Book Chat

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This month’s book reviews:

book chat

Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge: A Biography for Children
First this month, I’m happy to introduce my latest book, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge: A Biography for Children. As most of you know, I’ve been fascinated with the British royals since Princess Diana came onto the scene (gasp) 30+ years ago. I loved her as a teen, and I think Duchess Catherine is a great role model for girls of today. But as I looked at what was available on Kate for kids in the age 8-13 range, I didn’t find much.

So, as a former elementary teacher, I figured this bio had my name all over it. The girl in your life will enjoy learning more about Kate’s life. You may learn a few things too: did you know that Kate was bullied as a child? It’s true. Do you know her college major? You will after reading this. Includes full-color photos (because how can a book about Kate not?) and a timeline to coordinate Kate’s life with world events. Available in paperback or Kindle formats. I hope your daughters/nieces/granddaughters will enjoy this one!

I know 5 Minutes for Book-ies are great reviewers, so I would love for any of you to review this on Amazon, Goodreads, your blog, wherever. Recommend it to your library, your friends — I appreciate any word-of-mouth you can do. Thank you!

Dana interviews me at her place about the book today.


The Sinking of the TitanicI was able to visit a Titanic exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum earlier this month, and that has piqued my interest in the Titanic. You know that 2013 is the 100th anniversary of its sinking, right?

I was drawn to “The Sinking of the Titanic” first because it was free for Kindle, but also because it purported to contain first-hand accounts from passengers. First-hand is always a good thing, so I dug in.

As promised, the book was made up of various eye-witness accounts from Titanic survivors. Here are some things I found interesting.

  • On Monday, after the Titanic sank on a Sunday night, a wireless message was received: All Titanic’s passengers safe. At least, that’s what it was reported to have said. Only several days later was the wording corrected: Are all Titanic’s passengers safe?
  • Many of the first lifeboats were launched only partially full, because it took a while for passengers to realize that the Titanic was really going to sink. At that point, a “women and children first” rule was announced. Many men tried sneaking onto boats anyway, and several were shot down. As each boat was launched, several men jumped overboard from the ship and tried to climb aboard lifeboats. At least one “woman” on a lifeboat was later revealed to be a man who had dressed himself in a woman’s skirt and wig in order to find a spot on a boat.
  • Some women refused to go on lifeboats, preferring to stay with their husbands. Isidor Straus, co-owner of Macy’s, died with his wife, who said, “We are old; we can best die together.”
  • One lifeboat was determined to hold one more than its limit. A 25-year-old lady volunteered to go back on board the Titanic, saying to the woman next to her, “Your need is greater than mine. You have children who need you, and I have none.”
  • Several reported hearing the Titanic’s band playing “Nearer My God to Thee” as the ship was sinking. But a more accurate account of the final song heard was “Autumn,” a waltz.
  • Okay, I have way too many highlights:  many survivors remarked on how awful it was to hear the moans and cries of all those around them in the water. They also commented on the total darkness (no moon that night), and I hadn’t thought of that. One boat had someone with a small light, and all the other lifeboats looked to that until the Carpathia approached to pick the survivors up around 5 a.m. Monday. They also mentioned the cold, and the still water. “I have never seen such a clear sky. The stars were very bright and we could see the Titanic plainly, like a great hotel on the water. Floor after floor of the lights went out as we watched. It was horrible, horrible. I can’t bear to think about it.” Six in the boats died that night. (the final tally from the Titanic included 1635 who died and 705 survivors)
  • US laws required lifeboats for all passengers, but English laws did not, and England is where the Titanic launched from.

Really interesting account of the Titanic tragedy.



payne and miseryPayne & Misery is a tale told by Christine Sterling, a middle-aged empty nester who becomes intrigued and disturbed by her reclusive neighbors, the Paynes. The woman appears withdrawn and possibly abused, the man angry and hostile. Then Christine’s dog disappears, and the neighbor woman does as well. Christine’s snoopy, curious nature kicks into high gear and she goes about solving the mystery of what’s happened.

I dunno. I liked this book’s Christian feel (most of the characters were Christian, and this is a major part of the book as they pray together, attend church, etc). But the plot itself didn’t really pull me in, and there were frequent instances where Christine veers off on seemingly unrelated tangents: Computer language baffled me. Why couldn’t they just write these stupid manuals in English? If only I could find a good computer class — something for someone who knew nothing and understood even less.

And despite being about five years older than me, Christine often comes off as elderly: Movies aren’t what they used to be — now they’re all car chases and explosions. I don’t even understand the jokes … funny how technology familiar to most people could excite us oldsters … I suspected that Internet information couldn’t be trusted. It might be loaded with subliminal Communist propaganda or some other kind of liberal brainwashing. Do most people in their mid 50’s talk this way?

