Sunday, October 31, 2010

Author Signing in Rose Creek - Julie Kramer

David and I headed off to Rose Creek Elementary School early Saturday morning, for a waffle fund raiser and to meet the author Julie Kramer. Julie Kramer is from the area and had a chatting and signing at the fund raiser. She donated her time and $1 per book sold to the school. I just finished her latest and will be reviewing it soon(I enjoyed it.)
When I asked for a photo for my blog, she mentioned she had read it. Of course I was sure she was mistaken, but she wasn't. She had read it and even posted this site on her facebook page. We purchased her latest, had it signed and then she told us a bit about her next book. Her mother was there also and I really wished I had asked her if she was anything like Riley's mother in the books. I told her I loved the windmill aspect of her latest and she explained how she had actually been inside one and how there was definitely room for a good hand to hand fight at the top. She was enjoyable to talk with and I look forward to her next book.
The waffles were great. I ate David's.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Last Song - Nicholas Sparks

Title: The Last Song
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Publisher: New York: Grand Central Pub.
ISBN 0446547565
Copyright 2009
Pages 390

Quick Review: 3 Stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: I can't seem to stay away from this author.

Where I Obtained the Book: I picked this up my local library.

Synopsis: #1 bestselling author Nicholas Sparks's new novel is at once a compelling family drama and a heartrending tale of young love. Seventeen-year-old Veronica "Ronnie" Miller's life was turned upside-down when her parents divorced and her father moved from New York City to Wilmington, North Carolina. Three years later, she remains angry and alientated from her parents, especially her father...until her mother decides it would be in everyone's best interest if she spent the summer in Wilmington with him. Ronnie's father, a former concert pianist and teacher, is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art that will become the centerpiece of a local church. The tale that unfolds is an unforgettable story of love on many levels--first love, love between parents and children -- that demonstrates, as only a Nicholas Sparks novel can, the many ways that love can break our hearts...and heal them.

Review: Why do I read this author? He makes me cry every time. This is really about the relationship between a daughter and her father. It has a love story intertwined, but the bulk is about the father/daughter relationship. I cried and I cried and the end was good, if not a little unrealistic, but it is a love story. Sparks can weave a tale of love and lost and keep you coming back for more. I swear every time I read one of his I won't read another and yet I do. Dear John still kicks me in the chest when I think about the end, along with the Notebook and A Walk to Remember. The Lucky One was not one to cry over, but the rest are. If you need a good cry, read this or Dear John, both will leave you in tears.

Author Biography: Nicholas Sparks was born on December 31, 1965 in Omaha, Nebraska. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1988 and is one of the more critically acclaimed authors of the past 5 years. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, including "The Notebook" and "The Rescue". Four of his books, Message in a Bottle (1999), A Walk to Remember (2002), The Notebook (2004), and Nights in Rodanthe (2008) have been adapted into blockbuster movies. Sparks lives in North Carolina with his wife of 13 years; 3 sons, and twin daughters.

Other Reviews:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Solar - Ian McEwan

Title: Solar
Author: Ian McEwan
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
ISBN: 978-0-385-53341-6
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 287

Quick Review: 4 stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: I was looking for a self contained digital book to listen to as I worked on my house remodel. I have read Ian McEwan before, Atonement and Saturday, and enjoyed them. So I picked this up and got through it as I hung my drywall.

Where I Obtained the Book: At my local library.

Synopsis: Michael Beard is in his late fifties; bald, overweight, unprepossessing – a Nobel prize-winning physicist whose best work is behind him. Trading on his reputation, he speaks for enormous fees, lends his name to the letterheads of renowned scientific institutions and half-heartedly heads a government-backed initiative tackling global warming. An inveterate philanderer, Beard finds his fifth marriage floundering. When Beard’s professional and personal worlds are entwined in a freak accident, an opportunity presents itself, a chance for Beard to extricate himself from his marital mess, reinvigorate his career and very possibly save the world from environmental disaster.

