Monday, December 27, 2010

Grandpa is home!

My grandpa, Jim Chandler, at the age of 92 went home last night.



This world was always a temporary stop for him. He taught me that we are travelers on our way to heaven and while we are staying here we should be the best guests we can be and show God's love to as many people as possible. He did that every day. There was never a day that went by that he didn't do something for someone else. He had a heart the size of Alaska and never passed up an opportunity to share the blessings God poured out on him with anyone he met.



My Grandma, Helen, went home ahead of him about 8 years ago. She also was so full of God's love and gave unselfishly of herself. She never met a stranger and I never heard her say a harsh word about anyone. They loved one another deeply and that love spread throughout our family. Their lives were an example to all of us and everyday I see their influence in my life and the lives of my own family. The passion they had for Jesus and the love they had for everyone around them is inspiring.

Grandpa went in the hospital two weeks ago and found out he wasn't going to make it much longer. Despite that news, he continued to be cheerful and upbeat, making the kids laugh every chance he could and helping the rest of us to feel better as well. He assured us all that he was prepared to go and was going to be seeing Jesus. He was discharged under Hospice care a little over a week ago. He deteriorated rapidly to the point of unresponsiveness. The last few days he was unconscious and had been nothing more than a shell, but he kept breathing. He was surrounded by many family and friends. Family from all over the country came to be by him and there were times it was like a big party going on with all of us talking and laughing together. We played games, ate lots of good food and visited. The thought crossed my mind early on that maybe we were being disrespectful but then I remembered that grandpa loved nothing more than to see us all together having a good time. I like to think the sound of our laughter and all the time we spent with each other, as well as with him, helped him pass a little easier.

I got the call about 5am this morning and I got dressed and went over to the house to be with my mom. As she cried on my shoulder I looked at his still form and pictured him being greeted at Heaven's gates by my grandma and a host of others whose lives he had touched. I am sure there is a huge celebration going on right now to welcome him home. He touched so many lives during his stay here on earth and I know that his influence will continue to be felt until the end of time.

After my mom regained her composure we sat on the couch and remembered some of the good times we had with him. I was able to tell her a few stories she hadn't heard before and we laughed together at some of his shenanigans. We talked about how much he loved grandma and how happy she would be to see him. Then we cried a little more for joy at the thought of him back in her arms and being with his precious Savior!

As we sat there it felt like time was standing still for us. I knew that life was going to go on and as I left to go back home to be with my kids when they woke up I saw the cars going to and fro on the streets and people getting started with their days. I thought that time hadn't stopped at all. But for us, it was good to take a moment of time, sitting by his bed, and remember the man he was and to picture the saint he has become.




We'll all miss you, grandpa, but I promise to come home too someday. When we get there, we'll never have to be apart again! Until then, I will continue to make your influence felt in this life by spreading the love that you taught me! You have left a powerful legacy that will be an honor to carry on.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Saturday - Ian McEwan

Saturday
By: Ian McEwan
Published: 2005
Audiobook Read by: Steven Crossley
My rating: Interesting







This was another random draw from the shelves. I have been attempting to broaden my horizons from my normal mysteries, suspense and science fiction, and this was a successful deviation for me.

Henry Perowne has everything he desires in life, a wonderful wife, two well adjusted children, a fulfilling carreer, and all the material possessions he desires. He wakes up early one Saturday morning not knowing that over the next 24 hours, his entire outlook on life will be brought into question. The day starts out with him witnessing an airplane, on fire, attempting to land. He has no idea what happened to it until he later hears the story on the news. That event clues him in that this will not be a normal day. As the day progresses, he faces various challenges, each having an impact on his view of life. When fate puts him in the way of Baxter, a man suffering from Huntington's, he has to make some truly tough decisions that might end up putting his family in serious peril. No matter how obnoxious Baxter might be, the doctor in Henry wants to try to help him through the hell his disease is about to put him through. He has compassion on this shell of a man who is trying to hold onto his manhood by taking advantage of those who are weaker than himself. Henry knows that the disease is the cause of a lot of his anger and violence but knows there is nothing he can do about it.

Typically I am not a fan of the "day in the life of" novels. There is normally way to much detail and not enough substance to the plot. This one however, was different. There was indeed a ton of detail, some of which was totally irrelevant, but the style of the book kept me interested. Much of the book is Henry's thoughts on whatever he is experiencing and the deviations his mind takes as his circumstances draw forth memories of the past. I was amused at the accuracy with which Ian portrays the workings of the human brain and how a train of thought can be so easily sent down a sidetrack.

The setting of the book is London about a year and a half after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11. There is an extended scene that details an argument about whether war should be declared on Iraq or not. I was impressed by how well Ian articulates both sides of the debate and really gives no true feeling for his own view on the matter. Both sides were delivered with valid logic and well thought out reasoning that would give anyone food for thought no matter what side they may be on. It was very interesting to hear these arguments retrospectively, already knowing what the outcome would be.

I listened to the audiobook read by Steven Crossley. He has a very pleasant voice and I enjoyed his performance very much.

Overall, I simply have to rate this book as interesting. There wasn't a lot of action really but it was a look inside the head of one man and allows us to walk around in his shoes for a day. It wasn't a book that pinned me to the edge of my seat but I did enjoy it. I had to add this new rating to place it in since the others just weren't right.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Island Stallion - Walter Farley

The Island Stallion
By: Walter Farley
Published: 1948
My rating: Good








When I was a kid, The Black Stallion series was the best, and this book was the crowning jewel of the lot! I decided to get it and read it to the kids. It seemed a lot more exciting when I was a kid but my kids seemed to enjoy it and that what really mattered.

Steve Duncan has always dreamed of a flame red, magnificent stallion but never thought he would ever find him. When he travels to Azul Island with his friend Pitch he is shocked to be awakened by a strange sound and look up to see the horse from his dreams! Unfortunately there seems to be no way to reach the cliff where the mighty stallion had been. They begin to explore the island more thoroughly and discover secrets that have been untouched for hundreds of years. As Pitch immerses himself in searching for ancient artifacts, Steve makes friends with the beautiful Flame.

I loved the mystery of the island and the fantasy of being able to find such a place. I think that everyone has a little place inside them that would love to find their own little hideaway that nobody else knows about. The plot and style of writing are a little stiff but enjoyable. It was an unrealistic scenario but appealed to the imagination. We enjoyed hearing about the horses and the hidden paradise they lived in. I was left with the desire to go searching for the island so I too could explore it's secrets!

Overall, it wasn't near as good as I remembered it but we did enjoy the story. I read the entire series as a kid and remember them with fondness. I don't think I'll bother reading any more of them to the kids though. I'll just keep them in my memory as great stories about magnificent horses!

Death Of A Gossip - M. C. beaton

Death Of A Gossip
By: M. C. Beaton
Published: 1985
My rating: Delightful









After getting started with this Hamish MacBeth series with Death of a Village and Death of a Traveling Man, I wanted to get the very first one. I couldn't get it on CD so knowing that my wife would like the series as well, I got it and read it to her. She did not disappoint me! (Not that she ever does!)

Hamish is the new Bobby on the beat in Lochdubh and has not been over zealous in his duties. Instead of catching poachers for example, he engages in a little poaching himself. He knows how to get a free sandwich or cup of coffee and has an eye for the one woman in town he should know better than to chase. However, when it comes to instinct, he's got a good supply. When the much hated Lady Jane turns up dead, everyone is a suspect. Even Hamish didn't mind being rid of her. But when CI Blair comes on the scene and mucks about trying to solve the mystery, Hamish knows he has to do something. Having been ordered by Blair to stay out of the investigation, he quietly talks to the suspects and makes long distance phone calls on someone else's bill. Of course he solves the case but did he really know who had committed the murder?

I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as the other Hamish books I've listened to but it was still a lot of fun. I think part of the problem is the fact that Hamish doesn't factor much into the beginning of the book. Part of the attraction of this series is Hamish and his comical ways of conducting himself, and his bumbling attempts at romance. The laid back style of the book is wonderful and I love the picture of life in the Scottish Highlands. I just wish I could do a better Scottish accent!

