Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Review: Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scot Chessman

Synopsis: Nineteenth-century Paris comes radiantly alive in the richly imagined novel about the intimate relationship between celebrate Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt and her sister, Lydia, Cassatt's fragile, beloved muse. Told in the voice of forty-one-year-old Lydia, who is dying of Bright's disease. Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper opens a window onto a burgeoning world of art and ideas as it captures the extraordinary age in which these sisters lived. This sweeping narrative features real-life figures like Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Edgar Degas, Cassatt's mercurial, charismatic mentor and includes five full-color plates of Cassatt's paintings. It is a graceful and enchanting exploration of the duels between art and desire, memory and identity, and romantic and familial love. (from the inside cover of the book)

Review: This is an ethereal, romantic work. Lydia Cassatt is dying. Both she and Mary – whom the family calls May – haven’t come to terms with this. Mary dreads a world without her sister. Lydia resents that her life is defined by loss, illness, and desires that will never be. As she poses for her sister over the span of a few years, Lydia confronts the past and the never-to-be future. There is a bittersweet feeling, a happy sorrow, a gentle letting go by each of them.
Chessman uses an almost poetic style of writing – combining gorgeous lyrical prose and poetic stylizing of the text to convey the sense of art and desire, of sorrow and love, which ties the two sisters together. Chessman attempted to stay true to Mary Cassatt’s life, taking only a small amount of writer’s license with the characters. This makes the book even richer – knowing that most of what you read is true. The book is divided into five chapters, each centered around one of five paintings May did of her sister. Included as glossy, vibrant, color pictures of each painting. This makes the book rich and gorgeous. 
For anyone who enjoys art, particularly Mary Cassatt and the Impressionists, this book is a must. I would recommend it as a vital part to any art-lovers library. 

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-452-28350-7
Year Published: 2001
Date Finished: 8-21-2016
Pages: 164

Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Thai: The Essence of Asian Cooking by Judy Bastyra and Becky Johnson

Synopsis: Starting with a short but interesting history of Thailand, the book moves into detailed and colorful information about each ingredient you might find in the recipes. Each one includes a picture, a description of the taste and use, and where do possibly find it. From there, the book moves into recipe in the categories of poultry, beef, fish, rice, noodles, salads, desserts, and appetizers. The recipes are easy to read, easy to follow, has pictures, and includes cooking tips.

Review: I made my first recipe from the book. Beef Stew with Star Anise (p142).
Looks good, right? It was. It was fan-freaking-tastic. Seriously, I ate two helpings – and would have eaten more but I’m trying to regain my girlish-figure. It’s important to remember, I am not a particularly good cook. So, if I can manage to follow a recipe and come up with something edible, it’s a cookbook worth experiencing.  The book lays open nicely, which makes cooking from it easy.
1) It is Thai cooking, which means there are a lot of ingredients. But most of them can be purchased at a local Asian market, as they are common to most Asian cooking (mung beans, fish sauce, lemongrass, star anise, Thai basil,). But if you haven’t ventured into an Asian store before, it’s a bit daunting. Be warned.
2) The book has the measurements in both American and British/Australian/European amounts. Meaning that it will say 30ml/2 tablespoons. This doesn’t detract from the recipes or cooking instructions, but it is important to note that it is a book for any English-speaker, regardless of what measurement system you are familiar with. 

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None (that I know of!)

ISBN: 1-84309-724-9
Year Published: 2003
Date Finished: 8-17-2016
Pages: 256

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Synopsis: Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016. It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places. (from the inside cover)

Review: Everyone's read this. It was...okay. I know as a die-hard Harry Potter fan (seriously, I have a wand and a robe and a jar of lemon drops from HP world), I'm suppose to love this book. But I didn't. I enjoyed seeing the characters as adult, seeing that they still have to grow as people, seeing their children. 
I admit, it was the time travel. I detest time travel in stories, as a story-telling device. Rowling handled it better than most authors, and seeing these characters experience it revealed who they were in unique ways. But still, it irked me. I'm thankful to Rowling for giving us more Harry Potter, however, and once again, taking us back to this world. 

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None (Yet!)

ISBN: 978-1-338-09913-3
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 8-13-2016
Pages: 321

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review: Made to Crave: 60 Day Devotional by Lysa TerKeurst

Synopsis: Last year, author Lysa TerKeurst released the book Made to Crave, providing the Biblical answer to why people diet, regain the weight they lose, and continue to find themselves stuck in this vicious cycle. Made to Crave helped thousands of people finally achieve victory in their weight loss journey. But, according to TerKeurst, “We need more than 19 chapters to stay motivated and on track. That’s why I wrote this daily devotional with 60 inspirational entries. There is plenty of new material not in the original book. Rest assured, I also included your favorite nuggets of wisdom from Made to Crave.” Just like the Made to Crave book, this Made to Crave Devotional is not a how-to get healthy book. It is the road to finding the lasting ‘want to’ that extends far beyond the surface issues of weighing less and wanting to wear a smaller clothes size. Says TerKeurst: “There’s a spiritual battle going on. It’s real. And it’s amazing how perfectly the Bible gives us specific ways to find victory with our food struggles. “Even for girls who don’t crave carrots.“ (from the back of the book)

Review: A companion to TerKeurst's Made to Crave book, this is composed of 60 short devotionals. Each is proceeded by a verse and a "Thought of the Day" which often a quote from the book. After a 1-2 pages read, there is a prayer that goes with the theme of the day.
As with the book, I found bits and pieces helpful, but over all, it was mostly fluff and nonsense. Again, nothing blatant or clearly wrong theologically, but there was something off about some her writings. If you found her book helpful, then you will also find this helpful. There was some repetition, but not enough to detract from the devotions. Not my cup of tea, but it will appeal to others, I'm certain.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-310-33470-5
Year Published: 2011
Date Finished: 8-1-2016
Pages: 199

Monday, August 15, 2016

Readings on the American Revolution

During July, my goal was to read only books about the American Revolution. I read other books as well, which meant I didn't read as many on this subject as I planned.

