Saturday, August 30, 2014

Children's Book Week: "Nest"--Esther Ehrlich's Debut Novel Now for Sale at Bookstands!

This book, Nest, by Esther Ehrlich, comes
to book stands on September 9, 2014. [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     A dog-eared field guide is gripped in one hand while the other grips his binoculars and the man peers through them. He watches the birds--one and then another. His eyes searching... searching...searching. All his long waking hours sitting quietly...observing. 

     Hour upon hour, he is "in the grip of an ornithological frenzy." Night comes and, reluctantly, he goes to his bed--surrounding himself with his books about birds. He reads about trips he can take to observe, yet more birds. He looks at the "field markings of species"--those birds he hasn't yet observed through his binocs. He studies the markings. And, studying the markings, he falls into slumber.  He dreams of birds. 

     Who is the man in the "grip of an ornithological frenzy"? What man would spend hour upon hour with his binoculars watching birds? James Marcus of the Los Angeles Times, tells us in a book review that he did of The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History, that it was none other than the author, Jonathan Franzen. 

This is just one guide to the birds
of Cape Cod. This book is
by Peter Trull. [4]

     Marcus indicates that it is the last chapter of Franzen's book, that captivates him. The Chapter, entitled, "My Bird Problem," is, according to Marcus, simply is the best chapter of the entire book. Marcus goes on to say that Franzen "seems to be taking Emily Dickinson at her word: "Hope, if indeed it existed, is most certainly the thing with feathers." [3]

     Chirp, our young protagonist, in Esther Ehrlich's debut novel, Nest, is so very taken with birds. She seems to live in the world of birds, not unlike Jonathan Franzen, in his "ornithological frenzy." Just as some children seek the shelter of books, Chirp seeks the refuge of the salt marsh and the birds she loves. But, before we talk any more about Chirp and her family, let's take a quick look at the synopsis of Esther Ehrlich's book


A Red-throated Loon, photo by
Neil Hayward [5]
     Esther Ehrlich writes a deeply-felt account for middle-grade school readers about a young girl and her family. The sojourn of eleven-year-old Naomi, who prefers to be called "Chirp" because she loves birds--especially the rare Red-throated Loon who makes its appearance only infrequently in the area. Chirp lives with her older sister, Rachel, her father (who is a psychiatrist), and her mother who is a vivacious dancer--Chirp's mother communicates her ardent love of dancing to Chirp and her family. 

     To Chirp, indeed, the story is one of a journey of a family's changing life and traditions because of heartbreaking misfortune and tragedy that visits the small intimate family. Struggling to make sense of her life turned topsy-turvy, "Chirp" flees to the Cape Cod salt marsh to find comfort by her special tree and the birds that fill its branches and the sky around it. 

Chirp finds a bird's nest in her special
place, near her tree. The nest comes to
symbolize, for her, safety and security
in the inexplicable, topsy turvy world
into which she has been thrust. [6]
     Joey, a neighbor boy becomes "Chirp's" friend. Chirp learns about genuine friendship and love; she experiences a sharing of sorrow, and joy, as well as adventure and discovery. As Chirp learns about friendship, she also learns that there is a way through the chaotic, topsy-turvy, life she is living. Chirp and Joey devise a plan to create their own world and, in doing so, come to share a tender friendship that helps them to feel safe as birds in a nest--at least for a while.

I created this meme for you on for a
graphic image ([7]
   The thing that most impressed me about Esther Ehrlich's book, Nest, is that while many novels for teens and pre-teens write about dysfunctional families as a way to help children come to grip with problems life has thrown at them, Esther Ehr- lich stays away from the overly dysfunctional family as that kind of tool.

     Instead, Ehrlich writes about Naomi's (Chirp's) fam- ily as more of a contemporary family with its joyous tra- ditions, typical problems, and quirky parents in which Chirp feels safe and secure--until, that is, Chirp's family-world is turned upside down by tragedy. I really like the way Ehrlich helps the reader to focus on the girl, Naomi/Chirp, and how she deals with her world turned upside down, rather than the chaos of the family dysfunction. A brilliant choice in creating the framework of the story--one I enjoyed very much as a reader and one, I think, with which children will identify, appreciate and love.