Overall, this is a must read for those of you who are interested in the series because it introduces Hamish and makes him a little more real. It is a fun mystery and very easy to read. It's a great beginning to a wonderful series that I am sure is going to be a delight for me for a long time to come!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Reptile Room - Lemony Snicket

The Reptile Room
By: Lemony Snicket
Published: 1999
Audiobook Read by: Tim Cury
My rating: Delightful






And now we continue to hear about the Series Of Unfortunate Events that befall the Baudelaire children! This is the second book in the series and the kids and I loved it!

After their rescue from the clutches of Count Olaf, the children are sent off to live with their distant non-relative, Montgomery Montgomery. Uncle Monty, is a herpetologist, a word which here means, "someone who studies snakes". The children are faced with an intimidating house with hedges carved into the shapes of snakes. Their hopes of possibly finding a pleasant home are dashed as they travel down Lousy Lane, smell the acrid fumes of horseradish, and get their first glimpse of the ghastly house and it's evil looking hedges. As they go inside with Mr Poe to meet their new guardian, they are greeted by the nicest man they have seen in a long time! Uncle Monty turns out be wonderful and the children love him.

Now, I must warn you that reading any farther through this review will result in much distress and heartache. No one will hold it against you if you decide to stop here and happily go on your way confident that the Baudelaire children have finally found a good home. However, that is not the case. These youngsters are bound for many unfortunate events so if you read on you will hear about the terrible things that befall them.

Count Olaf, a name which here means, "BIG TROUBLE", is not gone for good! He returns to ruin everything and attempt to destroy the children and steal their fortune with yet another dastardly plan. As the tale unfolds, Olaf succeeds in making the orphans miserable yet again and very nearly manages to pull off his evil plot. However, through some quick thinking on the children's part, some bad luck on Count Olaf's part, and help from the Incredibly Deadly Viper, they manage to foil his plans!

Yet again, Lemony Snicket has given us a diabolically fun tale of woe that kept us on the edge of our seats. This book however, has several very funny scenes that had us laughing quite a lot, despite the sad state of affairs for the Baudelaires. I love the crazy way these books are written, even though the plot is ridiculously unrealistic, the style of the story it great! Count Olaf is such an evil character and the despicable deeds he commits are wonderfully awful!

We listened to the audiobook performed by Tim Curry and once again, despite not having the supporting cast he had in the first book, he is magnificent! I can't imagine anyone else that would be better suited to read these books! :)

Overall, despite the terrible things that happen to the children and the complete lack of a happy ending, this is a delightful book! I highly recommend you give this series a try, I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Wonderful, Beautiful, Spectacular, Perfect Wife

My Perfect Wife

I want to introduce you to the most wonderful woman in the world. (At least I think she is and I don't care if you disagree!)
This is Tammy

Now, before I continue, I have to warn you; I think Tammy is perfect and I love her to infinity and beyond! So, this is going to get mushy, it might get long, and there are quite a few pictures because I couldn't make up my mind which ones to choose so I chose them all! Therefore, if you don't like mushy stuff, you can just say "Hi" to Tammy here, shake hands and go on your way and I won't hold it against you. However, if you want to hear about the most wonderful woman to walk the face of t he earth, read on!

One other thing before I begin, I do know that Tammy will read this, (and probably kill me for it, in which case it was lovely knowing you all!) but every word I write is the absolute truth and comes from my heart. She is the one and only love of my life, and I will never be able to express just how much I love her, no matter how hard I try!

Now, for those of you who are still reading. Tammy and I have been married for 12 1/2 years but it seems like yesterday that we said "I do". February 15 will be the 13th anniversary of our first date and July 24th will be our 13th wedding anniversary. We moved really fast and nobody thought we'd make it but here we are, more in love than ever!

When Tammy and I met, I knew we were meant to be together and I still do. I believe that God brought us together. It's a wonderful story and I intend to tell it in a future blog but not now. :) One of the things that caught my attention though was her glorious hair!
Here we are a couple years after we were married.
Just look at that hair!

Of course it was more than her hair that hooked me in the end but I have to admit it didn't hurt!

She supported me as I started my own remodeling business and worked with me on my jobs as much as possible up until our oldest, Cheyenne, was born.
Here she is helping me install counter-tops in our kitchen.

When things got very tight financially, she stood by me and never complained. I remember one week, a few months after I started on my own, we had no money for groceries. We ate spaghetti for dinner every night, without sauce mind you, and she never once complained! She doesn't even like spaghetti very well! 

Another time I had some extra money after a big job and I gave her $40 to do as she wished with. A few weeks later when things were again very tight, she gave me what she had left, $38! Shocked, I asked her why she still had so much of it left. She simply said, "There wasn't anything I needed"! 

She could make a meal appear out of thin air it seemed. No matter how hard it got, she would remind me that God would always provide for us, and he did! Her faith inspired me, and I began to grow spiritually because of her. There were many times I was down but she was always there to give me a swift kick in the butt and remind me that I better keep my chin up and carry on! I always knew she was right!
She is always fun to be around, and the kids couldn't have a better mother! She played with them and joined in on their games. She is never "too old" for things.
Here she is being a kid! :)

There have been many times when I wanted to be an "old man" but she brings out the kid in me. She always has a smile and rarely ever lets anything get her down. When we have gone on vacations she is as excited and enthusiastic as either of the kids. Traveling with her is so much fun! Everywhere we go she takes great pleasure in exploring and discovering new things. Her love of life is contagious. Our family trips never have angry fights in the car, grouchiness or arguments over anything. We always have fun from start to finish!

Here are some pictures of her on our vacations:

Here we are at the beach in southern New Jersy

At Niagara Falls

Being eaten by a shark at the Niagara Aquarium

In front of the "Big Apple" in Medina, New York

On the dock at a cabin we rented for a week in Maine

On a boat trip out into Penobscot bay in Maine

In the top of the Penobscot Observatory.
If you notice, she looks a bit nervous, she hates heights but she went up for the kids anyway!

In one of the Maine lighthouses.
That's the lens of the lamp on the left.

In the car somewhere. :)

The kids absolutely adore her! They could not have a better mother! From the day they were born she has been so full of love for them and no matter how difficult and ornery they might have been she always loved them. When she would have to punish them she never ever lost her temper and went too far. They always knew whatever punishment they received, they deserved it. She has the patience of a saint. Wesley especially could be very trying as a toddler but she always kept her calm. There were a few times I came home from work and she was getting close to the end of her rope but she would turn him over to me and walk away instead of losing it. I am ashamed to say, I was more likely to get carried away but seeing her calm ways helped me to stay in control as well. 

She loves me unconditionally and treats me like a king. I don't deserve her but every day I thank God for bringing us together! She is by far, the most wonderful, spectacular, beautiful, marvelous, awesome, absolutely perfect woman for me! I love her so very much and I intend to do my absolute best to show her just how much! It's going to take the rest of my life and even then I'm sure I won't be able to scratch the surface but I'm never going to quit trying! I look at her and my heart feels like it's going to burst with love. If it wasn't for her, I'd be a washed out shell of a man, miserable and broken, swirling down the river of life on a piece of wreckage from the disaster I had made of myself before she found me. She threw me a rescue line and helped me to build a wonderful life full of joy and happiness! 

If you made it this far I'm sure you have figured out that I love Tammy very much! Please forgive this public display of affection but I want to shout from the rooftops how much I love her! Like I told Darlene, she is my #1 angel! She was sent down from heaven to rescue me! There is nothing, nohow, nowhere, never ever that I will let come between us!

I LOVE TAMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'll leave you with one more random picture of her. I never get tired of seeing her beautiful face and since this is my blog, you just have to deal with it! :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wesley's School Christmas Program

Last night we attended my son, Wesley's, Christmas program at school. This is Wesley standing in front of his display table about Spain.
If you follow Susan Mills' wonderful blog you might have seen a story about this in my comment. Anyway, The elementary school has been working on studying various countries, and for the after program fellowship time, the students were standing with their displays answering questions about their respective countries and passing out samples of various foods from said countries. The food that we were assigned was Flan. Now, my wife had no idea how to make it but thought she could muddle through. However at 8am yesterday morning she was lying in bed, miserable with the nasty head cold that rampaged through our family over the past few weeks. I do not know how to make Flan nor did I wish to learn. My idea was to buy a few cans of Spanish Peanuts and serve them in Dixie Cups to the patrons of Wesley's display. Anyway, in the end, my saint of a wife, dragged herself out of bed and with much hand washing and disinfecting of herself, made the Flan, spending all afternoon in the kitchen! By the time she was done, she was about to collapse but she insisted on going to the program so she could see Wesley in action. She really is a saint and I love her very much!

