Friday, March 30, 2012

Review: Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

A Natural History of Four Meals
Author: Michael Pollan
Publisher-Format: Penguin (2007), Paperback, 464 pages
Subject: Sources of human food
Genre: science reporting
Source: my own shelves

This one has been sitting on my shelf for more than two years.  It's actually on loan from my daughter who thought I would enjoy reading it.  I'm not sure if "enjoy" is exactly the correct word, but I certainly learned a lot, and came away from the read with an entirely new perspective on food and eating.

I had been a bit concerned that this was going to turn out to be another one of those proselytizing, preachy, "my way or the highway" diatribes on how we can only eat nuts and seeds if we're going to save ourselves and the earth.  Instead, I found myself immersed in a well-researched, objective, candid, and non-judgmental explanation of many aspects of eating and food production.

Pollan maintains that as omnivores we can eat just about anything - animal or vegetable - and thus are faced with ethical and physical dilemmas about what we should be eating, how we should be acquiring that food, and how we should be sharing that nourishment with our fellow humans.

To illustrate our dilemmas, he traces four different "meals": the industrial, large organic, local farmed, and hunted/foraged wild meal.  He looks at huge agribusinesses dealing in millions of acres of corn and the US dependence on grain fed vs grass fed beef with all the ethical and health issues involved - chemical fertilizers, anti-biotic fed cattle, inhumane treatment of animals, opportunities for contamination and the spread of disease, all in the service of the mightiest crop of the US - CORN.  He not only researches but personally visits and experiences all aspects of the meal and how it finally gets to McDonald's where he takes his family to partake of chicken nuggets (are they really chicken?), fries, drinks full of corn syrup, etc.  No where does he say we shouldn't be eating any of this, instead he goes to great lengths to provide the reader with the information that is buried in the "nutrition" and "ingredient" labels, so that when we choose to eat this meal, we can understand exactly what we ARE and ARE NOT eating.

Next he takes a look at so-called "Organic" meals and traces the components of a meal purchased at Whole Foods, only to find himself on a huge industrialized "organic" farm in California.  Absent the chemical fertilizers and pesticides, there doesn't seem to be much difference in the way the food is produced, picked by low paid migrant workers, and then shipped around the world (can you say carbon footprint???).

His third meal, one that I might label the localvore meal - naturally grown food, free range chickens and grass fed cattle, slaughtered and sold within 100 miles of the farm.  When asked about his farm, the farmer replied that he actually was a Grass Farmer, and that the other crops and animals were all an outcome of growing good grass. To me, this was the most fascinating section of the book.  I certainly have a much greater respect for the small farmer less than a mile down the road from me.  Again Pollan dives into his research, working on the farm for a week, participating in haying, egg gathering, chicken killing, baling, cattle moving, etc.  His ability to portray the hard physical labor at the same time he gives us the joy of seeing farming as it was practiced by our ancestors, was especially enjoyable.  One set of figures he gave just blew me away.  In one season, this 100 acre grass farm, surrounded by 450 acres of woods, and run almost entirely by the family produced:

30,000 DOZEN eggs
12,000 broilers
800 stewing chickens
50 beeves (representing 25,000 pounds of beef)
250 hogs (50,000 pounds of pork)
800 turkeys
500 rabbits

AMAZING!  (at least to me).

Finally, in his attempt to investigate the complete history of human food and eating, he sets out to prepare a meal that is one he hunts and forages for himself.  Never having been a hunter, or much of an outdoorsman, he finds himself at a distinct disadvantage, and so enlists the help of an elderly Sicilian as a mentor.  This part of the story is amusing as well as enlightening as he sets out to shoot some kind of game in the forest.  Due to the time of year, his "catch" ends up being a wild boar.  After the old man insists that Pollan must participate in the "dressing" of the  pig and guides him through all the gory steps, our author vows that he will never again be able to eat pork.  However, he eventually changes his mind when the old man takes his portion and turns it into prosciutto, sausage, and several cuts for roasting. Pollan rounds out his roasted pork meal with a salad of fresh picked dandelion and other salad greens, fava beans, egg fettuccine with mushrooms, fresh cherry tart, and even goes so far as to try to harvest his own sea salt from under the San Mateo Bridge near San Francisco where he was living.  He is nothing if not thorough.

