Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dave Takes-A-Chance

We have been participating in the Take-A-Chance Challenge at the library where I (Tami) work.  Below are Dave's wrap-ups of a couple of his challenge books.  The first one is from the "Random Book" challenge in which patrons draw a number corresponding to a specific shelf in the library and must read one book on that shelf.

First, I need to whine just a little bit about my Random Book location. I drew “General Fiction”, shelf 75. When I looked at my section I found 28 books on this shelf.  Twenty-two them were Victorian Romances; thanks, but no. I guess that’s the proverbial “luck of the draw”.  That left me with a selection of 6 books from which to pick.  Two of them looked as palatable as a Victorian Romance, so I narrowed it down to the final four.  Fortunately, the first two books of Jeffrey Lindsay’s Dexter series made this final cut so I selected the first of these, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, as my random location book.

Dexter is an interesting character, described as an “enjoyable sociopath”.  He is.  Dexter is a "blood splatter specialist" with the Miami Police Dept and sees himself as something other than human because when the moon is full his “dark passenger” (the voice in his head) leads him to become a serial killer who tortures his victims. Fortunately, he kills only those who really deserve killing and he convinces the reader that he chooses his victims wisely.

Dexter is certainly not for everyone because of the subject matter and it gets a little graphic but I think I will read the second in this series just to see what he does next.

The next challenge was "Get The Facts" - participants must read the non-fiction book of their choice.  Dave heard this author speak at a men's retreat and was impressed enough to purchase a couple of his books.

I finally finished my first Challenge book. I read Blood Covenant, by Michael Franzese. It was a very interesting story about his life, first as a high-ranking member of La Cosa Nostra (the Mob) and later, his second blood covenant when he was baptized and began a new life of service to God. Most of the book was about the mafia and was very informative and interesting. Then he was able to draw some parallels between total commitment to the mob and total commitment to Christ. Blood Covenant will probably appeal more to men than women but it has some very good messages.

For more information on this author, visit

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Reagan Arthur Books Challenge

The Challenge is simple - just read books published by Reagan Arthur Books.  Reagan Arthur Books is a brand-new imprint from Little, Brown & Company.  Currently, there are three books available, but another 16 are coming in the very near future!  You can check them out here.  There are lots of familiar names on their author list, and a few new ones that I'm looking forward to.  Order doesn't matter and there's no specified number of books to read, just read (book, e-book or audio) all that interest you, submit your review and maybe win some fun prizes along the way.

Thanks to Kathy at  and Julie at for sponsoring.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Time Warp: or Am I Really That Old?

Our 17-year-old daughter has recently started drinking coffee - or more accurately, a half a cup of coffee filled with Coffee Mate.  She has an adorable hot-pink travel mug that she fills up before heading off to school each morning.  Since she leaves an hour earlier than I do, I'm usually the one who starts the coffee.  One morning last week she hollered from her room and asked if I had remembered to start the coffee and I answered, "It's perking."  Now of course I don't still use a percolator to brew my coffee.  I have an automatic drip pot like most homes any more, but the word "perking" was still the first word that came to mind to describe the coffeemakers actions.  Later, as she was headed out the door, Daughter asked, "What was that word you said about the coffee?"  Never dawned on me that she wouldn't know what "perk" meant and had never seen a percolator-type coffee pot other than the big 30-cup units used at church dinners, etc. 

Got me to thinking, what other things seem common to me but are totally foreign to my children?  I have heard all the stories from my grandparents and parents about the "good old days" and there is a list of experiences that were common to them that I'll never experience - I never rode a horse to school, I never used a cistern to collect rainwater, I never did laundry by hand or with a wringer-style washer.  But that was a l-o-n-g time ago.  I'm not so old that the ordinary things of my youth would be alien to my kids, am I?  I grew up in the 60's for crying out loud!  That's only....*sigh*... 40 years ago??? 

So...How many items or experiences can you think of that were once a daily part of life for you, but are outdated or foreign to your children/grandchildren?  Here's a few to start you off...