Here is what I read:

Cast Two Shadows: The American Revolution in the South by Ann Rinaldi

The Spirit of 1776: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness During the American Revolution sel. by Peter Seymour

Patrick Henry's Comments on Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness selected, arranged, and annotated by Michael Jesse Bennett

The Virginia Housewife or, Methodical Cook: A Facisimile of an Authentic Early American Cookbook by Mary Randolph

A People's History of the American Revolution by Ray Raphael (People's History Series by Howard Zinn)

Under God by Toby Mac and Michael Tait

Time Enough for Drums by Ann Rinaldi

The Journal of Major George Washington, Sent by the Hon. Robert Dinwiddie, Esq; His Majesty’s Lieutenant-Governor, and Commander In Chief Of Virginia, to the Commandant of the French Forces on Ohio. To Which Are Added, the Governor’s Letter, and a Translation of the French Officer’s Answer facsimile edition printed by Colonial Williamsburg

Come All You Brave Soldiers: Black in the Revolutionary War by Clinton Cox

Sea Road to Yorktown by Harvey Haislip

I read 9 total, which isn't many as I wanted, particularly non-fiction, but I'm pleased with my progress. And there is always next July.

August is a free-read month, but September and October is all Harry Potter, in preparation for our Harry Potter Themed Halloween Party!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Review: Sea Road to Yorktown by Harvey Haislip

Synopsis: At the outset of this rough-and-tumble tale of sea dogs and sea fighting during the American Revolution, Midshipman Tommy Potter had already seen much of the blood and danger of war. But even though he had been a protégé of John Paul Jones, with a stint as prize master under his belt, Tommy was still in his teens…and he had a lot to learn before he became a man. Under orders from Ben Franklin to return home from the shores of France where he had been cast up by the tides of war, Tommy decided instead to throw in his lot with the motley assortment of men who piloted the sleek privateer, Princes, an “unauthorized” vessel of the French and the American Colonies. In charge of the restive, hybrid crew were a sick captain, Muldin, a surly and rebellious second mate, and First Mate Gascoyne, a wily, dashing Frenchman who preferred to conceal his noble birth. Aboard the Princess, Tommy was to follow a perilous course that would lead him to Martinique and the Spanish Main, where smuggling under the threatening bows of English frigates – and the attentions of a beautiful French colonist – would soon hasten Tommy on to manhood.  And before the end of this swashbuckling novel, Tommy Potter was to find himself and the Princess in the service of the French Admiral, Comte de Grasse – and the young midshipman would be counted on t play a vital role in the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. (from the inside cover of the book)

Review: Written with in the same swashbuckling adventure style as Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian or the Hortatio Hornblower series by C.S. Forester, this book is set during the end of the American Revolution. An American sailor has many adventures – epic sea battles, daring escapes, first loves, smuggling sugar, and dangerous enemies – before finding himself in the Comte de Grasse fleet as this brave French sailor heads for the Chesapeake Bay and the last great battle of the Revolution. Haislip maintains historical accuracy while dragging us from one narrow escape to the next.
I enjoyed seeing the war from the point of few of the French navy who blockade the Bay and forced the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. Haislip, being a naval man, has an excellent grasp of how ships work at sea and his depictions of the actual sailing is exceptionally detailed – if a bit tedious at times. His characterizations are a bit flat and stereotypical, but enjoyable –and let’s be honest – we aren’t reading this because it’s high literature. It’s an adventure novel, and it is a fine example of one. Worth reading. Would be excellent for a summer day on the beach, with a cold drink and the blue water at your feet. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Year Published: 1960
Date Finished: 7-31-2016
Pages: 288

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Review: Come All You Brave Soldiers: Black in the Revolutionary War by Clinton Cox

Synopsis: This book tells the story of the thousands of black men who served as soldiers fighting for independence from England during the American Revolutionary War. (from the online description)

Review: Written in simple prose with basic vocabulary, this book is intended for elementary or middle-school aged children as an introduction to the part African-Americans played in the War of Independence.
Starting with Crispus Attucks, who died in the Boston Massacre, Cox moves chronologically through the war, introducing the reasons for the war and how they affected both free and slave alike. There is a limited amount of information about blacks during this time, as formal record keeping was sketching at best, and so much was destroyed. Often, the prose feels like a basic review of the war - but that isn't Cox's fault. He does a fine job of putting in information about blacks. He also does a good job of giving an unbiased few. He speaks of both the honor and the injustice faced by blacks, giving an overview of the country. He is honest, though, and doesn't hide how horrible it was for blacks during that time, how unfairly they were treated.
I highly recommend this book to teachers and home-school parents. It's an excellent source for learning, with a plethora of topics for discussion. It's easy enough for younger children to read, but challenging enough it isn't topic to engage older children.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN 0-590-47577-0
Year Published: 1999
Date Finished: 7-31-2016
Pages: 181