Playing Many Parts

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Book Reviews category.

Book Review – The Girl on the Train

the_girl_on_the_train_us_cover_2015I always read the book first.  Since I am a prolific reader I have promised myself that I will always, if at all possible, read the book first.  Before it is made into a movie, and someone else gets to put their interpretation of a book forward as the definitive point of view for millions of people, I want to let my imagination create the world the author has written.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, and might do that to contrast and compare, but I liked the book quite a bit and found it compelling enough to continue reading even though I was quite sure I had figured out the plot a couple of chapters in.  I was right.  It went in the direction I expected, but I think the author intended it that way. . if I ever get the chance to ask her, I will.  There was some important foreshadowing early on that sort of gave things away and that seems like a smart intentional guide. . a kind of Easter Egg for good readers.

I liked this book because I love murder mysteries.  I also love women’s issues and a strong female lead with romance and complications. . .so this book was very interesting to me.  I don’t want to admit it, but I saw parts of myself in the heroine of the story.  I liked very much how Rachel grew and developed and it all seemed somewhat real. . if not romanticized. . but its a novel (it says so on the cover), so I expect that.  Emily Blunt is my Rachel, but that is fine, I look forward to the movie.


Book Review: The Nightingale

It’s been two weeks since I finished this book and I am still mourning the loss of these characters.  This was a very well written book.  Had I known it was a book about survivors of WWII I probably wouldn’t have read it, but once started, I had to finish.

Both the character development and the beautiful scenery descriptions made these old friends in a place I knew well, even though I have never been to Paris or France.  The quickly moving plot in this historical fiction had me turning pages almost as quickly as when I read the last pages of  The Historian.

I have not read other books by Kristin Hannah, but I now have several of her others on my Amazon wish list and am anxious for my next vacation so I can start a reading marathon.  This was a very happy, unexpected surprise 5 star read for me.  Others have noted that her characters are more modern than a housewife in the 40s would have been, but it is an 80 year old living in the 1990s telling the story, so it all seemed believable to me, but then again, I wasn’t around in 1940 to know.  It seems to me to be a well crafted story of wartime France.

The Key to Happiness

birthdaycakeI turned another year older yesterday.  It wasn’t a milestone of any kind, but after 35, turning another year older can be more and more depressing, if your perspective isn’t right.

I did wake up yesterday feeling a bit glum.  I didn’t have any plans for my big day, my own fault, but still sad.  I had to work all day at a job I don’t love.  And the worst part of all, family and friends were all busy and I was planning a quiet dinner and cake alone.  I do NOT recommend this approach to a birthday.  If you want to be happy, do not spend your birthday alone eating cake.  That is recipe for both weight gain and misery.

However, something kinda awesome happened after I showered and got my first cup of coffee yesterday that kept me from going down a dark hole of self pity and sadness.  I started thinking of all the things I am grateful for.  I literally started counting things I love about my life and was soon overwhelmed with peace and even happiness.  As I got in the car and headed off to work, I kept thinking about more things I was thankful for. And as I was getting happier and happier, nice little surprises started coming my way.  I got a beautiful card from my Mom, my daughter posted a generous note to my FB wall, many friends sent me well wishes, and I even got a surprise monetary kickback from my bank!

I started to wonder if maybe being thankful not only changes how we feel, but changes how others feel about us. Could it be that being thankful opens us to receive more?  Since I was so happy and open, others were able to be open with me. They were free to share thoughts and feelings and I could graciously receive them.  All I know for sure is that when I could have easily gone down a dark road yesterday, being thankful saved my day.  It seems to me that if you are counting your blessings, noting all the things you are thankful for, it is hard to be sad.  If you start to realize all the things you have (it helps to remember that most of the world lives on less than a dollar a day), it is hard to feel sorry for yourself.

So I challenge you empty nesters who are sad, depressed, and looking for ways to make it through another day to start counting you blessings every morning.  Count things like being able to shower.  Clean drinking water from your tap.  A place to live and sleep.  Your next meal or cup of coffee is a real blessing.  You are alive today.  You are probably reading this on a smart phone, computer or tablet.  Are you employed?  Have kids?  Have a significant other who makes you smile ever?  Do you enjoy your freedom?  Are you educated?  Try to come up with a list of at least 10 things you can be thankful for.  Then try 100.  How about 1,000?

Great Book – Great Person

I don’t even remember where I heard about this book, which is a real shame, because I owe someone a really big thank you!  My favorite line:  “Screw it – just do it!.”  I liked that line so much, I let it inspire me and I am finally starting that business I have been dreaming of for years.  So to say this changed my life is actually a true statement for me.