1.  Percolators
2.  The check-out lady at the grocery store calling out the price of each item as she rings them up by hand.
3.  Changing the tv channel with a knob (and Grandpa constantly adjusting the color/brightness, etc. - that is, once we got a color tv.)
4.  Saturday morning cartoons - as opposed to 24 hour cartoon channels.
5.  Roller skate keys - for those awful adjustable roller skates that clipped on your shoes (but not very well).  Our kids had roller-blades.
6.  Marching band.  I know many of you are saying "We still have marching bands" but they, and music programs in general, are becoming a thing of the past in small schools that are cutting the arts to pay for technology.  The instrumental music program has been discontinued in our school, so this is an experience my kids missed.
7.  Paper dolls.  Do they still make them?  My daughter has never had one, but I used to love them.
8.  Vinyl records, 8-track tapes, cars with radio only - sometimes just a.m.
9.  Bench seats in the front of vehicles.  We have not owned a car without bucket seats in front since 1982.
10.  Donny Osmond.  This one became clear during the last season of Dancing With The Stars when Daughter couldn't identify Donny O.  I had his albums and his poster hung in my bedroom - how could she not know "Puppy Love"? 

Can you think of more?  Leave us a comment and share your memories.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Deeper Than the Dead by Tami Hoag

See-No-Evil, Speak-No-Evil, Hear-No-Evil - The three monkeys of the Japanese proverb form the MO of the monster who is kidnapping and brutally murdering young women.  Three fifth-grade friends running from the school bully and his sidekick literally stumble on the body of the first victim in the local park.   Their teacher, Anne Navarre, teams up with FBI agent Vince Leone and Detective Tony Mendez as they search for the killer.  Their search gives them a look inside the families of each of the five children and reminds us how superficially we really know most people.

This was our first book by Tami Hoag and we both enjoyed it - probably Dave more than me.  I always get hung up when an author tries to put me inside the head of a murderer or his victim.  I really don't need to know what creepy, disgusting satisfaction a sociopath gets from torturing his victim or what terrifying thoughts are in the victims head just before they die.  I think that kind of garbage encourages the weird-o's of the world.  But that's just me!  So, in usual fashion, I just had Dave read those portions silently and we moved on.  And - no surprise - the story wasn't missing a thing.  Leaving them out didn't slow the pace or make the story hard to follow so I can only deduce that those chapters were included simply for shock value.  Ok, moving on beyond my personal hang-ups...

The story is set in 1985, before cell phones, internet and DNA testing - three things which would have made this crime much easier to solve. The time setting added a twist to the story and reminded us how much science and technology have progressed in 25 years - and how much we take them for granted. 

Possible Spoiler Alert: The book opens with excerpts from a child's school essay intertwined with the thoughts of the killer, and probably shouldn't have.  It gives away a key clue to the puzzle that helped us figure out the killer's identity long before the end.  I would recommend that you just start with Chapter Two - there's really nothing else in the first chapter that matters to the plot - if you like to guess right up to the end. 

Several other reviewers of this book mentioned that this is Ms. Hoag's first foray into the serial killer genre, which makes me intrigued to try some of her previous works.  Deeper Than the Dead is a well written, gripping book with a bit of romance mixed in and a smattering of family psychology in the dynamics of the various families  Her writing and imagination are excellent.  Without the psychopath sequences, this would have rated 5 stars.  As it is, I would give it 4 out of 5.

