Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The CrownThe Crown by Nancy Bilyeau
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"In this debut historical thriller, an aristocratic young nun must find a legendary crown in order to save her father’s life and preserve all she holds dear."

And what a great debut it is! This is not a story of Henry VIII rather set in time when Henry went against the Pope and the Catholic Church to rid himself of his second wife, Ann. Catholic houses of study, seclusion, and religious life as well as church followers are in constant danger. It is a time of bloody persecution.

How is this young nun to find a crown she knows little about...history or vision or any clues except that it should be in her nunnery?

Once I got stared, I could not stop listening as I followed her search!

The Bone Vault (Alexandra Cooper, #5)The Bone Vault by Linda Fairstein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This time my favorite trio takes us into New York's museums after they find the body of a young woman's sort of mummified body... in New Jersey... in a stone sarcophagus! If the solution to the murder wasn't enough, this listener was also treated to the history of how the museums got founded and how they got stocked.

As the DA's office is very busy, there is a another story line with a teenager who is raped and endangered of losing her life as well as the interworkings of the DA's office.

Obsession, Deceit, and Really Dark Chocolate

Obsession, Deceit, and Really Dark Chocolate by Kyra Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Murder, politics, furries, a writer and her friends and lover mix together in this fun mystery!

Such a verbal joy!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Death Dance (Alexandra Cooper, #8)Death Dance by Linda Fairstein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My favorite New York team, NYPD's Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, and Assistant D.A. Alex Cooper are on scene again. There are 2 story lines. One with a foreign doctor who is raping unconscious women. One with a dead ballet dancer and possibly others. Oh, and someone is trying to shorten my favorite DA's life!

I know I am giving nothing away about Alex not being "offed". But will all the "perps" end up dead or in the "pokey"?

While you are listening or reading this one, don't forget to enjoy the historical points as well! So good!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden Mystery, #1)Real Murders by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A mystery club meets. One member sets everything up for the evening but when the next people show up, she's not in the room. When the meeting is ready to start, she is still not in the room. Roe goes to look for her...and find her...set up just like the old killing Roe was going to lecture about that evening. More set up murders even like what Lizzie Borden did to her dad and step mother.

Now, grab the book or like me, use your credits to have fun with this one!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Exit Music (Inspector Rebus, #17)Exit Music by Ian Rankin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Detective Inspector John Rebus is a week before retirement when there is a murder of a Russian poet. It's his last case and it looks like a man he has wanted to lock up for a long time is involved as well as a host of others, like bankers, city officials, a man with love of recording people... And then his temper gets him in trouble and he is suspended. And then someone tries to through make him a suspect. "Everyone and everything seems connected!"

Tom Cotcher and his scottish accent, only adds to this story set in Edinburgh.

Have fun, I did!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

RoseannaRoseanna by Maj Sjöwall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A dead girl's body is dredged from Sweden's beautiful Lake Vättern. After an eternity, she is identified as Roseanna from Nebraska. But who did it and why? That's what Police Inspector Martin Beck wants to know. He must sort through about 100 people to find the killer. Unlike most mysteries, this one plods along like the way true life investigations probably do. When he finally zeros in on the killer, he has to trap him. Again, it takes time but he will get his man.

For those who like less plodding and more action, it may seem to drag. But trust me, the ending will speed up delightfully.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Lace ReaderThe Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What they said:

"Every gift has a price . . . Every piece of lace has a secret . . .

My name is Towner Whitney. No, That's not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time . . .

Towner Whitney, the self-confessed unreliable narrator of The Lace Reader, hails from a family of Salem women who can read the future in the patterns in lace, and who have guarded a history of secrets going back generations, but the disappearance of two women brings Towner home to Salem and the truth about the death of her twin sister to light. The Lace Reader is a mesmerizing tale that spirals into a world of secrets, confused identities, lies, and half-truths in which the reader quickly finds it's nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction, but as Towner Whitney points out early on in the novel, "There are no accidents."

What I think:

With a 5 rating, you know I am glad I used my credit on this one! The beginning lulled me to what suddenly turns into a good mystery with lots twist and turns as I was taken about Salem and the islands around on clear as well as foggy times. There are all kinds of "readers" as well as cultists and police and family relationships. The more I listened, the less I wanted to do anything else...including sleep as after the "lull" it seemed to fly. Like how a roller coaster starts slowly only to start a dive down and around and up and down!

The reason I input the publisher's summary is because I am afraid I will give something away and this is too good a story to spoil it for you! I must warn you, if you are listening to this on your way home, you may find yourself riding past or sitting in your driveway when you get close to the ending!

Oh, if you listen to this on, Alyssa Bresnahan does an excellent job as narrator!

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Fire and Ice, Vol. 5) by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just finished a listening marathon of the 5 volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire (volumes 1-5;). Trust me, it was a long marathon! If the story of the 7 kingdoms was not good, I would not have finished it...or have I. I normally do not like a series where you have to follow each book or clarity is lost or the story confusing. This is a must for this series in order to understand who's who and why things are happening as they are or why someone who appears dead lives. From this final volume, it would appear that there are more volumes to follow. This makes me sad. I wish this had been the last and things were more or less wrapped up as opposed to so many story lines dangling. There is much repetition. There are lots of twist and turns as you follow political and plots and schemes as well as character evolvement.