     One of my favorite parts of the book is what Chirp does when tragedy strikes her family--she retreats to her room and builds a "nest" of her own with her clothes and sleeps there. She takes a terrible turn-of-events and creates her own haven of safety, her own nest. Also, later in the book, Chirp and Joey create a "metaphorical nest" of safety: they devise a plan to go to a special location and recreate for Chirp a safe, happy time in her life. This escape from reality into this metaphorical nest, for a time, gives Chirp hope. Even though the feelings of safety, hope, and happiness don't last, they do give Nest something precious--a friendship with Joey that is a different, intangible nest, trust, love, and safety in friendship.

Radagast has a birds nest in his
hair--a visual pun for the quote
in the paragraph on the right.[10]
     I really like the title of Ehrlich's book, "Nest." It is so appropriate for a variety of reasons. The first, of course, is the one I just mentioned: the family. Many sayings pervade cultures about birds and nests, such as: "The empty nest," "Light as a feather," "Nest egg," "A chattering bird builds no nest," "You cannot prevent birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair," [9] and, the one quote by Emily Dickinson that I gave you at the top of the blog post: "Hope, if indeed it existed, is most certainly the thing with feathers." Undoubtedly, for Chirp, her solace and " thing with feathers."

     Ehrlich's writing style is natural and easy with dialog that sounds realistic, lending the reader the perception intimacy and authenticity seldom seen in other teen or pre-teen novels. Then, we get to a scene where the writing calls for a more staccato approach to move the story along. I found these sections in the book a nice way of breaking up the smooth-flow of the story to give the reader a little variety in its exposition. Lovely.

     Finally, I have to tell you that I realized as I was reading the book that I had fallen in love with Chirp. She and Joey simply stole my heart. I came to love her passionate love for her mother, family, and friend, Joey. I loved her almost obsessive love for the Cape Cod marshes and her tree and birds, what James Marcus of the Los Angeles Times, called an "ornithological frenzy." So very, very charming.

     I would recommend this book to the target audience [Ages 10 and up or grades 5-7]. Since this book is a children's book for the ages I just listed, above, anyone should be able to read the book without discovering prohibitive material in its pages. The one caveat I always give readers is that if you are of a sensitive nature the themes of disease, death, suicide, loneliness, child abuse, and fear, perhaps you should consider the themes before reading the book. I found this book to deal sensitively with all of those themes--in fact, I would highly recommend this book to children dealing with any of those issues.

   Esther Ehrlich's, Nest, is an ardent and an remarkable tale of a middle-grade-aged girl and her love for her family and the birds of her Cape Cod marshes, one which sees this fascinating girl deal with tragedy, change, love and friendship. The powerful and tender novel will, undoubtedly haunt you long after you finish reading its pages. This image, the image of a young girl in her nest, will stay with you even after you finish the book with its ambiguous conclusion and leave you wondering what will become of Chirp and Joey. My Rating: For all the reasons I have given above, I give this book 4.0 stars out of 5.

     Thank you for joining me this week as we took a look at an exciting new children's book, Nest by Esther Ehrlich. Please join me again, next week as we look at a another new book. Until then, please consider picking up a book and reading it for a little
pleasure in your life.

Until next time...

...many happy pages of reading.


[1] "Nest." [Esther Ehrlich] Retrieved 08-08-14.
[2] "Wanna Be My Friend?" [The Kotek Report]-[Field glasses graphic] Retrieved 08-28-14.
[3] "Birds Become A Metaphor For Family Tug of War." Retrieved 08-28-14.
[4] "An Illustrated Guide to the Common Birds of Cape Cod." [by Peter Trull] Retrieved 08-28-14.
[5] "Periodic Wanderings." [Red-throated Loon] Retrieved 08-27-14.
[6] "Inspiration for Our Nest." [In The Fields] Retrieved 08-27-14.
[7] "My Whole World Has Been Turned Upside Down." Retrieved 08-30-14.
[8] "Hope." Retrieved 08-28-14.
[9] "Bird Proverbs and Sayings List." Retrieved 08-30-14.
[10] "Radagast." Retrieved 08-30-14.
[11] "Esther Ehrlich." [GoodReads Author] Retrieved 08-30-14.
[12] "Hair of the Dog: Blue Dot Double IPA." [5 star graphic] Retrieved 08-30-14.
[13]"Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 08-11-14.
[*] "Net Galley." [Net Galley Disclosure] Retrieved 08-30-14.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Far As The Eye Can See: A Novel by Robert Bausch Comes to Bookstands on November 4, 2014--You Can Preorder it Now!