This book was our "Read Your Doppleganger" selection for Jenners' Take Another Chance Challenge  Finding someone else who spells Tami "correctly" is rare. This was also our first entry in our own Read Together Challenge

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian

John and Ella Robina have shared a wonderful life for more than fifty years.  Now in their eighties, Ella suffers from cancer and has chosen to stop treatment.  John has Alzheimer's.  Yearning for one last adventure, the self-proclaimed "down on their luck geezers" kidnap themselves from the adult children and doctors who seem to run their lives to steal away on a forbidden vacation of rediscovery. (from book flap)

WARNING:  I have some strong ideas about the issues discussed in this book and I express them very plainly in this review.  The opinions stated are mine (Tami's) alone and don't necessarily reflect the views of the author, my husband, my family or anyone else who may claim I'm putting words in their mouths.   Perhaps it's because we are up-close and personal with Alzheimer's and aging parents, or maybe that we're just under 7 months to an empty nest... Whatever the reason, this story really touched me. So, feel free to disagree, but don't say I didn't warn you. 

Issue #1: The relationship between John & Ella and their adult children.  I think we (meaning American's in general) have a tendency to de-value people as they age.  The roles of parents/children often reverse over time, usually out of necessity as our parents age and are naturally less able to do for themselves; however, there is a propensity to treat elderly people as lesser beings who's ideas and desires no longer count.  Advances in medicine coerce us into treasuring number of days over respect and dignity; to put it bluntly (as if I haven't been blunt so far) - to keep them alive at all costs, even if that life is torturous for them, so that we do not have to suffer losing them. Ella's children wanted to keep her at home, most likely in a hospital, simply to prolong their time with her, not because there was any hope of a cure. Ella's decision to forgo treatment for her cancer and live the rest of her days should have been honored by her children and maybe she wouldn't have felt the need to escape them.  For all of you who are yelling at me from afar, yes I'm aware of the public safety risks of putting an Alzheimer's patient behind the wheel, but that's not really my point.

Issue #2: Alzheimer's is a noxious disease.  It extinguishes a life long before the body dies.  We have watched Dave's mom slowly disappear over the last several years and be replaced by a stranger.  Mr. Zadoorian paints a realistic and poignant picture of life with this disease, and the value of lifetime commitment.  One of my favorite parts of the book is when Ella is comforted in knowing that after nearly 60 years of marriage, as John recedes back through time in his mind, she is still there.  Their conversations are sprinkled with pet names and inside jokes that are too deeply planted for the disease to wither.  Even Ella's moments of frustration and anger are realistically written.

John and Ella's roadtrip takes them down historic Route 66 - or what's left of it.  The parade of fading, crumbling or destroyed landmarks are the perfect backdrop for this story, and stirred up lots of my own recollections of family vacations.  

After all that, it may surprise you that, for the most part, this book is not a tear-jerker and there is actually  a considerable amount of humor in their adventures and mis-haps along the way. It's a subtle humor, found mostly in the experiences that all couples and/or parents share.  For example, my favorite line: "I'm sorry that we worried the children, but I've spent most of my adult life worrying about them, so I'm gonna call it even." 

I  recommend this book for all adults because I believe that everyone will get something slightly different from it, depending on age and perspective.  The lessons to be learned, however, are universal.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

23 Things Kansas: Week 2 - Online Communities

This week's assignment for 23ThingsKansas was to "sign up for your online community of choice" - Facebook, Web Junction, Ning, etc. I am vaguely familiar with Facebook through my kids so I decided to try out something completely new to me - Ning. Also, I knew that if I created a Facebook page my kids would refuse to be my friends and that would be heartbreaking. After just one day of use, I can't really say I'm getting the big picture yet, but I can see the benefits for business use as well as personal. I'm not totally sold on the idea of a library Ning or Facebook page as a way to connect with patrons. I think that would be better accomplished by something like Twitter that works in smaller portions. But since Ning and Twitter interact there is certainly potential there. I can definitely see the value of a Ning community, such as the 23ThingsKansas group, for sharing ideas and resources with other librarians.
I have been told that there is a Ning community for book bloggers. If anyone out there has information on that, please let me know. You can check out my Ning page at
UPDATE: I found this community - Looks like lots of great info for bloggers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Julia Child I Am Not

I'm not even Julie Powell....but I have been listening to the audio version of Julie's book "Julie and Julia" and it inspired me. At least it inspired me enough that when my Dad asked what I wanted for Christmas, I mentioned Julia Child's classic "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". And - ta da - Dad came through. What his shopping style lacks in surprise, it makes up in the always-get-something-you-wanted area. Since Christmas, I've spent hours combing through the recipes, imagining how they would taste, picturing myself whipping up gourmet meals for my family and wondering where I would possibly get those ingredients in the middle of nowhere (and if you've never visited southwest Kansas, you probably can't grasp how serious I am about that nowhere thing).

