"...Everyone Is Entitled To My Opinion." ~Madonna

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Some of Jodi Picoult’s books I really enjoy, i.e. Keeping Faith, The Pact, and My Sister’s Keeper; some I felt were a waste of my time, Songs of the Humpback Whale, Plain Truth, and Mercy. Recently I read LONE WOLF and felt that it will fit somewhere toward the top of my “enjoyed-list”.

Luke Warren is married and the father of a nineteen year-old son, Edward, and a pre-teen daughter, Cara. His passion is the study of wolves. Leaving his family behind, he spends two years in the wilds of Canada where he is accepted as a member of a pack of wild wolves. He comes home to find that he is no longer the family man that he was. As a result his marriage falls apart, his son disappears, and his daughter is no longer the little girl that he remembers.

Six years later, Edward is teaching English in Bangkok when he receives a phone call that his father and sister have been in a near fatal car accident. He arrives home to find his father in a coma, his sister full of hatred, and his mother re-married. Soon he is involved in a legal battle over who has the right to make the life/death decision to pull the plug on his father’s life support system.

LONE WOLF is written in alternating points of view. Picoult is one of the few authors who does this well. No two people see the same incident in the same way and this style of writing gives the reader a chance to draw his or her own conclusion.

Jodi Picoult also does dramatic courtroom scenes well. It might not be realistic for “surprising” facts to be shouted out in the middle of a trial, but it is good drama. The fact that the brother and sister are both young and have been hiding family secrets for years makes these scenes more believable.

Aside from this being a very readable novel, the facts about the living habits of the wolves was fascinating. We see the pack hierarchy in the wild and how important it is to honor that  in captivity. I did not know that rank even dictates which wolf eats what part of the prey or that one of the ranks is that of “nanny” and that several wolves will “audition” for the position.

Ms. Picoult is also known for the ambiguity of her endings. Often her last sentence will make you re-think the whole book. I like that, but I have to admit that it took me several seconds to “get” the last chapter of this book. It is beautifully done.

If you like family dramas with a strong wild nature background, LONE WOLF may be just what you want.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


ZERO DAY introduces author David Baldacci’s newest hero, John Puller, a special agent with the Army. John is a combat veteran and the best investigator in the United States Army's Criminal Investigation Division.

John is sent to a remote area of West Virginia to investigate the murder of a father, mother and their two teenage children. The father had been ready to retire from his high ranking position in the Pentagon and the military feels that there might be a tie-in to his position and his murder.

From the very beginning the case seems unusual to John. For openers, he is sent without any backup to an area that has a vastly understaffed police force. The sheriff is a young woman with her own demons, but good at her job. When he arrives he finds that he has not four bodies but seven to deal with and the murders are not done. He learns that he may be investigating a conspiracy that will make the 9/11 terrorist attack seem small time.

In true Baldacci style the plot is full of twist, turns and red herrings. Here is an author who is able to get your attention on the first page and keep you up all night until you find the bad guys.

This is the start of a series of books featuring John Puller and we learn just enough about him personally to want to learn more. His father, a military legend, is in a V.A. hospital with dementia; I am sure that he will figure more in future books.

John’s big brother is serving a life sentence in a federal prison for treason. Although he does play a part in ZERO DAY , his story remains a mystery. I will be reading future books in this series just out of curiosity to hear his story.

David Baldacci’s background as a lawyer in Washington, D.C. gives him insight into the workings of our government and his books can show the underside of how things sometimes get done. His details on weapons and in the case of ZERO DAY can be a little overwhelming, but his action never stops. His books are fresh, fast paced, and very hard to put down.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Persian Pickle Club

Sandra Dallas is one of my favorite authors so I was ready to enjoy THE PERSIAN PICKLE CLUB from the beginning. I think that every book of hers that I have read involves quilting in some way and this story revolves around a group of women who have bonded over their quilting frames.

Queenie Bean and her husband Grover are farmers in Harveyville, Kansas. The Great Depression has hit the country and it has been particularly hard on the farmers of the Midwest. The Beans have it a little better than some, but still life is a struggle.

Queenie is part of a quilting group that gathers to share their love of quilting as well as to improve their minds, exchange gossip and support and protect each other during rough times.

Grover’s best friend returns to the farming community with his new wife, Rita. Rita is definitely “Big Town” and wants to become a famous news reporter. She feels that her big opportunity has arrived when a missing husband of one of the quilting ladies is found buried in a shallow grave by a remote country road.

However, instead of the community wanting the murder solved, everyone wants the subject to just go away. In the process we learn about farm life in the 1930’s, secrets of quilting, and the importance of loyal friends.

As I have said, I love Sandra Dallas as an author. Her books appear to be light and an easy read with touches of homespun humor.  They are all of these things, but watch out for characters who are less than perfect, a plot twist that involves murder, some infidelities, babies born out of wedlock (shocking in the 1930’s) and some grittier, real life scenes.

