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Showing posts from 2013

What He Wants by Eden Cole

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What He Wants Eden Cole is an erotic short story starring two best friends who reluctantly admit their attraction for each other. I felt pulled into the story as the two struggled with feelings they didn't want to feel let alone act upon. Cole weaves an engaging story of attraction, friendship, and self-discovery to which many people will relate regardless of sexual orientation.

Kentucky Curdled by Tamara J. Madison

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Tamara J. Madison's Kentucky Curdled uses poetry to examine the pain of family secrets and family mythology. All families have stories with a root of truth that have the feeling of being unbelievable. Madison bravely examines the emotions of all involved when a mother kills her own child believing it the best alternative. Her words are lyrical though raw and blunt. She entrances the reader with pure emotion and honest examination without giving in to the impulse to whitewash the story. Kentucky Curdled is a quick, compelling, thought provoking read.

The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha

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Naseem Rakha packs The Crying Tree with thought provoking situations involving interesting characters the reader struggles to like at times and reluctantly dislikes at other times. Rakha immerses the reader in the grief and depression of the Stanley family after the death of their fifteen year old son, Shep. She examines the destruction wrought by family secrets and how easy it can be to blind ourselves to that which we don't want to see. As each family member deals with the death of Shep in their individual ways, the reader wonders what keeps the family from completely disintegrating. When Irene, Shep's mother, begins a secret correspondence with Daniel Robbins, her son's killer, she begins to see him as human rather than just as Shep's murderer launching her on the process of both healing and forgiving. When secrets reveal more about her son than she ever imagined, she questions her mothering as well as the truth revealed. The Crying Tree grabs hold of the reader by…

The Mental Game of Golf by Patrick J. Cohn, Ph.D.

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The Mental Game of Golf by Patrick J. Cohn, Ph.D. explores how our psychological well-being affects our performance on the golf course. Cohn discusses a range of emotions that affect one's ability to play to one's full potential. He focuses a lot on the individual component of the game. Much of what he discusses will make sense to anyone who has ever played golf and felt either frustrated or surprised by the day's performance. I'm not sure if anything I read will improve my game, but Cohn's examination of how often we create the play we envision rings true with me. Anyone struggling to find their stride on the golf course may find The Mental Game of Golf an interesting read.

Dance with a Gunfighter by Joanne Pence

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I'm fairly certain Dance with a Gunfighter by Joanne Pence is the first western I've ever read. I'm not sure what I expected, but reading it reminded me why I hate genre labels... I would've missed this gem simply because it's a western if I hadn't been asked to review it. Pence drops the reader in the middle of an Old West desert landscape complete with throats parched from thirst, pounding heat from the sun, and cold nights. When Gabe and McLowry meet at a town dance, they never expect to see one another again. After all, she's an innocent teenager and he's a gunfighter. Years later when Gabe finds herself alone and seeking revenge for her family, McLowry reappears and becomes her reluctant protector. As they grow closer, Gabe's inability to behave like a "lady" coupled with her innocence of how the world works confounds McLowry. They travel together looking for the people Gabe seeks to kill for revenge for her family all the while McL…

All the Dancing Birds by Auburn McCanta

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All the Dancing Birds by Auburn McCanta set my heart aflutter and my mind to dancing as it immersed me in Lillie Claire's struggle to hold on to herself. McCanta's lyrical prose wrapped me in the story like a comforting blanket as we traveled through Lillie Claire's good days and bad days. I cringed as Allison, Lillie Claire's daughter, struggled accept the reality of the changes in her mother as Lillie Claire lost her hold on her memories, her life, and her self. I blinked back tears as Bryan, Lillie Claire's son, gently but efficiently guided Lillie Claire through the necessary steps to preserve her dignity as much as possible. The letters Lillie Claire wrote for her children explaining her "failures" as she saw them and giving them their ancestral heritage left me clamoring for more as I'm sure her children felt when they finished reading them. Lillie Claire's "woman" aka Jewell made me appreciate how precious caretakers for those who…

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

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I watched the movie, Chocolat, several years ago, so I recently decided it was time to read the book. Perhaps I wasn't paying close enough attention when I watched the movie, but I expected something very different when I sat down to read the book. I expected the book to be more... romantic, sensual... Instead I found it to be an exploration of the effects of intolerance. Harris takes the intolerance so rife in our world and concentrates it in one small community showing how limiting we can be when we refuse to see beyond that which we've always been taught. She deftly explores the effects of exclusionary behavior and the harm of not bothering to get to know other people. With the story set around a newcomer who opens a chocolate store during Lent and the priest who opposes not only the chocolate shop but her mere presence, the town seems divided down the middle with people willing to blind themselves to other people's pain in order to maintain the status quo of their liv…

