Monthly Archives: March 2016

READER INTERVIEW WITH BETSY HEMMING, MICHIGAN READER

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Betsy is a life-time voracious reader who also hopes to continue to build her writing portfolio and actually publish a novel of her own someday. We are lucky indeed to nab her as an interview subject. Thanks Betsy!

Tell us about what you are reading.

I generally have several books going simultaneously. I just finished “After This,” by Claire Bidwell Smith, which was fascinating on many levels. I currently am reading “H is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald, “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend” by Katarina Bivald and “Hollow City, the second novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs. I am about to start “Invisible Acts of Power” by Caroline Myss. I have a couple of others cued up in a second stack as well.

Do you have a favorite author or genre?

I actually don’t. I have always been intrigued by a wide variety of authors and genres and I’m susceptible to going off on a reading tangent on a fairly regular basis. I’ve gotten sucked in to a variety of book series thanks to my daughters; I enjoy recommendations from others and I find lots of options on Amazon and BookBub. I’ve read mystery, romance, science fiction, self-help books, classics – I love the variety. I can stick with one genre for a while, then come back to Mother Earth and move on. For instance, last winter I got on a kick of strong Italian women (Adriana Trigiani) – I even ordered an Italian cookbook and started making Italian dishes. Deborah Harkness was another binge.

Is there a recent book you’ve been urging others to read? What and why?

As a leadership coach, I always have a few “must-reads” to share with my clients. One is “The Untethered Soul” by Michael Singer and another is “A New Earth,” by Eckhert Tolle. I like these books because both are about learning how to stop the unproductive and negative chatter in her heads and living life to its fullest.

When and where do you find time to read?

My favorite time to read is while cooking in the kitchen. In the spirit of disclosure, I enjoy simultaneously reading and playing Words with Friends, while tending to the evening’s dinner. Yes, I know we are not supposed to multi-task but I do like the blend of all three activities!

Disappointing or just plain not good? What’s the last book you remember putting down without finishing?

One still bothers me. I was thrilled and fascinated with “S” by J.J. Abrams. It is a book within a book, and it’s filled with little notes, post cards and pictures associated with the content. It is fun just to look through it; it is so creatively produced. The dilemma is around how to read it – whether you read both books simultaneously or read each book separately. I tried to do it simultaneously and couldn’t get through it. I will probably try again.

Are there books you truly treasure? Tell us about them. Why are they important to you?

I treasure so many books. Early ones include the Little House series, Trixie Belden and “The Sneetches” by Dr. Seuss. I just gave the latter to my nephew and his wife, who are having their first baby. An all-time treasure is “The Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann. Other favorites include Peter Mayle, P.G. Wodehouse, a poetry book called “The Voice that is Great Within Us.” I have collections of books on creativity, personality and what it is that you want to do when you grow up – I use them all regularly. They are all important for such very different reasons.

What moves you most in a work of literature, fiction or non-fiction?

Good writing, strong characters, a well-developed plot, hopefully with unexpected twists and turns. In the case of non-fiction, practical counsel and tools that I can use.

What have you not read that you would like to read?

I have stacks and stacks of books cued up to read. Some include “A Beautiful Mind,” Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth,” Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman,” the latest Martha Beck books (I am a couple behind), a large number of books on equine coaching, a new area of focus for me both personally and from a career standpoint, and every year, without fail, the latest Nora Roberts suspense novel. I can’t help myself.

Paper or electronic, or doesn’t it matter to you?

I use both. Generally, I prefer print, particularly if it’s an important book. But if I find something interesting on Amazon or BookBub, I’ll download and read it on my Ipad.

What else can you tell us about what reading means to you?

Reading is a priority, a past-time, a doorway to writing, a work tool, a decadent dessert, an obsession, a stress-reducer, an energy-builder, an amusement and a way to stir my heart. Need I say more?

Note from Paulette: Read carefully and you will notice what might be termed a guilty pleasure. (We all have them.) We thank her for introducing us to BookBub, a website that offers deep discounts on e-books. Bookbub.com

I thank her for her wonderful writing; no editing required. Her summary about reading as a priority is more than memorable! Betsy, we readers are in your debt.

BOOK COMMENT: SHANGHAI GIRLS

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Shanghai Girls: A Novel
Author: Lisa See
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Random House, 2009
Paperback Edition: 309 pages plus Reading Group Questions
Source: Personal copy

Leaving home and going to a new place is never easy. Leaving a home country and going to a new land delivers grave difficulties. When people flee due to poverty and political upheaval, the challenges seem insurmountable. This story reminds us just what refugees and immigrants face.

This book presents a constant stream of events told in an almost unbelievable and rather flat narrative, much that happens very unpleasant. For this reader, finally, nearly halfway through the book, the character of Sam pulled me into the experience this book offers. He was good, kind, and strong in the face of adversity. I began to care about the happenings overwhelming the narrator Pearl, her sister May, her family and the people that became her family, because I first cared about Sam.

