Everything I Never Told You; Everyone Has Secrets


When I first heard that Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng was Amazon’s pick for best book of 2014, I was almost reluctant to read it because I thought it might be hyperbole. It wasn’t hyperbole.

Everyone has secrets. In Everything I Told You, written by Celeste Ng, and beautifully narrated by Cassandra Campbell, everyone in a family learns unexpected things about themselves and the people around them.

James, a Chinese-American history professor who enjoys seeing people look surprised when he says he teaches American history, is married to Marilyn, a pretty blonde still bitter that her desire to be a doctor was thwarted by teachers in the 1950s. They told her she’d be too distracting to the boys in Science classes. Both parents compete to be the favorite of their favorite child: Lydia.

Lydia’s burden, and one of the reasons she’s ill-prepared for surprises in life is that everyone expects her to know everything already -that’s the mantle we place on the gifted. When Lydia dies, feeling “how suffocating to be so loved”, her parents and her siblings, Nate and Hannah, discover layers of secrets within themselves. And that reveals the mystery of how and why Lydia died.

Everything I Never Told You moves seamlessly through the viewpoints of different characters. Told from Lydia’s perspective, it reminded me a little of The Lovely Bones.

Everything I Never Told You is a book that will draw you back until you finish reading it. That’s one of the reasons I love audiobooks. You can’t always drop everything and go back to reading; but you can listen to a good story while you’re driving or making dinner. I’m glad I chose the audiobook for Everything I Never Told You.

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The Real Downton Abbey – Diaries of Highclere Castle’s Aristocrats


Downton Abbey fans won’t be disappointed by Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon. I listened to the audiobook edition narrated by Sandra Duncan, Jenny Oglivie, and Andrew Wincott.

This is the story of a privileged class born to its wealth. After compiling the diaries of Lady Catherine, an American beauty, and descendant of Washington and Lee, who married the 6th Earl of Carnarvon, the present day Countess of Carnarvon shared its history.

The book begins in the 1920s and listening to its splendid narration, you feel transported to music playing on a gramophone, the clinking of cocktail glasses, the whispers of secret affairs, and the giddy feeling of living life all the way up. Royalty, led by Prince George and Prince Edward, who famously abdicates to marry Wallis Simpson, visits and delights the kitchen staff by going downstairs to say thank you. They feast on quail in aspic while wearing glam clothes even on days when they don’t leave the castle.

Beauty and wealth didn’t insulate Catherine from suffering. Her husband, nicknamed “Porchey”, was a womanizer, who took trips alone and left her drinking alone in the castle. Catherine eventually leaves Porchey and finds contentment in a second marriage.

Although some of the diary entries may seem like unnecessary detail, a decision about what’s necessary is of course subjective, and it’s glorious that the present day Countess has shared Highclere Castle’s history imparted by its aristocratic inhabitants. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to glimpse the inside of a club few ever joined.

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The Birth of the Pill


In the prosperous 1950s, there was a population that existed on the periphery of American abundance, burdened by poverty and more children than they wanted. Their husbands thought it was macho for their wives to be pregnant all the time. These women wanted birth control they could use without their husbands knowing.

Four extraordinary people converged and created a birth control pill that could stop ovulation: Margaret Sanger, Katherine McCormick, Gregory Pincus, and John Rock. In The Birth of the Pill, How Four Crusaders Revolutionized Sex and Launched a Revolution, written by John Eig, Gayle Hendrix superbly narrates the story of the contraceptive that changed lives.

Believe it or not, at the time the pill was being developed, there were states in America where contraception was illegal. Japan welcomed the pill’s creation before America. In the 1950s, when most Americans weren’t liked in Japan, Margaret Sanger was greeted with reverence. Contraceptive devices in Japan were named after Margaret Sanger. I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not. Since Margaret Sanger pioneered Planned Parenthood, I’m going to presume she took it as a compliment.

The FDA is required to approve a drug if it works and doesn’t cause serious harm. On that basis, the FDA approved the pill despite vocal opposition. The Birth of the Pill is an engaging story of sexual revolution and power.

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Birth of the Pill from Audible in exchange for an honest review.