I have made it a new habit this year to read through some great business books on my way to work.  It was either find a way to make my very stupid, overcrowded, long commute through very backed up Chicago traffic more enjoyable; or go to jail for smashing my way through to get to work in a reasonable amount of time.  Since my commute isn’t changing anytime soon, and jail will definitely NOT work with my claustrophobia, I decided I need to put this time to good use.  Audiobooks that teach new things are really a great way to learn all kinds of new things, and may just make me more successful at the same time.

Back to this book.  I didn’t really know who Richard Branson was before I read the book.  And yes, I do live under a rock so don’t judge me.  I had heard of that crazy entrepreneur who did the balloon trip and who was trying to plan vacations to the moon, but I knew nothing of the Virgin companies or him personally.  I can say with all seriousness now that I find him completely delightful and want to be a business owner like him someday.

This book is for anyone involved in business, but I think anyone who would like to be a great leader should read it.  He gives very practical advice on how to do business better, greener, and with more integrity than any other book I have read so far.  He seems fairly honest and open about what makes his company both unique and fun to work for.  I found myself making lots of lists on how I want to do things differently as I setup my new business.  I was inspired to both keep reading and to keep thinking about ways to deliver value to any future customers and employees.  I put the link here to the book because I think everyone in business should read it, and I really do plan to have all my friends, family and employees read this book.  It will be a graduation gift I give out for at least the next couple of years, or until my next great read.

Can’t Help It – I Love YA Fiction



I admit, I am a grown woman, but I still love Young Adult Fiction, especially if it is also fantasy!  From C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien to Suzanne Collins and Marissa Meyer.  Perhaps I should also admit upfront that the best job I ever had was working in the Student Affairs Office at a major college and I still run a teen basketball program in my community, so I think the argument could be made that perhaps like Peter Pan, I never grew up.  And I am ok with that!

I finished reading the book Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles Book 1) in a few hours over three nights.  The best testament to my enjoyment of the book is that the very next day I went out and purchased the second book in the series Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, Book 2) (The Lunar Chronicles).  I like very much that she appears to have three stories here that have some aspects of three different fairy tales and that they are much darker than the Disney versions.  I also love that the main character of this first book is a techno geek (my own day job) and that the heroine from the second one is a farmer (my dream job).  There is enough action and suspense to have me turning pages and enough character development and romance to feed my need for love.  I will get back to you on books two and three, but so far, so good.  I would put this series at a high school reading level, by the way, since there is a familial death that may be harder for younger readers to deal with.

Learning to Draw

Illustration School:  Let's Draw Kit

Illustration School: Let’s Draw Kit

One of my personal development goals for the year is to spend some time learning to draw. I’m not completely sure where this need to work on my drawing came from, but one of the days during Christmas Break I was at a beautiful scenic location wishing I knew how to draw what I was seeing. I had already determined that I need to embrace the creative side of myself much more in the coming year, so I put working on my drawing down on my list of personal development goals this year.

I took the first step this weekend by purchasing this very cute package, Illustration School: Let’s Draw! (Includes Book and Sketch Pad): A Kit with Guided Book and Sketch Pad for Drawing Happy People, Cute Animals, and Plants and Small Creaturesfrom Joann Fabric.  It includes a small book that starts with doodle people, then moves to doodle animals.  There are men, women and children and elephants and penguins.  This little set couldn’t be more perfect for encouraging me to doodle each night before be do try and release the inner creative in me so that my writing and world can be more creative and inspired.

Book Review via Road Trip to Maryland

This past weekend I spent 26 hours driving to and from Maryland to visit family.  I have always liked road trips, and since we

Mean Streak by Sandra Brown

Mean Streak by Sandra Brown

had 4 drivers, most of my hours were spent on my favorite hobby, reading.  I got Sandra Brown’s Mean Streak as a Christmas gift so it seemed the obvious choice.  I really like this book.  I had read Gone Girl in September last year and was a bit worried that it was the same book. And while they are similar, somehow Brown’s book left me feeling a bit happy and upbeat while Flynn left me weeping for humanity.  Often mystery books like Mean Streak are predictable and you  see the end coming early, but this wasn’t that book.  While it was sad in some spots, it has a positive message and tone that is important to me in my book choices.  I want to be inspired by what is good in this world, not brought further down by the reality that most people suck and we are all dying.  I know that; I want more from my forms of entertainment.  Besides, 2015 is my year for embracing optimism.  I have vowed to try and see the glass half full instead of always looking for the leak that is causing my glass to be mostly empty.

