Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September Book Reviews

As usual, the books I read this month are quite the eclectic mix and were chosen for a variety of reasons.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen was recommended by one of the members of the library book club and chosen as the book to discuss in October. This was a easy, quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed. The title comes from the work of Rebecca Winter, the central character in the novel, who is a well-known photographer. Her photograph, Still Life With Bread Crumbs, brought her fame and fortune, however, as the book opens, she is having financial troubles and has moved to small cabin a couple of hours outside New York City. The story focuses on her life in this small town as she tries to get her finances in order. Other characters include her mother, who is in a nursing home, her father, who lives in an apartment with the family housekeeper, her son who works in NY, and Jim Bates, a roofer who tracks eagles for the government on the weekends and has a psycho sister. There's a sweet love story mixed in with the still life photographs Rebecca snaps of crosses she finds scattered around the woods behind her cabin.

The Winter of Red Snow was in the to-read pile beside my bed and is one of the books in the Dear America series that Robbie picked up for me on our trip to Pennsylvania earlier this year. The story centers around the winter of 1777 when Washington's troops camped at Valley Forge and is told in the form of the diary of a young girl, Abigail Jane Stewart, who lived near Valley Forge. I've enjoyed all the Dear America books I've read, and this one is no exception. I particularly enjoyed reading this one since we had so recently toured Valley Forge and seen inside the house that Washington stayed in (which the fictional protagonist visited to pick up and deliver the laundry that her mother did for the Washingtons).

I checked out Mark Divine's book, The Way of the SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed after reading his article Learn To Take a Stand in a summer issue of Reader's Digest. The author is a former Navy SEAL and the article encourages individuals to define their values, discover their passion, and uncover their purpose. The book provides good information for leading and succeeding in life and includes exercises at the end of each chapter. Many of the exercises focused on visualization, which I agree is very effective, however I thought his focus on it was somewhat excessive. The book discusses five mountains that individuals must master to succeed - physical, mental, emotional, intuitional, and spiritual. There were lots of great quotes in the book - here are a few of my favorites:

*After risk aversion and fear of failure, indecision is perhaps the most common reason for that innovation-killing standstill we call inertia.

*Make a new routine out of shaking things up. This will forge new pathways in your brain, help you to avoid blind spots and rutted thinking, and spice up your life in general.

*...as with any high-functioning computer, the output of your mind is shaped by what you put into it.

Blood of Heaven is one of the Christian fiction books in our collection that I had not read before. This is an intriguing story involving a death row prisoner who is chosen for a genetics experiment, the GOD gene created with DNA taken from blood adhered to a piece of the crown of thorns (which was somehow preserved in candle wax that had melted then solidified around it), a young greedy scientist who deviously alters the DNA, and a police officer's widow and her son. I thought this was a great read with a satisfying, although sad, ending. (I didn't realize until I pulled the book out to read that it was the first in a trilogy.)

I hadn't really heard of the Gone Girl book (or the upcoming movie) until a couple of my blog commentors recommended it. This is the story of Amy, who disappears on her 5th wedding anniversary, and her husband Nick. The story alternates between Amy and Nick's point of view and involves deceit, intrigue, mystery, murder, infidelity, suspicion, drugs, psychosis, etc. I had very mixed feelings about this book. It's an extremely interesting story line, the plot moves along at a nice pace, and there are several unexpected twists along the way. However, there's a lot of profanity throughout the book and I did not like the strange ending because there was no justice, the story was not all neatly tied up, and the psychotic-ness of it all continues as the book ends. I definitely won't be seeing the R-rated movie.

Robbie brought me an interesting article about a new book several weeks ago. The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee is advertised as a book about Harper Lee, the author of To Kill A Mockingbird. However, it is basically just a memoir about the times the author, Marja Mills, spent with the Lee sisters; first as she worked on a magazine article, then as she lived next door to supposedly gain information on a book about the area that inspired Maycomb County in Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel. The memoir really didn't have much information about Harper Lee, other than revealing that she's just a normal person, she liked feeding the ducks at a local pond with her sister, and now resides in an assisted living facility.

Honestly, as I read this book, I came to dislike the author (who was on disability as a journalist but was somehow able to do the research for and write this book). I may have disliked her because in her descriptions of the differences between the southerners in Alabama and the Yankees she was accustomed to there was an underlying current of disdain for the south [seriously, what's wrong with saying "ma'am" and "sir" and enjoying a good game of football or a mess of grits with breakfast! :>)]. Also, in the book, she states that she ... pulled out  my tape recorder and began the slow, deliberate, and often enthralling project of recording oral histories of Alice Lee and her friends and neighbors in Monroeville. However, the book contains very few of the stories that were supposedly shared during hours and hours of time spent with Alice Lee and a variety of friends and acquaintances.

Profiles in Scrapbooking: Inspiration, Wisdom, and Advice for Your Memory-Keeping Journey by Lain Ehmann and the True Scrap 6 instructors is a VERY short eBook that I downloaded to my Kindle because it was offered free when it was released a couple of weeks ago. Honestly, it was not very informative and I didn't find it interesting; it seemed more like a promotional pamphlet for the upcoming True Scrap event.

Which of these books have you read? Please share your reviews in the comments.


  1. I haven't read any of those.... yet

  2. I didn't like gone girl, and didn't bother finishing it. I've heard of the Anna quindlen book, but not read it, or any of the others (although I did download the free true scrap PDF)

  3. I agree with you about Gone Girl, quite a depressing book really. The first book you mentioned looks interesting.

  4. None of these are familiar to me; however, I always enjoy your frank and thoughtful reviews!

  5. I enjoyed Still Life with Bread Crumbs as well. Gone Girl has been recommended to me by several people, but I haven't had much interest. Your review tells me I can let that one go. I was interested in the book about Harper Lee as well, and I appreciate your review as I won't be picking that up either!

  6. I downloaded the free ebook but haven't read it - suspected it was a promotional thing but hoped there was something in it.

    Used several of the Dear America books during our homeschooling and found them a nice way to get a feel for a place or time.

  7. I didn't like Gone Girl. Still life with breadcrumbs sounds interesting

  8. wow - so many fun reads this month! I've heard SO much about Gone Girl but I've never been tempted to pick it up. It just doesn't seem like my kind of book at all. Still Life With Breadcrumbs, on the other hand, sounds like it would be a good read for me. I'll have to look it up at my library!


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