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Abe and Fido


They say that you can tell a lot about someone by the way he treats animals. When you read Abe and Fido, the story of Abraham Lincoln’s adored dog Fido, and Abraham Lincoln’s fierce love for animals, you can tell he would become a hero, willing to sacrifice himself.

When Lincoln was about six, a neighboring farmer gave him a piglet. He loved the little pig and even built a cradle out of a hollow log for him. You can imagine what happened when the pig became a hog. One day Lincoln woke up and saw that his Dad had built a spit to roast the pig. He ran into the woods with his pig and hid him all day. The next day, his Dad got up before him and Lincoln didn’t have a chance to hide his pig again. He had to hear the pig squeal and watch his family eat the meat later. He refused to eat the meat himself.

The story of a farmer’s child becoming attached to an animal who will become food isn’t new. But Lincoln is one of the few children who would risk his own comforts and his family’s wrath trying to save the pet he cherished. A hero protects animals. And through Abe and Fido, you can read the story of an emerging hero.

Fido was a stray dog who looked, judging from the surviving photographs, a lot like a Labrador Retriever. Fido would nap with Lincoln on the seven foot sofa Lincoln had custom made to accommodate his height. In the town of Springfield, Fido became a charming character, indulged even when his exuberance left muddy paw prints on the people he greeted. Lincoln’s young sons and their friends played with Fido when he wasn’t napping on the sofa.

Lincoln’s admiration for cats began when his Dad married his stepmother and she came with a cat. When he was in the White House, he used to feed a beautiful tabby in the chair next to him with a gold fork. Someone questioned him about feeding the cat with a gold fork. Lincoln replied that if the fork was good enough for President Buchanan, it was good enough for the cat. He played with cats when he needed a respite from unrelenting stress.

When I read the description of Abe and Fido, I was surprised that Lincoln didn’t take Fido to the White House with him. Spoiler Alert: Fido didn’t like politics. In the months leading up to Lincoln’s election, Fido began hiding under his seven foot sofa when boisterous politicians came to the house. Lincoln knew Fido would hate the long, noisy, train ride to Washington. He chose Fido’s happiness over his own and left Fido in Springfield with family friends. Lincoln insisted that the family take Fido’s favorite sofa too.

If you love animals, you’ll love Abe and Fido. You can see the book at Amazon by clicking on the image above.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Abe and Fido from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

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P53 The Gene That Cracked The Cancer Code


Elizabeth Jasicki splendidly narrates P53 The Gene That Cracked The Cancer Code. This amazing book was written by Sue Armstrong. I’m always awe inspired when science is explained in an accessible way to people who, like me, don’t have the greatest science aptitude but have an avid interest.

P53 is the gene that protects us from cancer. Through the efforts of indomitable scientists, P53′s pivotal role in determining who will be ravaged by cancer and who will not has been repeatedly affirmed. One scientist purposely radiated his arm with a sun light to show that UV rays generate cell growth. If P53 is mutated, skin cancer can readily develop. Scientists have discovered two factors pertaining to skin cancer:
1) A serious sun burn in childhood;and;
2) Unprotected exposure to the sun in adulthood.

This was supported by ascertaining that light skin individuals who immigrate to areas with high sun exposure have a lower skin cancer rate than light skin individuals who have spent their entire lives in these areas.

With smoking and lung cancer, the evidence at first appeared circumstantial until tobacco’s mutating effect on P53 was conclusively proven. Some tobacco companies employed their own scientists and although they tried to discredit the link between smoking and cancer, the evidence became unassailable.

At its heart, P53 The Gene That Cracked The Cancer Code, is a story of dedicated sleuthing by the scientific community that led to a greater understanding of a disease that you can’t get through life without being impacted by in some way — either through your own experience or a family member or friend. If you could give more than five stars to a reviewed book, I’d give ten to this one.
Disclosure: I received a copy from Audible in exchange for an honest review.

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Conversations with Steve Martin; It’s a Keeper

Conversations with Steve Martin is a keeper! Someone had the exceptional idea of compiling interviews with this brilliant man from the 1970s through 2010 and the result is a book for your keeper shelf.