Far As The Eye Can See: A Novel, by
Robert Bausch. [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     A man stands in the midst of boulders and peers out across the terrain. His eye follows the trail stretching out before him, out across the landscape for as far as his eye can see. The vast spaces meet distant mountains, rolling clouds of purples and blues fading into the distance so far that it is difficult to see where the land begins and the sky ends.

     Trying to stay cool in the meager shade of the boulder, sweat soaks his shirt as he considers his lame horse standing next to him. He sees someone far down the path moving in his direction. Whether Indian or soldier, he knows they spell trouble for him. He waits as the other approaches and realizes the fellow is either hiding or sneaking up on him. 

     He pulls out his carbine and climbs the boulder, scouring the landscape, trying to spot the guy. Finally, he sees him wiggling his way among the bushes towards his position. It's an Indian. Carefully, he takes aim and fires.

This is probably similar to Bobby Hale's Evans Repeater,
although, Bobby Hale had a strap on his gun. He also tells
us that this was a brand new model when he bought it.[2]
     We've all heard descriptions of the wide open spaces of the west. Colors so incredible and spaces so vast that it dwarfed all life. Our protagonist in the book, Far As The Eye Can See, feels the wonder of the panorama before him all the while trying to protect himself from the Indian that approaches. But, before we continue with our protagonist, Bobby Hale, let's take a quick look at the synopsis of the book. 

     Bobby Hale tells us he has enlisted as a Union soldier...quite a number of times, collecting enlistment bonuses each time. Of course, each time with a different name. At the end of the Civil War he sets out towards California. Joining a small wagon train he gets as far as Montana. Hale traps for a while, meandering from Montana to Wyoming Territory, and over to the Black Hills of the Dakotas.

The wagon train Bobby Hale accompanies is about
twice as long as this short wagon train. [3]
     He meets settlers on the wagon train, making friends and gaining the acquaintance of some who will be future enemies. Hale is a mountain man for a while, riding with an Indian who becomes his friend. He works as a trapper and hires himself out as a scout to the soldiers at a fort, and he kills Indians. He witnesses and is a part of the violence of the West, both killing and struggling to survive. But in the end, what Hale searches for is a place in the wide-open spaces--a place to live in peace. 

Custer's Last Rally, 1881, by John Mulvany (11' x 20') [4]
     Far as the Eye Can See is not only Bobby Hale's story, it is the story about a place in time. A place for which life must fight if it is to be kept. A place where two people, a white Civil War vet- eran and a mixed-race woman, seek to find the path to their own humanity. Bobby Hale leads the reader (almost like our own personal scout) through his time in Indian country and among battles of the Plains Wars; he leads us to where life is an obsession over race and survival.

     FIRST: Robert Bausch's writing style is eminently readable. Sentences are simple, but not overly plain--no complex structures either, but just an easy-going, straight-forward style that suits the story. Dialog is realistic and not overblown. 

     Nor do we have, here, as I've seen in other western or regional novels, language that is "corrup- ted" in order to give it a unique flavor [i.e. "'nuf said!" (enough said) or "cum un" (come on)]. The writing style evokes an easy-going gait of a horse walking, or perhaps the steady rolling of wagon wheels. I did NOT say boring. Bausch's style literally evokes the wide-open country and pacing of life in the wild places.

     SECOND: Everything Bausch does with this novel fills the pages with realism and an authentic life, bringing the people, places, and time into a believable reality. Even before I got to the author's notes at the end of the book, where Bausch tells us about his efforts at constructing a realistic and authentic period, it was clear that he knew what he was about as he wrote this novel. 

Bobby Hale and Big Tree trapped together for a few years.
Hale ended up breaking even by the time he quit. [6]
     The smells jump off the page, the sounds of battle rang in my ears, the cold of the mountain winters permeated my bones, sweat dripping into the eyes, and skin, baked by the heat of a summer sun. Bausch's detailing of the Evans Repeating Rifle and how it loads is beautiful. Even colloquialisms are well-done; for example, how Bobby Hale asks Ink if she speaks "American," and Ink tells him she speaks "English." 

