Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Girl Who Loves to Read (Non-fiction by your blogger)

It's a small town in south Texas. Population 900, three churches, one Lutheran, one Catholic and one Baptist. The elementary school is one long rectangular building with classrooms on each side of a long corridor. In the first grade there are a total of 30 kids. In the second grade a total of 25. And as you go up to higher grades, the numbers are always the same, 25-30. The business district of the town is primarily one long street with a pharmacy, shoe repair, meat market, bank, general store and several "pool" halls where residents of the town smoke cigarettes, cigars, down beer but above all play dominoes and pool. No traffic lights, a police chief, one deputy. There are two dance halls, one a VFW hall, one an American Legion hall and at both you can hear country and western and ompah music play into the night. No movie theatre (there used to be one where the girl and her older sister went to see "Tom Dooley" and "The Mummy"  and other great monster movies but it closed). No bowling alley, no pizza palace, no Chinese restaurant. There was just a great diner and one "joint" that made the best, the very best chili where the grease floated to the top and you dunked your homemade bread into it and it was pure heaven. Then, if there was any chili left over for the next day that morphed into the best, the very best enchiladas you'd ever tasted. In this town was the grandest of homes. Read More...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The first printing of Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel was 150,000 copies, virtually unheard of for a first time novel. The rights have been sold in 30 countries and the movie rights have already been sold. Why the hype? The publishers believe they might have the next Harry Potter or Twilight series on their hands. Let’s see if I agree…
by erin morgenstern
Let me break the novel in to two parts, the plot and characters and the writing itself. What’s the reason for doing so? There is a huge disconnect between the two. Let’s start with the plot and characters. The novel takes place in the late 1800s. Two magicians/illusionists, Mr. A.H., the man in the grey suit and his antagonist, Prospero the Enchanter aka Hector Bowen, have been playing, for many years, a rather insidious game of pitting one of their own “magic” students against the other to see who can “win” a game. But the question throughout is, what kind of game is it? What do they win when the game is complete? But more importantly, what happens if they loose? Read more...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Martha, What's That Noise and Final Thoughts on Africa

We caught a British Airways flight from Joberg to Livingstone, Zambia and then a light 6 seater plane to Chongwe Lodge located at the convergence of the Chongwe and Zambezi Rivers.  We had one of two expanded "suites", meaning we had a large 8 sided tent that was flanked by an outside dining room/bar area and an outside bathroom. We even had, oh, the decadence of it all, a butler! We quickly learned that since we were there during the dry season (the time you really want to go to Africa) that there were numerous hippo pods on the sand banks in the river.  We had our own personal pod right in front of our accommodations and when they made noise, particularly at  night, it felt as if they were in bed with you.  There isn't any noise only the hippos and lions...Chongwe was a relief from the touristy Etosha National Park.  Here, the animals have claim over everything.  Nothing is fenced.  So, it is not uncommon for hippos or lions or whatever to come sauntering through the camp.  In addition to doing the game drives, we were also able to do water safaris using either motorboats or canoes.  We opted out of the canoe adventures because of the numerous  hippos in the river.  Remember, hippos kill more people in Africa than any other animal (other than homosapiens).  I've posted some videos on YouTube about our Chongwe adventure.  Here are the links:

As far as "Martha, what's that noise"? 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

First Sand, Then Rock, Now the "Bush"...Namibia and Zambia Part Two

We once again head to the gravel runway to catch our Caravan plane to head to Etosha National Park.  By the way, depending on the airline you're using or the country in which you're flying, there are strict rules on the weight of luggage and they must be soft sided, like duffel bags.  When we did the Botswana and Zimbabwe trip, we were limited to 25 pounds each and that included all carry ons and camera gear.  This time we had a little better weight limit of 44 pounds each.  Read more...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Are There More Stars in the Universe than Sand on Earth?