Review: After reading so many serious books Ian McEwan is giving humor a shot. One of the highlights is the protagonists attempt to relieve himself outside during the winter. As a Minnesota resident who finds himself enjoying a comparatively warm minus 20°F at times, I can relate to the fear expressed in the story. At one point I believe all men will wince in pain. The author also works in an old tried and true myth/story and I was left wondering why he would try to pass that off in the narrative, but then he brings it full circle and has another character ask the question I wanted to ask.

At its heart though, Solar is a story of human folly, the tendency of people to fix one bad decision by making two more bad ones. Like a gambler, Michael Beard one big win early on in life and thus felt comfortable make even riskier bets. Having worked through 5 wives he once again gets caught cheating and loses the love of his wife. Instead of cutting his losses he starts engaging in even riskier behaviors trying to win back his wife. When they fail he makes more. He slowly ups the ante until ultimately he goes all in.

If anything, this book should stand as a testament to all of us that you can’t fix a wrong with a wrong. As the great philosopher Kenny Rogers once said, “You got to know when to fold them.” If only we all had the presence of mind to remember that sage advice.

The only downside for me was the lead character himself; a totally unlikable hero. In some ways that is evidence of McEwan’s writing skill, that you can thoroughly dislike the character rather than just be ambivalent.

Author Biography: McEwan's works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories First Love, Last Rites; the Whitbread Novel Award (1987) and the Prix FĂ©mina Etranger (1993) for The Child in Time; and Germany's Shakespeare Prize in 1999. He has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction numerous times, winning the award for Amsterdam in 1998. His novel Atonement received the WH Smith Literary Award (2002), National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award (2003), Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction (2003), and the Santiago Prize for the European Novel (2004). He was awarded a CBE in 2000. In 2006, he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel Saturday and his novel On Chesil Beach was named Galaxy Book of the Year at the 2008 British Book Awards where McEwan was also named Reader's Digest Author of the Year.

Other Reviews:
The New York Times
The Guardian
Washington Post


Have a Little Faith - Mitch Albom

Title: Have A Little Faith
Author: Mitch Albom
Publisher: New York: Hyperion
ISBN 9780786868728
Copyright 2009
Pages 254

Quick Review: 5 Stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: I loved the other book of his I read. 'The Five People You Meet in Heaven.'

Where I Obtained the Book: I picked this up my in-laws, on my last visit.

Synopsis: The #1 "New York Times"-bestselling author of "Tuesdays with Morrie" goes back to his nonfiction roots with a timely, moving, and inspiring look at faith: not just who believes, but why?
Could you give the eulogy of your spiritual leader? What if they asked you, 9 years before they passed?

Review: I loved this book, wow. I laughed, I cried, I sobbed, wow what a great story. Moving and haunting. I will remember this one for a long time. The stories included were wonderful and thought provoking. People can change.

We all have to find our own way in this life and yet help those who need us along the way. I recommend this to anyone, any religion and even the atheists out there. What a beautiful book. Read it, read it, read it!!!!

Author Biography: MITCH ALBOM is an internationally renowned and best-selling author, journalist, screenwriter, playwright, radio and television broadcaster and musician. His books have collectively sold over 28 million copies worldwide; have been published in forty-one territories and in forty-two languages around the world; and have been made into Emmy Award-winning and critically-acclaimed television movies.

Other Reviews:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Half Life - Roopa Farooki

Title: Half Life
Author: Roopa Farooki
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 9780312577902
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 258

Quick Review: 3 stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: I am always trying to increase the amount of books I read by both female authors and non-American authors. This, as they say on 30 Rock, is a two-fer. Plus I read one of her previous books, Corner Shop, and liked it well enough.

Where I Obtained the Book: Off the new shelf at my local library

Synopsis: On the morning that changes everything, Aruna Ahmed Jones walks out of her ground-floor Victorian apartment in London wearing only jeans and a t-shirt, carrying nothing more substantial than a handbag, and keeps on walking. Leaving behind the handsome Dr. Patrick Jones, her husband of less than a year, Aruna heads to Heathrow, where she boards a plane bound for Singapore and her old life. Educated and beautiful, Aruna has a desperate need to risk it all. But why? Waiting for her is a messy past and a perfect past lover she had once abandoned without even saying goodbye – a story left unfinished – until now.

