March 31, 2013

Anatolian Days & Nights by Joy Stocke & Angie Brenner

I have dreams of traveling to far off places. But lacking a passport and the funds I do my traveling through reading. And this was a nice book to read, although I didn't quite get the vision of Turkey like I had hoped.

Joy Stocke and Angie Brenner meet when they agree to help a friend with a pension (bed & breakfast) she has bought in Turkey. Arriving though, they find the place in deplorable shape and their help no where to be found. After trying to make it work they decide to move on, but by this time have become friends and decide to do their travels around Turkey together. Meeting the local people and seeing some of the historical sites, they come back year after year, to look at different places in Turkey and meet up with old friends (and new!).

I really enjoyed the people that Stocke and Brenner encountered in this book. It's told from their perspectives (and the start of each chapter lets you know who's narrating) and through them we get to become seduced by Turkish men, filled with the warmth of Turkish women's hospitality and all the other emotions that people can evoke in each other. Sure they come across a couple of sleazy people, but there is good and bad in every country in the world. And the two narrators are nice people so they seem to make friends easily. Although I do kind of wonder whatever happens to their mutual friend Wendy from the beginning. Not a lot of explanation is given about her silence in regards to the pension. I do have to say the people were nothing like I had expected. They all seemed to be pretty carefree and hospitable. Either the ladies had good luck in meeting people or they left the majority of the nasty ones out of this book.

I think the first half of the book is the best. There's a lot more description and a lot more of them interacting with the people they meet in the book. The second half combines a lot of trips and they're always on the move and it just feels a little rushed. I do have to say that all of the book had great descriptions of food. It was all I could do not to go look at flights to Turkey just so I could go over and gorge myself on the delicious dishes mentioned in the book. Ok, actually I did look, but just out of curiosity. They were just that good at describing the food. On the scenery though, I had more trouble picturing that in my head. Maybe it's because I picture Turkey as more of a desert country, like Iraq, but I just wasn't getting the images the ladies were trying to describe.

This book made me want to visit Turkey. Sure it wouldn't have taken much for me to want to go, but I think they did a good job of explaining why this book is sub-titled "a love affair". They definitely were able to write and convince me that they loved Turkey.

Anatolian Days & Nights
Copyright 2012
242 pages

Apple Pie: An American Story by John Edge

This is the second book in Edge's series about food. The first was about Fried Chicken. And I do think this second book was written better. And I'm not even a pie fan, but I found the information contained within to be interesting.

Apple Pie is definitely considered all American. There are so many variations from crumb toppings, to mock apple pie, to a flaky crust that everybody believes they do it the right way. In this book, Edge goes around the country trying out different versions of the pie and meeting the people that make them. Sadly, most of the pies he tries are not up to par, but there are a rare few that stand out and make his trips worthwhile. He also explores some of the history behind the pies and even presidents that had a fondness for the apple variety.

He meets some interesting people in his journeys. Especially the ladies that make the fried pies, they have some unique, albeit sad, stories about how they first started making pies. And then there's the guy who adds chilies to his pies. I thought he was interesting and had a fantastic idea. One I'd like to try out myself if I could only make a decent crust. And Edge himself is a charming narrator. He has a lot of belief and love of food and keeps trying even if he does run in to some not so tasty renditions of pie.

This book flowed a little better than the first book did. The chapters were slightly longer and allowed for a more in-depth look at the places he was exploring and the type of pie that was being produced. It also allowed more time for interviewing the people and relating a bit of history as well. I still would have liked to see more about the food itself. He covered the history very well, and even included a few recipes, but this was a very fast read and I think a lot more could have been added.

This book hasn't quite made me a pie convert, but I do want to try the green chili apple pie now and will have to hold on to the recipe from this book. I think anyone who appreciates the history of food would probably enjoy reading this book, or really any from the series.

Apple Pie: An American Story
Copyright 2004
162 pages

March 30, 2013

Fried Chicken: An American Story by John Edge

Fried Chicken is the first in a series by John Edge that explores different American foods.  Or at least those foods that Americans claim as their own.  And this book combines a little bit of history with cookbook and food travel writing. 

Fried Chicken explores all the fried chicken of the regions.  Southern to Ohio to New York's chicken wings to out on the west coast in Seattle.  In each area, he details the history of the area and fried chicken and then goes on to explore a restaurant or two in the area.  He lists out the merits (or downfalls) of each one.  And at the end of the section he includes a recipe that's supposed to represent the fried chicken of the area. 

This is about food, not people.  But there are some people that he focuses on.  Mainly the cooks, who all seem to be characters of their own sort.  But one thing ties them together, their love of food.  And Edge seems to take great love in eating the food he travels all over to try.  I especially liked the two ladies who worked at an inn and had for over fifty years, just like their mother before them.  They were the most endearing story in the whole book.

As for the readability of the book, I didn't really like it.  It was too jumbled for my tastes.  I liked the history, the recipes and the reviews of different places, but each chapter was way too short to really get the point across.  We were reading about wings in New York when way too soon we were down in Tennessee learning about hot chicken.  It was just little snippets of everything mashed together.  And while some of it was interesting, it just didn't feel thorough.  But it was a quick read.

I'll still read more of the series because I like anything involving food.  And there were some neat stories in this one.  But I think he could have really made this into something special.  Although he did make me want to infuse honey with rosemary.

Fried Chicken: An American Story
Copyright 2004
180 pages

I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It by Adam Selzer

I can't believe I just read this.  I mean, the title is why I did, it just seemed funny.  But now, at the end, I can't decide if the author didn't mean for it to be this dumb of a book, or if he was actually making fun of the themes of young adult books right now.  Since it's classified as a young adult book, I'm going to base this review off of the first.

Alley and her friends are all on the school paper.  Which basically means, in their case, that they sit around and make fun of people all day and in print.  And they are vicious, and proud of it.  Most specifically they like to poke fun at the un-dead lovers.  Ever since vampires, werewolves, etc. came out, it's become a popularity contest to hook up with these undead beings.  A status symbol.  But Alley isn't having any of that.  Until she meets Doug.  Doug is a zombie, and Alley feels a great many things for him, and may change all of her dreams just to be with him.

Selzer actually does a good job at writing a flighty teenage girl.  But Alley has some serious flaws in her character development too.  Aside from regressing instead of growing as a character, she's kind of unbelievable in certain aspects.  For one, she and her group of friends are supposed to not be popular, but funnily enough she acts like all the popular kids that went to my school.  Disdainful of other people and somewhat an emotional bully.  I didn't like her.  Then she meets Doug and this witty, sarcastic person completely melts away.  She changes everything about herself to be with him and considers changing more.  It's very disheartening.  Doug has no charm, which, he is a zombie, so that kind of makes sense.  I certainly don't see what Alley saw in him. 

