Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Great and Terrible-Series

My Rating: 4/5
Pages: 0ver 2,00o together, or over 300 each  • Speed: Very Fast
Subject: Fictional, Political, Religion, Thriller

This modern-day thriller feels like a few 24 episodes mixed with religious perspective, family values and military heroism. I enjoyed this series, partly because its' storyline was more accurate to our times than--say--Harry Potter. The language could be suitable for a teenagers as well and treads on delicate (OK, earth-ending) topics respectable. These surely should be read as a group since the storyline carries strongly to the end. They lead you to view your own struggles and inner-thoughts through an entirely new perspective. You'll never want to go without food storage again!
 (The following summary is provided by

"This thrilling series by national bestselling author Chris Stewart takes us from the beginning of time to the final hours of the last days. Filled with rumors of wars and political intrigues, deadly epidemics and economic disasters, uplifting twists and inspiring miracles, the volumes in The Great and Terrible series reveal the greatest secret of all: The children of God can defeat the adversary, for we have fought him before.
This set includes all six volumes in the series:
  • The Brothers: In the time before Creation, before so many of the children of God turned away from their Father and walked knowingly into the dark, there was a choosing, a sifting, a contest of ideas and a battle for souls. In that great premortal war, each of us learned the first lessons of life: The great ones may fall. The wicked can change. The weak and the foolish can become the strongest of all. And the battle between good and evil is the same regardless of the time or place.
  • Where Angels Fall: The war that began before we entered mortality is escalating into the final battle for freedom, liberty, and the hearts and souls of all men. Into this world filled with turmoil, our Father will send some of his most valiant servants. A child is born who may have the power to change the course of history. But will Elizabeth remember the covenants she made in the premortal world? Will she and her brothers have the strength to withstand the terrible forces of evil that reign in the Last Days? Against the backdrop of Middle Eastern conflict, the story of war and intrigue will have you riveted! 
  • The Second Sun: The old king struggled, lifting his had again. The prince smiled at the motion and placed his mouth to the old man’s ear, feeling the heat of his skin on his lips. As he spoke his voice changed, as if another man were there. “It has started, my father,” he whispered in a soft, evil hiss. “There is no turning back. You might as well lift your hand to stop the sunrise as to bring an end to this plan. Like your own death, it is inevitable. A new day is dawning, a day of secret alliances and powerful men, an age of dark miracles, dreadful rumors and a red sinking moon, a day of a bright flash on the horizon that does not come from the sun. It will be an age of power and oppression far greater than has ever fallen on the earth. Even as I whisper to you, Father, even as my breath touches your ears, the great battle has started. The sun is setting on the frail world you have known. It is passing, and with its passing, the greater kingdom shall come. A world poised at the brink of a disastrous war is unaware of the evil forces that will stop at nothing to achieve their aims. But in the midst of turmoil and impending doom, some of the Father’s most valiant servants are in place – sons and daughters who may have the power to change the course of history. 
  • Fury & Light: The world waits in suspense as America struggles to survive following the attack on Washington, D.C., but who remains to run the government? Who will make the world-changing decisions that must be made? As King Abdullah prepares for the final attack that will bring America to its knees, the characters are trapped in a desperate fight for their lives. Sara Brighton and her sons, Luke and Ammon, head west in a doomed attempt to reach Salt Lake City. Sam returns to the States in anticipation of a U. S. retaliatory strike, but finds his home abandoned, with no trace of his family there. In Chicago, Azadeh Pahlavi meets her adopted mother and little sister, who are enmeshed in their own crisis with life-or-death consequences. The end is near now. 
  • From the End of Heaven: The battle of good against evil intensifies in the darkness of an EMP-devastated America. For Sara Brighton, the time is fast approaching when she must face the frightening realities her husband, Neil, warned her about before his death. Sam's problem is more immediate: How can he get his family to a safe place? Bono is still trying to get to his family, and Azadeh is struggling to find her role in the family that has reached out to welcome her in. Meanwhile, the followers of Satan plot to take over the government of the United States and remake it to fulfill their own greed and lust for power. 
  • Clear As the Moon: The nuclear explosion over Washington D.C. and the subsequent EMP attack have left a decapitated government and 300 million helpless citizens. In the ensuing chaos, a dark and powerful cartel steps forward to claim power. The Constitution of the United States hangs in the balance as the eternal struggle between good and evil spreads through the government. After Sara Brighton agrees to help a shadow government rise to power, Sara and Bono are sent on the most dangerous military mission of their lives. Azadeh agrees to guide them through the mountains of Iran as they seek for the key that could save the world. Struggling against overwhelming odds, they realize the most important lesson of their time: Faith is the only thing that matters as the final day draws near.
Best price here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Waiter Rant

