A Woman’s Place

From Ginny Pisciotta
author: Austin, Lynn
A Woman’s Place
This is the story of 4 very different women whose lives become connected  when they work together doing “men’s work” in a defense factory during World War II.  Their circumstances and backgrounds vary greatly, as do their reasons for taking the jobs.  In spite of everything, they become close friends, supporting each other through immense challenges to their lifestyles and beliefs.

Muffins and mayhem: recipes for a happy (if disorderly) life

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Beecher, Suzanne
Muffins and mayhem: recipes for a happy (if disorderly) life
A memoir laced with recipes.  The author is the creator of DearReader.com,
an online book club. As a member, I know that she prefaces each online
installment with her daily column.  In this book, she details her humble
beginnings as an only child in Cuba City, WI.  In spite of an alcoholic
father and an indifferent mother who doesn’t understand her, she has an
indomitable spirit.  She is not afraid to make (big) mistakes, and to make
fun of herself. She seems to be a business/marketing genius, without any
college degrees.   After a failed marriage, she finds Mr. Right, also
divorced with kids. She and her husband move to Sarasota, FL. She has a
son and a daughter, but hardly mentions them. I would like to have read
why she married him so soon and why in Iowa City, and what it was like to
raise a blended family. Her take on living with an eye disorder was
inspiring (she learned to love the disorder instead of fighting it).

I didn’t like the recipes very much: the potstickers seemed too difficult
and others were too pedestrian.  Some of the chapters are verbatim from
her online column.  The grief over losing her mother is raw and if you
have been in a similar situation, you can relate.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

From Margie Hartough
author: Gladwell, Malcolm
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Have you ever had a gut feeling about a decision? Are there instances when at a glance, you can immediately tell if something would work or not?

Author Malcolm Gladwell explores the various factors that contribute to determine how quickly, and how well, each of us can make those decisions. Through fascinating case studies, skilled interweaving of psychological experiments  he explains  the unconscious hints, decisions and impressions your brain uses to make decisions in a blink.  Through this book, you will realize that first impressions and snap judgments can be educated and controlled – and when used correctly, can even help you in making the right decisions in life.


FromTeen Book Reviewer
author: Teller, Janne
I just completed reading the book “Nothing” by Janne Teller. This novel is
originally written in Danish and has won the Best Children’s Book Prize from the Danish Cultural Ministry. The book has a foreign feel to it what with a lot of the names being kept in the English translation.

The story revolves around a group of seventh graders in a small town in Denmark. At the beginning of the new school year, one of their classmates, Pierre Anthon, decides that life has no meaning and that we are all a part of nothing. He walks out of school, climbs up a plum tree and refuses to come down. Each day as the children pass the tree on their way to the school he taunts them with his new philosophy of life and how what they are doing is utterly meaningless. When the children get frustrated, they decide to show Pierre the meaning of life. The story gets interesting as each child is forced by the others to part with their most meaningful possession as they put together a “heap of meaning” for Pierre. The ending of the story is quite interesting. As such, the book is quite a different read – nothing like what I’ve read before. I recommend this book if you are in the mood to read something unusual.

Child 44

From Eileen Effrat
author: Smith, Tom Rob
Child 44
Set in Stalin’s Russia (1953), Leo Demidov, a  decorated World  War II
hero, is now a rising star in Russia’s State Security Force.  He routinely
interrogates thousands of his countrymen for “crimes against the state”-
a sentence of execution or banishment to the gulag.  All this he fervently
does for the “good of the state” and the very comfortable lifestyle
afforded  his family.    Then one day his life begins to unravel. He
uncovers a series of brutal child murders. How can this be? There is NO
crime in   this  utopian  worker’s paradise.  How can a serial killer
possibly exit?  Facing the grim facts, Demidov begins to investigate.
Deterred by his superiors and the corrupt political and judicial
systems, Demidov becomes a fugitive himself as he begins to unravel
these connected child murders. Smith bases his novel on the very real
serial killer, Andrei Chikatilo  (the Rostov Ripper) , who murdered women
and children in the 1980’s. For a meticulous and well researched look at
life in Stalinist Russia  and a very good mystery,  this book is strongly

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour: The Best of Season 3

From Ellen Druda
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour: The Best of Season 3
The brothers Smothers continued to push the envelope in this, their last
season on CBS. They were fired, and the series ended in 1969 after the stars yanked the network’s chain one too many times. This set contains 11 episodes of what looks like live straight-to-tape recordings, which can be
problematical in the digital big-screen, hi-fi, hi-def world of today. But
Time Life has done an outstanding job of putting the show into historical
context and has lots of extras on each disc, including outtakes, interviews, photo galleries, and one show that was censored entirely. Forty years later, the comedy is still fresh and brave, the music earnest; the roster of guests ranges from old showbiz to the daring and new. Recommended for boomers everywhere.