Blue Ice by I.C. Enger

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Blue Ice by I.C. Enger introduces Brooke Breckenridge and Homeland Security Special Agent Jack Strickland as each embarks on quests that will soon intersect. Brooke searches for a quiet, peaceful place to recover from the death of her finance and dog while Special Agent Jack Strickland searches for a lost friend. When Brooke ends up housesitting Stickland's missing friend's house, she finds herself under Jack's watchful eye. Brooke tends to unintentionally make herself look anything but innocent as she goes about trying to live in a small, lake community with Homeland Security camped in the house she's housesitting. Hiding secrets of her own, Brooke invites ever more scrutiny with her reluctance to discuss her past and her tendency to act recklessly. Danger, espionage, and death have infiltrated the small lake community leaving everyone at risk.

Definite Space by Ann Iverson

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Ann Iverson occupies a definite space in the pages of Definite Space. Her words explore her emotions about her son's deployment in war. She writes about the effects on family and the way life goes on even when it feels like it shouldn't. She explores the feeling of standing in a space while the world keeps moving at its pace without pausing to notice she's no longer moving with it. Iverson's poems are touching and honest. Definite Space paints a picture with words that immerse the reader without feeling overly complicated.                                                                                              < />

Millionaire Women Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D.

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Millionaire Women Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D. left me amused by the thought that the typical millionaire woman next door he describes would be unlikely to read his book - or at least buy it. He covers his bases and describes attributes of myriad types of millionaire women, which is nice because it leaves hope open for anyone. Yet, there's an undercurrent to what he says that feels a little off-putting. Perhaps it's because there are moments when he talks in absolutes that feel like over-generalizations. The theme of the book seems to be the same for any millionaire next door; live below one's means, don't worry about impressing others, and be persistent. The writing is often dry and academic, but that's to be expected as it is a book reporting on research. I searched the pages for inspiration but ended the book without having an major revelations. Overall, I'd say it's an interesting look at accumulating wealth and avoiding the pitfalls of consume…

Taken by Robert Crais

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Taken by Robert Crais immerses the reader in the search for a missing girl in this Elvis Cole/Joe Pike book. Cole and Pike search for the girl and her boyfriend on behalf of the girl's mother. As they encounter human traffickers, kidnappers, murderers, and drug dealers, the dangers mount and take them on a series of twists and turns that leave the reader squirming. Even the most faithful Cole/Pike fan will find Crais takes them into doubts of whether or not Cole will rescue the girl when he finds himself taken by her kidnappers. Then the reader is left to hope Pike will rescue Cole and the girl before they die. The discovery of who the girl's boyfriend is ratchets up the danger bring on more suspense.The tension drives the reader to the edge even though die hard fans never truly doubt either Cole or Pike. As Cole faces danger, Pike hunts. As is always the case, Pike is a man of few words and Cole wisecracks in the face of danger. Crais's Taken is an enthralling and dangero…

there was an old woman by Hallie Ephron

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There was an old woman (I'm annoyed the publisher opted not to capitalize the title but that doesn't reflect on the book's content) by Hallie Ephron delves into a world of old grudges, secrets, and wrongs that have never been set right. Ephron creates characters the reader wants to like but doesn't and characters the reader wants to hate but doesn't. Even her most unlikable characters show some sign of redemption however slight and her most likable characters prove to have flaws. I felt uncomfortable at times as I read there was an old woman because Ephron demonstrates how ridiculous people tend to treat the elderly by making assumptions rather than paying attention. Ephron weaves a mystery through the pages with the ease of exploring a life story rather than hitting the reader with a slew of gratuitous violence. I cheered on Mrs. Yetner and wanted to smack her nephew, Brian. Evie alternately annoyed and inspired me. At times I wanted to scream at her to open her e…

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

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Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is a thought provoking exploration of women's ongoing struggle for equality. Sandberg doesn't shy away from the things people think but often don't say out loud or if they do only whisper in guarded situations with trusted friends. Lean In addresses the idea of leadership and women taking a more active role in leading. Sandberg addresses the dynamics between men and women in the workplace and at home. She discusses how we all limit ourselves and one another. Lean In made me want to lean in to my own life and my own goals. Her words made me think about how I live my life and whether or not I'm setting an example that encourages those around me to lean in, to sit at the table", and to embrace their power. And, conversely, to think about every time I've leaned back, denied my right to a place at the table, or suppressed my power. Men and women alike will benefit from reading Lean In because Sandberg discusses ways in which both men and …