Back to the program itself. The entire elementary school was involved from pre-K up through 4th grade. Wesley is in the 3rd grade by the way. This is the littlest ones in action:
Joseph seemed to find his costume a bit uncomfortable and kept pulling at it and itching. At one point he pulled the neck down and jammed his arm down through it up to the elbow so as to scratch some stubborn itch! I must confess that these little unintentional displays are what make programs like this the most enjoyable for me! :)

Here we get to see Wesley in action:
The three golden creatures beside him are actually stars even though they appear to be children in costume. The one in front wearing the stylish shades is "First Star" and was so very full of self importance since she was the first star to be visible in the night sky. The middle star is "Lucky Star" who is full of positive attitude and has a very optimistic outlook on everything. The star at the top is "Falling Star" and most of the time needed crutches to get around because he kept falling down and hurting himself. There was also "Rock Star" who loved to rock-n-roll, "North Star" who was old with a long gray beard and was full of wisdom, and "Shooting Star" who ran around in her cowgirl hat and boots shouting "POW POW POW".

The theme of the program was that despite how important the stars were, Jesus is the true star of Christmas. The end of the play had all of the stars and other cast kneeling around the manger, giving Christ their devotion and showing that the real meaning of Christmas is Jesus.

Finally I had to include this picture of yet another youngster performing a random act of hilarity! Also note the face of the boy on the top left in the sweater vest. Again, these are the most fun of any program!
Overall, we had a wonderful time and the Flan ended up being a big hit. There were tons of people roaming around so I didn't get to try much of the food available but I did manage to snag myself a little Italian Ice Cream which was quite tasty! :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Death Of A Traveling Man - M. C. Beaton

Death Of A Traveling Man
By: M. C. Beaton
Published: 1993
Audiobook Read by: Davina Porter
My rating: Wonderful






I fell in love with the Hamish Macbeth series after listening to Death Of A Village. Hamish is such a great character and it's loads of fun to hear about his adventures around Lochdubh.

In this story, Hamish is faced with a pair of "Travelers" camping out in the field by the manse. He can't put his finger on the reason but he takes an instant dislike to this devilishly handsome fellow and his foul mouthed companion. Hoping they won't stay long he keeps a wary eye on them but as the days stretch into weeks, he knows that trouble is bound to come. His fears are realized when murder shakes up his peaceful little corner of Scotland and the evidence points more and more at people he sorely hates to believe capable of such an act. In the meantime he has been saddled with an assistant who is determined to clean up the police station and not in a crime stopping way! Willie insists on cleaning everything and Hamish finds that even the insoles of his shoes have been polished! Willie spends more time on housework than police work and it drives Hamish to distraction! Of course in the end Hamish gets his man and solves the case but not before some very unexpected circumstances turn his life upside-down!

One of the things I love about these stories is the way they don't focus exclusively on the mystery. I love to hear about the little day to day details of Hamish's life and there is also the added benefit of not knowing what's a clue and what isn't which makes the mystery even more fun to solve. Hamish has such an interesting outlook on life and his romantic interests make for some good laughs along the way. He loves his town though, and would do anything for the people that are under his care.

Willie adds another dimension of fun to this particular story. His constant cleaning and the consternation it causes Hamish is hilarious. He also has his own romantic interest that was quite fulfilling as it proves that love can come in the most unexpected ways and there really is someone for everyone! By the end of the book, Willie and Hamish are perfectly positioned for a long and happy friendship with each being right where they most want to be.

I listened to the audiobook read by Davina Porter. As in the past, I loved her performance as she gave each character a life of their own and has such a great voice to listen to. Her accent is wonderful as well and since I love the Scottish accent so much, it was doubly enjoyable for me! :)

Overall this is a wonderful book from a wonderful series. I am looking forward to next one and sincerely hope Hamish can stay out of trouble until I return to Lochdubh. I'm sure he won't, but I can still hope! :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Between, Georgia - Joshilyn Jackson

Between, Georgia
By: Joshilyn Jackson
Published: 2006
Audiobook Read by: Joshilyn Jackson
My rating: Great







Ok, unwittingly I have added another title to my "Chick-lit" adventures! I was looking for something a little different and pulled this one off the shelf not knowing that it was my feminine side that was doing the choosing! I had a few moments of panic as the opening chapter got under way and I realized what I had done, but it wasn't long before I was thoroughly wrapped up in the story and not caring what it was doing to me! :)

Nonny Frett is born into a classic family feud that has been going on for as long as anyone can remember. Her birth and the circumstances that surrounded it were like jet fuel on the fire that continued to burn until Nonny was a woman of 30. Knowing that she was part of the reason for the feuding she tries to make peace more than once, but when things get out of control there is nothing she can do to stop the terrible events that will take both families to the brink of destruction. It seems that nothing good can come from the war that ensues, but when the smoke clears, they all discover that miracles really do happen!

The book opens, with graphic detail, on the birth of Nonny. I know how it all works having assisted in the births of my own children but it was a bit of a shock to have the story start out this way. I was pretty worried that this was going to be one of those books I would struggle to finish but after the initial discomfort, the plot began to take shape and I was hooked! It really is a heart warming story of love after you dig through the crust of hate and enmity. Nonny's deaf and blind mother is an inspiration and her wisdom helps Nonny to keep her head on more than one occasion. Despite it's rocky start, I am very glad that my "feminine side" picked this one out, it really is a great story!

I listened to the audiobook read by Joshilyn Jackson herself. For the most part I have not found authors to be the best readers but I was very impressed by Joshilyn's narration. She did a wonderful array of voices and the expression and emotion she poured into the story were wonderful! In my research, I discovered that she has acting experience and that was very evident in her performance.

Overall this was a touching story and I was moved to tears a couple times. The crazy feud between the two families highlighted the senselessness of anger and retaliation. There is a strong lesson to be learned from this book about the damage a feud can bring on innocent people. If you get the chance to read this book, don't hesitate to do so!

To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee

To Kill A Mocking Bird
By: Harper Lee
Published: 1960
Audiobook Read by: Sally Darling
My rating: AMAZING







I have heard of this book all my life but never read it. I came across it on the shelf at the library and decided to see what all the hype was about. I am so glad I did! My "AMAZING" rating is reserved for books that make a profound impact on me, not just as really great books, but by the message that is contained in the pages. This book truly deserves this distinction!

Scout is just an average little girl in 1930s Georgia. A tomboy to the core, full of adventure and mischief. She joins her brother Jem, and their best friend Dill in speculation about the mysterious "Boo Radley" who lives a couple of houses down. Together they try to get him to come out of his house but succeed only in getting themselves in trouble time and time again. She goes to school and just as any red blooded child would, hates it thoroughly. She struggles with her teacher and gets into more than one fight with the boys. In every respect she is a normal little girl.

Normal as she might be, she is plunged into an extraordinary drama that shapes her life forever. When her father Atticus, agrees to defend a black man, falsely accused of rape by a white girl, things become far from normal! Scout and Jem learn the hard way that justice is not always guaranteed. As the trial gets moving they face angry classmates who think it's wrong for Atticus to side with a Negro. Atticus teaches them that respect for your fellow man should be colorblind but all around them they see family, neighbors, and country folk who obviously disagree with that statement. Nothing makes sense to the children as they watch the actions of people whom they thought of as good folks but were behaving like hateful heathens. At every turn they are faced with the realization that love just doesn't seem to be a word these people learned very well. Through it all however, Atticus never wavers in his determination to show his children the proper way to treat one another. In the end, as they watch the drama unfold before them, they become as determined as their father to treat everyone as equals, no matter what the cost. They know that they aren't going to change the world over night, but together, they can start it in the right direction!

This book was a powerful reminder not only of the race issue that has been so prevalent for so long, but also the discrimination against those of a different background, financial situation, or upbringing, regardless of skin color. So many people feel that mixing with those of a lower social position is a bad thing but what they don't seem to realize is that their high and mighty attitude simply lowers them to a level even lower than the ones they look down on. God made each and every one of us and nobody is better than anyone else. It doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, or how you were brought up, we are all the same in the eyes of God. The richest most powerful person in the world is no better than the homeless child living on the streets. Sure, some people choose wrong paths to follow, they might be criminals, they might be mean and nasty to those around them, or they might just be impossible to get along with, but God loves everyone the same and we should too! In the end we will all face the same thing, death and God's judgement. Do you think God is going to discriminate against anyone? We will all face Him as equals, with our lives laid bare for everyone to see. I tell you what, I want a life filled with love for my fellow man to be what God finds when he looks at me, how about you?

