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Non-Fiction I’m Liking (Summer 2017)

If you’re still looking forward to taking your summer vacation and searching for inspiration in a non-fiction read, consider one of these as your beach companion!:

“At Home with Madame Chic: Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life,” by Jennifer L. Scott~ Wanting a little more French elegance in your everyday life? The second of Jennifer L. Scott’s non-fiction trilogy (so far) was a memorable read for me a couple of years ago.  Of course I wanted to read this after having read her first book, Lessons from Madame Chic.  I so enjoyed reading about creative ways to establish a lively routine at home.  Conversational in style, Jennifer feels like a trusted friend and I also am a devoted follower of her blog and youtube videos.  I really can’t think of anything to nitpick about it and I’m hankering after Book #3 (Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic)!  This book is perfect for stay-at-home mamas, but not relegated only to that stereotype.  All of us can benefit from living more consciously and happily when we’re at home.

“The Creative Habit”: Learn It and Use it For Life,” by Twyla Tharp~ Speaking of creativity, anyone who claims or aspires to be any type of artist will heartily enjoy this book, written by a NYC dance choreographer. At first I was going to pass on by this, but after taking a closer look I realized it had contained within it lots of encouragement for achieving my dreams of becoming a VO artist.  I’m only on Chapter 5 and I’ve already taken pages of notes and there are even interesting exercises for discovering how you are hardwired creatively.  I was afraid that perhaps the content would be too over my head, but I found it to be easy reading and am having a hard time putting it down.  Having a block and don’t know how or if you should continue forward?  I think you will find the author quite reassuring with a lot of good advice.  This book is a must-read for you!

 
 

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Book Review: “Nightbringer,” by James Byron Huggins

untitledGenre: suspense; Christian fiction, fantasy

Plot Summary: A group of tourists are stranded at a reclusive monastery high up in the Italian Alps.  But that’s the least of their worries.  A hair-raising screech in the dead of night lets them know they and the monks are not the only ones at the ancient abbey.  What is out there and what is it looking for?  And who is the mysterious hero in their midst who seems to know more than he’s telling?

My Book Review: I became interested in reading another book by author James Byron Huggins after I finished his novel, “Rora” (see my review of it here).  I hunkered down with this adventure in the winter and prepared to be entertained.

This was an easier read than Rora.  The latter dealt with the hard historical account of the Calvinist martyrs in Italy, while Nightbringer was more in the fantasy/supernatural genre.  Although this isn’t the first or the last Christian novel to deal with the subject of the Nephilim, it was the first I’ve read, and I was entertained with the ‘what if’ of what would happen if the descendants of Anak were still on earth.  Of course, if this were truly the case it would very unsettling, but in fiction it makes for great adventure!

The first third of the story was the most interesting to me, as it was able to keep my interest with it’s mystery. But once that mystery was revealed (too early on), the suspense was dropped.  Unfortunately, I felt the author got himself into a rut in the middle of his story.  I was quickly bored reading about one battle after another with the Nephilim beasts and the descriptions that went on page after page.  In every episode, it seemed Cassius (our hero) was severely wounded worse than he ever had before, then quickly recovered and preparing for his next battle, where he was wounded worse than ever before that… and the cycle would go on chapter after chapter.

I can see guys liking this story perhaps more than I did. It has the action, the battles, the hero that may appeal to them.  But it is not a serious work of fiction, and definitely not literary.  If you are looking for something exciting and light, this is for you.

If you liked this book, I also recommend…:

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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Audiobook Review: “A Curious Mind,” by Brian Grazer (Read by Norbert Leo Butz)

22669010Genre: non-fiction; self-help; motivational

Story Review: I picked this audiobook up on a whim while on a trip to my local library.  The very first thing that attracted me to it was the title: A Curious Mind.  I think the word curiosity describes me.  Even when I’m disgusted or repulsed by something, curiosity drives me in further to explore.  I love to learn!  I love anything interesting.

I tend to gravitate toward non fiction when it comes to audiobooks. I don’t have as much time to listen to fiction on audio, I get bored when I do, and I envy the reader because I want to vocally create the story myself.  Non fiction is different.  If it’s interesting it has my attention from the beginning, and I’m an avid note-taker.

I had never heard of the name Brian Grazer (Hollywood film producer and self-called ‘storyteller’) before, but I was surprised that I was familiar with some of his films. Some of them include A Beautiful Mind, 24, and In the Heart of the Sea. I wasn’t really sure what his book would be about, but it turned out to detail Grazer’s technique on how he approaches life.  In a word, with curiosity.  It wouldn’t hurt any of us to take a few tips on staying open to learn new things, taking opportunities as we come across them, and being humble and grateful in this world.  There are so many interesting things to learn and people to meet!  I liked Grazer’s reasoning that curiosity leads to success, and his list of benefits stemming from curiosity.