This is the kind of question that physicists like to answer when they're drunk. I can't take claim for that.  I read it on Ask Google.  But the question in the title is one my husband kept asking the entire time we were in  Namibia.  Because Namibia is one interesting country of wild topography and lots and lots and lots of sand. If a would be first time visitor to Africa were looking for a safari for their first trip, Namibia would not be on the top of their list(unless you're a geologist).  Most people pick Kenya, South Africa,  Tanzania, Botswana.  Well, this would be my third trip to sub-Saharan Africa and I had always heard about the haunting beauty of the Namib desert and the Skeleton Coast. Read more...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How to Find a Good Book to Read

Generic I know. But I have had many people come up to me regarding my book reviews and ask me, “How do you select your books?” I also have people come up to me to “review” my review or say that the book that was reviewed “wouldn’t interest me at all” or “I send all of your book reviews to my sister. She loves them!” I appreciate all of your comments. I do take them in to consideration. But, back to how do I select the books I want to read. Well, I know my tastes but that happens to be splattered among the genres. About the only books I don’t like are fantasy, science fiction, and heavy historically detailed tomes. Usually I begin with getting emails from numerous web sites. I know. Will I get hacked etc.? Well, the ones I use are well documented sites. I use primarily  four different types of sites. One is from book sellers, the other from book reviewers, the third from “collection sites” and the fourth from the authors/publishing houses. For example, I get two emails from I now have two Kindles (one for me and one for my hubby). I got tired of lugging books all over Timbuktu. So, you can tell Amazon to send you emails only for certain genres. For me, it’s murder/ mystery, award winners, and what’s new on Kindle. You can do the same for Barnes and Nobles and many other book sellers.Kindle Paperwhite e-reader: quick tour  Read more...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

10 Best Books for Book Clubs

I subscribe to an email alert from  They had a contest for all of their email readers as to what were the top 10 best books for book clubs over the last 10 years.  Here's the list they came up with and I am proud to say that my book group, Bibliochix, has read 9 of the 10.  We weren't into the Eat, Pray, Love stuff.

Overall Top 10 (By votes)

1.The Help by Kathryn Stockett: A spirited debut that explores the Civil Rights movement through the relationships between a young white woman and two black maids. 

2.Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen: An elderly man reflects on his younger years as the veterinarian for a travelling circus during the Great Depression, and the many relationships he formed with man and beast alike. 43641  read more...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

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I was just in New York City during the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  For the remembrance of the day, two huge light columns blazed into the night sky to replicate the twin towers.  In  Let the Great World Spin5941033 the twin towers are in their infancy.  They are looked upon by the critics as "the largest aluminum siding job in the history of the world."  That is until the French acrobat, Philippe Petit, strung 210 feet of braided cable from tower to tower 110 stories up.  Then he walked across.  As McCann tells us, Petit, "was pureness moving..He was inside and outside his body at the same time, indulging in what it meant to belong to the air." (In an eerie "premonition", while Petit is walking between the towers, someone from below takes a picture of a jetliner crossing in back of him which looks as if the plane is flying into the tower.)  The tight rope walk of Petit is the fulcrum of this novel.  It is, in a way,  a novel of six degrees of separation.  It really reminds me of the movie Crash.  It is a novel that brings back unpleasant memories for NYC and the times...the raging debate over the Vietnam war, the resignation of Nixon, the decaying of a great city ridden with crime and trash, and the burgeoning of drug use. Read more...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Many Ways Golf Beats Politics

 I found this great article in Sat., Aug. 6th's Wall Street Journal.  John Paul Newport writes a golf article for the Journal almost every Sat. during the golf season.  Enjoy! Thanks John Paul!

"At the beach last week, with plenty of time on my hands, no golf planned and a good Internet connection, I became obsessed with the political debt debate in Washington. Could there be a more perfect way to ruin a family vacation? As penance and out of gratitude for the game, I've compiled the following list of ways that golf, compared with politics, is wonderful.