Central to the story is the relationship between the two sisters, made more intense by their situation and the experiences they encounter. Their choices and rivalries are the narrative energy of the story. Yet, the other characters serve to illustrate the life they find. But more than that, Old Man Louie, Yen-Yen, Sam and Z.G, held my interest as the characters struggled against so many events they had little control over.

From Shanghai to Los Angeles in the 1937-1957 time frame the sisters, Pearl and May both drive toward and flee from their life experiences as they search for a place in the world, coping with horror and opportunity. But, where would they be without each other? The sisters are not clones, their differences create this story which can seem crammed with the history of the time for many Chinese-Americans.

Still, the story lingers when the book is finished, offering food for thought as in our present we see evening news reports from countries all over the world filled with refugees fleeing war and inhuman conditions. Often they risk everything for a new life, willing to take chances most of us would not dream of taking and cannot fully understand. Lisa See helps us to look beyond our own narrow visions, and begin to understand a wider world.

HAPPY EASTER

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HAPPY EASTER TO YOU AND YOURS

Easter is more than good wishes, candy eggs, yellow bunnies, and a promise of spring.
This is a day of true celebration and gratitude for Christians. Let us spread the love we receive to all others.

Wishing each of you hope and happiness at this special season and in the coming months.

VISIT FRANKENMUTH , MICHIGAN

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This spring readeatlive/blog hopes to feature several worthy travel/tourist destinations in Michigan.

Today visit Frankenmuth, sometimes called Michigan’s Little Bavaria. If you like German style food, family fun opportunities, and the largest Christmas store anywhere, this is the place for you.

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The Bavarian Inn Restaurant is one of two large restaurants on opposite sides of main street serving German style food. Most people opt for the world famous chicken dinners.

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The dining room is inviting complete with a strolling musician and her accordion. Along with the chicken are more side dishes than you might wish for, not to mention tantalizing and delicious desserts. We liked the apple strudel.

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After so much food, it’s time to stroll the grounds. Cross the wooden bridge.

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There are more than forty shops nearby of all kinds.

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At the Bavarian Inn Lodge……

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the rooms are inviting.
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and so many things to do and more places to eat.

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multiple swimming pools and a water slide,

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18 holes of mini-golf

and a beautiful Sunday Brunch with all the trimmings and seasonal decorations.

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Down the road is Bronners, the world’s largest Christmas store, or so it is claimed in these parts.

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Yes, it’s for tourists, yes people love to go there. Everyone seems to have a very good time. Staff is the most polite and helpful I have ever encountered.

More information at www.frankenmuth.org and www.bronners.com

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SHARE CHRISSY TEIGEN’S COOKING AND EATING FUN

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Cravings
Author: Chrissy Teigen
Genre: Cookbook
Publishers: Clarkson-Potter 2016
Hardcover Edition: 232 pages
Source: Personal Copy

What a perfect title!! This looks to be the most fun and most useable cookbook I’ve bought in quite a while. The foods are something you really want to eat. Recipes seem totally doable. The photos are wonderful, whether speaking of the food or Chrissy and her hunky husband, John Legend.

Here’s some recipes I love already: Super Tuna Melt, Hasselback Potatoes, Chicken Noodle Soup, Scrambled Eggs with Burst Cherry Tomatoes.

Here’s some I want to try: Italian Sausage Meatloaf, Cobb Salad with Honey Mustard Ranch, Chunky Creamy Mushroom Soup, Lemony Argula Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe, Risotto with Porcini, Mushrooms, and Peas, Perfect Seared Scallops with Warm Corn Salad, and oh, so many more!

This cookbook is a hot #1 on the bestseller list. Lots of interesting comments from Chrissy -dare I say cute- and she shares recipes from other family members: her Dad, her Thai mom Pepper and husband John. The whole book is freakin’ fun.

One critic said the book was lively and fun to read. I totally agree. Plus the food is fun and accessible! (I’m tired of cookbooks with difficult, expensive, time-consuming recipes.) So Chrissy brings it on! Today I give this cookbook four stars. Check back in a year and we will see if I still rate it so highly.

Yes, I used the word fun way to many times. But….it’s totally amazing FUN!

March Fiction Winners

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Congratulations!

Winners of this month’s drawing are listed below.

Thank you to all the entrants. And special thanks for telling blog readers what you are reading. That makes the post the best! There will be another drawing before too long. Please do enter again.

Winners

Susie Brown – Indiana

Judy Tolley – Florida

Bonne Hall – New York

Kim Bowden-Adair – Michigan

Judith Vitali – Connecticut

WIN A FICTION BOOK- MARCH IS READING MONTH

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You can be one of five winners. Enter this month’s drawing to win a novel. Comment in response to this post to tell readers a book you recently enjoyed reading. Add why you like it if you wish, or comment in a way that makes sense to you.

Entries will close at midnight on Friday, March 18. Five names will be drawn from all who enter by commenting on this blog. Winners will be announced late Sunday or Monday, March 21. Books will be mailed that week.

