Review: 41: A Portrait of My Father ~ George W. Bush

41ISBN ~ 978-0553447781
Publisher ~ Crown
No. Of Pages ~ 294 pages
Links ~ Random House, Barnes & Noble, Amazon

George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, has authored a personal biography of his father, George H. W. Bush, the 41st President.
 
Forty-three men have served as President of the United States. Countless books have been written about them. But never before has a President told the story of his father, another President, through his own eyes and in his own words. A unique and intimate biography, the book covers the entire scope of the elder President Bush’s life and career, including his service in the Pacific during World War II, his pioneering work in the Texas oil business, and his political rise as a Congressman, U.S. Representative to China and the United Nations, CIA Director, Vice President, and President.  The book shines new light on both the accomplished statesman and the warm, decent man known best by his family. In addition, George W. Bush discusses his father’s influence on him throughout his own life, from his childhood in West Texas to his early campaign trips with his father, and from his decision to go into politics to his own two-term Presidency.

4 Thumbs-UpI’m not a political being by any stretch of the imagination, but something about this book just made me want to read it.  It may have been the fact the election of the 43rd President was my first experience of the US voting system, or the plain and simple fact that most books written about those who have held a position of great power, such as the 41 in this book, they are invariably written by someone who didn’t know them on a personal level.

Whether you are a diehard opponent of the Bush Family, or like me lean neither one way nor the other, this is a book that I would highly recommend to anyone.  Within its pages the reader will find not the usual politic rhetoric that is so often the fate of a biography of this nature, but an actual personal look at the life of the 41st President of the United States.

The Author manages to remove the mystic that surrounds his Father by regaling the reader with not only personal stories of a nature known only to a family member, but writes these stories in a loving and caring manner.  The stories contained with the pages of this work are not just limited to ‘41’, but also cover anecdotes about other members of the family, including the daughters of ‘43’ himself.  Written in a manner that I would not have thought possible from this man, the book is full of humour, life and above all laughter and love.

There is a lot in this book that makes it earn a place on any readers’ bookshelves, and I will definitely purchasing a copy for my library.

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Review: Only Time Will Tell (The Clifton Chronicles #1) ~ Jeffrey Archer

Time will tellThe epic tale of Harry Clifton’s life begins in 1920, with the words “I was told that my father was killed in the war.” A dock worker in Bristol, Harry never knew his father, but he learns about life on the docks from his uncle, who expects Harry to join him at the shipyard once he’s left school. But then an unexpected gift wins him a scholarship to an exclusive boys’ school, and his life will never be the same again.

As he enters into adulthood, Harry finally learns how his father really died, but the awful truth only leads him to question, was he even his father? Is he the son of Arthur Clifton, a stevedore who spent his whole life on the docks, or the firstborn son of a scion of West Country society, whose family owns a shipping line?

This introductory novel in Archer’s ambitious series The Clifton Chronicles includes a cast of colorful characters and takes us from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War, when Harry must decide whether to take up a place at Oxford or join the navy and go to war with Hitler’s Germany. From the docks of working-class England to the bustling streets of 1940 New York City, Only Time Will Tell takes readers on a journey through to future volumes, which will bring to life one hundred years of recent history to reveal a family story that neither the reader nor Harry Clifton himself could ever have imagined.

2 Thumbs-UpThe problem with Authors as well-known as this one is that the reader expects a certain quality of writing, character development and top-notch editing and proof-reading.   In this novel which is the first in a series, he manages to reach those expectations, but falls horribly short in others.  I’ve never been an ardent fan of his works as a whole, but have found some to be fairly enjoyable to read, so I was not going into this with any preconceived notion as to which side of the fence this one would fall.

As always his characters are well-developed and thought out, even though, in some instances, a little insipid and naive for my tastes.  Covering varying families as it does, each one has their main protagonist telling the family story and this led to a feeling of the whole thing being a smidge disjointed in some areas.  As well as the characters were written, there were none that I felt I could really connect with and, over time I was just wanting something to happen that would wake them all up.  The saving grace in the character area was the writing of the mentorship between two of the males; it was written sensitively and with a real life feel about it, that actually made me smile a little when the fruit of all that time spent ripened.

