N. N. Light’s Collection of Book Reviews A – Z! #bookreview #books #TuesdayBookBlog


a-to-z-book-reviews

 

A- Angels Everywhere by Debbie Macomber. This is actually two full novels in one.  The first story is called A Season of Angels.  It is the story of three angels named Shirley, Goodness and Mercy and their inspiring assignments.  Gabriel is short-staffed and has appointed Shirley, Goodness and Mercy to help three people in time for Christmas.  A funny yet touching story about three people trying to find what they desire most, with the help of some wacky angels! A great read and perfect for Christmastime.  The second story is called Touched by Angels.  The same 3 angels are sent down to New York City to help 3 people discover what a miracle really is.  Honestly, I preferred the first story to the second but both are excellent together!

B- Bloodline by Fiona Mountain. This book is an amazing mystery filled with twists and turns that you didn’t see coming.  The main character is Natasha Blake and she is a genealogist by trade.  She uncovers people’s ancestors and her latest client is quite mysterious.  He wants a family tree done on his granddaughter’s boyfriend.  What she uncovers leads to his mysterious death and Natasha must help the police find the true killer before the killer finds her.  A true British mystery and a must-read!

C- Confessions of a French Baker: Breadmaking Secrets, Tips & Recipes by Peter Mayle and Gerard Auzet. From the author who wrote “A Year in Provence” comes a small yet impactful book detailing the secrets of French bakers.  Gerard Auzet is a friend of Peter’s who has been making bread since he was a boy.  In fact, his family has been making bread in the countryside of Provence for several generations.  This book is a must-read for all bakers and for anyone who has enjoyed the sheer pleasure of authentic French bread and baguettes.

D- D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climatic Battle of World War II by Stephen E. Ambrose.  Beyond debate this is THE book on D-Day.  There never needs to be another one written.  Ambrose wrote this definitive history in 1994.  He painstakingly takes the reader from the who and what was involved, how it was planned, set up, the complete story of every aspect of the greatest invasion in history.  You get the real feel for what happened and what sacrifices the greatest generation made to keep our world safe and free.  At least in the 20th century.  Safe and free are relative terms these days.  A must read for those who do not fully understand what D-Day was and a must re-read.  A book that needs to be kept close on your shelf of favourite books.

E- Eating Pomegranates: A Memoir of Mothers, Daughters and the Breast Cancer Gene by Sarah Gabriel.  A heart-wrenching memoir detailing her experience with breast cancer (first with her mother and then with her own).  A funny-at-times-yet tragic account of what it feels like to deal with breast cancer.  I think every woman in the world needs to read this book.

F- The Floating Admiral by The Detection Club (including Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and G. K. Chesterton). In 1931 a group of 12 mystery writers including Agatha Christie came together and published this book.  They called themselves The Detection Club and each of them was responsible for writing a chapter and also the conclusion in a sealed envelope.  It was a hit in the 30’s and they re-released it 80 years later.  I love Agatha Christie and thought this would be a brilliant book.  Boy was I disappointed!  It was disjointed, not very well written and the characters aren’t very believable.  I would NOT recommend it!!!

G- Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl.  A fun and insightful book on the hidden life of a food critic.  Ruth Reichl shares with us in honest prose her experience moving from Los Angeles to New York and how she turned the food critic world upside down.  A must read for any foodie and a brilliant read for anyone who wants an inside glimpse into the New York Restaurant scene.

H- Heavy Losses – The Dangerous Decline of American Defense by James Coates and Michael Killian originally written 1985. This book grips a reader whether read the first time or the fourth.  It is troubling how the issues of prolific over spending by the Pentagon on weapon systems that don’t work well enough to justify their costs continues 26 years after the book’s writing.  You would think it was today that the book was talking about with planes costing thousands of times more than originally priced (think about the relatively useless F-22) or the “widow maker” the Osprey that now flies but killed so many in becoming that plane.  America spends over a quarter of its total budget on defense but so much of that money simply lines the pockets of the weapon companies and doesn’t make America any safer only worse in shape economically.  Something must change or indeed as the book prophesied in 1985…America will one day spend 300 Billion to buy one plane and there will be no money for anything else.  Something has to change.  Read this book and shiver.

I- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I first read this book in high school and it changed my life. I was a shy girl and didn’t have very much self-confidence. Maya Angelou allowed me to see myself in her prose and I embraced Phenomenal Woman as my mantra.

Maya holds nothing back and if you have never read anything by her, I suggest you start with this book. You get to know who Maya is and how she overcame such adversity. Nothing could keep her down and this book will inspire you to persevere.