I probably would have appreciated a little more practical advice on how to apply curiosity to one’s everyday life. Not all of us have the leverage or opportunities to meet the kinds of people Grazer has (which have included Princess Diana, Isaac Asimov, and Fidel Castro).  But I took six pages of notes, so I think I enjoyed the book!

Thoughts on the Narrator: The preface is read by Brian Grazer himself, but the rest of the book is narrated by Norbert Leo Butz.  I’d never heard of him, either, but his reading never lost me or bored me.  His voice was clear-cut and stage-practiced.  Since this was non-fiction, I have no idea how he would do performing fiction with voices and dramatic emotions.  I am very picky when it comes to narrators (another reason why I listen to so few), but his was a presentation I could well tolerate.

I think it would be hard to listen to this without at least a pen and notebook. This is for anyone who desires to achieve goals in life!

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “The Club of Queer Trades,” by G. K. Chesterton

18834844Genre: mystery; classic

Plot Summary: [from Wikipedia:] “The Club of Queer Trades is a collection of stories by G. K. Chesterton first published in 1905.  Each story in the collection is centered on a person who is making his living by some novel and extraordinary means…  To gain admittance one must have invented a unique means of earning a living and the subsequent trade being the main source of income.”

My Book Review: If you’ve come to this blog post thinking you were going to read something on sexual identities, sorry to disappoint.  Once upon a time the word ‘queer’ was used to mean ‘peculiar’.  (I suppose ‘peculiar’ means something else now, too.  We’re so creative as to assign a double meaning to every word that already exists.)

There are ordinary men who lead ordinary lives with their chosen ordinary careers. And then there are others who take a different route in life.  They are the eccentrics, the colorful, and the crazy.  …Or are we, as ordinary citizens, the crazies?

If someone asked you to invent a whole new career that had never been thought of before, do you think you could do it and make money from it? Not merely recycling an existing career, substituting one thing for another, but actually coming up with a line of trade that’s never been done before.  It’s harder than it at first seems.  Of course, there would have to be a market for it.  And in the case of many of the extraordinary tradesmen in this collection of short stories, their careers are kept secret either because of the nature of their work, or because they would be thought insane.

As one would guess, this leads to many bizarre circumstances of ordinaries encountering these oddbodies (or geniuses) in society. The facts are there in front of their noses, but they can’t make sense of them.  It takes a remarkable fellow straddling the best of both worlds to make sense of the mysterious cases brought before him.  It makes for a curious read.

4b4f62db81ff23d0d0a99f7b0870ecddAlthough I usually dislike short story collections, I was glad this was written as it was. I didn’t particularly feel in the mood for a novel-length Chesterton at the time.  Sometimes he’s best taken in ‘doses’ because he can be so thick in his nonsense.  🙂  Really, G.K. was such a Mad Hatter!  Chesterton is never for those wanting a nice little story.  And it definitely isn’t my favorite book of all time.  But I enjoyed reading it anyway, because he picks you out of the mundane and makes you view the world at a different angle.  It gives the brain a good exercise!

I would say my favorite chapter story was “The Adventures of Major Brown”, in which a man is caught in an awfully good escapade, but doesn’t realize how much fun it was until it was over! How often are we the same in life?  We read novels for “escape” or to pseudo-live other “experiences”, but when some adventure happens in real life we are too overwhelmed to enjoy it in the moment.  Then of course, there’s the debate over modern-day video games.  Guys are so eager to play at fantasy games because it feeds something deep in their souls- the need for adventure.  But what happened to living real life?  Life is full of exciting experiences if only we accept its opportunities.

You can listen to the audiobook on Librivox by clicking here.

If you liked this book, I also recommend…:

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “Matorni’s Vineyard,” by E. Phillips Oppenheim

serveimageGenre: futuristic; suspense; intrigue

Plot Summary: Mervyn Amory is a British tennis player on his way to Monte Carlo for a holiday.  He takes a train trip that turns out to be anything but leisurely.  When an Italian spy passes on vital information to him just before he is assassinated, who will Mervyn trust?  Can we trust him?  And who is the beautiful Italian diva who has close ties to the Princess?

My Book Review: It’s been a few years since I’ve dipped into Oppenheim, but I have to say this was much more interesting to me than the last two I’ve read.  It had a flavor of The Great Impersonation, as far as the intrigue and atmosphere go.  It wasn’t hard to read, and provided some fun entertainment.

The best part was that it kept you guessing about who you could trust. I can’t say there were any huge plot twists that maybe the average reader wouldn’t see coming, but yet it keeps one suspecting everyone– even the main character.

I felt disappointed in how the Dictator was treated in the end. SPOILER ALERT: I felt the winners dealt him too soft a hand and they dared to trust someone to continue leading a large European country who had just threatened to pitch the continent into another world war.  Who’s to say he wouldn’t ever try something like that again?  On the other hand, I suppose this type of international dealing is realistic, considering how the world treated Hitler and Germany before WWII. END OF SPOILER. Oppenheim set his book in the 1940’s, which would have made the tale futuristic for readers at the time it was published in 1928.  Of course, the dictator-character Matorni represents Mussolini himself.  Oppenheim also had some of this type of foresight in my favorite of his (The Great Impersonation).