Review: One little lie to perpetrate on small cover-up. All for the sake of what is “best.” Half Life looks at the consequences of this event years later, like the butterfly causing a hurricane, the repercussions wreck havoc in the lives of the three protagonists. Each chapter alternates between our three leads, Aruna the married woman, Jazz the former boyfriend, and Hassan, Jazz’s father.

All three are stuck, both physically and mentally, in the past. They are unable to experience life at its fullest extent – thus they are living a half life. Though they have all left each other behind physically, they have been unable to move on mentally. Finally it is the words of Hassan that break the proverbial camel’s back for Aruna, and she must find resolution.

In the end this is a story of closure. Problems in our live must be resolved to be truly left behind. And when we, and we all try, just walk away from our problems they will follow us, haunt us.

The downside for me is this book at 258 pages was a little short, I would like to have had a lot more depth of character. I sort of mourn the book this could have been if fully threshed out. The structure of the chapters sort of limited that.

Author Biography: Roopa Farooki was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and brought up in London. She graduated from New College, Oxford in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and worked in advertising before writing fiction full time. Roopa now lives in Southeast England and Southwest France with her husband and two young sons, and teaches creative writing at the Canterbury Christ Chuch University masters' program.

Other Reviews:
The Independent
S. Krishna Book Reviews

Interviews with the Author

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

As Good As Gold - Kathryn Bertine

Title: As Good As Gold
Author: Kathryn Bertine
Publisher: ESPN Books
ISBN: 9781933060538
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 295

Quick Review: 5 stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: Someone doing endurance sports – what’s not to love?

Where I Obtained the Book: I saw this on the new section at my local library.

Synopsis: At the age of thirty, elite triathlete Kathryn Bertine had no job, no home of her own, no direction, a canceled wedding, and just over $200 in her checking account. Just as she was about to renounce her athletic dreams, the phone rang. ESPN The Magazine made her an offer she couldn't refuse: Bertine would have two years to make the 2008 Summer Olympic Games by any means necessary as long as she survived to tell the tale.

Review: Have you ever watched the Olympics, or any top level sporting event for that matter, and thought to yourself “I could totally do that.” The Editors at ESPN wondered the same thing and went to find a test subject. What makes this whole experience more humbling is Kathryn Bertine was no couch potato, she was a formidable athlete in her own right. National class ice skater in her youth, college rower in her early twenties, and an elite triathlete as an adult. Could she do it in 2 years?

What follows is her journey’s though a variety of Olympic Sports, both known and obscure, in an effort to make the team. She even gives a try at the luge, and while loving it manages to score a zero on the physical assessment test. This is a great look at what it takes to make the Olympic team, and in a sense any dream we might hold in our heart. Commitment, sacrifice, and handwork; they are all required. How many of us are giving the bare minimum to get by in our passions, our families, and our jobs?

A must read for anyone reaching for the stars and wanting some motivation in their life.

Author Biography: In 2000, I received my master of fine arts degree in nonfiction writing from the University of Arizona. My first book, All the Sundays Yet to Come: a skater’s journey was published by Little, Brown in 2003. My next book, As Good as Gold, will be published by ESPN Books in June 2009. Between books (and nearly every part time job known to mankind), my essays and articles have appeared in ESPN: The Magazine,, Details,, Triathlete, Inside Triathlon, and UsWeekly.

Other Reviews:
Cycle & Style Magazine
Pez Cycling News

Read the series of articles that inspired the book at ESPN online.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Stalking Susan - Julie Kramer

Title: Stalking Susan
Author: Julie Kramer
Publisher: New York: Doubleday
ISBN: 978038552476
Copyright 2008
Pages 308

Quick Review, Lisa: 4 Stars (out of 5)

Quick Review, David:

Why I Read It, Lisa: The author is local, from the Rose Creek area. David had read this and suggested it to me to read.