Finally, I want to comment on an attitude that bubbles in the background.  Everywhere Pollan went, when he interviewed anyone not involved in agribusiness, he heard again and again the theme of eating what our ancestors ate, looking at how other countries view eating as a communal activity to bring people together, NOT as something to squeeze in between soccer games, business meetings, or spa appointments, and ultimately facing the choices of what to eat based on the seasons, the location, and the hard work of local farmers.

NOTE: when we discussed this in our library book club last week, one of our participants had checked the Young Reader's edition of the book out of the library.  As we passed it around, we decided that it was probably an excellent choice for those who want the story without quite as much scientific detail.  There are charts, illustrations, and a much more open-spaced presentation.  I think with either version, you can't go wrong.  If you read only one book about food, this is the one I'd recommend to start with.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mailbox Monday - March 26th

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house recently, but here's a warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

 Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are rotated every month.  March is being hosted by Anna at Diary of an Eccentric.  Be sure to stop by and discover a new and wondrous (for me anyway) addition to your blog roll and take a look at everyone's Mailbox lists.

Only one book this week, but it was a definite winner ...Doesn't this one just look like so much fun?  Southern Fiction is one of my favorite genres, so I was thrilled when the mailman brought this ARC by Lynda Rutledge from Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam.  It hopped right into the "sooner rather than later" queue.

Here's the blurb:

On the last day of the millennium, sassy Faith Bass Darling decides to have a garage sale. Why is the richest lady in Bass, Texas, a recluse for twenty years, suddenly selling off her worldly possessions?As the townspeople grab up the heirlooms, and the antiques reveal their own secret stories,a cast of characters appears to witness the sale or try to stop it. Before the day is over, they’ll all examine their roles in the Bass family saga, as well as some of life’s most imponderable questions: Do our possessions possess us? What are we without our memories? Is there life after death or second chances here on earth? And is Faith really selling that Tiffany lamp for $1?
So what was in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Contest Time - The Good Father

Normally, I'd wait until I'm totally finished to post this contest, but I'm galloping along with this read and it's fantastic!! Joe Gallagher from Doubleday has graciously offered us 2 copies of this attention grabber to give away.  The publisher's blurb is on my original Monday Mailbox post. I'll be posting the final review when I announce the winners, but in the meantime, I'll give you some hints.

  • If you are a parent and ever had one of those Ah-OH moments of "my child couldn't possibly have done THAT!", and if you start this book, you will not put it down. 
  • If you are even semi-conscious in these days of Homeland Security and terror scares,and worry about government intrusiveness, and if you start this book, you will not put it down.
  •  If you've ever watched an episode of "HOUSE" on tv, and had difficulty following the wacky diagnostic thinking, and if you start this book, you will not put it down. 
 SO... since I started the book, and I'm having trouble putting it down, I'll just say we're going to make this an easy one.
Contest: No PO Boxes, US residents only.
ONE COMMENT ONLY...leave me a comment, tell my why you want to win, and leave me an email addee.
That's it. Deadline is April 7th, 11:59PM.
Good luck, Stay tuned and remember, no forms, no extras, just one comment. Random will pick.
Back to reading....(hope nobody comes into the library today....I'm on duty, and I want to finish this book!!!)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: Mourning Gloria by Susan Wittig Albert

Author: Susan Wittig Albert
Publisher-Format: Berkley (2011),320 pages,
also audio - Recorded Books, 2011, 9 hrs, 50 min
Narrators: Julia Gibson, Theresa Plummer
Subject: murder and mind-altering herbs
Setting: Pecan Springs Texas
 Series: China Bayles Mysteries
Genre: murder mystery, amateur detective
Source:public library audio download

Another swimming "read".  I love the China Bayles Mysteries, with their delightful explanations of various plants, herb, seeds, etc.  This newest one continues to live up to expectations.  In Mourning Gloria, China, a retired attorney who now runs a natural herbal garden and tea shop, whilst mothering an orphaned niece, is a prime witness to a gruesome arson/murder when she stops to phone in a fire she discovers on her way home one night.  After hearing cries for help, she is unable to rescue the young woman inside the burning trailer as it explodes before her eyes.  When the coroner determines that the victim was shot and left for dead before the fire was deliberately set, China cannot abandon her feeling of guilt, and when an eager young reporter from the town newspaper sets out to investigate "the rest of the story" and then disappears, China cannot let go.