The writing itself was rushed and there wasn't a lot of background.  We're told about how these creatures "come out" so to speak, but we don't learn the why's, how's and history in depth, which would have been really interesting. It's just kind of written off with lame excuses.  We're continually bounced around in this hyper speed romance too and I think the book only encompasses a week or so, which is really short for a love story.  And the ending, entirely lame and an easy way to cop out of exploring some in-depth themes the book could have had.  It made it too easy for Alley to make decisions. 

I really hope this was satire, but I don't think it was.  Either way, it wasn't developed enough to be a good book.  I certainly won't go out of my way for another of Selzer's books.  But maybe that's why this is a teen book, perhaps they'll find some enjoyment I didn't.

I Kissed A Zombie and I Liked It
Copyright 2010
177 pages

March 29, 2013

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

When I started this book, I expected something like Super Size Me.  A book detailing why fast food is bad for us.  But what I got was more like Sinclair's The Jungle (and indeed, that book is mentioned several times in this one).  This book focuses on the labor and unethical business practices of fast food.

Schlosser starts with the origins of fast food, and it's a really interesting look at history.  From Walt Disney's interaction in the industry to the founders of all the major fast food chains, there are a lot of people represented here.  It also shows how they became so popular and why they are thriving today.  Next it heads into what the book calls "Meat and Potatoes".  It shows the different ways these two products are manufactured and the inherent dangers that happen in processing.  There's also a lot on the subject of food borne illnesses.  Finally, it ends with the globalization of the fast food restaurants.

Schlosser feels very strongly about the subject and you can certainly tell what side he's on.  And I'm on the same side, so it doesn't bother me at all.  But Monsanto and some of the other companies represented in this book might not be as happy with it.  And from this book I found out that some states actually allow the food manufacturers to sue you for libel if you say something against their food without sufficient proof to back it up.  So, I'm hoping for the authors sake, that everything in here is well researched and true, although with the size of the bibliography and notes there was a lot of research done.

This is a subject that hits near and dear to me because I care about where my food comes from.  Unfortunately my wallet is not as picky so I probably do consume a little food that comes from the manufacturers as I can't afford organic for every meal.  But I do the best I can, and every little bit counts.  And I do have to say, like The Jungle, this book has put me off hamburger meat again.  Like I said before, it is biased, but Schlosser has done his research. He's able to grip you with the facts at the same time turning your stomach and making you feel for the people working in such poor conditions to produce the food.  I for one wouldn't mind paying more for my food if it meant better safety for the workers, and this book opened my eyes to that.

An eye-opener type of book.  You'll explore things about the food industry that you don't particularly want to know.  But it's well written and informative and while I would have liked to see more on the health effects of the food, I definitely learned by reading this book.

Fast Food Nation
Copyright 2001
356 pages

March 28, 2013

Women and Wilderness by Anne LaBastille

This was a pretty inspiring book. Combining the outdoors with some of the women who pioneered their way into the fields of science and nature, it's not surprising that you'd get a book filled with strong women and interesting careers. And while it's a little outdated, the general theme and the stories of these women are timeless.

LaBastille is a well known wilderness women herself, who has written many books about her experiences in the Adirondacks. But in this book, she chooses to focus on others. The first section is a history of women and what brought them to the wilderness. Their stories range from following husbands out West to wanting land of their own. Then she moves into modern day women (or at least modern when the book was written) who have all pursued careers in the fields of nature and science and have really paved the way for other women looking to enter the field. These women range from biologists, herpetologists, log cabin builders and more. And each lady gets her own section in which LaBastille highlights her talents.

In the first part, we get a little sense of each of the historical people in the book. In confess, they weren't as interesting, probably because it was harder to relate to them and their experiences. But the modern women, oh it brought about the want to go off into the woods and do something good for nature. Each woman had such an interesting story and a struggle to get to it in some cases. They all shared a love of wilderness of course, but also an exuberance for life that was very catching. And LaBastille does a good job of getting those emotions across. And even though this book can probably be categorized as feminist, it wasn't degrading to men at all. It was just focused on women and their achievements.

As said before, I wasn't quite as connected to the first part of the book. It read more like a history textbook and was kind of disjointed. But the stories about the women, those are what I really enjoyed. They just seemed to be living and loving their lives and they did such good for the world. It's hard for me to believe that by the time I read this book, many are dead and the others are quite elderly now. They just feel so alive, like they are still out there working and doing what they've always been doing. And aside from just showcasing women in these jobs, it also highlighted the jobs themselves. There were a lot of things, like the women who worked for the Olympics, preserving the area around the ski slopes, that I wouldn't have even imagined could be a job. And really, the list of books on the subject or written by these women, is reason enough to read this book. My to-read list just grew by a mile I think. But I do have to say that you could tell this was written in the seventies. For almost every woman, an astrological sign was somehow mentioned.

This is a well put-together book. Not only does it highlight some important women who were just a bit "wild", it showed that anyone can do any job, as long as they have the passion and want for it.

Women and Wilderness
Copyright 1980
308 pages

March 27, 2013

33 Men by Jonathan Franklin

Ok, for some reason, the Chilean Mine incident was never a blip on my radar.  And I really don't know how I missed it.  But this book was available as an audio book and I decided to check it out.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that in 2010 there was a huge international incident involving 33 men and their plight in the mine. 

But before I start on the story itself, I want to talk about the audiobook narrator.  I don't normally like to talk about such things, as I like to rate the book on its own merits, but I just had to comment this time.  The reader, Armando Valdez Kennedy, has a clear voice, and he's easy to understand.  But then he does the voices.  Each time he says something that a miner or other male Chilean was supposed to say, he adopts a thick deep accent that is reminiscent of a bad Western movie.  I'm not saying that some people don't sound like that, but not every single male Chilean in the book.  It was extremely annoying. 

The book itself has a lot of information packed into it.  Franklin was on scene and able to do many interviews with the miners, their families, and their friends as well as officials.  If you by rare chance are like me, and haven't heard about this incident, 33 Men is about 33 miners who were trapped in a Chilean mine for months after it collapsed.  With strong international help, the Chilean government set about a rescue mission to free the men and keep them alive while the rescue was planned.  Franklin describes from the collapse of the mine to a mini-epilogue, what happened to the miners, their conditions, the officials and workers who were on the rescue effort, and everything in between.