Since Monday was a holiday for those of us with cushy government jobs but not for high school students or regular people and thus, I was home alone and no one would witness my potential disaster, I decided to take my first foray into French cooking and tackle Beouf Bourguignon. I selected this recipe because 1. I've heard of it and 2. I could procur all of the ingredients or reasonable substitutes.

I must admit, it wasn't nearly as daunting as I feared. Once I got past the fact that the recipe spans two full pages and realized the length was due to Julia's precise directions, that precision made the actual cooking a breeze - or a reasonable substitute. It took just under an hour to complete the first 285 steps and reach the step that says "place in lower third of oven and regulate heat so liquid simmers for 2 1/2 - 3 hours." Whew! All that was required was peeking at it occasionally and microwaving some rice just before the meat was finished. I'm sure Julia wouldn't approve of minute-rice, but you may recall - Julia Child I am not!

The results, if not in the superb category, were firmly within the "not bad" range. For all the other French novices out there, turns out boeuf bourguignon is beef stew with carrots, onions and mushrooms. But here's the funny part - or insert the word of your choice there to describe my total lack of discernment...savoir faire...brains. The beef is simmered in a sauce made largely of red wine - hence the name. Being the total Food Network geek that I am, I've heard many professional chefs admonish viewers to "cook with a wine that you would like to drink, because the flavor will be concentrated in the food." So I picked a lovely bottle of red wine - and I mean the bottle was lovely because it had a large purple Powercat on the label (Kansas State University mascot) and at our house if it's purple or features a Powercat, it rocks! As for the contents of the bottle, I don't know my pinot noir from my merlot so I assume it was fine. And the chefs are right, the broth had a hint of the concentrated taste of the wine. But here's the thing - I don't like red wine.

I do realize that admitting this makes me look a bit daft, but what can I say? It was fun to test out my cooking skills - and my best Julia Child voice - and expand the family's culinary horizons a bit. I will not be following in Julie Powell's footsteps and cooking my way through the entire book in a year - or in a lifetime - but I do have my eye on the crepes chapter, so I'll keep you posted.

Visit for other bloggers participating in Weekend Cooking.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sizzle by Julie Garwood

Romance meets thriller. Film student Lyra Prescott stumbles onto a mobster's "yard sale" and unwittingly takes home evidence that could send another mobster to jail and places Lyra on the thug's hitlist. Enter FBI agent Sam Kincaid - tall, dark and handsome, of course - and Lyra's temporary bodyguard. It's the classic set-up for a doomed romance and a perplexing puzzle. Barbara Cartland meets James Patterson. For my taste, this book has the perfect amount of both. Even though these types of romances almost always work out in the final chapter, there's enough tension and questions to keep you wondering if this will be the time it doesn't. Plus a little "spice" along the way (if you get my drift). On the flip side, there is a well-written mystery with plenty of twists and turns. And the best part - well, next to the "spice", that is - no stomach-turning details of murder and mayhem. Lyra's family fills out the story and adds both comic relief and depth. The battle between her wheedling, conniving parents and her loving grandmother give the reader insight into an otherwise rather one-dimensional character. This book isn't going to make the annals of literary history, but I don't believe that is Ms. Garwood's intention. This is just pure enjoyment and escape. And in that department it gets an A+.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fantasy Football: The Confession

A while back, I wrote this post that "some" (meaning Dave) may have considered as uh....bragging - about my fantasy football team. The story goes that son needed one more team to complete the league he was creating and, out of desperation, asked me to join. His invitation went something like: "I hate to ask you to join cause you'll pick your team by who's the cutest and who has the prettiest uniforms." As if! He actually doubted my massive store of football knowlege? Just for that I designed lovely pink helmets with lavender lettering!

