Blog Posts by mingh

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Ming was named after an evil Emperor. But she reads more than said evil Emperor, including nonfiction and almost all genres. She should read more in the Romance genre but that genre is forbidden on the planet Mongo.


Earthquakes and the Midwest
The quake in San Francisco always has people asking about whether it could happen here. The closest fault line is the New Madrid Fault in southern Illinois. Should a major earthquake happen along the fault line the repercussions could be felt as far north as Chicago. To read more about the history of the New Madrid Earthquakes and fault line check out these titles.  New Madrid Earthquakes

Country of the Bad Wolfes
by James Carlos Blake

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James Carlos Blake is a master at weaving historical fact into fiction. Two generations of Wolfe men--begat by an English pirate in New Hampshire in 1828--track their violent but manifest destiny through the Diaz Regime in Mexico in the early 1900s and back to Gulf Coast Texas. The novel centers on two sets of identical "hero twins," each with a violent history that mirror the author's belief on the primacy of violence in the evolution of civilization. Their lives are intertwined with important events through the history of the United States, beginning in the 1820s. Crucial are the histories of the infamous Saint Patrick's Battalion (revered in Mexico as "los San Patricios") who deserted the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and the rise and fall of Porfirio Diaz Regime (1876-1910), which marked the beginning of the Mexican Revolution.

Who is Billy Crystal?
One of the top trends during the Academy Awards show was, Who is Billy Crystal? Many of us remember Billy Crystal from his movies, When Harry Met Sally, or Analyze This. But he also has a memoir called 700 Sundays and has written a children's book and more. Check out all of the Billy Crystal titles we have here. Billy Crystal.

The Little Russian
by Susan Sherman

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A new voice in historical fiction. The Little Russian tells the story of Berta Alshonsky, who revels in childhood memories of her time spent with a wealthy family in Moscow--a life filled with salons, balls, and all the trappings of the Upper Class--very different from her current life as a grocer's daughter in the Jewish townlet of Mosny. So when a mysterious and cultured wheat merchant walks into the grocery, Berta's life is forever altered. She falls in love, unaware that he is a member of the Bund, The Jewish Worker's League, smuggling arms to the shtetls to defend them against the pogroms sweeping the Little Russian countryside. Married and established in the wheat center of Cherkast, Berta has recaptured the life she once had in Moscow. So when a smuggling operation goes awry and her husband must flee the country, Berta makes the vain and foolish choice to stay behind with her children and her finery. As Russia plunges into war, Berta eventually loses everything and must find a new way to sustain the lives and safety of her children. Filled with heart-stopping action, richly drawn characters, and a world seeped in war and violence; The Little Russian is poised to capture readers as one of the hand-selling gems of the season

The Right Dog for You
The Westminster Dog Show was earlier this week. The Pekingese was the winner. Looking for the right dog for you, your family, and your home? We have the books for you. Check out these selected titles for the right dog for you.
Tags:  Dogs

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey
by Fiona, Countess of Carnarvon

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If you are watching Downton Abby, you might want to check out this book. Highclere Castle is where the British TV Show is filmed, But the writer, Julian Fellowes, also seems to have taken some of the life of the 5th Countess of Carnarvon as his inspiration for what happens on the show.
The 5th Countess of Carnarvon, Almina Wombwell, was the illegitimate daughter of the third son of the Rothschild family, bankers to Europe. The Carnarvon family was badly in need of an influx of cash when the Earl married her. This was the era when nobles would marry an American heiress or other woman with money. The most famous American was Consuelo Vanderbilt who went into a terrible marriage with the Duke of Marlborough. It was she who coined the term, "an heir and a spare," to explain what her role was in the marriage.
Alfred de Rothschild had many friends in high places. He threw lavish parties attended by all including the Prince of Wales. It was at these parties that he would present his daughter. Although not a traditional love match, the couple were very fond of each other. Lady Almina would follow the Earl to all corners of the earth to be near him. He was an adventurer and very interested in digging up antiquities. It was one of the excavations that he funded (with her money) that discovered King Tutankhamen's tomb.
When the First World War began it was Lady Almina who offered Highclere Castle as a hospital. She was very involved in nursing and believed in the best care. When she found that she could offer better care in London, as more doctors and surgeons would be available, she moved her "hospital" to London. Her care led to many more men surviving their wounds than would have happened without her.
You don't have to have watched Downton Abbey to enjoy this biography of a remarkable woman. This is the story of a woman who adapted easily to her time. Lady Almina worked hard and took advantage of her money to help others during the war and to assist her husband in his explorations. Written by the 8th Countess of Carnarvon, you will enjoy the parallels between real life and reel life.