While I would like to know how it ends (if ever), I don't know that I will invest the time and Audible credits to continue. Do I regret my investment? No.

I must address the narrator, Roy Dotrice. He has a good voice and reads well. Listening to the five volumes in tandem, I found myself hearing different people with similar voices. This did not really bother me much, it's really just a nit. What was not a nit were the voices of women. They are just not right. Oh, the accents are good but they don't sound really feminine. The voice of the girl queen is especially off. She sounds old and scratchy. With so many characters to voice, the narration might be better served with at least one other person (a woman) added.

With roughly 201 listening hours, each book must be quite hefty. I mention this as a warning to those who do not like really long books.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

SOMETHING TO PONDER: George Carlin George Carlin's wife died early in 2008 and George followed her, dying in July 2008. It is ironic George Carlin - comedian of the 70's and 80's - could write something so very eloquent and so very appropriate. An observation by George Carlin: The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things. We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete. Remember to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side. Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent. Remember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind. And always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away. George Carlin

Could this happen here?

When I lived with my father in Germany (59-61), there used to a program on Armed Forces Radio called "Springfield USA".  There would be a story that took place in Springfield USA because at that time, there was a Springfield town in every state in union.  At the end of the stories always ended with "you think this can't happen? It did happen. It happened in..." and they would list place where it did happen. When I saw the following on FaceBook, it not only took me back but it also compelled me to share it here. I hope it will give you just a moment of pause as we start a new year.

December 22, 2012 - “What I am about to tell you is something you’ve probably never heard or read in history books,” she likes to tell audiences.

“I am a witness to history.

“I cannot tell you that Hitler took Austria by tanks and guns; it would distort history.

If you remember the plot of the Sound of Music, the Von Trapp family escaped over the Alps rather than submit to the Nazis. Kitty wasn’t so lucky. Her family chose to stay in her native Austria. She was 10 years old, but bright and aware. And she was watching.

“We elected him by a landslide – 98 percent of the vote,” she recalls.

She wasn’t old enough to vote in 1938 – approaching her 11th birthday. But she remembers.

“Everyone thinks that Hitler just rolled in with his tanks and took Austria by force.”

No so.

Hitler is welcomed to Austria

“In 1938, Austria was in deep Depression. Nearly one-third of our workforce was unemployed. We had 25 percent inflation and 25 percent bank loan interest rates.

Farmers and business people were declaring bankruptcy daily. Young people were going from house to house begging for food. Not that they didn’t want to work; there simply weren’t any jobs.

“My mother was a Christian woman and believed in helping people in need. Every day we cooked a big kettle of soup and baked bread to feed those poor, hungry people – about 30 daily.’

“We looked to our neighbor on the north, Germany, where Hitler had been in power since 1933.” she recalls. “We had been told that they didn’t have unemployment or crime, and they had a high standard of living.

“Nothing was ever said about persecution of any group – Jewish or otherwise. We were led to believe that everyone in Germany was happy. We wanted the same way of life in Austria. We were promised that a vote for Hitler would mean the end of unemployment and help for the family. Hitler also said that businesses would be assisted, and farmers would get their farms back.

“Ninety-eight percent of the population voted to annex Austria to Germany and have Hitler for our ruler.

“We were overjoyed,” remembers Kitty, “and for three days we danced in the streets and had candlelight parades. The new government opened up big field kitchens and
everyone was fed.

“After the election, German officials were appointed, and, like a miracle, we suddenly had law and order. Three or four weeks later, everyone was employed. The government made sure that a lot of work was created through the Public Work Service.

“Hitler decided we should have equal rights for women. Before this, it was a custom that married Austrian women did not work outside the home. An able-bodied husband would be looked down on if he couldn’t support his family. Many women in the teaching profession were elated that they could retain the jobs they previously had been re- quired to give up for marriage.

“Then we lost religious education for kids.

“Our education was nationalized. I attended a very good public school.. The population was predominantly Catholic, so we had religion in our schools. The day we elected Hitler (March 13, 1938), I walked into my schoolroom to find the crucifix replaced by Hitler’s picture hanging next to a Nazi flag. Our teacher, a very devout woman, stood up and told the class we wouldn’t pray or have religion anymore. Instead, we sang ‘Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles,’ and had physical education.

“Sunday became National Youth Day with compulsory attendance. Parents were not pleased about the sudden change in curriculum. They were told that if they did not send us, they would receive a stiff letter of warning the first time. The second time they would be fined the equivalent of $300, and the third time they would be subject to jail.”

And then things got worse.

“The first two hours consisted of political indoctrination. The rest of the day we had sports. As time went along, we loved it. Oh, we had so much fun and got our sports equipment free.

“We would go home and gleefully tell our parents about the wonderful time we had.

“My mother was very unhappy,” remembers Kitty. “When the next term started, she took me out of public school and put me in a convent. I told her she couldn’t do that and she told me that someday when I grew up, I would be grateful. There was a very good curriculum, but hardly any fun – no sports, and no political indoctrination.