Ancient Echoes by Joanne Pence

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Ancient Echoes by Joanne Pence echoes around the world and back keeping the reader entranced in a world and time that is at once real and surreal. Pence creates a cast of characters with myriad agendas who come together in this tale of ancient alchemy that travels through the ages and creates trouble for all touched by it. Charlotte Reed, widowed and numbed, reawakens within the pages as she seeks answers to questions she never realized she had. Michael Rempart discovers he is more than he thinks as he faces his personal and familial demons. Lionel Rempart struggles to be the man he thinks he is. Jake Sullivan, while at times a bit sexist, faces his self-inflicted punishment for his past. Melisse Willis exhibits the strength and ability to overcome at every turn even if she's not exactly the woman she purports to be. Li JinJuan's tenacity, intelligence, and cunning makes the reader glad he's on the side of the good guys. Jennifer Vandenburg strikes the reader as cold and c…

Native Foods Restaurants - Bridgeport Village, Portland

Native Foods is a vegan restaurant with plant based "meats" like tofu and seitan on the menu as protein sources. The staff is friendly and the atmosphere is casual, almost fast food casual. The food is tasty though, for my personal preference, could be fixed with less, or no, oil; however, that probably won't hold true for other people. I ordered the Portobello and Sausage Burger, the sausage burger being made of seitan. I should've read the menu closer because it also includes a vegan mayo, and I hate mayo. The mayo was only on one side though, so I could easily just leave that piece of bread and lettuce on the plate. I also ordered the watermelon fresca, which was okay but a little sweet for my taste; however the mint added a refreshing lift. My husband ordered a creamy corn soup which was nice and the Bangkok Bowl with tofu, which also tasted good. For dessert we ordered the chocolate cupcake and the peanut butter parfait, both of which tasted very sweet and fatty…

Food Matters by Mark Bittman

Food Matters by Mark Bittman is a well written examination of the food industry and the way we eat. It looks into all the ways the food industry manipulates people to eat things they shouldn't eat in order to increase profits. Bittman discusses his journey to change his eating habits to improve his health and to make food choices that are a more positive influence on the Earth. Food Matters reminds people of the role of food in life and the importance of understanding the difference in real food and food-like substances. Bittman tries a little too hard to find ways to bring people to make changes in their eating habits in that he seems to offer loopholes to many of the suggestions he makes. Food Matters offers insights and interesting facts that will surprise some, confirm what others know, and at the very least give readers something to think about.

Helen starring Ashley Judd and Goran Visnjic

I watched Helen starring Ashley Judd and Goran Visnjic last night. Judd played the role of a depressive brilliantly, but Visnjic stole the movie in his beautiful portrayal of a man losing his wife to her depression and his pain at her rejection and betrayal. That said, I had to wonder how realistic it is for any person  to be so giving and loving in the face of the cruelty that comes with that kind of suicidal depression. There's a point in the movie where his character, David, refers to Helen as a shadow of herself - paraphrased - that just broke my heart. This is not a happy-go-lucky, depression gets cured now let's all go live happily ever after kind of movie. It portrays the reality that people suffering from clinical depression may go years without going into a depressive state only to have one onset for no discernible reason. Depression is really the central character with Judd and Visnjic serving as the tools to deliver the message. I found the story touching and the a…

Secrets to Die For by L. J. Sellers

Secrets to Die For by L. J. Sellers delves into issues that remind us of our humanity and our human failings. Sellers explores attitudes toward homosexuality and rape through an investigation into a murder than has Detective Jackson questioning biases he didn't realize he held. As the investigation uncovers one suspect and then another, Sellers keeps the reader wondering what will happen next. As Jackson juggles his personal and professional lives, the reader feels his frustration and desire to do right by all those in his life. Sellers creates three dimensional characters that are all too real leaving the reader feeling as if a visit to Eugene might offer the opportunity to meet the characters who inhabit the pages of Secrets to Die For.

Do It Gorgeously by Sophie Uliano

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Do It Gorgeously by Sophie Uliano is a well written and interesting guide to taking on projects instead of buying more or hiring someone else to do them. She focuses on re-purposing as well as making a variety of self-care products one's self. I'm intrigued by the self-care products and may give a few a try; however, I'm not so sure that some of them are even necessary once one moves away from using all the chemical products. As for some of the other projects, I'm not likely to do them simply because they aren't my thing. While she makes things like sewing sound incredibly simple, I know from past experience, sewing is not something I'm good at. The book is worth the read if for no other reason than to inspire the reader to think about things lying around the house in a different way.


