Monday, December 28, 2015

It's Monday. What Are You Reading


Merry Christmas to all my book blogging buddies. I've had extra time off and have put it to good use.   I subscribed to Kindle Unlimited but cancelled before I had to start paying; I just found that most of the available books were self-published romances and I didn't think it was worth $11/month for unlimited access to them.  Have you tried it?  What do you think?

I have published a few reviews lately.

Books I read and for which reviews are scheduled:

Your Heart's Desire

New from NetGalley

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Review: Love Lucas

Love, Lucas

About the Book:

When Oakley Nelson loses her older brother, Lucas, to cancer, she thinks she’ll never recover. Between her parents’ arguing and the battle she’s fighting with depression, she feels nothing inside but a hollow emptiness. When Mom suggests they spend a few months in California with Aunt Jo, Oakley isn’t sure a change of scenery will alter anything, but she’s willing to give it a try.

In California, Oakley discovers a sort of safety and freedom in Aunt Jo’s beach house. Once they’re settled, Mom hands her a notebook full of letters addressed to her—from Lucas. As Oakley reads one each day, she realizes how much he loved her, and each letter challenges her to be better and to continue to enjoy her life. He wants her to move on.

If only it were that easy.

But then a surfer named Carson comes into her life, and Oakley is blindsided. He makes her feel again. As she lets him in, she is surprised by how much she cares for him, and that’s when things get complicated. How can she fall in love and be happy when Lucas never got the chance to do those very same things?

With her brother’s dying words as guidance, Oakley knows she must learn to listen and trust again. But will she have to leave the past behind to find happiness in the future?

My Comments:

This Edelweiss galley has been on my Kindle for a long time and who knows why it caught my eye today.  It is the story of Oakley, who had been the all-American high achieving, over-involved high school student until her brother became ill with cancer, at which point she pretty much dropped out of life.  After he is buried, she and her mother go to California for a few months.  Oakley is depressed and is allowing life to pass her by.  Her mother gives her a book of letters from her brother, which encourage her to move beyond where she is and live again.  Of course that is easier said than done, but the cute boy next door is there to help her.  

I found Oakley to be reasonably believable.  I would expect a high school senior who has recently lost someone she loved to be self-absorbed and emotional.  I did not find Carson to be believable--everything about him made him seen like a mature man, not a high school boy.  He wasn't a bit selfish, he showed emotional insight, and he didn't allow Oakley's rejection to dissuade him.  

The story at times could be a real tear-jerker and I found tears rolling down my cheeks so there was enough realism to tug at my heartstrings--but I found the relationship between Oakley and Lucas to be more real than the one between Carson and Oakley.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via Edelweiss.  Grade:  B+ 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Book Blogger Hop: December 25-31

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop is hosted at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer.  This week's question:

 What is your preferred format for reviews? Do you tell the story or do you focus on characters and the reason someone would like the review? 

Since I start my review post with the Amazon blub, I don't find it necessary to tell the story.  I try to pick out something about the story that caught my eye or meant something to me.  I may even veer off of the book review per se to discuss something that the book brought to mind.  I try to tell readers what I liked about the book and what I did not.  I try to let my readers know what they are likely to enjoy about it, and what might bother them. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Review: Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

About the Book:

Los Angeles, Present Day. When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind  ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie… 

Los Angeles, 1938.  Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Hollywood after her  dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, and lands a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide.  What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future. 

My Comments:

Those of you who are familiar with Susan Meissner's books know that her "thing" is to take an artifact from a by-gone era and use it to connect a woman of today with a woman from the past.  While often the books tell two stories, the modern day story in this book is brief, and with the relatively short time between the two story threads, there are two women who appear in both stories.  

The story begins in 2012 in a second-hand shop in Los Angeles, but quickly moves to Hollywood in the 1930's.  The stories about the filming of Gone with the Wind were fascinating and showed that Meissner had done her homework.  Still, this isn't a story about filming a movie; it is the story of two young women, their dreams for the future and their relationship with one another and with other people in their lives.  Both Audrey and Violet have felt rejected and are afraid of being rejected again, so they make decisons to protect their hearts, decisions which end up bringing them pain.  Still, they are constants in each others lives over decades.

