Friday, August 1, 2014

Never Buried by Edie Claire

 Never Buried is the first book I have read by Edie Claire. The beginning of the Leigh Koslow Mystery series, it kept the reader guessing throughout the book. Leigh has an interesting assortment of relatives and friends who constantly offer her unwanted advice and yet when she tries to find out what happened in 1949 no one seems to have much information. A mystery swirls around her cousin's house where two people died and to confirm that someone doesn't want them to dig deeper, threats appear in imaginative forms, scaring both the cousins. This book was free for Kindle when I read it.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Catherine Cookson

Does anyone remember Catherine Cookson and her books set in the north of England? Her books were first published in the 50s and she went on to write more than a hundred novels that sold over 100 million copies. The first book of hers that I read was Our Kate supposedly a story about her mother. (Catherine had grown up not knowing that the woman she had considered her sister was actually her mother.) Despite her success, the literary world considered her writing to be not of historical novels but low-life romances - they did not treat her kindly. Regardless of how her novels were depicted, they were popular and she became a well recognized author. Catherine was awarded an OBE and became Dame of the British Empire. Her characters, like those of Charles Dickens', have struggles to overcome, usually of poverty or mistreatment by the upper classes.

Catherine Cookson died in 1998 at the age of 91.

Her books have been adapted for stage, film and television. (I've found many of her made for television DVDs at the library). She also wrote several children's books.

The estate of Catherine Cookson has chosen to publish her books digitally and many of Catherine Cookson's books are available on Amazon and  free for Amazon Prime Members.

You can see a full list of her books here.

Note: Some of the novels that were first published in England, were later published under different titles and alternate covers in other countries which can be confusing.






Sunday, July 27, 2014

Decorative Painting - Fort Worth Decorative Painters

I had a fun day yesterday painting with friends at a workshop organized by Fort Worth Decorative Painters. It always amazes me that we all use the same pattern and come up with entirely different creations.









Friday, July 25, 2014

Still Life with Murder by P.B. Ryan

Still Life with Murder is the first in the Nell Sweeney historical mystery series by Patricia Ryan. Set in 1860s Boston, Nell Sweeney, a former nurse, takes a governess position in one of the wealthier neighborhoods. As a confidant to the lady of the house, she is asked to find out what happened when a murder takes place at a disreputable establishment. Her quest takes Nell into the opium dens and less savory parts of Boston while trying to prove the innocence of her employer's son, who has secrets he is trying hard to suppress.

My thoughts:
Although at times the story moved a little slowly without much progress, Ms. Ryan sets the stage well and gives detailed descriptions of the locations where Nells finds herself. One of which is an opium den. Addiction to opium was prevalent at the time. Some of the addictions resulted from pain killing medication given during the civil war where there was little option available to reduce the suffering of injured soldiers. I was surprised at the brutality and atrocious conditions at Andersonville, the Confederate Prison where over 45,000 Union soldiers were held without shelter or medical care. There are lots of mysteries that swirl around the characters, one of which is Nell's past and there was a surprising twist at the end. I'm glad that this isn't a stand alone and that we can continue reading about Nell's exploits. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner

I've heard a lot about The Blue Zones so jumped at the chance to hear someone speak about the zones at a local resident community.
There have been many studies on aging, one of which was the MacArthur Study which found that older people often withdrew from social roles as they aged when retiring from work and the family had left home. The ones that kept busy and volunteered or were part of a community fared better than those who stayed at home alone. The Blue Zones is an expanded world wide study that has researched areas where people live well into their 100s. Although most of the zones are islands, Loma Linda, California also is part of the Blue Zone where there is a high population of Seventh Day Adventists who tend to live a healthier lifestyle.
You may have heard that 10% of attitude is what happens to you and 90% is how you react to it. On the same principal 70% of your well being is not genetics, but is lifestyle.
Here are the keys to living a healthier life:
  1. Movement in a natural way. This doesn't have to be excessive workouts, it can be walking or gardening. Do what you love for physical exercise.
  2. Living with purpose. What do you look forward to when you wake up?
  3. Routines that shed stress. Meditation, praying
  4. Plant slanted diets. Fruit, vegetables, beans, lentils are the basics.
  5. Belonging to a community. Social circles that support healthy behavior. Volunteer or join a group with common interests.
  6. Friendships and relationships
Fort Worth is taking the fitness challenge. Take a look and see if your city is doing anything to encourage a healthier lifestyle for their community. Betsy Price, Mayor of Fort Worth is a big advocate of a healthy lifestyle and even conducts town hall meetings while bike riding around the town.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline is a novel about orphans growing up in 1920 America from the eyes of Niamh (pronounced Neev). Her family emigrated from Ireland to New York and all but Niamh died from a fire. Along with Niamh's story, a present day foster child is having similar issues with abandonment while she helps an elderly woman clear out and organize old trunks in her attic. The orphan trains ran until 1929 from the East Coast to the Midwest, stopping at towns along the way for families to adopt the children. Most of the children were chosen to work in the fields or as help for the mothers rather than someone to be integrated into a family. Here in Fort Worth, one of the stop off points for orphan trains resulted in an orphanage run by Edna Gladney.