I was very moved by this book as you can see, but I enjoyed the story as well. Scout's narration of her adventures was very enjoyable and seeing some of these events through the eyes of a child was very refreshing. Many times throughout the book I was laughing or crying. This was a small window into a way of life from long ago. We can all learn from this story and have some fun while we're at it!

I listened to the audiobook read by Sally Darling. Sally did a spectacular job with this book. She had such a great voice and accent for the story. I loved the way she gave it the feel of really being told by a young girl.

Overall, this was truly an AMAZING book. It gave me a lot to think about and caused me to examine my own life and motivations. Would I have the courage to do what Atticus did? Am I teaching my children the moral values that they need to grow up to be honorable adults? I hope so. If you have never read this book I strongly urge you to get it soon! This is one book everyone should read!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket

The Bad Beginning
By: Lemony Snicket
Published: 1999
Audiobook Read by: Tim Cury
My rating: Delightful

The kids and I listened to to this one in the mornings while we waited for their school bus. Despite being a book of such unfortunate events, it was rather fun to listen to and the kids were excited to hear more each morning.

Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are truly unfortunate youngsters. Their misfortunes are many and horrendous to the point of being unbearable. I must warn you now as we were warned, this story does not have a happy ending. If you are looking for a happy tale of peace and tranquility, you are looking at the wrong book! However, the children need our support! If we abandon them because of the horrible things that happen in this story, how can we be sure that even worse events won't befall them? No, dear reader, we must be here for these poor unfortunate children and cheer them on their dreary way!

Violet is the eldest and has a knack for mechanical things, inventing all sorts of devices in her mind and using these skills to help them in tough situations. Klaus is a book worm to his very core. He would rather immerse himself in a book about Nuptial Law than run out to play baseball. Sunny, the baby, loves to bite! You may think of biting as being a rather useless skill but Sunny is really good at biting. When you combine these three, you have a team that will stop at nothing to protect one another. Despite insurmountable odds, they keep pressing on, hoping to find their way out of the gloom of Count Olaf's world. Count Olaf is as evil a man as you could wish to meet! His only desire is to get his hands on the children's family fortune and then do away with them. He will stop at nothing to realize his fiendish plots.

I think one of the things I liked about this book is the wild imagination of it. It is one of the most unique books I've come across and despite the lack of a happy ending, it was a lot of fun to listen to. Several times we got so wrapped up in it that we completely forgot to watch for the bus! The plot itself isn't all that out of the ordinary but the actions of the characters, and the style of the writing were definitely unique.

We listened to the audiobook performed by Tim Curry and a group of other supporting voices. I say performed because even though it was an unabridged reading of the book, it was more like a performance. They did a wonderful job and the voices they used for each character fit the style and mood of the book perfectly.

Overall, this was a delightful book. It was a little depressing at times but was very interesting. As I said at the beginning, the kids loved it and even wanted to leave early in the mornings to go to the bus stop so we could have more time to listen! It is definitely worth checking out!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Am I sick?

I have a project going that my wife calls the "Doghouse". I'm a computer nut and have been playing around with web site hosting for several years. I decided to finish off a small area of my shed to use as a computer/electronics laboratory for the kids and I. Using leftover and upgraded items from the hotel where I work I will have a heated/air conditioned, carpeted, well lit room with nice counter tops for work spaces and lots of shelves for storage. The name "Doghouse" came from some friends of ours that asked if they might be able to use it when their wives are mad at them. :)

Nov. 27th - last Saturday:


Since it is intended to be used for computers and electronics, I sealed it....almost too well. I was working on the final coat of paint on the walls, guzzling a tasty pot of coffee, and looking forward to an evening of playing cards with some friends in a few hours. It took a couple of hours to get the paint finished and by the time I opened the door and let some oxygen into the room I was as high as a kite! I didn't realize it until I was trying to stand upright in my living room and ended up staggering around instead. The kids thought it was hilarious and I hammed it up a little for their benefit.

I finished the pot of coffee I had been working on and put another one on to brew for our card playing. After a couple of hours and more coffee, I began to wonder if I wasn't just hopped up on caffeine instead of still being high. I was starting to wonder if maybe I'd overdone it by the time we finished our games and were getting ready for bed. I sat a bit unsteadily on the edge of the bed and told my wife that I might be coming down with something.

Today:

Nearly a week later, I can look back and see that I was high on paint fumes, hopped up on caffeine, and getting sick all at the same time! I have a very solid head cold that doesn't want to let up so I am actually going to go to the doctor this afternoon! Why is it, when I decide to get sick, that I have to do other stupid stuff at the same time so I don't even know what is happening?

Anyway, I have two reviews to write and the next part of my story but instead of that, all I was able to come up with was this. So hang around for a few more days if you want something that makes more sense!! :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

N Is For Noose - Sue Grafton

N Is For Noose
By: Sue Grafton
Published: 1998
My rating: Fair

My wife and I read this one to each other. Neither of us had heard of Sue Grafton and we both agreed that this was by far, not the best book we have read!

Kinsey Millhone is a private investigator in Santa Teresa California but when she gets a job in Nota Lake, she realizes that her life in the big city is much easier to handle than trying to break through the closed ranks of this small town and it's tight lipped population! It doesn't help that she was hired by one of the least liked women in town to dig into her husband Tom's death. It also doesn't help that Tom was a very well respected sheriff in Nota Lake and people weren't going to take kindly to a stranger diggin' up dirt on him! Despite the opposition, Kinsey soldiers on getting deeper and deeper into dangerous territory. The few friendships she manages to cultivate in the town are wary of her and it is obvious that friend and foe alike would prefer she drop the case and leave. She finally digs deep enough to cause some concern and she very quickly finds she has put herself in danger. Despite repeated threats, warnings, and even an attack, she continues on to solve the case.

I really was disappointed in Sue's writing style. The story was severely bogged down by excessive description of unimportant activities and places. One part describes in painstaking detail, the drive between Nota Lake and Santa Teresa, right down to which direction to turn on which route. Other places described a setting with as many as eight or more details that didn't add to the plot in the least. Kinsey came off as a whiny coward who would rather be doing anything other than solving a case that may put her in the slightest danger. One passage described her whimpering aloud when she was scared. I just couldn't bring myself to like her at all and felt that she was less than competent as a PI. The plot itself was poorly thought out and I was very dissatisfied with the ending which went way over the top. We struggled to finish the book and were very thankful to see the end of it!

Overall I think it's obvious that I didn't like it. The plot could have been bearable with better writing but slogging through the mass of unimportant detail was the main thing that ruined it for us. As is my rule, I'm not going to write off Sue's work after this one book. Hopefully, as I have found with other authors, I'll be pleasantly surprised with the next one I try!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Peach Cobbler Murder - Joanne Fluke

Peach Cobbler Murder
By: Joanne Fluke
Published: 2005
Audiobook Read by: Suzanne Toren
My rating: Delightful

When I saw the words "Peach Cobbler" and "Murder" together in the title, how could I resist? This was an interesting romp in the frozen world of Lake Eden, Minnesota, where warm baked goods and hot coffee are a welcome escape from the sub zero cold!

Hannah Swensen, the owner of The Cookie Jar, Lake Eden's best and only bakery is just about sunk by the upstart bakery that moves in across the street! The Magnolia Blossom is run by two sisters who's sole purpose seems to be running The Cookie Jar out of business. Despite inferior quality treats, they use a seemingly foolproof plan of contests and special promotions to keep the business coming through their doors instead of Hannah's. But one contingency their plan didn't seem to cover was murder. When a body turns up in the town of Lake Eden, it's not the police who solve the mystery, it's Hannah. Despite strong warnings from the police to stay out of the way, Hannah sets out to figure out just what happened and very nearly winds up regretting it!

