Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Jefferson's America by Julie M. Fenster

Part Of The Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, as Britain, France, Spain, and the United States all jockeyed for control of the vast stretches west of the Mississippi River, the stakes for American expansion were incalculably high. Even after the American purchase of the Louisiana Territory, Spain still coveted that land and was prepared to employ any means to retain it. With war expected at any moment, Jefferson played a game of strategy, putting on the ground the only Americans he could: a cadre of explorers who finally annexed the territory through courageous investigation.

Orchestrating the American push into the continent, Jefferson most famously recruited Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who led the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific. But at the same time there were other teams doing identical work, jn places were it was even more crucial. William Dunbar, George Hunter, Thomas Freeman, Peter Curtis, and the dauntless Zebulon Pike - all were dispatched on urgent missions to map the frontier while keeping up a steady correspondence with Washington about their findjngs.

But they weren't always well-matched - not with one another and certainly not against a Spanish army of a thousand soldiers or more. The tensions and perils threatened to undermine Jefferson's goals for the nascent country, leaving the United States in danger of losing its foothold in the West.

When I first started the blog, a blog that I've allowed to languish for far too long, I wasn't reading that much nonfiction. I would pick up the occasional political or history book, but it was only one or two a year, and that may be stretching it a bit. If blogging has made a lasting positive change in my reading life, it's in an ever expanding appreciation for nonfiction. The types of books I'm now reading covers a vaster expanse of interests, and I now have a greater appreciation for American history and how much of it I really didn't know.

I of course knew President Jefferson's role in obtaining the Louisiana Territory, what middle school kid hasn't heard of the Louisiana Purchase? I knew of Lewis & Clark and the exploration they embarked on. What I didn't know, or at least forgot about, was everything going on behind the scenes. They didn't teach us about all the maneuvering behind the scenes, the clashes with the Spaniards, or all the obstacles that had to be overcome for our country to stretch from coast to coast.

Before reading this I don't think I understood how much of how we see ourselves as a nationation was crafted by Jefferson. Nor do I think I fully appreciated his role in creating the country we call home, and I don't necessarily mean in our size. I think he is pivotal in envisioning a nation that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but I think he helped craft our character and instilled in our collective psyche a need to see beyond our current borders, to always be reaching for what is next.  He helped mold the American sense of adventuring. After reading this book, my fondness for our third president has only grown.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books, for this review

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth

Part Of The Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

It is 1906, and few in the teeming metropolis of New York City have heard of, let alone seen, the hugely wealthy man who controls so many of their lives. Few, too, would have heard of the extraordinary events that took place at the Paris Opera house more than twenty years before-a story as dramatic as any of the operas themselves: a tale of Love and murder and passion, the heartbreaking legend of the Phantom of the Opera.

I'll admit to having loved this book at one point in the time. Designed to be a sequel to Andrew Loyd Webber's musical, The Phantom of the Opera, it tells a rather convoluted tale of greed, family secrets, and unrequited loved. It captured my imagination from the beginning, but it's been at least 12 years since I'd read it. When I picked it back up the other day, while I wasn't as enchanted as before, it still managed to pull me in with it's operatic version of soap opera goodness.

The Phantom, now known as Erik Muheheim, escaped Paris with the help of Madame Giry, and has managed to raise from rags to riches in New York City. He has built a business empire to be envied, but never lost his love and fascination with Opera. His denial of a box seat at The Metropolitan Opera house, forces him to build a grander rival, and that sets the stage for the rest of the book. Christine is hired to sing, and when she shows up with her young son, the secrets come out in the open, and nobody will live the life they planned on from that point on.

The Phantom of Manhattan mixes old and new characters, seamlessly weaving them with secrets, love affairs, and enough tragedy to create a tale Susan Lucci could have sunk her teeth into.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Haunting of Timber Manor by F.E. Feeley, Jr.

Synopsis From Publisher:

While recovering form the recent loss of his parents, Daniel Donnelly receives a phone call from his estranged aunt, who turns over control of the family fortune and estate, Timber Manor.  Though his father seemed guarded about his past, Daniel's need for family and curiosity compel him to visit. 

Located in a secluded area of the Northwest, Timber Manor has grown silent over the years.  Her halls sit empty and a thin layer of dust adorns the sheet-covered furniture.  When Daniel arrives to begin repairs, strange things happen.  Nightmares haunt his dreams.  Memories not his own disturb his waking hours.  Alive with the tragedies of the past, Timber Manor threatens to tear Daniel apart. 

Sheriff Hale Davis grew up working on the manor grounds.  Seeing Daniel struggle, he vows to protect the young man who captured his heart, and help him solve the mystery behind the haunting and confront the past - not only to save Daniel's life, but to save his family, whose very souls hang int he balance. 

You guys know I love a good Gothic, haunted house story.  There is nothing like getting lost in an house that plays with your head, forcing you to see things that aren't there, turning you into a blithering cry baby, huddled in the corner of the smallest closet you can find. Timber Manor is as devious and mind warping as Hill House, and almost as violent and blood thirsty as Belasco House.  It's a house full of the most damming family secrets.  They are the kind of secrets that slither through time, wrapping the present inhabitants in a shroud of despair and death.  It's the kind of house that I've always wanted to live in, but I've never been sure if I would have the spine needed to do so.

