Life is Short

Life is Short (No Pun Intended) by Jennifer Arnold and Bill Kleinlife is short jacket

Bill Klein and his wife Jennifer Arnold have won the hearts of many with their television show “The Little Couple”. Bill, an entrepreneur, and Jennifer, a neonatologist and medical educator, both have dwarfism. Their book shares the stories of their childhoods with loving families and their struggles of dealing with surgery almost every summer growing up. Their health challenges, including recent cancer treatment for Jennifer and spinal surgery for Bill, surpass the challenges of being a little person in a full-sized world. Their engaging story is full of honesty and humor. Entertaining anecdotes include Jennifer starting college in Florida during a hurricane, and Bill’s first car. We learn about their first date, wedding, how they were approached to share their story on television, and hopes of starting a family through surrogacy. Through their television show they hope to raise awareness of dwarfism and help prevent bullying. The reader also learns more about the adoptions of Will from Mongolia and Zoe from India, both toddlers with dwarfism, and the continuing support of their families. An inspiring book which is sure to be popular with their many fans.
Brenda

 

 


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondokondo jacket

This is a truly unique take on home organizing. While I haven’t tried the author’s detailed method, I see the appeal. Marie, an organizer based in Tokyo, has written an international bestseller which describes her method of organizing, or tidying up. To truly organize your home, she states that we need to look at and touch all of our possessions, determine if they make give us joy, and when we have disposed of many of our clothes, books, papers, kitchen supplies, photos and memorabilia, we will be able to find one specific place to keep each item that is left. If we don’t have too many things, and each item is displayed or stored in a specific place that’s easy to find, our homes will stay tidy and be much more welcoming. While the author doesn’t say how to find the time to sort through all of our belongings, she does give the order in which to do so and suggests that six months is a reasonable timeframe. Photos and memorabilia are saved until we get more comfortable with the process; otherwise we might be tempted to save too much. Marie is inspiring; I just paused to de-clutter and tidy a desk drawer. It looks great, and I found some more spiral paper clips I enjoy using. Some of her clients claim that using her method has changed their lives for the better. It could certainly save time spent choosing outfits, looking for kitchen utensils, and finding keys or chargers. A charming and thought-provoking book; read it and see what you think.
Brenda


Amy Falls Down

amy jacketAmy Falls Down by Jincy Willett

Amy Gallup is a published writer, but has had writer’s block for twenty years. Living with her basset hound Alphonse in a small house in southern California, she teaches writing. Some unsettling events with her last group of aspiring writers led Amy to teaching exclusively online. After an accident knocks her unconscious, she gives an interview to a local reporter, but can’t remember what she said. The newspaper account of the interview is hilarious, and helps jump start her career. Carla and other members of the writing class want her back, longtime agent Maxine keeps calling, and Amy starts writing stories. Getting her fifteen minutes of fame, Amy is booked for interviews and talks around the country, and comes out of her hermit’s shell. I loved that she insisted on taking her dog with her on tour, and that she doesn’t buy into the hype of marketing and branding one’s writing. The people in her new writing group are memorable, as are some people she meets on her travels, as well as the handful of people in Amy’s past that she recalls for the reader, especially her former husband Max. A book about writers and writing doesn’t sound compelling, but I found it alternately touching and very funny.
Brenda

 


The Residence

residence jacketThe Residence by Kate Andersen Brower

This impressively researched book about the residence staff of the White House is quite a page-turner. The White House is a home, an office, a museum, and an event site. While the first families come and go, the residence staff may remain for decades, sometimes for generations. Brower interviewed three former first ladies, six grown children of former presidents, fifty former residence staff, and more. From chief usher down to doormen and maids, 96 full-time and 250 part-time workers staff the White House. The first family pays for their own meals, toiletries, and dry cleaning, but the staff try to anticipate their every need, often working long hours. The magic of moving day would be well worth seeing; one family moves out and another moves in on Inauguration Day, complete to having their clothes unpacked and their choice of White House furniture installed, in only six hours. Some transitions, as after President Kennedy’s assassination and President Nixon’s resignation, are very abrupt, but I liked that Caroline Kennedy’s small in-house kindergarten continued for months after the Kennedys moved out. The quirks and eccentricities of the families are described, especially President Johnson’s continued demands for a custom shower, and the Clintons’ great need for privacy. While there is some gossip, the first families are described with fondness, understanding, and often sympathy by the loyal former staff.
Brenda


A Dangerous Place

dangerous place jacketA Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear

The award-winning Maisie Dobbs mystery series jumps ahead four years, summarizing Maisie’s recent past in only twenty pages. It’s been an eventful period, one that many readers would  like to hear more about. After visiting India, Maisie is not quite ready to return home to England, and leaves her ship in Gibraltar. In 1937, the Spanish Civil War is just across the border. Maisie takes a room at Mrs. Bishop’s boarding house, and frequents a café nearby. Out for a walk, she stumbles across the body of Jewish photographer Sebastian Babayoff, and later finds one of his cameras. Since the police aren’t interested in investigating, Maisie, who thought she’d left detective work, takes up the case, mainly for the sake of his two sisters. She finds that she’s being followed, possibly by two men. Her family and friends plead with her to return home soon. Instead, Maisie visits Sebastian’s sister Miriam and asks for help in developing Sebastian’s last photographs. The photographs lead to a trip to war-torn Spain, which raises more questions, but also provides an idea for Maisie’s next project. I missed the presence of Maisie’s assistant, Billy Beale, but enjoyed being immersed in the atmosphere of 1930s Gibraltar. Maisie really shows her vulnerability in this book, which makes her seem more real. The first book in this excellent series is Maisie Dobbs.
Brenda


You Are One of Them

You Are One of Them by Elliott Holtholt jacket

This first novel about coming of age during the Cold War was inspired by the true story of Samantha Smith, age 10, who wrote a letter to Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov in 1982 and became the United States’ youngest goodwill ambassador. In Holt’s story, Sarah Zuckerman is the daughter of a peace activist and writes a letter to Andropov, as does her best friend and neighbor Jennifer Jones. Only Jenny’s letter is answered and she is invited to travel to the Soviet Union with her parents. Jenny becomes a celebrity and her friendship with Sarah deteriorates. In 1995, Sarah has finished college and decides to travel to Moscow to find out what really happened to Jenny. Sarah’s life is all about dealing with loss and searching for truth in an ambiguous world. The author’s experiences working in Moscow give authenticity to the scenes of expatriate life.
Brenda


81 Days Below Zero

81 days jacket81 Days Below Zero, by Brian Murphy

In December, 1943, five Army aviators left Alaska’s Ladd Field on a test flight in a B-24 Liberator. During the test, the plane spiraled out of control at 25,000 feet, and the crew bailed out. Co-pilot Lt. Leon Crane parachuted to safety away from the fiery crash, but without mittens or gloves. Crane, a city kid from Philadelphia, stayed near the wreck for several days, hoping to find another survivor and to be spotted by a search plane. Back at Ladd Field, many planes were sent in search, but in the wrong area. The crew was declared MIA, presumed dead. Enduring extreme conditions and intense loneliness, Crane covered his hands in the parachute and started walking, after over a week with no food in the Alaskan winter. His only supplies were a knife and some matches. Through phenomenal luck, he found a cabin with some supplies, but had to leave before the spring thaw by hiking over the frozen Charles River, with no idea where he was. Compelling and moving, this is a remarkable true story, very well told. Sure to be popular with readers of Unbroken and Frozen in Time.
Brenda


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