My Rating: 5/5
Pages:302  • Speed: Very Fast and Funny
Subject: Cynical Real-Life Job

Have you ever wondered what the waiter thinks when you ask for a different table, stiff him on the tip, or act like you are God's gift to the restaurant? Well now you do. Waiter Rant is the front of the restaurant version of Kitchen Confidential, and is a must read for anyone attempting civility eating outside their own confines. Believe me, after you see what these guys go through, you will want to give them at least a 25% tip every time (unless they're incompetent.) Waiter Rant began as a blog written in secret by a New York waiter revealing restaurant stories that sharpen your pupils and leave you speechless. That lead to his instant New York Times bestseller which landed him interviews with Oprah & Matt Lauer. His proven ability to write creates readability you'll finish before dessert and want to share at the table. Beware of the potty-mouth, as in-the-field-type language is unabashed. I am definitely buying his new book, Keep the Change, about the world of tipping and how to become its "guru".

Check out his blog here. Still hilarious and spot on.
Both books available there with links to major booksellers.

Personal Note: My husband was in the tipping world of valet parking for 6 years, so I can understand the frustration and outpour of stories from the service end. These guys are people; we seem to forget that when they're picking up our keys or delivering our plate. Last month while visiting my sister in Ohio, I picked Waiter Rant up at a unique bookstore called The Book Loft of German Village. I'm so glad I did. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Florence of Arabia

My Rating: 4.5/5
Pages: 272 • Speed: Fast
Subject: Satirical Thriller
"...a blistering comic novel sure to offend the few it doesn’t delight" (B&N.COM).

Christopher Buckley's spot-on pun of dysfunctional world-Saudi-American relations gives the reader both a laugh and heart-aching reality check. Widely gutsy and hilariously understood, his ironic parallels of warped-Islamic culture leaves a shocking mark of intrigue regarding the women of our oil providers. For example, an executioner reduces a woman's sentence for driving a car (the most seditious of offences) from beheading in front of the plaza's Starbucks to a mere 1,000 lashes. Buckley's response? "God be praised." His sarcasm and deep comprehension of world-order seeps through every page. This Arab-jibing adventure is filled with sweaty romance, undercover CIA and a taunting taste of evil disguised as religious rule. Hold onto your hat, your burka...and quite possibly your head as Florence Farfarletti attempts to liberal Arab women through jaw-dropping television!

Here's the back-cover summary: "Appalled by the punishment of her rebellious friend Nazrah, youngest and most petulant wife of Prince Bawad of Wasabia, Florence Farfarletti decides to draw a line in the sand. As Deputy to the deputy assistant secretary for Near East Affairs, Florence invents a far-reaching, wide-ranging plan for female emancipation in that part of the world. The U.S. government, of course, tells her to forget it. Publicly, that is. Privately, she’s enlisted in a top-secret mission to impose equal rights for the sexes on the small emirate of Matar (pronounced “Mutter”), the “Switzerland of the Persian Gulf.” Her crack team: a CIA killer, a snappy PR man, and a brilliant but frustrated gay bureaucrat. Her weapon: TV shows. The lineup on TV Matar includes A Thousand and One Mornings, a daytime talk show that features self defense tips to be used against boyfriends during Ramadan; an addictive soap opera featuring strangely familiar members of the Matar royal family; and a sitcom about an inept but ruthless squad of religious police, pitched as “Friends from Hell.” The result: the first deadly car bombs in the country since 1936, a fatwa against the station’s entire staff, a struggle for control of the kingdom, and, of course, interference from the French. And that’s only the beginning. A merciless dismantling of both American ineptitude and Arabic intolerance, Florence of Arabia is Christopher Buckley’s funniest and most serious novel yet, a biting satire of how U.S. good intentions can cause the Shiite to hit the fan."

