“8.4” by Peter Hernon

Interesting novel of an earthquake (8.4 magnitude, of course) on the New Madrid fault in Southeast Missouri/Southwest Illinois/Western Tennessee, etc. The science was fun to read. The romance was bad, as there was no basis for the romance. Over all, worth reading if you are an earthquake buff, or interested in the science of quakes.


“84, Charing Cross Road” by Helene Hanff

This book is a collection of letters from a female writer in New York City to a bookstore in London. She writes for good, inexpensive copies of books which they ship to her in New York. Eventually, she and the man who answers for the bookstore become friends.

The love of books is throughout the collected letters. Helene tries to help her London friends by sending them treats during the rations in London after World War II. She longs to go to London, but doesn’t ever seem to have the funds to go.

I cannot really explain the depth of this book, but it is one of my favorite books. A movie has also been made of it, which I also enjoyed. The lesson I took from this book is one of seizing the day. Helene wants to go to London, and could do so for $360 to see Victoria’s Coronation, but instead she has $2500 in dental work done. Longing for something so badly, but not reordering your priorities to get it, is a sad thing. And a thing many of us do too often.

I think this book deserves 10 stars, rather than 5!


“A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash” by Sylvia Nasar

The biography of a brilliant mathematician, A Beautiful Mind is not only fascinating but extremely well written. John Nash is a mathematician whose brilliance is matched by illness, specifically schizophrenia. When his illness takes over, his life changes dramatically. And in turn, he is changed by his illness.

Although the book is nothing like the movie (with very few exceptions), it does a much better job of conveying the extremes involved in Nash’s life. A brilliant, and arrogant, man who becomes ill but is still brilliant. On the other hand, a life full of promise becomes a living hell, which Nash eventually overcomes.

The writing is wonderful, and the author pulled me in from the prologue. I was amazed by the math (although I didn’t understand all of it) and awed by the power of Nash’s illness. This is far and away the best biography I’ve ever read. Highly recommended!


“A Fragile Design” Tracie Peterson, Judith Miller

Book Cover

Arabella Newberry was not only fleeing the life of the Shakers, she wasleaving her father behind her. Her father had forced his wife anddaughter, Bella, to join a shaker community when Bella was 14 years old.Bella’s mother died a couple of years later of a broken heart.

Though she loved God, Bella could not embrace the Shaker doctrine thatforces families to be separated and live as though they were not familyat all.

Bella went to work for a new textile factory in Lowell, MA. The year was1831, and New England was becoming industrialized. Young ladies wereleaving their farm homes to work in factories. They lived in boardinghouses owned by the factories.

I am not sure if the author intended, but I see many similaritiesbetween the life Bella left at the Shaker community and her new lifeworking for the factory. The men’s and women’s boarding houses wereseparate…just like the Shaker community. There was a bell that wokeeveryone at the same time to begin their day of labor…just like theShaker community.

The story is interesting in that we get an insight into the earlyindustrial age. However, there really is not much of a plot. There is alove story, of course, and we see Bella as she learns to trust Godagain…and even men. All in all I found the book a little tedious toread.


“A House in Sicily” by Daphne Phelps

A House in Sicily Book Cover.

Daphne Phelps inherited a house in Sicily called Casa Cuseni. At thetime, Daphne had no knowledge of Italian, no money, and was war-weary.At 34, she moved to the small Sicilian town of Taormina expecting tosell the house.

After 50 years and guests like Tennessee Williams, Bertrand Russel,Henry Faulkner and Roald Dahl, Daphne Phelps has a wonderful story totell.

This is a charming and entertaining memoir, full of fun and earthystories told in a no-nonsense style.


“Year the Colored Sisters Came to Town” Jacqueline Guidry

This is a story about the year two colored nuns came to a small town in Southern Louisiana to teach at the white Catholic school. One nun was to teach first and one fifth grade. But the real story is about change, and growth.

Vivian Leigh (named after the movie star) is 10 and in the fifth grade. The story follows her, her little sister, and their friends, family, and neighbors. All the people of Vivian Leigh’s little town begin to question their place in the world, and how they think about others’ places.

It seems strange now, in 2004, to think about the mid-1950s and how people were worried about a “colored” nun teaching their white children. I cannot help but draw the conclusion that in 50 years, the worry now about gays teaching will have the same strangeness.


“Breaking the Surface” by Greg Louganis

Review written for by Bill in 2001

I love to read. Every once in a while, a book comes along that reminds me so thoroughly why I love to read. This is just such a book.