Speaking of seeing the glass half full, while in Maryland we stopped to do a quick wine tasting, ’cause it isn’t really a weekend if you don’t have some wine!  We picked a quaint tasting room in downtown North East called Turkey Point Vineyard.  We enjoyed the wine enough to purchase a few bottles to take home.  We are anxious to go back in a couple of years when they have harvested their newly planted Moscato grapes.

Schaefer's Canal House

Schaefer’s Canal House

And what is a trip to the East Coast without a few seafood dinners!  We stopped at two very different restaurants and had two different experiences.  We had some of the best calamari I have ever eaten just outside of Baltimore at a place called Crackpot.  The crab cakes were good, the lobster tail was delicious and the steak was not very good at all.  The atmosphere was nothing special, and that doesn’t bother me if the food is outstanding.  The food here was ok.  I would go back for appetizers anytime, but would not try dinner again and would definitely not recommend the surf and turf.  Schaefer’s Canal House on the other hand was outstanding.  We had dinner late on a Sunday night in the middle of winter, but I imagine in the summertime this place is absolutely stunning.  The drinks and drink menu were original.  The tuna appetizer was delicious and perfectly cooked.  The surf and turf came with perfectly cooked steak and amazing lobster tails, the crab cakes were filled with huge lumps of delicious crab and the service was top notch.  If you are ever anywhere near Chesapeake City Maryland,  on the north side of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, just west of the Chesapeake City canal locks, stop in and have dinner on the Canal, it is a beautiful place to be, even in the winter.

Book Review – #Girlboss

I got the audio version of this book free a while back, and honestly didn’t expect to ever actually read the book.  But I found myself on an unexpected long car trip recently with nothing else new in my Audiobooks app.  I was very pleasantly surprised at how entertaining and smart this book was.



I had never heard of Nastygal before.  This is most likely because my slightly overweight, over 40 body can’t fit any of their adorable clothes.  After reading the book, I had to check the site out and realized that they sell the exact clothes I WOULD wear if my body would just cooperate and allow some of this middle-aged fat to fall off.  I probably will purchase shoes and accessories as soon as my checking account stops bleeding money due to Christmas.  I digress. . back to the book.

I really like Sophia Amoruso, but I have always loved underdogs and rebels, so no real surprise there.  I think this book is perfect for 20 somethings wanting to start out on their own, 30 somethings thinking about starting something of their own, and 40 and 50 somethings looking to break out of mid-life career tar.  Sophia’s story is inspiring and she is right on.  I know not everyone can turn their dumpster diving into a million dollar business, but not everyone needs to.  I love how she repeatedly points out that hard work and determination are what really got her where she is.  I guess that is kinda the message of this book in a very tight nutshell anyway. . .work hard, dream big, and get it done.

Book Review – More Herby Goodness

So I am new to the whole herbal medicine scene.  I have been checking out websites, watching YouTube videos, and ordering all of the things I need.  A friend recommended that I go over to Amazon and see if there were any free books for the KindlePC that might be helpful to me, and boy was he right!

I lucked upon Herbs Gone Wild! and got it the one day it was being offered for free.  And while my favorite herbal website so far has to be, my favorite book so far is this one by Diane Kidman.  I have been copying and pasting her recipes like crazy and have been taking notes on all the new herbs I need to buy and try.  Diane writes in a very approachable style and has a very easy going manner that makes it much less intimidating to give some of her recipes a try.  Watch for posts in the near future using some of her recipes.

I would pay a lot for this book.  It is a fantastic reference book on herbs and how to use them.

Fun New Detective Series – by Joanne Fluke

cccmurderThe Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder is a fun book that came highly recommended, and free, from a friend. I don’t think I would have picked it up off the shelf, because I am ashamed to admit that I often base my book buying decisions on the cover art, and this one is sadly lacking.  It is a quick, easy read that is entertaining on a couple of levels.

I am still trying to decide if I liked the mystery or the included recipes best.  I really appreciate the main character, Hannah Swensen, as she is a strong, independent small business owner.  Hannah is not intimidating or overwhelming, and is therefore very believable as a main character from a small town.  Both the strong tie to the setting, Minnesota in this case, and the relationship between Hannah and her mother had me remembering my first Stephanie Plum mystery.  I haven’t tried any of the cookie recipes that were included throughout the book, but I do have plans to do so this weekend and will report back with pictures and a full review then.

For now, if you are looking for a cozy mystery to read at the beach or poolside, I would recommend this one for a quick and easy read.