It is easy to identify with the characters in a Sandra Dallas novel. She has a talent for expressing the fears and insecurities that women feel. Whether the book is True Sisters, about the women of the Church of Latter Day Saints making their way to Salt Lake or the girls who work in a bordello in The Chili Queen, she gives us women that we know. I am very happy that I still have several of her novels to read.

P.S. For those of you who do not quilt, a Persian Pickle is an old term for a paisley print fabric.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

EVENT: Judith Redline Coopey Author Reception!!!!


A reception will be held on October 26th at 2:00 pm at the Curtin Mansion in Curtin Village, Pennsylvania to launch Judith Redline Coopey’s latest book, THE FURNACE. 

THE FURNACE is the first of a three volume family saga set against the Nineteenth Century iron industry in central Pennsylvania. The home of the Eagle Iron Works is the perfect setting for you to meet this interesting author.
Judy will be discussing her research for this book as well as her earlier books, Redfield Farm, Waterproof, and Looking for Jane. Books will be available, or bring your own copies, for autographs.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Outside the Ordinary World

Are we fated to repeat the sins of our parents? This is the question Dori Ostermiller addresses in her debut novel OUTSIDE THE ORDINARY WORLD. In doing so she also has us examine family dynamics, loyalty, and infidelity.

Twelve-year old Sylvia is aware of the meetings between her perfect mother and Mr. Robert.  At first not recognizing why things have become so tense at home. Her mother has her hide letters, her successful father has begun to drink too much and her older sister has become unmanageable. Too often she and her sister are used as an excuse for the clandestine meetings. The fact that Mr. Robert treats her nicer than her own father only adds to her confusion. Sylvia swears that she will never do such a thing to her family.

Thirty years later, Sylvia, now the mother of two daughters and with a husband who is obsessed with the renovation of an old farm house, finds herself repeating her mother’s choices.  She is oblivious to the fact that her teenage daughter is aware of the secret relationship and that her resentment may tear down the whole family.

We first meet Sylvia and her family in 1968 and then we jump to 2008 when Sylvia is a married woman with her own family. By interspersing the chapters from her childhood with the chapters of her present life, the author gives us a chance to see the development of Sylvia and we have a better understanding of her choices as an adult.

Ostermiller is a gifted writer. She gets into the psychology of her characters extremely well and her use of language is beautiful at times. The use of alternating time sections is a perfect “show me; don’t tell me” device.

This was a case where I could admire the skill of the author and still not enjoy the book. Maybe having a whole story about infidelity and how unhappy it made everyone was just not my cup of tea. It was too easy to want to scream at everybody in the book that selfish, poor choices have far reaching consequences and love and lust are quite different.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Bittersweet

My “home town” would be very difficult to find on any map. Even in grade and high school, I had to give directions.Therefore, you can imagine how delighted I was as a youngster to find a book that took place on a farm near Curtin, Pennsylvania! The kids in the story went swimming in Dowdy’s Hole, a favorite spot when I lived there. The main character sang in the choir at the Methodist church and looked out the window at the graveyard outside the window. This is the same church that witnessed several of the weddings in my family, including my own.

The book is BITTERSWEET by Martha Barnhart Harper and I read and re-read it over and over while growing up. Then, my mother loaned the book to someone and I felt as if I had lost an old friend. Miracles of miracles,this year I found a copy of BITTERSWEET at The Faith Centre Thrift Shop. I had found that old friend!

I started to read about the residents of Curtin during the Civil War with some dread. Would it be as entertaining to my more mature self as it was to that long ago youngster? I am glad to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it this time around also.

As most big sisters, Lucy Barnhart was responsible for her younger siblings. Living on a farm in rural central Pennsylvania, her duties also included domestic chores. Lucy was dependable and fun, the understanding older sister.

When President Lincoln called for able-bodied young men to join the troops to save the Union, many of the local boys left to fight, including Lucy’s young brother Joe. It was up to Lucy to console Joe when he is sent home because he is too young.

The new minister at the Methodist church is handsome and soon has all of the girls setting their caps for him, but it is pretty, practical Lucy that catches his eye. When Lucy has to face a tragedy that almost undoes her, she finds that family and friends are there for her.

This is a simple book with as much emphasis on the times and the location as on a complicated plot, but still I was moved by the emotions felt by different characters. The author’s father was one of Lucy’s youngest brothers and the stories are the stories that he told Martha Barnhart Harper as she was growing up.

Harper captures the times and the characters well. The book is an easy history lesson that never bores the reader. A large part of the story is how important the coming of the railroad was to the area and how it replaced the somewhat dangerous canal system that served the iron works.

Most of my fascination with BITTERSWEET is my personal association with it. Not only have I walked the lanes that Lucy walked, attended her church, known many of her ancestors, but have stood at her grave site near Curtin. It is still an interesting read for anyone who likes to learn about life “back then”. In today’s market BITTERSWEET would fall into the Youth category but that is not a bad thing.

Old books really do become old friends.