Shadows: A Collection of Poetry by Catherine Al-Meten

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Shadows: A Collection of Poetry by Catherine Al-Meten starts off with an introduction that left me anxious to get to the poems but also set the mood for the poems contained within. Shadows combines lovely photography that will tempt the reader to stop and ruminate on the image for a while and perhaps discover a sensation of poetry in the image. Al-Meten starts off with a poem titled "War" that leaves the reader pondering not only the question of the wars nations fight but the wars we fight with ourselves on a daily basis. Shadows takes the reader through nature and self-awareness in a ride that comforts, provokes, and uplifts. Al-Meten offers the imagination tastes, sounds, smells, images, and touches that keep the senses alert and awaiting more in this delightful collection of poems written to explore life's simple moments as well as life's mysteries.
(Please click the image above to purchase on Amazon.com.)

Jon Kimura Parker Piano Concert at LaSells Stewart Center in Corvallis, Oregon

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Corvallis-OSU Piano International's Steinway Piano Series featured a stirring piano performance Jon Kimura Parker on April 7, 2013 at the LaSells Center in Corvallis, Oregon. His performance left me with the same sensation I get when I meditate. Watching Parker was delightful. He plays the piano with his whole body. Yes, his fingers manipulate the keys, but he leans into and out of the performance. He seems to almost lift off the piano bench during the performance. He smiled while he described the two longer pieces he played. I'm not a musical person by nature, in that I can't read scales or sing or play an instrument, and I often struggle to recognize a song by its opening notes. I can feel a beat and dance. And, I did. I felt my toe tapping and my shoulders swaying as he played. He played Sergei Prokofiev's Sonata No. 3 in A minor, op.28 (D'apres de Vieux Cahiers) as his opening number. From there he moved on to an invigorating and amazing performance of his own …

In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) by Sarah Ruhl presented by The Majestic Theatre

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In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) by Sarah Ruhl is delightfully written. The April 6, 2013 performance at The Majestic Theatre in Corvallis, Oregon offered laughs, serious moments, and a totally immersible experience! Directed by Pat Kight and beautifully acted by the cast, In the Next Room is definitely worth the price of admission. Set in the 1880s and exploring the use of the vibrator to treat hysteria, In the Next Room handles the clinical and the sensual with just the right dose of delicacy, seriousness, and humor in this enjoyable play. Andrew Beck plays the "man of science" with such conviction, I wished to shout at him to lighten up and enjoy life's pleasures more. The rest of the cast is also superb in their individual roles. While the entire play is fantastic, the scene that makes me smile every time I remember it is the one where Catherine Givings, played by Kimberly Gifford, and Sabrina Daldry, played by Kelley Marchbanks, are describing their experienc…

Home by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison's Home  left me feeling at once immersed in the story and voyeuristic as if I was staring in the window at secrets that weren't mine to know. Morrison's story telling once again reads like a lyrical documentation of a segment of the characters' lives. As usual she left me wanting to know what happened to Frank and Cee after life continued even as I imagined their lives following a familiar course. Morrison captures slices of life that grab our hearts and make us think about people whose circumstances may differ from our own. Home is the quintessential story of a search for life that always brings one back to one's roots. Morrison always delivers just as she does this story of family, secrets, and survival. Reading Home feels like taking a trip home...

Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health edited by Gene Stone

Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health edited by Gene Stone is the companion book to the documentary, Forks Over Knives. After watching the movie on Netflix, I bought the book mainly because it contains 125 recipes. The movie makes several convincing arguments for embracing a plant-based diet including the impact on one's health and the environment. In many ways, the contents of the book simply rehash the documentary without as much detail, but it makes a nice easy reference to keep on one's shelves. The recipes provided come from a variety of sources. I've tried a few of the recipes and am anxious to try several of the others. There's also a Forks Over Knives website with information and a nice selection of recipes including one for chocolate cupcakes that is among the best I've ever tried. I enjoyed the movie and found the book to make a nice companion if for no other reason than it provides a great starting point for starting to eat a tasty, plant-base…

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew provides an easy to follow alternative to traditional row gardening. I began reading the book with a bit of skepticism because I grew up on a farm where row gardening was the norm. Over the years, I've since tried container gardening and raised box gardening with mixed results. Bartholomew makes the square foot gardening method seem approachable though I have to admit I'm having a hard time envisioning it being both more bountiful and less work than traditional gardening.  Bartholomew outlines how to build the boxes and how to plan the plantings. He offers advice on how to choose what to grow. He includes information about some of the more common plants people grow as well as a planting schedule to aid people in growing a square foot garden and extending the growing season. He also discusses soil and provides a soil mixture he calls "Mel's Mix" that he claims will grow the best producing plants and do away with the…

The Spectrum by Dean Ornish, M.D.