Golf is nonideological. Ideologues cling to ideas even in the absence of proof that they work, whereas in golf definitive proof is plentiful and quick: The ball goes in the hole or it doesn't. It's not as if golfers aren't drawn to new ideas and abstract "systems," as witness late-night infomercials on Golf Channel. But most don't last long. The half-life of a golf idea is usually about a week. Read more...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

165,000,000: Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Repercussions on Society

What is the 165,000,000?  That is what we learn in the new non-fiction book Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men by Mara Hvistendahl.   The number is the number of female fetuses aborted in Asia  due to sex selection.  That's more than the current female population in the US.  Now hold your horses.  This isn't a blog on the word  that begins with "A".  I don't go there.  It's like trying to win an argument about who should be the US president.  But, what I did find interesting in this book is that there is a whole heck of a lot going on out there that needs to be known.  Let me see if I can give the book its due justice. The author, Ms Hvistendahl, is pro choice.  What she is interested in and concerned about is...the future of girls in the world.  What I know:  Because of China's overpopulation, they had instituted a 1 child per family policy, that the Chinese family prefers to have sons, that India is overpopulated, that women in Indian society, because of a lack of dowry paid in full,  have often been killed and that the US upholds Roe V Wade. What I didn't know was the extend to which sex selection abortions occurred and I didn't know the involvement of the Western world in causing this phenomena.  Read more...11467568

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Horse Race Like You've Never Seen

Like horse racing? Well, this is a horse race you have never seen before. The horses are blessed in their local churches before the race. The jockeys ride bareback and can knock each other off their horses. They can use trickery. And a riderless horse can win. If a riderless horse wins, the knocked off jockey can challenge the offender to a fist fight. The Kentucky Derby is a lightweight compared to the bi-annual Palio horse race in Siena, Italy. We had the good fortune of traveling to Italy for a wedding which was held in Siena during the Palio. We had found a great villa on that was not far from town, was AIR CONDITIONED as well as having internet and satellite TV. The owner really knew how to cater to Americans. It was really an old barn that had been converted into a stand alone villa. Now you may scoff at us wanting these luxuries. Many stayed in more traditional villas with the thick walls and ancient history, but they were constantly hot (it was July after all) and the bathrooms were like shower stalls.  But, we were within walking distance of a grocery store and a great local restaurant (no one spoke English). But, let’s go back to the horse race. Read more...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Writings of Erik Larson: A Review

I came to love the writing of Erik Larson with his first book, Isaac's Storm.  I'll tell you more about that book in a minute.  Let me tell you first about his style.  His books are works of non-fiction.  What he does is takes two to three story lines, of the same period, and intertwines them.  He has written four books that have all used this technique and all have been best sellers.  Of course, your humble reviewer has read them all.  I've enjoyed all but one. So, let's get back to his first best seller, Isaac's Storm.  I am from Texas.  When I was a kid,  Florida was never a vacation destination but Galveston sure was.  So, every summer our family would stay with my grandmother and drive the short distance from Houston to Galveston.  In 1999 I heard that a new book was coming out about the great Galveston hurricane of 1900. I knew I had to buy it.  What Larson does in this book is intertwines the beginning of the US weather service with the great hurricane itself.  After the civil war and the advent of the telegraph, the US government set up "weathermen" in strategic locations to try and forewarn the coming of bad weather.  One such new weatherman was Isaac Cline, and he was given the position in Galveston.   The only training he got was with the Army Signal Corp.  And they knew nothing about weather forecasting.  Unfortunately for Isacc, this proves devastating.  We learn that Isaac doesn't believe that a big storm will ever hit Galveston because of the where and way it is situated.  We go from one chapter detailing the building of the weather service to the next chapter with Isaac trying to forecast the weather to the tracking of the storm itself. The hurricane is the largest natural disaster in American history.  You'll learn all about this in terrifying detail and of the horrendous aftermath.  Read more...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review on the 944 page Shantarum: A Novel