Husband McQuaid, a retired cop private investigator is out of town for this one, and Sheriff Blackie, usually so cooperative is at first too immersed in his own coming nuptials to pay much attention.  As usual, China continues to pick at the bone, following a string of clues that inevitably lead to a good resolution in the nick of time.

A great audio, and a well plotted mystery with a definite sense of place.  The small Texas town is well portrayed, and the characters bring to life that sense of comraderie so endearing to these kinds of  locations.  This is another series you can start anywhere, but again, is more fun if read from the beginning.  Another fun addition to the March Mystery list. They are all still readily available so grab one, sit back and enjoy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel

Growing Up Small in Moreland Indiana
Author: Haven Kimmel
Publisher-Format: Doubleday  (2002), Edition: 282 pages
Subject: life in small town midwest American
Setting: Moreland Indiana
Source: my own shelves

For some reason, this book got withdrawn from our local library, and I grabbed if off the sale table for $1 and took it home....not that the story was jumping at me, but the cover captivated me.  It reminded me so much of a baby picture of one of my sisters.  It sat for awhile until I picked it up to see if it was worth putting into my personal collection.  Once I started it, I found it a quick, easy, enjoyable read.  I also found it on audio, narrated by the author, so I could listen to snatches of it while I was swimming. Zippy is a precocious child, the youngest, in the family, who chose not to speak until almost the age of three, at which time she began with a very adult form of vocabulary and grammar.  Her observations about life are amusing, refreshing, enchanting.

Presented in a series of not always connected vignettes, Kimmel gives us a picture of simple, uncomplicated, untechnical life in the 1950s and 60s, growing up with a mother who is physically present, but mentally off in the land of her books (she seems to have lived almost permanently reclining on the sofa), and a father who could provide a seemingly coherent answer to just about any curious question Zippy dreamed up. Her observations on Jesus and organized religion will have you howling. They are funny without being sacriligious, and insightful far beyond the normal level of an 8-10 year old. There are several other stories written by Kimmel, and I'm definitely planning to explore them.

It's a book to savor, a book to read again, and definitely one to have on the shelf.  If you see it on the sale shelf, grab it.  It's a winner.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review: Death without Tenure By Joanne Dobson

Author: Joanne Dobson
Publisher-Format: Poisoned Pen Press (2010), 230 pages,
 also Blackstone Audio, 7 hr, 30 min
Narrator: Christine Williams
Subject:  Life in academia
Setting: Small college town, Massachusetts
Series: Karen Pelletier Mysteries
Genre: amateur detective
Source: public library audio download
Recommended? Oh yes......

 A new series for me to celebrate March Mysteries - an informal group that has formed over in our 75er challenge on LibraryThing.  I saw this one as I was browsing the download library, it sounded interesting, it was available, and I needed something meaty but not too heavy to listen to while swimming.  Since I joined this new pool, I've been working out almost everyday, and going through 2-3 audio books a week.

Karen Pelletier, professor of American Literature at Enfield College in Massachusetts is up for the only open tenure spot in the department.  She has worked her entire academic career toward this goal and has her tenure package ready to submit when she learns that the head of the department has announced that he favors her colleague Joe Lone Wolf (who does not even have his Ph.D!!!) because he wants the department to reflect my ethic diversity.  When Lone Wolf  is found murdered, suspicion falls on Karen.

In the meantime, her lover, a state police detective, is not available to shield her from the nastiness of the current investigator, because he is serving with the National Guard in Iraq.  Her daughter is off traipsing the world in Katmandu, and like any good parent, Karen is concerned about her safety.  When the police get particularly obnoxious, and don't seem to believe anything she tries to tells them, Karen sets off to clear her name and solve the murder.

The plot is fairly linear, there aren't any red herrings, but there are lots of suspects.  As is often the case with amateur detective stories, I find myself having to suspend belief---would real people REALLY ignore common sense and the advice to get a lawyer and let the police handle things, and are the police REALLY that incompetent? The ending is particularly mind stretching, but satisfactory.

  I certainly will be looking for at least one more of this series.  I enjoyed the portrayal of the pomposity of  the literature faculty as much as the mystery itself.  It made me quite happy that I settled for being a math major!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mailbox Monday - March 19th

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house recently, but here's a warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

 Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are rotated every month.  March is being hosted by Anna at Diary of an Eccentric.  Be sure to stop by and discover a new and wondrous (for me anyway) addition to your blog roll and take a look at everyone's Mailbox lists.