I sometimes felt that the portrayal of the different people in the book was unfair.  There was a lot of time spent getting across the fact that a lot of people thought the miners had homo-sexual relationships while trapped down there.  Honestly, is that the thing to really care about or a detail that strange that it should be focused on?  It's mentioned quite a few times in the book and I think the time would have been better spent on things that were relevant, like the type of food they were getting once they graduated from a liquid diet, etc.  There was also a lot of fuss made about the relatives and their squabbles.  This is a little more important but it still doesn't give the whole story to the reader.  I do appreciate that there were interviews done with the men and you were able to hear them describe their surroundings.  They after all, were the ones with the most accurate information.  But some men were focused on more than others and while I can see this happening because some took more leadership roles, there were a few men that were barely mentioned at all.  And Franklin definitely had some unpleasant things to say about the reporters and other media there, even though he himself acted like a lot of them with what he had to say in this book.

While this book told so much information, it also left out quite a bit too.  It might have been better served to wait a couple of years to write it, just to give a better epilogue on what happened to these men.  As it stands, we know they got out of the mine and we know that they all went back to their homes after medical treatment, but we don't know much beyond that.  If he had waited just a few more years we could have seen how they were doing, and I think the book would have been better for it.  He could have applied that same amount of detail to that part as he did to describing the system of "paloma" that kept the miners fed and clothed, the inner workings of the mine, the political intrigues surrounding the disaster, etc.  He did such a good job there it was a little disappointing to not see it carried through.  But even in that there were those different sections where he focused on what the media had to say about the miners private lives rather than what was actually happening and truthful about them.  It was almost as if the book was going more for sensation than facts.

But another book will probably be out eventually that will take care of all of that.  So until then I'll just wait or do some internet research.  It was an interesting book, but just had a way of going off on tangents that weren't as relevant as they could be. 

33 Men
Copyright 2011

March 21, 2013

Silver Orphan by Martine Lacombe

**This book was received as a free advanced reader's copy**

I work in elder law. Most specifically, estate planning and trust work. So I work with the elderly quite a bit. This book tells a story much different than the clients I work with though. They all have something they're going to leave behind and someone they want to leave it to. They are not "silver orphans".

Brooke is involved in her own world of herself. A drug rep, she's used to the finer things in life. So when she uncharacteristically befriends an older gentleman by chance, she's opened up to a life that seems to have been discarded by the rest of society. And at his death, she's tasked with trying to find his next of kin and arranging for his funeral and all the other decisions that happen when someone dies. And finding out his past is a lot harder than she expects it to be.

I have a problem with the character of Brooke. The Brooke we see in the first few pages of the book, is not the Brooke we see everywhere else. There is no way that that character can be the same person who would take time to befriend an elderly man and then take care of his arrangements after he dies. Because we have this nice Brooke happen while he is still alive, then evil Brooke when she gets the notification that he's dead, and then nice Brooke again when she's researching his history, it's almost as if she has an out of body experience. And it's not a believable personality. Maybe she's supposed to be one of those characters that "grows" in the book, but that only works if she's awful in the beginning and then progressively gets better. Having her be an evil little snit for a random part in the middle of the timeline just didn't work. Frank by contrast is wonderful. He's very typical of the clients I see come in. They all have such great stories and the majority a healthy respect for life. Even though he has hardships, he still perseveres.

Frank's story did make me sad. The author is correct in calling this a social novel when it comes to the plight of these Silver Orphans. The elderly who have no-one to take care of them or even take an interest in their life. But then the story changes a little bit. An ending that seems too coincidental, not to mention eliminates much of what we thought about Frank, kind of ruined the image of Frank for me. I think the "social novel" aspect of this book would have been better preserved if Frank stayed the old, impoverished man that Brooke knew. But I suppose the author wanted a happy ending, and many readers probably do to so I'm most likely in the minority. I do like how Lancombe got her facts across accurately and in an interesting way. She had some nice figures on prices for funeral costs, elder population, and other such things. It made the book almost have a non-fiction feel to it. But in addition to those facts it had a few other facts that just seemed kind of random and out of place, like quoting the origins of holidays and other such things. Because they were inserted into conversation, it made the fact giving appear even more forced and I was confused by their use in the book.

An interesting book and the story of Frank did touch my heart. I just wish that the character of Brooke could have been more believable. It kind of sullied what would have been a very good book. Regardless, it's a good look at a growing problem in society and the way that our elders are treated. A very solid three stars with the potential for more and I would read more by this author.

Silver Orphans
Copyright 2012
232 pages

March 20, 2013

A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri

**This review is part of the Amazon Vine Program**

I haven't read too many books that take place in Iran. Countries near there, yes, but not Iran. So this was an interesting look at the country for me, especially with all the changes it has had over the past couple of decades. And this is fiction, but it is told in a way that makes you believe it could happen in real life.

Saba and her sister Mahtab are twins. Born to wealthy Iranian parents they are split up in the middle of their childhood. Saba remembers it as her mother and Mahtab leaving for America without her and her father. But everyone else tells her that her mother is gone and Mahtab is dead. She's not sure what to believe because her memories so clearly tell her otherwise. With this pain of being left behind, and with the strict rules in Iran, Saba has to make choices about her own future, and what life she can lead in Iran. Her connections with her friends offer her some respite, but call her other troubles, especially when one of her friends becomes interested in a revolutionary women's group in the area.

You have to pity Saba. Even if she is the spoiled rich girl, she goes through things that no-one should have to go through. And she isn't given the freedom of making many choices that are in her best interest. She has to sacrifice to get to those choices. Which is something that many of us are fortunate not to have experience with. Since we only know of Mahtab through Saba's tales, I think she is idolized a bit. She's the expression of everything Saba desires and I actually didn't like her because of it. Saba's friends, while good for her in some ways, also bring her down in others, and I wasn't a big fan of them either. I just wanted to root for someone in this novel, and even though I could to an extent for Saba, there wasn't any character satisfying to really put your hopes behind.

While this book did drag in parts, I found it engaging. When you got past the stories of Mahtab, Saba's world was so descriptive that you really felt immersed in the culture. Even day to day village life had some meaning behind it. Combine that with the restrictions on women, the underground groups of revolution and Christianity, and it made for a complex novel. But there were some brutal things. Saba herself is brutalized at one point (with no real reason given, which makes it even worse) and her friend is also brutalized (with a reason given but one that will make you scream in frustration). It's hard stuff to read. And the whole book is sad and almost bleak.