Why I Read It, David: Julie Kramer is a local writer and her family was promoting the books at a parade last summer. A co-worker got the information and let me know about it while discussing books one day.

Where We Obtained the Book: I picked this up at my local public library.

Synopsis: Inside the desperate world of TV ratings, an investigative reporter discovers that a serial killer is targeting women named Susan and killing one on the same day each year. Television reporter Riley Spartz is recovering from a heartbreaking, headline-making catastrophe of her own when a longtime police source drops two homicide files in her lap in the back of a dark movie theater. Both cold cases involve women named Susan strangled on the same day, one year apart. Last seen alive in one of Minneapolis’s poorest neighborhoods, their bodies are each dumped in one of the city’s wealthiest areas. Riley senses a pattern between those murders and others pulled from a computer database of old death records. She must broadcast a warning soon, especially to viewers named Susan, because the deadly anniversary is approaching. But not just lives are at stake— so are careers. November is television sweeps month, and every rating point counts at Channel 3. Riley must go up against a news director who cares more about dead dogs than dead women, a politician who fears negative stories about serial killers will hurt the city’s convention business, and the very real possibility that her source knows more about the murders than he is letting on. When Riley suspects the killer has moved personal items from one victim to the next as part of an elaborate ritual, she stages a bold on-air stunt to draw him out and uncovers a motive that will leave readers breathless.

Review, Lisa: I liked this book. I found the pace fast and easy to follow. Having Minnesota land marks and the Twin Cities as a back drop, made it fun to read. I had actually been to many of the places mentioned in the book.
Her character Riley is tough. She has had loss in her life, but forced herself to keep going and succeed. She has moments of doubt about her job and her life in general. Maybe a bit 'Superwoman' at times, but I like her.
The mystery is interesting and keeps you turning the page. I would suggest this to anyone. It's a fast, enjoyable journey.

Review, David:Great mystery and wonderful writing. It also opens up a lot of the inside world of TV news reporting. Plus if you have any Minnesota experience you can have “secret insider” knowledge that just adds to the book.
This book is hitting on all levels for me. The cover had me worried that it might be light chick-lit suspense (the bright yellow and the female outline) but I was rewarded with a solid, gritty procedural investigation (my favorite). Here is hoping Mrs. Kramer writes another twenty of them.

Author Biography: Julie Kramer is a freelance news producer for NBC's Today show, Nightly News, and Dateline. Prior to that she was a national award-winning investigative producer for WCCO-TV in Minneapolis.

Julie grew up along the Minnesota-Iowa state line, fourth generation of a family who raised cattle and farmed corn for 130 years. Her favorite childhood days were spent waiting for the bookmobile to bring her another Phyllis A. Whitney novel. An avid reader, she tired of fictional TV reporters always being portrayed as obnoxious secondary characters who could be killed off whenever the plot started dragging. So her debut thriller, Stalking Susan, features a TV reporter as the heroine and takes readers inside the world of television news. She lives with her husband and sons in White Bear Lake, MN.

Other Reviews:

Publisher Weekly
Kramer's impressive debut, a thriller, introduces Riley Spartz, a Twin Cities investigative TV journalist. Riley's favorite source, a former Minneapolis homicide detective, suspects a serial killer is behind two cold murder cases of women named Susan strangled on November 19 one year apart. Still grieving for her late patrolman husband, Riley relishes the distraction of a possible hot story. After discovering that a raincoat links the two victims, one a 26-year-old waitress, the other a teen prostitute, Riley unearths other cases that may fit the pattern, including the apparently solved murder of a former Miss Duluth and the suspicious suicide of a terminally ill woman. Kramer, a freelance television producer, delivers more than another ho-hum remix of a 48 Hours episode thanks to a snappy subplot--Riley's exposure of a bad veterinarian doing scam pet cremations. Readers will look forward to seeing a lot more of the appealing Riley, who cares about justice as much as snagging at least a 40 audience share. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal
Drawing on her experience as a TV news producer, Kramer has crafted an engrossing and suspenseful debut thriller focusing on investigative reporter Riley Spartz and full of memorable characters and convincing insight into broadcast journalism. Bernadette Dunne, whose Audie Award-nominated reading of Elizabeth Cohen's The House on Beartown Road was a Best Audiobook of 2004 (LJ 6/1/04), skillfully captures the story's personalities and emotions while maintaining pace and tension. A compelling and addictive production; highly recommended for public libraries. [Audio clip available through; watch the book trailer at; the Doubleday hc was recommended "for all public libraries," LJ 7/08.--Ed.]--Melody A. Moxley, Rowan P.L., Salisbury, NC Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