The Spectrum by Dean Ornish, M.D. details the research Dr. Ornish and others have done regarding maintaining health and preventing disease. Dr. Ornish delves into the effects of food, stress, exercise, and attitude on health. He explains that the research reveals that while general healthy eating works for everyone, there are aspects of any diet that won't. Some people respond differently to different things based on their genetic makeup and other factors. Ornish provides insight into the idea of thinking prevention rather than cure. He explains that many diseases are related to diet and lifestyle and can be completely avoided if people are willing to change their diet, exercise more, and embrace meditation. Ornish teamed up with Art Smith to create recipes for the book. Some of the recipes sound delicious but several use ingredients I find suspect at best casting some doubt on the veracity of the book. I've yet to make any of the recipes, but they sound easy enough. I'll …

The Everything Grant Writing Book by Nancy Burke Smith and Judy Tremore

The Everything Grant Writing Book (2nd Edition) by Nancy Burke Smith and Judy Tremore makes grant proposal writing accessible to anyone wishing to write grants. Smith and Tremore outline the importance of grants to nonprofit organizations.They discuss the process and offer examples to simplify the process of writing grant proposals in an easy to read, easy to understand manner. The Everything Grant Writing Book is a great resource for anyone wishing to write grant proposals because it takes the intimidation out of the process for the novice without denying the amount of work writing grants requires. I wish I'd had this book when I wrote my first grant proposal.

Night Blind by Michael W. Sherer

Michael W. Sherer's Night Blind blinds the reader to all else during the course of reading. Sherer immerses the reader so deeply in Seattle, the air feels damp and the night feels lonely as he introduces Blake Sanders. Sherer did something most authors fail to do... He managed to make me think the ultimate villain out to destroy Sanders was someone other than it was and yet when he finally revealed the villain, it made perfect sense. I felt engulfed in Sanders quest to do the right thing even while stumbling through his life trying to deal with his losses, save his life, protect those he loves, and seek justice. Sherer brings in a diverse and interesting cast of characters that leave the reader wanting more not only of the flawed but likable Sanders but those who surround him.  In the midst of all these fabulous characters, Sherer drops the reader into the midst of danger, intrigue, political wrangling, and more danger. Sherer's cast of characters reminds us that none of us l…

Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology by Christopher Peterson

I took my time reading Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology by Christopher Peterson because it felt like the best way to read it. I even read some of the reflections more than once. Peterson explores what positive psychology is and what people think positive psychology is. I think of myself as a positive person, so I thought I'd just be reinforcing what I already believe; however, I found some surprises hidden within the short reflections. I really want to try what he describes as a "but-free" day. Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology is a great book to read one or two reflections a day allowing the words to sink in before moving on to the next reflection(s). Anyone interested in living a life based on positivity will enjoy reading Pursuing the Good Life. While I didn't always agree with Peterson's opinions, his overall message of focusing on positive psychology rather than always focusing on the psychology abo…

A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve

I really enjoyed reading A Wedding in December. Shreve's writing feels engaging and almost voyeuristic at times. A Wedding in December is filled with nostalgia, longing, and emotional context. Shreve explores the idea of what could've been if only... in a way that feels all too real. When a group of former classmates and their spouses reunite for a wedding, secrets are revealed, emotional histories are confronted, and the future however fleeting it may be is examined as the past is re-examined by the guests at the wedding. A Wedding in December is a great read for anyone who has ever wondered "what if" when thinking about the past!

All I Did Was Ask by Terry Gross

All I Did Was Ask by Terry Gross is filled with interviews Terry Gross did with artists, usually about their latest work at the time. She interviewed painters, sculptors, musicians, writers, actors, and actresses among others. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the interviews. She didn't hold back, even including portions of the interviews where things went awry. Gross's book makes a great resource for anyone studying the way to handle being interviewed, but is also entertaining for anyone who enjoys reading artists' thoughts on how their artistic process works.