The Night Strangers
by Chris Bohjalian

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Former commercial Pilot Chip Linton and his wife Emily decide to move their family further away from the memories of Chip's horrific plane landing on Lake Champlain. Many people died and he is wracked with guilt. The Linton's, along with their twin daughters, move into a rambling Victorian house in a remote part of New Hampshire. Their neighbors seem polite and watchful of them and there is much for the family to do.
The twins begin to hear voices in the house. They can't see anyone but the voices are all around them. The Linton's find out more about the house and how it has been abandoned for many years after the suicide of the twelve year old son of the former owners. Chip Linton finds a small doorway in the basement that looks like it used to be the coal chute. However, it has 39 long bolts to seal it. The exact number of people who died in Chip's plane crash. He begins to unseal the bolts.
Chris Bohjalian creates wonderful well-rounded characters who are dealing with elements that they have never seen and never believed in. Chip begins to unravel and believes the voices. Emily, the Mother, knows that she has to save the twins, but from what? We have entered Stephen King territory.
Bohjalian does a great job of creating the suspenseful and spooky atmosphere that this book needs. Is this all happening in Chip's head? if not, what are the intentions of the townspeople? What really did happen in that house so many years ago? Read it to find out.

Catherine the Great
by Robert K. Massie

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This is a very detailed look at a fascinating woman who changed Russian history. Catherine (born Sophia) was a lesser known and unrich princess of a German duchy when she was called up as a potential suitor for Peter III. Catherine did not love Peter who, although older, remained childish. However, she was able to gain his confidence and the wedding was scheduled. Before it could take place, Peter caught smallpox. He lived, but when Catherine saw how disfigured he was she could not contain her disgust. Peter never forgave her.
Massie uses Catherine's diaires which go very extensively into her personal life in the court of Empress Elizabeth. In these diaries, Catherine notes that she and Peter III never consummated their marriage for nine years and it was likely that Peter fathered none of her children. Because of Peter's state of mind, most of the attendants could easily come to the same conclusion. It is Catherine's autobiography and diaries which gives us all of the information that we have today. Catherine noted in her autobiography that in her life she had had 12 lovers. This is where rumors of her sexuality came from.
Once Catherine takes the throne from her husband she embarks on many visits throughout Russia and starts to institute changes including those to alleviate some of the harshness of the life of the serfs. She was well-educated and built The Hermitage to showcase the art that was in the collection of the Romanovs. She continued to have favorites in court and their intrigues and lives are greatly detailed.
This biography is for serious readers of history. There is wonderful detail in the lives of Catherine and her family and everyone in the court. I can't remember reading as extensive a biography of a ruler ever. Catherine the Great, indeed.

We Need to Talk About Kevin
by Lionel Shriver

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In a series of letters addressed to her husband, Eva Khatchadourian talks about their love and their life before and after the birth of their son Kevin. Just before his sixteenth birthday, Kevin walked into his high school with a crossbow and killed eleven people. She tries to explain what it feels like for a Mother to learn that her son has done such a horrible act. Is she to blame? The husband? The world? Who has caused this terrible tragedy?

We learn, how in love as a young couple they were. How they agonized over whether and when to have children. But Eva just can't shake the feeling that there is something wrong with their son from day one. He hates her. Franklin, the father, cannot believe that a child this young can have these feelings for a parent. Franklin suggests maybe she should seek therapy. At this point in the story you begin to wonder if she is mad, or if we are reading a story of a "bad seed."

The author keeps you guessing until the very end about what really happened. How could this Mother be so cold? How does the husband respond to these very brutal and telling letters? The reader also begins to look for clues in the letters about what is really going on with this family.

A chilling book now turned into a movie to be released in January in the Chicago area.

My 5 Favorite Books of 2011
by Various Authors

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#5. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
A wonderfully quirky, but moving story, of a young woman who can taste the emotions of the person who made the food she eats. This creates a burden as she learns more about her parents and her brother who has his own odd abilities.
#4. Sisters of Fortune: America's Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad by Jehanne Wake
A biography of an American family of rich sisters who married well, including into royalty, but never lost their sense of what it means to be American. It is also the story of a Father who protected his daughters so that the men in their lives could not leave them destitute.
#3. Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion by Johan Harstad
Mattias is a fan of Buzz Aldrin because Buzz Aldrin did everything Neil Armstrong did, but second. Mattias likes being second. He says, "The more you put yourself forward, the more stones people can throw at you." A poignant and funny story filled with pop culture references about a young man who needs to go to the ends of the earth to find his way home.
#2. Life, on the Line : a chef's story of chasing greatness, facing death, and redefining the way we eat
by Grant Achatz
Life on the line is a foodie memoir and more. Grant Achatz tells of growing up in Michigan in the family business of running restaurants but feeling a calling to do something more. Achatz was on top of the world running two acclaimed restaurants in Chicago when he learned that he had a virulent form of tongue cancer. An interesting read for foodies, anyone interested in the restaurant business, and reading about someone dealing with a life-threatening illness.
#1 The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
A starkly beautiful novel about two hired assassins, Charlie and Eli Sisters, who travel from Oregon to San Francisco to make a hit during the 1850's gold rush era. Each person they meet holds up a mirror of their own morals and values in which to be judged. All the humor and brutality of a Coen Brothers movie. Brilliant!