I loved the exotic location set in Monaco. Although the story is not historical, the details feel accurate, as if they were.  There is a romance as a side plot included, but I can’t say it was very believable because of how fast it occurred in such a short amount of time.  But if you want a bit of ‘alternate history’ type genre, this might interest you.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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Non-Fiction Books I’m Liking (Winter 2016-17)

Life is full of secrets and adventures…  Read all about them this winter in these two fascinating books!

17623735101 Secrets for Your Twenties, by Paul Angone~ I first heard of this book when I heard the author interviewed on Moody Radio by Melinda Schmidt. I was about to turn 27 and was convinced I was having a quarter life crisis.  And so I came across this interview that I had saved on ‘Programs to Listen to Sometime Before They Expire’ list and decided it was a good time to hit the play button.  I liked Paul Agone (see his website here) and his message.  He could empathize on the struggles of Twenty-somethings, having just graduated to his Thirties and being a Millennial himself.  The topics they discussed resonated withme, and I knew I wanted to read his book.  Problem was, none of the libraries among all of my state’s vast interlibrary loan systems had it.  My solution was to order a copy for my church library.  I knew if I could benefit from it, so could others.  (:) But I got first dibs! Ha ha!)  I wish that I had had this book much earlier, but better late than never.  Angone has a humorous writing style and had me Laughing Out Loud (I refuse to abbreviate) throughout.  But more importantly, there are many spots I want to copy out into my quotebook before I turn this over to the church.  It makes life much more bearable when you know that others are going through similar hurdles as they live out their adulthood.  It gives one hope that these same hurdles have purpose.  The author is a Christian and writes from that worldview, but is not preachy.  I suggest this for anyone anywhere in their twenties, and would make a good gift for highschool/college grads.

1441778The Lost Shipwreck of Paul, by Robert Cornuke~ It’s hard to remember when or where I learned of bible explorer Robert Cornuke. Somehow I just ran into his adventures while surfing the internet many years ago and became intrigued by him.  As a former police investigator (and now president of the BASE Institute), Cornuke has made it his mission to explore mysteries from the Bible, such as… The Lost Ark of the Covenant, the location of the real Mt. Sinai, and Noah’s Ark.  Even though many, many people have tried their best to hunt for the same things and made great claims, Cornuke is no sensationalist.  He treats the people he meets and interviews with respect, often gaining their trust and having access to places many other outsiders are not able to obtain.  He also has some unique theories that appear to come closer to the truth than many others.  I’ve been wanting to read one of his books for a long time, and have finally got my hands on one of the least talked about.  I’m still in the middle of reading it, but it is fascinating.  I love how he tells of his adventure from a storyteller’s point of view,– building suspense and making it a fun read.  I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.  If you want to watch some of his videos, Youtube has several of them, including the Temple of YHWH.  I highly recommend them!  You can visit his website here.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2017 in Non-Fiction Books I'm Liking

 

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Book Review: “Murder on the Lusitania,” by Conrad Allen

1246500Genre: mystery, historical fiction

Plot Summary: {from goodreads.com:} September 1907. George Porter Dillman sets sail from Liverpool on the Lusitania’s maiden voyage. Hired by the ship’s captain to pose as a passenger, George is in fact a private detective for the Cunard Line. In the first days of his voyage, George only has to deal with a few petty crimes. But then an expensive piece of jewelry is reported stolen and a body is found. Working quickly to solve both crimes, George makes an unusual friend, Genevieve Masefield, and the two uncover secrets aboard the ship that prove explosive.”

My Book Review: This is the first in the George Porter Dillman & Genevieve Masefield mystery series and the first I’ve tried by this author (whose name is not really Conrad Allen, and also goes by a whole slew of other pen names).  I settled in for an entertaining read of sea voyage, adventure, romance, and suspense all set in a historical setting.

Did it satisfy? In a word, no, I’m sad to say.  Although it was somewhat amusing, it really failed to grab me with it’s characters.  The two main characters (George and Genevieve) were hard for me to like.  The mystery plot felt too mechanically churned out.  I was a little dejected to find that although the story does revolve around the historic ship Lusitania, the mystery actually takes place on its maiden voyage instead of its famed sinking.

Content-wise, this mystery is pretty clean. There isn’t much gore, neither is there oodles of romance.  However, there are subtle innuendos made throughout the dialogue of the characters.  It is implied that Genevieve is sleeping her way through high society.  A fortune-hunter pressures a wealthy heiress to sleep with him, while at the same time is cheating with another woman.  None of these situations are implicitly described, but it gave a worldly feel to the novel.

At the end of the day, I’ve decided not to continue on with the series, but this book may be of interest to those who like cozy mysteries in a swanky setting. Would make a fun vacation read!

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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