I think that this book was well written and well worth reading. But I do wish I could have had a character to believe in, because as interesting as Saba was (and in some ways she could inspire), she was also broken and sad and unapproachable.

A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea
Copyright 2013
420 pages

March 17, 2013

Chicken Soup for the Country Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Ron Camacho

Don't let the guitar on the front fool you, this isn't a Chicken Soup for the Country "Music" Soul, this is a Chicken Soup for the Country Soul. So most of the stories are not from country singers, like you would expect.

In the tradition of Chicken Soup for the Soul Books, this book is filled with short stories that are meant to be inspiring and uplifting. From tales about getting to me country hero legends to stories about a mother doing what's best for her family, they are supposed to spread warmth and joy. And while the majority of the stories were ok in this book, there were none that I thought fantastic or that stuck with me. In fact, there was one that actually made me a little angry. The first story in the book, "Love Goes a Long Way" was a story about a man, who after an accident didn't have the will to live until some favorite country singers stopped by to visit him. Sounds sweet right? Well this man also had a wife and kids and apparently they were not enough to bring him back from the brink, it took the country singers to do it. And that just disgusted me a little bit that they weren't enough for him to live for. But anyways...

I have to say that even though I like country music, I didn't recognize a lot of the artists who were featured in this book. It seemed that most were older performers so if you're a modern country music person, this book probably isn't for you. But if you like the classic stuff, you'll probably get a lot of worth out of this book. And as I said before, it wasn't just country singers in this book. A lot of it was just tales of family life that they stretched into fitting the country model. Really, a lot of it was about loving your family and that fits all types of families, not just the country ones.

This is a religious publication. All of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books are. But it was especially noticed in this one. I don't know if it was because of the country theme (and the belief that they are among the most religious) but there was a lot of preaching going on in this book. I can't say that it made it less enjoyable for me, but it was something that was noticeable. There didn't seem to be as many stories in this book as there are some of the other editions either. It was definitely smaller in size than some of the others I have sitting on my shelf. And I just didn't feel drawn into the stories of this book. None made me cry, and there's usually at least one that does.

An ok book. Maybe a different audience than me would like it better. But I found this just an average Chicken Soup for the Soul book.

Chicken Soup for the Country Soul
Copyright 1998
236 pages

The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory

The White Queen is the first book written in the Cousin's War series by Phillipa Gregory, but the second book chronologically.  Therefore, I read The Lady of the Rivers first, since it was the first chronologically, and I suggest doing the same, as it makes this book easier to understand.

Elizabeth, daughter of Jacquetta, is a widow down on her luck when she waits for the King to ride by her family's home.  He, of course, has to stop because of her beauty, and after a whirlwind romance, she finds herself Queen.  During her reign, there is much fighting as the great houses of the time want to have their own family on the throne, and Edward, her husband, is considered an usurper by some.  Elizabeth does her best to play the intrigue, and bear sons as heirs for her husband.  But when her husband grows ill, everything changes for her.

Elizabeth is a much more compelling character than her mother Jacquetta was.  You can really see her ambition in this book, even though she didn't start out with a whole lot of ambition.  But she'll fight for her kids, and that makes her pretty formidable.  Her mother, Jacquetta, is in a little bit of this book, and I think she was written better here than in the book that was all about her.  Although she kind of had the evil witch thing going on.  In fact, there is a lot about witchcraft in this book that I think had more to do with the fiction side of things; at least it's not something that could be proven as historical fact.  The Kings were pretty much all the same.  They liked women and power and while Edward was described as having loved Elizabeth, that didn't stop him from exploring every female body available.

Since this spans a good many years, you would think that there would be signs of Elizabeth growing.  But I didn't see that.  In fact, she stayed the same character for the whole time, with no growth or signs of aging, which was a little unrealistic to me.  And there was a lot of tedium about war and different people, and since there are so many players in the Cousin's War, it's hard to keep track of them.  Especially since everybody uses the same names for their children.  Gregory attempts to alleviate this a little with the use of House names, but it only goes so far.  If you are familiar with this period of history you might be ok, but for those of us that aren't, it's easy to get lost.  The book was well written though and kept my interest mostly.  Although I'm not sure of how accurate it is historically, I'd hazard a guess that Gregory mostly stayed true to the history, and in doing so told the story of a Queen who isn't talked about much.  The thing I didn't enjoy about this book though was that it just drug on and on, and spent a lot of time on events that weren't that important.

I can't say that this is as good as some of her other books, but it was entertaining and an average read.  She still writes better than a lot of other authors, but her spark from the first few books seems to be dwindling.

The White Queen
Copyright 2009
529 pages

March 16, 2013

The Lady of the Rivers by Phillipa Gregory

I like most of what Gregory writes. She does a wonderful job with history and making it approachable. But sometimes her books just don't hold my interest. And this was one of those. The Lady of the Rivers is the third book in this series, but it actually comes first chronologically, which is why I chose to read it first.

Lady of the Rivers introduces us to Jacquetta, mother of Elizabeth (who would go on to be an important figure in history), and her headlong dash into the intrigue of court. Jacquetta captures the eye of a powerful man at court, the Duke of Bedford, and becomes his virgin wife, as he would rather use her innocence in the making of alchemy. But when the Duke dies, Jacquetta is left to her own devices and soon marries for love. Richard is lower born than her, but shows promise and when they regain favor with the court, Jacquetta becomes a favorite of the young Queen and must leave her children to help the Queen and King at court and become a part of the politics that surround England.

Jacquetta isn't actually that interesting. She tells everyone else's tale in this book even though she is supposed to be intriguing herself. She's supposed to have powers, but she always hides these for fear of being called a witch. Which is understandable, but in private moments this could have been used to advance her character. As it is, she follows the Queen everywhere and does things she doesn't want to, and in the meantime has lots and lots of children, whom she leaves in the care of others for most of the book. I just couldn't like her. Her husband Richard, is much more intriguing, but he is always away on some duty. And the Queen, well she's just plain annoying and spoiled. I grew weary of reading about her. And there are so many characters in this book, that it's hard to keep track of them all, especially if you're not very familiar with history.

And I'm not familiar with history. I couldn't tell you in this book was accurate in the least. I get all the Kings and Queens mixed up and never quite know who's who. Probably a weakness on my part, but I'm just not that interested in real life history, so I get my dose of it through books like this. The writing in this one was kind of choppy too. Years would pass in a couple sentences while minutes would take pages and pages of the book. It's still better written than a lot of books out there, I just didn't find myself enjoying it very much.