As the season progressed, his nightmare became reality. Mom's team was leading the league (I even beat Hubby's team 3 times, but who's counting?). When the playoff's began, The Pink was 10-2-1. Playoff games are 2-week deals and after week 1 of game 1, I was down 34 points. No problem for The Pink! We came back the second week with a 39 point win! - putting me up by 5 overall. Wooo Hooo! On to the Super Bowl! Against, who else but my Darling Hubby.

I used my best strategy (see original post for details), read all the updates, fine-tuned my lineup and was only down by 19 after the first game. Not even a bump in the road for The Pink! We can come back from that with one line-backer tied behind our backs. Or maybe not. Evidently, the strategy in the NFL was to sit all the starters to "rest" them for their playoff games - go figure. So in the second game my "star" quarterback scored FOUR points - FOUR!!!! (I'm not naming any names, but his big brother, Payton, didn't do any better.) My wide receivers teamed up for a measly 2 points. If it hadn't been for Knowshon Moreno and the Bronco defense, I wouldn't have had any points at all!

Since it's now too late to make this long story short, let's just say I wasn't doing any victory dances. Hubby won....can't remember the margin exactly...maybe 5...10....60 points! Sweetheart that he is, he didn't even gloat. Oh well, maybe next year.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Read Together Challenge

Even though the new year has already begun and everyone has made most of their challenge choices for the year, we're going to give you one more opportunity. Find someone special and read together.

There are a variety of ways to accomplish this: take turns reading aloud, read to someone with a visual impairment, read a school-assigned book with your teen, volunteer to read to nursing home residents. If you aren't comfortable reading aloud, pass the book between you, with each of you individually reading a chapter or chosen number of pages at a time. However it works for you - the idea is to be involved in the story simultaneously. And then discuss what you're reading. Throw out your crazy theories for whodunit...debate the hero's next your reactions...giggle!

There are very few rules for this challenge. Set a goal for the year - 12 books, 6 books, even 1 book - and stop back occasionally to let us know how you're doing or leave a link to your book review. Overlap with other challenges is not only acceptable, it's encouraged.

We are setting our goal at 12 books - 1 per month. Leave us a comment with your goal, your chosen reading partner, your blog info (if you're a blogger), and/or an email address where we can reach you. This challenge runs through 12/31/2010. Each book you read together gets you one entry into a drawing for the book of your choice ($25 value or less) from

Tell all your friends, challenge other couples to beat your total, get the whole family involved....Happy reading!

Challenge Entries:  We're pretty low-tech here at Just One More Thing... so just leave a comment with the name of what you read and who you read with.  Leave a link to your review, if you wrote one.  We'll do the bookkeeping the old fasioned way - pencil and paper.  :)  Remember - each book you mention here is one entry in the prize drawing.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

"An irresistible adventure of swashbuckling pirates...a classic story of treasure and betrayal...a rollicking adventure tale pulsing with relentless action, cracking atmosphere and heart-pounding suspense" (synopsis from Barnes and Noble)
Well, I wouldn't go that far. True, it is a story of pirates, treasure and betrayal; and, yes, it is action-packed but we certainly wouldn't call it "Michael Crichton at his best", as the publisher claims. We are both long-time fans of anything Crichton wrote and we got our son hooked on them as well, but this story just didn't seem to have that un-nameable factor that has always drawn us into a Crichton story.
The tremendous amount of research Mr. Crichton did for any book he wrote was always apparent - and that holds true in this book, as well. The details of life on land and sea in 1665 add authenticity. The language can be difficult to follow at times, but I would be complaining even more if the pirates were using modern slang, so I guess that's to be expected.
This won't come as much of a surprise to anyone who's read any of our past reviews or to anyone who's read many of Crichton's books (especially Timeline) but - it's too bloody! I realize it was a violent world, but seriously....does it matter which direction the body parts flew or how the blood sprayed?
The cover flap reveals that this book was "discovered as a complete manuscript" after Mr. Crichton's death, which raises the question - if it was a story he felt was worthy of publication, wouldn't his agent and/or publisher have known about it? Or was this an attempt to glean a few more dollars from the Crichton legacy?
In spite of all this, it's not a "bad" book - sub-par Crichton is still better than many authors - but it is a forgettable book. We didn't mind reading it, but we also didn't mind laying it down. We give it 3 stars out of 5.