The style of this book is very easy to read, but again not overly engrossing; it is definitely a book a reader could put down and walk away from for a few hours without feeling a sense of guild or loss at doing so.  If you are looking for a nice tidy ending, this is probably not the book you should be reading, as the twist in the story at the end is so distant from the start of the book that it can only lead the reader to the conclusion that this is just the beginning of a saga.

If you are looking for an easy to read book, that does not try the mint too much, or a saga to carry you through the summer then this is probably for you.  Unfortunately, for me, I feel that this will be the last time I read anything by this Author.

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Where the White Rose Blooms ~ Kelly Deschler

 

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Where the White Rose Blooms

The single white rose captured the old gardener’s attention,
He lovingly cared for it, like it was his own grand-daughter,
The roses were just like family and friends in his eyes,
He gave them bright sunshine, and plenty of fresh water.

He had always planted roses in reds, yellows, and pinks,
Yet, it was the one white rose that he favored most,
The old gardener admired it’s innocence and elegance,
A quality that the other roses just could not boast.

This precious rose was pure white, like new fallen snow,
Which only a cold, late November day could bring,
It’s delicate petals were soft to the finger’s touch,
Similar to that of a feather, in an angel’s wing.

The old gardener was perplexed and astonished,
Only this rose bloomed through spring, summer, and fall,
Each of the other roses had withered months ago,
The frost and cold weather did not affect it at all.

With a smile, the old gardener took one last look,
Unknowingly, death would soon come without warning,
After he had settled down for a nap in his chair,
He drew his last breath, later on that morning.

His funeral was held on the very next day,
Loving words were spoken, as he was laid to rest,
His grand-daughter approached, with tears in her eyes,
As she placed the single white rose upon his chest.

The cemetery was a quiet and peaceful place,
Where family and friends gathered to remember,
A gentle snow began to fall upon the casket lid,
Brightening the gloom on this final day of November.

The old gardener’s soul departed from this earth,
Lead away by a choir of angels, on delicate wings,
Then on through the pearly gates of heaven’s garden,
Where the white rose still blooms, in eternal springs.

Kelly Deschler

Review: Family – The Ties that Bind…And Gag! ~ Erma Bombeck

Family Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession Bombeck here takes a look at the family grown and comes up with characteristically incisive, irreverent and pertinent wisdom. Her three children, now adults, and herself at the age where “you look wonderful,” she provokes thought about the shifting family. Intergenerational relationships; Bombeck’s with her parents; hers with her children and the amorphous family constellations of the ’80s are explored by a master of the art of domesticity. Adult children who return to the empty nest, technology that needs to be mastered in kitchen and family room are grist for Bombeck’s ever-ready mill.

A cherished family reunion sets the stage for Erma Bombeck’s predictably hilarious recollections of raising a family – that is, strangers who know each other intimately, but who have nothing in common (and want to keep it that way!). Erma’s conclusion: families-you can’t live with them, you can’t live without them… or can you?

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This is the first book that I’ve read by this Author, and it had me chuckling happily from start to finish.  What needs to be remembered though, by any reader picking it up, is that it is a 1980’s book filled with 1980’s humour and references.

As it is a hilariously funny snapshot into the Authors Family life during this time period, there are no characters that have to be developed, as each member of the clan brings their own baggage with them which is tipped out in front of the washing machine for the reader to pick through, or not as they see fit.   It is a book to appeal to everyone, regardless of the type of Family they were raised; anyone that reads this will be able to relate to and recognize at least one member of the Authors’ Family that resides in their own.  The book also has appeal across the genders; women will recognize their part in the whole play unfolding before them and men will be able to know profess to understanding the reasoning behind why their womenfolk do the things they do.

It doesn’t matter that, at times the stories being told in this book appear to go off at a tangent and never return, it just adds to the humour and reality of what is being written about; after all how much of our own families lives follow a logic and direct route to any point in time, I know our family doesn’t.  Through the laid back writing style of this Author, the reader is shown that’s is OK to have a dysfunctional family and that it’s also OK to be able to laugh when things go wrong; even in the most mundane of situations humour is always there to be found.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys laughter in their lives, and doesn’t mind laughing out loud in public.