Through the interviews, you’ll find the thoughts and insights of a Renaissance man who has written plays, screenplays, novels, novellas, and stand up comedy for himself and other comedians. Of course you can’t read it without laughing out loud at times. It’s a book that you won’t necessarily want to read cover to cover but you’ll go back and savor again and again.

Bravo to the Literary Conversations Series for offering this delightful book.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Conversations with Steve Martin from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

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THE EDGE – BEST ROMANCE OF 2014


Even though The Edge by Tiffinie Helmer came out in 2013, I didn’t have the pleasure of listening to it until this year, so it’s my pick for Best Romance Novel of 2014. I’m glad I listened to the audiobook edition because with talented Mia Chiaromonte’s narration, I felt transported to the wilds of Alaska.

The Edge captures the longing, the yearning, the building of an attraction, in a poetic way that propels it from a good romance to a spectacular one. Amelia, nicknamed Mel, has exiled herself to a lodge in Alaska and a vibrator she calls “Mr. Happy” after surviving a cult kidnapping twenty years ago. Cache carries his own deep psychic wounds after living through a Middle East bombing that killed his best friends.

They meet when Cache, who has returned to civilian life as a photo journalist, accepts an assignment to write a “Where are they now?” story about her. He’s a tough guy who gets seasick while fishing. She does not. And as he falls in love with Amelia, he becomes conflicted about his assignment because she cherishes privacy most of all. His instinct to protect her brings a sweetness to this suspenseful story. When Mel discovers his agenda, she wishes she could hate him but still wants to kiss him.

Tiffinie Helmer has a fabulous sense of humor about unexpected attractions. Since The Edge is only Book 1 of the Romance on the Edge Series, I can’t wait to listen the whole series.

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Edge from Audible in exchange for an honest review.

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Devil in Blue Denim

Here is the description from Amazon:
LIFE JUST THREW HER A CURVE BALL.
"As the team-owner’s daughter, Maggie Jameson grew up in the New York Saints’ stadium—glove, cap, hot dogs, and all. Baseball’s in her blood, and she’s always dreamed of the day when she would lead the Saints to victory herself. That was before her dad had to sell the team to Alex Winters. The fast-talking, fiercely attractive businessman has a baseball pedigree that’s distinctly minor league. Maggie wants to hate him but his skills of seduction, however, are off the charts.
WILL LOVE BE A HOME RUN?
Alex could never have imagined how much this team means to Maggie. He needs her to help show the players that they’re still a family…even if he and Maggie are at the verge of exchanging blows. But her fiery determination and gorgeous looks prove irresistible to Alex. And much as he wants to relegate their relationship to the playing field—and get the Saints back in the game—Alex just can’t help himself: What he wants to win most is Maggie’s heart…in The Devil in Denim by Melanie Scott."

This is a fun contemporary romance about the road from hate to attraction to love. The hero and heroine are both engaging and it was easy to cheer them on to a happy ending.

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Devil in Denim from Audible in exchange for an honest review.

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Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings by Craig Symonds


I’m glad that I listened to the audiobook edition of Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings by Craig Symonds. Mr. Symonds taught at The Naval Academy and you can hear his passion for history in his narration. Even if you think you’ve heard everything about the D-Day Landings, your understanding of it all will deepen with his book.

Neptune was the code name for D-Day preparation by the Allied forces. While I listened, I felt a nervous tension. It’s the human details that make it so compelling. From admirals to ensigns, letters home revealed that these heroes knew that they might be writing their families for the last time. He describes the meals on board the ships as they traveled to France and the seasickness and exhaustion that accompanied them through a storm so fierce that it had caused the invasion’s delay. And while the book focuses on the Navy’s heroic contribution, it’s the infantry that haunts me. They landed on the beaches, vulnerable despite the allied airmen and Navy, and marched towards what they knew were enemy bullets. The right people came together at the right time and saved the free world. I hope their sacrifice will always be honored.

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Mailbox Monday (2)


I just received a copy of Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings by Craig Symonds from Audible for review.
And a copy of Conversations with Steve Martin from Net Galley for review. Looking forward to both!

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