     THIRD: and for me, the most important part of the book is the major premise of the book and its accompanying themes. Robert Bausch tells a vibrant story about the progress of the way west (in the locations I listed, above) from the time of the Civil War. It is a huge story about not only the migration of peoples from the East, but the complex interaction of the relationships among Indians, Settlers, trappers and traders, local militia, and the Government's agents (Soldiers, scouts, Indian Agents etc.).

     Connected to this third point, is the story of how far, as the title implies, the eye can see. Looking at the title literally, Far as the Eye Can See, simply means that in viewing the expanse of sky and land it seems to go on forever. Here, it also means the kind of seeing we do with our inner eyes--how we perceive the world and other people and situations. Some- times our own vested interests cause us to wear blinders that limit our vision. Consequently, our limited vision may cause us to make harsh judgments of other people based on their skin color or culture. Bobby Hale, for example, thought he saw an Indian brave, but who did he really shoot? Well...not an Indian brave.

     The early vignette of Bobby Hale shooting the Indian makes for a wonderful metaphor for the blindness of the collective racial and cultural stereotyping of the Indian nations by a bur- geoning, mostly white, Amer- ican people. The people of this time could only--as far as their eyes could see--view the Indian as a savage. The beauty of Bausch's book is that he doesn't fall into making the white man or the Indian heroes or villains--he creates his characters simply to be "human beings," fraught with failings as well as strengths.

     What Robert Bausch does, here, in dealing with the clash of the two disparate cultures, is quite elegant. He uses this clash to show us people, not caricatures. Bobby Hale is not the hero we hoped he would be in the opening pages of the book. Bobby Hale looks to survive.

     Even though Hale defrauded the U.S. Government and killed Indians, it turns out his best friend is Big Tree, an Indian. And when he was really needed by two (unnamed) characters he chose to help them, and in doing so, was the hero we longed for earlier in the book. Robert Bausch's writing of Hale (and others) into existence as complex characters doesn't leave the story muddled. We get believable, characters in a realistic setting acting exactly the way real human beings act--making poor decisions in one setting and heroic ones in another. Just beautiful.

     The genre, western, is generally considered acceptable for all reading audiences. However, taken individually, some westerns should not be read by the young or those people sensitive to violence. Such is the case with Far as the Eye Can See. Bausch does a great job keeping swearing out of the book, as he does with explicit sex scenes. A brutal rape occurs in the book, but it is not explicitly shown, only the results.

     Likewise, violence is also in the book, and for a few occasions, quite graphically; this includes some scenes of torture or descriptions of the results of torture or murder. That having been said, I would wholeheartedly approve of mature adults reading this book; the violence contained is not gratuitous, but is incorporated into the story, contributing to it as an integral and necessary part of the whole.

5 star rating out of 5 [8]
     For all the reasons I gave you, above, I rate this book 5 stars out of 5. It is a wonderful read that I enjoyed, immensely. I would recommend this book to the appropriate audience. Today, for the book, Far as the Eye Can See, I'm using 5 cups of coffee, in lieu of stars, in honor of the campfire coffee the characters drank.

     Thank you for joining me, today, as we got an advance look at a wonderful new western novel by Robert Bausch. Due to be released November 4, 2014, you should preorder your copy, now. Please join me next week as I will be reviewing for you Esther Ehrlich's debut novel, Nest. This children's novel looks promising, and I can hardly wait to review it for you. So, until next week when we get to find out about, Nest, read something pleasurable for yourself--have a little fun. God bless you, and take care, my friends.

Until next time...
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [10]
...many happy pages of reading!


