Welcome to my blog where I share book reviews
and life along the winding road

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin

I was getting near the end of my 50 State Reading Challenge and down to just a few states to find books for when I came across The Children's Blizzard  by David Laskin set in Nebraska. The story follows several immigrant families some of them from Norway, Denmark, Germany and the Ukrain. They traveled across the Atlantic ocean in steerage with no heat and few amenities where it has been recorded than 1 in 10 passengers died during the difficult crossings of that time. Coming to America was as tough as their lives in their home countries. They built sod houses that leaked when it rained and where gophers and snakes also made their homes in the walls. They battled prairie fire, grasshoppers (now extinct Rocky Mountain Locust) and brutal weather. But the hopes were to own land in America. For an $18 dollar filing fee and a promise to live on 160 acres of land for 5 years they could own their own part of America. (Homestead Act 1862)
It was during a relief in the harsh winter of 1888 that tragedy struck. With no means of knowing weather patterns across the country, the Nebraska prairie farmers were enjoying the unseasonably warm January weather. Children went to school without coats and farmers headed for the fields, but within a few hours when the children were walking home from school, a blizzard had struck. The air was full of ice crystals, winds at over 60 mph and in some places a 50 degree drop in temperature within hours. People couldn't find shelter and even their eyelashes froze so they were unable to see. Some areas reported wind chill temperatures of minus 47 degrees.
Mr. Laskin has gathered information from journals and newspapers to give an accurate account of the immigrant plight in the 1800s. This would be a great book club read.

Friday, October 7, 2016

To Helvetica and Back by Paige Shelton

To Helvetica and Back is the first of a new cozy mystery series by Paige Shelton and set in Utah. Ms. Shelton has many book series and I can't wait to read the Scottish Bookshop one.

From the cover:
Star City is known for its slopes and its powder. but nestled in the valley of this ski resort town is a side street full of shops that specialize in the simple charms of earlier eras. One of those shops is The Rescued Word, where Chester Henry and his adult granddaughter, Clare, lovingly repair old typewriters and restore old books. Who ever thought their quaint store would hold the key to some modern-day trouble.

Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

You may find it hard to believe but The Casual Vacancy is the first book I've read by J.K. Rowling and what a read it was! J.K. Rowling is a masterful storyteller (which probably is old news to Harry Potter fans) and her writing is enticing, entertaining and enlightening. She develops each of her characters well and draws the reader into the village of Pangford.  Even at over 500 pages, I was so absorbed with the lives of the characters, I didn't want it to end. But I wouldn't recommend starting the book unless you have at least a few hours to spare. With 20+ characters, who are often referred to by nicknames, it takes a while to figure out who is who.

Note: The Casual Vacancy is also a mini series.

From the cover:
When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes a catalyst for the biggest war the town has seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations.

Note: The movie of the same name has a little different storyline.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Misleading Advertising

I hate it when companies play around with words to mislead us in their advertising and try to make us think we are stupid for making healthy choices (after all, they claim, their product is just as healthy and you're simply paying more money for other products)
Although I try to purchase cheaper foods I, nevertheless, want to eat healthy and chicken is one produce that I'll pay a little more to purchase from a company that does not use antibiotics, steroids or hormones (I rarely eat beef).
Food labels have always been confusing and none more than those on chicken. Lately there has been advertising from a well known poultry company which states that by Federal Law all chicken has to be free of antibiotics, suggesting that chicken "raised without antibiotics" is not a necessary label.

Here's where it is confusing. If a label says "no antibiotics ever" it means that antibiotics have never been administered. The Federal Law they are referring to in the commercial, states that there is to be a withdrawal period from when the antibiotics are administered until the bird is slaughtered. This is supposed to allow time for the antibiotics residue to dissipate. The wording in the commercial is "By Federal Law all chickens must be clear of antibiotics before they leave the farm."

Antibiotics for some reason make the chickens increase in size at a rapid rate which is one of the reasons poultry farms like to use it, but the concern is that overuse increases Superbugs resistant to antibiotics.

I'm sticking to the chicken that has nothing added "ever" including deli meat which sometimes has nitrates and caramel coloring added, but that's a whole other story.

List of USDA labeling terms

You can read more about terms here

Consumer Reports Article about Superbugs

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Blogger Problems

I'm not sure what happened but I've lost my list of favorite blogs and links to my other blogs. Is anyone else having the same problem with blogger?

Friday, September 30, 2016

50 State Reading Challenge Update

create your own

AlabamaTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Colorado - Candy Apple Dead by Sammi Carter
Connecticut - A Clue for the Puzzle Lady by Parenell Hall
Delaware - The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
Kansas - Leave No Stone Unturned by Jeanne Glidewell
KentuckyKeeper of the Doves by Betsy Byars
Minnesota - Pontoon by Garrison Keillor
NevadaThe Cat and the King of Clubs by Carole Nelson Douglas
New Mexico - Child of a Rainless Year by Jane Lindskold
Rhode Island - The Art of Keeping Cool by Janet Taylor Lisle
South Dakota - These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
TennesseeA Death in the Family by James Agee

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez gives us a fictional glimpse into lives of immigrants whether legal or illegal, who come to the U.S. looking for a better life.

The Hispanic group, whose lives Ms. Henriquez covers, is living in an apartment block in Delaware. The families are from Mexico, Paraguay, Panama, Guatemala and Puerto Rico. One family came here from Mexico because their daughter was brain damaged due to an accident and they were encouraged to seek out a specialized American school. One family escaped the fighting in Panama after the American Invasion, a father from Guatemala arrived in the U.S. to work and send money to his children who were living with friends in Mexico, another from Puerto Rico had dreams of life on the stage in New York quashed, and opened a theater in Delaware.

My thoughts:
I was surprised to hear there is such a heavy Hispanic population in Delaware, but apparently many came to work in the mushroom farms and others who had once been illegal, brought their families here after Ronald Reagan offered amnesty to those who had arrived in the U.S. illegally before 1982. While I didn't come to the U.S. from an oppressed country (unless you count the pre-Thatcher years with Trade Union control of England in the 1970s) I do understand how difficult it can be to move to another country and how you crave familiar surroundings, but I've found that many immigrants choose not to "fit in" as it were. 
At one non-profit company I volunteered for, a Hispanic woman, after struggling to talk to me, told me I should learn Spanish! 
And there appear to be so many free services offered to immigrants (whether legal or illegal), free schooling, free classes to learn English, free translaters. Many, like Gustavo Milhajos in the book, are working purely to send money back to Mexico, others like the Rivera family are here to take advantage of our schools or medical services without making an effort to learn English or become part of our society (although Mrs. Rivera did find a class for English as a second language by accident). Not learning English and with no way to communicate had disastrous results for Mr. Rivera. 

But we should not be quick to lump everyone into one category, there are many people from Mexico and South America who come here, work hard, become part of our society and go on to get their citizenship. When my daughter and I went to the courthouse for the finalization of our citizenship, 95% of the group were from Mexico and it was awesome to see how excited they were to become American citizens.