While many of Meissner's early books were published by Waterbrook, a Christian imprint, and contained mild religious content, this one is published by NAL and is not at all religous.  

I enjoyed Audrey and Violet's story but I found the modern-day sections rather forced and hard to believe.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.  Grade:  B+

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Build Wealth & Spend It All: Quick Review

Build Wealth & Spend It All: Enjoy The Life You Earned

About the Book:

You can build wealth. You need to protect your retirement savings from future nationalization, taxation and redistribution. You deserve to spend everything you have earned and saved before you die. 
This is not a novel to numb the pain in your life for just a couple of hours. It is a tool box with the tools you can use to fix your life...forever. 
Dr. Riggs has been building wealth for over fifty years through several very different and very successful careers, each of which made him a multimillionaire. In this book he explains the three basic and easy to understand financial concepts anyone can use to both build and protect their wealth. But it was only during this past year, while he was visiting his 96 yr. old mother in a nursing home, he gained insight into what awaits most of our retirement savings.
The money his mother had earned as a public school teacher and had frugally saved for over 50 years was rapidly being drained away as she dozed off in her chair. They were taking it simply because she still had it; while other residents who had already enjoyed spending their money, were now getting a free ride.
He had helped his mother to save and invest when he should have encouraged her to spend. He had failed his own mother by not encouraging her to spend all she had earned and saved, while she was still able to enjoy it. But he was determined not to fail himself.
He needed a plan...a logical plan to enjoy strategically spending or gifting it all away over a predetermined period of time; before the private IRA, 401(k) and Roth retirement accounts are nationalized and redistributed. He needed a plan to spend it all and die broke - insolvent, but not illiquid or destitute. 
Surprisingly, his plan for building his wealth was simpler and came more naturally to him than his plan for spending it all. 
In this book he explains the three basic and easy-to-understand financial concepts anyone can use to help build their own wealth:
(1) Understand the difference between true assets and actual liabilities. 
(2) Always know where you are in the economic cycle. 
(3) Understand the implications of the coming demographic changes. 
Your grave stone will have two dates separated by a hyphen. You have no control over the dates but you do have control over the hyphen ... that's your life. Let this book show you how to make the most of that hyphen.

My Comments:

Most financial planning books tell you to save your money while you are young, invest it in mutual funds, and withdraw part of it when you are old, and leave the rest to your kids.  This book agrees with part about saving your money, but it is the author's opinion that our tax system/government is going to end up confiscating large portions of people's IRAs and 401Ks to get the money to support all the baby boomers who have not saved enough for retirement.  Stanley Riggs, the author, is a fan of investing in real estate and businesses.  He is also in favor of people front-loading their retirement spending during the first years of retirement, and then dying broke, or close to it.  

The book was easy to read and if you agree with his assessment that the government is going to take people's retirement accounts, then you'll probably agree with his choice of investments.  Since I don't agree with that prediction, I take a jaundiced eye toward the book.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a complimentary review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B-.  

Friday, December 18, 2015

Book Blogger Hop: December 18-24

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop is hosted at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer.  This week's question:

Which format do you use? Blogger, Word Press, or an independent format?
 Any reason for your choice?

When I started this blog ten years ago I had never heard of WordPress, so I used what most people I knew were using, namely, Blogger.  I've stuck with it all these years because it is free and easy.  While WordPress may have more power once you learn it, I think the learning curve (and options) on Blogger is more limited even now.  This blog is a hobby and while I know many bloggers feel WordPress is more professional, the reality is that I am not a professional blogger.  I enjoy making a few (and believe me, it is a few) dollars from this blog, I'm not under any illusion that if I only moved to a self-hosted WordPress blog, I'd get rich.  If I moved to WordPress I'd have to either drop the ads and the revenue they generate or I'd have to pay for self-hosting, which would cost more than those ads now generate.  Also, if I moved I'm sure I'd lose readers who check my blog through a feed reader and click on it periodically but who aren't invested enough in it to actually go to the trouble of changing their subscription.  