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“A Soldier’s Christmas Poem” ~ LCDR Jeff Giles, SC, USN

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“A Soldier’s Christmas Poem”

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
“What are you doing?” I asked without fear,
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
Then he sighed and he said “Its really all right,
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night.” “It’s my duty to
stand at the front of the line,

That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ‘Pearl on a day in December,”
Then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘Nam’,
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue… an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.”

“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”

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Holiday Week Announcement

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As we roll towards the annual turkey feast, I would just like to let you know that there will only be a couple of book reviews this week.  Like the rest of you I will be spending time enjoying the company of Family and all that entails.  I’m also going to take time this week to start prepping the donations for the Veterans Home, which I will be delivering on December 20th; anyone who wants to donate print copies of books still has time, just head over to the Big Heart Project page for details.

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Review: From Mangia to Murder (Sophia Mancini Mysteries #1) ~ Caroline Mickelson

From Mangia to MurderLittle Italy, 1946 – Sophia Mancini would have enjoyed the grand opening celebration of her family’s private detective agency if the volatile chef at Vincenzo’s Ristorante had actually survived the meal. But before Sophia’s chilled spoon hit the spumoni, someone plunged a knife into Vincenzo’s back and the word on everyone’s lips went from mangia to murder.

Sophia soon finds herself trailing crime boss Frankie Vidoni, chatting with his mouthy mistress Maria, and dodging henchman Mooch DiMuccio. She’s suspicious of Vincenzo’s widow, Stella, and his assistant chef, Eugene, because they don’t appear the least bit dismayed by Vincenzo’s passing. There is no conversation Sophia won’t eavesdrop on, no question she won’t ask, and no danger she won’t face to find the killer.

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This is a debut work for this Author and the first in the Sophia Mancini Mystery series, and is a delightful cozy mystery set in the post war world of Little Italy.  With this setting the novel brings to the reader a reminder of a time and social etiquette that is beginning to fade from memory.

The main protagonist is a post war female, adjusting to living in a world where women once again have to take a back seat to the whims of the males in their lives.  She is written with humour, warmth and strength coming out of the pages as a woman who is determined to make her own way in the world, despite of all the restrictions imposed on her.  The Author manages to instil in her characters the speech and manners of the time, and dresses them according to the fashion trends, which must have required some research on the part of the writer.  The extended family is painted with all the rich texture and whimsy one would expect from an Italian family transplanted not that long ago into America, and gives them traits that can still be found in the older generations of such families today.  All the Authors characters are loving created, and the reader is able to feel connected to in some way to one or more of them as they progress through the book, investing their time into seeing what the outcome will be for these people who, at times, make you feel like you are not only a part of the family but of the community as a whole.

The setting for the novel is, in itself and for me, one I had never come across before and this added to my enjoyment of the book very much.  I could smell the aromas from the numerous Italian restaurants and cafes, hear the mixture of the Italian and American voices, and feel the mistrust there was for anyone they deemed to be outsiders.  In her locale, the Author did an outstanding job of bringing into their writing that sense of community, where the whole neighbourhood supports and aids their fellow-man, regardless of the situation.  The importance of religion in this locale is a part of the novel too, but not to a point where it became preachy, it is just there as part of the everyday life.  There is a lot of dialogue, and well there should be considering the nationality of the players in this novel; it is at times quick and rapidly fired at the reader, with sprinklings of Italian and lots of humour that will make you chuckle and, at times forget that you are actually reading a murder mystery.

There is one thing that really would have made this the perfect little book for me, and that would have been the inclusion of some of the recipes to items the characters eat as they sleuth their way to the conclusion.  Alas, it was not to be, so I’ll have to content myself with hoping that somewhere in the rest of this series, the Author may decide to include one or two recipes per book, to add even more flavour to her writing.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of cozy mysteries and anyone looking for a new, easy to read and enjoyable series to follow.  I look forward to the next instalment.

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