J- Jamie Confidential by Stafford Hildred/Tim Ewbank. This is the biography of Britain chef Jamie Oliver. I first encountered Jamie Oliver with his television program Oliver’s Twist and it was love at first bite. His approach to cooking, like his life, is simple and down to earth. This biography starts at his childhood and works its way through the year 2003. You catch a glimpse into the life behind the icon. The writing style, while a tad envious, flows well and I even laughed a few times. It was an quick and enjoyable read. I recommend it to all foodies, especially if you love Jamie Oliver.

K- Karl Marx: Selected Writings in Sociology & Social Philosophy (Newly translated by T.B. Bottomore).  A review of Marx’s articles on sociology and philosophy that is eye opening for the reader.  His philosophies are intriguing like, “we don’t work because we are alive.  Rather we work to live” and my fave “all labour is forced whether by the whip or to earn money or to serve your god or to better yourself.  Every bit of labour is slavery to something.”  Not easy to read but worthwhile.  It is beyond me how communism formed out of his writings.

L- Let’s Roll! Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage by Lisa Beamer with Ken Abraham. This is a powerful read.  It brings to light details about the oft overlooked aspect of 9/11, the first-time Americans fought back and won against terrorism.  It took me over a decade to come to this book.  I recommend this book if you want a bit of personal insight into the impact of the terror attacks on that fateful day to a simple American family.  While not a brilliantly written book, this book doesn’t have to be.  It is a book that highlights love, faith and family all entwined in the face of a terrorist attack.  It made me cry, it gave me hope, it is a solid book and I am proud we own it.

M- Money Management for the Creative Person by Les Silber. I first met Les at a book signing back in 2003 and he was so encouraging. I was contemplating my writing career but didn’t know where to start. He gave me this book and I read it the very next day. Creative people have not been known to be smart in the area of money management. In fact, we’d like nothing better than to have someone else handle it. This can lead to people taking advantage of artists and hijinks ensue. This book takes you step-by-step through a crash course in money management with the artist in mind. My favorite part of the book is where he talks about taking the “free” out of freelance. I highly recommend this book for all artists and creative people.

N- The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. True love lasts forever, no matter how much time has passed. In The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks takes us on a beautiful roller coaster ride of emotions. Circumstances tore Allie and Noah apart. Yet, there was still love beating in their hearts, love for one another. Immediately, I was transported into the hearts of both Allie and Noah. The story flowed and I read the book in one sitting. When I read the last page, I cried because I didn’t want it to end.

A heart-wrenching novel by one of my favorite authors. This was the first book I read by Nicholas Sparks and at the time I read it, I was recently single. I thought to myself that love wasn’t in the cards for me. All that changed when I read this book.

This is one of the most romantic love stories I have read and I recommend it to everyone. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll gasp in wonder at the miracle of love.

The movie didn’t do it justice. Read the book!

O- Over the Beach: The Air War in Vietnam by Zalin Grant.  A brilliant close-up look at the air war by a reporter who covered a fighter squadron (#162 USS Oriskany).  During the war and in post war interviews, he brings us an honest, open and realistic feel to a complicated, dangerous and often overlooked part of the Vietnam War.  Excellent book.

P- Perfect: The Inside Story of Baseball’s Sixteen Perfect Games by James Buckley Jr. This book is a brilliant chronological listing of every perfect game from the dawn of baseball to just before the turn of the 21st century.  Since the book was published there have been 4 more perfectos.  Every one of the first sixteen is retold in compelling fashion.  The reader really gets to appreciate that the perfect game isn’t simply about one man’s skill but about a moment in time that involves all 9 people on the field and one that rarely, RARELY ever happens.  Must read for a baseball fan.

Q- The Quintessential Encyclopedia of Drinks and Drinking by Frederick Martin. I must confess that the original title doesn’t have the word “quintessential” in it but it should. This book details every classic drink including how to make it and where it derived from. This book is invaluable, especially for those of us who love to entertain. Sure, it is probably out of print by now but if you can find it online or in a second hand bookstore, grab it without thinking twice! It’s a must own for any cocktail lover.

R- The Restless Sleep…Inside New York City’s Cold Case Squad by Stacy Horn. The compelling true story of the creation of the first cold case squad and how a small number of dedicated cops decided to work for those forgotten victims.  It has never been easy, fighting politics, budget cuts and the biggest enemy time…which fades memories, eliminates crime scenes and causes evidence to erode and disappear.  They don’t solve them all, they don’t catch everyone but they do catch a lot of them and they are doing God’s work, bringing closure and peace to the families of victims.  A powerful book that will illuminate anyone who has ever watched the CBS show based loosely on this office.

S- Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty. From the author who brought you Sloppy Firsts comes the next installment in the life of beloved Jessica Darling. It’s senior year and Jessica is distraught over everything. Her parents are hassling her to choose a college. Her best friend, Hope, is still in another state and then there is Marcus. Sigh. I’m always a little wary when it comes to a sequel to an incredible book. Can the author create another magical story or did she spend it all on the first book? Megan McCafferty did a fantastic job and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact (don’t tell anyone), I actually loved Second Helpings more than Sloppy Firsts. She took me back to my senior year and all the angst that came along. Such a delightful read!

T- True Compass – Edward M. Kennedy. A memoir truthfully it took me a very long time to finish this book.  The book is incredible. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a great read.  A real classic.  I just changed careers and no longer had 3 hours a day to read on my commute so my reading time has been curtailed.  But that’s no shame on a superb read.  If you want to be invited deep inside the majesty of the Kennedy Clan through Senator Ted…this is the book.  Pointedly important right now is that Senator Kennedy had to run against Mitt Romney in Massachusetts and this book tells you all you need to know about Mitt Romney.  Allow me to quote directly for this is important and every American who is going to vote on the 6th needs to read this:

 

Ted Kennedy writes at the time of the first Senate Campaign televised debate in 1994.  “Our first televised debate at Faneuil Hall was in the final week of October.  With Romney’s poll lead decreasing and the truth of his job creation record in deep question, Mitt had realigned himself a little.  He’d moved away from his ‘businessman’ strategy and begun to campaign almost as a Liberal reformer.  I had begun to joke at rallies that I had heard of Flip and I had heard of Flop.  But with Mitt, it was flip-flop-flip!  He’s changed positions so often that if we gave him a little more time he’d be voting for me on Election Day”

That was Mitt in 1994 and that is Mitt today.  Fema? He changes his views on that more than the wind changes.

 

U- The Umpire Strikes Back by Ron Luciano and David Fisher. A terrific read written through the eyes of one of the most popular baseball umpires to ever be in the game.  He gives a funny yet honest peek into the life of a baseball umpire.  It is not as glamorous as one might think.  In fact, it is sad and often lonely.  A must read for any baseball fan!

V- The Vampire Sextette: Edited by Marvin Kaye. I picked up this book at a second hand bookstore with no expectations other than it had to deal with vampires. I’m a sucker for a good old-fashioned vampire story. None of the Twilight fluffy love kind of stories for me. I lust after something I can sink my teeth into. This book included six novellas by some of the best authors in the vampire genre (as of 2000). Each author stayed true to the Bram Stoker genre while adding their own little twist. My favorite story was Vanilla Blood by S. P. Somtow. If you love vampire stories, grab this book and maybe a clove of garlic or two.

W- The Wells of Hell by Graham Masterton.  A classic horror book written in the early 80’s that can still scare the crap out of a reader.  All about the thing that is going wrong with the well water in New England and exactly what is in the water and what is it doing to the people who drink it?  Hell may be a lot closer than people ever thought.  A great and scary book.

X- Xtra-Favorite Religious Book of all Time: The Religions of Man by Huston Smith. A thorough and academic overview of the seven world religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity).  It explains in very simplistic terms the basic beliefs of each religion and it amazes me how similar they are.  In many of these sacred texts, for instance, makes references to the Virgin Mary.  I thought it was really interesting and I wholly recommend this to every person out there.

Y- Year of the Hyenas by Brad Geagley. Imagine a murder mystery set in Ancient Egypt. Perfectly delicious, right? A detective named Semerket is called to investigate the death of a no-account elderly Theban princess. He starts to investigate and the authorities thwart his every move. The more he investigates the more secrets he discovers. It’s not about the princess at all, but about the Pharaoh Ramses III. Soon his life is in danger and he must choose between saving Egypt or himself. I loved Semerket and he reminded me of classic detectives from the 1930’s. He’s a no-nonsense dark character with hidden depths and a compulsion for the truth.   Filled with twists and turns I didn’t expect, this mystery is a must own for historical and suspense fans alike.

Z- The Bronx Zoo by Sparky Lyle and Peter Golenbock. Welcome to the 1978 Yankee team, where men were men and the brawls were televised. No one thought the 1978 Yankees were much of anything and they proved everyone wrong. One of the best baseball books of all time, Superstar Yankee Pitcher Sparky Lyle hits a homerun with this tell-all book. As a die-hard fan, I loved the way he pulled no punches. You get to witness it all from the players fighting to the team shake-ups. After reading this book, you’ll understand why playing for the Yankees is like camping out at The Bronx Zoo.

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