Monthly Archives: August 2014




1. Many of you have enjoyed Ann Mah’s wonderful book Mastering the Art of French Eating. This past week-end she had a delightful article in the New York Times Travel Section about Prince Edward Island and Anne of Green Gables. Maybe you will decide to visit Prince Edward Island, read or reread Anne of Green Gables, or just enjoy her writing via this article.

Here’s the link.
or go to your browser (I use Google) and type Ann Mah Searching for a Certain Girl in Braids.

2. One of my favorite book blogs is Beth Fish Reads. Reading Thinking Photographing. It is a sophisticated site. Try it out.
Here’s the link.
woman and glass_m

3. If you are in the mood to shop, remember this fun internet site with gifts for readers. Read or shop until your heart is contented.


4. This one is for the Outlander fans. Again from the New York Times is a Q&A with television producer Ronald Moore about his experiences in the Highlands. The short interview appeared on the In Transit page of the travel section.
Here’s the link.

Or, try google.

5. Many of us are familiar with the news site Huffington Post. Go to Huffington Post ( and type Huff Post Books into the search box. You will find a host of great stories. One not to be missed is “8 Famous Authors on the First Book They Ever Loved”. Check it out.


I have something of a love-hate relationship with internet reading. I know it can be informative. Sometimes it eats time before I even know I started the meal. Sometimes, I don’t attend to the detail of how to find what I want or to save it for another time. And then, just like the baskets in my office are overflowing with stuff I mean to read, so are my bookmarks on the computer overflowing with out-of-date stuff. Did I really want to save that?

I wonder how you feel about reading on the internet. Do you have a favorite site? What kind of reading do you enjoy on line? Your comments keep all of us up-to-date and informed. Thanks!



Congratulations to Louise Erdrich, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Distinguished Achievement Award. This prize recognizes the power of literature to encourage peace and social justice. Named for the diplomat who brokered the Dayton Peace Accords on Bosnia, it is given for a body of work. Previous winners include Elie Wiesel and Wendell Berry.

Like many of us, Erdrich longs for peace among peoples and for individuals. Raised by an Ojibwe-French mother and a German-American father in North Dakota, much of her work deals with honest portraits of people who struggle with cultural differences and the effects of violence. Empathy is a hallmark of her writing.

She lives in Minnesota where she is the owner of Birchbark Books and Native Arts located at 2115 W. 21st Street in Minneapolis. You may order books on line, read her blog or just enjoy reading this informative website. If you are in the area, don’t miss this wonderful bookstore.


Her work includes poetry, short stories, children’s books, and non-fiction. Below is a thumb-nail of three of her best known books.

Love Medicine. Her first book won the National Book Critics Circle award and explored the plight of some Native Americans.

The Plague of Doves. This novel was the 2009 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It deals with racial discord and changing fortunes in North Dakota.

The Round House. This work of fiction won the 2012 National Book Award. The story follows a teen-age boy’s effort to investigate a crime of violence against his mother.


The titles of her novels read like poetry: Tracks, Four Souls, The Master Butchers Singing Club, The Beet Queen, The Bingo Palace, The Blue Jay’s Dance (non-fiction), The Last Report on the Miracles At Little No Horse. (This is not a complete list.)

I share one line from her poem: “Indian Boarding School: The Runaways” published in a volume entitled Original Fire. “Home’s the place we head for in our sleep.” I hope you will read at least the first stanza and hopefully the entire poem available at the website: (I badly wanted to quote the first stanza. I believe it illustrates how her work awakens our sense of justice for others. Without permission, I feel I should not do so. I hope you will go to the aforementioned website, type the title in the search box, and read this poem.)

If you have not read Ms. Erdrich’s writing, I urge you to choose a book that interests you and lose yourself in the search of an ordinary person for justice. Of course, no person is ordinary, each follows a unique path. Her writing is likely to strengthen your path as you search peace and justice and gift you with the cane of empathy to assist you in your journey.



The Outlander series on STARZ is capturing the imagination of many TV viewers. The second episode aired recently with more to come. Are you enjoying it? How do you feel about the casting?