Daniel is one of those guys, that as soon as they appear on the page/screen, you instantly love them. He is the guy you want to root for, the guys you pray survives until the end of the movie.  In Hale, he finds the perfect partner, someone to love and watch over him, and the guy who will protect him from the buried past roaring back through time.

The author did a freaking fantastic job at framing his story, creating a fully realized world that wasn't hard to picture in my head. This is one of those books that I would do almost anything to see adapted to the big screen.  The entire time I was reading it, every single page appeared in celluloid glory in my head.  I'm pretty sure my wishes here won't ever be realized, but a boy could dream.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

29 Days Until Halloween

So needless to say, September was not the month that things got back to normal around here.  I had every intention of throwing myself back into blogging, then they demoted my assistant manager, and I'm stuck working 76 hours a week right now.  That appears to be what my life is going to be like for the foreseeable future, so not looking forward to it.

What I am looking forward to is Halloween, and I'm going to make a commitment to post something Halloween related everyday, right up to the big day itself.  Some days it may be a simple Youtube video of a favorite Halloween song or Halloween cartoon.  Other days will feature a book review or a movie review.  And I'm going to try my damnedest to get some Halloween themed Favorite Fictional Characters thrown in there for good measure.  And I'm not going to kill myself getting it done, but I feel as if I need to make a 2016 list of sexy vampires.

Today will start off with a simple Halloween cartoon, one that I thoroughly love.  Enjoy.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Wordsmithonia Radio --- The Songs Currently Stuck In My Brain

There are a few songs that I can't seem to stop listening to lately.  Whether I have Youtube pulled up on the computer, listening to iTunes, playing a CD in the car, or humming in my head, they are songs that, for whatever reason, seem to be stuck on repeat.  Some of them are new, or newish, some of them are fairly old, but every single one of them are relentlessly bouncing around my head, including a television theme song (because of a game I'm playing). So with no further ado, here is the current soundtrack of my life.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Door by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Synopsis From Back Cover:

How little you know about the people who are closest to you... This is what ran through Elizabeth Bell's mind on the night of April 18th.  Sara Gittings, the family nurse, had just been brutally murdered.  And all thoughts of a homicidal maniac running amok were banished when the evidence revealed that Sarah had know and trusted her murderer.

Who would have anything against timid, sweet Sarah? But as Elizabeth Bell was about to discover, her staid and orderly household harbored more than one suspect with a motive - and, unfortunately, more than one victim. 

It's been a long time since I've read a Mary Roberts Rinehart book, so I felt it was long over due.  For the most part, it was simply that I had run out of "new" books at the used bookstore.  Every time I went in, I would check for them, but ones I hadn't seen before stopped showing up.  When I found The Door, I jumped for joy, went home and put the book away.  It then languished on the shelves for almost a year, and while I would think about it, I would get busy with something else.  The one time I did pick it up, it wasn't holding my attention so I put it away, and didn't pick it up again until another bazillion months had passed.  I picked it up once again, not that long ago, and while it still wasn't holding my attention, I forced myself to persevere and get it done.

I'm really not sure why I didn't get into this one as much as I have most of her other books. The mystery itself was well plotted out, the characters were engaging, and the tension was thick enough that a power saw would have been needed to cut it in half.  Elizabeth was a hoot to read, and I loved how involved she got into he whole thing, including the destroying of evidence, so I can't lay the blame at her feet.  I'm kind of at a loss to explain why this one didn't do it for me.  Maybe the pacing was a little slower than the previous books.  Maybe the weighing sense of claustrophobia that I've enjoyed with some of her other works, wasn't as present in this one.  Maybe I just didn't like the title and that fact it takes most of the book to understand where it came from.  I don't know, I'm kinda of grasping at straws here.

And I don't want to leave you with the feeling I didn't like it, because by the time it was over, I did.  It's not my favorite and I probably won't read it again, but it will stick around collecting dust for years to come.  Much in the way I feel about Agatha Christie's work, I would still put this one up against most of the cozy, cookie cutter stuff being written today.  I just wouldn't put it up against my favorite Rinehart books.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

August sucked!  I'm not willing to say it's the worst month I've ever had, but it definitely ranked in the top five worst months of my life.  Because of how the month hit me in the gut, I wasn't around as much as I would have liked, and I'm deeply sorry for it.  I'm sorry for all the posts I never got written, and I'm sorry for all your posts that I never got to read.  It was an exhausting month, and I simply didn't have the energy to log in the way I wanted to.

It's always a busy time at work, but for whatever reason, this coming Tuesday will be my first day off since July 17th.  My average work week was right around 60-65 hours, and I barely had time to do laundry, let alone read.  If it had just been a crazy schedule, I could have coped a bit more, but it wasn't.

For those of you I'm friends with on Facebook, you already know that I lost my grandma on August 12th, just three days before my birthday.  It's been hard to deal with, especially the guilt of not being able to get back to MN for her service, and for all the visits I put off over the years, swearing I would get up to see her sometime soon.  She was a terrific lady, and I'm going to miss her for the rest of my days.  There was some other family drama during the month, but I'm so tired of thinking about it, that I'm not even going to mention it further.

Now that August is over, work will start going back to normal, 50-55 hours a week and a day off every week.  The weather will start cooling down, and hopefully my equilibrium will soon be back to normal.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to be able to get back to posting on a regular basis, hopefully this week, and I promise I'll get by your blogs, and catch up on with what I missed.  So have a great week and an even better September.