Thursday, June 28, 2012

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Alice, age 50 is a brilliant Harvard professor. As she begins forgetting things, she chalks it up to menopause, but the diagnosis is early onset Alzheimer's. We follow Alice and her thoughts as the disease progresses and see how her family deals with things as well. The story is poignant and gives a bit of a glimpse into the world of Alzheimer's disease.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Peace like a River by Leif Enger

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
Wow.  What a story!  In it we follow Reuben Land, a severely asthsmatic 11 year old, and his lyrical younger sister Swede who constantly writes cowboy poetry and their father Jeremiah, whose faith often produces miracles, as they travel across the badlands searching for their oldest brother Dave, who has killed two rogue teenage boys who broke into their house. Ruben sees miracles flowing from his father although most people miss them.  Slightly remnicient of "To Kill A Mockingbird", this story is touching and unforgettable.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

World Without End by Ken Follett

World Without End (The Pillars of the Earth, #2)
Set 200 years after Pillars of The Earth, this book continues in Kingsbridge with the ancestors of the characters in the first book. In it we follow the on again, off again romance of Merthin, a carpenter and Caris, a woman who wants to be independant in an age when women don't have that option. Pitted against irreverant, scheming clergymen and overbearing Lords, Caris and Merthin strive to build up an independant town as the plague ravages it repeatedly. Caris becomes a nun, prioress and healer and Merthin a master builder. Filled with politics, schemes, thievery, romance, life and death, I still think this book is not quite as good as the first one.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Bone House by Stephen R. Lawhead

The Bone House

This is the second book in the Bright Empires series following The Skin Map. Once again, Kit and Mina travel through different times and worlds via Ley Line travel.  It is not only time travel, "Rather, Kit and companty are bouncing around a multidimensional universe in the equivalent of a helicopter that can travel in any of a thousand different directions. Ane if that hypothetical helicopter is a vehicle that can also zoom off into hidden dimensions and lands in any possible alternate world - with a dose of time slippage thrown in for good measure - then we have..." the situation described in this series of books.  It kind of reminds me of :  "There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man it is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity it is the middle ground between light and shadow between science and superstition and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge this is the dimension of imagination it is an area which we call- the Twilight Zone."
That being said, Kit, Mina and company travel the ley lines searching for the mysterious skin map and for a way to decipher it while trying to evade Burleigh and his goons.  Kit lands for an extended stay in the stone age with some cave men, which is quite interesting.  I found this book a bit disjointed and confusing, but still a good story and concept and if you liked the first book, I think you will enjoy this second one as well.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore

Angel Eyes (Angel Eyes Trilogy, #1)
A teenage girl, an unexplained murder, romance with a "hot" guy, angels and demons and battles - what more could you ask for? In this fast-paced novel, Brielle, a senior in high school, moves back home after her best friend in boarding school is brutally murdered, the friend's boyfriend being the prime suspect. Brielle meets a really hot guy who is new to town and becomes embroilled in a battle between angels and demons that includes her and Jake and changes her perception of life.  : Celebrate with Shannon by entering her "Angel Eyes" Giveaway and connecting with her during the Author Chat Party on 6/26!

Find out what readers are saying here.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
At the beginning of the book "The small boys came early to the hanging." and again at the end of the book, that same scenario is repeated.  Who was hung at beginning of the book and why?  The answer to that is finally made clear fifty years later at the end of the story. In between are two great love stories, wars, politics, famine and feast, religion and the building of an incredible cathedral.
Totally incredible book!         

Monday, June 11, 2012

The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Wal-Mart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillan

The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan

Tracie decided to work in 3 major areas of the food industry in the US and write about them. She worked in the fields picking fruits and vegetables, in the produce section of a Wal-Mart and in an Applebees restaurant - all undercover as a reporter.

I think it would have added another interesting dimension if she had also worked in a food processing company like Kraft, and perhaps at a dairy farm or cattle ranch or meat processing plant, since those are also major parts of our food industry.

In memoir fashion, with informative footnotes, Tracie tells how she picked grapes and garlic in California, worked at Wal-Marts in Michigan and New York and worked at an Applebees in New York.

I learned more from the informative footnotes than from her memoir, but the book is well-written and interesting and entertaining. I was saddened, but not suprised to read about the children who sometimes work in the fields picking produce, the injuries caused by the repetitive motion, and the low pay and re-writing of pay records to make it look like they are paying the produce workers fairly. I was suprised and saddened to learn that for the workers, picking organic produce is just the same as any other produce. I think that we would like to think that "organic" means not only a lack of pesticide, but that the entire process would be kinder and gentler and healthier and more fair and that the workers would get higher pay since the produce itself costs more, but that is not the case.

Tracie includes facts about the grocery industry and how it grew quickly once it created it's own distribution system and how Wal-Mart's low prices can be deceiving since the low prices of the loss leaders are made up by higher prices elsewhere in their stores.

She points out that at both Wal-Mart and at Applebees, there is supposed to be training for the employees and at some point they are asked to sign papers stating that they received training that they did not actually receive. That does not suprise me at all since I work in retail and have had that happen to me in the past too. Everyone signs that because if you don't, you won't have a job.

I found it very unappetising and rather disgusting to learn that most of the foods at Applebees are pre-prepared and made from packaged mixes and later heated in a microwave in plastic baggies before being served to the customers.

Tracie includes information about CSAs and bemoans the fact that in our country we make sure that people have access to electricity, water and to some extent even health care, but we do not put any effort into making sure that fresh, healthy food is readily available to everyone everywhere, instead, we leave that to the private industries and corporations like Wal-Mart.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3) by Kristin Cashore

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)

This is a captivating and disturbing story.  Bitterblue is now 18 years old and is the Queen of Monsea and her advisors have her occupied with useless paperwork so that she does not know the real state of things in her kingdom.  Still suffering the repercussions of her father, the evil, sadistic King Leck, who had the Grace (ability) of influencing others to feel and believe whatever he wanted them to, her kingdom is in a shambles and Bitterblue herself is in danger.  When she sneaks out into her city in disguise, she begins to discover the disturbing reality of what is going on, although there are so many puzzles, she finds it difficult to sort out what the truth really is.
The book is wonderfully well-written and spell-binding, but the descriptions of the cruel acts of King Leck are rather gruesome.
I enjoyed the book and it is a good sequel to her other two books in this series.