Are Jamie and Claire as you always imagined them, or not? This new version of our favorite characters gives another life to a story many of us have enjoyed for a number of years. Is it a jolt to see Claire in a white dress, streaked with dirt, and riding astride a horse toward an inhabited castle? Or is it what you expected to see when you got the chance?


Author Diana Gabaldon’s fans are legion with good reason. She does some things better than any author I know. The action, the plot twists and turns, the multiple story lines, the many distinct characters; that’s only scratching the surface of her writing skills. Her latest book, Written In My Own Heart’s Blood, may well be a read so terrific it’s the equal of her first book.


I’d not be surprised if readers are reading her books multiple times, and watching the new TV episodes of Outlander more than once. Or, are you one who is saving up for a binge watch.

Please let us know if you are watching and what you think.

And, what about this? If you read the novels more than once, with a span of intervening months or years, do your opinions change? If they do, how do they change? Please comment on your experiences with Ms. Gabaldon’s imaginative stories.

Before I leave you, and while we are still in the Scotland of the past, I want to bring to your attention a great article in the August, 2014 issue of National Geographic titled “Before Stonehenge”. It surprised me to learn about the past of the Orkney Islands 5000 years ago. Stone Age Orkney has been discovered to be an exciting place and time. Instead of imagining those islands to the far north of Scotland as utterly remote, “ it was an important maritime hub, a place that was on the way to everywhere.”(p. 47) Learn why when you read the article. It is as absolutely fascinating in its own way as the stories of passing through the stones, time travel, love, war and family entanglements in the history of Scotland and America. It’s hard to choose what is more mind-bending and highly interesting: the ancient history of the Scottish Isles or the stories of Diana Gabaldon.




THANK YOU so much to BookandBeauty Blog @thereaderssroost
Appreciate these Twitter connections

Here is a recap of the rules of the Liebster Award.
1. Thank and link back to the blogger who nominated you.
2. Write 11 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer the 11 questions you have been asked from the blogger who nominated you.
4. Nominate 11 bloggers with under 200 followers and send them 11 questions to answer.

1. Love to read and write
2. Part of a dynamite family: husband, children, and grandchildren
3. Can’t remember when I did not love books
4. Also watch TV dramas and movies
5. Introverted
6. Believe finding and eating good food is a true pleasure.
7. Favorite blog topics: books, food, reading, writing, TV, history, literature, travel spots when books and eating are involved. Oh, always!
8. Life-long learner equals blogging
9. Reading newspapers is an important part of my day
10. Feel gratitude for everyone who practices kindness
11. Still thinking about no. eleven

Book&Beauty Blog asks me these questions

What’s your first memory from school?
Making potato soup in kindergarten.

Tea or coffee
Tea these days.

Do you have pets?

Where is your favorite place to shop for clothes?
That’s a tough one. Anywhere and Everywhere

Your favorite band?
Dixie Chicks


Can you speak languages other than English?
I studied but never my long suite. No hablo espanol.

What would you order at Subway?
Flatbread turkey and cheese.

Your shoe size?
Love to buy shoes. Naot 38

Facebook or Twitter?
Facebook but Twitter is fun, fun, fun.

What do you (or would you like to do) as a job.


Eva L. J. @EvaAndBooks

Jenny @thebooknerdinme

Which Book Next @gemmawhichbook

Monica Ramierez @SGBookshelf

My Good Bookshelf @MyGoodBookshelf

Leah Moyse @LeahJMoyse

That Thing She Reads @joanne2913

Mrs. Holpepper @MrsHBookWorm

The Welsh Librarian @WelshLibrarian

Bookish Ramblings @bookishrambling

Charlotte A @booksandbaby













This can be fun. Thanks for reading! Now, more reading!
Connect with these bloggers on Twitter.