It's ok, as far as historical fiction goes, but Gregory's done better. I'm curious to read the next book, and it's already sitting on my shelf, so I will. But it better be much more interesting that this one to keep my attention.

The Lady of the Rivers
Copyright 2011
443 pages

March 15, 2013

Marley and Me by Josh Grogan

There are so many things to enjoy about this book and so many things not to enjoy.  While I can like the diligence put forth into writing an entertaining book, there were some things in this book that disturbed me.  And it's actually more of a memoir than a story about a dog, the owner's life is first and foremost here.

As a practice run for a baby, John and Jenny decide to get a dog.  They decide on a Labrador because they're fun and goofy, and purchase a puppy.  Right away they realize they've gotten in over their heads.  Marley is a whirlwind on four paws and constantly into trouble.  He also grows into a behemoth who is hard to control and somewhat untrainable for them.  But they love him and as the years pass he becomes a part of their family (joined later by 3 kids).

This is a book about John's life.  Not Marley's.  I like memoirs, but I was expecting more about Marley.  Having to hear about his wife's pregnancies and contractions and all that kind of stuff was something I wasn't really interested in.  And there's not much mention of his kids, so if it was going to be that type of memoir, you'd think there would be more in there.  There is a lot of Marley though, and it usually is the author describing the antics Marley gets into.  So since there is a lot of Marley in it, I'm not going to fault the author too much on that point.

But there were a lot of things that bothered me.  First and foremost, the buying from a backyard breeder.  I like to volunteer at shelter's and it always pains me when people go out and buy puppies.  I understand the allure of a pure bred, but there's so many dogs out there that need homes (some purebreds).  And now I'll get off my soapbox.  I also couldn't believe the way they trained the dog, and the most disturbing scene is when the wife, suffering from post partum depression is found by the husband hitting Marley.  Now he goes on to say that the dog wasn't hurt physically, just emotionally because his person was upset, but it still doesn't bode well.  Especially since the author does nothing about it when it sounds like the wife could have probably used some help even before that incident so she didn't get into that state.  Everyone makes mistakes, but you have to rectify them too.

The book overall was well written.  It flowed easily and was edited ok.  Obviously there is childbirth, dog poop, and other messy things in the book, but it wasn't overly descriptive.  And towards the end, since dog's lives are short, I felt tears coming to my eyes at Marley's plight.  Animal lovers should be well aware this book details the entire life of the dog and the inevitable.  And have tissues on hand as a result.  It's true that this family loved the dog, even if they were a bit misguided.  And that's why so many people think Marley is a funny read, because of the screw ups committed by the author and the people, not the dog.  But again, this book is more about the people than the dog, which was kind of disappointing.

A book full of mixed emotions, it does have some sensitive topics.  Because people have so many opinions on animal care, training, specialized collars, etc. it can be kind of a volatile subject.  But this is a book about a family who loved a dog.

Marley & Me
Copyright 2005
289 pages

Confessions of a Worrywart by Susan Orlins

**This book was received as a free Advanced Reader's Copy**

I think I may be the wrong audience for this book. While I worry about everything under the sun (and a few things above it as well) I just couldn't relate to the author and her life. Now granted, I'm a single woman with no kids and only a few cats to keep me company, but in theory we were kind of similar at those times where she was single in the book.

Confessions of a Worrywart is Susan Orlins memoir of her life from middle school until the present. A lot of it has to do with her obsession over boys; meeting them, doing things with them, finding that one and special love. Although she's not one for settling and actually bounces around searching for what she wants for awhile. She goes on to meet a man whom she marries and has kids with (3 daughters) and settles into the role of raising them until something comes along to change that as well.

This is a memoir, so it is about Susan. And I'm sure in person she is really interesting, she sounds confident and fun to be around based on this book. But actually reading about her life in that big of a time span, I just had trouble keeping interested. I'm not boy crazy by any means, and I found the amount of time she spent obsessing about men inconceivable to me. Although I do admire the way she appreciates her single time and isn't afraid to do anything on her own, I feel that a lot of it she didn't seem to enjoy because she was too busy worrying about a man showing up. Her daughters make small appearances in this book, and I would have liked to find out more about their lives; what careers they went into, etc. Her ex-husband she wrote about fairly and it seems like they've got a working relationship for the kid's sake.

The book was well written. Orlins puts a little humor into her books, although I was a little startled at the beginning when certain sexual things were just throw right in there with no warning. It doesn't bother me at all, it just completely switched the whole tone of the book when I wasn't expecting it. I did find that the book was a little overly long and detailed for my taste. But once again, that could be because I couldn't relate to the author. It was broken up into chunks of years that were mostly in a time consistent order and situations within those chunks of years. I found her stay in China especially interesting and it was probably one of my favored parts of the book. One thing I do have to say though, is that this book talks about her being a worrywart. I really didn't see any of that worrying until well over a hundred pages into the book, and even then it wasn't something I associated with a worrywart, just a normal amount of worry. The memoir was more about life in general.

People who grew up in Orlin's surroundings might get a better appreciation for this book than I did. While it was easy to read and had well articulated thoughts, I just couldn't get into the book.

Confessions of a Worrywart
Copyright 2013
277 pages

March 14, 2013

Chicken Soup for the Cat & Dog Lover's Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Marty Becker and Carol Kline

Ok, admittedly after awhile these all start to run together. I mean the collection of Chicken Soup books is just humongous. But I'm a sucker for anything involving animals, so I decided to delve into this particular collection of short stories.

If you're not familiar with the Chicken Soup series, they are a bunch of books, usually themed that contain lots of short stories that are meant to be uplifting and inspirational. This particular book, for the Cat & Dog Lover's soul, is about animals. But not just cats and dogs, in a little side note in mentions other critters too, although with the extensive amount of books I'm not sure why they just didn't make this one about cats and dogs; but I digress. Some of those stories will rip your heart out, because let's face it, a lot of these stories are about losing a special animal, while others are meant to be inspiring, like those animals that rescue humans from their burning houses. The Cat Who Needed A Night Light was one of these such stories, involving a guy and his heroic cat who saved his life.

There are a wide variety of animals in here, and some really aren't even that remarkable. The majority of the stories actually seemed to deal more with people's feelings about their pets than about the animals themselves. It was about emotions running high when pets were in danger or dying or when the person themself was losing a battle, be it physical or mental. I'm more of an animal lover than a people lover, so I would have to say that I wished the stories were a little more about the pets themselves.