This book is like step on the gas then slam on the brakes followed by a step on the gas followed by a step on the breaks.  I was watching the Road to Perdition with Tom Hanks and he's trying to teach his kid how to drive a car so he can be the getaway driver.  The kid steps on the gas them slams on the breaks and continues down the road...steps, slams, steps, slams. The "step" part is all action and shoot'em outs and cruel prison guards and evil "madams" while the "slam" part is all Eat Pray Love pap.   All philosophical and mystical and mumbo jumbo.  That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.  That is what Shantarum is like.  Let me set the stage.  Now keep in mind this book by David Gregory Roberts is based loosely on his life.   Read more...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Summer Reading List

I know that many of you don't have enough leisure time to try and find a good book.  So, I thought I'd share with you what I've recently read and what's on my list for the summer.  There are some major books coming in the fall, Grisham, Connelly, Flynn, etc.  All I've already pre-ordered.  I get a weekly email from that let's me know what's new on the market.  Anyway, if you're interested, here's what I've recently read and what I still have on my list:

Recently read:

Does the Noise in My Head Bother You, Steven Tyler (non-fiction, I think)(read my review on my blog)

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, Erik Larson (non-fiction)

Dead Reckoning:  Sookie Stackhouse, Charlaine Harris (Sookie's with Erik!)

The Snowman( newest) and Redbreast (oldest) Harry Hole novel's, Jo Nesbo

The Long Road Home, Ben Shepard (non-fiction, post WWII and dealing with displaced persons and prisoners)

Mildred Pierce, James Cain (classic noir, author of The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity)

A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan (see blog for review)

Dreams of Joy, Lisa See (this is a sequel to Shanghai Girls and you do need to read that first.  See is the author of Snowflower and the Secret Fan)

To read:

Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

The Devil's Star (2nd Harry Hole novel), Jo Nesbo

The Madonna's of Leningrad: A Novel, Debra Dean (what can I say, I love WWII books)

Onward, Schultz and Gordon, (non fiction, rebuilding Starbuck's)

Blind the Ponies, Stanley West (no, it's not about blinding ponies)

Shantarum, Gregory Roberts (one of those big, sprawling, covering decades and generations kind of book)

Just Kids, Patti Smith (non-fiction, autobiography of the goddess of punk rock)

Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol. One, Smith, Griffin and Fischer

Parrot and Oliver in America, Peter Carey

Room, Emma Donoghue (book club selection)

The Electric Cool Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe (book club selection)

The Cookbook Collector, Allegra Goodman (book club)

Hope you find some of these interesting, engaging and I'm sure some will be boring and not worth the read. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Book Review:Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?: A Rock 'n' Roll Memoir by Steven Tyler

Reviewer’s Suggestion:  R Rated

When I first mentioned that I was reading this memoir to a friend of mine she said, “Oh you’ve GOT to review that for the community newsletter.” I said I’d have to finish the book first because what I was reading at the time definitely isn’t for everybody’s consumption. I was in my teens during the 60’s and definitely have been to my share of rock concerts throughout the 70’s and 80’s. And I’m a real classic rock and roll kind of girl. So, the autobiographies of some of the “greats” of rock roll are always on my list to read. But I’ve found most of them to be very boring including that of Eric Clapton and Keith Richards. How in the world can autobio’s by these two guys be boring? I don’t know but they were. But Steven Tyler has such an “out there” BIG personality that I figured I’d give it a try. After reading the first two pages, I asked myself, did you understand any of that? And then I understood the title. As Tyler himself says, ”What did you expect, the book to be linear?”

Let me say this about the memoir and why I gave the above warning. Tyler holds back on NOTHING when it comes to his sex life and describes in DETAIL many parts of the female anatomy using a variety of colorful adjectives. Read more...