Friday, December 11, 2015

Book Blogger Hop: December 11-17

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop is hosted at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer.  This week's question:

 Are you a blogger that only has reviews on your blog or do you feature giveaways and attention-attracting posts such as personal and bookish posts?

While this is primarily a book blog, as the tile This That and the Other Thing implies, sometimes I write about non-bookish things.  If you look at my menu bar at the top, you'll see links to pages that list my "issue" posts.  I also have a link to my author interviews.  I do giveaways periodically as well, and sometimes I participate in link-ups of various kinds, particuraly bookish ones or Catholic ones.  I wrote a few financial posts until I decided to start a blog specifically focused on financial planning and financial products.  

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Review: Innocence Lost

Innocence Lost - A Childhood Stolen

About the Book:
On July 14th, 1942, me, my mother, father, precious little brother, Chaim Kabliski, Aunt Ania, Uncle Addam and my cousins, Adiya and Aaron, were all forcibly evicted from their beautiful apartment in Warsaw by heartless, well-armed German soldiers with snarling dogs and crammed into a cattle wagon along with eighty other suffering souls. 

When we arrived at a camp called Auschwitz/Birkenau, they were all murdered in gas chambers, burned in ovens like trash and their ashes unceremoniously spread like fertilizer on a nearby field. Only through a miracle did I survive. I want you to hear my story so the world will never forget. Those horrible people may have stolen my childhood, but they can’t steal my memories. So, let me begin.

My Comments:
I found this story hard to believe.  The introductory material says the author talked to an Auschwitz survivor and based this novel on her story, so I don't know how much is true and how much is not. Basically the little girl in the story was pulled out of the line to the gas chamber by an SS doctor who had recently lost a daughter her age.  He took her into his home, and when the camp was abandoned, he took her with him when he fled.  Eventually he ends  up as a Catholic priest.  She marries and moves to Israel.  

The story was compelling at times but it is a self-published book and it shows.  The writing is not of a professional caliber.  Oral histories can be fascinating and this one shows the ending of the war through the eyes of one of the villain class. It shows an unlikely alliance between an SS physician who hates Jews, and a young Jewish girl.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B-

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Quick Review: Cookie Classics Made Easy

About the Book:
The 40 recipes in this delicious collection use a foolproof formula that requires just one bowl, minimal baking equipment, and no previous experience! You’ll find your tried-and-true favorites here -- from Chewy Chocolate Chip to Oatmeal Raisin, Shortbread, Ginger Molasses, and Snickerdoodles -- plus many more that are sure to become new must-haves, such as Lemon Ginger, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Rum Raisin, Pecan Delight, and Vanilla Walnut Pear. Warm, crave-worthy cookies are just minutes away!

My Comments:
I love to bake cookies; luckily my family likes to eat cookies.  I hoped for a Kindle version of this NetGalley; unfortunately I got only a time-limited galley.  As is my practice, I don't cook from time-limited galleys.  I will tell you that the recipes looked good and that there are pictures of most of them.  Just as I have, the author learned that you really don't need to mix the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry in another.  I'll give the book a B+ because the recipes look good and the pictures are pretty.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

From My Archives: August 2006

What was I writing about in August, 2006?  Well, my daughter had just changed schools and was looking for a Girl Scout troop.  At that point, I didn't want to be the leader.

We recently observed the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  In 2006 I was looking at the 1 year anniversary.  , both what was different and what I remembered about the storm.

In the summer of 2006 we took a family vacation to Gatlinburg.  These photos show my now-11 year old with ice cream. This set shows sights we saw.  I wasn't very good at using Blogger back in those days, and I think we were still on dial-up.

In August 2006, I started showing evidence of what I was to become; namely, a book blogger.  I wrote my first book reviews:

What do you think?  Should I go back and put in book covers and blurbs to make them match my current reviews, or should I leave the past in the past?

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