FYI: Currently selling for $17.21 on Amazon in hardback.

Julie Kramer is coming to town. We plan to have her sign a copy of her newest book, Silencing Sam.
Saturday, October 30, 8 am-noon

Rose Creek, MN
Waffle Feed
Benefit for Southland Schools
201 1st St NE
chatting & signing

Silencing Sam

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

Title: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (February 2, 2010)
ISBN 1400052173
Copyright 2009
Pages 384

Quick Review: 4 Stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: A friend of mine suggested it, then told me part of the story and so I put it on my list of books to read. It was different then what I have been reading so far this year.

Where I Obtained the Book: I picked this up at my local public library.

Synopsis: Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the effects of the atom bomb; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live, and struggle with the legacy of her cells.
Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.
Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?(taken from Rebecca Skloot's webpage)

Review: I enjoyed this book, the story of how HeLa cells started was fascinating. The chapters were set in the years the discoveries were made and the idea that so many people have been helped by a few cancer cells is incredible. There were some very disturbing stats, 90% of the adult population has a form of HPV(sexually transmitted disease), her cells were so strong because of the type of HPV she had. Informed consent became an issue in the medical community after Henrietta's cells were taken. Up to then and for years to follow, scientists injected many unknown substances into prisoners, poor people, and terminally ill patients. They did this without consent and without the people knowing what they were being injected with. Medical research now takes more time and paperwork, but no one is being given anything they are not told ahead of time.
Her cells were used in making the polio vaccine and many others. They have been used to find a cure for many diseases that plague us all. The HeLa cells are extremely strong and virulent and invaded many other cell lines until proper storage and working conditions were established.

Her family was poor and black. No one ever explained to them what they had done with their mothers cells. The daughter who gave the information to the author, wanted to know more about her mother and what her cells were doing. She just did not understand how her cells could live and yet her mother was gone. Henrietta's family received no compensation for the help their mothers cells did for the world and cannot afford to see a doctor themselves.
The man who first grew her cells, never profited on them. He used them purely for scientific knowledge. I can tell you I'm glad informed consent is required now. Her family assumed the doctors were smarter then they were, so they let them do whatever they asked. How many of us don't question our doctor, we should.

Author Biography: Rebecca Skloot is a science writer whose articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine, Discover, Prevention, Glamour, and others. Ten years in the making, her first book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (forthcoming Feb. 2, 2010), is a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick. A starred Publishers Weekly review called it, "A remarkable debut ... recalls Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's Random Family ... A rich, resonant tale of modern science, the wonders it can perform and how easily it can exploit society's most vulnerable people."
Skloot has worked as a correspondent for NPR's RadioLab and PBS's Nova ScienceNOW, and is a contributing editor at Popular Science magazine. Her work has been anthologized in several collections, including The Best Food Writing and The Best Creative Nonfiction. She blogs about science, life, and writing at Culture Dish, hosted by Seed Magazine. She is a former vice president of the National Book Critics Circle, and is on faculty at the University of Memphis, where she teaches creative nonfiction. She divides her time between Memphis, New York City, and Portland, Oregon. And she regularly abandons city life to write in the hills of West Virginia, where she tends to find stray animals and bring them home.
Other Reviews:

FYI: Currently selling for $15.01 on Amazon in hardback.

Disclaimer for all reviews sent by the publisher, publicist or author for review.