[1] "Far As The Eye Can See: A Novel." Retrieved 08-08-14.
[2] "Evans Repeating Rifle." Retrieved 08-24-14.
[3] "Pioneer Wagon Train." Retrieved 08-24-14.
[4] "Custer's Last Rally." [1881-John Mulvany] Retrieved 08-24-14.
[5] "Covered Wagon, Packing and Hitting the Trail." Retrieved 08-24-14.
[6] "Mountain Men Hand Covering." Retrieved 08-24-14.
[7] "Perception Is Half The Battle To Getting Your Life Back On Track." Retrieved 08-25-14.
[8] "The Big Over Easy..." [coffee-cup graphic] Retrieved 08-25-14.
[9] "Robert Bausch: Biography and Personal Information." Retrieved 08-25-14.
[10] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 08-11-14.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

One Year Blogiversary Post: My Top Ten Favorite Books! Look Behind the Scenes at Sharon's Love of Books! and More...Let's Celebrate!

     Welcome to a very special post. Today, I'm happy that you've come to help me celebrate my first year Blogiversary! Thank you, so much, for being part of this milestone for my blog.

     I never dreamed that I would write a blog. It was only after my son, John, and my husband, Carl, nudged me in that direction, that I even considered it. They have watched me with my books, reading, and entering my book lore into my "Reading Journal." They thought it would be wonderful if I could share my love of books with others and told me I should do it. They know that the only thing I like as much as reading is writing, and told me I could do it. So, after giving it serious thought, I began my journey and started this blog. I feel so blessed to have two such wonderful men in my life. Thank you John and Carl.
  Today, you will get to see a lot of what goes on behind this blog. Also, I've promised to renew my original blog post and give you my brand new listing of my Top Ten Favorite Books. So...let's start with that--my Top Ten Favorite Books.

     In the list, to the right, you can see my Top Ten Favorite Books for 2013--the original top ten I gave you one year ago. Just below, in the blue box, you will find the new list.

     A year ago I told you that I do not include the Bible in my list because it is an entity unto itself. Even though it can be looked at as literature, as is often the case in academia, it just doesn't seem right to place it on a list of "likes." The Bible is simply beautiful! How can you compare the Bible with any other book in the world? It really is in a class by itself. A list of a person's Top Ten Favorite Books is personal, can vary greatly depending on how you feel, what education and life experiences you have, how your maturity impacts your reading criteria, etc. As a person ages, our view of the world often changes, as has my taste in reading. And then there are the new books--as you read a book, you can come to love it. So, there are many reasons I keep the Bible off my Top Ten List. It has a place in my life...just not on this list.

The books in bold are the new books
for the book list, this year. 
     Additionally, I want to emphasize that the books on the list are MY top ten favorite books that I have read, so far. I am sure as time goes on the list will, again, change. This is a very personal list, and I realize everyone's list will differ. A year ago, I told you that this list was a way for me to begin discussing books, reading, and all things related. It was, for me, just a beginning point to begin sharing with you my love of all things books.

     For those of you who want to know, of the books on this year's list, I have reviewed the following: Way of Kings (click here to see that review) and Words of Radiance  (click here to see that review); Ender's Game (click here to see that review); Ben Hur (click here to see that review); Winter's Tale (click here to see that review); and The Green Mile (click here to see that review).

     NEAR MISSES: A precious few books were close, but didn't make it to the list. I had a very difficult time removing books from the list to make way for new ones. So, it's not because those books fell out of favor, and more that a new book has captured my heart. The longer a book is on my favorites list, the more staying power--for example, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo has been number one on this list since I first read it in high school. 

     The books just missing the list are these: (11) The Black Prism/The Blinding Knife; (12) The Book Thief; (13) Night; (14) The Da Vinci Code; (15) A New Earth; (16) The Valley of Amazement; (17) The Last Dark; and, (18) Wishes Fulfilled: Mastering the Art of Manifesting. I guess I could make a Top Twenty, but that would defeat the purpose of making the hard choices and actually giving you a top TEN.

     My very first blog post was very short, really only discussing my Top Ten Books. Even so, pageviews never returned to my first month's number of 328. In subsequent months I felt like I was, at last, beginning to connect with people.

Monster Hunter Nemesis
by Larry Correia [3]
     My goal was simply to share my love of books with others, and where I could, encourage others to read. Especially in those early days of the year, I felt a sense of accomplishment by my efforts. Just below, here, is a graphic I created for you to see the growth.

     As you look at the graph, take note of June--it is nearly 800 pageviews up from May. That wildly anomalous high number is due to one VERY popular post about Monster Hunter Nemesis by Larry Correia. I have never seen anything like the explosion of interest that the blog post and new book release generated. If you would like to look at the post, you can see it by clicking, here.