What factors lead to successful Book Club Reads? Book clubs are made up of individual readers; so as we might expect, choices can be personal and passionate. Are there common denominators that make for successful book club choices? Discussion and deeper understandings are goals for most clubs. Does the book offer the possibility of varied viewpoints? Are there points to discuss? Seems to me there are always aspects of character, plot, writing, ideas, you name it, to be discussed. When experienced readers get together it’s likely varied viewpoints will attend the meeting.

Broad appeal and availability are usually considered important. These days with electronic readers becoming more and more popular, access to particular books is less of an issue. Members usually consider a book more successful for their group if the majority of the members find it interesting and enjoyable. If too many hate it, not a good choice.

Is the book well-written? Is there interesting structure? What of clearly and beautifully written sentences? What do you think adds up to a successful book club choice?

Whether you personally are looking for a good read, or your book club is making decisions, I offer the recent choices of two book clubs for your consideration.


Any Bitter Thing. Monica Wood.
Here are characters who struggle with heartbreak and loss. Different voices create a moving experience for the reader. A profile of Monica Wood was posted on the Writing page of this blog on July 10, 2014 under the title “Meet Monica Wood.”


Annie’s Ghost. Steve Luxenberg. Non-fiction.
Chosen as a notable Michigan book for 2010. Memoir, mystery, history. A story of searching family secrets and family heartbreak at Eloise Hospital, a bygone psychiatric facility in Wayne, MI.


Chaperone by Laura Moriarty.
This historical novel tells the story of a woman who accompanies the young Louise Brooks to NYC in the 1920’s and the changes that await them. Readers I’ve talked to are enthusiastic about this book and this author.

The Invention of Wings. Sue Monk Kidd. Unknown-3
This novel has been on the NYT Best Sellers List for a number of weeks. It is about the relationship between a wealthy girl who will become a prominent abolitionist and the slave who is a gift to her on her eleventh birthday. Those who have read this book liked it very much.


Necessary Lies. Diane Chamberlain.
A young social worker defies conventional thinking in 1960’s North Carolina. Ms. Chamberlain is a popular author with many novels to her credit. To my surprise, this story and its characters have stayed with me.


Orphan Train. Christina Baker Kline.
This novel can be placed on the shelf titled: Made Popular By Its Readers. It tells the story of the past and present of an orphan taken from the streets of New York and transported west to a new home in the 1920s.


The Secret of Raven Point. Jennifer Vanderbees.
Book review available on this blog under the title, “Mystery, History, Romance” posted on Aug. 4, 2014


The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry. Gabrielle Zevin. Novel.
This story is set in a bookstore. I recently heard from a reader who loved this book. See “Five Things to Like about The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry” posted on this blog on June 4, 2014.


Molokai. O. A. Bushnell.
This is a work of fiction based on the history of a leper colony in Hawaii during the late nineteenth century. Not a new book and an unexpected pick, perhaps. We shall see if book club readers like this one.

Do let us know if you would recommend one of these for your book club? Everyone likes to hear ideas on book picks.



The Honourable Woman
TV Mini-series
Cable TV: Sundance Channel
Thursdays 10 p.m. CST

Is a secret a lie? How dangerous can a secret become under certain circumstances? What is real and what is not? Questions leap to mind after two harrowing episodes of this political spy thriller now showing on Sundance TV. It is written, directed and produced by Hugo Blick. In an online interview he suggested casting as perhaps the most important of his duties.

He strikes gold in this department. He has cast Maggie Gyllenhaal as a British born businesswoman, Nessa Stein, recently become a baroness in the House of Lords, and a woman who carries an Israeli passport. As the credible central character, Gyllenhaal gives a luminous performance. When she is on screen, you can’t take your eyes off her. She shines, giving off light, beaming into the darkness of this fast moving story.

Her character is an orphan as well as both Israeli and British. These contribute to her seeming isolation. Past events cause present conflict. As with many mysteries, much seems opaque and disconnected. Perhaps her life is even more dichotomous than it appears.