So, not a hit for me, but if you like Christian fiction and mysteries, you might want to give it a try.


The Longings of Wayward GirlsFirst, a fun side note: when my daughter saw The Longings of Wayward Girls in the house, she asked, “Oh cool, it looks like Gemma Hardy.”

And so it does:

Flight of Gemma HardySeriously, did these books have the same cover designer or what? Is the decapitated female a popular theme in covers these days? “Wayward Girls” also had a blurb on the cover from “Gemma”‘s author — another odd likeness.

Anyway! I loved “Wayward” for the writing. It flowed beautifully and was full of those lovely sentences you can just relate to — the type you read, and say Yes! It’s the tale of Sadie Watkins, a smart-but-mean girl who has grown up into a depressed (and adulterous) mom and wife. The story also deals with some mystery in the form of a girl who disappeared 25 years ago, and another who disappeared 5 years prior to that. One of these mysteries is tied up in the novel, the other left oddly featured yet hanging.

This is a hard book for me to sum up because, while the writing was really good, the story itself just didn’t seem that great. The plot really seemed to drag in spots, and the jumping back and forth between the current time and 1979 was confusing, especially in the early chapters. Then there was the one plot line that never went anywhere.

Recommended for the writing, mainly.


Medicine Men Extreme Appalachian DoctoringI picked up Medicine Men: Extreme Appalachian Doctoring when it was free on Kindle, and really, who could resist that dog? I found the cover a little misleading, because, while there is a tale or two mentioning pets, most don’t. These are the tales of doctors working in general practice in the Appalachians, a truly rough ‘n tumble, poverty-ridden kind of place. It’s written as a series of anecdotes rather than a story, so it’s a handy book to read when you have short snippets of time. The author’s dad was one of these doctors.

I learned that, to be a doctor in this area, you have to be very common sense-oriented: one doctor bought aspirin in three different colors and gave it to patients as placebos. If the green pills didn’t help, he’d escalate to the red, etc. It was amazing how many times these pills helped his patients, because “Uncle Eli knew one of the great secrets of healing — patients needed hope. If they had hope, they could recover from nearly anything.”

One pet tale tells of a dog, hurt in a fight, who wanders in to a clinic and sits on a stool, not leaving until the doctor treats him (yes, Appalachian doctoring can involve vet work as well). No one ever claimed the dog, so the doctor kept him and the two became great friends. Another tale involves a sick man’s black and white dog, who comes to sit outside the hospital right where his owner’s room is. In years afterwards, the doctor notices that many patients report seeing a black and white dog just before they die. The freaky and amazing thing is, most of these people had never known about the original dog who sat outside his owner’s door. Oooh …..!


Lots more reviews at 5 Minutes for Books.

9 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. Congratulations on your new book! I hope it does well for you!

    I like Christian fiction but don’t know if I’d like Payne and Misery. She sounds a bit grouchy.

    That’s odd about the tho similar book covers.

  2. The book tie-ins are deliberate–they draw in someone who liked the other. Pick a bestseller and you’ll likely find a copy-clone. After “Titanic Woman” –an obsessed middle school teacher both my kids had I doubt I’ll be reading more about it anytime soon, but IF I DO, I’ll start with that Titanic book!!! I reviewed a book this month that had beautiful writing but “not so much” for a story!! Great reviews, as always!

  3. Congrats on the new book! What a great accomplishment!

    Haven’t read any of the other books you mentioned but I love the ‘decapitated female’ comment – made me laugh. Yes, it seems I’ve seen quite a few of those lately.

  4. I am so excited about your new book; I agree with Tonia, a tremendous accomplishment. I think it is something my nieces would like, too. Thanks for the reviews of the other books. I’ve been reading a lot of Debbie Macomber books that my mother in law lent me; they are alright. Entertaining, light fiction. I want to read Les Miserables, but i’ll have to have a serious block of time to read, if I’m going to get it from the library.

  5. I know I’d love the book about the Appalachian doctors. Wish I’d seen that when it was free on Amazon.

  6. Your new book looks lovely!

    I have Medicine Man on my Kindle, but haven’t gotten around to it. If you enjoyed this book, read her first book, Heart In the Right Place. It was a great and humorous read about helping her dad in his practice.

  7. Congrats on the new book! How exciting. 😀

    Decapitated women on book covers does seem to be a trend and I wish it would end! My husband noticed it before I did. Most of the books I was bringing home from the library had women with gorgeous dresses but no heads! It’s kind of creepy…

    Happy September reading!

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing your thoughts.