The book was chosen by our book club and there are great reading club questions at the end of the book.

My thoughts:
Without e-mail or affordable mail, immigrants were cut off from their homeland and often people living in Ireland were given a rosy picture of life in New York. What Niamh's family discovered was too little work, tenement housing and little money to live on. Niamh, at a young age, found that she had no family and no one to take care of her until the Children's Aid Society took her in and put her on one of the orphan trains leaving New York to be placed with families. Not much different from the foster care system we have today. Many of the children found a cruel world where they worked as unpaid servants or laborers and without anyone to care for their well being. Babies seem to have a better chance at finding a loving home. I liked the way the story unfolded through both the search through attic trunks and her story as a young girl and it is a great book for book club discussions
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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Book Signing at Dogeared Books

Our book signing event at Dog-Eared Books was a huge success. Thanks to everyone who participated and an especially big thanks to Mandy at the book store who organized the event and had fun raffles throughout the day. It was a fun day for everyone.
Ann Summerville, Joanne Faries, Nancy Lynn, Martha Faulkner

Nancy Lynn

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ann Summerville - Book Signing - Weatherford, Texas

MEET THE AUTHORS AND BOOK SIGNING
July 19 10:00 – 2:00

318 Santa Fe Drive, Weatherford, Texas 76086  - 817.598.1800


About the authors:
MARTHA FAULKNER enjoys combining three of her greatest loves: children, writing, and humor. She has taught elementary for over twenty-five years and currently teaches third grade in Aledo, Texas. Martha uses her stories to teach writing skills to her “Frog” students as she shares her love of writing. 
Martha lives with her husband Jim on a small ranch in the West Texas town of Weatherford. She has three grown children, two daughters-in-law, and three granddaughters with whom she looks forward to sharing her stories.
A member of Trinity Writers Workshop since 2000, Martha is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Although the author of many short stories and humorous poems, this is Martha’s first children’s book.

JOANNE FARIES, originally from the Philadelphia area, lives in Texas with her husband Ray. Published in Doorknobs & Bodypaint, she also has poems in Silver Boomer anthologies. Joanne is the film critic for the Little Paper of San Saba. Look for her humorous memoir My Zoo World: If All Dogs Go to Heaven, Then I'm in Trouble, a story collection Wordsplash Flash and three poetry books - Wordsplash Poetry Puddle: Nature, Hazy Memory, and Tread Water on Amazon.

NANCY LYNN was born in Fort Worth, Texas, attended TCU and has a degree in education. Although she was a banker for many years, she is also a contract writer and continues her hobby of writing short stories. THE AIREDALE'S TALES is told by Bentley the Airedale, who lived with Nancy Lynn for 12+ years. You will see that he was a charmer and a rascal and wanted to share his adventures about life on earth (Fort Worth in particular) with everyone who reads about them. Be prepared to laugh and maybe cry a little as you read THE AIREDALE'S TALES.
 
ANN SUMMERVILLE, author of A Graceful Death and Grandmother’s Flower Garden, was born in England, and in search of a warmer climate, moved to California before settling in Texas.  Her short stories and flash fiction have been published in the Lutheran Digest, Long Story Short, The Shine Journal, Doorknobs & Bodypaint, Associated Content, Trinity Writers’ Workshop newsletters and also their collection of Christmas stories.  Ann resides in Fort Worth with her son, two boisterous dogs and a somewhat elusive cat and is currently working on her 9th cozy mystery. Her books are available on Amazon and Smashwords.Com


Friday, July 11, 2014

Shakespeare's Pub by Pete Brown

In Shakespeare's Pub (A Barstool History of London as Seen Through the Windows of Its Oldest Pub), Pete Brown views London from the Southwark pub, The George Inn. His research shows a public house has been at this location perhaps as early as the 14th century, rebuilt in 1677 after the fire of Southwark (10 years after the  Great Fire of London) and renovated when it was found to be structurally unsound in 1937. The connection to Shakespeare is that he lived in Southwark and possibly wrote Macbeth and Hamlet while living there. But this isn't a book about Shakespeare, it's about London and how it grew up around the river Thames, about coaching inns (often depicted by Charles Dickens) and the constant redevelopment of the City of London. Although sometimes dry reading, the author has a sense of humor and offers many tidbits about London. For instance, Prime Minister, William Pitt added a clock tax of five shillings in 1797. To encourage customers, most of whom did not have a watch or clock, public houses began putting large clocks in their establishments. These clocks were affectionately known as Act of Parliament Clocks. The tax was later repealed and replaced by an even more unpopular income tax.

The only thing I would have added to the book is a map of London. Even though I grew up in London, it was hard to picture some of the roads and locations and an updated map of the area around The George Inn would have been helpful.