Available here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Number the Stars

My Rating: 4/5
Pages: 144 • Speed: Very fast
Subject: Children's Historical Fiction

Awarded the Newbery Medal in 1990 as the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children."

Ten year old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think about life before the war. But it's now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching in their town. The Nazis won't stop. The Jews of Denmark are being "relocated", so Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be part of the family. Then Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission. Somehow she must find the strength and courage to save her best friend's life. There's no turning back now. (back cover summary)"

I loved re-reading this children's classic, that reminds us that even kids had to make courageous, selfless decisions in the middle of war-torn Europe. The simpleness of the storytelling makes it absorbable, believable, and sympathizing. This is appropriate for maybe 3rd grade and beyond, and is a great introduction to World War II, an important part of world history for any child.

Available here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

My Rating: 5/5
Pages: 355; Speed: Slow but witty & real
Subject: Romance, Literary Fiction

"In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, the Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition? (back cover summary)"

Charming, intelligent, heart-warming and dignified, Simonson's attention to detail and witty renditions creates a very strong British novel! Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali's appreciation for both the old-ways of civilized people and their disgust of hypocrisy builds a riveting relationship both know is impossible. A joy on every page and characters you feel are real, give the old Brit a chance, and enjoy some herbal tea while you're at it!

Available here.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

My Rating: 4.5/5
Pages: 230; Speed: Very Fast
Subject: Young Adult, Culture

"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is Alexie's first foray into the young adult genre, and it took him only one book to master the form. Recently nominated for a National Book Award, this is a gem of a book. I keep flipping back to re-read the best scenes and linger over Ellen Forney's cartoons…For 15 years now, Sherman Alexie has explored the struggle to survive between the grinding plates of the Indian and white worlds. He's done it through various characters and genres, but The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian may be his best work yet. Working in the voice of a 14-year-old forces Alexie to strip everything down to action and emotion, so that reading becomes more like listening to your smart, funny best friend recount his day while waiting after school for a ride home," (Bruce Barcott, The New York Times).
Available here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Wall Street Journal Complete Money & Investing Guidebook

My Rating: 3/5
Pages: 224; Speed: Slow
Subject: Finance

"Unravel the Mysteries of the Financial Markets—the Language, the Players, and the Strategies for Success. Understanding money and investing has never been more important than it is today, as many of us are called upon to manage our own retirement planning, college savings funds, and health-care costs. Up-to-date and expertly written, The Wall Street Journal Complete Money and Investing Guidebook provides investors with a simple—but not simplistic—grounding in the world of finance. It breaks down the basics of how money and investing work, explaining:
• What must-have information you need to invest in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds
• How to see through the inscrutable theories and arcane jargon of financial insiders and advisers
• What market players, investing strategies, and money and investing history you should know
• Why individual investors should pay attention to the economy
Written in a clear, engaging style by Dave Kansas, one of America’s top business journalists and editor of The Wall Street Journal Money & Investing section, this straightforward book is full of helpful charts, graphs, and illustrations and is an essential source for novice and experienced investors alike. Get your financial life in order with help from The Wall Street Journal" (barnes&
This received a less-than perfect score due to its often mundane tone, yet the information contained is both vital and thoroughly written. 

Available here.