This week, ECCO Publishers, one of Harper Collins imprints sent this ARC and I am excited!  It's set in the US during World War I, and that fits in perfectly with my current War through the Generations reading.  I'll definitely be reading this one sooner rather than later, but meantime, here's the publisher's blurb:

The New York Times bestselling author of Serena returns to Appalachia, this time at the height of World War I, with the story of a blazing but doomed love affair caught in the turmoil of a nation at war
Deep in the rugged Appalachians of North Carolina lies the cove, a dark, forbidding place where spirits and fetches wander, and even the light fears to travel. Or so the townsfolk of Mars Hill believe–just as they know that Laurel Shelton, the lonely young woman who lives within its shadows, is a witch. Alone except for her brother, Hank, newly returned from the trenches of France, she aches for her life to begin.
Then it happens–a stranger appears, carrying nothing but a beautiful silver flute and a note explaining that his name is Walter, he is mute, and is bound for New York. Laurel finds him in the woods, nearly stung to death by yellow jackets, and nurses him back to health. As the days pass, Walter slips easily into life in the cove and into Laurel's heart, bringing her the only real happiness she has ever known.
But Walter harbors a secret that could destroy everything–and danger is closer than they know. Though the war in Europe is near its end, patriotic fervor flourishes thanks to the likes of Chauncey Feith, an ambitious young army recruiter who stokes fear and outrage throughout the county. In a time of uncertainty, when fear and ignorance reign, Laurel and Walter will discover that love may not be enough to protect them.

Then the great folks at Down East Publishers here in town, dropped two small but very timely Pocket Guides in my mailbox.  I already have patrons lining up for these. If I were a hiker or biker, or even heading up to Mt. Desert, I'd be sure to grab either or both of these compact pubs that live up to the sobriquet "Pocket Guides." If you're heading for Maine this summer, be sure to check them out.

Hiking Mount Desert Island: Pocket Guide, 2nd Edition
Home to Acadia National Park, MDI boasts some of the best hiking trails in the Northeast. Earl Brechlin, an avid outdoorsman and Registered Maine Guide, has been enjoying the wilds of the island for more than 20 years and has compiled 31 of the best trails into this guidebook. Easy-to-use maps clarify the island’s often complex trail network with fascinating tidbits only a Mount Desert insider would know. Long on information, but small enough to be tucked into a day pack, this pocket guide is the perfect companion for a trip to Acadia.

Biking Mount Desert Island: Pocket Guide, 2nd Edition
With 57 miles of highly scenic, well-tended carriage paths free of automobile traffic, Acadia National Park is a very popular destination among bicyclists. Audrey Minutolo-Le provides an in-depth look at 18 of the island’s finest loop routes.
Each route is broken down by mileage, categorized by degree of difficulty, and described in detail to help riders pick routes most comfortable for their skill level. Helpful tips are included to make your trips both safe and fun for the whole family, and clearly drawn maps will keep you on the road.
Includes a new introduction and updated information on trails and routes.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Salon - March 18th

So another frantic week of  reading, catching up on reviews and blogs and basketball, and choir, and baseball, and hockey, and sewing, and swimming and my growing pile of World War I books. Even if I didn't count the 7 Maisie Dobbs I've read --there's a post coming up this week on Maisie Dobbs month, I've been reading "war" books almost constantly. One of my neighbor libraries down the road is having a facilitated discussion next month of a great new one To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 so I grabbed a copy of that to add to my growing pile.

I'm determined to finish Omnivore's Dilemma for my  own book club this week, and The Beauty and The Sorrow which I've been reading on my Nook for the past month. In the meantime, I've been listening to a lot of mysteries in audio as I swim. This is March Mystery month, and I find that genre one of the most enjoyable to listen to. For instance, I'm a huge fan of Margaret Maron's Debra Knott series, and I'm trying to backfill the ones I've skipped over the years. I just finished Up Jumped the Devil - #4 in the series of about 20.  This one was so "old" I got it on cassette tapes - we did find an old walkman that still works, and I listened it last weekend while I worked on some needlepoint. Keeping up with Debra's 11 brothers and a town full of cousins adds to the fun while Debra tries not to get involved in solving murders. Great southern setting, fun characters, and a better than average story having to do with land development, and slowing down the inevitable march of "progress" which can so alter the complexion of a small town.

