29 December 2014

My Books of 2014

The end of the year is always a time for Top Ten lists and Best Moments and such from that ending year. So the New York Times put out its “Top 10 Books of 2014” and I rushed to read it because surely as someone who enjoys reading I would have certainly read a few, right?  Not so. The Times split the list. Five were fiction and five were non fiction. So, how did I do? Not a single one! In fact I had not even heard of them. Was I living under a rock? No. Did I not read this year? No, I read.
 
So what did I read?  
One 2014 book that comes to mind immediately was Aviva Chomsky’s
Undocumented How Immigration Became Illegal. Chomsky is an immigrant rights activist and in this text she explores what being undocumented actually means. She does a great job putting things into a historical perspective too. So even though my family has been here awhile, her explanation really made me think. Clearly not everyone is afforded the opportunity to immigrate in the manner my ancestors did. It is not an easy Sunday afternoon kind of read. It opened my eyes though I am still unsure how I – unimportant as I am – can make a difference. 

I read several books that were published prior to this year. My sister lent me a book by Susan Wittig Albert. She writes the China Bayles Mystery series and it was a great simple read. I dare say her books are light reading. They reminded me a lot of the Murder She Wrote series. In face I just finished reading Rosemary Remembered today. Time to order in the next one. I would like to read them in order, much less confusing that way! 

I also picked up Steve Berry’s new novel, The Lincoln Myth. I had a lot going on this year and am only planning to actually start it today. I’ve read several of his novels and they always keep me interested the entire way through.  

There is nothing worse than being excited about a book and having it not live up to your expectations. This year I had three! The first was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I just could not get into it. My girls loved it. They could not put it down. I could not wait to put it down and sadly I have to admit, I did not even finish it.  

The second was more my fault than the author. I should know by now never to actually attempt to read a Stephen King novel after Hollywood has touched it. I liked the show Under the Dome. I liked the characters. But the book is so different than the movie. I could not keep things straight. I think had I read the book first I would have loved it. 

Finally, I used to really enjoy reading the Scarpetta Novels by Patricia Cornwell. This was perhaps more of a disappointment that the other two books because there was no movie to have “ruined” it and I had enjoyed previous books in the series. This one … was like someone else wrote it and simply signed Cornwell’s name. It dragged. It lacked any adrenaline that one normally feels while reading a murder mystery. It just … lacked. 

So what’s on my reading list for this year?
First and foremost to finally relax and read Berry’s The Lincoln Myth. I would also like to read the next novel in the China Bayles Series. That would be Rueful Death, I do believe. I also have several history and non fiction books that have been sitting on my bookshelf waiting for way too long now. 

Happy reads! 

Books Mentioned:
Berry, Steve. The Lincoln Myth. New York: Ballantine Books, 2014.

Chomsky, Aviva. Undocumented How Immigration Became Illegal. Boston: Beacon Press, 2014. 

Cornwell, Patricia. Red Mist. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011. 

King, Stephen. Under the Dome. New York: Gallery Books, 2009. 

Wittig Albert, Susan. Rosemary Remembered. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 1995. 

Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2005.
 
 
C. 2014, Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman

15 October 2014

If I could talk to my teenage self, the one thing I would say is ...

If I could talk to my teenage self, the one thing I would say is …  live in the moment. There is so much traditional teen stuff I passed on trying to get ready for life. Turns out the life I was busy preparing for did not work out anyway.

Today's prompt was from: 30 Journaling Prompts for Self-Discovery http://shar.es/1mCyB2

14 October 2014

My favorite way to spend the day is…

My favorite way to spend the day is… researching and writing. Genealogy is by far my favorite thing to do, regardless of if it is for me or someone else!

I get so excited when I find out a new detail or discover a long lost aunt/uncle/cousin! My kids have come to expect when I mention "picnic" that we are packing lunch and a camera and notebook and hitting a cemetery. I enjoy sitting in the basement of the library or the side room at the historical society squinting at microfilm machines and feeling thankful that they accept checks for copies since I will inevitably not bring enough cash.

Genealogy is like a puzzle. Whether you enjoy a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle or the New York Times crossword puzzle, we have something in common then!