If you love history, then you will quickly become immersed in London life around The George Inn.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Midsomer Murders


The first book I read about Inspector Barnaby was The Killings at Badger's Drift by Caroline Graham. Since writing her series, many of the books have been created for television - Midsomer Murders starring John Nettles as Inspector Barnaby. And subsequent episodes were written with the same theme. If you like murder mysteries set in quaint English villages, this is a great series to both read and watch. (I've watched 82 DVDs so far - all from the local library). You can view the complete episode guide here. These are also available on Acorn TV and are occasionally shown on PBS. Many of the locations have been in Buckinghamshire and they even have Midsomer Murder Mystery Tours.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Shadow of Death by James Runcie

The Shadow of Death is volume 1 of the Grantchester Mysteries (set in Cambridge) by James Runcie. As the son of a clergyman, James Runcie makes Canon Sidney Chambers a believable and likable character who delves into the mysteries of crime investigations. There are several stories in The Shadow Death combined by common threads. The stories are reminiscent of Father Brown and set in about the same time period following WWII. ITV is currently filming the Grantchester series and hopefully it will be picked up by PBS perhaps as part of the Masterpiece Mysteries series.

From the cover:
Sidney Chambers, the vicar of Grantchester, is a thirty-two-year-old bachelor. Tall, with dark brown hair, eyes the color of hazelnuts, and a reassuring gentle manner, Sidney is an unconventional clergyman and can go where the police cannot.
In these six interconnected mysteries, Sidney, together with his roguish friend Inspector Geordie Keating, inquire into a variety of crimes, including the suspect suicide of a Cambridge solicitor, a scandalous jewelry theft and the unexplained death of a well-known jazz promoter's daughter.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Happiness

The Happy Movie was produced by Roko Belic after years of research around the world. The opening scenes were of a man living in the slums of India with his family in a "house" that looked like a slight breeze might blow over. He talked of days where his feet were sore from the hot ground when he ran through India pulling people in a Rickshaw. He spoke of the monsoon days when the streets were flooded, but surprisingly he said he was happy. He attributed this to his children running to meet him when he arrived home in the evening and he had great neighbors and friends.

So is the key to happiness community and a sense of belonging? Although Japan has the least happy population focusing on achievements and long working hours (they even have a name for death by overwork karoshi), Okinawa has a population with longevity of over 100 years. In Okinawa they focus on community and elders treat the children as if they were their own grandchildren, an act of kindness.

Happiness is 50% genetics, 10% of circumstance and 40% of intentional behavior.

To sum it up, extrinsic values such as success, image and status do not increase happiness whereas intrinsic values do (personal growth, relationships, desire to help). The hedonic treadmill has a theory that after a bad or good experience, people return to a state of neutrality. Once our basic needs are met the increase in wealth has little effect on happiness.

Roko Belic's list for happiness:

  1. Practice gratitude - write a list each week of things you are grateful for.
  2. Community and friends - spend time with friends and family. When we are part of a community it makes people switch from thinking what they don't have to what they do have.
  3. Focus - completely immerse yourself in an activity or hobby. Live in the moment.
  4. Be a part of something offering meaning (volunteer for a good cause)
  5. Act with compassion - Do something for others.
  6. Exercise - increase dopamine by exercising (aerobic)


Friday, June 27, 2014

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (author of The Secret Life of Bees) is my favorite book so far this year.

Books about slavery are usually not ones I pick up, but Sue Monk Kidd's beautiful writing draws the reader in to the story of two women. One, Handful, is a young slave girl and the other, Sarah, is the daughter of a landowner. She abhors slavery and refuses to accept Handful as a gift from her mother. Each woman has her own struggles, but Handful tells Sarah that "owners" cannot enslave her mind whereas that's exactly what has happened to Sarah who is prevented from studying law like her brothers, and even forbidden to use the library. The Invention of Wings is about overcoming hurdles. Sue Monk Kidd has the gift of putting words on the page and conjuring up pictures of life in Charleston in the early 1800s. This would make a great book club read.

Be sure to read the author's note at the end of the book where Sue Monk Kidd explains how the book was inspired by Sarah Grimke's life. Ms. Kidd has researched the time period and the Grimke family and visited where they lived (which is now owned by a law firm). She used the lives of Sarah and Angelina Grimke who were the first female abolitionist agents. Angelina was the first woman to speak before a legislative body. Not only were they for emancipation, but also for equality for both slaves and women. Although Handful was a fictional character, she was added to give a slave's perspective during that time. Sarah did have a slave/maid whom she taught to read and write for which they were both punished.

This is the first e-book that I've borrowed from the library. If you have an e-reader take a look at the collection of e-books that your local library "stocks".  It's a relatively easy way to get some great reads.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Moody Mansion - Galveston, Texas


Moody Mansion, a palatial residence on Galveston Island's famous Broadway (often referred to as Millionaire's Row) has been restored to reflect the late 1800s when it was built. W.L. Moody, Jr. purchased the house shortly after the 1900 storm which devastated a good portion of the island. W.L. Moody was influential in the growth of Galveston. Pictures are not allowed inside the house but you can view images here