Hugo Blick has said that his total interest is in the journeys of the fictional characters toward, or away from, personal reconciliation. Viewers watch many of the characters, including Nessa, striving for some kind of direction and comfort in their lives. So far, I also note the stand-out performances of actors Andrew Buchan, as Nessa’s brother, and Lubna Azabal, as a family friend/employee/lover? I expect her to be central to the story. She seems to be part of the mystery, which is everywhere.

One reviewer said hopefully this story would make sense in the end. I will watch Maggie Gyllenhall through all the episodes whether it makes sense or not. Her performance takes your breath away. Don’t miss this: top television drama.

Find out more at

INTERVIEW WITH JOHN C. BUSH, Author of Patriots and Rebels.


Interview conducted July/August, 2014

John Bush is the author of the exciting new Civil War novel, Patriots and Rebels, reviewed here last month. The story takes readers inside the daily life of a North Alabama family and tells the adventures of the father, Tom Files, who became a Union Soldier. Sincere thanks to Dr. John Bush for taking time from his busy schedule to do this interview. Many readers share his interest in the ordinary and extraordinary lives of those who lived during the Civil War era. John’s brief bio appears at the end of the interview.

Tell us about your new book and how you came to write it.
The idea for this book was planted in my brain 30 years ago, which is when my wife Sara and I learned that her great-great-grandfather Tom Files was in the Union army. My first response to that news was, “There has to be a story in that somewhere.” I was busy with an active career and a growing family, so that thought was just filed away, but it kept presenting itself now and again as a gentle reminder.

How did this writing experience begin for you?
My exploration into the story of Tom Files began as genealogical interest. Several years later I had a researcher in Washington, D.C. get the war record for me from the National Archives. When he sent it to me (along with several other files) he commented: “Looks like there could be a book in this one.” That was the nudge I needed to start putting the story together. It turned into a five-year project, with Patriots and Rebels as the final product.

Much of your story is set in Northern Alabama. I know you were raised in the South. How did your background inform your writing.
My wife is from North Alabama. I grew up in Montgomery — 200 miles to the south. That is solidly “Old South” — “The First Capitol of the Confederacy” where Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as President. They are different worlds in a lot of ways. I knew nothing of this story until I married into a family of Southern Patriots. What my background brought to the writing of Patriots and Rebels was a sense of the language. When you hear Mattie’s voice in the novel, you are hearing my Grandma Bush, whom I knew well. She died when I was in my teens, and as a child I stayed with her quite often.

What obstacles did you face in writing this book and how did you find solutions?
For starters, how does a 76-year-old man create a believable voice for a 14-year-old girl? How did I do it (assuming I did)? I did it with a lot of help and advice from friends and editors, and with writing and rewriting and rewriting. Further, there was the challenge of having these people speak in their own language styles, but also be understandable to readers who are living 15O years later.

What are you most proud of regarding Patriots and Rebels?
It is in print and being read — even enjoyed by some, so I hear!

Is historical fiction a favorite genre for you? Please tell us about some of your favorite books and authors in that category.
I do enjoy historical fiction, and have read quite a bit of it. I especially enjoyed The Secrets of Mary Bowser, by Lois LaNreen, and Lalita Tademy’s Cane River. All of Michener, of course. Barbara Tuchman’s The First Salute, One I wish every American would read, in light of our current involvements with the Muslim world, is James Reston, Jr.’s earthshaking Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade. That one, along with the Mary Bowser book, are my all time favorites.

How does what you read inform your writing?
For the most part I read for the pleasure of it, or to gain information or insight into a subject rather than as a tool to guide my own writing. That being said, I am always interested in seeing how other fiction writers handle plot and character development, pacing and dialogue. Especially dialogue, because it is the most difficult aspect of writing for me to grasp.
I’ve begun work on a “prequel” to Patriots, set in the American Revolution, and am experimenting with James Michener’s style in The Covenant, to see if it works for me. Michener moves between the narration of the novel and providing the “backstory” — interspersing more contemporary observations. We’ll see how that works out!