Image: Dreamstime

Today's prompt was from: 30 Journaling Prompts for Self-Discovery http://shar.es/1mCyB2

15 September 2014

Thyme of Death (China Bayles, #1)Thyme of Death by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great little mystery with lots of twists and turns. Thought it was "her" then no I was certain it was "her instead" and then new evidence! Susan Wittig Albert kept the scenes moving nicely. No dry spots. First in what I am sure will be a great series. Cannot wait to read the rest. Only down side was that I lost one whole afternoon of housekeeping chores (can you hear the sarcastic tears?)!

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09 September 2014

Under the DomeUnder the Dome by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I tried. God knows, I tried. Maybe if I would have read the book before watching the hit TV show of the same name. Maybe then I would not have had a preconceived idea and expectation of the characters. I made it to only to 298 before I decided I had to throw in the towel. Part was the above reason - that was actually the main reason. Part though was some of the scenes made me uncomfortable - enough so, I am hesitant to allow my teens to read the book. Scenes filled with foul language and socially unacceptable (the rape scene) and the drug scenes really served no purpose. There were other ways to show that Junior and his band of idiots were scum.

That all said, I did give it three stars because if you could take out those items which turned me off, then the book tells a great story. No matter whether you read it from a science fiction point of view (a bubble suddenly appears around the town) or from a prepper point of view (would your town survive if suddenly cut off from the outside world?) or from a psychological point of view (the human psyche when fear and stress take over), it could be a great story. I just cannot get past the depraved and vulgar-ness of some of the scenes. I also cannot stop seeing the characters as I have already come to know them (on the TV show).

I do intend to go back to the book at some point but I think it may well be awhile. All in all, disappointing.

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19 August 2014

The Great ConnectionThe Great Connection by Arnie Warren
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Warren reviews four basic personality types and how to connect with them at their level. The premise of course is that to believe in yourself, to be truly happy with who you are, then you need to know in fact who you are. ... Easy to read. A MUST for anyone who interacts with people throughout life!


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28 July 2014

Wall-to-Wall Dead (A Do-It-Yourself Mystery, #6)Wall-to-Wall Dead by Jennie Bentley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the tv show Murder She Wrote and I loved Agatha Christie's heroine as well. Jennie Bentley ranks right up there with her DIY series in which former NY textile designer moves to small town Maine and literally stumbles into one murder case after another. The books are easy to read, light mysteries. In this one Avery and Derek begin a remodeling job in a condo where a nosey old lady gives everyone much grief ... until she gets murdered! Then another building resident gets murdered and the dirty laundry is left to air.

A one afternoon read and a nice excuse to slip away from the to do list. The design tips at the end are a nice extra. The book could easily be read as a stand alone or as part of the series. That unfortunately is also the one thing I found myself annoyed at. Bentley flashes back too much sometimes.

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26 July 2014

Mortar and Murder (A Do-It-Yourself Mystery, #4)Mortar and Murder by Jennie Bentley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another in a series of great little mysteries by Jennie Bentley. Death and mayhem seem to follow Avery Baker, a former New York textile designer. This is the fourth in Bentley's DIY mystery series. Baker weaves a thrilling tale of Rowanberry Island and its smuggling past and present secrets in amidst a few dead bodies. If you liked Murder She Wrote, you will love this series.

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25 July 2014

Are the Keys in the Freezer?: An Advocate's Guide for Alzheimer's and Other DementiasAre the Keys in the Freezer?: An Advocate's Guide for Alzheimer's and Other Dementias by Patricia Woodell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

No one wants to think ahead to those decisions we may ultimately face in regards to our parents. However this book, "Are the Keys in the Freezer?". provides a first person personal look at what one family learned and went through together in regards to their mother.

The book is laid out in an easy to read manner. It covers briefly what exactly is dementia and the different stages of it. The book covers care facilities: how to choose one above another, cost factors, budgets to be able to afford one, the legal aspects, and of course the medical care aspects. Choosing a home is definitely not simply choosing the one closest to where you live. The book also covers hospice and advance care directives.