This was definitely a fun story and I enjoyed the crazy way Hannah goes about her detective activities. The plot was well thought out and I didn't figure out the crime until shortly before the big reveal. Hannah is surrounded by many friends, all of whom love to get involved in a juicy investigation, despite the fact that none of them are qualified to do so! Unfortunately for the police, if it wasn't for Hannah, a murderer would go free! So for the foreseeable future, if there's a crime, there will be no stopping Hannah Swensen from trying to solve it!

I was a little disappointed by the fact that Hannah so blatantly and openly strings two romantic interests along. Call me old fashioned but one should only be romantically involved with one person at a time. The way she uses each man against the other left me with a somewhat lower opinion of her than I would have liked. To be quite honest, if I found myself in the same situation as either of these two men, I'd be telling her "Adios" and never looking back! One man obviously cares deeply for her while the other is just not right for her. It was very frustrating to see her knowingly abusing the love of a wonderful man just for the sake of having fun.

I listened to the audiobook read by Suzanne Toren who did a spectacular job! Her narration brought the story to life for me. I especially loved her cat sounds which were so realistic that she could almost have had a cat in her purse while she was reading!

Overall, this was a lot of fun and I intend to get another of the series to see what else Hannah can get herself into!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I AM A CHRISTIAN!!

In case you didn't figure it out already, That title line is in all caps because I am shouting it!

I was looking at my Blogger profile and realized that I hadn't stated the fact that I'm a Christian. It struck me hard that I had failed to mention the single most important part of my life. I flipped over to Facebook and discovered that there too, there is no mention of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ! Was it an oversight on my part, or is it possible that, consciously or subconsciously, it was intentional?

As I sit here writing this I can hear my son in the shower singing at the top of his lungs "God Is Bigger Than The Boogie Man". He doesn't learn songs very well and tends to make up words as he goes. I can hear him singing lines like "God is on your side" and "God is watching over you". My children know how much I love God because I have taught them to love Him too.

The other night we went to some Christian friend's house for dinner. I sat there and had a deep conversation with them about how God has been working in our lives. I told them how much He means to me and how I look to him for everything. We sat for a couple hours just sharing the wonderful things God does.

When I read a post on someone else's blog that  deals with Christian issues, I'm perfectly comfortable commenting to that post with similar sentiments. I don't hesitate to show that I'm a Christian when it is another Christian that I'm talking too.

But when I go to work I rarely talk about my faith. I try to have good morals and I'd like to think my co-workers can see that there is something different about me. And back to my original point, when I say things that reflect on my public internet image, I am strangely silent about these things. How many other areas of my life am I putting a cover over my faith so nobody sees it? I am ashamed of myself!

Jesus Christ willingly went to the cross and suffered and died for me, but I act like Peter and try to hide the fact that I even know Him. My life wouldn't be the wonderful, happy, joy filled life that it is right now if it wasn't for Jesus' love for me.There is nothing in my life that I can't look back on and see God's guidance. He has watched over me, even when I wasn't living for Him, and has led me down the right path every time.

So I am going to try to act like a Christian who has nothing to hide or be ashamed of. I'm not going to start force-feeding my faith to people but I want the world to know that I am a child of the Most High God and I'm proud of it! I have already updated my Blogger Profile so now it's off to fix Facebook! No more hiding the most important part of my life!!

So I hope you don't mind a little more shouting:

I AM A CHRISTIAN, A CHILD OF GOD, WASHED IN THE BLOOD, WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF LIFE, BOUND FOR HEAVEN!!

I hope you aren't offended by this statement, but if you are, I'm sorry you feel that way. Why don't you ask me for more information about why I love God. Who knows, maybe you'll end up going to Heaven with me, I'd really love to take you!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hope In A Jar - Beth Harbison

Hope In A Jar
By: Beth Harbison
Published: 2009
Audiobook Read by: Orlagh Cassidy
My rating: Good

This was a bit out of my comfort zone but despite the picture of makeup on the front of the case, the hint of makeovers, girl talk and high school drama on the back, and the pink CDs inside, I decided I'd be brave and step into the world of women! It could have been a lot worse, but I had the nagging feeling I'd get in trouble if I got caught, just as if I was reading some girl's personal diary!

Allie Denty and Olivia Pelham had grown up as best friends but had drifted apart over the past twenty years. But when their friend Noah decides to make the biggest mistake in his life, the dynamic duo has to have a comeback to save the day!

Allie had the perfect home with loving parents and everything she needed while Olivia had grown up with a horrible step father. Olivia found shelter at Allie's as much as possible and Allie's parents welcomed her, knowing that her home life was really bad. When Olivia had moved away and ended their friendship, it had been hard on Allie. She survived though, and grew up to live a mediocre life with a string of faild relationships and less than exciting jobs. Olivia on the other hand did very well in the job department but had steered clear of the relationship game. When their twentieth high school reunion brought them face to face again it didn't take long for them to rekindle their old friendship, especially when Noah needed their help. Noah didn't want their help, but like it or not, they were going to save him!

This was very different for me. I was trying to deviate from the mystery and suspense genres that I seem to have been stuck in and this was certainly a deviation! I got to learn a lot about makeup and what teenage girls talk about when they are alone. There were plenty of insights into the insecurities of women concerning their careers, relationships, weight, looks, and much more. Each chapter opened with an old advertising slogan for some sort of cosmetic product and I have to admit that I knew more than one of them. The book is fairly well written but was very predictable. I guess not being a mystery, there was no need to avoid predictability. The story was touching at times and humorous at others, and I did enjoy it. However, I don't think I'm going to venture knowingly into this genre again! My wife thought it was absolutely hilarious that I got it in the first place, and laughed at my discomfort at hearing intimate things that no guy is supposed to be privy to!

I listened to the audiobook read by Orlagh Cassidy. She did a wonderful job, giving me the feeling that she herself had had very similar conversations as a teen so she knew exactly how it should sound.

Overall, it was a good book, but was kind of cliche as far as the activities of two girls in high school. There really wasn't much that surprised me about their escapades, it was just that I am used to hearing these kind of stories second hand, toned down to accommodate a man's sensitive ears! You ladies may find it quite enjoyable, but you men....I'd steer clear, no need for more than one of us to be scarred like this! I'm just kidding! :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Quiche Of Death - M. C. Beaton

The Quiche Of Death
By: M. C. Beaton
Published: 1992
Audiobook Read by: Donada Peters
My rating: SPECTACULAR

After listening to one of Beaton's Hamish Macbeth mysteries and absolutely loving it, I had to give Miss Agatha Raisin a try. This is the first of the series and if the rest are this good, I'm in for a rip roarin' good time chasin' after Miss Raisin as she gets into all sorts of trouble!

Agatha Raisin has no idea what to do with herself after selling her successful London PR agency and retiring to the Cotswolds to enjoy some peaceful country life. She wants desperately to fit in but seems to be managing only a friendly tolerance from the locals. She decides to wow the village by winning the quiche competition and straight off trots back to London to buy a succulent spinach quiche from the best quichery in the business. After passing off her purchase as her own creation she is sure to win but is appalled to find someone else receiving the prize. In a huff she tells them to throw the rest in the trash and storms off. Later that night, the wife of the competition judge, gives him some of it for his dinner and he promptly dies due to poison found in the quiche. Well! Agatha can't believe it's an unfortunate accident, as the police determine, so she sets off to find out what really happened. While investigating she realizes that despite her misgivings about moving to this little town she is growing to love it and it's people and they are starting to accept her as well, even if she did try to cheat. She finally decides that it really must have been an accident and gives up her investigation. But will that mean a murderer will go unpunished?

I loved this book and I can't wait to get more! Agatha is hilarious, her bumbling detective skills put me in mind of Maxwell Smart, from the old show "Get Smart" (which I also loved), as she tries to uncover the truth. More often than not she simply lands her own self in trouble, or comes off looking like a fool to the townsfolk she wants to impress the most. I spent a lot of time with my head thrown back laughing aloud at her antics. (Which made me look the fool since I was listening over my earpiece and no one else knew why I was laughing!) I also loved the picture of the simple life she found in the village. A place where everyone cares about their neighbors and having fun is as easy as simply sitting around swapping stories or singing songs. It made me wish for a place like that to go and get away from the madness that surrounds us. I guess I can go there, through Agatha Raisin, since there are many other books in the series! :)

I listened to the audiobook read by Donada Peters. Donada is wonderful and she gave voice to the exact image of Agatha I had formed in my mind. She brought each character to life with voices and emotion that perfectly fit. I am very much hoping to hear more of her work!

