Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Review: Airframe by Michael Crichton

I took this book off of my husband's bookshelf. He is a recreational pilot and enjoys reading books about airplanes. I enjoyed this book and felt like Crichton really tried to make it readable for those of us who don't know a lot about planes and flying. However, I still found it a little hard to follow at times. 

The book is a mystery about Flight 545 on a Norton N-22. During the flight 56 people were injured and 3 died. What went wrong? Casey Singleton, a vice-president of Norton Airlines, is given a week to solve the problem. If she doesn't, Norton will have some serious problems.

Can Casey figure out what happened in time? And, is the N-22 safe...or is it a Death Trap?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2013: A to Z Reading Challenge

My third, and probably last, reading challenge for 2013 is the longest and hardest. Basically, I'm attempting to read a book that starts with every letter of the alphabet! This one is hosted by Escape with Dolycas.  And, here's where I'll list my books:
B- The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
T- Tatiana and Alexander by Paullina Simons

2013: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

This challenge is hosted at Historical Tapestry and consists of different levels. I'll be attempting to read 10 Historical Fiction books in 2013 to become a "Renaissance Reader." Let me know if you are joining me for this challenge!


2013: What An Animal Challenge VI

I'll be taking part in several reading challenges for the first time in 2013. One of them will be all about animals! It is hosted by Socrates' Book Reviews Blog. The challenge is to read 6 books that have an animal in the title, on the cover, as a main character, or a character that turns into an animal. You can get specific details by following her link above.

Here's where I'll keep track of my 6 animal books in 2013:

Rouen, Normandy in France

One of the main reasons we stopped in Rouen, Normandy (in France) was to see the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. But, my mother was in a lot of pain and needed to rest. So, we left her in the car and told her we'd only be gone for 1 hour. We hurried through the town looking for the memorial cross... but we never found it. We did, however, see several beautiful blocks of Rouen.

The first site we came across was this beautiful building - the Palais de Justice. This gothic building was built near the turn of the 16th century and was mostly destroyed during the Allied bombing of WWII. This, the western facade, is heavily pockmarked from WWII bullets.
A "close up" showing some of the bullet holes still left on the western facade of the Palais de Justice.
Half-timbered buildings lining a street in Rouen.
Close-up of a half-timbered building.
 We stopped and had a quick drink - this was one of Alex's favorite drinks on this trip. It is a soda/juice mix! And, we were pleased to find out we could buy it at one of our local grocery stores that carries lots of international foods!
This is an amazing clock that I wish we would have seen up close. I only took this photo as we quickly turned the corner! The "Great Clock" was created in the early 1400's and rebuilt in 1527-1529.
Above is a close up of the photo I took. The clock only has an hour hand (no minute hand, as I guess the hour was close enough) and it is a little after noon. Under the VI there is a a cut out which changes each day of the week and shows a god on a chariot that demonstrates which day it is - I believe this was a Monday. Above the clock face is a globe that indicates the phase of the moon - I believe the colors are blue & silver so, this being completely silver, I think it was a full moon.
I'll show "Monet's cathedral" as a separate post...

Book Review: Cleopatra's Daughter

Yesterday, while Alex was sick asleep in bed, I finished Cleopatra's Daughter. I was sad to finish it and have the story end, though I was thankful that there was an 'afterward' that told what happened to many of the main characters. This was my second book by Michelle Moran and, like Madame Tussaud, it was an amazing book!

This book of historical fiction follows the life of Cleopatra's daughter, Selene, starting on the dreadful day when Rome's Octavian conquers Egypt. Selene and her ten-year-old twin brother, Alexander, are taken away on her mother's own boat to be captives in Rome. The hope of both children is to one day return to Egypt as rulers.

The book gives an amazing glimpse into this time in Roman history a little over 2,000 years ago: customs, clothing, religion, architecture, and more! Although I've heard of the horrible acts that took place in the Colloseum, I was saddened and sickened to read of other atrocities. (And yet, the story also included hope and love.) We are planning our first trip to Italy this summer, and I will definitely look at it through different eyes then I would have before reading this book.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An Original DUCKumentary

This Weekend, my husband and I watched an incredible show about ducks. It was PBS's "An Original DUCKumentary." I was truly amazed at some of the amazing things ducks do - especially how a wood duck leaves it's nest. It's just something you have to see to believe!
I was able to watch it online at the PBS site (click here). And, using AppleTV, we were able to watch it on the big screen together! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review: Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist is an amazing story that most of us are probably familiar with. It is about a young orphan named Oliver who lives and works in a workhouse for boys. He dares to ask for more gruel with the famous words, "Please, sir, I want some more." And, is then sold as an apprentice to an undertaker. He later escapes to London where he joins up with the Artful Dodger who is part of a criminal ring that includes pickpocketing.