I also  managed to get tax software loaded, and get the library's annual report done, and I've been hitting the new pool almost every day.  Today, if the weather turns out to be as glorious as it's supposed to be, I'm going to take a stroll through our yard and woods to sort of mentally plot out what needs to be done to get ready for spring.  And you can bet I'm also going to be stretched out in my favorite chair (maybe on the deck) READING.   Til later darlings.......

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March is Maisie Dobbs Month

I've really gotten a bit behind on blogging. Between my trip to Baltimore earlier this month, and a bunch of admin work at the library, I've had time to read, but have not been too motivated to review or even read the blogs. This weekend as the Basketball tournaments begin (we're big fans of the UMd Lady Terps in this household), baseball spring training is really heating up, and the Umaine Black Bears Hockey team is competing for the Hockey East championship, I can't stay too focused on reading, but do have time to browse the blogs.

As I began trolling blogland, I discovered that March is Maisie Month!  How did I get so lucky?  And how on earth did I miss this announcement?  It just so happens that for the past 10 weeks, I've been gorging on the wonderful Maisie Dobbs series, and have now completed ALL of them.  There's a terrific Blog Tour, A ReadAlong, and author Jacqueline Winspear is keeping us excited about the newest volume on her Facebook page.

I'm going to be lurking and probably commenting on the Read Along. In the meantime, I want to comment on how much I've enjoyed these books not only as mysteries, but as studies of the effect of World War I on the lives of the people of Great Britain.  As an adjunct to my War Through the Generations reading focusing on World War I, they have provided a colorful, believable, empathetic and well-researched fictional account of class structure, the impact of technological changes, and the building sense of uneasiness and impending doom about Germany's politics.  At the same time, Winspear gives us some thoroughly loveable characters: Maisie herself, her elegant mentor and sponsor Dr. Maurice Blance and Lady Crompton, her scrappy assistant Billy Beale, her best friend Priscilla, her father, and her old and new loves, Simon and James.  With each new book, we find ourselves feeling like we've stepped into our neighbor's kitchen for a good cuppa.  The backfill of each is just enough for new readers to be able to pick up at anyplace (although they are absolutely such fun, I can't imagine why one wouldn't want to start from the beginning). 

Rather than try to review each book here, please stop by the TLC Blog Tour page and see what all the readers are saying.  I especially liked Gaby's comment on Starting Fresh: she said she'd been missing Downton Abbey and found these filled the gap.  Spot on Gaby!  I totally agree. 

Off to crawl the Blog Tour some more.  See you there!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Review: Clear and Convincing Proof by Kate Wilhelm

Author: Kate Wilhelm
Publisher: original publication -Mira (2003),  352 pages
Audio format : Blackstone Audio, 8 hrs, 15 min
Narrator: Anna Fields
Subject: Criminal investigation
Setting: Eugene Oregon
Series: Barbara Holloway novels #7
Genre: mystery, legal defense and investigation
Source: audio download from public library
Recommended? Yes - a great read for mystery fans, particularly those who like strong female protagonists

Since 2012 is my year to concentrate on Histories and Mysteries (oh hurt me!!) I was delighted to come across this one in the Barbara Holloway series.  I've read several of these but never seem to read more than one or two a year--there are actually 12 of them, so I have some catching up to do.  I really like the main character in these books.  Barbara Holloway is a defense attorney in Eugene Oregon.  She has gone through several different phases of "lawyering" but seems to be settling down to criminal defense in her father's venerable law firm.  While she sometimes chafes at being in the family firm, she does enjoy her father's company and advise.

Normally Wilhelms's Holloway stories revolve around Barbara's taking on impossible cases and finally proving the accused to be innocent, etc etc.  Here we are presented with a very different quandry.  Barbara is hired by the Board of Directors of a non-profit clinic to find out whether or not one or both of two different people associated with the clinic are guilty of murdering one of the clinic's Directors.  The identity and conviction of the guilty party(s) is ultimately going to decide whether the clinic will continue in existence.  It's a somewhat confusing and convoluted scenario that demands the reader pay close attention to the strands of who did what, and when and to whom.  In addition, Barbara must then face the decision that she will be called upon to defend a client she has been hired to prove guilty!!!