And so many sad tales. I sometimes wonder if the Chicken Soup authors aren't in league with the sellers of tissues, as they seem to make you want to cry in every book. There's always someone or something dying and it gets a little depressing after awhile. A book full of happy stories would be just terrific. And yes I know I can skip the sad ones, but I find it hard not to read a book straight through so I always end up with a tissue in hand reading the rest of the books. And a lot of the stories are faith based, this is a Christian publication after all, but they are not in your face about it, so just about anyone can enjoy these tales. Since it's broken up into short stories you can read this in one sitting, or split it up into as many different reading times as there are stories.

An ok collection. All unique stories when compared with the other books in the series so you won't be rereading too much. And great for animal lovers, regardless of what kind of animal they're fond of.

Chicken Soup for the Cat & Dog Lover's Soul
Copyright 1999
408 pages

March 13, 2013

The International Bank of Bob by Bob Harris

**This review is part of the Amazon Vine program**

What a fantastic book! If there's anything restores my hope for humanity, this would be it. Not only had I never heard of the Kiva program before this book, but it was just filled with wonderful details of Bob's travels as well that I enjoyed.

Before I start, I want to explain the Kiva program briefly. Kiva is a micro-finance/loan program. Well, it works with those programs actually. It's an online site where you can browse the profiles of people requesting a micro-loan to help expand or finance their business. People lend as little as $25 towards the loan, and then are repayed as the borrowers repay their loans through micro-finance companies in their country. The repayal rate is currently about 98.98% which is amazing. The idea of Kiva is based off of the Grameen Bank that won the Nobel Peace Prize (I had heard of this program, read several wonderful articles on it).

Bob is a travel writer and after getting the opportunity to go review some luxurious resorts around the world, he happily takes off. But once at these locations he is appalled at the conditions the people working in them live and the disparity between incomes. And then he discovers Kiva at a conference and winds up putting around twenty thousand dollars into the program. But that's not enough, he wants to make sure his money is making a difference. So he organizes a trip to write this book and meet some of the people around the world that he's loaned money to. He also visits the Micro Finance Institutions and meets the people running them, and even visits borrowers who he hadn't had any impact on. Just to round everything out.

The people are so wonderful in this book. Even faced with horrible situations they somehow rise above it and continue to try to better themselves. It makes me feel like a tiny person when I think about the things I complain about. One thing I did notice is that nearly every client didn't have their real name in the book. Which is fine. It was just comical to see explanation after explanation of why the real name wasn't going to be used. I would have just put a note at the beginning of the book saying all names are protected and been done with it. Bob himself is a quite lovable person. I know he's writing about himself in this, but he does so in such a modest way that you can't help but appreciate him. And the fact that he loves good causes doesn't hurt either.

I appreciated the idea of this book. I'm always looking for interesting topics about the world and what could be better than helping someone? And in addition to learning so many things (this book was extremely well researched) Bob approached it in an easy-to-understand way and made it comical too. He can be amidst extreme poverty but still find the silver lining, although he does have a few blue moments. And I like that when using numbers, he compares it to something in the USA so you have a picture in your head of what he's talking about. I actually can't really find anything to complain about in this book. I'm sure there were some things that could have been done better, but I enjoyed the book so much that I must have ignored them. Even the sources section was thorough and extremely informative.

And thanks to Bob, I made my first Kiva loan. And I can't wait to make another one. Oh, and I just thought of my only complaint. I joined Kiva while about halfway through the book, and it wasn't until the end I saw the link I could have used to say that Bob inspired me to join, but by then it was already too late. Front cover, hint hint, would be helpful. But like I said, nothing about the book contents itself made me want to complain, a wonderful look at the world of micro-finance.

The International Bank of Bob
Copyright 2013
391 pages

March 12, 2013

America's Women by Gail Collins

First off, I experienced this book as an audio book.  The reader enunciated well and read at an acceptable pace.  Now on to the book itself.

American Women: Four Hundred Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines really is a four hundred year history of American women in the United States.  It starts with the colonies, and the first European woman to give birth in America (Eleanor Dare), although obviously women had been having babies in America long before Eleanor and the Roanoke colony, all the way to the present and the women's liberation movement.  In between, it details suffrage, women in the workplace, women's place in the wars, and more.  And it goes into detail on certain women, like Annie Oakley and Harriet Tubman.  A lot of history is covered here.

With so many wonderful women to choose from its not surprising that Collins went with some of the obvious like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Betty Friedan.  But it was nice to learn about Eleanor Dare, who I'd never even heard of before and a few other women that led extraordinary lives but are rarely mentioned in popular history.  And it had stories about the average woman, and her reactions to the world around her and the restrictions placed on her life.  Stories that were as mundane as what the style was for women (big hair anyone?) to those little known histories of the first slaves brought over and their jobs selling produce on the streets.

There is a lot of history in this book.  400 years of it, although a bigger portion was spent on some areas of the book and it wasn't evenly doled out among the 400 years.  In fact, suffrage was probably the biggest part of the book, with women's liberation following closely behind.  While these are important topics, I would have loved to see as much detail go into the years before that as well.  Sure we got the story of Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane, but it just wasn't as extensive.  This book actually did go into some details I didn't expect though.  In fact, it's the first book I've read where it actually talks about pads and tampons.  And while the book predominately focused on European woman, it did go a little bit into the history of Black women and their rights as well.  The introduction does apologize for not including other minorities on the basis of the history not being recorded as well.  But overall, the book was well written, chock full of details, and an enjoyable bit of history (a genre I'm normally not too fond of).

A very interesting book and well worth reading.  It definitely brought some new topics of interest to my mind that I might want to research further.

America's Women
Copyright 2007
Audio Book

March 08, 2013

Circle of Stones by Anna Lee Waldo

I've read the hefty beast that is Waldo's "Sacajawea". And having enjoyed that, I decided to give this first book in a series of hers a try. I wasn't nearly as thrilled with it, although it wasn't terrible.

Brenda is a young mistress of Prince Owain, who rules over Wales. On an auspicious night, she becomes pregnant with her third child but then is unlucky enough to give birth to a son at the same time Owain's other two women give birth to sons. Because of a talk earlier, Owain decides only one son may live so Brenda flees to a Druid encampment. Forces out of her control make her have to go back to Owain's court and leave young Madoc behind, where he will be fostered away from her for years.