You can see that I started out very modestly with only 328 pageviews my first month of my blog.
With only minor fluctuations, the growth has progressively been on the increase. The actual
page views are listed above the chart, itself. For next year, I'm hoping to get Google Analytics
up and going to obtain more detailed information about pageviews.
     I also began feeling connected to my blog readers--I really began, in earnest, to improve my blog, from one posting to the next. For example, my "REFERENCES" section clearly reports sources of information and graphics used in my blog posts, but if you look at the early posts you will see they look quite a bit different. The early format I used was really terrible, in that it was so difficult to see where one source started and ended and the next began. I am really glad I changed the formatting.       

Here is a small sample of the way I used to do "REFERENCES" early on--it is so difficult to see
where the source material begins and ends. On top of that, in an effort to save space,
I made the print way too small. Contrast this sample to the references at the bottom of this page.

Here's another graphic I created for you
showing the top ten most-viewed book
reviews for the year.
     This past year I did a total of 69 blog posts. That number staggers my mind when I think about it. It takes me a minimum of one to two days to do each blog post--not counting the time to read the book. I have to draft the review, search out graphics to fit with the dialog, do the research and draft the source material, insert trailers (where appropriate), and proofread the book review. I try to personalize the book review, where I can, and I try to keep up with what is being published and what movies are coming out that are being created from books. Whew! So, it does boggle my mind that I've done so many.

        If you were to ask me which posts are the most popular, I'd have to give you a qualified answer because it can be viewed in several different ways. The first view is how many pageviews any given book review received. The answer is simple, and is displayed in the chart just above this paragraph--these are the ten most viewed posts.

THE MOST-LIKED POSTS: The most popular of all the posts, not surprisingly, is Monster Hunter Nemesis (given the stats from June). Other books making the Most-Viewed Posts list and Most-Liked Posts list are as follows: 47 Ronin, Endless Love, Words of Radiance, and Divergent. Surprisingly, some books NOT on the Most-Viewed Posts list DID end up making it to the Most-Liked Posts list; they are as follows: Ender’s Game; Edge of Tomorrow; A Most Wanted Man; Hercules; Don’t Die With Your Music Still in You; X-Men: Days of Future Past; and My Top 10 Favorite Books (2013). Since the bottom six slots all have the same, “likeability,” I ended up with 12, not 10 top-rated book reviews for the Most-Liked Posts list.
     Another way I can answer the question is to list the top ten by how highly readers rated the blog post book review (counting popularity by how many Google +s each received). You can see the two charts don't match each other. Alright, alright...I see it, too. Enough of the statistical stuff, already. Let's move on to something less analytical.

These are the countries that are listed as having
had visitors to my blog site.
COUNTRIES VIEWING SHARON'S LOVE OF BOOKS: To the left is the graphic showing you different countries that have viewed posts on my blog. This is not a complete list, because I've only tracked viewing countries for about six months, so I know that there are countries missing from this list.

     Obviously, English speaking countries have the most viewers, since I am posting in English. I am, however, very touched by how many people from non-English speaking countries read my blog by taking advantage of the "Powered by Google" Translate button at the top of my blog (on the right).

     Quite a few of my overseas friends viewing my blog originate in the Ukraine, Malaysia, Ger- many, Singapore, Turkey, China, and India. I'd like to give a shout out to all my friends overseas and a very special thank you to those of you who have shared my blog posts or have given Google +1s to my posts.

Paul Walker [4]
     The beginning of the year I ran on pure adrenaline trying to get the blog up and going. I, of course, didn't know anything about how to run a blog, and learning was sometimes very tough. On the up side of the hard work, though, I felt happy that anyone would take time to read what I had written. It made me happy and humble all at the same time.

     As I got a few months of blogging under my belt, I had less stress, and was feeling more confident, but still didn't feel good about the quality of the blog and worked hard to improve it. I also felt very sad a few times when I felt called upon to dedicate my blog to people we all love and admire who had died.