“I hated it at first but felt I could tolerate it. Every once in a while, on holidays, I went home. I would go back to my old friends and ask what was going on and what they were doing.

“Their loose lifestyle was very alarming to me. They lived without religion. By that time, unwed mothers were glorified for having a baby for Hitler.

“It seemed strange to me that our society changed so suddenly. As time went along, I realized what a great deed my mother did so that I wasn’t exposed to that kind of humanistic philosophy.

“In 1939, the war started, and a food bank was established. All food was rationed and could only be purchased using food stamps. At the same time, a full-employment law was passed which meant if you didn’t work, you didn’t get a ration card, and, if you didn’t have a card, you starved to death.

“Women who stayed home to raise their families didn’t have any marketable skills and often had to take jobs more suited for men.

“Soon after this, the draft was implemented.

“It was compulsory for young people, male and female, to give one year to the labor corps,” remembers Kitty. “During the day, the girls worked on the farms, and at night they returned to their barracks for military training just like the boys.

“They were trained to be anti-aircraft gunners and participated in the signal corps. After the labor corps, they were not discharged but were used in the front lines.

“When I go back to Austria to visit my family and friends, most of these women are emotional cripples because they just were not equipped to handle the horrors of combat.

“Three months before I turned 18, I was severely injured in an air raid attack. I nearly had a leg amputated, so I was spared having to go into the labor corps and into military service.

“When the mothers had to go out into the work force, the government immediately established child care centers.

“You could take your children ages four weeks old to school age and leave them there around-the-clock, seven days a week, under the total care of the government.

“The state raised a whole generation of children. There were no motherly women to take care of the children, just people highly trained in child psychology. By this time, no one talked about equal rights. We knew we had been had.

“Before Hitler, we had very good medical care. Many American doctors trained at the University of Vienna..

“After Hitler, health care was socialized, free for everyone. Doctors were salaried by the government. The problem was, since it was free, the people were going to the doctors for everything.

“When the good doctor arrived at his office at 8 a.m., 40 people were already waiting and, at the same time, the hospitals were full.

“If you needed elective surgery, you had to wait a year or two for your turn. There was no money for research as it was poured into socialized medicine. Research at the medical schools literally stopped, so the best doctors left Austria and emigrated to other countries.

“As for healthcare, our tax rates went up to 80 percent of our income. Newlyweds immediately received a $1,000 loan from the government to establish a household. We had big programs for families.

“All day care and education were free. High schools were taken over by the government and college tuition was subsidized. Everyone was entitled to free handouts, such as food stamps, clothing, and housing.

“We had another agency designed to monitor business. My brother-in-law owned a restaurant that had square tables.

“Government officials told him he had to replace them with round tables because people might bump themselves on the corners. Then they said he had to have additional bathroom facilities. It was just a small dairy business with a snack bar. He couldn’t meet all the demands.

“Soon, he went out of business. If the government owned the large businesses and not many small ones existed, it could be in control.

“We had consumer protection, too

“We were told how to shop and what to buy. Free enterprise was essentially abolished. We had a planning agency specially designed for farmers. The agents would go to the farms, count the livestock, and then tell the farmers what to produce, and how to produce it.

“In 1944, I was a student teacher in a small village in the Alps. The villagers were surrounded by mountain passes which, in the winter, were closed off with snow, causing people to be isolated.

“So people intermarried and offspring were sometimes retarded. When I arrived, I was told there were 15 mentally retarded adults, but they were all useful and did good manual work.

“I knew one, named Vincent, very well. He was a janitor of the school. One day I looked out the window and saw Vincent and others getting into a van.

“I asked my superior where they were going. She said to an institution where the State Health Department would teach them a trade, and to read and write. The families were required to sign papers with a little clause that they could not visit for 6 months.

“They were told visits would interfere with the program and might cause homesickness.

“As time passed, letters started to dribble back saying these people died a natural, merciful death. The villagers were not fooled. We suspected what was happening. Those people left in excellent physical health and all died within 6 months. We called this euthanasia.

“Next came gun registration. People were getting injured by guns. Hitler said that the real way to catch criminals (we still had a few) was by matching serial numbers on guns. Most citizens were law-abiding and dutifully marched to the police station to register their firearms. Not long afterwards, the police said that it was best for everyone to turn in their guns. The authorities already knew who had them, so it was futile not to comply voluntarily.

“No more freedom of speech. Anyone who said something against the government was taken away. We knew many people who were arrested, not only Jews, but also priests and ministers who spoke up.

“Totalitarianism didn’t come quickly, it took 5 years from 1938 until 1943, to realize full dictatorship in Austria. Had it happened overnight, my countrymen would have fought to the last breath. Instead, we had creeping gradualism. Now, our only weapons were broom handles. The whole idea sounds almost unbelievable that the state, little by little eroded our freedom.”

“This is my eyewitness account.

“It’s true. Those of us who sailed past the Statue of Liberty came to a country of unbelievable freedom and opportunity.

“America is truly is the greatest country in the world. “Don’t let freedom slip away.

“After America, there is no place to go.”

Kitty Werthmann