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Book Review: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

2011 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Fiction

I normally like to check out award winners, read reviews on them, and if it sounds interesting, then I’ll buy it. This is dangerous because the literati, writers for the New York Times, LA Times etc, definitely have different ideas about what makes up a good/literary read. I went back in time and did some research on past Pulitzer Fiction winners to see which ones I had read and which ones I enjoyed. I just picked 1948 as my starting point and low and behold, the winner was James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, which I loved. From that Pulitzer pick to 2011, I have read 16. I enjoyed all 16. The difference between that 1948 pick and that of the 2011 winner is like night and day, sand and water. One is simplistic and the other is dense, sprawling, confusing, annoying and tries to use so many literary techniques, it makes your head spin. It’s not Tales of the South Pacific. This is not a book to take lightly. Once you start, you need to keep with it and here’s why: The structure of the novel is like a crap shoot. Take two, three, four die and put the name of Sasha on some and the name of Bennie on the others. Then roll. Read more...A Visit From the Goon Squad.jpg

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Twisted Head Part Seven

Well, I haven't posted anything since January on the status of my twisted head.  If you're squeamish, don't read further.  As I said in my previous post, I'm going to the best doctor in the southeast for my malady. His name is Dr.  Matthews Gwynn.  A very nice guy. He's been using botox for this malady for 20 years and teaches other doctors in the state of Georgia how to do the procedure.   Well, he utilizes a different technique than the other neurologist.  He has the IMG machine but the needle is hooked up to the machine with the vial of botox in the syringe.  Look away now kids.  Read more...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: A review

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You go for a routine skin cancer scan at your dermatologist’s. They remove a small piece of skin that looks suspicious and they send it to the lab for testing. You’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer and the prostate is removed and tested. You’ve had a hysterectomy and all the organs are sent out to be tested. Then what? What happens to those pieces of skin or organs? Thrown into the medical waste bin? Sometimes yes, sometimes NO. In 1999 the RAND Corporation estimated that American labs alone held more than 307 million tissue samples from 178 million people. Didn’t know that, did you? And neither did the family of Henrietta Lacks. Read more...The Immortal Life Henrietta Lacks (cover).jpg

Friday, March 11, 2011


A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to re-frame or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect. Read more.... e:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Amos Daragon #1: The Mask Wearer by Bryan Perro

Children’s Book ages 9-12

I’ve never been a big fan of fantasy books or movies. The only one I’m addicted to is The Lord of the Rings, which I’ve read time after time and have seen the movies over and over. I found it amusing that the name of the hero of this book is Daragon and one of the heroes of The Lord of the Rings is Aragorn. Just a coincidence, I’m sure. had selected Amos Daragon as one of its “BEST OF” for the month of Feb. I ordered it for my goddaughter without reading it and then thought, hmmm, maybe before giving a book to a child, I’d better READ IT FIRST! Duh… The setting reminded me, again, of middle earth in The Lord of The Rings. It is chock full of all kinds of creatures and mythology, Seth, the Egyptian god of darkness and evil, fairies, gorgons (think Medusa), and humanimals (think the Island of Dr. Moreau), sorcerers, druids, gods, knights etc. So, on to the story. Read more:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Review on the Author Vince Flynn

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May Vince Flynn rest in peace...

Picture this if you can. Vince Flynn, the wildly popular political thriller writer, has been asked by then President George W. Bush to the White House. They then proceed to the presidential limo to go to some function or other. Once they get comfortably inside, Bush leans across the limo as he points his finger at Flynn and demands,” You tell me right now who your contacts are in the CIA and FBI! I want to know NOW!” Bush was joking around but that shows how good Flynn is with his political thrillers and how on the spot he is with detail, dialog and plot. That's a true story, by the way.  Flynn admits he does have contacts but, of course, refuses to name them.