I’ve been following the rescue attempts of the Russian Submarine, Kursk. At the time I’m writing this, the British rescue efforts are rushing to the scene. There is still a faint hope that the crew will be saved.

This story has struck a particular chord in me. I spent more than a dozen years serving in the Navy, riding on nuclear powered submarines. We knew the risks. We coldly practiced drill scenarios for flooding, fires, steam line ruptures, all the while, living in one of the most hostile environments on earth…beneath the surface of the earth’s oceans. And now, with practiced logic and cold calm, I watch on the news as this horrible catastrophe plays out.

My thoughts go out to the crew and their families and all those desperately trying to rescue these men.

How precious life is! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could spend every moment of every day conscious of just how spectacular that moment is? But we can’t. For most of us, we are caught up on the day to day of living. We have jobs and bills, new tires to buy, dishes to do, cat sick to clean up…sometimes the spectacle of life is more than we can stand.

Thank God for heroes. People we can look up to and remember greatness is just around the corner. Greg Louganis has been a hero of mine for a long time. I’ve always enjoyed watching the Olympics. The amazing athletes that can run like a cheetah, or jump in the air higher than most of us can reach. To steal a line from the master, “What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable!”

In Breaking the Surface, Greg Louganis brings to light the depth of character of such a hero. Here is a man who from a very early age was on top of the world. An Olympic Champion, the world leader in 10M platform and 3M springboard diving. What the world saw was a successful, good looking young man smiling from the gold medal platform…seemingly not a care in the world.

Greg tells us a story of a boy who from a very early age was ridiculed, called names, insecure and depressed to the point of suicide. The list of challenges that the author shares with us is incredible.

The author shares with us key pieces of his life. As we read, Greg tells the story of growing up into an Olympic athlete. He shares with us his dealings with hatred and bigotry as a gay man. Greg talks openly about an abusive relationship that cost him a great deal both emotionally and financially.

The author talks about his life after becoming HIV positive. Greg shares his deepest fears with us. How he dealt with being sick, how he dealt with the death of family and friends.

This amazing man shares with us how he is dealing with the day to day reminders of our mortality. He discusses the AZT alarm going off every 4 hours and how every cough or cold can lead him to wonder if this is the end. And with these constant challenges Greg wins another two gold medals in the 1988 Olympics.

My thoughts of Greg Louganis as a hero have changed. Before, I saw him as a great athlete accomplishing amazing feats of skill. Now, after reading his autobiography, I see him as a great man. A man of courage and amazing internal strength and beauty. I have gained strength and wisdom from his sharing. I am a better person for having read this book.

Thank you Greg Louganis.


“Anonymous Rex” Eric Garcia

A terrific read! Very entertaining, unusual and fresh with a sly humor and good story.

A detective story of sorts. In Eric Garcia’s world, Dinosaurs are walking among us. A while back, the Dino population of the world took notice of the annoying apes evolving and made the decision to hide their identity. Now living among the apes are various breeds of dinosaur hiding in very elaborate costumes…including our protagonist Vincent Rubio.

Vincent’s having some trouble. His partner was killed recently, and it’s thrown him into a funk that’s threatening to tear Vincent’s life apart if he doesn’t snap out of it.

The author does a great job with this story. We aren’t bored with reasons why there are Dino’s among us…it’s not the story, just a fact. Humorous situations and dialog make this a terrific read. A wonderful book and I can’t wait for more. Written in a sing-song detective story style with cleaver quips.

None comes. Instead, Judith McBride nods mutely, anxiety welling in
those big brown eyes. “Are you the one?” she says, feet backing her
body away in a jittery waltz. “Are you the one who killed Raymond?”
Wonderful. Now she thinks I’m her husband’s murderer. If she
screams, it’s all over–I wouldn’t lay odds against the notion that
those two slabs of dino meat from the elevator are still waiting
just outside the door, eager to burst in, beat me into burger, and
toss me seventy-eight stories to the bustling street below. I can
only hope that my blood and brain matter splatter into a pattern of
enough artistic merit to properly complement the building’s
architecture. Then again, if we can avoid the situation altogether .
. .
I gently open my hands to display their lack of weapons. “I’m not a
killer, Mrs. McBride. That’s not why I’m here.”

Relief slides across her features. “I have jewels,” she says. “In a
safe. I can open it for you.”

“I don’t want your jewels,” I say.

