills, who has come as a professor for a literature class to guide Addie and Erich to find love. Harry also has to deal with the stern and mean college dean, Mr. Concieto, an amorous French teacher, and a few other interesting characters.

As much as I've enjoyed the past Christmas novels, this one just didn't do it for me. It just had no depth at all, and really, I don't read Christmas novels for depth, but I didn't really care much about the characters, I didn't feel like I really knew them. It was all too …

Book Review: The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism & Asperger's, by Temple Grandin

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The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism & Asperger's by Temple Grandin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been a fan of Professor Grandin ever since I saw her on 60 Minutes several years ago. I recently watched the HBO film "Temple Grandin" and became even more interested in her life and her work on behalf of people on the Autism Spectrum.

The Way I See It is a compilation of articles Temple Grandin has written over the course of several years. The descriptions she gives of the various forms of Autism, and how they effect behavior is eye-opening. She talks about the way she "thinks in pictures" and how her upbringing in the 1950s was beneficial to her because even with her autism, her mother expected her to behave a certain way, and revoked privileges if she didn't meet expectations, which taught her how to behave in public, in turn making it easier for her to hold a job and be around people. She decries the "loose" upbringing of the children …

Cooking Tip: Easy Baked Potatoes for a Crowd

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I was going to have a new book review for you today, but the book was a dud and I didn't make it through the first chapter. I've decided that I am too old to waste time reading books that I don't enjoy, so instead if a one-star book review, here is an easy way to make baked potatoes for a crowd. I've seen this method around on the internet for a while, but hadn't tried it until today.

The ingredients: Potatoes.
You need: A crock pot, and foil.

I love this method because you can get a ton of potatoes done without turning on the oven, which is great for a party, or just to have some nice baked potatoes left over. It's also good for when you need cooked potatoes for a recipe, like hash. You can do them the day before, or over night and you're good to go.

First, scrub up your taters to get all the dirt off. Nothing worse than biting into a nice potato skin and having grit come off on your teeth. Gross.

Next, stab each potato a few times with a fork or a kni…

TV Series Review : Transparent, Produced by Amazon

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Transparent:Does Not Live Up To Its Promise

I wanted to like this show. I thought it would be about a person shedding the skin that never really fit, and how she is able to work through the issues that will most certainly come up in that transition. There are small, brief glimpses of this, and when that happens, it's really good. Unfortunately, they are few and far between. I watched 7 of the 9 episodes before I gave up.

Most of the story centers on Mort/Maura's horrible children. All adults, all awful, dysfunctional people. Not one of them is a sympathetic character, nor are their assorted lovers and partners. I think the writers are trying to bludgeon us over the head with their belief that the Mort character, living as a man although he feels that he is truly a woman, married to a bossy, pushy, slightly crazy woman, turned out horribly damaged children. I felt sorry for Maura as she kept promising things to her children that couldn't happen- if one got what he wanted, t…

Book Review: Gap Creek by Robert Morgan

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Gap Creek by Robert Morgan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First of all, to call this incredible novel "chick lit" is insulting. It should not be placed in that category.

I can't express adequately the deep feeling this book engendered in me. I have never loved a character in a book the way I love Julie. Mr. Morgan is so good at bringing life from words. His novels are pieces of poetry. The story is a life of hard work and tragedy, with small bursts of joy. This is one of those books that I never wanted to end. I kept wanting more and more for Julie and was so frustrated with the hard times she faced, and the people who were treating her badly. My stomach was in knots over some of the situations.

The way Robert Morgan writes his characters, you really feel like you know the person. How a man can speak so eloquently in the voice of a woman is amazing. Julie Harmon is a 17 year old girl living in Appalachia near the turn of the 19th century. She has already suffered tragedy in h…

Book Review: All I Have In This World, by Michael Parker

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All I Have In This World by Michael Parker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this one. A story of an aimless man who can't seem to Be where and when he needs to Be, and a woman who has been running from her past.

The story starts in 1994 with a teenage Maria, living in Texas, who is dating Randy, who loves her. Randy has a souped-up Nova and in addition to loving Maria, and passionately working on his car, he is willing to hang out in the driveway and spend time jawing with Maria's dad, Luis, which is, at the time, a major annoyance to Maria. A series of events leads to a tragedy, in response to which Maria's family fractures even more than it already had.

In 2004, Marcus, a middle-aged man from North Carolina, is running off to Mexico in his F150 with $10,000 he has managed to squirrel away after losing to the bank the educational center dedicated to the Venus Flytrap and other carnivorous species of plants he had built, using his family's long-held home pla…

Book Review: The Ghost of the Mary Celeste, by Valerie Martin

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The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Ghost of the Mary Celeste is a frustrating book. It's very well written, which makes one want to keep reading, looking for answers to the mysteries that are presented from the very first chapter. I found myself even gasping aloud at one point. There are several characters that come in and out of the chapters. I appreciated the dates on the chapters, so I could keep track of the characters.

The story is about:
1- A ship called the Mary Celeste which was discovered floating in the sea with no crew and a full cargo hold.

2- A woman called Violet Petra, who is a medium and ages several decades throughout the course of the book.

3- Arthur Conan Doyle (Yes, that Arthur Conan Doyle).

4- The Spiritualist Craze of the Victorian Era.

5- The Sea, which is very much a character.

The novel starts with a very compelling bit about a Captain's Wife, who has gone on an ocean journey with her husband, and the demise of the tw…

Book Review : How to be a Good Wife, by Emma Chapman

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How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Marta has started having hallucinations, or has she?(Imagine that sentence as spoken by Keith Morrison).

This is a tough review to write, because it feels like saying anything will be a spoiler. Marta is a 40-something year old wife and mother. Her husband is 20 years older than she is, and her son has left the home to be out on his own "in the city". That she is depressed, there is no doubt. What kind of pills is she (not) taking? The entire book keeps you guessing about what is really happening, or has happened. I felt myself becoming more disgusted and horrified with one of the main characters as the narrative continued. Will we ever know the truth? (view spoiler)[Is Marta insane, or has she discovered a breathtakingly horrible truth about her entire married life? Or is it a combination of both? (hide spoiler)]I'm not sure, even now, after having a day to digest the whole thing.

And although this isn'…