23 Things Kansas - Week 1: Blogging

I am participating in the 23 Things Kansas program for Kansas library employees, trustees, volunteers and friends. 23 Things Kansas is described as "a fun way to learn about and practice with online tools for community, sharing and productivity." Over the next 23 weeks you will see a weekly (hopefully) post concerning the assignment I'm working on that week. Completion of all 23 assignments is worth 30 hours of continuing education credit and, more importantly, a chance at winning a fLip video camera. The first assignment is to begin a blog - so I'm ahead of the game. However, down the road when we get to such things as screencasting, presentation sharing and cloud computing (I don't even know what that is!) I may not be so glib. You will likely be reading posts filled with angst, frustration and a few bleeps, but the worst I can do is make a total fool of myself on YouTube and, seriously, how many people actually view that stuff? If you happen to be a member of the Kansas Library Community and want to join in, check out the web site at It's too late to get in on the CE credit, but there's still a lot to learn.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Under the Dome by Stephen King

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. (synopsis from Barnes and Noble).
It's hard to know where to start in reviewing this book. This is a monster of a book (1072 pages), with a gargantuan cast and multiple sub-plots weaved together to create a massive story. It's about small town politics, secrets, drugs, greed, families, power...It's a mini-series in a novel!
When the residents of Chester's Mill are instantly and totally separated from the world, they naturally react with confusion and apprehension, but they refuse to believe it will be a long-term crisis. However, as days pass, life under the dome begins to degrade.
Environmental issues, supplies of food and fuel, access to medical care, much-needed professionals who were out of town and unable to return - there are a string of concerns that arise from the town's isolation, but the biggest problem is the struggle for power. Dave describes it as "Animal Farm" from the mind of Stephen King.
Big Jim Rennie, one of the town's Selectmen, is determined to exploit the dome to promote himself as the "savior" of the town, and in the process create his own system of martial law that allows him to write his own rules, deputize his yes-men to enforce them, and then act as judge, jury and executioner, literally, of those who object.
Dale Barbara, a former soldier recently returned from Iraq and a newcomer to town, reluctantly leads the small band who dares to stand up to this tyranny and fight to save Chester's Mill from the dome and Rennie.
In our opinion, the negatives are few: the large cast of characters seems unwieldy at first, but it's surprising how quickly the reader gets to know the residents of the town - and the playbill at the front of the book provides quick reference if needed; and the gore-meter did rise above my comfort level at times, so the squeemish among you may want to find a reading partner like I have who will edit some of it for you.
The positives, however, are many: the story moves at top speed from page one and, hard as it may be to believe, there were no parts where we felt we were getting off topic or slowing down; there are moments of unexpected, if slightly unorthodox, humor (Dave actually laughed out loud when one man who went flying through the air "trailing intestines like party streamers" - grizzly and warped, I know, but freakishly funny); the action rockets right to the last page and the ending - which you are guaranteed not to predict - simultaneously concludes the story and opens up new questions.
For those who normally avoid horror stories (and I would be one of them), let us reassure you that this is not "occult" horror - no satanic children of the corn, no Carrie-style telekinetic revenge. The horror in this story comes from ordinary people held under a microscope, so to speak, and the things they are willing to do under extraordinary pressure.
Don't be frightened off by the girth of this book. We promise you won't be able to put it down - except when your arms give out.