The story resolves itself well  with a very surprise ending, but not before taking us on the usual Kate Wilhelm roller coaster of blind alleys, red herrings and fun.

It's a great series, and I look forward to reading more of them in the months and years to come.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Review: The Last Founding Father by Harlow G. Unger

James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness
Author: Harlow Giles Unger
Publisher-Format: Da Capo Press, 2009, eBook, 320 pages
Subject: James Monroe
Setting: USA, France,England
Genre: Biography
Source: My ebook shelves - Barnes and Noble
Recommended? yes for anyone with an interest in early history of the republic and the War of 1812

Another life time challenge in which I've been participating is the US President's biography on  The  challenge is to read at least one biography of each president, and the group goal is to accomplish this before 2016.  My personal goal is to accomplish this before I die.  One of the problems with this challenge is the wide span of available books for each prez.  Some (like Washington and Lincoln) have entire libraries of volumes written about them; others have almost nothing. In many cases, and Monroe is in this group, there are the short, quick and dirty, juvenile biographies, and then there are ponderous tomes of the "chunkster" variety.  I've been purposefully running a bit behind and letting my fellow challenge participants find the good ones.

This one by Unger is a well-written, well researched, and richly documented story of our 5th president.  In addition to his personal accomplishments, many of which I was only slightly aware of, we get a broad picture of a very interesting period in our nation's history as the US bloomed from the 13 original colonies to the vast expanse of land added in the Louisiana purchase.  In this bicentennial year of the War of 1812, I actually got a much clearer picture of what the war was all about, who the players were, and what the results were.

It's not an overly engaging read, and there are probably areas that could have born more scrutiny, e.g., Monroe's attitude about slavery which is given just a few scattered mentions here and there, but on the whole, it does give us a much more fleshed out character than most of us had from school, where he seems to have been known as "the 5th President of the United States."

In addition to the well researched text, the book has  a wealth of illustrations, adding to our understanding of the period.  These pictures are even well portrayed in the e-book format I got from Barnes and Noble for my Nook.  If you're reading presidents, this is probably the best one available for Monroe.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Review: Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman

Author: Barbara W. Tuchman
Publisher-Format: e book-Random House Publishing Group, 640 pages
Also: Audio - Blackstone Audio, 19 hrs, 10 min
Narrator: Nadia May
Subject: World War I
Setting: England, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria,
 various Eastern European sites
Genre: Narrative history
Source: my own shelves (Nook), public library download (audio)
Recommended? for history buffs and those interested in World War I.

I certainly wouldn't call this an enjoyable book, but it is certainly one of the best detailed histories of the opening days of The Great War, what we have come to know as World War I.  I'm currently participating in the War Through the Generations World War I reading challenge for 2012, and chose this Pulitzer prize winning chronicle to start my journey through this epic struggle between the Allies and the Central Powers. It did not disappoint.

By focusing on the issues, nationalism, misunderstandings, and rivalries leading up to the conflict, and examining in minute detail the build-ups, alliances, war plans, battle strategies, personalities, and mis-steps of the national leaders, Tuchman gives us, in clear and concise prose, an engrossing story of how the actions of so few impacted the entire world.  The first month's campaigns are explained in blinding detail and no matter how much or how little exposure the reader has had to military life and jargon and history, no matter how negative or positive the reader's attitude is toward the subject, she grabs our attention, arouses our emotions and intellect, and takes us through an entire month of mistakes, miscues, arrogance, buffoonery, lack of vision, and dare I say idiocy of the then current state of warfare.  19th century tactics were meeting head on with earky 20th century weapons and technology, e.g. the airplane and zeppelin; experienced leaders from previous wars held tenaciously (and disastrously) to their pre-drawn plans without taking into consideration the impact and possibilities of new weapons, the possible change in "enemy" strategies and tactics, at the same time they made erroneous assumptions based on untested hypotheses, or scenarios that were at least 100 years old.

It was a frustrating read.  At times I was so outraged by the stupidity of the players that I had to put it down for days at a time.  It was minutely detailed, easy to follow, even for this reader who normally doesn't "do" battle scenes.  In the end though it was a book that could not be abandoned, a book that made me examine my own attitudes about armed conflict and the total insanity of humans killing humans to prove a point.  I plan to read several more books, both fiction and non-fiction, about this conflict and the period surrounding the actual war years.  I doubt I will find one that is better written, or more readable.