Brenda is a mix of intelligent and "what the heck were you thinking". And we are constantly told how wise she is. I personally prefer to be shown, and there's only a little of that for her character. In fact, she always takes the road of least resistance, and it can end up hurting those around her. Owain is a weird person and completely unwise. He seems more concerned with pride than anything else, and that's kind of disappointing. Madoc, for being such an important character to the story, isn't in it very much. And we always see him through Brenda's eyes so there aren't any flaws to be found either. There were a ton of other characters too and at times I got them confused with each other. There were just so many. A lot were based on real people though, and I did enjoy learning a bit more about them than I knew before.

Waldo is gifted with lots and lots of words. While this isn't as long as some of her other books, it does tend to go on and on quite a bit. In fact, I had a hard time getting into this book at first because I was bored by the endless detail. But the further I got in the better it got. I became captivated by Brenda's tale and even while I was frustrated at times I still wanted to know what happened. She even got down to the nitty gritty on Druid medicine. That description is in everything and there is murder, sex, violence, and other such things in this book. Those at least aren't overly descriptive but they're still there. The history I can't say is all correct, I don't know enough about that period of time or region, but it seems like she did do a lot of research for the book. And she was kind enough to list her sources by type.

An ok book. I don't think it told the terrific tale that Sacajawea did, but it still chronicled a very strong woman's life. I might pick up the second book if I come across it.

Circle of Stones
Copyright 1999
432 pages

ObamaCare Survival Guide by Nick Tate

Ok, to preface, I feel I should disclose that I am all over the place when it comes to politics. Pro-Gun, Anti-GMO, etc. I kind of just bounce around depending on the topic. I do believe everyone should have the right to affordable Healthcare though. So while this book isn't really directed at me in that regard, I actually found a lot of useful information in it. And I didn't even read it by choice, my boss had me read it as background for part of a blog post he wanted written for the company website.

The ObamaCare Survival Guide isn't really a Survival Guide. So I do think it's misnamed. But the sub-title of "The Affordable Care Act and What It Means for You and Your Healthcare" is actually a little more accurate. This is a brief (although biased) guide to the new Healthcare laws coming into effect. There are several different sections; "Welcome to ObamaCare", "ObamaCare: What It Means for You", "ObamaCare: A Multiyear Timetable", "Heath Insurance: Radical Changes Ahead", "The Individual Mandate", "The Expansion of Medicaid", "Health Insurance Exchanges", "Incentives for Small Businesses", "More Benefits, Higher Costs", "Turning the Screws on Medicare", "Cost Control Experiments", "Making Americans Healthier", "Long-term Care", "ObamaCare, Etc.", "ObamaCare's Price Tag", "Protect Yourself Against ObamaCare", and the appendices. As you can tell from the titles of these chapters, the books tries to go into explanation on each part of the new Healthcare law. A lot of it is summary and supposition, but there are genuine facts from the law in here. I especially found the section on Long-Term care to be informative. Especially where it described the new laws that would monitor care at Nursing Homes and make a report available to the public. Every section had charts showing the allocation of pay, the differences in income for applying for help at the new Healthcare exchanges that will be set up, and current Insurance enrollment figures.

Ultimately though, this book is biased. And it's ok to write a biased book. Even though I may not agree with the author, I still appreciate the fact that he did include real facts with his opinions. He just has a different interpretation than I do, and on some things, I actually even agreed with him. I do commend the fact that he took time to point out good aspects of the Healthcare bill, in addition to his complaints and theories on the problems of the bill.

The format of the book was easy to read, and in language that most anyone could understand. The subjects were sorted neatly and transitioning from chapter to chapter was seamless. While it wasn't the Survival Guide the title says it is, this is, as said before, a brief summary of the Healthcare act. I do like that the book was separated into Parts, then into chapters, and then within each chapter it had certain sections highlighted so you can easily find what you are looking for. But don't go looking on strategies to get around the new Healthcare Act in this book, that's not what it was designed to do, despite the title. I think there will be a lot of disappointed people who pick up this book expecting it to be something it isn't. I do have to say that I would have liked to see more information. I know I said there was some in here, but it had the capacity for being much more informative than it actually was. A little less personal opinion and a little more facts would have really made this book a force to be reckoned with.

This gets three stars from me. It was a nice brief overview splattered with personal opinion. But at 200+ pages it could have contained more factual evidence than it did. But it's still a good beginner's book for those looking at the Healthcare law and I can see it being very popular with those people who are not enthused with the new policy.

ObamaCare Survival Guide
Copyright 2013
241 pages

March 06, 2013

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

I can honestly say this book wasn't for me. I should preface by saying though, that I experienced this book as an audiobook. And the only thing that I'll really say about that is that the reader spoke clearly and at a good pace. Otherwise, this review is for the content of the book.

Smith is a "Dharma Bum" roaming around (for most of the book anyway) the Western part of the USA with some buddies who also subscribe to his philosophy of life. And that philosophy is a mix of their version of Buddhism, nature, parties, and general free-spiritedness. I'm told this book has something to do with a "Beat" culture that I've never actually heard of before as well, so I can't comment if that's true or not. Smith, along with his buddy Japhy, do a lot of hiking, reflecting, writing haiku's and other poetry and have a few orgy's thrown in for good measure. The overall theme is one of Smith finding himself, and understanding the world around him, and Kerouac uses the life of a backpacker/survivalist/bum to show how even someone with a meager existence can appreciate the beauty in all things.

Smith and Japhy, despite being Zen self proclaimed Buddhists, are very much superficial people. I can't decide if Kerouac really did believe they were spiritual and had the right idea, or he was making fun of them. I'd like to believe the latter but I've read that the character of Smith is somewhat based on Kerouac himself. That's not to say they were all that bad though. They both had a genuine appreciation for nature and an easy personality that wasn't quick to anger. Those are admirable traits in anyone, even if they are a "bum". But they did seem to mooch a lot off of other people, and usually Buddhists don't seem to advertise what they are. Smith truly is the main character of this book and he is very fair in describing his friend Japhy. He mostly sings high praises for him, unless Japhy is questioning Smith's alcohol intake. And we do see everything out of Smith's eyes so they follow his perspective and views on Buddhism, nature, the people they meet, and everything else.

A lot of this book comes off as pretentious. Like Kerouac was saying that if you weren't doing the things these people were or thinking the same things, then you probably weren't all that enlightened. And I did bristle at that. Especially considering that these people were mooching off of everybody and only occasionally working for their keep. There are different roads to enlightenment. But I will give him the pretty writing in this book. There were some great descriptions of food and nature and I especially enjoyed the mountain climbing section near the beginning of the book. I think that could have been a whole book in itself and there was no need for the rest of it, as I didn't find the rest particularly interesting. There was also a lot of mention of Buddhism, but it's not the type of Buddhism that I've heard a little about, but more an Americanized "fun" version that allowed excess. Kerouac also threw in a lot of Buddhist terms that if you didn't know what they meant, well too bad, because he wasn't going to tell you. It was another way of being pretentious almost, as Kerouac expected any reader to already know what he was talking about and be part of his social group. Or at least that's how it seemed.