Do you buy books? What have you been buying lately?
Do I buy books? The house is full of them. I count nine bookcases full, and a couple of those are double shelved — books behind books. My most recent purchases include Winston Groom’s Shrouds of Glory, (yes, it’s about the Civil War); Simon Schama’s Rough Crossings: Britain. The Slaves and the American Revolution, Tracy Thompson’s The New Mind of the South, and Breena Clark’s River, Cross My Heart. Oh, and there are the two novels by a friend in my writers group: Like a Fox, and Like Sheep by Judy Mitchell Rich.

Is Civil War History a particular interest of yours?
One cannot grow up in the South and not be “interested” in the Civil War. It is in the air you breathe and the water you drink. But I can’t say my interest in it has been anything out of the ordinary. I’ve not made a particular study of it, and have no interest at all in the minutia of particular battles and strategies of warfare. The stories of ordinary and extraordinary people of that era do interest me.

I’m interested in how you conducted your research. Tell us about that.
When I got serious about writing this book I spent a good deal of time researching the places. Much of this was done on-line, some at my local library. I had the advantage of having Tom’s military record in hand, so I knew about some of the specific incidents and locations. The basic outline of where he was between when he mustered out of First Alabama Cavalry at Camp Davies, Mississippi and the time he arrived home more than two years later was available to me in the documentation from the National Archives. Much of this is in his hand, or transcribed from his own words. My task was to fill in the blanks, and that was the challenge. How did he actually get from northern Mississippi to southern Illinois and then back down to LaVergne, Tennessee, and finally into a Federal prison in Nashville? I had to create much of that detail, but I tried to keep as close to the actual history of those times and places as I could. When I described actual events in the war, I drew on actual documentation. In some cases there is a difference in how these are described in Union documents, as compared with Confederate documents. (The massacre at Fort Pillow is the most dramatic example of such differences.) I had to stay focused on Tom’s point of view. I decided that the best way to sort this out for my readers was to include a set of “Author’s Notes” at the end.

How do you see the relationship between researching and writing?
It is important to keep in mind that this is a novel, but a historical one. I came at this project as a storyteller, not as a historian. Thus, the history informs the story, not the other way around, but without distorting the history unreasonably (I hope). The research informs that delicate process. I do not want to mislead the reader regarding the history; what I say about that is as accurate as I can make it. But it is also there to inform the story and move it forward.

Tell us about your writing day?
I’ve heard other writers say you should devote specific time every day to writing, or you should write at least 1000 words every day. I write when I have something to write, which means some days I don’t write a single word and other days I stay at it for 2 or 3, 8 or 10 or 12 hours. Which is not to say I’m neglecting the project. When I’m not writing, I am often into serious creation. My mind is almost always working on the plot, the timeline or character development. Some of my most creative time comes when I’m driving along the Interstate.

What would you most like readers to know about Patriots and Rebels?
It is very important for the reader to know that Tom Files and his family were real human beings. They lived, breathed and died just as we do, but in extraordinary times when extraordinary demands were made upon them.

How can readers obtain your book?
Any bookseller can get it for you. I am a strong believer in local bookstores and encourage people to buy the book locally if they can (even though that way I earn the very least on sales.) It is also available both in print and for Kindle from If people want a signed copy, they may contact me via message at the PATRIOTS AND REBELS Facebook page, and I will arrange for that.

What writing projects are you currently working on?
In addition to the prequel dealing with the Files family during the American Revolution, which I mentioned earlier in the interview, I’m also playing with the idea of a story similar to Patriots, but written for elementary young people — fourth grade or so.

Is there anything we haven’t talked about that you’d like to comment on?
My previous book was published in 2002. The entire publishing universe has changed since then! Publishers no longer consider book proposals directly; they must go through an agent. The problem is that getting an agent is far harder today than finding a publisher was in the “old” days. The “new kid on the block,” is what is called independent publishing. I did it with CreateSpace, the publishing arm of Amazon. It has been a good experience so far. The book was for sale on Amazon (both print and Kindle) very quickly. However, sales other than through Amazon are entirely mine to do. That’s a pain, but that’s the way the industry is going these days, unless you are an established author.