Overall, you've probably figured out that I HIGHLY recommend this book! If you want a good laugh, your sure to get it from Agatha. The plot is well written as well, making a winning combination that I'm sure you'll love!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Silver Swan - Benjamin Black

The Silver Swan
By: Benjamin Black
Published: 2007
Audiobook Read by: Timothy Dalton
My rating: Poor

I listened to Christine Falls a while back and found it to be somewhat dark and depressing. I have tried to make it my policy not to write off an author after only one book so here I am with The Silver Swan. This book unfortunately continues the oppressive feeling of despair but makes it worse with a poorly developed mystery.

Once again, Quirke finds himself trying to solve a mystery that he shouldn't have allowed himself to get involved in in the first place. His old classmate asks him to forgo the required postmortem on his dead wife, Deidre Hunt, because he "can't bear to think of her being cut open". Quirke agrees but does the autopsy anyway when he finds a puncture mark that raises his suspicions.

Deidre was a beautiful girl who's life had been hard and unhappy. She married on impulse but soon became dissatisfied. After meeting an intriguing man and starting into business with him she soon found herself falling in love with him as well. Her life is going along quite nicely now, her business is flourishing, her lover is wonderful, and her husband blissfully unaware of what is going on. She thinks that she has never been happier, so how did she end up nude and drowned in the river?

I was disappointed with how the mystery is revealed, not through investigation on Quirke's part, but through a separate flashback storyline that simply tells the story from the victim's point of view until just before the crime. Then instead of any great detective work, the actual crime is again, simply recounted as a flashback. There was very little detective work at all but an awful lot of sex and un-needed vulgarity. In reality Quirke was a useless character in the actual mystery and played no part in uncovering the truth. I also found it disturbing that pretty much everything that had happened in the two years between the setting of Christine Falls and this book had been bad and depressing. The ending was particularly unsatisfying putting the final nail in my resolve not to bother with any more books from this author.

I listened to the audiobook read by Timothy Dalton. As before he did an excellent job with this book and even though the book was a disappointment, his performance was not! He is an excellent narrator and his voice with it's wonderful accent is beautiful to listen to!

Overall as you have probably gathered, I was not impressed by this book. Christine Falls at least had a good plot and a well thought out mystery but this one lacked even those redeeming factors. I have definitely read worse books but I can't say I would recommend this book to anyone.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Confessions of an OCPD sufferer and an act out of the norm!

Up until now this blog was strictly book reviews. I wanted to write other things but I set this up for reviews and reviews only so my other thoughts just had to go somewhere else!! Normally out the window and gone forever. It registered the other day as I contemplated creating a second blog to ramble on that I am insane and should not worry so much about these kind of things. But try as I might, I just couldn't bring myself to "contaminate" my review blog with other stuff. Oh gasp, how could I even entertain the thought!

Now, for the record, I have never been diagnosed with OCPD but I do suffer from it in a non-crippling way. I have to do things a certain way and can't handle changes very well. I once set out to catalog my library of several thousand books. My wife decided to help me but when she sat down at the computer to let me show her what to do, she was shocked by the insane amount of information I was entering! She said, "Why not just enter the title and author and be done with it?" GASP and DOUBLE GASP!!! But what if I need to cross-reference books that have the same publisher with ones that used the same illustrator? She got back up and told me I was on my own! Overall, I like to have things organized a certain way, I get irritated when someone puts something back in the wrong place, I pay a little too much attention to unimportant details, and when I set a plan in my mind for something I hate to deviate from it. I do very well in my job and there really is never any issue at home beyond some fun teasing from my wife and friends. Mostly, I just see the results in my personal life.

Which brings me back to the subject at hand. After a couple weeks of struggling, numerous battles of will with my inner man, one lost battle where I actually created another blog but didn't post anything, I am, with trembling fingers and wavering heart, posting this blog as the first, non-review post to my blog! So in honor of this momentous occasion, I'm also renaming the blog as well! They say admitting that one has a problem is the first step on the road to recovery. So now I'm a full three steps on my way!! :)

Do any of you find you suffer from a similar affliction? How do you cope? How does it affect your lives?

Now I'm off to put something in the wrong place on the shelf! For a few minutes at least. :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

An Unsuitable Job For A Woman - P. D. James

An Unsuitable Job For A Woman
By: Phyllis Dorothy James
Published: 1972
Audiobook Read by: Davina Porter
My rating: Delightful

I stumbled across this author accidentally when I was looking up the title of a book by a different author and accidentally found a like named book by P.D. James. I decided that I couldn't refuse fate and so I tried her first Adam Dalgliesh book: Cover Her Face, and very much liked it. This is the first of only two books featuring Cordelia Gray and I am so glad to have found it!

Cordelia is really too young to have the responsibility of running a private detective agency alone but has determined to give it the best she can, win or lose. It looks like losing is inevitable as there are no cases coming in and very little money left, but fate has a different plan for her. Out of the blue she is hired to look into the reason a prominent scientist's son decided to commit suicide. Grateful for a case to solve, Cordelia jumps in with both feet but has no idea what she is getting involved in. Since she has never handled a case completely alone she does her best to remember all of the teachings of her late partner and mentor who in turn learned from the great Dalgliesh himself. At every turn she finds herself having to systematically go through her training to figure out her next move. No amount of training, however, could have prepared her for what awaits her as she delves deeper into the case! She is determined to uncover the truth even though it puts her own life in jeopardy.

I loved the way Cordelia works this case, constantly reminding herself of the "rules" she has been taught. She obviously was an attentive student who learned her lessons very well. This is one of the few mystery novels I have found that reveals every single clue exactly the way the detective finds them, giving the reader the same opportunity to solve the case. This wasn't the most complex of plots but I still hadn't figured out the crime by the time Cordelia did. Once the culprit was revealed I was able to see all of the clues that led to the conclusion but, to my untrained mind, had lined up differently. It was refreshing to have the author hold nothing back for the sake of shock value but still build a compelling mystery that challenged the intellect of the reader.

I listened to the audiobook read by Davina Porter and was very pleased with her performance. Her voice was so easy to listen to but she gave each character enough personality of their own so as to easily distinguish between them. I hope to hear more from her!

Overall, this was a fun look at the amateur ways of a new, although very intelligent, detective while still following a very serious plot with a lot of depth. I am sad to see that there are only two books featuring Cordelia, therefore I will save the next one for a special occasion when I particularly want to listen to a really delightful book!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Deception Point - Dan Brown

Deception Point
By: Dan Brown
Published: 2001
Audiobook Read by: Richard Poe
My rating: Good

I decided to check out all of Dan's books after listening to Angels and Demons and have been happy with them so far. However, this one just doesn't quite measure up to the others. I enjoyed it but was a little disappointed at the same time

Rachel Sexton is a woman who has tried hard to escape the reality that her father is a bad person. Over the course of her life she had learned that he was not who he claimed to be and had watched him destroy her mother and tear their family apart. Unfortunately, that was all part of his private life. The public face of Senator Sedgewick Sexton was one of sincerity and a desire to serve his country with humility and honesty. His facade of integrity has propelled him to within reach of his ultimate goal: the White House itself.

Senator Sexton has based his campaign on slamming NASA and the current president who supports them. Launching a ruthless tirade against them, citing numerous mistakes and catastrophes, he has found an American public who is ready to back him in doing away with the financially irresponsible space agency. However, when NASA makes a discovery of epic proportions, it seems that all of his ranting against them has sealed his fate and handed the presidency back to the man who has faithfully supported them for the past four years.

But is this discovery all it seems to be? Can it really be as astounding as NASA officials say it is? We follow Rachel and her friends across the Arctic ice to determine just that. As the story unfolds we find out that there is much more than originally was disclosed and suddenly, their lives are all in danger. It's a race against time to try to uncover the truth before the deadly team of commandos can reach them and eliminate them. The action never stops as Rachel and her friends travel from the frozen wastes of the north to the United States and out to sea. In the end, it looks like their efforts to reveal the truth will all be in vain as one by one they are eliminated.

I didn't find this book as enjoyable mainly because it was very predictable. I pretty much knew how it would end by the time I was half way through. Dan kind of dropped the ball in the surprise department here as he openly left out details to cast suspicion on different characters but in doing so made it obvious who was the real culprit. The action and suspense were ruined as he set each scene up in advance with major clues of what was going to happen.