     My first dedication was to all teachers, especially those who teach reading and Ender's Game as part of their curriculum; also in September, I dedicated a post to the students of Hardin Middle School in Salinas where my daughter is a teacher. Teachers deserve all the support they can get! The first sad post I did was for Tom Clancy who died in October. Then, followed lots of tears when Paul Walker died November 30th in that terrible car crash; just a few short days later, the greatest man of the last century, Nelson Mandela, passed away on December 5th. I dedicated a blog post to him as well as reviewing his book, Long Walk to Freedom. What a remarkable man the world has lost.

     Starting out 2014, the people of the Ukraine were faced with a terrible civil struggle--this becoming the first dedication of the year--to the wonderful people of the Ukraine. Just before Valentine's Day, February 6th, I dedicated a post to Philip Seymour Hoffman; soon after that, on February 10th, Shirley Temple Black passed away, and I dedicated a post to her; also in February, the 28th, I dedicated my blog post to the world's best guitar player, Paco de Lucia (flamenco guitarist) when he died. Next, a happier dedication occurred next I dedicated a post to my friends in India in honor of J.B. Bernstein's Million Dollar Arm and the work he has done to open up baseball to India--and to honor all the people of India.
Robin Williams [6]

Finally, just last Tuesday, August 11th, I dedicated a post to Robin Williams--what a very sorrowful death from suicide. So sad, so sad. God bless you, Robin, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the great gift of yourself to the world in your remarkable appearances on film and in person.

     On a more upbeat note, I felt happy and surprised when several authors contacted me this year to thank me for the book reviews I did on their book(s). Kay Bratt is the sweetest person who works hard to help orphaned children in China; Serena Dyer, daughter of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, wrote me a lovely thank you note and then added me to her Google Circles! She is so wonderful, kind, and down-to-earth-beautiful!
J.B. Bernstein, of Million Dollar Arm, thanked me through the post and also on GoodReads for my book review on his (and Rinku and Dinesh's) behalf.

    In the past few months, I occasionally felt tired and a bit overworked. Sometimes, I've been discouraged. My family, though, has been remarkable. They have been encouraging me to continue on, but just do fewer posts for a while. I am still very committed to give you good blog posts, and as I said, above, I'm hoping to get Google Analytics up and going soon.

This is a children's book
I will be reading as an
Advance Reading Copy
(ARC) for Net Galley.
The target range is for
5-7 grade readers.[7]
TO BE READ (TBR) PILE OF BOOKS: I know, I know...I just said I was going to try and cut back, just a bit, but then, here I am about to tell you: "I am working as quickly as I can at getting through a rather large pile of books that need to be read, and a number of which I have committed to book reviews." Here are the books:

Nest by Esther Ehrlich; This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper; The Maze Runner by James Dashner; A Walk Among Tombstones by Lawrence Block; Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn; Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst; The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks . . .

Most of you have seen
my blog post about
Dark Places, I am hop-
ing to do a review for
Gone Girl, as well.
(Possibly Sept.) [8]
Guardians of the Galaxy/All New X-Men: The Trial of Jean Grey by Marvel; The Eye of the World: The Wheel of Time [Graphic Novel, Number Five] by Robert Jordan; Ghoul Goblin: Dresden Files [a graphic novel] by Jim Butcher; Monster Hunters' Survival Guide by John Paul Russ; Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb; The Winter King by C.L. Wilson; City of Heavenly Fire: The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare; Knight Avenged: A Circle of Seven Novel, Book 2 by Coreene Callahan; Born of Fury by Sherrilyn Kenyon; Earth Awakens: The First Formic War, Book 3 by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston; The Physician by Noah Gordon . . .

Card's book, as most
of you know, is sci-fi
--this is book 3 of his
newest trilogy, The
First Formic War
Insurgent by Veronica Roth; Tracker: A Rylee Adamson Novel, Book 6 by Shannon Mayer; Vampire Most Wanted: An Argeneau Novel by Lynsay Sands; Wool by Hugh Howey; Up From the Grave by Jeaniene Frost; The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd; Kicking It by Faith Hunter and Kalayna Price; The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan...oh, and there are more, but I think this is enough. I already own all these books (or have them as ARCs), so I really do want to get to them, soon. I guess my TBR list has to stop somewhere---blah, blah, blah. Ok, the truth is, I would read every book I could lay my hands on. There--the truth is out. Ah, me! What? Are you saying I didn't really surprise anyone by that revelation? OK, then...I guess it's time to move on to the....