I should mention that I was also able to get a copy of the audio version which I found helpful as I read the text.  Nadia May's wonderful abilities to speak in various European accents and to narrate phrases in a variety of languages added much to my enjoyment of this volume. If you can read only one book about this war, this is the one!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tutu's First 2012 Giveaway! - Calico Joe by John Grisham

I haven't done a giveaway in quite awhile, but this one is bound to be a really popular one.  Everybody loves baseball, or knows someone who loves baseball, and John Grisham has never written a book I could put down once I opened the cover.  Doubleday has graciously offered us 2 copies to giveaway.  The blurb makes me quite happy to have a review copy to start on.  I'll give you my take when I announce the winners.  In the meantime, here's a little blurb to whet your reading appetite.

At long last, America’s favorite storyteller takes on America’s favorite pastime.

In this surprising and moving novel, the careers of a golden-boy rookie hitter for the Cubs and a hard-hitting Mets pitcher take very different paths. In Calico Joe, John Grisham takes on America's favorite pastime: baseball.  But it's not only a tale of pitchers and hitters.  It's a surprising and moving story of fathers and sons, redemption, forgiveness, and hope in the American heartland.  You might think it will be great for the sports lover in your life, but then end up reading it yourself. The baseball is thrilling, but it’s what happens off the field that makes Calico Joe a classic.
To enter, just leave a comment AND fill out the form.
No PO Boxes, anyone in the US with a street address can enter.

Opening day for the Red Sox (my favorite team) is April 5th, so we'll announce the winners that night.  Deadline for entering is April 4th at 11:58 PM EDT.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mailbox Monday - March 5th

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house recently, but here's a warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

 Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are rotated every month.  March is being hosted by Anna at Diary of an Eccentric.  Be sure to stop by and discover a new and wondrous (for me anyway) addition to your blog roll and take a look at everyone's Mailbox lists.

 Even though I've been gone for the past week or so, Mr. Tutu has done a terrific job of picking up the mail and letting me know what treasures await me when I get home later this week:

Calico Joe
by John Grisham

 This one by John Grisham promises to be a real winner, and we will be fighting over who gets to read it first.  It is such a special deal because Doubleday not only sent a review copy, but they've authorized me to have a giveaway for two more copies.  Stay tuned for more on this one later this week.  It should be a welcome read as spring training gets into full swing.
Then I also received a book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program--a special edition of
The Big Cat Nap
by Rita Mae Brown 
and Sneaky Pie Brown
To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the beloved Mrs. Murphy mystery series, Rita Mae Brown and her intrepid feline co-author Sneaky Pie Brown return with a charming claw-biting tale starring Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen. Of course prowling faithfully at Harry’s side are the sleuthing cats Mrs. Murphy, ever wise, and Pewter, reliably cranky and always primed with a razor-sharp quip. Fiercely loyal and on the alert, corgi Tee Tucker is also never far behind. This time, Harry and her menagerie throw a wrench into the gears of a killer of grease monkeys.

It’s mid-May, and Crozet, Virginia, is heating up fast, or so it seems to Harry. The town’s beloved ex–post mistress is never idle, dividing her time between raising this year’s bounty of crops; taking care of her veterinarian husband, Fair; indulging her passion for classic cars; and adding further to her reputation as a nosy neighbor. It starts when Harry’s dear friend Miranda Hogendobber takes her on a leisurely drive that ends in a narrow drainage ditch. The chaos continues when the Very Reverend Herbert Jones’s Chevy pick-up also abruptly goes kaput. But these vehicular mishaps are nothing compared to the much more distressing state of a mechanic discovered by Harry in a local repair shop: His head’s been bashed in.

Despite numerous warnings from her much-loved coterie of friends, human and otherwise, Harry rather quickly surmises that the time has come to pop the hood and conduct her own investigation. Her animal companions see disaster fast approaching but can do little except try their best to protect their foolishly intrepid human. Harry’s race to the truth leads straight to powerful forces determined to avoid scrutiny at any cost—even if it means running Harry Haristeen off the road for good.
  This is one of my favorite series.  I'm an animal lover, and the cats and the corgi in these books never fail to amuse and delight me.  I'm looking forward to an afternoon with my favorite cast.  Many thanks to Random House for making this review copy available.