I listened to the audiobook read by Richard Poe and as before I was very pleased with his performance. He does an excellent job of bringing a story to life.

Overall this was not the worst book I've found but it lacked the element of surprise and for me that is very important in a mystery or suspense book. If you're a die hard Dan Brown fan don't hesitate to get it but otherwise I wouldn't worry too much about reading it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The 13th Hour - Richard Doetsch

The 13th Hour
By: Richard Doetsch
Published: 2009
Audiobook Read by: Dennis Boutsikaris
My rating: Great

I read a review of of Richard's "The Thieves Of Darkness" On The Pick Of The Literate's blog awhile back and it sounded wonderful. I decided to give him a try and got "The 13th Hour". I am so glad I did! This has been a great book and I look forward to more of Richard's work!

Nick Quinn is an average guy with a loving wife and many wonderful plans for their future together. Everything changes when he finds Julia brutally murdered and himself being arrested as the likely suspect. That is the end of anything even remotely normal for Nick as he is plunged into the most bizarre day of his life. Nothing is as it seems and Nick struggles to make sense of the events that pick him up and hurl him through the next 12 hours. The horrific image of Julia's mangled face haunts him everywhere he turns and he knows that she is dead. However, he is being told that there is a chance that he can save her! As the pages of this book turn, we follow Nick through Hell itself as he realizes that not only is Julia dead but 212 other people have been killed in a plane crash a few miles away. Is there a connection between the two events? Nick truly has no idea what he is supposed to do! The tranquil life he had been so happy leading is ripped apart and he stumbles deliriously for a while not sure who he can trust. Slowly, things start to fall into place and he finally knows what has to be done, but will it be enough? As the hours count down for him, he can only hope that he can formulate the right plan that will make things right again. But in the end, He realizes that maybe the impossible is just that, impossible.

Richard has designed a thriller here that is gripping and original. As the beginning chapter opened, I was starting to feel like maybe this wasn't going to be very good but all of the sudden I was smacked right between the eyes with a surprise twist that took me totally off guard. From there I was hooked! Richard is a master at revealing enough to keep the story moving but keeping a few tricks in reserve to throw at you when the time is right. At first I felt like I could see a much simpler solution to Nick's dilemma but in the end I found that I would not have solved the problem completely. I got down to the last chapter and still was not sure of what I expected to find. The conclusion was very satisfying and the final event left just enough hanging to suggest a possible sequel.

I listened to the audiobook read by Dennis Boutsikaris. I very much enjoyed Dennis' performance as he brought the story to life. He does an excellent job and I certainly wouldn't mind hearing more from him.

Overall, this was certainly a great book and I am very glad I gave it a try! The concept of this plot is so deep and gives one a lot to contemplate as the moral and physical implications of Nick's actions unfold. I highly recommend you give this book a try!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Death Of A Village - M. C. Beaton

Death Of A Village
By: M. C. Beaton
Published: 2003
Audiobook Read by: Graeme Malcolm
My rating: SPECTACULAR

I have been having the most wonderful run of great books chosen at random off the shelves! When I picked up this particular book I had no idea who this author was or anything about the books she writes but I was definitely pleasantly surprised!

Hamish Macbeth is a wonderfully written character. I loved his simple outlook on life and the way he cares so much for the people on his beat. The little town of Lochdubh Scotland couldn't have a better protector. As Hamish goes about his normal police activities he finds that things are just a little bit off in one of the little villages in his district. Finding the locals tight lipped and having nothing to justify his apprehension he has to leave it alone....officially. However, Hamish isn't the kind to play by the rules so he takes it upon himself to do a little snooping of his own....unofficially. He knows that something isn't right but is thwarted at every turn by the locals who absolutely refuse to talk. It is only after several criminal acts happen that he finally is able to open an officially inquiry.

I loved this book for several reasons. The most excellent mix of good humor, engaging mystery, and heart make this a wonderful story. I enjoyed the way the book doesn't focus only on the main mystery but follows Hamish as he solves other crimes along the way. His relationship to the other characters is fun to hear about with so little going unnoticed by the town gossips who love to meet at the market to report everything they see. I also loved the relationship between Hamish and his dog. Too often the dog is left out of the story when it is really an integral part. Hamish would do anything for his dog and the bond between them is very touching. In the end, Hamish saves the day but there is much more than just good detective work in this book, there is a delightful glimpse into the simple lives of simple folk in the Scottish Highlands.

I listened to the audio book read by Graeme Malcolm. He does a wonderful job with this book but is slightly lacking in expression. His voice is very easy to listen to though, and I loved his accent!

Overall, this is a SPECTACULAR book and I loved every bit of it! I was very happy to find that there are many other Hamish Macbeth books and look forward to spending many more hours in Lochdubh seeing what adventures lie ahead! I highly recommend you give this book a try, I don't think you'll regret it!

The Shapeshifter: Finding The Fox - Ali Sparkes

Finding The Fox
By: Ali Sparkes
Published: 2006
Audiobook Read by: Glen McCready
My rating: Wonderful

This was another random gem that I found. I listened to this one over the past month or so with my kids as we waited for the bus each morning. Being the first in the series it left us looking forward to hearing more!

Dax Jones is an ordinary enough boy with more than his share of tough luck. He has a stepmother who views him as a nuisance to be used and abused at her whim. His father works on the oil rigs and is seldom home. Life is miserable for Dax. Then one day he finds himself dropped head first into the most amazing of circumstances imaginable! He finds that he has strange if not supernatural abilities and soon has been scooped up by government agents and spirited away to Tregarren College where he encounters many other children with similar abilities. Tregarren turns out to be a wonderful place but Dax has a strange nagging fear that he just can't shake. When the fireworks start, Dax's worst fears are realized and he struggles to figure out who he can trust and what he should do. Tragedy strikes the college with Dax in the middle of the fight.

My kids loved this book and started to rush to get ready to go in the mornings so we could leave early to go to the bus stop and have more time to listen. Ali has created a world where anything might be possible and the imagination he puts into this story was wonderful. The characters are well rounded and it was easy to get to know them. As Dax learns to control his powers we were able to feel the emotions that raged through him. With a wonderful blend of humor and suspense, this was a great start to what looks like a wonderful series!

I listened to the audiobook read by Glen McCready. I'm a sucker for British accents and Glen's voice was so easy to listen to. He used a wonderful assortment of voices for the characters, and the emotion he expressed for each situation was spot on! I hope to hear more from him!

Overall this is a wonderful book to read with the kids. It has a great moral lesson and lots of excitement as well as imagination. Don't hesitate to give it a try, even if you don't have kids! :)

Fate Of The Jedi; Omen - Christie Golden

Omen
By: Christie Golden
Published: 2009
Audiobook Read by: Marc Thompson
My rating: Great

And now the continuing adventures of Luke and Ben Skywalker as they roam the galaxy in search of answers to questions that may have no answers! 

 I love this series and look forward to each new installment in the collection. I guess that being a Star Wars fan helps but I find that I must hold myself back from just listening to them back to back. This is only the second volume and it is shaping up to be a grand romp among the stars!

As Luke and Ben travel on, in exile from the home and people they love, they find themselves heading for the world of the xenophobic Aing-Tii. Unsure if they will even survive the trip, they know they will face hostility when they get there but must try to convince these mysterious creatures to help them. Meanwhile, back at the Jedi temple. With two Jedi already afflicted with a strange mental disorder that has them trying to kill everyone they hold dear, the masters are scrambling to find a cure. Faced with the hostile opposition of the new Chief of State Natasi Daala, and dogged at every step by the unscrupulous reporter, Javis Tyrr, it seems that things couldn't get much worse. However, when two more Jedi crack, things do seem like they are as bad as they can possibly get.

Christie Golden is new to the Star Wars scene and has done a pretty good job. Her writing style has some differences and aren't quite as appealing to me as the other authors but in general it is minor. The plot rolls along smoothly and I very much enjoyed the book. I like the split story lines in the series and look forward to seeing how each story affects the others.

I listened to the audiobook read by Marc Thompson. As always, Marc is a master of his art! He brings the book to life with his wonderful array of voices and accents. I can look back in my mind and I feel like I watched a movie rather than listening to a book. Marc is truly a wonderful narrator!