About the author
John C. Bush is a retired Presbyterian minister now living in Decatur, Alabama, near where much if this story takes place. He was born in northwest Florida and grew up in Montgomery, Alabama. His ancestral roots are in Virginia Colony, 1670. He holds a BA degree from Samford University in Birmingham: M. Div. from Midwestern Theological Seminary in Kansas City; and a D. Min. degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary, San Anselmo CA. His ministerial career took him to Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Alabama, Michigan and back to Alabama. He and Sara have two children, six grandchildren and one great grandchild. He is the author or editor of five books in the field of religion. Patriots and Rebels is his first novel.

And to Dr. Bush, I say, “Yes, many are enjoying your book. Thanks for telling your story.”



The Secret of Raven Point
Author: Jennifer Vanderbes
Publisher: Scribner (2014)
Genre: Historical Novel
Hardcover Edition: 304 pages
Source: Library copy

In 1943 a girl only seventeen years old uses her intellect to become a nurse in order to follow her beloved brother, who has been reported missing, into war. The war in Italy is both beautiful and horrifying, and the story set there is heartbreaking and unforgettable.

This is the first novel I’ve read, at least in recent years, that addresses the mental suffering of soldiers in World War II and the work of medical teams to treat them. Jennifer Vanderbes handles the subject with skill. Her writing reminds me of the novels by Pat Barker about those on the front lines during World War I and the mental trauma suffered by so many who fought in the trenches then. Both authors make the issue real and painful. In the author’s note, Jennifer Vanderbes tells readers that approximately fifty thousand American soldiers deserted during World War II, a statistic I found surprising. Her research is admirable. And further, she uses it to advantage to create characters and tell the story. This novel never reads like a history report.

Here is a writer who builds a house of history so real that the bones, the blood, the emotion, the horror and the love are brick and mortar. She transforms the past into a story of people the reader wants to stay with until the last words have been read several times. Her ideas are powerful and her sentences are some of the most beautiful ever written.

This thrilling and heartbreaking book is with certainty one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year. Ms. Vanderbes’ descriptions are powerful. She writes her characters and their situations with compassion and understanding.

The combination of mystery, history, and romance found on these pages is most compelling. Ms. Vanderbes has a new fan, and I would guess I am only one of many. Follow her on Facebook and read about her books at Here is the link to her website



Yesterday I was organizing a shelf of books looking for poems and rhymes appropriate to read and recite to the new baby granddaughter. What I found instead was pure beauty. And so, I will share it with you.

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I Am the Mummy Heb-Nefert by Eve Bunting. Illustrated by David Christiana. NCS-CBC Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies.

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Sierra by Diane Siebert. Paintings by Wendell Minor. Multiple award winner including International Reading Association Teachers’ Choice.


Blue Potatoes, Orange Tomatoes. By Rosalind Creasy. Illustrations by Ruth Heller. Heller is the writer and illustrator of numerous award-winning books. Though I bought this book twenty years ago, it is totally relevant today with the nationwide movement for school-age children to plant and eat healthy food. Its beauty is undiminished by years or fashion.

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Verdi by Janell Cannon This author and illustrator has won numerous awards. I have always loved this story about a snake and his different colors.


Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B. Johnson. The illustrations here are notably different from the other books shared, yet unforgettable. This book won many awards including Horn Book Award and School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Daniel Pinkwater of NPR calls it “ a materpiece…the finest illustrations I’ve seen in years and years and year.” He suggests buying an extra copy to store for he next generation. I have done that, owning three of the “Henry” books.


A Desert Scrapbook by Virginia Wright-Frierson. I wish I owned all her books. There’s simply nothing else like her evocative and beautiful illustrations.

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Spiders by Nic Bishop. The Robert F. Sibert Honor Book. Beauty here is found in the photographs and in the way different fonts are used to convery meaning in the print. This book is beautiful and scary at the same time.

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I recommend all of these books. I could have written professionally and personally at length about each one. But you can learn about them if you wish. I wanted to share the beauty. Enjoy. Do you have a favorite based on the pictures?