Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review: 'Guest of Honor' by Deborah Davis

✰✰✰ Is it possible for a simple family dinner to change history? That’s exactly what happened in 1901 when President Theodore Roosevelt, also known as TR, invited Booker T. Washington to dine with the First Family. TR had a habit of combining business and dining, and he was the first president to do so. When he found himself pressed for time, TR simply did what he always did; he invited Booker T. to dinner.

While the dinner itself was quite unremarkable, the president had set a precedent. It was the first time an African American had been invited to dine at the White House. The negative press that followed triggered a political firestorm that would impact both men for decades.

The Bottom Line: This quick read features a little known event in American history. Told in short chapters, readers of biographies will enjoy the comparison between the two men. One was born into privilege while the other was born into slavery; yet, their lives mirrored one another. Together they formed a political alliance that would benefit each.

Guest of Honor is a fascinating look back at a time when slavery had ended, but social slavery persisted. Recommended for history buffs and those interested in race relations. This book includes several pages of black and white photographs and illustrations.

Book Club Notes: As a group, we noted that this book is an engaging read; it would be a great addition to high school and college history classes. Also, it was a good choice for Black History Month. It was interesting to discuss the similarities and differences between TR and Booker T. Also, while times have changed since this event took place, we took a look at race relations then and now. Overall, the book received a high rating of 4.5 on a scale from 1 - 5; there was so much to talk about. Highly recommended for book clubs interested in history and episodic history. Book discussion leaders can find a reading guide with discussion questions at Simon & Schuster.

Details: Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation by Deborah Davis. Paperback published by ATRIA Books in 2012. 320 p. ISBN: 978-1-4391-6982-7

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book Review: 'Ten Lords A-Leaping' by C. C. Benison

✰✰✰ The Leaping Lords have agreed to perform in a skydiving event to benefit a church in Thornford Regis. When the vicar, Tom Christmas, is injured during a jump, he and his daughter become reluctant guests at Eggescombe Park along with several members of the Allan and fforde-Beckett families. In the very early hours of the next morning, a body is discovered on the expansive grounds. Father Christmas is once again called upon to put on his sleuthing hat and help solve the crime. Despite his injury, Father Christmas follows the many twists and turns of this case to the very end. With a cast of inter-related family members, there is no shortage of suspects and plenty of motives. Author C. C. Benison keeps the reader guessing until the very end. The conclusion will surprise you.

The Bottom Line: This is the third book in the series, but it was the first one that I have read. While there was plenty of backstory included in this installment, it might be best to read the books in order. This installment included so many suspects that I had to take notes at times just to keep up. Add a confusing family tree into the mix, nicknames, and titles and you have a very complicated mystery. Set in the British countryside, this cozy mystery was slow to start; however, the last one hundred pages were engaging. Finally, although the main character is named Tom Christmas and the title of the book reminds me of a Christmas song, this is not a holiday book by any means. Recommended for those who enjoy house party murder mysteries and for viewers who enjoy Masterpiece Mystery! A family tree is included in the front of the book.

Details: Ten Lords A-Leaping: A Mystery by C. C. Benison. Hardcover published by Delacorte Press in 2013. 512 p. ISBN: 978-0-385-34447-0 NOTE: I received a free review copy from Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book Review: 'Froggy's First Kiss' by Jonathan London

✰✰✰ It's the week before Valentine's Day, and the new girl in class is just the prettiest little frog girl that Froggy has ever seen. When Frogilina smiles at him, Froggy feels all woozy and distracted. Froggy is shy, but Frogilina is kind and shares her lunch with him. When the class makes valentines, Froggy hides under his desk and makes a special one. That day at lunch Frogilina has another surprise for Froggy. Can you guess what it is? "Froggy has a girlfriend!" his friends tease, but Froggy denies it and flops all the way home. The next morning is Valentine's Day but who will he give the special valentine too? Check out Froggy's First Kiss to find out.

The Bottom Line: This sweet holiday book is just the thing for little ones in grades Pre-K - 1. Filled with colorful and lively illustrations, children will adore reading about Froggy's first crush.

Details: Froggy's First Kiss written by Jonathan London & illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. Hardcover picture book published by Viking in 1998. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-670-87064-6

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Book Review: 'Rest Not in Peace' by Mel Starr

✰✰✰✰✰ Sir Henry Burley and his entourage have overstayed their welcome at Lord Gilbert's castle. Unfortunately Lord Gilbert must allow them to stay a little while longer after Sir Henry is found dead in his bed. Lady Margery, Sir Henry's widow, is quick to point an accusing finger at Hugh, who gave the knight a sleeping draught. Although the death appears natural at first, Hugh's keen sense of observation soon takes the investigation in another direction.

Lady Margery is eager to move on, but before she can, Hugh must clear his name and find out who in the castle wanted the man dead. It seems that the penniless knight had no shortage of enemies, but who would have access to commit the crime? After all Bampton castle is secure at night. It is up to Hugh to uncover clues and family secrets that will lead him to the real murderer before the grieving widow takes flight.

The Bottom Line: This well-told tale will appeal to a wide audience and is highly recommended for readers who enjoy cozies, medieval mysteries, and Christian fiction. Written in first person, the writing style is accessible and reveals the main character's thoughts and observations. This is a very fast paced book with lots of twists and turns. Author Mel Starr keeps the reader guessing in this house party style mystery. This series continues to get better and better as Hugh's character continues to grow and struggle with both his sense of responsibility and faith. 

While it is not necessary to read the books in order, the series can be best appreciated if one does. Also, this book includes a glossary of medieval terms and a map of Bampton. Finally, descriptions of several medieval medical procedures are included, but are not too graphic for the average reader. 

Details: Rest Not in Peace by Mel Starr. Paperback published by Lion Fiction in 2013. 256 p. ISBN: 978-1-78264-008-0 NOTE: I received an Advance Reading Copy from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible via the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.