Frontispiece first edition "Oliver Twist"
from Wikipedia
I have twice seen this story as a musical, but it is very brief compared to this lengthy novel. And, many things are left out! I totally enjoyed this book and enjoyed reading it on my Kindle app where I could look up the definitions of many words! Dickens style of writing is humorous and a joy to read. And, the story is a wonderful story that tugs at your heart.

Mr Bumble, the Beadle, by Kyd (Joseph Clayton Clarke)
from Wikipedia

I started watching Oliver! which was filmed in 1968 and LOVE it! I've seen clips of it, but I've never seen the entire production. I love musicals, and am surprised I've never seen this one. I plan on watching the entire show with my family this weekend.

Book Review: And Then There Were None

Last night I finished And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Alex read this last year and loved it and kept suggesting I read it. So, I finally did.

About halfway through the 300 page book I was not enjoying it, but I kept reading. The book is about a group of ten strangers who are lured to a small, isolated island. By the end of the night, one of them is dead. And, so they begin to die. But, who is killing them off? Is it someone hidden on the island? Or perhaps is it one of the ten?

What I didn't like about the book was the fact that I didn't really get to know the ten people and so I really didn't have feelings for them. So, as they started to die, it did not bother me! But, my feelings changed towards the end. I read straight through the last 100 pages - I just couldn't put it down as I needed to know who would survive and who was committing the murders! However, even then, I really didn't care much for the people and did not feel upset when someone died.

This was my first book to read by Agatha Christie. I didn't enjoy it very much, though I know she's a popular author. I'm glad Alex enjoyed it and I believe my sister has read quite a few of her books and enjoyed them. If you've read this book, or others by this aughter, let me know what you think!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Wild Turkeys on Our Land!

I remember the first day I saw Wild Turkeys. It was as I was driving from Kansas to Colorado about 5 1/2 year ago and I saw them along the road. I quickly pulled over and grabbed my camera an took a quick photo before they ran over the hilltop.  
I have seen them only a couple of times since, including in Tennessee this summer (above photo) while driving around a Civil War battle site. As much as I love nature, can you imagine how thrilled I was today when I heard someone had seen about 25 wild turkeys on our ranch in Oklahoma??? They were in our black walnut grove and my husband is going to see if he can spot them tonight. I did a little research and read they eat nuts, so maybe that is why they are hanging out by our walnut trees!

Everyone has heard that Ben Franklin wanted the wild turkey to be the national symbol instead of the bald eagle. But, I had never seen it in his own words before... this from a letter to his daughter:

"For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country....

I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Book Review: The Story of Charlotte's Web

I read another wonderful book! This one was a biography about author and animal-lover E. B. White. The book, The Story of Charlotte's Web: E. B. White's Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic by Michael Sims tells of White's childhood in Moutn Vernon, a suburb of New York,  with wonderful summers in Maine; his young adult life plagued with shyness around women and the beginnings of a literary career; and his discovery of a spider in his barn... that led to the creation of Charlotte's Web.

I loved reading about White's love of nature that started when he was very young. His early life included trips to the zoo, the circus, and month-long summer trips to Maine. White loved his time in Maine and would take a canoe out early in the morning, while the rest of the household slept, to watch the Great Blue Herons.

After marrying, he bought a small farm with his wife and started filling the barn with animals. One day, he noticed a spider on a web and he eventually spent a lot of time researching orb weavers. (I think it was over a year, but I read this book about a month ago and not I'm not sure I'm remembering that fact correctly.)

I loved learning more facts about spiders while reading this book, and just the fact the E. B. White was so meticulous with the accuracy of nature in his book. Charlotte's Web is one of my favorite books and this was a great look at the man behind the book... and a wonderful book about nature, too!

The Cuban Missile Crisis

I read Stephen King's 850 page book this week, 11/22/63. The book is primarily about a man, Jake Epping, who travels back in time to try to stop the assassination of JFK. But, Jake enters the past in 1958 so, along the way, he tries to do a few other good deeds.

While I was reading on Monday, and Alex was home sick, I came across a part of the book that dealt with the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is a subject that I wasn't very familiar with, so I started looking online. I found a movie from 2000 titled Thirteen Days and Alex and I both watched it and learned a lot about this scary time in American history! You can find the movie on YouTube. I also have started (and will try to finish today) a History Channel documentary called Declassified: The Cuban Missile Crisis, which you can also find on YouTube.

(Part 1 of 2)
As far as Stephen King's book... this was my first book to read by him and I REALLY enjoyed it! The book was full of surprises and I never new what was going to happen next. Warning: the book contains quite a bit of cussing and a few 'bedroom scenes'.
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