Vince Flynn is a 44 year old writer fighting dyslexia and is now fighting stage 3 prostate cancer(He died June 2013). He tried to be a Marine but for some medical reasons was unable to join. While working at Kraft Foods, he decided to work on overcoming his dyslexia. He began to read and read and read. He especially loved espionage. As with many first time authors he tried to get his work published but was turned down time after time. He finally decided to self publish and the genre of political thrillers has never been the same. His first novel, Term Limits, quickly shot up the New York Times best seller list. I think the reason for his success is not only his insight into the worlds of the FBI, CIA and counter terrorism but the main character of the majority of his books, the one and only Mitch Rapp. He makes Jack Bauer look like a pussy cat. Speaking of Jack Bauer and 24, Flynn has, for many years, been a consultant for that show.  Read more:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

US Aid to Foreign Countries (Not so Boring Considering What's Happening in Egypt)

I've always known that the US has given aid to countries throughout the world.  In  my younger days, I envisioned that this aid went to cure diseases, fight hunger etc.  As I became older and more jaded, I queried of myself, which I often do, where is the money of the US taxpayer going and to what ends are those monies being used? Well, surprise surprise surprise.  It ain't where you thunk.  I've done a great deal of reading lately about the monies we send to Africa.  Now, President Bush (even Bono had to agree with this one) used hundreds of millions of  US dollars, bordering on the billions, to help eradicate malaria and AIDS in Africa. Those dollars have done much good.  So, hurrah for Pres. Bush.  But throughout the entire history of our country, we have used foreign aid to prop up dictators and despots to safeguard our own welfare. Read more... 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

How I Got My First Orchid and Now Have 80

 I'm an orchid hobbyist or as my husband would say, a fanatic. I'm not a fanatic.  Ever read The Orchid Thief? Fanatic.  But, how did I become enamored, enthralled with growing orchids?  I blame a friend who graciously gave me a Phalaenopsis (moth) orchid.  They're the ones you see most frequently in grocery stores and nurseries.  The reason is that they are both beautiful and easy to grow.  Unfortunately most people, once the blooms have fallen off,  don't have a clue what to do with it and therefore, dump it.  How sad. I'm not a dumper when it comes to plants.  So, I went to the official site for the American Orchid Society ( and looked up the care needed to keep a Phalaenopsis alive. Read more...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Keen-wah: And Other Foods That Are Very Good for You

When I was a kid growing up in my little hometown of 800, there was one local grocery store.  And fortunately it was a time when kids could still ride their bikes up and down the streets or walk to the local grocery without fear of being abducted.  At this local grocery store, there was one food that my sister and I loved to go get.  Ice cream? No. Candy? No.  Ok then, how about Big Red (for you yankees that's a local  red colored cola that's great over ice cream and one hell of a hangover cure)?  No.  The lady who owned the store had a big vat of pickled herring.  I can just hear the groans now.  Pickled herring?  Are you nuts?  For some reason or another my sister (not my younger sister, she won't eat fish) and I took a great liking to these little fishes and to this day, I still find them delicious. And on top of that, low these many years later, I find that they're also very good for you.  Now my father, on the other hand, loved canned sardines.  I think he ate a tin of sardines in olive oil everyday of his adult life.  Why this reminiscing about herring and sardines?  (Are you still with me or have you X'd me out?)  Because I saw this list in Real Simple magazine about the 30 best foods to keep you healthy and sardines is on the list.  So, to keep you from having to go out and buy the magazine, here are the top 30 foods you need to eat to keep you healthy:  cover

almonds, avocadoes, barley, black beans, blueberries, broccoli, bulgur, chard, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, edamame, eggs!, extra virgin olive oil, kale, kidney beans, kiwi, lentils, mushrooms, oatmeal (steel cut or old fashioned), oranges, peanut and almond butters (all natural), pumpkin, quinoa (pronounced keen wah), SARDINES, skim milk, spinach, sweet potatoes, walnuts, whole grain pasta, wild salmon, nonfat Greek yogurt.

Now, with that being said, don't sit down and eat as a meal almonds, avocadoes, peanut and almond butter, sardines and salmon.  Sounds like the ingredients you might find in "the basket" on Chopped...Although very good for you, you would have eaten a meal way beyond any normal calorie allotment for the day.  Mix and match the low cal with the other "good" fat foods...

Stay healthy in 2011 and beyond!