“Money, then–“

“I don’t want your money, either.” I reach into my jacket; she
stiffens, closes her eyes, ready for the bullet or the knife that
will send her to meet her husband in dino Valhalla. Why hasn’t she
screamed yet? No matter, I pull out my ID and toss it at her feet.

“My name’s Vincent Rubio. I’m a private investigator from Los


“The Silver Ships,” by S.H. Jucha

S.H. Jucha’s debut novel, “[The SilverShips](,”introduces a future universe where colony ships from old Earth havesettled in different, distant systems, and worked to make a life forthemselves.

Two of the groups, with very different experiences and opportunities,meet again after centuries. The now, very different cultures must workthrough some challenges and face a common alien threat.

The main character, Alex, while out asteroid mining, snags what appearsto be an alien ship entering his solar system. The ship appears dead atfirst, but Alex soon makes contact with the ship’s AI, who reminds me alittle of Mike from “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.”

The adventures soon put Alex in a leadership role and challenge hisabilities and force him to grow up.

“The Silver Ships” is a fun read, good science fiction with interestingcharacters. There are a few plot coincidences (right person in the rightplace at the right time…), but the story doesn’t suffer and I’m eagerto see what’s next from S.H. Jucha.

Besides, the universe is a big place and coincidences are bound tohappen. 🙂



“Unspoken” by Angela Hunt

Reviewer: spratt

Some people think humans evolved from apes…gorillas. Glee Granger thinks gorillas are almost human and can be taught to think and talk. Rob (Glee’s brother) thinks gorillas are animals, but he talks with Sema, Glee’s gorilla. Brad Fielding (director of Gorilla exhibit at zoo) thinks gorillas are fascinating…but animals from which humans evolved. Irene (Glee and Rob’s grandmother) thinks gorillas are animals uniquely created by God. Sema knows she’s a gorilla, and wants to be a mother gorilla.

Glee Granger rescued Sema from death when she was only a few hours old. She took Sema home and raised her as if she were a human baby. In fact, she has spent the last 8 years of her life totally dedicated to studying and teaching Sema. She talks in sign language, understands the spoken word, plays with dolls, has lessons on the computer. She plays on children’s playground equipment instead of climbing in trees. She’s even potty trained.

Glee was almost ready to begin her doctoral dissertation based on Sema’s linguistic abilities…sign language, etc. Technically, Sema still belonged to the zoo. Now…they want her back. The new Zoo Director plans to use her unique talents as a money-maker for the zoo. Glee fights with every legal loophole she can find until there is nothing else she can do. She strikes a bargain with the zoo that makes her a zoo employee and allows her to continue her studies…but at the zoo.

The process of successfully habituating Sema into an existing gorilla group (family) is an interesting story. Sema learns to be a gorilla. Glee also has some learning to do. She learns that she also…quite naturally…as God intended for humans…needs to be a part of a human group (family)…thus an interesting relationship with Brad Fielding, the director of the gorilla exhibit. (I know…my sentence structure is terrible.)

There is an interesting discussion with Glee’s Grandmother regarding her take on how animals figure into God’s creation of the world. She thinks that people and animals used to be able to communicate verbally…before the fall. The religious reference in the book is small, but I think this is interesting. I never thought much about the animals being “redeemed.” A quote from the book:

Fielding shook his head. “I’m sorry, but I’ve always had a hard time
with that. People say God is good and perfect–how, then, could he
create evil?”

“Evil is not a tangible creation.” Nana’s gentle smile assured me
that she enjoyed this gentle sparring. “It is a consequence; it is
the negation of good. Our Creator endowed us with a great gift–the
freedom to obey God, who is goodness–or to reject God, which is
sin.” Fielding nodded, thought working in his eyes. “And sin
results…in evil.”

“Yes.” Nana focused on Fielding, an almost imperceptible note of
pleading in her face. “Free will is a good thing, but it can result
in bad decisions and dire consequences. For thousands of years men
have paid dearly for their freedom of choice. Because they are
closely linked to us, the animals have paid dearly as well. One day,
soon I hope, God is going to redeem the earth. Then the lion will
lie down with the lamb, and the elephants and mountain gorillas will
care for their young without fear of poachers. All those who love
the Lord will worship him in heaven and on a new, redeemed earth.

The Bible says every creature in heaven and on earth and under the
earth and in the sea will sing, “Blessing and honor and glory and
power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb
forever and ever.'”

Unspoken is a quite fascinating, really. I learned a lot about gorillas. I didn’t like the way the book ended…but it’s mostly is a great book. I highly recommend it.