     To enter the giveaway contest, all anyone had to do was to write 1-2 sentences about what (if anything) this blog has meant to you this past year. That's all you had to do. The giveaway was run by Rafflecopter. In some ways, it was a little disappointing since only a few entries were completed. I had really thought everyone would love free stuff. Anyway, those who entered had little competition and that means the chances were very good they would get something. The contest ended yesterday, in time for me to announce the winner(s) today.
Paperback Ed. [10]
Hardcover Ed. [11]
Hardcover Ed. [12]

     Here are the four prizes. I tried to pick a variety for you: One Outlander Companion book, one nonfiction book, one fiction book, and a bobblehead novelty. I tried to keep the prizes related to reading or a book I've reviewed on my blog. The contest was run through Rafflecopter who keeps track of entries and who also draws the winner. To that end, here is the winner of the Blogiversary Giveaway Free Prizes:

Our winner today is Lisa A. Lisa will be receiving all four prizes for her entry in the blogiversary giveaway, today. In Lisa's prize-winning entry she said the following: "Your blog for me means that I can get a really good in-depth and well-explained review! I love the way there are references which shows how thoroughly you do your research! I really enjoy reading your reviews and look forward to them!"

     Lisa, thank you for the wonderful things you said about my blog. It really does tickle me that you enjoy my blog. So, if you have an author or series, or even a particular book you'd like me to review, just drop me a line to submit a request. I'll see if I can work it in for you.

MY GRATITUDE TO YOU ALL: As I said in my blog post last week, it has been an honor to write for you this past year. I deeply appreciate the time you spent reading my posts, the attentiveness you gave each blog review, and the sincerity of each comment that you gave me. You have all touched my heart profoundly. I feel such a sense of gratitude to you for what you have given me. The sense of validation and appreciation I feel really boggles my mind.

John Milton is one of my all-time favorite authors. When I
was in college, I was privileged to read some of his great
works, Areopagetica [a treatise/speech on Freedom of the
Press and Free Speech], for many beautiful
passages in that work! I also studied, Paradise Lost
--another beautiful work. [14]
     For those of you who are religious or spiritual, know that I keep you in my prayers every day. For readers who are not religious, know that I keep you in my heart and send you my love. I send everyone good thoughts and energy and hope that you all are at peace and know that you are loved. Sincerely, you have all touched my heart; I hope in a small way I can do that for you, too.

      Thank you for joining me this week and for helping me celebrate my One Year Blogiversary. It has been a blast! My gratitude also goes out to every single person who not only stopped by my blog and read posts, but especially to everyone who left comments, and gave posts Google +s. Finally, I also want to thank you for spreading the word about my blog, because my whole two-fold goal is to share my love of reading with you and to encourage everyone to read more. God bless you all.

Until next time...
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [15]
...many happy pages of reading!

With gratitude and love,


[1] "It's Our One Year Blogiversary!" Retrieved 08-12-14.
[2] "Jason Ludke, The Near Miss Project, The Lorax Project."I Retrieved 08-13-14.
[3] "Monster Hunter Nemesis." [Larry Correia] Retrieved 08-13-14.
[4]  "Paul Walker dead at 40: 'Fast and Furious' star killed in fiery car crash." Retrieved 08-15-14.
[5]  "No One is Born Hating Another Person." Retrieved 08-15-14.
[6] "Robin Williams Depression...." Retrieved 08-14-14.
[7] "Nest." [Esther Ehrlich] Retrieved 08-14-14.
[8]  "Gone Girl." [Gillian Flynn] Retrieved 08-14-14.
[9] "Earth Awakens: The First Formic War, Book 3." [Orson Scott Card] Retrieved 08-14-14.
[10] "Triple Your Reading Speed." [Paperback Ed. by Wade Cutler] Retrieved 08-14-14.
[11] "Diana Gabaldon's Outlandish Companion." [Hardcover Ed.] Retrieved 08-14-14.
[12] "Brethren." [Hardcover Ed.] Retrieved 08-14-14.
[13] "Groot Bobblehead Doll." Retrieved 08-15-14.
[14] "WOW October-And The Winner Is..." eventbritecom. Retrieved 08-18-14.
[15] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 08-17-14.