Lots of entries means more fun and more suspense. Hey, a free slightly-used fiction book could be headed your way.

THE TURNER HOUSE HOLDS GHOSTS AND LOTS OF LOVE

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The Turner House
Author: Angela Flournoy
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2015)
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover Edition: 338 pages
Source: Personal copy

This story of the Turner Family with its thirteen siblings and their semi-abandoned house on Yarrow Street in Detroit, where the family had lived for fifty years, catches the reader like a well-baited fishing line and doesn’t let go even after the last page is finished. Each character is carefully detailed, never boring. The incidents, and changes flow and jerk like the river of real-life.

Family and the family home are universal themes to the story. Set in Detroit with its fading neighborhoods, the story highlights the difficulties of life in the city and something of the particulars of life as part of a large African-American family. And yet, the observations are often universal to family life and an ailing matriarch no matter the ethnicity or culture.

This young author is exceedingly talented. The book earned the status of National Book Award Finalist. She examines the environment and the inner and outer lives of the thirteen siblings as well as the effect of being part of a very large family. Insightful and entertaining dialogue is a strength of her writing, and there are many others. It’s a dynamic book. Never did the author’s research seem like documentary. Each sentence served the story. She writes with humor and charm.

Family is often a powerful theme and this story is no exception. Myths and stories, truth and lies cause friction yet tie family members closely together. This is a generous and humane portrait of a family of characters who seem so real you want to meet them and know just how they are faring a few years down their life road. They are fun and unforgettable.

RESURRECTION COOKIES

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Also known as Easter Story Cookies
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Here’s a great addition to your Easter celebration thanks to Judith Vitali, blog reader and today’s guest contributor. She tells us she just came across the recipe and used to do this with her grandsons. What a unique experience! Thanks so much to Judith!

This is a great recipe to teach children the story of Easter. Teach them that the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior is not dead but He has Risen.

This activity can be done as a “family.” Grandparents might consider doing this with their grandchildren too!

Instructions:
These are to be made the evening before Easter.

Preheat oven to 300F degrees *** (this is very important — don’t wait until you are half done with the recipe).

You will need:
1 cup whole pecans
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 egg whites
a pinch salt
1 cup sugar
a zipper baggy
1 wooden spoon
scotch tape
Bible

Place pecans in zipper baggy and let children beat them with the wooden spoon
to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested. He
was beaten by the Roman soldiers. Read: John 19:1-3

Let each child smell the vinegar. Put 1 teaspoon vinegar into mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross He was given vinegar to drink. Read: John 19:28-30

Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life
to give us life. Read: John 10:10&11

Sprinkle a little salt into each child’s hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest
into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus’ followers,and the bitterness of our own sin. Read: Luke 23:27

So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1 cup sugar. Explain that the
sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to
know and belong to Him. Read: Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16

Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed.
Explain that the color white represents the purity in God’s eyes of those whose sins
have been cleansed by Jesus. Read: Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3

Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoon onto waxed paper covered cookie sheet.
Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid.
Read: Matthew 27:57-60

Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF.

Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door.
Explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed. Read: Matthew 27:65-66

GO TO BED!

Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight.
Jesus’ followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read: John 16:20&22

On Resurrection Sunday (Easter) morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter Jesus’ followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read:Matthew 28:1-9

WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH: 16 HISTORY CLASSICS

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It’s Women’s History Month: no better time to choose a classic to read that focuses on Women’s History in one form or another.

This list includes only books I have read and recommend. Reading any one is a tribute to women and an appropriate activity for this month. I found all of them excellent reads. Choose one. I hope you like it.

Americanah by Chimanda Ngize Adichie (2014) Fiction

Books of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin. By Jill Lepore (2014) History

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (2014) Poems

The Color Purple by Alice Walker Fiction

Dear Life by Alice Munro. Short Stories

A Diary From Dixie by Mary Boykin Chesnut (1980) History

The Female Experience: An American Documentary. (1992) Gerda Lerner History

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing. Fiction

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (1991) Fiction

I Know Why the Caged bird Sings by Maya Angelou Memoir

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (2015) Fiction

Julian of Norwich by Amy Frykholm (2010) Biography

Lazy B: Growing Up On a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest by Sandra Day O’Conner (2002) Memoir

Liar’s Club by Mary Karr (1996) Memoir

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Fiction

My Antonia by Willa Cather Fiction

The Road From Coorain by Jill Ker Conway (1990)

There are, or course, many very good books on Women’s History. Do you have a favorite? Tell us about it.

If you decide to read one of these,let me know how you like it. If you have not read Doris Lessing you might with to start with the Martha Quest series. Oh, I must stop talking and let you get to the reading.

I do intend to follow my own advice. I have began a second reading of Kristin Lavransdatter, first read more than twenty years ago.

It’s very possible that my most favorite on this list is the autobiography by Sandra Day O’Conner