Just not a book for me. Maybe I'm the wrong generation or just think a lot differently than Kerouac. I can appreciate the descriptive stream-of-consciousness writing, but I just didn't appreciate the message of this book.

The Dharma Bums
Copyright 1958
AudioBook Experience

March 04, 2013

Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul

Well, I'm home sick and have been dosing myself with "Chicken Soup" all day.  And I have to say, it's probably the Powerade making me feel better, not the books.  Especially this one, which was downright depressing.

If you couldn't guess, this particular Chicken Soup book is about pets.  The feathered and the furred kind and even a little bit of the scaly.  While most of the stories seem to be about dogs, there's quite a bit of cats, a few horses, a couple stories about birds, and even one about a snake.  The stories are somewhat memorable, mainly because they seem to try to make you shed a tear.  There is so much sickness, death, and abuse in this book that I can't really call it heartwarming.  For every positive story there are three more where the animal dies or develops cancer or its owner has cancer.  The story of "Frisk" was one of those sad ones, in which a poor old man has a cat who keeps coming down with a mysterious illness.  "Soul to Soul" has a woman who has been abused most her life lose more than one to death in a short period of time.  And I could go on.

The stories are mainly about the animals, but also about how they effected their owners as well.  And it really is the owner's pain that you feel in this book rather than the animals.  They're almost a side note as to how the people dealt with the pain they were feeling.  But there was some joy too, as animals really do make people feel happier.  And I especially enjoyed the stories of the service animals who made visits to hospitals and nursing homes. 

All of these are short stories so the book can be a quick read.  It's especially good if you only like reading a few pages a day, but it can also be read in one sitting.  I do have one major complaint though, and that is that one of the stories in this book (about a horse) is also in one of the other chicken soup books.  As many stories that they get submitted for these things there is no excuse for a story to be recycled.  Ever.  But alas, this is not the only book that will do that.  I just think it's a shame that they don't try to make every work wholly original from the others. 

An ok book if you don't mind sad tales, but perhaps not what someone who enjoys uplifting tales would appreciate.  While all of the stories do show the compassion of animals, ultimately, this book is too heart-wrenching.

Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul
Copyright 1998
403 pages

Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen

So a quick Wikipedia search showed that there are over 200 titles in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.  Don't worry, I'm not going to review them all, I don't think I could handle that.  But I am going to read and review all of the ones on my bookshelf already, so I can justify getting rid of them.  This book wasn't actually that bad, it had some decent stories in it.

Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul is about horses (and maybe a mule or two).  So obviously if you are not a horse lover, this probably isn't the book for you.  It's broken down into different sections, like "And....They're Off" which describes horse racing or "Horses as Healers" which shows the calming influences of horses.  All of the stories are short stories, no more than a few pages long.  I can't say there were really any stories that stood out for me or that I was particularly taken with.  They were all nice in that calming sort of way these books have, but nothing was outstanding.  And in the beginning at least, a lot of these stories involved the horse dying.  Which was a little disturbing to start a book out that way, especially considering it was supposed to be uplifting.

Since this book is more about horses than people, obviously the little quirks described are all the horses.  There are stories about difficult to train horses, horses that are so sweet they'll do anything, horses that are good with children, etc.  It kind of shows that horses have their own personalities aside from just being animals.  I've never really spent that much time around horses, so this part at least, was informative to me.  It also made me a little jealous though, no matter how much I wished for a horse as a child, I never got one, and I only got to go riding once or twice.  But I guess for a city girl, that's pretty good.  I have a feeling that people who were around horses more would find it easier to relate to this book.

The format of this book is a good one for reading in little doses.  Sure you can read the book in one sitting if you'd like, but if you're one of those people that prefers to take a few pages at a time, this book really lends itself to that.  The short story format is easy to read and there are a lot of stories in this book.  And a good variety of them too, although after awhile some start to sound the same. 

An ok book, good for those who love horses or short inspiring stories.  I can't say that I'd ever read this book again, but it was good for a first time read.

Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul
Copyright 2003
414 pages

March 02, 2013

Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane

This book was so much better than the first in the series.  Honestly, if it wasn't for the background information you need for this one, I'd suggest skipping the first and starting here.  The characters were so much better, there was an understandable plot, and even the magic was more realistic.

Nita and Kit are on vacation.  It's at the beach, and while they were hoping for a relaxing trip, their status as wizards prevent that from happening.  Strange earthquakes are rocking the seabed, and upon meeting and saving a whale wizard, Kit and Nita become a part of a special song ritual that will help stabilize things and weaken the Lone Power's powers.  Nita's role though isn't what she thinks, and despite her wanting to help, she should have read the fine print.

Nita and Kit are much more developed as characters in this book.  You can actually empathize with them, especially Nita.  Because she has to make some hard decisions in this book, deal with lying, and learn about what type of person she wants to be and what her word means.  Kit is a little more feral and aggressive and it's actually a good move for him.  Shows how youth can be confusing and that sometimes personalities change.  There's a lot of growth for both of them.  But the real standout character in this book is "Ed" the Master Shark.  His character gives me chills, in the good way, with the things he says and the emotions he expresses.  You know he's not really a good guy per say, he's actually the most neutral character you'll ever meet, but he's so powerful and wise in his own way that you are actually held in awe of him.  Duane really did a terrific job on this character.

The plot was very dark and grown up for a young adult novel.  I was surprised actually at the themes of sacrifice, love, and ruthlessness.  But it was worked very well and wasn't overly graphic.  In fact, you're so busy enjoying the characters that the wonderful descriptions of ocean life just seem like they should be there.  They fit in so well and become part of the background, but you'd definitely know if they were missing.  The book just wouldn't be as good.  And the fact that the whole thing takes place in the sea, that's a nice spin on a "wizarding" book.  The magic, while still dominated some on science, was understandable this time around as well.  You could keep up with it without having to get out a physics textbook.  So that made it more readable than the first book was.

I'm glad I didn't give up after the first book.  This one was well worth the read and has inspired me to go take a look at the 3rd book.

Deep Wizardry
Copyright 1985
356 pages