Overall, this was another wonderful chapter in the series and I am looking forward to the rest! If you like Star Wars, you'll love these books!

Tune in next time for more exciting adventures of the Jedi as they strive to rid the galaxy of evil, and restore balance in the Force!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

House - Frank Peretti

House
By: Frank Peretti
Published: 2006
Audiobook Read by: Kevin King
My rating: Good

I chose this book because I loved Frank's books from the 80s; This Present Darkness and Piercing The Darkness. Those books had me hooked and have been rooted in my memory ever since as two of the best works ever! However, whether my tastes have changed or Frank's writing has gone downhill, this just didn't measure up for me.

As Jack and Stephanie Singleton head for a messy divorce they blame each other for every bad event in their marriage, turning a blind eye to the mistakes they themselves have made. When they find themselves sucked into a night of horror in an old haunted house it looks like they will drift even farther apart, continuing to see each other with scorn and revulsion. Every hour they spend trapped in the nightmare takes them closer and closer to their inevitable death. The presence of Randy and Leslie makes things worse with Leslie seeing Jack as the more likely candidate to be their salvation and Stephanie seeing Randy the same way. As the couples get separated into these incorrect pairings, it seems that Jack and Stephanie's marriage is doomed for sure. The deranged killer that has them locked in the house, plays a terrifying mental game with them turning their own fears against them and feeding on the suffering he is causing them. As the night wears on they realize that there is no way out and the four of them resign themselves to the realization that they are most certainly going to die. As dawn approaches, they begin to discover that there is a lot more to this nightmare than they realized and with the help of a mysterious little girl that they find locked in the basement, they begin to discover the true nature of their own hearts.

The message in this story is a good one. We all need to take the time to examine our own hearts and be brutally honest with ourselves. So often we push the blame for our own actions onto those around us trying to escape from the guilt that we feel. The result of this is never good and eventually leads to pain and suffering for all involved. For Jack and Stephanie this inner horror was manifest in the real world but for many people a haunted heart is much more terrifying than any haunted house could ever be! If we can turn to Jesus and let Him help us deal with our demons and accept the blame that is rightfully ours, we can escape that haunted heart and live in the freedom of peace and joy.

I found the plot to be interesting but felt that the writing was a little over the top at times while sinking to monotonous lows at others. The characters were a bit boring and shallow and I found it difficult to find any sympathy for any of them. I loved the description of the house and would love to have a basement like that, minus the demons and the sadistic murderer of course! The entire book felt forced as though Frank and his co-author, Ted Dekker, were simply churning out a book to meet a deadline.

I listened to the audiobook read by Kevin King. Kevin did a respectable job bringing the book to life. His voices for the different characters were OK but not great. While not on my favorites list, Kevin is definitely not the worst narrator I've come across.

Overall, this was a good book but not one that I would recommend you rush out and buy right now. If you stumble across it or are a Peretti fan it's worth a try but I wouldn't go out of your way to get it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards - Lillian Jackson Braun

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards
By: Lillian Jackson Braun
Published: 1966
Audiobook Read by: George Guidall
My rating: Wonderful

My first experience with this series was less than favorable but if you read my review of The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers you'll remember that I promised not to write the entire series off based on that one book. As promised I got this first work in the series and gave it a chance. I'm so glad I did!

This was one of the most enjoyable mysteries I've come across and is written in one of the most original styles I've seen. Jim Qwilleran is thrown into the art world, completely against his will, and expected to write personality profiles of local artists and other interesting pieces of interest to the art lovers in the community for the local paper. The much hated, much loved, art critic for the paper befriends him, in his own eccentric way, allowing him to rent the downstairs apartment from him and introducing him to his amazing cat Kao K'o-Kung. Koko, as Jim takes to calling him, is truly a remarkable cat. He has a keen appreciation for art, a discrimating palate, and loves to read the newspaper when it is hot off the press. Jim finds that Koko has captured his heart and eventually allows Koko to become master over him as well.

Before Jim is able to get used to his new role as art columnist, he finds himself smack dab in the middle of a murder investigation that has the police stumped. Jim has major suspicions as to the identity of the killer but as the body count keeps rising he finds he is unable to prove his hunches. In the end the credit for solving the whole case falls to Koko and his uncanny cat senses. By the time the wrap up is complete, Jim is firmly entrenched in the community and has found a lifelong friend in Koko.

I loved the humor of this book. Koko's antics are described in such perfect detail, and were so very catlike that there is no mistake that Lillian is a true cat lover. Jim's reluctant acceptance of Koko's mastery and the dry humor he displays while spending time with the cat, made for a wonderful side story and many times had me laughing out loud. The mystery itself was engaging and included enough surprises that in the end I still didn't know who the culprit was until Koko revealed him.

I listened to the audiobook read by George Guidall. He is a gifted narrator and the way he portrayed Jim fit perfectly with the mental image I had formed of him. I love his style of reading and I hope that he is the narrator of the entire series.

Overall, I loved this book from start to finish! Unlike 60 Whiskers, this one has purpose and a concise plot that swept me along and satisfied me with a wonderful conclusion to the mystery. Don't hesitate to get this book and meet Koko and Jim and let them take you for a fun ride into murder!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mr. Timothy - Louis Bayard

Mr. Timothy
By: Louis Bayard
Published: 2003
Audiobook Read by: Mark Honan
My rating: SPECTACULAR

WOW! I loved The Black Tower so much that I decided to give this one a try. I LOVED THIS BOOK! To be honest I didn't expect it to be quite as good as The Black Tower based on the blurb I read but I was blown away! If it were possible, I'd say this was even better than The Black Tower but since it's hard to do better than SPECTACULAR, I'll content myself with saying that Louis is a genius and his books prove it! By the way, Louis, if you are reading this, please believe that I would say this even if I was positive you would never see it! :)

Louis takes the Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol as his starting point, and spins a wonderful tale that gives us a picture of what became of Tiny Tim. Timothy has become a bit hard and somewhat less than respectable, renting a room in a house of ill repute and working for the mistress of said establishment. He has allowed himself to take advantage of Uncle N's (Ebeneezer Scrooge) generosity and treats his benefactor as little more than a bank, supplying his needs while expecting him to stay out of his personal life. But it seems that something of the Christmas ghosts that once thawed Uncle N's heart are still at work and he finds himself drawn in by the plight of a little homeless orphan, Philomela, when she chances to cross his path. As he tries to find out her story and see if he can help her, he unwittingly is helped by her, becoming a caring compassionate man and finally coming to grips with his own personal demons. His passion and determination to help her draws him into a conspiracy that reaches to the most deplorable depths of the human soul where he sees first hand just how evil people can be. In the end he finds himself facing death to try to save people he has never met and in so doing, finds himself saved as well.

The heroes in this story are a wonderful combination of rough street smarts, surprising wisdom, and charity, willing to go to any length to help their fellow man. The villains  are the exact opposite, full of evil intentions, ruthlessness, and the lowest of low morals. I especially loved Captain Gully with his rough seaman's exterior that melts in the presence of Philomela to reveal a heart of gold that is so full of love and generosity that his chest can hardly contain it. Colin the Melodious, the young street urchin is also a wonderful asset to the story. His personality and antics had me laughing out loud on several occasions! The unlikely team of Timothy and Colin makes for a lot of surprising twists and turns but in the end turns out to be the indomitable force that seals the fate of the evil madmen who are out to get Philomela.

This story was full of wonderful humor as well as heart wrenching moments. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time and on more than one occasion was surprised by some of the revelations. At each new turn I discovered that once again I was on the wrong trail and was surprised to find myself facing yet another suspect in this mystery. Chapter by chapter I was carried away to that far off land and time that only the masterful hand and incredible imagination of Mr. Bayard has been able to do.

I listened to the audio book performed by Mark Honan. He was a joy to listen to in every way. I especially loved when he would read a humorous part for I could hear the laughter sprouting up in his voice each time. His voices and emotion were perfect and I hope that I will find more of his work to listen to!

Overall, I couldn't say enough good about this book! Louis is truly a genius and I am so very happy to have found his work! I have once again found myself transported to another time and very sincerely hope that you will consider joining me by checking out this and all of his work! As my favorite cucumber once said, "I laughed, I cried, it moved me Bob!"