Also helpful is the resource list at the end for each chapter. These sisters consulted legal and medical professionals in writing this book.

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22 July 2014

Plaster and Poison (A Do-It-Yourself Mystery, #3)Plaster and Poison by Jennie Bentley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great light mystery. A former textile designer teams up with a handsome handyman. They stumble over murder and mystery and then help local police in a small town solve the crimes. Reminiscent of the television series "Murder, She Wrote."

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19 July 2014

Selling The Wheel: Choosing The Best Way To Sell For You Your Company Your CustomersSelling The Wheel: Choosing The Best Way To Sell For You Your Company Your Customers by Jeff Cox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jeff Cox does a great job explaining the different types and personalities of salespersons and their affect on a business. Anyone in business should read this. Good for salespeople too but slanted more to benefit management/ownership in my opinion.

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12 July 2014

Red Mist (Kay Scarpetta, #19)Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When I saw another Scarpetta novel, I was excited. Finally! Unfortunately Patricia Cornwell did her main character or the series no justice. By going back to her early novels style of using a first person tone, the book reads more like a monologue. It is dry and moves slow. I was tempted many times to just set the book down and walk away but then in chapter 25 the action finally picked up as Cornwell killed off one of her recurring characters. As always a twist at the end when the killer was revealed. However even that was a let down. Without giving anything away, it just seemed like Cornwell created a new character in those last two chapters solely to pin the murder on them. All in all, a disappointing read.

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07 July 2014




05 July 2014

Unfailing Love: Psalms in the Key of my Life: Volume IIUnfailing Love: Psalms in the Key of my Life: Volume II by Carol Shelton Moye
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Carol Shelton Moye makes the psalms personal and offers a fresh perspective on what can sometimes be a difficult read. She also, through her own interpretations, shows the reader how to make the psalms personal.

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29 June 2014

The AncestorsThe Ancestors by Brandon Massey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I grabbed this book solely on the title. The book did not fulfill my completely off based preconceived ideas. However, I did read the three short stories through and found myself wanting to know what happened. Normally ghosts and the supernatural are something I have little to no interest in, but I have to admit the stories were each well crafted. Overall, I found them to be intriguing suspenseful stories.

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25 June 2014

Mission to ParisMission to Paris by Alan Furst
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Alan Furst once again delivers a truly fascinating spy novel. Set primarily in Paris, one can feel the tenseness in the air as the Nazis gain footing and power. While the novel started out slow, once the characters were introduced and built up a bit, Stahl finally accepts his role as a spy and the book finally gains momentum. Still though, many scenes read as undeveloped thoughts. Not the page turner I expected but as far as historical fiction, it was interesting.

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15 June 2014

Summer Reading List

My summer reading list (at least as it stands today):
  1. Prepper's Long Term Survival by Jim Cobb (my second read actually)
  2. The Lincoln Myth by Steve Berry
  3. Mission to Paris by Alan Furst
  4. The Ukrainians Unexpected Nation by Andrew Wilson
  5. The Polish Way by Adam Zamoyski
  6. 6. The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel (great movie!)
I'm always adding to my list so it may well change before the end of summer.

02 June 2014

Building your own Fairy Garden


Fairy gardens are enchanting container garden collection of miniatures focusing on fairies. A fairy garden, like that miniature dollhouse you dreamed of as a kid, can be as simple or ornate as you can imagine. Fairies love to live in a hollow old tree or a mossy hillside. They are natural creatures believed to have magical powers, according to Celtic folklore.

Click HERE to read the full article as it appeared on Examiner.com this morning.

Photo: DreamsTime

11 April 2014

Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal


I am so excited - I won! I never win anything and early this morning I got a notification from Goodreads that I won a copy of Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal by Aviva Chomsky.

Chomsky looks at the lives and difficulties of illegals and what it means to be undocumented. Those of us born here often take our rights and freedoms for granted so I am really interested in reading this from her perspective.

Chomsky is a professor of history at Salem State University in Massachusetts. She is also the Coordinator of Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies at Salem. Chomsky has written numerous books and articles and presented many times at a variety of venues.

According to Goodreads, I should receive the book in four to six weeks. Look for my review thereafter.