Shanghai Girls

From Shelley Lauer-Bader
author: See, Lisa
Shanghai Girls
This story of Shanghai during the Japanese invasion and immigration to the US has great period detail. May and Pearl escape China in 1937 and arrive in the United States, although not without great pain and suffering. They finally connect with the men they married through an arranged marriage. The Louie family could be the story of any family immigrating to the United States with the racism, poverty, family tension.

Especially pertinent is the focus on the “paper sons;” we would call them
illegal immigrants today.

Great for a book group discussion.

Two for the Dough

From Elaine Pasquali
author: Evanovich, Janet
Two for the Dough
Stephanie Plum, a bounty hunter,is assisted by a cast of “characters”: Lula, a former ho; Ranger, a hunky master bounty hunter; and Joe Morelli, a cop-come-boyfriend.  Stephanie’s family of Mom, Dad, and Grandma Mazur, as zany a grandma as you’ll ever meet, serve as counterpoint to Stephanie’s risky, chaotic life.  While the crime plots are thin, the laughs are a line a minute!!! The first Stephanie Plum book is set to be filmed in September, with Kathleen Hegyl playing Stephanie.  The books in this series stand alone and can be read out of order.

In the Middle of the Night

From Jackie Cantwell
author: McDonald, Brian
In the Middle of the Night
In the Middle of the Night tells the horrifying tale of two parolees who go on a crime spree in Cheshire, CT on July 23, 2007.  The instigator was Joshua Komisarjevsky, a convicted serial burglar, who met his partner in crime, Steven Hayes, in a halfway house.  Joshua began burglarizing homes in his teens, and sometimes he didn’t take anything.  Instead, he’d listen to the occupants as they slept, or rearranged pictures or furniture.

Joshua was adopted as an infant into a wealthy family. As a child, he lived in southwestern Cheshire on a 65-acre estate that was part horse farm.  His parents, Ben and Jude, were loving and very religious. Joshua was given every opportunity to succeed in life, and coupled with his very high I.Q., he would have gone far if he hadn’t chosen crime as his vocation.  It is especially cruel that he stalked the family of Dr. William and Mrs. Jennifer Petit, a nurse.  They were a well-loved, community-minded couple whose daughters, Michaela and Hayley, held so much promise. It was very difficult to read the details of the crime.  The governor, M. Jodi Rell, changed laws to toughen penalties for home invasion and tighten parole procedures after this crime.

Bridget Jones’s diary

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Fielding, Helen
Bridget Jones’s diary
I saw the movie before reading the book.  This is the classic book that spawned Chick Lit.  It holds up well (it was published in 1996). Some of the British-isms take getting used to: such as “fag” for cigarette and “flat” for apartment.  Each diary entry is prefaced by how many cigarettes she smoked, how much she weighs, the circumference of her thighs, how much alcohol she drank, calories consumed, and in parentheses if it was good or bad, and any mitigating factors leading to such behavior. In later entries, she also adds number of lottery tickets purchased, how many panic attacks or negative thoughts, and how many times she dialed 1471 (the equivalent of *69).

Bridget is a winsome, bumbling heroine.  She goes to dinner parties attended by Smug Marrieds, who say all sorts of derogatory things to her, a Singleton, such as ” Your biological clock is ticking”; and “You still don’t have a boyfriend, Old Girl?.”  She works at a publishing firm reading manuscripts. She starts an affair with her boss, Daniel Cleaver.  All along, she keeps running into the son of her parents’ friends, Mark Darcy, a human rights lawyer (or barrister, as they say. Interestingly, the text mentions the actors Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, who play Daniel and Mark in the film, respectively.  The book is funny and relatable; I didn’t want it to end.